Mild-mannered Jenna Banks has never considered sex a recreational sport, preferring instead to share herself one-on-one with a man she respects and loves. Then a friend secretly enters her in a contest—and to Jenna’s dismay she wins. It’s a two-week stay at the notorious Hotel Erotique, where every sexual fantasy comes true—in room after room, with stranger after stranger.
Even more unnerving for Jenna is Brent Powers, her wildly sensual personal guide, who can’t wait to put his degree in sexual psychology to work—by tapping into Jenna’s unspoken fantasies, and by allowing her to surrender her inhibitions and discover her true sense of freedom. But with the slow and steady seduction of Jenna come feelings that neither of them expected. And now where the final fantasy takes them depends on how far Jenna and Brent are really willing to go.
When Jenna finds out she won a contest for a 2-week stay at Hotel Erotique, she is not pleased. For some time her friends have been trying to get her to be more adventurous when it comes to sex, but as far as Jenna was concerned, she's quite content with what she has, even though she's not dating anyone and there's no one new on the horizon. She's feeling pressured to do things that make her feel uncomfortable, so initially she wants to decline the invitation. But her friends convince her to go anyway, if for no other reason to enjoy the beach and getting away for a few weeks, so she reluctantly agrees.
Upon reaching the island, she's feeling weird about everyone thinking she's there for a wild sexcapade because she really only intends to use this time to read and lay out on the beach. She's also squirming because prior to coming to the hotel, she had answered several questionnaires about herself, some of them rather intimate. Even though she hadn't intended to take advantage of the sexual amenities the resort has to offer, she didn't want to be disqualified from being there at all, so she responded to the surveys honestly, believing that the staff wouldn't force her to do anything she really didn't want to do. Braving the knowing smiles, she checks into her room and since she has some time before she's scheduled to meet with her consultant, so she relaxes and gets comfortable.
According to the guidelines of the hotel, female guest are paired with a female consultant to discuss their expectations and plans for their stay at the erotic resort. However, as luck would have it, her consultant was called away on an emergency, and she ends up having dinner with Brent Powers, a magnetic and intriguing man who pushes Jenna's buttons. He also happens to be part owner of the resort. Brent has been on the island for 15 years, so he's seen and done a lot, indulging in fulfilling fantasies in a non-judgmental, freeing, safe environment. He believes that Jenna is sexually repressed, primarily due to some events in her life and also because of her parents' personal views on sex. He doesn't think she's opened herself up to the wonderful world of sensuality and all it has to offer. And he thinks that he can encourage to explore her fantasies and lead a more satisfying life, on several levels. Brent is determined to help her reach that point.
At first Jenna is angry. How dare this stranger tell her there's something wrong with her just because she doesn't indulge in numerous sexual encounters? She's not that kind of woman, and she's completely content with that. But in talking with Brent over dinner, it's evident that she is holding back in other ways as well, and as he lulls her into a heady, sensual mood, she slowly lets herself feel the provocative attraction between them, and lets it take her where it may....
I've been a fan of Lacey Alexander long before I realized she was also Toni Blake. The first one I read, "French Quarter" was incredibly sexy and wild. Most of Lacey's books are like that. They also have a strong emotional component that's always driven me to seek out her stories. This one is no different in that respect.
Jenna does let herself be seduced by Brent that first night, and shares an incredibly sexy and thrilling encounter right there in the gazebo with Brent. It's a very carnal act, but one she enjoys immensely, much to her surprise. Jenna isn't a prude, exactly, but she seems to shy away from exploring outside her comfort zone. She likes to feel "safe", and to know what to expect. But with Brent, anything can happen, and she's about to discover just exactly what that means.
However it's her second rendezvous with Brent that really ramps up the heat considerably, and yes ,you wicked wenches, you'll need to keep a fan (and/or your man) nearby. It is scorchingly sexy and wild, as they indulge in a little role-playing with Brent as a priest and Jenna as a naughty Catholic school girl. Not everyone's personal taste, and not one I thought I'd be into since for one thing I'm not Catholic, but wowza, this one is incredibly sexy and exciting, especially considering Jenna's reservations. Brent has made sure that Jenna is aware that every fantasy she has includes a "safe word", so if at anytime she's not completely into the fantasy, it will stop. But he also encourages her to push past her personal discomfort with the unknown and challenge herself to be a bit more daring. She decides to jump in with both feet and let herself fully experience the pleasure of this particular forbidden fantasy, and the results are extremely satisfying for both of them.
They engage in several common fantasies, each time Brent pushing her a little more, testing her limits and letting her know that she is not being judged or condemned for what she does or doesn't do. Jenna begins to feel herself becoming more and more connected to Brent, trusting him to give her the ultimate in pleasure and fulfillment while opening up her mind to as far as her imagination wants to go. He begins to notice that his participation in Jenna's fantasies may actually be hindering more than helping, so he tries to draw back, but Jenna insists that she wants him to be a part of her sensual journey, so he reluctantly agrees, just as caught up in the sensuous web he unwittingly created as Jenna apparently is.
I liked a lot of things about this book, mostly that no matter how incredibly explicit or wild the fantasies got, there was a strong connection for Jenna, mostly between her and Brant. Yes, it was about sex; hot, wild, sometimes rough, very explosive sex. But no matter how much Brent wanted her to, there was no way she could partake in random, meaningless encounters with just anyone. Yet she still let herself push past her own boundaries and discover what it was like to act outside her comfort zone.
One thing that I let slide is that Brent's role is not just that of consultant, but also as a therapist in a sense, and the idea that he would be intimately involved in Jenna's sexual exploration seems far-fetched and unprofessional, especially when he cannot remain objective, however in the interest of the erotic tone of the story, I was willing to put my beliefs aside and not let them interfere with what I was reading. I went with the flow on this one.
The biggest pet peeve I had, and this tends to be the one I've had with the last few of Lacey's books, is the heroine's overwhelming desire to "please" the hero. There was one fantasy Jenna participated in, a fantasy that does nothing for me personally but would have been a breakthrough for Jenna if she could have just let herself go and not done it because Brent was somehow involved. Yet he's there, and it just kind of ruined it for me. I understand that she would want him to be aroused by what she was doing, and for her to see that it was turning him on is a huge aphrodisiac, but I wanted Jenna to be doing what she was doing because it pleased her. The way it's written comes across to me that the heroine is so dependent on the hero for her pleasure that it supercedes her own desires, and that just doesn't sit well with me at all. I think I understand where Lacey is coming from on this, because this is a romance and yes, there is a HEA, and my personal feeling is that it's to establish right from the start that the heroine has feelings for the hero that she doesn't have for any other man. I get that. But to have every single fantasy revolve around his presence and his pleasure was a bit too submissive for my taste.
However that being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story. As Lacey has said, it is an edgier erotic romance, delving beyond the fantasy element and digging into what drives a person's views on sex and how they present their sexuality to the world. I found this rather fascinating because in a lot of erotic romances, the characters are so willing to let it all hang out and not really question why or how they're doing what they are doing, regardless of their level of experience. Yet here we have a heroine who is in fact sexually experienced but has a lot of reservations about any sexual encounter she cannot control or sex that might be what she considers inappropriate. Instead of reveling in having dirty fantasies, she's shut herself off from anything that is what she thinks isn't proper. But with Brent she puts her trust to guide her, to give her permission in a sense, and to trust that what she is doing is not wrong.
So yeah, lots of hot, delicious sex and one very scrumptious hero who discovers that while it may be exciting to have a bounty of sexual variety, it can also be just as thrilling to share it all with the right person.
Can't wait for the next LA book, which won't be until....2011!
Rating: **** out of *****