Note: Title was free on Amazon/Goodreads at time of posting
Title: Where Willows Won’t Grow
Author: Lia Black
Genre: Science Fiction/Futuristic
Length: Novel (157pages)
Publisher: M/M Romance Group (July 12th, 2014)
Heat Level: Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ 5 Hearts (because I can’t give any higher)
Blurb: Undercover agent Alex Kley is a long way from home. Six months of investigation have brought him to Willow House, a high-class brothel on Omanai Station, as beautiful on the outside, as it is corrupt on the inside. Sold into sexual slavery to infiltrate an illegal prostitution ring, Alex must find the evidence he needs to bring down the leader of a powerful criminal cartel—a man who may not even be human.
Illythe, the manager of Willow House, is a long way from freedom. The jet-skinned beauty with the face of an angel walks the halls of Willow House with serenity and authority, but underneath his cold and beautiful facade, Illythe is as much a slave as any of the young men working in the brothel.
In an undercover operation, falling in love is the worst thing an agent can do, but Illythe is a mystery that Alex can’t resist.
It doesn’t take long for Alex to realize that Illythe is not in his role by choice. Yet Illythe holds the holds the information Alex needs. The more Alex learns, the clearer it becomes that when the cartel falls, Illythe will be buried in the rubble.
In the end, Alex must make a choice: save Illythe and forfeit the mission, or leave him behind in a place where willows won’t grow.
Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/Where-Willows-Wont-Grow-Black-ebook/dp/B00LR78V6U/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_3
Review: There are, in my opinion, three kinds of books. Those that you read and forget or dislike the ones that leave no real impact on you. Then there’s the comfort category, the ones you read and love, that feel like coming home. But there are a few, a very few, that are higher than that. They challenge you, evoke emotions, and leave you marked. For me, Where Willows Won’t Grow is one of the third.
This was not an easy book to read, it was not pleasant at times, and there were moments I was certain that happy would be the furthest thing from possible for the characters. I was not reading, I was experiencing. Emoting. Swept away in an unblinking, no-holds-barred exploration of darkness and, by contrast, the faintest glimmer of light.
Alex Kley is not a good man. Working undercover in the Sex Crimes division of the Office of Federation Security, he did whatever he had to do for the case. A rich kid who’d found a practical application for a penchant for partying, casual sex, and the occasional exotic drug, his years with the department had started to wear on his soul. When an extremely dangerous mission comes up, one which another officer hadn’t come back from, Alex is sent far from the reach of backup to find the elusive head of a prostitution ring.
From the first paragraph, we are thrown into the spiraling sense of hopelessness and desperation. This is not a fluffy novel, nor is it the sweet kind of BDSM where there are safe words and fantasy. It has graphic rape scenes, strong allusions to childhood abuse, and more than a little violence. But there is a deftness to the way Lia Black handles every moment. Everything has a purpose. Nothing feels gratuitous even in the midst of the horror.
When Alex first sees Illythe, he thinks of him as a dark angel. And truly, that’s what he becomes. Illythe is a captured warrior prince, broken and molded into an obedient slave by truly one of the most grotesque and horrifying villains I’ve ever read. His backstory alone had my gut clenching; it makes you love the character more the more you realize the terror of his life.
Honestly, I don’t want to tell you about the plot. I want you to unpeel it, layer by layer, as I did. This was a story that I consumed in huge gulps, completely unable to look away from the page. I will tell you that it ends, as it should have, in a way that, looking back, is the only way it could have. I shed tears at a perfect moment at the end, realizing that the author had given me, and the character, resolution I hadn’t even known I craved.
I’ve never read Lia Black before. Trust me, I will again. This is a story that, in lesser hands, would have been wretched. There is no way anyone but a master could have pulled this kind of horror and darkness and twisted terror out and yet balanced it so gracefully with hope and light.
I loved this story. The fact that it is sitting free on Amazon rather than gracing bestseller shelves astounds me. This book will be staying with me for a very long time.