Review: The Iron Tiara, by Beth Flynn

The Iron TiaraThe Iron Tiara by Beth Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved ‘Nine Minutes’. So, when I saw that Beth Flynn had published a spin-off, I was all over it. No way was I going to miss anything remotely related to Grizz and Ginny!

‘The Iron Tiara’ is the story of Anthony Bear and Christy Chapman. If you’ve read ‘Nine Minutes’, you’ll remember Anthony as the leader of the “rival” biker gang on Florida’s west coast and Grizz’s best friend. This book shows a softer side to the intimidating biker.

Like Grizz and Ginny, Anthony and Christy’s relationship began with an abduction and captivity by the leader of a dangerous biker gang. That is where the similarities end though. Christy was an adult at the time she was taken. Anthony’s motives were also much different than Grizz’s.

While Grizz stole Ginny because he wanted her and had every intention of claiming her as his woman, Anthony did not set out to possess Christy. In fact, he loathed her initially. Their relationship evolved as Anthony watched her and came to realize that his preconceived notions about who she was were entirely unfounded.

Anthony took Christy as leverage. Her step-father owed Anthony a lot of money and Anthony planned to hold her hostage until he paid up. Unfortunately, Christy wasn’t the cherished princess that Anthony had envisioned. In fact, her relationship with her step-father was probably worse than Anthony’s relationship with him was.

After Christy’s step-father, Van, skips town, Anthony continues to keep Christy as his prisoner. As the reality that he isn’t coming back begins to dawn on him, he decides to keep her for entirely different reasons. He wants her, whether he is ready to admit it to himself or not.

Meanwhile, it becomes evident that Anthony isn’t the only one looking for Christy. Her step-father’s careless spending placed her on the radar of some very dangerous people. It is then that her captor transitions to the role of protector.

Despite the captivity theme, the relationship between Anthony and Christy develops over time. Anthony woos Christy gradually, even though he recognizes his feelings pretty early-on. Don’t expect any type of sex slave scenarios to play out here.

I enjoyed the slow burn of their relationship. Likewise, the glimpses of Grizz and Ginny’s story, told from a new POV, were a nice touch. Seeing the worlds of these characters intersect and putting the pieces together to form a more robust history was really nice.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as ‘Nine Minutes’. Don’t misunderstand me, it was great. ‘Nine Minutes’ is a tough act to follow.

In the end, I though that this was a wonderful spin-off. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m still dying to get my hands on the next book in the ‘Nine Minutes’ series and this book provided some extra background and paved the way for what is to come. I cannot wait!

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Review: Undeserving (Undeniable, #5), by Madeline Sheehan

Undeserving (Undeniable, #5)Undeserving by Madeline Sheehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Madeline Sheehan has done it again! If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting a long time for the next book in the ‘Undeniable’ series. This series is probably my favorite biker series of all of them, and there are plenty of them to choose from. And let me tell you, this book was worth the wait!

When I first saw that the book was going to center on Preacher, I have to admit that I didn’t expect to love it. After all, he was Eva’s father and was already kind of old in ‘Undeniable’. For some reason, I had envisioned a present-day romance with an elderly Preacher and some new love interest. Before you succumb to the fit of nausea those thoughts will leave you with, know that I was completely wrong. Thank God for that!

Although the story does feature a present-day Preacher, along with Eva and other characters that we’ve grown to love over the course of this series, the actual love story takes place in the past. Dying, Preacher finally opens up to Eva about his one true love. He has plenty of secrets to share and the truth about her mother will shatter Eva’s ideas about who her mother was.

Everything that Preacher told Eva about her mother, was a lie. She wasn’t a junkie. She didn’t walk out on Eva…at least not in the way that she thought. These were all lies. The truth was so much more – more beautiful, more loving, and far more painful. Sometimes it is too hard to face the truth.

Preacher’s love story was heartfelt and incredibly tragic. I could not put this book down. Start to finish, I was hooked.

He first meets Eva’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, aka “Wheels”, when she tries to steal his wallet. From that point forward, the two form an unlikely friendship. Preacher is fresh out of prison and uncertain about the direction of his life, especially where his father’s motorcycle club is concerned. He recognizes the desperation and resilience in the beautiful, young runaway that tries to best him.

This book is a beautiful and highly emotional. Your heart will melt, and it will break. This story made me feel elated and also completely devastated. There was so much tragedy in Preacher’s past, but also so much love and happiness.

I won’t give too much away, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I’ll just say that this is one book that you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of this series. It is phenomenal!

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Review: Damnable Grace (Hades Hangmen, #5), by Tillie Cole

Damnable Grace (Hades Hangmen, #5)Damnable Grace by Tillie Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like all of the ‘Hades Hangmen’ books, ‘Damnable Grace’ is one that will rip your heart out. This series definitely tackles some offensive and upsetting content. It is not a series that will appeal to many readers because of the tough subject matter.

If you’re like me, and love dark books that push your limits and make you cringe, then ‘Damnable Grace’ is a great one. The fifth book in the series, it centers on Phebe and AK. If you’ve followed this series, you’ll remember AK as the “leader” of the psycho trio. You might also remember Phebe as the beautiful mistress of the “false” prophet who was cast aside for his new, younger mistress.

Phebe had been trained from a very young age to lure men into the cult with sex. She was trained to be a “Sacred Sister”, one of the girls sent out by the cult to recruit, or “fish”, for new male members. She was prized for her sexual allure and was considered to be the best of all the girls. She is used to men using her for their sexual pleasure and has never been valued for anything else. A devout believer, she has only recently begun to question the cult teachings.

When Phebe is sold by Rider’s brother, the “false prophet”, to a leader in the Aryan Brotherhood, Meister, she is in for more suffering than she could have imagined. Meister has been obsessed with Phebe from the first time that he saw her and his cruelty knows no bounds. At his hands, Phebe will endure unthinkable acts and will be left scarred, both physically and emotionally.

AK has not forgotten the beautiful woman that he left behind after the Hangmen raided the cult commune. When he and a few of his brothers are sent in to rescue Phebe from the Aryan Brotherhood’s compound, it was worse than anything that he could have imagined. The heinous abuse taking place at that compound were unthinkable. It was all he could do to maintain composure until he could get Phebe out of there.

In the weeks that followed, both Phebe and AK must come to terms with their pasts. Both have survived cruelty and tragedy. Each of them lives with loss and guilt. These two had a long road ahead of them, but they helped one another heal and face their pasts. Their story was tragic and messy, but beautiful.

It had been quite a while since I’d submersed myself in the world of the Hades Hangmen. So, I was worried that I wouldn’t remember all of the relevant details from the previous books. However, my concerns were completely unwarranted. Ms. Cole provided plenty of reminders throughout to keep me abreast of what was going on and what had passed.

While every Hades Hangmen book has made me cringe at times, none did so more than this one. It was absolutely brutal at times. Child abuse, rape, extreme sexual violence, murder…there was no shortage of depravity in this book.

Of all of the books in this series, I have to say that this one is my least favorite to this point. I enjoyed AK and Phebe’s story, but I wasn’t completely consumed with it like I have been with other books in this series. Even so, it was still a great book.

If you enjoy, dark and gritty stories, I highly recommend this series. Each of these characters has carved out a piece of my heart. They aren’t easy books to read, but they are well worth it.

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Review: Deep Redemption (Hades Hangmen, #4), by Tillie Cole

Deep Redemption (Hades Hangmen, #4)Deep Redemption by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have loved every book in this series, but I was more nervous about this book than any of the others. Let’s face it, Rider is not an easy character to like. He was a major contributor to the pain and suffering at the hands of his religious cult in previous books. If not an active participant, Prophet Cain certainly chose to look the other way while many atrocities were committed in his name.

Now, he finds himself reaping what he sowed. After finally growing a pair and standing up against the ritual raping of young children, Rider aka Prophet Cain, is at the mercy of his twisted sibling. Cain’s twin, Judas, has assumed his identity as the Prophet. Cain is imprisoned and subjected to daily beatings at the hands of his brother’s co-conspirators.

While imprisoned, he befriends Harmony, one of the “cursed daughters of Eve”. She is going to be forced to marry his brother, posing as him. Cain is determined to stop that from happening and to rescue Harmony from the cult.

He is finally opening his eyes to the evil that the cult harbors. His blinders have been removed and he must come to terms with the role he played in propagating the crimes committed in the name of religion. He now knows that his entire life was a lie.

With the help of some insiders, Rider sets out to right the wrongs of his past. Redemption will not be easily obtained and he knows that some wrongs will never be forgiven. Nobody is less forgiving of him than himself.

After everything he’d done, I was surprised at how easily Rider worked his way into my heart again. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Rider, but after Lilah’s book, I was sure that he was irredeemable. As it ends up, that wasn’t the case.

Harmony also proved to be an incredibly strong heroine. I think she might be the strongest of all the ladies in this series so far. I was blown away by her resilience, not just of body, but of mind and spirit. She had endured more abuse than I could imagine, but was strong enough to offer forgiveness. I absolutely loved her character!

There were far more twists and turns in this book than I had anticipated. Every time I thought I knew where the story was headed, something new would surprise me. It kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

If you’re a fan of the series, this is another great addition. To fully understand this story and to get maximum enjoyment out of it, you need to read the books in the series in order. If you haven’t already, read this series! It is fantastic!

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Review: Souls Unfractured (Hades Hangmen, #3), by Tillie Cole

Souls Unfractured (Hades Hangmen, #3)Souls Unfractured by Tillie Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 “He Can Hold My Hand Any Day” Stars!

Book 3 in the “Hades Hangmen” series, ‘Souls Unfractured’ tells the story of Flame and Maddie. If you’ve read the first two books in this series, then you should remember Maddie as one of the beautiful, “cursed” sisters that was rescued from a religious cult. Similarly, you’ll recognize Flame as the MC’s resident scary guy with a cutting problem. No two people could seem less likely to fall in love, but Ms. Cole makes it happen.

The story is well-written and captured my interest right off the bat. One of the things that I found intriguing was that this book focused far more on Flame’s past trauma, than Maddie’s. As a result, I felt far more connected with Flame than the other Heroes from earlier books in the series.

I was incredibly impressed with how Ms. Cole was able to address his past sexual assaults, while not taking away from his character’s strength or badass biker appeal. She skillfully weaved some very sensitive topics from Flame’s childhood into the story, showing a raw, emotional side of the much-feared killer. She made him human. Given the brutality that he is known for, that was no easy task.

Flame was definitely the best part of this story for me. Maddie’s character, for the most part, seemed pretty interchangeable with the previous heroines in this series. She’s gorgeous, traumatized, afraid of most men, sweet and sheltered. Victimized by pedophiles that used false religious prophecies to perpetuate their crimes, she shares a horrid past that is similar to Mae and Lilah.

Similarly, Flame’s story added something new to the familiar kidnap and rescue plot. After all, even Cain, aka Rider, is tired of kidnapping these girls at this point. This time around, their kidnapping was comparable to a “catch and release”. It had to be the shortest, and least dramatic, kidnapping ever! So yes, Flame’s story was what kept me tuned in.

As Flame and Maddie slowly built their relationship together, I found myself rooting for Flame. I wanted him to experience affection sooo badly. When his walls finally started to come down, all I could think was, “Damn, hand holding never seemed so erotic before!” I’ve read many sex scenes that weren’t even close to being that hot!

I’m a sucker for a happy ending and was glad to see Flame and Maddie get theirs. While this book did have many similarities to the earlier books, I have enjoyed them all enough that the redundancies didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this story.

I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. I cannot wait to see how things work out. I’m particularly curious to see how things will play out for Cain, now that he seems to be getting a very small taste of what he deserves.

Overall, I really enjoyed ‘Souls Unfractured’. It was very well written and held my attention from start to finish. It had many similarities to the first two books in the series, so whether or not they appealed to you might be a good indicator of whether or not this one will or won’t suit your tastes as well.

Note: This book, like the two prior books in this series, contains descriptions of child abuse, including child rape. If these topics are triggers for you, you may want to avoid this title.

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Review: Heart Recaptured (Hades Hangmen, #2), by Tillie Cole

Heart Recaptured (Hades Hangmen, #2)Heart Recaptured by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another Fantastic Book In The Hades Hangmen Series!

Picking up where “It Ain’t Me, Babe” left off, “Heart Recaptured” focuses on the story of Lilah and Ky. Unlike Mae, Lilah had no desire to flee the religious cult that she had been raised within. She still holds strongly to her beliefs and teachings of the cult leaders.

Ky is immediately attracted to Lilah’s beauty, but isn’t prepared to deal with her extreme religious beliefs. He’s a man unaccustomed to having his advances turned down or having to work to gain the affections of a woman. Ky can’t begin to comprehend the depth of her beliefs, anymore than she can comprehend the strange and frightening ways of life outside of the cult compound.

When Ky is assigned to teach Lilah about the world outside of the compound in order to help her make the transition into her new reality, both of them are pushed out of their comfort zones. The more time the two spend together, the stronger their attraction grows. Ky quickly becomes Lilah’s protector and gains her trust. Little by little, she begins to come out of her shell.

Despite it all, Lilah still hangs on to the belief that her beauty is a curse and that she is evil. The long-standing impact of the cult’s teachings and her subsequent self-loathing was incredibly sad. She is deeply scarred and, at times, seems entirely incapable of moving on with her life.

Eventually, the cult, now led by Prophet Cain (Rider), makes a reappearance. She is thrust back into a world that she thought she had wanted, only to then recognize how much she’d grown to love her new life and to question the validity of the cult’s teachings. Submitted to unspeakable horrors, she eventually finds her personal salvation.

It becomes apparent that Prophet Cain is no longer the kind-hearted Rider that we loved in the first book. He has forsaken his morality in exchange for power. He has become a passive bystander to the cruelties and perversions of the cult. While he may be conflicted, he lacks the strength to stand up for what he knows to be right, looking the other way as atrocities are committed in the name of God. In his role as their leader, he has become a follower, nothing more than a puppet for the cult elders. With his obsession for Mae still burning strong, there is no doubt that we’ll be seeing more of Prophet Cain in the future.

Ms. Cole’s storytelling continues to amaze me. This story is captivating and deeply disturbing. I am completely enthralled with these characters and the strength of these women. I cannot wait for the next book in this series to see what lies in store for Flame, Maddie and the rest of the characters we’ve been introduced to along the way.

Spectacular book!

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Review: Rebel (Dead Man’s Ink, #1), by Callie Hart

Rebel (Dead Man's Ink, #1)Rebel by Callie Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since reading the ‘Blood & Roses’ series, I’ve wanted to get the full story of Alexis, Sloane’s kidnapped sister. Finally, I got around to reading ‘Rebel’ after having it sit on my shelf for a while. Although it wasn’t exactly what I expected, it was a fantastic story.

Despite my initial impression from the ‘Blood & Roses’ series, Alexis wasn’t in the possession of the human traffickers for long. Kidnapped after witnessing a murder, she is auctioned off quickly. Luckily, she is purchased by the nephew of the man that she saw murdered. Her decision to try and help a stranger may have placed her in danger, but ultimately, it saved her also.

For most of this book, Alexis (aka Sophia) is trying to stay alive. She doesn’t fully understand what it is that her latest captor wants from her. She just knows that she needs to keep her family safe, which means keeping her real identity a secret.

Once she figures out that her new “owner”, Rebel, isn’t going to rape her or pimp her out, she begins to get to know him. Despite her best efforts, she cannot deny that she has a strong attraction to the outlaw biker. Eventually, they act on their attraction.

Although I already knew many of the facts surrounding Alexis and Rebel’s story from the ‘Blood & Roses’ series, this book began to fill in the details. My perception of Alexis changed drastically after reading this book. No longer, do I view her as a selfish, spoiled and uncaring person, as I did before. This book made me look at her actions from a different vantage point.

Overall, this was a great story! It did end with a big cliffhanger, so brace yourself. I listened to the audible version and the next book has not been released in that format yet. As soon as it is out, I’ll be continuing this series.

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Review: Hellraiser (The Devil’s Own, #2), by Amo Jones

Hellraiser (The Devil's Own #2)Hellraiser by Amo Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’ve read ‘One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars’, then you’ll remember Braxton “Hella” Ward as the insensitive, promiscuous biker that had a thing for Meadow’s friend, Melissa. I’d like to say that by the end of this book that I came to understand the reasons for Hella’s obnoxious behavior, but I can’t. I did grow to like him a little more, but that’s about all I can say for him.

Whereas Melissa Hart was kind of “along for the ride” in the first book, ‘Hellraiser’ focuses on her tumultuous relationship with Hella. This is a guy that enjoyed flaunting other women in her face, just to get a rise out of her. Yet, despite her tough reputation, she can’t seem to get enough of this jackass. I guess we all have our weaknesses!

The Army is also out for revenge. As The Devil’s Own plan for Beast and Meadow’s wedding, The Army has their own plans underway. Once again, Melissa finds herself on “lockdown” at the club compound.

While some things never change, like the repeat of a crisis requiring a lockdown at the biker club, there were a few new elements to this story. Melissa’s estranged sister, shows up on her doorstep. She is very secretive about why she’s left her life behind as a nun, but it is clear that she is running scared from something.

Of course, we also get more of Melissa’s story. From the once naive college girl, to the strong woman that she grew into, it is easy to see how her life events made her the person that she is. Her past was a brutal one.

In more ways than one, the past collides with the present in this book. Seemingly unrelated events end up being anything but “unrelated”. Eventually, it all comes to light in a brutal twist.

While I still had many of the same issues with this book that I had with the first book in the series, I do think that there were some improvements in the writing and editing. Yes, the author still uses phrases like “deep, shallow breaths” and “usually, always”, which drives me crazy. However, these mistakes did seem to be less frequent.

Like the first book, things just seemed to happen without any reasonable transition. For example, Hella’s character is all about sleeping around and he flaunts the fact that he isn’t going to settle down right up until the moment that he does. Before you could blink, he has committed himself to Melissa and has an entire personality change without any explanation or plausible progression of his feelings being portrayed.

It was like the author needed certain things to happen for the story to go where she wanted it to, so she just wrote it without making an attempt to make it believable. It was like reading the creation story. You know, “Let there be light” and it just happens. Things fell together too easily.

Similarly, the conflict between Melissa and Hella seemed contrived just to create some drama. It was pretty ridiculous. Then was forgotten just as easily. I definitely rolled my eyes a few times.

I once again find myself curious about where the next book will go. ‘Hellraiser’ ended with a huge cliffhanger. Even though this book was just an “okay” read for me, I am dying to know what happens in the next book with Melissa’s sister. I’m having a bit of deja vu here, since I felt the exact same way after finishing the first book. So, I’m going to read the next one, but if it doesn’t improve significantly, I’m calling it quits for this series. I hope I don’t regret it.

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Review: One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars (The Devil’s Own, #1), by Amo Jones

One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars (The Devil's Own, #1)One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars by Amo Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I picked up this book, I was looking for a raw, gritty, and dark read. Although ‘One Hundred & Thirty-Six Scars’ did have some dark content, it was primarily in the characters’ pasts. While that was certainly a big part of who they were, as a whole, this book wasn’t as dark as I’d hoped for.

Beast was raised by a secret organization called “The Army”. He never knew tenderness or kindness. He was trained to be an assassin from an early age and everything in his life revolved around his training and the next mission.

Despite never having experienced life on the outside, Beast somehow knows that it is better outside of the confines of the compound. He spends his youth trying to escape, bearing the scars as proof of his many attempts to free himself. Despite the brutal punishments, he never quits trying.

One day, he is successful. Along with his best friend, Hella, he manages to escape. The two go into hiding, with the help of a girl that Hella once knew from his childhood in foster care.

When Beast is recognized, it sets off a chain of events that will change his future. He meets the father that he never knew existed and is given the answers he’s always wanted about how he came to be in The Army. Immediately, he is taken in by the father that didn’t know he was alive.

Taking an apartment in a bad neighborhood while he tries to figure out his next steps, Beast is overcome by an urge to protect the girl next door. He hears her cries at night, until one day he has heard enough. He busts into the apartment next door and puts an end to the girl’s suffering.

When Beast saved Meadow, she was overwhelmed with gratitude for the huge stranger. Molested by her father from the age of four, she had finally decided to end her life. One last time and he would never hurt her again…and then, Beast saved her.

After barging in and saving the day, Meadow doesn’t hear from Beast. The two go their separate ways. Then, years later their paths cross again.

This time around, their attraction is instantaneous. From that point forward, things fell together rather easily for these two. In fact, it was too easy. There were none of the highs and lows that you’d expect. I needed a little more angst to hold my interest.

Overall, this story ended up being pretty good, but not great. The writing needed some work, but it wasn’t the worst I’ve read by a long shot. Contradictory, nonsensical phrases like “gently but roughly” and “shallow deep breaths” seemed to be a calling card for this author and left me scratching my head. There seemed to be a lack of attention to detail in the editing of this book, but I’ve read far worse.

That being said, it was still a pretty good book. Even though I wasn’t overly impressed with this first book, it did leave me very curious about the supporting characters. The author did a great job of paving the way for their stories and making me want to read their stories, even as I was nonplussed with the story I was reading. That takes some talent. I will be continuing the series. I only hope that the writing will improve as the series progresses.

From the point that the main characters re-enter each others’ lives as adults, it was pretty smooth sailing. In fact, I was taken aback at how quickly the two fell in love and how little drama there was surrounding their relationship. It was almost “too perfect”. In that way, it was surprising, but also just too easy to swallow.

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Review: Empire (Cartel, #3), by Lili St. Germain

Empire (Cartel, #3)Empire by Lili St. Germain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This book blew me away! I am still trying to wrap my mind around everything that transpired between the covers of this book. It was brilliant, dark, gory…and I loved every damn minute!

After finishing ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ series, I was not ready to let go of the characters that I had grown to love or those that I had grown to hate. I wanted more. I needed answers.

Dornan, especially, was intriguing. How did he get to be such a sadistic, deranged killer? What happens to a person to turn them into that kind of monster? Lili St. Germain did a spectacular job of providing brief glimpses of Dornan’s conscience, hinting at some underlying humanity, while not taking away from the fact that he was a really bad guy. Despite the fact that he was a brutal murderer, there was something about him that called to me.

Beginning the ‘Cartel’ series, I tried to distance myself from Mariana and John. After all, I knew how things were going to work out in the end. That was a given, if you read ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ first.

This is not a story with a happy ending. It is tragic. It is raw. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I knew this at the onset, but I couldn’t help but be devastated when it all came to pass, just as I knew it would.

The final book in the ‘Cartel’ series, ‘Empire’ illustrates Dornan’s descent into madness. While we were introduced to Dornan’s dark side in ‘Kingpin’, this book submerses us in his darkness. There is no coming back for him and Mariana must face the fact that the man she loves doesn’t exist any longer.

Even knowing how things would end, I found myself wanted Dornan to redeem himself. I wanted something…anything…to make it alright. I was devastated as I watched him literally transform into the cold, depraved killer that I knew from ‘The Gypsy Brothers’. It was inevitable, but it still crushed me.

After everything, I was still taken aback by Dornan’s vulnerability. Although he became a monster, embracing his darkness at the expense of his humanity, there was still a small part of him that was tender and loving. I was mesmerized by his thoughts and contradictory actions. He definitely had more than his fair share of daddy issues and his desire to please his father ruined his world.

If you’re a fan of dark romance/erotica, then I highly recommend that your read ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ series, followed by the ‘Cartel’ series. These books are not for everyone, as they contain plentiful and graphic accounts of abuse of every variety. However, if you like raw, gritty, dark stories then you can’t go wrong with these series. I am blown away by the disturbing, twisted content that Lili St. Germain produces. Take the disclaimers seriously…and buckle up! This story will rip your heart out and leave you rocking yourself in a corner.

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