REVIEW: Riptide by BC Matthews

Mark’s boyfriend drowned last September. The coroner’s report said it was a tragic accident. No arrests were made. He thought he could hide the truth forever. He thought he could run from his past. But it’s been a long year, and Mark is getting lonely. He’s getting hungry.

Warnings: BDSM, Abusive relationship, Violence, Cannibalism

Category: M/M

Riptide is an incredibly dark piece of horror erotica about a merman who has killed and eaten his boyfriend and the aftereffects of guilt, shame, and loss that lead him into an abusive relationship with a new lover. It is very much not a “nice” story, not a romance and not a fairy tale. It is a disturbing and haunting exploration of a toxic, manipulative and controlling relationship, a cycle of abuse and a latent killer’s instinct. Not for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach the gruesome nature of the story, it is a beautifully written little novel.

The writing style is quite unique in that it doesn’t tend to linger for a long time in any given moment. Hours, days, and months can fly by over the spread of a single page at times, and the passage of time feels almost dreamlike as a result. The prose has a stream of consciousness quality to it that makes you feel that feeling of disorientation as time flies by; wondering as Mark does, just where did that week go? The snippets of the characters lives that the reader is privy to contribute to a larger story about their experiences, rather than the specifics of their day to day. The plot itself is simple enough; Mark doesn’t want to turn into a siren and kill someone again, so he takes refuge in his relationship with Sam, who knows he killed Owen and holds it over his head. Sam says he is “punishing” him for what he has done, and “helping” him to not mess up and do it again, but the situation very quickly spirals out of hand.

One doesn’t expect to be so emotionally attached to the POV of a murderer, but there is an almost childlike innocence to Mark that makes him incredibly sympathetic. He’s a killer, and a cannibal, but he’s afflicted to be such by his blood; it’s a deep seated animal instinct that he wrestles with, and you feel yourself attached to him. You want him to be able to move past what happened despite knowing that he did it himself, and did it on purpose. Is Sam right to abuse him the way he does? Mark is, after all, a monster who killed and ate his own boyfriend and routinely tries to kill again. But the way both of their monstrous natures intertwine in this leaves you more than a little conflicted. Sam’s flip flopping “nice one moment, yelling and beating him the next” behaviour, by the way, is incredibly well written, and as such anyone with experience with this sort of relationship may want to give this book a pass, as I could see it being incredibly triggering material.

The biggest facet of worldbuilding here is of course the siren mythos. Not a whole lot is explained about the sirens in this book, where they come from or how they live. Mark apparently is not as full blooded as others, which makes him less powerful than some, but he comes from a family of people with siren blood and presumably they all hunt and eat humans as well. Which, of course, begs the question of why Mark is so guilt ridden about the concept since he wasn’t raised to believe it is wrong. Mostly, the how and the why of what Mark is is left fairly mysterious, and he might as well be some kind of water based vampire for all it really matters to the narrative. There’s a brief line about it being magic in nature, but I wish it had been explored just a little bit more. There’s also not a whole lot explored about either of Mark or Sam’s lives outside of their tumultuous relationship; we know that Sam is an actor and Mark is a musician but beyond that the story doesn’t delve very far.

Good lord the sex in this book is hot. Like really, really hot. It’s creative, it’s violent, it’s intensive BDSM play with all sorts of fear and power exchange games. But because it’s so saturated with the abusive nature of their relationship, it makes for very very dark reading material, which is right up my ally, but if it’s not up yours that could dampen the sexiness of the scenes themselves. They aren’t written with extreme explicitness, either, they are much more focused on the emotions and the connection between the characters (as fucked up as that connection may be) which is what I’m looking for out of smut. I want smut that feels raw, vulnerable, emotional and scary. Smut that gets my heart racing with adrenaline and fight or flight instinct. This book hits all of those notes and is seriously classy while it does it.

I highly recommend this book if dark supernatural horror eroticism is your speed like it is mine. If you have any triggers around the subjects covered in this book however, please do take the warning and steer clear. It’s a breathtaking book, but it’s disturbing and I had to read it slowly to process each scene as they came because it weighed so heavily. But if you love a good thriller, this is one not to miss.

Have you read Riptide? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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