I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Holly is fresh out of prison after serving a six year sentence, when a senator running for President of the United States proposes her a deal to pose as his daughter. The money is life changing and so she decides to set sail but if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Rafe had a brutal childhood as one of "The Lost Boys" and now as a French Legionnaire, his whole life has been soldiering. When his son is kidnapped by a former acquaintance, he must in turn kidnap a senator's daughter and hold her for ransom.
Holly and Rafe both have been forged in the fire but will they be able to raise whole from the ashes?
Deception Island is full of multi-layered, fresh, and fascinating characters. Our heroine came from an abusive home, learned different ways to physically defend herself, and served six years in prison. Holly was a character that initially you will have your guard up around, thinking she overplays her feminine wiles but as her background and personality is flushed out more, my respect for her grew; she's a fighter. She has a few moments that verge into eye-rolling but they are always linked to the overstating of the attraction and lust she has for Rafe. Our hero is the first of his kind that I have ever read and intense in the compelling story of his life. We never get a direct statement as to where Rafe's original home was but the term "The Lost Boys" is mentioned numerous times, which with the time period and description of how Rafe was kidnapped, forced to do horrendous things, and turned into a child solider, leads me to think he is from Sudan. His story is heartbreaking and a riveting tale of how the human spirit endures.
Our two main characters and the secondary characters mainly involving Rafe's former friend, the new leader of the child army, and the one forcing him to kidnap Holly (who Rafe thinks is the senator's daughter) and the women being held to be sex trafficked that Holly gets placed with, had incredibly riveting bullet points. The action, whether it was a dark night in the ocean fight scene with sharks or a chase through the jungle with a spider employed as a weapon, was engrossing. The author's writing really shined as she gripped my attention. It was the romance aspect of the story that I struggled with as Holly and Rafe's attraction started a little too immediately and involved insta-lust. Their feelings never had a chance to gradually build and develop into deeper ones that were more believable as their "hots" for one another took center stage. The middle of the story where Rafe and Holly were alone and dealing with their attraction was where it sagged the most for me as I couldn't connect with that part. The second half of the story, where the action picks up again, is where I locked back in.
The emotion between our couple failed me but my feelings ended up getting hit hard from a later surprising source. Holly ends up getting placed with a group of women who are going to be forced into the sex trade. When Holly first walks in and sits down in a dark, overfilled, foul smelling hut full of women and younger girls, the woman next to her grips her hand and squeezes. Little and big moments of solidarity between the women are showcased throughout their scenes and it will break your heart as, again, the human spirit is revealed. In fact, this wasn't so much a romantic suspense story to me as surviving human spirit suspense; Holly learning her own strength, survival instinct, and capacity to trust and Rafe learning how to have emotions, process, and feel them. The villain of the story was amazing in his shades of grey and will have you revisiting the argument of nature vs. nurture.
As I said, the components of the story were all captivating; it was the flow of their arrangement and the romance that didn't always work for me. If looking for wholly unique characters, an unflinching look at enduring human spirits, and absorbing action, then you will want to give Deception Island a try.