Book Review: Mastered, by Maya Banks

Photo of the cover of Mastered, by Maya Banks


Mastered
by Maya Banks

Series: The Enforcers, #1

Genre: Erotic Romance, Suspense

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Synopsis

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Breathless Trilogy comes Mastered, the first novel in the Enforcers series—a bold new direction in erotic romance that explores the games men and women play, and the price they’re willing to pay for pleasure.

What he wants, he takes with no remorse or guilt.

She stood out in his club like a gem, unspoiled and untouched. A lamb among wolves, she clearly didn’t belong. Drawn to her innocence he watched as she was surrounded by men who saw what he did—but no one but him could touch her. He summoned her to his private quarters. He sensed her fear. He also recognized the desire in her eyes. And he knew she wouldn’t leave before he possessed her. She had no need to know his secrets. Not until he had her under his complete and utter control.

What he wants, she isn’t sure she can give him.

The moment he told her want he wanted, she couldn’t resist. Instinct told her to run, but her heart said stay and walk the fine line between pleasure and pain. Though she wasn’t sure she could ever completely surrender, the primal part of her wanted to try, even knowing this man could break her in ways she never imagined. Because once he possessed her, he owned her and it would be too late to turn back. She can only pray that he doesn’t destroy her in the end.

My Review

   

 

Mastered is a suspenseful, often angsty read – simultaneously erotic, dark, edgy and mysterious – with an ultimate alpha, Donovan Drake, in the role of the ‘antihero.’ Donovan is a dangerous man, surrounded by a cadre of other dangerous men. We know very little about him, only that he owns and tightly manages a successful club by night – and deals in unsavory, shadowy businesses on the side. He’s enormously powerful, successful, drop-dead sexy, and dominant in every way. People fear him, and they should. That is, until he meets Evangeline … and his defenses collapse like a paper tent in the wind. That’s where the story begins, and it’s the conflict that keeps the tension running from beginning to end.

Evangeline has led a sheltered life, only moving to the city when she’s forced to find a job that will support the rest of her family and keep the bill collectors at bay. She works hard at a dead-end waitressing job, barely making ends meet, living in a tiny, dingy apartment with her best friends. Damaged by a disastrous, emotionally abusive relationship with her one and only serious boyfriend, Eddie, she’s turned her back on any hope of a social life, until ‘the girls’ convince her to go out one more time, just to show him what he’s missing. Like a fish out of water, she uses a VIP pass to gain entrance into Drake’s club, to see and be seen – only to be humiliated again, in the worst possible way. But not before she catches the eye of the enigmatic alpha himself.

In the blink of an eye, Evangeline is completely captivated and consumed by her attraction to Donovan, a man like no one she’s encountered before. She knows he’s dangerous — she knows better than to give in to his dark and powerful charisma — but, of course, she does it anyway. For some unfathomable reason, she trusts him, and despite her reluctance to accept his attention – not to mention his ‘offer’ of the kind of relationship she could never have imagined – she can’t walk away. She has no idea what to expect – but for once, she is willing to take the risk of giving herself to this man, body, mind, soul – and, ultimately, heart.

Over the next several weeks, Evangeline is led to explore her deepest – and sometimes darkest desires, experiencing passions and expressing a raw, unrestrained sexuality that thrills her beyond description. She eagerly surrenders to his every demand, and delights in doing so, despite her inexperience and trepidation over their relationship. Drawn by her beauty, honesty, and innocence, Drake unexpectedly finds himself falling deeply in love with Evangeline – a love that could prove dangerous for them both, in ways she can’t possibly imagine. Their relationship is powerfully erotic, but is deeply flawed by secrecy and deception, as Drake is forced to come to terms with who and what he really is – and how vulnerable he’s become with Evangeline in his life.

Is it completely plausible? No. Does it work? For me, yes. Fiction doesn’t have to be plausible. It just has to be absorbing – and I was completely drawn into this story from beginning to end.

Although I don’t usually look at other reviews before I write my own, I made an exception in this case. And while I agree with some of the criticism leveled at some elements of the story, I couldn’t help but love it. Sure, their “inta-trust, insta-love” is entirely unlikely. Yes, Evangeline can be weak and whiny, and she’s definitely too trusting and vulnerable for her own good. Yes, Drake transforms himself in record time – but not completely. And yes, you can predict that a downfall is coming, and when it does, it’s hardly surprising to see this house of cards fall apart. But how it falls is intense, shocking and painful. And then it ends in a cliffhanger that will rip the rug right out from under you.

It’s rare for a book to make me cry these days – and I was surprised this one did; but sure enough, near the end, my heart broke for this powerful dominant man and the woman who stole his heart right out from under him. After such a build-up, there was bound to be a fall … and when it happened, it hurt worse than I’d imagined. So, Maya – please bring on the sequel – I have to believe in a happy ever after for these two, whatever it takes.

Buy Mastered on Amazon …

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK

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Darkest Before Dawn, by Maya Banks – Book Review

THE ALL-NEW KGI NOVEL from the “incredibly awesome” (Jaci Burton) #1 New York Times bestselling author of When Day Breaks.

Darkest Before Dawn Cover

The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business.

Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background.

Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t…

The enigmatic Hancock has been both opponent and ally to the KGI teams for as long as they’ve known him. Always working a deep game, Hancock’s true allegiance has never been apparent, but one thing is for certain—he never lets anything get in the way of duty.

But now, his absolute belief in the primacy of his ultimate goal is challenged by a captive he’s been ordered to guard, no matter how much she suffers in her prison. She’s the only woman who’s ever managed to penetrate the rigid walls surrounding his icy heart, but will he allow his perplexing feelings for the beautiful victim to destroy a mission he’s spent years working to complete or will he be forced to sacrifice her for “the greater good.”

Author: Maya Banks  Genre:  Action-Suspense, Contemporary Romantic-Suspense

Release Date: October 27, 2015

My Review

       

This is the first book I’ve read by Maya Banks, a very popular author with a loyal fan following. Since this is the tenth book in the series, I jumped into the deep end, without the context of a backstory or any idea what to expect. That may have been a slight disadvantage, but it didn’t prove to be an obstacle: this book can stand on its own. Maya provides enough (actually, more than enough) information about the history of Hancock and his relationship with KGI to fill in the gaps between ‘then’ and ‘now,’ and to capture the complete transformation of this very dark anti-hero.

The book starts with a bang – literally. The aid center where Honor works is hit by a powerful terrorist group. She is the only survivor, barely escaping discovery and inevitable execution while everyone around her is brutally killed. Although her situation seems hopeless, she finds the strength to free herself and, although badly injured, she escapes under cover of darkness, determined make her way to the closest American outpost, whatever it takes. She has the advantage of being fluent in the languages and customs of the region – but the likelihood of eluding her would-be assassins until she reaches the border, and the fact that she is forced to travel on foot, in pain, with no other resources and no one to trust makes the journey perilous every step of the way – more so once she becomes a folk hero – one American woman in a violent, male-dominated society where even locals fear for their safety on a daily basis. A woman who has humiliated members of a group thought to be powerful enough to take over the region – a woman marked for death.

At precisely the right moment she is ‘rescued’ by Hancock and his men – at least she thinks she is. She is forced to trust him because there are no other options for a successful escape. But little does she know that Hancock’s mission is not about her rescue – she is the pawn in a game between arch enemies – and she is closer to death than she was on her own in the desert.

Their ‘rescue’ mission is fraught with suspense and the kind of violence you’d expect from the situations they find themselves in. There are so many ways for things to go horribly wrong – and sometimes they do. Hancock’s inner struggle is heart-wrenching to witness. Honor’s reaction when she learns the truth about the mission is unexpected – more than shocking, nearly unbelievable. But this is a battle, internally and externally, between good and evil – there is no room for doubt, no shades of gray. It’s gritty, frightening, and relentlessly blunt. Some scenes are so packed with suspense you may be forced to set the book aside and take a break. It will keep you guessing until the very end. It will possibly give you a good, long cry; you can’t help but hurt for Hancock and Honor.

There are times when the story takes dark and deadly turns. There are several agonizing moments, featuring deep internal and violent external struggles that go straight to the heart. For all of these reasons, it makes for a completely engaging read – once you are able to ‘get into the story.’  Its main drawback is that it takes too long to get to the first meeting between Honor and Hancock, describing the characters’ histories, actions, and conflicted emotions in far more detail than necessary. There is also a bit too much repetition of events from the past, of the inner emotions of each principal character. But, I’d definitely read it again. If you take your time and apply some patience, you will be rewarded with a breath-taking story.

I have to say, I also loved the conclusion – with the exception of one unresolved question – and it’s an important one. How did the enemy stay ahead of Hancock’s team, right up to the point of no return? Was there a ‘mole’ in Hancock’s team – or was another ‘outside informant’ monitoring their movements? The question lingered after the worst of the suspense was over. As a reader, I wanted to know exactly who betrayed them, how the team figured it out, and what came after. I don’t think I missed it – I went looking for it, but I’d really love to know the answer. (Leave me a comment if you find it!)

Will I read more of this series? Definitely. And because I now know that Guy Hancock is not the cruel, heartless robo-cop he was thought to be, I will be better prepared to appreciate him for his strengths, rather than focus on his weaknesses. The storyline was relevant and timely – it was as gritty and raw as the world it’s set in, and its characters were anything but one-dimensional. It evokes the deepest of emotions – fear, sadness, and loss. But even in its darkest moments, it won’t allow you to lose hope. In the end, story matters, and this is a very ambitious story – it takes a good author to tell it well. The story alone – especially the redemption of Hancock – makes it well worth reading despite a few flaws.

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