Alexander Anderson has a reputation that would strike fear into the heart of the devil himself. And now, Aria Starbird is his property.
Aria has spent only a few months as a lowly slave, but already her happy childhood memories were starting to fade under the weight of her brutal existence.
When she is sold to Lord Anderson at an auction, she cannot help but be afraid. Lord Anderson is known for his cruelty. He is fiendish and handsome and as wicked as he is wealthy.
However, as she gets to know her new master, she realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Over time, she is able to penetrate his tough exterior, and begins to understand the struggle of a man who believes love is a weakness, but whose heart is now yearning for something unknown.
As the two let down their walls and discover each other’s truths, will Aria be able to tame Alexander’s inner-beast?
I received an ARC of More Than a Slave through Inkitt in exchange for an honest review…
… and honest it shall be… My most loyal followers know I have no issues with violence/gore/etc. In fiction roam the most vile and equally the most holy. You may wonder why would I accept an ARC that quite clearly, going by the blurb, promises to be romance, especially since this genre wouldn’t be my automatic go-to area? Well… That’s a good question. I think I got sucked in by the review request itself with the promise of darkness ‘fit to my taste based on my blog’ to be delivered. I can do romance when there’s darkness involved. True darkness. And by darkness I don’t mean ‘turn off the light, darling’. I mean soul-sucking darkness. Yes, More Than a Slave delivers darkness and cruelty thus your regular romance reader after swoon-worthy ventures should steer clear. No, I’m not getting kicks off reading about torture… what normally intrigues me about dark and twisted reads are the reasoning and the surviving of that darkness. The creative inner workings of the bad and the evil dissected. MTAS didn’t quite fit the mark for me in this case.
Quick summary, everyone?
Aria’s family is in financial trouble so she comes up with a (seriously stupid) plan to go an work as a slave for Arnaud to make life easier for her parents. Momma doesn’t like it (naturally!), while daddy kind of digs the idea (greedy bastard!) so off they go. Arnaud however is as wicked as they come. No form of torture and rape is off Arnaud’s list of activities. He is a true abomination. One to hate-hate-hate.
Aria, while being treated like no living being should be treated, will still hold on to some of her fiery personality and fights back every chance she gets. This doesn’t sit well with neither Arnaud or his parents so they deem that Aria is to be publicly punished, after which she is to be sold at an auction.
After a 5 hour barefoot walk tied to a horse, Aria is noticed by Alexander who has arrived with his brother Oliver to purchase new slaves. Because he killed his previous ones. Yeah, he has anger issues like that. Enter insta-lust because the moment Alexander sees the rather battered and bruised form of Aria, he gets all googley-eyed and has basically made the decision that he will take Aria home with him.
Aria, of course, gets the worst punishment throughout which she manages to hold on to her strength to show defiance to the very end.
Alexander goes ahead and buys Aria and another slave, Harriet. Harriet is bought as a favor to a fellow lord and she’s a bit of a minx or a high-climber. Harriet’s main aim is to seduce Alexander.
Anyway, I will end this summary here because it could go on forever. A few key things happen: it turns out that Aria is the only person who can tame Alexander from causing destruction every time he sees red. Aria’s father ends up in the Anderson’s dungeon as a prisoner. Some people get killed. Harriet goes crazy. Alexander’s brothers and sister are thrilled to find out that there’s something sizzling in between A&A, because that will surely lift the ‘no love’ policy everyone has had to endure, and then Oliver tests their love through a number of cruel ‘tests’. This list is not conclusive in terms of events appearing in the book.
Before I move on to my thoughts let it be said here and now that the relationship in between Aria and her new ‘master’ Alexander is always consensual. It’s a situation of insta-feelings so Aria never does anything against her will. There is no rape involved in between those two, nor torture. Their romance is a slow developing one if somewhat of a bamboozling one for me. The majority of descriptions of ill-treatment and rape in the book are mentioned when talking about Aria’s first master Arnaud and not once is this deemed as something that was OK. (I hate the word master… ugh!) Why I mention this is that the book received a dose of 1 star ratings and strong comments from people who hadn’t read the book. I’m not down with this (even if they end up being right)- because the whole not having read the book and giving it a 1 or a 5 star rating and making uninformed comments about it (whether good or bad, ranting or raving) is beyond my comprehension. Jumping the gun, much?
On to my thoughts, shall we?
While I am thankful for Inkitt for reaching out to me and sending me an ARC, unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the book. There were quite a few reasons why this didn’t work for me, I shall not write about them all… (As a side note, this review has been the absolute hardest for me to write… its taken days to draft, redraft, delete, rewrite due to my wish to consider everything that I say to be as balanced as possible… so I apologize if it doesn’t give the full-bodied overview).
My thoughts on the book are based on my personal opinion based on my personal preferences and you are very welcome to disagree with me.
I don’t know, it might just be me, but I can deal with 1 cliché max per novel. In this case I felt the clichés kept coming thick and fast, and it made me feel like some of them were there just for the sake of using them because they’re deemed romantic or for dramatic effect. These added to the length of the novel which could have been used instead for a more in-depth look at creating that historical feeling. I understand that not every novel is built on intricate descriptions which focus on the setting our characters mingle in. MTAS is a historical romance and yet the only feeling for a historical environment I got was the fact people travelled in horse carriages and women wore corsets. Slavery, unfortunately, is not a thing of the past. The problem with clichés is also that it’s not just a scene or episode of an event, it can also appear in overly dramatic dialogue or character behavior and I simply could not find enjoyment not in the dialogue, nor in erratic/unstable behaviors. I understand these… let’s call them tried and tested ‘vehicles’, provide a certain feeling or mood for a/any book, but personally, I felt snowed under by the high-octane execution of events.
I guess, you could say that, everything is possible in books and what I think matters sweet FA (meaning you need to read a book yourself to make an informed opinion about it), but a lot of the decisions made by (adult) characters in this novel flabbergasted me. For example Oliver’s plan towards the end of the book to prove the soulmate link (more on this soon), or Alexander’s reason to enforce a ‘no love’ policy on himself, his brothers and sister unless that love was of the sibling type towards a family member. Yes, he had a reason which caused him some clinical anger issues but in my mind, all I could think of was this: cruel towards everyone else other than his family members would classify him as a psychopath and sorry, but love does not fix that specific condition. The fact that Aria keeps willingly slaving away for the family even though the secret is out about her relationship with Alexander, due to my personal point of view, made zero sense to me.
So.. the soulmate link! As you’ve gathered by now, Alexander is a destructive force on the loose. And his special brand of ‘troubled’ was fixed and explained away by introducing the soulmate idea. <spoiler>Alexander and Aria are soulmates which explain why only Aria is able to tame the whole pile of irrational angry that is Alexander.</spoiler> This idea came only into action&mention about halfway through the book so unfortunately it felt like something was needed to fill a hole and hello, soulmates. Granted, this idea was also used to explain erratic behaviour of a third character so it did come in handy. Nothing wrong with soulmates, don’t get me wrong. The notion is, of course, one of the most romantic out there, but it simply came as a surprise and half way into the story it didn’t feel plausible.
Romance implies intimate relationships… the relationship in between A&A was developing and sizzling slowly, to the tune of quite a few misunderstandings and both of their big enough characters clashing causing some yelling fests in between them after which both were apologizing left-right-and-centre to each other. I find these kind of dynamics (in any book, I may add) too unstable, at times immature, for my personal preference. The cycle in between problems and solutions for our characters were alternating simply too quickly to allow for a reasonable, mentally healthy relationship. Then again… it’s fiction, not real world, but even in fiction, mental exhaustion is not something I enjoy. The sex part didn’t happen until towards the end. There’s a lot of (understandable) insecurities by Aria and the outburst of suicidal thoughts once which wasn’t furthermore addressed from Aria’s point of view. Instead the focus went mostly back to her insecurities over her scarred self-image. Hmm…
Overall… Even though the Beauty and the Beast-like retelling with a dark twist is probably a fitting term here, unfortunately, for the reasons I mentioned above, this particular book wasn’t for me… there’s probably (apparently) a willing, enjoying audience out there for this particular type of romance. However, a word of warning, the ending of the book is equal parts as depressing as it was conclusive for Aria and Alexander.
It’s never a pleasant feeling to rate a book poorly. I believe I have reasonably stated with a few of the examples why this novel didn’t work for me. If I have failed to make my case, feel free to scrutinize via the comments. 1 Goodreads star which converts to 2 Amazon stars.
More than a Slave is published today, March 8th 2017
(Also available on Kindle Unlimited)