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Released: October 20th 2015
Series: Stripped #3
“…atmospheric, gritty, and the emotions are intense, but realistic.”
~ Under the Covers
The Stripped series by Skye Warren takes me back to my favorite genre of them all, dark erotic romance. Pretty When You Cry is book 3 in the series that also includes two novellas. Being order obsessed and being a newbie to Skye Warren’s work meant that before reading Pretty When You Cry, I tackled all prior installments….in one week. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that intent on devouring an established series that had a fair amount work already published. The Stripped series all center around The Grand, a strip club run by the mysterious Ivan. There’s nothing wholesome about this world. It’s seedy and each girl has a past, a reason why they’ve come to call The Grand their home. Pretty When You Cry is the story of owner Ivan and Candace (Candy), a woman that showed up on his doorstep as a scared 16 year old runaway. Candace grew up in a religious compound, believing she was the epitome of sin and temptation. When she lands at Ivan’s feet, naïve and confused, he shelters her from his world. Years later, a grown woman, Candy works as a stripper, allowing herself to fall into a pattern of excess: too much partying to cover up the pain. Ivan is still there, her replacement father figure, dolling out punishment as he sees fit. Nothing is really what it seems, and when a series of threats from Candy’s past surface, Ivan and his security team mobilize to protect one of their own. Candy only kneels for one man and Ivan can no longer resist the temptation to claim what has always been his. But Candy needs more than what Ivan is willing to give.
Wow, just wow. I LOVED all the prior installments in this series and Pretty When You Cry is no exception. You can read it as a standalone, but I wouldn’t. The others are too good to miss and knowing these characters at the onset, what they mean to other people, their established reputations, makes it all the more enjoyable. Ms. Warren’s writing is tight and perfectly paced. These books are all moderate in length and say what they need to without excess. They are atmospheric, gritty, and the emotions are intense, but realistic. It’s an understatement to say that these characters are damaged. Both Ivan and Candace come from unspeakable pasts, involving childhood abuse. Ivan has risen to financial success, but he’s far from pristine. There’s an undercurrent that all his dealings might not be squeaky clean. He has pure emotion, but he’s not always the good guy and this is my favorite type of character. He’s beautiful and fierce. Candace is damaged but determined, knowing what she wants, but also what she needs to grow as a person. She is a brave, and doesn’t always choose what I would have wanted for her, but it works out in the end. The sexual relationship between Ivan and Candace deserves discussion, and it’s the focus of a lot of reviews of Pretty When You Cry. The Stripped series in general dips into the taboo when it comes to sex. I would not have classified the previous books as classic BDSM erotic romance, as there are no safe words, no “tools of the trade.” But anyone familiar with D/s themes will know right away that each book portrays characters that fall into Dominant and submissive roles, each with kinks that they call their own, from a need to be humiliated and degraded to just plain dirty and rough sex. Pretty When You Cry actually portrays a fairly well known D/s construct of Daddy Dom/little. If you’ve never read this or heard of it, I would keep an open mind, to understand that those who fall into this type of kink aren’t trying to create some type of pedophilic scenario, nor are they necessarily damaged and in need of therapy. It’s a kink like any other that fulfills some type of psychological need. Candy calls Ivan Daddy, and their sexual relationship revolves around punishment/reward, with innocent/experienced roles. He is the protector and provider. If it’s a trigger for you, I’d skip this one. For me, the sex was mind-blowingly hot and unique, with pain and the taboo wrapped up in it all. There’s a hint of consensual non-consensuality that gives it a dark and delicious edge. There is a fitting and satisfying HEA that warmed my heart. I am now going to read Skye Warren’s entire backlist because I had no idea what I was missing!
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