Tag Team Review: The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple by K.A. Merikan

“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”
“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”

Cornwall, 1785

Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.

Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.

No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.

When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.

Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.

But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.


Themes: highwayman, abduction, ransom, forbidden love, self-discovery, danger, crime,
Genre: Dark romance, historical
Erotic content: Explicit scenes

Length: ~140,000 words (standalone novel)

WARNING: Adult content. Contains violence, distressing scenes, abuse, offensive language, and morally ambiguous protagonists.

Chelsea - 3.5 Hearts

When I started this book I was so excited that I might have found my new favourite book (well to add to the list). Julian’s character drew me in from the first page. Evan came into the picture quickly and when he did, he just exuded power on every page. However, as you can see by looking at my rating, this book was not made for my favorites list.

Before I get into that, I really want to talk more about Julian and Evan, because these were very complex characters and I really enjoyed reading about them.

Evan, now Evan is a broke Baronet living on his run-down property with a handful of servants, desperately trying to restore his home to life. He reminded me a lot of Dom, from Merikan’s Guns’n’Boys series. Like a lot. Especially his and Julian’s first time together, it's most definitely dub-con, which I wasn’t expecting. I won’t really go into the sex, you expect it to be hot, kinky and plentiful and it was.

Evan also seems to have no concept of normal social cues, he’s been in isolation for too long. For example, he essentially raped Julian, tries to kiss him the next day and is shocked and hurt when he’s rejected. It’s pretty funny, if not sometimes very frustrating, to read about.

Then Julian. Julian makes the biggest change in this book, going from a very shallow, entitled brat to needing to reevaluate his life and discovering to love something or someone more than himself.

Now this gets into why I have such an average rating. I knew we’d have the inevitable back and forth of Evan and Julian being friends then enemies and loving and hating each other, but this just went on for too long. This isn’t a short book and I felt like nothing was happening for the majority of it, Julian would flip-flop over how he was feeling about Evan, Evan would do something insensitive and then repeat. The first 50% was very slow going for me.

I do have to say, once these two did get their act together, their love is very consuming and beautiful to read about.

I was not prepared for the thunder when it first came over me. It scared me, and lightning burned my hands, but I still chased you. Now my eyes are clear, and I finally see that my place is in the eye of the storm,” he whispered, glancing into Evan’s eyes, and a shiver trailed down his spine when his tongue teased the rim of Evan’s mouth. “Right here.”

I loved all the highwayman stuff and really wanted more of that. The last 20% of the book had me sweating the entire time…. I was fucking scared. It ends well, not quite a HEA, but close to it.

I was sad I didn’t like this more as there were so many great qualities in this book. Maybe with a bit of cutting back in the middle I would’ve read it again, but I don’t think I could without feeling a bit bored.

Breann - 3.5 Hearts

There was so much I loved about this story, but it was too slow for me to rate it higher than 3.5.

It was exciting... and then dull. Then it was sexy... and then boring. It was romantic... then slow. You get the picture.

I really (reallyreallyreally) loved Evan and Julian. Julian's character was full of self-discovery. Moving away from his father and the unwanted obligations there and finding himself living with a highwayman. There, with Evan, he discovered parts of himself he didn't know were there. Now... Evan may have forced those realizations a bit (dub-con trigger warning!). Evan knew his desires and what he wanted with Julian right away. His method needs some work, especially since he thought forcing himself on Evan would result in morning cuddles.

There was a lot of back of forth between them, which was to be expected, given the time period and the fact that Julian had to let go of a lot of the morals he grew up believing in. But it just. moved. so. slow. This is a long story and, for me, much of it dragged.

But when it was good, it was good. Sexy and sweet and completely romantic. Who would have thought two fugitive highwaymen could be so gushingly romantic? Gah. But they were.
I once had a canary, and I caged it, which is one of my deepest regrets. When I finally let it free, it sang more beautifully than it ever had in captivity. And when I let it live in my garden, my lovely bird flew right back in through the window. I loved it then more than before.
In between the slow parts, The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple was everything I love. I wish I could love it more, but I was bored too much of the time.

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