4.5 dark Stars
Human history is overflowing with tales of horrific terror in otherwise prim and proper houses. Children growing up watching the adults, and sometimes fellow children, in their lives do mind-bendingly awful things. This witness usually breaks something open in a person. Shatters something, drags something into the light that may have otherwise spent a lifetime never revealed. What is the most interesting, however, is watching what that person does with it. Do they allow it to infect them? Turn them into shadows of the horror witnessed? Or do they take the new facets and turn them into fuel? Mortar, capable of bringing together all of the pieces into one cohesive whole?
Tears of Tess is about that process. This book unflinchingly looks at the choice that has to be made when a person is broken and how they choose to live post-breakage.
Tess Snow exists. She smiles and participates and responds to everything and everyone in her life. But she is bereft of a tether. Her sole motivation is obligation. She is obligated to keep putting one foot in front of the other in every component of her life – her studies, her family, her boyfriend, her friends. She exists because that is what is expected. Until she is kidnapped by human traffickers. And that sole act breaks her so completely from her existence that she is rendered incapable of doing what is expected of her.
Q Mercer is a feral creature held just barely in check by sheer will power and the brutal strength that radiates from his very being. As a child, Q bore witness to some of the most inhumane, barbarous acts that can be committed. In that witness, a moment of decision was sparked within him and the choice he made in its light has paved the road that leads him to accepting ownership of Tess as a bribe.
When I started this book, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I thought perhaps that Tess would figure out a way to turn Q into a hard-edged, but loving man. I thought perhaps he would tame her and somehow it would all work out with some really interesting dialogue and interactions in between.
What Pepper Winters has written, however, is a supernova. What happens when two immovable forces meet and recognize themselves in the other? What happens when a person finds purpose in captivity? One of the most powerfully moving stories of redemption and revelation I’ve ever had the privilege to read, that’s what happens.
Winters’ writing is everything you want it to be – poetic, well paced, imaginative, passionate and equal parts beautiful and painful to read. She is able to inject even the most seemingly pedantic of scenes with life and color. Her writing is able to entrance your senses into believing you are walking right next to Tess. Shadowing her claustrophobia, smelling her fear and anger, feeling the delicious pain, tasting the darkness under Q’s skin. Knowing that everything you ever thought was law, is actually not even remotely true when you find the other half of your soul.
I could probably write a novella about this novel. Describing in detail the emotions and visions it elicited in me. Walking you through the roller coaster ride. But instead, I’ll stop here and just leave you to draw the conclusion that you need to pick this book up immediately and then shout from every available rooftop how much you loved it.