arc · review · romance

Hush, Hush by Lucia Franco

Hush, Hush
by Lucia Franco

Rating: ★
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I knew the rules:

Never reveal my true identity.
Play the game, give the illusion.
Don’t get close to the clients.


The dark and glamorous lifestyle of the rich and shameless open my eyes to a lavish world of sin and wealth, and a man I can’t have.

A man I desperately want—James Riviera.

We’re treading a fine line as we live the ultimate double life until we make a startling discovery that tests both our loyalties.

I only had to follow the rules, but rules are meant to be broken.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

So, this review took me much longer than expected. Complete, utter disappointment isn’t accurate enough to describe my thoughts or feelings on this. Hush, Hush is horrendous to read. Sex workers are shamed and criticised; drugs are abused to cope with sexual situations that border sexual assault, with the acts glamourised to somehow excuse everyone’s behaviours; everyone’s emotions are belittled over and over; constant lies and secrets infiltrate every scenario because the characters are too childish to function somewhat normally for two seconds. It made me so uncomfortable to read this toxic representation of supposed romance.

I’m disheartened by this hero and heroine’s characterisation, and some low rated reviews on this “romance” because they perpetuate an enormous societal issue: slut shaming. Everyone, it’s fucking 2019 (incase you forgot), though we continue to criticise sex workers and women’s sexuality, fiction or reality. Sex workers become “others” without morals, dignity or integrity and somehow that allows us “normals” to have authority to ridicule someone’s life choices? How do sex workers differ from us, when we both effectively sell our time and bodies for labour in exchange for money and goods? Our word choice carries connotations that affect others’ understanding of messages and approaches to subjects. Calling the heroine a slut, whore or prostitute (derogatorily) almost every chapter dehumanises her and distances us “normal women” by forcing us into bad girl versus good girl contests. Referring to female sex workers as prostitutes isn’t uncommon, but this gross trend enforces a solemn reminder how terrible our understanding of this industry is.

“It’s time to pregame,” she says dropping a pill into my hand. “We’re celebrating this birthday in true New York City fashion—with a few shots and some Molly.”

Substance abuse is an issue within most societies and the author’s casual, unaffected approach to opioid reliance and glamorisation of said usage without significant commentary is distressing. Furthermore, the reliance is encouraged because the heroine isn’t comfortable with fucking strangers—there’s no dubious consent here. She doesn’t want to fuck everyone, consumed by anxiety despite her actions, but she’s forced into sitautions that push her into washing down percoset with wine because she’s desperate to earn quick money. It is more worrisome that there’s limited discussion on soft or hard limits with clients—filling in some questionnaire isn’t enough when you don’t know your client, or even meet them beforehand. I can’t even begin to explain the dangers that surround this scenario, especially as violence against sex workers is at an increase.

“The universe is cruel for putting us together, but I don’t feel bad because what I feel when I’m with you is what I’ve been wanting all along, I just never knew it until I met you.”

Aubrey Abrams is dull and vain; too self-absorbed, floating within a conceited bubble to consider how her constant lies belittle everyone’s feelings, or how her selfish actions make an impact on their lives in irrevocable, significant ways. She’s a compulsive liar, an unapologetic cheater and slut-shamer extraordinaire—a shit human really with little, if any, regret. For example, when Aubrey’s asked to be exclusive with a specific client, in exchange for millions of dollars, she accepts but without any intention of honouring the conditions: to stop dating her boyfriend and escorting. However, when the truth is unveiled, she has the audacity to accuse this client of acting unreasonable and controlling. She’s unconcerned with hurting this client and rather than feel remorse for cheating on Daniel, her boyfriend (who admitted to having been cheated on before), she’s more concerned about Natalie’s reaction. Zero self-awareness, much?

I know I should look at the dissolution of our clandestine agreement as a blessing in disguise, but it’s also undeniably heartbreaking. We were hopeless from the start.

Rude doesn’t begin to cover the horrid nature of James Riviera, an abhorrent hero with a sexist attitude used so casually, it is outright sickening. James’ unfortunate loveless marriage doesn’t condone his continuous blatant cheating, an act fuelled by an unloving wife with a hate for kink; nor does it excuse his blasé usage of sexist slurs like slut or whore to belittle Aubrey, an escort who doesn’t adhere to his conditions. I find it ironic that James reiterates the values of family, but does a shit effort at following through with said announcements of significance by cheating on his wife (she isn’t innocent in this, however it doesn’t excuse his behaviour) and lying to his daughter.

Hush, Hush could’ve delivered a narrative that dismembered misinformed criticisms of escorting created and supported by sexism. Instead, it shames women’s life choices and sexuality; glamourises substance abuse; condones cheating (there’s a massive lack of self-reflection on this) within a myriad of various other issues that makes this a backwards narrative. Sex work becomes a convenient excuse to purport a forbidden age-gap romance and create a suitable enough reason to introduce drama. Hush, Hush also had the slowest introduction between the two leading characters and was filled with useless conversations that held no plot importance whatsoever—it was boring filler. I’m sorry.

arc · new adult · review · romance

Pride by J.D. Hollyfield

Pride (The Elite Seven #2)
by J.D. Hollyfield

Rating: ★★★★
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The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

But who said the devil was a he?

In my world, she was out to cause havoc on all our lives.

She’ll use the one thing I care most about to control me—force me into her Elite world, filled with sin, deceit, and power. And under her spell, I’ll lead a sinister brotherhood of seven at one of the most prestigious universities in New Orleans.

Seven tasks set forth by the devil herself, promising nothing less than the forbidden fruit of power. What they don’t understand is it will all end in bloodshed and regret.

They call me the alpha. The one in charge. The one with pride bigger than any task I could be given. And my pride won’t let me be anywhere but at the top of the food chain until she gives me what I truly want.

My task is Meghan Thorne.

She’s too pure for me to touch, too good for me to ruin—and the only thing standing in my way to freedom.

Accept your sin wisely, for the tasks given to earn your place are not for the weak…they’re for The Elite.

As they say, pride comes before the fall.

I am Mason Blackwell.

I am Pride.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

I can’t get over how twisted and deranged this novella is. J.D. Hollyfield pulled this series along, giving us deeper glimpses into The Elite Seven’s corrupt and devious world while skilfully keeping this intertwined with Lust. Sinfully delicious and compellingly manipulative, Pride will captivate your attention in its darker, more erotic entirety. I can’t seem to turn away from this enormous clusterfuck!

With the thirst for revenge and hate flowing inside me, there was no room for anything else. I could barely see passed the retribution I set to viciously achieve. But then she came along.

Having bounced from home to home, Mason Blackwell is used to monsters lurking within the shadows. When the Elite Seven approaches Mason—using his younger sister as incentive and collateral—to complete dishonest tasks and assume his position as Pride, he is pulled further into this darkened secret society of influence, manipulation and unfathomable benefits. Despite his assigned sin, Mason is selfless, swallowing his pride and egotism to protect Evie and his newfound family of brothers.

But the deeper I plummet into the abyss of our forbidden attraction, the heavier my emotions become, and I know it’s no longer just physical between us.

I didn’t know what to expect from Megan Thorne—it wasn’t a seeming innocent teacher hiding intense sultriness and unexplored kinkiness. She’s naive, loyal with fault and wholly inexperienced when dealing with romantic relationships. However, she’s an admirable sexually liberated and intelligent woman with so much goodness within this crazy world.

It is kind of difficult to consider this a romance; I wasn’t expecting it to be so though after reading Lust. Mason’s relationship with Megan is more defined and despite their initial encounter being unrealistically over the top, everything that happens afterwards between them will ignite your Kindle. It is intense, explosive and downright filthy.

Seeing some teasers for Wrath is making me excited to find out more about Samuel Gunner—Wrath, the next Elite Seven, in this strange albeit fascinating world.

arc · new adult · new release · review · romance

Lust by Ker Dukey

Lust (The Elite Seven #1)
by Ker Dukey

Rating: ★★★
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I was born with wealth, athletic ability, and looks that could melt the panties off a nun.
I had a clear path to success.
Until fate dealt me a cruel blow, leaving me empty and in need of purpose.
My only focus now is to become part of The Elite—a secret society in one of the most prestigious colleges in the world.
But everything comes at a price, and with The Elite, you have to earn your place.
Lucky for me, being sinful is in my DNA.
The only obstacle to full initiation is my task: seduce the un-seducible, the forbidden, and lure her with the sins of the flesh. Easy for a man like me…in theory.
She started as my task, but what happens when the lines between lust and love blur, and the need for power rages war with the need for her?
Accept your sin wisely, for the tasks given to earn your place are not for the weak—they’re for The Elite.
This is my life, my chance, my legacy.
I am Rhett Masters.
I am Lust.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

What a ride! And interesting introduction to what will become a captivating series centered around a secret society promising an unrivaled amount of wealth, prestige and benefits. I wasn’t really sure what to expect—maybe a dark, erotic romance of intrigue, debauchery and manipulation. However, this isn’t dark, or even erotic as the romance is pushed aside to create the foundation for the series.

I would still take lust over love every fucking time. Fuck love.

Chastity Griffin appears to be shy and timid, but there’s inextricable boldness and feistiness hidden beneath her appearance. She’s smart and sweet, with a touch of innocence about her demeanor, but there’s this admirable sensuality about her, too. It balances the dark wildness and teetering instability within Rhett.

Rhett Masters is desperate to escape from reality. Crushing guilt after losing someone and his father’s insufferable attitude have pushed him towards drowning in women, drugs and liquor. Conceited, arrogant and feeling an unhealthy amount of invincibility, nothing is forbidden or dangerous. Rhett embodies lust, however, more so through reputation than action.

My entire high school years were built on my reputation of panty peeler, pussy realtor, heart stealer.

It is one reason for pulling my rating down. I assumed this short story would be filthier, more forbidden and teeming with an intense amount of eroticism, finished with a dash of passion and romance to sweeten the connection. And that is my second reason for lowering my rating—the romance is minimal. When Rhett and Chastity are together, the pages explode with sexual tension and witty banter. You can sense unexplored chemistry between them that would have made an excellent forbidden romance.

Lust is a violent desire, destructive and uncontrollable.

I can say one thing for certain—I’m excited to continue delving deeper into this world of secret societies and sinfully devilish assignments. Ker Dukey’s writing is fantastic, the emotions will roll you over straight away, the pacing of this short story is decent and the concept of this series captivating.

arc · contemporary · new release · review · romance

Cruel Money by K.A. Linde

Cruel Money (Cruel #1)
by K.A. Linde

Rating: ★★★
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She was supposed to be a one night stand.

A way to sate my sexual appetite.

I gave her a glimpse of the man I am. The face that I hide behind my carefully cultivated life. But she ripped open that divide—and there’s no going back.

Now, she’s here. In my city.

I don’t care that I’m Manhattan royalty and she’s the help. Only that she’s living in my summer home. With me.

And I want more.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Think Gossip Girl or Cruel Intentions and you have Cruel Money—a second chance romance set within the glitz and glamour of New York’s upper class society. It is devious and abundant in delicious drama, characterised by deceitful personalities brimming with lies and scandalous propositions.

Delightfully addictive, without doubt compelling and unputdownable, Cruel Money, with an insurmountable level of intrigue and intensity, will have you invested throughout. It doesn’t just have angst and drama, it also contains seduction dripping with manipulation, deception flowing with tension and sweet lies coated in deviousness.

Our worlds didn’t connect. Our lives were so far from normal. I didn’t want to want this. I didn’t want to want him.

Penn Kensington and Natalie Bishop’s romance is twisted, yet fascinating—a train wreck of malicious intentions and inescapable heartache that you can’t turn away from. I became so engrossed in this narrative of cruel words and vicious actions that everything else faded away.

However, I couldn’t fully fall in love with these characters. Natalie does have some positive qualities—she’s confident, determined and she has serious backbone, but she’s also dense and unobservant, despite being a writer with certain qualities. Penn is an undeniable gorgeous, enigmatic figure, but there’s something missing.

Penn Kensington had gotten under my skin. He crawled beneath the surface and there was nothing I could do about it.

I know I will fall in love with this series. Cruel Money is filled with some of my favourite tropes combined into this enticing series. If you’re searching for something brimming with deception; a narrative with characters you’ll love to hate, or hate to love; the glamorous, lavish lifestyle of upper New York, this series will grip your attention.

I’m more than ready for Cruel Fortune (sadly, months away!)

arc · review

ARC Review | Filthy Gods by R. Scarlett

Filthy Gods

by R. Scarlett


SYNOPSIS

Prelude in the American Gods series.

Young. Wealthy. Elite. Attractive. The gentlemen’s secret society at Yale was filled with them.

And Nathaniel Radcliffe, the bane of my existence, was one of them.

As the right hand of the American Gods, he was conceited and arrogant. A dangerously handsome man in a tailored custom suit and shiny black oxford loafers.

The classroom was our battlefield. We made a sport out of arguing and debating, ready to do anything in order to win over the other.

Deadly opponents, deadlier minds.

I’d sworn I’d never give him the upper hand, until…

The secret I’ve been hiding for the last three years?

He just discovered it… and now he has all the power.


REVIEW

★★★★★

One of my favourite tropes ever is wealthy assholes. Someone who wears expensive suits, is domineering and all alpha. I also love enemies to lovers tropes. And Ms R. Scarlett did that with Filthy Gods. She delivered both tropes as well as Nathaniel Radcliffe.

I’M IN LOVE WITH NATHANIEL RADCLIFFE.

So much so, I’d die for a trilogy about him.

Before Ms Scarlett really announced American Gods, I was all over adding this series to Goodreads. Rich asshole? PLEASE. Sassy heroine? Done. I fell in love with Ms Scarlett’s writing after reading her other series, Blackest Gold. Her series, as well as her writing, also made me fall in love with the paranormal romance genre. I knew I would love her contemporary series.

Privileged Nathaniel Radcliffe is sinfully sexy and deliciously handsome. With utmost confidence, he commands debates with powerful words and his strong presence, making him a formidable enemy in heated discussions.

But he meets his match in Juliette Monroe.

Juliette isn’t as fortunate as everyone else at Yale. Having bounced from foster homes her entire life, as well as relying on government sponsorship to stay enrolled at Yale, Juliette is determined to create something amazing for herself.

Both headstrong and confident, Nathaniel and Juliette debate about every topic imaginable. But that heated contest also extends behind closed doors. When Nathaniel discovers Juliette’s secrets, he’s determined to conquer his match in wholly different and decadent ways.

I love that both characters are driven and determined, with strong aspirations and solid goals. Despite having grown up without wealth, Juliette isn’t easily intimidated or manipulated by everyone’s affluence, remaining true to herself. R. Scarlett did wonderfully creating a thrilling and riveting enemies to lovers story focused on America’s wealthy elite.


Enjoyed this review? You can also read it on Goodreads!

American Gods
Filthy Gods

Rich Boys Don’t Have Hearts

Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather

Ruthless Men Don’t Seek Pleasure