by J. Bree
Book 1 in the Bonds that Tie series
After the death of my mother and her Bonded, I was relieved to find my own Bonds.
I was sure everything would be okay if I had them.
The fate of our people is in my hands and I know we’re better off if I’m alone.
After five years on the run, I’m caught and dragged back to face the men I ran away from.
I thought I was doing the right thing.
Now, I’m not so sure.
North, Nox, Gryphon, Atlas, and Gabe may never forgive me but one thing is for sure.
I won’t ever forgive myself.
*Broken Bonds is a full length reverse harem PNR novel with material that may be difficult for some readers. This book will end on a cliffhanger. It's recommended for 18+ due to language and sexual situations.
Urban Fantasy Romance
Broken Bonds is the first book in J. Bree's The Bonds That Tie series. It centers around Oleander - Oli, - a nineteen year old woman who is living on the run from an organization called the Resistance, and her bonds (mates). When she is caught, and forced to stay close to her bonds, she is angry. Her bonds won't forgive her for leaving, but Oli knows she did the right thing. Right?
I have seen this series recommended a lot on #booktok and various facebook groups, but what really pushed me to read it right away was the hint that Bookish Box was doing luxe editions of the series. Not wanting to miss out just because I dragged my feet on reading them, I quickly downloaded them to my kindle, and let me tell you: this book didn't disappoint. For an urban fantasy, set in our world, the "magic" system and politics felt unique. How gifted people finds their bonds (or mates), is not something stumbled upon, but scientific. Blood tests point you in the direction of your bonds. And the whole reverse harem dynamic is normal for gifted society, so its not taboo in this series. It's expected. So the whole thing felt very unique. The characters were unique. I enjoyed Oli, and her bonds (except for Nox, and I will get to that). I think my only complaint was having to wait to find out why Oli ran from her bonds, or what her gifts are. It's not hard to guess why she ran, and I suspected what her gift was for the most part, but doesn't ruin the book for me.
There is a part of this book that bothers me, because its basically sexual assault. It's difficult to establish feelings on this part, and this specific character, because of how Oli feels about the encounter. It reads very much like a sexual assault, but the victim - Oli - doesn't feel its assault. Because a part of her wanted that to happen with one of her bonds, she doesn't feel like its assault. So when the main character doesn't feel victimized, its hard to villainize him. BUT, there was also a part of her that didn't want that to happen, and that's when it crosses the line into assault. Its hard, because I know where this series is headed, specifically with this character, but damn. This scene was hard, and still is, to digest.
Despite the uncomfortable scene, I devoured this book. It's honestly great, and refreshing for a reverse harem. And as for the bully aspect, while the guys are not the nicest to Oli, it doesn't reach Zodiac Academy levels of bullying. And it gets better way faster in this series.
I repeat my mantra in my head again. Better to be hated and alive, better to be in pain than a murderer, better to be alone and safe. The high road is definitely not for me and walking it just might kill me. Girl: “So, Oli, I heard you have no gift. That’s gotta suck.”
There goes my chocolate high. I turn in my seat to look at the giggling groupie who’s staring back at me like I’m a bad smell in the room. Gryphon is blatantly ignoring her, talking with North about new training programs he’s starting with the TacTeams, and Gabe is focused entirely on the plate of dessert in front of him. It’s actually the first time I’ve seen him eat something that isn’t super healthy and he’s scarfing it down like it’s his last meal on death row. Nox stares me down from across the table like he’d enjoy nothing more than picking the meat from my charred bones. Maybe he’s a shifter, because the look in his eyes is all predator. I stare the girl down as I shrug, keeping my voice casual and unaffected,
Oli: “I’m not losing sleep over it.”
She giggles again and I swear the sound of it is going to haunt me.
Girl: “I just can’t believe it, being the Central Bond to these guys and having nothing. How shameful. No wonder they all get around, no one would stick around for a defect like you.”
My hand clenches around my fork again, but this time I can’t hold myself back from snapping back at her,
Oli: “What’s your gift? When I stab you with this fork, will you heal straight away, or can you only do something shitty, like talk to pigeons or shit gold?”
Gabe snorts and then slaps a hand over his mouth like he’s been caught cavorting with the enemy, glancing at North like he’ll get grounded. I roll my eyes but I know how to take my wins where I can and I lean in to mockingly whisper,
Oli: “She looks like the type of girl who can change her nail color at will.” Sage: “If you start shit with my brother, Gabe, I will burn down everything you love. Your bike, your football stadium, your dick… everything.”
I turn to stare at her because who the hell is this badass and where the fuck has Sage been hiding her all this time? Maybe I am in love with her instead. Oli: “Get your hand off of me before I prove Gryphon right. I might be playing by the rules for now but if you push me, you’ll figure out exactly what I’m capable of.” Oli: “She’s a crazy fucking bitch and Sage, I will literally pay you anything if you set her on fire for me. Your bail, getaway money, let’s start a new life somewhere far away from here where Vivian can never find me again and force me into a room with the pond bitch again.” Vivian glances around at the other students and then drops his voice a little lower,
Vivian: “Thirty years in a TacTeam taught me that what your gift is doesn’t mean shit about who you are… it’s what you’re going to do with it. Look at Gryphon, with his career trajectory you’d be thinking he was a shifter or some other physical gift, but he proves every day that you don’t need it. If you’ve got nothing but your backbone, kid, you’re going to be fine out there.” Felix: “The bones are all set and the thorns are out. If I can put my hand on your chest, then I can fix all of the cuts and scrapes at once… is that okay?”
Gabe’s eyebrows pull down tight and I just fucking snap,
Oli: “What, you’d rather me heal slowly and painfully after getting through two rooms and the entire fucking maze by myself?”
I don’t give him the chance to answer me. Instead, I yank the neckline of my shirt down and snap,
Oli: “Thank you, Felix, I appreciate you helping me for no other reason than our friendship.” Oli: “Thank you.”
He hums under his breath dismissively. I feel like the world’s biggest fucking bitch and it’s because of that, or the warm drugging sensation of his power, that I add,
Oli: “Leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. This pain is nothing compared to that.”
Sawyer: “The two of you better not start fucking on the table here in the dining hall because this all feels like really angry foreplay to me and, honestly, I just want to eat my pizza in peace.” Oli: “I need to know if you can use your power if you need to… that you can take someone out if our lives depend on it. I’m not pressuring you or judging you, I need to know so I can cover you if you need me to.”
Gabe stiffens in our arms but Sage just stares at me, steady as ever.
Sage: “I can do it, Oli. I’m already going to need a shit-tonne of therapy after this, why not add some homicide to the mix?”
I fail miserably at keeping a smirk off of my face, but I don’t feel guilty about it because fuck the Resistance.
Oli: “Atta girl. I’ll teach you how to compartmentalize like a pro when we’re home safe.” How do I tell him that the nightmares are horrible but the least of our problems? If only they were the worst thing I can do.