This is a team review for a retro read on works by Lisa Henry
Author: Lisa Henry
Publisher: Loose Id
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Rating: Average 4 of 5 Stars
Shaw is in Fiji to sell a stolen painting to the crime boss, Vornis. It will be the deal of a lifetime, if Shaw can pull it off. But then Vornis has to parade his latest toy around in front of him–a captured DEA agent whose time is running out. It’s none of Shaw’s business, and it doesn’t matter that under any other circumstances Lee would be exactly Shaw’s type: he’s young, he’s hot, and he might even have a personality if they hadn’t beaten it out of him. Too bad there’s no way Lee is getting off the island. Too bad there’s nothing Shaw can do for him. And too bad there are some lines that even Shaw won’t cross.
Keeping his hands off Lee proves harder than he thinks, but Shaw’s not stupid enough to fall for the tortured captive of a dangerous crime boss, is he? If he did, it wouldn’t be just his job he would be risking–it would be his life.
Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices, violence, flashback to sexual violence.
Publisher’s warning: Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find elements of this story disturbing.
First of all I should reveal that I did not finish reading this book. I did read 60% and felt that I should detail why I did not finish.
The book is well written and there is much appreciated juxtaposition of lush, tropical paradise and the evil worm of corruption that lives hidden on the island. Plenty of ocean metaphors and nice descriptive passages. The plot was a different and I was interested.
The story revolves around the main protagonist, Shaw who is on the island to sell a stolen Cezanne to a crime boss, Vornis. Vornis lives in seclusion on this island, and will ensure Shaw his introduction to even bigger fish in the criminal world.
There is a great build up of tension and the background of evil and corruption is laid on pretty heavily. I am not usually squeamish, but I am not a fan of unnecessary violence and torture. The other protagonist is Lee, a young CIA man being held prisoner by Vornis and treated as a sex slave. His abuse through sexual and physical torture was too much for me, and went on too long. I had a review copy and I always go straight to chapter 1, thus I missed the warnings at the front of the book and on Amazon…my fault.
As I have said I am not particularly squeamish and do not have rape or abuse ‘triggers’ but I couldn’t stomach it. The main reason was that I did not like Shaw who was obviously going to be the love interest and rescuer. If there is going to be the kind of extreme abuse that was perpetrated on Lee in this book, I have to believe that there is something noble or emotionally cleansing that will balance this out. Shaw waited too long for me before he did something to rescue Lee. Even if it was just fear of the consequences or wrestling with his ambitions I could understand it, but in the past Shaw had already sat next to someone who Vornis shot in the head, and laughed. He had dealt with criminals, violence and abuse long before The Island, and had presumably never felt pressed to rescue or help those victims.
Being told he has a rescued dog and a friend who tells him he’s not a monster, is not enough for me to see him as any better than the men he kills to rescue, Lee. By the time this happened at 60% I didn’t care about Shaw and didn’t believe there was enough of the book left to contain the amount of therapy, and medical attention, the abused Lee would require.
If I’m truly invested in the characters I can go to hell and back with them…this didn’t happen for me here. I really don’t know the ending of the book still, and if there is some gigantic twist regarding Shaw or something then that’s great, but I don’t believe it would change my opinion.
Rating: 3 Stars
OMG…the emotions. This was my first experience reading one of Lisa Henry’s works, so I had no idea what to expect. I knew from the blurb that there would be emotions, but I never imagined just how deep those emotions would run. This story was so much more than I thought it would be. I read it in one sitting because I could not bear to stop reading until I knew the ending. I had to know that the men got some slice of happiness back into their lives. I knew I would never sleep until I had resolution.
I am not usually one for stories involving sexual abuse. I have read a few stories with this device used and usually ended up not finishing the story or rating it very low because often the authors were not careful of the victim or not respectful of the implications. However, this story was so much more than just one that had sexual abuse thrown in. The first half of this story was abuse. It was nothing but physical, sexual, emotional, and mental abuse at the hands of a criminal with a god complex.
I spent the first half of this book either in tears, close to tears, or in a state of utter panic. The author evoked such a strong connection to these men and pulled so many emotion from me that all else faded away. I didn’t care about grammar, I didn’t care about characterization, I didn’t care about backstory or character growth. I didn’t even care that this was supposed to be a story about a subject I usually hate. I only cared about two things, Lee and Shaw. I had to keep reading. I had to know what Shaw and Lee were thinking. I had to know that they made it out OK.
Because you see, the author didn’t just have a victim present in the story. She showed me how he survived. She showed me how he retreated into his mind to escape reality. She showed me how he tried to remember himself before the capture. She showed me how he still fought for hope, even when things were utterly hopeless. She gave me Lee, who utterly wormed his way into the deepest portions of my heart. I was helpless against Lee. He became part of my soul.
She also showed me how a good man can be played and forced to think himself a monster. She showed me how a good man can get caught up in a farce that leaves him no other option but to bide his time until an out presented itself. Because you see, Lee was not the only victim. Shaw was as well. So I had to keep reading. I had to see how these men kept moving forward, how these men changed and rationalized and fought for every ounce of conscience possible. And it was so hard. It was so difficult for me to see the pain and the suffering. It was horrible and I cried big ugly tears.
But then about half way, the author showed her tricksy nature and started throwing in curve balls. Shaw and Usayd were not as they appeared and HAPPY DANCE, the bad guys were overcome and killed (too quickly for my taste!) and Lee was rescued! Oh happy day. But then to watch poor Lee struggle with reintroduction to normal life was almost as heartbreaking as his torture. Because now his torture was self inflicted and innocently inflicted by those who loved him and just wanted him to heal. I know their pain because I just wanted to hold him and tell him everything was going to get better. That it would take time, but he would start to heal eventually. But that was easier said than done and the author did a great job showing that things don’t just get better because the abuse was removed. Lots and lots of therapy was and will always be required.
And to see Shaw struggle with his own emotions and his connection with Lee. How to do the right thing? What was the right thing? To him struggle against what he wanted and what he thought Lee needed was so sad. I mean these two men endured so much, Lee more than Shaw, but why? Why did they have to suffer even more? Can’t they just have their happy already? Or al least be together through the long journey back to sanity?
In the end, things were good. Lee and Shaw were both mending and well enough to take steps toward a future together. This was a long and emotionally draining journey that had such a hopefully happy ending I cried again. I cried for all these men had endured while on the island and all the endure why being kept apart when they returned home. I cried for their love and I cried for the promise that one day, they would know no more pain. This was a book that will stay with me for a long time. I may never be brave enough to read it again, but I loved it and am glad I gave it a try.
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
There were a number of thoughts that kept running through my mind while I read this book. Of all of them, “where is this all leading?” led the pack. The torture, the rape, the mental anguish, all of the uncertainty, loss of freedom and free will, where was it all going to end up, what was the goal? I’m not entirely sure.
One theme, as it appeared to me, was the idea of right and wrong and when is the line crossed between the two, where is the line to begin with. If you don’t know where the line has been drawn, whether by you or someone else, how and when do you make the decision to do the right thing? And even then, what is the right thing? And further, if you know where that line exists, do you adhere, ignore, decide to acknowledge somewhere in between? This is the mental space in which Shaw struggles once he arrives on the island and is quickly introduced to the reality of it all.
By all, I mean Vornis and his people and their way of doing things, aka torturing and raping a young man who was unfortunate as to have been caught during a raid on one of Vornis’ other compounds. They’re abhorrent human beings and yes, we do see some of what makes them so, but we’re told a lot of it instead of showing. Not that most readers want to necessarily “see” that but it does undercut the villains, lessening the level of their evil. Yep, they’re villains, there’s no way around it.
On the flip side, I will say that, we don’t know which side of that line Shaw falls, the right or the wrong. This, for me, was one of the more intriguing parts of this story.
As for the prisoner, the young man passed around like a damaged toy, he’s in the right by the nature of his position. No matter what he’s before arriving on this island, he doesn’t deserve what is done to him. It feels apparent that the author did some research about people who have been through something similar and survived to tell their tales about it. The mental gymnastics and point of view from which this young man interprets what’s going around and to him, and Shaw, are achingly presented. He definitely pulled emotion from me.
I connected less with Shaw than I did the young man. I think this also comes from the scales tipping in favor of telling as opposed to showing. I understood his nearly immediate connection to Shaw. I understood his motivations and assumptions, and what they really meant deep down. I did understand Shaw’s reactions and actions, especially at the end of the story, to a point but they felt iffy, like a way to prolong the tension. I think it was rather obvious why this young man behaved and spoke the way he did. Although, to say this whole thing was a ridiculously difficult situation, where no decision felt right enough or fast enough, easily fits the definition of understatement.
The writing had a good rhythm. There were some words and phrases repeated within a paragraph or page of each other that gave me a brief pause. The physical descriptions provided those cues that make it real: feet sinking into the wet sand, the pull of raw and roughened skin, the blades of the chopper slicing through the air.
I’ve read most of what Lisa Henry had published. Her style and abilities and taste are all evident here, if unpolished and still tinged with “new” in some places.
Heed the warnings and tags, and specific words you’ve read in this review. No ifs ands or buts that this is not an easy read.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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,
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