Sadly, this one dragged for me. I ended up skimming a bit through the flashbacks to get to the relationship sections. I was going to stop with the series, but the sneak peek of the next one at the back drew me in. I ended up enjoying Ranieri’s book much more than this one.
Well- color me impressed! I usually do not like novellas, and sometimes not even standalones, due to the limited pages in which to build characters/a relationship. However, THIS novella being a second chance story where the feelings were already there, it worked! Hallelujah! I actually liked this better than the previous entry in the series which WAS full-length. I liked the bully/high school aspect in the flashbacks because, let’s face it, that never gets old. I liked the secondary characters- they were there, but the author didn’t spend an extensive amount of time on them. And thank goodness for that since there were only so many pages to work with. I thought the inclusion of the female main character’s new best friend was excellent. She needed him, and he created some extra drama by making Ranieri jealous. All in all, a pleasantly surprising novella. I probably won’t re-read, but my threshold for what would constitute a re-read is pretty high at this point given my wildfire-like consumption of books from this genre. So, that is in no way a ding against the book. Recommended for a quick, enjoyable second chance read. It could be read as a standalone, but I imagine you wouldn’t enjoy it quite as much if you haven’t read the preceding books.
Was this book technically perfect? No. Did it make me uncomfortable? Sure did. But- Was it unique and different? Yep. Do I think it will stick with me, and be a book I remember for a long time? Also yep. This book was DARK. It doesn’t start out nice. It isn’t nice in the middle. And it isn’t nice at the end. Is it even a romance? That’s arguable. Dark erotica? Probably a better description. I couldn’t put this book down. It was different than nearly anything I’ve read. I’ve read a few books before with crazy anti-heroes, but not quite THIS crazy. And he’s not even a mafia/cartel guy- just a normal, everyday guy. With massive mental/emotional problems. Who doesn’t understand boundaries. Also, he’s hot. So that helps. I was all over the place reading this. Not unlike this review. Is it okay that I thought some parts of it were hot? Even though the (anti-)hero unquestionably attacks the heroine multiple times? Kidnaps her? Hurts her? Ties her up? I’m kind of ashamed of myself right now. There were some mental issues going on in this book with both of the main characters. Elliot’s issues seemed to have been there all along, not necessarily increasing in severity but maybe being revealed in pieces. In contrast, Joan’s issues could very well be attributed mostly to her “special times” with Elliot. Untreated trauma can do funny things to people. That is the only explanation I have for Joan’s behavior in this book. Again, I couldn’t put it down. There is a strong possibility of a future re-read. And I am not proud of myself for that. My only defense is that I read this like a suspense novel. I do wish we had gotten to see more of the back story on Elliot. Whose house did he live in? How did he get to be the way he is? Was he born that way, or did that evolve? I’m curious. With careful reminder of triggers and the dark content of this book, I do recommend it as a suspenseful read to mess with your head.
I am torn on this book. The concept is new and different- definitely not a tired rehash of something in 100 other books. There were several individual scenes in the book that were pretty hot. Scenes that were exciting. But it didn’t quite come together as a whole for me. Perhaps it was too short to spread its wings to its full potential? I felt that Evie’s character wasn’t consistent. She seemed to bounce back and forth between enjoying the adventure, and desiring to escape. She wants to call the cops, and then not too long later (she didn’t see him during this in-between period) she swears she wouldn’t call them/wouldn’t send him to prison. I couldn’t quite keep up. I enjoyed the backstory of Hinter. I (eventually) enjoyed Hunter in present-day. But I didn’t think the backstory of Hunter made sense for present-day Hunter. Without revealing spoilers I won’t get into it, but assuming that his backstory is supposed to be an explanation for why he is the way that he is… I didn’t buy it. I don’t see someone with that backstory displaying the behavior that he does- his acts, his beliefs, even his language. I do love this author’s writing overall- she writes some of the hottest scenes out there. I’m all about possessive/obsessive/stalkerish alpha men who aren’t afraid to go to extremes, and she delivers. That said, I wish there had been a little more to it with this one. I wish there had been more time to slowly develop the relationship between Evie and Hunter- it felt too rushed. The period of time between Evie feeling negatively toward Hunter (you know, for raping and kidnapping her) to when she became attracted to him was far too short for me. It seemed like she just decided one day that she loved him. And sadly, I didn’t buy in. I WANTED to, because Hunter’s pushiness (a kind way of putting it) came across kinda hot, honestly. After the initial interaction, of course. Don’t judge me. Anyway, I liked many of the scenes of this book individually. I just sorely wish there were more of a transition between her negative feelings toward Hunter, and her subsequent positive ones.
This book starts out with a bang… of triggers. That said, if you were able to handle Untouchable then you’ll probably be fine here.
Now that we have that unpleasantness out of the way, onward to the good stuff!
Oh, I so needed more Sam Mariano. And here she comes to save the day with another one of her otherwise unlikable anti-heroes. How does she do it?? How does she take a man, who by all accounts is completely unacceptable as a romantic interest, have them do despicable things, and yet by the end of the book scores of otherwise sensible women are ready to fight over him? It defies logic. And yet… whatever sorcery it is certainly works on me. Every damn time.
“If it counts for anything, I’m glad I didn’t kill you tonight,” I tell her. “You’re a true romantic,” she spits back acerbically.”
Did I love Brant in the first few pages? No. However, I never love her anti-heroes within the first few pages. They need space to spread their terrible wings and do very bad things before she turns on her magic trickery to make us love them.
Brant is not what most folks would call a “good guy.” I say most because it depends on your definition. Does that person have to abstain from killing people? Well, Brant is out. Does that person have to abstain from kidnapping? Assault? Okay, well… he doesn’t pass that hurdle, either. Some might say you are being picky with these requirements, I’m gonna be honest with you. BUT- he doesn’t cheat on his romantic partners! And what’s more? He is very loyal to his family. So there! All is forgiven, eh?
We good here? Did I mention he is also hot, and kinda jerky sometimes? Yeah, I thought that last part would do it.
Alyssa is an interesting character. She is young, but due to growing up in a small, overcrowded house with several hot mess relatives she is somehow more laid back and logical than you would expect for a person her age. She also has a strange approach to threats and/or danger in that she just sort of… bends to it. Rather than being rigid and unyielding (and thus easy to break) she instead adapts to what comes her way. Figures a certain degree of pliability will protect her. And you know what? She’s right. My magic 8 ball predicts that some readers might accuse her of being a doormat, but I counter that with the argument that her ways are what saved her. Her ability to turn a would-be enemy into an ally isn’t weak- it’s enviable. Because if I got kidnapped? My dead body would be thrown from the moving getaway vehicle with a quickness, no doubt.
As is the norm for Sam Mariano the relationship that is eventually forged between these two is NOT a typical progression for a romance. Does she love him? Should she call the police? Is he going to sleep with her, or kill her? Could he possibly be more hurtful? I mean, possibly… but he did do a damn good job of it.
True to her style, this book had me hooked right away. The story popped out of the pages and slapped me right in the face before darting back with a sinister giggle. And quite frankly, that’s how I like my books.
Recommended as always, but be mindful of trigger warnings.
Someone call the fire department- there’s a five-alarm rager over here! 🔥
“Say yes, sir.” “Yes, sir,” she breathes. “Say I’ll do anything you want, Mr. Carter. Anything you tell me.” She swallows, still trying to resist me, but ultimately caves in just as I knew she would. “I’ll do anything you want, Mr. Carter. Anything you tell me.”
Sweet baby Jesus. My breathe actually caught in my throat. The chemistry between Sebastien and Stella was off the charts.
The push and pull Sebastien dealt out frustrated the hell out of me. That said, I get it. His self-loathing was nearly as strong as his contempt for the entitled kids that made up the majority of the student body. If he felt a twinge of emotion toward Stella he wanted to shut it down. Save her from being tainted by him before it was too late.
Stella exhibited considerable strength for someone who is 18 years old. I doubt I could handle those mind games now in my 30’s, and I KNOW I wouldn’t have been able to handle it in high school. That, coupled with the shenanigans with her parents, had me heartbroken for Stella. Add the resident mean girl into that mix, and I’d have been outta there (#bye). But, Stella? Nope. She rises. To every challenge.
I love this author’s books, and this was no exception. It hasn’t dethroned Crow as my favorite of hers, but I still loved it!
Loved it, and I am thoroughly confused as to how that happened.
This is Carlos’ book. The same Carlos to whom, at the end of the previous book, I wanted terrible things to happen. And I stand by that regarding the Carlos from the previous book- I still don’t like him. That said, the Carlos from this book is… humanized, somehow. He still won’t be a book boyfriend of mine. I’d call the cops on him in a MINUTE if I were any of the females he’d come across in these books, but that’s just me. If a man were to do to me what he has done to these poor women, Jesus… I’d devote my life to putting him in prison. Or killing him. One of the two, depending on how much of a mental breakdown his treatment had caused. This dynamic of a sadist in a relationship is something I truly can’t wrap my head around. I just don’t get it. That said, as brutal as the interaction is when Samantha is kidnapped, there are other parts of the book that are hot. I was so confused by this book. Flustered. And I couldn’t put it down. Despite how much of a bastard Carlos is, (and he really is), the author gives a one-two punch of taming his monster a bit in this book, and also explaining his damage/hang ups. Still, the things he did to Mia in the previous book are inexcusable- truly horrific. That Carlos should burn in Hell. The Carlos from this book, while way past the point of simply cruel, is nowhere near as evil to Samantha as he was to Mia. And thank goodness, because a man doing those things to a woman couldn’t possibly have an HEA with her. Also, I wouldn’t WANT such a man to have an HEA. Okay, let’s be frank- I still hate Carlos. What he did to Mia in the previous book when she didn’t swallow that first time? NO FORGIVENESS. EVER. And when he “treated her like a puppy” and let other men hurt her? When he brutally whipped her, splitting her skin open? Hurt her to the point she was bleeding out onto the ground? Carved his initial into her stomach? SCREW CARLOS. Okay, I am calming myself. This was still a good read. He is far less brutal to Samantha, and equally important is the fact that Samantha likes how he treats her. She likes the pain (I would argue that is due to significant emotional and mental damage, but whatever). In contrast Mia tried to escape Carlos and his torture, but he had her dragged back and nearly killed her in retribution. I am on the fence about whether I would re-read. And I wish there were an epilogue where Samantha would come to her senses, leave Carlos to pursue aggressive counseling, and Carlos, distraught, would either take his own life, or make a mistake and go to prison. Forever. Now there’s an HEA.
Side note, I thought we might get some information about Trunk in this final book. After what he did to Mia in the previous book, and who he turned out to be… I thought we’d hear more about what happened after the fact. But we got nada. I would totally read Trunk’s story!
Coming on the heels of Keep Me Safe I was so happy to read Trust In Me. And by “happy” I mean still horrified by the subject matter, but finding the book to be more fleshed out. As the author’s forward warns, along with many of the reviews, this is a DARK book. I read a comparable series by another author who described her work as an “erotic thriller” (and in fact she is adamantly opposed to anyone calling her work “dark romance”), and I have to say that seems to apply here as well. I don’t view the bulk of this book as romance. It is more like a thriller with an HEA. Like a horror movie where the victim falls in love with her savior. From a heat standpoint this wasn’t my jam. BUT, I knew what this was going in. I came for the story, not the heat. Because there was no heat for me in any of what happened to poor Mia. Sadism is so profoundly unappealing to me. And Carlos? He is definitely a sadist. He is the devil. He hurt her, and very badly, for fun. He didn’t care for her or about her as a person. He kept her alive, but treated her worse than a possession. I hope a terrible fate befalls Carlos. Truly.
I am enamored with this author. I loved the bejesus out of her previous series, and this book was no different. While this one was contemporary compared to her usual lean toward a darker story, I still loved it. As a primarily dark romance reader I am fussy about contemporary romance, but Wall Street Titan held its own!
The chemistry between Marcus and Emma was off the charts. Their physical reactions to one another exploded off the page. It’s as if their bodies recognized a counterpart in the other before their hearts and minds caught up. And I loved every word of it.
Marcus thought he knew it all, and was about to have it all with the addition of a perfectly perfect trophy wife. He just needed someone to find her for him. Because he was too busy for such nonsense. That’s what he has people for, right? To find things for him. Including a wife. When life serves him up a different dish than he ordered, he slowly (and I mean slowly) realizes that maybe she could be more than a quick one-nighter. Or two-nighter. Maybe even a fling? Or more? Well, let’s not get too crazy… he’d need his analysts to check out the risks on something like that.
Emma is happily (well, satisfactorily… somewhat) buzzing along in the rut where she’s allowed herself to settle. Same job she had in college. Same three cats. Same apartment. Same relationship status she’s had for years (which is to say, no activity). When her friend pushes her to a come-to-Jesus moment she decides to pursue meeting someone. Too bad that someone accidentally turns out to be a man she never would have approached, or met, under any other circumstances aside from the serendipity that occurred that particular night. Or, IS it too bad? Maybe the man she never would have given a second glance is just what she needs. It is starting to look that way. Which, of course, terrifies our young Emma.
Marcus is not exactly his normal, suave self around Emma, which unsettles him to no end. Rather than his usual wine-and-dine he sort of trips and falls face first into his attempts with her.
Despite his inability to bring his A-game, he ends up charming her. Better than he would have with his A-game, actually, because she likely would have been skeptical as all hell, and rightfully so.
I saw so much of myself in Emma- in her personality, her thoughts, her fears. I loved her. She came across so real. So genuine. She wasn’t perfect, neither in personality nor in body. She wasn’t a stick-thin blonde bombshell with pillowy lips and huge blue eyes. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the room everywhere she went. She was everywoman, and I loved that about her.
Overall I loved this somewhat Cinderella story of the downtrodden, realistic woman who meets the arrogant, prince-like man. Neither is looking for the other, but they are exactly what each other needs. She needs some spark of motivation to shake herself out of her comfort zone. He is very likely the most motivated person she has ever met. He needs to let go of this notion he has of what he needs to be, what he should have (i.e. a trophy wife), and learn to embrace the freedom of pursuing what you actually want. In that capacity they will free each other. If they can get over their own fears, that is.
I loved that, even though Marcus and Emma’s story is not complete, it isn’t really a cliffhanger at the end of this book. Thank goodness- I don’t fare well with cliffhangers.
So, fellow bingers: I generally wouldn’t recommend starting a duet or series before all of the books are out (see inability to handle cliffhangers above), but you’ll be okay with this one! It is more of a natural break. The start of a new life chapter, if you will. It doesn’t leave you hanging off the side of a cliff by three fingernails. It is more like sitting in a waiting room because you arrived hella early for an appointment. In other words, feel free to dive in!
I can’t wait for the next book to see how far Marcus will go to show Emma that he is worth the risk!