Review: Dirty Games by Barbara Elsborg

Let the games begin.

When you play dirty, mud gets in your eyes. And when your vision clears, it might be too late to say sorry.

Linton Williams is moving up in life, he’s secured a great job, he’s living his dream - until it all comes crashing down, courtesy of a brother who’s hooked on cocaine and owes money to dangerous people. When Linton’s offered enough cash to pay off his brother’s debts and send him to rehab, he can’t say no.

But there’s a catch. To save his brother from the hell of addiction, Linton makes a deal with the devil. His job? To teach film star Thorne Morrisey a public lesson in humility that might just destroy Thorne’s acting career for good.

When Thorne and Linton meet, sparks fly, and one kiss sets into motion a chain of events that could destroy them both. By the time Linton decides the price is too high, it’s too late. He’s fallen hard. And now he’s trapped between destroying his lover or his brother.

Game over

This book has dark themes and violence.

Wow. To say this book was complex would be putting it lightly. As a few reviews have stated, there is a lot going on in this book but the method to which each character is weaved into the fabric that ultimately becomes the romance between Thorne and Linton was done so flawlessly, you won’t get lost.

***I am going to say this now, this book has on page rape in it and also stories of past rape as well as on page violence so if those are a trigger for you, be aware.***

We meet Linton Williams as he arrives home to his flat after being gone for three months working in the States. When he gets there, the last thing he expected to find was his younger brother Dirk, assed out of his mind on some drug and drink and in Linton’s bed with a man and a woman. Linton hadn’t offered his flat to his brother and he is furious and lets his emotions run his mouth as he kick his brother out. Linton is rightfully upset at his brother for taking advantage yet when he gets a call that his brother has been beaten, overdosed and is in hospital, Linton drops everything to be at his side.

About the same time in a another part of town famous actor Thorne Morrissey is attending a charity premiere of his latest movie, but is quite bored. So when a good looking guy offers him a bit of fun in a hotel room, Thorne agrees. But this invite comes with a spiked drink, an extra player that Thorne wasn’t aware of and sex that he didn’t agree to, along with photo evidence of it all. When Thorne is coherent enough to leave the hotel, he comes upon a young man being beaten by two thugs and does what any human would do, he calls the police.

Linton is shaken at the condition of his brother. Not only the physical marks that are all over his body but learning he may have been raped and he had heroin in his body. Linton knows Dirk is an addict but heroin was never his drug of choice. When the doctor suggest he get Dirk into a rehab and Linton sees the cost, he has no idea how he will afford it. When Dirk tells him he owes his drug dealer, the one who had him beaten, £10,000 Linton knows he will do whatever it takes to save his brother but at what cost to him?

So that right there sets up our story, kinda. When Linton gets a frantic call from his boss, who is also the brother of a childhood friend, Linton drives to a meeting to find out what’s happened. Owen is the friend and Owen is quite frankly fucked up in the head in so many ways. Linton learns that Owen was engaged to Thorne Morrissey, but Thorne ended their engagement with a terrible live and hateful dismissal that happened to be very public. He not only disgraced his then fiancĂ© but he also threw in a few words about Max’s architectural ability that cost Max a few clients and projects. The brothers decide they want revenge on Thorne since the breakup made Owen depressed and suicidal. They want Thorne to pay and to hurt like he hurt Owen so they offer him a deal. Max will give Linton £50,000 up front to make Thorne fall for him and then publically dump him the way he did Owen. Linton is disgusted at the offer and yet he will do anything to save his Dirk. When he asks about the money and the possibility that he can’t make Thorne fall for him, Max tells him it’s his if can make Thorne hurt.

By this time, all I wanted was for Thorne and Linton to meet and when they did in the most organic way I was one happy ginger. Their first kiss was exceptional and so good that it really began the game these two would play. The game, the real one of flirting, creating insane UST and the playful banter between Thorne and Linton was so much fun. I smiled ridiculously all while cringing knowing the secret that Linton held.

From the first time the men are together, you know the chemistry is strong and since we get both POV’s we know Thorne is falling just as fast for Linton as Linton is for Thorne. The true romance between the men was organic and so sweet and sexy AF. Goodness. The first kiss was great with its delivery but when Thorne takes his turn, things get so hot and then when they move forward, the hands were sweating from holding my Nook. I mean, the freaking Skype session and what Linton does and then um… belts? Yeah, Elsborg can write some seriously hot scenes that have so much emotion you feel it.

Oh! Talk about angst! The whole lie of why drove Linton a bit crazy and me too. I wanted him to tell Thorne so many times. I twistedly wanted him to tell Thorne and them to turn around a play a dirty game back with Owen and Max, but Owen has his own issues that get him in enough trouble.

Now there is much that Linton and Thorne have in common that really deepens the story. We have a lot of family dynamics going on with Linton and Dirk and how they grew up. They had a horrible mother who doted on Linton and treated Dirk like shit, so Linton has always felt the need to protect his brother because he didn’t realize all that went on when he left for Uni. Thorne has a brother as well, River, who is autistic and while Thorne grew up with money his parents treated River as if he was a mistake and not worth their time. Both men have unconditional love for their younger siblings and know they’d go through hell for them. This in itself is important to the fruition of the story.

I loved that Linton is so loyal that he’ll lose everything to help Dirk and not hurt Thorne intentionally. I know that may sound strange considering what he agreed to but Linton was blackmailed into it but I don’t fault him at all. When his past with Owen is revealed and we know what Owen was holding over his head from when they were young was awful on many levels but the way Max and Own used it and used Dirk being in rehab was unforgivable. I did not like either of them and though Owen grows up a bit toward the end, I still dislike him immensely.

Thorne was amazing. It was a blast being in his head knowing how much Linton affected him from the first time he saw him in the pub. Watching Thorne let his guard down and fall for the guy who doesn’t believe in love was a pure pleasure. Being witness to Thorne doing little things for Linton because he could and truly wanted to touched my heart. Sure, Thorne has a bit of reputation of being an ass to fans and to lovers when he leaves them but every old dog can learn new tricks when he has a penguin bringing him pebbles. I KNOW that made no sense but it does when you read the book.

Thorne and Linton together is full of every emotion possible. The author truly makes you see and feel it all. From the men bonding with one another’s brothers to them sharing their pasts and learning to trust. I know the trust sounds false when it’s built on a lie but what they have together is not a lie. It’s beautiful and it was a pure pleasure to watch.

I completely adored this book. I did. I honestly think that timing can be everything when you read a book and while it took me a second time to get into this when I first stopped after Thorne’s rape, I am beyond happy that I picked it up again. I devoured this in less than 24 hours. It was amazing and so complex with all that was going on that I couldn't stop reading. I stayed up late reading then woke up on my day off, rolled over grabbed the book and my glasses and read until I was done. I fell in love with this book and though the angst just about did me in I couldn't have stopped reading.

Dirty Games is just that, a book full of dirty games people will make you play to get what they want. It’s a story about doing anything for family and it’s a deep story about forgiving the ones you love, it’s a story about making mistakes and being able to move on to be a better person. It’s a story about love and loving those who can’t say the words back even when they feel them. It’s a beautiful story and I am again so happy I read it. This will be one of those books that stays with me for a long time.
Oh and one last note, that epilogue was stunning and those last three pages were perfection.

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