“A Brutal Tenderness” is a companion novel to “A Terrible Love” by Marata Eros, and it tells essentially the same story that was featured in “A Terrible Love”, but only from the hero’s perspective, an undercover FBI agent mostly known as Cas through the narrative.
If there’s one thing I’m really starting to be weary of/angry about in the New Adult trends going through the market right now, it’s the half-done retellings or companion novels that are supposed to be considered full books. “Walking Disaster” by Jamie McGuire and “This Girl” by Colleen Hoover, as two examples, turned out to be ripoffs for time and expense because they were essentially copy and pasted material and substitutions from the first novels their series were based on, supplemented only by the fact that they were told in the “hero’s” perspective. There was very little new material to be had from either of them and it wasn’t worth the retracing for their respective length, especially since it was walking through information that the reader already knew, and held no suspense or new ground.
If there’s one thing that I have to give Eros credit for, “A Brutal Tenderness” doesn’t completely feel like a carbon copy retracing or copy/paste version of the former novel – it offers enough new material and expansions to make it a separate telling with minimal retracing. Unfortunately, that’s not much of a compliment considering how threadbare the cast of characters continues to be, and also how convoluted the narrative is. “A Terrible Love” switched from first person to third in alternate perspectives about 75% of the way through the novel when Jess was knocked out, and Cas’s true identity was revealed to the reader in a “tell not show” format. The narrative in “A Brutal Tenderness” begins with the sense of loss that Cas feels and an ultimate swearing of vengeance against Jess (real name Jewell) for her inaction over a death that both of them lament in the aftermath, and also in the wake of a serial killer who continues to get away with crimes. His narrative is in first person, while through the work, Cas’s perspective is supplemented with the serial killer’s perspective in third person. I really don’t think the killer’s perspective was needed at all in this measure – it just made the read that much longer in filler material.
It didn’t help that Cas’s perspective point was largely a misogynistic, inaccurate, and unrealistic portrayal of an FBI agent’s profile. I don’t understand how anyone could think someone as emotionally volatile as Cas could ever function as such. I also don’t understand the plausibility of manipulating (via other FBI agents) Jess, the victim, in order to catch the killer. The entire scenario was sketchy, even as we see more of who Cas’s team is (and don’t get me started on the blatant stereotyping of Native Americans – it was just as bad in the first book). It felt manipulative to watch Cas feel up other female FBI agents in disguise as college students just to try to manipulate Jess/Jewell’s emotions. Why would that many FBI agents be needed just to secure Jess/Jewell? It wasn’t plausible. It was cringe inducing to hear Cas’s words of wanting to possess Jess/Jewell and “bury [his] meat inside her. It was infuriating to hear him say that many women did not know “the art of logic” and essentially put down females in general through the collective narrative. And the thing that really got under my skin – many of the scenes from the previous narrative were rewritten in this one, via Cas’s perspective, to make it seem like Jess/Jewell wanted his advances when she was clearly put off by him in the previous novel.
Why do people find these kinds of characters attractive? I certainly do not, and I certainly CANNOT with the level of abrasiveness and senseless violence that’s glorified through the work. I thought that “A Brutal Tenderness” had something of a more even flow than the previous narrative, but the content was just as problematic, if not worse. It wasn’t worth the time taken to read.
Overall score: 0.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Gallery Books.