Wow…ok, this book is really good. It’s also not really a dark romance, it’s more of a disturbing romance. Fable of Happiness by Pepper Winters made me squirm.
Meet Gemma. She’s a famous, and very successful, climber who loves to conquer the undiscovered. Gem is often on her own in remote areas, looking for new boulders, mountains, and trails. She is single, has a brother and mother, and lives on her own. One day Gem finds a note on a message board about a boulder in Mammoth Cave National Park. The poster says it’s never been climbed before and this activates Gem. She tells her brother that she’s going on an adventure, drives through the night with all of her gear, including a personal locator beacon, and parks her Jeep in a remote area of the park that isn’t traveled by tourists or park rangers.
She can’t find the boulder. But she keeps on hiking, not backing down from a challenge. Eventually, she sees a mansion in the woods, camouflaged and overrun by vegetation. She’s intensely curious and ventures through the door, calling out to see if anyone is there. Gem walks through the house carefully, looking for signs of life and asking if anyone is home. Clearly, the inside of the home is well cared for. The multiple bedrooms are clean, the kitchen is spotless, and yet no one is there. Until someone is…
Kas lives in the mansion. He’s more animal at this point than man. While Gem has been walking through his home, he’s been running naked through the forest. When he returns back home, he can tell someone is there and is enraged. He flies through the house and confronts Gem. She apologizes, tries to leave, but Kas traps her and takes her prisoner.
Kas is a complicated, mentally unstable character. I can’t even call him the hero at this point. I finished book one and flew through book two. Still, he’s unlike any other character I’ve read. The mansion where he lives is called Fables. It was originally an exclusive club for pedophiles. Men, women and couples would stay and abuse children. Really sick stuff. Kas is one of those kids, all grown up. And he’s completely broken. He’s lonely and wants to keep Gem… and he’s angry that she’s there, disrupting his life. Throughout both books, you learn about his past, the abuse, the other kids that lived there in a wretched dormitory while “guests” were treated with luxury.
Getting back to the disturbing part….
There’s dubious consent. There’s rape. There’s possible schizophrenia. I didn’t find myself wishing for this couple to find their HEA, I found myself desperately wanting Kas to get professional help. It’ll be really interesting to see how Winters saves- or doesn’t save- Kas. He clearly has significant and understandable issues. Can he find his happiness? Is he redeemable after what he’s done? Each book ends on a MAJOR cliffy. The first book is FREE- give it a try.