Pretty When You Cry by Skye Warren – Strippers, and Cults, and Spankings…Oh My
I’ve been planning to launch this blog for a while now, but wasn’t sure what book I should writer about first. Something new? Something I’ve read (and possibly reread)before? Something “trending” so that it was relatable to my readers? I just wasn’t sure, but last week I came across a post on Facebook about Skye Warren’s Pretty When You Cry and knew almost instantly that that was the book I wanted to write about.
Now, I have to confess when it comes to romance and erotica I am a definitely a sucker for a bad boy, and award extra points if he’s also a dominant, so those things definitely played a big factors into me clicking on the “buy now” button.
Pretty When You Cry was as promised a “dark romance” it was also sexy and raw. No romantic walks on the beach or snuggling on the couch “Pretty When You Cry” was bare bottom spankings and rough poundings. Despite usually loving the bad boys I don’t generally like when they’re cold or mostly emotionally distant from the heroine and there was some of that gong on in this story, however it wasn’t enough to put me off of finishing it, and I was still able to root for them to be together in the end.
Overall Pretty When You Cry was a good, hot read with an interesting plot and I actually want to read more books in the Stripped series. There were a few things that I wish had been different, mainly the time hop from when they first met to 3 years later and Candace’s weird mix of conflicting personality traits.
So, that was my review but the next part is my summary of the story for anyone interested in the details from my perspective. Spoilers from this point on…
The story opens with a 16 year-old, Candace having just escaped a religious cult only to find herself being pursued by a handful of creeps (who are potentially rapists/murderers) when she arrives in the first city away from the cult. Despite being highly sheltered she knows a lot about the dangers and “sins” of the world so is wry, but not nearly wry enough in my opinion. As in most stories that start like this our hero, Ivan, is the tall, dark, and handsome kingpin who enters the picture by putting the fear of God into the creepers with just one stare…because he’s the hero. Instead of getting out of there Candace is of course drawn to him and follows him into his strip club. After walking through the club and seeing a few strippers dance, Candace begins offering to work at the club or give Ivan her virginity so he doesn’t call the cops to take her home aka back to the cult. That was a bit of big leap for me since I wouldn’t have expected that to be the thought process of this innocent, little religious girl…but that’s what she did.
Ivan can obviously tell Candace is too young and since he’s the hero he tells her he doesn’t want her dancing at the club but he’ll let her stay with him and take care of her instead. Candace is somehow okay with sleeping with this strange man she met barely 2 hours prior but not okay with doing so in exchange for his “free” care so continues to beg for a job at the strip club because somehow that will equal independence or something. Ivan once again dismisses it and tells her he’ll take her home with him, and then this suave, unassumingly smart kingpin leave this random teenage girl alone in his office. Candace snoops and finds pictures of naked woman and thanks to being repressed by the cult for so long her first response is to touch herself…so that’s a thing. Candace’s snooping is interrupted, by Ivan’s security guard, Luca because of course all these big Kahuna types have military like security guards that are gentle giants that they task with watching over their women. Not too long after meeting each other Ivan takes Candace back to his home where he let’s her get cleaned up and tucks her into bed then…
3 years later (yep major time hop) Candace has gotten into drinking, drugs, and has just finished up a shift stripping at Ivan’s club, The Grand(the club he originally told her he didn’t want her dancing at), before heading down to his basement office for some playful banter with Luca before going into to Ivan’s office for some “Daddy/little one role playing where she is spanked while she plays with herself for him. Apparently, Candace is still at her heart a submissive and needs to “serve” and “worship” someone even though she’s been free of the cult for years, but in some kind of twist she also wants to be free of Ivan’s control and stalker-like behavior (because what’s a bad boy Dom without the control issues and some “protective” stalking), so after their escapades she plans to leave Ivan.
The next day Candace comes back to the club and before heading to Ivan’s office she talks to one of the other security guards at the club and that’s when we learn that though they play a very sexualized game, Ivan has never slept with Candace and that is a part of why she doesn’t want to stay with him anymore. She loves him and wants to be something more than a perverse spanking to him but knows he can’t see her that way. So, when she goes to Ivan’s office she quits. Hearing this he offers her more money and more pain to change her mind. She declines so he dismisses her wanting to leave and tells her she has no choice but to stay and gets rough with her (not something I enjoyed) and that’s when she confesses that she wants things to be “real” between them and like all these types before him Ivan thinks the idea is ridiculous and mocks it. This encounter is interrupted when Luca comes down to inform them that there is something they BOTH should see upstairs.
They come out of the club to fine a Bible verse painted in blood on the side of the club. The scene unnerves Candace because prior to this someone broke into the club and wrote a different Bible versus with her lipstick on her mirror in the dancers’ dressing room. She fears the leader of the cult, Leader Allen has found her and is coming to bring her back to the cult (another reason she wants to leave)or worse. Ivan tells her not to worry and that he’ll make it right. The incident at the club puts a wrench in Candace’s plan to leave Ivan and she ends up going home with him where they end up arguing about her wanting to leave and him not being able to give her what she wants and her fear of something bad happening because she believes the cult has found her. Ivan again dismisses everything because he’s the hero and can fix it all.
After all that Ivan takes Candace back to her room and tries to put her to bed but when she asks him to stay he does and begins to touch her more intimately than he’d ever done in the past and this leads to him fingering her for the first time then her falling to sleep. The next day Candace is back to wanting to leave so she calls one of her friends and enlist her to help with her plan to run away. She has the girl drop her off at a truck stop where she meets a young, relatively nice truck driver who gives her a ride. They don’t get far before one of the dirty cops Ivan’s pays pulls them over. Candace tells the trucker to go on because if he stays it’ll be bad. When Ivan shows up he’s beyond pissed and admits he’s been tapping her phone and that’s how he found her.
When they get back to Ivan’s house they’re both angry and Ivan plans to punish Candace, but decides to do it in his bedroom, where Candace usually isn’t allowed. He tells her to strip and she does but when he tells her to get on the bed she refuses so he tosses her over the dresser and begins to roughly “f**k” her and when it becomes too painful Candace admits she (was) still a virgin. Ivan stops and is surprise even though he probably should’ve been given how clear it is that she’s been waiting for him all this time. He doesn’t really offer an apology just takes her to the bed and changes “tactics” with her. She begs him to take his clothes off and when he does she discovers he has horrible scars and of course he tells her he’s a monster, but they continue to have sex.
The next day Ivan has one of the other security guards from the club over to discuss the incidents at the club with Candace. Candace tells them more about her time in the cult and why she thinks that it is related to whoever’s been doing the stuff at the club. She also tells them about, Leader Allen and how he used her mother as his whore and that he had begun looking at her in inappropriate ways so her mother got her out of there but stayed herself. Again, Ivan promises to make everything right. Later, the two fool around again then Ivan tells Candace of his plan to visit the cult and speak to Leader Allen. She wants to go with him, but he’s against it.
Barely a day later Candace runs away again. This time she ask one of Ivan’s competitors to let her stowaway on his riverboat, who for some reason agrees only to tell Ivan later and have him come to the boat to find Candace. Of course Ivan has to “punish” her…with rough sex for running away, but make sure to stop before she’s found any release. She whines until he decides to make the punishment kinkier and have her take care of herself by dry-humping a pillow. Afterwards they snuggle and Ivan tells her his sad past about his abusive father, absent(possibly dead) mother, and his grandmother who raised him but couldn’t handle his wild and violent behavior. He told her about how he left his grandmother’s house and came to the city where he found nothing but darkness and how he took shelter in a church where he met a priest who “kept” him there for 3
years. He doesn’t say anything more but it’s pretty obvious that things were not good and that is part of why he’s the cold-hearted guy that he is.
After returning to Ivan’s house the two get into another argument over why Ivan won’t go back to his grandmother’s house even though he described it as such a peaceful and beautiful place and why he won’t let Candace go if he can’t be open with her. Soon after the argument Candace gets a letter from a law firm saying that her mother has died and that she left everything to the cult. There’s also a letter to Candace personally where her mother apologies and pretty much admits that she knew the cult and Leader Allen were no good. Candace is heartbroken and Ivan comforts her. They decide to take a massive security team and go to the cult the next day. On the way they arguing (real surprising I know) and Ivan makes Candace sit on the floor of the limo in a sort of timeout for what he deems a tantrum.
Upon arriving at the cult’s compound they give Candace’s name and are allowed to enter. They go to Leader Allen’s house. There’s a girl living with him that’s a year or so younger than Candace and it’s obvious some messed up stuff is going down. Leader Allen and Ivan have words, as they would say all the while the creepy, aging cult leader is doing everything he can to rile up Candace. Ivan snaps and pulls a gun on Leader Allen. Candace begs him not to because of all the people that depend on him. Allen doesn’t care because he’s dying, but confesses to being Candace’s farther. In the midst of all that the girl that lives with Leader Allen, Beth grabs a shotgun and aims it to shoot him. Luca tries to get the shotgun away from her and she shoots him(Luca) in the stomach. Ivan then kills Leader Allen.
Afterwards they somehow make it out of the compound with Beth fighting Luca the whole way and them getting shot at by cult members. They end up at a hotel where the men (Luca survived) interrogate Beth while Candace tries to be a gentle mediator. When all that’s over Candace decides to run away…again. She drugs Ivan and Luca with the sedative they’d used on Beth, and then the two women run off into the night. Candace assumes she’ll have a better chance this time because there not on Ivan’s home turf and they do…
The two girls end up living in a cottage near the land where Ivan’s grandmother lived before dying. They work as servants for the people at the main house. Beth is also apparently pregnant. While out in the yard one day a figure shows up and…it’s Ivan. He’s a little crumpled up in appearance and says he only there to finally let Candace go. He gives her the deed to The Grand then tries to leave, but Candace tells him to stop and then says she wants to be with him again and have him take care of her and be his “little one” again. She also tells him it’s okay that he can’t change because she was the one that needed to change(not a fan of this either). She slips back into her baby/little girl role for him and they go at it again before going to talk to Beth about Candace returning to the city with Ivan at some point only to find the other girl making out with Luca (who apparently isn’t bothered by her being pregnant with the cult leader’s baby). Luca agrees to stay and take care of Beth so Candace can go back to the city with Ivan.
Back in the city Candace turns the strip club, into a burlesques club while Ivan focuses his attention on his other businesses and the two go back to their kinky Daddy/little one roles and live “happily ever after.”