Sordid by Nikki Sloane

Sordid is the newest dark romance that I have read and a surprisingly good addition to my library. The premise relies on the traditional older man overwhelms younger female virgin trope, but it is well-done, IMHO. The anti-hero protagonist is Luka, the eldest son of a Mafia Captain, and his very reluctant heir. Luka is brilliant and wants to go legit as a businessman, but can’t break out of the role he was born into.

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** Warning: Moderate spoiler alert here in terms of a trigger warning.

Luka rapes the heroine, Addison. It happens at the beginning of the book, when they are both drunk at a frat party. He isn’t excessively violent (ie; no hitting or punching her, and he tries to protect her from his mafia connections afterwards) but at the end of the day she says no and he doesn’t stop. That is rape. It IS the darkest part of the book, but if that’s a trigger for you, don’t bother reading Sordid.

So when Luka fails to cover up his crime by drugging Addison (in the hopes that she would forget it happened), he takes her prisoner and decides to make her his forever. To be fair, he intended to do that all along but hoped to woo her more gently if he could manage to make her forget the rape… and his relatives were all in favour of killing her to avoid police attention, so in “keeping” her, he does save her life. I guess there was no letting her go at that point.

But I transgress ….

Lately, I have been heavily into the captive romance sub-genre, no doubt brought on by the fantastic series Twist Me by Anna Zaires. While I hate reading about a man hitting his girl in anger, there’s no denying I like books that push the envelope far further than genteel society would prefer. I like my stories to rip me open, tear out my guts and heart and then stuff everything back inside and close up, a little different for having the experience. Sordid succeeded on this account.

It wasn’t my favourite captive romance but I enjoyed it and would highly recommend. The drawbacks were that the ending was a little too tidy and easy, the betrayals too few, and Addison adapted with too little introspection. She obviously resists at first, and then tries to play along to gain an attempt at escape, but ultimately settles in and learns to enjoy Luka’s rougher preferences and ownership without too many qualms. I’d rather have seen her struggle with it more.

The takeaway: I liked the story and would definitely read more from Nikki Sloane. I’ll have to see if she has anything else out there. Sordid read like a stand-alone, not a series.

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Bind Me by Anna Zaires

** Bind Me is the second book in the Capture Me series, and these books need to be read in order. It is a companion series to Twist Me.

bind me

Synopsis:

He’s determined to break her.

For Lucas Kent, his new prisoner is a maddening contradiction: compliant yet defiant, fragile yet strong. He needs to uncover her secrets, but doing so may ruin everything.

His obsession could destroy her.

She’s determined to escape.

For Yulia Tzakova, her captor is the man of both her dreams and her nightmares: tender one moment, cruel the next. She can’t let him crack her, but resisting him may leave her broken.

A moment of weakness could cost her everything.

—                 —

I love Lucas and Yulia! They have great chemistry together and I love the darker elements of this story. It reads very differently from how the Twist Me series played out, but it works. The best things about this book are that we see a whole lot more interaction between the two and the emotional entanglement deepens.

Lucas decides that he has to keep her and sets about trying to learn all Yulia’s secrets. I got the sense that he was almost keeping her as a pet. He loves her and lusts after her, but they can never be equal partners in this relationship. His goal is to keep her safe – from herself as much as the rest of the world – containing her while indulging in carnal pleasures.

It’s about tying her to me, binding her so tightly she’ll never be able to leave.

Zaires, Anna; Zales, Dima. Bind Me (Capture Me Book 2) (Kindle Location 510). Mozaika Publications. Kindle Edition.

I got so frustrated with Yulia, for not opening up and sharing with Lucas about her brother. Her secrecy is meant to protect him, and I can understand logically that she believes Lucas will kill anyone important to her, especially since he is connected to the Agency, but as a reader, we know that Lucas believes this man she is protecting is her lover, not a teenage brother.

Ignoring the part of me that revolts at the idea of injuring Lucas, I take the fork, slip it into the back pocket of my shorts, and close the cabinet. I can’t allow him to break me. My brother’s life depends on it.

Zaires, Anna; Zales, Dima. Bind Me (Capture Me Book 2) (Kindle Locations 1196-1198). Mozaika Publications. Kindle Edition.

My favourite scenes in this book were Lucas breaking beneath the protective shell Yulia wraps around herself to find out about her past and the Agency that she worked for. They were steamy and intense and emotionally scarring for Yulia but that is what makes such a great story for the reader! I also loved when she tries to teach Lucas how to cook. It changes up the power dynamics established early on, if only briefly, and is a humorous aside to otherwise dark material.

“Okay, that’s enough potatoes, I think,” she says, getting up. Her flip-flops— the only shoes I got her— make a slapping noise on the tile floor as she comes toward me. “Now we need to take the garlic, mix it with dill, salt, and pepper, and place everything on a frying pan. You have oil, right?”

“Oil. Check.” I grab a bottle of olive oil from a cabinet to my left. “Do I pour it over the potatoes?”

She props her hip on the edge of the countertop. “You’re kidding me, right?” I frown, not appreciating the mockery. She bursts out laughing. “Lucas, seriously. Have you never fried anything in your life?”

“Nothing that was edible afterwards,” I grudgingly admit. “I may have tried it once or twice and given up.”

Zaires, Anna; Zales, Dima. Bind Me (Capture Me Book 2) (Kindle Locations 1028-1034). Mozaika Publications. Kindle Edition.

My main complaint about Bind me is that the story was too long. I felt that it would have been better to combine the first and second novels but thankfully, the author has posted that the third (and final) book in this series will be longer. In addition, the upcoming Claim Me is said to have some more scenes with Julian and Nora!

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Capture Me – a review

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A new dark romance series from the New York Times bestselling author of Twist Me

She fears him from the first moment she sees him.

Yulia Tzakova is no stranger to dangerous men. She grew up with them. She survived them. But when she meets Lucas Kent, she knows the hard ex-soldier may be the most dangerous of them all.

One night—that’s all it should be. A chance to make up for a failed assignment and get information on Kent’s arms dealer boss. When his plane goes down, it should be the end.

Instead, it’s just the beginning.

He wants her from the first moment he sees her.

Lucas Kent has always liked leggy blondes, and Yulia Tzakova is as beautiful as they come. The Russian interpreter might’ve tried to seduce his boss, but she ends up in Lucas’s bed—and he has every intention of seeing her there again.

Then his plane goes down, and he learns the truth.

She betrayed him.

Now she will pay.

NOTE: Capture Me is book 1 of 4 about Lucas & Yulia from the Twist Metrilogy. It’s not necessary to have read that trilogy to enjoy Capture Me, but the book does contain major spoilers for books 2 and 3 of Twist Me.

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Capture Me by Anna Zaires is the first book in a spin-off quartet from the Twist Me series previously reviewed on Mackenzie’s Mountain. Capture Me features fan favourite Lucas with Yulia, the Ukrainian woman who betrayed Esguerra and co, causing their plane to crash.

Capture me is the first in another set of dark romance novels. And I think it is a key example of how great Anna’s writing is. Because I really don’t think that I should have liked this book. But I loved it.

Capture Me is relatively short compared to books I usually read, which is normally a turn-off. There is very little interaction between Julia and Lucas for the first half of the book, because the author is setting up the circumstances that led to Yulia’s betrayal and the behind-the-scenes machinations, following the plane crash, that the reader missed in the previous series. Also something that I usually dislike in a romance.

And yet, I couldn’t stop reading.

Zaires’ writing is compelling, with just enough action to keep things moving quickly but not so much that it seems over-the-top. She really understands her characters and has them react in realistic ways. I can easily place myself into the position of Yulia or Nora because my reactions would follow the same paths as their own.

I am super excited for the follow-up, Bind Me which is due to be released in early February.

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The Darkest Hour – a review

I love the first few books in Maya Banks’ KGI series. They feature a post-military career family of 6 boys who start their own consulting business together, covering everything from outsourced government jobs, to private hostage rescues and corporate security.

What sets these books apart from other contemporary military/LEO series is the strong sense of family and the supporting cast that shows up in every book. Because the author starts with such a large family and immediately introduces supporting characters, you don’t get the sense that she is merely adding characters to pair up, in order to continue the series. They are a part of the story from the beginning.

I also love how the heroes are sensitive and gentle to the woman in their lives, without losing any of that badassery. You get to see characters like Rachel experience meaningful relationships outside of the romantic lead in novel, which is something many romances lack.

Speaking of Rachel … here’s the blurb and cover to book 1.

KGI 1

Blurb:

It’s been one year since ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly last saw his wife Rachel alive. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt over his failures as a husband, Ethan shuts himself off from everything and everyone.

His brothers have tried to bring Ethan into the KGI fold, tried to break through the barriers he’s built around himself, but Ethan refuses to respond… until he receives anonymous information claiming Rachel is alive.

To save her, Ethan will have to dodge bullets, cross a jungle, and risk falling captive to a deadly drug cartel that threatens his own demise. And even if he succeeds, he’ll have to force Rachel to recover memories she can’t and doesn’t want to relive—the minute by minute terror of her darkest hour—for their love, and their lives, may depend on it.

—                        —                        —

The Darkest Hour is a stand-out first book in the KGI series. I love Ethan and Rachel together and how the whole Kelly clan came together to support them and help Rachel reintegrate back into her old life. If you are looking for a book full of action and explosions, some of the later books in the series might be more to your taste. While The Darkest Hours definitely has action, more of the book is dedicated to Rachel’s overcoming of the abuse she suffered during her year as a captive, and the journey she and Ethan have to take to find their ways back to each other.

The KGI books have less sex and steamy scenes in them than many of the author’s other books, if you are familiar with her writing. There are no bdsm or kinky scenes, making it a good choice for someone who prefers “sweet romance”.

The relationship that Ethan’s brother Garret and Rachel share is incredibly special, and one I’m a little jealous of. The second and third KGI books are about Sam and Garret and I look forward to reviewing them shortly.

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Edit: I just noticed that the first 1.5 chapters are on the book’s amazon page if you want to try this book out before purchasing.

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Captured Miracle – a book review

The Captured Miracle series is a captive romance story where the “hero” is actually an anti-hero who kidnaps the heroine from her bed in the dead of night.

I should say that it is a dark romance; however, after reading the first novel in the trilogy, I don’t really think it is all that dark. I’ve read books that are a heck of a lot darker. Can we create a new category of books that are grey? Things that have dark content but don’t really read that dark compared to others? Because right now I feel like that “dark romance” category is a little too broad to actually give appropriate meaning.

Alas, I digress.

captured miracle

Blurb:

Sometimes the darkest of hearts are the most blinding. Not because of their light, but because of their suffocating endlessness. The dark abyss of their possession claims you before you’re even aware of the capture. Love is not linear. There is no timeline in which the emotion blooms. Sometimes it is a slow succession of events where one soul learns another and sometimes it’s quick. Sometimes it’s like lightning. Possessive.
That’s what Calix was to me. He infused himself within my life – my mind – my body – and my heart. Until he possessed my soul. And then he shattered it all. The worst part of it all was that he owned me. Completely. And it only took him four days.
What started out as an act of revenge quickly becomes so much more. After years of plotting and two years of watching Nova, Calix takes her. In the dead of the night, three strange men in her room, tugging her from her bed, wake Nova. Terrified of forcing the men to act on their threats to harm her mother and sisters, Nova agrees to allow them to cart her from the safety of her home.
She never expected they would lead her to Calix. A dark and captivating man determined to have her as his wife – and every other way. As Nova tries to keep Calix from pushing his way past her barriers, his determination to capture her heart in the same way he captured her body grows. In his quest for her heart, Calix pushes her past her barriers and tests her every limit.

—                          —                        —

I liked this book but I couldn’t help but continue to flash towards that other capture-romance, the Twist Me series by Anna Zaires, while reading. I suspect it will be a long time before I read another series in this subgenre that matches that series, and Captured Miracle didn’t quite live up to Twist Me.  Zaires understood the emotional depth of both her main characters and the incredibly complex feelings her captive was experiencing, something that would be hard for even a professional shrink to help sort out in real life. So far, Carbonneau just hasn’t gotten that deep.

That being said, one of my main criticisms of CM got taken right out from under me because the author points it out herself in the description. Hard to argue with a dialogue that is self-aware enough to point holes in its own story.

Of course, I’m talking about the fact that the poor kidnapped girl falls in love with her captor in FOUR days. In Twist Me, it took the heroine weeks or months to reach that point, and the book itself takes place over a year and a half. But I wonder if this four days point is going to have further significance to the plot or character development in the sequential books, because as I says, the author notes it in the description and the female lead, Nova, acknowledges to herself that it is just plain weird to fall in love that quickly, especially given the circumstances. She wonders if it is even possible to establish a case of Stockholm Syndrome that quickly.

(minor spoiler ahead)

The other criticism that I have of the author in this novel is that the 21yo Nova has zero idea that her Dad is a Navy SEAL. Okay, firstly, if he has a 21 year old, he’s getting a little long in the tooth to be an active duty SEAL, and secondly, I got the impression early on in the book that her family and her father were estranged, or that he had abandoned them years before, after the birth of her youngest sibling. But at the end of Captured Miracle you realize that he comes home twice a year, making it sound like he lives with the family during those visits and is married to her Mother….

But then, why did Nova doubt that he even knew of her disappearance when she had been missing for days???

Perhaps I’m missing some key information and it will all make perfect sense in the next book. But it feels as if the author left some plot holes unplugged.

Now, I get that it totally sounds as if I am ragging on this book. I did like it and plan to read the next two, but it was the type of book where it was simpler to point out the problems I noticed. The plot is fairly straight-forward and it would have been difficult to comment on other things without reiterating the story and negating the necessity for you to read it for yourself.

Hopefully the next two pull things together a little bit and get deeper. So far, the story is enjoyable but a little flat, thus the rating I left.

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