Brandon Carlyle, a famous movie actor, has the image of a Hollywood bad boy. Brandon is now in hiding after spending three years in prison for manslaughter. He has sought refuge in the small town he grew up in, Ticky Creek, Texas and is living with his beloved aunt and uncle seeking peace and quiet. Although Brandon was at the top of his movie career when he was sent to prison, the offers for acting are now few and insignificant. Now on parole, he relishes the time he is spending with his aunt and uncle, works hard on their ranch/farm, and is questioning what he will do with the rest of his life. He is still young enough to have many acting years ahead. But, what really counts in life? When we first meet Brandon, he is in a depressed state, asking himself these questions and we can see his inner turmoil and identify favorably with him. He doesn't act out his previous bad boy image and fights to maintain a cool head and stay completely away from what could be considered inappropriate behavior. Of course, he is very handsome and tremendously sexy. Brandon is protected from the outside world by Ticky Creeks' residents who cherish him and keep his whereabouts secret.
Alyson (Aly) James is a tabloid writer looking for one last big story that will hopefully provide her with the funds to change her life. Aly has found that big story - she has discovered Brandon's hiding place and wants to be the one to reveal the latest about Brandon Carlyle. Yes, Aly's plans for exposing Brandon are not honorable and she does have a sleazy tabloid background. However, she is a fantastic heroine - one of my favorites. In fact, her description of such a career in reviews of this book, kept me from reading it for some time. I just could not imagine her in a positive light. But the author pulls it off. We read about a heroine who is strong, understanding, kind, and empathetic. She decides that she cannot continue her past career as she gets to know Brandon and his family. She now fully sees that there is always another side to a story. In the case of Brandon Carlyle, his story has an overwhelming and sad side.
Darkling I Listen is definitely a very serious, dramatic story. There are a few humorous lines but mostly it lives up to its name in that it is a very dark tale. Brandon and Aly have a great amount of interaction for the first three-fourths of the book. We are in for a stimulating and intensive read as we see Brandon come out of his shell and are allowed to observe the secrets of his agonizing past. Aly plays well into Brandon's recovery. She shows much more character than her past would indicate.
The sensual portions of the book have been described by other(s) as some of the most sensual they have read. Although well written and meaningful, these scenes rate about a 4.0 out of 5.0 (see More About Me for rating guidelines). Yes, some of these scenes fall closer to a 4.5 rating but the scenes are infrequent and therefore my reasoning for a 4.0 sensual rating. This is not a book in which you miss sensual scenes. You are so caught up in the entire book that they simply help round out a very beautiful story.
Although this is a definite five star rated book, there still were a couple of troubling aspects. First the suspenseful ending of the book was just too much. It was too graphic and violent for my tastes. Second, the epilogue is squandered. It is spent on the many secondary characters (both good and evil) appearing all at the same time to explain their part in Brandon's misery and seek his forgiveness. I wanted interaction between the leads. Instead, I felt that the author wasted the entire epilogue tying up loose ends that we as readers already understood completely.
Darkling I Listen is an excellent, excellent book! It is a deeply moving and multifaceted story. With the exception of the violent final portion of the book, this tale lacks nothing. It is truly great reading. This is my first of Sutcliffe's books and I will keep it to read another day. I look forward to reading her other books and have just started her newest, Bad Moon Rising.