What an interesting book. It had a lot going for it, but it had a lot against it as well, and that’s making it hard to rate. This is a big departure for me. I don’t read erotica very often and it’s rare for me to read anything with BDSM in it. But when Juliana recommended the book I had to at least see if it interested me. I went to Google Books and started reading the sample, but the first chapter didn’t impress me at all. I left her a message saying the equivalent of “thanks but no thanks” but then kept reading in idle curiosity. By the third chapter I was intrigued enough to change my mind and get a copy. Fickle, thy name is Catherine. 😉
What turned me off so much about the first chapter was the writing style. It was rough, very rough. The book is in first person present tense (I loathe that style) and it read like fan fiction. It had the unpolished feel that I associate with many of them, and it had a bit of a ‘this, then this, then this, then this’ feel to it. Not really my style. But, the set up interested me. The heroine was very blushing and innocent and easily overwhelmed by the hero, but I can adapt. Not all of my heroines need to be strong and badass in the beginning. In addition to a rough writing style, there were also quite a few typos. I’m not the biggest stickler, but I have to admit that it was irritating and that I expect better from published authors.
While the writing was the biggest downfall of the book, the plot and the character development were its saving grace. I am…conflicted about what I thought of Ana. On one hand she felt bland and underdeveloped, almost like a placeholder heroine. She was very innocent, which I didn’t necessarily mind, but she also felt childish, which I did mind. She was very contained on the outside—sometimes I would forget about this until another character brought it up—but was a mass of insecurity and uncertainty on the inside, which made it occasionally painful to watch her timidity around Christian and any kind of conflict. On the other hand, she really impressed me with her approach to the possibility of a relationship with Christian. She was intrigued by him but repelled by what he wanted from her. I couldn’t help but enjoy her as a heroine, despite the problems I had with her, because she pretty much reflected my whole issue with BDSM in general. I enjoyed watching her try to reconcile her dislike of his desires with her honest desire to be with him. She also became much, much stronger as the book continued on and impressed me by really following what she needs. I’m very curious to see how this develops.
The shining star of this book was really the hero, Christian. He was a fascinating character. Reading about him felt reminiscent of reading a Robin Schone book. I was drawn to him for the same reason I was drawn to Schone’s heroes Michael and Gabriel—complexity. Here was a man who didn’t have a problem interacting with people and charming them, but he didn’t actually desire any close ties. He was afraid of intimacy—although I’m sure that’s not how he saw it—and was repulsed by the thought of being touched and cuddled. Everything had to be on his terms and he was confounded by his overwhelming attraction to a woman who was not part of his scene, who did not like being submissive, and who hated the thought of being punished for someone else’s pleasure. His moods were mercurial and he could occasionally veer toward stalkerish and obsessive, but underneath it all he was devastatingly vulnerable and tortured. Both he and Ana had to take a hard look at themselves and really figure out how much they wanted to be together. They both had to make steps to compromise and try to find a middle ground.
So, this leaves me with the conflict. How do I rate something that absolutely fascinated me, despite leaving me occasionally uncomfortable with the subject matter, yet which had such an irritating writing style? I wavered between C and B and am still somewhat hesitant on the grade that I have chosen. I think I’ll have to go with a B, though, because I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pound it and immediately fiend for the next one when I got to the end. I hated the style, yes, but I’ve found better written books that didn’t interest me half as much, so I think I’ll just have to go with my enjoyment level on this one.