Review – Lords of Wrath

This is the second book in the Royals of Forsyth University series. I reviewed the previous book here, which I absolutely loved. Big 5 stars.

I’m not sure how I feel about this book. I was extremely excited for it when I finished Lords of Pain. There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book and I think sensitive readers (if any of them made it through Lords of Pain) should heed it. This book gets extremely dark, including a punishment scene that I stopped reading twice and took a break from because I found it beyond my personal squick threshold.

Overall, I think the book is good, but not great. The pacing is slightly off, with the first half dragging and the second half feeling slightly rushed, particularly the ending. The editing isn’t quite as tight as the first book, where I noticed almost no typos. There are a number in this book. They didn’t detract from my reading experience as a whole, but there were enough that I noticed. That added to my impression that the book was rushed.

Maybe the theme for this book is the adage (attributed to Confucius), “seek revenge and you should dig two graves, one for your yourself.” There’s a ton of revenge going on in these 300 pages. (The book felt much longer than that, perhaps because I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.) The heroine gets revenge on her bullies, but her whole “plan” struck a sour note with me. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the heroine’s revenge in the Rich Boys of Burberry Prep series or the heroine’s refusal to stoop in the Hannaford Prep series. There’s a point where one of the boys says the heroine has two M.O.s, run or make things worse. Unfortunately, that’s true from a plot perspective. When the heroine finally stops running and makes a stand against the boys, her revenge plan is just, frankly, stupid. There was no way the boys weren’t going to figure out it was her, and when they did, their retaliation went beyond sadistic into dehumanising. I can’t see any believable happy ending for these characters after that.

There are also some D/s undertones in this book, particularly between Tristian and the heroine, where he tries to “train” her by giving her aftercare and incentivising her submission. There’s a particularly ugly kink theory that involves “breaking” a submissive, reducing the submissive to the point where nothing but the dominant’s will matters. As this literally strips the submissive of the ability to consent, I’m very wary of this theory, and it felt like that underrode this book in a way that made me uncomfortable. Whether it was conscious or not on the part of the authors, the boys do break the heroine. It’s unclear to me if, by the end, she’s starting to take control and build herself back up. The final scene with between the heroine and the boys suggests she is, but it felt more like a submissive returning to an abusive relationship and trying to negotiate some limits on her abuse instead of the heroine reclaiming her agency. I guess the third book will tell, but I’m not nearly as excited about it as I was for this book.

Lords of Wrath is on Amazon and free to read in Kindle Unlimited here.

Review – Filthy Little Pretties

Not every book is for every reader, and this book wasn’t for me. 

I gave it 4 stars because it’s unquestionably well-written. The characters are detailed and believable. The setting has all the right trappings of wealth. There are plenty of little twists and turns and some high emotion.

Other reviewers will summarise the plot, but for the sake of convenience: Donovan’s our heroine. Grey is our ostensible hero. Liam is Grey’s best bud. Donovan, Grey, and Liam were all good friends as kids but were torn apart by Donovan’s parents’ divorce and now come back together for senior year at their exclusive prep school. Caroline is Donovan’s rival and Grey’s step-sister. Kai is a close friend. They’re all hot, rich, abandoned by their parents – pretty typical bully/prep academy set up.

The book isn’t for me because there’s no character growth and the “moral lesson” of the book is disconcerting (and this is where the spoilers start so turn away now if you don’t want them). By this, I don’t mean the “bully romance” element (although there’s really only one incident of bullying of the heroine by the “hero” – I’ll explain why I put that in quotes below). I mean that this book is really an exploration of the “hero’s” (and he’s not at all heroic) narcissism. 
I wanted to like Grey – he’s smart, he’s passionate, he has a slightly tragic backstory. But his actions through the book made him wholly unlikeable. He’s a man-baby with no self-control who goes through the book wrecking the people around him emotionally and then demanding they forgive him. 

Horrifyingly, they do. I was actually cheering for Liam (Grey’s alleged best bud that he’s willing to destroy to claim the girl) to walk away and leave Grey to deal with the consequences of his actions. That might have forced Grey to grow up and created an interesting character arc. But no. Donovan forgives the man-baby (racing to him in his “hour of need” – which was very dramatic but made me put the book down for awhile because this is *classic* narcissistic manipulation – which Donovan totally fell for – she’s not a “queen” going to her man in that moment, she’s a sucker). Caroline forgives the man-baby (although I’m not sure what she had to forgive him for, since she’s just doing the same nasty emotional manipulation that he’s engaged in). Kai forgives the man-baby. And lastly, and most disappointingly, Liam forgives the man-baby. The device of Grey “losing” their little rowing competition fell flat for me because, again, Grey faced no consequences. Losing the race didn’t jeopardise his Olympic dreams. It had no meaning – kind of like Grey’s empty apologies. 

I’m good with romance stories being a fantasy – I relish having my mind expanded, even if uncomfortably. Maybe the reason this book didn’t do it for me is that it read too much like reality: a narcissist who manages to successfully manipulate all around him with his tantrums and “save me from myself” behaviour. In the end, because he’s hot and rich and popular, even if he has no courage and wouldn’t know the meaning of self-sacrifice for the people he loves if it slapped him upside the head, he gets rewarded for it. Grey walks away with the girl, his dreams, and his legacy, without ever recognising the damage he’s inflicted on the people who love(d) him. That’s not heroic behaviour. It’s not even anti-heroic behaviour. It’s the Joker, wanting to burn the world down so everyone shares his pain. I just didn’t find it at all appealing.

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