Craved by Lola Smirnova

four stars

cravedIn the second book of the Twisted series, Julia and her two sisters, Natalia and Lena, move to South Africa on a friend’s advice. There they work in a strip club, which is tame compared to their old lives as prostitutes. Julia is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who has recently left rehab. Although she is now clean and sober, she is surrounded by temptation and haunted by painful memories of being raped. When Julia has trouble making enough money stripping, she begins to sell sex for money again. Eventually Natalia, Julia’s business-savvy and bold sister, convinces her to get breast implants, while also providing guidance that gives Julia more confidence. Julia becomes more successful at work, eventually earning a high-profile client, named Saad who buys her a luxurious apartment and car. Meanwhile, Julia’s sister Lena seems to have it all and marries a loving man, but when she has trouble getting pregnant, she blames herself turns to drugs. When the girls’ father dies, Natalia and Julia decide to go home to Ukraine, but they can’t find Lena. They call her husband and learn that she has gone missing. Eventually Lena contacts Julia, asking for money. During their meeting, Lena reveals some harsh information about Julia’s rape leaving her confused and hurt. Julia throws money at Lena and leaves, not caring about how the money is used. From then on Lena is in and out of rehab. The book then jumps forward three months. Julia is living in her apartment with Saad and feeling dissatisfied. One morning she goes to the bathroom, where she finds a bag of cocaine that must have been Lena’s. She uses the cocaine and the story ends, leaving readers to wonder what will happen next.

Craved explores the lives of sex workers without judgment, but also without concealing the less-glamorous parts of their job. It also doesn’t shy away from the dangers these women face every day. The book’s attractive and enticing cover is a perfect fit and accurately represents the story. Although the plot becomes a bit melodramatic, Craved is a fast-paced and entertaining read that will take most readers well outside of the comfort zone of their day-to-day activities and the book’s cliffhanger ending will leave you craving more.

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