Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
There is a romance trope that I tend to run the other way screaming as if my hair were on fire when I see it. It is the one where the sexy, emotionally closed off billionaire contracts with a woman to have kinky sex with no strings. But before you can say 'no emotional involvement' they are falling in love.
This book is the total opposite of that. So much so it is almost as if the author has consciously decided to take that trope, tie it up and spank it on it's ass and send it on it's way.
Rob, the hero, is an emotional mess. An alcoholic who burned every family and relationship bridge he ever had. Acknowledging this, he removes himself from society and becomes a hermit. He leads a simpler life in a cottage in the middle of the woods in Scotland. No electricity, no running hot water -- just man and nature.
Enter Merry. The American woman who is backpacking her way through his area of Scotland. She ends up at the door of his cottage sick and sweating. Grudgingly he takes her in to nurse her back to health hoping to send her on her way soon.
In the beginning Rob and Merry are totally opposites. She is voluble, gregarious and friendly. He is broody and taciturn, his social skills rusty for having lived alone for three years. But as the two spend enforced time together over a period of four days, they have a lot of revealing conversations, they fish, they dig potatoes, they chop wood and they become attracted to each other.
Merry sets out specifically to seduce Rob only to be brought up a little short when she realizes that Rob has a very specific sexual need to be dominated. The author doesn't use words terms like 'BDSM' or 'Lifestyle.' But it is clear that in order for Rob to get off, he needs to be tied up and he needs to be dominated. It is also clear that, unlike those billionaire-contract-sex books, Rob doesn't inhabit a space where he is able to stroll into the local sex club and get his itch scratched. He is in a head-space where his sexuality is inextricably bound up with shame and self-loathing. Rob's sexual longings are not presented to the reader as a titillating sexual fantasy that we can live through voyeuristically. Rather they are presented as very problematic for him. They are what he has to have to enjoy sex and yet was never able to enjoy with a partner in the way he needed to.
Hence Merry's enthusiastic and non-judgmental participation in fulfilling his sexual needs is a revelation to him. He is able to connect with her on a level that he has never been able to connect with anyone else. While Merry has some of her own emotional issues, Rob's are the centerpiece of the story. Both his sexual awakening and his struggle with alcoholism.
I enjoy how the author allows both things to play out. While Merry is able to help Rob with his sexual hang ups she is woefully unprepared for the other. I am glad that she did not make good sex the panacea that magically solved all Rob's woes.
Merry and Rob had to work for their happy ending. And their happy ending worked very well for me.