Welcome back to the Book Club! The penultimate selection in a novel series is typically where the major plot points are about to reach their tipping point. In most romance series this build up means the adversity standing in the way of a happy ending is reaching its most powerful apex, and needs to be overcome at all costs. Sometimes that means a character making a tough choice about which lover to take, or which job or town to live in….if only things were that simple here. Sarah Bailey is back with us so the only things standing in our character’s way are pain, frustration, and the notion that bloodshed will be the only solvent left to clean up a mess made by generations of unspeakable cruelty. It’s not exactly a Hallmark Channel concept, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Debauched: The Devil’s Syndicate Book Four by Sarah Bailey is the penultimate edition to the dark romance that’s intrigued and aroused in books one, two, and three thus far. Our female lead, Ash, has fallen in love with each of the four men in her new life that began under the most intense of circumstances, and the worst is still yet to come. The phrase “nothing as it seems” has been expressed by the unique family, and that continues to hold true for most aspects of their conflicts. To be most true, the only real unquestionable, undeniable element is the love and relationship of the quintet as these battles are fought. We’ve come to know Quinn, Xavier, and Eric quite intimately over the first three novels, but Rory, true to character, has been the hardest to know. Rory has experienced intense trauma since childhood, and has never really been intimate with a woman the way that is traditionally considered. In book three Ash was able to get him to open up both emotionally and sexually, but with that awakened even more complex desires, some that a lover may not be able to accept.
The sexual content, while not as plentiful as in other stories by this author, is an intense examination into the depths of Rory’s needs…and just how deeply Ash feels for him. Quinn’s dominating power, with Xavier and Eric’s unique brands of sensitivity yielded a brave new world for Ash, but none could have prepared her for what she wanted to give to Rory. There’s clearly a “rise and fall” to the dynamic between Ash and Rory. As Rory opens up about his past during scenes of gentle romance, the need to express himself with rough, verbally intense sex amplifies, progressing still further to some consenting non consent (CNC). None of their love is scary, mind you, but more like a mirror image to her first encounters with Quinn. The trust is what’s most tangible, and the reader is rewarded with graphic, intensely satisfying love scenes.
At Debauched’s core however, is the need to crush and defeat the man that raised Ash, along with anyone else that might aid in his empire. Despite my love of this author’s romance scenes, the organized crime aspect is what sells this particular novel for me. With the story being in the United Kingdom my experience with fictional criminal empires may not be exactly what’s intended here. However moments of Debauched make me feel I’m devouring a classic Mario Puzo novel, becoming intimately familiar with the inner workings of this sort of lifestyle. The violence, the savagery, the dream of leaving it all behind and going legitimate…I’m able to see this family in a new light. With everything on the line and nothing taken for granted, the questions I want answered aren’t about who’s falling in love…but who’s going to be left alive?
Verdict: Debauched by Sarah Bailey is an intense “build up” that rolls both the issues of growing a criminal empire and the larger than life love story, connecting nearly every dot. The chief love interest perfectly matches the novel’s title, saving some of the most impassioned sexual content for Rory’s unique appetites. Perhaps this was all fate, as pairing perfectly with the sexual debauchery are the most intense moments involving Ash’s past family. The issues at stake are no longer the ifs or the maybes, as the people they care about are now in legitimate danger. I’m excited to see if this quintet can keep it together, and just how much blood will need to spill to make it a reality. The darkest part of the night comes just before dawn, and I don’t yet see the sun coming up over the horizon. It’s time to stay strong.
Special thanks to Sarah Bailey for providing an advance review copy of Debauched to TehBen.com. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
Author’s Twitter: @sbaileyauthor
Purchase Link: Amazon