The Island

Title: The Island
Author: Lisa Henry
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Loose Id
Buy Link: Second Edition
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: Novel Plusfive_star_read_icon
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review: A gripping and, at times, harrowing dramatic thriller.


Second Edition Buy Link and Cover

Second Edition Buy Link and Cover

Shaw is in Fiji to sell a stolen painting to the crime boss, Vornis. It will be the deal of a lifetime, if Shaw can pull it off. But then Vornis parades his latest toy around in front of him–a captured DEA agent whose time is running out. It’s none of Shaw’s business, and it doesn’t matter that under any other circumstances Lee would be exactly Shaw’s type: he’s young, he’s hot, and he might even have a personality if they hadn’t beaten it out of him. Too bad there’s no way Lee is getting off the island. Too bad there’s nothing Shaw can do for him. And too bad there are some lines that even Shaw won’t cross.

Keeping his hands off Lee proves harder than he thinks, but Shaw’s not stupid enough to fall for the tortured captive of a dangerous crime boss, is he? If he did, it wouldn’t be just his job he would be risking–it would be his life.


Shaw’s ambition is to get the the inner circle of crime lord, Vornis and he’s found the perfect way to do it. He’s sourced a stolen painting and has been brought to an idyllic Fijian island to sell the painting to Vornis. When he arrives he discovers that Vornis has acquired a ‘pet’ in the form of a young man, Lee, who Vornis regularly beats and sexually tortures. Vornis gives Lee to Shaw as a gift whilst he remains on the island leading to a quandary for Shaw: He’s no rapist but to refuse the gift will put his relationship with Vornis in jeopardy and Shaw has worked for six years to get where he is now. No sexual slave is going to stand in front of his ambitions, but it’s not long before Lee’s plight is tempting Shaw to take risks he should never take.

Let’s start with a warning here: This book is not really for those who may have difficulty with stories containing abuse. Although many of the sexual abuse and torture scenes in this book are glossed over or happen off page, we do see the physical and emotional aftermath of Vornis’ actions. Also, whilst Shaw doesn’t take part in any of those scenes, he is complicit in what is happening to Lee. There is a good reason for this, one I can’t say because it’s a major spoiler, but for a lot of the book Shaw stands back whilst Vornis does what he likes to Lee. These were not easy scenes to read but necessary for us to gain a good understanding of what Lee goes through at the hands of Vornis. Having said that, I never felt that those scenes were used for cheap thrills or were sensationalist in any way. Instead they were harrowing, and added greatly to the dramatic impact of the story. The first two thirds of the story deal with Shaw and Lee on the island, but I was particularly pleased that the last third was focused on the aftermath of Lee’s incarceration and his subsequent recovery. It made the romance part plausible.

Another part which I liked about the story was the realistic way we are shown how torn Shaw is over his part in what’s happening to Lee. Shaw treads a very fine line with Vornis and the slightest mistake could lead to a loss of trust with the man. Loss of trust would lead to Shaw’s death at best, at worst he could suffer Lee’s fate. This means that Shaw has to be seen to be as amoral and sadistic as Vornis, even when it’s tearing him up inside. It was this constant internal debate as Shaw found a balance between trying to help Lee as much as possible, whilst also appearing abusive towards him that made Shaw a sympathetic character. At times his guilt almost overwhelms him, especially when he realises that he might be crossing that line too far.

Despite the scenes of torture, this story is actually lacking in physical action scenes because the focus is more on tense dramatic scenes where the characters have to weigh every word which is spoken – although there were some action scenes, especially during the end, which packed an exciting punch. Much of the time the story shows the developing feelings that Shaw and Lee have and their uncomfortable relationship. The time frame for most of the story is a week, during which Shaw is on an emotional high alert and this shows in the intensity of the writing. I felt every minute of that time and as a piece of character driven drama this was almost flawless. I was grabbed from the start and could hardly put the book down. The reality of the way Lee is treated is not hidden from the reader and this meant that it wasn’t always easy to read but it also doesn’t downplay Lee’s experience. I was very pleased to see that the romance wasn’t in the book to ‘heal’ Lee. Sex was not a cure for abuse. Instead the book showed Lee’s gradual recovery in a way which I found quite heartbreaking at times.

As you may image this is not a light and fluffy books. However, I didn’t feel weighed down by excessive angst. The balance felt right between the heavier scenes and the scenes where Shaw is doing his best to make things better for Lee. I wasn’t overwhelmed emotionally and read quickly through the book to find out the outcome. Those readers who are looking for a tightly written, tense drama, and who are able to read scenes of abuse, will find this book very much to their taste. I highly recommend The Island and I’m now going to check out other books by this new-to-me author.



  • Hey Jenre, I read this book last night on the strength of your review and I couldn’t put it down. There were times when I was almost afraid to read on, I was so anxious about what would happen. I haven’t been so caught up in a book for a long time! Thanks for the review 😀

  • Thanks, for this very astute review. I don’t think I would have found or read this book without it, and would have missed one of the best-written and most originally delivered books I’ve read in some time.

    Lisa Henry managed to negotiate complex, challenging plot elements, while giving Shaw and Lee very convincing voices. As you’ve noted, what is withheld and the pacing of both character’s recoveries it wonderfully handled.

    • You’re welcome, Karen :).

      I completely agree that Shaw and Lee and both very convincing. One of the reasons this book worked for me is that we get inside the heads of both men and find them equally as valid as characters.

  • A great book that really kept me enthralled throughout – thanks for the recommendation Jenre!

    I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, but as with most of the best reads it drew the characters through so many painful scenes, none of which in isolation could be described as enjoyable, that ‘enjoyable’ doesn’t seem a fair adjective. However, as a whole, it certainly pulled together to make a really satisfying journey through the lows and the highs.

    I also agree that the book was incredibly well written with regard to the torture scenes. Whereas some authors might have emphasised them with explicit detail, they became even more powerful and effective in this book through their absence, relying on the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks, and therefore identify more easily with Shaw who you felt was in the same situation, knowing that Lee was suffering without knowing the details, and sharing a feeling of hopelessness to help alongside him.

    Definitely looking forward to more from this author.

    • You’re welcome, Pen. I completely agree that the torture scenes were more effective because we didn’t know the details, only the results of the torture on Lee and Shaw. It’s a good point that you make that Shaw is suffering too. That helps him to be a more sympathetic character overall.

  • I’m with some of the others here – not keen on the thought of how this book could’ve been written, but I was persuaded by your enthusiastic review, Jenre.

    I’m pleased I bought it now. It was hard to stop reading as I became caught up in the story. I loved some of the little twists at the end, even though I did figure out the direction some things were going.

    It was a plus for me that the writer’s an Aussie, and some of it was set on the east coast. 🙂

    • I loved that Shaw was an Australian. It was nice to see a non-American character, especially when it came to Shaw thinking about his home.

  • Oh wow, that was heck of a ride. Not sure I will brave it anytime soon, but I absolutely agree – great book. Totally worth it!

    • It was very intense, wasn’t it, Helga. I don’t think I can read it again in a hurry but I think it may be a book I go back to at a later date. It merits another reading now that I know the twist!


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