by Maya Banks, contemporary (2010)
Heat, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-23258-3
If Sweet Temptation is anything to go by, this is the second book in a row where Maya Banks gives a character from a previous book his story, only to somehow morph that character into someone else entirely. If continuity is going to keep being an issue, perhaps it is better that the author had made this book a standalone one.
At any rate, this is Micah Hudson's story. Previously, he was a brooding but generally decent guy who loves his sex to be kinky. When this story opens, he has lost David Moyano, his best friend, and Hannah, the woman the two men shared between them, three years ago. David's sister, Angelina, is infatuated with Micah. How far will she go to attain his affection?
And that is indeed the question here. In three years, Micah has transformed from a decent guy into... this creature. He lusts after Angel, but because he had promised David to always look after her, he couldn't pork her with a clear conscience. So what he does is to share her with his six - yes, six - friends, all of whom proceed to have rough sex and BDSM stuff with her, some of their antics going beyond what you usually find in a lightweight BDSM story. There is something seriously wrong with this man's logic, I tell you, a complete reverse of the dog in the manger complex. Angel, who starts out a dominatrix type, is so eager to please Micah that she allows herself to be subjected to this "training" and hopefully become the perfect submissive for Micah. One very telling moment in this story is when Angelina tells Cole, a guy in Micah's "Let's use Angel as our happy piñata" gang, that she does everything Micah tells her to because this is one way she believes that she can hold on to him.
It is a given that this book is a going to be a very controversial read if you are unfamiliar with or do not like reading about BDSM, group sex, and the whole nine yards of this kind of stuff. Author Maya Banks seems to delight in dragging her readers screaming past their comfort zone in this book, so if you are going to read this book, I hope you do so knowing what to expect.
Perhaps I am at a disadvantage when it comes to Sweet Temptation because I am not well-versed in the psychology of a submissive. To me, Angel's reason for allowing herself to be passed around for Micah's friends to do as they will is pretty sad. Throughout everything, she comes off like someone so desperate for love that she allowed herself to be passed on from man to man. Perhaps this is indeed how a submissive think? I don't know. To my unfamiliar eye, I see a misguided woman being used and passed around, and I can't say I find the whole thing romantic.
It will help if Micah had exhibited a greater degree of tenderness toward Angel. Maybe if I get this impression that he likes to share her with other men because he feels that there is just too much of her to love, or something, I can get into the story better. But for the most part, he behaves more like Angel's pimp. It is only very late in the story when some calamity befalls Angel that he realizes that he loves her and wants a more conventional relationship with her. Love comes into play only in the last dozen or so pages of the story, and for me, the whole "I love you" thing like a last minute addition to allow this book to be marketed as an erotic romance.
On the bright side, the erotic scenes are actually very steamy despite my general discomfiture with the whole "let's gang bang the heroine without asking her for her permission" premise. But it's hard to fully appreciate them because I am not too happy with this book. As an erotica, it is a dark and often intriguing - if uncomfortable - look into the world of BDSM and group sex. But as a romance, especially one featuring a hero that is so different from the fellow he was in previous related books in the Sweet series, this one is very lacking in the TLC department.
All things considered, I can't dismiss Sweet Temptation as a bad book though. Uncomfortable, yes; lacking as a romance, definitely. But this book gets to me, makes me think, and, despite making me feel like strangling the hero and the heroine at times, it never once bored me. It's just too bad that the author has focused more on the erotic aspects of this story and left in too little romance to balance out the whole thing.
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