Tag Archive | Emotional Abuse

The S.K.A. at Carnarvon – A TROJAN AFFAIR by Michael Smorenburg

Source: Own Collection
Format: Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

It has taken me a very long time to knuckle down and write this review – much to my chagrin. The fact that it has bothered me for so long (not least because I haven’t sat down to review it) is testament to the accuracy of the viewpoints Smorenberg investigates in this book. This was probably one of the most difficult books I read in 2016/17.

The book tackles many topics – racism, bullying, abuse, science, religion, fear, terrorism, prejudice… Yeah. It’s a very complex book. And what drives it home even more painfully – even as a reader who is an English-heritage, white, Christian, South African – is just how realistic it is. In oh-so-many ways.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a Christian in the previous paragraph, so let me tackle that. For me, science and my belief/trust/faith/knowledge of/in God are not incompatible. Historically, it was Christians – protestant Christians, note, NOT Roman Catholic – who were the forerunners of today’s scientists. Isaac Newton being one I can think of off the top of my head – and I know he doesn’t stand alone. These men were free – a freedom granted by their belief in God – to question the world they lived in and seek to understand it. That is the essence of science. So. To bring this back to me, personally… For me, science has always reinforced my knowledge of the God as revealed to us in the Bible. No, I don’t always agree with the interpretation many scientists (the non-Christian ones) put on the evidence at their disposal, but by the same token, I don’t always agree with the interpretations scientists who are Christians put on the same evidence. And likewise, the fact that I believe in God does not make me fear science or, for that matter, interpretations scientists place against the evidence they find.

Simply put, I do not, as a Christian, hold to the anti-science prejudices characterised in this book. That said, I will in no way dispute that there are far too many Christians of whom the anti-science Christian characters in this book are wholly representative of. In that, Smorenburg’s portrayal is entirely accurate and extremely well conveyed.

This book is really a melting-pot of a complex state of affairs that drives the narrow-minded, racist, bullying leadership in a rural town to confront the modern world, with disastrous consequences. I appreciated that Smorenburg treated all aspects of the topics he tackled very well, enabling each side their moment in the spotlight, with a very clear illustration of what behaviour is acceptable, what drives people to do all sorts of things, and yet he enabled each party to maintain dignity as far as was possible. Not an easy task, for sure.

This book is not an easy read, as it includes some graphic descriptions of violence. That said, I would go so far as to say that it’s an important book.

 

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Hidden in Ashes by Rachel Leigh Smith

Hidden in AshesSource: ARC from author
Format: ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Childhood enmity turns to love, with one problem: his heart isn’t his to give.

Lorin is a daro, a Lokmane man trained to make humans feel special and valued. As Prime of Arkos House, no one stands between him and the safety of the daros under his care—except his mistress. The dead one, and the new one. He needs to focus on the Essence crisis infiltrating the Houses, and his sister’s safety. Not figure out how to balance his duties with falling in love.

When her mother dies, emotionally wounded Sagira Memeos becomes the Marcasian Empire’s newest High Lady. And reluctant owner of the most sought after daro in said empire. He’s her childhood nemesis, and way too sexy for his own good. With his kindness finding its way into her bruised soul, asking for his help to navigate her succession to ruling high lady probably isn’t her brightest idea.

Lorin wants Sagira. But not if he has to pay for it with innocent lives. She’s a distraction he can’t afford while the bedrock of Marcasian high society is under attack. Not to mention facing losing his sister to the man who wounded Sagira. If the daro houses fall, all hope of freedom goes with them.

An up-front warning – this book is not for the faint of heart, or those unable to deal with abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual. There are some graphic descriptions of abuse: while most action is off-page, it is discussed on-page.

This is, I think one of Smith’s gentler novels, but at the same time, she still takes her time taking your heart apart piece by piece – and at one point, she certainly ripped mine to shreds – and then patches it all back together again ready for the end.

My goodness. Nothing in the universe Smith has created ever comes easy – especially for the Lokmane. In this novel we get to know Lorin – a Lokmane daro we met briefly in Freedom’s Embrace – and Sunny, who some of us may have met as a babe in a short story Smith shared a while back. And as usual, Smith’s characters are broken people – usually through abuse of one form or another – who are trying to learn how to stand on their own two feet again.

Smith made me cry. Now, I am NOT a person who cries easily when reading books. The fact that this was the second book within a month that got to me says more of my fragile health at the time than anything else, but even then I think I would have had tears in my eyes at a particular revelation in the book. In all, I have huge respect for an author who can engage my emotions in a story that far.

I loved learning more about the Marcasian society, and it was special getting to know Lorin and Sunny. I look forward to meeting them again one day, as surely their story is incomplete.

Freedom’s Embrace by Rachel Leigh Smith

Freedom's EmbraceSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

They made the wrong choice. Putting it right requires going into a war.

A’yen’s Reign: Year Two

Taran has served Nicco, prince of Marcase, for twenty-three years. While on a fact-finding mission to Corsica–a planet annexed by the empire thirteen years ago–Taran and Nicco are kidnapped by the Freedom Alliance and taken deep into the Corsican hardwood forests.

Da’Renna, sister to King A’yen’s linked bodyguard, has loved Taran since the moment he saw her. Leaving him behind wasn’t easy, but her brother needed her more. Hearing about Taran’s kidnapping makes her wonder if she made the right choice.

With the help of a friend from Corsica, Da’Renna and her brother sneak in to find Taran. When mercenaries take her hostage, Taran must make the choice he dreads most: his master, or his soul-mate.

If Taran loses his girl, he’ll never find his way to freedom.

Note: This novel stands alone and is a great entry point into the A’yen’s Legacy futuristic romance series.

This is book 4 of the A’yen’s Legacy series, and introduces Ren and Taran, who we met briefly in book 3, as the main characters. The book is split between two stories, really, with some sections filling out the history between Ren and Taran while others follow present day events, which take place shortly after the events of To Save a Life.

It was interesting to finally get a deeper glimpse inside the Marcasian Empire and some of the problems it faces. And, of course, to get to know Taran better – ok, and some of the other characters. Ro and Varune make a significant reappearance in the story, and we see some of the more familiar faces too.

I had no difficulty following the separate story lines, and especially the historical information was useful to finding out what drives Ren and Taran in the present. And I’ll be frank; at times I just wanted to knock their heads together and get them to wake up and see the light… well, to be honest, that applies more to Ren than to Taran: Taran has a far better grip on what’s really going on.

The book is an excellent exploration of what “freedom” really is and means to different people. That, and sacrificial love. And boy, the answers don’t come easily in the slightest.

Another star turn from Rachel, and I can’t wait for the next one!

My Name is A’yen by Rachel Leigh Smith

My Name is A'yenSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

They’ve taken everything from him. Except his name.

The Loks Mé have been slaves for so long, freedom is a distant myth A’yen Mesu no longer believes. A year in holding, because of his master’s murder, has sucked the life from him. Archaeologist Farran Hart buys him to protect her on an expedition to the Rim, the last unexplored quadrant.

Farran believes the Loks Mé once lived on the Rim and is determined to prove it. And win A’yen’s trust. But she’s a breeder’s daughter and can’t be trusted.

Hidden rooms, information caches and messages from a long-dead king change A’yen’s mind about her importance. When she’s threatened he offers himself in exchange, and lands on the Association’s radar. The truth must be told. Even if it costs him his heart.

This has to be one of the best début novels I have read. The concept is impressive in its complexity, and Smith’s writing is very clear, minimising confusion as one learns new concepts and is introduced to a society and people group that is entirely alien.

A’yen, the main character of the book, is introduced to us as a slave-with-no-owner who has been kept in ‘holding’ for just over a year. We soon learn that his previous owner, and lover, was murdered and died in his arms. His outlook on life as we meet him is bleak, to say the least. Most importantly, he no longer believes that his people have a homeworld.

He is soon purchased by Farran Hart, an archaeologist in search of A’yen’s homeworld. Together they embark on an expedition to a planet on the Rim that sees to fulfil the promises told in the legends of A’yen’s people. A planet A’yen previously visited with his former Master.

What I really like about this book is that it is, while clearly being a romance, not your conventional romance-format story. While the romance itself faces challenges, the tension in the book comes from an unrelated source.

It didn’t take long for A’yen to worm his way into my heart, which made this book a very tough read at times. There were numerous occasions when I was threatening Smith with all sorts of dire consequences if I had to read any more of the book (which, yes, I DID have to read!). What that means in simple terms is that she is a first-rate author; she gets you to love who you’re meant to love and resent/hate/loathe/despise (pick your emotion) those who you’re meant to… take your pick. And I love a book with a well-drawn villain – much as I frequently wish to punch them in the snoot. While it isn’t your conventional relaxing, easy read, it is a very rewarding one. All the characters have depth, and there are even a few surprises along the way for good measure.

I appreciated the lengths to which Smith went in building the cultures, society and worlds the book depicts. Here are no info-dumps, but instead tidbits that are easily digestible and tangible, building up images in the mind.

Overall, this is – despite the tough subject matter (slavery, physical and emotional abuse) – an accessible read with a lot of heart and a huge amount of depth. There is clearly much more to this than one book, and I will look forward to each of Smith’s future works.