Naked (The Blackstone Affair #1)
2013 (originally 2012), 164p
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AU
Brynne Bennett is an American living in London working on a post-graduate degree having already completed her undergraduate degree at the University of London. To make ends meet, she works part time as a photographic model. One of her employers, who is also a close friend exhibits some of his photos of her at a London gallery and it is there that Brynne meets Ethan Blackstone after he buys one of her naked portraits.
Ethan is ruthless in business, working in private security. When he purchases the print of Brynne he also makes it pretty clear that he wants the real Brynne as well – in his bed. He isn’t shy about telling Brynne what he wants and he isn’t taking no for an answer either.
Although Brynne finds him irresistible and is drawn to the part of him that would take care of her, she is also scarred by her past and reluctant to become so intricately involved with someone who could dwarf her so completely. Both Ethan and Brynne have secrets – secrets would destroy the very fragile relationship that is starting to build between them.
There are a lot of very similar sounding books flooding the market lately and although I try to read each one as a separate entity, at times it’s hard because they’re so very similar and have so many (often unattractive) things in common. Sometimes you get that rare gem, one that’s fresh and original. But mostly, they’re not.
The obvious problem with this book right off the bat is that it’s too short. It weighs in at just over 160p which is really novella category and in a worrying trend of authors not fleshing out their characters, giving them growth or accelerating a plot, this length gives even less time to do all (or even any) of those things. We’ll start with the characters:
Brynne. At her core, Brynne isn’t a bad character. She is working on her postgrad and has a passionate interest in art conservation. She’s fled American for London after a scandal or some sort of traumatic incident in her past (which we do not learn much more about in this installment). But all of the interesting things about Brynne are swallowed up by the very uninteresting: she thinks she’s only average looking but she’s a nude model whom the camera just loves. And during her first interaction with Ethan Blackstone, she’s quite honestly, just too stupid to live. She accepts a ride home with him, a total stranger. She takes water, tablets and food from him and then she falls asleep in his car. She can’t look after herself and she appears quite fine to rely on people she doesn’t know who could’ve been any sort of freak, to do it for her. It’s at odds with what is hinted at in her past.
Ethan Blackstone is a cardboard cut out of every other erotic romance CEO type I’ve ever read. He’s rich, he’s attractive, he’s apparently irresistible. Did I also mention he’s rich and good looking? Apart from that, I can’t really tell you much about Ethan, except for the fact that he’s bossy and doesn’t listen to what he’s told. Ethan, if a woman tells you she’d like to go home and sleep in her own bed after having sex, the appropriate responses are “Okay, let me drive you” Or “Can I have my doorman call you a cab?” Not to ignore everything she says and tell her that it’ll be fine and that she should just do what you want, because you know better. You don’t know better.
Onto the story: It’s basically man sees woman, man wants woman, woman wavers but ultimately gives in. But both have secrets. We know mostly what Ethan’s situation is from the beginning and what his secret is. And although he does actually learn from the scenario I described above, he doesn’t learn enough to tell Brynne something and when she finds out, it quite rightfully blows up in his face. Brynne’s secret is a little more vague, I’ve got a couple of ideas but they could very easily be wrong. What really bugs me a bit about this book is because it’s so short, the characters don’t really spend much time together. Brynne dithers for about three minutes whether or not to sleep with him and from there it’s one visit to her shrink who tells her that Ethan is awesome and she should dive headlong into a relationship with him.
There’s a real popularity trend towards trilogies at the moment (although apparently this series will be 4 books, the trilogy and then a post-story HEA) when really all the author needs to do is write one good book with a beginning, a middle and an end. This book has very little in the way of a beginning, quite a lot of middle and then a very dramatic end. A lot of stories are hard to sustain for three books but it’s even more difficult when they’re not adequately set up in the first novel. I do feel as though this book should’ve contained more interactions between Ethan and Brynne, more of them spending time together (and not just sexually) to really enforce this attraction that the two of them felt. Rarely can you be so powerless to someone that you’ve never spoken more than 3 words to.
Despite all of that, there were things about this book that did intrigue me and did make me want to know more. I want to know Brynne’s secret, because I’m only guessing and I could be wrong. I also want to know more about Ethan, more about his past in the British SAS because that seems like it could be very interesting. And although Ethan’s bossiness did bother me, I have to respect the fact that after Brynne ran away from him, he did learn about allowing her to set the boundaries and what she feels comfortable with. It might’ve been enough to tempt me into reading the next installment just so I can explore how much growth and change these characters undergo. And find out the secrets.
Book #232 of 2013