I made a vow at the end of 2016 to read more *new to me* authors. This has worked out for me as a reader who has been suffering from book slumps. This is not to say that my go-to-authors are not cutting it; they are. It’s just that I really wanted to get back into reading outside my comfort zone and I also wanted to read new voices. Amber Bardan blew me away with this book and a short story that I will also talk about in a separate review. I am not one to read captive stories. I went in with zero expectations and came out on the other side with my mind completely screwed with in the best possible way.
This is going to be a different kind of review. I am going to be very vague on purpose, because this is the kind of book where you need to experience it as it unfolds. This will probably be one of the hardest reviews for me to write without revealing a damn thing, but then I read another of Ms. Bardan’s short stories and I’ll be just as vague there too. This book is written in such a way to fuck with your mind. I mean that in the best possible way. The book is written on purpose to make sure you’re kept off kilter. I loved every single twist and turn. I loved being completely confused and not knowing exactly what’s happening until the very end. Just when you think you might have a handle on things, Ms. Bardan kicks your ass with her skill and storytelling.
“Drink your tea, baby. Don’t want it getting cold.” My teeth chatter, yet the sun heats my scalp as though there’s a magnifying glass held at the back of my head. I lift the delicate china cup. My favorite – teal on the outside, white on the inside with a rose painted bottom. Today there’s something dripping off the teal. Something red, something sticky. A coppery tang I already taste. A few drops made it inside the cup. Crimson blossoms in amber tea. I’ll never think of cold the same.”
This is the opening of the book titled Bloody Birthday. Boy, was it ever. Julius King shows up in the middle of Sarah’s birthday party, along with his men, and he’s taking a prisoner. Things go from bad to worse and Sarah’s father is killed in the melee. Julius takes her to an Island that used to be a resort and she’s pampered and her every want is met. But for Sarah she needs to escape from his clutches and find her brother, who is hidden away in boarding school. As her father lays dying, he whispers a name into her ear and she’s waiting for this person to show up to rescue her. Julius tells her she has three years; on her 21st birthday they will be walking down the aisle.
The push and pull of these two characters are palpable. Julius is dangerous and scary, yet he has never hurt Sarah. What makes him dangerous is not only his line of business, but what he makes Sarah feel. While she is extremely attracted to him, she also completely hates him. There is a lot of sexual tension between the two. Sarah is very well aware about how much Julius wants her and she uses it against him to hurt him. But while she takes her digs when she can, she is also hurting herself in the process.
“We’re having guests.” The corners of his eyes wrinkle. “I’m trusting you’ll be polite company.” “Have I been anything else?” He smiles his serpent smile and takes my chin between his thumb and forefinger. “No, you’re perfect.” I’d bite him, but he has a nice firm grip on my lady-balls, and he knows it.”
Julius uses her younger brother to keep her in line. Her time is running out and you really feel the tension. The sexual tension, the danger factor, and the urgency for her to get off that island and get to her brother. Her father did tell her John Fury is coming for her. Sarah wants for nothing but her freedom, but Julius won’t be relinquishing her from her gilded cage anytime soon. Julius is a complex character. He’s a scary guy for one; he runs guns, and his crew is just as scary if not more than he is. I can’t stress enough the overwhelming sense of the unknown, the motives, what the hell is going on? This is what keeps you turning the pages. It switches from present day back to Sarah’s bloody birthday bash. The flashbacks are out of order, and while this will confuse the reader, I found I was more intrigued and went with the flow. I knew it was being done purposefully. It kept you on the edge of your seat to the very last page.
” Do you believe I love you?” Sadness wraps around me, taking the edge off the rising lust. That’s the real question here. The one that has me acting crazy. The one that has me pushing to drive him insane. “Why do I need to believe that now?” He dries his hands, then throws the towel down. “Because in a few moments when you’re on the ground, you might be pressed to think I don’t.” I swallow, pounding heartbeats making their way up from my stomach to my throat. “I believe you.” He slams both hands on the counter, the smacking sound vibrating through the room. “Then run.”
When Sarah and Julius give into their sexual attraction, the heat level is off the charts. Everything comes barreling full speed toward what’s going on. The whos, the whys, the holyfuckingshit, the OMG I didn’t see that coming. What a fantastic read, a book I wouldn’t normally pick up. I am so very glad I did. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Your emotions are all over the place. You will hate the characters, you will love them, you’ll be wary, you’ll see hope, but most of all you’ll see vengeance and redemption. A truly thought-provoking book that I still think about. It’s those kind of stories that really deserve a platform. Ballsy, smart, hot, uncomfortable, despair, and true love. Take a chance, you won’t be disappointed.
For three years, I’ve belonged to Julius King.
Some people would think being stuck on a private island is heaven, but this is my hell. Because I’m not here as a guest. Not even close. I’m a prisoner. I’m his.
Julius King. Powerful. Wealthy. Dangerous.
There are parts of me he wants that I can’t give him. When he looks at me, there are times I swear he sees someone else. And the scary part is that sometimes, when he touches me, I think he may be someone else, too.
Though my body might be tempted, and he might control everything else, I can’t let him have any piece of my heart. I won’t. But every day, the fight gets harder, and Julius manages to slip past my defenses in the most unexpected ways.
I have to find out the truth about Julius King. Even if it destroys me.
Read an excerpt.