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‘Maybe love is singing her favorite song in the dark, just so she can sleep. Maybe love is giving away the shoes on your feet to help keep her warm. Maybe love is coming over in the middle of the night when the power goes out because you know she’s afraid of the dark.
And maybe love is walking away because it’s the only way she’ll find the light again.’

We’ve been eager to experience more from Jennifer Hartmann’s intoxicating writing since our first read of hers, The Wrong Heart, and this weekend we decided to succumb to our desires and read two of her standalone books, Still Beating and Lotus. This review is for Still Beating, and wow! What a read!

Still Beating is a book we’ve had on our radar for over a year – the synopsis hints at the sort of story we crave when we’re in the mood for a dark romance. And if a hauntingly, poignant, heart-wrenching dark romance is what you desire, then Still Beating is a book you simply must add to your TBR’s. We do have to mention that this book does contain triggers, so tread carefully in that regard.

“Every love story is worth writing, no matter how messy it might be.”

Still Beating is the ultimate forbidden romance – compelling and addictive. This is a story that took us to a place so torturous and harrowing, our hearts felt as though they’d been repeatedly pummelled as we experienced the emotion, despair, and helplessness of Dean and Cora’s plight. Gosh, we couldn’t look away for a minute!

“You can tip-toe around your heart in fear of pissing people off or hurting their feelings. Sometimes we need to be a little selfish in order to avoid a life of complacency.”

Dean Asher is Cora Lawson’s nemesis. He’s the good-looking fiancée of her sister, Mandy, and the thorn in her side. Cora and Dean revel in teasing and taunting one another, sharing a hate, love, hate relationship that exasperates Mandy and exhausts Cora.

“Cora.”
“Yes?”
“I know I said you can go back to hating me when we get out of here, but I really hope you don’t.”

One night, they are both abducted by a depraved and crazed serial killer who keeps them chained in a basement using them for his own sickening benefit. Cora and Dean are forced to depend on one another for their sanity and hope of an escape, with a bond forming that extends beyond the time they escape their horrific experience. The fallout and trauma of being held captive, whilst trying to decipher and come to terms with their forbidden feelings are overwhelmingly emotional.

‘It was only three weeks, but it’s burned into every cell, every vein, every tainted pocket of my soul. Forever. And so is she.’

Jennifer Hartmann takes us to unspeakable lows and angst-ridden highs in a painstakingly complex relationship between not only Cora and Dean, but their families, as they grapple to understand, heal, and deconstruct the horrors and scars they carry from their time in captivity.

Dean’s pov was particularly emotional, with him being one of the most beautiful male characters we’ve read in a long time. This guy had the heart of a lion and was such a wonderfully written character. So much so, we felt very protective of him, and in that regard, we felt as though his pain was treated as secondary to Cora’s – but that could be because our feelings for Dean were so strong.

“I wish you fought for me as hard as you fought to get out of that basement.”

Still Beating is dark. It’s emotional, confronting, poignant, erotic, painful, and positively compelling reading. We couldn’t put it down! Jennifer Hartmann is a supremely talented author who holds her readers hostage, whilst taking them on a rollercoaster of emotions, and we were there for it all! We highly recommend this gripping read! And the epilogue…swoooon! <3

Synopsis

WARNING: This is a dark romance. This book contains subject matter that may be sensitive for some readers, including rape, as well as strong language and explicit sex. 18+ only. Please read responsibly.

When Cora attends her sister’s birthday party, she expects at most a hangover or a walk of shame. She doesn’t anticipate a stolen wallet, leaving her stranded and dependent on Dean—her arch-nemesis and ultimate thorn in her side.

And she really doesn’t anticipate waking up in shackles in a madman’s basement.

To make matters worse, Dean shares the space in his own set of chains.

After fifteen years of teasing, insults, and practical jokes, the ultimate joke seems to be on them. The two people who always thought they’d end up killing each other must now work together if they want to survive.

But Cora and Dean have no idea their abductor has a plan for them. A plan that will alter the course of their relationship, blur the line between hate and love, and shackle them together with far more than just chains.

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