REVIEW: Uncommon Pleasure by Anne Calhoun
Note: The comments are closed on this review because it is our book club pick. Don’t forget to join the conversation later today and all through the week.
Dear Ms. Calhoun:
I am so glad that you are back publishing longer length works (not that I minded the holiday novella). In Uncommon Pleasure we meet up with two Marines, one former and one Lieutenant trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. For Calhoun fans, the hero of “Over the Edge”, the first novellette in the duology, is a familiar character whom you introduced in “On the Edge.”
Ty Hendricks works on oil rigs and perfecting his game of no contact, no involvement. When he is on leave from the rig, he has emotionless hook up sex and sometimes does security work for his friend John, a former Marine who has started his own business.
During Ty’s last job, Lauren Kincaid, a petroleum geologist, arrived on the rig. And they noticed each other. And when they both got to shore, Lauren extends an invitation to him. Lauren knows exactly what she wants and she isn’t shy about trying to get it. I loved that about her.
Her character arc is fairly static but interesting. She has a mind of her own. She recognizes what she wants and isn’t afraid or ashamed to go after it. She’s set down roots her neighborhood in Galveston, Texas. She knows herself and thinks she knows her limits. As a former military brat, Lauren has seen a lot of warriors at all different stages from the freshly minted NCOs and junior lieutenants who escorted her to sorority functions to the wounded ones returned from deployment. After spending a little time with Ty, Lauren doesn’t want to see Ty, a man with so much promise and so much life ahead of him, to harden so inexorably that he’d lose out.
Ty is the one that makes the big change from loner, feeling nothing to having his hard exterior slowly chipped away. He’s tried to shut off the horror of war and to do that he’s had to stop caring. The dark moment is truly dark and I ached for Ty, for Lauren.
The sex scenes are plentiful but add value to the story and the movement of the relationship arc. Ty uses sex as a way to put Lauren off; to try to separate himself emotionally from her but with every touch, kiss, caress, she shows him how much he could actually have. B+
“All on the Line” is the second story featuring Sean Winthrop and Abby Simmons. Sean picked up a young waitress, Abby, the last time he was on leave. They spent 30 days in bed and the next five months emailing and skypeing. But in the midst of his deployment, Sean sent his own Dear John letter telling Abby she was a sweet girl and should be thinking about other guys.
So Abbey shed her innocence and did just that. When Sean is back on leave again, he is at a crossroads and he decides to look Abby up again. He practically stalks her outside the apartment complex of a Galveston cop with whom she has hooked up. Sean knows he should walk away, but he can’t. Abby is so busy trying to keep her life together that she barely has time for sex with Sean. Some nights she is so exhausted she wants just sleep and she is afraid of giving Sean another chance.
Sean points out that if she wants to hookup, why not with him. But then Sean tries to encroach by doing things like changing her battery, mowing her lawn, studying with her. While this novellette was still good, the sex scenes weren’t as baked into the storyline as in the previous one. Many times, you could have taken the sex scenes out and had the same emotional journey.
Both of the stories have a menage in them. It reminded me of a world wrestling tag team tournament or a daisy chain of SEALs. The next one to have a menage is “it” (and it is because the hero of the next book is Ben, the cop who participates in the Abby / Sean menage). We go from John and Ty in “On the Edge” to Ty and Sean in “Over the Edge” to Sean and Ben in “All on the Line.” The menages all serve a purpose. For Ty, it is a way to prove to Lauren that she’s just another sex playment. For Sean and Abby, it’s more Abby trying to prove to Sean she’s all grown up. But the repetition makes the menages seem like a deux ex machina or a deux ex menage. Sean and Abby’s story just wasn’t as successful for me but a less successful Anne Calhoun is still a great story. B-