Book Review: The Devil's Contract by Claire Contreras

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He gave them a choice.

She took it.

He made her promise two years.

She should have known there was a catch.
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4.5 STARS
 
Amara Maloof signed a contract in order to pay back a debt, to save her family. When she signed that contract, she not only affected her life, but her loved ones' as well, ultimately falling into a tangle of lies and secrecy.

Her "devil" came in the form of powerful businessman Philip Batiste, and when he finally came to collect, a whirlwind of heartache, intrigue, and suspense ensued. Each layer of the story was complex and engrossing, with equally mysterious characters! I loved every blood-pumping, spine-tingling second of it!

The heartache hit early because you immediately got a sense of what's most important to Amara: her ill mother and her boyfriend Colin. You come to understand her loyalty and responsibility to her parents. You realize how much she cares for Colin. Then, you feel the struggle and pain that she goes through when control of her life is stripped away from her.
"Will you come back to me?" he murmured.

"Always," she whispered.
*hello, lump in my throat* My hat goes off to Claire Contreras! She made me feel attached to Colin so easily! I couldn't avoid that heavy sinking in my gut when Amara had to say goodbye. He was pretty amazing--and their scenes so passionate--I wouldn't want to leave him behind either! There were these beautifully poignant parts throughout the book. The strain and the sacrifice. The emotions and the relationships. I loved it!
She couldn't hold back her tears as she continued listening to his voice. "I should have said this before, a million times...so I'm saying it now...I love you..."

"More than the stars in the sky," she whispered back to the empty room.
Amara's contract forces her to move to Paris and to work for Philip. Once she arrived in this completely different world, I could feel myself falling deep for this book. The intricate web of characters grew. The puzzle kept splintering into even more pieces. The risk, for Amara, only seemed to increase with each turn of the page. I was hanging on every word! 
"I'm not a piece of property," Amara said, raising her chin and pulling her shoulders back.
Philip tilted his face, his lips twisting as if in thought. "You signed on the dotted line, did you not?"
Considering the...line of work...that she was thrust into, I liked that Amara was defiant in her own way, not a complete doormat. Although she was bound by contract to do whatever was asked of her, she still had some fight. She hated the situation she was in, and I experienced the moments of frustration right along with her.

I also liked the bits about Colin woven throughout Amara's perspective. There were tiny glimpses into what he was going through, and his own misery really stands out. It made my empathy and attachment to his character grow even more. (The email that he sends to Amara?! A little heads up: It's a feels-attack.)

Courtney, one of Philip's longtime employees, became Amara's one bright spot. Someone who took her under their wings. She mentored Amara, was honest and blunt, but she was also compassionate. A much-needed ally and friend.
"I want to forget. Everything. I just want to forget," Amara said, pleading.

Courtney took a deep breath. "We're not going down that road. You're not going to use things to forget...Take your pain and use it--that's what it's there for."
Throughout all of this, Philip mostly remained shrouded in mystery, but honestly...Philip is an enigma, and therefore he is enticing. The best-worst kind of villain! Philip was cruel and malevolent, but he was sly enough to make me want to know more about him. I wanted to see what tricks he had up his sleeve! There was just enough detail-bait to make me want to know the man beneath the veil of power and ruthlessness. Did he have any weaknesses?
"I'm going to bury you," Samuel said. "This isn't over."

"Not if I bury you first," Philip said as Samuel walked out of the room.
So, when a character from Philip's past...a business associate...entered the picture, the intensity of the story definitely amped up. Something to remember while reading this book? Everyone has a secret.
How many liars are there in the world? She wondered. We all lie about things, but it seemed like the higher up in the chain of command you were, the better you were at deception...She looked around the ample room adorned with purple lilacs in the centerpieces and wondered how many sat in the room.
The dread started to creep in steadily. The sense of danger. My mind was always swirling with theories. What will happen next? What could be exposed?? How is everyone really connected???
"What do you owe Philip?" Amara asked.

Amara could see Courtney's eyes filling with tears before she closed them. "Everything," she whispered.
There were brief respites from Amara's woes. Some were light and amusing. In the homestretch of the book, however, Claire Contreras had scenes lined up that were both a gift and a burden, amazing and heartwrenching. Heaven in the middle of hell...or hell dressed up as heaven? However you want to put it, it was pleasure and misery wrapped into one deliciously torturous package!
"Let me be a sinner, baby."
Finally, it all peaked with one damn good ending, and it set me up for book two perfectly! It left me stunned, OOOH!-ing and YES!-ing around the room like a crazy woman! With this cliffhanger, I had a wide-eyed look of anticipation and thrill that there is so much more to come! The complicated web of secrecy woven in The Devil's Contract? I can't wait for it to all come apart in The Sinner's Bargain!
"I own you, Amara Maloof," he said, his voice low and grating as his eyes bore into hers. "Do you understand me?"
 
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MORE FROM THE DEVIL'S CONTRACT

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