My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I had picked up Lana Grayson’s Anathema MC series on a whim, not really expecting much. I thought it’d be one of those tiny novella-type quick read with some hot sex scenes and zero plotting. But damn I was so wrong! I have to say that not only this debut series has hot sex, but also it has a tight-knit plot with some seriously damaged and dysfunctional characters who’d leave you intrigued and wanting for more.
The installments of Anathema MC are not your average 30pages novella. Each has 150+pages, with book 2 having almost 300pages. This series revolves around some key members of Anathema MC and their seriously f*cked up lives. The ex-VP of Anathema MC, Blade Darnell, who’s been rotting in prison for the past couple of years, had left a legacy of s*ht on his wake before the law got hold of him. His 2 eldest sons, Brew and Keep (real names Brice and Tristan) are now holding important posts in the MC under the new President, Thorne Radek. They have a rival MC gang, The Temple, who wants to destroy anything and everything in the wake of their supremacy, by which I mean any competitors to their shady business. You get introduced to these MCs in book 1. I found the whole intro confusing at first. It took me a while to get to know them better, the who’s who of it all but it was worth it. When I was finished, I could see the story arc quite clearly and was anticipating the next installment.
TBH, I wasn’t a big fan of the author’s writing style, and thought sometimes the dialogues read ridiculously melodramatic for my liking. It grew on me however, and I was glad for it too that I just didn’t give up. Just finished book 2, which was much more of an improvement IMO, as I found the writing style much clearer and concise. Have to agree that it was pretty darn good!
In book 1, Warlord, we meet Rose, Blade’s daughter, trying to make out a life sans her MC heritage because of the stigma and fear that surrounds the whole MC lifestyle. But there was another, much darker reason, for her reluctance. She wanted to be away from anything that reminded of her of Blade. Her brothers, Brew and Keep would keep track of her no matter. Rose had financial problems and wanted to carry on with her musical endeavors. She didn’t want her brothers’ help, yet there was no backing off when those two were determined to have their way.
Brew is more like Blade in looks and temperament, with dark eyes and hair already sprinkled with grey, having a big muscled body while Keep is a junkie. He might’ve been very handsome once before the addiction took hold of his much lighter features. Now he sports a bald head which used to have blonde hair. Rose has dark eyes and auburn hair, and she resembles Brew more than Keep.
Sometimes ago, a couple of Anathema members split and created a new MC called the Coup. This, in itself, is a violation of Anathema’s code. Then, the Coup was more corrupted than Anathema ever had been. The President is a total sleazebag, who was also involved with the rival, Temple, for more leverage and cut in the drug business. Unfortunately, no one knew that Blade was trying to get out of prison thru his secret, shady dealings with Temple+Coup and Brew was helping him with it, the devoted son that he was. He wanted his father out, and so he was willing to go to some extreme lengths. Even if it meant keeping Keep in a drug-induced stupor; drug that came from Temple thru him. Even if it meant that once the word got out, he’d be good as dead to Anathema because a traitor only gets one thing in return; death, which might or might not be pleasant depending on his sins.
Rose gets entangled with the MC war sh*t completely by mistake. She had no idea that the guitar shop she went to belonged to someone from the Coup. Thus, she also becomes a target. Brew and Keep had to move her to Anathema’s club house, more so when Thorne commanded that Blade’s daughter should be kept safe. Under him. Literally (if you get my meaning). Then we learn that Rose has known Thorne quite young, quite obsessed with him. Because he was quite a bit older, much closer in age to Brew and Keep, he never gave her second look. Or so Rose thought, because Thorne noticed her alright. But out of respect for the VP and his MC brothers, he never laid a hand on the girl with baby bunny eyes. The girl who’d also been the center of his obsession for a long time. Now that she has grown up and he has a chance given to him on a platter, Thorne is going to use it to its fullest.
Note that their relationship wasn’t all flowers and rainbows. Actually there was nothing of that sort because early in the story Thorne (me too) figured out that there’s something quite wrong with Rose. She’s scared of Blade for some reason. And she sports some sexual skills so good, almost inherent, that Thorne didn’t know what to think. She wasn’t a virgin, yet she wasn’t comfortable with sexual activities either. As if she was used to turning off something inside her... Thorne had to know what was wrong.
I just knew something really bad had happened to Rose while she was growing up. Her mother, who passed on leaving her young, wasn’t much of a mother, even if she’d loved her. She was almost always drunk. Blade wasn’t a father material either. Too bossy, too entangled in Anathema. Family never mattered to him; a man who thought of his children as nothing more than possessions. His sons were either already mixed up with Anathema, then either a junky or serving time, while the daughter practically grew up alone.
Rose, being a girl, was basically useless to him. Or was she?
Ironically, Thorne too, at one point, wanted to use Rose to rat out the betrayer he already knew was inside his MC. His prime suspect was Keep being the junky he was. But things change when they started living and sleeping together. Somehow, after all she’d gone thru, Rose manages to create a close bond with Thorne, who instinctively knew that she needed his protection because no one protected her from whatever the hell happened to her. Somewhere along the way, he had a change of heart about Rose as they start falling for each-other in their own twisted way. For Rose, it was a God given that she could actually enjoy sex with Thorne because she thought that part of her will always remain buried. I couldn’t blame her when I got to learn more about it.
When sh*t finally hit the fan with the Coup and Temple, then Rose gets kidnapped. There’s a big war where members of both MC get killed, including the sleezy President of the Coup. A guy named Knight (Luke) takes over the Coup. It seemed that he wanted to create an all around bond with all the MCs when they split from Anathema but the plan obviously backfired. Though he seemed like a decent guy, Knight was the one who betrays Rose’s trust and helps the Coup kidnap her. There’s always those double edged situations that these people couldn’t seem to escape.
Though the war was finally over, to some extent at least, trouble was still brewing. For now, Temple had backed off, the Coup is completely scattered. Rose is safe with Thorne, and she should be basking in the love they share. Yet the Darnell family is destined to have problem follow them one by one. Brew finally confesses that he was the one who betrayed his MC to help Blade. But the bomb dropped when they saw how pale and sickly Rose looked and it wasn’t from her recent brush with death. That she doesn’t want Blade out of prison. In fact, she doesn’t want Blade anywhere near her. It was so horrible even to imagine that a father sexually abusing his teenage girl until he went to prison, that my eyes were wet. Brew and Keep were dumbstruck because they had not a f*cking idea that this is what she’d been going thru while they were away, chasing their own demons... or women for that matter.
It was because of Rose’s heart-wrenching pleas that convince Thorne to spare Brew’s life. She didn’t wanna lose any of her brothers. Brew is exiled finally from Anathema, but he’d have to disappear as they plan to let it be known throughout the MC that he’d been executed. A warning for anyone wanting to go down that path.
Book 2, Exiled, is a direct continuation of book 1. It’s been around 3 months since Brew left Anathema. He’d been going around from town to town as a mysterious biker named ‘Noir’, his profession transporting goods from one MC to another. Brings good money for his no questions asked service. Brew had been as far away from his home as one can be so that no one recognizes him. He’d survived somehow, even thru all the pain and misery of Rose’s revelation. He’s stewing in the guilt of not seeing his father’s real face, the monster that lived almost near the surface. He’d been such a devoted son, always wanting to be like Blade that he was blind to his faults. And now, Rose is paying for his sins; their sins.
Brew rarely keeps contact with Anathema as commanded. Keep is still a junky, working at the MC clubhouse when he’s not sleeping off the drug that’s gradually eating him alive. Brew had asked his brother to sober up and keep an eye on Rose, even though Thorne is now with her 24/7. She’s now the Prez’s Old Lady (aka ‘woman’ or girlfriend), so she’s safe. Thorne, however much a bastard he is, loves Rose like no other, so Brew is sure that she’s in good hands. But Blade will be out very soon, thanks to Brew’s ‘help’. So yah, there’s no shortage of Brew’s nightmares; most of all, it seemed, are his own creations. But he’s determined about one thing. Blade won’t live long enough to celebrate his freedom, let alone laying a hand on Rose ever again! Brew would see to that it’s done.
It’s one of Brew’s transportation jobs that get him into trouble with Temple once again. This time, he was transporting something for an MC called Kingdom, to another called Sacrilege. Sacrilege is a very weak MC with an equally weak old man for President and a big, hulking and brainless brute named Goliath for its VP. They’d do anything to keep their heads, even if it means throwing in the VP’s Old Lady in the deal. When he’s called back to Sacrilege for another job back to Kingdom, this time Brew finds a beautiful, feisty blonde as his ‘courier’, or so to speak. Apparently, she’s to be collateral to Kingdom until whatever mess they’re in is sorted out. No one, of course, cares about the girl’s well-being in all these.
Even though he tries to think of it as just a job, the irony and the similarity isn’t lost on Brew. It strikes something deep within him. He’d failed to help one girl, is he going to do the same with another? It was apparent that the girl, Martini, was apprehensive. Only God knew what those twisted SOB would do to her, death would probably be welcome by the time they’re thru. What Brew didn’t know that Martini (Olivia) wasn’t some weak, vaporous girl. Life has taught her early of the nastiness of this world because, though Martini is only in her early 20s, she’d seen and suffered much more.
It was true that Martini ‘belonged’ to Goliath, the ugly tattoo on her neck would scream as much. However, she had long since failed to feel anything but loathing for that brute. She has been ‘taken’ by men from an early age and acknowledges as much, that at an young age, she welcomed those rough handlings. She’d always been attracted to the proverbial bad boys and got off on being ‘used’. Ever since Goliath came into the scene, things changed. He just ‘took’ her and no one questioned it. At first, she liked his cruel treatments, but now, Martini wants out. More so, now that he’s proven more than once that he doesn’t care a sh!t for her.
Martini’s only solace was her cousin, but more of a brother than one, Red (Ryan); the only person who probably cared for her. Red had a future, he was going to be a doctor, until the MC happened. He left his studies to become the ‘cleaner’ for the MC messes, by that I mean murder scenes. There’s certainly no shortage of that kinda occurrences! He’s so good at his job that Red makes good bucks doing it for various MCs.
Martini finds herself attracted to Noir from the get-go. But she understood that she couldn’t let a man in her life again. All she wanted was out and she was going to use him to get there. A bat of her eyelashes, a quick sway of her hips and a sultry smile has gotten her this far in life, so Martini thought Noir would be the same. She’d find his weakness and it’d be a piece of cake!
Honestly, I didn’t like Martini for the better part of the book because she, indeed, was using Brew to get away, until she finds herself falling for him. Since they found the Kingdom MC members brutally murdered while ‘delivering’ Martini there, they have been on the run. Brew and Martini weather a lot together in that hellish journey to get away from both Sacrilege and Temple. Since Temple’s members knew him and was hunting for his head, Brew knew he’d have to hide. Now Martini has also become a target. They become close and with Martini’s coaxing touch, he relaxes his guard and begins trusting her. He confides to her about Anathema and Rose, though not why he was so far from home. They even end up having sex, and that was enough for Martini to poke and prod, to make sure Noir, who she now knew as Brew, would take her with him and keep her safe.
Brew comes to learn of Martini’s plans in an unfortunate way. And he was hurt, though he’d probably never acknowledge that part. But I understood Martini’s desperation and not wanting to return to Sacrilege, as Brew wanted her to. And though I didn’t like her, I felt the apprehension as much as her. It was given that if she returns she’d suffer much worse than what she would’ve suffered at Kingdom members’ hands. Goliath would never let her ‘transgressions’ go unpunished. And sadly, I was right to be apprehensive. I wouldn’t recount what she goes thru at the hands of Goliath when they finally catches her and drags her back to their place. It was hard to swallow any way.
After getting Rose’s call on Blade being out of prison, Brew knew it’s time to go home and set the record straight. He hated leaving Martini alone but he was angry at her betrayal. Is that all she wanted from him? Did he mean nothing to her? But Brew didn’t have time to dwell on his own hell and heartbreak; he had to make sure that Rose never suffers thru another hellish moment in her life because of a monster who ruined their family.
I felt so bad for Brew every time he’d go and torture himself with his resemblance of Blade in everything, even his rough and callous handling of women. Once upon a time, he conquered a woman and was proud of it. Now he cringes every time he thought of the things he’d done. Though he hadn’t hurt or raped any woman, he knew his blood is poisoned because of Blade and he absolutely despised it. He didn’t want to become intimate with Martini knowing her abusive past with Goliath and other men, but it seemed she wanted the same thing from Brew; more like welcomed it. From her POV we learn that while Goliath made her scared, she craved Brew’s rough touch, wanting more of it. And even though they had this misunderstanding, she wanted him to become her protector. In the next, we find her proving just to what lengths she’s willing to go to help Brew. To make him see that she’d fallen in love with him, that it wasn’t all just an act.
After a brutal night with Goliath, a bruised and battered Martini is dragged down by that a$$hole to face the members of Temple MC. I was scared to death for her because those SOB were the cruelest of the bunch. But boy if Martini didn’t show everyone that she’s made of much sterner stuff! When they taunt her with the threat on Brew’s life, that Blade has paid to kill him because he knew he’s going to get his comeuppance once he’s out, Martini knew it’s time for some serious action. Oh that girl! She makes such a superb escape from their clutches, and thanks to Red, finally flees that hellhole in search of Brew.
The next few chapters are action on top of action plus some really shocking revelations, especially the one about Rose’s real relationship with Brew. It was such a bomb that I was shaking my head, completely flabbergasted! Like something totally unexpected! But now that I look back, Brew’s concerns and continuous show of affection for Rose makes much more sense to me. Much like her, I still can’t get my mind to wrap around this whole matter.
Up next is Knight’s story which I found rather surprising. I was thinking it’d be Keep’s, but doesn’t matter. I really have to know where this series headed to and what Knight can do to Temple with the information Martini handed over to him. I’m kinda addicted to the series right now. A solid 4 star!