Book InfoBrutal by AJ Merlin
Series: Pleasure and Prey #2
Rating: Book ratings explained
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Purchase at: Amazon | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU
Nothing bad happens at summer camp.
That’s what my fellow camp counselors have convinced me of when the nights around the lake get a little eerie.
But when the kids all go home and the counselors throw a party on our last night at Camp Clearwater, things change. None of us could have suspected that there was a stranger watching us or that our machete-wielding visitor doesn’t seem to like that we’re here. But when I'm attacked in the woods, he unexpectedly comes to my rescue in the most ruthless way.
Wren is terrifying, unpredictable, and possessive in a way that terrifies me. I should go to the police and stay away from him at all costs. Instead, I find myself letting him in every time he comes to play.
Can a brutal butcher ever really fall for me, or am I going to become his next victim?
*Brutal is a contemporary dark romance standalone set in the Pleasure & Prey universe. This is an MF romance. Please see author’s note at the front of the book using the ‘look inside the book’ feature for a full list of content warnings.
Brutal - My Review
A campground at night, a lecherous creep, a final girl, and a serial killer. Brutal sounds like the perfect recipe for an AJ Merlin novel.
Throughout her summer as a counsellor at Camp Clearwater, Hazel has been too interested in the perfect placement of fairy lights and avoiding Brett, the camp creep, to realise that she has a stalker. That is until Brett lures her into the woods only for a newsworthy serial killer to come to her aid. This man has been terrorising the local area and now Hazel believes she’s the only thing standing between her friends and their deaths. If only she can submit to his demands.
After that fateful night, Hazel returns to normal life in the city, living with her two cats, and battling depression. But Wren, her stalker, isn’t done with her. One night he appears in her apartment looking for a favour: he needs an alibi and wants Hazel to take the job by posing as his girlfriend. Things become more complicated (as if dating a serial killer wasn’t challenging enough) when a detective starts following Hazel, convinced that her new boyfriend is the spree killer he’s obsessed with.
For me, Brutal was a poolside read. I wanted more depth from the book. For someone painted as suffering from lower-functioning depression, the depiction of Hazel’s struggles was glossed over. In previous AJ Merlin novels, characters’ health difficulties were very much a part of them, but in Hazel’s case, it felt more like a label that had been slapped on.
The story could have been drawn further out through a greater focus on elements that were already present. While Hazel allows some internal debate on the subject of dating a serial killer, considering she’s seen the reality up close and very personally she’s surprisingly accepting of the fact and as a result, Wren has to do very little to defend his character. Detective Hartmann comes on the scene but, considering how much time he spends following Hazel, not enough of the story is dedicated to the danger he poses. I needed more of a chase but this aspect of the storyline was over and tied up far too soon.
Despite Brutal not being AJ Merlin’s best book (that crown goes to Depraved) I still enjoyed it and am thoroughly looking forward to getting my teeth into Vicious, the next book in the Pleasure and Prey series.