Dubious by Charmaine Pauls

♥♥ 5 Dubious Stars ♥♥

This gave me all of my recent cravings all rolled into one intense book. There’s servitude to repay a debt, dubious consent/forced seduction, and mob/mafia influence. Set to release this October, it’s definitely one to put on your tbr shelf.

Valentina is a vet student who takes care of her brother after he suffered serious brain damage in a car accident. Set in Johannesburg, there’s a lot of poverty and paying people off for protection. Val finds her brother gambling one night and discovers he owes a debt to a loan shark for 400,000 rand. Obviously, Val doesn’t have the money to pay the loan shark, Gabriel, off so she’s forced to work off the debt for nine years. What she doesn’t know is that Gabriel wants to make her his and doesn’t plan on letting her go at the end of the contract.

However, Gabriel’s mother, who runs the family business, wants both Val and her brother dead. She puts Val through grueling tasks to set her up for failure, but Val doesn’t break. Meanwhile, Gabriel trains her to desire his body and what it can do to her, and she struggles with her heart and her mind’s attraction to him. Gabriel starts having deeper feelings for Val and he devises a plan to ensure her safety from his mother.

I thought this was really well-written because it felt real; Val’s reluctance with Gabriel was believable and I loved that she didn’t really secretly desire him outside of the bedroom. When the heroine starts falling in love with her captor right after a sexual encounter, it kind of ruins the whole dubious consent thing, so I really appreciated this. It also showed Val’s desperation and strength through all her interactions with Gabriel and his mother. There was solid character development and many secondary characters started to steal my heart. I can’t wait for the conclusion to the story!

Arc provided via NetGalley in exchange for honest review


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