Trigger warnings: I just want to emphasize that for most of the book, Ollie is 17 years old and Leo is 29 years old. The rest of the trigger warnings are listed in the book, but they include things like dub-con, self-harm, murder, ableist language and assault.
First things first, this book is a standalone and I'm sure it would work fine if you read it as such, but it's heavily connected to the Dreamhaven Duet (which is MF, btw) and both characters are introduced in that one, so reading the duet enhances the experience of this book. But this one still works just fine as a standalone. Z.S. Storm is probably my favourite author that I have discovered in the last year. I enjoyed every book of his that I have read and he always writes tropes that just speak to me, so when he announced he was coming out with a dark romance including the father’s best friend trope and a stalker as the main character, I was so here for it. I’ve been itching to read this book since it was announced a couple of months ago. In fact, this book is set in the same universe as the Dreamhaven Duet, which a MF duology and before that, I had read one MF book in the last 5 years (on the like 400 books I read during that time), and I read those two books before the release of this one to get to know the world, this is how excited I was for this book. So I’m just sad that while I enjoyed this book it didn’t end up being one of my favourite books of the year, but I think we can blame that on me having too high expectations. I really should learn to keep my expectations in check because I always build up books so high in my head that there is nothing the book can do but not live up to my way too expectations, so I’m really sorry for that book.
Brief summary Leo is in love with his best friend Oliver, and has been for years. But Oliver is happily married to a girl named Paige and together they have a son, Ollie. Ollie has been pining for Leo (who's his uncle) for a while and he starts stalking Leo and doing really dubious things to convince Leo that they would be good together.
“I want you,” [...] “Want me back, damn it.”
First, I really enjoyed the stalking part of this book. I loved how they got together because Ollie was relentless and he kept stalking Leo until Leo finally accepted to get with him. I love when the main character has to chase his love interest until he gives in and decides to get with him. It's just on the right side of a dark romance for me and I love it so much. And I loved how it was done in this book because Leo was so reluctant and really didn't want to be with Ollie at first, so I loved how Ollie had to work on breaking Leo until Leo surrendered. Ollie definitely was really stalkerish and toxic in the way that he kept pursuing Leo until Leo agreed to date him, but this was a dark romance so I loved every second of that and it really worked for me.
“I’m tired of this, Uncle Leo,” [...] “I’m tired of waiting for you to get it. Waiting for you to understand how I feel. To see me. To stop fucking looking at me like I’m a kid. Like don’t you get it?"
Second, I loved how possessive this book was. I loved how Ollie set his sights on Leo and decided that Leo would be his and how he made sure that no one could get to Leo before Ollie had him. Third, I liked every moment that Leo and Ollie spent together. They were really well matched and I liked how they took care of each other. They had a lot of really fun interactions that were a breeze to read and they made for such a good time while I was reading the book. My favourite part of this book was all the small moments that Ollie and Leo spent together and how they got to know each other. Fourth, I really loved Ollie's character and how he was shown. He was a teenager who has been through a lot and who had a really bad and scary childhood and I loved how that reflected through his character and through his every action. I loved how the way he acted was just a reflection of all the pain he went through, that felt so realistic to me and I loved it. Leo was a fine character too but I just wish that he was developed more, he didn't have enough character traits for me to really get behind his character, he was a fine presence but I just wanted more from him. Fifth, The sex scenes in this book were super hot and absolutely lovely and I enjoyed all of them. They were perfect to me and really fit the characters and their role in the relationship. The sex scenes in this book just really worked for me. Sixth, I said it before and I just want to say it again, Z.S. Storm has some of the best writing I have ever read. I love how easy his books are to read and how they all flow together so nicely. His books are always so much fun to read and I always enjoy the time I spend reading them and it definitely was the case for this book.
“Oliver, I love you. I thought I knew what love was before but… being with you, whether we’re fucking or not, it showed me just how much deeper I can fall.”
Seventh, I just want to talk about the dark romance part of this book, because I think that's one of my issues here. Ollie has a mental illness where he has a demon inside of him that controls him and makes him do bad things in order to defend the people he loves or himself. He is in therapy, but he's still having a really hard time suppressing that part of himself. I have no problem with how the mental illness was shown and I did enjoy that part of the book a lot, I think my issue is that mental illness was the one of the only things that made this book a dark romance, most of the dark aspects of this book were because of Ollie's mental illness, and I just don't really enjoy the implication that the book is a dark romance because the main character has a mental illness.
To me, a dark romance is because the main character is an evil guy and not because he has a mental illness that makes him do bad things. I just wish that the dark romance elements came from other actions than the ones he did because of his mental illness. Or I wish this wasn't called a dark romance because yeah he did bad things but it was because of a mental illness and not because he is a bad human being, which isn't a dark thing to me. And yes the book has a lot of harder to read moments and I can see why it would be classified as dark, it just kind of irks me how it's dark because of a mental illness because that just does not seem like the best rep to me, I just don't like how the mental illness is what makes the book dark. I don't know, I might be the one who's wrong here, but I just don't like the implications of a character having a mental illness being called a dark romance when all of his actions are dictated by a mental illness and not the fact that the character is actually a bad guy. Eight, I just didn't really enjoy the last 25% of this book. I really loved the first 75% and I was vibing along and I was really loving it, but the last 25% just kind of lost me. I just didn't like where the story went and how the characters did actions that didn't seem like them at all. I just felt like there was a huge disconnect from the rest of the book and I just didn't really like the way the story went in that part of the book. It was all fine, it just wasn't my favourite thing in the world and that part of the book really impacted my enjoyment of the entire book. And I don't mean the actual ending of the book because I did really enjoy that, I meant the actions that happened before that, they felt very out of character to me and they just weren't my favourite. I had a really good time reading this one and trust me no one is sadder than me that it didn't end up being a favourite book of mine because this was one of my most anticipated releases of the entire year. I still enjoyed a lot of this book and I love Z.S Storm's writing and the way he creates a lively world with lovely characters, reading his books is always a good time and a very good distraction from real life.
Pretty Little Monster is available now as an ebook