Review: Prince’s Gambit (Captive Prince, #2), by C. S. Pacat

Prince's Gambit (Captive Prince, #2)Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the ‘Captive Prince’ series progresses, I find myself completely lost in the story of Damen and Laurent. Talk about a slow-burn, I have been dying for something to happen between these two. The anticipation was absolutely killing me.

While the first book primarily focused on the hedonistic indulgences and cruelty of Laurent’s court, this second book shows more of the inner workings. Many of the pieces are beginning to fall into place. There is far more to Laurent’s situation than meets the eye. In many ways, he is every bit the captive that Damen is.

The nearer Laurent gets to the day that he will claim his throne, the more underhanded his uncle becomes. It is evident that he has no intention of ever relinquishing the power of being King. He does everything within his power to discredit and undermine his nephew at every turn.

Unfortunately for Laurent’s uncle, his own manipulations end up being unexpectedly counterproductive. He coerces Laurent into serving near the border, anticipating that he and the substandard group of soldiers that he sent him with will end up being killed off. The assassins that he sends will surely finish off the job if the poor state of the group does not manage to die of their own accord.

Instead, Laurent and Damen form an unlikely alliance. Their tenuous relationship grows much stronger, even becoming the best of friends. Damen often finds himself in the position of a trusted confidante for Laurent. Before long, the two are practically inseparable.

At last, it is evident that there is far more going on between Laurent and Damen than meets the eye. Of course, there is a pervasive ominous feeling to this book. Damen’s identity is still a secret at this point. The looming threat of discovery lingers, tainting his interactions with Laurent. The more he grows to care for Laurent, the more Damen fears that his betrayal will come to light.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. I was taken in by the evolution of Damen and Laurent’s relationship from enemies to friends to lovers. I want things to work out for them so badly, even as I know that disaster is lurking around the corner. So many secrets. So many feelings. My heart is breaking for these two.

Needless to say, I thought that this was a wonderful book. I will dive into the third book immediately. I absolutely must know how things work out for Damen and Laurent. Despite the fact that M/M is not my usual preferred genre, I have absolutely fallen in love with this story. I want Damen and Laurent to get the HEA so badly.

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Review: The Bad Guy, by Celia Aaron

The Bad GuyThe Bad Guy by Celia Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love dark romance and stories with captivity themes are among my favorites. So when I read the blurb for ‘The Bad Guy’, I was sure that it would be right up my alley. I wasn’t wrong. It was just the type of “reformed” bad guy story that I love.

When Sebastian Lindstrom sets eyes on the girlfriend of one of his company’s executives, he is determined to have her by any means necessary. A highly-functional psychopath, he doesn’t conform to the social constraints of polite society. He sets out to possess her. Stalking, kidnapping and manipulation are all on the table.

Camille Briarlane has the “perfect” boyfriend. He’s patient and doting. She knows that he wants to take their relationship to the next level. She only wishes that she felt half as passionate about him as she did for her teaching job. She’s not sure what is holding her back, but something is.

When Camille accepts a job over Christmas break as a researcher in the Amazon, she has no idea that she’s walking into a trap. Instead of being taken to the airport, she is taken prisoner. The sexy man that she once danced with at her boyfriend’s company’s party has stolen her. It is clear that he is unhinged and will go to any length to have her. She only hopes that she can get out alive.

I should be clear that this book is far different from most dark romances with a captivity theme. If you’re looking for a really dark story with whips, chains and an abusive anti-hero, you won’t find it here. It just wasn’t that type of story.

Yes, Sebastian kidnaps Camille. Yes, he holds her captive in his family’s countryside mansion. At times she even fears him.

However, Sebastian has no intention of physically harming her. He comes off as determined to woo her and absolutely clueless about how to make that happen. He knows that Camille is the woman for him, even if he doesn’t understand “normal” emotions. He is sure that given enough time, she will come to realize that they are meant to be together also.

As messed up as the situation was, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Sebastian. There was an underlying vulnerability and even innocence to him that is hard to pinpoint. He didn’t feel things in the same way as others, but Camille brought out his humanity.

Eventually, Sebastian has to face some hard truths. He realizes that he cannot make Camille love him. The harder he tries to force her hand, the more she will slip away. He begins to grow a conscience.

Likewise, Camille has to come to some realizations about her life. Her “perfect” boyfriend is not so perfect after all. Right or wrong, she has feelings for Sebastian that she needs to evaluate.

Overall, this ended up being a great book. It is a standalone and didn’t leave me with any unanswered questions. It was different than other captivity-themed romances, but that only made it stand out from the rest. If you want a taboo love story that toes the line without leaping into “dark” territory, this is a great choice.

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Review: Dishonorable, by Natasha Knight

DishonorableDishonorable by Natasha Knight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading the blurb for ‘Dishonorable’, I was sure that this would be a dark, twisted and disturbing story. In other words, I thought that this would be just what I needed to satiate my thirst for depravity. Unfortunately, this book didn’t deliver on that front for me. It was the type of story that plays with the idea of darkness, without really ever crossing the line into truly “dark” territory. Don’t get me wrong, it was great. It just wasn’t what I thought I was going to get.

The heroine, Sofia Guardia, is essentially forced into marriage with Raphael Amado. Her grandfather wronged him in some terrible way and Raphael has demanded Sofia as repayment. Sounds twisted, right? Well…kind of.

While Raphael’s intentions were certainly bad, he wasn’t the monster that I had imagined – hoped for – in my depraved mind. You see, he was pretty much after her inheritance and not necessarily her. For many readers, I’m sure this will be a positive turn of events. However, it was pretty disappointing.

Of course, in time, Sofia and Raphael’s relationship grows more intimate. From the start, the chemistry between the two is pretty intense. Their initial interactions are heated, to say the least. However, they soon reach a middle ground. Eventually, flirtation becomes more.

Although I didn’t find the dark read that I was craving, I couldn’t deny the appeal of this story. Raphael was such a damaged hero and he grew on me. While Sofia might have been young, I found her to be admirable and mature for her age. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the idea of this couple.

The supporting characters were well-crafted and interesting. They breathed life into the story, while not stealing the spotlight. Raphael’s brother, proved to be especially endearing to me.

This book had a little of everything. It had romance, without being syrupy. It had plenty of danger and an aura of darkness, even if it never really turned “dark”. There was a feeling of impending doom that seemed to lurk in the background for most of the book, serving to keep readers on edge.

Overall, this was a great story. Despite the fact that it wasn’t the dark romance that I had anticipated, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I love an a$$hole that ends up being redeemable. The worse they are, the more I love them. Raphael certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard.

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Review: Killing The Sun: Part 3, by Mara White and K. Larsen

Killing The Sun: Part 3Killing The Sun: Part 3 by Mara White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this third, and final, installment of the ‘Killing The Sun’ series, the tension between Danny and Aimee is at an all-time high. Aimee is finally ready to stand up to Danny, even as she still yearns for his love on some level. With Aimee slipping away, Danny is at his most brutal.

For the first time while reading this series, I really feared what Danny might do to Aimee. He was always violent and controlling, but I never got the sense that he wanted to truly harm Aimee before. Now, there is no telling what he might do to her. He might even want her dead.

As Danny is brought to justice for his criminal activities, Aimee’s secrets also come to light. In fact, she proved to be more duplicitous than Danny, in my opinion. It was like there was this whole other person that I was blind to before. Part of me felt betrayed by her, while another part felt proud that she had it in her.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that this series took me by surprise. It was a whirlwind of steamy sex and betrayals. And that ending! I am dying to know what happens next. I would kill for an epilogue or another book. I imagine a dark romance with Danny and Aimee living out the HEA together…but I always root for the anti-hero. Damn these two twisted geniuses!

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Review: Seducing Virtue (Wicked Trinity, #3), by Courtney Lane

Seducing Virtue (Wicked Trinity Book 3)Seducing Virtue by Courtney Lane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been a while since I read something as messed up as ‘Seducing Virtue’. This was just the dark, twisted and shocking story that my depraved mind needed. Christ on a cracker! Courtney Lane always messes with my head. She has one disturbing imagination…and I love it!

This is the third book in the ‘Wicked Trinity’ series and the books must be read in order. In fact, this series is so multifaceted and complex that I found myself having to go back and re-read many parts of books one and two in order to make sense of certain events. It was absolutely no bother though, because this series is that good!

If you have already read the first two books, then it goes without saying that this is one dark and twisted series. It is brutal, gritty, gory and offensive. If you can’t handle a really dark read with very disturbing content, then you probably wouldn’t have made it this far in the series. Ms. Lane does not hold back when it comes to the dark content and I applaud her for that.

This book picks up with Keaton back at her parents after recently escaping Noah. She’s still shocked at the revelation of Braeden’s true identity, but inexplicably drawn to him nonetheless. She’s kind of in limbo, trying to do what she knows is logical while wanting to do something that is absolutely crazy but feels so good.

The beginning of this book seemed a little slow to me. However, once it got going it really took off. Buckle up, because you’re in for one hell of a twisted ride!

There were so many twists and turns along the way that I had to clarify and reorient myself more than once. If you’re like me and it has been a while since you read the first two books, you’ll want to have them handy to reference. There were so many intricate details that I had to go back a few times to remind myself where different things had left off.

The layers of deception seemed never-ending. Every time that I thought I knew where the story was headed, something else would happen and I find myself going in another direction entirely. It was definitely a mind-f*@k!

Throughout the book, Keaton and Braeden had a strong push/pull relationship. The two could seem to be together or stay apart. There were many things about their relationship that had me scratching my head. Yet, I wanted them to get the HEA in spite of Braeden’s horrible crimes.

Noah also spoke to me. He definitely isn’t a character that is easy to like, but deep down, I think he loved Keaton in his own messed up way. These two guys are perhaps two of the most damaged characters that I’ve ever encountered. I’d love to hate them, and sometimes I did, but mostly, I felt sad for them.

Eventually, everything does work out for the best. Of course, that is a matter of opinion. This book has the type of ending that will have many readers wanting to pull their hair out, but for me, it was perfect. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more fitting conclusion to this series.

If you love a dark, disturbing story that pushes your boundaries this is a good one. I love the dark stuff and there were times I felt an urge to rock myself in a corner. Be forewarned. If that appeals to you, like it does to me, you don’t want to miss this series.

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Review: Behind Closed Doors, by B. A. Paris

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whew! This was certainly one creepy and screwed up story. I expected it to be really messed up, but not in quite the way that it was. A pervasive sense of uneasiness stayed with me the entire time that I was reading this book. Creepy…Very creepy.

The book opens with a dinner party at Jack and Grace’s home. Jack is a successful attorney, well-known for advocating for battered women. Grace is the soft-spoken, elegant wife. Everything about their life seems to be the picture of perfection.

It is all a lie. What goes on behind closed doors would shock their friends and the community. Nothing is what it seems. Jack is not the man that everyone thinks he is. Only Grace seems to be aware of his true nature and she is racing against the clock to stop him before he does worse than he already has.

This story kept me on the edge of my seat right up to the very last word. There was no time wasted and the story moved quickly. It was a nice change of pace for me.

I was appalled by some of the things that Jack did in this book. Yet, it was the anticipation and the fear of the unknown that was most chilling. Unlike other books dealing with abuse and sociopaths, ‘Behind Closed Doors’ did not provide a lot of graphic, gory details. Instead, the author chooses to give you just enough information to piece things together for yourself and leaves the rest to your imagination. If your mind is like mine, it can go to some pretty disturbing places when lead down that path.

There were several times that I did want to shake Grace. Mainly, I couldn’t understand how quickly she seemed to submit to Jack’s will. Although, seeing how things worked out for her on the few occasions when she did try to get away did help to convince me. It was unbelievable that Jack could wield so much influence, but it worked for the storyline I suppose.

Overall, this was a fantastic, fast-paced story. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was great. I highly recommend this standalone for anyone that loves a suspenseful, psychological thriller but cannot stomach the gory details. If you can keep your imagination under control, the author doesn’t provide any horrendous details that will leave you scarred. You will definitely be creeped out though. Count on that.

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