Polyamorous pirates who are terrible people but super interesting characters! It’s like someone asked me to list a bunch of things I wanted to read about and then combined them all into one book! And it was amazing! Truthfully, I was hesitant going in because things like BDSM and an abundance of sex and horribly unhealthy relationships are more often “miss” than “hit” with me, but as I said, this turned out to be everything I’ve been wanting but had given up on finding, like…
– Pirates! I had never read about pirates (unless you count Peter Pan and retellings) but really wanted to. To be honest, they did more banging than buccaneering in this book, but they were on a ship and had cannons. It counts.
– Characters who are bad people but interesting! Two out of the three main characters in this book were terrible people. I’m talking “enjoys murder” kinda terrible. The third wasn’t directly terrible, but he just let all the bad things slide, so. Maybe that sounds like a weird thing to want books about, but I think it’s fun when the main characters are bad people and the author still manages to make me like them or feel for them or find them interesting anyway. And man, did this author succeed at that. These characters were so complex and interesting, and I felt so much for them.
– Polyamory! A polyamorous romance that was was complicated and still not all figured out even by the end. It was even kind of enemies-to-lovers! Let me make this clear: No relationship in real life should be like this. These were some of the most unhealthy relationships I’ve ever read about (more on this below). But books are not real life, and I love when fictional relationship struggles come from within and are full of emotion. I also love seeing the dynamics in poly relationships as the characters figure things out and eventually find their groove.
Ok I don’t know how to segue smoothly into the rest of the things I want to say. This review is a mess. I just have so many THOUGHTS and FEELINGS.
Tom. Many of my thoughts and feelings are about Tom. He was so terrible from the start—brash and violent and impish and unstable—and I very quickly came to love him. He’s one of those characters who’s just so entertaining that you can’t help but love them. Every time he was in the background going off on the crewmembers, yelling at them to do their jobs, I had to smile because it was hilarious. Just the combination of what he was saying with the narrator’s performance. But then Tom turned out to be complex and emotional and damaged, and he was the one who tugged on my heartstrings the most.
Baltsaros… he didn’t feel empathy. He didn’t care about people. He enjoyed killing. He treated his crew fairly, but he didn’t get sad when crewmembers died. He was possessive and controlling. He was dangerous and violent in a quiet, imposing sort of way. And not that it excuses anything, but he was broken too and also had a terrible past. I can’t say he was likeable, but I still enjoyed reading about him.
Jon started out as what seemed like a good person and kind of slowly lost more and more of his goodness the more time he spent with Baltsaros. He just let all these terrible things happen and, for the most part, it didn’t faze him. He knew he was losing himself, but he was too wrapped up in Baltsaros to care. But he was also the most astute and caring and sensitive of the bunch, even though I could definitely see him hardening over time.
Oh, and remember those unhealthy relationships I mentioned? These men had issues. There were moments of abuse/domestic violence. There were sex scenes that started a bit dubcon but became consensual. There was one scene that started consensual but became violent sexual assault. Tom calls Baltsaros ‘da,’ not in a daddy kink sort of way, just a casual way. At some point in the book, *MILD SPOILER* you find out they actually are step-father/step-son, although they didn’t meet until Tom was 17, and Baltsaros only married his mother for convenience/politics. *END SPOILER* There were lies and secrets and jealousy. Their relationships were (and still are even at the end) just… a mess. They were a mess. But they were also so passionate and intense and had moments of sweetness.
Speaking of which, there were A LOT of sex scenes (some of them very BDSM in nature, involving D/s, pain, ropes, and maybe some other things I don’t remember), but not in a way that seemed like too many. They fit with the story, in my opinion. But if you don’t like sex scenes, I wouldn’t recommend reading this.
Last but most certainly not least, I am super picky about audiobooks, but I am OBSESSED with this narrator. Michael Ferraiuolo is AMAZING. 1) Everything he reads sounds so natural; he puts the exact right tone and inflection and emotion into everything. 2) There is true acting behind his narrating; the emotion behind the words, the way a character stutters or sobs or is out of breath, he truly performs and makes it sound so genuine. 3) He’s so good at accents; some narrators, when they do accents, they lose the emotion and natural feeling, but not this guy! 4) He just has such a pleasant voice to listen to. If you’re interested in this book, I 500% recommend the audio because Ferraiuolo gives it so much life. He is actually a large part of the reason I decided to try this book in the first place.
So, to summarize, in case you couldn’t tell, I loved this audiobook. Both the story and the narration were fantastic, and I loved these awful but complex pirates and their messed up relationships!
*TRIGGER WARNINGS*: Abuse/domestic violence. Sex scenes that started dubcon but turned consensual. Sex scene that started consensual but turned into violent sexual assault. Two characters in a sexual relationship, one calls the other one ‘da.’ Non-blood-related incest (characters are step-father and step-son but aren’t that different in age and didn’t meet until the younger was 17).
Anyone who likes pirates, complicated polyamorous relationships, BDSM, and characters who are terrible but complex and interesting and who you can't help but love as the series goes on.
Sheltered and lonely, Jon’s life changes drastically when a strange ship sails into the harbour of his small port town one day. Trapped between the possessive pirate captain and his murderous first mate, he must learn to adapt or he will lose himself completely. An epic tale of love, treachery and revelation, this first instalment of the Baal’s Heart series brings you into the lives of three men so bound together by jealousy and lies that they must sail to the very ends of the earth to find forgiveness.