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Domina by L. S. Hilton

BOTTOM LINE: Skip it. I wish I had.

Genre: Suspense & Thriller
Publication Date: 11 July 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Since opening her own art gallery in Venice, Judith Rashleigh—now Elisabeth Teerlinc—can finally stop running. She’s got the paycheck, lifestyle, and wardrobe she always dreamed of, not to mention the interest of a Russian billionaire. But when a chance encounter in Ibiza leads to a corpse that is, for once, not her own doing, she finds her life is back on the line—and she’s more alone than ever. It seems Judith’s become involved with more than just one stolen painting, and there is someone else willing to kill for what’s theirs.

From St. Moritz to Serbia, Judith again finds herself maneuvering the strange landscapes of wealth, but this time there’s far more than her reputation at stake. How far will Rage take Judith? Far enough to escape death?

The second installment in an unforgettable trilogy, Domina is the next sexy, ruthless, and decadent thriller from mastermind L. S. Hilton, and an adventure that will push Judith further than even she imagined she could go.”

My Thoughts: Domina is one of those novels I really wish I had not read. Whereas Maestra was compelling, Domina is just downright boring. There is a surprising amount of inaction in this book. One might even say Domina is more of an ode to art than it is a murder thriller.

There are more issues with the novel than the lack of action. The very first issue occurs immediately. The book starts under the assumption that you read the first novel so we get none of the character development that allows us to sink into Judith’s character. Instead, we must dive right in even though her personality is too strong and too focused on material wealth to allow for any sort of comfortable transition. Even for readers who already know Judith/Elisabeth, the lack of introduction or time for character development is uncomfortable, made even more so because Judith changes so much throughout the course of the story. In one scene, she is an expensive call girl. In another, the art historian bookworm. In yet another, she is a needy, material- and sexed-obsessed glam girl looking for her ticket into the main event. While all of these are Judith, and one instinctively knows that, they do not blend well together. The end result is one jarring jump between personalities to another, each one of which pushes you out of the story.

Main character aside, the main story suffers from its focus on art, in particular art forgeries. There is more time devoted to Caravaggio, his lifestyle, and what he did and did not paint or draw than there is action, adventure, or murder. When not regaling readers with Caravaggio’s life story, the author takes readers through the ins and outs of art houses, how easy it can be to pass a forgery on the market, and the lucrative business that is high-end art dealings. The author then gets drawn into art as a means of money laundering, its ties to crime bosses throughout the world, and so forth. There is, simply put, too much explanation and not enough action.

Without the action, the story bogs down severely and becomes entirely uninteresting. The sex scenes are still gratuitous, coming seemingly out of nowhere and for no discernible reason than to titillate or repulse, depending on your viewpoint. We learn nothing new about any of the characters, and these scenes do nothing to drive forward the plot. Plus, Judith is no longer an interesting character. She spends so much time reacting and lamenting the loss of her posh lifestyle that you begin to wonder if it is the same character as in the first book. While she needed no one in the first book, now she comes to rely heavily on men to help her achieve her goals. By the time the cliffhanger ending comes, you are more than ready to put Judith aside for something a little lighter and a lot more engaging.

Domina suffers most from trying to be the same as the first book in the series. Unfortunately, the shock value has worn off and what was once outrageous is now normal for the character. The author tries to keep the same tension, but there too she fails as she gets bogged down under lengthy explanations that do nothing for the plot. Instead of a new story, we find the sequel revolving around the same issues with the same dangers and involving some of the same people. One time was intriguing; two times is one time too many.

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