Page Count: 358
Release Date: December 29th, 2015
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Random House)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Sullivan and Partners!)
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Breathless Trilogy comes the first novel in the Enforcers series—a bold new direction in erotic romance that explores the games men and women play, and the price they’re willing to pay for pleasure.
What he wants, he takes with no remorse or guilt.
She stood out in his club like a gem, unspoiled and untouched. A lamb among wolves, she clearly didn’t belong. Drawn to her innocence he watched as she was surrounded by men who saw what he did—but no one but him could touch her. He summoned her to his private quarters. He sensed her fear. He also recognized the desire in her eyes. And he knew she wouldn’t leave before he possessed her. She had no need to know his secrets. Not until he had her under his complete and utter control.
What he wants, she isn’t sure she can give him.
The moment he told her want he wanted, she couldn’t resist. Instinct told her to run, but her heart said stay and walk the fine line between pleasure and pain. Though she wasn’t sure she could ever completely surrender, the primal part of her wanted to try, even knowing this man could break her in ways she never imagined. Because once he possessed her, he owned her and it would be too late to turn back. She can only pray that he doesn’t destroy her in the end.
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DNF @ 27%
I'm going to preface this review by acknowledging how painful it is to write. Maya Banks's KGI series is one of my favorite romantic suspense series ever, so I was over the moon when given the opportunity to give her new trilogy, The Enforcers, a shot.
Unfortunately, I have almost nothing good to say about Mastered, the first installment. I can't bash it completely or discredit her as an author because I know what she's capable of, but Mastered is a cheap, clichéd Fifty Shades knockoff, featuring even more despicable characters and written in as equally ridiculous writing style.
Mastered begins with Evangeline (literally, "angel") stuck in a wonderfully stupid scenario: her best friends/roommates collectively dolling her up for a night at Impulse, the most exclusive and expensive club in all of New York; of course, this is accompanied by some of the worst monologues of vain, gratuitous compliment barf I've ever read:
"You look hot. And I don't say that as your best friend trying to make you feel better about yourself. I say that as another female who is aware that a much hotter female is in her territory and I'd like to scratch her eyes out because I know I don't have a chance in hell of looking as good as she does."
"You don't get it, Vangie. And hell, I think that's half the turn-on for guys. You have no clue how beautiful you are. You're all big eyes, gorgeous hair, a figure to die for and you're good and sweet to your soul. If you had any hint of interest, you'd have men tripping over themselves to get next to you. They'd treat you like the queen you deserve to be treated as, but you honestly have no idea and that just makes them want you even more."
And of course, Evangeline bats these "you're sooooo hot" statements away—the innocent, doe-eyed, clueless saint she is:
[She] shook her head, utterly baffled. "You guys are crazy. I'm a twenty-three-year-old recently ex-virgin who's as gauche as they. I'm barely off the farm and have a southern drawl that makes New Yorkers roll their eyes and want to pat me on the head and say, 'Well, bless your heart.'"
Because we couldn't just have a flawless bombshell main character; we needed a completely un-self-realized idiot bombshell main character.
This huge night at Impulse is solely for the purpose of pissing off her abusive ex-boyfriend, Eddie, whom they know will be at the club that night, to "show him what he missed out on." As if that isn't immature enough, her friends are sending her alone, via taxi, because they only have one VIP pass among the five of them. Already, this is sounding like a bad teen rom-com, because there has to be a punchline to it. But there isn't. A girl alone in a dark sex club to confront her maniacal jackass ex? At least her friends are looking out for her safety. (The sex club part is a spoiler technically, but it won't spoil anything for you because it really is irrelevant).
The owner of Impulse, of course, is the predatory, unstable, neurotic Drake Donovan, who isn't only strong, tall, and handsome, but also rich, powerful, mean, and dominant in every which way, including in the bedroom. Oooh. Drake notices Evangeline standing out in Impulse like a sore thumb (hello? She's completely insecure and alone!) and it's love at first sight. He knows she's different, worth fighting for, etc. Just by looking at her from afar.
My immediate problem with Drake was not his all-encompassing dominant personality, but his utter lack of reason or manners. Yes, he's obviously a Dom who gets whatever he wants because he knows he can, but at the expense of treating others disrespectfully and being a temperamental dickhead. Drake treats any woman who isn't Evangeline like garbage, with very little forethought that goes into his infuriating thoughts and actions. Not sexy, not cute:
"Oh, I know damn well what I'm passing on," he drawled. "And I couldn't be any less interested in a skank who throws herself at me with promises to please me when the very sight of you displeases me very much."
Normally I would have powered on, but when Drake pretty much sexually assaults Evangeline upon their first meeting—yes, first—and it's supposed to be a sexy scene, but is so poorly written that it wouldn't have been sexy anyway, I knew at that moment that I couldn't give this book more than 1 star. It was just too outrageous (unrealistic, weird, strangely and coarsely executed) for me to continue.
I stopped reading completely when Drake, upon their second meeting, offers Evangeline a magical, optimistic solution to her current woes, including a new place to live (for free), complete responsibility over her financial worries, as well as her family's, and her roommates' (since they will be short one person's portion of rent if Evangeline moves in with him, after all), AND spoil her materialistically AND give her the best sex of her life. ...What? Literally, he spits out one paragraph saying all this and I knew I was done.
I wish I could tell you that it gets better, or the characters get some sense knocked into them, or the sex scenes improve, but alas, 100 or so pages in, I was faced with the same frustrating, static story, so I gave up. I don't know how the book ends, other than that there's a cliffhanger ending since the sequel, Dominated, is a direct continuation of Mastered—which I find distressing—so I can't comment on the broader story elements, such as the climax or ending. I have very little motivation to find out however, and when I finally put this book down, I was overcome with a giant wave of relief.
I thought I was a Maya Banks fan before this—it's really making me rethink my position though // Intriguing (albeit unoriginal) plot that had potential
Everything else. Every single thing.
Here's a collection of my favorite quotes due to their WTF-ness. I stopped at three because Drake's unreasonably hilarious behavior just goes on and on and on; consider this section a preview. It's NSFW, but mostly because you'll be laughing very hard which will make your boss and coworkers very suspicious. Unfortunately, it's also actually NSFW (warning: poorly executed smut ahead) so you don't want to be caught reading this in public:
"He sat her ass on the edge of his desk and with an impatient gesture, he swept the surface of his work area clean, knocking the contents to the floor. Shit scattered in all directions and her eyes widened, her pupils dilated so that only a thin ring of blue circled the black orbs as she stared warily at him.Not only does this start off with a stock scene from any B-grade office porno, but that dilation thing just freaks me out. My pupils looked like that the one time I tried LSD, and it wasn't as angelic as the author makes it out to be.
It had taken every ounce of his restraint not to tear his pants down and plunge so deeply into her that she would feel him to her soul.
She would feel him TO HER SOUL. Because his peter's that big. Ha ha. Get it??
He was becoming more pissed by the minute, and he was seething as he stared at her. The idea of those bastards putting their hands on what he'd already claimed, fondling her, disrespecting her, had his teeth on edge, and his temper, already bad enough, was becoming overwhelmingly foul.
To provide some context, this is all in response to finding out that Evangeline works a night job as a bartender. A FREAKIN' BARTENDER. And this is literally the second time they've met, and he's already marked her as "what he'd already claimed." This dude has no chill.
A nasty "hero," a moronic heroine, unintentionally comical dialogue, and a ludicrous storyline all litter this first installment of The Enforcers. Full of clichéd scenes, overused phrases, and a completely unoriginal and unappealing plot, Mastered is not Maya Banks's best work. Not only did I find the story intolerable, but also the writing unrefined and unseasoned. I'm sure there are authors out there who could have made even this smutty, absurd plot work, but Banks is not one of them. I cannot recommend Mastered to any audience—even romance and BDSM lovers won't find much to enjoyment in this—and I'm glad I didn't bother finishing it; reading this was ever only bad for my blood pressure