Book Review – Birthday Presents by Dianne Hartsock

Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Pages: 142
Characters: Tracey, Daniel, Kyle, Gene, Craig, Crimson
POV: 3rd
Genre: Suspense, drama

For Tracey, life has become a nightmare. Kidnapped from a nightclub in Boulder, Colorado, brutalized and raped by the killer known as Crimson, he’s held captive alongside Kyle, a young man Crimson keeps chained to his bed and is slowly torturing to death. Though Tracey manages to escape with Kyle’s help, he is forced to leave Kyle behind.

Gene has never stopped looking for his brother Kyle, kidnapped from a nightclub seven months previously. The case breaks open when Tracey comes forward, claiming to have knowledge of the whereabouts of Crimson’s hideout.

A manhunt begins, but Crimson’s birthday has come and gone, and he will kill again.

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While there is a romance in this story, it is NOT a romance. Rather it is a well written picture of the mindset of a very disturbed individual. It is not an easy story to read because of its content but it is a compelling one.

I could feel Tracey’s despair and how broken Kyle is. I thought Crimson came across as chilling, yet tragic, given his back story. On the flip side I really liked Daniel, and his concern for Tracey, and his suspicions of how a supposed trap might play out. The author does a great job in sprinkling red herrings as to who is working with Crimson, so much so that although I’d guessed correctly I doubted my conclusions until the shocking revelation. I really felt for Gene with his desperation to find his brother, and then his realisation as to what had happened to him and everything else that came with that.

The settings are very easy to visualise, there are consequences for what happens, and I appreciated that the character’s reactions to their ordeal felt very real, although they were not easy to read. The characters were interesting and, Crimson aside, I liked their quirks, and in particular the growing friendship and more between Tracey and Daniel.

Reading this story felt like a rollercoaster of emotion and action that never lets up.

I’d recommend it – with a warning for those who might find some of the story triggering – to readers who like interesting characters, a very suspenseful plot, and a story that isn’t an easy read, but very compelling. 5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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3 Responses to Book Review – Birthday Presents by Dianne Hartsock

  1. Thank you so much! I really glad you liked my story. I know some parts are hard to read. Believe me, they were sometimes just as hard to write!


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