The Flesh Cartel #14: Independence Day by Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau ~ Review by Christine

As the title suggests, Mat has escaped. However, Dougie is still within the clutches of the Cartel, and Mat is the key to his brother’s freedom.

Image Flesh Cartel 14Title: The Flesh Cartel 14:  Independence Day

Author: Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

From the Publisher:

Mat and Douglas’s time as Nikolai’s wards is finally drawing to a close. Though torn apart by Nikolai’s machinations, their fates are still inextricably entwined: they’ve been sold to the same cruel master, and are united in their desire to go home. But “home” means two different things to the brothers: for Mat, their little bungalow in Nevada, and for Douglas, a swift return to Nikolai and Roger, the only people he believes still love him.
But first they must survive their new master. Smythe Hall is a twisted island paradise where Americans affect British accents and slaveboys dress up as slave girls, all at the whims of the rich and megalomaniacal Allen Smythe-Kennedy.

Meanwhile, FBI Special Agent Nate Johnson can’t let the case of the missing brothers lie. He knows it’s a waste of resources to chase ghosts down a cold trail, but after admiring Mathias “Stonewall” Carmichael ringside and at countless afterparties where he was too shy to say hello, he’s determined to solve the mystery and bring Mat and his little brother home.

My View

Mat has escaped from Paradise Island and is now under the watchful eyes of FBI agents Nate Johnson and Louise Menendez and his coach, Darryl Dickson. However, Mat’s freedom has come with a horrible price, and he is tormented by the knowledge that his little brother Dougie is in grave danger because of him. The only solution is to go back in and get Dougie out. How to convince the Feds that he is the best chance Dougie has may prove to be more difficult than he imagined.

Independence Day has an entirely different tone and feel than the previous episodes of the series. The focus is on Mat and his first few days as a free man, along with all the internal demons he faces now that he is out. The guilt over his actions as a slave and the fact that his escape will no doubt have dire consequences for Dougie plagues him constantly. The authors do an excellent job with Mat’s driving need to rescue his brother, and the lengths he goes to in order to convince his protectors he needs to be re-introduced into The Cartel as a slave are heart-breaking in their desperation. There is little seen of Dougie in this episode, save for a brief chapter in which it becomes clear that he is, indeed, in serious peril at the hands of Allen Smythe-Kennedy. Mat is quite right that time is of the essence.

Nate Johnson’s character obviously plays a much larger role in this installment. Not only is he the agent on the case and Mat’s protection, but he is also personally invested in Mat and even calls himself a “fanboy” at one point. The authors have drawn a beautiful picture of a man of deep empathy and integrity and how he struggles to maintain both as he works to protect Mat, keep a professional distance, and determine how to best infiltrate The Cartel with minimal risk.

Though short like the other episodes in this series, Independence Day creates a vital pivot in the storyline and introduces us to some new and integral characters. The main directive for Mat is to rescue his brother, and as a result there is not as much focus on the struggle of recovery as there could have been. It is as though Mat has forced all of his demons into a box to be opened later after this main task is complete, and I am wondering what that might look like in future installments. Low in violent elements, this episode allows the reader to take a breather, to stop and think critically and analytically with the characters, and to shift from perpetual survival mode into one of rescue and action.  I love that this is a turning point in the series,  that characters can now take action against The Cartel, and that Mat is now on the outside and is empowered to help save his brother.  I am anxiously awaiting #15!

Buy Links:

Riptide Publishing
Amazon

This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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