So we start off pretty good with Gareki going to school and Karoku and then we fall into the the trope of Gareki having to be better than Tsubame in just days, because man. Then we have Tsukumo and her partner needing saving by a man for what happens to them.
Overall the story is brought down by it's misogyny.
This is NOT a romance. This is a horror story. I knew this going in, and I was still pretty horrified while reading.
Birthday Presents is dark. It contains rape, torture, and death. The villain is seriously disturbed. There are explicit scenes that are difficult to read. This book is not for the faint-hearted.
The plot is fairly straight-forward, and we know from the get-go who the villain is. Spending time in Crimson's mind made me want to bleach my brain to get the disturbing images gone - he's vile and insane. He's a hunter, he is a murderer, and he has no conscience. He lives for the hunt, for the kill, for the depravity of his actions.
There's an attempt at making the reader sympathize with the villain, though that didn't work with me - I am firmly in the camp of not believing that a rough and abusive upbringing excuses the actions of our villain.
I appreciated that the author gave the victims strength and allowed them to be more than just simpering damsels in distress. They fight for their survival, they do what they must to live.
There's a bit of a mystery as to who's helping the villain, though I wasn't completely shocked to find out who the mystery person was - there were sufficient hints along the way. Still, that was a well-done plot point that kept me at the edge of my seat.
I hope that Tracey and Kyle get the psychological help they both need after living through these horrors, but I felt confident that they will both get through this. As for the little bit of romance we get toward the end, between Gene and his co-worker - that development came a little out of left field for me, and I didn't quite buy the long-time pining that's insinuated here.
The writing was inconsistent in some instances, and I had to reread a few passages to understand what the author was trying to tell me. I also thought that the characterizations were uneven, and in some moments, the characters' actions didn't make sense to me. YMMV.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **
Quinn Valenzuela, heir to the Sparta Athletics empire, has spent most of his life, first at boarding school and then traveling the world, playing on the yachts of the rich and famous, drifting his life away, pretending this is all he wants from life.
Porter Davis, COO of the same company, hasn't had a chance to even enjoy the fruits of his labor, working his way up from athlete using the product to basically running the company for and with Quinn's grandfather and mother. He lives with his sister because it's easy, and pretends he's not lonely.
The book is a little heavy early on as the characters deal with the grief of losing the old man. Both men are adrift in different ways, neither quite sure how to move forward. Quinn decides he wants to learn how to run the company, but needs Porter's help to do so.
The relationship between the men progresses from reluctant acceptance to realizing that they work well together to developing a friendship to bedroom benefits, and the development felt natural and realistic within the confines of the plot. It was lovely to watch driven, workaholic Porter start to relax a little, and drifting, unsure Quinn find his footing and start to shine. Of course, it's not smooth sailing all the way, and the two men still have to figure out what they need long-term.
I liked the supporting characters as well - Quinn's mother and Porter's sister were two well-developed female characters who both supported and challenged our MCs as needed.
The requisite relationship hiccup was visible from a mile away, and I liked how the author handled Quinn's obliviousness and panic, but also how it wasn't dragged out for too long. I also think that this needed to happen for the relationship to actually grow beyond what it had become at that point, and for Quinn to think about what he really wants.
This is slow burn by design, though there's plenty of UST within. And tons of believable emotions, so that worked quite well for me.
It's a sweet romance and definitely worth your time.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A review was not promised in return. **
He raised his hands. “Don’t shoot. I’m unarmed.” Turning slowly to face his fate, his jaw fell open, and his heart rate kicked up a notch from being on the wrong end of a shotgun or from the weapon holder’s looks, he wasn’t sure A raven haired Amazon in a tank top, jeans, and metal tipped cowboy boots held the Mossberg 500 in a perfect military stance. Long strands of hair blew across her face in the hot breeze. A large purple bruise bloomed on her left cheek. She squinted her dark brown eyes and gave him a laser-beam once over from his dusty black boots to his sweat soaked do- rag.
“Who are you, and what do you want?”
If he hadn’t been so intent on not getting killed, he would have spent more time staring at those full, luscious, kissable lips and thinking about how she would taste. As it was, he guessed he had less than a minute to respond before getting blasted into the next county.
Amazon Music Playlist for Legacy of Evil: