Review – Whisper (A Tainted Love Prequel) by RC Christiansen

I hated it. No, I hate-loved it. No, I love-hated it. Okay, okay, I loved this prequel to Tainted Love (reviewed here.) As much as you can love a story dealing with the kind of issues involved, anyway. Having read Tainted Love, I knew what was coming. I follow the authors on Instagram and they are all about the trigger warnings and managing expectations so no one can pick this book up and give it a 1* for not having an HEA. It’s there in black and white. You KNOW what you’re going to get.

And if you haven’t read Tainted Love, then a) why the hell not? and b) don’t say the author didn’t warn you. Okay, back to this.

This novel is the literary equivalent of death metal. If it were a flower it would be deadly nightshade. The writing is off the scale. I knew this already because of TL, but it really is. This book is Ken, Verna and Cliff’s story, told from Verna and Ken’s perspective. This ain’t no fairytale. This is a character study, where we get to know these three people far more intricately than we did in Tainted Love. That was Pax and Vixen’s story to tell.

This story is told in the first person, each chapter clearly marked so the reader knows who is talking. Verna is heartbreakingly childlike even in her adult years. With all her childhood spent in captivity, with only Ken to protect her, and subjected to hideous abuse, she only wants to see the good in people. The way her character finds out what freedom means, and the incredibly sad trajectory of her life as she shoots for the stars and finds out people on the outside can be just as cruel as her captors were, is nothing short of tragic. She clings to Ken and his mute brother Cliffy, the only family she has ever known, as Ken tries to protect them all from harm in the outside world.

We don’t find out a lot about Cliffy, other than he is obsessed with sex, drinks too much and forms unhealthy fixations on every woman he meets, believing he is totally in love. He is the unintentional catalyst for the book’s fiery climax, a man without a voice who just wants to love and be loved in return.

And Ken. Wow. What an incredible character. Intense, bitter, and venomously protective of the two people he thinks of as family, Ken will stop at nothing to make sure they are safe. The way the authors have created him is jaw-dropping. This surely is a character who will stay with the reader for a long time. Flawed, yes, but also the kind of man you want in your corner. The love he has for Verna is as bright as a nuclear blast. Hell, it almost burns your retinas out just reading it. For some, his controlling behaviour might be construed as border-line abusive, but no. This is a man who really cares about Cliffy and Verna, has a strange way of voicing it, but considering what they’ve been through, is the guiding light for all of them.

Weaving through the story is Detective Benson, a necessary outside voice looking in at the three, who has his own reasons for helping them seek justice. He means well, but for me, he seemed to screw up again and again. Depressingly, it felt very real but I couldn’t help thinking two of them would still be alive if he hadn’t given Cliffy that gift (not saying what!)

Trust me, this novel will leave a scar across your heart which you will wear with affection. Guaranteed.

Finally, I have a tiny confession to make. Weirdly, whenever Ken spoke, especially about Verna “his little Firefly,” I could hear Nic Cage in Con Air, and that image wouldn’t go away. As I said; weird.

BLURB

My brother and I were kidnapped at eight & six years old.
KEN: For eleven years, we’d been locked away. Forced to endure abuse, molestation, and torment that made us wish we were never born. Pax and Verna, two other victims, suffered the same fate. It was one thing to be molested myself. It was another seeing them experience it and not be able to help them. When we finally escaped, I thought that our hell and pain were over. I was wrong. The years that followed did nothing but feed my anger and make me more protective of my family, Verna becoming the love of my life and my strongest reason to live. I’d become possessive of her and wouldn’t let anyone hurt her ever again. They’d have to kill me first, but it wouldn’t be easy. Not when parts of me were already dead, and every breath I took was solely for her.

VERNA: Ever since we were kids, Ken had become a leader to the four of us trapped in a house of horrors. After we’d escaped our captors, we couldn’t locate our parents and were rejected by the world that seemed to forget us. We wandered from place to place, trying to find a home where we could fit in and be loved for who we were. What we had become.Now we’re back in Clancy, Montana, where it all began, and madly in love, or is it just mad love? None of us had the desire to dredge up the past, but somehow, we were drawn back to the very place this nightmare began. When Detective Benson reappeared with questions about my past, it was more than I could bear. He hadn’t helped us ten years ago when I tried to report it, and now I didn’t want his help. I only wanted to move on from the pain.

TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains strong subject matter that may not be suitable for all readers. The topics described include suicide, sexual abuse, child abduction, alcohol use, tobacco use, profanity, and both sexual and violent situations. READER DISCRETION ADVISED 18+

Published by Lady J's Pawsome Readers

As well as reviewing books, I'm a writer of romantic suspense, MM fiction and LGBTQIA sci-fi. One of the original founders of WROTE Podcast, a medium for showcasing queer storytelling in all forms.

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