Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Slightly paranormal romance with contemporary setting.
An Unforgettable Lady by J.R. Ward writing as Jessica Bird. Contemporary romance.
I found myself in the position of having read back to back two romance novels wherein the protagonists spent most of the book trying not to sleep together.
In Fantasy Lover, Julian of Macedon is a love slave, emphasis on the slave. He is bound into a book. At the full moon he can be summoned forth and is compelled to sexually gratify his summoner until the next full moon. He has been trapped in this existence for two thousand years. He cannot eat or drink even though he hungers and thirsts. He cannot die. When he is in the book he can hear what is said or happens nearby but is trapped in darkness.
Grace Alexander is a sex therapist. She doesn’t engage in sexual activity with her clients, she is a psychologist who specializes in patients who have emotionally rooted sexual dysfunction. She herself has been taken advantage of sexually and “slut shamed.” Grace’s best friend Selena comes across the book that contains Julian and decides that her uptight, attractive but single friend could use a thirty day romp with an ancient Greek demi-god.
Grace’s reaction to Julian’s predicament is gratifying. She is horrified at Julian’s objectification. Instead of hitting it for a turn of the moon and then quitting it she is concerned for Julian as a victim of sexual exploitation. As a victim herself and a specialist in sexual issues she sees past his physical appearance and the enchantment that causes him to desire her. Julian’s reaction is touching. He hasn’t had clothes in hundreds of years. His past summoners have kept him naked and chained to their beds, hidden him in closets and withheld food and water until they were otherwise occupied.
As an abuse victim Julian developed coping skills to just get him through each summoning. He has ways that he enjoys the little time he is allowed out of the book because there is respite inside the tome. Grace has to rebuff him several times before he accepts that she isn’t going to require his services. For her part, Grace is upset at the idea of Julian’s captivity continuing. The carnal servitude is bad enough but worse is the idea of returning him to the book to suffer until he is summoned again. They are extremely attracted to each other. Instead of just giving in to their carnal desires they develop shared goals and create a working partnership.
Kenyon brings in several characters from classical Greek mythology. Consequently there are two or three too many deus ex machina. The book climaxes two or three times and I got tired of Julian getting his fat pulled out of the fire. The weakest part of the book is the ending . Besides that this is a fun read and a sure bet for regular readers of paranormals.
I have not read much contemporary romance. After reading Unforgettable Lady, I will be picking more up. Many popular romance authors have separate pen names for each sub-genre they write. In the case of J.R. Ward, she has a cult following for her paranormal series. She wrote as Jessica Bird before the Black Dagger Brotherhood series got off the ground. Now that she has found meteoric success with her later works, her initial efforts have been reissued to tap into her fan base. This is not to say that this book doesn’t deserve to be read on its own merits. It was pretty damn good.
The hallmark of Unforgettable is how rational and realistic it is. Every time the protagonists make a choice it makes sense. Grace is an heiress trying to take up the reins of the charitable foundation her father ran for decades. She wants to honor her father’s memory and still be seen as competent in her own right. John Smith is a former government operative hired to protect Grace when several of her acquaintances are murdered. He knows that he can not afford to become even casually involved with a client.
The conflict they must overcome to reach their storybook ending rings true. She has just left a loveless society marriage and rushing in to a new relationship looks bad in the press. He is a man without a legal identity. To be with Grace, Smith would have to give up his anonymity and fundamentally change how he goes about running his business. They have to work together to determine if they want to take the risk of being in a relationship together as well as discovering who is threatening Grace’s life.