Jennifer Bene-Reign of Ruin

Once upon a time, Jennifer Bene wrote a demented little story called Baptism in Eden, for an anthology called Twisted Sacraments. That lovely little anthology was full of all kinds of seriously fucked up stories. And now you can’t get it anymore, which is sad if you don’t have it, but fear not lovely and loyal readers, the rights have reverted back to the authors and now the stories are being put back out for you to read. Some of them, like Reign of Ruin, have new stuff added to them, so you know that you have to go read them now, right?

There is not a lot of happy in this story, unless you’re a man, then you get to have some happy. There’s a fuckload of dark, pain, and misery. And just to top it off, there’s some more pain, dark, and misery. This is dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and out Handmaid’s Tale the Handmaid’s Tale. And Jennifer took demented and turned it into fucking twisted. And damn, if I wasn’t glued to every word of the book.

It is the story of Danielle and what happened after the world lit on fire and went to hell in a handbasket. There is a prequel to the story in the back of the book, so you can read that first, if you want, just to get a little more information about the world and Danielle, and what happened, or read it after. I just recommend that you read it at some point.

Six years ago, the world caught fire and the religious extremists caught religion. And as happens, women got blamed. Now, Danielle, along with who knows how many other women, serve in Eden. And serving in Eden isn’t nice. You aren’t someone who cherished, you are just meat. When you get too injured, you get baptized, which heals you, so you never get to escape into death, you just keep wishing that you would die.

The first time I read this story, it sent chills up and down my spine. Then I read the prequel, and that fucking terrified me, because so much of it could happen right here and now. Then reading the full RoR? Fuck me. I had to go find a light MM story full of laughs just to get to another level in my head, because yeah, it got to me that bad. I’ve often said that The Handmaid’s Tale is hands down my scariest book ever, because it could happen, well, this one pretty much beats it.

I hope that Jennifer writes more stories in this world, because I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

There are no spoilers, and if you don’t like horror, this is one you should probably stay away from. Other than that, go check it out, and happy reading!

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Aria Adams-Alpha’s Kitty

From the far distant future, we are getting a new book from Aria Adams, Alpha’s Kitty. Sorry for the lack of buy link, for some reason, Amazon is so stupid right now. Hopefully, it will be up soon. We all know how they are, though. It’s supposed to be in KU, which means it’s exclusive to Zon, but if it gets offered anywhere else, I’ll make sure to update.

Anyway, Aria Adams is the dark pen name to Katie Douglas. Katie gives us sweet age play stories. Aria gives us pet play in space. And that’s what we have here.

So, thousands of years ago, humanity left Earth and went to various planets. Before that happened, there was some genetic modification happened, like splicing animal DNA and human DNA. The various subspecies all went to their own planets, and in the intervening years, the subspecies have grown very different to the main species. They are still human enough to interbreed, but they also have the characteristics of the animal. For example, kitties girls are just like your pet kitty, down to ears, tail, and fur. The bipedals who run the universe take all the various subspecies as pets/slaves.

Our little kitten has been told by her mama that it’s time for her and her sisters to go to their owners, where, if they are good kittens, they will have someone who loves them and adores them and treats them wonderfully, but bad kittens go to the bad places, so don’t be bad. But when her charcoal colored sister starts to freak out, our orange kitten knows that her sister couldn’t handle being in the bad place, so she takes the blame, and later, the punishment.

Hervé is the Alpha of his planet. He has always wanted to have a kitten of his very own, so he has sent his assistant Bertrand out to get one for him, and he comes home with our poor little orange kitten, who still has no name. When he finally sees her, he decides that he will call her Kitty. Which could, you know, be a name. Or it could just be an unimaginative name for a cat. You’ll have to figure out which way he meant it, because I don’t think that he is sure which way he means it. Anyhow, Hervé decided he wanted a kitten, and now he has a kitten of his very own that he can train and play with, however he wants.

I found the whole bipedal/pet breakdown to be fascinating. We can’t tell what it is like on other planets, since we only really see this one planet, but the masters aren’t nice at all to their pets/slaves. Even the nice ones aren’t necessarily nice, and the not nice ones are… Well, you’ll see. The bipedals all believe that the pets are subhuman and barely sentient, and need to be controlled. And because the people in charge believe that, so do the various subspecies.

The book is mostly in Kitty’s POV, which means we get a really strong sense of her journey in this book, and how she changes from the beginning to the end. We also get to see how she changes Hervé. I think that she makes him a much better man by the end. It’s definitely a journey to watch.

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Segue’s party? Oh my sweet shit. That was some fucked up shit right there.

OK, that’s all for this one. As soon as it’s possible to get it, go read this one. Happy reading!

Jennifer Bene-Breaking Beth

If you have read Jennifer’s Thalia series, then you’ve heard Beth mentioned. She was one of the women that the Evil Anthony and Marcus kidnapped before they got Thalia for her ordeal. There isn’t a whole lot of mention of her, outside of Marcus yelling at Anthony for ruining Beth. But until Jennifer’s story in When the Dark Wins, we didn’t know what happened to Beth. You can’t get WtDW anymore, but you can get Breaking Beth, which will let you get started with Beth’s journey. I personally can’t wait to get the full story, because I fell in love with Beth.

So, in the Thalia books, we saw a lot of Marcus, and only a little Anthony. Beth gets a lot more up close and personal with Anthony. I don’t like either Marcus or Anthony, which is fine, because they don’t like each other either. They are really different characters. Marcus, I think, really thinks that he’s a good guy. OK, not necessarily a good guy, but not the bad guy, even though he is kidnapping and selling women. Here’s why I think that. Marcu wants to train the women through pleasure to be the perfect slave. I mean, he’ll punish them as necessary, but he isn’t going to go out of his way to hurt the women. Frankly, in my opinion, he just wants to get his dick wet, and “training” the women is a good way to do that. He wants to beat Anthony, and he’s pretty sure that the whole pleasure thing will do it.

Anthony, on the other hand, is a stone-cold sadistic psychopath. Don’t get me wrong, sadists can be a lot of fun, in the right situation. But, this isn’t the right situation, nor is it the right mix. I’m pretty sure that there is nothing at all redeemable about Anthony. Even if you shredded him down into his component pieces parts and tried to make him into a new person you still couldn’t make a redeemable person. Just dump some bleach into that gene pool and be done with it.

Beth. Oh Beth. Poor Beth. She’s about to go through hell, I’m pretty sure. I mean, just being with Anthony is the foyer of Hell, and if that is just the start of Hell, you have to wonder what she’s really about to go through, right? I like Beth. She is fierce, spirited, and full of fire. I think that will help eventually. I can’t wait to read her journey, because if I know anything, I do know that it will be fabulous, and I do know that Jennifer will put her through hell, but in the end, Beth will be able to come through it. She might not be the same person, but she will be Beth, Victorious.

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t have a synopsis of the book on this. That’s because it’s a short enough read that it would be really hard to talk about the story without spoiling anything, and I try really hard not to ever do that.

So, if you like dark, noncon-y goodness, and you loved Thalia, you should definitely go read Beth’s story. Happy reading!

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Yolanda Olson-Martyris

Martyris is the 3rd of the Cavalieri Della Morte books, and the second one I’m reviewing here. It is dark. It is dazzling. It is disturbing. In short, it’s a very Yolanda book. And that? That is a very, very good thing. It’s also a fairly quick read, but one that left me awake far into the night thinking about it because it just stayed in my head that way.

Because it’s short, my review is going to be short. Also, I don’t want to give anything away. And I think that it would be very easy to give something away if I weren’t very careful. And as I always find it better to err on the side of caution, at least when reviewing, short it is.

This is the story of Gareth, one of the CDM, and his true love, Bentlee, his favorite girl. Gareth likes to see himself as sort of the good guy, but he kills with his hands, instead of a weapon. Well, with metal gloves that he wears, but still, you get the idea. He’s good at what he does, but I don’t think he’s all that happy about that fact, or the fact that he’s doing it.

We only get one POV here, Gareth’s, so we only get to know Bentlee through him, and it is truly obvious how much he loves her and wants to protect her from the world. It is pretty atypical of a book that lives in the MF section of the romance world to be all the male POV, so it’s something that is really exciting to me, and it really gives a kind of intimacy to the book that wouldn’t otherwise exist, I think. I really like Gareth, although it almost seems like I shouldn’t, but there’s just something about him that’s impossible to not like. I like Bentlee and I think that anyone he loves the way that he does would be someone that I would like.

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Um… Wow.

OK, go check it out. I don’t know whether or not to wish you happy reading, so I’ll let you decide on your own.

Scarlett Snow and Loxley Savage-Saphyre

Oh my ducklings, this is DARK. This is disturbing. This is intense, and if you don’t like those things, then Saphyre is definitely not the book for you. Which is definitely not anything to be upset about, we all like what we like. And you’re in good company, Amazon doesn’t like it either. In fact, Amazon banned this book, not just once, but twice. Once under this name, and then after Scarlett and Loxley reworked and renamed it, it was banned under that name too. It had reached bestseller status too, both times. But, do not despair, oh my darlings, the buy link I posted is good, and you can get it there, at least as a mobi file. And once you have it, you definitely have it forever.

Scarlett and Loxley are both new authors to me. I saw the cover in passing in Sara Fields’ group and thought that it sounded like a good book, but then my brain sabotaged me, as it does. Then Katie Douglas and I were talking about other things, and she asked me if I knew anything about it, since she couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I went and looked and asked, and found out that yup, it had been banned. Loxley told me that they were trying to find other options, and then they came out with Ember, and by the time I had a second to read it, it was banned again. So, the very second I found the new buy link, I jumped on it. We all know that I buy banned books anyway, and a banned book that I want to read? Yupper.

So here’s the way that the story goes. It’s post-apocalyptic and dystopian AF. There are two very, very, very distinct castes. You have the Emperians and the Tenebrians. Emperia is made up of 4 floating islands, three of which have a separate kingdom on it. This book, we’re concerned with the kingdom of the manticore shifters. Manticores, by the way, are a beastie out of Persian mythology. It has the head of a man, the body of a lion, and can either have a scorpion tail or a long tail with spines all over it. The pix you see of manticores tend to have a humanish face with a mane. And oh yeah, lest I forget, they also have wings. The Emperian manticores have 3 tails, one which kills you when you are stung, one which gives you incredible pain, and one which is an aphrodisiac. Anyway, the Emperians are all that, a bag of chips, and the extra large soda too. They are the creme de la creme, the rulers, the tyrants, so on and so forth. Then you have the Tenebrians. Tenebris is the lands which lay far beneath the floating isles. They are the slums, filled with the peasants, the poor, the people who are trying to scratch out a living. There are better areas than others, but even the better areas of Tenebris aren’t all that great. The Emperians will come down to get themselves a little bit of trade, but generally, the only thing that Emperians value coming out of Tenebris are the breeders.

Saphyre and her sisters are part of the resistance that their mother set up. They have very good reasons to be, including the fact that they have what is called the Golden Curse. They are what is called Aurelian Breeders. They have a special birthmark on the crown of their heads, with a golden streak of hair coming from the mark. That golden streak of hair and the birthmark singles them out as something special, unique, desirable, and very, very valuable.

As one of the heads of the resistance, Saphyre takes her responsibilities very, very seriously. So, since they need some money to get food, she’s off to do what she can to get some. She’s going to dress all super sexy and visit one of the clubs that the Emperians hang out at, and she’s going to rob one of them. And hopefully kill them too. Each Emperian has a special emblem that they wear, and the more valuable the metal, the higher their rank is. So when Saphyre sees a guy with the most expensive emblem ever, she knows that she has to get him. But of course, nothing ever turns out that way. Instead, she gets caught and harvested by King Leonidas to be his Breeder to bear his royal heir. But first, he’s going to give her to his two friends and advisors to break her in and train her. His friends are Raphael and oh yeah, General Ryker, the man she stole from and tried to kill. Oh fuck.

I love Saphyre. She is fierce, loyal, and smart. She isn’t going to give in to the manticores who are trying to be her masters, at least not all the way. I think that there is always going to be that core of steel right down in the center of her that Leonidas, Raphael, and Ryker won’t be able to see, let alone touch. I think that they should definitely question themselves anytime she seems to give in easily, and maybe just not get all that complacent. I think that she’s always, always, always going to have more than one reason to do whatever she’s doing at any one time. She might not even acknowledge those reasons to herself, because acknowledging them means that someone else might figure them out. I think that she will be a force to be reckoned with, and I will definitely want to stay out of her way.

Oh, I hated Leonidas, Ryker, and Raphael in the beginning. And I’m not talking hate to love them or love to hate them kind of hate. I mean complete and utter loathing. They could’ve died by fire and spent the eternities boiling in a sea of lava and hellfire and I probably would’ve thought they were getting off lightly. But, they started to grow on me as the book went on. Of the three of them, I think Raphael is my favorite. Ryker is my least favorite most of the time, and Leonidas flows around there somewhere back and forth. They are occasionally brutal when it comes to how they treat  Saphyre. I mean, the nipple clamps? Or the first interactions between Leonidas and Saphyre? Holeeeeee fuck.

Scarlett and Loxley have promised that there are more books in this world coming, and seriously, I may have to go find them, drag them to my “spare room” and lock them in until they can write them, because I really don’t want to wait. (Just kidding on the dragging them to my spare room part. That’s reserved for Addison Cain.)

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OK, I’m not going to say anything much down here, other than karma is a bitch.

Go check it out, and happy reading?!?

Petra J. Knox & Raven Dark-Captured

Petra and Raven write a lovely dark RH series that I really enjoy, Saving Setora. So, when I heard they were starting another dark RH series, I may or may not have jumped for joy. And since there is no photographic proof one way or the other, no one will ever know. It’s the Schrodinger’s jump. But none of this has anything to do with Captured.

Captured is dark. There are no warm and fuzzies here. If you are familiar with Setora and you think you are going to get another Sheriff or Hawk, be aware that Malek, Z’pheer, and Raul make Sheriff look like a big cuddly sweetie.

Here’s how our story goes.

Danika has spent the last 4 years living in the Xandar Home for Girls. It’s supposed to be a great place for young women and give them a chance for a good life when they leave at 18. Well, tonight is Danika’s 18th birthday and she’s about to go audition for the biggest nightclub owner in her town as a singer. She’s really good at it and she is both nervous and excited. The head of the school is going with her, as well as Shelly, who is one of the employees of the school. The employees aren’t supposed to be friendly with the students, but Shelly is Danika’s best friend, so she’s going to go. And it goes splendidly. Right up until it goes splendidly wrong and Danika wakes up naked and far from home.

She wakes up with her hands cuffed and an alien man in front of her, as well as a huge fluffy pink beast that she briefly thinks of as Falcor, the luck dragon. Right until he opens his mouth and she gets a good look at his feet.

Even worse, Danika doesn’t understand a word of anything that is being spoken, and it doesn’t get any better when the other guys start showing up. She has no clue what they are saying, but it’s obvious that they understand her, so the only things she can feel right now is mad and scared.

Malek, Z’pheer, and Raul are Xandari men. They are members of the Order, and have been awarded their nayna. Their slave. And guess who it is? I’ll give you 3 guess, and the first 2 don’t count.

The men basically break down into the muscle, the leader, and the nice one. Raul is very obviously the leader. Malek is very obviously the muscle, and Z’pheer appears to be the nice one.

OK, here’s the thing. I really, really, really didn’t like any of the guys for a good chunk of the book. I disliked Malek the most, at least most of the time, and Z’pheer the least. Raul kind of floated around, depending on what was happening at any given time. But, I loved to hate them and even as I really didn’t like them, I started to kind of love them too. It wasn’t a quick process, not in any way, but it happened, and I kind of hated to love them. Do you know how hard it must be to write characters like that? I mean, I have DNFed books where I liked the male main characters more than these guys. That being said, I was so dragged into the book, and the guys were so magnetic, and the story was just so compelling, that even though I wanted to strangle them on a regular basis, I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to know what was going to happen next. It was such a need that it practically hurt. That’s how compelling this book was.

I mostly like Danika. There are a few times where the fact that she is 18 is really obvious. She has some black and white thinking, I think, which is something that you really have to grow out of, and as an adult, you learn that nothing is ever entirely black or white, but infinite shades of grey. Way more than just 50. She also builds walls. I mean walls that make the Great Wall of China look like nothing. I don’t blame her for a minute, because she’s been abducted, taken by men whose language she doesn’t speak, and had just about everything taken away from her. I’d be fucking pissed and put up walls too. I love her spirit and fire. She’s got a very strong core that keeps her going and keeps her from totally breaking. However, it does sometimes keep her from bending when bending would be easier, I think. But without that core, she wouldn’t be who she is, and we’d been looking at a different book.

There are so many things I like about this book is that it is all in Danika’s POV. We have no clue as to what is going on in the guys’ heads, nor do we know anything about them other than what Danika is able to find out. There are times when I really want to have a multi-POV, but this is not one of them. I think that a multi-POV would’ve weakened this book a lot. I really love that we find out what is going on in the world only as Danika does, and since we are seeing her filter, we only get certain things. I think that’s part of what makes this book so freaking compelling. Honestly, it truly is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a good while, and considering some of what I’ve read in the last 6 months, that’s really saying something.

This is a standalone, but it is the first book in a series. I can’t wait to see where the series is going to go.

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Shelly, hmmm… That’s an interesting subject, now isn’t it?

I never trusted Laric. He was scummy.

I really like Danika’s wish, and how it works out.

OK, that’s all on this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Jennifer Bene-Inheritance

After a long wait, we finally have the next book in Jennifer’s Fragile Ties book, Inheritance. The first book in the series is Destruction. (my review here) And Jennifer, since I know that you are going to be reading this, I’m not complaining about the wait. It was worth every single second because OMG, it was good. As I was reading this dark romance, I was thinking that we need to have a new category of dark romance. It needs to be Jennifer Bene dark. I’m not trying to slight any other dark romance authors, since we all know that’s totally my jam, but Jennifer has her own particular je ne sais quoi. I really can’t describe it, but there is something that is very uniquely hers and it’s one of those things that lets you know it her book even if you didn’t see her name on the book.

Before we even get started talking about the book, there’s one little bit of business we have to take care of. We have to congratulate Miss Jennifer because she is now a full-time author! So everyone say congrats!

Anyway, on to David and Lianna. They are now several months out from the end of Destruction and the nightmare that came out of that. Lianna is now under investigation from the FBI, all her assets are frozen, and she’s about to have to move out of her beloved apartment, which was the one thing she did on her own, that her father didn’t touch. It has a view that she loves. The new place she has to move doesn’t have a view, is smaller, but she can afford it. That doesn’t mean that she’s all that fucking happy about it. She feels like she’s falling apart and she doesn’t know who she is anymore. She’s flailing. But she has David there, who will help her.

Meanwhile, David is doing everything he can to keep her safe, including talking with some bad people to track her father’s family, the Faures. Because her father was who he was, Lianna hasn’t had anything to do with her father’s family, and David wants to keep it that way, because they are some very, very bad people. Like international criminals kind of bad people. David’s dad brought him up to hate the Faures, and so he’s going to hate them. And he makes Lianna promise to stay away from them. But, you know that this is a Jennifer Bene book, so what do you figure the odds of the Faures staying out of this book are?

The sex in this one is seriously dark, hot, twisted, and oh my very fucking god good. Of course, if you read Destruction, you know what David and Lianna are like. If you haven’t read it, then you need to read it, because then you will understand what the word zipper means. But here’s the thing when it comes to David and Lianna and their sex life, it works for them. You might not like to be chased and then have your ass whipped with a belt, or be the one doing the action, but it works for them, and the scene is really hot. But what makes the whole thing hotter and the whole connection between David and Lianna so visceral is that there is so much passion in between the two of them. Jennifer is really good at writing those connections and relationships and giving you something that you can really feel. She’s also really good at ripping you apart and putting you back together again, which is what she does here. I had a hard time catching my breath sometimes, because this was so intense. But it wasn’t the same level intense all the way through. It was nicely balanced so there are those places where you can catch your breath.

Anyway, there’s another book to read in this series, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

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I just got to wonder what Jean-Luc’s overall plan is. There is something behind everything that he’s done in this book. And damn, does it appear that he did a lot. I think appears to have done is all we have at this point.

OK, that’s all for this one. I can’t recommend Jennifer’s books enough, ever. Her books have done all kinds of things to me over the years. So, go check this one and all of them out. Happy reading!

And because I know Jennifer read all the way down here, I love you!