Twenty years ago Talin McKade watched her best friend, Clay, brutally kill her foster father, a man who’d been sexually abusing her. The attack was brutal, leaving Talin drenched in blood and brain. When word came to her that Clay was getting out of Juvie, Talin faked her own death so Clay wouldn’t come looking for her. Now, with kids disappearing off of the streets, Talin seeks Clay out. But will he be willing to help her?
So this review is going to contain spoilers.
This book also needs all of the trigger warnings. Child sexual abuse, child sexual assault, blood, gore, torture, child torture, terminal illness, attempted rape, actual rape, sexual-harassment, stalking, all the trigger warnings.
Let’s dive in…
So I hated this entry in the series. Hated it. As somebody who has experienced sexual assault as a minor, I identified with the heroine. And I felt like the author did a good job of portraying the dichotomy within a survivor of sexual assault. The self-hatred and the fact that it doesn’t matter how much therapy you get or how much time has passed that the scars will always be there. And that little things can rip the wounds that you thought had healed right open. This was probably the one thing that was done right in this book. I’m just putting it out there.
That said, It was incredibly disturbing to have the supposed hero of this book constantly ignoring and gaslighting the heroine. And I am not being hyperbolic here. Clay constantly told Talin that he knew what was best for her. Even when he didn’t. He berated her for not being a virgin. Even when he wasn’t one either… talk about double standard. Like this enraged me so much I about screamed.
In one scene the heroine actually tells the hero “no don’t kiss me. Don’t touch me. I’m not having sex with you.” at least five times and the hero ignores her. He still has sex with her. He cajoles her into it. It doesn’t matter that she enjoyed it… it’s still rape. She said no. She said no at least five times. This is rape. It is not romantic. And the whole thing was incredibly triggering for me as a survivor of sexual assault. What made it worse was that he was the hero. The hero did this. The hero raped the heroine and it was portrayed as romantic.
The whole thing was sexist.
The whole thing was a throwback to old school romance where a woman had to say no because of the whole slut shaming BS. It was just so wrong. It was wrong then. It was wrong when this book was written. And it’s wrong now.
The hero sexually assaulted the heroine… and she ends up with her abuser. What about this is romantic?
And this kind of gaslighting, bullying, and dubious consent didn’t just happen once or twice but throughout the book. The hero constantly steamrolled over the sexual assault survivor’s no. He took away her agency like her agency had been taken away from her as a child. He was as bad as her childhood rapist, at least in my perspective. And I’m saying this as somebody who was sexually assaulted as a minor. Additionally everybody was blaming the heroine for her sexual assault and for her trauma afterward. This is victim-blaming. It was not OK. Especially since the heroine is dying. And is experiencing fugue states where she doesn’t know where she is and so sometimes wakes up in other people's beds and doesn’t know it. You’re blaming the victim of a mental illness for things that they themselves have no control over. When you’re in a fugue state, you have no memory of what you’re doing and no conscious control over it. I am just flabbergasted at the reception this book has gotten.
Additionally there’s a scene where the hero has to give the heroine an epinephrine injection (EpiPen). But then they don’t go to the emergency room immediately afterward. There’s some minor aftercare. But as anybody who’s given an EpiPen is told if you are forced to inject yourself, then you need to get to the hospital because not only could it cause heart issues like a heart attack you’ve only stopped the reaction temporarily. The epinephrine essentially gives you time to deal with the allergic reaction. It’s bad behavior. And it gives misleading information. People learn from fiction. I know I did. It wouldn’t have taken much to do a simple google or to hang a lampshade on what happened and show that things are different in the future. But none of that was done. It was lazy. It is dangerous. The only thing saving this from a DNF was the over arcing plot regarding the child abductions which has been hinted at in earlier books. At a certain point to save my sanity, I just started skimming the romance scenes. Was the only way I can make it through this book. I hated the hero. I hated the romance. The over arcing plot was the only thing that saved this.
And even there you can skip this book and not really miss much. I definitely won’t be reading it again. Here’s the spreadsheet where I track things with this series.
As you can see, once again we have damaged girl/pushy boy as the romantic couple. We do finally get a new book plot of an assassination attempt… which was just okay. Honestly it’s really unmemorable. This book is the start of one of the author’s favorite story arcs… Guy searches for woman he loved as a child and finds her. This arc will show up a lot… although not as much as her “Broken Shifter/Healing Lover” arcs. LOL
But because of the massive triggering gaslighting hero who is really just a giant douchecanoe I can only give this… One Star
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