Titles: A Sinner Born, Sinner Like Me, Syren & Renzo
Series: Brooklyn Sinners
Author: Avril Ashton
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 332 Pages, 166 Pages, 87 Pages
Category: Erotic Romance, Dark Romance
Content Warnings: Physical abuse/torture, Violence, Rape (on page), Self-harm, Child trafficking
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: Avril Ashton writes some of the darkest erotica I’ve ever read, and while her characters always find love, always find their salvation and reason for living in someone who loves them back, fiercely so, getting there means backstories often filled with trauma, abuse, violence, and the sorts of scars that don’t manifest solely on their skin. Syren Rua always has been, and likely always will be, my favorite of all her characters.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurbs: A Sinner Born: One man buried in secrets. Another still grieving the love he lost. Their worlds collide in a battle between memories, old and new, while trust hangs by a fragile thread.
Syren Rua is at war. He battles painful childhood demons and his intense need for the first person who makes him feel. As Faro, Syren makes deals with the worst while taking the steps necessary to bring his family’s killer to justice. He isn’t one to indulge in selfish needs, but he’ll make the time in this instance. Syren has been watching Kane Ashby, craving the grieving man for his own. He’s always stayed away from temptation, but that’s about to change.
Kane isn’t over the death of his long-time partner. He’s certainly not ready for a relationship, sexual or otherwise, but Syren isn’t a man who takes no for an answer. The unpredictable Syren offers nothing but secrets and carries with him memories so dark, they could wipe out any chance the two might ever have. Syren brings Kane’s heart back to life. But it is also Syren who could inflict the most damage.
Sinner Like Me: The mysterious Syren Rua has found love…
Settled into a life of contentment with his marshal and the daughter they’re raising, Syren Rua finally knows happiness. All the pain and dark memories brought him this far and for the first time, he’s lowered his guard to take it all in. Blinded by love, he doesn’t notice the approaching danger until it taps him on the shoulder.
But don’t let that fool you.
He never thought he’d have a family, but Kane Ashby finds one with Syren. Nothing is more sacred. When what he holds most precious is threatened, Kane and the man he loves—along with the rest of their found family—will cross oceans as they fight to protect what matters most.
Syren & Renzo: “Your love was a weapon, and he used it to destroy us.”
Syren Rua and Renzo Vega.
Before they became the men they are now, they were stolen.
In the grip of a monster, the black-haired boy discovered hope again when he’d lost it. The white-haired boy found family when he’d gone so long without it. They had each other…until a betrayal ripped them apart.
Decades later, they’re not who they once were, nor are they who they should have been.
But there’s still time.
One last chance for forgiveness. One last chance for family.
Review: For those of you who may be unfamiliar with author Avril Ashton’s brand of romance, I can say, with all due respect to her and her storytelling, that I need to be in the right mood to read her. This author writes some of the darkest erotica I’ve ever read, and while her characters always find love, always find their salvation and reason for living in someone who loves them back, fiercely so, getting there means backstories often filled with trauma, abuse, violence, and the sorts of scars that don’t manifest solely on their skin. (Watch Me) Unmask You, the third installment in her Run This Town series, is still my favorite of her books thus far, but Syren Rua always has been, and likely always will be, my favorite of all her characters.
Syren was introduced early on in the Brooklyn Sinners series, known as Faro to the men he conducts business with as the righthand man to the notorious Ricardo Delatorre, kingpin of the Delatorre cartel, but born someone else entirely. Syren is a man of many secrets, and Federal Marshal Kane Ashby is both repelled and intrigued by this man who may be slight in stature but is patient and fierce when it comes to getting his due pound of flesh. Syren’s story is full of pain and anguish, from his childhood all the way through to the end of A Sinner Born. Child trafficking, rape, physical abuse, and self-harm have all contributed to the man Syren Rua became—is—and his cool façade is as much his armor as his bespoke suits, so when I said dark, I absolutely meant it in its most deliberate form.
Kane is carrying his own burdens, mourning the loss of his lover, Bailey, and the guilt that comes along with his death. Where Syren wears a suit like armor, Kane wraps himself in Bailey’s ghost as a reminder of what he lost and what he’ll never have again. That is, until Syren begins a full-on barrage of the marshal’s defenses. Kane doesn’t welcome it, but it’s not long before he finds himself defenseless against it, finds himself intrigued by the man with white-blond hair and lavender eyes who is a known criminal himself yet gifts Kane with a fugitive he’s tracking, wrapped up in a neat little bow. Watching Syren flirt is a thing of beauty, while watching Kane succumb is a foregone conclusion. Syren realizing that he wants Kane physically, sexually—something Syren hasn’t felt, or allowed himself to feel in so long—leaves him emotionally vulnerable. He’d not only be exposing his secret fetish but also allowing Kane to see the full tapestry of scars on his skin, knowing that Kane will want to know where they came from.
But Syren Rua is not a man who will consent to come in second to the memory of the man Kane lost. He is no man’s consolation.
The building of this relationship is made of agony and false starts, full-stops and mistrust, misunderstandings and lashing out, secrets and confessions, and lots of filthy, sweaty sex. When I said erotica, that’s what I meant. Ashton writes it kinky, she writes it voyeuristic, she writes it rough, she writes it gentle, and it’s the way Syren and Kane communicate when they can’t say what needs to be said. Their happy ending is hard-earned, but one thing about this author is that once her characters get to that ‘til-death-do-us-part place, they are solid for the long-haul.
Sinner Like Me finds Syren and Kane a year into their marriage and parenting their daughter Càtia, while building their found family composed of the sort of men and women who have grown loyal to Syren because he has proven his loyalty to them time and time again. When you’ve spent decades collecting enemies, though, it’s perhaps inevitable that someone will look to gain leverage by preying on your greatest weakness, your greatest vulnerability. That someone would make the mistake of using Càtia as bait to lure Syren to them, when the little girl has a crew of dangerous and deadly uncles who will go to the ends of the earth for her and her papa, proves a fatal error in judgement. This book is laced with violence and pushes Syren to a point he’d, perhaps shockingly, never reached before, adding yet another layer to his characterization. His preference was always for blackmail rather than deadly forms of revenge. But then, no one had ever miscalculated and underestimated him this gravely before. The way he and Kane get off on watching each other kill on behalf of their child is yet another kink added to their relationship too.
All that said, this book could also be called warm and tender by these characters’ standards. It’s a story about family, something that was stolen from Syren when he was just a boy, and watching him realize how important he is to the people he trusts is a revelation.
The novella Syren & Renzo is new-to-me and the reason I re-binged the first two Syren and Kane books, after having read them years and years ago. I have not read Kiss Your Scars, the book in which Renzo Vega is introduced, but knowing Syren was enough for me to absorb this part of his backstory without having to go through the emotional torment of reading about his and Renzo’s trauma as it played out. This story happens eight years after Sinner Like Me, and delivers Syren and Kane to a point where they are comfortably ensconced at their compound in Costa Rica with Càtia, her little brother, Marco, and their new baby sister, Sunny, who’s being celebrated, surrounded by all her aunties and uncles.
All, that is, but the one man Syren wants to be there with every fiber of his being.
This story is categorized as a second-chance love story, but it is not a romance. This story is about brotherly love, the kind of love that’s forged in the unspeakable fire of torture and abuse where two boys clung to each other and dared to dream of a forever together even as their very survival was unlikely. A love that nearly died in betrayal. This is a beautiful story, as gentle a story as I’ve ever read by Avril Ashton, and while I don’t know if this is the last I’ll see of Syren Rua-Ashby and Kane Ashby-Rua, they are left in a place of security and contentment to live out the rest of their days surrounded by family.
Ideally, I suppose the Brooklyn Sinner series is best read in order since all the characters from those books become important to Syren and Kane, and Syren is important to them, but Ashton gives Syren such a compelling and detailed story treatment that he doesn’t need the buildup. Not to mention he is the clear focus of every scene he’s in, regardless of who is there with him, simply because he is Syren Rua.
You can buy The Syren Rua Books here:
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