Story Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Sensitive reader warning: Graphic sex, descriptions of child abuse and rape, and explicit language
Mia grew up in an abusive home with a father who terrorized not only her, but also her seven siblings and their mother. She remained in that awful environment in an effort to protect the rest of her family by using herself as a sort of human shield. Then one day her father's mental, physical, and sexual abuse go too far, and Mia's mother decides it's time to do something to help her children and herself.
While Mia's mother takes the younger children to safety, Mia sets out on her own to try and create some financial independence for her family. She had received a mysterious letter inviting her to participate in something called The Claiming Games with a grand prize of $250,000. The alternative prize is that she could meet the man of her dreams and choose him over the cash. Of course, she doesn't give that possibility any thought at all. Mia needs the money, and she's willing to do whatever she can to get it.
Never mind that the man she could have turns out to be unbelievably handsome, sexy, and intriguing. Choosing him isn't worth considering, though, because her family is desperately in need of the money. And what's really not worth considering is the other guy who has his eye on Mia. He's rude, crude, and overly aggressive as he repeatedly inflicts himself on her, even though she's expressed zero interest in him.
Once the Claiming Games start, things really get dangerous for Mia. The Games aren't what they appear, and neither are the men who are involved in them. Mia must use her strength and wits in order to survive and claim her prize.
This book is an odd combination of elements. On the one hand, it has the typical romance plotline that draws you in and makes you want to see the two main characters fall in love, while making sure the bad guy gets what's coming to him. I was interested in seeing what would happen and wanted the main characters to be happy. So that was good.
On the other hand, there were story problems, character problems, and the fact that no one ever behaved the way they should have. For instance, Logan, the romantic male lead, says he'll do anything to protect Mia as she enters the Claiming Games, even though it's against the rules for the men to help the women. Logan knows that one of the other men is stalking Mia, and he knows the guy is a lowlife who has raped women in the past. Yet Logan leaves Mia alone in the woods. Repeatedly. He trusts this douchebag former friend of his to not assault the woman Logan wants. Then after the jerk does assault Mia, Logan leaves her alone again. In the woods. Without any protection. What? The real surprise would be if the jerk didn't come after her a second time.
The math here isn't complicated: 1) Evil guy is a serial rapist. 2) Mia is a pretty girl alone in the woods. 3) Serial rapist wants to rape her. 4) Serial rapist tried to rape her once, but he was stopped. 5) What do you suppose is the next step? Will Serial rapist guy just give up in defeat? Maybe give up his raping ways and go to the mall for some new pants instead? Really?
And speaking of strange behavior, why don't any of the girls at the Claiming Games mind being called "bitches"? And why would Mia think that her brothers and sisters would be safe in the care of their mother when it took that woman so long to leave her disgusting, violent, drunken pedophile of a husband? And with all those kids and all that abuse, wouldn't some teacher or school social worker eventually have clued in? Yes, they're underpaid and overworked government employees, but still….
This is a decent book if you're looking for some hot sex with a hot guy, but without analyzing the story too deeply. Kind of the literary equivalent of a fling with a stranger in the back of a truck stop. Which, by the way, this book also has.
Reviewed by Amanda