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Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

UncommonPassionWhy I read it:  I have enjoyed other Calhoun books and read the first book in this loosely related series a couple of weeks ago.  So I decided to bend my usual rules about how much I’m prepared to spend on books and get this one.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  After leaving a restrictive religious community, Rachel Hill is on a mission to divest herself of her virginity. Newly independent and struggling to establish herself, she’s not looking for anything complicated. She bids on sexy SWAT officer Ben Harris at a bachelor auction, confident he’ll give her the night of her life and nothing more.

But Ben is jaded and detached, living his life in an endless cycle of danger-fueled adrenaline jags, drinking, and sex. When he misses the fact that his bachelor auction hookup is a virgin, he’s shocked by his obliviousness, and by the risk she took. To make amends, Ben offers Rachel all he can: a no-strings-attached sexual education.

Ben’s lessons introduce Rachel to down and dirty passion, but she’s searching for something more profound than sex, and she’s willing to walk away to find it. Ben can’t get Rachel out of his head, but will he come to terms with his troubled past and learn to love?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I enjoyed this one but why I enjoyed it kind of surprised me.  I know a lot of my romance reading friends have read and enjoyed this book but I haven’t read any of the reviews yet.  When I know I’m going to be reading a book very soon after release, I like to keep my thoughts “pure” I suppose and then go and see if other people picked up the same things I did.

The first 2/3 of the book has a lot of sex.  Good sex.  Hot sex.  But, a lot of sex.  In fact in all but about 2 of their encounters for that first section of the book, they have sex.  They were all different and exposed something different about the character, but I found myself getting tired of and somewhat impatient with Ben’s detachment.  Afterwards there is no cuddling. He disposes of the condom and gives Rachel the unspoken message that it’s time for her to go.  Sometimes it’s not actually unspoken.  That jarred for me a little because I felt that Ben wasn’t detached when he was having sex with Rachel and Rachel was anything but.  She isn’t like the average virgin heroine. She is determined to sample what she’s been missing and is endlessly curious.  I enjoyed her forthrightness.  I loved how she didn’t play games or play coy.  She was open and honest and incredibly strong.

Uncommon Pleasure by Anne Calhoun

UncommonPleasureWhy I read it:  I enjoyed Liberating Lacey and Breath on Embers (from last year’s Red Hot Holiday anthology) and I’d heard good things about this book. I bought up an ecopy with a Kobo coupon recently. The next book in the series has just been released.  It is called Uncommon Passion.  I’ve heard great things about that one too, but I’m waiting for another coupon. 

I’ve also put a digital book from her backlist on my wishlist – On the Edge is a novella which features Ty (hero of the first story in this anthology) and John Langley and Lucy Malone.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  From a “fresh and imaginative” (“The Romance Studio”) voice in erotic romance come the tales of two women, each daring to challenge the boundaries of the toughest of men…But in these edgy, heated encounters, the greatest thing each woman will risk is her heart.

“Over the Edge,” – after a tragic incident during Ty Hendricks’ last tour of duty, he cut off all connection with anyone he cares about–until a night with Lauren Kincaid draws him reluctantly back into the world. Lauren sees a wounded man in danger of losing everything to his inner demons, but the sensual, no-holds-barred fight for Ty’s soul could cost Lauren her heart.

“All on the Line,” – Abby Simmons fell hard for Lieutenant Sean Winthrop, but he sacrificed their relationship when he deployed to Afghanistan. Now he’s home, full of regrets and intent on winning back the woman he never forgot. Abby gives Sean her body but holds her heart aloof, until one night of pleasure forces her to choose either her U.S. Marine…or life without him, forever.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Over the Edge is the first novella in the anthology.  Ty Hendricks is a roughneck working on an oil rig.  He was a Marine and served in Afghanistan.  His skill set is mainly around people management. He can identify where people work and fit best, when something is wrong and how to manage it, etc etc.  However, he has basically shut down as a result of PTSD following his last deployment.  He wants no emotions to creep in – both in his sexual liaisons and his friendships with former-Marine buddies John Langley (owner of Langley Security) and Sean Winthrop.  Lauren Kincaid is a petroleum geologist who flies out to the oil rig where Ty is working. Over the course of a few days on the rig, Lauren sees enough of Ty to become intrigued and desirous.  After they get back to the mainland, she propositions him and he, even knowing that there was no way it would just be an anonymous, meaningless hookup (no matter how hard he tries), accedes.  Lauren sees, she thinks, the man underneath the armour of disinterest and is curious to know him.  To her credit, Lauren doesn’t think she can heal Ty, but she does see that he is in need of it and it takes a lot of effort on his behalf to successfully push her away.  When not working on the oil rig, Ty helps our his friend John in his security business. They had been supposed to open the business together but after events in his last deployment, Ty wanted to be separate from everyone and changed his mind.  Sean, also on furlough is also helping out and they end up doing some industrial surveillance in the same business park where Lauren is based.  The book was sexy and hot and I liked how sexually free Lauren was and how the story (both of them actually) was not at all slut-shamey. Both stories feature a menage even though the HEA is with just two people. In this one, Ty suggests a threesome to Lauren (with Sean) as a way of shocking her into leaving only to be surprised when Lauren not only says yes, but really gets into it.

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