Dauntless – a Sons of Templar MC novel

dauntless

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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xx

 

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Full Contact (Redemption book 3)

Full Contact is the third novel in the Redemption series, featuring MMA fighters and their lady loves.

full-contact

Blurb:

When you can’t resist the one person who could destroy you…

Sia O’Donnell can’t help but push the limits. She secretly attends every underground MMA fight featuring The Predator, the undisputed champion. When he stalks his prey in the ring, Sia is mesmerized. He is dominant and dangerous and every instinct tells her to run.

Every beautiful thing Ray “The Predator” touches he knows he’ll eventually destroy. Soft, sweet and innocent, Sia is the light to Ray’s darkness-and completely irresistible. From the moment he lays eyes on her, he knows he’s going to have to put his dark past behind him to win her body and soul.

—                    —                    —

I was really surprised that this novel was about Sia and Ray for some reason. Usually the main secondary characters in the previous books are leading into those characters’ HEA, so I was expecting Rampage to be the lead. I also suspected Penny and Ray could end up together but I like this match-up better.

I’m still surprised though, that Sia and Ray had their story told so early. Although the reader knows Ray (or at least thinks they do), Sia is almost completely unknown and Ray had yet to start training at Redemption in the first two novels. The story is written entirely from Sia’s POV, so it felt like I was starting a new series in some ways, even though Ray had been previously introduced.

Regardless …

Sia is overcoming a lot of turmoil in her past and has plenty of triggers that need to be worked through. I love the strong female characters in this series. We started with a female paramedic, then a lawyer, and now a tattoo artist. Each of the girls also start training MMA to one degree or another, as their interests are sparked by the man they are dating. None of these ladies wants to be a victim or a push-over, and I admire that resilience and determination each employs in facing life’s challenges.

Ray (minor spoiler but not really) is secretly a CIA agent. Explains where he got those master P.I. skills! I wish that he had been further explored throughout the story. I felt like Castille was building him up through the previous novel just to drop him and explain the relationship through Sia’s POV only. Not cool. It would have been awesome to explore his shadowy career a little more closely, and figure out how he manages to be a domestically-operating CIA agent while working as a corporate P.I. in a law firm and still fight in the underground circuit. Talk about a busy man!

Sia blossoms as an independent thinking throughout the story. She grows and learns to believe in herself and take chances safely. I also wish we could have seen more of her and Ray’s struggles to overcome her triggers during intimacy and Ray’s issues with this. I do feel like the dialogue is lacking a little in this series. The characters seem to argue over the same things repeatedly and then it just works out, without showing the steps and compromises it took to get there.

Hopefully this is something that will be rectified in the fourth book. It is the HEA of Rampage and Penny and I dearly hope it will be told from both of their perspective’s. According to the author’s facebook page this week, it will be due out in April 2017 and the title is listed as Fighting Attraction. Apparently Rampage is quite the scary Dom in his personal life. I will be ecstatic if it is finally the book to ramp up the edginess!

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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.

sloane

** 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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