Ridley's Reviews > Willing Victim

Willing Victim by Cara McKenna
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's review
Sep 29, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 4-star, read-2010, ebook, erotica, naughty-stick
Read from September 27 to 28, 2010

I bought this book for two reasons:

1. It's set in Boston and written by a local.
2. The characters act out rape fantasies.

It met my expectations completely on both accounts. Boston was a living, breathing character and the rape scenes were deliciously dark and satisfying.

Laurel White is nearly thirty but she's spinning her wheels working as a waitress at a tourist trap. She hasn't been able to make a relationship work long-term and she's stuck living with two roommates in a small apartment in the North End. When she sees a bruiser of a construction worker break up an escalating lovers' spat at a downtown park, she's immediately drawn to him, following after him to ask him on a date. He initially turns her down, but when she presses him, he writes an address on a napkin and hands it to her.
“Friday and Saturday nights, eight to one. Tell the guy working that Flynn invited you...If that doesn’t scare you off,” he said, “you can try askin’ me out again.”
As it turns out, Flynn has invited her to one of his boxing matches - held in the basement of a South Boston dive bar - and to meet Pam, the woman he has rough sex with. Before he gets involved with her, he's letting her know just what sort of beast she's poking at. When Pam invites Laurel to watch her and Flynn "scratch each other's kinky itches," that night, Laurel agrees to go, intrigued despite herself.

Laurel and Flynn then forge a "friends with benefits" sort of arrangement where she explores a hitherto unknown part of herself that is unspeakably turned on by rape fantasy.

The book is in third person, but told exclusively from the heroine's point of view. Flynn is a chatty Cathy (while somehow managing to stay the strong silent type as well, not sure how that happened) so he's made completely real to the reader despite the lack of his POV. Being in Laurel's head is integral to enjoying the unorthodox sex scenes. Watching Flynn with another woman would have been off-putting if the reader didn't know how much Laurel enjoyed the spectacle. The forceful rape scenes - complete with fighting, spitting, and name-calling - would have been disturbing without the firm assurance that Laurel felt completely safe and was completely on board.

As a result of the focused POV, the book relies strongly on dialog, and does a smashing job of it. When Laurel expresses her nervousness, Flynn calms her nerves in a way that both explains what they're doing and gives a glimpse into the kind of person Flynn is.
“Neither of us is here to prove anything,” he said. “We’re here to have fun, and for you to maybe get your motor cranked like you never knew it could be. Or not. Who knows? My ego’s not tied up in this going a certain way. The only thing that makes me nervous is hurting you by mistake, and I trust myself enough to think that’s unlikely.”
The characters are constantly communicating and nearly all of the character development comes through in their own words. Since they're basically talking it out with me, they felt especially real. Flynn was pitch-perfect working-class Boston as well. The bit where he intentionally held up another driver on Laurel's tiny North End street just to be a prick was classic. I lawled.

Where the book fell apart for me was the ending. Ms. McKenna may insist she writes erotica and not erotic romance, but whatever she intended, she's effectively written 90% of an erotic romance. Just as the characters are admitting feelings for each other, exposing vulnerabilities and showing greater insight into who they are, the book ends without much of a resolution to it. It's not completely devoid of a HFN, but to end a book 5 pages after introducing a number of new character revelations? Not nice. Sure neat and tidy is ultimately forgettable, but you can have resolution *and* leave open possibilities at the same time. I was just the teeniest bit frustrated after finishing it.
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Reading Progress

35.0% "This book has Boston down pat. I like."

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-11 of 11) </span> <span class="smallText">(11 new)</span>

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Anja It appears you caved on the price.

Ridley I am weak. I know this.

Anja LOL. As long as you know and accept yourself.

I almost bought a $7 novella today. I don't know how you've held to your agency 5 boycott for so long.

Ridley I do buy Penguin still, since they're a $1 cheaper than print, though only half as much as I did pre-agency. I've bought the first three Mercy Thompson books, Flat-Out Sexy, Hard and Fast and that paranormal anthology. I will buy the Iron Duke as well, even though it's going to be in friggin trade.

Everything else, though, I'm not doing it. I'm not paying full, undiscounted price for a DRM encrusted file. I've been tempted a few times by Avon titles, but for the most part I have so many other options that I just don't miss agency books.

MelissaB Ridley,

I liked the characters in this book, I loved the fact the hero was very real and working class. I just wanted more closure at the end, it felt like it just cut off when they started liking each other as more than f*ck buddies. I read the author likes to write that way but it left me feeling unsatisfied when if there had been closure it would have been a real winner. I did like how realistic parts of the story were. I also liked the way the love scenes and "rape fantasy" parts were handled.

So basically, if I would have seen more closure and the hero's point of view, this would have been a real winner for me. It was an interesting story with realistic, intriguing characters.

MelissaB Great review Ridley!

Totally agree on most of your points. Flynn was a great realistic character, you are right - he was silent and chatty at the same time.

I just wanted more resolution! I didn't need marriage and babies but I would have liked to see if they really started dating.

Robin *loves sexy books* this sounds really interesting, i might give it a try. great review.

Ridley The sex was really powerful and the characters were incredibly compelling. This would've been a really great book had she ended it better.

Tina Nice review, Ridley. I love working class heroes.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I picked up willing victim thanks to this review, and loved it. So thanks.

I also think the book was too short. Not just that the ending was short but I think there was room for plenty more development in the bedroom scenes; Laurel's first encounters were "shallow end" and then instead of shifting to "deep end" sex McKenna moved onto scenes where Laurel was jangled and not up to anything too rough, or they were starting to feel emotional, and even scenes where Laurel played the dominant.

But eh, loved it anyhow. That Flynn.

Steamywindows♥♫ Wonderful review Ridley.

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