Series: Scarlet Scars #1
Genres: Dark Romance
Narrator: Kasha Kensington, Iggy Toma
Also by this author: The Mad Tatter
Once upon a time, there was a guy who got so fed up with life that he resorted to murder and mayhem just to feel alive.
Lorenzo Gambini is bored. So fucking bored. Most people either annoy him or avoid him, afraid to face him. Figuratively. Literally. With his face partially disfigured, scarred, he looks every bit the monster the stories make him out to be: the notorious menace they call Scar. They say he's a sociopath. Maybe he's a psychopath. Whatever path he's on, people tend to stay far away from it.
Until one day, a young woman bumps right into him--a woman just as fed up with life, but for much different reasons. With a Scarlet Letter inked on her wrist and secrets buried deep in her soul, Morgan Myers is running from something... or maybe somebody. Lorenzo isn't quite sure.
You can bet your ass he's going to figure it out, though.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who stopped believing in fairy tales after her innocence was stolen.
Morgan Myers is tired. So damn tired. Most people either push her around or brush her off, and she's not putting up with it anymore. Determined to reclaim the life that had been stolen from her, she puts her trust in the last person she ever expected to: the notorious they call Scar. Morgan sees a side of him that few people seem to know—the man, not the myth. Lorenzo. And what she sees, she likes, a lot more than she thought she would.
But fairy tales aren't real, as life likes to remind her. Some dragons, you just can't slay, no matter how hard you fight them. And when hers comes back around, breathing fire, she's forced to face some unimaginable horrors. But there's a white knight in combat boots out there that isn't afraid of monsters.
You see, it's impossible to be afraid of something you see every day in the mirror.
Menace and Grievous (Scarlet Scars Duet) is a dark romance duet by the amazing JM Darhower. Her words are beautiful and her characters are flawed, bad, wrong, and oh so right!
The story starts out with an introduction to a character who is known as “the little girl”. You have no idea if this is a flashback for a character, if its concurrent to the timeline of the story, or how it might be related in any way. I had several guesses, but didn’t figure it out until JUST before Darhower shares. Usually I can see these things coming, but I hadn’t expected it.
Morgan is on the run from some seriously dangerous people. To make ends meet she sells her body. She hates it but her options are so limited. No one will hire her because they know she is being hunted by a powerful guy. She has a chance encounter with Lorenzo that changes her life. Morgan is the character who once had such hopeful dreams and dogged determination. Then, her life is stolen from her at 14. The Morgan the readers encounter in the book is what happens to a person after their dream has been so desecrated, all hope is gone. Its heartbreaking. You can hate her for her choices and question her actions, but you can literally feel her despair. Her story is depressing!
Lorenzo isn’t the white knight coming to save her. While not a ‘mob boss’ or ‘mafia’ man, he has his own criminal empire. Drugs, guns, and…oranges. With his own merry band of misfit men, he has carved out part of New York for himself in order to provide a great life to his younger brother, whom he raised. Leo (the brother) is now a 21 year old man, but Lorenzo has trouble letting go. Much like Morgan, he has his own tragic backstory. I mean, one doesn’t just decide to become a criminal for no reason. He can’t figure out what it is about Morgan that keeps him from killing her, but he doesn’t. It kind of reminded me of the Dread Pirate Roberts and Wesley. “Good night. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning”. He can’t figure Morgan out, and while normally he wouldn’t care, he keeps digging. And with Morgan, that is a lot of shit to shovel!
The supporting characters are great as well. Seven, Lorenzo’s right hand guy is a study in contradictions. A former cop who went to prison for being on the take with the Italian mafia, he takes up with Lorenzo to provide for his perfect little family. He has a wife who packs him healthy snacks, 2 kids in Ivy League schools, and is a stand up guy when not doing dirty work with Lorenzo. He is almost a father figure to the rest of the crew. Three is an adorable blonde who would look more in place on a runway than with Lorenzo’s crew. They are such a band of misfits. Five says it best when he calls them the island of misfit fucking toys. They add such dynamic interactions to the story and are developed beyond a static, background character.
Kassian, the Russian mob leader, is hunting Morgan. Lorenzo is trying to figure out why, but she isn’t sharing. The more these two spend time together, the more Lorenzo is willing to help her and he can’t figure out why. Then, at the end of Menace, he finds out WHY Morgan hasn’t left town and run, and why Kassian is so desperate to get her back. Against every rational thought in his head (and every vocal question Seven points out), he promises to help her.
Grievous picks up right where Menace left off: Lorenzo knows the secret and he is going to help. The fumble for a plan for awhile. Looking into dirty cops and calling in favors, Lorenzo is trying to get a plan together. Kassian isn’t going to sit and wait though, and eventually he makes a move, kidnapping Morgan. Lorenzo has to figure out where she is and then identify who in his crew sold her out. There is a bit more action in this book because the ultimate conflict is coming.
The love between Lorenzo and Morgan is twisted and kind of messed up yet absolutely perfect in every way. I was a little frustrated at Lorenzo in the because he pushed Morgan away and I hate that bullshit move. But, its Lorenzo and he is pretty fucked up, so its only appropriate.
Unconventional love, damaged souls, and dirty, dirty sex collide in The Scarlet Scars series and I devoured every minute of it! If you have some triggers, I suggest you check out my trigger warning in the spoiler tag below. While I think Darhower handled all of the trauma appropriately and it isn’t exploitative, this is a dark romance and there are bad things that happened.
The narrators were Kasha Kensington and Iggy Toma and they blew me away. Kasha has an ability to manipulate her voice to be anything! Her Russian accent is amazing, her ‘little girl’ voice is spot on, and her ability to give grit to the words of Morgan is perfection. Iggy has the perfect rasp in his voice to be the dirty, gritty Lorenzo. He does a great NY accent when speaking as Seven, and he does a wonderful job with the Russian accents as well. These two have quickly become my favorite narrators and I discovered they do a lot of books together! Seriously, I think everyone should check them out.
- POV: dual 1st
- Tears: no
- Trope: dark, secret identity, mafia/mob
- Triggers: View Spoiler »sweet Jesus a lot. Lorenzo was abused by his step father; he then kills his step dad and his mom. Morgan is a sex slave who is raped at 14 by a man would could be her father. « Hide Spoiler
- Series/Standalone: duet (must be read in order)
- Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »at the end of Menace « Hide Spoiler
- HEA: View Spoiler »more of an HFN, but it is perfect for this story « Hide Spoiler
…then you will probably like The Scarlet Scars Duet!
Scarlet Scars Duet