The Professional started out as a serial of three e-novella's, but now it has been combined into one paperback. I've not read anything by Cole before, but I do know of her and her paranormal romance series. As I am going through a contemporary, erotic romance binge right now, I decided to start with The Professional. Unfortunately, I didn't really like it that much.
Natalie is a PhD student, living with her friend. Her life is pretty good. The only thing she has niggling at the back of her mind is how long it's taking to find her biological parents. She has hired a private investigator, but she has to work numerous jobs just to afford him. It's been six long years, with no luck.
Out at a club with her girlfriends, Natalie notices a guy at the bar and decides to introduce herself. The guy is Sevastyan, who shoots her down and leaves. A bit embarrassed by her failed seduction, Natalie decides to head home. While she's in the bath, in the middle of fantasising about Sevastyan while self-pleasuring, she sees him outside her bathroom door staring at her. Instead of screaming the place down, or trying to call the police, or, you know, something that a normal person would do, she can't get over how sexy he is. After just a few questions, she learns that he's there because of her biological father.
Sevastyan tells her he's taking her back to Russia to meet her father, who is the head of the Russian Mafia, and gives her five minutes to get ready. When she hesitates, as you would do, he hauls her arse over his shoulder and carries her to the car, taking her to a secret airport where a private jet is waiting. When she decides to make a run for it through a corn field, Sevastyan catches her and instead of fighting for her life, she's turned on and ready to give up her virginity right there and then.
After getting on the plane with Sevastyan, despite knowing that he's a dangerous killer, part of the Russian Mafia and her father's enforcer/assassin, she of course gets into bed with him and does some seriously naughty things. When they arrive in Russia and Natalie meets her father, they talk about his job as the mafia boss, and clocks. There's a couple of gun fights, but that's about as far as it goes with regards to any intrigue. The back story is weak to say the least. In fact, there barely is one.
Let's be clear. For me, this book is just about the sex. We are subjected to page after page after page of sex. No romance, no loving, no depth, just raw lust, sex and kink; with lots of coming, and screaming, and mons...
Mons? I hear you say. I had to look it up. It's the pubic bone. Natalie likes it slapped apparently. And whipped. This is not a sexy word. By the end of the book I didn't really care if Natalie and Sevastyan would make it, as I felt no connection with them at all. There was maybe one chapter near the end that showed some vulnerability and caring from the hero, but other than that it ended as it started. With sex. More specifically, anal. Well, they'd done everything else. Why not end on a high note.
As with all my romances that contain sex, I want more than just that. I want more build up. More romance. More angst. More love. More tenderness. More mutual attraction. Not one half of the couple acting so cold and distant that the sex falls flat, and just becomes a porn scene. I love watching a couple's building attraction as it combusts, placing me right there with them in that moment having all the feels. But, with Natalie and Sevastyan it all happens way too fast, and with two characters that are pretty one-dimensional and rather wooden. I didn't feel as though it was believable to me as I read it. I just kept thinking, would you really do that after just one meeting, in that situation?
I know this is fiction, but I do have to feel that what is happening is believable, otherwise what's the point? The writing has to be good to make me feel totally absorbed in the story, the characters and their relationship. Sadly, in this case, it wasn't.
Rating: 2 Stars
The Professional by Kresley Cole (Game Maker #1) Contemporary Erotic Romance Simon & Schuster (20 May 2014) Paperback: 390 pages
No disclaimer needed for this review - I think I have made my love for hockey pretty clear. I didn’t quite love Across the Line as much as I did it’s predecessor but I still very much enjoyed it.
Becca Chen is fiercely independent - a trait that was probably, ironically, strengthened by the parents who insisted she follow their life plans for her and go into the medical profession. Determined to succeed in her chosen profession - owning and managing her own restaurant - it’s pretty much all she thinks about … that is until she runs into Calder Griffin on a plane journey. They went to the same elementary school where they didn’t exactly get along but their lives have understandably gone in different directions. However, they both know what it’s like to be compared unfavourably to siblings and they soon strike up a conversation that leads to something more.
I liked Becca’s independence and the fact that she was not afraid of working hard to get where she wanted. However, Calder seems to think she’s this laid-back chick just because she ‘allows’ him to go play ice hockey whilst they’re supposed to be on a date and I think that that opinion is proven wrong as we get further into the novel. I can understand Becca’s perfectionism and the need to have full control of her destiny, I just think sometimes she acted a little …rashly, to say the least. Calder is hot (especially if the cover is anything to go by), he knows how to take care of himself in order to be the best he can be at what he does but rather than being driven by his desire to better himself he is driven by the desire to be better than his brother. I suppose the fact that he's driven to prove himself at all is a positive, but it does not seem like a healthy sibling rivalry between the two.
That might make it sound like I didn’t like the characters - and I don’t know that like is the word I would use to describe what I feel about them. In my review for On the Surface I said that I liked the protagonists but didn’t relate to them and I think if anything for Across the Line it would be the opposite. They weren’t awful characters by any stretch of the imagination but they’re also not the type of characters I would necessarily want to be best friends with. Together they work (for the most part)
Again, although ostensibly a fairly straight-forward contemporary romance this novel isn’t all light and fluffy. As well as dealing with the issues of parental disapproval and sibling rivalry and the real and lasting effect they can have, it broaches the subject of homosexuality compassionately, particularly with a view to how it might be perceived with a sport setting, and within the hockey community. Although it’s true that nobody should have a say in someone else’s sex life as long as what they’re doing is legal and consensual it isn’t glossed over in this novel and made to appear all sweetness and light. I honestly think this was one of the major strengths of the book. There's not a massive amount of impetus in this novel to be honest - at least not between the main characters - and this adds something to keep the story going.
There seemed to be more hockey verbiage used in this instalment but that is by no means a bad thing. Hockey isn’t just something that these men happen to do - it’s a huge part of their life and therefore becomes a huge part of their partners lives too. Becca watches games whenever she can, and even joins in once in a while. However, there is (don't tell anybody I said this) such a thing as too much hockey and I think Kate Willoughby gets the balance between showing how important it is and not letting it completely overrun the novel just right.
The sex is ... well it's hot. I'll give you a little snippet;
He pulled out abruptly and pulled her off the desk. Her butt skidded on the wood, but he was strong. Before she knew it, he'd turner her around, bent her over with one hand between her shoulder blades and shoved himself back inside. A primitive thrill raced through her at the unexpected manhandling. His hips slammed against her butt so hard, the drawers in the desk rattled. But God, it felt incredible.
And there are plenty more encounters in the story, although Willoughby refrains admirably from writing too much sex into the story.
All in all, I think this novel suffered a little from second book syndrome. It wasn't wildly different from On the Surface but then again, maybe that's one of the issues. Becca and Calder are another couple from completely different lives who somehow meet in the middle and make a relationship work - just like Tim and Erin. That's not necessarily a bad thing - I just think the series could do with kicking up a notch in the next instalment, which I will definitely be reading.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Across the Line by Kate Willoughby (In the Zone #2) Contemporary Hockey Romance Carina Press (11 August 2014) Ebook: 287 pages