Total Star Rating: 4 Stars
There’s a place in the ocean, so deep, where not a single point of light penetrates through it. And for so long, I’ve been trapped there, unable to breathe. When I met you, you lifted me out of that darkness, and it was the first time I came up for air. You’ve become my oxygen, bella ladra, and I can no longer breathe without you.”– H.D. Carlton, “Does It Hurt?”
What It’s About:
The official synopsis:
Who am I?
I’ve forgotten the answer to that question long ago. Ever since I ran from that house, so desperate to escape, I left with only the clothes on my back and socks on my feet. After that day, I’ve only ever walked in stolen shoes.
Could I be a girl who is searching for the meaning of life in faceless men? They were all so forgettable. Until he came along. He took me under a waterfall and made me forget my name, and in return, I took his instead.
An enigmatic man that will only ever love the deep sea. Or rather the predators that inhabit it. Turns out, he’s not so different than the monsters he feeds. He lured me onto his boat like a fish in the ocean, seeking vengeance for my crime. Had I realized his intentions, and that a massive storm would leave us shipwrecked, I would’ve run.
Now, I’m a girl who’s seeking refuge in a decrepit lighthouse with a man who loathes me almost as much as he craves me. He wants to hurt me, but the old caretaker of the abandoned island may have intentions far more sinister.
It’s no longer a question of who I am, but rather, will I survive?
Okay readers, this is my first H.D. Carlton book before I hit up the Cat and Mouse duet which seems to be her most popular work, so I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed at all! In fact, this book is one I’d say is a great bridge into the darker themed romances this author and plenty of others are known for. It definitely had the darker themes, but I’d say it wasn’t too overwhelming for a reader who wasn’t sure and merely wanted to dip their toes into before taking the plunge.
This story is about a young woman named Sawyer Bennett who’s on the run from her dark past. She’s become a chameleon and has resorted to stealing people’s identities in order to move around and stay hidden; the first chapter is her making an impulse decision to board a different plane at the last possible moment out of pure paranoia of word of her being seen getting back to whomever is stalking her or looking for her…
She winds up in Australia and at a bar where she runs into Enzo Vitale, an enigmatic marine biologist who specializes in sharks, and things VERY quickly get hot and heavy between them…until the next morning Sawyer steals his information and gets a new credit card in his name! Dun Duh DUN!!!
Enzo’s a smart guy, and he quickly figures it out, but a confrontation leads to them being stuck out at sea during a storm and then shipwrecked on a small island with a lighthouse and it’s old caretaker…. and I’ll stop there before I reveal any more of the story because I don’t want to spoil too much for you if you actually do wind up grabbing a copy for yourself.
What happened to you does not define you. It only forged a new path that will take you to a different version of yourself. But no one can force you to walk that road; only you can determine who you will be once you get there. It’s your choice who you become, Sawyer.”– H.D. Carlton, “Does It Hurt?”
What I Like:
- The Insta-Lust! While I’m not the biggest fan of insta-love, insta-LUST can freakin’ GET IT because sometimes we don’t need a slowburn, spice right away is also a great way to have a story go! The chemistry between Enzo and Sawyer was absolutely sizzling, despite all the other things going on in the story alongside their developing relationship. The spice was phenomenal, and there were some kinks explored too that I won’t talk about, but you can find out about if you do some research! I will say though, BRAVO ENZO!!
- The Darker Themes! This was definitely a mystery/suspense/thriller type of story with even a few horror-like elements thrown in too in a few spots, and it made the perfect setting for some of the darker themes explored in this story. Without going too into detail, both main characters have traumatic pasts that come up, and the experience they have being stuck on an island with a strange man is also traumatic, this book is definitely not for the readers who prefer the rom-com, lighter toned stories. It’s as dark and gut wrenching as the ocean during a hurricane, but I’d still say this may be an easier dark romance to get into for someone who’s curious to try it out for the first time.
- Sawyer Bennett! She gets MVP for this book for sure. She’s got to be the most adorable identity thief I’ve ever run across. Even though she does a terrible thing to people in order to survive, she’s still incredibly likeable as a character and is extremely hard to not absolutely fall for!
What I Didn’t Like:
- The Slow Midpoint…Okay, so after about the first 25% of the book, it feels like the plot really slows down. This is when Enzo and Sawyer are stuck on the island and just get their bearings. It’s where their relationship takes centerstage and gets the most attention, and yes there’s spicy scenes. But everything else kind of drags…the mystery of the island, the intentions of the old man named Sylvester, the sounds they hear at night, everything else gets the slowburn treatment…If not for the spice and the assholeness we see of Enzo, I’d probably have been really bored with this book in all honesty.
Overall, I enjoyed this book as my first trek into H.D Carlton’s bookland. I’ve taken notice of how loyal her fanbase seems to be; I mean, people are willing to spend $1000+ on limited printing special editions of her books, that definitely made me curious to see what she’s all about!
I’d say this is an excellent candidate for anyone who’s curious to try out dark romance for the first time but are worried about being overwhelmed with the triggering content. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely some content in this book that some will definitely not like or be able to handle, so one last time, if you think you’re a reader who is like this….do your research on trigger warnings before opening this book.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell