by Kyra Davis, contemporary (2014, reissue)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-6273-9
Kyra Davis's Just One Night was first published as a series of three parts in 2013, and they sold so well that Pocket decided to reissue them in one single volume. Since Pocket doesn't like the idea of Malaysians buying its digital books for some reason, and yet has no problems when these same Malaysians buy the same books in dead tree format, I have to wait this long to see what the fuss is all about.
Well, it is marketed as erotic fiction, not erotic romance, and for a good reason: the heroine Kasie Fitzgerald is cheating on her boyfriend with our hero Robert Dade. If you don't like cheating in any form when it comes to your stories, you may want to skip this one, since the author uses the lazy justification of the boyfriend being the typical boring potato head turned weird creep to drive home that it is always better to cheat on said boring creepy potato head with a billionaire. Normally, I can get behind this, as we are talking about lots and lots of money here, but the billionaire also comes with a major dose of sexual harassment that never fails to make to roll up my eyes.
So yes, this is the standard story of a fresh "intern"-style heroine ending up falling onto the well-moneyed pee-pee of another billionaire created from the "Harlequin Presents: Your Asshole Dreamboat" mold. Without the cheating angle, this one could have been easily swapped with the hundreds of stories that are also created from the same template.
So, Kasie. She is egged by her more sexually adventurous BFF - you know, the usual stereotype - to let loose and get wild when the two of them have a night out in Vegas. Kasie protests that she really isn't that kind of woman, you know, although it doesn't take much or long for her to do the bedroom tango with Robert Dade. Don't worry, she claims she feels guilty for cheating on poor Dave, the boring bloke she has been with for years, but when she realizes that Robert is the new client that she has to service (heh), and that he specifically asked for her, what is she to do? In between wailing that she needs to keep things professional, she proceeds to let him boink her. Again. Again. Oh what the heck, some more. Until the crap hits the fan and Kasie is like, finally, "Oh dear, maybe sleeping with the client isn't such a good idea..."
Despite being described in the publicity material as an ambitious career woman, Kasie doesn't show any personality trait normally associated with such women. For one, she only gets her current job because of her boyfriend's connection. You'd think that, with people already thinking that she slept her way into her current job, she'd be more careful about sleeping with one of the biggest clients in the company, especially when her rival already suspects that this is the case, but no. And you know what, the rival is right. Kasie did screw her way to the top. Normally I'd go, "That's the way, girlfriend, use what you got to get what you want!" but in this instance, Kasie's humping her way up to the top is portrayed as something incidental, something that just happens, and she really isn't that much of a whore.
This kind of evasive "No whore! Really!" protestation is already quite insulting. It also makes Kasie look weak and even pathetic, as she has no self control when it comes to Robert. He beckons, she protests but spreads them wide without much of a fight. By claiming that the heroine is some kind of accidental slut, the author actually makes it harder for me to respect the slut in question. I like sluts - funny, wicked, bitchy sluts that own up to their behavior. I just don't like sluts that protest and whine so much, like Kasie here.
Robert is the standard "Spread them, toots, and if you don't like it, I'll tell everybody I shagged you and your reputation will be ruined!" dreamboat, nothing new here.
Now here's the thing. Don't laugh, but I actually find Kasie and Robert a pretty compelling couple. Despite the story being told from Kasie's first person point of view, and she's a whiny and indecisive creature with no self control, I find that the author succeeds in making the chemistry between those two come alive. The initial one night stand is actually pretty erotic despite the author not going into too much explicit detail - well, she gets explicit, but I find her love scenes tamer than many I've read - the sensuality is there, and it's scorching.
That's why the whole "Kasie is not a whore" nonsense frustrates me. Sometimes, people end up in relationships that are all wrong for them, and it may need some cheating to make them realize this. But Kasie is too indecisive and too spineless to make a clean break with Dave, and this renders the potent chemistry between her and Robert into something sordid.
Make no mistake, the author does hold Kasie accountable for her actions in the end. But this is a case of Kasie coming to an obvious epiphany way too late. Even then, the author tries to sugarcoat Kasie's actions by passing the bucket of blame to her cartoon-like dysfunctional parents. I get this feeling that the author doesn't trust me to accept the heroine as she is, and ends up sabotaging the heroine and this story as a result.
Just One Night starts out an intriguing, if formulaic, read, but its quick slide into overwrought soap opera territory makes me go, "Eh?" The heroine has a pretty good epiphany and she gets back her spine in a glorious confrontation with her parents, but for too long, she's this clueless creature that can't make any decision and exercise some self control - a true test of my patience, in other words. My overall impression is that this is one story that has been stretched way too long to fit the three-part soap opera format, and the author's reliance on cartoon melodrama ends up working against the story. Still, I do like the author's voice and her way with chemistry and sexual tension, so I may end up picking up the collection of her next serial drama when it comes out.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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