Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Megan Hart

REVIEW:  Flying by Megan Hart

REVIEW: Flying by Megan Hart

18371653

Major spoiler for sensitive readers:

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

past death of a child

 

Dear Ms. Hart:

I normally like to write a review shortly after finishing a book, so that my impressions don’t get diluted by other reading. In this case, I felt I needed to give the story some time to sink in, to be sure of my thoughts. It’s been almost a week and if anything, I’m more uncertain than ever. Is this erotica or erotic romance or a novel? Does it have a happy ending? I just don’t know.

Forty-something Stella aggressively fought for one item in her divorce settlement: free standby flights on her CEO ex’s airline. When her son is with his dad, she goes flying — a term which doesn’t refer to the actual flights, but to her elaborately staged seductions of strangers. For these trips, Stella puts on a carefully constructed false personality along with deliberately sexy outfits, and relishes the attention she receives:

It doesn’t matter that Pete is at least her father’s age and wears a walrus mustache. Or that he’s married with kids and grandkids whose pictures he proudly displays on his phone. Or even that the gum he chews constantly can’t cover up the pervasive odor of bad breath. It doesn’t matter that she will never take Pete home and fuck him.

It only matters that she could, if she wanted to.

The impression that Stella has a perhaps pathological need to feel desired is increased when she deliberately entices a female TSA agent who can’t quite conceal an attraction to her, and then chooses to seduce an Episcopalian priest. “The moment for doing the right thing had passed, and who’s to say what’s right and wrong, anyway? He’s an adult. She isn’t forcing him.” We learn that Stella has some form of physical scarring that she forces herself not to hide, one of several hints that something terrible may lie behind Stella’s flights:

Desire had become the one true constant in her life, the only feeling she could count on never to disappoint her. Desire required nothing from her. No investment. No responsibility. All desire wanted was to be sated. It was physical, and therefore, could be killed.

I’m not quite sure how we, as readers, are intended to feel about Stella’s actions. She herself resolutely shuts out any kind of shame, but her sexual encounters — though depicted as exciting and physically satisfying — seem ultimately sad for both parties. In one particularly odd seduction, she meets sort of the male equivalent of herself — his drive is to know he’s given women pleasure, and to have them want to come back for more — with slightly disturbing results. This is erotica in its more serious form, reminding me of a line from Tiffany Resiz’s The Siren: “If it’s a subgenre of anything, it’s horror.”

In her weekday life, Stella is a working mom with a tendency towards over-protectiveness, struggling with a sullen, difficult teen. (The story is told in third person, limited omniscient narrative throughout, but switches to present tense when Stella is “flying”; it also switches during sudden flashbacks, which I didn’t find a sufficient clue to prevent confusion.) Her usual routine is disrupted by two separate incidents: she runs into Craig, a man she’d once fallen in love with while she was still married, and she finds herself going home with a man named Matthew while she’s purposefully traveling, for once — no outfit, no facade… she even inadvertently tells him her real first name. While she and Craig uncomfortably try to resolve their negative feelings and negotiate a new friendship, Stella finds herself getting into a long-distance relationship with Matthew. Meanwhile, her issues with her son are growing increasingly tense, forcing Stella to face a very painful event from her past. A story which started out as being about detachment becomes anything but detached.

Flying has a relationship dynamic similar to Hart’s recent Every Part of You serial novel: a strong, sexually aware woman trying to maintain her dignity and self-worth while in a relationship with a man who’s constantly hurting her. Matthew is happy for Stella to visit him in Chicago, but never comes to her, and he disengages from her whenever his ex-wife and kids call or come by — which is constantly. Stella feels no need to fly while she’s with him, but her needs for respect and consideration aren’t being met. (I liked that Stella’s “flights” never become an issue between them, as they certainly would have in an ordinary romance.)

One of the curious aspects of the book is that I never saw what makes Matthew special to Stella; I don’t know if it was deliberate or not, but he comes across mostly as being in the right place at the right time, a moment when Stella was vulnerable and unusually accessible. She even finds herself telling him her most painful secret, on that first night:

After that, there wasn’t much to say. She really should rouse herself, but moving would destroy this quiet that had fallen between them. Force her to acknowledge that she’d told him the most awful truth about herself, and worse, she would have to force herself to wonder, why him? Dozens of strangers. Why now?

It turns out that Matthew has a painful secret of his own, and he does help Stella with her bad memories, but probably no more than any person with some life experience under their belt could have. Their sex is intense, but not appreciably different from what we see her enjoying with other men. But when she goes flying again after meeting Matthew, she does so hoping to find him again, the man who knows “not only her real name, but the secret she never told anyone.” And when she does find him, it’s again different from other flights:

At home, if she’d dressed herself up and gone to a bar, Stella would’ve been plagued with insecurities that never bothered her when she flew. But here was the conondrum. She was dressed up; she was flying. But against all odds, she was Stella. If she’d met another man tonight, there’d have been a different name. Mannerisms, habits, whatever it was that made her into someone new. In from of him though, this man who’s already seen her naked, who’d already felt her come, who’d already tasted her, Stella had to swallow hard against the sudden tightness in her throat.

I have a weakness for well done omniscient narratives, and the prose in Flying is quietly beautiful. The plot kept me guessing; I truly had no clue how it was going to come out. Stella’s growing vulnerability and humanity made me care for her, and I can certainly recommend it as a story about coping mechanisms and moving forward after tragedy. But then it tries to pull off a romantic happy ending and I’m just not sure it works. I think I actually would have preferred an ending simply focusing on Stella’s growth as a person to a supposed HFN that left me doubtful and sad. So though the quality of the writing would earn this at least a B, the lack of some form of satisfactory closure brings it down to a B-.

Sincerely,

Willaful

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW: Naughty and Nice by Jaci Burton, Megan Hart, Lauren Dane, and Shannon Stacey

REVIEW: Naughty and Nice by Jaci Burton, Megan Hart, Lauren Dane,...

According to the preface of the book, the “nice” stories are

  • Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey
  • All She Wants for Christmas by Jaci Burton

and the naughty ones are

  • Unwrapped by Megan Hart
  • Believe by Lauren Dane

Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey.   This was one of my December recommended reads.   Web designer Chloe Burke is house sitting while her parents take a much needed vacation.   Her use of too many electronics at one time leads to circuits being blown and she calls for the local electrician who just happens to be former high school classmate Scott Quinn.   Scott had a thing for Chloe when they were in high school but they traveled in different social spheres. His was the geek sphere and hers was the popular sphere.

Chloe decides to give her parents the Christmas present of rewiring the seriously outdated and out of code electrical work in the house. An added benefit is Chloe gets to watch the now very hot Scott Quinn working around her house.   Scott and Chloe end up not being able to keep their hands off each other, but both know that the holiday romance will be short lived. Chloe hates small town living and Scott has roots deep in the community.   The resolution to the romance conflict is fairly clear from the outset but in the short story setting, the lack of tension driving the story forward doesn’t impair the readability particularly because as a reader I wanted these two nice, normal people to end up together.   The flavor of the small town, the good on screen chemistry, and the likeability of the main protagonists all contribute to a very satisfying holiday read.   B

All She Wants for Christmas by Jaci Burton.   Country singer Riley Jensen returns to her hometown in Missouri to shoot scenes for an upcoming film biography about her life.   Riley’s conflicted about her return mostly because her hometown doesn’t represent a good period in her life.   She lived in a foster home there; fell in love with Ethan Kent; found him in bed with her best friend; and fled.   A return home dredges up painful memories that are exacerbated when she is confronted by the daughter of her best friend and former boyfriend/love of her life. Note: Best friend is now dead clearing way for a reunited lovers story with former boyfriend.   What I didn’t like was how guilty Riley felt about leaving her hometown behind her and how Ethan was a jerk to her for most of the book. True, Riley did write out her feelings of betrayal and loss in her music thus subjecting Ethan to evil looks throughout the town but I don’t think Ethan’s feelings of ostracism were well articulated.   In other words, I never felt sorry for Ethan and thus never felt like he should be the one with the attitude.   I wanted better for Riley.   C

Unwrapped by Megan Hart.   I may be the only non Megan Hart fan around. I often find her work to be too cold and sometimes too affected but I found this short story to be very sweet which might be at odds with its naughty designation.   Maybe I’ve read too many erotic romances, but I didn’t find Unwrapped to be particularly naughty either.   The story doesn’t have much romantic conflict.   It is more of a few scenes between a married couple as they explore a sexual fantasy together.   There is a lot of internal narration by Leah about their fantasies and their sex life and I kept thinking that there was a point to it all but I wasn’t sure what the point was.   It seemed conflicting at times.   It’s a femdom story, but written in a way that only alludes to the dominance aspect.   In fact, some of the story seemed to address the idea of why femdom might make someone uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure what to think about the differentiation between Leah and Brandon finding pleasure in the submission/domination aspects but not enjoying the “lifestyle.”   I.e., was it a condemnation of those who refer to it as a lifestyle? Or an admonition against those who try to categorize people’s sexual proclivities?   Leah, in her internal narration, pointed out that they enjoyed a veritable cornucopia of sexual fantasies and yet, they primarily were into Leah giving the orders to Brandon. One fantasy Brandon had was to be the one to take the lead because of the pleasure of not being in charge was one he wanted Leah to experience.   In all, the scenes are hot and Brandon and Leah are very loving together.   I just wasn’t sure I got everything the author intended for me to get from the story. B-

I did not read Believe by Lauren Dane as it is a continuation of a couple who star in Second Chances.   It is a BDSM story, I believe (I glanced through it) but as I had read Second Chances and really didn’t love the characters in there, I decided to skip Believe.

All four can be purchased separately or you can buy them in one package at a reduced price. I am only putting up the links for the book package as a whole because it is easier for me.

Book Link | Kindle | nook | Sony| Carina Press