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Seductive Shadows
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Seductive Shadows

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A Hearts On Fire Review

3.75 STARS--Marni Mann's "Seductive Shadows" is the first book her erotic Shadows series. The writing starts off well, with raw, erotic prose, angst and pain a good sense of emotional abuse with main protagonist 23 year old Charlie Williams. She doesn't know who her father is, neither does her alcoholic, cancer stricken mother, Lilly. She's been emotionally abused her entire life by her monster of a mother, the only happiness, sense of family/friendship via her best friend Emma, has been ripped away due to a horrible accident five years ago and she's numb. One of the ways she chooses to express herself is through painting, the other...through sex. And Charlie has a lot of sex because that temporary feeling gives her a semblance of feeling.

The story is told in first POV from Charlie's perspective. This quote definitely defines a lot of who Charlie is:

"I feel you color. It's extremely red, and quite loud. You're a desirous one, Charlie, and incredibly sexual."

But Charlie read like three different people in one damaged package: Charlie B.E. (Before Emma - the almost happy girl we meet in flashbacks), Charlie A.E. (After Emma's death) and Cee, the sexpot. We meet Charlie A.E. who has a seriously great fuck buddy in Dallas, tattooed and carries a torch for Charlie but Charlie can't reciprocate feelings unless it is having sex. Charlie's broke, in debt thanks to Lilly and struggling to go to college part time and balance a full time job. One night, a lady walks into Charlie's life and offers a chance out of her desperation, she'd have sell her body for a few nights each week for a lot of money.

At this point, it felt a little Alice in Wonderland-ish. I questioned who this "recruiter" was and how she knew so much about Charlie but Charlie did not. Charlie gets to be Cee for those nights. Cee is the seductress that she recognized in herself for awhile. Charlie is easily aroused, masturbates a lot (this I applaud because I don't come across a lot of M/F where female masturbation is given such a healthy perspective) and figures Cee might as well get paid for what she did for free. How does Charlie define her choice of work?

"I wasn't a prostitute. I was an artist who used her fingers to paint a fantasy and her body fulfilled it. The muse, or the canvas, but always the artist. And when I was desired by men was when I felt the most creative."

Charlie has a lot of sex, male or female, she does not discriminate. She covers her hurt with this. At this point, I got where she was coming from. The sex was so far from being emotional or romantic in any sense. It was full erotica. But the author introduces a fellow art student/ famous local artist, Cameron. Charlie does not introduce Cee to him. Cee is doesn't make love, she fucks, she owns her pleasure and makes sure to give it back to her partner.

When Cee was reborn every night, I was able to rest Charlie's pain, her fear, and loneliness. I could shut off her brain. But it wasn't just the sex I was after. It wasn't just the love and the holding and the attention and feeling of being wanted. It was being able to become someone else."

Cee is given to everyone else but Cameron. With Cameron she was Charlie A.E., her personal self, something she tried to avoid most days unless she shared through her painting. There's something that connects them, could be that he too is a damaged soul. What was refreshing was that Cameron, Charlie's love interest was not a depraved, anti-social, alpha hero, not another FSOG knockoff, thank goodness. I wish we were able to switch to his POV because I'm so curious about him.

The story became more romantic as the story progressed, secrets are revealed, friendships formed and tentative love has been discovered. Charlie learns more about herself than she thought she would, there's a sense of a thriller vibe in the latter half of the story and the story does end with a soft cliffhanger. Why did I describe the cliffhanger as soft? I expected more of a punch from the 'powers that be', they loomed but they did not make their presence necessarily known. I liked the story a lot. I plan on following up because I really came to care about Charlie and hope for her happiness.

Here's what gave me pause:

-No protection...I cringed when no mention of condoms were mentioned. I'm all for Charlie being sexually liberated but in this day and age, sleeping with all of those people, no condom came up, bareback the entire time? I was disappointed and nervous for her safety. She's a sex worker! It should have been automatic.

-The F/F, no warning. Although it was brief, a little warning would have been appreciated.

- Wetness/Dampness - Charlie was wet so much, I almost wanted to get her a bucket. At the scene where she stated she was dry...I believed it. This girl spent most of the book eternally damp.

- They/Them/The Mansion - Who are they? Why do they have so much pull? They have been mentioned to be mega-badasses but they didn't do much, other than research the hell out of Charlie's life.

- The Romance(?)- I got used to the lack of emotion from Charlie when it came to sex that when the romance angle started late in the game (the latter half of the book), I actually did not want the romance. Me, a romance reader probably for life, actually cringed. Because I didn't believe Charlie to be that girl or who she chose as her love. (Alright, I'm a little in love with tattooed-sleeve Dallas and thought he'd be a great choice for Charlie) Charlie and Cameron...eh, maybe if I squint my eyes, turn to the side, I may buy them falling for each other. But love? I will need to see how the next book plays out before I fully stand behind their relationship.

Yes, they are damaged artists who appear to fancy one another. But I wanted to smack the both of them at 96%. Lives are on the line (allegedly) and this is what you choose to do? Maybe that's where the "new adult" tie in comes in. I hesitate to describe this as new adult because Carlie might be young but she's experience so much from such a young age, she's an adult in my eyes. The sex scenes weren't as graphic as I expected for a number of scenes so maybe that can fall in the "new adult" tag.

The story is written well, interesting characters are introduced and I was left intrigued.

I would recommend to fans of romantica who like beta heroes and damaged souls." ( )
  SheReadsALot | Jun 20, 2016 |
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