Book Review + Playlist: Torture to Her Soul by J.M. Darhower

Monster in His Eyes, #2
+Goodreads | Excerpt |

*This is book two of the series. NOT a standalone.
Don't say it unless you mean it... 
It's a simple concept, one I've said time and again, but something people don't seem to comprehend. You should choose every syllable carefully, because you never know when somebody will hold you to your word. 
Somebody like me. 
I'm not a good man. I'm not. I know. I have enough darkness inside of me to rid the world of every stitch of light. But there's one I could never harm, one light I couldn't bring myself to snuff out. 
She thinks I'm a monster, and maybe I am. I taunt her with my touch, get a thrill out of torturing her soul. But I'm not the only one. The world is full of monsters, and I'm not the most dangerous one out there. 
Not even close... 
God help me, I love her. 
I do. 
And God help anyone who tries to take her from me.

Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, actually wrote one of my favorite lines about love in his novel Fools Die: "Falling in love is great. Being in love is a disaster." Those words can shed light on Ignazio Vitale and Karissa Reed's story...because yes, their love is both great and a disaster. Part one, Monster in His Eyes, was jaw-dropping good. The exhilarating beginning. Torture to Her Soul, is an equally--if not more!--riveting finale, as the veil comes off on Naz's secrets, his past, and the darkness within him. And like Puzo to crime fiction, J.M. Darhower is a shining beacon for romantic suspense, with her compelling characters and artful prose. Her storytelling is truly magnificent. (Yeah, I said it! And I mean it!) Torture to Her Soul was a breathtaking ride full of twists, and I was completely mesmerized by Naz's point of view. Thrillingly and hauntingly beautiful. It beckons, then grips you tight and never lets go. Even days after finishing this book, I was craving, wishing for just a few more pages.
I reach out, running the back of my fingers along her jawline as her lips twitch. "What did I tell you about asking things like this?"
"That I should be careful what I ask," she says quietly. "That the answers aren't always pretty."
The first book built Ignazio up as this intense and potentially dangerous figure. He was Prince Charming with a dark, mysterious side. Then, right at the end, we all found out how dangerous he really is. As TtHS picks up right where MiHS left off, it's not in a cloud of mystery anymore. Naz can be unapogetically ruthless when he feels he needs to be and can take control swiftly.

This bookthough, also opens him up so we can finally understand the monster inside, pull the curtain back even further on his still-raw pains that torment him, what he's quite literally and emotionally kept locked up for years. His roots come to the surface, little by little. I saw how isolated he'd been. How precision and control became necessities for his survival, in order to avoid ever being vulnerable again. As intriguing as Naz was when we were first introduced to this character--making my heart rate jump and my mind race--the author did a fantastic job making me sympathize this time around, too. It's not easy giving a killer a heart and a soul! ;)

It was fascinating to feel right along with him, as Naz's character developed. The past life he kept locked away and the grief he suppressed are slowly brought out, thanks to his connection to Karissa. He literally has to come face to face with his past...and he barely makes it out alive!!! That gaping wound, like the anger and hatred that's had decades to fester inside him, just can't be ignored anymore. The ghosts still haunting him--through memories, through nightmares--infect his present as painfully as any physical wound could. It highlights how exposed he's become. Control slips from his grip as more and more emotion floods him, his blackened heart finding a new reason to come alive: Karissa. As much as he made her feel in book one, you see how much Naz feels in book two. And as isolated as Karissa had been her whole life, you see just how alone Naz has been for an equally long time.
My insides are black, but my heart still beats.
It still beats. 
And it fucking beats for her. 
Karissa was like a reflection to a very similar time in Naz's life...young in age, happy, and in love. In the past, with Maria, his happiness was ripped away from him tragically, devastatingly. One question lingered throughout this novel: Could it happen to him again? Because the concepts of family and loyalty are so significant to this couple's journey. Naz has tried to stay loyal to the memory of Maria, but it's been skewed and warped over time, becoming a sense of duty to her father Raymond Angelo and the organization that gave him wealth and opportunity. They've been on a quest for revenge, for so long, but Naz realizes he has something new to fight for...the girl he's fallen in love with and the potential for starting over.
I've lived a life of darkness already, years where the sun didn't shine on me, and now that I've seen daylight again, I don't think I could ever turn my back to it.
And Karissa? She should be loyal to her parents, her own flesh and blood, but she can't ignore what they did to Naz, the man she's fallen so deeply for, who makes her feel cherished. These lines are tested all throughout the book. Pain and passion kept me on edge. I love how Darhower does this! The push and pull. They felt so close, yet so far from ever being 'okay' again! The author made me experience this struggle, how they're both going through torture.
"You make something beautiful enough and people forget just how much it can hurt you."
Quite frankly, I was terrified of the fallout of them being together. There's forbidden romance...but this?! This is truly wanting/loving someone you absolutely SHOULD NOT. It's twisted, but they brought life and sensation out of each other. Their bond isn't something easily severed. Could she be enough to save him from the hell he's lived in for so long? The powerful, soul-baring moments never failed to leap off the pages and completely ensnare me. I was begging, hoping that their love could get them through the disaster.
"Tell me," I whisper, running my tongue along the shell of her ear. "Tell me how you want it to be. Tell me what you need from me.
She could bark out a million demands, and I would work myself to the death making them all happen, but instead she merely whispers, "I want you to love me."
The passion between these two is so palpable. It's not all misery! There is a lifeline to hold onto amidst all the chaos! A reminder of how good they can be together. (There's another "Do you wanna play around?" scene where I may have nearly fainted...) There was a point in the story when I was pretty love-drunk, enjoying the endearing side to their relationship. I even giggled at her jokes about his age :P Until...dread snuck back in and sobered me up just as quickly.
"There's something about you," I say quietly. "Something I've sought for a very long time."
Her smile wavers, her expression sobering. "I've heard those words before."
Although this couple slowly, agonizingly rebuilds the trust that was damaged in book one, other obstacles and outside forces come into play. What I've loved about this series, about that the references to criminal life are there, but they're subtle most of the time. You won't see outright mentions of "mafia bosses", etc. So when violence does rear its ugly head, it's much more effective. It isn't high-octane action or flashy's much more eerie and sinister. Much more profound. You feel the weight, the brutality. You wonder what the consequences could be...It gave me chills, and oh, what a storm this was...
"Very few have ever witnessed my greatest tricks, Karissa...even fewer lived to remember them."
The dread built and built, until the twisted symphony finally reached its crescendo...and everything took a turn for the raw and gutwrenching. This was the point when it all really hit me. The depth of Naz's loss all those years ago. The depth of his suffering. The depth of his love and devotion to Karissa. It all came down to a choice...revenge or peace? More agony or healing? Death or life...with her. History eerily gets a chance to repeat itself, and my nerves could barely take it! There was an ache in my chest and that sting in my eyes!

Every word pierced like a sharp dagger or sent shivers down my spine! There were so many powerful scenes! The details! This was one of those books that made me fidget between being on the edge of my seat, with my nose practically pressed against my Kindle screen, and slowing down, sitting back, and just absorbing every complex layer of this book. The story was so riveting and mind-gripping, that truly, I didn't want it to end. But...There is a satisfying conclusion for Naz and Karissa. This was a sweeping, all-consuming story, and I could read it again and again! If you're a fan of romantic suspense, this series needs to be at the top of your reading list. And if you've already read and loved Monster in His Eyes, don't wait a second longer to dive back in with Naz and Karissa!

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| Track 01. "Monster" by Imagine Dragons |

| Track 02. "Demons (Cover)" by Boyce Avenue |

| Track 03. "Stand By Me" by Ki:Theory |

| Track 04. "Arsonist's Lullaby" by Hozier |

| Track 05. "Insecure" by Delilah |

| Track 06. "You Could Be Happy" by Snow Patrol |

| Track 07. "Somewhere Else" by Indians |

| Track 08. "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone" by Lykke Li |

| Track 09. "In My Veins" by Andrew Belle feat. Erin McCarley |

| Track 10. "Holiest" by Glass Animals feat. Tei-Shi |

| Track 11. "Better in the Dark" by Say Lou Lou |

Ignazio Vitale is not a good man.

I suspect it, the first time I see him, sense the air of danger that surrounds the man. He has a way of commanding attention, of taking control, of knowing what I'm thinking before I even do.

It's alarming and alluring. It's dark and deadly. It's everything I've ever wanted but the last thing I truly need. Obsession.

It doesn't take him long to draw me into his web, charming me into his bed and trapping me in his life, a life I know nothing about until it's too late. He has secrets, secrets I can't fathom, secrets that make it so I can't walk away, no matter how much I beg him to let me go. I see it sometimes in his eyes, a darkness that's both terrifying and thrilling. He's a monster, wrapped up in a pretty package, and what I find when I unmask him changes everything.



JM Darhower is the author of countless stories and poems, most of which only she has ever read. She lives in a tiny town in rural North Carolina, where she churns out more words than will ever see the light of day. She has a deep passion for politics and speaking out against human trafficking, and when she isn't writing (or fangirling about books) she's usually ranting about those things.

Chronic crimper with a vulgar mouth, she admits to having a Twitter addiction. You can usually always find her there.
***ARC provided in exchange for honest review***