**I received an ARC of Tortured Soul in exchange for an honest review**
My first impression after reading the blurb for Tortured Soul was that I was extremely intrigued. It seemed like it would be an emotional read, maybe kind of dark-- *fingers crossed*-- and the characters definitely piqued my interest. I love flawed characters, when they're done right, and had high hopes for this book. This novel is part of a series, but since it is marketed as a standalone, I took a chance. I usually like to read my books in order, if part of a series, but this one just looked too good to pass up. I had to make an exception.
Emily was in an extremely abusive dominant/submissive relationship, if you can call in that, with Jonas, a cruel and powerful man who held her captive, really. He took complete control of her life when she was not yet seventeen, and she spent seven years enduring unthinkable things at his hand until he had completely broken her spirit. He then passed her on to his son, who inflicted his own form of debasement and torture to her already battered heart and body. She finally escapes after his son, who eventually became her husband, is murdered, only to have to face her captor again after he threatens her sister, for who she'll do anything to keep safe. She's broken, beaten down and tired. At this point, Jonas no longer evokes fear in her because she's completely checked out. She's been through it all and she's just an empty shell of the person she could have been.
Braiden, a former assassin, is trying to make amends for all of the terrible things he's done and the lives he's taken. He's determined to free Emily from her captivity at any cost. He shows her compassion, while being a strong, protective force in her life. His fierce loyalty to her is something she's definitely not seen much of in her life up until this point. His main goal is to give her life back to her, to give her the freedom to live as she wishes. But after being conditioned for so long to depend on following a master's commands, she's lost and afraid, and Braiden must step in to fill that role. At least temporarily.
My heart absolutely broke for Emily and what she'd been through. The self-esteem she lacked and her perception of herself was incredibly sad. As "unclean" as she feels, Braiden shows her that she isn't to blame for the things that were done to her. In contrast, Braiden committed his sins willingly, and has some similar feelings of guilt and shame. They had a lot to learn from each other and Braiden is determined to put her needs first, even if it means giving her up. And when her past comes back to hant them, will he be able to protect her at all, or will she have to find the closure she needs for herself and slay her own demons alone?
The tender moments between Braiden and Emily, after seeing what she's gone through, were absolutely beautiful. I felt a really strong connection to Emily and my heart really went out to her throughout the entire book. Braiden was also a character that I loved. His loyalty, compassion, and determination to do whatever it took to free Emily of her past, was something that really made him a great character. The secondary characters were also great. The love and support they showed for Emily was heartwarming. They also brought quite a bit of humor to the story, which lightened up the heavy subject matter at just the right times. This book is a story about redemption, about revenge, and about second chances. A few surprising twists and turns, and some nail-biting moments made for an extremely entertaining read.
One issue that I did have was the claim that this is a standalone. I don't necessarily disagree with that statement, but certain things, characters, and events mentioned would have definitely had more of an impact if I had read the previous two books in this series. There were a few things that left me with more questions. For example, the two characters previously met in a hospital while Emily was recovering from a brutal beating. I found myself wondering for quite a while why Braiden was in the hospital with her when it seemed that they didn't know each other at the time. Clearly this information must have been revealed in a previous book. Also, why did he feel the need to rescue Emily in the first place? Why did he feel such a strong connection with her? I needed just a bit more background and insight into these characters lives, which I'm sure I would have gotten had I read the first two books. I was able to make some assumptions pretty early on, but it would have been nice to know, for sure, if my guesses were correct. Although this didn't ruin the overall impact of the story for me, I think it's worth mentioning as it is explained in the summary that this can be read without having read the rest of the series. Despite that, in my opinion, minor issue, I really enjoyed Tortured Soul and am looking forward to reading more from this author!
I'm just a little Aussie girl with a big imagination, so much to write and so little time to do it. When I'm not writing (or reading) I am kept smiling and sane (for the most part) by my 5 year old daughter. She is the light in my world. I have a wonderfully supportive family who keep me completely grounded. Trust me, they will never let any success go to my head!! And I love them for it.
I enjoy ice cold ciders, barbeques, music and art. I hate cooking, in fact I think I have major kitchen allergies. My feet rarely grace anything other than flip-flops and even in the middle of a hot Aussie summer, I love my jeans!!! To sum me up in a few words (and you know how hard just a few words is for an author) ~ easy going, laid back, dreamy and passionate.
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