Comfort Food

Comfort Food - Kitty Thomas My review contains spoilers and they're are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

I’ve been fidgeting for sometimes now, thinking what to write in this review. Comfort Food has been in my TBR for a long time, since before I started reading any kind of Erotica, let alone the dark, disturbing ones. My reading choices have shifted over the year and a half, so I decided to give this story a try. I’ve read some reviews and they are just too mixed and/or extreme. Now that I’ve read it, I’ll just go with my instinct and write the review based on that.

Emily, a successful author of self-help books is abducted one day as her life changes irrevocably. We don’t much know the what and how, but since this story is from first person POV, we see Emily all tied up somewhere; a place where silence reigns. Emily is berating herself for being clumsy enough to leave her drinks unattended etc. She is mulling over the ramifications of this abduction and what’ll finally happen to her, when suddenly she hears her captor’s footsteps... When her blindfold is opened, Emily finds herself looking at a beautiful man. Everything is perfect about him, except for the eyes. She could see that his eyes are flat, without any emotions. Emily thinks, how can a monster be so beautiful? Aren’t monsters supposed to be always ugly? I especially liked the Ted Bundy reference that goes through her head.

Emily also takes a look at where she is; a cell type room, bared of everything. There is only a lid-less toilet and a drainage system and nothing else. Her captor brings her food on the first day; chicken noodles soup with crackers. Her comfort food. Emily begins to think just how much this man knows about her. As he feeds her, some things become clear; that Emily has to abide by his rules, or else he would make her beg, literally. Even then he won’t relent until HE thinks it’s alright. And that Emily has to make herself comfortable about him touching her.

Her captor doesn’t talk to her, at all. None. Nothing. Nada, no matter how much she tries to communicate with him. His only reactions can be found from his almost stoic expression; you have to look into his eyes, if and when he decides to show something through them. Most of the times it’s amusement or resignation, as if he always expects her reactions. And he’s always kind to her. Never abusive, violent... always in control. Then Emily learns how kindness can become cruelty, because behind each of his ‘kind’ actions, there are some ulterior motives. When she disobeys, he just leaves her to stew over... in silence. And Emily can’t abide by not communicating with anyone since her work and lifestyle revolved around her self-help ideas and loads and loads of talking with people. Emily knew that nothing could be crueler than this. Even I thought it was a part of his punishment and was amazed by his control, of never speaking a word back through her initial tantrums.

Soon, Emily finds out that the cell has small cameras. And she starts trying to decipher this mind game. To some extent, she succeeds. She becomes obedient, falls into a pattern. His touch and fondlings don’t bother her anymore. Emily knows what he wants from her, and she thinks she can accept his touch since he’s good looking and kind to her. I found myself empathizing with Emily’s musings, because loads of things go through your head at a situation like this; some make sense, some doesn’t. She knows she’s having Stockholm Syndrome and all that, she even knows that not fighting him isn’t ‘normal’, per say. But she can’t help it.

One day, when her obedience is proven, her captor blindfolds her again, and takes her to a different place. They end up having sex... or she’s manipulated in having sex with him. Now this cell is different. It’s huge, for a starter. This room, or a gilded cage if you can imagine, has everything she loves and enjoys; books, music, a big closet full of designer clothes... even a ballet practicing room. Emily used to practice once upon a time, and her captor even knew this. It was no mathematics to figure out that he’s as rich as Croesus and probably lives alone in this big castle-like house.

For a few days, things go his way... sex and all that. She gets to stay in the ‘good cell’ as she calls it now, as long as she obeys and pleases him. She still doesn’t have any privacy like the ‘bad cell’, but by now Emily is not concerned about that. Then, out of desperation and to preserve some of her sanity, one day Emily tries killing her captor. But he foils her attempt so easily, making her realize that he probably has hidden cameras in this room too. She’s punished again, this time two weeks in the bad cell. Emily now knows, every time she does something like this, the punishment time would extend by a week with her return to the bad cell. And more of the chicken noodles soup with crackers, every freakin’ day she’s in here; her comfort food no longer a comfort. No solid food as it was in the good cell. But Emily wants the touch and the communication and so, she’s desperate to prove to him again that she’s willing to obey his orders.

Some of the things, when I compared his ‘kindness’ towards her, struck me hard. He never abuses her, he feeds her, let’s her take a bath every day, even takes care of her injury when she’s hurt but he won’t provide her with tampons or sanitary pads when she has her cycle, even when she pleads for it, proving just how much ‘control’ he has over himself. And it’s cruel to say the least. I found it horrible. He never, once, lost control for the rest of the book. I didn’t know what to think or feel for this sociopath. One day, Emily is even given a book of D/s writing, with the words ‘Master’ meticulously highlighted in every page. Finally Emily, in a way, understands the type of game he wants to play with her.

After two weeks in the bad cell, Emily’s captor introduces her to his darkest sexual fantasies. A dungeon full of BDSM stuff and sex toys. You can easily imagine what he had in his mind... well, maybe not. Just know that in this story, there is no loving BDSM relationship, just staking ‘ownership’ on a human being. Emily wasn’t into BDSM, though from an early incident with a boyfriend she thought she’s ‘wired differently’. I don’t want to go into their BDSM play but her captor likes to draw blood, and Emily gradually begins finding his treatment arousing. She knows it can’t be right, but she still can’t help herself. Now, don’t get me wrong. This book isn’t full of that kind of dirty, kinky stuff. The sex scenes are very few and mostly left to your imagination, so I wasn't horrified per say because there was no graphic description, yet equally disturbed with the mind game that was going on.

We soon jump five months later... Emily has gotten herself into a ‘routine’, though we only get a few glimpses of those. She has given herself over to this man she now calls ‘Master’ and whatever the hell he wants to do with her; her only goal to prove herself worthy of him and not being returned to the bad cell. One day, as she wakes up and gets ready for their day to start together, she finds her captor absent. Emily panics instantly. Her captor’s routine is like clockwork, always predictable; a routine she knows by heart. This new development absolutely shakes her. Later, when he comes in to find her still waiting for him in her position, he’s angry. Emily starts begging for not to let her go. But he won’t relent, as usual. He doesn’t care much about her pleas. When she refuses to leave, he brings out his own journal to explain why he did what he did, which starts with something like, he saw something beautiful and he decided to break it.

Up to this part, I was really enjoying it, though I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word for what I was feeling. I was plain hooked and wanted to see what happens next. It was addictive, to say the least and KT’s writing awesome no doubt. It was mindboggling and thrilling at the same time. Then as I read through his journals, I begin to get angry. This guy, who in reality has speech difficulties, is rich, owns a big business, so he has the means to keep his little project hidden away. As the workings of his mind is revealed, whatever little attraction I felt for him initially, just evaporated. He certainly doesn’t possess any emotion and in his own twisted way, he justifies everything he does. He certainly doesn’t regret taking Emily or whatever he has done with her. He wanted someone completely in his control, and he made that ‘someone’ out through Emily. You might go ‘ooh and ahh’ after reading his journal but I felt nothing. Not even pity. And now he has some misplaced sense of ‘morality’ and letting her go (throwing her out is the perfect way express it though).

I felt mad. Really, really mad! It was plain that Emily meant nothing to him, even though I shouldn’t even think that he has any understanding of that kind.

I sort of lost my interest in the story as it progresses when Emily finally returns home to find her parents announcing her dead and in the process of moving on. That part was plain sad. Emily begins to feel vulnerable when people are around and can’t stop herself from craving her captor’s touch and their games. I knew that at some point she’d return to him, the way she was; broken and brainwashed. She doesn’t allow the psychiatrist her parents take her to, to help her. Her mind is full of her ‘Master’, his touch and kisses, among other things. She finally decides that that is the life she wants and not this so-called ‘freedom’. Her return simply left me with unpleasant imaginations and sensations. As I see it, he might even kill her someday and justify in his twisted way that this was how it was meant to be.

So what was it? Obsession? It certainly wasn’t love as we are reminded over and over again of the fact. No one can even begin to compare this ‘whatever’ they had with love.

In the end, we read the last letter Emily writes to her parents. Even though she tries to establish herself as a ‘stronger’ person because of the ‘choices she freely made (to be with her captor)’, I simply felt pity for her. The amount of self-defensive bullsh*t in that letter, along with the line ‘I know this is difficult to comprehend’ just doesn’t go with a totally confident person making a ‘free choice’ with a clear head. In a way, she was also trying to justify her choices but just as twisted as her captor did of his own actions.

And, I certainly don’t agree with the line that what they have is something ‘stronger than love’.

So, don’t look for any closure, HEA or even HFN... I just let my mind go numb.

In the conclusion, one thing is sure, I definitely don’t regret reading Comfort Food, since I’m trying to find out more about this genre after I started reading Skye Warren’s Dark Erotica series (Highly Recommended from me). I still have KT’s Awakening. Even though I do admire her writing, I’m yet to decide if her voice works for me or not. 3.5 stars.

Warning: If you aren’t comfortable with situations and sex of dubious consent, BDSM in any form, questionable attractions and a sociopath ‘hero’, you don’t want to pick up this story. But if you aren’t disturbed by these things, then go ahead because the writing is super.