Tormentor Mine by Anna Zaires

Note: This is the first novel in a new series that is a spin-off of the Twist Me series, but Tormentor Mine CAN be read as a standalone.

tormentor

A new dark romance from New York Times bestseller Anna Zaires

He came to me in the night, a cruel, darkly handsome stranger from the most dangerous corners of Russia. He tormented me and destroyed me, ripping apart my world in his quest for vengeance.

Now he’s back, but he’s no longer after my secrets.

The man who stars in my nightmares wants me.

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Tormentor Mine is a dark romance novel written by Anna Zaires. The relationship between the two main characters is strained and non-consensual to begin with, but this book does not contain any scenes of rape or sexual violence between the hero and heroine. If you are a fan of the original series, Twist Me, I do not think this book is as dark in comparison.

I wish Tormentor Mine had been longer! I finished in about 3 hours so the most disappointing part of the story for me was that it ended so quickly! I have a bit of a book hangover from Peter and Sara, to say the least. They are my new favourite couple from this author and I cannot wait for the sequel! It hasn’t officially been announced yet, but it is obvious from the ending in TM that one will be written.

I was eagerly anticipating Peter Sokolov and ever since his introduction a couple of years ago, I have wondered at his actions and his backstory. Thankfully the author takes the time to provide all the information I had been hoping to get. And now, when my typical anti-hero romance authors have been going through a drought, I was especially excited to get my hands on a dark new book.

Sara is different from most of the previous heroines that Zaires has written, in that she is highly educated, confident and comfortable in her life. Not that everything is perfect – far from it – but she is a full-fledged OBGYN doctor, a homeowner and just generally seems to have all her shit together (unlike myself).

I like that Peter fell in love with her from afar.  His traumatic life, from childhood all the way up to the present, has created a need in him to possess love, to be fully in control of his woman. But this violent and controlling nature is tempered by fierce protective instincts.

Peter’s wife and son were murdered five years previously and although his marriage was one of convenience, he was affectionate towards this first wife and loved his son fiercely. In his relationship with Sara, he isn’t only protective of her safety or of his position in her life. He respects her intellect and her skills as a doctor, and is proud of her work with mothers and babies.

Peter respects her strength and the inherent emotional vulnerability that he sees in Sara. She is loyal, strong, compassionate and good. The type of good he hasn’t seen much of in his life and these are the main reasons that he decides to insert himself into her life. He has already fallen in love with her, knows he wants her to be his permanently, and also recognizes that his previous actions have left her absolutely terrified of him.

It is kind of cute and romantic – in a decidedly creepy way – that he inserts himself into her life completely against her will, and almost becomes a sort of househusband. During the daytime while she is working at the hospital, or volunteering at a free clinic, he does his super secret “shadow work” as the head of a team of assassins. But every night this run-down, underfed, stressed out, PTSD-suffering doc comes home to a home-cooked, candlelit meal, and is pampered and taken care of. He doesn’t press her for sex until she initiates it, just sleeps with her in his arms so that she can become desensitized to him and learn to trust him.

Peter has the power to abduct and keep Sara anywhere in the world. To keep her exclusively his. He makes sacrifices and undertakes significant risk to stay in her world, so that she can remain close to her family and care for her patients for as long as possible, supporting the work that she does. Sara’s wings may be clipped, but he still wants her to soar as high as possible, within the cage he has created.

I love how Zaires has expanded the original Twist Me world and introduced three new hunks with potential future hero statuses: Yan, Ilya and Anton. This is one book that I would love to see be turned into a movie!

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Bound by Temptation – a review

Bound by Temptation is the fourth book in the Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles series by Cora Reilly. I have previously reviewed the first three books in the series on this blog, all of which I gave positive reviews to ( here ).

temptation

So it is with heavy heart that I admit I did not like this one.

It must be very hard to write a series, in many ways harder than standalone books, because your readers get to know characters for several books before they get to the book where those previously supporting characters are now the headliners. This means that your reader has preestablished ideas of who these characters are, and a good idea of the plot line going in based on the characters’ backstories and the set up in previous books. This means that your audience has formed conclusions in their minds about the way things will be or how characters will react before they read the book.

Bound by Temptation is a departure from the previous books in the series in the sense that it does not feature a young girl in her late teens/early 20s being married to a scary mafia pseudo-stranger against her will. We also didn’t get to see the main characters, Romero and Liliana, get to really settle down as a couple until the epilogue. This story took place while they lived in opposite states and during brief occasions that they were together, such as when Lily goes to visit her sisters in New York. I felt like this couple didn’t had that on-screen bonding time that the other characters did, because the only time they were alone was when they were having sex.

There are some scenes that were in Bound by Honour and Bound by Hatred that were briefly glanced over in this book, mainly the invasion by Russian mobsters and the dungeon scene with Gianna, Lily, Romero, Luca, and Matteo. I was really excited to see that conflict from Lily’s point of view because it was one of my favourite parts of Bound by Hatred. Unfortunately, it was glossed over a little bit, which makes sense because Lily was in shock. But we didn’t get to see the follow up. One moment she still is deathly afraid of Romero, Luca, and Matteo, after watching them torture people and the next she’s perfectly comfortable around them. That is a defining moment in this teenagers life and in the story for the reader, but we didn’t get to explore it the way I wanted to.

One of the things that sets the stories in this series apart from something in a happier romance subgenre is the idea of the protagonists being the bad guys and when does that line become blurred. The author points out how her anti-heroes are very bad man who do evil things, but are still good husbands. Especially considering they don’t marry for love most of the time, each of these men treats his wife with love and acceptance which grows over the course of their relationship.

So when does that good guy-bad guy split personality blur? When you’re talking about your sister-in-law for example… Matteo and Luka were very not happy that Gianna and Lily stumbled into the basement while the Russians were getting interrogated. I had wished there was more interaction with sincere emotional tangles between Luka and Gianna in Bound by Hatred and I felt the same way in Bound by Temptation.

As I said, this novel did not hit the right note with me which is really disappointing because I look forward to it for a long time. That having been said, before it was released in August, the book blurb and cover were released for the fifth book in the series which is supposed to be released in the end of 2015. Right from that point I was more excited about book 5 then I was about book 4, based on the cover blurb so hopefully Bound by Vengeance turns out to be much better.

vengeance

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Hold Me by Anna Zaires – book review

This is a series of three books, the third of which is Hold Me, and I’m reviewing it in this post. I have already posted reviews of the first two books (Twist Me; Hold Me) and this review WILL contain SPOILERS for them.

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 (Julian) is an anti-hero, a very successful international weapons dealer. In the first novel, he kidnapped 18yo Nora and took her to his extremely remote private island in the South Pacific where he held her captive, a victim for his violent erotic urges, bending her mind to his will. In the second, they marry, somewhat against her will, and start to build a new life together before their old enemies kidnap Julian and torture him for information. Nora has realized that she loves him and convinces his security to allow her to risk her life to save them both, something she ultimately succeeds at, but not without some consequences.

book 3

Book Blurb:

Captor and captive. Lovers. Soulmates.

We’re all that and more.

We thought we were past the worst of it. We thought we finally had a chance.

We thought wrong.

We’re Nora and Julian, and this is our story.

***Hold Me is the conclusion of the Twist Me trilogy, told from Nora & Julian’s point of view.***

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Hold Me continues to follow the evolution of Julian and Nora’s relationship, which began in Twist Me. Now a (mostly) united front, Nora has admitted her true feelings for Julian, acknowledging her love for him and accepting the nature of their relationship. She decides it doesn’t matter how their relationship started and gives up on wondering if it can all be boiled down to psychological programming and stockholm syndrome. She wants to be with him, even though their relationship is unequal, and now accepts the dominance and submission aspects of their relationship and the power exchanges that occur. Her only remaining desire is to see Julian also admit his love for her, loving her as the person she has become rather than an object under this thumb.

Hold me is still an excellent read, but I didn’t like it as much as either of the preceding books, for a couple of reasons which will be the focus of my review.

Firstly, Nora’s parents were introduced in a limited capacity in the second installment during the webcam wedding scene, but their presence in this book is greatly expanded. I liked how the Mum and Dad had different attitudes and abilities to manage Julian and what they regard as their daughter’s brainwashed ramblings about her husband. But I would have liked to have seen Zaires expand upon the interactions between Julian and Nora’s parents, particularly without Nora present. He kidnapped their daughter, twice!, married her hastily and moved her to another continent permanently, where she now resides with him, despondent and abused (or so her parents believe). They understandably bit their tongues around Nora to keep from alienating her, but I felt that the book built to an explosive confrontation between the parents and Julian, one that never occurred.

The second thing that took away from the book in my opinion, was the high octane, overly dramatic car chase between Julian’s troops and the Irish-Chicago Mafia. Between the three books, Julian has lost well over 100 men, all of whom are supposedly highly trained and many are former Spec-Ops. So far, they only seem to be good at their chauffeuring services, and beating up unarmed teenagers. Seriously, is he not scraping the bottom of the barrel yet for men to put on assignment? He really shouldn’t have lost Peter’s services so easily. He needs the tough Russian bruiser on his side at this point.

At the end of the day, the three books have built up Julian as this unstoppable force – even with the torture by the Middle East group in book 2, he didn’t break – but the local mob and cops just about had them with one car chase. It would have been better to not have the cops and mob team up (an unbelievable plot-point in my opinion) and have Julian take care of them without losing half the men he did. The scene just made him seem like less of a badass, which is exactly how you don’t want this series to end.

Despite three paragraphs of complaints, I did love Hold Me and gave it a very good rating. It starts out differently than the others, with Julian using a much gentler approach with Nora. He will never change, but he does learn to embrace different aspects of his personality to manage her that, thus far, he only expressed while she was in hospital.

After the horrors of the second book, both characters are in need of healing, and Nora requires a gentle touch. She is badly traumatized, suffering from panic attacks and night terrors. She has always had Julian’s protection, but this development lends her the emotional protection and support that was missing from their relationship, bringing them closer together. Julian even brings a psychologist to their compound to work with Nora.

It takes some brass balls for her kidnapper to move a professional mental health expert in with them to work with the abductee and be secure in the knowledge that his own programming of Nora will not be affected!! While he may not be able to admit it yet, he has fallen in love with her.

I loved the pregnancy that Zaires wrote in. She did it differently than authors usually do, and it helped to re-establish the relationship parametres between Nora and Julian. She wonders if he impregnated her on purpose, deceiving her with the implantation of a fake birth control device in her arm, and is able to take him for his word when he assures her otherwise, because if he had wanted her pregnant, he would have made it happen regardless of her wishes and wouldn’t have hidden it, something she knows. After seeing a softer side of Julian for much of the book, this scene helps to ground them in the roles that were established in Twist Me, and that Nora has just accepted will never change.

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Keep Me by Anna Zaires – book review

This is a series of three books, the second of which is Keep Me, and I’m reviewing it in this post. I will post reviews of the third book shortly. This review WILL contain SPOILERS for the first book, Twist Me.

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 (Julian) is an anti-hero, a very successful international weapons dealer. In the first novel, he kidnapped 18yo Nora and took her to his extremely remote private island in the South Pacific where he held her captive, a victim for his violent erotic urges, bending her mind to his will.

After rescuing her from his enemies at the end of book one, Keep Me picks up a couple of months later when Julian shows up in her hometown of Chicago, where she is again living. Willing to take her by force, Nora is happy that Julian is alive and well and agrees to leave with him, travelling to his native country of Colombia, where the story takes place.

book 2

Book Blurb:

Abducted at eighteen. Held captive for 15 months.

It reads like one of those headlines. And yes, I did it. I stole her. Nora, with her long dark hair and silky skin. She’s my weakness, my obsession.

I’m not a good man. I never pretended to be one. She can love me, but she can’t change me.

I can, however, change her.

My name is Julian Esguerra, and Nora is mine to keep.

***Keep Me is the sequel to Twist Me, told from both Nora & Julian’s POV.***

—                    —                    —

Nora undergoes a lot of character development between the first novel and the second. She is still completely overwhelmed by the forcefulness of Julian’s personality and cannot find equal ground with him in their relationship, but she handles challenges with more maturity and grace than you see her exhibit in the beginning of their story. As Julian remarks, his little kitten has learned she has claws and is starting to figure out how to use them. This leads to slight changes in the dynamic of their relationship. Julian becomes more honest with her and share more about his work and past, so that their relationship no longer exists in a bubble. Nora begins to make requests of him, and assumes authority over domestic staff in their household. This authority is something that she never experienced with Beth and exemplifies the evolution of her role as a pampered wife from the abducted girl who shares the Master’s bed.

Nora learns to stand up for herself a little bit more and gains more of a sense of personal self in Keep Me, between her painting and studies. These activities are one of the positive changes from the first book that I loved. On the island Nora essentially just existed. She read, she watched movies, ran and swam and sunbathed, enjoying everything the island had to offer her. But her only interactions for 15 months were with Beth and Julian, her captors. She struggled to create a new self-identity in captivity and had little freedom to experience new things. The one saving grace was her ability to paint, something she had never had time to devote to in ‘the real world’. In Keep Me, she enrolls online at Standford University and makes great strides towards world art domination with her painting. Her life gains purpose besides serving Julian and merely existing.

There is great development from the first to second novel. By nature of holding a kidnap victim on a private island, there is a dearth of characters and plot development for much of the first book. While it works for Twist Me, it wouldn’t have worked a second time and I am glad that the author did not just seek to recreate her success with the first novel.

Rather, she continued to build this world and added numerous secondary characters, while allowing both Nora and Julian to grow in themselves, and in their relationships with each other. It was especially gratifying to see the role Nora’s parents play, finding their daughter after 15 months, just to hear her announce she is willingly moving to another continent with the man who kidnapped her. It is also interesting to read Julian’s POV, as this book is written from both perspectives.

My favourite scene I can’t remark on without major spoilers so I will end the review here, but I really hope you take my recommendation and read this book. The third one is called Hold Me and I will post my review of it in a few days.

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Bound Series – a review

The Bound series is written by Cora Reilly. They are fictional accounts of the New York and Chicago Italian-American mafia families and their attempts to put to rest decades of violence between them in order to solidify their power. Russian and Taiwanese crime syndicates have been gaining power along the Northeastern coast of the U.S. Each book features a couple that have been matched in an arranged marriage to strengthen their families’ positions in The Outfit (Chi-town) or The Cosa Nostra (NY).

Bound by Hono[u]r: book one features Luca, the heir to the NY criminal throne and Aria Scuderi, the 18yo daughter of Bigshot #2 in Chicago.

Bound by Duty: book two features the new Chicago Capo (Dante) as he  ascends following his Father’s retirement and 24yo bride, Valentina, also from Chicago.

Bound by Hatred: book three features Aria’s younger sister Gianna and Luca’s younger brother Matteo. With the passing of time in book world, Gianna is also 18 when she marries. No child brides here.

honor duty

hatred

I discovered these books by searching for recommendations on goodreads and google and read all three over two days. The stories really attracted me and were exactly what I felt like reading last week. All three follow the same basic principle of big bad Alpha mafioso male protagonist (I can’t bring myself to say hero, they’re definitely anti-heroes) and a younger, virgin bride. Despite these similarities, so far the characters have all had very different personalities. Reilly isn’t just duplicating a successful debut novel.

That fact that she is a relatively new author, within the last year or so is astonishing, because she is pumping these babies out! I admire her story-telling, and while I’m sure that there are people in the life who would say that they aren’t remotely accurate, to me they are, and what’s more, they are entertaining. My only major criticism is that this lady needs an editor and quick. I suspect that she is self-publishing the books on Amazon, and more power to her, but there cannot be any third party editor reviewing. The grammatical mistakes are endless, irritating, and ultimately distracting for the reader. Little words that give sense to a sentence like “to” or “for” will be missing. Or miscalculating how many inches taller Luca is than Aria; you specifically said that he is 6″5 and she is 5″4, that makes him 13 inches taller (there are 12 inches in a foot), not 10 as specified in the wedding kiss scene. Ms. Reilly, please find a passionate and detailed editor! If you are reading this, I will gladly fill the role for you. Nothing is a bigger pet peeve for me than stupid little ‘housekeeping’ mistakes ruining an otherwise well-told story.

Since I read the Bound books so quickly and they are part of a series, I am mostly reviewing them as a set, but I do have a few individualized comments.

The first book (Aria and Luca) was probably my favourite in the series. I liked the evolution of Luca and Aria’s relationship and although Luca was a lot more patient with their wedding night than I think he would have been as a real-life Capo, his sweetness towards his wife was redeeming. Secondary characters pop up regularly throughout the series, and I found it to be a little annoying in this one. Aria was such a sweetheart that she didn’t stand up to her out-spoken sister Gianna … which made me want to tell G to just shut the hell up at times. I get that she was protective of her sister and Gianna gets mouthy when scared. Given the lifestyle they were born into, that’s just about all the time, but there was too much going on in that respect. I really wanted Aria to turn around and tell her “Gianna, you are making this harder on me” but they never had that adult to adult conversation. It’s too bad, it would have cut down on tedious arguing between Luca and Gianna and allowed for more character development in both girls.

Bound by Duty is Dante and Valentina’s book. This was my least favourite but that has more to do with my personality clashing with the hero and heroines’ than poor story-telling. An emotionally closed-off male character is a complete turnoff for me, just as it would be in real life. Valentina had a strong personality, but she wasn’t super confrontational, she backed down before a situation went too far. That is probably what worked for their relationship but I refuse to live through intermittent “cold wars” so I felt disconnected from them. I did like the subplots with Bibiana though, and at the end when Dante has absolute faith in his wife, it was heart-warming to see how his love for her had grown.

The last book in the series thus far is that of Matteo and Gianna. I love these two together! I suppose my main criticism is the same as I had of Gianna in the first book: that she is so incredibly bratty and mouthy when scared, which is most of the time, and she never really overcomes that satisfactorily. As a result, she is extremely emotionally dishonest and I wanted to shake her. I would have liked to have seen her mature more throughout the book and be braver, more willing to share how she feels with Matteo and Luca rather than reacting and attempting to cover her true feelings. Hopefully we will see her evolve in the next novel, otherwise I don’t know how good a life she will have.

Still speaking on Bound by Hatred, although this book was only my second favourite in the series, it had my favourite scene! I love see the Russian interrogation was which glossed over in book one, and the interactions between Matteo, Gianna, Luca, Lily and Romero that occurred here. The book started off with action! But BbH didn’t top my list because I would have emphasized different scenes in the book than Reilly chose to. I felt that (minor spoiler ahead) Matteo taking G’s virginity was a much bigger deal, because of how their marriage came into being. It was such an opportunity to foster honest emotions and grown-up relationship conversations between them and it didn’t happen. The same at the end of the book…. how to say this with minimal spoilage. Hmm. I expected the confrontation that occurs between Luca and Gianna to be much bigger and more explosive. I actually expected it to by physical on Gianna’s part, with the way he stayed in her way and refused her entrance. I was disappointed that there wasn’t one big blowout before they make peace in the epilogue. That last bit showed a huge amount of character growth on Gianna’s part, and though we didn’t see as much of “real Luca” in there as I would have liked, hopefully we get glimpses in book four.

Speaking on book four…

Bound by Temptation will be released in June 2015 and it will feature familiar characters, the youngest Scuderi girl, Liliana, and NYC ‘made man’, Romero.

temptation

From goodreads …

Liliana Scuderi has been in love with Romero from the moment she first saw him. After her sisters were married off for tactical reasons, she hopes she might be allowed to choose a husband for herself, but when her father promises her to a man more than twice her age that hope is crushed. No begging can make him change his mind.

Romero has always ignored Lily’s flirting. Her age and status made her off-limits but even someone as dutiful as him has only so much control. Wanting her when she’s supposed to marry another man could mean war between New York and the Chicago Outfit, and Romero has always put the Cosa Nostra first.

Lily suspects her sisters and Romero would risk everything for her, but is her happiness worth that much? Is love worth a war between the Cosa Nostra and the Outfit?

I can’t wait until the next book is out! I already pre-ordered it for my kindle, hope someone else out there falls in love with this new author as well.

Edit: Since I wrote this post, the author has also released the cover and blurb for the fifth book, due out Fall 2015!!!

vengeance

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