Sunday, February 28, 2021

Lords of Pain by Angel Lawson

 

Oh my God. I feel like I need to turn in my feminism card and maybe set fire to my search history for good measure so no one will ever know that I read this book. It's easily one of the most trashy and ridiculous things I've ever picked up-- ever-- boasting a collection of tropes that usually make me want to rip out my hair and scream. And yet... I didn't hate it? Why didn't I hate it? This book was wrong, wrong, wrong, and I read it in less than 24 hours.

***WARNING: MILD SPOILERS, TWs AT BOTTOM***

As others have said, the premise requires that you really suspend your disbelief and be really comfortable reading problematic content. This is basically the 21st century equivalent with a bodice-ripper. It opens up with a really graphic scene of non-con where the heroine is forced to blow one guy while another one fingers her. She's wearing slutty clothes because she's a cam girl on a sugar baby website for horny old dudes and the guys are all in a mean, ugly mood because one of them was brutally dumped by his girlfriend and they've all been drinking. It's ugly.

Cut to several years later and the heroine is armored in bitterness and out seeking revenge and the dudes are hosting weird auditions for a Who Wants to Be Our Gang Bang-ee contest for their next live-in whore, called, ironically, "The Lady." Because college, am I right?

Ostensibly, these are college guys but they have the emotional maturity of fourteen-year-olds and there isn't a whisper of school assignments to be found in this book. If you pick this up expecting a typical college-age romance, you're going to be very disappointed. Mood-wise, it's more like one of those mafia romances or motorcycle club romances. The men are all super aggro and sleazy and everything revolves around dick-swinging contests, one-upsmanship, violence, and sex. Speaking as someone who actually went to a pretty fancy college and hung out with some people who were in fraternities, no it is nothing like this. It needed to be said. This is more like a very intense, very smutty Japanese hentai manga take on college experience, by which I mean, it's all about the drama, llamas.

Anyway, the heroine-- whose name is Story-- goes to the audition and the dudes, Killian, Tristan, and Rath, decide they want her to be the live-in whore. So she's put in their house and given a huge contract that would make even Christian Grey say, "That's too much, my dudes." And then they proceed to construct a game where they get points for doing sexual things with Story (e.g. blow job gets X points, with bonus points if she volunteers it or if they do it in public, and so on and so forth), with the person who gets the most points winning Story's virginity as the prize. They're also in rivalries with other frats who also have their own live-in whores who are being groomed for some sort of contest and I was really confused about how this all worked, but it didn't seem to matter too much because #sex.

Also, Story is being stalked by some serial killer-ish dude who also has a hard-on for her virginity and has been stalking her since her cam girl days. Go to the police? Nahhhh. Too easy. Too convenient.

I normally hate heroes like this. I still hated these heroes but I honestly couldn't put the book down to save my precious female ego. The story was like crack-- addictive, bad for you, and liable to make others judge you for your poor life choices. I just had to know what was going to happen next. No matter how implausible the premise, the story-telling was tight. I had to know what was going to happen. I wanted Story to stand up for herself and get revenge on these fuckers... and she kind of did? One of my other friends didn't like this book because she was such a victim in this and while I suppose that's true, she did manage to get in a few sneaky attempts at revenge. The fetishization of her virginity was super icky and that's something I never really got over, which is why I deducted a star. I just... I really, really hate that trope. I don't mind virgin heroines but the way it was handled here? Super squick.

Trigger warnings are all over the place. The heroine is seventeen in the opening chapter, I think, where she gets raped by her stepbrother (oh, yeah, did I mention Killian is her stepbrother??? GROSS) and his two friends. She's also been molested and groomed by her stepfather (mostly implied, although there's one scene told through Killian's eyes where he sees something). Dub-con and non-con are scattered throughout this book and there's all sorts of problematic quotes and stuff that's misogynistic and gross. Underage drinking is also a common motif (probably the only realistic element in this college book lol) and there's violent sex, fighting, and also one scene that actually-- shockingly-- involves murder.

Also, foul language?? EVERYWHERE. Don't read this if you hate the F-bomb.

I normally don't even pick stories like these up but Namera's fantastic review sold me on the book and like her, I ended up really enjoying it even though part of me was like "oh no." If you like dark, smutty stories that are unapologetic trash and make no beef about it, this is definitely the book for you.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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