Publisher: Self published
Release Date: Out now
Ash needs to make money. Her brother is going to trial, her sister is pregnant, her mother’s health isn’t great and her father is a dreamer who spends all their savings on the next best thing.
Good thing she was brought up to con people. Even better that she has always had a little bit of ‘mind magic’ as her Mam calls it.
Small cons are all she’s ever done. This time her family needs a big chunk of cash and the best way to do that is a long con.
The target? A honeypot scheme involving a powerful man running for Governor.
And the Gubernatorial candidate’s Communications Officer? Too bad he’s the first guy she’s been interested in, well, forever.
Even though politics are dangerous, politicians may be deadly.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
GILTED had all the hallmarks of being an intriguing and suspenseful read. The premise of a con artist setting up a honeypot trap with the aid of her psychic abilities in the midst of a political setting was interesting and different. However, the execution was a lot to be desired. In fact, this was one of the most uncomfortable reads that I’ve had in a long while because it delved into dark themes such as rape. But along with the choppy writing, it really left a bad taste in my mouth.
Ash and her family are gifted with psychic powers which helps them to manipulate people and embark on con games. Ash has a gift which helps to influence people with the power of her mind by pushing them into doing or accepting things as well as giving them suggestions. The further she uses this power, the darker it becomes for her so she only uses it lightly, unlike her brother who is in trouble and is facing jail for the crime he committed. To raise money for his defense and to help support her sister who is pregnant, Ash has to set up a honeytrap for her new boss, gubernatorial candidate, Charles Appleby. She embarks on an affair with him which dangerously turns dark. However, his friend and PR fixer, Lee, who is tasked in digging up any dirt and burying it, is instantly intrigued but suspicious of Ash and her affair with Charles.
While the blurb and premise was interesting, it really did not prepare me for the wtfery I was going to experience when reading this novella. I thought it would be an intriguing take on HOUSE OF CARDS meets paranormal with a good dash of romance. What I got was a horrific journey of badly written prose–which was choppy and disconnected–and poor world-building. And don’t get me started on the rapetastic plot point which this novella is centred around.
I am going to place a huge warning for rape triggers and spoilers because this book really mishandled this issue and missed the ball worse than 50 Cent’s recent baseball throw attempt, and honestly it was pretty rageworthy and fucking awful.
Ash, despite her ability in manipulating people around her, is pretty much a victim. She’s a victim within her family; her mother doesn’t give a shit about using her own daughter. and places her in a dangerous and awful position to blackmail a powerful man to get her awful murderous son out of a murder charge. She’s a victim within herself despite knowing her parents and brother do not really seem to care for her. Her sister, who was suppose to take her place, is also needing help because she is pregnant. And of course she needs to take the place of her much prettier and attractive sister who could do a better job on the con game which will involve her sleeping with Charles Appleby and then setting him up when he’s in the midst of an election to blackmail him for money.
Instead of a clear cut case of a honey trap, Ash also becomes the victim in the plot. She places herself in a position to be raped and abused, despite the fact she was aware that her affair with Charles, which has evolved into more of a BDSM relationship (emphasis on the sadistic), has taken a darker and abusive edge. She is unable to manipulate him or use her mojo to con him out of the money. Instead of leaving or ending the affair and saying a huge fuck you to her mother and brother who is to blame for his own position in life, she comes up with an idea of getting raped and abused because her sexual encounters with Charles are increasingly becoming sadistic in their frequency. She finds it is the only way she can figure out to blackmail and to get a big payout to help pay for his defense.
Let me say the rape scene was one of the most uncomfortable, awful and horribly written scenes I’ve read in awhile. In fact I felt ill because this book, despite the initial promise of the premise, was just depressing and there was nothing in the story that I found promising or positive. I also hated the fact that rape was used as a plot device like this. The message and the tone of a woman placing herself on purpose to get money for her ambivalent family was just fucking hideous.
The world-building which had initial promise was lackluster and not well thought out. It was also unbelievable that a heroine who was from a family of grifters and con artists was unable to outwit, or find another way to raise money, especially with her power. I would have thought if they had psychic power they would be more successful with their cons but they all seem to be a bunch of unlikable losers. I also was not sympathetic to any of the characters in this story. The heroine was stupid and unlikeable, and the fact she was integral to her own rape gives me mixed feelings. Especially with the fact that sexual assault is a horrible thing to go through and survivors have a bad enough time to be believed and supported in a similar situation like this. And what drove the final nail on this story for me was the hero’s reaction towards to the heroine. Lee was underdeveloped and not that heroic, especially with the way he continued to support his rapist friend. Despite knowing that she was abused and she did put herself in that situation, he rejects her–thinking their tentative relationship is another con game.
I get the the author’s intentions of creating flawed characters and a premise like this, but I hated the way the plot was developed and the fact it all centred around rape and blackmail is not good for a prequel novella that sets up a romance. I found the idea of the rape, which has the heroine putting herself in that situation, to be unpalatable, and the aftermath was not handled well. I also disliked the fact that the characters themselves had no positive qualities and this was a very poor start to a new series. This book had so much potential. The blurb and cover really perked my interest but I have no interest in following the series and I am glad this was a freebie on amazon.
I give Gilted an F