Ruined is book 4 in Shiloh Walker’s Barnes Brothers series, and though I didn’t read any of the previous books, I didn’t feel the lack. This works just fine as a standalone.
I rarely read contemporary romance, but I’ve read an entire series under Walker’s pseudonym JC Daniels, and I like her style. Plus, this features a wounded/ scarred hero, which is probably my favorite trope. It didn’t let me down.
Sebastien is a young and completely gorgeous Hollywood actor, who is smitten with his co-star Marin. The thing is, Marin is seven years older than him; and while she feels the same attraction, she realizes that she wants something more serious than a playboy like Sebastien will be able to give. So when he asks her out, she turns him down flat, protecting both her heart and their friendship.
Then, the unthinkable happens. Just when Sebastien is catching up with an old flame, her newest ex attacks them both. Sebastien escapes with his life, but his ex-girlfriend is dead and his face is ruined. On top of that, he must deal with the fact he had to kill his attacker in order to survive. The ordeal basically ends Sebastien’s life as he knows it. He starts drinking and shuts himself off from everyone, except Marin, who never gives up on him and remains a steadfast friend no matter what.
Obviously things do progress beyond friendship, as they reach a point where they both give in to that smoldering attraction. And Walker does a fantastic job, really bringing the heat. The story moves quickly to that point, totally pulling me in. Until the great misunderstanding. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the big conflict here is less about Sebastien’s scars than the fact that he and Marin simply don’t talk to each other and lay everything out on the table. All the (important) things left unsaid drove me slightly crazy, since these two are so perfect for each other that only a blind man could miss it. Ultimately the story satisfies, but this conflict device is what bumped this down from “great” to “pretty good.”
Even with the frustration I was feeling, I couldn’t help but root for this couple to make it work. Their feelings rang true for me and their sexual tension was muy caliente. The book also gets points for interesting secondary characters. I want more from Sebastien’s brothers, especially the broody Travis. I think if I see his book coming down the pike, it would be hard to turn it down.
*ARC provided by publisher
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Shiloh Walker
Release Date: July 19, 2016