REVIEW: Begging for It by Lilah Pace
*all the trigger warnings* This book features rape fantasy and themes of rape and abuse. There is reference and depiction of sexual assault in the book but it is not perpetrated by the hero or the heroine.
What happens between the hero and the heroine is all consensual. (This was an important factor for me, so I thought it worth mentioning right at the beginning. I have no issue with those who like to read dub-con but it’s not my bag.)
There is also reference to domestic abuse (again, not by the hero or heroine).
*spoilers for Asking for It below*
Dear Lilah Pace,
I reviewed Asking for It here in June of this year. I said in that review:
The very last thing Jonah wanted was to traumatise a woman by his actions. In fact, this is something which becomes a very big problem for them and I’m curious to see what the author does to resolve it in the next book. I hope she treats the matter with sensitivity and doesn’t just brush it off.
Jonah split up with Vivienne because he felt betrayed. When they agreed to play their “games” Vivienne withheld one important part of her story. While it was entirely fair for her not to share with Jonah that she had been raped by Anthony at age 14, it nevertheless changed everything for Jonah when he found out. He never wanted to victimise a woman. He never wanted to traumatise a woman (he never wanted to traumatise a man either but I’m using “woman” in the sense that he is sexually attracted to women, not men). Knowing that Vivienne was raped, Jonah feels:
“You turned me into the last thing I ever wanted to be. You turned me into someone who abused a rape victim.”
Of course, Vivienne didn’t experience what she and Jonah did as abuse. But it was nevertheless something which Jonah didn’t feel he could move past. As Vivienne discovered earlier in the book, Jonah “gets to have limits too”. I was particularly curious how you were going to resolve this issue. I didn’t really like the way it was resolved as it happened. It is clear that Jonah and Vivienne still have very strong feelings for each other and each still has the desire to play rape fantasy games. Jonah suggests they pursue a relationship without the rape fantasy and Vivienne explains to Jonah that, unlike him, she cannot orgasm at all without that fantasy at least playing in her mind. (FWIW and unlike Vivienne, I didn’t accept that the reason Jonah could orgasm without the fantasy was merely because he was a man. That seemed a bit sexist to me). She gives Jonah an ultimatum – her and rape fantasy or nothing. She does at least realise that this is unfair but she is advocating for herself here and making it clear what she needs. The latter I appreciated but the manner of it jarred. It seemed to me that she didn’t give Jonah enough time to consider his position and she hadn’t really taken his feelings into account. My impression was that because she knew what they did together wasn’t abuse, Jonah needed to get over his “overreaction”. That is very much over-simplifying her thoughts, but it’s what it boiled down to for me. I didn’t get the impression, despite all of her acknowledgement that Jonah gets to have limits too, that she had fully appreciated what had upset him and why.
At the same time, Vivienne is hurt that almost immediately after she reveals that Anthony raped her, Jonah breaks things off and, even though I felt for Jonah more in the situation, I wasn’t unsympathetic to Vivienne. I appreciate that you were able to create that conflict within me, of being able to see both sides of a difficult situation.
I was also fuzzy on why Jonah had the fantasy he had – I didn’t feel it was clear in the first book. This was made clear to me – in only a few words too.
Because that was Jonah’s first impression of sex—violent, forcible, and merciless. Over and over, as a child, he would ask his mother what was wrong. Over and over, she refused to accept the truth of what was happening. Denial was easier for her. So she told Jonah that what was happening was normal between men and women.
He learned better, thank God. But the damage to his psyche was done. For him, the sights and sounds of force will always be arousing.
*spoiler alert* Jonah accepts Vivienne’s ultimatum. Thereafter there is a lot of sex. It is edgy and hot but it was a little too plentiful for me. By this stage I was fully invested in Jonah and Vivienne sorting things out and finding a way to have a healthy relationship instead of this love-hate thing – they loved each other but each hated that they felt compelled to play rape fantasy games. The relationship each has with their fetish is not easy. For me, the sex got in the way of that because it did not show them doing anything new particularly, or learning anything they didn’t already know.
Around this time, a stalker and rapist starts attacking girls on/near campus. Jonah is a suspect because of a misunderstanding by an ex-girlfriend and this causes problems for Jonah with evil Carter Hale. More than anything, this gives Vivienne the chance to be Jonah’s strength and shield, where the reverse had been the case in Asking for It. This section of the book showed Jonah’s vulnerabilities and Vivienne’s strengths and it was a nice contrast. That said, there was an element of melodrama to any scenes involving Carter Hale and to the rapist subplot. How the latter ended up was unsurprising. Even the who in fact, and I’m not very good at mysteries.
After a confrontation in Chicago with Carter Hale, Jonah reaches his breaking point. Essentially, they are back to where they were at the beginning of the book, but this time Vivienne takes a better (IMO) approach and one which is far more sympathetic to Jonah’s needs. Here was the consideration I had been hoping for earlier in the book. Here was the resolve to try and create something fully healthy in their sexual relationship. Vivienne’s feelings of pressure made a great deal of sense and how it was resolved seemed authentic, realistic and robust. While there was a breakthrough moment, it didn’t occur during sex and said breakthrough didn’t mean that Vivienne became a walking orgasm either. The way Jonah and Vivienne negotiated what was right for them in ways that were healthy and unpolluted, felt right to me and I found the ending very satisfying indeed. I was very thankful that you didn’t go the Fifty Shades of Grey route here.
Even though there was no Jonah POV (sadness!) I did feel like I got to know him better in this book and his feelings and motivations were much clearer, which meant I had a richer reading experience.
Begging for It was a little up and down for me – there were parts which made me roll my eyes a little, parts which made me cross and parts which were excellent. I did like how Jonah and Vivienne prioritised honesty and authenticity and even though I’ve been critical of some of Vivienne’s actions, I did think this had an element of realism to it – relationships are messy and no-one is perfect. Sometimes two people can want opposing things and neither is necessarily wrong. Negotiating that stuff is hard. I thought, ultimately, the book, demonstrated that well.