Dear Ms. Porter:
Each book in this series supposedly deals with some sort of sexual kink. The first book was where the hero scandalously enjoys seeing a woman dress up, like in fishnet tights and a waitressing costume. I remember remarking on a podcast with Sarah at SmartBitches who enjoyed it more than I that I thought unless the hero wanted the heroine to dress up like a dog and bark while they were doing it, his kink didn’t seem very perverse. So then comes “Bare Knuckle” and I’m wishing for a tamer story.
The hero is Captain Eric “Kisser” Donaghue who is moonlighting as a fighter to pay for the rehab bills of his younger brother. The heroine is Trish Monroe, a showgirl whose headlining act just got canceled and works as a ring girl at an underground fighting club while attending classes and living with her pageant driven mother.
She likes to perform; he likes to watch. This should be a perfect match but the connection between the characters was almost clinical and the love scenes read like a porn script taking place in a concrete bunker. We don’t even get the cheesy music to provide some ambience.
Besides Eric’s predilection for fighting, he’s a nude photographer in his spare time and maybe a part time film maker. He has many, many nude portraits in his bedroom and he felt like his current films were getting stale. In sum, I felt like he was a neckbeard who spent all of his time whacking off in his poster ladened bedroom, watching his old porn films and feeling like he just couldn’t get it up anymore unless he found some new material. Enter Trish.
These two seem to get off on everything but actually doing it. Eric is always checking out other women because he likes to watch (or that’s his excuse). After having ordered, he found it difficult to keep from checking out the waitress’s ass. Any guilt he might’ve felt dissipated when he realized Trish was looking too. But why is Trish looking? She’s the performer. I felt like she was written in way to make every lewd and unsavory action of his seem okay yet it never did.
Trish’s character, for all that she was taking classes, plays on her looks and pursues the kind of guys who only want her because she looks good on their arms and then she cries about it.
“Every man looks at me like you do,” she continued, forging on with only a whisper. “I play up to the fantasies you mentioned. And sure, I get off on it. But sometimes I’m not worth talking to. Sometimes I’m a fun fuck, or I get slapped with dumb-shit remarks that remind me I’m meat.”
There is no sense of connection between the two. He’s watching the ass of every woman that walks by and Trish is going home with a former ex-girlfriend. Trish and Eric pass this off as meaningless but even though she didn’t have sex with the ex girlfriend, she was being intimate with her in an emotional sense which means it wasn’t really that innocent. But because they aren’t having sex and the ex is NOT A GUY, it’s okay:
“Had it been with a guy, that would’ve been different.” He licked his lips. He abandoned her knee in favor of the softer meat of her inner thigh. His thumb rubbed along her taut tendon. The comforter slid back, revealing inch after inch of skin.
“I’m not ready to share you yet.”
And when she is with the woman physically, it’s still okay to Eric because it’s two women together: Maybe another man would be offended when he realized they were lost to one another. They’d used him for a moment to urge their passion to new heights, then forgot about him. Eric loved it—the pure voyeurism of watching when all the defenses were stripped and no one pretended anymore.
This gender flip didn’t work for me because all it meant to me as the reader was that Trish really wasn’t into Eric nor was Eric into her. They were into the act but there was no emotional connection. And the “if it was a guy” excuse seems to belittle lesbian relationships altogether.
Finally, the book seemed to suffer from series-itis. There was a ton of backstory that I was missing out. Eric is apparently a former mysogynist but was reformed in a previous book (he still came off as a chest beater in this book). There were several references to previous relationships with which I was unfamiliar. Overall, this book didn’t work for me. In an effort to be really outre, I ended up being turned off by the unlikeable characters and the lack of emotional resonance between them. D