I know that this isn’t the first Celia Aaron’s book I’ve had here, but the other one I had wasn’t dark. This one is dark. Dark af. And it’s a mindfuck. So, hey, that’s great. Hits a lot of my happy buttons.
Celia Aaron writes books that are set in the South. She’s kind of a modern Flannery O’Connor, if Flannery wrote dark, noncon, erotic, thrilling, suspenseful romance. I mean, you get a real taste of the places where she’s writing about, mostly because she’s from the places she’s writing about. That’s also why her lawyers are really authentic too, because she was a lawyer. Anyway, I love reading her books because of all the work she puts into creating her worlds and how they really enhance the story. So, let’s get to The Maiden.
The Maiden is the first book in The Cloisters trio. Well, I don’t know if trio is the right word, but that’s the one I’m going with. There are going to be three, The Maiden, The Prophet which releases in May, and The Church, which releases in June. If you don’t like waiting reading a duet or trio like this one at a time, I would probably suggest that you wait until Church releases. I won’t be, because I neeeeeeeeeed to have them in my hot little hands the second they come out.
So, here’s the lowdown. There is a cult, a church called Heavenly Ministries. The church is run by the Prophet, Leon Monroe. He used to be just a good Baptist pastor, but then God talked to him and told him to create Heavenly Ministries. The church is basically an end-times are coming, the apocalypse is coming, the end of the world will happen, but if you are a member of our church and live in perfect obedience, you can be saved, kind of church. Things may not necessarily make a lot of sense, but if you have a charismatic leader, like it appears good old Leon is, you can hook people who are looking for something. There are always going to be people who are searching for something or someone or the right path.
Every year, there are Maidens who are accepted into the Cloister. The Maidens are beautiful young virgins. Some go back home at the end of the year and some end up married to someone rich and powerful. The draw of becoming one of the Maidens is that they are choice women, pure and chaste, and their year in the Cloister will keep them safe and pure. Of course, if that’s all there was, I probably wouldn’t have read this book and wouldn’t be talking about it here.
Delilah has been chosen as one of this year’s crop of 12 Maidens. She’s done everything she can to make sure that she was one of the chosen. She follows everything the Prophet says, she goes to church every chance she gets, she is meek, mild, and modest. On the night that she enters the Cloister, there is a big ceremony. The Maidens are led to a huge bonfire where there is a circle of men. They stand in between the men and the fire. The Prophet goes on and on about the story of Abraham and Rebecca. Then, each Maiden is given to a Protector who is going to help her, guide her, and train her for the next year.
Delilah looks at the man across the way from her, and it’s Noah Monroe, the Prophet’s younger son. She thinks that’s OK. Standing right next to him is his older brother, Adam. Adam sees something a little rebellious in Delilah and he trades places with him so that he can become her Protector.
The young women all think that wonderful things are going to be happening. But Adam, Noah, and the other guys all know that it’s not. The Protectors haul their Maidens to the Cloister, where they are told to take off their clothes and get a new name from the Prophet. When they are allowed to get dressed again, they get a birth control shot and a microchip tracker shot into their arm. That’s when things start getting real.
Delilah had an idea as to what would be happening, because she’s there trying to find out information about a young woman named Georgia. Georgia went to be a Maiden, but was later found dead. Delilah knows that the secret of Georgia’s death lies in the Cloister. The only way she could get there was to join the church and become a Maiden. She thought that she knew how bad it was going to be, but she really didn’t.
OK, this book is really intense. It’s dark. There is really no fucking light in this book. There are some lighter black parts, but yeah, not light. There is all kinds of fucked up shit that goes on. It’s all kinds of triggering. There are triggers on top of triggers with a side of triggers. I mean, seriously. Triggers. The Spinners, the women in charge of the Maidens, are sadistic bitches, especially Grace. The Protectors, well, aren’t. Terrible things happen to the Maidens. I would say that they are fucked, but that would probably be too nice to describe it. It is a really great book. I loved it. I couldn’t put it down. I quite literally read it until I was cross-eyed in the middle of the night and my Kindle was nearly falling on my face. That’s how much I got sucked into this book.
It’s a cliffhanger. I’m not going to lie to you. If you’ve made it down here, you know that you’re going to see spoilers, so you have no one to blame but yourself to find out that yes, it’s a cliffhanger.
I don’t know whether to like Adam or to hate Adam. I kind of want to do to both. I know what I feel about his father, and I haven’t yet come up with something bad enough to happen to him. I’m sure I will. I’m pretty sure that Adam has some kind of long game he’s playing here, but I don’t know what it is. I can’t wait to find out what it is though. It’s going to be interesting to find out. Of course, Celia is going to keep us guessing right until the end.
So, that’s all that I have to stay about this one. Really, check it out, especially if you like dark and dirty. Happy reading!