Anything you can imagine. Everything you crave. For the members of The Raven Room, it’s every fantasy fulfilled. But for some, that desire is a matter of life and death. Drawn by needs he cannot control, Julian ventures to The Raven Room, a secret and exclusive sex club in the underbelly of Chicago. It goes beyond sex. It goes beyond kink. The Raven Room is the only place where Julian finds release from the dangerous urges that threaten to destroy the successful life he’s worked so hard to build. When the police link the Raven Room to the death of a young woman, it threatens to expose a number of powerful people—people who would kill to stay anonymous… Meredith’s body can’t get enough of Julian. He has opened her sexual horizons to tempting new possibilities. But out of bed she’s an aspiring journalist, and The Raven Room is the story she’s been looking for. By writing an exposé on the club and its elite clientele, she plans to launch her career. As Meredith embarks on a sexual journey into the forbidden world that Julian inhabits, questions emerge, and dark appetites threaten to swallow her whole. How much can she trust the man who has laid bare her erotic nature and how much will she sacrifice in order to protect him?
REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
I was totally seduced by the synopsis for The Raven Room and the promise such words held. Had I gotten really lucky, the read itself would have lived up to that initial promise. Unfortunately, The Raven Room falls into the category of “I can’t believe I read that book!” Here’s the skinny:
Characters: In many cases, I have found that characters, if well-written and believable, can carry a book that has other issues like a weak plot. Characters bring the story to life as much as the plot and a good, well-written character can really save a read. The opposite is also true. The Raven Room doesn’t contain a single character that has any sort of substance. Julian is rather disgusting (and this has nothing to do with his kink!) in his attitude, his habits, and practices. He is seriously broken from his sad past and needs the kind of professional help he doles out every day to his patients. Rather than coming across as a hot and sexy man tortured by his personal demons, Julian comes across as pathetic and somewhat cruel. Meredith, Julian’s playmate doesn’t read any better. Meredith is a spoiled, rich girl looking to gain her daddy’s attention and love through self-destructive behavior. She is selfish and conceited and has little regard for anyone other than herself. Only when things go well and truly sideways does Meredith show even a hint of humanity and by that time, it is too little, too late. Julian’s best friend, Peter is a detestable misogynist. Though he has a beautiful wife and twin boys, Peter is constantly looking for some side action and engages in such action whenever he thinks he can get away with it. His words and actions clearly indicate he dislikes women and his treatment of his wife is reprehensible. In truth, Peter has no redeeming qualities. In addition to these characters, there are a handful of others that read in much the same way. It is as if there is a competition among the characters to see who can be the most ridiculous and awful.
The Plot: The plot started off OK with Julian and Meredith and their consensual arrangement but quickly took a wrong turn. Meredith is all about Meredith and Julian is a means to an end for her. She is working on her Master’s in Journalism and Julian’s access to the Raven Room is exactly what Meredith needs to put her ahead of the curve. The Raven Room is a long-standing rumor in the community, a place where anything goes and some of the area’s biggest names go to get their kink on. Meredith intends to use Julian to get the story of lifetime; she will expose the Raven Room and name the bigwigs who frequent the joint which will, in turn land her a job at a major newspaper. As Meredith continues to conduct her “research,” Julian finds his “soulmate” among the Raven Room’s clientele but he isn’t allowed to approach her at the club because of her involvement with a very powerful and cruel man. Additionally, the Raven Room has been linked to a series of murders and Julian appears to be the most likely suspect. Meredith is privy to all of this information because she is sleeping with her stepmother’s partner and asking her stepmother to dig up information on the various players. Finally, Meredith’s stepmother is somehow tied to the very powerful and cruel man who has control of Julian’s “soulmate.” Yeah, all of this is going on in this read simultaneously 😦
The Bottom Line: I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. I read this book cover to cover and when I got to the cliffhanger ending I wanted to throw my iPad across the room in pure disgust. At only 250 pages, The Raven Room suffers from a serious case of waaaaay too much. The characters really are in competition with one another to see who can be the most wretched and the plot has far too many parts and pieces. While I appreciate the author’s desire to create a complex and intriguing plot, it doesn’t actually read as complex and intriguing but more along the lines of “Oh, what fresh hell is this?” My final complaint, and this is really the one that pushed everything over the edge for me, is the sex between Julian and his “soulmate.” Let me be clear, I don’t mind kink in my reads and BDSM isn’t a deal breaker for me. What is a deal breaker is the kind of kink Julian is involved in and how he practices his particular brand of kink . . . . WITHOUT A SAFE WORD!!! This is the one that did it for me and I likely would have been OK with his practices had he and his “soulmate” practiced responsibly and safely. There is more than one time in this read when it truly felt like Julian was forcing his partner to participate in acts she wasn’t entirely comfortable with and that’s never going to be OK with me. In all, The Raven Room has too many issues with its major parts (characters and plot) to be a good or even decent read. I can say with all confidence, it isn’t a book I would recommend to readers.