ARC Reviews

ARC REVIEW: In the Rough by Sara Brookes


35695898Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: August 20, 2018
Received From: NetGalley

The virtual world has always been a safe, comfortable place for tech consultant Marcus Holly. He favors working behind the scenes, joining the ranks of Noble House as the kinky club expands to offer a fully immersive VR experience. Then he meets the club’s resident Dom, Enver Furst, and all his carefully contained desires spin out of control.

Bondage-happy Enver relies too heavily on tactile stimulation to buy into Marcus’s VR playground. But when Marcus needs a skilled test subject to beta with, he only has eyes for Enver. The results are immediate and addictive: Enver’s never experienced anything this raw and powerful. He’s just unsure if it’s the tech he can’t resist—or the man.

Comfort zone deliciously shattered, Marcus’s sessions with Enver soon transcend even their wildest fantasies. But someone from Marcus’s past is watching, and his dangerous obsession will force Marcus and Enver to either fight for the reality they’ve created together…or see it shattered beyond recognition.


GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: pansexual, homosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: panromantic, homoromantic


TROPES: age gap, forced proximity
TAGS: adult, contemporary, BDSM, erotica, romance, romantic suspense, queer romance, queer characters
WARNINGS: sexual content, mental illness (panic attack, anxiety, PTSD), cissexism/transphobia, anti-native language (“savagery”), public play, homophobia, internalized homophobia, physical attack mention, acid attack mention, negative body image, child abuse mention, addiction, recovering addict, self-harm mention, slurs, gendered slurs, hate crime, queer bashing, rape threat, physical injury, ableism, vomiting, car accident, drugging, kidnapping, torture, prison rape mention, hospitalization


When I started reading this book, I was hopeful that it was going to be a kinky, age gap, romantic suspense novel that would keep me guessing and turning the page to see what would happen next.

All of this happened.

But not in the good ways I was hoping for.

I mean, for a good while I was really interested in the characters, plot, and the romance! The angst levels were pretty much as anticipated, and I was actually invested in the romantic relationship between the two main characters, Enver and Marcus. I also really liked how Enver was not afraid to use his safeword and uses it multiple times throughout the novel when he felt he needed to.

Until about the 65% mark, which is where I started getting bored and kind of irritated. Because by this point in the novel, we’d already hit all the major points of romance plots: the meet cute, the flirting/dancing around each other, the “we can’t be together for [insert reason here],” the drama that separates them, and the pair being reunited and truths revealed. And yet, there was still approximately 125 pages left. Since I’d already read the previous 235 pages, I knew that the rest of the novel wasn’t going to be roses and rainbows. And that’s why I got mad.

Because this book drags out the Queer Pain and Queer Hatred aspects of the plot for way too long. Marcus has scars from a hate crime enacted upon him ten years before, and the release of the man who attacked him is the drama driving the plot. He stalks and harasses Marcus, destroys his car, and physically attacks him–nearly sexually assaulting Marcus as well. All of this is well before the 65% mark, and around roughly 60%, we find out that the attacker has “died.” It was no surprise that the man didn’t actually die and Marcus and his loved ones were fed false information, but that didn’t stop me from being angry, hurt, and upset.

Because there was absolutely no need to drag this part of the storyline out even further. Brookes could’ve easily done one of two things: 1. Made it so Davis had actually died when they said he did, or 2. Cut out some other parts and wrap it up sooner, minimizing the suffering of not only the character, but the readers as well.

And to be quite honest, this storyline was made even worse by the fact that the attacker, Davis, is apparently gay himself and his actions are borne of internalized hatred and homophobia. In addition, it was made more traumatizing by the fact that Zoie, Marcus’s best friend and fellow kidnapping, spent several pages taunting Davis about being raped in prison. While this man is a horrifying human being, no one deserves to be raped, and making jokes and insults about it only further victimizes other sexual assault victims.

Other things I didn’t like about the novel include but are not limited to:

Within the first few pages, we learn that Enver is part owner of a club that thrives on technology and computers and/or video games as part of kink and getting off. Yet, in those very same pages, he insults those people and expresses disdain for their reliance on technology. It was a big turn off from the start to read about a character insulting his clientele and others just because he personally isn’t a fan of technology. I was able to get past that fairly quickly, but it was still a bad start.

The character of Marcus perpetuates the self-flagellating, “I’m covered in scars so no one would really want me, and I should never get involved with anyone because they’ll just dump me” mindset that is prevalent in stories where characters are scarred and/or disabled. It does a disservice not only to the character, but to the people reading the book who may be in a similar situation to the character.

The topic of Enver’s addiction was also pretty cringeworthy. Authors need to stop writing characters with addictions if they’re going to make that character repeatedly describe themselves as monsters because of their addiction. Everyone has flaws, and the fact that some people face addictions does not make them bad people. Also, at one point near the end of the novel, Enver compares Marcus to an addiction, which is disturbing in a setting where the characters aren’t addicts, but seems actually really dangerous when one of the characters does deal with addiction.

And finally, there was just a huge flaw in logic near the end. I mean, we literally see Marcus being whipped and tortured by Davis, and then somehow, three days later, he is walking and moving around with no difficulties, with not even a comment as to his injuries. Yet, Enver, who was shot once, is still hospitalized and on bedrest three days later. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s almost like Brookes forgot she’d had Marcus tortured. (Not surprised considering how much queer violence there was.)

Anyway, I was interested in the previous two books of the series for a while, but after finishing this one, I’m not sure I’d bother reading them, since I’m sure there’s more of the same. I guess time will tell, but in the meantime, I cannot recommend this book or series. Especially not to queer people.





A native Virginian, Sara sold her first published romance novel, FLASH OF DARK, an urban fantasy romance pitting vampires against the Fae, in 2009. Since that fateful day, she’s published over 20 books in various sub-genres of romance, been generously honored with several awards, and saved the world from evil chocolate chip cookies.

In 2011, her futuristic romance MIDNIGHT’S GHOST, received the PRISM Award from the RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter for Best Futuristic Romance. RAGGED EDGE, a contemporary erotic menage romance, and PERFECT LIMIT, a science fiction erotica, were both finalists in the 2013 EPIC Awards in their respective categories. Her 2013 release, ROCK YOUR SOUL, a contemporary erotic romance, and the second book of her GEEK KINK series, won the 2014 HOLT Medallion award for Best Erotic Romance and the Award of Merit for Best Book by a Virginia Author. The first of her SINNERS & SAINTS series, RIDING IRISH, was selected as a 2014 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee for Best Erotic Romance.

Though she may insist otherwise, Sara loves the places her mind conjures and has always been fascinated by the strange, the unusual, the twisted and the lost (tortured heroes are her personal favorite). She is an action movie junkie, addicted to coffee and has been known to stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing RPG video games. Despite all this geekiness, she is a romantic at heart and is always a sucker for an excellent love story.


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