Russian tycoon, Viktor Maxckmillian, is on the island of Trinidad with his wife, Audrianna, and their children, when Audrianna is kidnapped. Viktor gathers his wife's werewolf pack around him to go on a life-threatening mission to rescue her, but when he finally gets her back will she be the same person he knew before?
For the second time in as many months, I'm faced with writing a critical review of a book I've personally been asked to review. As I've said in the past, this isn't something I relish doing, but I feel I have an obligation as a reviewer to be as honest as possible in expressing my experiences with each book I read. Quite frankly, I finished Do or Die feeling dazed and confused. I pride myself in having excellent reading comprehension, so until now, I don't think I've ever read a story where I couldn't really fathom exactly what was happening. Reading this novella was kind of like wandering through someone's dreams. It felt like little more than a series of disconnected scenes that lacked a cohesive flow. I easily could have been lost in the jungle of its Trinidadian setting for as well as I understood the plot. It was a highly unsatisfying read on a number of levels, not the least of which was its abrupt and bizarre ending. I read the final words thinking, "That's it?" I realize that this is supposed to be the first in a series, so I'm guessing that the story will be continued in future novellas. However, I've never read a book before, series or otherwise, that ended leaving me with more questions than answers. If this was intended to be a serialized novel, that should have been made more clear in the cover blurb. Without a knowledge that the story is 'to be continued,' I think the vast majority of readers will go into reading a romance with the expectation that it will have some sort of happy and satisfying ending, but this one certainly didn't.
I couldn't honestly tell you whether I liked Viktor and Audrianna, the hero and heroine, or not. They and all the characters in general were one-dimensional and markedly underdeveloped. Even after reading the entire story, I can't tell you much about either one of them, because precious little information is given about them. Viktor is a Russian tycoon and diplomat, but I have no idea how he came by his fortune or why he was chosen as a diplomat or what his jobs entail. He also wields supernatural powers that it appears he has suppressed for a time until his wife is kidnapped. I think he is some sort of sorcerer, but I'm not entirely certain. He is, however, extremely arrogant and scarily possessive of his wife, which isn't really my cup of tea. Audrianna is mentioned at one point to be the Chief Information Officer in Viktor's company, and at another point is said to be an amateur scientist, but I couldn't tell you anything about what she does in either capacity. She is also a werewolf who never phased, but who mysteriously summoned an energy ball that was never explained. This is really all I learned about either one of these characters. There is no backstory, no meaningful introspection, no emotional journey, nothing that really speaks to who they are, what they do, or why they do it.
The prologue made some sense, but from the moment I started the first chapter, I felt like I'd been dropped into the middle of a story and was grasping for some sort of foothold to understand what was going on. If it hadn't been for the cover blurb mentioning that Audrianna had been kidnapped, I probably wouldn't have been able to figure out even that much. The characters and situations were introduced at a rapid-fire pace with no background and little description as to who they were and what was happening. It took a long time to figure out werewolves were a part of the story, and I'm still not sure what type of powers they possessed. The action sequences were very confusing to follow. Half the time, I didn't know who were the bad guys and who were the good guys. As an aside, I normally have a fairly high tolerance for violence in books, but for me, the violence level in this one was bordering on gratuitous. The head-hopping was very distracting as well. Frequently, there were abrupt switches from one character's POV to a different character and scene entirely without any warning at all which was extremely jarring. Overall, this story was in desperate need of a lot more transitions and details to pull everything together in a comprehensible way.
As I mentioned earlier, even after finishing the story, I find myself with more questions than answers. In addition to the things I've already mentioned not understanding, I still have no real grasp on why Audrianna was kidnapped in the first place. I don't understand why Viktor didn't sufficiently trust the former military men who acted as bodyguards for him and his wife to reveal their supernatural abilities to them, or why he allowed them to go on their own rescue mission to save his wife when he was already taking his own team in. It seemed like a situation that easily could have ended in disaster. I couldn't figure out how Audrianna survived the explosion set off by the villain. I have no idea what the two bodyguards, Lincoln and Mat, were talking about at the bar in New York, who the Carlos person was that they were discussing sending to Mexico or why they were sending him, or who the person in the car was who picked them up when they left the bar. I'm even more in the dark about the mysterious, unnamed person who actually was in Mexico and blew up a jail. And last, but not least, I'm baffled as to whether Audrianna was channeling another person at the end, and if so, who, or if she simply wasn't Audrianna at all. Every one of these things have left me perplexedly scratching my head.
My last issue with the story is that for a book that appears to be billed as romance, there really isn't any to be found within its pages. Yes, there was a proposal in the prologue, but I'm sorry to say that a man hanging the supposed love of his life over a cliff to get her to agree to marry him isn't romantic to me at all. There are also two love scenes, one of which is very erotic, but again, sex does not equal romance. This story contained no romantic gestures and no tender moments of any kind. Even after Audrianna is rescued, Viktor goes around acting like a caveman, making veiled threats towards practically any man who comes near her, and even threatening her life if she ever cheats on him, not to mention, said erotic love scene takes place right after the rescue when she's still in the hospital. I suppose the fact that he went after her in the first place could be taken as a romantic gesture, but it just didn't work for me on that level. To me, it seemed like he did that more because he viewed her as his possession that he wasn't going to allow anyone else to have, rather than because he loved her deeply. I don't even recall them saying that they loved one another, which is usually an absolute must for me in a romance.
Overall, Do or Die had way too many weaknesses to be an enjoyable read for me. I could see some potential in it though, which is why I gave it two stars. There were some decent ingredients that could have made an intriguing story if only it had been fleshed out a lot more. If more care had been given to shoring up details, explaining events better, and character development, instead of leaving everything to the reader's imagination, I think this novella could have been a great story, and with those additions, probably would have been even better as a full-length novel. As is though, it felt like little more than the bare bones of a story.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations including anal sex and exhibitionism, which may offend some readers.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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