I’ve read a fair amount of dark romance books in the past, so I’m not unfamiliar with darker tones. Or books that explore dark topics like murder, torture, etc. However, the Cat and Mouse Duet by H.D. Carlton was not something I was fully prepared for. When it says dark, it’s very dark. The names of the two books in the series are Haunting Adeline and Hunting Adeline. These are also not classified as romance, which I thought was surprising considering I learned of these books from individuals on TikTok that normally only suggest romance books. This duet is categorized under the occult suspense and horror genre.
Without giving too many spoilers, there’s child trafficking, sex trafficking, sexual assault, rape, murder, stalking, torture, death of children, grooming, non-consensual BDSM, and BDSM (knife play, blood play, degradation, somnophilia). Neither of the main characters are individuals involved in the trafficking (as in doing those things to children and women), but they are involved in the sense that one hunts and takes down those rings. And we get to be up close and personal with it.
So, if any of that you don’t vibe with, don’t read this duet. There were moments I thought it was a bit too much especially when it came to the relationship between the main characters.
Haunting Adeline Synopsis
I can manipulate the emotions of anyone who lets me.
I will make you hurt, make you cry, make you laugh and sigh.
But my words don’t affect him. Especially not when I plead for him to leave.
He’s always there, watching and waiting.
And I can never look away.
Not when I want him to come closer.
I didn’t mean to fall in love.
But now that I have, I can’t stay away.
I’m mesmerized by her smile, by her eyes, and the way she moves.
The way she undresses…
I’ll keep watching and waiting. Until I can make her mine.
And once she is, I’ll never let her go.
Not even when she begs me to.
- Published: August 12, 2021
- Page Count: 551 pages
Hunting Adeline Synopsis
Death walks alongside me,
But the reaper is no match for me.
I’m trapped in a world full of monsters dressed as men, and those who aren’t as they seem.
They won’t keep me forever.
I no longer recognize the person I’ve become,
And I’m fighting to find my way back to the beast who hunts me in the night.
They call me a diamond,
But they’ve only created an angel of death.
I was born a predator,
With ruthlessness ingrained in my bones.
When what’s mine is stolen from me in the night,
Like a diamond hidden within a fortress,
I find that I can no longer contain the beast.
Blood will paint the ground as I tear apart this world to find her.
And bring her back to where she belongs.
No one will escape my wrath,
Especially not those who have betrayed me.
- Published: January 28, 2022
- Page Count: 671 pages
Thoughts on the Cat and Mouse Duet (Spoilers)
Haunting Adeline starts out with Addie (Adeline) moving into her grandmother’s house, which many believe to be haunted due to the fact that multiple individuals have died there, including her great-grandmother. Something she was unaware of until later when her mother revealed that detail while trying to convince Addie to tear down the place. This, however, sparks Addie’s curiosity about discovering what happened to her great-grandmother, Gigi, especially after she discovers Gigi’s journals that reveal she was being stalked. Something that Addie starts to experience herself following a book signing for her latest novel.
Zade, also known as Z, starts stalking Addie after seeing her picture displayed outside a bookstore while he’s in the middle of an investigation into a human trafficking ring. He becomes obsessed with her to the point where he breaks into her house, drinks her whiskey, and leaves behind roses. His actions escalate to the point where he’s killing individuals that Addie brings home, hacking into her security system, installing his own cameras in her house, and erasing any evidence of his stalking regardless of Addie’s reports to the police. Eventually, he also sexually assaults her numerous times, until she eventually consents to it. I’d argue it’s a case of Stockholm Syndrome or something close to that, because there’s no way anyone would just get past what Zade did to her. He might be amazing in bed, hot, and saves abused children and women, but that doesn’t excuse his actions. Nor does he have a motivation for what he does other than ‘I like to kill bad people.’ All the while, he is attempting to gain the trust of a society that is sacrificing children on altars and then drinking their blood.
Due to his investigation, this, unfortunately, causes Addie’s path to cross with the Society, who not only want her for their trafficking ring but are related to the individual that killed Gigi (Frank, a detective and family friend that was in love with Gigi). Granted, she was on their radar before, as it was later revealed by one of the Senators involved with the Society.
This leads us to the next book, Hunting Adeline, as Addie is kidnapped for the skin trade despite all the protection Zade had put in place as she left her house to check on her best friend, and Zade was set up during his attempt to stop a sacrifice during the final chapters of Haunting Adeline.
You would think once the first book was done that the dark parts were over. Oh no, it gets darker. There’s graphic rape in the second book. Not just once, but multiple times as Adeline is sent to a groomer and sold to be a sex slave. It’s not implied. I 100% understand why these books were originally banned due to the warnings. This also covers the first 30–40% of the book and can be highly triggering. And even after she gets out of that place and back with Zade, the rest of Hunting Adeline focuses on her PTSD over what happened to her. So, we experience everything multiple times. Also, they hunt down all the individuals involved in what happened to Addie and punish them for it. How they hand out that punishment is gruesome. It’s not as simple as killing them, we have full-on torture scenes.
So, Hunting Adeline is a very heavy book. Granted they both are, but Hunting Adeline is the more mentally/emotionally taxing of the two books in this duet. It does end with a happily ever after for Addie and Zade, but it’s a dark journey to get there.
The writing and set-up for the story (horror/thriller) were good, but there are a lot of elements that could’ve been changed. Some of the motivations could’ve been made stronger as I mentioned. It also would’ve been nice if the side characters had more going on outside of the main story. We know almost nothing about them other than their involvement in the main plot. We know some of the individuals, Jay and Daya, have been in the main characters’ lives for years. But we know almost next to nothing about them.
Not to mention, some of the graphic scenes could’ve been stripped back a bit or completely removed. Did we need to experience the two months of Addie being captive in detail? No, that could’ve been journal entries similar to what we had with Gigi, or references to that time after she’s rescued by Zade. Like if she’s looking at scars in the mirrors, that could’ve hinted at what she went through. Instead of spending time on both. Yes, there were trigger warnings but there are other ways it could’ve been handled in my opinion. Like Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas, Aelin was held captive for months, we know what she went through, kept that heavier tone, but didn’t go into the graphic details.
I also disagree with what Zade did (i.e. stalking and sexual assault in Haunting Adeline) and Addie’s decisions a majority of the time in both books. Addie could’ve done a lot of things differently to avoid a lot of the things that happened to her. Such as not taking off in the middle of the night when she knows she’s being targeted by a human trafficking organization. Or I don’t know letting someone know where she was going. Not that I’m victim blaming as she did not deserve any of the things that happened to her. And what happened was awful. Not to mention, don’t challenge or try to intimate a dangerous man who has been stalking you. It’s not going to end well. Especially when you know, his threats are real.
For those reasons, I’m giving it that 2.75-star rating.
If you read this series, what did you think? Are there any thriller/horror books you recommend, as I’m tempted to read more in this genre?
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