The Debt by Karina Halle
Published by Metal Blonde Books on August 29, 2016
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Her life changed in an instant.
And he's the only one who could have prevented it.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Pact and The Lie comes a new standalone contemporary romance about those McGregor men.
Jessica Charles shouldn't have even been in London when the unthinkable happened.
She should have been back at home in Edinburgh, perhaps hanging with her boyfriend, having drinks with her sister or doing yoga with her group of friends. She should have been going on in her normal, dependable life as always.
But on that fateful day in August, when a mentally-ill ex-soldier opened fire in public, Jessica's world changed forever.
Now single and crippled from the gunshot wounds, Jessica finds herself scared and alone, losing faith in herself and humanity with each agonizing moment that passes.
That is until a stranger enters her life. A stranger who makes her live again.
Keir McGregor has always been the strong, silent type. Throw in tall, dark, and handsome and you've got pretty much the perfect Scotsman.
Except Keir is anything but perfect. He's got a past he's running away from and a guilty conscience he can't seem to shed. But the more time he spends with Jessica, the more he falls in love with her.
And the more his secret threatens to tear them apart.
He may have been a stranger to her.
But she’s never been a stranger to him.
Karina Halle never fails to deliver. Her writing is fun, it’s dynamic, and entertaining. The Debt is heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. The story is gutting. It’s harsh, it’s in your face, it’s fantastic. I’m so proud of authors who step outside the “expected” box and delve deeper into real life issues. Especially when they keep things current. The Debt is all that and then some. I mean who in their right mind writes a romance with terrorism and ptsd thrown in? Karina Halle that’s who, she does it bravely, she does it with eloquence all while making you feel like you can’t go on.
The story written in dual pov’s starts with Jessica. It’s interesting because I had hoped to read this book over several days. But after reading the first few pages I found myself getting comfortable and gripping the kindle with all my might. Because the beginning of The Debt is surreal. To much almost to read. Our world is in crisis mode and with so many terrorist attacks, it doesn’t seem to far fetched to think it will affect one of use directly. So to begin a story with a horrific act of domestic terrorism, while giving us the perspective of the victim, is nothing short of powerful penmanship.
Some may think they didn’t need that part. That it hits too close to home. That it’s not important to the romance itself. Sure maybe, I guess. But what Karina does with her stories is bring them to life in a way that only adds dimension to a sometimes one dimensional genre. Not to say others aren’t bringing anything new. There is just something more to Karina Halle’s stories that we don’t often see.
When Jessica meets Keir I’m worried. I don’t actually think Keir is going to be good for Jessica. It took me a while to warm up to him. I think I was hyper-protective of Jessica after everything she went through. I wasn’t sure another broken/damaged person was going to be a good fit. But as usual Karina Halle proved me wrong. The chemistry was off the chart. The bond created between the couple was mesmerizing to read. This is a painful book to read. There’s a lot of issues these characters are dealing with. Almost too much at times. While the romance is hot and sexy, the story really is dark if not depressing.
My plan to spend days reading turned into finishing it in one day. The Debt is just that riveting.
(The Debt is a standalone novel. You do not have to read any of the previous Karina Halle books in order to enjoy this book.)
*A copy of this book was kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*
“You’re not going anywhere,” he says. “Sit. I’ll get you another drink.”
“It’s getting late,” I say feebly but I sit down anyway, my leg giving a protest of pain.
“You need something for that?” he says, noticing my wince.
“The scotch will do fine,” I tell him quickly, not wanting him to make a fuss. “But really, I should go.”
“Why?” he asks from the kitchen. I hear the top pop off the bottle, the slosh of liquid in the glass. “Where do you have to be?”
I have to think about that for a moment. He comes over and holds out the glass. “I won’t keep you here if you don’t want to be here. But if you do want to be here, you don’t need to make any excuses.”
I take the glass from him, holding it delicately in my fingers. He stands over me, a massive wall, waiting for some kind of response.
“I just…” I begin. “I…” I take a sip for bravery. Swallow. “I’m not very good at this.”
“Good at what?”
“At…this. Being with a man.”
When he doesn’t say anything to that, I look up at him. He’s got a peculiar smile on his face, his brows raised. “You call this being with a man?”
I clear my throat, feeling my cheeks grow hot. “I mean. I’ve told you before –”
“Yes, how you don’t do relationships, how you don’t do sex.”
“I never said I don’t do sex,” I remind him quickly.
His eyes never stop searching my face. “Then what is it? What are you afraid to say?”
I have the sudden urge to flee and I know it must show because he suddenly points at me and says, “Don’t you dare say you have to go again. I want you to go back to what you said, that you’re not good at this. What is this? Us? You and me? There’s nothing mystifying about you and me, Jessica. You know quite well how I feel.”
I stare at him in shock. I do? “How?”
He looks off with an air of impatience. “I invited you to dinner, you turned me down.”
“But then you said just as friends.”
“And I meant it. But there are different types of friends. It’s up to you to decide what kind we are.”
I put my drink down with a clunk. “Holy pressure.” And now it’s not just my face going hot but my entire body, flushed from head to toe.
“You’re on fire, little red,” he says, his gaze skirting over my limbs in such a hungry way I can almost feel them on my skin. “I have to say, I like this look on you. Hot and bothered.”
“Back with the innuendos again,” I comment but my voice is weak.
“No, no innuendos this time. You came looking for me tonight not because you wanted to confess but because you want something from me. What is it? What do you want from me? What do you think I can give you?”
Jesus. This is so utterly unnerving. His words slice right through me, his eyes still peeling under the layers, trying to get at something I’m not even sure of myself.
If I lie, he’ll know. I can only be honest with him.
“I want…” I take in a deep breath, my eyes breaking away. “I want…company.”
“Company?” He sounds surprised.
I nod. “That’s the truth. I’m lonely. And I’m afraid. And I’m tired of being both those things. I want to be with someone who makes me forget who I am. You make me feel fearless in a way I didn’t think possible.”
There. That’s the truth. Most of it. It hangs in the air, thickening the tension like flour to stock.
He sits down next to me, has a mouthful of Scotch. “Wow,” he says, running his hand over the beard on his jaw. “And here I was thinking you wanted my cock.”
I burst out laughing. So does he, a big wonderful bellow. The tension in the room eases up a notch.
“Sorry,” I tell him when I catch my breath. “I guess they can both mean the same thing.”
He sucks in his lip briefly, his eyes taking a lustful turn. “If you want it to.” We stare at each other for a few heavy beats. Then his focus trails back to my gaze and he says, “Why don’t you stay over?”
And there I have it. The chance to know what those full lips would feel like on mine, what his skin would taste like. I swallow hard.