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Portland ME #2

Cruel Water

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Innocence marked her…

Violation crippled her…

Love left her raw…

The life she carefully rebuilt is challenged when she is confronted with the sins from her past. The carefully applied protection is at once ripped away, leaving her exposed and vulnerable.

Her single night of indulgence with the silver-eyed stranger is only the beginning. He sees right to the heart of her and she is unable to ward off emotions that have been deeply buried. With the sting of betrayal still fresh in her soul, she’s surprised to find herself opening up to the honest integrity of the sharp-eyed, rough-looking biker.

When he lost everyone who mattered, he was left without roots and learned to be content simply living in the moment. Completely unprepared for the feisty blonde bartender with old pain marring her clear-blue eyes, he questions his own rules of detachment, as she unwittingly finds a way under his skin.

Appearances deceive and when the masks fall away, revealing deep, dark secrets, there is nothing left but to hang onto each other and survive the storm

388 pages, ebook

First published February 19, 2016

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About the author

Freya Barker

67 books1,753 followers
USA Today bestselling author Freya Barker loves writing about ordinary people with extraordinary stories.
Driven to make her books about 'real' people; she creates characters who are perhaps less than perfect, each struggling to find their own slice of happy, but just as deserving of romance, thrills and chills in their lives.

Recipient of the ReadFREE.ly 2019 Best Book We've Read All Year Award for "Covering Ollie, the 2015 RomCon “Reader’s Choice” Award for Best First Book, “Slim To None”, and Finalist for the 2017 Kindle Book Award with “From Dust”, Freya continues to add to her rapidly growing collection of published novels as she spins story after story with an endless supply of bruised and dented characters, vying for attention!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 145 reviews
Profile Image for Sue.
2,729 reviews221 followers
March 25, 2016
A family member has damned you and the secret is out there all around you.

Viv has buried this secret so deep inside her that its like cancer eating away at her.
She has friends, she has a life, but no one knows her secret.

Although this kind of book plot has been written times before I found that Freya Barkers way of writing is indepth and takes the reader far deeper into roots beyound, deep roots that are so buried that they are rotten.

She meets Ike, hes a biker. Rough, ready etc

And that is where my review ends, because if I write any more I will be giving the plot away and more, so you will need to read this to find out, I hope this whets your appetite for more.

This is book 2 in the series, please read book 1.

*Thank you to the author for my copy via Net Galley*
Profile Image for Rachael*Caribbean*girl*bibliophile.
1,671 reviews357 followers
January 4, 2020
Spoilers ahead, 3.5*

Lord! This book has me emotionally drained, like the previous book it seems the hits just keep coming until the very end

This is Viv and Ike's story, we met Viv in the previous book as the person who found and befriended Syd and staunchly supported her. Viv is the manager of pub The Skipper and one night she meets Ike and has a passionate ONS with him ending in her receiving a call that her dad's in the hospital. Viv leaves Ike behind and goes to her family unleashing a host of buried memories that shakes the new life she's built for herself. With her abusive ex's return Viv's past causes a lot of problems in the present

Ike has a comfortable life for himself, with no living family members his job allows him the no strings life he likes. His encounter with Viv was supposed to be a one off but h e can't stop thinking about her. With hints of the horrors Viv has endured he worries he isn't the man for her at the present time but yet he's unable to stay away. When things take a turn for the worst Ike has to man up and become the man his woman needs. He has to deal with the pains of his own past before he's able to help Viv navigate the emotional turmoil that rocks her world

I strongly admired Viv, from being molested by her dad to being abused by her husband her inner strength was a beauty to behold. I understood her reasons for forgiving her brothers but I didn't think her mom deserved forgiveness or to be allowed back into Viv's life. She told her mom about the abuse and she didn't believe her and to me that aspect wasn't dealt with sufficiently

Ike had moments where he acted as my one of the H's I don't like in my books- a runner. A couple times he thought that he wasn't the man for Viv in her present circumstances but eventually he got it together and turned into a loyal and supportive hero.

Reliving Viv's past as a sexually abused child and a brutally abused wife was heartbreaking. I appreciated that this author had her receiving constant counseling from Pam. With her history it's important that the necessary help was available to her

While I enjoyed this book and would like to read Pam's story i!I'm taking a break from this series, it's just a little too much heartbreak one after the other

h has been divorced for I believe 5 years, she had one sexual encounter with her friend Tim during that time ****
Ike hasn't ever had a serious relationship
H 42 h almost 40
A coworker of Ike's wanted him but he wasn't interested
Tim inadvertently caused some drama as he saw Ike with OW and told VivI

**** Tim still wanted Viv and he remained friends with the couple which I'm not a fan of, considering his book is next I think it's really necessary I take a break from this series here. Hopefully I'll finish the series at a later date

We see Syd and Gunnar have their baby while I'm happy they got their son I would've preferred this be included in their book so as to get their personal view and joy at the news
Profile Image for Annika.
453 reviews102 followers
September 4, 2017

This is a very moving and quite the powerful read.
I did not love it (hence the rating), but I did enjoy it and I can totally see why everybody else adored it so much.

What I liked:
• Ike. Ike, Ike, Ike, Ike. Didn't think I could ever find that name sexy - but with a man like him carrying it... whew. Ike was absolutely dreamy and exactly my kind of alpha-hero. Yes, there were times I wanted to roll my eyes at some of his caveman antics, but all in all he was amazing. Protective and supportive, he always had Viv's back, BUT he let her fight her battles herself as she saw fit. And that is something I love in a hero.
• The low-angst romance. There were no stupid misunderstandings, miscommunications, jealousies. The main characters were mature and honest with one another and kept the petty drama to an absolute minimum.
• The chemistry. Despite all the heartache and serious subjects, the author managed to create an amazing sexual tension between Ike and Viv. It was hot.
• The sensitivity and respect with which Barker tackled such delicate subjects as rape and domestic abuse. I've found that it's incredibly hard to pull off, to put the emphasis on the victim's strengths instead of portraying them as weakling, so Kudos!
"There is nothing as powerful as the feeling of having someone at your back, no matter what happens. You may not need Ike to be strong, but he makes you stronger anyway."

What I disliked:
• Too. Freaking. Long. Yes, the author had a lot to tell and the story didn't exactly feel drawn out, but it seemed like I wasn't making any progress at all. Probably a matter of personal preference, but a little less would have been more in this case.
• Too much testosterone. Now there's something I didn't think I'd ever say, but all those overprotective alpha guys in Viv's life always trying to jump in and shelter her from anything and everything grated on my nerves. Back off, dudes! She's got it.
• Too much waterworks. I'm aware that this was an emotional read and Viv has had one hell of a life, but I'm surprised she wasn't all dehydrated and shriveled up by the end of the book.

I'd definitely consider reading another of Freya Barker's works. Maybe something shorter, though.

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,082 reviews861 followers
March 21, 2016
We first meet Viv in From Dusty, the slightly damaged woman who is rebuilding her life with the help of good friends. But we never got a chance to see all of her scars. Until now.

Ike can’t take his eyes off the firecracker behind the bar. Returning home to Portland, Maine, Ike finds himself starting to put down some roots – something he didn’t think he’d really ever find himself doing. But that isn’t the only thing he’s doing that is out of the norm.

Viv and Ike engage in a steamy one night stand when she awakes to tragedy in the form of her father having a stroke. But that is really the least of her worries, as the things she has worked to keep buried start to rise to the surface. Placing Viv in the spot to finally free herself of the ghosts of her past.

Cruel Water was so much more than simply a love story. Viv’s story was absolutely tragic. You could just feel the pain beneath the surface through most of this book. You knew what was coming and yet you just could not prepare yourself for it.

I loved how Ike worked his way in, past her hard exterior and that he stuck by her side. Carrying his own burdens, he could have easily taken one look at all the baggage that came with giving his heart to a woman like Viv and just walk away. But he didn’t. He couldn’t.

This is my second book by Ms. Barker and I it will not be my last. I love the way she gives you these slightly damaged characters, but they aren’t weak and they aren’t victims. They are survivors. I love that in this fictional world, people who are so deserving of some good – are getting it.

Ike was the perfect match for Viv. He was protective but not overbearing. He knew when to stand down and let her fight her own battles. It made me love him so much more every time he stood in on the fringe, watching. Ready to step in if she needed him, but not taking over.

This book was all about romance, but not the sugary sweet type that causes your face to hurt because you’re smiling so hard. This is the type of romance that you feel you earned that happily ever after because you had to fight for it. And that is what Viv and Ike did. They fought for it.

A must read for those that love characters that make you feel, a love story that makes you feel like anything is possible and for readers who want substance to the stories they read. I can’t wait for the next in this series!

February 14, 2016
"to rage against the storm, face the whipping winds and cruel waters...I swear I wasn't looking to die."

Back to the warm and familiar setting of The Skipper where you immediately feel at home, this is Viv's story. Parts of her past leaked through in From Dust as her friendship with Syd grew yet if you haven't had the pleasure of that novel this can easily be read as a stand alone although I thoroughly enjoyed the progression of her storyline. Broken by her ex Viv turned to a women's refuge when she made the break from Frank. Learning to stand on her own without her brothers interference she patched over the cracks with the help of Pam, a therapist and the owner of the women's shelter. Returning to her home town and into her male dominated family Viv is strong on the outside but her mask is slowly slipping. Syd has started the corrosion by opening up to Viv and in return they have shared moments that have started to unearth a past that refuses to remain hidden...

Viv has been on a self imposed sex drought ever since leaving her demented controlling ex with only one night of poor judgement since. Yet when a stormy eyed bike riding stranger rolls in she thinks why the hell not. A night of nameless passion makes Viv feel...but fate has other plans and has her running out the door before she can think or process what she wants from the stranger she spent the night with. Family drama ensues dragging Viv into a world of conflict and confusion and to add to her woes her mystery man turns out to be someone that she just can't escape. Revelations set the cat amongst the pigeons as Viv has kept hidden the true extent of the abhorrent relationship she endured for years. Her family are aghast and hurt that she didn't ask for help but the final big reveal results in shock waves that test them all apart. This story deals with aging parents and the way a family can be ripped apart when the status quo is changed. When the veneer of happy families is stripped back to reveal the rotten core exactly who is to blame?Is everyone equally as guilty for looking the other way, taking the easy way out?

As for that stormy eyed biker, he has his own world of pain and guilt her carries every day. A loner by nature, compounded by tragic events in his past the chick in the bar makes him question what he really wants. Returning to her after she runs, he is drawn like a moth to a flame, desperate to feel her warmth and bask in her light although he may burn up it's a risk he's willing to take. He sees between the lines and knows she has more baggage than most but can he be the man for her? Can the weather the approaching storm together?

Cruel Water shone for me as one of the most outstanding reads so far of the year. Dealing with multiple issues that are seriously usually skimmed over or sensationalised this was well written, thought out and emotionally charged. The knock on effect of one horror that leads onto further horrors as there is no sense of self worth was captured beautifully as was the slow break down as one revelation lead to a flood gate of exposure. Fantastically well written, I loved the self doubt of Ike, the no nonsense approach of Pam and of course catching up with the family that is The Skipper.

A five star sensational read.

~*~ Obsessed by Books copy given in exchange for an honest review ~*~
Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,063 reviews1,754 followers
January 24, 2018
Favorite Quotes:

“‘Red Sox game on Owen’s sixty-inch tiny dick compensation.’ That earns him a slap to the back of the head. I swear, my brothers, in their forties, are no different than they were as teenagers.”

“I don’t think anyone can make the mistake of thinking you’re not capable of looking after yourself, that’s not a question. The point is that those of us, whose knuckles still occasionally scrape the floor, like to take care of what they consider theirs.”

“I’m forty-two years old and have been allergic most of my adult life to anything resembling a relationship.”

“Don’t think for one second that I don’t realize exactly what I have in you. That I don’t know how lucky I am. A beautiful, strong woman, who knows how to stand on her own, yet trusts me enough to let me have her back.”

“Amazing how my brothers can’t find a pair of clean socks to save their lives, but put them in a strange house and they easily find the kitchen.”

My Review:

Engrossing, sensual, heartbreaking, emotive, evocative, eventful, dramatic, frighteningly accurate… these are just a few of the adjectives that flit through my addled mind while I contemplate this book and struggle to find the correct order of words to define my reading experience. Ms. Barker’s exceptional gift of realistic, nuanced, and intriguing characters strikes again. I adore these people and would love to know them.

I want an Ike of my own… he is just delicious, perfect, supportive, sensitive, insightful, strong, and a sexual dynamo. I held my breath for fear he was going to back away due to the “continuous cycle of drama that seems to follow me around” that Viv mentioned in an apology. The twisted family dynamic of Viv’s past and present was well portrayed and expertly erected. I had anticipated and feared for the hidden traumas that Viv had long been suppressing, and I really didn’t want to be right… I fretted that the reveal was going to be gut wrenching and overwhelming, yet it was handled so well and with such sensitivity, I was more in awe of Ms. Barker’s skill than anything else.

Freya Barker has been a recent discovery for me and has quickly become one of my favorite authors. She now resides on my must read/must have/will surely die without it list. And yes, I did just channel my inner teen diva… cougars are allowed to do that.
March 9, 2018

“Cruel Water” is not my first rodeo with author Freya Barker. So I had a pretty good idea what I was getting myself into.

In comparison to “From dust” the first of the “Portland ME” series her new book is a little “less” intense.

Which might be due to the fact that the characters are already familiar and the plotline is not as mysterious.

But do not get me wrong when I say “less” or “not as” .. there is still a lot more to that story than many other stories have to offer.

It is just that “From Dust” was SO intense that it will always be difficult to compete with.

I already knew Viv from the first book and I was looking forward to her story. So Ms. Barker did not disappoint when she delivered.

There have probably been many man to try to solve the mystery that is Viv. But it wasn’t until Ike entered the picture that there was finally a man that had the slightest chance to even come really close to her.

And while he is trying to solve the mystery that is Viv he gets drawn in and in the end gets more that he signed in for.

The reader will have no other choice than to keep his fingers crossed that those two will finally see what is right in front of them.
Profile Image for Mindy Lou's Book Review.
2,699 reviews656 followers
August 22, 2016
Beautifully written! I've read books where the hero/heroine has suffered abuse in their past but I've never had a book leave such an impact on me as this one has. The author did such a beautiful job of bringing the characters to life that I felt like this was a friend of mine who was struggling on the road to recovery, trying to learn to live with such a traumatic past and to forgive the people in her life who let her down. And Isaac... Freya Barker could not have done a better job of writing in such a great leading man. Any woman could not ask for a better partner to lead you out of the dark and into the light. Really, just a beautiful story.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Petra Gleason.
732 reviews14 followers
October 16, 2018
Barker has done it again. Viv is so fucking strong, even when she feels anything but. And, oh my god, Ike. I need an Ike of my own! His compassion, understanding, support and love of Viv is what we all read romance books hoping to find.
Profile Image for Jezabell Girl.
1,074 reviews68 followers
April 8, 2019
This is a breathtaking story of a damaged heroine supported by an strong man who is still recovering from his own emotional wounds. It takes you on journey towards happiness, forgiveness and above all a hope for a future lived free of a painful past.

I really enjoyed Freya’s writing style and storytelling in From Dust and couldn’t wait to read Cruel Waters. Set around The Skipper once again but this time telling Viv’s story and her “silver-eyed” stranger.

Viv’s story was as gruelling to experience as Syd’s and in some ways, more emotive. Her past was hinted at in From Dust, as well as her connection to Pam and Florence House, but after reading this story, in harrowing detail, we see Viv as a person outwardly strong but inwardly brittle, almost to the point of fracturing. Thankfully though, the stranger who she forms a bond with after a one night stand is on hand to offer her support and guidance. Ike is also living with a painful memory but is able to offer what remains of himself to Viv, unreservedly.

With two contrasting but equally painful backgrounds, Viv and Ike try to build a relationship together but with Viv almost at the point of no return, emotionally and physically, Ike and Pam can only hope that she pulls back before it’s too late.

I found this story quite draining to read. I didn’t cry but it still left me reeling. Viv’s family and their treatment of her was particularly brutal but at the same time I understood their confusion given that their world had been turned upside down by the events in their past that they were, outwardly, unaware of. Dorian’s character and story was a sweet add on but even he unwittingly hurt Viv after the way his family reacted to his own shocking announcement.

Ike was a special man throughout this story, despite carrying loss on his broad shoulders. He saw something in Viv which was immediately apparent and readers will definitely physically feel his connection to her. He was able to relate to the pain Viv was experiencing without reacting in a negative way. For me he was the perfect hero to complement Viv’s heroism.

I highly recommend these books to readers who love to read about emotive subjects. They are captivating and rewarding but most of all, they really demonstrate hope through strength in the eyes of adversity.

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1T7tedP
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1LohY4D

Personal recommendation: Fans of Sawyer Bennett's Off Series will love this new series by Freya Barker.


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Profile Image for ~Steph K~.
418 reviews134 followers
March 3, 2016
Wow, it's kind of hard to know where to start with my review. This book left me feeling full, satisfied, unbelievable honored that I had the chance to read this touching story. I absolutely loved this story. At times it brought tears to my eyes, other times it made me laugh and chuckle, and then there were those moments with Viv and Ike that made me all tingly. It's not an easy story at times to read at all - because there are a lot of things that come up that could cause "triggers" for some readers. But, it gripped me, and once I started reading, I could not put it down.

I'll start with Viv. I loved Viv - who she was, what she believed in, how unbelievably strong she was . She was a survivor in every sense of the word. You couldn't help but cheer her on, shed a tear for her, want to hold her close and celebrate with her all her victories. I was so proud of her.

Then there's Ike. Isaac. Talk about a fine specimen of a man. I'm not just talking about his appearance, I'm talking about the true man that he was. How he handled Viv was perfection. He knew just when he should stand beside her, behind her, or lead the way for her. The care he took with her feelings warmed my heart, and made me fall in love with him along with Viv.

I don't want to give much of this story away - it should be read and experienced by each person reading - learning of Viv and Ike's past life and their future as they go. Their authentic story felt so real - the way situations were handled and dealt with were actually how things really happen in life. The secrets, the facing the truth, the denial, the owning up, the repairing of relationships and the moving forward were perfectly handled and I could see this as a real life story. Please, definitely take the time to read this amazing story, I don't think you will be disappointed at all.
Profile Image for Aimee Shannon.
13 reviews9 followers
February 26, 2016
Please know, I'm not a professional reviewer, so understand that I don't have the right words to use here.

From Dust, the first Portland ME book, was my absolutely best read of 2015. And 2014, 2013, 2012... you get the idea. I love Freya's writing style and always feel like I'm right there. I was a patron of the Skipper, watching it all unfold. While there during From Dust, we met Viv, and knew she had a much deeper story to tell. Cruel Water is her story. Ok, and Ike's.

From the first chapter, I suspected the deep secret. I saw parts of Viv in myself and knew where that was going. And that's a difficult subject matter to tackle. But Freya does it. She uses her characters to give strength and honesty and truth to the experiences. The love affair is epic, the family issues are intense and the story constantly unfolds into an amazing piece of work.

One of the things I love about Freya's books are her heroines. Usually you read romance books to have the next book boyfriend and to pant after the amazing men. Freya has amazing men, real men. But her heroines are unique. I find myself more enraptured by them and their stories. I want to be friends with these women, I want to have coffee and catch up. I love the humor and strength and weaknesses they have. I love their humanity.

Please do yourself a favor and read this book. Read From Dust first if you haven't. If you have already read From Dust, I don't have to suggest Cruel Water, I know you are already waiting on it. And then if you haven't yet, read the Cedar Tree books. There isn't another author out there like Freya right now and you need to experience these stories!
Profile Image for April Johnson.
401 reviews4 followers
February 4, 2016
Innocence marked her…

Violation crippled her…

Love left her raw…

The life she carefully rebuilt is challenged when she is confronted with the sins from her past. The carefully applied protection is at once ripped away, leaving her exposed and vulnerable.

Her single night of indulgence with the silver-eyed stranger is only the beginning. He sees right to the heart of her and she is unable to ward off emotions that have been deeply buried. With the sting of betrayal still fresh in her soul, she’s surprised to find herself opening up to the honest integrity of the sharp-eyed, rough-looking biker.

When he lost everyone who mattered, he was left without roots and learned to be content simply living in the moment. Completely unprepared for the feisty blonde bartender with old pain marring her clear-blue eyes, he questions his own rules of detachment, as she unwittingly finds a way under his skin.

Appearances deceive and when the masks fall away, revealing deep, dark secrets, there is nothing left but to hang onto each other and survive the storm

I want to first start out by saying Thank you Freya for giving me the opportunity of read another one of your great books.

Freya you went and done it again!

Cruel Water is an amazing story that you have never read before. Everything that Viv went through it felt like you are going through it too. Cruel Water was beautifully written and amazing. Cruel Water is an emotional roller coaster that you ride through but Viv and Ike's story I couldn't put it down. Viv is not only an amazing woman she is a survivor! Ike, he is just as hot as Gunner. I love how she brought back Gunner, Syd and the others. If you haven't read this one then you need too.

Can't wait to see what you bring out next Freya!
Profile Image for Kim.
1,473 reviews33 followers
March 3, 2016
Freya Barker has done it again with an engaging, emotional and generally "un-put-downable" read! Cruel Water will put you through the wringer, but the anger and crumpled tissue pile are well worth it.

If you have read From Dust, you will remember Viv as the beautiful bartender at The Skipper who found Syd in the alley behind the pub and gave her a chance to get her life back on track. By all outer appearances, Viv is the epitome of self-sufficiency but she has painful past we can't even begin to comprehend. The glimpse we received in From Dust only scratched the surface of the pain, loneliness and devastation she tries to hide from everyone.

Viv's story broke my heart over and over again with each new revelation of the horrible things she endured over the past few decades. From the outside looking in, her family was the picture perfect group that others wanted to be a part of, but like most pictures of perfection, that facade crumbles when it is inspected too closely. Once Viv left home and her overbearing group of 4 brothers, she experienced a horrific marriage that broke her even more on both an emotional and physical level. Although she eventually found the strength to escape, she has never shared her experiences with her family and she doesn't know where she falls on the scale of 'victim' to 'survivor' some days. She has let some of her friends in on a limited basis, but she has built steel walls around her heart to keep anyone from getting too close now.

Then one day a beautiful dark haired stranger sits at her bar, and for the first time in far too long, she actually FEELS something when she looks in those captivating grey eyes. With a painful guilt-ridden past of his own, Ike is a wanderer, but he has roots in Portland and he is finally starting to feel the urge to stick around one place for a change. He bought a house that has been renovated and is almost ready for him to move in, he has some acquaintances in the area like Skipper regular and softball team member Tim, and the gorgeous blonde bartender calls to him like a siren after just one night together - and he has absolutely no idea what to do with that. He can see that Viv is feeling the same pull but it scares the hell out of her, and after being warned off by several of her friends including Tim and Gunnar, he knows he has tread carefully but he is willing to take his chances.

I fell in love with Ike right alongside Viv. He is a natural protector and becomes a pillar of strength for her to lean on, but he never tries to take over her life or make decisions for her unless she absolutely needs him to step in. He stands back and lets her fight her own battles, but he is standing behind her both literally and figuratively the whole time ready to jump in if she needs him. He knows she has fought hard to be rid of overprotective and overbearing men in her life and values her hard won independence, and he respects that.

From the start of the book, events are set into motion that inevitably bring all of Viv's secrets out into the open and the emotional overload threatens to finally completely break her, but Viv is made of stronger stuff than that. After so many years of denial and trying to push down the memories into a little box, the emotional release is overwhelming to say the least leading to a few scary moments for Viv and her friends as they try to figure out how to help her. Fortunately she has a wonderful support system in Ike, Syd, Gunnar and the Skipper family, and they prove that the family you choose is just as important (if not more so) than the family you are born into with their unquestioning acceptance of her revelations even as they hate those experiences for her. So many times I wanted to reach into the pages of my Kindle and either throat punch or shake one of her brothers or her mom until they came to their senses- UGH! Viv's counselor friend and therapist Pam is an absolutely wonderful supporting character with just the right amount of straight talk, humor, attitude, and compassion to keep Viv rooted in reality and to help them all navigate the emotional minefield that has become Viv's life.

Speaking of supporting characters, I have to say this book is filled with very well written characters who are not perfect, just perfectly flawed. They react in ways that may make you angry or annoyed, but those reactions are absolutely real. Denial is always easier than acceptance, and letting anger flow is a necessary step to reach acceptance for everyone involved no matter how much their initial reactions may hurt. As much as I wanted to smack her family, they had just come face to face with the reality that their history was being re-written in an unexpected and painful way, and where Viv has lived with years of that reality, they needed to work through that new knowledge in stages on their own.

If you haven't read From Dust, you can absolutely read Cruel Water as a standalone. But if you love a book that will make you feel, definitely grab both of these wonderful novels and set aside some time to dive in because once you start reading, you won't want to stop.

Some quotes that stuck with me:

I keep trying to distance myself, but it never lasts. I keep wanting to return to you. You’re like my siren. - Ike

“I don’t think anyone can make the mistake of thinking you’re not capable of looking after yourself, that’s not in question. The point is that those of us whose knuckles still occasionally scrape the floor, like to take care of what they consider theirs.” - Ike

“My friend, if you think dating Viv is a job, you can march your lily-white ass right back over to that hot as hell hunk of steel, and ride off into the sunset." - Pam

"When I woke up and heard the storm raging outside, it felt symbolic. Hiding inside from exposure to the force, the rage, the cruelty of the storm, much like I was hiding inside myself, avoiding and not living. Not dealing .” I turn my body so I’m laying stomach to stomach with Ike, lifting my hands to cup his jaw. “That’s why I went out. I this urge to rage against the storm, face the whipping winds and cruel waters." - Viv

“The storm around you is not what defines you, Vivian. What defines you is your ability to get up each time a new wave hits you down. That’s not drama, babe— that’s life." - Ike
Profile Image for FMR Book Grind.
2,189 reviews126 followers
March 3, 2016

OMG at all the feels in this story! So emotional. There are so many things going on in this story. You have the two main characters, Ike and Viv. Their connection is instant. I mean, no talking needed. The attraction they feel to each other is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Both of these characters are on the 40 side of life. Ike has been lost in his grief and hasn’t been looking for Miss Right. Just Miss Right Now. Viv is on the other side of an epically bad relationship and is content to be alone. She is still dealing with a lot of bad experience of epic proportions. I don’t know how she has the desire to get out of bed in the mornings. I would be committed to a mental hospital if I had to go through even half of what she has been through. Ike becomes her rock. She leans on him as he takes her back and helps her through all the confrontations that arise throughout the story. There is also the added drama brought on by Viv’s douchebag ex. With a capital D-BAG. Then you have the family breakdown when secrets are revealed. Through all of this, Viv has the most perfect support system in her friends. Her own little hand-picked family. Gunnar, Syd, Pam, and Dino make the perfect team to help her see that she is not to blame for anything. I love this author and this book is just another reason why I love her writing so much. She tells a story that will latch onto your heart and not let go. Her characters are always real, down to earth people. The women are smart-mouthed and spunky. The men are protective and full of passion for their women, I can’t wait to see what she in store next!


Ok, as reviewers we often say a book has ripped out hearts out or the emotion was real or many other things to try & get our points across.

This book did all that and more. The subject matter is one that many writers try to write stories about but often gloss over the details because of the sensitivity
of the content is high.
Freya Barker has taken it to a whole new level. She has not shied away from the severity of the story line. She has met it head on & written a story that is uniquely,
refreshingly honest. She has created a character, Viv, who has been to hell & back, not just courtesy of her abusive ex-partner, but also at the hands of those she is supposed
to be able to trust, the ones that are meant to protect her.
As this story unveils, it will rip your heart out, you will get emotional, you will want to jump into the pages of this book and not only do some serious comforting, but do some
serious damage. At time I found myself questioning everything I know about what a family should be & how it should behave. I found myself wanting to wrap my hands around a few of the characters
This probably makes me sound a bit unhinged, but the writing and storytelling in this book is that damn good that it drew out all sorts of emotions. I honestly felt so proud of Viv at times it was like she was
my sister or my friend. The strength this woman possesses at times is astounding. But, when she crumbles, she fall apart completely.

Ike is an absolute darling. He has his own issues and demons but he pushes it all aside to be the man Viv needs in her life. He is there with her through it all. Not once did he let her down.
Viv and Ike’s relationship is beautifully honest & real. It is exactly what they both need. They have the support of their self-made family and it the strength they draw from them that
gets them through the storms that lay ahead. The saying “Blood is thicker than water” is not always correct. Sometimes the best family is the one you create for yourself. This is certainly the case
for Viv & Ike.

This isn’t a book to be read in dribs and drabs. You need to have a good chunk of time set aside to get stuck into it lose yourself in this poignant, stunning and heartbreakingly emotional story
Because once you start you won’t want to put it down, even for a toilet break, You will want to read straight through to the end.

This book is definitely worth one clicking and setting time aside to read.
Profile Image for Karen Hrdlicka.
1,107 reviews22 followers
December 11, 2017
Once in a while an author comes along and not only writes beautiful books, she touches the heart of the reader and forces them to think about issues that often times are hidden. Freya Barker is just such an author. I have read everything by this author and the variety of emotions that her books bring out in a reader is phenomenal. Her Cedar Tree series is suspenseful, sexy, and laced with humor. However, the Portland ME series tackles more issues that make people uncomfortable to talk about. The latest entry into the series is Cruel Water and layers she peels away in her characters make it a must read.
Viv is a returning character from the first book in the series, From Dust, also one of my favorite, angsty reads. Viv appears to be a no nonsense, tough woman, but she has gone through her fair share of hell at the hands of her ex and another man from her past. Deciding to forgo dating after leaving her abusive ex, she is blindsided by her first meeting with a grey-eyed mystery man. Both Viv and Ike are drawn to each other and think that their one-night stand is all their future holds. They are both mistaken, as Fate appears to have a different plan.
Ike is a wonderful, guilt-ridden man, but he is just the man Viv needs to face her future. He is a man that will stand beside her and have her back but allow her to fight her own battles, giving her the support she needs. He tries to fight his attraction to Viv, finding it extremely difficult. He has no problem jumping in to help her in a time of crisis and help her through the difficult times Viv faces.
Viv has fought hard to get to the point in her life, however, she exists rather than truly lives. Her family at The Skipper and her therapist/friend Pam support her and give her a true sense of belonging that she hasn't had since childhood. She tries to resist her pull to Ike but finds that their attraction is too strong. She realizes he is different than her brothers and Gunnar, who have always jumped into fight her battles for her. Ike supports her fight but doesn't interfere.
The family experience that Viv grew up with, is far different than the perfect family that her brothers and mother fondly remember. Thinking her change in behavior in her teen years was just rebellion, when the true reason for her change is revealed it rocks the family to the core. When her father is stricken by a stroke, the control that she tried to have in her life is eroded. She never confided the reasons she pulled away from her family, even before she was with her abusive ex. Secrets unfold, family loyalties are dived, relationships are tested but through it all Viv is a survivor.
Ms. Barker hits a lot of socially emotional issues in this book, domestic abuse, dealing with aging parents, sexual abuse, family, and guilt. Both Viv and Ike carry a lot of guilt but once they share burdens with each other, their lives become more manageable. While I love all of the characters, the take no crap, Pam is probably my favorite. Who else can thump an ex-Navy vet on a bike because she thinks he's being an idiot? The writing is tight and flows well, I found myself looking for more story at the end. Ms. Barker's characters are the type that you draw into your heart and hold there and the sex scenes are inspired. I will never walk into a bar and look at a wooden bar the same way ever again. Here's hoping to another visit to Portland soon to check up on the regulars and get a new story.
Profile Image for Kim.
475 reviews11 followers
March 5, 2016
This book started off as a page turner from the first night Ike “meets” Viv at The Skipper and it held my interest until the end. Some of Viv’s story was brought out in From Dust but it was clear from the beginning of this book that her shitty ex Frank wasn’t the only thing that Viv has had to deal with in her life.

I was kind of shocked that her overprotective brothers never really knew what was happening and was disgusted at their reaction, specifically Owen considering it involved Lydia in his horrid reaction. But that just goes to show you that people butting their nose in your business don’t have a clue about what is really going on in your life…..and that is why I hate it in real life and in books. I wasn’t crazy about her mother from the beginning of the book when she seemed to force Viv to be around and my intuition was correct, she was a horrible woman and I could never get over her behavior. That would have been time to cut all ties for me.

I really liked Viv and truly felt for all she survived as well as her strength. However there were times she frustrated me with some of her “hard shell” behavior. I was glad to see that when she went too far with Ike she could admit it, that was refreshing usually the “strong” heroine gets a free pass to be a bitch to the good man that comes into her life….Viv didn’t let herself get a pass she owned all her actions and even some things she should never have owned. Ike, I absolutely loved. Even though he had doubts in himself he was there for Viv when most men would just walk away, especially men who carried some baggage of their own like Ike did. Ike had some healing to do as well but he always put Viv first. He wasn’t overbearing or pushy, he was stable and there for her no matter what. He was just awesome, well pretty much perfect if you ask me.

I loved these two together and their healing with each other made for a great read. I loved that once Viv was in, she was all in with Ike. That whole issue with Tim after him seeing an issue Ike had to deal with and running to Viv made me want to slap the shit out of Tim, I was so proud of Viv putting a stop to that immediately and taking Ike’s back. This story showed how they both had each other’s backs equally and to hell with anyone trying to put down them down.

This was another great read although there were a few things I was disappointed in after it was pleasantly missing in the first book but it was here in full force in this one. I fully admit it is a peeve of mine in the romance genre at this point but nonetheless it takes away from the meaningfulness of the relationship of a couple for me in most situations. I like couples who are enough for each other without immediately adding to their relationship. I have to admit when it started with Gunnar and Syd in this book that was kind of let down for me, it turned them into a run of the mill romance couple for me after how perfect their story was in the first book. At least Ike and Viv weren’t turned into that in this book but you can clearly see it is coming and at their age it won’t be long…..It also took away from why I love reading about older mature characters. I really loved this story but have to admit that this being thrown in at the end (along with Gunnar and Syd) did knock this one down a bit for me….but not much
Profile Image for C.A. Miconi.
Author 10 books32 followers
March 3, 2016
Just when I think Freya Barker can't get any better she releases this book. Cruel Water is such a great story I'm not sure how to do it justice in a review.

Viv is tending bar at the Skipper when she meets Ike and has what she thinks will be a one night stand. Ike is convinced he doesn't do relationships and doesn't get her name even though he admits to it being the best night of his life. Fate is funny though, Ike ends up playing on a baseball team that hangs out at the bar after games and he and Viv become involved. Viv has a heartbreaking past that even her family doesn't know about. When her past rears its ugly head Ike is there to have Viv's back. He doesn't try to fight her battles for her but he is there in every way to support her as she opens old wounds and begins to heal.

I love everything about Cruel Water. Ike is an amazing man. At first he doesn't think he does commitment but good lord, once he makes up his mind that he wants Viv and she is worth it, Ike will make you melt. He is 100% there for Viv but he recognizes she doesn't need a man to take over, just someone to have her six and be there. Viv is such a strong heroine and you will fall in love with the two of them. The past Viv endured will move you to tears and make you angry. An incident in Ike's past will break your heart. Cruel Water will inspire a multitude of feelings like all of Freya's books. She is a master at making you laugh, cry, and rant all in one chapter. This book definitely may have some triggers for some readers, Viv's past is not easy to read about but this book is beautifully written and the way she describes Ike and Viv's thoughts and feelings is simply gorgeous. If you appreciate the craft of writing you will want to read this book! It is going on my favorites shelf.

If you are new to Freya's books I think you will be delighted with Cruel Water. This is the second book in the Portland series but it can be read as a standalone. Freya writes characters that have lived and are so intriguing and interesting but are also very real. Her characters are people who could be your neighbor or your best friend.
March 4, 2016
I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

This was my initial review when I finished Cruel Water in January:

"Awesomely fantastic. Freya Barker has done it to me again! Sucked right into this book I finished at 3 AM. I even cried a little ... Which is darn near impossible to make me do."

So Cruel Water picks up with our favorite no nonsense character from From Dust the first Portland, ME novel - Viv. She kicks ass and takes names. Holds grudges and opens up to few. She has the respect of many. She's closed off though. Only a couple of people have managed to break through the tough exterior that is Viv. Only a couple of men had managed that feet in and of itself.

Ike walks into her bar one day and the connection is made. It's intense. No matter how much the two of them convince each other they don't need or want one another....their relationship is inevitable. Ike can feel Viv's pain like none other. Sympathizes with her if you will. Though initially he has no clue the whole story he can gather from how she reacts to certain situations. Two peas in a pod - Ike & Viv.

Next you'll be singing that kids song "Ike & Viv sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g..." Yes, well...kissing they did well among other things. Ike has a tendency to pull Viv out of her shell. She's like a turtle buried in there so deep, he has to keep poking and prodding her to get her to emerge from it's protection.

There was a particular scene in this book that did pull at my heart strings. It's probably not the one that will pull on most readers but it's what the scene represented for Viv and her HEA. Included in this love story is quite a few life lessons and also some situations you hope you or your children never find themselves. You can remain a victim or you can become the survivor...the victor.

I hope you will love this book as much as I do. It's a great love story.
Profile Image for Lilian Flesher.
182 reviews11 followers
February 5, 2016
OMG this story just rips at your heart strings. I loved my first visit to the Skipper via From Dust, which is where Syd, and Gunner's story was told, but Viv was mentioned in there. I loved that book, and when I was given the chance to read Viv's story I jumped at the opportunity.

Well I totally love Freya's skill at writing, she has you feeling how the characters felt, I was choked up at times, crying at others, laughing at others. Emotions get taken for a ride at the start and do not stop till the end.

This story is about not 1 but 2 delicate subjects. Most women struggle to come back from one of these subjects, let alone 2, but our main character Viv has been subjected to them and on the surface appears to have survived but has she??

Ike our sexy man in the story, has also had heartbreak in his life, a strong military guy, he has learned how to mask his trauma too, but his brother's death is different, it is family, it is his brother and he feels responsible.

Viv and Ike end up having a night of passionate sex, no names are mentioned, they do not speak, they just enjoy their liaison, Viv sneaks out in the morning and that you may think is the end of that - well that is just the beginning. Both are damaged, but they are about to become each others crutch, can Ike help Viv mend and in so doing help himself?

This is one explosive story, touching on subjects sure to tear you apart at times, but it is written with such skill that makes their story so amazing. I take my hat off to Freya another fantastic book which melts your heart and soul.
4,592 reviews17 followers
March 12, 2016
Viv worked at The Skipper - she was a manager there but also cooked and tended bar. Syd and Gunner are the owners Dino the chief and they all treat her like family although Dino id a man of few words. Viv lived with an abusive husband for a long time but after he put her in the hospital four times she finally left him and went to a safe house. Viv had four brothers and none of them knew this had happened. One night at stranger comes in while Viv is on the bar Viv has what she believes is a one night stand with him. The next morning she has a call her father is in the hospital and quickly leaves knowing nothing about the man including no names no phone numbers. Viv had a horrible childhood no one knows about either the one time she turned to her mom she wasn’t believed. But she has talked to Pam about Frank her ex. Pam is her therapist and friend who runs the safe house. Pam also knows Viv is still hiding something deep within herself but patiently waits for Viv to tell her. The man Viv had sleep with the one time was back and looking for Viv he wants to get to know her better and convinces her to go out with him this is Ike.
I loved this story. So very well written this could have happened , ot made you feel like you were right there in the story. It does have some brutal parts but so does life and this just adds to the story. Absolutely adored the characters especially Viv and all the twists and turns she goes through as well as Ike. I highly recommend.
I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bev .
1,915 reviews416 followers
March 7, 2016
I loved the first book in the series – From Dust, and if not for the lack of an epilogue I would have 5 starred that baby. However, Syd and Gunnar’s story does continue in Cruel Water so I think I need to go back and up my rating because it’s one of those books that stuck with me months after reading it.

Now that I’m done with the waffle I just want to say that I absolutely adore Ike. To me, he epitomises the perfect hero. Strong, quiet, respectful of Viv, supportive, loving, carrying his own hurts and burdens but not taking it out on others – all this done whilst knowing just exactly what Viv needed. Yeah, the perfect hero.

Viv wasn’t too shabby either. What she endured for years and years from being a young child right the way through her adult life until she took it back from those sick, twisted men was pretty horrific. The author handled this all beautifully although I wish Viv had had more support from her brothers at least, although they did come round eventually ….. I don’t think I could have forgiven them like she did. They were total arseholes, and DO NOT get me started on that excuse of a mother. I so would have walked away from the lot of them.

I love that the characters are older, there was no childish melodrama, no unnecessary angst, no miscommunication, just a gorgeous story that I loved from word one, and I even got a little epilogue.

Profile Image for Angela Lamb.
296 reviews5 followers
March 4, 2016
I received this free book in exchange for an honest review.

5 Stars

This book. Wow, this book…I’m not sure I can put into words how much I loved this book and how much it moved me and touched my heart. Freya Barker has really outdone herself with this one.

Viv is the epitome of strength in a female character. She has overcome so many obstacles in her life and still has several more to come. Ike has declared to be the lifelong bachelor who doesn’t need love in his life. Both of these characters have been through so much and carry so much guilt on their shoulders that you can feel it weighing them down. When Viv meets Ike at the Skipper while she’s tending bar, there is instant chemistry between them and they end up in what they believe is a one night stand.

Once they’ve decided to give things a try, Viv’s past comes back full force and when Ike decides she’s worth everything they’re going through, he will totally melt your heart and your panties, just as he did mine. Freya Barker takes on the touchy topics of this book as no other has, and has written it beautifully. Cruel Water is book two in the Portland series, following From Dust. You don’t have to read From Dust first, but it is recommended.

Cruel Water definitely has possible triggers for rape and abuse.

Angela – Alphas Do It Better Book Blog
Profile Image for Kerry-Ann.
140 reviews6 followers
February 13, 2016
I have only one thing to say about this novel… Inspiring.

Freya Barker has written a story that is gritty, raw and real. A story about what happens when you have the worst thing imaginable happen to you, and the people who should be your support system, don’t believe you.

Viv is one of the strongest characters I have ever read. She does not let what happened to her stop her from taking a chance on love. She is a survivor and NOT a victim. She is kick ass and sassy but with a vulnerability that shows she is also only human. I heart her.

Ike is the kind of man I hope to marry one day! Strong and mature...a man who does not run at the first sign of difficulty but instead faces it head on. He has also faced a terrible tragedy and knows that Viv might just be the woman to help him heal as well.

These characters are one of my favourite book couples EVER and I only wish that I could pick up this book and read it for the first time again!

This is going to be one of my top reads for 2016 and one I will never forget.

I cannot recommend this story about survival, second chances and forgiveness enough!

Profile Image for Jennifer Zamora.
325 reviews9 followers
February 12, 2016
OMG! Im not sure I can do this book justice! Freya Barker has done it again! I fell in love with her characters and first book, From Dust. I cannot believe how easily she is able to take very dark and serious issues and still give a happily ever after without watering down the issue, nor giving the story an ending that leaves you asking "How the hell would thaat happen?".
Everyone that meets Viv knows shes carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. She cant imagine ever being happy. Shes content and that is enough, right?
Ike has always enjoyed traveling for work, but something changes this time when he gets home. Then he walks into 'The Skipper'. And those blue eyes will change his life forever. Can their one night turn into a lifesaver for them both? And how will each end up when the flood gates are opened? Can Ike help calm her stormy waters, and can she come back from the point of no return?
Profile Image for She's a Lip Biter.
1,336 reviews29 followers
March 7, 2016
From Dust, the first book in this series, was amazing. I didn't think that Freya could do it again, but she did. This book was so heartbreaking and really amazing. Freya's writing style is great, the way she tells the story and the passion and pain you can feel through her writing is great.

This story is about a broken woman who is supported by an emotional damaged man and their journey to rebuilding themselves. Viv is one of the strongest characters I've read in a long time. She has been through hell, she has had no one and had to find herself when no one was around. She found a family in friends and learned she is just as strong as everyone knew she was. This story will pull at your heartstrings but in the best possible way. But, it's not all emotionally draining, you will find yourself laughing as well. Another great story by Ms. Barker and I cannot wait to see what is next

Reviewed by Kaci
Profile Image for Alice Hart.
Author 4 books243 followers
April 16, 2018
The Waters are indeed CRUEL here. Until Ike comes along. Sexy Ike tries his hardest to try and help Viv. A woman he thought he was having a one nighter with but just couldn't shake her.

Freya does a great job on writing about tough subjects. The ones that make your skin crawl. She doesn't go into great detail about the abuse Viv suffered in her past. The sick part of me wanted to read it. For anyone else with emotional "triggers", you will get the point without having to "go there". If that makes any sense at all. But the sick puppy in me, likes to read all of that.

I'd love to see Pam get her own book and see Freya go right into all the dirty details of Pam's story. I wanna know what she's been through! I love that smacks Ike up the side of his head and threatens his lily white ass!
Profile Image for Nancy Huddleston.
346 reviews16 followers
March 3, 2016
"Just as I spot a figure running towards me, a large wave crashes into me, catching me off balance. My eyes never leave the approaching man, even as my legs are swept out from under me, and I'm washed into the cruel water."
Freya Barker created a moving and emotional full story with Cruel Water(Portland, ME #2). It will take you on a journey to face the past and to reach for a future.
Freya Barker addresses tough issues that are usually glossed over . She wrote about them with compassion and understanding.
Although her characters might have a few cracks and dents, they all have an inner strength that helps them survive and live. Viv and Ike are the main characters in Cruel Water. I adored reading their story. I highly recommend any of Freya Barker's books.
Profile Image for Deannie.
702 reviews12 followers
April 19, 2016
ARC kindly provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Viv is carrying a load and its all kept deep inside of her. Reading this book the author takes us on a tumultuous and somewhat candid look at the misfortune of Viv. How she mentally survived is awesome. And to be along for the ride to see her life and that of Ike's unfold is one of the most beautiful love stories I have had the fortune to read in a while.

While this book tells their story it also touches on a sensitive topic that I am quite honestly loving to see woven into this beautiful story.

DO NOT MISS this story you will not be disappointed! I had the fortune to meet Freya Barker this month and I can say I will be placing her in my top author lists. Great job!
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