Lilith Bresson, an independent, successful young artist, is forced to travel from her home in Spain to the wild borderlands of northern England, to repay her feckless father’s latest debt by painting a portrait of the enigmatic Lady Blaine Albermarle.
On her first night at Albermarle Hall she meets Finn Strachan, Blaine’s ‘companion’, a cultured and hauntingly beautiful young man who seems to have it all. But Lilith has an artist’s eye, and a gift for seeing what lies beneath the skin. She soon discovers that Blaine is more gaoler than lover, and if the price is right, depravity has no limits.
As the weeks pass, Lilith finds that she too is drawn into the malign web that her patron has spun, yet against the odds she forges a strong friendship with the damaged, dysfunctional Finn. In a dark, modern twist to an age-old story, Lilith Bresson proves that sometimes it’s the princess who needs to become the rescuer.
Please note that this storyline contains depictions of drug abuse, violence and non-consensual sex.
Keen-eyed artist Lilith detects more than line or form with a subtle gift honed over years of training. The ability to look at a person and see things no one else sees comes in handy when she is summoned by Blaine Albermarle to commission a portrait to pay off her abominable father’s debts.
She quickly learns that nothing is as it seems at Albermarle Halle, least of all the relationship between Blaine and her handsome ‘companion’ Finn. The nefarious undercurrent nips at the tenuous control Lilith has erected over the years against her own demons.
Control. The one thing that shaped my life, and the one thing I felt I that I was about to lose
Little by little, Lilith comes to understand the horrific conditions the beautiful Finn must survive in. If you could call it surviving. He is beaten, raped, and drugged and he has no other choice. For the first time in his life, however, there is someone who doesn’t surrender to a baser instinct. She resists his initial advances and from that arises a cautious friendship.
But Blaine must not be underestimated. She always seems to be one step ahead, including orchestrating Lilith’s arrival the moment she sensed Finn’s withdrawal.
The summer I met Lilith Bresson, I had begun to die. Not physically, you understand. I had never been that lucky. But each day a little more of my soul disappeared, and Blaine sensed it.
And Blaine Albermarle never let anything escape without a fight.
The cat and mouse between Finn/Lilith and Blaine kept me on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t sleep until I knew how it would play out. I was absolutely terrified that she would concoct some outrageously demented punishment to keep Lilith captive. Though, she definitely tried her damndest. She was an absolute monster.
There are no concessions given with this story. McGowan possesses not a merciful bone in her body with regard to Finn and Lilith’s journey. Finn’s abuse is horrific, detailed, and knows no bounds. He is literally at the will of whoever has bought him for the night. Throughout the years he’s controlled his response the only way he can – through copious amounts of drugs.
As Lilith and Finn grow closer the question is no longer about her finishing her commission, it’s about saving the man she’s come to care about. And she’s willing to go to any lengths.
I’m always cautious when starting these kinds of stories. Either it’s going to be botched and I’ll feel like I’ve wasted my time, or it will be so over the top horrific that I’ll not be able to breathe for days afterwards. Granted, do not take this story lightly, as it’s not an ‘easy’ read by any means, but it does have an underlying hope that kept me reading, among other things.
Lilith’s strength, determination, and outright spunk was vastly refreshing. She had morals, guts, gumption. I loved her. I loved her brash manners, no nonsense attitude. Her cursing. The product of a whore and a nobleman, she’s such an interesting character. Which is another thing I loved about this book – it’s characters. It’s one of those that even the secondary characters are so real. They have their own mannerisms, histories, motivations. *bookgasm*
I must note, while I’m thinking about it, that I adored all of the dialogue. I’ve never, ever read anything quite like it and it added such a sense of realism and depth to the experience. <3
Finn was such a darkly layered character and McGowan expertly unfolds his past with aching honesty. God, it broke my heart. He was on the cusp of giving up, honestly, who wouldn’t be? He wasn’t the alpha male that I
may be getting tired of love. He was so vulnerable and helpless. It was a pleasant turn, to say the least. That’s not to say he wasn’t strong, because he had to be to have survived such treatment for so long. I loved his shy, sweet, irritable, sometimes protective nature.
“Go and run yourself a bath, a chuisle. Get warmed up”
“What did you call me?”
“A chuisle. Gaelic. ‘My darling’. I prefer the proper meaning, mind you.”
He gave a bashful smile. “My pulse.”
One of my absolute favorite parts in the novel were the women. I thought the fact that the main ‘bad guy’ was a women to be both frightening and delightful. Also, that the savior was a woman. She had her faults and was no Mary Sue, but she was capable, stong-willed, and smart. Way to go, you!
The quality of writing goes unmatched. McGowan conveys the depraved nature of Finn’s abusers with startling clarity that will chill you to your bones. The shocking reality is, if given the opportunity, I’m afraid to find out what most humans would be willing to do to one another.
For a while there I wasn’t sure how it would end. For about 98% I was certain all would end in tears and I would be absolutely devastated. (Even if it had, I would have rated it very high, due to the quality of writing alone.) But the happy ending, the redemption, the revenge, the massacre, the badassery, the kickassery, the SLAVE REVOLUTION literally had my heart racing.
Could they? Would they? OMG they have to hurry up! They’re going to get caught! If they get caught, I’ll die. I’ll have a heart attack right here and I’ll die! They can’t get caught. OMG they’re really doing it! It’s working. Oh no, what if someone sees them. What if that good guy, who they think is a good guy, IS REALLY A BAD GUY? THEY DESERVE HAPPINESS. — To say the least.
Needless to say, they kicked. Ass.