Author: Tillie Cole
Series: Scarred Souls #2
Release date: November 10th 2015
Buy: Amazon US ~ Amazon UK
Raised as a prototype for the Georgian Bratva's obedience drug, 221 fails to think, act, or live for himself; he's his master's perfectly-crafted killing puppet. Standing at six-foot-six, weighing two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, and unrivaled in to-the-death combat, 221 successfully secures business for the Georgian Mafiya Boss of NYC, who rules the dark world of the criminal underground. Until his enemies capture him.
Talia Tolstaia dreams to break from the heavy clutches of Bratva life. She dreams of another life--away from the stifling leash of her Russian Bratva Boss father and from the brutality of her work at The Dungeon, her criminal family's underground death-match enterprise. But when she stumbles upon her family's captive who is more monster than man, she starts to see the man underneath. A powerful, beautiful, damaged man whose heart calls to hers. But sacrifices must be made--blood for blood...life for life...souls for scarred souls...
I was introduced to Tillie Cole’s writing through “the Hades Hangmen”, her brutal and gritty MC series. Her other series, “Sweet Home”, is one of my favorite series and never disappoints, despite having reread it many times. “The Scarred Souls Series” is another, ruthless series, leaving you wondering about the dark side of human nature, a side you hope you and your loved ones will never experience. Reap is the second book in the last mentioned series, and another heartbreaking and raw addition.
Talia Tolstaia is the daughter of a powerful man within the Bratva – the Russian mob – and leads a somewhat isolated life. Because of the family business, a normal life isn’t in the cards for her, she always needs to be careful and is being watched by her bodyguards. During her childhood she was very close to her babushka – her grandmother – and enjoyed her stories, especially the one about finding your true love. When her life in Brooklyn gets too much, Talia escapes to the family estate in the Hamptons to spend some time on her own. Her plans are disturbed when her brother Luka rescues Zaal, the twin brother of his friend Anri, a promise he made when Anri died. Despite the hatred between their families, Talia feels a connection to Zaal, the connection her grandmother told her about when she was a young girl.
“I would never be normal. Therefore I would no longer crave normal. And because if that, I knew when I arrived back in my Hamptons home tonight I’d be going to see Zaal. I had to touch him again. There was no choice. I had to be close. Because something inside me had snapped, and just as my babushka had proclaimed, I knew I would never be the same again.”
Zaal Kostava was eight years old when his life changed for the absolute worst – his family was slaughtered by an angered associate and he and his twin brother Anri became his property. For the past twenty years, Zaal has been his masters dog and test-subject, being regularly injected an experimental drug made him a total obedient and extremely dangerous fighting machine and killer. Along the way he has lost all memories of his childhood and family, even Anri and his own name. All he knows are the cruel words and actions of his master, a sadistic man. When he’s freed by Luka, he is brought to the Tolstaia estate to get of the powerful drugs he’s being injected with for the major part of his life. When he meets Talia for the first time, he thinks he’s still with his master, and can’t comprehend that the beautiful woman has nothing to do with the evil man.
“I looked into her eyes trying to detect deception. I couldn’t see any. Was it true? Was I being released so she could care for me? No one ever cared for me. No one ever spoke to me unless it was to give me orders or call me a dog. No one ever touched me unless it was to bring me pain.”
Being abused and exploited for so long, it’s not a surprise Zaal reacts so strongly to the first gentle touches of a woman. Talia knows the monster he is, but she sees right through and recognizes the human being hiding behind the bruises and scars. From the moment she meets him in the basement of her getaway, she feels attracted to the man, becomes obsessed by him. Even when she learns his lineage, being the lost heir to a rival family, she just can’t stay away. Through Talia, Zaal learns to become human again, to speak, to feel and to see the outside world. Talia and especially Zaal aren’t experienced in love and relationships, their bond is pure and primal – they just can’t be without one another.
Reap is the second book in ‘the Scarred Souls series’, and brings the reader back to the world of the Bravta, the brutal life of underground fighting and slavery. Luka and Kisa, the main characters from the previous book, have a prominent role is this one. They are still dealing with the aftermath of their story; rescuing Zaal is a necessity for Luka to move on and find the peace he and Kisa need.
Reading the horrors Zaal has experienced – the murder of his family and his life as a slave – made me feel so sorry for him. I can’t imagine people do this to an innocent child, but knowing it actually happens in the real world makes this story so much sadder. I loved that Talia was able to see past the scars and brutality, saw the sweet and gentle man Zaal truly was and stood up for him against her own family.
“You are … for me. No other male. Just me. And me … for you. This is my, ‘I love you.’ These are my words from my scarred soul. They are not borrowed words, but words from my full heart, and my heart only.”
Even though the brutality of what happened to Zaal, I adore this book. It’s written in Tillie Cole’s beautiful style, and makes me feel so much for the characters. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
I give this story 4.5 stars.