Tainted is the sequel to Broken and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

His father may be gone but life isn’t about to get any easier for Alex Franks. His ex, Hailey, is in town and determined to get him back, no matter what the cost. When Emma is involved in an accident, he has only moments to make a life-changing decision. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed, Alex knows that all too well.

I loved A.E. Rought’s writing in Broken, a wonderful book despite the fact I knew the “twist” from the blurb. So I so wanted to love Tainted, a book that came without spoilers or preconceptions, but it just wasn’t to be. Told from Alex’s point of view, I found the narrative a bit melodramatic. His strength of feeling is supposedly explained by the chemical imbalance after his treatments but that would make me expect him to be as normal as can be for part the week. His love for Emma is just over the top and distracting from anything resembling a plot for a good third of the book.

I’m getting a bit fed up of blackmail as a plot device, partly from television but it’s also used a lot in books. It takes a lot for me to agree with their actions; usually I just want them to own up and/or go to the authorities. Hailey is a stereotypical, manipulative ex out for vengeance. She is a cardboard cut-out villain in a role that could have been tragic if handled with a bit more subtly. It’s clear what her agenda is from the outset and she makes the whole story predictable. And Alex mentions his doubt over Paul so often, it practically proves his innocence.

The romance and blackmail pushed what could have been interesting themes to the sidelines; for example, the reliance on medicine for the rest of your life and worrying about the whims of pharmaceutical companies (and, in real life USA, insurance). Especially with Jason’s story added into the mix. Jason probably saved the book for me; I thought his character was the most real and endearing.

Having said all that, the last quarter or so was fairly gripping and improved without so much sappiness. There were a few moments with deer that were perfect when you consider the impacts that deer had on Emma in the first book. I was even quite moved by the end.

Tainted is published by Strange Chemistry and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Also reviewed @ The Pewter Wolf

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.