I’m a sucker for dark characters in my romance books, and Louise Collins has fast become a reliable source of darkness. I loved her collection of stories set inside prisons, and when I saw that she was releasing book with a serial killer main character I was totally on board. But firstly, let’s clear up some details. This is the first book in a series. When I initially read One for Sorrow I was unaware of that fact, and the ending left me wanting to lose my shit. Had the story of Chad and Romeo ended here I would be thoroughly dissatisfied with this book. So yeah, this book does not have a HEA, in fact, I wouldn’t even call it a HFN, but luckily, Two for Joy has already been released so anyone interested in having a read can dive straight into the second book. Which has a much more satisfactory ending. So, Chad and Romeo…how fucking awesome are these characters. Well, to be honest Chad is great and all but Romeo is the true star of the show as far as I’m concerned. Romeo, aka The Countdown Killer, is an actual, legit, not to be understood serial killer. While some authors prefer to water down their killers by making the victims bad people, or by providing abusive childhoods, or even blaming mental illness and incorrect medication – Louise Collins has gifted us with Romeo, the product of a wonderful childhood with two loving parents, charming, attractive and killer of totally innocent victims. Romeo is a good old-fashioned psychopath who feels nothing for any other living thing and has no issue with killing, but only five times. He has been waiting his whole life to be able to feed the monster inside of him and is only allowing himself five kills to satisfy the hunger. I enjoyed trying to understand Romeo, even though it was a struggle that would probably never happen. I loved how the author engineered the forced proximity between Romeo and Chad while providing a credible reason for Chad to remain alive. I did have some misgivings about this book. For one, the relationship between Chad and Romeo felt more like a case of Stockholm Syndrome to me rather than any real romantic development. While the author did a nice job of creating a situation where Chad softened towards his kidnapper, I just didn’t believe the strength or durability of their connection. And because the story was told solely from Chad’s POV I had no hope of understanding why Romeo, who tells us that he feels nothing for anybody, develops an attachment to Chad. If this had been a standalone book I probably would have rated it about 3 stars, but as the first book in a series, it does a commendable job of setting up for the books that will follow. I’m actually really excited to continue this series, especially after that rather vexing ending.
The press nickname him “The Countdown Killer”, branding his victims with a number, but Chad knows him as Romeo. Captured by the killer he’s hunting, Chad’s situation seems dire, but Romeo doesn’t want to kill him because Chad doesn’t fit his pattern.
Instead, he’s keeping Chad for two months, hiding him away where no one will find him, making sure Chad can’t reveal who he is. Romeo is not going to hurt Chad; he’s going to let him go—but only once he’s claimed number one.
But in two months with only the killer for company, a bond begins to grow. They’re not detective and killer, but Chad and Romeo. It’s wrong, but in their messed-up situation, it feels right.
Still, Chad is a detective, and his duty is to the public, to keep them safe. And if that means betraying the man he’s learned to rely on, then so be it…
Be Warned: m/m sex
Book One: One for Sorrow
Book Two: Two for Joy
“What the hell!”
Chad hadn’t heard the shower door open, and his eyes felt heavy when he tried to open them. He realized his teeth were no longer chattering, and he wasn’t shivering. He blinked the drops of his lashes, then looked at Romeo. His green eyes blazed with anger, and his nostrils flared. Before Chad could do anything, Romeo had grabbed him under his armpits, and pulled him out of the shower.
The minute his chest was against Romeo’s, his sluggishness vanished, and he found himself clinging to the heat. He didn’t want to. His clear head told him to shove Romeo back, keep him away, but his arms wrapped around him on their own accord, and he pressed his body into Romeo’s wide chest, taking the warmth from him.
Romeo didn’t moan about getting his silk shirt wet like Neil would have. He didn’t shun Chad for wanting affection like his mother would have. Romeo wrapped his arms around Chad in return and held him impossibly closer. Chad took his warmth, cushioned himself in Romeo’s chest, and let him take most of his weight.
“You’ll make yourself sick.”
He was already sick, a sickness of the mind where he’d become attached to Romeo. Where he’d seen beyond the front-page headline and liked what was underneath.
“Why does it matter?” Chad mumbled.
“It matters to me.”
“Don’t,” Chad gasped. “Don’t say things like that. Don’t act like you care.”
“But I do.”
Romeo’s hand roamed into Chad’s hair, and he gripped the strands, gently pulling Chad’s head away from his chest. They stared at each other, and Chad waited for the wolfish smile he hated, but it didn’t come.
“I’m not lying. You’re the one person in the world I’ve not had to lie to. That makes you special. Very special to me.”
His gaze dropped to Chad’s mouth. His lips burned under Romeo’s attention, the hottest part of Chad’s body, but in seconds it had a rival. His cock filled, pressed to Romeo’s thigh, brushing against his sweatpants as he clung to Romeo’s shoulders.
Romeo tugged Chad’s hair, and his scalp tingled, and a soft noise left his parted lips. Romeo saw it as an invitation, some kind of green light, and he dropped lower, eyes still targeting, as he swooped, pounced, struck, attacked. Chad didn’t know how to describe it, but he caught the predatory glint in Romeo’s eye just before they connected, and turned his head.
Romeo’s mouth met his cheek, he gave a quick peck, then withdrew with a soft snort from his nose. Romeo’s body that had been all tense and curled forward, suddenly relaxed, and he went back to hugging Chad again.
Chad could feel his heart pounding away, but Romeo’s heart rate was matching it. They were so close together he could feel both, completely out of time, and disorienting. He was being punched by their hearts, and the sensation made him dizzy, slightly nauseous.
Romeo’s heart started to slow, and he released Chad’s hair. They stood together in the bathroom, Chad clinging onto Romeo’s shoulders, and Romeo’s with his arms secured around Chad’s back, giving his warmth, taking Chad’s weight, and making him feel ashamed, and comforted at the same time.
Romeo sighed. “Come on. Let’s get you a towel, and I’ll make you a warm drink.”
“You tried to kiss me.”
“I did. And you got aroused again.”
“At least I’m honest with myself. Now come on, coffee.”
Romeo moved Chad towards the sink, and he clutched on before Romeo released him.
“Oh,” Romeo said, turning around and picking up a pile from the floor. “I came up to give you these.”
Chad looked at the towel, and clothes, then he frowned. “Wait, these are my clothes.”
The warm feeling Chad despised fizzled in his stomach. He was happy, grateful, relieved, all emotions he shouldn’t have felt. He shouldn’t have felt any positive emotion towards Romeo, but when he touched his shirt, he couldn’t help flashing a smile.
“You’re welcome. I’ll see you downstairs.”
Chad sat down on the toilet, dropped his head into his hands and sighed. He couldn’t like Romeo; he just couldn’t.
I loved this!!! I'm used to flirty and sexy books by this author, but this was different. I wouldn't even say it was THAT dark. There is a serial killer on the loose and Chad and his team try their damnedest to catch him. The build-up was slow, really slow. The first 10 or so chapters (about 25% of the book) focuses on the murder investigation. Other than that, what I gathered in that first part of the story is that our main character is no one special. He's not a hero type who busts down doors, jumps off buildings and whatnot. In my eyes he's a totally average guy with a nice, albeit dangerous job and he has a fiancé with a nice house. Sure he wants to be the big boss at his job eventually and he does his best to reach that goal, but he seems content. But this case ruins everything for him. Time is running out and he makes a reckless decision, which lends him in trouble. "Homicide detective caught by the serial killer" would be the title of the Canster Times' article on the front page. What I really liked is that this story felt more real than any other I read about Stockholm syndrome. I actually believed this could happen in reality. It's not like a fairytale, it's not OTT, but it's not too dark and twisted or gruesome either. Chad was chained up in a barn for a time and than relocated to a farmhouse. And at that time there wasn't anything sexual in their relationship. (And later there won't be much sex either, at least not what one would expect from a book like this). They were the killer and the detective, simple as that. Chad wasn't pampered that much, just the necessary amount after an accident. He wasn't tortured. Romeo didn't try and bend him to his will. And then they got to talking and it turned out they like each other. Which was a problem.... but I feel this would have been a natural progression of a relationship in normal circumstances. “I kept the magpie alive. I killed snails to feed it, as well as giving it scraps of bread, ham. It even ate cheese. At first the magpie pecked me every time I tried to feed it. It squawked, flapping its damaged wing, making it worse…” Chad thought back to the hazy days after he’d hurt his leg. He’d thrashed, cried out, moved to avoid Romeo’s hand every time he reached for him. He’d refused water, food, begged Romeo to end his suffering, to take the pillow and press it to his face. “Then …something happened, and it stopped fighting me. It let me feed it, let me close. Let me ease its suffering." I really liked what the author created here. I never know what to expect from a story like this. So I'm always open to any kind of ending. There is a little surprise at the end. Do you like crossword puzzles? I do! :D
A story with an ingenious plot. Chad is a detective, engaged with a rich man who pampers him with wealth and comfort. There are dead bodies found with marks on their chests, numbers as if it’s about a countdown. One wrong step and now Chad is captured by Romeo, the serial killer! Romeo won’t kill him, he has other plans, first, he has to kill his number one. What follows is a very intriguing, captivating, hurtful story. A psychologic game. A killer and a detective. There is no attachment allowed under these circumstances, this seems almost impossible when two men live in one space. My goodness bit by bit there are heavy facts revealed, all stunningly done! The emotions reaching the sky. “He’d been freed from a lie but was trapped in the truth.” A lot of tension and heavy emotions, confusing sexual tension. Not allowed! There is hidden depth, layer by layer got peeled away until there is just a raw naked soul with only true feelings. Raw, painful feelings, confusing feelings, forbidden feelings. Such a well thought out story! I couldn’t put it down, every free moment I had to read further. The story is quite grand, that’s pretty excellent, knowing most of the story is interacting between two men. The atmosphere was one of a kind. It was an intelligent and very intriguing story. Excellent developed. The characters were stunningly put down strong and vulnerable. The story was unpredictable, I loved that very! It could go any way. There were many options, I loved the choice of the author!
I must say, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a little dark, given the captive, serial killer dynamic, but Ms. Collins did great job balancing the kind of weird horror of a detective falling for a killer with the emotional connection between the two men. I completely understood Chad’s guilt and torment over his feelings, but I also understood the elation and feeling of freedom when that both men found with each other. I can’t lie—as a reader I was torn too. Part of me wanted Chad and Romeo to just run away together even though I knew it was wrong. The way the author resolved their dilemma was well done and satisfying I think. I say I think, b/c it was a good ending even if it made me a little wistful.... :)