Dear Ms. Kolee:
Your first book featured a possessive, jealous hero who in real life should be locked up far away from real women. (For the record, I enjoyed this book but the hero is creepy). This story does not follow the same path and some readers looking for the jealous, possessive hero fix might be disappointed. I appreciated the change and believes that the broader range of storytelling bodes well for future Kolee books.
Caden Riley is a famous photographer known for his erotic photographs. He is rumored to have slept with some, if not all, of his subjects. How else does he capture their rapturous expressions during climax and release? Lauren Sloan is recruited by her roommate to be her temporary replacement for Caden as his personal assistant. The roommate is going on an extended trip with her photographer boyfriend.
Lauren isn’t sure she wants to work for Caden who comes off as arrogant and cold hearted but the money is too good to turn down and the stint is only for three months. Lauren does not initially like Caden. She acknowledges that he is attractive and sexy looking but he’s not very nice to her or the people that he does business with. In short, there isn’t a lot likeable about Caden and I appreciated that Lauren isn’t immediately thinking with her private parts when it comes to asshole heroes. Lauren’s resistance to Caden and the occasional opinion that he has to drag out of her intrigue him.
It is apparent early on that Caden has no appreciation for Lauren’s boundaries. He wants to get Lauren into bed. It’s hard to say whether his motivations initially are simply because he is intrigued and he wants to photograph her or if he actually has feelings for her. The story is told in the first person from Lauren’s point of view and while some things Lauren observes fairly well, others aren’t well articulated.
There are limitations in Lauren’s storytelling such as rather than show us Caden’s problems through dialogue and action, third party confidences are used to reveal important backstory. Her roommate shares some and so do Caden’s father figure and attorney which sometimes seemed out of place, particularly when Caden demanded privacy and discretion above all else.
The primary conflict is emotional. Caden wants to photograph Lauren and she resists. When the capitulation arrives, both protagonists’ feelings deepen but Caden has a hard time with relationships because he saw his loving father kill his mother who admitted to be cheating on him. He fears he has the same obsessive, destructive genes in him and tries to remain unattached.
Lauren’s past sexual encounters haven’t been good and she’s suffered abuse. She wonders whether she can ever enjoy sex and when surrounded by the pictures of ecstasy depicted in Caden’s photographs she begins to long for what he has captured in, and maybe even provided to, other women. But this explanation isn’t well foreshadowed making the transition from resistance to surrender rather abrupt.
I really really enjoyed Lauren who tries hard to set up boundaries with Caden and is fairly emotionally honest throughout the book. There is one scene where she tells Caden that she is not damaged, that’s she deserves more than he can give her and basically tells him off. I think I’ve been waiting for a heroine to make that speech since forever.
The ending fades a bit in emotional intensity but there’s a lot of positive storytelling in this book and I’ll be anxious to read the next Kolee contemporary. B-
P.S. So I know that the Calla Lily plays an important role in the story but many readers have commented on how unfortunate it is on the cover. I didn’t mind it so much.