Sold to the Billionaire (Emily Tilton)

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As the daughter of the prime minister, eighteen-year-old Heather Gerber is used to society’s high expectations, until the day her entire world is radically changed in an instant and she becomes little more than property to be bought, sold, and used in any manner her future owner sees fit.

Brought to the Institute to be prepared for her eventual sale, Heather quickly finds herself naked, blushing, and helplessly aroused as she is thoroughly and painfully spanked by stern, handsome trainer Paul Federico. But though Paul knows that Heather will soon belong to a powerful billionaire, as he teaches her what it means to surrender her virgin body to a dominant man he cannot help falling for the beautiful, innocent girl. Can he find a way to claim her for his own?

—                         —                         —

Sold to the Billionaire is a short novel by Emily Tilton. It is set during an alternate world, in a small country set in contemporary Ontario, Canada. There are scenes involving consensual non-consent, spanking, and anal sex.

I found this story to be extremely confusing and disjointed. It is part of a series (“The Institute Series”) but it was marketed as being easy to read as a standalone – no prior knowledge of the series necessary. This was not the case at all.

The book blurb available on Goodreads and Amazon insinuates that the story will be about two main characters, Heather and Paul. I didn’t find this to be accurate. In fact, the first intimate scenes are about Heather’s parents, which for me is just icky. I don’t want to read about the parents and the child/dren having sex, even though there is nothing between them (no incest). The POV character changes multiple times. I can think of at least five off the top of my head.

I also strongly disliked that there are scenes where female characters are raped and enjoy it. It is one thing to incorporate consensual nonconsent within a bdsm scene, but this is not the case.

Finally, this backstory that Ms. Tilton created to explain this alternate world was overly complicated. It could have been explained much more succinctly and simply, so the author could get down to the real business of the story.

Overall, not a story I would recommend.

*

xx

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Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter

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#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.

—                         —                         —

This is the second book that I have read from Karin Slaughter who is the mistress of crime dramas in my opinion. Although I am new to her, I have moved her to my top five favourite authors list.

My research has indicated that this author mostly writes a series, which has quite a few volumes in it. I’m not ready to embark a new series at the moment, so I am working my way through her standalones first. Pretty Girls is set in Georgia in the modern-day. It tells the story of a family that has been torn apart by tragedy and the two sisters who stumble across each other again now, nearly two decades later. At first I worried that this would be very similar to her book The Good Daughter, but this isn’t the case at all.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that the author regularly flashes back in time, to the years immediately following Julia’s disappearance. Here, we can listen to the narrator, speaking from Father’s perspective to his missing daughter, as if reading his journal. We experience how he mourns her. How he still searches for her, never giving up in his efforts, although, the same cannot be said for hope. How their child’s loss tears apart a family, a marriage, and the lack of a body denies any chance at closure.

I think this was a very emotional way to look back on the past and inform the readers of the characters’ backstories. It gives the Dad a voice, as he is deceased in the present. It also shines a light on why marriages tend to end following the loss of a child, how it tears them a part. Julia’s parents look at each other and see a father who gave his daughter rides on his shoulders, a mother who rocked her babies to sleep with a smile. Neither can look at the other parent and separate them from them from Julia.

I felt that Pretty Girls was a little slow in pace at first. This could be partially due to the fact that I would have made different choices than Lydia and Claire did as they started to investigate Paul’s actions. But the book IS nearly 700 pages as well. That is a lot of time to spend in one story. So, SO worth it though. This book kept me guessing and thoroughly engaged from start to finish. I’m already try to peddle it to friends and family because I think it is such a great book.

Ms. Slaughter is the Queen of twists and turns. Just as you think you know how the book is going to play out, there is a sharp left turn. I like books that allow me to think, to ponder different directions it could take, as long as I don’t always turn out to be right. The main thought that kept popping into my head throughout Pretty Girls was “do you really think that that was a coincidence, anymore”?

Pretty Girls is a fantastic example of domestic noir. Definitely a recommended read for anyone looking to sink their teeth into something a bit longer and darker than your typical fiction. This is one of those books that had me yelling out loud at my phone at times. It is a wild ride with graphic violence but the story is amazing.

* * * * *

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The Good Daughter (Karin Slaughter)

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Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…

—                         —                         —

The Good Daughter is the most recent crime thriller that I have listened to during this kick that I am on. And it was EXCELLENT.

It was the first time that I have picked up a book by this author, and I have to say that her stories are detailed with deep backstories for each character and a ton of depth. Every character had different facets of their personality, and each had at least one redeeming quality, or character flaw.

I started this book thinking that it was mostly about the school shooting and Charlie representing Kelly, trying to get her off the murder charge, but this storyline only serves to bring the Quinn family back together after nearly twenty years. The Good Daughter opens with the tragic events that destroyed their family 28 years ago, and flashes back and forth between that night and the present. The story is also told from both of the daughters’ perspectives.

I felt that the pacing to the story was timely and finished this book in four days. I did predict the ending and unravelled several points in regards to the past and the school shooting very early in the book but I didn’t find that this took away from my enjoyment of the story at all. I will definitely be going back to read more books by this author!

This audiobook is very pleasant to listen to. It is read with a southern accent which changes slightly for each character, something that is really helpful, especially since the book is told from several characters’ POV.

There are graphic descriptions of violence, murder and sexual violence in this book. Generally, the victims are teens at the time and this may be difficult for some readers to get through.

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xx

 

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

—      —       —

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!

* * * * *

xx

 

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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Hidden Away – a review

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Blurb:

A man who shoots first and asks questions later…

Most people would take an all-expenses-paid trip to the beach in a heartbeat. Garrett Kelly only accepts to keep tabs on Sarah Daniels, who’s in hiding after witnessing a murder by Marcus Lattimer, her half-brother—and a personal enemy of KGI. This gig may be beneath a disciplined soldier like Garrett, but if he gets a shot at Lattimer, it will all be worth it…

…and the ultimate moving target.

But Garrett hadn’t counted on falling for Sarah. He’d considered seduction as a tactical maneuver, but when he glimpses Sarah’s dark past, he feels an urgent desire to keep her safe—even after she disappears on him. Garrett doesn’t know exactly who, or what, Sarah’s running from, but whatever it is, she’s running for her life…

—                   —                    —

One of the things that I really admire about Maya Banks’ first three KGI novels is that each of them has a very different tone. Ethan and Rachel’s novel is more emotional and intimate. You see the family dynamics strongly at play and the softer side of everyone. It tugs at your heart strings just a little bit. Sam and Sophie have lots more action. So much of the story is told from Sophie’s perspective that even though the reader has already met the Kelly brothers, they seem a little cold and harsh, a lot intimidating and powerful. In particular, I loved seeing the very different sides of Garrett, from lovey with Rachel to suspicious of (and frightening to) Sophie.

Which leads us to Hidden Away, featuring the enigmatic Garrett and fragile, forgiving Sarah.

I loved the beachy tone of this book, and the time that this allowed for Garrett to break down Sarah’s defences. I don’t think that their relationship would have worked in any other environment, because he wouldn’t have gotten through those barriers without completely breaking her down as a person. I felt a lot of empathy for their situation. And now I feel a strong need to escape my life and move to a sleepy little Caribbean island.

There were a couple of things that bothered me a slightly about this book. Sarah is so emotionally fragile – understandably so from her character’s backstory – but she seemed to get over it a little too easily when she and Garrett became intimate. I would have really loved to see the back-end of their story extended at least five chapters to see how they work through some of those problems, and also to demonstrate how they stay together and overcome the fallout at the end of the plot …..

* * * Minor Spoiler Alert * * *

You know it isn’t going to end completely happy because Sarah is inevitably going to lose either Garrett or her brother … and it’s a romance … so you can probably guess who she loses from her life. That was well-written and I enjoyed how it played out on the page but was another thing that I wish Banks had teased out a little more. Without giving everything away, I have no idea how Sarah and Garrett were able to overcome the hardships and emotional entanglements that became embedded in their relationship due to his mission and her circumstances. It would be so natural for this to break them apart and their reunion is little more than that. A reunion. You have about a half chapter where he apologizes and they get back together to sail off into the sunset.

I don’t like that the book ended this way. It left out all the hard stuff and it’s super lazy when authors do that. I suspect Banks was concerned that the novel was going to be too long, but there was other stuff I would have much preferred she remove, especially the whole Alaska plot-line. It would have saved a few pages without affecting the story at all.

It would have been awesome to see Sarah slowly make her way into the Kelly family and overcome what I’m sure would be initial fear – intimidation, at least – of the KGI group as she and Garrett made a life together. You do get to see glimpses in later books, but it is very understated because this couple is not the focus of those instalments.

Despite my criticisms, I do really like Hidden Away, I just wish the tough bits had been more flushed out.

This is the last KGI book that I am going to review – for now at least. There are seven more after Hidden Away, but I like the first three the best so I don’t want to re-read the others for a review. If you really like these ones though, you might want to continue.

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xx

Ethan Frost series by Tracy Wolff- a review

The Ethan Frost series is very similiar to the Crossfire series by Sylvia Day, which I read a couple of years ago and liked.

The first two books, which I’ll review in this post, are written from the perspective of the heroine, Chloe.

Background info: Chloe is a university student, pre-law, who scores her dream summer internship working in intellectual property law for a big, reputable company. She runs into billionaire CEO on her first day without realizing who he is and they hit it off.  He pursues her relentlessly, trying to start a relationship but she has some serious past scars preventing her from jumping at the chance to be with someone who makes her heart-rate quicken.

Book 1

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Blurb:

Ethan Frost is a visionary, a genius, every woman’s deepest, darkest fantasy—even mine. And, somehow, I am his.

He stole into my life like a dream. Turned my reality upside down and made my every desire come true—especially those I never knew I had. He demanded everything I had to give and gave me everything of himself in return.

But dreams don’t last forever, and ours is no exception. Because my nightmares are darker, and my wounds deeper, than I could ever reveal. And as much as Ethan wants to protect me, the secrets we share will only tear us apart.

Book 2

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Blurb:

Ethan Frost is everything a woman could want in a man. He’s rich, gorgeous, powerful, one of the most eligible bachelors in the world.

But that’s not why I’m with him.

I love Ethan for all the things no one else gets to see: his innate kindness, his reckless spontaneity, his unwavering determination to use his brilliance for good. I love the way he looks at me, the way he touches me. The way he makes me forget the wreckage of my past and the twisted fear that still lives inside me.

But sometimes it terrifies me how much I crave him, how much I need him just to breathe. I always thought it would be my past that ruined us, but there’s a darkness in Ethan I never dreamed existed. Can we survive as his secrets surface—threatening to unravel us both?

—                  —                    —

I liked both of these books, a lot more than I had expected to. Wolff writes about very complicated relationships and characters, which is always something that I am looking for in a book. I like depth.

I also liked that there were some complications that I didn’t see coming in their relationship, that develop around the end of the first novel. Can’t talk about it without major spoilers, but you know I mean if you’ve read the book.

Their back and forth over the blender was hilarious but it also had meaning. That stupid blender represented something far more complicated and important, that was affecting their relationship. Chloe is extremely uncomfortable with Ethan’s billionaire status. She doesn’t trust people with money, having had many awful experiences with “the other half” in her short life.

There are a few things that I would have picked up on though, if I had been beta reading for Tracy.

Firstly, I question how Chloe didn’t recognize Ethan the first time that they met. Granted, their chance meeting placed him completely out of context, but if she has supposedly done all this research on him and his company and looks up to him as an ethical CEO, you’d think she has a pretty good idea what he looks like. Even more so because he is a billionaire bachelor who is always in and out of the society pages and gossip magazines.

The other things are more minor, mostly personal preference. The first book was too long in the ‘getting to know you-should we have a relationship’ stage. I was getting bored, but thankfully lots of good stuff happened to bring me back.

In the second book, Ethan and Chloe get torn apart and then find their ways back together several times. Even though Chloe had A LOT that she was dealing with, I didn’t like how she ran away from their relationship so many times. I wanted him to call her out on that and remind her that it isn’t a relationship when one party runs out every time things get difficult. You can leave for awhile to think and get perspective, but that isn’t the same as running out and breaking up.

There is a third book out in this series, and a fourth due to be released in 2016. They are both written mostly from Ethan’s perspective however and I am not a fan of authors who switch halfway through a series. Not sure if I will be reading either of those.

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xx