AUTHOR: ELENE SALLINGER
Details: No. 1 The Chrysalis Series
Received from SourceBooks Casablanca
“Claire Ryan is finally coming out of her shell after a devastating breakup. What better way to rejoin the world than through a romance book club. But she never expects to find love for herself... Bookshop owner Evan Lang still harbors deep grief for the death of his wife. He'd introduced her to a world of domination she'd never before known. He thinks he'll never be able to find someone that open, that responsive again. Until Claire walks through his door...
This book could have been so much better. I liked the idea behind the story; two people dealing with past issues coming together and eventually finding a way to overcome what lies behind them so that they can create a future together. I just wasn’t impressed with the way in which the story was told.
For starters, the first part of this book dragged for me. I don’t mind if it takes the main characters in a romance – erotic or otherwise – a long time to actually get to admitting that they are attracted to each other. In fact, I love it when the build-up to the characters getting intimate is slow yet heated. I do however expect there to be interaction between those two characters, an aspect that was rather lacking from the first half of this story.
The story has more or less reached the half way mark before Claire and Evan even start talking. Up until that point they have been trying to ignore each other and Evan has been nothing short of rude and abrupt with Claire. All the reader gets to see are the angst-filled thoughts and feelings on both sides. I have to be honest and admit there were one or two occasions I just wanted to put the book away because the story didn’t appear to be going anywhere.
I had a few issues with the characters as well. Claire seems to be a contraction in terms. She has come out of a long relationship about which she feels guilty because of the way she behaved, has been unsatisfied with her love-life for as long as she can remember and has fantasies about a less vanilla – although she’s not aware of that term – relationship and yet she has, when the story starts, never touched her own vagina while masturbating? I guess it is possible, but to me it just felt unlikely. And I wasn’t anymore convinced that the woman who couldn’t bring herself to actually buy the erotic books she was interested in would, without a second thought, engage in a sexual encounter in the bookshop while it was still open to the public.
And Evan seems to be as much of a contradiction. He sees Claire, recognizes her needs and decides to try and help her without getting involved with her. His main aim is to make sure that she won’t fall into the hands of a man who will take advantage of her needs and fantasies. Yet, in the act of introducing her to BDSM he turns into exactly the Dom he says he is trying to protect her from. Unable to contain either his anger at himself or his lust for the woman he doesn’t want to be interested in, he is a risk rather than a safe harbor.
Having said all of that, there were quite a few things that I did enjoy. I liked how Evan left out relevant books for Claire to find so that she could discover that her desires were not crazy or dirty but rather something lots of people share with her and indulge in. I loved the way he explained the BDSM dynamic to her and adored him for trying to show her how beautiful and seductive she is.
Claire grew on me once the story really kicked off in the second half of the book. I loved her submission to Evan and adored how that submission didn’t mean she forgot to look after herself. In fact, the more she submits the more she grows to value herself, and that was a wonderful dynamic to watch.
The sex scenes, once they did happen, were HOT. I loved the way Evan introduced Claire to the delights of controlled pain. It was wonderful to observe her while she got to understand that her need to feel pain didn't mean she was depraved or crazy but rather an opportunity to experience a different way of intimacy. And I would have adored Evan's lack of control when it came to Claire just as much had it not been for the fact that he was supposed to be introducing her to BDSM and should have been in complete control, especially considering her fragility. But the spanking, the flogging and the introduction to anal play were all written in such a way that I could almost experience the sensations.
In short, for me this was an exercise in contradictions. I’m sorry that the best I can say about this book is that it was an okay read for me. I’m convinced that all the ingredients for a brilliant story where there, if only the author had chosen to use them in a slightly different way.
I’ll end this review with my favourite quote from this book.
“What did I tell you about tears, little one?”
“They are for things you can’t change.”