Bit of background: I learned of Ellora’s Cave Publishing (EC) and its authors by way of Sarah McCarty. I learned of Sarah McCarty by way of a monthly NAL email newsletter. The blurb in that newsletter—for Promises Linger—compelled me to buy her book. By the time I had turned the last page, Sarah McCarty had become an auto-buy author for me. One of only a handful.
Promises Linger drew me in, lulled me into trust, tickled my sense of humor and burned me up with its eroticism. It was the first erotic romance I’d read. And it prompted me to look to EC, its publisher, for more authors and more page-turning stories.
What I found: I’ve read a number of EC authors now and have enjoyed quite a few sexy, provocative romps. I’ve found none however, that rival McCarty’s characterization, emotional depth or journey. I’ve found none whose characters linger long beyond the last chapter. I’ve encountered not a single hero I could trust myself to completely. Until now.
Lora Leigh’s Cowboy and the Captive is the newest edition to my keeper shelf. I loved this book and felt just a little blown away by it. I felt the heroine’s betrayal by her parents and the terror that still grips her after being brutalized and nearly killed. I understood her ability to identify with her sister’s other victim—Luc, and her underlying desire to trust him.
Of Luc, I was so grateful for his innate goodness—the fact that he knew right from wrong and that no amount of bitterness or vengeance—or, for that matter, a hard-on--could compel him to mistreat Cat. At times, you think he is going to come close to doing just that, but he can’t. And the reader knows he can’t; and can see his trustworthiness without having to be told.
Cowboy and the Captive is propelled by emotion; not sex. The relationship is established, grown; not bullied or presumed. Trust and emotional vestment come before intimacy in this book. This is particularly important for me. Thus far, I have just not been able to accept the idea that trust and emotional bonds are forged during sex; or as a result of the woman allowing the man to do whatever he wishes to her. While hot, the men as sexual dominant stories always fail to convince me that a man can wring love and trust from his woman by way of sexual pleasure.
In Cowboy and the Captive, Leigh gives us a man that radiates heat, scorching the heroine without even touching her, commanding physical response with just words of sexual domination. But, when we get to that scene where he threatens her—stop or I’m going to fuck you now; decide now or I’m going to take you and there won’t be any turning back; you know the one—our hero repeats the threat three times. And then, groans and begs her to just voice her consent. His core simply prevents him from taking what she does not willingly offer. And no, he doesn’t see her sexual arousal as a willing offer; he needs her express invitation. When he got it, I all but broke out in a fever.
Finally, Leigh gives us a plot and conflict that are not so easy to guess or solve. Whenever I thought I knew where the story was going, Leigh surprised me a bit. From the very beginning, I was befuddled by Cat’s arranged capture—arranged by someone she trusts. As their relationship grew, captivating me, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, still trying to figure out where the threat lay. This kept me interested as the characters continued tangling up my heartstrings. I finished the last page with a sigh. And then went online in search of more Leigh titles.