Anna Zaire writes a couple of series. The one that I am going to review is a modern, new adult, (very) dark romance. The male protagonist is an anti-hero (Julian), a very successful international weapons dealer. He kidnaps 18yo Nora and takes her to his extremely remote private island in the South Pacific where he holds her captive, a victim for his violent erotic urges and bending her mind to his will.
This is a series of three books, the first of which is Twist Me, and I’m reviewing it in this post. I will post reviews of the second and third books shortly.
Kidnapped. Taken to a private island.
I never thought this could happen to me. I never imagined one chance meeting on the eve of my eighteenth birthday could change my life so completely.
Now I belong to him. To Julian. To a man who is as ruthless as he is beautiful – a man whose touch makes me burn. A man whose tenderness I find more devastating than his cruelty.
My captor is an enigma. I don’t know who he is or why he took me. There is a darkness inside him – a darkness that scares me even as it draws me in.
My name is Nora Leston, and this is my story.
WARNING: This is NOT a traditional romance. It contains disturbing subject matter, including themes of questionable consent and Stockholm Syndrome, as well as graphic sexual content. This is a work of fiction intended for a mature, 18+ audience only. The author neither endorses nor condones this type of behavior.
— — —
I love this book! I found it online while searching for a dark romance and am so thankful I stumbled across it. There was the right amount of character development for Nora and it was refreshing to see her go through the psychological effects of her kidnapping in stages. I would imagine that the grief, anger and anxiety of being a victim would come in waves as it did for her.
Nora goes through her initial time on the island with schemes and escape attempts, testing the limits of her new world and trying to find a way to get back home to her parents. Then she goes through a period of relative peace, attempting to get along and not escape, consciously accepting this as her new life as a way to survive and protect her mental state. But in the unconscious recesses of her mind, Nora still fights against her captor and has not acclimated at all, a state that violently erupts from her during the evening of her birthday, her first since arriving on the island.
My favourite part of the book though, was Zaires’ writing of Julian. I imagine that he was a hard character to balance. Too evil and he is irredeemable and you lose your audience. But he has to stay bad and somewhat removed, because the reader is identifying with Nora, not him, and you want the reader to experience her emotional journey. I thought Zaires managed this balance very well.
Julian is undeniably a bad guy, from his actions with Nora to his occupation. But that doesn’t make him all bad, all the time. No one is. His relationship with Beth proves that he has a softer side, and so does his relationship with Nora.
(minor spoilers ahead, pertaining to Julian’s treatment of Nora)
Julian beats her in the sense that he is a sexual dominant, with some aspects of sadism in his personality, but he never harms her to the point where she needs medical attention, or leaves permanent marks. Welts and bruises fade in a couple of days and he is easily capable of doing far worse, proving that even while acting out his fantasies or punishing an escape attempt, he remains firmly in control of his desires and strengths, to avoid doing her damage.
Julian protects her from his enemies and “frenemies” in the weapons dealing industry. He controls her behavior not by beating her silly, or through sexual abuse or sensory deprivation, withholding of food, locking her in a dungeon or chemical substances, but with the health and well-being of a boy from home. Devious and sinister undoubtedly, that poor boy takes a few beatings for Nora’s actions, and this is a form of psychological torment for Nora.
But with all that, it is a relatively minor punishment considering all that he could do to this girl who is completely under his control and utterly defenseless. Not only did he not take out his rage on her body, but he refrained from even threatening her beloved parents or best friend, choosing instead a boy she had an adolescent crush on. He wants her love, not just her submission, and this creates a line he chooses not to cross, in his dealings with Nora.
In the next few days, I will post a review of the second book in the series, Keep Me. It will contain spoilers from book one, so if you are interested, check out the book before reading my next two reviews.
According to the author’s website, she is currently working on a side-quel to this series, that will take place after the conclusion of the third book, Hold Me. This side-quel will feature characters introduced in the second and third novels. I will eagerly be watching for a pre-order link to be posted for it.
* * * * * and highly recommended!