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Book Review: Scars, by Dana Isaly

I picked up a copy of Scars (by Dana Isaly) as an Amazon freebie. Well, I picked up a copy of The Triad series.
Scars cover

My family hired someone to kill me. One day I was the sole inheritor of my family’s fortune. The next I was diving out my bedroom window, leaving everything behind. I’ve been hiding for years, successfully outrunning my demons. I was getting by, making a life of my own. Until the Triad came for me. Dangerous. Wealthy. Corrupt. The Triad run this city. And they think I’m the key to getting my family out of their way. The plan is to exchange me for a truce. But if I go back, I’m as good as dead. Convincing them to keep me is my only chance of survival. They have no clue just how valuable I can be. I am so much more than they bargained for.

my review

This book was not a winner for me. I think the fact that I own all three books in the series and am stopping after this first one should tell you a lot. I am not a person who likes to leave things unfinished, especially when confronted with a cliffhanger. But I’m just not invested enough to continue. There are a couple of reasons for this. Before I get to them, let me give a positive and say the mechanical writing seems fine. It’s perfectly readable.

Now, the reasons this didn’t work for me: to start with—and not entirely the fault of the book—have you ever accidentally picked up two books that were just too similar too closely together? I read Den of Vipers last week. So, when I started Scars, I very quickly realized that it is very, very, very similar. That timing isn’t Scars’ fault, but one does have to ask why it so so very, very, very similar.

What’s worse, when I went to investigate on Goodreads, I found allegations that this is a rip-off of not Den of Vipers but Sarah Bailey‘s Four Horsemen series (which I have not read). I don’t know which derivation came first (and I suspect this is all old news in the book world), but I do know it’s at least one too many.

Second, I don’t have a problem with PWP. But there being 3 books in this series suggests that it isn’t actually supposed to be porn without plot. Otherwise, what is carrying over into multiple books? But this moves so quickly, develops so little, and gives the characters so little depth that it felt like a waste of my time. (It felt like Isaly decided she didn’t need to give us any more than an outline because we’ve all read the story so many times already that the reader is expected to be able to just flesh it out on their own.)

Third, the sex. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable for me. I don’t want to kink shame anyone who is into such things, but I found the spitting and lack of respect very offputting. The spitting I will just let stand with ‘yuck.’ But the lack of respect I want a word about. I am well aware that humiliation kink is a thing, and it’s super common in this genre. But when characters have known each other less than a day, have had no conversation, and the reader is given no reason to believe the man involved knows the woman’s preferences, all it feels like is internalized misogyny served up with pick-me garnish. It’s not sexy.

Similarly, and maybe more importantly, the love is so instant that I couldn’t figure out how (as a reader) I was supposed to believe that Scarlet was anything more than any of the other dismissable women the men had shared in the past. How, after 48 or so hours, I’m supposed to believe she’s the one, based on…………….

Lastly, a list of more minor points; there just isn’t any finesse or nuance here. Isaly just tosses it all out on the table and expects us to be grateful for it. The Triad of the series title does not scars photorefer to the Chinese mafia but rather to the fact that there are three men. (The choice of name makes me wonder if Isaly simply didn’t do enough research to realize it already has real-world associations.) The book is supposed to be set in England (I think); one of the men has a Yorkshire accent, for example. But I got no sense of place from the book’s setting, speech patterns, etc.

All in all, I think the safest thing for me right now is simply to set this series aside and back away slowly.

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