Review: Hideaway by Penelope Douglas

Reviewed by Joanna

This book has been eagerly anticipated by yours truly for two years, since the first in the dark romantic suspense series—Corrupt—knocked my socks off. So first, I should start with my standard Penelope Douglas warning. This is not a sweet and kind lovely story. It’s mean and brutish, with guys being horrible to girls, physical threats, rape threats, slut shaming and worse. The theme of these books is around the psyche and its link to the inner animal, with pursuit and aggression a key part of the route to love (for both the hero and heroine). If you can handle that you’ll happily drown in the oodles of tension and sexy atmosphere.

Now buckle up and I’ll tell you all about Kai and Banks.

Kai Mori is one of the four horsemen – a group of rich boys who bonded over bad behavior, lack of boundaries and rule flouting in high school. They reigned over the school with their devil’s night masked antics, and now in their twenties rule the business world with their multi-million-dollar shared business. Except one of the horsemen got replaced.

Spoiler for book one – Damon went rogue and tried to kill Rika, amongst others, who he blamed for the horsemen’s jail time. Now Rika is the fourth horseman and about to marry Michael, their leader.

Damon is now on the run, and providing a vague threatening backdrop to the tale. He makes the occasional menacing call but doesn’t really feature in real terms in the majority of the book, except via the hold he has on his younger half-sister, Banks.

When Banks (Nik, but she’s known by her surname) was brought by her mother to meet her Russian mobster father, it wasn’t for a happy family reunion, it was to extort money from him. He told them where to go, but his young son had other ideas. Young Damon wanted his sister, so he gathered together as much money as he could steal and went to buy her from her mother.

Then she stayed with him, unacknowledged by her sadistic father, and sleeping in her brother’s room and never leaving the house.

The sadistic nature of Damon made Banks scared as well as addicted to his control. She bound her breasts, and removed her public hair to stay the little girl. If she grew up she’d turn into the slut he warned her women became. It’s all very dark and weird. The incest threat worried me, and it gets far worse than I imagined, and not what I expected.

So when seventeen-year-old Banks meets Kai—her brother’s friend, she can’t understand the feelings she gets, the want she has for another man, and she tries to resist it, though can’t help hunting him down. Half the story is set in this past view, and half in present day (six years on).

Their entanglement in the present-day view is due to Kai’s hunt for her brother. He has no idea Damon and Banks are siblings – though why he didn’t guess and why she didn’t tell him was a constant irritation, so he takes her love for this other man as a constant rejection. His arranged marriage to another woman forces issues, all while the constant subtle threat of Damon’s return lingers on.

So our hero and heroine don’t have an easy ride, despite the startling, antagonistic chemistry.

He seemed so much bigger now. He was already tall, but I was scared, and the fear had me gauging his size to mine. He could probably wrap his arms around me nearly twice. Do it, I dared him with my eyes. It had been a fucking long day, and I was so tired, but fire coursed through my veins, never making me feel more alive. I wanted to see everything he was made of. Quiet, pondering, stoic, and reserved Kai Mori. Come on. Fuck with me.

This is a big story – 9 hours of reading time according to my Kindle. I liked the long read and the immersive world, but there were definitely occasions where the plot stalled and the scene didn’t add anything aside from a spooky atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, there are some epic scenes in this. Huge, tense and beautifully sketched. Douglas is the master of the creepy yet sexy atmosphere, and I’ve rarely read better. It’s just that they didn’t always lead anywhere. Next scene and we’re back to square one with these two.

About three quarters of the way in I worked out why. This isn’t a whole story all of its own. Banks and Kai are central, yet to the tale of Damon. Not to their own complete romance. A sort of halfway house of progressing their lives but stalling the conclusion of the tale as that’s part of another book due to come out next year.

It made me feel the tale was slightly off-balanced, but it was still very strong in other ways. Banks is an interesting character. Her junkie mother never had any money, so when she got bought by her brother she then wore his clothes. When she began to work from Kai, he bought her clothes. On the whole she was always male-dependent, but not pathetic. Just damaged and instinctual. She put up with torture (from her father), torment (from the horsemen) and sneers from people who didn’t understand her. Most of the time she wore male clothes and didn’t give a flying flip what anyone else thought of her. She was handy with a blade, angry most of the time and tinged with limited self-worth.

Kai, I was less sure about. He’d been raised with strong principles around duty and honor and seemed to spend much of his time confused about what he was. He played nice sometimes and at others acted the mini-Michael (book one’s very angry hero). I liked his tender moments, but his behavior at other times confused me.

The fourth of the original horsemen, alcoholic Will, pottered around in the background, and Alex, a student and prostitute who likes sleeping with Will, tries her best to get Banks to make herself over. And to have sex with her too. Then Rika pops up from time to time, including in a jealous fight scene where Banks lets her feelings for Kai slip via her rage. (Rika, Michael and Kai had a threesome in the last tale.) There’s a big sex scene which attempts to rival book one’s epic threesome, but the first is still the winner.

Overall I’m confused on how to rate this book. It felt maybe it had been released too soon, though the publishing deadline had been pushed back. It had more than its fair share of spelling and typo errors and could’ve done with a hard edit. On the other hand, I made so many highlights of gorgeous phrases and big emotions, it made me realize just how much I loved this world.

There’s a HEA and as it’s part of a series, I don’t recommend as standalone.

Rating: B/C

Click to purchase: Amazon

by Penelope Douglas
Release Date: October 1, 2017

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