A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: Brutal Game by Cara McKenna (SPOILERS)

on December 15, 2021

Content notes for book: consensual rape role-play, miscarriage, depression

The Theme: Festive!

Why This One: Just wanted to read it. I thought I was going about as far off-theme as possible, but there actually is a celebratory party at the end. This is also my #SnowInLoveBingo book for square: Established Relationship

Brutal Games is a rare sequel/couple follow up that might even be better than the first book. I don’t remember a lot about Willing Victim — my memory of it was so off, in fact, that I thought Laurel was the one with the rape-fantasy kink — but looking at my past review, I’d say this shares the qualities that made it good, plus taking them a step further.

As the book opens, the HFN of the previous book is going extremely well. Laurel hasn’t yet agreed to move in with Flynn, but I love yous have been exchanged, and role-play sex is still being enjoyed. But then Laurel gets pregnant, and — before she’s anything like ready to make a decision — miscarries. The experiences are challenging for them both but unexpectedly so for Flynn, who doesn’t think he has the right to have feelings about either situation, but really, really has them.

Odd plot for an erotic romance, no? But it actually makes perfect sense. In a lot of erotic romance, people’s kinks synch up perfectly — for obvious reasons, I suppose. What McKenna does so wonderfully here is exploring the authentic give and take and negotiation and compromise of kink and expanding that into the give and take of any relationship. (Although not a major plot point, Laurel’s fears that her depressive episodes make her burdensome are another issue for them to work through.) And she shows how tension and discomfort can exist within sex between two people who love each other, without making that horrifying.

It would be fascinating to read an AU version of this book in which the miscarriage didn’t happen, though I would settle for anything new from McKenna. Her voice is sorely missed.

3 responses to “TBR Challenge: Brutal Game by Cara McKenna (SPOILERS)

  1. Miss Bates says:

    “Her voice is sorely missed.” I will add my “voice” to this sentiment.

  2. lawless says:

    I didn’t realize that there was a sequel to Willing Victim. I am also sorry McKenna isn’t writing anymore, although I wish her male MCs had more variety.

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