Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I might be a pawn in a game I don’t want to play, but that doesn’t mean I can’t win.”
As I was reading and finishing Siobhan Davis’s Cruel Intentions, two questions/thoughts came to mind:
- How much abuse of power can one heroine take onto her self?
- Cruel Intentions is a modern day dark romantic Great Gatsby if Gatsby, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan were high schoolers.
Siobhan Davis is wise to include a warning for this book because it is indeed a dark bully romance to the highest degree. And it is everything wrong and right about this genre.
Now, to be fair, I am fairly new to this genre. I’m still trying to determine if it is my fare. I’m open to most romance. I don’t generally discriminate. However, this book oftentimes crosses a line that makes the reader a bit (or a lot) uncomfortable. Please keep that in mind if you intend to read this book. Davis is right in warning that the book includes “mature content, graphic sexual scenes [one, in particular, is VERY uncomfortable and could trigger someone with past sexual abuse], and cursing.” Take this warning to heart; it is very, very true.
Like Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, this book illustrates the tension between old and new money within the confines of an elite high school. On one side are the elite, the children of the founding families of Rydeville. This includes our heroine, Abigail (Abby). This group also includes her twin brother, Drew, her fiance, Trent, her best friend, Jane, and their friend, Charlie. They run the school, even more than the school administration. Their power comes from their families’ positions of power in history. They are wealthy, entitled, and supreme. However, their lives are constructed by their fathers, and their freedom, even the men, is controlled for the advantage of continued power.
On the other side is the new elite: Camden, Jackson, and Sawyer. They have recently blown into town to challenge the power of the elite. This group is as wealthy as the elite, but their money is “newer,” not founded in tradition. And their goal: to upend the elite from power. Or so it seems.
What we realize quickly is Camden (the leader of the new elite) and Abigail share a past, a chance one night encounter, and it causes Abigail problems when her brother, Trent, and Charlie leave town placing her in charge of the dynamics of their society. During their time alone, she is mercilessly bullied and bullies in return to protect herself. However, it also charges her attraction to Camden, complicating the existing power structure. Abigail’s place is challenged, and her forbidden attraction to Camden complicates her position in elite society. This complication causes much of the strife in this book. Will she gain power again? Will she and Camden truly find happiness, uniting the two sides, or are they destined to hate each other forever? Or will she be destroyed in the end?
This book has so many complications. For one, I think I struggle a bit with this genre: the dark bully high school romance. Yes, the book tells us that Abigail, Camden et al. are high school students, but they definitely do not act as such. They read like adults, just set in a high school. They are sexually experienced in ways that aren’t the norm for high schoolers, and they wield power like they are 40-somethings. I made several notes in my margins about my confusion over their ages because they do not read as high school aged. I share that because some people shun NA romance. If you like something such as dark romance, you could read this book and feel confident that you wouldn’t feel strange reading younger characters. They simply don’t seem to act like typical high-schoolers.
Secondly, as I mentioned at the outset of this review, I wondered time and time again how a heroine could take so much abuse because Abigail is abused on multiple fronts in this story. She is emotionally, mentally, and physically abused. Sometimes, it occurs in ways that are terrible. Yes, the blurb suggests that she holds power, and she uses it to her advantage at certain times, but her character takes on so much to her body and soul that I was often surprised that she survived it. Even more, I found it troubling at times. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE dark romance. I have no triggers for the type of treatment typical of dark romances, but, given that she is high school aged, it made my stomach crawl at times. That being said, I also could not put this book down, even when I was uncomfortable with the bullying/abusive situations. Keep that in mind when you decide to read this book. There is something addictive about this story and these characters.
Additionally, Abigail is quite the “badass” heroine. She has skills in so many areas from ballet to motorcycle riding to surveillance/hacking that you cannot help but admire her, even when she’s abused and brought to her knees (literally and figuratively). I think she represents a strong woman given the structure and cage of her life. She finds her power within those confines, and it is admirable.
Thirdly, the males of this story are fairly interchangeable. There is some crossover of personality with Charlie seemingly synonymous with Sawyer, Drew and Camden being fairly alike, etc. Trent and Jackson are standouts for very different reasons. Trent is horrible. You will hate him, and that is his intent. Jackson is the comic relief, which is necessary to relieve the stress of the story. And trust me, you will feel stressed throughout this story.
Now, one of the complications with the men is the triangle-ish nature of Jackson, Camden, and Abigail. Abby tells us that she will always choose Camden because she feels more with him, BUT I struggled with this. It felt as though she and Jackson had a similar depth of chemistry. Yes, Jackson uses humor and drugs to mask his pain, but I thought she could have easily chosen him, even over Camden. If I had any critical feedback for Davis, I would suggest that she create a deeper connection between Camden and Abbey in the next book, Twisted Betrayal. If the intent is Abigail; finds her HEA with Camden in the end, then I want to ensure that Jackson is NOT an option, as they too have undeniable chemistry.
I feel strongly that Camden and Abbey are a destined couple. They have a strong $exual chemistry. When we end on the cliffhanger of this story, your heart will feel broken from the betrayal between the two. And this is the point of this story. The reader should feel their pain and strife, which is a warning. There isn’t an ending to this book. Instead, we are left with lots of questions and very few answers. The book ends with our hearts in our throats and a deep pit in our stomachs.
Again, how much can or should a heroine take? I think in the coming books in this trilogy, Abigail will wreak havoc on this world and for good reason, much as Gatsby did in West/East Egg. If you love some serious drama, a lot of pain, and delicious darkness in your romance, then you should be reading Siobhan Davis’s Cruel Intentions. It is dark, dangerous, and devastatingly hot, much like Fitzgerald’s Gatsby.
In love and romance,