But he can’t afford to be distracted by red hair and a spitfire mouth. Not when lives depend on the blasphemous vows he took.
But when the powers that be force him to taste that forbidden fruit, his resolve goes straight to hell in a Mason jar, and he soon has to choose between the woman he loves and the woman who owns him. Between bright, sweet rebellion and the cold, gray bleakness of the deal he made. And either choice will likely end in blood and misery.
Because there ain’t no law in the holler. There’s only living and dying.
Because I know that some people use the word “hillbilly” as a derogatory term, for the purposes of this review, I’ll be using the acronym PWLOTG (People Who Live Off the Grid). This term describes folks who live completely apart from modern society, in the Appalachian mountains, in communities where they’ve developed their own set of rules/punishments/justice system.
I confess that I’ve had a little bit of a phobia about PWLOTG ever since Deliverance, even though I know that movie was set in Georgia. Doesn’t matter. It freaked me the hell out. I even struggled to watch Next of Kin, because despite my mad love for Patrick Swayze (may he rest in peace) and Liam Neeson, seeing the PWLOTG way of life onscreen just made me...edgy (as did Neeson’s terrible attempt at a Southern accent). I kept expecting Liam Neeson to tell the villain he had a pretty mouth. (Shudders)
So, anyhoo, why did I agree to read this book? Honestly? The author is a sweet, talented lady, and I thought that if anyone can get me over my phobia, it’s her. And she did...mostly.
This is a gritty story, folks. Gritty, bleak and dark. The “holler” is a horrible place where horrible people live in abject poverty, dependent on the profits of a tyrant’s moonshine operation.
The protagonists, Merle and Cherry, are not horrible people. They’re good people in a terrible situation (many terrible situations, actually). The attraction between them is immediate, and to their own detriment, they give in. The erotica aspect of the story is believeable. The love is of the “a little too fast to be realistic” variety, but that’s OK because I tend to expect that in a novella. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you want tons of character development, don’t read novellas.
The writing is great, the dialogue realistic, the setting described so beautifully you feel like you’re right there with the characters. I rooted for the protagonists and hated the villains. So why not a 5-star rating?
The ending can’t even really be considered a HFN (happy for now), because you just know the villains aren’t going to give up so easily, and Merle and Cherry are still stuck in that God forsaken holler. It’s a series, so I’m sure that resolution comes in future installments, but I hated the villains enough that it was a huge letdown when they didn’t die. And no, nothing short of death will appease me for these villains. They. Must. Die.
So, if you’re looking for a gritty, complicated, dark, erotic story set in an unexpected place, give this one a try. If you have a fear of PWLOTG, you might want to skip it. If you’re unsure, read the warning from the author on the book’s Amazon page. She lays it out pretty clearly.
Trigger warnings: rape (female character blackmailed into performing sexual favors, not by the hero), abuse (mild but non-consensual spanking).
Full disclosure: we were graciously given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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