The Darkness Within (Scars And Stripes Trilogy Book 2) by Raquel Riley

Book 2 of the Stars & Stripes Trilogy follows of POW and his sponsor on their journey to recovery. The Darkness Within is not an easy read but is a powerful and moving read that will leave a mark on you.

Nash is in trouble after being help prisoner. Being a POW he is having survivor guilt. Luckily he has a nurse that puts him on track for help.

From the blurb:

You can’t give your heart away until you first learn to love yourself.


A mission gone sideways. My world turned upside down on a dime.

Held prisoner in the dark tunnels below ground, cut off from the world, I was hanging onto life by a thread. Wanting to end my suffering, but afraid to let go.

And then I was rescued. Dragged into the light. My first breath of freedom in twenty-two days. But I was still trapped in my nightmare, inside my head.

A prisoner of war.


His mind may be broken, but his soul is still intact, and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. As his sponsor, I promised to help him find his way, to show him how to love himself again. I'm breaking all the rules of recovery by falling in love with him. But when you find the person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with, you don’t want to waste another day apart.

The Darkness Within is the second book in the Scars and Stripes Trilogy. This hurt/ comfort MM romance deals with heavy topics such as addiction, mental health, PTSD, and a forbidden love that defies all the rules. A high-angst story that has a hard-earned HEA and cameos from Proof Of Life.

Molly Otto's review:

This book just leaves you feeling like you are a better person for going through this journey with Nash & Brewer. Nash has gone to hell and back and is struggling to find his new place. When he hits his lowest, he is fortunate enough to have Mandy and the rest of the BALLS boys and, in particular the Bitches with Stiches men who immediately take him as one of their own and with humor and heart help him take the steps needed for his recovery. Brewer has a similar yet different past, so he gets what Nash needs to succeed even when he wants to hold him up and make it easier. But recovery is not about the easy way it's the long fought out road that has switchbacks, and if you keep fighting, it will all turn as you need to be able to move forward. These men have a connection you feel in your soul where they will be the others' solace and the tough love when needed. Truly an amazing work, the pain of this journey was more than worth it to see these men have their version of a HEA.

Reed Kaye's review:

I don’t know how the author can hardly create this story. I was in tears so many times. This is a highly emotional story.

Nash is a POW and struggling. Thanks to a caring nurse he is thrown together with the opportunity for help. Even with this opportunity he is having trouble.

Brewer is a kind heart that has made it his life path helping other soldiers trying to adjust to life after being in the service. When he meets Nast he knows there is an instant attraction but Nash is so troubled will Brewer’s help be enough.

This reminded me of all the problems our service people face after serving and how little help most get. I love this trilogy and hope the author decides to write more with this group of characters than the three planned.

Elizabeth's review:

Before you start this book, you’re going to want to read the trigger warnings as there are some sensitive topics to some people. This book made me laugh and it made me cry. It follows the journey of Nash a POW who returns stateside and is very much struggling with life. He needs his savior only he doesn’t know it’s his savior. You will want to read the first book in this series. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

Chaoskay's review:

Half starved and a shattered femur he put his hunger and pain aside to be there for Victor who was in a much worse state than he was he held him close and he chased the rats away from him, he couldn’t give in or Victor workday never get home.
When he is saved and taken home things start to get worse as he can’t accept he failed and starts to abuse his medications but the day he meets Brewer his therapist things look a little brighter.
As the days turn into months he gets closer to Brewer but neither taking the next step for over 10 months. Although it was a slow build up between Nash and Brewer the anticipation was delicious.
He had the support of the B!itches and as usual their antics made me laugh out loud and the guys especially Tex from Serenity House where he’s living.

I don’t cry at books but omg did my heart hurt so much for Nash and what he had to endure and how he thought himself not worthy.
When Nash loves he loves hard be it Man, Woman, Beast or inanimate object (I don’t want to spoil it by saying anymore )
It was great catching up with the B!tches again and as usual the banter had me laughing and when Nash needed them most they were all there for him.
As with book one this book was perfect and I’m really looking forward to reading Riggs story.

Angel's review:

The first story in this series was heartbreaking, and this one was even more so. Nash was a Prisoner of War, he was held captive with his best friend G, and while they both did eventually make it back home, Nash was the one who came back alive. I was crying after the first few chapters, this story and these characters, just ripped my heart apart.

Nash is struggling, understandably so, but he's abusing his prescriptions, and not taking care of himself. Once Mandy and the BWS got a hold of him he realized that he has people around who cares; and he discovered that he has to live, not just for himself, but also for G as well. Nash has a long journey and recovery ahead of him and we got to go through that journey with him. His recovery is not an easy one, but it's one that's necessary for him to move forward with his life.

I thought this story was beautiful, and poignant, and really informative as well. The topics that were discussed were written so intrinsically, you could tell Raquel took a lot of time to thoroughly research each and every subject that was discussed. I found this book to be very believable, while this book and these characters are works of fiction, somewhere out there in the world, this is someone's story. This is someone's struggle. And I think it's so beautiful that Raquel wrote such a stunning story, with so many complex characters and raw emotions. The pacing was excellent! It gave time for Nash to work on himself, and for Brewer and him to work the steps, along with getting to know one another better.

The side characters were terrific! I loved that we got to see the men from the sewing circle again, and I hope that Tex will get his own story soon! I really want to learn more about him. The way Nash is with his cat is adorable, I'm glad he was so passionate about caring for the little kitty and his plant.

I highly recommend you read this book, you won't be disappointed. I will say that you should definitely read the CW's before you start reading. This book deals and discusses a lot of heavy and traumatic topic matter, so please read with caution if those are topics that could trigger you.

The Darkness Within is currently available as an e-book and can be read as part of your Kindle Unlimited Subscription