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 · review · romance

What We Do in the Night by Stylo Fantome

What We Do in the Night (Day to Night #1)
by Stylo Fantome

Rating: ★★★★
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Just five months ago, Valentine O’Dell started working at a very special kind of club – one where you can dance the night away, or live out your greatest fantasy. She’s learned to lose herself to her nights, forgetting all her day time woes as she charms every man she meets. It’s easy enough to do when she doesn’t let her feelings get involved.

Then Ari Sharapov walked in and changed everything.

Working for his father’s law firm has left Ari with very little control over his life, so when he meets Valentine for the first time, he sees a girl who is desperate for someone to take care of her. To take over her. So what he can’t get for himself in the day time, he’ll simply take for himself at night. But when power struggles lead to real feelings, who’s actually controlling whom?

Some relationships are better left in the dark.

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

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Welcome to Caché, an exclusive club of debauched affairs and lascivious desires, where you can chase the darkest fantasies, binge on hedonistic experiences and satisfy untamed cravings of titillation. Two complete opposites—one rich, demanding utter domination; the other poorer, willing to submit—intertwined by insatiable lust and unrestrained affection; confined by an arrangement of convenience make this forbidden romance an irresistible intoxicant.

He was rough and aggressive and dominant. He probably tore his opponents apart in the courtroom, and he was no different in the bedroom.

I have a terrible obsession with foul-mouthed, asshole heroes—the meaner, the better in my opinion. Without doubt, Aaron “Ari” Sharapov is rude, conceited and cocksure of himself. Part of me wanted to despise this character’s self-centered and egotistical attitude, but the moment an unforeseen tender side is exposed in Ari, my heart melted and whatever he lacked romantically, he sure made up with an alluring, formidable sexuality.

She wondered if he had any idea that his idea of punishment was her idea of pleasure.

Valentine O’Dell self-sacrifices to ensure home life is somewhat easy. During the day, she’s sweet and demure, a determined college student in design management, but the nighttime is reserved for seduction and inciting the headiest pleasures to surface. Full of fire and ferocity, her resolute perseverance is an admirable symbolism of inner strength and unfettered devotion to family.

“You’re really bad at this whole fantasy thing.”
“I think it’s more that you’re really bad at this whole reality thing.”

Ari and Val have an irrevocable heated chemistry, twisted together by an irrefutable and intense, forbidden connection. He wants to dominate. She’s willing to submit. Despite coming across as opposites, Ari and Val are complex contradictions who are each other’s perfect, sweetest counterparts. Fused together by an irresistible magnetic pull, this couple’s dramatic relationship, together with Ari’s unflinching obnoxious behaviour and Val’s fearless innocent make the beginning of an interesting duet!

“When the sun goes down, you become mine, Saint Valentine.”

arc · contemporary · new adult · review · romance

Fixed by Emma Louise

Fixed (Flawed Love #2)
by Emma Louise

Rating: ★★★★
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He’s my best friends brother.
She’s not over her ex.

Elliott.

I should have seen it coming, my world being shattered by the man that was supposed to love me. But I didn’t and now I’m trying to find the pieces of me he left behind. 
Duke.

I can’t fix her, not when I’m just as broken as she is. I should leave her alone, she’s too good for me. But, fighting the attraction that pulls us together is getting harder everyday.

It doesn’t take long until we’re a tangle of limbs and pleasures. 

No promises are made, no guarantees. 

Just a vow to keep our hearts out of the bedroom. 

Simple, right? 

Except, now we both have to try and avoid getting cut on each others broken parts.

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

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Fixed is my first story by Emma Louise—a second chance romance between a single mother and her best friend’s older brother. It screams ‘forbidden’. Taboo. However, it is filled with heartache for someone who forget what self-love is; for another who has returned to Savannah, a little bruised and shattered himself.

Something about her calls to me on a level that I don’t understand.

Divorced and feeling defeated, Elliott is re-learning to love herself; to re-acquaint herself with long lost confidence and independence. She’s alone, desperate, raising two young girls within a home that isn’t hers. But she’s determined to never beg another man for anything. Duke is finally returning to Savannah after leaving the military, ready to discover his purpose and start living. Despite being Elliott’s opposite in appearance—she’s wholesome, whereas he’s gruff and rough around the edges—they compliment each other well!

“I can give you this if you want it. Me. It’s not much, but I guarantee you I’ll make it good if you say yes. The only promise I can give you is that our hearts won’t get hurt.”

Elliott is an inspiring woman. I admire her tenacity; it is difficult to love yourself, to know your self-worth, when someone, who’s supposed to have unconditional love for you, repeatedly crumbles your self-esteem. Doing this, whilst raising two inquisitive children, is an incredible feat that every modern woman experiencing a similar hardship deserves an applause.

Duke and Elliott have an intense, heated chemistry that they initially refuse to embrace. However, once they allow their insecurities and hesitation to fall away, they’re passionate and explosive after years of quiet fervid longing. In seamless manner, Duke fits in Elliott’s life, becoming an admirable father figure to Brooke and Bailey, and loving both of them with ease.