This is, by my reckoning, only the second time I post reviews of series or trilogies out of order, even though I read the books in order.¹ Since I know I was planning on reviewing all three, because I like them all, I can’t for the life of me figure out how I skipped the middle one.
At any rate, here it is.
Usual warning: this is an erotic romance, so there’s plenty of sex written graphically. The adult people depicted speak the way most adult people do–expect curses and other crude language.
One Night of Scandal, by Elle Kennedy
Even though this is the second in a trilogy, I think it can be easily read as a stand alone, as there is enough background information to bring readers up to speed, without a lot of info dumping.
The story centers around one of the three owners of Sin, a fairly popular Boston nightclub, and his crush on one the (now ex) girlfriend of one of his two closest friends. These three guys have been friends for a good long time, and all three fought successfully in the Boston MMA circuit. Long enough and successfully enough to be able to open a high scale nightclub and have it in the black within a few years of opening night.
Here’s the blurb from the author’s website:
The wrong man never felt so right…
Ex-fighter Reed Miller has been secretly lusting over his best friend’s girl for months, but he refuses to jeopardize a friendship over a woman—especially one who doesn’t like him all that much. Now that Darcy’s on the market again, it’s even more imperative to stick to his strict hands-off policy. But the sizzling attraction between them is too powerful to ignore, and once he’s had a taste of her…all bets are off.
Darcy Grant is tired of walking the straight and narrow path. She’s on the hunt for passion, and there’s no denying Reed is just the man to give it to her. Although she has no interest in dating a bad boy, and certainly not her ex’s best friend, it’s impossible not to melt beneath Reed’s skillful touch. Now it’s just a matter of setting a few ground rules—and hoping her rule-breaking, sweet-talking bad boy agrees to follow them. But if she lets Reed into her bed, does she stand a chance of keeping him out of her heart?
The set up–guy lusting after friend’s girl–is nothing new, but I like how Ms Kennedy handled it here. Usually, the male protagonist’s friend is a really good guy, and the relationships is really good, ergo, the poor friend has to die so his girl/wife can get it on with the hero of the book. Or, the hero’s friend is a complete asshole, or at least he’s an asshole towards the heroine (both of which beg the question of why the two guys would remain close friends), and so the story become basically “good riddance, you douche; win me over, nice guy.” The third, and much more infrequent, variation, is when the friend says, “well, turns out I’m gay, so…” (which usually is problematic on a lot of other levels).
In this case, Reed’s friend AJ truly is a very nice guy, and Darcy is a very nice woman. They even have decent sex together, and share a lot of the same interests. Unfortunately, decent sex is not great sex, and being good friends does not necessarily mean being crazy about each other. After a few months of trying hard to make a romantic relationship out of what is, at its core, a really good friendship, Daisy and AJ finally accept reality and part ways.
The very next day, Reed happens to run into Darcy at yet another nightclub. Since he doesn’t know about the breakup, Reed is pretty shocked to see her picking a guy up–not only because this is his friend’s girl, but because this is good girl Darcy. Her, cheating? Doesn’t compute. Reed immediately appoint himself champion of AJ’s honor and butts the hell in, which doesn’t exactly sit well with Darcy.
The only reason Darcy had gone to that other nightclub was to see if she could get out of the funk breaking up with AJ had flung her into. Netting a fling wouldn’t have been a bad thing either–except that, upon reflection, Darcy realizes that she’s not really the one-night stand type. She likes sex and would be happy with a torrid affair, but meaningless sex with the next thing to a stranger is not really her thing.
So when Reed finally lets on that he’s been attracted to her from the get, Darcy pounces on the chance. Here’s the passion, the adventure, the risk and the burning sexuality that was missing in her life and in her previous relationships.
The main conflict here is that Darcy enters their relationship convinced that while Reed is a fairly decent human being, he is also basically a womanizer, here today and gone tomorrow. Therefore, as far as she’s concerned, they are having a very hot, very satisfying affair that will soon burn itself out. At which time she’ll mourn the loss of passion and look for a long term relationship elsewhere.
This is not willful blindness, mind you, but a learned behaviour–cue some daddy issues.
For his part, Reed becomes convinced that Darcy is it for him fairly early on. He definitely wants a true relationship with her, but he lacks confidence that he would know how to be in one. After all, Mr Casanova hasn’t had any actual relationships; so far it’s always been bang ’em and leave ’em for him.
Reed also has some issues with self image and self worth, leftover from a fairly shitty childhood, which contribute to the misunderstandings between him and Darcy. No, not the tired, old Big Miss, but the one where two people look at the same thing and see two very different things.
On top of this, Reed and AJ have been friends forever. This friendship is probably the longest running and most significant human connection in Reed’s life, so even though the break up was a calm, mutually agreed upon thing, he feels more than a wee bit weird about having a fling–her word–with Darcy. And even though AJ knows that breaking up was the best thing for both himself and Darcy, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel a pang to see her moving on–let alone, moving on his best friend! Which doesn’t help Reed’s guilt any, obviously.
Despite the explicit and frequent sex, the relationship is sweet–mostly because both characters are nice people.
However, do not let the previous statement mislead you: the sex? Hot, and graphic, and hot, and raunchy, and…did I mention hot?
(We interrupt this review with the usual complaint about unsafe sex.
Just because you’ve known her six months or so, and she’s your best friend’s ex, doesn’t mean you know she doesn’t have an STD–and vice versa–so going down on her without even talking about your sexual health? When you are thirty? *incoherent rage sounds*
We return you now to your regularly scheduled review.)
I also like very much that Ms Kennedy focuses the story on the relationship, and that while the obstacles to Reed and Darcy’s HEA are fairly minor, they are consistent with their characterization. Darcy has to grow up in different ways that Reed has, and it is neat to see the process.
I like how the secondary characters are written, because they are neither just filler, nor do they take up so much space as to overwhelm Darcy’s and Reed’s story. We get to catch up a bit with Skylar and Gage, from “One Night of Sin” and we see enough of AJ to set up his character for One Night of Trouble, the last story in the trilogy. We meet some of Darcy’s friends and students, and we learn more about her life, not just as a teacher and love interest for Reed, but as a daughter and a woman.
I know that some readers tire of the whole “s/he acts this way because childhood trauma/issues,” and I agree that it can be overdone. One of the things I’ve liked about Ms Kennedy’s writing so far is that she doesn’t overdo it–we are all influenced by our childhood, even by relatively minor events during our formative years, throughout our lives. We grow out of some of these things naturally as life slaps us around, but other things? We have to work to unlearn some lessons.
One Night of Trouble is a sweet, well written story about good, decent people. 8.00 out of 10.
¹ Karina Bliss’s The Lost Boys was the other one, but at least then I knew what happened. On this one, I simply have no clue.