Review: The Golden Dynasty (Fantasyland, #2), by Kristen Ashley

The Golden Dynasty (Fantasyland, #2)The Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all the books in Kristen Ashley’s ‘Fantasyland’ series, ‘The Golden Dynasty’ was by far my favorite. I love dark, controversial romances that make you love them in spite of all reason. This was one of those stories. I spent as much time cringing as I did smiling, but I couldn’t have asked for more. I loved this one!

If you’ve read many of Ms. Ashley’s books, then it goes without saying that the hero is an over-the-top Alpha. Dax Lahn, King of Suh Tunak and the Horde of Korwahk, was pretty intimidating, even by her standards. In his world, the men are warriors that are prized for their physical dominance and ability to take what they want, including a wife. As they roam around raiding villages, they murder, rob and rape. They are barbarians.

Circe goes to sleep in her world, but wakes up in a parallel world. She has no idea of how she ended up there, unlike Finnie who agreed to trade places with her otherworldly twin in the first book. A quick assessment of the situation has Circe, rightfully, terrified. She has awoken to a real-life nightmare.

Along with several other women, Circe is caged. Provided only scraps of clothing, she is told that she has been selected to participate in a great Korwahk tradition. What tradition? The wife hunt.

The wife hunt is exactly what it sounds like. A group of women are rounded up and dressed in skimpy outfits. Then, after being displayed for the Horde warriors, they are released…and hunted. The men track down the women, overpowering any other warrior challengers, and “claim” their wife right then and there. To say the least, this is a horrific, traumatic and uncivilized tradition.

This is how Circe comes to be Dax’s wife. Understandably, she hated him. Their relationship developed gradually. Eventually, it turned into something beautiful. This was a story that appealed to baser urges.

As primitive as Dax could be, he revered his wife in his own way. This was something that Circe came to recognize and appreciate. Granted, she was far more forgiving that I could have ever imagined possible…but it is fiction and a romance, so you knew it had to happen to move the story along.

Even as the feminist side of me thinks that I should be appalled by this story, the honest part of me has to admit that I was completely addicted. Circe came to wield a great deal of power in her own way, capitalizing upon the great deal of admiration that her husband had for her. It certainly wasn’t a politically correct type of story, but it was beautiful in it’s own right.

I fell in love with Dax, right along with Circe. Here was this super-tough, barbarous bad-ass, who truly couldn’t understand why his behaviors were so off-putting to his new wife. Even as he was determined to dominate her, he was saddened to think of his actions crushing her spirit in any way. He wanted her to submit to him, while loving the fight and her spirit.

If you are looking for a romance with a hot-headed Alpha hero, then look no further. This book will not disappoint. It is by far, my favorite of the books in this series.

On the other hand, if you are sensitive to darker subject matter, like rape and physical violence, then you’ll want to steer clear of this one. It is full to the brim with controversial topics. All the more reason for me to love it, but I know that isn’t the case for many readers. Be forewarned.

View all my reviews

Review: The V Girl: A coming of age story, by Mya Robarts

The V Girl: A coming of age storyThe V Girl: A coming of age story by Mya Robarts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this book, I knew it would deal with some pretty “heavy” subject matter. After all, the blurb is pretty forthcoming about the fact that rape is commonplace in this futuristic world that Mya Robarts created. While it proved to be every bit as gut-wrenching as I expected, there were also more moments of simplistic beauty than I had anticipated.

Given the dark, gritty and downright gloomy existence that the heroine lives, these few exquisite moments provided her with the inspiration necessary to keep living another day. For the reader, they served to keep the story from becoming so depressing as to not be enjoyable. Even in the darkest of times, there is light to be seen if you look hard enough. Finding that light is the essence of the human drive to survive against all odds.

Lila Velez was a girl that managed to find the light in a very dark world. Coming of age in her town meant being eligible for recruitment by the army. While this sounds deceivingly honorable, don’t let the fluffy language fool you. “Recruitment” is really a nice way of saying “rape” that is completely legal and sanctioned by the government. There is nothing nice about it or this life that Lila was born into. It is raw, brutal and horrific.

If you can picture that, then you can imagine the morose feeling that pervades this book. The vast majority of this book takes place in the months preceding the recruitment ceremony. (Yes, they actually have a big ceremony to celebrate these traumatic, and very public, mass rapes.) There was a strong sense of impending doom and the clock ticked down to the time that Lila would face a certain and brutal rape.

Fully aware of what the future holds in store for her, Lila is determined to take control of her own first sexual experience–to the extent that she can when she is faced with an ever-shortening timeline. She sets out to lose her virginity before it can be taken from her. She has no illusions of romance, but refuses to let the soldiers take that part of her. At least she can be sure that her first time will be with someone that she cares about, even if it isn’t with someone that she is in love with.

When Lila’s best friend, Rey, first turns her down, she is disappointed but not deterred. She is certain that she will be able to convince Rey before the troops arrive in their town. If she can’t she is sure that she can find somebody. After all, anyone would be better than the soldiers.

General Aleksy Furst immediately takes notice of Lila when he arrives in town. An awkward, rather comical, first meeting ensures that he won’t soon forget Lila. Despite her initial protests, Lila eventually comes to consider Aleksy’s offer to rid her of her virginity.

While reading this story, it was easy to draw many parallels between this fictional futuristic dystopian America and factual past and present war crimes of the world. This book forces readers to evaluate their values and sheds light on many unpleasant truths that are not discussed in polite society. From homophopia, rape, government-sanctioned war crimes, genetic modification, gender-specific roles to hypocrisy, this book touches on so many controversial topics that I couldn’t begin to list them all.

That is really what makes this book so moving and memorable. Of course, I enjoyed the love story that evolved between Lila and Aleksey. However, the beauty of this book was in it’s ability to make readers think about these controversial topics. The best books are those that force us to reevaluate our beliefs and behaviors, sculpting us into better, more compassionate, individuals. This is one such book.

While this book certainly isn’t a feel-good type of story, I highly recommend it. Like ‘1984’ and other dystopian classics, ‘The V Girl’ is a thought-provoking social commentary. I especially liked the questions for discussion that the author included at the back of the book.

View all my reviews

Review: The Club (Colombian Cartel, #1), by Suzanne Steele

The Club (Colombian Cartel # 1)The Club by Suzanne Steele
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m having a hard time deciding how to rate/review this one. On the one hand, I liked that the author didn’t shy away from dark content. On the other, the author didn’t necessarily weave said content into the story in a logical manner.

Antonio Ramirez is a crime boss of sorts. He owns strip club(s) and rules them with an iron fist. Although the full extent of his criminal dealings isn’t really revealed, it is clear that he is a guy that is feared and respected. His brother is Ricardo Ramirez, an even scarier guy.

Roxanne is a cage fighter. Along with her best friend, she has profited from throwing matches. When they get caught trying to scam Ricardo, he takes the women as payment. Roxanne is shipped off to marry Antonio, a gift from his brother. Meanwhile, her best friend is forced to marry Ricardo.

Of course, Roxanne is a virgin and is extremely surprised to be attracted to Antonio. That explains the pleasure and orgasms that she has while enduring the gentlest rape in history. Did I mention that she’s a closet masochist that ends up enjoying his sadistic tastes? (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes.)

One night is all it takes and he’s in love. She holds out a little longer, but can’t fight the attraction that she feels for Antonio while trying to maintain her righteous hate for her new husband. Eventually, she admits what was apparent from the start and quits trying to escape Antonio…or his spankings.

More often than not, this story left me feeling confused and wondering if I’d missed a few pages somewhere to explain exactly how the story arrived at a certain point. The characters’ emotional responses seemed contrived, rushed and, at times, ridiculous given the situation. It was hard to connect with the story when you can’t believe the responses of the characters to the given situations.

For example, with little more than a flip of the page, the hero goes from loathing the heroine that has been forced upon him by his brother to being completely obsessed and in love with her. Hmm… A few more conversations between the two might’ve helped to sell that a little better. It just didn’t work for me.

The short length of this story is a large part of the problem. There was way to much going on to cover in a short novella. If this novella had been fleshed out and made into a full-length novel, it would have been much better and wouldn’t have felt so forced.

Captivity, forced marriages, dubious consent and other dark themes are amongst my favorites…but they take time to craft into a story that is believable. It takes a lot of build-up to illustrate the gradual evolution of those relationships in order to sell it to the reader. That didn’t happen with this story. Instead, it felt forced and a bit “smutty”, lacking the emotional depth and connection that a story like this usually evokes.

Overall, I give this one 2 1/2 stars. It had potential, but was poorly executed. Instead of being a dark captivity story that tugs at your heart and makes you squirm in your seat, this story will make your eyes roll and might even make you laugh.

I’m slightly curious about the best friend and brother’s story, but probably won’t go there because I’m worried it’ll end up being just like this one. Maybe I’ll try another one of this author’s works sometime in the future. For now, this author’s style just doesn’t seem to match up with my tastes.

View all my reviews

Review: Blackbird (Redemption, #1), by Molly McAdams

Blackbird (Redemption Book 1)Blackbird by Molly McAdams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Blackbird’ is the first book in Molly McAdams ‘Redemption’ series and is a lot darker than her previous works. I have enjoyed just about every book that I’ve read by Ms. McAdams and as a lover of dark romance, I was very excited to hear that she was trying her hand at writing “darker” romance. While not as dark as I was hoping for, ‘Blackbird’ proves to be a captivating read.

The story centers on Briar Chapman, a young lady that comes from a wealthy family. She is finishing up college and is engaged to Kyle Armstrong, the son of the Georgia governor. Much to her family’s disappointment, she chooses to make her own way, waiting tables while going to school.

One day she picks up a shift for a coworker and her life is forever changed. Just outside of the restaurant, she is kidnapped. The next thing she knows, she’s been sold at auction to a wealthy man.

Briar finds herself in a helpless situation. She is at the mercy of a man that says he owns her. He has no intention of ever letting her go and he refuses to entertain her pleas.

In time, Briar finds herself growing attached to her captor. Before long, she is questioning her own sanity and whether or not she really wants to return to her real life. Eventually, she has to face the fact that she has fallen in love with the man that she should hate.

While this story has many things in common with other captivity-themed romances, it also stands out from the rest in many ways. For starters, the man that purchased Briar, Lucas Holt, is not what he seems. The “world” that Lucas is a part of is also unlike any other that I’ve read about. The setting and circumstances were really quite unique. These differences were enough to make ‘Blackbird’ stand out from the rest.

There were quite a few twists and turns along the way. If you enjoy a bit of danger and action, this book delivers it in spades. In fact, ‘Blackbird’ was every bit as much of an organized crime romance as it was a captivity-themed romance.

My only gripe is that it wasn’t dark enough for my tastes. There were quite a few scenes that were heading into some very dark territory, but then something would happen right at the last moment and Briar would be saved. Lucas couldn’t ever really commit to do what he set out to do because he couldn’t stand the thought of hurting his blackbird.

While I can appreciate the sentiment, it was kind of a letdown for me. I love disturbing, dark stories and the strong emotional response that they elicit. This book was like a big tease in that sense.

I’m of the mindset that if you want to go dark, then go dark. Don’t skirt the edges of the forbidden territory while being too afraid to take that leap. This seems to be pretty common among authors that want to write “dark” content. I’m not sure if it is because they are afraid of the backlash that will come with delving into truly dark content, or what. However, for a fan of darker reads, this can be very frustrating.

Otherwise, this was a fantastic story. I would’ve liked it to be darker, but it was certainly much darker than anything that I’ve read by this author before. Even though it wasn’t as depraved as I would have liked, it was still a highly enjoyable read for me.

View all my reviews

Review: Alternate: A Gypsy Brothers Novella (Gypsy Brothers, # 7.5), by Lili St. Germain

Alternate: A Gypsy Brothers NovellaAlternate: A Gypsy Brothers Novella by Lili St. Germain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s no mystery that I love dark, twisted stories. So, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I absolutely love the ‘Gypsy Brothers’ series. It is a raw, gritty and disturbing story of revenge and I devoured each one of the books in this series.

Somehow, I managed to miss the fact that this novella had been released until I saw a couple of reviews start popping up on friends’ pages. That is precisely why I love Goodreads so much. I hate to think that I would’ve missed this otherwise. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

Although this is just a novella, I found it to bring a lot to the series. Providing three snippets of scenes from the POVs of Jase, Dornan and Elliot respectively, I gained a much better understanding of what was going on inside each of their heads. Some things were surprising, like Jase’s darker urges, and some things not so much, like Elliot’s love for Juliette.

Dornan continues to be one of the most intriguing villains that I’ve ever encountered. He is wicked through and through. Yet, there is a tiny part of him buried deep down that is remorseful and regretful. In his own sick way he still cared for Juliette, even as he was determined to destroy her. I still struggle to reconcile the man he could have been with the man that he became.

This novella also sheds more light on the time that Jase spent as his father’s captive for the years following Juliette’s brutal rape. He was an entirely different person than the Jase that we met in the other books. His despair led him to some very dark places. He’s never even told Juliette about his time pushing the depths of his own depravity.

As for Elliot, you just can’t help but love him. He was just what Juliette needed at the lowest point in her life. Without him, she wouldn’t have stood a chance at survival. He sacrificed so much to save her. Unfortunately for him, she just couldn’t ever love him the way he wanted her to. His story is one of sacrifice and heartache, but integral to the series.

This was another terrific addition to the ‘Gypsy Brothers’ series. This is hands-down, one of my favorite dark series and I’m so glad that Lili St. Germain gave fans another little taste. It does need to be read after other books in the series so that you’ll have an understanding of the characters and events. This one is not intended to be a standalone. If you’re a fan of the series, you can get a free copy of this ebook on the author’s website if you sign up for her mail group.

View all my reviews