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Overall rating – 5 silken sheets

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“Don’t think about it. Just breathe.”

I was all set to read a light’n’fluffy sexy comedy, but I craved something darker, more gritty. More angsty. I read a friend’s review of The Island and I was hooked.

Shaw is a man of dubious morality, trying to swing a major deal with Vornis, a high ranking drug lord. He’s worked for years for this opportunity and finally gets a chance to meet Vornis on his tropical island, to do the deal of his lifetime. A stolen Cezanne that he’s selling for $95 million.

cezanne-boy-in-the-red-vestShaw had made a career out of morally reprehensible dealings, but he didn’t usually have his nose rubbed in them. Shaw liked to pretend he was a gentleman. It felt so much more civilised when he could pretend Vornis was a gentleman too.

All is going well until Vornis presents him with his latest ‘toy’ to pass the time with. A captured DEA agent. This boy is young, painfully so, and is the recipient of Vornis’ most cruel torture.

Vornis had left his toy out in the rain. The toy was young, male and lean. When he moved, his muscles shifted under his captivity-pale skin. He was walking in the rain like he couldn’t remember the last time he’d stood under a natural sky.

13557474_sShaw knows if he tries to intercede he will screw up his deal, and worse, may end up dead, with the young agent almost definitely killed.

Jesus, he was beautiful, but Shaw was no fucking rapist. He’d done a lot of things in his life he regretted, but he wasn’t going to do that. The boy with the brilliant green eyes had enough bruises.

The story alternates between Shaw’s POV and Lee’s (the agent). Shaw wants to help him, but knows the impossibility of the situation. Lee wants to trust him, but knows that he cannot. It’s made worse by the fact that Shaw is exactly Lee’s type, the kind of guy he’d hook up with in real life.

Shaw felt different, but that was probably just a matter of perspective, and Lee’s perspective had been skewed since Colombia. He couldn’t trust what he felt. Shaw had said it himself: “I’m not a rapist, but I’m a lot of other things.” Shit, what the hell had happened to him that “not a rapist” had become a glowing fucking character reference?

Shaw is torn between wanting to talk to Lee, to find out his story, and keeping his distance. It doesn’t help that the paranoid Vornis has placed hidden cameras in his cabin, and the only place they can talk safely is in the shower.

7329050_sThe first half of the book had me gripped and unable to leave it, as Lee’s time ran out, and Shaw remained helpless.

“Trust,” Vornis announced over dessert, “is not an easy commodity to deal in.”

His guests murmured their agreement.

“So, a proposition,” Vornis said. His dark eyes gleamed. “Tonight I am going to kill my prisoner. As a gesture of my trust, you will bear witness.”

There’s a point around 60% – you’ll know it when you get there – that you take a big deep breath, and hunker down for the second half of the story. This has a slower pace, is measured and torturous in a different way, but equally satisfying.

Lisa Henry takes a difficult subject (how can rape, torture and brutality ever be an easy subject?) and weaves an unforgettable tale, with clearly defined characters. It’s sexy… sensual and damn hot… but all through, both Shaw and Lee retain their humanity. It’s not graphic gratuitous violence, but there’s enough to make you want to cry for Lee and all that’s happened to him.

This is ultimately the story of survival, of love and hope triumphing over despair.

I freely admit that m/m is not my preferred reading genre, but this is one hell of a great read for anyone looking for something a little dark and a whole lot tense. It’s converted me to the genre, and made me seek out Lisa Henry’s other work. A week later I’m still thinking back to the poignant scenes between Shaw and Lee, and still feeling the heart-thumping emotions tied up in this novel. To me, that’s the mark of a 5-star read 🙂

Sexy rating 

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Plot – great

Characters – great

Warnings – m/m, non-con, scenes of violence, rape and torture


Genre: LGBT Contemporary

Published: Jan 2012

Price: $6.39 (Kindle)

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