Reader Discretion Advised: Today’s book selection deals with some very intense and heavy subjects related to consent and graphic sexual violence. We promise that this isn’t a joke warning, and we ask that you please consider personal sensitivities before continuing any further with this review.
It’s sequel time at the Book Club, as we peek into the second offering of a story that we had a lot of strong feelings about. Full disclosure: should you choose to read this novel, you will discover that this book is oddly enough dedicated to me. While I’m over the moon with this gesture, I can assure you that we here at TehBen.com are not vested in the success of the book and will remain neutral and completely unbiased in the following review. Anyway, we’re excited to see how as readers we can be further challenged by the appalling and weirdly touching subject matter contained within this trilogy. Let’s dive deep and probe into how people can still find love under the darkest of circumstances…
Sacrifice by Sarah Bailey is the second selection in the Corrupt Empire Series, a chilling dark romance set around the unspeakable evil of an international corporation, and those that strive to bring it to its knees. In the first book, Betrayal, the dark elements came strongest from the relationship between the main characters. I’ll keep it brief: Aiden was an enforcer for the Mitchell Holdings company who, with good reason, is looking for any chance to destroy the corporation. After murdering the head of the company and their wife, he was compelled to kidnap their daughter Avery and attempt to reprogram her into a weapon to destroy the company from within. This enforcer, Aiden, is so chock full of emotional baggage that’s it’s not surprising he’s fallen head over heels for the heiress Avery. These two somehow manage to hammer out a bit of a “normal” relationship under these harrowing conditions and even celebrate Christmas together. Betrayal’s conclusion left us hanging off a cliff’s edge as Aiden whispered his grand plan to Avery, with the reader being left in the dark, and Avery left in a fit of tears, possibly breaking apart the two lovers even further. To the author’s credit, we don’t have to delve long into Sacrifice to learn the secrets of Aiden’s plan. It’s fairly complex, but let’s just say the plan would end up sending Avery a little more inside the company’s evil than she could handle. Naturally, the two poor souls of Avery and Aiden can’t stand to be away from each other, as for better or worse the one true emotion they share is deep unrequited love. Aiden says “to fuck with the plans” as he needs Avery more than he needs his plan to succeed. If these two are going to work out in the long term, they’re badly in need of some old-fashioned “normal” romance. As if it’s the strangest concept in the world, the two then decide to go on a real date and try to get a taste of the real world once again.
I mentioned above that in book one the dark elements were mostly through the horrible circumstances of Aiden and Avery’s relationship. For Sacrifice it’s more about the corporation and its evil trafficking hitting close to home for both our main characters. Maybe I’m hardened after reading the first one, but I’m happy to report I’m not nearly as disturbed for this go ’round. In book two, it’s much more clear where the “bad guys” are in relation to the “good guys.” Aiden is still a bad boy, but I can comprehend his “anti-hero with a rough edge status” now that he’s not chaining Avery in a cell against her will, forcing her to defecate inside a bucket. Avery’s development however is the shining mark of this novel. She’s had more than her fair share of trauma over the last several months, but her drive to right the wrongs of her family combined with her love of Aiden make for some great moments. Avery still believes in the concepts of Aiden’s plan, and she has her sights set on the long term as she somehow finds the drive to join her family’s company, having inherited it from her late father. There’s a spine tingling level of corporate espionage layered in with the previously introduced dark action, offering a wide range of excitement that complements the romance.
The romance in Sacrifice, much like its predecessor, takes a back seat to the story due only to the unique quality of the action and not as a mark against the passion of the characters. Aiden is still grappling with the concept of love, but the hybrid of dom/sub romance mixed with the sexual needs of the two characters equals a white hot formula of sexual content. Once again, however, I feel the urge to address a particular element of their sexual relationship. It’s based around our good ol’ pal anal sex, rebranded anew to symbolize a new level of connection between Aiden and Avery. I struggle with the idea that anal sex is a piece of the puzzle when it comes to a sexual relationship, particularly in the dom/sub variety. We’ve been shown numerous times that while not wildly experienced, Avery is not an innocent prude in the bedroom. The moments are written with just the right amount of sizzle, and the exchange of power works well to the story…but maybe there’s a new taboo we can use going forward to better symbolize completely giving yourself to your partner. This is probably a lecture I should be giving to Aiden, as given the writing style of the author, the actual character might be the only party that fails to grasp this idea.
Verdict: Sacrifice by Sarah Bailey keeps the needle moving in all facets of the dark romance expectations of the series. With hot romance and goosebump raising suspense the novel serves as a true bridge to the forthcoming climax. Shifting the emotions of the characters with the inevitable reactions of the readers is a move well made, as we can approach the meat of the story with a more calm disposition…ready to be blown further away by its conclusion. I’m far less appalled this time, but no less moved and still percolating with impatience as I wait for the final closing shot of the Corrupt Empire Series. I’m still all-in.
Special thanks to Sarah Bailey for providing an advance review copy to TehBen.com. All thoughts and opinions contained within this review are my own.
Author’s Twitter: @sbaileyauthor
Author’s Website: Sarahbaileywriter.com
Purchase Sacrifice: Amazon