Jamil al Hassan has been held as a prisoner of war in the remote desert oilfields of Iraq since the Gulf War ended eleven years ago. Jamil was kept alive for his expertise as an oil rig engineer, but has been subjected to all manner of appalling torture at the hands of his sadistic jailer. With rumors of America about to invade Iraq again, he knows his time is short. As soon as his captor is recalled to Baghdad, Jamil is a dead man.
Leila Qassimi lost everything during the Gulf War. Her husband was killed in the fighting, and her beauty was destroyed by the explosion of an enemy bomb. She now lives with her brother-by-marriage at his prison outpost. Leila yearns for the carnal pleasure only a man can provide, but which she believes will never be hers again because of her hideous scars. She finally decides to take vengeance for all she has suffered from one of the prisoners in her brother's jail, but she didn't count on coming to care for Jamil. When the time comes, she realizes that she cannot allow an innocent man to die, but what will happen to them all if she frees her captive lover?
The synopsis for Entrapped had me really looking forward to reading it, but I have to say that this novella wasn't quite what I was expecting. The first half of it made me rather uncomfortable, mainly because of how Jamil and Leila met and began their interactions. Jamil had suffered heinous tortures as a prisoner of war for eleven years including repeated rapes at the hands of the sadistic male jailer and his guards. I can usually handle quite a bit when it comes to abuse, but even though these parts had happened off canvas and weren't described in a particularly graphic way, for some reason, it still had my insides in knots. After all that had happened to Jamil, it just didn't seem very appropriate for Leila to use him rather callously for her own pleasure while he was chained like a dog. I realized this was supposed to be a BDSM fantasy and Jamil seemed to enjoy it, but in my mind, the whole scenario was at best forced seduction; at worst outright rape (the characters even admitted as much to themselves later in the story), which just didn't sit well with me. I also didn't find the prison setting to be a particularly enticing place to begin a romantic relationship.
Once the story got to the prison break, I was much more into it. The escape scenes were exciting and well written, and once they had returned to civilization, Jamil and Leila's interactions were much more tender and to my liking. Ann Jacobs seems to be good at balancing a decent plot with steamy sex scenes, and she also has a knack for writing very appealing heroes who are just the right mix of alpha male with a more sensitive side. I loved Jamil's protectiveness of Leila while also being very gentle and reassuring about her scars. Once the couple was away from the prison, Leila's vulnerabilities over her scars became more prominent too, and that along with her kindness in releasing Jamil, made her a more sympathetic heroine to me. Even with the added emotional development during the latter half of the novella, I still had a hard time swallowing Jamil and Leila falling in love, but I think it was mainly my personal issues with the way things started between them. That just wasn't my cup of tea, but if it had been, or if things had begun differently, I could definitely have seen this becoming another keeper in this series for me.
Entrapped is the fourth story in the Black Gold series. It reunites the couples from the first three, with all of them getting some decent page time. Bear and Shana (Love Slave, Forever Enslaved) even got their own love scene, and Jake and Kate (Firestorm) are seen on their honeymoon in Kuwait. I read this novella out of the Sandstorms anthology. I couldn't find good information on the correct reading order for the series and hadn't read Jake's book yet, so I should warn that there are what I believe could be a couple of spoilers for Firestorm when read the way I did it. Entrapped also introduced Brian Shearer, an American POW who was being held in the same prison with Jamil. He becomes the hero of Zayed's Gift which is the fifth story in the series. Even though Entrapped was not a perfect read for me, I still mostly liked it. I'm very much enjoying Ann Jacobs writing style and look forward to going back and reading Jake's story, as well as continuing forward with the rest of the series soon. Entrapped can be purchased as a separate e-book, and can also be found in the Sandstorms anthology. According to the publisher, Ellora's Cave, it was also previously released in a anthology titled, Captured.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including forced seduction, heavier BDSM-style bondage with chains, light bondage, anal play with fingers, intimate shaving, and intimate piercings. There are also mentions of various tortures being inflicted upon prisoners including brutal beatings, amputations, castrations (and the constant threat of it), rape and the use of a BDSM device on male genitalia to elicit pain. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
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