Before I begin describing the trauma of reading this book I want to say that this is a 5 star read and this may be the longest review that I have ever written. I apologize in advance for my long winded review, but I can't figure out how to make this any shorter. Phal has created a world so dark and disturbing that it was truly the most emotionally difficult book that I have ever read. I took breaks reading this book because I found myself constantly on the verge of tears. Scene by scene I swung from teary eyed to horrified denial of what I was reading. Reading FLAWED for me was like watching a horror movie through splayed fingers. I didn't want to experience what was being revealed but I couldn't pull myself away. This book has no romance and was not titillating in any way for me. There's nothing safe, sane, or consensual about the interactions in this one. If you think this book contains racy BDSM between two consenting adults you are so very very wrong. There are no book boyfriends or wistful sighs to be found within this story. What happens in this story is not something I would wish for anyone to ever experience.
Lacey is a young woman in her Senior year of high school, but she is far from the typical student. Lacey is the daughter of a drug addict who is in the full grips of her addiction. Lacy's mother is not only criminally neglectful and verbally abusive but she also exposes Lacey to the seedy side of addiction by bringing her johns and pimp into their home. Lacey is responsible for making sure that she and her mother are fed, clothed, and have a place to live. This would be bad enough if Lacey were able to make the money to shelter and care for them legally, however Lacey has to make money the only way that she's been shown how. Lacey is an 18 year old prostitute. During a time in her life where she should be dreaming of college, proms, and sweet romantic crushes Lacey has to navigate the dark world of men whose taste run towards young women who are willing to sell their bodies for money. Lacey has a brother who is absolutely no help at all. Not only does Dante not provide the safety and shelter that an older brother should, he makes Lacey's life infinitely harder. Lacey has taken on the role of savior and protector of her small family and she is willing to do anything, sacrifice anything, to fulfill that role. This sense of devotion to her family is ultimately what seals her fate with Knox.
Knox is the darkest character that I have ever come across. Knox is not just broken. From what is revealed he is likely shattered beyond repair. Knox thrives on killing and dismembering his victims. I will admit that when I began FLAWED I thought that Knox would be a copy of the character Dexter with some sort of horrible BDSM bent that went heavy on the sadism. I was so very wrong. While there are similarities in their back stories, Knox is incapable of having a relationship with another person that could look anything like "normal". Knox is so far gone that when he has a fleeting moment of empathy he struggles to even recognize it for what it is. Experiencing a positive emotion is so foreign to Knox that it both confuses and angers him to the point of violence.
Katia is another evil entity that is part of this story. Katia is raised as a sister to Knox and is the only person that he has a relationship with. Yet their relationship is warped and dangerous as well. Katia may be proof that some people are just born defective and through life experiences become monstrous over time. Katia sees Knox as belonging to her and she won't let anything or anyone stand between them. Katia has an evil empire of her own that she is cultivating with plans to expand via her father's Russian mafia empire.
Before reading FLAWED I thought that I was pretty thick skinned when it came to reading dark themed stories. I haven't read tons of dark books, but I thought that I could handle reading this one as well as I have a few previous books. How wrong and naive I was. Knox and Lacey, especially Lacey will be with me for a long time. I usually finish a book and immediately pick up the next, but I had to wait until the next morning to start a new and definitely lighter read. I also try to write my reviews quickly so that I don't forget anything but I waited a bit to write this one. I really needed to step away from this story. There is absolutely no softness, no safe corners in this story; no strong yet comforting caresses, no sweet words of praise will be found here. Knox completely breaks Lacey. She was already cracked and fractured by the life that she was leading. Being placed in the path of Knox sealed her fate and guaranteed that if she ever puts herself back together there will be pieces missing. Lacey's sense of self was barely being held together by her dream of college and medical school. Hope for a chance to live a better life and help her family out of their awful existence was the only thing that kept her broken pieces together. Knox recognized that she had something inside that allowed her to continue to have hope after every bad incident life threw at her. Lacey's perpetual hope both fascinates and angers Knox and he does what is natural to him. Knox sets out to destroy the hope in her that seems to have been denied to him in the most horrendous and sadistic ways imaginable.
I always complain and bemoan cliffhangers and FLAWED ends in a big one. This is the first and possibly the only time that I will ever say that I am grateful for a cliffhanger. I don't think that I could have experienced any more of the horror that is happening in this world. I need a break from this story. A few months or a year to recuperate sounds like a good idea to me! If you are feeling brave and want to read an ominously dark read that will have you questioning whether there is goodness to be found in every soul pick up FLAWED. I will definitely be reading the next book. I can't not know what happens next.
That's the only memory he carries from a childhood he does not remember. And now it is all he knows. Blood is his life.
Knox Bishop has done a lot of horrible things, all at the command of the man who holds his leash. It's a matter of loyalty for him. Allegiance to the man who saved his life when he was a child. So he goes where he is needed and does what he is told. He tortures. He kills. He kills. He tortures. It is an unrelenting cycle that he constantly craves and can never quite satisfy.
Eighteen year old Lacey Barnes distributes her assets to fund her dreams. Medical school is the end game and she is determined to get there by any means necessary. But a family member's careless mistake derails her plans and now she must pay a price in order to save him.
She goes to Knox willingly offering him the only valuable thing she has. Herself. In doing so he allows her into his world, a world filled with darkness but rather than being scared it intrigues her. It lures her, calls to something in her that she hadn't known existed until he awakened it.
Every bit of his flaws is reflected in her and Knox will do anything to keep her in the darkness with him.
I’m not what you would call normal. The word has no meaning to me. But I’ve been pretending to act normal. It’s something I’ve been practicing since I’ve been aware of the thrum and its significance in my life. I was seven when I first heard the lullaby. Second grade, just before recess. It happened in a squall. Nothing and then all at once. I remember everything about that day. The bell rang and the other children went to play. Not me. Never me. I always stayed behind, mostly by choice, but never contested because the other children thought I was weird. I think maybe they unconsciously knew that I was lacking something fundamental. Something they all had and I didn’t, and maybe even never had at all. Whatever it was, I was alienated, excluded from their games. But I couldn’t say it bothered me. I was indifferent to it. Katia would sometimes play with me. Yuri’s youngest daughter, my adoptive sister, kept me company when she wasn’t with her own friends. But she’d been home sick that day.
In the small classroom with its oversized, rainbow-colored letters hanging over the chalkboard and tiled number blocks littering the carpeted floor, I sat in the beanbag chair staring fixatedly at the class pet. Sweet Ms. Devon always stayed with me but she’d left for a moment. A moment to heat her lunch. A moment to speak to a fellow staff member in the teachers’ lounge. But it’d been a moment too long for me. The noise in my head had been too loud. The urge too strong. The pink-eyed little rabbit, Mr. Apples, and the yellow pair of scissors sitting blades down in Ms. Devon’s “Best Teacher” mug had been too much of a temptation for me to resist.
The pounding of my heart. The lullaby and the thrum. The latch had given way beneath my shaking fingers, soaked with apprehension and anticipation. The struggle. The frantic movement of something living, something warm, with the same accelerated heartbeat as mine grappling for life. Desperate for freedom even while knowing the inevitable hand of death loomed was intoxicating. The thrill, the excitement, the sweet seductive power. I swam in it. Like too much candy on Halloween. Too much ice cream in the summer. It had been a quick death for Mr. Apples. It had been crude. Amateurish. But ever so effective in quieting the discord of my mind.
Poor, sweet Ms. Devon came to find me on the floor of the overly-bright classroom. Huddled on the floor, covered in Mr. Apples. She’d been one to smile a lot. But I stole her smile that day and replaced it with horror instead. Her pretty features contorted like a Kabuki mask.
Francette lives in Massachusetts with her amazingly supportive husband of ten years and her darling two year old son. Reading amazing books has led her to writing and she’s dabbled in fan-fiction before self-publishing her own works. She’s constantly thinking up new stories to write and does her best work when music is playing in the background. Romance is where she’s most comfortable but she hopes to one day venture in mystery novels. She has a weakness for coffee ice cream, tropical fruits and a good glass of wine.