4 Star book review for Monster in His Eyes, romantic suspense novel by J.M. Darhower.
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve been a fan of J.M. Darhower for several years. I thoroughly enjoy her work, and find her stories to be compelling and provocative. Monster in His Eyes doesn’t deviate from that pattern, not at all. Once I started reading (at about 11:00pm at night), I couldn’t put the book down. In fact, I would repeatedly wake up through the night, read again until I passed out, and then repeat the process one or two hours later. MiHE has an engaging plot that grips you from the very beginning and refuses to let go. There are several developments and surprises that keep you on your toes, and by the time you reach the end, you’re definitely wanting more. Though I have some criticism about underlying BDSM themes, I give MiHE 4 stars and 100% recommend it.
We begin with Karissa Reed, a freshman at New York University. This is the first time in her life that she’s been away from her mother, who is actually quite reluctant to let Karissa go to school in the city, convinced that danger lurks in every corner. Little does Karissa know that her mother is at least partially correct, and that danger comes in the form of Ignazio Vitale. Karissa has a chance meeting with Naz after her philosophy class and again later on at a nightclub when she’s out with friends.
She’s naturally drawn to Naz; even though he’s 18 years her senior, she can’t keep away:
He’s compelling and chivalrous, gorgeous and generous, and I’m intoxicated and in desperate need of something…something that he stirs up, something strong, and primal. He awakens the animal inside of me.
But at the same time, Karissa knows that a monster lurks underneath his cool veneer. As their relationship develops, as Karissa learns more about Naz’s past, we find that their lives are more entwined than we initially believe.
I really like Karissa. She’s intelligent, humble, a caring daughter, friend, and girlfriend. When she loves, she does so with her whole heart, irrespective of others’ faults and failings.
And, of course, I feel a lot of feelings towards Naz. I can’t quite call him the “hero” of the story–though he often acts in heroic ways when it comes to Karissa. From the beginning, it’s evident that Naz cares for her, but his desire seems laced with malevolence.
I think this is actually what I find most jarring and gripping about MiHE–the character of Naz. He’s clearly sexy, passionate about Karissa, and completely willing to demonstrate the passion–over and over again. But at the same time, there’s this latent darkness in him, such that his ardor towards Karissa borders on frightening. Karissa says it best:
One thing I learned quickly is that Naz is a giver, never hesitating to lavish me with the best of everything. Shoes. Clothes. Flowers. Orgasms. So many fucking orgasms.
HOWEVER, the nature of how Naz produces those orgasms gets pretty rough:
His hand is on my throat, pressing against my jugular, making me light-headed as he brutally fucked me…no matter what I do, he subdues me, so much stronger, so much tougher. I can’t overpower him…”That’s it sweetheart. Fight me before I fuck you to death.”
Don’t get me wrong, Karissa is a WHOLLY willing and ardent participant. The sex is HOT, but goodness, that’s a little scary!
Incidentally, this is also the source of my criticism of the MiHE. The underlying BDSM elements seem unnecessary. It has to be possible to have rough, erotic, consensual sex scenes without inserting safe words into the mix.
In any event, Naz’s bifurcated character keeps the reader on their toes–you’re never quite sure whether you’re dealing with Naz or Vitale. And as we unravel the details of his past, we learn that there’s very good reason behind why Karissa triggers this in him.
Ultimately, I love the ending. I can’t quite call it a resolution, even though several secrets are revealed. I feel somewhat satisfied, but being the glutton that I am, I WANT MORE! I’m extremely glad that we’re still getting another book in this series—Torture in Her Soul—especially because, through the trajectory of the story, we find that Karissa might not be so gentle or innocent. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she deals with the newly learned details about her family and her future with Naz.
It’s incredible to me that Naz still wants to marry Karissa! I don’t understand how either of them can balance the love and hate that they have for each other. I also think that Karissa’s mother has more to add to the story. And Ray is clearly hiding things!
I can’t say that I’m sure how Naz and Karissa’s story will eventually end. I’m not even sure that an HEA is possible. But I’m totally on board for the ride, and I know, no matter what, that things are going to get MORE intriguing!