Crown of Lies by Pepper Winters | Review

Publisher: self-pubbed
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Source of my copy: TRSOR/author
Series: Truth and Lies Duet #1
“I met the man I wanted. But then he vanished, and a new man claimed me instead. My father approved, my colleagues congratulated, and behind closed doors, I was bedded by a stranger.”

Noelle Charlston lives a fairy-tale life: a doting father, a powerful job, and a future blessed with financial security.

However, two meetings with two men changes her happy existence forever. First, she meets the man who makes her heart sing. Three years later, she meets the man who makes her blood quiver.

Broken-hearted from a teenage romance, Noelle’s freedom is no longer hers. It belongs to the stranger her father believes is her perfect match. The stranger who pulls his lies over everyone he touches.
Including her.

Seduced and manipulated, Noelle gives into the mysterious Penn Everett. The lies he spins, the truth he hides, the mystery he weaves—it’s all enough to slowly erode the woman she is and turn her into something else.
Until her past collides with her present.
And it’s her turn to lie.

To everyone… including herself.

Ever since I heard of Crown of Lies, I've wanted to pick it up. Not only because I've been wanting to read a novel by Pepper Winters (she comes highly recommended from my fellow-smut loving friends), but because the synopsis really caught my attention. 

And, yup, it was soooo fuckin' good. I needed Throne of Truth yesterday!

The story is told entirely in Noelle "Elle" Charlston's first-person POV. She was the sole heiress of Belle Elle (a chain department store like Macys), and from when she was a young girl she's always known that one day she'll take over the reigns from her father. By the time she graduated high school, Belle Elle was her whole life. But, on the night of her nineteenth birthday, feeling reckless and wanting to feel like a normal girl for once, she left Belle Elle to explore the city. What started as a night of wonder and new experiences ended in a nightmare when she found herself cornered in a dark alley with two thugs. All seemed hopeless when a mysterious man appeared and rescued her just in time. She ended up spending a magical night with him, until the police caught up with them. Elle ended up back with her father, while the mysterious man was taken away in handcuffs.

Fast forward three years later, and Elle had tried to push that nightmarish night with the thugs from her mind, but she also couldn't forget about that mysterious man she called Nameless who saved her. She tried to find him again, but couldn't find a trace of him. Meanwhile, her father had recently met a man named Penn Everett, who set his sights on Elle. Penn is the opposite of the mysterious man of Elle's past that she admit she had fallen for despite their brief time together. But, Penn's dogged pursuit of Elle, her father's easy acceptance of their relationship, and Elle's reluctant attraction to him, didn't erase the fact that there was something slightly off about Penn. Could he possibly be connected to the events that happened three years ago in that dark alley? What secrets was he hiding? And why does he look so familiar...?

Like I mentioned, I've been wanting to pick up Ms. Winters's books for a while but they've always been described as "very dark" which I equated to "sinister" and "BDSM", which was just not my cup of tea. I was happy to find that while there were dark moments and scenes, it was NOT the creepy, sexually overt ropes and dungeons type of dark.

I absolutely loved Elle. She's smart, capable, and even though she was surrounded by men, she held her own and acted like the capable businesswoman who runs a multi-dollar department store was supposed to be. She did not take Penn's alpha bullshit lying down, and every demand he made, she asserted herself right back. I really liked watching her character grow throughout the novel.

As for the men, Nameless was only there for a little while and we didn't really learn much about him and Penn, like Elle, I wasn't quite sure what to make of him. There were flashes of good that shown through, but he's keeping a lot of secrets. I couldn't quite swoon over him because there's the potential that he's not who I think he was despite my theories about who he may really be. I am DYING to know all the answers about Penn and Nameless though, because they're most definitely connected.

I was engaged throughout my reading of Crown of Lies. I love that it's set in New York City. I love the high tension and the mystery throughout the story that kept me glued to the pages, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. And I love Elle's character. She was definitely the best part--I love her mix of powerful CEO, and vulnerability without being a doormat. My only gripe with her was why didn't she take some self-defense classes? 

And for the steam factor, this one was HOT, like, turn your AC up high hot, but there was nothing out of the ordinary if you read a lot of sexy, steamy romance.

Yes, it ends in an awful cliffhanger, but Throne of Truth comes out in about three weeks so the wait isn't that long (although still excruciating, because after that ending, I am dying to get my hands on the Throne of Truth). I highly recommend Crown of Lies (however, if you have triggers for sexual assault, you'll want to skip this one), for a darker-themed and twistier kind of romance read.

About the author
Pepper Winters wears many roles. Some of them include writer, reader, sometimes wife. She loves dark, taboo stories that twist with your head. The more tortured the hero, the better, and she constantly thinks up ways to break and fix her characters. Oh, and sex... her books have sex.

She loves to travel and has an amazing, fabulous hubby who puts up with her love affair with her book boyfriends.

STALK Pepper: Website | Pinterest | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads

Pre-order Throne of Truth here.
If you've read Crown of Lies, I'm dying to talk theories of who Nameless is and what really happened to him. Chat with me in the comments!

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