Darkness Dawns

by Zakarrie Clarke

Darkness Dawns - Zakarrie Clarke
Part of the Darkness Dawns series:
  • Darkness Dawns

Darkness Dawns is a love story. It also tells the tale of one man’s war with himself, brought onto the battlefield of his blindness. Leo Ferrar suffers from diabetic retinopathy and lost his sight two years ago. Unable to bear the scrutiny of strangers or the impact of his blindness on those he loves, Leo has determined on shutting the world out ever since. This is the man Ben meets on his first day at work as Mr Ferrar’s care assistant.

A former heroin addict, Ben was sentenced to six months community service as punishment for his crimes by a judge entitled to condemn him to a seven-year stretch. Far too charming for his own welfare, Ben proves unaccountably brilliant at ‘bulldozing the blind’.

When fate sees fit to dispatch Ben to the home of the man he has dubbed Mr Ferrarcious; it is with the words of the last five unfortunates who’d dared darken Leo’s doorway ringing in his ears.  A door that is opened by a man who might be Lord Byron himself. Drop dead gorgeous and as hot as hell, Leo Ferrar has the most beautiful eyes Ben has ever seen.

Never has an irony seemed so cruel. Nor fate so fortuitous.

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Leo knew he should have opted to use the cane, instead of the arm Ben offered him for their unexpected walk. Should. Every time that word left someone’s lips, Leo wanted to scream; fists clenched in a screech of hopeless, helpless rage. The fact that everything he should do was For-His-Own-Benefit, made it so much worse, which was as ludicrous as it was true. Independence was the only thing he had left to aspire to. So, why the fuck did should rub Leo so raw it obliterated any inclination he may have had to do whatever it prefaced? He ought to want READ MORE

>to do the things he should. But what if he tried…and failed? What if Leo couldn’t master any of them? Then he would lose even the hope that he might, one day, be able to. Even more galling, that loss would be down to him, because he was so bloody useless. He did want to show Ben that he was quite capable of managing…didn’t he? Very much, although why that mattered, Leo had no idea.

Why care what this latest in a long line of functioning eyeballs thought of him? It was probably more politic to say, ‘visually unimpaired’. Visually Impaired. Leo had to stifle the urge to punch people who described him thus. Impaired? Adj: weakened or damaged. Weak. Weakened. F’fucksakes. He was still chewing that particular wasp when Ben asked for his wrist.

Does he intend to lead me by it, as if I’m a toddler?

Leo found himself holding it out anyway. Christ knows why he was going along with all this. It was just that…being in Ben’s company was rather like sitting in the passenger seat of a snow plough driven by a drunk. Far preferable to standing in its path…and yet, somehow more appealing than staying behind, wherever the hell it was off to.

Nevertheless, he was still relieved when Ben clasped the proffered wrist—not to cart Leo off as he’d feared—but to plant his hand on top of Ben’s head. The fact that Leo could have changed the lightbulb without stretching a whole lot further, did seem to suggest he’d been addressing Ben’s nipples for the last half hour.

Quite how Ben then contrived to claim fault for something that was Leo’s mistake was less clear, but this was pulled off with such disarming charm, it would’ve been churlish to argue otherwise. Why the hell did the notion of calling Ben’s bluff feel as brutal a prospect as drowning his cat? If he had one, of course. Cat? More to the point…nipples?

“Thank you,” Leo managed to mumble, which was something of a result itself. Half an hour with Ben and he’d started to feel several sandwiches short of the proverbial picnic. He’d also begun to suspect that Violet had been a sweet little old lady—and quite sane—when she’d met Ben.

So off they went. The blindingly daft leading the blind off on a stroll around Camden.

In a bid to distract himself from well, pretty much everything he’d thought for the last five minutes, Leo decided to ask Ben to describe himself. For some reason he was intrigued, not only to know what Ben looked like, but to hear the picture he drew. Leo had an inkling this would prove more unmissable than an aural tour around the National Portrait Gallery. Unmissable? It was a bloody masterpiece. There most definitely were not any renderings of Steptoe’s six-four daughter there. The last two years might have felt a damn sight less soul-destroying if Ben had voiced Leo’s DVD visual descriptions.

Walking outside had lost all its appeal when the world became a giant landmine lying in wait to blow up in Leo’s face; every step into the unknown, a potential public humiliation. Despite this, and Ben’s partiality to lamp posts, they somehow arrived in Gloucester Crescent, alive and well. Even more shocking, was that Leo hadn’t fretted about…anything really, along the way. He’d just drifted along, listening to Ben weave words too beguiling to question where embellishment waved farewell to the truth. But who the fuck would want to, when that would feel as blasphemous as punching a fist through a Picasso?

Reviews:Lena Grey on Rainbow Book Reviews wrote:

“If you're brave enough to get through the darkness then you shall shine in the light.” ~ Matthew Donnelly

No matter what happens in our lives, we still have the choice either, to wallow in our sorrow, or make the best of the situation. Leo, of ‘Darkness Dawns’ by Zakarrie Clarke, loses his sight to retinopathy, takes a situation that would be difficult for anyone, and prolongs his agony by his inability to accept his misfortune. Instead of doing what he needs to do to deal with it, he hides from the world, trying hard to ignore his plight. It takes Ben, a young man sent to assist Leo with his daily needs, to help him see that the absence of light in his life is not so much caused by his lack of vision, but by the lack of faith in his ability to deal without it.

Considering all that Ben has heard about Leo, Ben nicknames him Mr. Ferraocious, because he has terrorized everyone who has been sent to help him. Ben is more than a little anxious about meeting him. When Leo answers the door, Ben is amazed to find that Leo is nothing like he expects him to be and is quickly enthralled. Either out of nervousness or because that’s merely who he is, Ben greets Leo with an ongoing stream of consciousness, giving Leo a headache. When Leo asks, Ben tells him about his recent caregiving experience with an extremely unconventional older lady who has just died. Ben misses her and regales Leo with tales of their adventures together. Listening to him, Leo has to wonder if Ben’s former client was quite as exceptional before Ben came to care for her, or if part of her eccentricity was, indeed, caused by Ben’s presence.

Leo is fed up with people either feeling sorry for him because of his condition, or being condescending, uncomfortable, or treating him like glass. Leo is angry at his circumstances and, instead of learning how to manage in his new situation, e.g., learning Braille, the manner in which people treat him makes him even more determined not to put himself out there. Leo would rather stay home, feel sorry for himself and be miserable, than having to face what he considers to be humiliation and failure.

Ben can see what Leo is doing and why, but, at the same time, he knows he has to win Leo’s trust and prove to him that Ben doesn’t pity him. Instead of handling him with the same kid gloves as everyone else, Ben goes out of his way to prove to Leo that he is perfectly capable of breaking out of his self-imposed isolation, and find hope and self-confidence again. Ben also knows that it is not going to be an easy task.

I was expecting a story about a man who lost his sight to be more sad and anxiety ridden, but Zakarrie managed to take the situation and turn it around with humor and profound insight. Without Ben, Leo would have wasted away in self-loathing, fear, and darkness. Instead of that, Ben managed to show Leo that, although his life has changed, it doesn’t mean it’s over. Ben brought encouragement, humor, and love back into his life. By doing so, Ben helps Leo to find the courage to have more in life than he thought he ever could again. Thanks, Zakarrie, for giving me a story of hope, spiced with hotness and humor. I can hardly wait to see what happens with these special men in the second book in the series.

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by MLR Press for the purpose of a review.

Kenna on Joyfully Jay wrote:

Thanks to diabetic retinopathy, Leo Ferrar has been blind for two years. He’s bitter and has shut himself off from the rest of the world. Leo’s gone through several support workers because he’s mean. They have even started to call him Mr. Ferrarocious. Now, he’s expecting a new support worker from the agency, and he’s determined to send them away as well, but Leo is in no way prepared for what happens next.

Ben, a recovering heroin addict, is serving community service at the support work agency. He’s just off a job where he’d cared for an elderly woman who passed away. He mourns her, but he needs to get back to work. Ben’s assigned to Leo and he will not be deterred by Leo’s attitude.

Within hours, Leo finds himself more comfortable with Ben than he has been with any other person other than his family. Ben’s charming, makes Leo laugh, and he’s got the most beautiful voice Leo’s ever heard. Meanwhile, Ben is intrigued by Leo and he wants to help him come back to himself. It doesn’t hurt that Leo has the most beautiful eyes that Ben has ever seen.

Can Ben break down Leo’s walls, and can Leo get past his bitterness and learn to enjoy life again?

I. Loved. This. Book!! You guys, this was one of the most charming, sweet, and sexy books I’ve read in a long time. It was beautifully written (also very British), with a character driven story that was compelling and held my attention all the way through to the very end. There was nearly zero conflict…just two men who clicked. It may have taken a little bit (and I mean a little bit) for Leo to warm to Ben, but even that was relatively low stress. Ben took Leo by surprise. I would even say he steamrolled him, and that’s exactly what Leo needed.

Darkness Dawns is almost 200 pages long, but it most definitely didn’t feel like it. Everything was so smooth, I felt like it was over in a flash. What is interesting, though, is the story itself only takes place over two and a half days. There was a spark between the two men, and it burned like an inferno. Along with charming me with their amusing banter, Leo and Ben melted my Kindle. The sex scenes were smoking hot, but they weren’t over the top.

What I liked best, though, were the scenes where Leo and Ben talked. Their chemistry wasn’t only for the bedroom. Their conversations helped them connect on a deeper level, and they broke through each other’s barriers. As I said, there wasn’t much time from meeting to becoming intimate, so a lot of ground was covered within those pages. I was very impressed by the author’s skill.

I have to tell you, I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s really something special. Do yourself a favor and pick it up and savor it. It will definitely go into your re-read pile.

Maggie Blackbird on Maggie Blackbird wrote:

Review: The blurb above says it all, so I’ll get straight to the review. When reading the first paragraph, I was hooked. The voices of the characters were rich and strong, so strong I swore Leo and Ben were showing me their story. Not telling. Showing. You swear Leon and Ben simply had author Zakarrie Clarke take dictation.

The novel played out with the richest and deepest scenery in my head. The dialogue was real, so real I could see Leo and Ben standing there, jabbering back and forth with their naughty puns, dry humour, and oh-so-casual banter. Yes, the dialogue—each had a distinct voice. I knew who was speaking at all times.

These characters JUMPED off the page.

As for their story, the author did her research. She captured Leo brilliantly as a man who’s lost his sight and refuses to accept his blindness. When I finished the book, I had a great sense of knowing Leo, because I had a hunch he was a man who fumbled through life trying to find his place and happiness, even before losing his sight. Yes, he had his music that brought joy. Yes, he had the odd fling or two. But Leo didn’t really understand the beauty life offers. He seemed to exist. And his impending blindness through his illness only made matters worse for him.

So when we meet Leo, he’s deep in grief. He’s at that spot the author captured brilliantly of before and after. I loved how Ms. Clarke named when Leo lost his sight as before. Because when a person grieves a deep loss, this is how they think. Time stops at that moment when their world crumbles to dust. Before. Nicely done.

Enter Ben, a man who’s spent his last two years acting as caregiver for the cranky, what-the-hell, so-be-it Violet before her death. Most would run in fear from her, unable to cross the rickety bridge she’s built, but Ben does cross, with flying colours. No falling into the ravine full of trolls. And he’s able to do the same with Leo.

Does Ben have his doubts at times? Yes, he does, which makes him so human. Of course he wonders if he’s upsetting Leo who is very sensitive about his blindness. Of course Ben’s a tad unsure of himself, pondering whether his actions are pissing off Leo. But Ben is a delightful man full of optimism, so much so Leo can’t help sliding into Ben’s “slipstream,” as the author so wonderfully puts it.

The sex scenes were moving and full of character growth, so much that if you removed them, you’d lose a great deal of the arcs for each character. These are my kind of sexual scenes. I want to see growth. I want to see change. I want to see doubt. I want to see despair. I want to see happiness. And Ms. Clarke provides all of this.

I won’t spoil the ending, but it ended appropriately–that first step. And from what I understand, there will be another book. I can hardly wait to read and review it, and see what happens next for Ben and Leo.

I HIGHLY recommend this book. It moves at a slow pace. It’s rich in internal narrative. So if you’re looking for something fast paced and full of action, you won’t get that with Darkness Dawns. This is a man’s journey to self-acceptance, helped by another man who is fighting to make this sightless individual “see.”

About the Author

After moving to London at eighteen and flitting about for far too long, Zakarrie settled, as blissy as can be, by the sea. ‘Twas here that her castaway dreams resurfaced and she began to write. A lot…after realizing that she finally felt able to allow her innermost self a voice. In truth, her books are better at being her than she's ever been. Her one hope now is that someone, somewhere, will enjoy the misadventures of her miscreants as much as she adores writing them.

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