Honestly it kills me to have to do this, and please don't shoot the messenger...but I was so disappointed in this book! I LOVE Penelope Douglas, and I have been a fan of hers since the day I read Bully. I never in a million years would have guessed that I would feel this way about a book of hers, but this book made me extremely angry and quite frankly a lot disgusted. I am hearing so many positive responses to it though, that I think that maybe it is just one of those polarizing books that people either love or hate. I really doubt there will be much middle ground here. Unfortunately, this one didn't work for me at all.
Erika Fane and Michael Crist had grown up around each other, but for the most part she was invisible to Michael. But one night everything changed between them, and Erika thought that he was finally seeing her for who she was. But then in an instant everything changed again and Erika found herself once again invisible to Michael and he found himself with a ton of guilt and his three best friends in prison. Now three years later, they are out and they have Erika exactly where they want her.
I found it impossible to like the characters here. I really expected that things would turn around and there would be some redeeming qualities once all was said and done, but after everything had been revealed, I almost disliked them more than I did to begin with. Michael treated Erika horribly. He allowed his friends to treat her horribly. I could understand that he was angry and out to get revenge for his friends, but for someone who had always been drawn to her supposedly and felt things for her, he went way too far in my opinion. Rika (what everyone called Erika...because apparently the E was too much?) had a few moments of strength and there were times I thought I would love her, and then she would turn into the weakest character I had ever seen. She was being put through a lot, I get it. And honestly I can't imagine being in her shoes. But when all is said and done and the truth of everything comes out, she immediately is over it all as if nothing happened and just jumps into Michael's arms. Ummm what? No. Not okay. I won't go into specifics, but the fact that she was able to even look at Michael, let alone want to sleep with him or love him at that point was beyond comprehension to me. He wasn't even the one that seemed to feel the worst about it all! That was his friend Kai, who coincidentally was the only character I actually liked at the end of this book.
I also felt like this book was so similar to Bully, with just a few details changed. While I loved Bully though, this book didn't have the same redeemable qualities to the story or characters that that book did for me. The way that everyone here treated Rika and the fact that she just moved ahead with little to no groveling at all from these guys was just more than I could come back from. Not only that, but once all was revealed here, I still didn't like the way that Rika was treated. Though honestly I stopped caring since she clearly didn't. This book just had so many things that didn't work for me and I am sad to say that this book left me with so many feelings and none of them were good. I read dark romance and love it, but this one wasn't what I had been expecting or hoping for at all. This wasn't a romance at all to me, and the abuse/attempted rape elements killed any possibility of me being okay with Michael and Rika's relationship even after it was all over. If you have issues with abuse or rape, this book might not be for you. There were several times that the content felt like it would be alarming for those with trigger issues and I would advise those to possibly steer clear of this one. While I don't want to go into too many more details on things that could possibly spoil the story those issues and the treatment of Rika were the things that really alienated me the most. Though I thought the whole Horsemen thing was completely unbelievable and "that scene" with Kai for the sake of healing him was just crazy to me as well as the whole "tapping out" competition between Michael and Rika. Honestly the more I write here and think about this book, the more I dislike it and disappointed I feel. If this one sounds like something you would like, I say go for it. Looking at the ratings, I am clearly in the minority. However this is one book that didn't do anything but piss me off and I wouldn't recommend it.
**ARC Provided by As the Pages Turn**