Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: The Pleasures of Winter by Evie Hunter

I read fairly widely but have to admit that erotica is not on my usual list of genres into which I dip.  That's not to say that I haven't but my exposure to it has been fairly limited.  And BDSM (that's bondage & discipline, dominance & submission, sadism, and masochism for the uninitiated) really doesn't do it for me.  My first reading experience with erotica was through Anais Nin when I was a teenager.  I can't remember if I didn't understand it or if I truly just thought it was pretty tame but it didn't really lead me to more erotica.  Next, as a young woman in my early twenties, I searched out the Anne Rice Sleeping Beauty series when a local library pulled it off the shelves after a patron's complaint.  Having purchased all the books in the series, I do vividly remember reading them and finding them completely boring and a waste of money my husband and I didn't really have to squander.  But that's the sum total of my erotica reading since I haven't jumped on the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon.  Obviously, given the success of that trilogy, publishers are trying to find more books like these, even evoking those covers with the same black and white color scheme and similar feel.  Evie Hunter's erotic BDSM novel The Pleasures of Winter is very definitely a book meant for fans of the Fifty Shades trilogy and less for readers like me who are generally unmoved by tales with this premise.
Abbie Marshall is in Honduras, a hard hitting investigative reporter researching a story about a Honduran drug lord with ties to the US State Department.  Trailed by scary bad guys and desperate to escape them, she finagles her way onto a private plane with Hollywood hearthrob Jack Winter by agreeing to interview the spectacularly gorgeous, breath-takingly masculine actor.  Immediately attracted, they spark off of each other, verbally sparring and generally finding each other irritating.  But then the plane's pilot suffers a heart attack and dies mid-air so their antagonism has to take a back seat to survival in the remote Honduran jungle into which they've crash landed.  Jack, having learned survival techniques from one of his movies, takes charge of their small party (himself, Abbie, his best friend Kevin, and his agent Zeke).  Abbie, used to being in charge, doesn't take well to his demands and chooses to ignore them, jeopardizing their health and lives.  Jack, used to being obeyed, decides to punish Abbie.  To both of their surprise, she enjoys her punishment.  But they find their way out of the jungle and back to the US before their out of control attraction can go any further, each determined to put the other out of their thoughts.  Jack, because Abbie is a reporter, and Abbie because Jack is a big star. 
Of course they find they can't forget each other.  And Abbie is inspired by her time in the jungle to start exploring her submissive side.  The fact that she would like to expose Jack as a participant in the BDSM world, a fact that would apparently derail his career forever, only has a little to do with her desire.  It is through her research into her own sexual preferences that she and Jack reconnect, first through anonymous e-mail and eventually in person again.  The sex between the two of them is graphic and steamy but really not all that unusual or kinky despite the room in Jack's house devoted to his predilection.  Although they connect sexually as a Dom and a sub, they still have major trust issues and don't really talk to each other, leading to misunderstandings and unhappiness. 
As a character, Abbie is supposed to be fearless, driven, and capable and yet she comes off as meek and idiotic, especially in the jungle.  Jack is a take charge character haunted by his past and deeply private but his self-avowed darkness doesn't really ever manifest itself.  And his decision to physically punish Abbie while in the jungle (the catalyst for her discovery about her own sexual preferences) was fairly appalling as it was unilateral and by no means consensual.  Jack did acknowledge this once but its wrongness was then completely ignored by both characters, suggesting that because he recognized submissive tendencies in Abbie, it was okay to spank her without her consent (hard enough to leave marks).  Yuck!  Both Jack and Abbie were fairly flat characters with whom it was rather hard to sympathize.  And in the end, their concerns about each other are too easily dismissed and those once important plot threads are dropped in favor of the stereotypical happy ending demanded by romances.  Their capitulation to each other and the way in which they both conveniently forget the problems that drove them apart is too simple, unresolved, and completely unbelievable.  The fact that BDSM leaves me cold didn't help me like the book any better.  On the plus side, it was a quick and basic read.  Perhaps those who enjoyed Fifty Shades will find this one more satisfying than I did.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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