Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella

Crimson likes inflicting pain and he likes killing and every year on his birthday, he makes sure to give himself a present of both. Then, he returns home to the little cabin in the woods where lovely Kyle waits for him all stretched out, pale, and scarred to perfection just waiting for Crimson to give him the pain Crimson is positive Kyle enjoys so much. It’s been like this for six months now and, for a short time, there was even a playmate, Tracey, but he betrayed them and ran away. But that’s okay, because Kyle would never run—chaining him to the bed ensures that. Besides, Crimson loves Kyle, loves to hear his screams, his fear, his agony—it’s all just so wonderful.

Tracey manages to make it to a cabin and, from there, go to the police. With a tracking team on the way, they are going to find Kyle and bring him away from that horrible cabin and that evil man. But Crimson has been doing this for a long time and he knows how to elude the cops. Time is ticking for Kyle, who is near death, and the web of lies surrounding just who Crimson is deepens more and more.

Dianne Hartsock’s new novella, Birthday Presents, is a terrifying look at a psychopath who finds utter fulfillment in torturing, raping, and killing young men. While there are a few happy ever afters for various characters in this story, they are hard won and the men are slow to heal. I liked this aspect about the story the best I think—lots of therapy and men who love these fragile survivors, allowing them to take their time to begin the long journey toward trusting others again. This is a dark and disturbing book—it is violent and so cold-blooded and, as a study of a murdering psychopath, it’s done quite well, in my opinion.

There should be all kinds of trigger warnings attached to this novel — rape, torture, and just a dark, dark feel. The twist and turns in this story certainly keep coming and some are shocking. I must say that this is not going to be the book for everyone. Approach this one with care and realize it’s more horror than romance, in the end.

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