Dear Ms. Anderson,
This was my first book by you and I bought you because I read some of your comments on Bam’s website and because Bam gave you a positive review for The Assignment. I bought that one too, but started with this book. You may not know this but I like police procedure books. :)
None of the plot related below is a spoiler as the information is included on the blurb page at Loose ID.
Detective Cole Berkley and Detective Alex Reed are homicide investigators in Tampa. They are tapped to question a survivor of one of an attack that may be related to a previous homicide. There is a serial killer who is starting to kill off erotic romance writers. He has their pen names and through his research locates the person behind the name and proceeds to torture and kill them according to a scene in one of their books, usually involving some BDSM. (note to erotic romance authors, you should a) lock your doors at night and b) do a better job of hiding your identity online). Oh, right, this is just a book. Nevermind.
It isn’t clear to the detectives how the homicides are related but we readers know that Alex is in trouble because she is one of those pen names on the killer’s list. Alex experiences true pleasure only as a submissive, but she hasn’t found anyone who can satisfy those desires. She scared her last lover off by suggesting some of her tamer fantasies. Alex believes that her desires are shameful and wrong but she cannot deny them. Her outlet is to write about her fantasies. This was a perfect example of how erotic romance is interwoven with the story. It would not have been effective to leave out BDSM scenes when the topic was so integral to Alex’s personality, her hidden career, and the reason that she was not able to maintain a decent relationship.
Cole has recovered from a recent divorce and is beginning to realize he has feelings for Alex. Alex returns those feelings but is sure that her “unnatural” desires will give him a disgust of her and ruin their partnership and friendship. The suspense was good as it became increasingly obvious that Alex could not reveal her connection to the killings at the risk of revealing her alter ego to Cole and to the rest of the department. The revelation could have serious impact on her career.
I don’t know that it is necessary to justify why a character chooses to live the BDSM lifestyle. It makes for interesting reading but I think it also serves to perpetuate commonly held opinions that the BDSM is not normal. I understand that it was important for Alex to come to terms with her sexuality but I would have rather seen that acceptance come on the basis that is just what she likes versus a deep psychological exploration of her past childhood which led to her desire to be dominated and pleasured through pain. Because then it does sound like Alex just needs some good therapy to have “normal” sex.
There were a couple places were I was frustrated with the actions of the characters. Cole acted like an ass sometimes and Alex acted like she was blind in others. Those were unnecessary to create tension in the book.
Despite my qualms with the way in which BDSM was explained, the romance, eroticism, and suspense were well balanced. The alternating first person voice was awkward for me and I probably would have preferred the story to be told in the third person. I had some additional problems with the way in which Alex’s writing career was resolved but overall, this was a very good start to my reading relationship with your writing. B-for the book.
Book can be purchased at Loose ID.