Including the office building's helpful & attractive security guard.
The night he abducts her roughly from work, however, changes everything .
The polite & amiable man she knew has now become very dominating,almost merciless in his attempts to make her completely submit to him.
Yet there are times when he's warm and seems to genuinely care for her,
leaving her confused and frustrated with herself.
His business partner & older brother warns him of his personal interest in heroine.
His defiance results in his more sadistic brother's attempts to break heroine faster for their sex-slave business.
increases his desperation to stop her sale.
Is there anything he can do to stop losing her?
First, I'm gonna warn you.
1.) This is the 1st part of a 3-book series.
2.) This is not your ordinary romance novel. It's a dark romance. Specifically, a dark captive story. There's violence & abuse.
3.) It's explicit & can be very disturbing. There's kidnapping, rape, & bondage-domination stuff with heroine. By various people.
4.) We don't know who the Hero really is until book 2. If some are good at guessing, then maybe at the end of this book.
I read this book because:
1.) I wanted something a little darker, along the lines of Anne Stuart's books. I'm always looking for romance books with villainous Heroes like Anne Stuart's.
2.) the few written reviews on Goodreads were highly recommending this book. [NOTE: Some reviewers received a free advanced review copy (ARC) of the book from the author/publisher, which may provide some bias for rating this book highly.] The lone 3-star rater didn't give spoilers for this book. Majority rating for each of the 3 books were 5-stars.
Well, I was suckered by the favorable reviews & got all 3 books. I could only fully read this book. My reasons for skimming book 2 is here and book 3, here. The actual Hero of this book was not Anne-Stuart material. By the end of this book (which is a cliffhanger), we got the idea that Hero of this book series was either the security guard or the British bidder. It's also at the end that we get their actual names. Throughout this book, heroine calls the security guard either "guard" or "security guard" or "Master". For this review's purposes, I'm going to call the security guard "H1" and the British bidder "H2".
I'm rating this a 3.5-star because the writing quality was good. The fact that we don't know if the security guard (H1) was the Hero or the villain or a villianous Hero until the end is good writing. H1's identity is shrouded in secrecy based on his actions, feelings for heroine, and his business relationship with his brother. H1 could be merciless and cold on one hand. On another hand, he would be apologetic and caring of heroine. He'd save her from worse things. Yet he would abuse her himself. Heroine's reactions to H1 didn't give us much clue of whether he was the Hero or villain or both either. She was conflicted by her feelings of hatred and anger for him. And her feelings of desire and safety with him. It was a rollercoaster of emotions between these two.
Characterization was mixed. Security guard (H1) was written with more depth. He could be really sadistic & sociopathic. But his saving grace was his caring for heroine. His feelings of possessiveness for her appeared romantic, making him want to rescue her from the abuse inflicted on her by his & his brother's forced submissive-training strategies. It seemed like his warm feelings for her was changing him to be a better person. I was rooting for him to be the Hero.
----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details------------
This book's ending is the auctioning of heroine. H1 couldn't stop his brother from delaying the auction date so he had to reluctantly prepare her to be more sellable (i.e., having 2 of his former submissive trainees do her hair & makeup). There were many men that showed up to bid on her. The one that caught her attention was the blond British man (H2) who instantly asked to see her. H2 told her directly of his plans to have her as his submissive but he wanted it to be consensual. He pointedly asked her if she wanted to be with him or stay with her current Master H1. Heroine chose to go with H2, seeing that she could find freedom with him & she was also attracted to him. H2 outbids everyone & wins her. H1 roars his protests that heroine belongs to him. And things get personal between him, H2, & his brother, where H2 calls them by name & tells H1 that heroine chose to go with him. H2 leaves with heroine, with H2 promising that he will get her back.
Long story short, H2 (James) is the victorious Hero of the book. H1(Marcus) is the loser villain. I was greatly disappointed at this turn of events. I was really hoping that H1 would have a major character transformation & redeem himself. I hoped that the reason for 2 more books in this series was to show H1 doing his best to reverse the major damages he inflicted on heroine. When I began reading about H2 & heroine's insta-lust for him, I thought "Oh, no! I've been had. I just wasted 2 hours of my life, reading about heroine's experiences with another man." However, I was still hoping for a turnaround. Maybe H1 will go after heroine, as hinted. And maybe heroine will just be friends with H2 and things with her & H1 will vastly change to some kind of HEA(happy ever after).
My gut was telling me that I was fooling myself. Turns out my gut was right, after reading books 2 & 3. H1 was no Anne-Stuart-like villainous Hero. He was just a plain villain. Reading books 2 & 3 put to rest my hopes for H1 as the Hero and a HEA with heroine. They convinced me that H1 was merely a kidnapping rapist & sadistic sociopath, whose redemption value = 0.
Heroine's character was more limited in scope. It could partly be due to the huge trauma she suffered at the hands of H1 & his brother for a week. So, what we got about her was how she managed her traumatic experiences & survive. It could also be due to the sexual focus of the book. We learn a lot about her sexual responsiveness to BDSM ((bondage & discipline sadism & masochism) than anything else about her. Heroine was a loner who didn't have much ambition or direction in life. It wasn't because she was insecure or wishy-washy. There was just not much that really interested her. She was basically coasting through life with work then home and repeat. The abduction & first days of her forced training revealed her fighting nature. She was more than what she appeared at first. But her repeated subjugation & threat to her life weakened her resolved, where she ended up submitting out of fear.
This was not an easy read, by any means. Lots of explicit details about her sexual, emotional, and mental abuse. Apart from H1's on & off feelings for heroine, I wouldn't call this book romantic at all.
I moderately recommend this book.