Well World, I am back after being in a Bullseye induced #BookComa. This is me right now (but add pimple cream). Lawd have mercy
Phew. I actually did NOT read the synopsis before diving into this book. All I knew was I was in for a dark road ahead and I am happy I went in blind. In Bullseye, Monica James has taught me that brutal can be beautiful – that darkness isn’t nothingness, its just that you have to look deeper to see the full color.
Look at me – writing (shitty) poetry. But I digress..
I’ve found that the cop our for books that categorize themselves as “dark” romances is to just throw a bunch of dark sex scenes in with a “good enough” plot. This book is a lot of elements that other dark romances miss – captivating, magnetic, heartfelt, painful, beautiful.
That being said, there were some “nays” for me. Which will be addressed in the sections below.
PS: Some spoilers below
Cody Smith, aka Bullseye, has been released from jail after spending 12 years behind bars for murdering one of the men who ruined his and his families’ lives. One fateful night, an argument escalates to the point of violence and someone Cody is close to dies a horrible death.
This puts Cody on a path of self-destruction where he dives into drugs, alcohol, girls, tattoos, and eventually – murder. He pleads guilty for the crime and serves his time.
While in jail, however, he does not reform, he plans for his revenge on the rest of the people who hurt the one person he loved in the world.
Lily has had a hard life. She grew up in the trailer parks with an absentee mother and an overprotective brother. She is extended love by a local ballet teacher, Avery, who inspires her love of dance. But after she becomes a teenage mom, Lily is forced to do whatever she can for money – so she takes her love of dance the local… strip club.
Lily and Bullseye cross paths as Bull enters the strip club where Lily works and is immediately offered a job by the club owner, Locus.
As the story develops, Bull is pulled in two directions – run toward his feelings for Lily or run toward his need for revenge.
Ok, so here’s where I get REAL.
I felt like in the beginning I was so sure of what the story was going to be. It was going to be a revenge story. But as the book developed, revenge wasn’t the sole focus. It was kind there, but then not really the core of the story. So when she brought that storyline back, I felt a little disjointed, if that makes sense. I got “lost” in the middle of the story – not knowing where we were headed or why. I don’t think that’s a bad thing in books, but I genuinely felt lost, not like I was waiting for the next big PLOT TWIST.
Bullseye, aka Cody Bishop: Ok – Bullseye is hot as f*ck. Thank you to the Cover designer and model for making all my tattooed fantasies come to life (Yeah I follow you on IG now Andrew England – prepare for thirsty comments… kthanksbyeeeee). The one thing that stands out most about him is his different colored eyes, and I love that James uses that descriptor as dicotomy of his internal war – good & evil, heaven & hell.
I thought that James’ development in the beginning of the book was extremely multi-dimensional. He was this really deep character that you were drawn to, not just by his physical descriptions, but by his inner demons and his fear of touch/intimacy.
After being inside for so long, you forget the touch of another human, and you learn to live with it. And after a while, I began to like it. I liked the solitude because touch connects you with another, and that’s something I’m not interested in.
But as the story developed, I felt like he got very monochromatic. In the beginning, I felt like he was fueled by fear, anger, revenge, hate.. but as the story developed it was ONLY guilt. I feel like I lost of piece of his character puzzle when guilt was his only motivator – like he switched from being this super layered character, to one that was similar to Reaper’s character in Reaper by A. Zavarelli. I loved Reaper and I think the one-tone worked so well in that story because it was consistent throughout the book. Where here, I feel like we went from rainbow to gray. Again, I understand the anti-hero journey but at the same time, I feel like you lost the magnetic and utterly captivating Bull from the beginning.
Lily, aka TigerLily: Cool, she’s pretty and everyone at the strip club thought she was the best of the best, but she kinda fell flat for me. I didn’t find many redeeming qualities about her other than she taught ballet and had a kid. I felt like there could be more there. I love that she is super loyal to the people around her but throughout the book, she was basically a loner and you didn’t get to experience that loyalty. When it was presented, it was brief or it was in the past tense. I just think she needed like ONE MORE layer to really pull you into being her champion.
I feel like the parallels of their story needed more from Lily’s side. I think the story, as written, could be told solely from Bulls perspective – leaving Lily’s completely out.
Let’s Talk About (the) Sex, Baby!
Ah! The BLOODY (literally) Angst! These two fight their feelings for one another through most of the book. Bull doesn’t want to let his feelings for Lily to distract him from his goal so, in an effort to keep her away, he treats her like total shit throughout the entire book – so when they do finally have sex, it’s basically hate sex. His inner monologue though…. PHEW…
She tastes of bubblegum, but underneath her sweetness is a goodness I want to corrupt. I want to thread my hands through her hair and pull – hard – until she’s squirming, begging me to stop. I want to bite her, bind her, mark her because her purity is contagious and I wonder if I can steal it to erase the tarnish burdening my soul.
YOU CAN CORRUPT ME I’M COOL WITH IT.
So after reading that, I’m thinking this guy is going to be a total dominant deviant, but it never came. Yes, their sex scene has an added vulgarity to it but it’s not what you would expect from what is written above. I honestly expected it to be a bit Dom/Sub.
I am transfixed by the mirror image – her cheeks are flushed, her hair wild, and her body contorts against me, milking everything I give because when she comes down from her high, she knows what this is. She knows what I’ve just done.
I have never read a Monica James book before but I was immediately blown away by her ability to unpack a character and a story in the first few chapters of this book. The beginning is really where you see her brilliance in writing style. I think the story, and where you end off in book 1, is brilliant, there just a few things I needed more of. I think if Lily had more redeeming qualities about her, and Bulls character had stayed just like a little bit more consistent, this would easily be a 5/5 for me.