Review: "The Flesh Cartel: The Complete Collection" by Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau
Note: This ebook was provided by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
There have been books that have brought me to tears or have made me laugh out loud but very few have rendered me at a loss for words or a coherent thought by the time I'm done reading them. The Flesh Cartel: The Complete Collection by Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau is one of those books. I had to take several breaks while reading this omnibus because of just how intense certain scenes got. The story and characters ran me through a gamut of emotions and by the end, I felt rung dry...which just goes to show how astoundingly well-written this book is.
Mathias "Mat" Carmichael is a 29-year-old MMA fighter who wants to be able to provide the best life possible for himself and his younger brother Douglas "Dougie" Carmichael, a 23-year-old studying for his doctorate. Mat's always been protective of Dougie and would do anything for him, something that's put to the test over and over again when they're both kidnapped, tortured and raped repeatedly, and then sold to the highest bidder at an auction for sex slaves. They're trained to become whatever their future masters want them to be and at any cost imaginable, even trying to turn them against each other.
Mat and Dougie are very different individuals but there's no doubt that the love they have for each other is what keeps them going. It's that very same brotherly love that's exploited by those in the cartel, knowing that they'd be willing to do whatever was necessary in order to save the other. Things begin to appear hopeless for them but there are still those on the outside who want to know what happened to them and, if possible, bring them back to the lives they once had. When FBI Special Agent Nathan "Nate" Johnson looks into their case, he knows there's more to it than meets the eye and pursues it relentlessly.
Originally released as a serial and now available in five compiled volumes, this omnibus was long, hitting over 1300+ pages on my tablet's Adobe Reader app. Had I read the original serial installments, I do believe I would have felt rather frustrated having to wait for the release of a new installment to the series. Since this omnibus edition was only made available for reviewing purposes, I suggest that future readers make sure they have all five volumes because you'll desperately want to know how everything turns out for Mat, Dougie, Nate, and the rest of the characters in the story.
Like with other books similar to this one, I know not everyone may appreciate what it's about. However, sex slavery is a real thing and while this is a fictional tale, there are those who have probably experienced something similar or far worse. There is violence in various forms that occur repeatedly and are explicitly detailed but I hope that isn't what readers take away from it. This book is about the love and devotion that exists between two brothers and how even the most broken of us are able to survive, coping and dealing with what they've lived through and to simply live each day with some sense of hope.
The Flesh Cartel: The Complete Collection gets five-plus stars and whether you're like me, open to reading nearly anything under the sun, or someone ready to take a risk and read something completely different from what you usually read, I hope you'll give this a chance. The writing is exceptional, the story one that will have you wanting to look away at times but still needing to know what happens next, and the characters, even the antagonists, will draw you in. This book definitely goes on my list of favorites for the year and it'll stay with me for a good long while. ♥
Date read: 22 November 2014