Release date: 10 July 2023
Narrator(s): Laurie West, Christian Black
Synopsis: When Cora attends her sister's birthday party, she expects at most a hangover or a walk of shame. She doesn't anticipate a stolen wallet, leaving her stranded and dependent on Dean—her arch nemesis and ultimate thorn in her side.
And she really doesn't anticipate waking up in shackles in a madman's basement. To make matters worse, Dean shares the space in his own set of chains.
After fifteen years of teasing, insults, and practical jokes, the ultimate joke seems to be on them. The two people who always thought they'd end up killing each other must now work together if they want to survive.
But Cora and Dean have no idea their abductor has a plan for them. A plan that will alter the course of their relationship, blur the line between hate and love, and shackle them together with far more than just chains.
I…did not like this book. At all. Comprehensively. Objectively. Subjectively. The first two hours of the audiobook (I listen on 2x speed) reads like fetishized rape. The rest of the book feels like a train wreck that keeps happening over and over again. Just a crash and then a backing up and then crashing again. On repeat. For four more hours (I listen on 2x speed). I’m not sure why I chose this book for listening. Perhaps I was curious because it had been in a book box and many people were excited and commented how good it was. Perhaps it was the over 25,000 five-star ratings for it on Goodreads. Perhaps the cover looks nice. I thought maybe it would be a bit like Kiss the Girls or something, where the assault is implied and not described in morbid detail with a touch of sensuality. I don’t know. I do know I found it horrible.
Aside from the beginning, which I cannot unread, everything after it was also complete awfulness. The characters act nonsensically after a trauma. These two people who are obviously attracted to one another end up in a basement with a stereotypical bald, fat man from the country—named Earl of all things—and wind up well, you get the drift. They miraculously escape and there is no attempt to narrate the treatment of their trauma? Or even mention it until much later, very casually, before they engage in sexual activity again?
Cora’s sister is the worst character and characterization, aside from the blatantly stereotyped character of Earl. Though I believe she was used to make the main characters’ coming together more sympathetic, she was a nightmare to read. I don’t usually have violent tendencies, but she very nearly made me want to throat punch her. I guess that was the point, though. But should she have been there? Could there have been a cleverer way to make that dynamic attraction work? Did she have to be so insensitive? Am I just touchy because I know someone like her? Maybe.
Additionally, the writing feels very demonstrative. Everything is spelled out for the reader, which I felt made the suspense fall very flat. The characters performed a copious amount of lip chewing, cheek chewing, biting lips, and nibbling lips. Sucking lips between the teeth. It was distracting.
The narration for this was middle shelf. I don’t feel the voices matched the characters. They felt way too old to be voicing characters so young. That’s not to say that the narrators aren’t good narrators. They were excellent. I just don’t feel they match the book.
Ultimately, I can’t even rate the book. No stars for this one. I love a good enemies-to-lovers romance, but this was not a good example of one. I feel there are many more that get the point across of a strong resistance to attraction that ultimately fails. Putting two people together in a captive situation with rape involved is not the way to do it. I’m going to go try and find a happy place for a while and chill in it. I don’t do well reading rapey books and this book used rape as a romance trope. Good. Grief.
Thanks to Libro.fm, Bloom Books, and Sourcebooks for the complimentary ALC. My opinions are my own.