**** 4 ‘(un)Selfishly Love Me, Baby’ STARS****

Two things make this series an addictive can’t say no, can’t put down auto buy for me. The first is that each book, and the War & Peace series as a whole, asks important questions and layers them in tragic, horrific, angst filled, dubious consent, fearful, trauma entwined love stories.  The second thing is K. Webster’s deft ability to make me empathize with monsters, let alone manipulate my emotions to the point that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.  It’s quite an amazing skill.  This series is dark.  It deals with difficult subjects.  You know when you read a book and the heroine narrowly escapes rape?  Or beatings?  Or being drugged and manipulated?  Yeah, this isn’t that series.  Escape is hard fought and never comes without a painful price.

“Like a dandelion in a hurricane.  The wind rips away parts of you, but you’re still left standing after the storm.  Sure, you’re weathered and changed, but you’re still there.”

Gabriella/Brie Rojas (h) is an empty husk of a woman and deeply scarred by the horrific events that have shaped her life right up until the end of the last book.  Rescued by the father that abandoned her for her mother’s killer, she’s numb and frozen – looping back in time unable to look forward.  Until him.

“I can’t ever love you like I loved him.”

Regret runs deep for Ren McPherson (H).  After watching her fall in love with another man he knows he lost the most precious thing in his world.  Her.  His vow to be Brie’s friend and give her anything she needs remains strong.  He’d do anything, anything for her.  Even protect her from her ex-cartel in-laws, his psycho murdering sister and a new player to the game that’s not all he appears.  Lost to his need to protect and love her he’s caught up in her grief and crosses lines.  He knows she’s not ready, she knows she’ll never return Ren’s feelings.

“I won’t ever give up on her.”

Does selfless pure love exist?  We’re searching for it in the books we read, hoping to find it in the lives that we lead.  It’s not terribly trendy in books at the moment – one character always gets labeled as a ‘doormat’ or ‘pushover’ (I’m guilty on occasion) unless the story dynamics are just…right.  Those dynamics are here.  My heart bled for Ren.  I wanted his absolution raining down in the form of Brie’s understanding, compassion, her denying her need to use Ren selfishly for her own relief from her circumstances.  That didn’t happen.  I hated the way Brie treated Ren when she realized they may be getting ‘closer’.  She does acknowledge she’s selfishly using him to her own ends, and Ren gets it.  He understands, he’s patient, doesn’t lose his temper, doesn’t snap at her, anticipates her ever need, dries her tears…he LOVES her…unconditionally.  And as mad as I was, as hurt as I felt for Ren (and feeling like, geezus, quit being a doormat – yep I succumbed) by the last half of the story, I totally got it.  That build up showing us their progression and Ren’s devotion is important.  While there’s a circus menagerie of fuckedupedness going on in the book, in this series, love is the endgame, the shining light.  And this time, I felt the undying never-ending reverence Ren showed Brie.  I ultimately adored it.

“What a ridiculous concept.  Happy.”

The flip side to this double edged sword of devotion is Brie.  I had a hard time connecting and justifying her actions.  Let’s be real, the series has a lot of crazy plotlines we’ll never experience and some so horrifying it’d be real hard to ‘put yourself in the characters shoes’…that being said, I did empathize with Brie.  I felt so incredibly sad when she muses that she’s a bad person because hideous things happen to those who get close to her.  In the end climatic scene when she’s screaming at Ren and praying that the same fate doesn’t befall him, I ached for her…but…it just never was enough.  I think it’s because I was so invested in Ren.  Ren’s love is so in your face that the counterpoint of Brie’s emotion, or lack thereof, showed me ‘meh’.  I didn’t get any breadcrumbs that she had any serious feelings of love for Ren beyond the friendship.  She’s so committed to never loving another like she did with Duvan that the final ‘ah-ha’ moment wasn’t as emotional – as big of a revelation – as I wanted it to be.  I loved the story, I just felt a little warmer than lukewarm towards Brie.  And with all that I still read the book in one afternoon; I couldn’t put it down.

“That sometimes I say things I don’t mean because the guilt inside of me is a curse I can’t escape.”

A series of incomprehensible tragedies, acts of violence, character studies of the depraved and a war that love always wins, the War & Peace series has quickly become a favorite on my keeper shelf.  Glimpses of previous characters, introductions to new characters and continuing story lines complete the circle of this on-going series with a flourish.  I’m looking forward to the next stop in crazy town, complete with my utter love for a mentally unstable murdering psychotic Daddy, his victim and their fucked up families – their circle of life.

“Love destroys demons and obliterates broken pasts.”

K’s Category: 3rd date, several novels read by author to date.

TRIGGER WARNING: Read Author’s Note in product blurb

Characters: M/F


Sex: Yes, descriptive

HEA: HFN with set up for next book.

Standalone: No, You must read the 4 previous War & Peace books in the series.