Hi guys and gals.
Well, I’m guessing mostly gals.
I’m Aestas’ worser half. You can call me “Mr. Aestas”, but that makes me feel like I should be cutting my perfect little green lawn with scissors. So maybe let’s decide on a new name for me.
Anyway, I’m very grateful to you all for being so nice to my girl, even if you do steal her away for long periods of time. It’s worth it, because when she’s doing her blog thing or reading the books for her blog thing, she’s so happy. And that makes me happy, so thank you.
As surprising as this might sound, I do actually read some of these books. I even enjoy them! I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, Beautiful Disaster, Bared to You, Thoughtless & Effortless, and a bunch of other stuff.
I know, I know. They aren’t really “man-books.” Well, actually, they are definitely “man-books”, but not books FOR men. I mean, a lot of the time it’s just good old fashion hot & sexy, and I’m just fine with that. But other times… Well, you know what I’m talking about. I won’t lie; I’ve had moments where I just put down the book for a while because I can’t stand to read another steamy description of someone’s soapy, rock-hard…abs. And stuff.
But why I am writing this, instead of doing whatever stuff I normally do?
It’s a bit of a long story. I accompanied Aestas to the Book Event in Boston, and I had the pleasure of meeting several authors, including C.J. Roberts. C.J. and I had a long and fascinating conversation about writing and characters and all sorts of stuff like that, which I really enjoyed, but I came out feeling really chagrined. You see, I hadn’t read her books!
So I made a promise, and kept it. I’ve now read Captive and Seduced. I had to take a break of a few days between the two, but I started Captive at 2:00am and finished at 7:00am. Yeah. It’s one of those books.
Anyway, ever since then Aestas has been bombarded me with the same question, over and over: What did you think?
Here’s the answer.
It’s hard to put it all to words. The story C.J. has put down here is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It’s rough and raw, often painfully so. I don’t think I can describe this book. I don’t feel like it can be summarized. It’s one of those books where all you can say is “Just read it.”
And you know what? I really liked it.
CJ’s work is powerful, it’s merciless, and it really just gives no fucks. It will punch you in the gut, again and again. It doesn’t try to glamorize or whitewash the evil and the wrong, or try to justify anything with sob stories and hand-waving. It’s got so much grit between its pages I think you could probably tear out a few pages and use them to sand down a hardwood floor.
But for some crazy reason I really liked it.
I really meant it when I said these books are honest. These books make the *reader* honest. They really make you face the fact that there are no moral absolutes. They make *you* realize that the things you thought you’d never be okay with – well, that you actually might be okay with them sometimes. Given what happens in this book, there are troubling realizations. They force you to come to terms with the fact that love doesn’t always make sense. They also force you to respect the truth, make you understand that every detail of a person’s past and character is important. These books are shocking because they show how truly cruel and disgusting people can be, but they’re also uplifting because they show that anyone can change. So, just as I’d advise you to leave your expensive jewellery at home if you’re going to tour the world, you may as well leave your moral absolutes at the door. One way or another, you won’t have them when you’re finished with this book.
I was so impressed with Olivia. This girl has fire. She never stopped fighting for what *she* wanted. She went through all kinds of hell, and came up swinging every time. But at the same time, she never lied to herself. She saw Caleb for who and what he was, the good and the bad. At times, she made me feel like the weak one, reading the book. When I wanted to jump into the story and beat the shit out of Caleb, she’d find some way to make me want to give him a hug, or at least not punch him. Other times, I started to feel like maybe Caleb wasn’t so bad, she’d slap me back down and keep his action in perspective with some scathing observation about his general assholery.
Caleb is a guy who is so fucked up, twisted and broken that you’d never think he’d ever be anything other than a monster. He doesn’t have a dozen sports cars, or a private jet, and he isn’t wildly famous (finally, a male character I could relate to!), aaand he’s a complete monster (or not :/ ). He’s the worst he could possibly be, in fact, and what CJ does with the character is incredible – one of the highlights of the book. I can honestly say that I’ve never had my opinion of a character change so much.
And here’s where I tip my metaphorical hat to CJ. A lot of books try to do that kind of stuff, but they fall short for two reasons. First, they aren’t believable. Oftentimes, a bad guy becomes good with the flip of the page. The author just snaps their fingers, throws words like “love” at you, and poof! Count Dracula has become Edward Cullen, and you’re just sitting there wondering WTF just happened. Secondly, a lot of these *bad guys* aren’t convincingly bad enough to begin with to really make you impressed at their transformation. They’re all like “Well, I got a tattoo with my parent’s permission once…”, or “Please stay away from me, because I’m very likely to hurt your feelings and treat you badly” or like “Yeah, I ran over a puppy. It was by accident, but I’m a monster!” This is not what bad guys do! Bad guys hit you in the face and take your car!
But Caleb isn’t one of these wannabe bad guys. Not even close. He’s got “bad” down pat. He’s really a horrible, evil guy. And yet, by the time CJ was done, he had become a totally different man, and more importantly, I could actually believe it. It was profoundly moving to see him change, by slow and painful degrees, into a better person. Not an amazing, Disney-esque prince charming. He was just…good enough.
As a man, reading this book was especially unsettling. I mean, Caleb –is- a bad guy. I won’t go into the details since some of you may not have read these (If so, shame! Shame! SHAME! Now that I’ve read it, you have no excuse!), but he’s essentially a predator, and Olivia is his prey. He does what he wants with her, and he’s often quite brutal and cruel. I’ve got certain protective instincts, and I found myself gritting my teeth or clenching my fists at certain points.
You just *don’t* do that shit.
But it made sense that he would, and somehow CJ made it make sense that Olivia could come to terms with it. It wasn’t perfect, but who the hell has, or wants, perfect? They were a believable couple, and I breathed a sigh of relief at the ending. It was inspirational, in a very special way, to have watched two people overcome so much, in a way that felt real. I felt like, if they can do that for each other, then so can anyone else. All you have to do is risk everything for the other person, and be willing to tear yourself down and build yourself back up if it turns out that you’re the problem.
This is getting long, so I’ll wrap this up.
This book is good. Really good. It’s got an amazing central story and a powerful romance, with some thought-provoking stuff in there and lots of hot sex (yes!). Even better, it’s got a unique world populated by interesting characters complex enough to warrant their own books. I really enjoyed it, and I highly recommend it.
And that concludes my first…review? I guess it was. I hope you enjoyed reading it, or just gawking at the curious case of a Guy Who Read a Dark and Gritty Romance Novel and Liked It. Either way, thank you all, and keep reading!