Review: Heart of Stone by Denysé Bridger

Filed in 1/2 Star , Denysé Bridger , Review , The Smutty Lover Posted on December 3, 2010 @ 11:00 am 13 comments

Format Read: eBook received from the publisher through The Review Depot
Number of Pages:64
Release Date: March 3rd, 2009
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Formats Available: Ebook, Paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

Book Blurb:

Randall Stone is the stuff of heroes, a mercenary given a discharge from the army he has served with his life. But the government is still interested in using the skills they’ve taught Major Rand Stone, and he continues to work with his hand-picked team. Into his shadowy world a light has come, and in her love, Stone discovers unhoped for joy, and, perhaps, unbearable sorrow?

My Thoughts:

I had high hopes with this novella because the summary and premise looked very similar to the books by Lisa Marie Rice and Shannon McKenna who write sexually intense romantic suspense. But after a few pages in with this novella, I was sadly mistaken and that initial promise of a good compelling romance soon dissipated not only into disappointment, but also jaw-dropping disbelief at the issues/plot points the book raised.

I am going to split the review into two halves because I will be delving into spoiler territory and there will be sensitive issues like rape. I am placing a warning for trigger awareness about this in the second half of this review.

First part – non spoilery.

The novella opens up with the funeral of the heroine, Robin Bourne, who was killed in a car accident by a stalker. The story then goes back into a flashback that lays out that things are not all that it seems with Robin’s ‘death’. Whilst at this point the book introduces the mercenary group of friends, there was hardly any focus or introduction about Robin and Randall relationship – other than the aftermath of his learning about her death and the regret and knowledge that things were rocky between them. I was beginning to get frustrated with the story because it was a novella, and there were no foundations or illustration that laid out Randall and Robin’s relationship and how they were like with each other. It was all telling and no showing about their romance, and I was feeling a bit lost. Other than a few mentions that actually showed what it was like to be with Robin, like when Randall was confronted with Robin’s death and was given the dog tags that had his name on them. Randall thinks to himself – ‘That lack of feminist in her was one more complementary trait to Rand’s chauvinistic nature.

She was happy to belong with him and to him.’

The term Chauvinistic is not one I like to describe a hero with. Yes, I know in romance you have uber alpha males who can act like a$$holes, and sometimes it can work, but more often than not it simply does not work. And the fact that he seems to like the idea that she hasn’t got any feminist ideals…well this put me off their characters, especially Randall, because I kept thinking the reason that their relationship was rocky was due to him being an alpha a$$hole and she was a walking doormat. I also found this part of the book was pretty jarring, and I could not warm to their characters or their romance.

But this wasn’t the only problem in the book. The flashbacks too and fro from the past and present affected the pacing and the plot; it felt choppy and in-cohesive. Add in the fact that Robin is estranged from her mother and sister, who show up after learning about her death, did not add anything to the book – other than the fact that the author used this scene as a way to tell the reader the hero LOVES Robin.

There was no explanation on why Robin was estranged from her family other than the fact her mother and sister looked like they were bitchy and cold and wanted to go to Robin’s house, which I deduce they want to check out if they can get any valuables, since they were cut out of her will. This scene felt redundant and did not add anything towards the story.

I really had trouble following it because I found there were huge coincidences – the ending especially. I felt like there was a huge missing piece we should know about because there was no development or reflection on an important issue which was sadly ignored competely. Everything was tied up in a hunky dory way and again the use of a lot of telling but no showing of the events and with the characterisation.

Second half – warning for spoilers and triggers for sexual assault and rape

But those issues is nothing compared to when the novella focuses on Robin and her abductor who turns out to be an ex friend turned frenemy, Jason MacIntyre, who has a hatred and an obsession to get back at Randall. Oye, where to start?

While Robin is kept prisoner in a pacific island, which Mac calls Paradise Lost, he acts like the typical villain with a deep sense of insecurity and jealousy about the hero getting the girl and the life he wants. Because there is no other reason why he would get into the trouble of abducting Robin and going through the hassle and murdering another woman to fake her death that I gleaned from the story since there was no explanation why he turned rogue.

There was also the fact that Robin who knew she was being spied on by hidden cameras and had no privacy in her room, ends up dreaming/masturbating about smexy times with Rand which leads to the humdinger of the story (although this wasn’t as bad as what happens after) that she gets raped and repeatedly assaulted by Mac the creep, who has to threaten her to enjoy her sexual assaults because he feels better that way.

But the thing that made my jaw drop and actually made my brain implode with incredulity was the fact after weeks of being abused by an insecure nutter, was the thought that Robin could actually even entertain the notion let alone the idea to have sex with the hero within hours of her rescue. This by the way did happen – Not only did this threw off any resemblance of accuracy and realism about the emotional and physical aftermath that repeated sexual assaults that Robin suffered and I don’t count the few mentions about the shame or guilt/anger she had towards Mac. Because jumping Rand’s bones in the midst of an escape from Mac’s secret hidey hole does not compute let alone the idea that she had no trouble sleeping with him with no emotional or physical breakdown/issues.

But let me add the cherry on top to this, because it does get worse. Whilst escaping from the evil lair of doom, Robin had the chance to kill Mac the creep but Rand stopped her even though he had hints and a suggestion what she was going through during her incarceration. And would any self respecting alpha hero not beat the crap out let alone not kill him for harming/abducting the heroine?

So while Rand and Robin are getting reacquainted next to a waterfall, Mac manages to escape from a prestige crack group of uber alpha mercs, and hunts the targets for his deep ire and hate. But when he comes across them doing the horizontal rumba he turns to Lucky (a fellow comrade of Rand, who is pretty lucky he did manage to catch up with him because realistically he could have killed them like any self respecting villain) turns to him and I quote “She really does belong to him.” Duude you are a villain, a bad guy, you raped and mentally tortured a person for months!!! You went through all this crap to get your vengeance against your frenemy, and you go all emo!!!


At this point this was the icing on the cake of how bad this book was, but there is still more!
After this point the book flashes forward five months into the future, with Robin who previously ran away from Rand offscreen, probably dealing with the aftermath of the rape and the fact she didn’t feel worthy enough of him but now wants him back and is ready to deal with him.
They make up and have smexy times on the couch and presumably have a happy ever after providing there is no other crazy villains like Mac in the shadows.
The main problem with the novella was how the author dealt with the aftermath of the rape, I have read unbelievable sex scenes in the past from on top of horses to that of the middle of a car chase but the fact the heroine who was raped and mentally screwed with was able to even have sex and enjoy it hours within a rescue, which by the way they were still in enemy territory I cannot get my head past that. I am still trying to digest it but when I came across this bit in the novella –

“That’s why our lovemaking was so different at the riverside,” he mused, his mind taking him back to
the spectacular piece of paradise that existed on MacIntyre’s island retreat in the South Pacific.
She peered intently at him. “You felt it, didn’t you?”
He eyed her for a moment, then nodded, a slight smile curving his mouth.
“You’ve always been an exciting woman to make love to, honey,” he whispered. “But only a fool wouldn’t have felt the depth of your passion that afternoon.“You made me forget, even if you didn’t know it,” she told him, eyes serious and glowing with love, as well as gratitude. “When you touched me, I felt pure and safe again.”

I wanted to chuck my ereader against the wall. But I love my Constance*, too much for that but I hate the idea of the issue of rape being used so cavalierly and the fact it was used as a plot thread is very weak storytelling. The aftermath and the idea of the magic whoohoo healing sex is the cure is disappointing and cliched and a trope that I absolutely loathe in romance, but this was the first time I read a scene that it was within hours of a rescue. Another fact that niggled at me is that we don’t hear what has happened to Mac – I would have actually liked the fact Robin could have killed him, but you know what at this point I think he should escape again (he probably did) go back to his Lost Paradise and join a site like and hopefully he can find another nutter who can really love him.

Heart of Stone, is not a novella I can recommend and I am pretty disappointed with how certain events and issues were played out and portrayed. The characters were one dimensional and the romance hardly ever developed or fleshed out. The plot and the use of flashbacks and flash-forwards affected the pace and the resolution was a lot to be desired. I can sadly say that my heart turned to stone from finishing this story because any emotion and thoughts turned cold from this story and how it dealt with the repercussions of rape.

I give Heart of Stone  half  a bookie.

*(Note from editor: For all who aren’t familiar with Has, Constance is her E-reader *wink*)

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

About Has

Has is a bookaholic and feeds her addiction whenever she can. She usually can be found lost in a Romance or an Urban Fantasy novel. Her favourite sub genres are Paranormal, Fantasy and some Scifi. Her most treasured authors are, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Ann Aguirre, Lisa Kleypas and Tamora Pierce. She loves that discovery of finding a brand new author and falling in love with their books. Has also blogs a The Book Pushers - Book chatter and reviews

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Join the Discussion
  • Lynette December 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm


  • Has December 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Yep that was my reaction too when I finished the book 🙁 I think if the rape issue wasn't a factor it would have been an average book. But that just killed me when I came across it.

  • Rie McGaha December 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Wow! I got lost just reading the review and thought for a moment I had the characters confused. Rand is hero, right? Mac is bad guy?


  • Has December 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Rand is def the hero! 😀 Mac is his frenemy and like all bad guys has a secret hideaway in the south pacific and plots to get back at Rand.

    And get this and I didn't mention it in my review. Mac was a crappy captive despite the raping 😛
    But he was training Robin because he thought she needed it to – The whole book was an incoherent mess.

    The author was building up to make Mac this creepy warped guy she did succeed in doing that but not in the way she intended.

    She really undermined this buildup by making him go emo at the end and wasn't the whole point for him to rape/kidnap Robin was to get back at Rand but he's like but they truuuly love each other. 😛

    I hate the fact used rape as a plot device – it was cheap and poor and the message in the story was wrong, especially when she used the cliched magic whoohoo sex to help her heal – ESPECIALLY so soon after her captivity.

  • Denysé January 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    The author understands rape, and the many emotional responses to it and to the people a rape victim loves… everyone copes differently. Wondering and about to balk – consider this – the author is a rape survivor. Since that's the biggest hang up on this story, it bears pointing out that no two women react the same way to the man they love after being a victim of rape.

  • Penny January 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    No one knows how or what a persons reaction will be until they are in that position. I have counselled any number of survivors and that part of the story line is something I have heard, the immediate need to feel normal with someone they feel loved and safe with. Granted it is not a typical response but then she was not a typical womanin the story.

  • SusiSunshine {The Geeky Bookworm} January 1, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I for my point think that yes the way she coped with the rape isn't very usual. Probably a mminority seen out of statistic point of view and I don't think many woman would react like that in such a close proximity to the actual rape. I know that there are many cases where woman start to explore their sexuality at the fullest after a rape to get back the feeling to be worth something, to be loved and all that BUT I'm not sure that this would happen in a time period of a few hours. The psychological processing of rape often takes another way first. The most common reaction is to feel dirty, to want to be alone and better not be touched by anyone. That''s not only what the textbooks about this topic preach it's actually what happens most.

    The main problem in this book is more that perhaps it would be better to actually show how she processed this afterward, how she coped after something like this happened to her. That is the thing you should write about, to give someone hope or the strength to do it herself. But here it was only thrown in to make the story more dramatic and then the easy way out. It's totally legit to have rape in your novel but when as Penny said you chose a scenario that isn't really common you shouldn't expect people to understand it.

  • Has January 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Denyse!

    I am really sorry that you had to experience a horrendous thing like rape and I am sorry that I didn't enjoy your book. But for me rape is a hot issue for me and I find it difficult when it is part of a plot.

    I know rape can be dealt differently with different women and with men! Also reactions from violent attacks and date/drugged rape can affect people differently. This wasn't the issue.

    But like Susi my issue with this novella was the fact that the rape aftermath was ignored and the fact they were having sex in enemy territory. Yes Brand had his guys around him but they could have been overpowered and the villain did evade them to go and follow them to witness having sex. It wasn't realistic and if they were supposed to be professional and experienced getting out of that territory would have been the most upmost importance. Getting intimate in a place that was safe and away from her captors would have been more believable.

    Rape as a plot point is subjective to readers as well like other issues such as addiction, disability, race etc – readers can react differently to certain issues. But for me – Heart of Stone didn't work because I would have liked time spent on the aftermath or at least some recognition that the heroine was dealing with it other than a few sentences and a mention of two about her feelings. For instance a scene when she went away with her friend to show she was healing from the aftermath.

    I've read reviews/comments from rape survivors who have read books with similar plot points and totally hated the fact rape was used as a trope because it is a hot issue that needs to be dealt sensitively and realistically.

  • Anonymous January 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I agree with Denyse and Penny as a abusive survivor myself. The characters are portrayed realistically up to a point. The rapist sounds like my former husband. I can say this, the only person on the receiving end knows how it is. I have been in that position.

    In general I don't buy a book based on reviews in fact when its negative such as this one it makes me go out and by the book. Since I have read this book prior to reading this review I can say that this reviewer has automatically "killed" the book based on the "Rape" scene and instantly dislike the characters and storyline.
    For this book reviewer it's a "Bad book" due to her personal point of view and beliefs thus it seems to me she has been following some kind of guidelines. A book reviewer should take into consideration that not all books can be reviewed using a general reviewing guideline. If the book reviewer is professional then she should have passed it to another book reviewer to be reviewed.

    I'm disappointed with this book reviewer and it has tainted my own personal views about Book Lovers Inc professionalism regarding book reviews. In fact they're on my Black List.

  • Jax January 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I'm confused by the notion that a reviewer should pass along a book to someone else if they don't like it. Or that they should not discuss their own personal views of a story. That's the whole point of a review! To tell others what you liked or didn't like about something. It's not meant to be objective. Reviews are entirely always subjective. Reviewers who can express WHY they like/dislike something are even better.

    I won't NOT read a book that someone else disliked, unless they give me a specific reason and I have a tendency to dislike books for that same reason.

    What a childish, cowardly thing to post. Anonymously. At least Has stands by her opinion openly.

  • John The Bookworm January 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Ah, I have to firmly stand by Has with this. If I had read this novella, I don't think I would have been able to find any kind of reason within the heroine's actions.

    To me, the idea is highly unlikely, but within the context of a well written explanation and thought process for the heroine, I could have dealt with it. However, it seems like what Has is really complaining about is that, in her opinion, the story lacks any kind of justification. This is consistent before she even mentions the rape and aftermath.

    You are free to disagree with her take, Ms. Bridger, but the way you are making your case makes me want to read this book less. I may have tried it for myself someday, but I prefer to read authors that are willing to explain their thought processes in a manner that isn't rude.

  • Has January 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Hi there Anon!

    I'm sorry if you feel that I am not professional in my review but I think that's a subjective thing? I have always been honest with my reviews whether its negative or positive.

    I would like to know why this book had to be reviewed differently from other books and what are the rules? Because I am frankly stumped and I would like to know this because I must have missed this at the school of reviewing. I have an opinion and I know people may agree with me and some may not as you have stated. I am sorry you have blacklisted Book Lovers Inc because of one review but when I read other negative reviews from other sites – I didn't get upset or blacklisted them because I disagreed with their opinions and I have bought books with negative reviewed books too. Like I said its all subjective and it was my reading and feelings about book which made this review a negative one.

  • Wings January 1, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    As a person with an opinion and personal experience i will say only this:

    Has: I appreciate your honesty with this review and admire the fact that you spoke your mind as that is what we as reviewers do. We do not follow rules, we do not follow guidelines and we most certainly do not mislead people by focusing too much on one point.

    Denyse: I respect you for having the courage to write about rape having gone through it yourself but as it is a sensitive issue it has to be expected that not everyone will take it maybe the way you intended it. As you said yourself not everyone can deal with this the same way.

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