Prisoner (Criminals and Captives #1)

By the way, sorry for the lack of posts last week. I took a bit

of time off for spring break 🙂

prisoner

He seethes with raw power the first time I see him—pure menace and rippling muscles in shackles. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

So I hide behind my prim glasses and my book like I always do, because I have secrets too. Then he shows up in the prison writing class I have to teach, and he blows me away with his honesty. He tells me secrets in his stories, and it’s getting harder to hide mine. I shiver when he gets too close, with only the cuffs and the bars and the guards holding him back. At night I can’t stop thinking about him in his cell.

But that’s the thing about an animal in a cage—you never know when he’ll bite. He might use you to escape. He might even pull you into a forest and hold a hand over your mouth so you can’t call for the cops. He might make you come so hard, you can’t think.

And you might crave him more than your next breath.

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Prisoner is a dark romance book that begins with the heroine working as a writing teacher in a special program for prisoners. One particular prisoner makes her extremely uncomfortable – and wet – and he seems unusually fascinated with her as well.

Little does Abigail know that Grayson is playing her to send a message to his gang outside the prison walls, and that he is planning his prison escape using her as a hostage.

Abigail makes several escape attempts throughout this story so if you like a physical struggle where the hero subdues the heroine with his strength, this book just might you swoon.

I love that the authors created such a rich backstory to both characters and that there is a whole world that was created. It added much more depth and realism to a story compared to a romance that takes place within a vacuum.

Although this book was co-authored by two women, it flows seamlessly, without my being able to point out who wrote what section. They truly work well together and I am glad that there is another book to read after this!

The main drawback that I experienced with this story was that the level of corruption seemed too over the top. It seemed that no one was removed and that any new character you came across could be bought or manipulated. This is a plot device that I have hated since I was a small child reading about princesses dealing with court politics and I don’t like it anymore now. Otherwise, I would have rated it five stars.

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xx

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The Light Between Oceans

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After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

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I just finished listening to The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. It was read by Noah Taylor and his narration was fantastic. I was surprised at first by his Australian accent – which is probably strange considering that the book is set in Australia, about Australians and written by an Australian – but it made such a difference that I would recommend to anyone that they listen to this book rather than read it. It sounded like Hugh Jackman was in my ear for 10+ hours, whispering sweet nothings. Magical. Taylor has spot on portrayals of male and female characters, particularly little Lulu, and I felt that each of the characters had their own “voice”. I would be open to listening to future audio books just based on the fact that he is the narrator.

The Light Between Oceans is a beautifully written tale of love and the connections it weaves between people, often unseen over many years. It is also a story of heartache. The pain of parents who lose children, of children who lose parents, and the bitterness that can develop between two people who love each other, when life gets in the way.

Stedman pulls and tugs at the strings between a loving, committed husband and wife, and manipulates those ties. Will they break? How much is too much to overcome? And how far will someone go against their personal code, to meet the needs of the person they love most in the world?

I found myself questioning what I would do in place of Isabel and Tom. Would I have kept the child who washed up on the only shore within a day’s sailing, seemingly in answer to my prayers? More to the point, would I give her back, after learning her mother is alive and desperately searching for her?

The ending of the Light Between Oceans is sad, more than I expected it to be, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled my eyes out throughout the final chapter. Prepare to have a few tissues handy if you have a sensitive soul.

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xx

Bound Together by Christine Feehan

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The Sea Haven series comes to a climactic end as the mysterious man from Blythe Daniels’ past re-enters her life.

For five years, Viktor Prakenskii has put his life on hold in order to take down the world’s most feared motorcycle club from the inside. But carrying out the insane violence and seeing the club’s exploitation of the innocent has brought his traumatic past roaring back. And there’s only one cure: to see the wife he left behind…

Blythe Daniels thought she’d never see Viktor again after he murdered her stepfather and left without a word. She rebuilt her life without him, becoming a personal trainer and physical therapist…becoming strong enough for others to lean on. But when Viktor comes back to Sea Haven, he’ll make Blythe question everything she thought she knew about good and evil—and the dark desires of the heart…

—                         —                         —

Bound Together is the final chapter of the Sisters of the Heart series as well as the prequel to the Torpedo Ink series that will debut in 2018. It felt like a reunion novel in many ways; so many threads and characters were brought back from previous books in this series, and also from the Drake Sisters series.

There were a TON of expectations for Bound Together. And I think overall that the author did a pretty good job of bringing everything “together”, a task that I can only imagine seemed insurmountable at the start. There were lots of points that I loved in this novel, but there were also a few things that I found myself to be very skeptical of or opposed to. One thing that I’m not even going to touch on further is that there were a few continuity issues between BT and the previous books in the two series, and that the plot line was fairly predictable for anyone familiar with Feehan’s work.

This review is going to have major spoilers, which is one of the reasons I have waited a month to write it. Fair warning…

Ms. Feehan was able to impressively weave together the old characters from the Drake Family and the farm (about 25 people) with Viktor and his MC (another 9 characters on page), plus children they’ve rescued, background peeps from the village and a horde of bad guys. That is a lot of people who need “page time” and distinct voices! No wonder the author was hard-pressed to wrap everything up in one book.

Now, before I sound too critical of her efforts, I want to point out that I think Ms. Feehan did the best anyone could have done considering the massive amount of material to be covered in a minimal number of pages. That being said, I believe that it was more suited to two tomes released back to back as many romance authors have been doing lately (looking at you Ann Mayburn!) or working with the publisher to write a book that is much longer than the others in the series.

Now as much as I wanted to meet the MC members who are a part of Torpedo Ink, they should have been left behind to show up in the first book in the next series instead. As it is Ms. Feehan only introduced half and left the others off-page. Their inclusion led me to feel that some of the others didn’t have their stories finished. Lexi in particular, I wanted to catch up with and see her adjustment to Gavriil’s announcement that he wanted to join the outlaw MC!

There is almost no interaction between Viktor and the other Sisters of the Heart throughout all of Bound Together, and there is no interaction between him and their children. Many of those “sisters” are only mentioned in a couple of chapters but Blythe was a strong supporting character in each of their backstories.  I also was desperately anticipating the meeting between (a very pregnant) Joley and the Prakenskii brothers but this is not included in Bound Together which made me feel cheated as a reader.

I don’t want this review to reiterate the entire background of the Torpedo Ink members, but suffice it to say that they have no idea how to interact in society nor do they realize the limits of normal relationships. Fair enough, considering how they were raised, but Blythe fits in a little too easily with them. I understand that forgiveness, compassion and acceptance are her dominant personality traits but she accepted Viktor and co a little too easily in my opinion. She seems to go from literally physically struggling to get away from Viktor to solidly having his back in all situations, and reflecting his exhibitionist tendencies.

Ms. Feehan has continually painted each new hero in her books as the “baddest of the bad”. Well, at some point you reach the ceiling and there is nowhere else to go. She asks the reader to suspend their belief, and accept that each new group is that much more skilled. And I’m not buying it anymore.

In Bound Together, the Torpedo Ink members are described as being more dangerous than any of the other survivors of the program our earlier heroes emerged from. I think Torpedo Ink can be slightly more dangerous in that they don’t even want to try to live within the constraints of normal society, to “fit in”, and that they are totally willing to kill innocent people to protect themselves from perceived danger, a step that none of the others has taken thus far. Perhaps their only redeeming qualities are that children are off limits and that these actions are done out of an all-consuming fear. Fear that one of their own will die or otherwise be taken from them.

But I heartily dispute the idea that these men and two women have skills that far exceed the other Prakenskii brothers (and Aleksandr). They were all “trained” in the same schools. In fact, the point is continually made that the T. Ink crew weren’t trained so much as incarcerated and tortured all their lives, and that they didn’t start running missions until their twenties, compared to the others who had the best training in the world and started running missions as teens.

Who do you really think is going to be more effective? More skilled? More experienced?

Ya, not the new boys on the block.

I also don’t think they would have easily taken to playing with the children, and caring for them, as happens in the end of the book. These are men and women who never had a childhood. They don’t know how to play, or even how to laugh, points that are made repeatedly throughout the story. They are not well-suited to immediately adapt to parental roles, and certainly wouldn’t know how to entertain and play with children of different ages, or know what is age appropriate for each. Viktor is the only one of them who I believe would have a chance, and that is because of his experience with Blythe and that he was the oldest when he was taken, rather than a baby or a toddler.

So these are all the main points that I dispute or had issue with while reading Bound Together. Each is relatively minor overall, but stayed with me after finishing the story, especially when taken together.

That said, I did enjoy the book, and it met many of my expectations, but for the author to expect that one regular-length book could culminate in a thorough and fan-friendly reunion story for 12 previous books and introduce a new cast of characters for the next series is far-fetched and laughable. For what it was, it was good, but I wish the author and publisher had been more flexible, and willing to think outside the box to make Blythe and Viktor’s story fantastic.

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xx