From the BLURB:
Ten years ago, Rori Simon left town shy, unattractive and with zero self-esteem. Now she’s back, older, stronger and finally loving herself—and it shows. Hot men are soon knocking at her door, including Jude Callahan, the bad boy who starred in her teenage daydreams…and her adult fantasies.
Jude can’t believe the sexy, confident woman before him is actually Rori! She’s gotten under his skin like no other woman has…and brings out secret desires he can’t resist. He wants to dominate Rori with every fiber of his being. Wants to own her and pleasure her. To cherish her as he makes her his.
Rori discovers she likes being controlled. She also knows Jude is not a one-woman man. Everything changes when she meets Zach Helm. Edgy, sensual Zach knows just what she needs, and before long, she’s in love. Jude watches them together and wonders if he’s lost his chance forever…
‘Second Chances’ is a scatter-brained erotica read. It feels like Lauren Dane has glued together three different erotica stories – creating a hodgepodge of characters, storylines and sex themes.
Reading the blurb I was under the impression that this was an ‘ugly duckling’ story with a sexy twist. Then I started reading and the story veered into Dominance/submission territory. And then things got really weird and the entire story took a totally different, emotional trajectory and by the end my head was spinning and my patience was wearing thin.
My biggest problem with this book was a feeling that Lauren Dane wasn’t wholly committing to the storyline. Let me see if I can adequately explain my issues...
In high school Rori was a slightly pudgy too-tall girl with acne. Her sister, Kelly, was the beautiful head-cheerleader and dated Max, the school’s football star. Rori’s mother constantly berated her ‘lesser’ daughter for her looks and as a result Rori had self-esteem issues. But at the same time Rori was treated well by all the local boys who regarded her as a little sister. Even the town’s hottie/bad-boy, Jude Callahan, took time to have deep and meaningful conversations with Rori.
As much as Rori seems to have built up her awkward high school phase, I just wasn’t buying her ‘woe is me’ memories. It’s not like she was a social piranha – especially because the hottest guys in town did talk to her, and did know that she existed (even if it was only as Kelly’s little sister). I went into this book thinking it would be a novel of redemption and rooting for the underdog. I thought Rori would be like a modern-day Carrie, if Carrie was returning to Bates High School after the pig-blood incident with a fabulous new body, new attitude and was going to make Billy Nolan salivate over her.
My first problem with the story was Dane’s inability to form an emotional connection with her readers. I know that in erotica, readers are willing to forgive a lot, like outlandish plots and cardboard characters, but the one necessary constant in all erotica is the ability to draw your readers into the emotional side of things. If I wanted to read straight-up smut I’d crack open a Playboy (or read Laurell K Hamilton. *shudder*). Erotica has to be a little more sensitive, and to do that we need somewhat plausible feelings and emotional actions from characters. I didn’t get that from Rori.
There are a few references made to Rori’s cheating ex whom she left behind in Paris after catching him in bed with their dog-walker. But there are no scenes of Rori crying into a tub of ice-cream. She has literally arrived in Oakley days after having caught her boyfriend cheating, and she is fine and dandy. She lived with this man, has had to move half-way across the world to get away from him.... but she’s fine. She and Kelly have no heart-to-heart about the ex, and Rori is quick to enter the Oakley dating circuit.
I did think that the cheating ex was a cheap ploy on Dane’s behalf to trigger Rori’s trip home. And I felt right in this assumption when Rori started chasing Jude Callahan...
Jude is the town bad-boy who Rori crushed on in high school... her, and every other girl in Oakley. Jude is a self-proclaimed womanizer and unremorseful about his hearty bedroom activities. On the day that Rori moves back to Oakley, Jude is making his moves... Rori knows that Jude doesn’t do commitment, and will be seeing several other girls on the side. But she’s okay with that;
Instead, she shrugged. “I don’t want to save Jude from himself. I want to date someone, not redeem them. I like Jude, I always have, but I know what he is and how he operates. I’m going into this with full self-respect, as well as an understanding that he views me like every other woman. I know we’re all interchangeable to him. He loves women, but not any particular woman. If I don’t remember that, I’ll end up hurt and I've been there, done that. Don’t want the Tshirt.”Yeah, I wasn’t buying that one bit.
Rori has just relocated country’s to get away from her cheating partner and now she is back home for a day and willingly offers herself to the town bicycle? I don’t think so. Even without scenes revealing Rori’s tender emotions over her recent break-up, I found it hard to believe that she would so openly and happily start pursuing Jude Callahan, in spite of his womanizing reputation (of which he is *proud*).
The second thing that bugged me about ‘Second Chances’ was the late introduction of a major character. You’re a good portion into the book when Rori decides to cast Jude’s womanizing butt aside and start pursuing her best friend’s little brother, Zach Helm. In Zach Rori discovers her submissive side and the two fall in love over rope-play. Jude is hardly mentioned again, except for his passing feelings of infatuation and growing love for unattainable Rori in the aftermath of their break-up.
Okay... around about here things get really curve-bally and mind-boggling (considering this is a fun bit of erotica). Ahead are spoilers, highlight if you want to be spoiled.
** SPOILERS **
Zach and Rori fall in love, get married, blah, blah, blah and then BAM! Zach dies. Yep. I am 80% through this e-book and things take a turn for the ‘WTF?’
This is all especially disheartening because I really liked Zach and thought that his and Rori’s sex scenes were H-O-T. I thought this was going to be a smokin’ bit of fun reading and then the (second) main love interest DIES and suddenly my previous complaint of ‘not enough emotional connection’ turns into ‘stop heaping all this depressing stuff on me!’.
** END SPOILERS **
I was not impressed with this book one bit. Dane writes translucent plot triggers, emotionally unbelievable storylines and half-hearted characterization.... and then tops it all off with a depressingly random twist right in the middle. The sex is hot, but doesn’t make up for the emotional battery half-way through.
Second Chances is released October 25th