BOOK REVIEW ~ FIRST DEBT BY PEPPER WINTERS

“You say I’ll never own you. If I win—you willingly give me that right. You sign not only the debt agreement, but another—one that makes me your master until your last breath is taken. You do that, and I’ll give you this.”
Nila Weaver’s family is indebted. Stolen, taken, and bound not by monsters but by an agreement written over six hundred years ago, she has no way out.
She belongs to Jethro as much as she denies it.
Jethro Hawk’s patience is running out. His inheritance gift tests, challenges, and surprises him—and not in good ways. He hasn’t leashed her but he thinks he might’ve found a way to bind her forever.
Debts are mounting. Payment waiting.

I was one of the readers who finished book 1 feeling shocked and a little angry with the (anti) hero Jethro Hawk. Though I never doubted that the author could redeem him in our eyes, there was a lot of work needed to be done before I could even forgive him, let alone like him. With this second book, the author has answered old questions, presented new ones, but most importantly, given us a reason to warm up to Jethro and both sympathize and admire Nila for her resiliency. Whether or not you were a fan of the first book, I can guarantee that reading this book will present these characters in a different light…and just maybe see Jethro set on a road towards redemption.

The story begins right where the first ended: Nila is on the run and Jethro is on the hunt. They play a dangerous game of clashing wits, neither one giving an inch. Despite her time in captivity, Nila is fiercely stubborn and proud, and her resolve to get out of this hellhole never wavers while facing pain and degradation. Yes, she’s physically attracted to Jethro – and only him – but her desire for freedom is stronger and throughout the book, I really did see her struggle between revenge and freedom vs. her growing feelings for Jethro. On the other end, the author gives us an inside look into Jethro’s mindset and we’re lead to believe that he’s not so cold-hearted and cruel after all. Stuck in a crazy family that harbors a deep hatred of another household, Jethro is coerced into acting like the prodigal son and buries the real him deep inside. No one but Nila has the power to force him to see that who he is now isn’t who he really is and meant to be, but their thoughts can’t be voiced with the eyes of his family members carefully scrutinizing each and every one of their moves.
Except for in lust. Filthy, wicked, and sinful lust. Unlike book 1 where sex was mainly perceived to be more ritualistic than intimate, sex in here is the only place where these characters’ vulnerability can be seen. Where weakness and compromise is allowed. Both Nila and Jethro are equals in lust.
But that creates a big problem: just how do they deal with their feelings for each other when they’re both smacked with problems: Jethro and his family, Nila and her freedom? This is where I think the author’s brilliant writing comes in, evoking tormenting and agonizing feelings because of the dichotomy presented. I really felt for both of these characters – especially Jethro – and their terrible situation.
Old questions like the reason behind the debt inheritance, Kite’s identity, etc… will all be answered but at the same time these answers lead to even more mystery that had me questioning what I knew already. When you read this book, please keep in mind that this is a series that’s dark first, romance second. It’s because of how twisty and messed up this entire situation is that makes any possible romance THAT much more precious.
First Debt is the 2nd installment in the Indebted serial and not a standalone. You must read Debt Inheritance first. The author has prefaced in all of these books that cliffhangers are to be expected and while it’ll leave you desperate for the next one, it’ll also be a satisfying reading experience as each of these books has a full beginning, middle, and end.
Rating: 4.5 stars!!
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.