Nov 16 2016 9:30am

First Look: Cara McKenna’s Brutal Game (November 22, 2016)

Brutal Game by Cara McKenna

Cara McKenna
Brutal Game (Flynn and Laurel #2)
Cara McKenna / November 22, 2016 / $2.99 digital

The long-awaited sequel to Cara McKenna’s Willing Victim has arrived and fans will delight in the range and depth McKenna uses to explore a relationship that started on a whim and built itself emotionally and physically among the tangled veins of a dark and gritty sexual fantasy. Honesty and trust have been the mainstays of this unconventional relationship, evident in book one where Flynn consistently tells Lauren that she holds all the power in their scenes and that she must tell him what she wants and how she feels for them to continue enjoying their times together. Willing Victim ended with Flynn and Laurel agreeing to see each other exclusively.

Cara McKenna is an auto buy for me. I adore her strong, no-nonsense writing and blue collar protagonists. Her romances are unique, smart, and rooted in a sense of realism so intense that the reader often finds themselves slightly uncomfortable when McKenna choices to address issues that often plague our own lives. She doesn’t grant us absolution, escapism, or promises of a happily ever after.

McKenna’s true skill is creating couples who aren’t perfect. Her heroes aren’t GQ models whose looks hide a dark, tortured soul and her heroines aren’t stunning ingénues whose looks and attitude compels everyone she meets to love her. They are genuine people who come with baggage. They aren’t always nice and often make mistakes. What we see is as familiar as looking into a mirror.

Brutal Games opens approximately nine months later to a familiar scene. Flynn has arrived home from a fight to see Laurel in his bed and their signal that she wants to play.

“A gash at his temple opened and stung but he didn’t care. Just let the heat soften his muscles, wash the blood and sweat and grime down the drain. Wash his fight persona away and make room for another beast entirely. A man capable of things few women would welcome. A man capable of exactly what Laurel wanted, tonight.”

In that opening scene, we are instantly catapulted right back into this couple’s world with descriptive narrative and fluid, explicit dialogue. McKenna verbalizes for us that Flynn and Laurel are in a good place. They are comfortably exploring their boundaries and blending their sexual needs with a committed relationship. Dual points of view give us what book one didn’t; a masculine voice.  Laurel and Flynn are given equal standing which adds a deeper dimension to the storyline. McKenna doesn't pull any punches here which only reinforces the realism of this couple and their life. Willing Victim was Laurel’s story, Brutal Game is their story.

“In the games they played, he craved brutality, but she wanted something more-a narrative. A role beyond mere victim. Flynn was happy enough coming at her like a stranger in a dark alley, but her pleasure deepened with some extra dimension worked in. [...] She wanted a character to play, he supposed, and he wanted nothing more than for the thing that set his brain and body on fire to do the same for her. “

As in any relationship, stumbling blocks are to be expected. McKenna uses an emotionally fueled one to further develop her couple. She lays open all of Laurel’s and Flynn’s fears, hopes, desires, and sorrows. We watch as they are left to flounder in a confusion, struggling to make sense of what is happening, until life takes a hand in making the decision for them.

“He was the only one she could imagine being lost with.”

Here is where the true story begins. Here is where we discover the depth of this couple’s commitment and fortitude. The sex falls by the wayside as we see this couple having to deal with their own personal demons and being forced to accept that some things are out of their control. Flynn is especially powerful as we witness a changing of roles in here. While we are easily able to empathize with Laurel and her feelings, it’s a raw and powerful feeling to experience Flynn’s first hand. McKenna verbalizes that suffering isn’t limited to the heroines. The ability to grieve and rage aren’t subjective to gender. To watch this strong, virile, seemingly uncomplicated man break beneath the pressure of his feelings only reinforces just how multi-faceted he is. McKenna plunders his depths, allowing us to finally see the man he has only ever allowed Laurel to see.

“Always contradictions with Flynn. Selfish and catering at once. Cruelty underpinned by blind trust. A no-nonsense, frequently tactless man, but under the surface possessing so much tenderness and loyalty, and intuition.”

Cara McKenna once again brings readers an erotic romance that does more than simply tantalize with the illicit and forbidden. She opens ours eyes to the sexual fantasies that exist in the everyday lives of an average couple whose trials and triumphs echo in the hearts of all of us.


Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Brutal Game by Cara McKenna, available November 22, 2016:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at iTunes



H&H Editor Picks:

Contemperotica? Erotimance?: A New Breed of Contemporary Erotica

Top 5 Sex Scenes in Contemporary Romance

November 2016 Romance New Releases


Tori Benson, Smexybooks and at Twitter.

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Wow, what a great review, and McKenna is one of my auto buy authors for all those reasons!
Tori Benson
2. Torifl
Thank you. I love she wrote this sequel. It's everything I wanted and more.
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