Paradise Rules by Beth Kery (2009) - review
She didn’t believe in paradise…
To most people Hawaii’s crystal blue shores are an inviting opportunity to escape reality. But for Lana Rodriguez who grew up there, the picture-perfect vacation getaway disguises the bitter truths she escaped years ago, and not without some emotional scars. Now a successful blues singer, Lana’s returning to Waikiki with a different outlook on the past, and a bold defiance when it comes to men, romance, and sex. This time, it’s on her terms.
Until she found it in him.
Local celebrity, businessman and island god, Jason Koa, may be every woman’s dream. For Lana, it’s not exactly love at first sight. Though their start is rocky, they can’t deny the passions they arouse in each other. Jason refuses to become Lana’s pawn. It’s time to show her who makes the rules on this island—and in the bedroom. But will Jason’s attempt at breaking Lana’s shell reveal secrets that neither are prepared to face, or will they allow themselves to get swept away by a tidal wave of desire?
Hawaii. An island paradise suitable for romantic interludes and uninhibited nights of passion. Lana Rodriguez returns to the islands after years away, taking a much needed vacation with her personal assistant and good friend Melanie, who's recovering from a nasty divorce. However Hawaii is not Lana's idea of paradise. In fact, just the opposite. Waikiki holds ugly memories of her childhood, memories she'd rather escape. But having left that life long ago, she's determined not to let those bitter feelings control her. Besides, it's just for a few days.
Jason Koa is not only a successful businessman, he's also a former Olympic gold medal winner and a proud resident of these islands, and cannot imagine living anywhere else. He's a good-looking guy used to his share of women, but something about Lana both attracts and repels him. She's a cold bitch, yet she's also the same woman who sings those soulful songs he loves so much. He has all her CD's. But when they first meet, it is not under the friendliest of terms, yet beneath their strong dislike for each other is a forceful attraction that neither can forget.
Jason and Lana soon engage in a sexual liasion that starts out almost hostile, yet is incredibly incendiary. Jason is a man who likes to be dominant in the bedroom, though he doesn't mind shaking things up a bit, especially when it's apparent Lana doesn't easily give up control. She's an intensely private person who doesn't understand how Jason can feel so comfortable in the public eye. But she cannot keep away from him either. Jason gives her more pleasure than any man she's been with, but he does it on his own terms. She fights him every step of the way, knowing she must always maintain a strong hold on her emotions. She cannot let herself get too involved with Jason, not only because she'll be leaving in a few days, but because to do so would meaning losing herself. She's lived that way once, when she had no choice, and she refuses to live that way again. No man can force her to do what she doesn't want to do.
However the more time she spends with Jason, the more she settles into her own skin. Letting herself enjoy the moment doesn't have to mean giving away a part of herself. Just as she's beginning to realize this though, scandal breaks, and Lana must face some truths about herself, and exactly what it is she's hiding from....
This is probably my 2nd favorite Beth Kery
novel. Similar to "Wicked Burn" in that it shows growth and trust through sex, "Paradise Rules" tells the story of a young woman who experienced a painful childhood on the island, and who's vowed to only live life on her terms. Even when Jason pushes her physically, it's not without her consent. I like that Jason also doesn't try to use sex to control her in the sense that he doesn't withhold orgasm until she gives in to his demands. Despite some of the incredibly raw and forceful encounters they share, instead of feeling "forced", they remind me of walls that Lana needs to break through to get past the demons she's fighting. She relinguishes control to Jason at times, but it is only to discover that he will not exploit her, but rather take care of her if she will only trust him to do so.
Jason and Lana were difficult characters to like. Even though Lana comes across as this rude, bitchy woman, Jason is not without his faults. The first time they have sex, although arousing and satisfying for both of them, there is an edge of discomfort because of the way he treats her, almost like an object. She's totally into it, but his blatant disregard for her set me off a bit. Almost like he believes that she's there to serve him, and nothing more. Yet this is also a breakthrough for Lana in a sense, because she initiates their next encounter. And while she tries to make it about only sex, Jason's not having it. He finds ways to extend their time together, whether it's lounging in the sun or going snorkeling, he finds ways to earn her trust, time and again. Even when she frustrates him and he feels like they keep going backwards, he doesn't give up completely, and it's obvious that Lana doesn't want him to.
These are very complex characters, even Jason, who seems to have it all and not really a lot of baggage. Yet his growing feelings for Lana prove he's not willing to just walk away when things get unbearable, or ugly, or sordid. For some reason, he wants to be with this prickly, secretive woman who refuses to budge. Every step with her is work, so much so it doesn't seem worth the aggravation. But he keeps at it, peeling away her layers and discovering what's hidden beneath.
A few things I didn't really care for were, for one, the scandal. It just seemed a bit extreme to have such a private person exposed in the way Jason and Lana are exposed. I think it could have been toned down and still been an effective way for Lana to face her fears. The second issue I had a problem with is the way Jason finds out about Lana's past, and how it's down in so public a way. Once again, Lana's defenses are stripped away so completely that I hurt a bit for her. It would have been different if it were in a more private setting. I don't know, maybe it's being a private person myself that had me reacting so strongly in these instances, but when I put myself in her place, it was heartwrenching to imagine what she was experiencing at these painfully revealing moments.
Okay, I know you're gonna ask, so I'm gonna tell you: the sex was dayum HOT. A little uncomfortable, but always very intense and exciting and wild. I loved how Lana went wherever Jason took her, almost without hesitation. Instinctively she trusted him on some level right from the beginning, and he doesn't let her down *g* It's definitely scorching and dirty and raw, but also satisfying and consensual and the kinda stuff that has you squirming in your chair while reading it, but mostly in a very good way. Not the kind of book to be reading on the train, that's for sure.
The ending is more hopeful than happily ever after, but you know, that worked quite nicely for me. I gotta say that I actually hate it when the characters know each other for a few days and though they might have heaps of issues, they proclaim their love. That doesn't happen here, and I was all the happier for it. Instead we see both of them are willing to work at it. Now 99.99999% of the time, I want the HEA. But in a story like this, it's okay if we get a promise that it's on the horizon at some point. It's not like Lana boarded the plane and said "I'll call ya".
The tastes and scents of the islands come through strongly here, and it made me want to jump on a plane and get lei'd. The warm and endless sun, the brilliance of the exotic flowers and unique tastes of the local fare left my mouth watering and my soul longing for a beach chair. Beth brings the feel of Hawaii to the reader, and it enriches this moving, frustrating and passionate story. I hope we see Jason and Lana again, and discover that they do in fact get their HEA after all.....
Rating: **** out of *****
Labels: Beth Kery, review