The Surviving Girls (Hidden Sins, #3) by Katee Robert
Series: Hidden Sins #3
Also in this series: The Devil's Daughter
Published by Montlake Romance
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
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A fierce survivor and a fearless FBI agent battle a copycat serial killer in a gripping thriller from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert.
Twelve years ago, Lei Zhang and her friend Emma Nilsson miraculously lived through the notorious Sorority Row Murders that left twenty-one of their sisters dead. Still wrestling with the trauma but finally out of the limelight, Lei and Emma are now devoted to helping other victims find closure. But most disturbing for Lei—beyond the gut-wrenching survivor guilt—is that the killer was her boyfriend. He’s behind bars, but she’ll never lower her guard again.
When a copycat killer targets Lei and Emma, FBI Agent Dante Young is put in charge of anticipating the sociopath’s every move. But what he doesn’t expect is his immediate and overpowering attraction to Lei. The closer they get to each other, the more desperate and terrifying the questions become: Who wants to finish what the killer started—and why?
Now Agent Young vows to protect Lei at all costs. If they have any chance of a future together, first they have to stay alive…
I can’t even tell you how long I had this book sitting on my phone unread. I probably started it 5 times, read a few pages, and put it down because I just didn’t have the stomach for it. It’s a dark book, and it was just too intense for me to handle at times. (Trigger warnings for graphic violence, gore, and some mentions of rape.) Once I was in the right mood, though, I finally dove in and enjoyed it.
This book focuses on two girls who survived a horrific massacre at their college sorority house. Lei Zhang and Emma Nilsson had their own reactions to the trauma they endured. While Emma has developed a pretty severe panic disorder and various other mental health challenges in response to her fear, Lei’s response to fear is to fight harder and push farther. That’s not to say Lei’s not deeply affected too, because she clearly is, but she just channels things differently. When a new killer surfaces who bears a resemblance to the man that terrorized them years ago, the FBI and Agent Dante Young get involved. Dante and Lei have a somewhat inconvenient attraction to each other, but they have to put it aside while they figure out who seems to be hunting the women again.
As you can imagine, this book is chock full of trauma. Lei and Emma are, of course, profoundly affected by what happened to them, and it is very painful to read about. They have all kinds of coping strategies, some healthy and some not-so-healthy, that have gotten them through. It’s hard enough at the beginning when their fears seem understandable but perhaps hyperbolic, but it gets downright horrifying as the book progresses and you learn how much danger they’re actually in. For me, this book was creepy and shocking, and it was only when I was in the right mood for those things that I could enjoy it. The plot twists do get a little overblown toward the end, but by that point I was in deep enough to buy in!
Lei and Emma are not pushovers. Lei is the obvious fighter and battles her fear with a sheen of anger, but Emma has more strength to her than others give her credit for. In particular, I loved seeing the women support each other. They did perhaps use each other as a crutch too often, but who the hell could blame them? They never wavered in their love for each other and their desire to keep the other one safe. I really liked that aspect of the book.
I also really liked Dante and Lei together. Dante is calm, cool, and collected, which is a real balm for Lei. He doesn’t have a magic cure for her, though. There is an excellent scene near the beginning where Dante says something kind of paternalistic and Lei rightfully puts him into his place. I was 1000% there for it. Even better, Dante realizes that while he didn’t intend it that way, he was absolutely playing savior and not respecting the hard work Lei did, and still does, to handle her own trauma. That moment sold me on Dante and Lei together!
Unfortunately, while there is a lot of awesome chemistry, there is no sex in this book. I know, I know…that’s normally a problem for me too, but honestly I don’t see any way sex would have worked in this book. The original sorority massacre happened twelve years ago and Lei has had relationships with other men in the interim, so that’s not the issue. But there is just too much genuine danger in this book, and too much horror that keeps being dredged up. Sex would just have been out of place. Things never get farther than some very sexy making out, and for a change I was ok with that.
When did I learn this was in the same series as another Robert book I liked, The Devil’s Daughter? Literally right as I was typing this sentence and I looked up the book on Goodreads! My point is, while it’s a series clearly there is no harm in reading them out of order, because I haven’t read Book 2 and had no clue it even existed. I am really liking Robert’s voice in this series, and I will certainly be backtracking to read the book I missed.
Grade: 4 out of 5