It’s been ten years since clean-cut, sexy-as-hell police officer Todd Keenan had a white-hot fling with Erin Brown, the provocative, wild rocker chick next door. Their power exchange in the bedroom got under his skin. But love wasn’t in the cards just yet…
Now, life has thrown the pair back together. But picking up where they left off is tough, in light of a painful event from Erin’s past. As Todd struggles to earn her trust, their relationship takes an unexpected and exciting turn when Todd’s best friend, Ben, ends up in their bed—and all three are quite satisfied in this relationship without a name. As the passion they share transforms Erin, will it be enough to help her face the evil she thought she had left behind?
First and foremost, thank you to Lauren Dane for giving me a sneak peek into Laid Bare. This is a powerful, emotional story. It was not what I expected - not that Dane doesn't write powerful and emotional - she does! This book is both different and similar to ones that Dane has written in the past. Different in the topics that it tackles, but similar in that Dane never shies away from the tough issues. Here our heroine has suffered an intense personal loss, leaving her not only devastated, but also intensely afraid for her own personal safety. And while she is terrified of being overcome in a situation physically when caught unawares, she is thrilled to be overcome physically in the bedroom and dominated there. Very interesting dichotomy.
I almost felt as if this was two books in one. There was a thread of continuity throughout, tying the two halves together, and that was Erin’s trauma and need to cope with her past. The first part felt like a love story between a man and a woman, coming to terms with their D/s relationship. I loved this portion of the book. It was beautifully written. Dane handles the D/s relationship in a way that I truly hope is real for that lifestyle (sue me – I have no clue!). The book opens 10 years earlier, and Todd hasn’t come to grips with his Dom. He still feels that he would be disrespecting a woman to unleash that part of himself in a sexual relationship. And so, he leaves Erin, unable to handle a relationship that fully includes a D/s component.
10 years later, they meet again. He is recovering from a shooting (he’s a police officer), and she is recovering from a personal tragedy. Erin and Todd have true respect for one another, and grow into a true love. The only place they have a D/s relationship is in the bedroom. The only time it’s even hinted at outside the bedroom is that Erin likes to “take care” of Todd. She likes to cook for him, make him plates of food, etc. But that feeling is completely mutual, and she takes care of her brothers in the same manner. He, in turn, likes to take care of and protect her as well. For them both, the D/s relationship is about taking care of and feeling cared for. Todd makes Erin feel beautiful and cherished, and she makes him feel the need to treasure her and show her how beautiful and wonderful she is. He shows her by taking care of her every need, taking away the need for her to make decisions, so she can just feel taken care of. In turn, by loving him and doing as he wishes, she shows him her love and feels utterly cherished and beautiful to him. But he's oh, so masterful in how he dominates her. And she's very playful, yet so comfortable and content in her submission. I would like to think that this is what lies at the heart of a true D/s relationship, and Dane conveys this in a magical way, without being trite, without condescension for the characters or the reader, but with a great sense of reality mixed in.
I enjoyed the sense of family in this book. It’s something that Dane does very well. Erin’s brothers give her a sense of close family and make her feel loved and as safe as is possible. Todd’s family, while not nearby, is also close-knit, and his lifelong friendship with Ben and Cope give Todd an extended family as well. Dane excels at writing families, especially sibling relationships, and this book is no exception. As always in a Dane book, the families are an essential element in the glue holding the H/H together. There is always such a feeling of community and family in her books, and I love that.
Dane’s dialogue, both internal and between characters, screams of realism. I always find myself saying this in any review of a Lauren Dane book, but her voice is one that I can so comfortably relate to. Her characters speak like everyday, ordinary people. You can imagine being there in the conversations when her characters talk to one another. It’s very refreshing, and quite unusual – no matter whether it’s a contemporary, a futuristic, or a paranormal, that voice and comfort level is with me when I read Dane’s books.
The extended families of Erin and Todd both reach out to support Erin as she copes with her loss, and she and Todd deepen their relationship to a new level. It was at this point that Dane brought a third person into their relationship and I felt like the “second book” began. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well for me as the first one. Todd’s friend Ben is brought into the relationship and they all begin a journey into the world of a M/F/M triad. The additional relationship felt tacked on to me. I didn’t see the need for it. I was perfectly happy and content with the book as it was. Erin and Todd also seemed to be content with themselves; it felt complete with the M/F relationship and I didn’t quite see what it was that Ben brought into the existing mix. He was a bit softer than Todd, but truly I thought Todd was a very sensitive guy, and didn’t find him lacking, so I didn’t see the need for the addition of Ben in the relationship. He felt intrusive to me, and it took me out of the intense love story that was Todd and Erin. I think perhaps Dane tried to accomplish too much in one book. It was already perfect as it was, and the additional relationship on top of the D/s and the trauma of Erin's past was just too much.
So the first half of the book was fantastic, and was a beautiful love story. While the second half’s M/F/M love story didn’t work for me, what did work in that part of the book was the emotion written into the resolution of Erin’s personal journey. She worked hard to overcome the death of her daughter and the lingering fear and debilitating anxiety it brought on. Dane writes amazing heroines. Strong, vulnerable, and sassy. Her heroes are tough, yet tender, and sexy. Her voice always shines through as powerful, contemporary, and real.
Laid Bare is available from Berkley Heat on August 4. Get it here.