Don't be fooled by this pink and sparkly cover. Even though Loveswept normally publishes light and easy confections, this book completely shatters that mold. It's like someone took a rape and revenge film from the 70s and tried to make it a chick flick, which sounds like it absolutely should not work, but it almost does except for a few problems I'm going to talk about later. Sela was gang-raped when she was just sixteen-years-old when she went to a college party and had drugs slipped into her drink. Now, an adult woman, her views on sex and relationships are totally skewed; she's never forgotten that night. When watching a commercial for a dating website called Sugar Bowl, she recognizes the tattoo of the company's CEO as belonging to one of her rapists, so she signs up to Sugar Bowl to become a Sugar Baby in order to get close to the CEO and kill him. Instead, she winds up meeting his business partner, the coding mastermind behind the site, Beckett North.
The beginning was very strong. What happens to Sela is not sugar-coated, and even though the book doesn't wallow in the details (thank God), you learn enough about what happened to understand the severity of her trauma and really feel a strong sense of sympathy for the heroine. Her desire for revenge gives the book a driving pace, and the reader feels that tension, anxiously wondering what will happen: will Sela get her revenge? Or will she be found out?
The problem is that once Sela gets involved with Beck, the book becomes all about the sex. At first, she has these PTSD-like flashbacks, which made a lot of sense and felt realistic, but then it was like the sex was so good that it just "cured" her because he gave her orgasms. This is a huge peeve of mine, because sex is not a magical panacea that can absolve people of any sorts of mental or emotional problems that they have. Having a support network and emotional intimacy can help, but I really don't think you can just fuck your problems away, if you'll pardon my language, despite what many of these dark and edgy romances would have you think. The sex scenes were also pretty awful, and I was really annoyed when Beck wanted to do away with condoms and Sela's response was, "I'm clean." Yeah, but what about him? The onus is not just on the woman to be clean.
Towards the end of the book, SUGAR DADDY remembers what it sets out to do, and to be fair, the villain in this book is truly awful, and it's genuinely infuriating how blind Beck is to his friend and business partner's actions, in the way that it sometimes feels only men can be (locker room talk, anyone?). When Sela got down to business, I wanted to be like, "YAS GIRL," but then the book ends on a cliffhanger just when things are starting to pick up again. It's a mother of a cliffhanger, too.
I literally slept on this review because I wanted to think about it more deeply, and I have to say that this "dark" book is really only for people who want to read something edgy that talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk - let's call it "Diet Edgy." I personally don't like books that do things by halves, so it was annoying to get a book that was allegedly about one thing, only to find myself with pages of tediously written sex scenes and a heroine who lost her edge as soon as a hot guy walked into the picture. Even Beck, the so-called nice guy, reveals his douchey side when at one point he takes the heroine's silence for consent. Um, no, that's not how that works. I probably won't continue this series.
2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars