So a friend of mine on facebook (who shall remain nameless, mostly because I haven't told her yet that she owes me $2.95 for the cost of this book) shared a truly excellent book ad the other day. There was a beautiful shot of a man's arm in a french-cuffed white shirt, a heroine named Izobel, and a quote that was straight out of "Alpha/Dom speeches 101". It had me. And when my friend said she'd had a look at the sample and it was promising, that was all it took for me. CLICK.
And two hours later? I'm done the book, I'm annoyed, borderline offended, and thinking that was $2.95 and two hours of my life I'll never get back.
This should have been good. Elise Hepner has taken two of my favourite tropes (marriage of convenience and best friends boinking) and mashed them up with a measure of kink thrown in for good measure. Pretty standard for a contemporary romance these days, and I was looking forward to reading what this author's take on these standards would be.
What I got was a disjointed, choppy, cheat of a story, with two-dimensional characters and flat dialogue. The entire premise of the book was based on a need for the marriage in the first place, and 3/4 of the way through the book the premise is erased - just like that - and never mentioned again. Not only that, but an icky, almost offensive connection between BDSM and the hero witnessing his mother's murder that had me thinking someone needed to take Bash to a psychologist, and quick.
Izzy and Bash have been friends forever (except for that time between middle school and high school that they weren't, and really who cares, but the author thought we should so she stuck in a weird flashback to start her story) and apparently Izzy is in love with Bash. Don't know why really, even with all the telling the author does. I never got the connection between them, never saw the foundation for what was to come.
Somehow we are able to determine that Izzy's mom has cancer, is quite ill, and is in hospital having chemo. Also somehow, through the garbled conversations and inner-voice meanderings of these two, we are told that Bash and Izzy have decided somehow to get married to make her happy before she dies. They share a couple of heated kisses at the hospital and somehow there is a wedding ceremony.
The wedding night doesn't happen, as Bash takes off from the romantic, rose-petal-strewn hotel suite and goes to some Dom/Sub club called The Attic where Izzy catches up with him in a "scene". Then the book got weird. For me, anyway.
There are flashbacks to Bash's mom's death - at the hands of a boyfriend who beat her for his own pleasure - which has somehow molded Bash's sexual proclivities. This was where things got creepy for me. I don't mind a little bit of BDSM in my books; I've read that stupid 50 Shades, and virtually every contemporary you pick up nowadays has a hero who likes a bit of rough play. What I DON'T like is when the hero is described as having a "not-so-secret love of BDSM", but his behaviour as portrayed by the author is closer to that of a sadist. He considers himself a monster, and tells Izzy so.
It just got worse for me after that. Their first sexual encounter is rough, and Bash spanks the shit out of her. For a first-timer, I found it a teeensy bit hard to believe that all it took for her was a bottle of champagne and a couple of hours surfing bondage porn on the internet to discover that she was really a sub and wanted to be bruised during sex.
And when he takes her to the club where they ARE the scene? That was where the author lost me. He puts her head in a STOCK for crissakes, flogs her, puts on nipple clamps and yanks on the chains, has some big-time anal involving a dildo (after never even having TALKED about that type of sex), drips hot wax all over her and jerks off onto her back. That's pretty serious for only her second time having that type of sex. And also? No mention of a safe word. At any time.
Now, I'm not much of a serious student of BDSM but I've learned a couple of things since "the book that shall remain nameless" came out:
1) BDSM seems to be all about the sub's pleasure. The dom gets pleasure from giving pleasure to the sub, the sub relinquishes all control to the dom. Of course, that's pretty simplistic as I believe there is a lot of stuff about control, blurring the line between pain and pleasure, anticipation and most of all TRUST involved in that type of thing. None of that was done here. Bash seemed to have a need to cause pain (for some unclear, creepy, psychologically-fucked-up reason) and Izzy seemed to think that she would endure whatever she needed to because she loved him (and OH! she discovers that she likes it.)
2) YOU NEED TO HAVE A SAFE WORD. If I've got my head and wrists in a fucking stock, you've put clamps on my nipples and decide to splash melted wax on me, you better fucking believe there should be a word for me to scream at you to let you know I've had enough. I would have thought this was basic, and I'm surprised that an author of erotica would overlook this. It's irresponsible, IMHO.
There were other problems I had with the book as well - in addition to the bait-and-switch with her mother's illness (aw shucks! They switched the biopsies! I'm really fine and not dying and probably didn't need all the chemo I just had!) Bash is referred to as a workoholic by Izzy. Um, doing what? Don't think he went in to work during the entire span of the book. He drives an expensive car, and dresses well, but doesn't every contemp romance dude? And what does she do? Details, that's what was missing. Substance, depth, character, emotions. Wasn't feeling it.
As a matter of fact, I wasn't feeling anything by the end other than somewhat annoyed. And wondering if I actually did practice BDSM, how PO'd I would be at the portrayal of my "likes" in the bedroom being linked in a novel to a boy watching his mother being beaten to death by a sadist because it pleased him. I also wondered if Jenny Trout has read this - and what she would have to say if she did.
Can't recommend this one. I didn't buy the romance, I didn't buy the characters, and I sure a s*** didn't buy the dom/sub aspect (although what I will say is that those scenes contained the best writing in the novel). And where was the frigging SAFE WORD????
1 1/2 stars, rounded up.