Saturday, April 1, 2017

Dirty Games by Barbara Elsborg Blog Tour

The last thing Linton needs when he arrives home after three months in the States, is to find his beautiful flat is a squat, complete with his younger brother Dirk, who’s lying in Linton’s bed with a couple who’ve paid him for sex. Dirk isn’t even supposed to have a key. But after Linton throws Dirk out, life slams in hard and if his brother is to have any hope of a future, Linton has to play dirty. Or at least pretend to. What he hasn’t factored in is having to play the game to the bitter end.

Film star Thorne Morrisey has everything. Good looks, charm, seductive magnetism and a voice that could charm a snake from its basket. He can also be a real shit and yet people still love him – though he’d rather not have the love of his ex. Owen’s a suicidal wreck after Thorne dumped him in a very public and humiliating way and Owen’s wealthy brother has his own reasons for wanting revenge on Thorne. Max’s weapon of choice is his employee, Linton.

Linton and Thorne are on a collision course and in for the game of their lives. But who’s playing who?

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 stars of complexity

This is a difficult book in the beginning, as it is challenging to find characters who are really good. The names we know we need to look out for demonstrate behaviours that are flawed and unkind, and unethical. So Ms. Elsborg sets us up, draws us in, and then slowly peels back the layers.

What I guess I am saying is, give this every opportunity to deliver a great story – because I believe it does achieve it. Linton gives us a lot of himself, and he deserves our patience, support and sympathy. Even Thorne, who behaves appallingly at times, loves his brother, River, and gets to understand how much better things can be when someone stands up to him. Both men grew up protecting their brothers and keeping the world at bay – watching those barriers fall and be repaired is both frustrating and engaging.

This is one of those books which will stick with me for a long while, because life isn't all about roses, but can still be about love.

Having read Elsborg’s Fall or Break series and Give Yourself Away, I jumped at the chance to read Dirty Games as the blurb suggested it would have a similar feel – that gritty, realistic look at life, flawed characters and all. While Dirty Games certainly has that gritty feel to it, it didn’t occur quite as I expected. But let’s face it, in a book in which the characters are keeping secrets and lying to themselves as much as they are to one another, the realism isn’t going to be as in your face, but rather more subtle and psychological because you can’t know who is playing whom until it’s all revealed at the bitter end.

Elsborg sets the scene perfectly so that I, as the reader, had the utmost sympathy for Linton’s situation – wanting to strangle his brother and cut him out of his life completely versus wanting to cry for his brother while bundling him up to protect him from the world. Linton’s is not a position anyone ever wants to find themselves in and his desire to do whatever he could to help his brother get better, made it impossible not to like him – even when he agreed to help Owen and Max exact revenge on Thorne. Yet even after the indirect introduction of Thorne – compliments of the reason why he has become the target of Max and Owen’s scorn – the author pens a series of scenes for the reader’s first “meeting” of Thorne that made it impossible for me to see him as the cold-hearted monster he’d been made out to be. This is why I understood Linton’s state of confusion when the man he met did not match the man who had been described to him, and even less so as he and Thorne spent more and more time together. Despite his intentions, Linton found himself falling for Thorne, wishing they’d met under different circumstances, and hoping he could figure out a way to tell Thorne about his agreement with Max and Owen without losing Thorne or risking his brother. And the guilt that Linton is carrying is what compels him to endure Thorne’s fury and the public humiliation Thorne doles out when his deception is revealed. And it is brutal. But when all the secrets are exposed and both men discover that there were more than just pawns in someone else’s game, will Thorne be able to repair the damage he’s done?

One of the things I appreciate about Elsborg’s writing is that she is able to convey a character’s trauma or dark past without giving the reader all the dirty details. For me, this can actually be far more effective as it gives my mind the chance to fashion a past that may be worse than what the author would have written. In regards to Dirty Games, we learn what tragedy befell Linton and Owen when they were teens that led Linton to feel as though he “owes” Owen for letting him down – a situation that Owen and Max take advantage of and that I got the feeling they had done so for years – but without the specifics laid out, my mind fashioned its own horrific series of events, making me even more invested in the book. Not surprisingly, I loved watching the relationship between Linton and Thorne develop – seeing Thorne fall for the man who didn’t immediately succumb to his advances, all while Linton tried desperately not to get involved and then, when he couldn’t avoid it, he tried to protect himself from the heartbreak he knew would come once Thorne learned about Max’s plan. I loved the supporting cast of characters and especially loved how Thorne’s brother, River, identified the parallel between Thorne’s career and what Linton had done and how it forced Thorne to reexamine his reaction to Linton’s deception. Of course, the absolute best part was how Linton and Thorne got their revenge against Max by not seeking revenge; you’ll have to read the book to find out how. Dirty Games is another great example of Elsborg’s talent and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

Barbara Elsborg lives in Kent in the South of England. She always wanted to be a spy, but having confessed to everyone without them even resorting to torture, she decided it was not for her. Vulcanology scorched her feet. A morbid fear of sharks put paid to marine biology. So instead, she spent several years successfully selling cyanide.

After dragging up two rotten, ungrateful children and frustrating her sexy, devoted, wonderful husband (who can now stop twisting her arm) she finally has time to conduct an affair with an electrifying plugged-in male, her laptop.

Her books feature quirky heroines and bad boys, and she hopes they are as much fun to read as they were to write.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Dirty Games by Barbara Elsborg to read and review for this tour.

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