Doing it at: 68%
Catnip: Mexican Drug Cartels, Dark Romance, Dangerous Criminal Villain, He’s Basically A Criminal, Revenge, Hate To Love You, Stockholm Syndrome, Virgin
Shame Scale: I don’t even know why we’re still rating this. We’re hardly ashamed of anything anymore. No shame, even though the hero is a savage who literally enjoys sawing off people’s body parts.
What Do We Taste Like?: Seductive, more delicious than milk and honey. “I should drink you with my tea in the mornings.”
Fantasy Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, A young Penelope Cruz
For Luisa Chavez, a twenty-three year old former beauty queen, a better life has always been just out of her reach. Sure, she’s had men at her feet since she was a young teenager but she’s never had the one thing she’s craved – security. Having grown up in near poverty, her waitressing job in Cabo San Lucas can barely let her take care of herself, let alone her ailing parents. Every day is another unwanted advance, every day is a struggle to survive.
When Salvador Reyes, the depraved leader of a major Mexican cartel, takes an interest in her, Luisa is presented with an opportunity she can’t afford to pass up. She’ll become Salvador’s wife and exchange her freedom and body for a life of riches – riches she can bestow upon her deserving parents. But Luisa quickly finds out that even the finest wines and jewels can’t undo the ugliness in her marriage, nor the never-ending violence that threatens her every move.
Soon, Luisa is looking for an escape, a way out of the carefully controlled life she’s leading. She finally gets her wish in the worst way possible.
As it is, being the wife of Salvador makes her an ideal target for rival cartels and there’s one particular man who needs Luisa as part of his cartel’s expansion. One particular man whose quest for power has destroyed lives, slit throats and gotten him out of an American prison. One particular man who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
That man is Javier Bernal. And he wants Luisa. He wants to take her, keep her, ruin her.
Unless she ruins him first.
Some men were born to create empires, some women were meant to be queen.
Mary: This book was so much fun, you guys. It’s a dark romance, but it’s also really light, if that makes any sense? The hero is a ruthless savage who kidnaps the heroine and literally carves his name in her back, but it was also incredibly funny and sexy. And not in a torture pain sexy way, but in a legit that sex sounds real fun way.
M: We met Javier in The Artist Trilogy, and admittedly, Cleone and I were both strongly #Team Cam, but with sympathy for Javier – so I was looking forward to him getting his HEA.
C: Javier is a real bad man, he’s not like villain-lite or a guy who just made some bad choices, he’s damaged and dangerous. He’s everything Dylan McKay claims to be when he says he’s mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
M: This book picks up several years after we last saw Javier. He’s back in Mexico, and is now the leader of a medium sized drug cartel.
C: He has money and power, but not as much as he would like, Javier is looking to move up the ranks and control more of Mexico’s drug trade. Reading these books is making Mexico sound like a really scary place, googling cartel+violence is making it seem even scarier. You might want to safe-search your images if you decide to do that, I don’t know your level of comfort for pictures of corpses on pastoral roadsides.
M: Luisa Chavez is a ex-beauty queen, struggling to make ends meet while taking care of her parents. (Note – googling “Mexican beauty queen” is also a terribly depressing search) One day, Salvador Reyes, the leader of Mexico’s largest and most powerful drug cartel, walks into the bar where she works, asks her some really intrusive questions, and just generally scares the crap out of her.
When he asks her to marry him, she says yes, because it would allow her to give her parents a better life. And also because she’s no dummy. She knows that if she says no he’ll kill her.
C: Right, its not exactly an arranged marriage, but Luisa knows that she doesn’t actually have a choice. She doesn’t even pretend to love him, she just marries him to stay alive.
M: Life as a narco-wife was pretty awful, unfortunately. Much more awful than she expected, so she starts thinking about trying to escape. But since she has the most shit luck in the entire universe, when she finally gets the chance, she’s immediately snapped up by Javier’s crew who have been hanging around looking for a chance to kidnap her and ransom her for a drug shipping lane from her husband.
C: Luisa isn’t thrilled to be kidnapped, but she isn’t that scared either. She’s pretty much like “OH, You’re going to torture me? Well, what’s new, just another Tuesday in Mexico.” Javier and her men seem less sadistic than her husband and staying with them is kind of a really messed up vacation.
M: You’ve got to read this book for the rest of the plot, that’s all we’re giving you, but lets talk about how ridiculously hot we found Javier, and how ridiculous it was that we thought this.
“There are rumors, you know.”
“About me?” I asked simply.
More nervous gestures. “Yes.”
“Are they about how large my dick is?”
Relief washed over his face, and he managed a laugh. “Not really.”
“Too bad. It’s true, you know. About my dick.”
C: I was surprised by how funny and likable Halle managed to make Javier, while never letting us forget that he was a psychopath. I started my journey into her books with The Pact, so to me this was a whole new side of her writing. After reading Dirty Angels I was not terribly surprised that she got her start in horror. This book is intense. And yet, still has some really funny moments. Much needed levity.
I watched as the cold drops of condensation ran down the side, heading straight for the fine finish. I reached over and quickly slid a thin coaster under it before it was too late. My desk had been abused with too much scotch and cum last night as it was.
M: And sexy, in that way that Karina Halle manages to nail every goddamn time. Like really, get out of my brain.
C: He was also kind of chivalrous in his way, he wasn’t going to rape Luisa, he wanted her to want to submit to him, and he wanted to give her lots and lots of pleasure. Pleasure that she’s never had before. For me the most unbelievable part of this book was that Luisa had never self-stimulated herself over the edge. What was she doing with her youth? Javier is a very eager partner in teaching her what sex is supposed to be like.
M: So it’s easy to see why we’re panting over this guy right? Now lets talk about how fucking creepy he is. He chops people’s body parts off and pisses in the wounds. I think he’s actually the most horrible dark hero we’ve ever read.
Sawing off body parts, just something we do from time to time.
C: Javier is DEFINITELY the darkest “hero” we’ve come across and still rooted for and felt tingly for. I don’t know how its possible for us to find him hot after the things he’s done. But we do, We Like What We Like.
“They’ll have a cooler with them. There’s what looks like a head of lettuce in there. Can you put it in your freezer at home? I want it there for safe-keeping.”
“Is it a head of lettuce?”
“It’s something I promised to get.” I cleared my throat. “A gift. But for fuck’s sake, don’t peek at it.”
M: “Hey sis, just stick this head in your freezer for me, will ya?”
C: He keeps his promises! That’s hot, I remember thinking that was hot when I read Sins and Needles, too. Not enough men nowadays take promises seriously. He has a code. It’s a criminal code, but still a code.
Luisa is feisty and has an interesting character progression, she refuses to be broken, until something very awful happens (I mean besides the basic awfulness of being married to a sadist and then kidnapped by his enemy) and she realizes that maybe she isn’t above the violence after all. The more twisty her moral code becomes, the more Javier likes her, and the more invested I became with them as a couple.
M: I loved Luisa. She goes from nervous virgin, to the kind of girl who sees horrible things done to bad people, and is just like, “GOOD.”
C: Dirty Angels is not the book we would recommend to a friend looking to maybe dip a toe into romance. It is a dark read, that maybe WE shouldn’t even like as much as we do. Halle is currently writing the final installment in the trilogy and since we semi-stalk her on social media, we have seen a lot of updates from her talking about how hard Dirty Promises is to write. Considering how dark this book is, I’m almost afraid to find out what her idea of actual darkness entails, but I’m also intrigued. More Javier, more Luisa, more violence and sex? Yes, please.
M: This book was dark, but it was also incredibly funny, I’m hoping that Dirty Promises manages to hold on to that humor, even if it’s going in the dark direction we’re anticipating.
Plus, this book gave us a new gem to add to our favorite romance lines list, which is always a bonus:
I lay there, writhing, moaning. It was like being Tasered but only with pleasure.
C: If you think you’d like to read some Halle (and you SHOULD) but think this might be too much for you try Racing the Sun, The Pact, The Offer, or Where Sea Meets Sky, all lighter lovely romances. Her books take place all over the globe and she’s made us swoon in any language.
Check it out: