This quartet has been all over my Kindle Unlimited recommendations as well as SmutTok. I was hesitant to give it a try – for while I seem to have an enormous weakness for romances featuring alphaholes (Hey, Kristen Ashley and JR Ward, I’m looking at you…), I’m not a huge fan of bully romances. And Kings of Quarantine, Kings of Lockdown, Kings of Anarchy and Queen of Quarantine all live up to their tagline: Brutal Boys of Everlake Prep. It is a finger scorching, reverse harem, enemies to lovers, bully romance series.
Set at an elite prep school in the fictional state of Sequoia as a deadly pandemic that makes COVID-19 look like child’s play rapidly spreads, you quickly learn who really runs the school – and surprise! It ain’t the headmaster. The Night Hunters consider themselves protectors of the school, a brotherhood of sorts, based on ancient legends of the tribe that used to live on the lands where the school is located. They rule with an iron fist, and if you cross them, you lose your name and become one of the Unspeakables. And what they do to those Unspeakables… Good Grief. They make the average high school mean girl look like Amy Adams’ character from Enchanted. The first book is exceptionally hard to read because it goes all in on the bully aspect. Gradually you learn that there are reasons for the way they respond to things, but it is a bit of a slog to get there.
I’m not really going to go into any more detail about the plot, but I will say that just about every trigger warning you can imagine needs to be slapped onto these books at the beginning. And in spite of all that objectionable happenings, I found myself fully invested in the characters and their stories even though I hate cliffhangers. And sweet, summer child, let me tell you – these cliffhangers were doozies, even if I did see them coming.
Since each chapter of these 600+ page novels is told from a different character’s point of view, you really get to know all of the main characters, what their motivations and thought processes are, and how they’re likely to respond to a given situation. You can really tell that these books were written as the Covid-19 pandemic spread. The lockdown, the toilet paper hoarding, the not enough hospital beds, etc., all just like it really happened, which made it uncomfortably realistic in some ways.
Is there enough of the scorching hot sex scenes to make up for the amount of bullying that goes on? In the first book, definitely not, but that ratio does improve over the rest of the series. All of that said, I’m honestly not sure if I can recommend the series or not. I found myself very intrigued by the leads even as I was seriously put off by their behaviors. It also felt like the authors could have used a good editor and condensed this down to two books instead of four. One thing I was pleasantly surprised by was the usage of obscure words that made me use the dictionary function on my Kindle. That was a first!
Anyway, well-written, tightly plotted, suspenseful, sexy, but also deeply, darkly disturbing. I say read them and make up your own mind. I’m going with 3 out of 5 stars because of the grimness and cultural appropriation (which is never acknowledged as a problem – do the authors even realize it is an issue?). I recognize the writing craft involved, but ultimately think this was just too intense for me. If you do read them, please take a minute and let me know what you think in the comments below.