New Release Review: Even If It Hurts by Sam Mariano

July 30, 2022


A Toxic Romance (Coastal Elite) 
by Sam Mariano 

Release Date: July 29th 
Genre/Tropes: Dark Romance/Bully Romance/Villain gets the girl/Psycho Hero     



A psychopath and his prey.

A dangerous, toxic, and utterly destructive love story...

He could have been my hero.

He saved my life that night, a beautiful dark angel slicing through my fear and the water, dragging me from its deadly clutches.

He should have been my hero.

I thought maybe he was.

Villains aren’t supposed to win, and good should always conquer evil, but in the elite coastal town I live in, the only purpose a label has is letting you know what something—or someone—costs. Good, bad; it’s all relative, and it hardly matters. Baymont, California, is a land of beautiful villains and happy-ever-afters that are just out of reach.

Especially for me.

Until Dare moves the world beneath my feet, and even though I’m afraid to trust it—to trust him—boy, am I tempted.

In more ways than one.

Being with Dare is scary, but being without him is impossible.

He makes it impossible.

Dare’s no hero, that much is clear, but maybe…

Maybe he’s mine.

This story contains triggers and is intended only for a mature, adult audience. See the opening author's note for more explicit warnings, but know this is a very dangerous relationship with a very dark hero.

Before I begin my review, I want to be clear that THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. Let's be honest, most of this author's aren't, but this one in particular goes a step further than the others she's written.

Dare is not just a bad boy with psychopathic tendencies. He's a LITERAL psychopath. There is no changing for the heroine or any of the usual bullshit you read in dark romance.

I don't even quite understand how I enjoyed the story as much as I did, because it's not something that would always appeal to me. I have come to the conclusion that I have no choice but to credit the author's talent.

If anybody wants to know why I read Sam Mariano's work, Even if it Hurts is a prime example. It's unique, well written, intriguing, perfectly paced, hot, and twisted af. In other words, it's pure perfection, and I loved every single second of it!

Dare's the same disturbed individual from the beginning of the book to the end. He's just so charming and manipulative that Aubrey has no clue until it's too late. Even the reader doesn't understand the full extent of his kaleidoscope of crazy for a large portion of the story.

Getting inside Dare's mind and seeing how it works is one of my favorite things about this book. Everything he does is purposeful, well thought out, and planned. He isn't spontaneous, rash, or led by emotion. He's extremely methodical. Nothing happens by accident where he is concerned.

Dare unveils himself slowly, bit by bit, careful not to put Aubrey off by showing his full psycho too soon. In his own words, he is a predator, and Aubrey is prey. He lays a very appealing trap for her, and unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), she gets caught in it.

Aubrey and Dare's relationship is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. It is not healthy. In fact, it's toxic as hell. There is no balance of power. Dare has it, and Aubrey does not.

Despite that, Aubrey is far from miserable. I wouldn't have had as good of a time with this story if that was the case. It was fun to explore the dynamic between a psychopath and the woman that loves him. In real life, this would be a horror story, but since it's not, we're free to enjoy the insanity!

Dare's obsessed with Aubrey. He takes care of her, "loves" her in his own way, and doesn't ever WANT to hurt her. Dare wants Aubrey to be happy...unless that happiness is in conflict with his own of course. He wants her to be his forever. Thankfully, she loves him, because she doesn't actually get a choice in the matter. He protects her. Sure it may sometimes be in a way she finds horrific, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Several events that take place over the course of this story (often times between the "hero" and heroine themselves) are unsettling, immoral, criminal, and just all around fucked up. I'm talking somnophilia, violence, emotional manipulation, and more. Don't come into this book expecting anything conventional when it comes to the romance, because you will be sorely disappointed.

Just enjoy the ride for what it is, and don't place any expectations on it. Dare is such an interesting character. I couldn't get enough of him, and if nothing I've said thus far has put you off, you'll probably feel the same.

Fingers crossed we get a lot more of Dare and Aubrey in future books and possibly even another book of their own one day. It definitely feels like there is more to their story. Parker and Landon's book is coming next, and I can't tell you how fucking excited I am for it!

If you haven't read Undertow already, DO IT. It was originally released in the Bully God anthology, but I believe it's going to be published on it's own sometime soon. Of course, after reading Even if it Hurts, I'm dying for Hannah's story now, too.

I have a feeling the Coastal Elite series is going to turn out to be as intricately woven, addictive, and captivating as Sam's Morelli Family series that had me in a chokehold back in 2018. I've never read anything like it before or since, so if I'm right, this series might just become my new favorite!

Dark romance fans, this one's for you!

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About the Author:

Sam Mariano loves to write edgy, twisty romantic reads with complicated characters you’re left thinking about long after you turn the last page. Her favorite thing about indie publishing is the ability to play by your own rules! If she isn’t reading one of the thousands of books on her to-read list, writing her next book, or playing with her adorable preschooler… actually, that’s about all she has time for these days.

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  1. This review is absolutely freaking perfect! I might have to give this book a try :D

    1. Aww! Thank you so much, babe! 💋 I hope you enjoy it if you do! ❤️