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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review: The Flesh Cartel: The Complete Collection by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau


The Flesh Cartel: The Complete Collection
by Rachel Haimowitz, Heidi Belleau
Series: The Flesh Cartel
Published by: Riptide Publishing
August 4th 2014
Genre: GLBT, BDSM, Thriller/Suspense
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)

Rating: 4 Stars



     Sublime service, made to order.
     The Flesh Cartel: an international, multi-billion-dollar black market that trades in lost souls. Or more specifically, their bodies. The Cartel trainers are masters at breaking a human mind. Fortunately for their ultra-rich clients, they’re just as skilled at putting people back together again—as perfect pets, well-trained and eager to please.
     Two orphaned brothers caught by the Cartel learn just how far the human spirit can bend—and how badly it can break. But with support from each other and a determined FBI agent, they may also learn how to live—and love—once again.

Season #1: Damnation

Episode #1: Capture
     This episode is just what the title suggest. Mat—a professional MMA fighter—and Dougie—Mat's brother and Psych PhD student—are captured and "erased" from their lives. I was left feeling murderous and sad in their place. They are mistreated, specially Dougie, but they don't know why. They think it has something to do with Mat's underground fighting.
     Then they are humiliated and forced to do things against their will to stay alive. This book repulses and makes you want to keep reading to see what it's to come for this two brothers; and makes you hope and pray that they get out of this and soon.

     This Episode made me feel murderous! After days of been locked up in padded rooms and endless pain, humiliation and rage, Mat and Dougie finally learn why they were taken, when they are up for auction as if they were the most precious of diamonds for the highest bidder (which for this buyers they really are).
     I really feel sorry for this men and what they are in for. I like that even with everything going on around them this two brothers want and are doing everything they can to stay together and get out of this alive. It is really sad to think that even if this is fiction this might be happening in real life.

Season #2: Fragmentation

Episode #3: Choices
     After been bought by Nikolai—a slave trainer—as a request for a client, Dougie and Mat are transferred from the processing center where they've been held to his house. From the moment they were bought Nikolai Has been training them—even when he has not been there to oversee it.
     It is very heart wrenching seeing how Dougie has been treated and how Mat is still the one suffering all the pain. Nikolai is to good at what he does and I fear that Mat and Dougie are in for some hard and painful truths and that they might not come out of this with everything they have and hold dear. Just poor bastards is all I can say.

Episode #4: Consequences
     In his quest to train Mat and Dougie properly, Nikolai is trying to pin the brothers against each other, separate them in order to have the finished product he's clients look for. But he's work is cut out for him because the bond the brothers have is stronger than he thought.
     As I read more about the brothers and their 'situation' the more piss I get. And I hate Nikolai with a passion that make a mockery of Mat's pain and Douglas' self-disgust. But so far I'm more sorry for Dougie, for wanting to not hurt, than for Mathias as he is still the strongest of the two. But I really wish they didn't have to be apart.

Episode #5: Wins and Losses
     In this episode we mostly see how Nikolai is trying to break Douglas. He implements every kind of torture he can think of to make Dougie cave and it is staring to work. Meanwhile Mat is trying to stay strong physically—trough the fitness equipment Nikolai has supply him, after all his client wants a 'fighter'—and mentally. But we can see the cracks in his armor starting to show too.
     As much as I hate Nikolai I am impress with his control and his way to read what Dougie and Mat are thinking. Or an approximation of it. It really tells how good he is at what he does. I'm really starting to think he has a psychology PhD or something too. And as the story unfolds more and more is shown of Nikolai which makes me think he was brainwashed too—albeit in a different form.

Episode #6: Brotherhood
     Nikolai has recruited the assistance of Mathias to help brake Dougie and although it goes against everything in him he agrees. Douglas suffers more pain and humiliation and when he calls to his brother to help him he finally realizes that the only person that can help him is Nikolai but only if he is obedient and do what he is told.
     It broke my heart how Nikolai was able to sever the connection between brothers in Dougie's mind. And how Mat is and will suffer because he still loves and wants to save his brother. But what gives me hope is that deep down—reallllllly deeeeeeep—is his heart, Dougie knows that Mat would have to have a good reason for not saving him.

Season #3: Transformation

     Mat is at the end of his mental rope feeling guilty and not worthy of even the memory of his brother and starving himself to death because of the depression his in. Meanwhile Nikolai is spoiling Dougie but it might come with consequences that Nikolai can not afford.
     I am dancing with glee here at seeing how even after all he's been though Douglas keeps a part of himself that not even Nikolai can reach. That part of his heart that is pure and that no matter what still holds hope for himself and Mat—even if he's not aware that's the reason but in my own heart I know it. I'm just sad about Mat and can help but pray he gets out of that funk quickly.

     Okay so Dougie is confusing up with down and right with left and still not near the end goal Nikolai wants but he's getting there. He is to much on his head and questioning and demanding but Nikolai is getting in his psych little by little and changing the settings. As for Mat he is back in the game and stronger that ever.
     It is a matter of time for all the pieces to fall into place and I just can't wait to see what Mat brings to the table with this new change in him. I was getting a little tired of Douglas and his whinny ass and his coming and going. I can't wait to see what is in store for Mat's training as Nikolai's client wants Mat complacent but not broken like Dougie will probably end.

     As Mathias tries to convince Nikolai that he will be perfect slave as long as he lets Mat see Dougie, Nikolai is plotting and planing to twist that reunion to his favor. But then it doesn't go as plan and the two brothers have until morning to fix everything between them—it only Mat could talk.
     Oh my freaking gosh...it's about freaking time something happened here! I'm a little bit nauseated with the 'cock warmer' thing but cheering for Mat and Douglas to finally make their escape. But I'm starting to wonder if they ever will. I mean can Dougie be anymore Stockholm Syndromed? I been Mat would have punched him instead. Dude is getting on my nerves.

Episode #10: False Gods
     After a failed escape attempt—which was a 'test' from Nikolai—Mat and Dougie are punished for it, but Dougie is the one who suffers the worst treatment until he breaks and finally severs his ties to his old life and his brother. And then Mat's punishment is the most psychologically damaging than what Douglas want through—IMO.
     I can't give this particular book more than three stars. I liked the story but it when a little to far for me with Mat's second punishment at Douglas hands and the performance at Douglas "come-out ball." I know that there has been some 'things' here and there that suggested that might happened but I didn't really think that the authors would actually write it and in so much detail. I just hope I don't have to read anymore on it.

Season #4: Liberation

     Douglas and Mat have been finally purchased and Nikolai has only a week or two more to make final preparations to send them to their new master. Which include—among other things—making sure Mat protects his brother as best he can and letting go of his attachment to Douglas.
     After the intense 10th episode I find this one the perfect way to come down from all that. Mathias and Douglas are branded as part of the 'initiation' protocol Nikolai has and then are given a reprieve from the agony by being pampered before being sent off—also to give the brand time to heal. We are also introduced to Nate, a detective interested in the brothers disappearance because of a crush he has on Mat and who doesn't look like he will be giving up on finding them.

     After been on the road a long time to reach their new master, Mat and Douglas are left to figure out how to please their master and how to survive on their own. They are in a private island with no hope to escape but this in no way makes Mat loose hope of escaping even when it looks futile to attempt it.
     Poor Douglas is left to try and make his way in a situation that look to be going from bad to worse with his fellow 'Pleasure' slaves. Mat in the other hand doesn't know what is it that Allen want even when he employs every thing ever told to him by Nikolai. And after he's new frenemy is killed in front of him—sort of—he finally figures what is that Allen want from him. I just hope they survive at the hands of Allen and can escape before is too late.

     Mat is turned into an underground fighter and his life consists now of fight after fight. Allen doesn't bother him anymore just as long as he keeps fighting, which is a blessing—or not. And Douglas is finally happy, or kind of happy anyways, as ha is now Allen's wife Penny's slave. His only duty is to make her happy—which is no burden—and keep Mat motivated to fight, just be alive so Mat can be blackmailed.
     This episode made me sad. There are just somethings you are not able to come back from and I'm afraid Mat might not come out whole from this. He is just going to keep suffering until he can escape, which thankfully the time just came. Meanwhile Douglas is content to please Penny as she treats him like a man and more importantly like a human, not a slave. He loves her, just as he loves Nikolai—but a little different—and is reluctant to escape with Mat—he has truly been brainwashed. I can't wait to see what comes next and if Mat truly can escape this time.

     Mat has been successful in running away from Allen—with Douglas help—and is now in protective custody with the FBI. Nick is with him and is doing everything he can think of to find anything of the Cartel so they can find Douglas. But it is proving to be not enough and the only solution that comes to Mat might scar him for the rest of his life.
     Poor Mat is going crazy trying to keep it together when people touch him or get near him. The only person he trusts is Coach Darryl who treats him like he always has—even if he might be feeling sorry for him in private—and doesn’t let him wallow in his pity party. But little by little he is coming out of his trauma and might eventually pull through—if he really comes out of this completely and not get caught up in the PTSD, the nightmares and the things he’s had to endure to survive.

Season #5: Reclamation

     After endless tries to somehow infiltrate the Cartel it is decided that Mat will have to let himself be recaptured by the bounty hunters. After much plotting and planing they set everything in motion and after a few days he if taken and tortured to make sure it wasn't a ruse. They obviously buy it and take Mat back to Nikolai for reeducation.
     Mat is suffering trough all this since every day that goes by is a day he doesn't have Dougie with him. But even when everything brings the baddest of memories he is willing to put everything aside and push forward if it gets him a step closer to finding his brother. But he will not like what has been going on since he's escape. It might all be too much. I just hope that he is a good actor or everything will go down the drain.

     After weeks of waiting the teams are ready to move and go rescue Dougie and make a mayor dent on the Cartel. Mat is psyching himself up for the job ahead of him but he doesn't want Nate there to see him like that. But after Nikolai inspect the agents who will go as slaves there is one of them who will be likely to ruin the operation so Nate decides he will go on his stead.
     This episode is a 5 stars for me. It made me laugh, it made me mad and it made me sad. Allen is trying to break Douglas' spirit and hopes with lies and Douglas is starting to see that Nikolai has manipulated him (although his training is fighting him too to not loose fate). I just hope that when it's all over Nate can still see Mat as he always had and not with pity and/or disgust and that they can have something together.

     After they 'rescue' all the slaves are taken to different institutions to give them the help the need. Doug is rebelling and going against what the psychiatrist's are advising they do—though not enforcing it, after all they want the slaves to have their freedom. Meanwhile Mat is trying all his best to fix things with Nate, who avoids him like the plague.
     As Mat is doing well with his therapies he is released form the facility with Doug's custody as Doug is not doing good with all those slaves around. They are given an apartment and new identities and after settling in their new temporary home they feel like their old selves—if only for a day—and it was good to see that. To see that after everything that's happened to them there is still hope to go back to be as close as they used to be.

     After a day of care free abandon it is time to go back to reality and that reality is that Doug is a headcase and Mat is trying to help him by giving him back his freedom and the power to make his own choices—but is Doug ready for it? Doug keep rebelling and trying to do what he wants—which is trying to find a master or mistress to tell him what to do—while Mat is trying to make his new relationship with Nate work but not give to much away to protect the trial.
     Oh God! This episode get a 5 stars too! I was crying by the buckets. Poor Doug if fighting his instincts but the training is so instinctive that he's having problems and Mat it's not taking any of it well either. They keep trying to find ways to coup with their new lives but it just to hard—specially for Doug. There are some up and downs but that ending gives me hope that this is going to end well for them. And I hope to see more of Corinne.

Episode #19: Promise
     In this final episode Doug has come a long way from where he was and after the trial's ending he is able to confront Nikolai and come out the victor even when all seemed like it wasn't going to be the case. He and Mat have been able to come together again as brothers with the past not come between them even when they have a long way to go.
     I feel like this was the perfect ending to this serial. Mat got his HEA and a HFN with endless possibilities in front of him. It was a nice surprise to see Leslie—she got to me in the brief time she appeared—and see that she will be okay too. They have a lot more to recover from but the important people are already there and hopefully not going anywhere. As for Nikolai I hope he has an infection that make his dong fall off! (That was a surprise little chapter)

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