Darker Shades (House of Skin #0.5) & When Sinners Fall (House of Skin #1)
Spoiler-Free Review

Darker Shades (Novella) Synopsis

The world is evil.
I know that better than most men, but I never understood its true face until I let them in my club and struck a deal. The Cortez brothers brought money and allegiance. All I had to do was agree and do as I was told. But Cortez was a monster I hadn’t fully understood. And I wasn’t prepared for one of the girls. She was spice and ire. Attitude and fire. With a body to kill for.
Yeah, my conscience got involved.
Or maybe it was my heart

 

Our Review

We’re no strangers to dark, disturbing effed-up romances with their anti-heroes, but this is our first time with Hart De Lune, which is writing partners, Charlotte E. Hart & Rachel De Lune. We were advised to read Darker Shades first which is the prequel in their new House of Skin series, and we’re so glad we did. We can’t say we were prepared for the journey we embarked upon because it’s been a while since our last dip into the darkness but wow what a return we made with these Authors. This series is horrifically disturbing, confronting, and violent, so be aware that it has many triggers. It‘s compelling and ridiculously addictive too. It’s not easy to read at times but we couldn’t look away.

‘I’ve made my bed. I’m lying in it until I decide if I should get the hell out.’

Darker Shades tested us however we didn’t realise how much until we started When Sinners Fall. We knew nothing about this prequel so when we realised who, what and why we were literally left gobsmacked. It’s a true testament to an Author’s fabulous writing skills when their character development, depth of story, and showing but not telling means you can suspend all your real-life morals and beliefs and purely live in a fictional world that begins on the first page and ends on the last. The duo of Hart De Lune did just that!

‘This man has to trust me. He has to think I’m special – something to him – or he might not help us. He still might not, but at least this way I can say I tried everything to save us.’

In Darker Shades we meet Jackson Reed, head of a crime syndicate in London. Having ‘teamed’ up with the Cortez family; a family that’ll have even the most hardened dark romance reader balk at the ‘effed up-ness,’ Reed must prove his standing and professionalism in their dark world. We didn’t know much about Reed, but it was obvious he was no stranger to extreme violence and the seedier inhumane side of crime and debauchery. Until coming upon Naja, and her sister Mira, Reed had no scruples, much like the Cortez family. Well, that is unless it harms a hair on a loved one. This prequel serves as a dark sinister snapshot of what came before and sets up the series about the Cortez brothers.

‘I smiled from afar and kept myself well the fuck away from something I knew I would ruin. Might be the only good thing I’ve done with my life. And I sure as hell don’t need her back here, now I’m who I am because of that past.’

We meet Dante ‘Dragon’ Cortez in Darker Shades and hand on heart we weren’t sure how we’d feel about him in When Sinners Fall. He certainly wasn’t on our Christmas card list when we began his story. But in this alternative dark romance, his story and character are riveting, and we could see how he got where he ended up. No excuses, and no remorse, Dante is who he is. Yet underneath, when he sees an important face from his past, the young lad within him recognises old feelings of compassion, loyalty, and friendship in the all-grown-up, Wren Campbell.

‘I liked that he needed me. I could see it in his eyes when they would pause for a fleeting moment and look right at me. He was lost, and I was his safe harbour, and it made anything else I heard about him or his family vanish…Maybe being in my world saved him from his.’

This woman has always had an important part of his heart and her reaction to him is visceral. Wren has no idea what she’s letting herself into, she thinks the worst but that doesn’t even come close. Their connection is undeniable, their chemistry, fiery. Their love is all-consuming and at times volatile. Theirs is not your bog-standard hearts and flowers love story, but it has passion and emotion.

‘He looks at me like he’d stand in front of the world to protect me – like he’d burn it to the ground or watch it suffer for daring to mess with me.’

Much has been said about anti-heroes, and a lot of discussions have taken place and still are on anti-heroes and their place on a scale of redemption and change. Sometimes redemption is found in the person they fall in love with, other times they take on a complete personality change.

‘I asked for all in. He delivered. And now I’m living with the consequences.’

For us -in our humble opinion- what draws us is the anti-heroes that still retain that ‘specific to them’ essence that makes them who they are. The unapologetic anti-heroes don’t go through a complete personality change. Rather, revelations of the past, growth through their own effed-up love story, and the journey they take are what we personally find the most thrilling in our dark romance. Dante ‘Dragon’ Cortez and Wren Bird’s story of love is violently disturbing, but at its core, shrouded in darkness, is a story of friendship, compassion, acceptance, and love. We cannot wait for more in this series of interconnected standalones.

‘He’d die for me. It’s heady, and not in a safe or sane way, but in a completely toxic and possessive way. And maybe that’s just us. Maybe, right from the start, that’s what we were going to be.’

Synopsis

Coming back to San Antonio wasn’t on my radar, but life happens.
Fresh from heartbreak, I have a brand new job to keep me occupied and I’m ready to start over. I’ll be dreaming up weddings for the rich and privileged, delivering their perfect day – their perfect fantasy.
Those fantasies look nothing like mine, though. Mine are mysterious and threatening and full of intensity.
All make believe, of course.
Until it isn’t.

Dante Cortez came at me like a dark saviour with sin on his lips.
Dangerous. Demanding. Deadly.
The boy I knew was long gone.
And I wasn’t ready for the man he’d become.

Note: The House Of Skin Series deals with themes some may be uncomfortable with. These are bad men who make no apologies for their particular trade.

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