REVIEW: Reckless Pleasures by Tori Carrington
Dear Mr & Mrs. Carrington:
It used to be that I would never read a book containing infidelity but lately it seems that I can’t get away from it. Books containing infidelity that is, not infidelity itself. When it turned out that this book was going to be a book about infidelity, I decided I wanted to finish it out. Could you save this book, I wondered? The answer is no but it wasn’t so much because the book contained a character who cheated but rather in the way in which the infidelity storyline was carried out.
Much of this review will contain spoilers. To sum up: A soldier is off on deployment returns home injured with nightmares about the war to find out the love of his life and his best friend slept together. He comes home and has to learn how to forgive them.
Megan McGowan, Darius Folsom, Jason Savage and a few other Marines that fought together formed a security company called Lazarus Security. Megan and Darius (Dari) were a couple but Megan had accepted an honorable discharge after her last tour and Darius remained a reservist.
The story begins with Dari and Megan in bed, enjoying each other’s bodies before Dari is deployed again. Dari and Jason have been best friends since the age of five and Dari asks Jason to keep an eye out for Megan while Dari is deployed. The prologue sets this unhappy triangle up and emphasizes a) that Dari is a honest and honorable man; b) that Jason sleeps with anything that moves; and c) Megan and Dari will be separated for 18 months.
She knew he wouldn’t stray. It wasn’t the way he was made. They didn’t come any truer than Darius Folsom. It was the second thing she loved about him.
We then get 6 chapters of Jason and Megan making googly eyes at each other. At the end of the book, I kept wondering at this six chapter excursion into the mind of Jason (whose POV we never see again after chapter 7) and the romance that seemed to be brewing between Jason and Megan. In fact, I was so confused as to who the hero was after reading how the electricity sizzled between the two and how when their eyes made contact, they couldn’t look away that I had to flip to the end. Darius. Okay. Really?
“Shall I ask what just happened?” she said. Jason narrowed his eyes at her; they glinted dangerously in the dim light.
“Ask all you want.”
“Mmm. Just don’t expect to get any answers: is that what you’re saying?”
His grin was slow but ultimately complete. “I always knew there was a reason I liked you.” For a moment, one, brief, irrefutable moment, Megan’s gaze fused with his and a thrill of recognition swept through her—awareness, sexual, full and strong. She caught her breath.
Jason suddenly realized that his gaze was glued to Megan’s ass under the khaki of her pants. Damn, but the girl had a body on her.
He swallowed thickly and got out of the truck. While it wasn’t the first time he’d appreciated her curves—sometimes even in front of Dari—for some reason, his attention seemed inappropriate now.
He stopped short of adding “Sweet dreams.” Truth was he was afraid his dreams tonight were
going to be too sweet. And chances were high they were going to feature her.
What was the point of Jason’s point of view? What was I supposed to glean from it? If this was a story about how deployment and separation can wreak havoc on one’s relationship, shouldn’t I be in Megan and Darius’ point of view? If Jason wasn’t going to be anything but an impediment that the two would have to overcome then what did Jason’s POV provide? It may have made sense if this was supposed to be some tragic love triangle but it wasn’t. Out of every WTF thing in this book, giving us pages of Jason’s POV up to chapter 7 was the biggest anomaly. Because who the eff cares whether Jason is fantasizing about Megan? Who cares that he is admiring her curves in an inappropriate manner? What does it matter? This is a romance, ultimately as you wrote it, about Megan and Darius and thus Jason’s thoughts, politics, desires, wants are a complete and utter waste of space.
Let’s turn to Megan. Apparently Megan is a slave to her physical desires. Not only is she such incapable of turning away from a building attraction to Jason, she knows it exists and does nothing to avert it.
To say she hadn’t known this might happen would make her a liar. She and Jason had been working too closely together over the past ten days for some attraction not to develop.
They probably should have been a little more careful, though.
Of course, she had no way of knowing her power to deny her own fundamental needs would hover somewhere around zero when the moment did occur.
Instead of trying to avoid it, Megan kisses Jason. And instead of stopping at kissing, she and Jason decide that they will just have sex, but no kissing because kissing is too intimate. The build up for Megan to come to the point of cheating is her missing Dari, lusting after Jason, and having unsatisfying masturbation sessions. In other words, there is very little emotional thought given to the cheating by Megan.
I stopped at this point to flip to the end of the story again. Is Darius the hero in this book? Because Megan seems to be building feelings for Jason. These feelings are not described as a need to be fulfilled because her body misses Darius because if that were the case, any man would do. Instead, it’s a need that Megan has for Jason, a specific need that has built up over time.
Then the two of them try to justify their actions in a weird way. They are Marines, and thus capable of separating emotion from physical act:
He prided himself on being a man who called ’em as he saw me. And now that he understood that his physical need for Megan was returned, well, there was no reason for them to pretend it didn’t.
He could sense her withdrawing. “What, Megan? We’re both adults. Marines, even. We know the difference between real emotion and physical need. Just like a wound that requires attention, there are other…needs that have to be met.”
Her blue eyes sparkled. “Yes, but unlike a wound, this can go without treatment.”
He grinned. “Can it?”
She faltered. “Look, I know the kiss bothered you. Hell, it bothered me, too.” He grimaced, thinking her mouth had felt all too good pressed against his. “I’m not that guy. You know, the one that screws around with his best friend’s girl.”
As long as they don’t kiss, this act is nothing more than…pissing I guess.
“So,” she said. “If this is, not that, then what is it?”
“Sex. Pure and simple.” The dubious expression returned.
“Look. We don’t have to kiss,” he said. “Actually, I’d prefer it if we didn’t.”
“And how do you propose we…have sex without it?”
He couldn’t help grinning in purely carnal desire. “Simple—you turn around…”
And afterwards, Megan feels great. I wondered at this point whether the book was going to make the case that sex without an emotional attachment was nothing more than a physical act. In a later section, Jason accuses Dari of acting like a fifteen year old girl for being upset that Jason had sex with Dari’s girlfriend. The chapters leading up to the sex (and it is an explicit sex scene between Jason and Megan) intimated more than just a physical attraction between Jason and Megan. Was the book going to explore Megan’s conflicted feelings? No.
Again, nothing that happens in the first third of the book has actual bearing on the last two thirds of the story. I’m still baffled as to its inclusion. The only thing that is of any import is the infidelity. Why it took 7 chapters to get there and why it was an explicit sex scene are baffling. It was purposeless filler designed to … what, confuse the reader as to who the hero was? Provide setup for Jason’s book? I mean, all I got from that section is that he had no trouble nailing his best friend’s girlfriend.
Would the story be one about Megan’s need for physical companionship and how unrealistic it is for even women to spend 18 months without the touch of another human in a sexual way? No, the story isn’t about Megan’s actions but it’s about whether Darius can forgive both Megan and Jason. That’s right. Darius comes home to find out he has been emotionally and physically betrayed by two people closest to him and the story doesn’t revolve around their actions but whether he is big enough to forgive them.
I kept repeating “no” throughout the latter third of the book. Like when Jason repeated his “it was just sex” argument:
“You know, never mind. Don’t answer that.” She pushed from the table and paced.
“This…you and I just talking like this feels like a betrayal.” “We didn’t betray him.”
“How can you say that? Of course we betrayed him!”
“Now you’re just talking stupid.” She’d never seen Jason so upset before. At least not with her.
“He and I are a couple,” she said. “Any relations outside that sphere is a betrayal. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t kiss. Or that we made a point of not looking at each other. It was infidelity, pure and simple.”
“It was sex. Nothing more.”
and then Megan:
“We, um, decided not to say anything. To ride it out. Treat it like the nonevent it really was.”
“Did you enjoy it?” Of all the questions he could have asked, she would never have expected that one.
She had no answer for him. She couldn’t tell him that, yes, she had enjoyed it. Needed it. On a strictly physical level that had nothing to do with her heart.
If the argument that you were trying to make with your characters is that sex is just a physical act, no different than dining out with a friend or going jogging, then it doesn’t make sense that the character arc is about forgiveness. In order to make the argument convincing, then you would have had all the characters come to the conclusion and acceptance that sex is not an intimate act. Instead you have Darius learning forgiveness, Megan wracked with guilt, and Jason drinking away his sorrows.
Perhaps I was supposed to see Megan and Jason weak, weaker than Darius. But if that is true, then shouldn’t Megan’s character arc involved some challenge to the weakness that she then overcomes? Because there wasn’t anything in the story for Megan to do but wait for Darius to forgive her. There wasn’t anything that was done to try to convince the reader that Megan wouldn’t be rushing off to grab some other friend of Darius’s to fuck the next time he was deployed or gone.
There wasn’t any internal consistency to your argument and thus your story didn’t seem innovative and courageous but instead it was weak. If you were going to make the argument, through the characters, that sex was a physical act, then you wimped out. Megan’s character arc should have been about convincing Darius of the rightness of her actions and Darius’ character arc should have been about acceptance, not forgiveness.
Finally, Megan and Dari and Jason are searching for a lost girl down in Florida. This storyline, again, had nothing to do with the emotional drama and was so detached from the overarching plot that it could have been removed completely and not changed the feel of the story one iota. Again, it was pure filler and not very interesting filler at that. There was nothing about the search for the lost girl that dealt with the issues of infidelity, trust, companionship or loss. It was completely non essential. At first, I wasn’t going to give this book an F because I wondered if I was giving it a poor grade simply because it was a book about infidelity but no, I am giving it an F because it failed on every level, particularly the romance one.