** spoiler alert ** I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley.
I was excited to be one of the first to read and review Ensnared, and I was squealing as a result. Beauty and the Beast mixed with AI/robots science fiction? Yes puh-lease! The start of the book was great and I was really getting into the story--Rita has a style that is engaging and easy to digest, but at the same time it isn't all-tell-no-show and your mind is able to delve into and experience this world
...Then the discomfort came. Alainn is convinced by the AI Rose that she must takes Rose's place at Lorccan's while Rose created a new AI model that would take Alainn's place once it was completed. It was a believable scenario...up until the time frame Rose told Alainn it would take to swap her for the new model ended, and Alainn was STILL pretending to be a robot and not confessing to the deception and that she was a human with human needs. At that point, I was irritated by Alainn playing the fool AND for her family having done nothing and taking Rose's word that she had it under control, even though the reason they didn't want to hand her over to complete the agreement in the first place BECAUSE HER MORAL CODE WAS CORRUPT AND REWRITING ITSELF. It is stated numerous times how brilliant and intelligent Alainn's brother and father are, so why is this such a glaringly huge plot hole, and why did it take them so long to realize Rose was corrupt? That was my first huge problem. Also, Rosebud refusing to help Alainn escape, and Alain was going to continue playing along with the deception even though the first AI model (Rosebud) and the second AI model (Rose) created by her father were not busting her out of Lorccan's tower and were actually holding her hostage--GAH.
Next it was how suddenly smutty the book became. It had been doing so well, with this great futuristic sci-fi twisting of the Beauty and the Beast tale, which I was digging to the extreme. (Except for the continuing to pretend to be a robot crud.) What was happening between Alainn and Lorccan was innocent and beautiful to me; it was a relationship born from a great deception, yes, but at the same time Alainn could have confessed to the deception and righted it once she realized the extent of her feelings for Lorccan. It could have been salvaged, I believe that wholeheartedly. However, the story instead took the route of taking a disfigured man and a woman with a dark secret, both sexually innocent and never having experienced passion or lust before, and suddenly having the attraction between go from a mild 3/10 to a raving 10/10. For several days in a row it sounds like they have crazy sex fests in every room and on every surface possible. I felt uncomfortable, like I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey (not my kind of thing at all) minus the BDSM and plus AI robotics, but the lack of comfort was due to disjuncture of this smutty section in comparison to the beginning and the end. And it was terribly cliche--she longed for him, she felt unhappy away from him, she needed him, he made her feel things she had never felt before...so on and so on. This book can easily be parceled into thirds, the first and last third being more than decent and enjoyable, and the middle third being a strange and disconcerting mess.
On the flip side, when this book was good, it was freaking awesome. The story line of Alainn's terrible secret and how it affected her actions was great; the father's gambling addiction ruining his relationships and being the original cause of why everything goes wrong; the brother's investment in the AI robots because of what they could provide him for his degree studies; Lorccan's depressing history with his family (this could have used some elaborating, but the scenes included were fantastic); the tension between Lorccan and Alainn after their feelings developed and Shelly was a threat (or so Alainn assumed); the similarities between Lorccan and Shelly for them to even have connected in such a way for them to be deeply connected friends; the AI's guile and treachery; the bigger involvement of AI being tried as a human at the head, and the difficulty to determine at what point is an AI able to be held responsible for its actions and thinking. In all of the above listed ideas pulsing within Ensnared, these were brilliant and well wrought. They were why I finished reading the book when I became grossed out in the middle by the sudden smut that was out of place. This story had so much potential, and it met that potential about two-thirds of the way (a third down because of the smut, honestly).
I give it 3.5/5 stars, rounded down because of how much I didn't like the middle smut.