Dauntless – a Sons of Templar MC novel

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From Goodreads:

This isn’t a fairy tale. I’ll save you the trouble by telling you that now.

This is the tale of a girl who spent her life bouncing around foster homes, who had her innocence stolen in the darkness before she knew it was something that could be lost. Her demons followed her everywhere, after that night. They chased her to the medical school she dropped out of, to the strip club she sold herself in, and finally caught her in a river of sin where they tried to drown her.

My name is Bex and this is my story.

I’m paddling, barely keeping my head above water. And even though I’m submerged, I’ll never be clean. The layer of dirt that has clung to me since birth is a tattoo I’ll wear for life.
He can’t see it, though.
Even when I’m torn and tattered, and left in pieces, he wades into the filth to try to put those pieces back together.
He doesn’t seem to understand there’s nothing left to repair. To love. Just sullied fragments of a damned soul.
He’s willing to damn himself in order to exact revenge on those who sent me to the pit.
Problem is, my name is at the top of that list, since I not only damned my own soul, but his too.

*Contains dark subject matter and potential triggers
**Can be read as a standalone

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Okay, yes this can be read as a standalone. But I REALLY would not recommend it. The Sons of Templar MC is stellar and you would get so much more from the book if you read the others first. At least read Beyond the Horizon, which is the fourth book in the series and the one where Bex and Lucky meet.

Also, if you have read the series, note that this one is the darkest yet, IMHO. Trigger warnings include child abuse (in the heroine’s backstory), drug use, rape and mental illness. The heroine feels like she is worthless trash due to her experiences. Please note that none of the violence and abuse occurs between the hero and heroine.

Now we have that established…

I absolutely loved Dauntless. It totally made up for my last (disappointing) review. Bex and Lucky have a dark and twisted love story and I love that Bex is not your typical helpless heroine, waiting for the boys to come rescue her and help her deal emotionally. She is a kickass, strong, mentally-tough woman.

But she’s not perfect. The author, Anne Malcom, wrote a strong female lead who struggles with mental illness and with addiction. She has a horrific upbringing, from being dumped into the system at birth and being “raised” in a series of shitty foster homes, to her rape by one of those so-called “Dads” when she was just 12 years old. Those experiences have left some pretty extensive emotional scarring.

The story picks up when Bex is 23, a college dropout stripping to try to make rent every month and using drugs to cope with the she life she’s been handed. I love that Malcom doesn’t pretend a person who is mentally strong does not have any issues. Sometimes, the strongest have the most horrific life experiences. THAT is what makes them so strong.

Lucky and Bex appear to have been made for each other. The amount of patience and self-discipline Lucky demonstrates while waiting for Bex to pull herself together is incredible. I truly don’t think that I would have been able to do that for anyone. He knows that she is the one for him and is willing to do whatever, wait however long, in order to be with her and respect her boundaries. Repeatedly he steps back and lets her do things he doesn’t approve of because he understand her, understands that need to control her body and her life after control was taken from her so brutally in the past.

He also takes a lot of emotional abuse, understanding that the bitchiness is protecting a soft, extremely delicate core that cannot handle any more abuse. Lucky has always been the funny guy of the group, always with a joke and a smile. You sure see another side of him in Dauntless, but there is also a lot of humour and banter between him and Bex that helps to counter the dark content.

I felt that Dauntless was a more balanced story between the hero and the heroine than previous books in the series. It is still told almost entirely from Bex’s POV, but we learn a lot more of Lucky’s viewpoint and backstory than we did for previous male leads. This is a huge improvement in my opinion. I also loved that Malcom wrote them as an inter-racial couple and it was so not a big deal that I almost missed that point. This is how it should be! I’m tired of reading books where the author describes the hero/ine’s skin tone as chocolate or coffee a million and one times.

The earlier books in this series also had a slightly different pacing and style. Partially, I think the author is adapting her writing style, but also, her changes really fit with the dark tone of this book. There is a lot less jumping around in timeline – Dauntless mostly reads chronologically – and the supporting cast have far less importance and “page-time” than in other books, except for Rosie… who I seriously hope is the star of book six!

Malcom has started two other series, one a spin-off from the Sons of Templar MC and another completely separate, so I am guessing the books are not going to be coming as swiftly as I am used to. Too bad because I am very interested in reading all about Rosie and Luke, the hunky deputy!

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone who doesn’t mind a little dark in their romance!

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The Krinar Captive by Anna Zaires

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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The Krinar Captive is a prequel to the Mia and Korum series that was released by this author in the last few years. It does not have to be read as a part of the series; everything is explained and the reader should not be confused if this is read as a stand-alone.

From Goodreads:

A new standalone romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Twist Me and The Krinar Chronicles

Emily Ross never expected to survive her deadly fall in the Costa Rican jungle, and she certainly never thought she’d wake up in a strangely futuristic dwelling, held captive by the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. A man who seems to be more than human…

Zaron is on Earth to facilitate the Krinar invasion—and to forget the terrible tragedy that ripped apart his life. Yet when he finds the broken body of a human girl, everything changes. For the first time in years, he feels something more than rage and grief, and Emily is the reason for that. Letting her go would compromise his mission, but keeping her could destroy him all over again.

NOTE: This is a full-length, standalone romance that takes place approximately five years before The Krinar Chronicles trilogy (aka Mia & Korum’s story). You do not have to have read that trilogy to enjoy this book.

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I hate to say it, but I didn’t like this book. I do not feel that it added anything to the universe that was already established in the Krinar Chronicles. As the heroine, Emily, was introduced to Zaron and his alien species, the reader learns along with her. But for someone like me who read the other three books, this period of discovery is complete deja vu.

Been there. Done that.

Nothing new to see here folks.

It is too bad because I desperately wanted to love something new from this author. I absolutely adore another of her series (Twist Me) but nothing I have read since has quite measured up. The Krinar Captive is very predictable, and the characters seemed rather pale and bland. They didn’t grab my attention and suck me in. If it wasn’t for that fact that I received a review copy and felt I needed to finish the book just in case, it would have been a DNF.

So what would have made the story better?

Adding new dimensions to the universe that we have not already learned. Introducing exciting new technology (since the Krinars are waaayyy more advanced than measly humans).

Adding plot twists or creating more friction between the hero and heroine. Something to grab the readers attention. If you are not going to do it with intellect, a book needs to latch on with emotion. With heart.

This book just didn’t do it for me. Hopefully the next one I try does.

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