Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“It didn’t matter. I saw you and I knew we were alike. I knew you were like me. Alone in this world. Unmoored. Looking for something. Family.”
Psst…I have a confession. First of all, before I confess, you need to know something. I love Karina Halle. Seriously. I love her story-telling, her heroes and heroines, and the way in which she tugs at my heartstrings. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t much that she CAN’T write from rom-com to contemporary to romantic suspense.
Also, I’m not a fashionista. I have a basic working knowledge of the fashion world, and I definitely don’t ascribe to the latest trends. Instead, I do me. I like what I like, and I buy it. Period. End of story. When she announced that she was writing a series of standalones centered in the world of fashion, I was open to it, but I didn’t think I could connect with her characters. Yet, that’s fiction, right? We don’t always run into billionaires in our life. But whatever…
So here’s my confession. I liked her first book in this series, Discretion. Notice I said “liked.” Olivier and Sadie were fiery tempests of bedroom canoodling, and the overarching story of the Dumonts kept me reading it. But, unlike her other books, I wasn’t in love with it. I said so in my review of that book. There was some Karina Halle magic missing, and her acknowledgments for that book indicated why. Yet, after meeting her at Book Bonanza, I became excited about this next book, Disarm, and DEFINITELY for the third book, Disavow. Why? Because Halle undertook to make us, her devout readers, fall in love with some characters that seem unlikeable. I was colored excited.
When Disarm hit my Kindle I was engaged in reading other ARCs, but I saw it sitting there with its hot cover model, and I was dying to read it. How could Halle make me fall in love with Blaise, the son of the villain of the story? Well, she does it beautifully by handing us his soul in this book. It is clear from the first page that this story fell out of Halle’s heart. Seraphine and Blaise’s journey in this book will pull at your soul and place you squarely in her “edge-of-your-seat” storytelling.
Disarm offers us the story of Seraphine and Blaise, cousins with no blood relation. Blaise feels like an outsider in his family. He is invisible and decides at some point that living under his family rule won’t help him, so he undertakes to live life on his own terms. At least for a while. Seraphine is adopted, and her adoptive parents provide her with a life of her dreams. On the death of her father, Seraphine is suspicious that her father was murdered by her uncle, Blaise’s father. Undertaking to investigate this, she enlists the help of people who undermine and put her life in danger.
From their youth, Seraphine and Blaise have been attracted to each other. Seemingly forbidden, both fight their attraction. Giving into it one night, they are almost found out, and Blaise hides behind his mask to push Seraphine away for her protection. However, life eventually puts them together, and Blaise can no longer keep his distance. When her life becomes endangered, will Blaise stand with his family, or will he accept his love for Seraphine and protect her?
One of the issues I had with Discretion was its lack of depth of character. I struggled with understanding Olivier’s motivation and intense attraction to Sadie. On a surface level, it made sense, but I never felt connected to them. In Disarm, this is NOT the case. From the outset of the story, your heart bleeds for Seraphine and Blaise. Both of them seemingly don’t belong. It’s the tie that binds them, but it also makes your heart hurt that, surrounded by family, they feel like outsiders. As they age, their connection grows stronger, and they can see that alienation in each other. It’s in that connection where you find the beauty of this story. I love Blaise and Seraphine more than Olivier and Sadie because their pairing makes sense even though it has a forbidden nature.
Halle’s Disarm has a story that pulls you forward. When I finally sat down to read her romance, I could NOT put it down. From its beginning to its end, your heart is pounding out of worry for Seraphine and Blaise’s safety because Gautier is dastardly. Between Pascal and Gautier, there is no sense of rightness. From one page to the next, you never know who Blaise can trust to keep Seraphine safe from the evil of his family. The care that Halle takes in crafting the suspense of this romance makes you turn the page, hoping they will find their happy ending. I loved the suspense of this book. At its end, it’s unclear how the Dumont label will survive.
Even more, Blaise’s journey towards Seraphine offer some of the most sentimental, heart-wrenching parts of the story. In the first book, we get a sense that Blaise is different from his brother, Pascal. However, Seraphine and her brothers cannot trust in him. In Disarm, Blaise’s true nature shows us his sensitivity and his love. He really is “disarming” in this story, upending his narrative in the context of his family’s story. He is believable as a romantic hero, and Halle’s genius in this book is making us fall in love with him.
As I stated at the outset of this review, I didn’t know what to think about The Dumonts. What I’ve come to find, especially through Karina Halle’s newest book, Disarm, is a story of second chances. We should all deign to withhold our judgment of others because, as this book suggests, love can prevail. It can change our hearts and push us to be better people. One thing I can guarantee about Disarm: you will fall in love with Seraphine and Blaise, and you’ll look forward to Halle’s rendering of Pascal’s story in Disavow.
“It was this. It was a future. It was love. It was creating a life and sharing a life of love. And I found it with this man.”
In love and romance,