Enthralled (The Enslaved Duet #1) by Giana Darling

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“…A parting of night as if Hades himself was breaching the veil from the underworld.”

Friends, first off, this is a very dark and very taboo story. There are so many content and trigger warnings for abuse, sexual assault, and more, that I wrote at the bottom of this review, so please use caution and make sure you are in the right headspace if this looks like something you’d want to pick up. But if you liked The Debt series back in the day, you’ll probably like this dark and twisted tale, too.

Cosima – On her eighteenth birthday she decides to sell herself to pay off her father’s debt. The arrangement is supposed to be only for five years, and then she is free to go or start up a new contract with the man who she is going to make a deal with.

Alexander – A British royal, who is about to become Cosima’s master, and who has calculated this deal (and his secret plan) for a while, because of something in his past that he is hiding.

“Sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes we are born to bad people and live a bad life. There doesn’t always have to be a reason for misfortune, Cosima.”

Again, this is a dark BDSM romance that will probably have many of you screaming “Stockholm Syndrome” at me, and that’s valid. But I’m going to be honest with you, I was in Hawaii, with sunburnt feet (damn you water-shoes from Hell) and I just wanted to read something that was going to be sexy, out of my comfort zone, and that I could finish in a day, and this completely checked that list.

I really did enjoy this one, and I thought the consensual sex was very sexy, even if this did have a lot of very triggering content along the way. Obviously, there is a huge power imbalance, and Alexander does so many questionable things throughout the entire novel, but I never wanted to stop reading this one. And I cannot wait to see what Giana Darling does next, and where she will take this duology when Enamoured releases. Because the end of this book? Holy shit, what even?

Overall, this is one of those books you read and review based off enjoyment and maybe not the literary merit, if that makes any sense. I feel like I always read and review my erotic romances differently than other books, and this is very much the case for Enthralled! But if you’re looking for an extreme sub/Dom dynamic, with an age gap romance, and also with major enemies to lovers vibes, then I think you should give this a try. Just, please make sure you are in the mood for something extremely dark, and you’re able to suspend your disbelief.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: human trafficking, slavery, talk of eating disorders, talk of loss of a loved one, loss of a child, forced body modifications (piercings), abuse, sexual assault, a lot of abuse, and torture. This is a very dark book, so please use caution and make sure you are in the right headspace.

Vicious (Sinners of Saint #1) by L.J. Shen

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“I met Baron Spencer and he became my nightmare.”

Okay, you were all 100% correct. Vicious is totally the human equivalent of Cardan Greenbriar and I immediately want to reread this book this very second. Like, the first scene in his room, where he is sitting on the bed? I was waiting for my good dude to sprout a tail, honest to God. But yeah, this was an amazingly sexy read, and I enjoyed every single second of it. I can’t wait to continue on with the rest of this series.

Basically, this is very much an enemies to lovers story. And Vicious is a bigger bully than Cardan in every way, so if that is not your thing, I might skip this read. But if that is your thing? Oh Lord, please pick this up immediately. Seriously, I think L.J. Shen made a fan for life from this book alone.

This is a book told in flashbacks from present day to events that happened ten years ago that lead both main characters to where they are now. Vicious believes that Emilia overheard a conversation about a secret that he has been keeping forever. Emilia continues to be sweet, caring, and curious, and Vicious believes he has to remind her who has the power in every aspect of their lives.

That is, until Emilia is forced to leave LA forever, and goes to NY to pursue her dreams while trying to forget her tormentor. Yet, ten years later, things aren’t going great for Emilia; she just lost her job, she was just mugged, money is now extra tight, and she is also taking care of her chronically ill sister. Then one night, while she is working a night shift at a bar, the boy who has haunted her dreams walks in and gives her an offer that she is unable to refuse.

“I see you successfully graduated from a bully to a tyrant in the span of a decade.”

She then is forced to work under her bully, doing any and everything to keep him pleased. And we get to see them both struggle with their feelings for one another and decide if it is worth it to just get the other one out of their system. Emilia isn’t willing to fall for her tormentor, and Vicious won’t allow himself to have feelings for the one girl who is off limits for him. And the chemistry is honestly off the charts.

Friends, I’m just going to say it; the sex in this book is 11/10. Seriously, I immediately had to take a cold shower after, because the angst almost killed me during this reading experience. Like, the sexual tension in this is so damn extreme and some of the best I’ve read in a very long while. It feels like the slowest burn of all time, even though I don’t think I’d necessarily classify it as a slow burn. I don’t know, it’s a really weird reading experience, but so damn gratifying. The dirty talk was expertly done, too, and totally leg crossing inducing if you get what I’m saying.

“Vicious was vicious. It was too bad that my hate for him was dipped in a thin shell of something that felt like love.”

Overall, I just loved this completely. I will say that if you don’t like possessive partners then you probably wont like Vicious, but if you do enjoy that kind of thing then I completely implore you to pick this one up immediately, because I thought the trope was really well done. Like, I recommend this with every fiber of my being if you like hate to love romances. And all my friends promise me that Ruckus is even better, so I cannot wait to continue on with this series!

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Content and trigger warnings for extreme bullying, talk of past child abuse, talk of chronic illness, talk of cancer, loss of a loved one, drug use, underage drinking, physical abuse, and extreme invasion of privacy.

Buddy Read with Riley! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

 

The Unrequited by Saffron A. Kent

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“It was beautiful and right. It was wrong and ugly, just like the earth beneath my feet. It was tragic and ecstatic. It was everything I’d hoped love could be.”

Okay, this book isn’t going to be for everyone and I completely get that. I will go into details below, but this book has grey area cheating and it is a student and teacher (college) relationship, but, good dear Lord, the sex in this was so fucking good. Like, maybe the best I’ve read all year. So, if you’re looking for something really naughty and really graphic, then look no further than The Unrequited.

Layla Robinson is all alone at college, living by herself in a dorm on campus that has construction going on below her top tower level. But Layla also feels alone and abandoned by her family, because she fell in love with her stepbrother, and only friend, and it really tore apart the family. Yet, Layla is still obsessed with him. But soon she will have a new obsession, and that is her poetry teacher that she keeps running into without him knowing. (Seriously, if you love the character Joe from You by Caroline Kepnes, then you are going to love Layla!) Also, Layla brings up pretty much every fucking Lana Del Rey song, but I’ll be honest, that’s what this book even reads like. She compares her professor to “Blue Jeans” and I swear to God, I feel like I could hear that song in the background while reading this entire story. Another thing is that the atmosphere of this book is perfect. Like, the snowy and winter setting was expertly done, and I really wasn’t expecting that going in. And it even enhances the Lana Del Rey vibes even more.

“Before this, I was Layla Robinson, crazy in love with her stepbrother. Now, I’m Layla Robinson, crushing on her poetry professor.”

But, okay, on to the poetry professor. Thomas Abrams is a new dad, but he and his wife are having a lot of problems. Thomas thinks it is because he was ignoring her, to work on his poetry, but he is now willing to do anything to make his marriage work… I mean, besides not having sex with a student. But he has moved back to the college town they met in and has taken up a job at the college where he meets Layla, and he claims that he is doing everything to try to make his wife fall in love with him again. You know, again, besides putting his dick in other women.

But Thomas and Layla bond over their mutual knowledge about their unrequited love, and their unforgettable loneliness. Yet, they recognize their chemistry together also, and after teasing each other nonstop, they eventually start having explosive sex. And like I said above, the sex is honestly 11/10, some of the best I’ve ever read, but a lot of sus things are going on.

Layla has a lot of mental health issues, and is completely and utterly unstable, but her character was one that I really loved. Again, she and her actions are totally unpredictable, but I felt like her character was just really realistically done (besides the tattoo, what the fuck even was that?). I’m not justifying her actions, and totally understand that most of them weren’t even close to being “morally good” or whatever, but they were hella believable and made for such an enthralling tale. From her stalking, to her obsessing, to her even just liking the way Thomas says her name, I loved it all.

“Firecrackers burst over my skin at the way he said my name. As far as I’m concerned, my name is average, but his voice, the movements of his tongue against his lips, make it special.”

And even though all this wild stuff is going on in the background, the real reason I’m giving this three stars is because I didn’t really like the ending. I just feel like both Layla and Thomas completely changed who they were as characters. I almost feel like the author didn’t really know how to end this really taboo and naughty story she created, so she tried to give it a fluffy romance ending and it just didn’t work for me, because it was so different than the entire rest of the vibe of this book. Plus, let’s be real, the character of Hadley was handled really not great, especially with Thomas “forcing” her to be a mother. Not every woman is put on this planet to be a mom, and that’s okay, but I feel like Hadley (for the most part) was really shown in a negative light because of her mental illness and her wants for her own life, and I really disliked it.

“We shouldn’t look for love stories where there are none to be found.”

Overall, I wanted a really sexy book and The Unrequited delivered that and more. Also, for the record, I don’t think the sex in this book is going to be for everyone, but it was very much for me. But if you’re on the kinky side, and like dominant partners, you should totally give this a try. Seriously, this is one of my new favorite forbidden romances of all time. I never wanted to put this story down, and I’m totally going to check out more by Saffron A. Kent.

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Content and trigger warnings for a BIG power imbalance because of a student and teacher relationship, cheating, depression, suicide attempt, talk of drinking and driving, talk of grey area consent in the past, stalking, peeping toms, underage drinking, and a lot of questionable mental health representation and discussion.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

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“I don’t know why this is the thing I choose to say out loud because it hurts to say it, to feel the truth of those words pass my lips, to have them be real in this world. But she’s dead is the reason I’m still alive. She’s dead is the reason I’m going to kill a man.”

Sadie is worth all the praise and hype you’ve heard about it. I had a feeling I was going to love this book, but I didn’t know that I would give it a piece of my heart. This is such a bright light in 2018 releases, and even though it handles some really tough topics, I recommend it with my entire heart and soul. And I will never forget Sadie or her story, and I will never stop listening to, and I will never stop believing, the voices of girls who have their own stories to tell.

This story is told in alternating chapters between a podcast and Sadie. We follow nineteen-year-old Sadie who is on a mission to murder the person who she believes has murdered her thirteen-year-old sister. The podcast is about five months behind the steps of Sadie, but the two storylines come together so very beautifully. But again, this is a dark book and this review is going to talk about some of those elements, so please use caution. Content and trigger warnings for pedophilia, loss of a loved one, bullying, assault, sexual assault, murder, death, extreme parental abandonment and neglect, talk of suicide, drug use, and underage drinking.

We get bread crumb after bread crumb from Sadie, while she travels to get revenge for her sister, the only person she has ever loved in this world. And the story really is so expertly crafted with the podcast element. I will say that I did listen to this on audiobook because so many people recommend the story to be experienced that way, but I didn’t love it as much as most people. But then again, I do have a hard time with audiobooks. But I fell so in love with Sadie and her story, that I listened to this in one day and one sitting.

And I know a lot of people don’t love the ending, but I think it is one of the most powerful endings I’ve probably ever read in my entire life. Plus, I feel like the choice of the cover of Sadie is genius, because Sadie truly is a faceless girl. She is a girl like so many whose stories don’t get to end happily, a girl whose story rarely even gets to be heard, and when it does it isn’t believed.

Something that I think is a really easy concept, but is hard for so many people to understand, is that rapists and pedophiles can be kind, and successful, and funny, and pillars of their community, and it will still never take away from the fact that they are rapists and pedophiles. The other titles and attributes do not lessen the fact that someone is a rapist or a pedophile. And how we teach girls at a very young age that the crimes committed against their bodies, and against their wills, is something to feel shame over. And how we live inside a broken system where rapists can commit the same horrific crime over and over, because no one wants to listen or believe the victims, especially if they are poor and uneducated. And Courtney Summers really illustrates that point so very beautifully throughout Sadie. Because our own world proves every day that people would rather believe powerful men over loud girls. But Sadie takes action into her own hands, and reclaims her power, her body, and her heart, along with getting her vengeance. And it is one of the best journeys I’ve ever experienced.

“Sometimes I don’t know what I miss more; everything I’ve lost or everything I never had.”

I also want to talk a little bit about the representation in Sadie. First off, Sadie has a very severe stutter. I didn’t know this going in, and as a matter of fact I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the main character has a stutter before, but it was perfection. Heartbreaking perfection though, because seeing Sadie unable to get the worlds out when she was feeling extreme anger or sadness was so heart wrenching. But Sadie always got the words out, and she always got her hurt across, and it was so beautifully done. Also, I know the scene is brief, but Sadie is so not straight, if anything she sounds rather pan to me. Lastly, Sadie has some of the most realistic poverty rep I’ve ever read, and I still feel like in 2018 that is something that is hard to find.

And I obviously think Sadie is a masterpiece of a story, and the themes are so important and relevant, but I think the biggest reason I loved this book so much was because I felt so connected to Sadie because of what she felt for Mattie. I will be completely honest with you all, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without my little brother. Me and my brother are a bit closer in age than Mattie and Sadie, and we were never abused or neglected, but the pure unconditional love that Sadie feels for Mattie, and how responsible and protective she felt, it was so pure and so realistic and just completely ripped out my heart and left me feeling so raw and vulnerable. I would do anything in the universe to protect my little brother, and I feel like I fell in love with this book just because Sadie’s love for her sister resonated so strongly in my very soul. There is a line in this book about Sadie feeling alive when her sister comes home from the hospital, and how she laid a hand on her baby sister’s chest and felt her breathing, and I was uncontrollably weeping while reading it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the love I have for my brother depicted so closely than to that passage, and I know I will carry that inside my heart forever.

“I stood over her crib and listened to her breathing, watching the rise and fall of her tiny chest. I pressed my palm against it and felt myself through her. She was breathing, alive. And I was too.”

Overall, this book just really meant a lot to me. And even though this book is heartbreaking, it has some of the most beautiful quotes I’ve read all year. I read it with tears in my eyes for at least half, but I wouldn’t trade this reading experience for anything. And I am now going to read every single thing Courtney Summers has created. I truly loved this one, and I recommend it with my entire heart and soul, especially if you have a close sibling relationship, if you enjoy murder mystery podcasts, and if you also want to change the world so that more victims’ voices not only get heard but get believed.

Lastly, I want anyone who needs to hear it to know two things: First, if you need to talk to someone, RAINN is always there. They are completely confidential, and available 24/7. You can also call 800.656.HOPE at any time, too. Secondly, I believe you and your voice deserves to be heard and believed.

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Buddy read with Ashwini at bookwormmuse! ❤

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

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(My amazing friend Amy gave this to me as a birthday gift!) 💕

“Nothing ever truly faded. Time only dulled the edges.”

Friends, I’m going to be real with you all upfront; this is a really fucked up book. Before I even start my review, I’m going to list all the content and trigger warnings: graphic rape, pedophilia, penetration using an object, graphic deaths, mention of suicide, loss of a loved one, police brutality, racist comments, hurtful ableist comments, misgendering, arson, a school shooting, extreme bullying, miscarriages, grey-area cheating, and a lot of violence. Please use caution and make sure you are in a safe mindset before picking this story up, and before reading my review.

I also want to state that I haven’t been reading thrillers lately. This has been my first crime thriller in a few years, actually. But regardless, Karin Slaughter really blew me away. I knew going in that she is a very beloved thriller author, and now I can totally see why. This story, as dark as it is, is so intelligently and expertly crafted. The twists were hard to see coming, the parallels left me haunted, and the ending was so very brutal.

This is a story about two sisters who are still grieving from a harrowing, unspeakable, horrible event that happened to them twenty-eight years ago. The book starts out with a flashback chapter, where we quickly learn that a home invasion is happening, because the girls’ father is a very liberal lawyer in a very conservative and small town.

Charlie – Has stayed close to her father and is still living in the town that has never made her feel welcome, but especially after that dark day. Charlie is a lawyer, currently separated from her husband, while grieving so many losses, and just happened to have her first one-night stand.

Sam – Moved far away from the town that hurt her and her family. Sam is a very successful lawyer in New York, but she keeps a great distance from her sister and father. She is also disabled, uses a cane at times, really has to focus on her speech, and has limited vision. Sam is grieving all alone, while trying to forget everything she has left behind.

These two sisters haven’t seen each other in a decade, but a new terrible event in their small hometown brings them both back together. And they both, unwillingly, become completely tangled up in a new case that could send a possibly innocent girl to death row. I loved both of these sisters so very much. I will say that I probably enjoyed Charlie’s point of view a little more, but I liked Sam’s character more.

Another thing I want to briefly touch on is that Charlie and Sam’s father’s best friend, Lenore, is a transwoman. There are flashbacks to before Lenore had transitioned, and her deadname is used. I don’t remember any “hurtful” comments, but there are a few careless comments, that do involve misgendering, so please use caution. I really did love this character so much, and I was happy with the inclusion, but it could have been done a lot more respectfully. Also, I am cis, but I would love to hear from trans reviewers about how they feel.

I don’t want to give anything away, because the secrets and mysteries are what make thrillers so much fun to read, but I’m going to try to tell you why this ended up being a four star read, but I’m going to be very vague. But maybe skip over this paragraph if you want to go completely blind into this story. Rusty actually irritated me throughout the novel, but he did have his redeeming parts where I actually started to like him. But the ending, and his secret really pissed me off. Like, infuriated me. I get he thought what he was doing was protecting, but it wasn’t, it was fucked up. The other thing was I really didn’t like the way Kelly’s story ended. It just left me feeling depressed, and heartbroken, and I really wish Charlie would have taken her under her wing or something. I hate seeing sad cycles continue to be sad, and I just wish I could have gotten a little more happiness, especially for a character who needed happiness so badly. Basically, the first 80% of this book is an easy five star read, but the ending left me a little too sad to give it.

Overall, I really loved my first Karin Slaughter book. I think this book would be perfect for the spooky, Halloween season (as long as you are in a safe mindset)! I think this was expertly crafted and it really did keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I fell so hard in love with these two main characters, even though my heart was breaking constantly for them. But this story blew me away, left me breathless, and I can’t wait to pick up another book by this author!


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Buddy Read with Paloma, Stephanie, & BookishBotanist! ❤