Opening Up, by Lauren Dane

14 Aug

Opening UpI am generally a fan of Ms Dane’s work, with the Federation Chronicles, and their spinoff, the Phantom Corps novels, being my favorites by her.

However, what with my TBR taking over my house (yes, I have a problem, but admitting it hasn’t helped me any–and no, thanks, I don’t want help with this particular problem), I had not read anything new by her in a while. Then I realized that Falling Under was coming out this month, and since–thanks to Sela Carsen–I seem to be finally getting over the reading slump from hell, I decided to start the series at the beginning, so I treated myself to this book.

Usual warning: this is an erotic romance, with graphic language and graphic sex. If you object to either, do us both a favor, and skip this one.

Opening Up, by Lauren Dane

This is the first in the Ink and Chrome series, about a group (three?) friends who co-own a “hot rod and motorcycle shop”–whatever that actually means.¹

At any rate, Asa is an ex-Marine, with a love for cars and motorcycles, a need for adrenaline, and little compunction to engage in the occasional bout of recreational violence (he and his partner belong to a bare-knuckle Fight Club, among other things). PJ is the youngest daughter of the CEO of Colman Tires, a family business started by her paternal grandfather, a former race driver.

Shared interests and a common language set the stage for their relationship, even though there’s some early (and rather inconsequential) angst about their age difference.

Here’s the blurb from the author’s website:

The men of the Twisted Steel custom build bike and hot rod shop are great with their hands…and they’re not afraid to get dirty. PJ Colman is exactly the kind of complication Twisted Steel owner Asa Barrons doesn’t need. The last thing he wants to do is mix business with pleasure, and PJ does some of the best custom detailing he’s ever seen. But the chemistry between them won’t be denied, and one kind of complication turns into another as she awakens a possessive need inside him he’s unable to deny.

Racing royalty PJ Colman knew from the first moment she laid eyes on Asa that he would rock her world. But what started out as a fun romp in the bedroom soon becomes an all consuming passion. Soon he’s introducing her to a whole new world in the bedroom, pushing her far beyond anything she’s ever experienced.And he’s her sounding board, her refuge and her biggest annoyance as she has to learn how to manage an alpha male with protective instincts like the one she’s fallen for.

This is one of those books that flow easily as I read, but that I have no problem putting down for a full day. There wasn’t so much tension–sexual or otherwise–that I was dying to know what happened next. Instead, this was mostly a romance with very little real conflict, at least between the two protagonists.

Asa and PJ have the immediate hots for each other. They are both single, and PJ is all willing to jump on that horse, pretty much on the spot, but Asa is convinced she’s too young to know what she wants.

Because apparently women have to be thirty five or older to be able to make decisions about their own lives, or some such shit. This, by the way, is brought up again around the midpoint of the story, as a supposedly valid argument, by one of Asa’s best friends. (Picture me making noises as I read that.)

Considering that Asa has two younger sisters, and that we are told how much he respects women in general, his reluctance to get involved with her because she’s too young (ergo, she can’t know what she wants), doesn’t really make sense. Even less when one considers that PJ is twenty five years old.

Yes, Asa is thirty seven, but for the love of puppies and unicorns, PJ has been old enough to vote for over a third of her life, how can she be too young to think for herself?

Anyway…

I was also quite puzzled that, despite of having known each other for more than half a year, and then being in a relationship for what, two months? There was still room for a Big Secret from Asa’s past to come out of nowhere (not just to PJ, by the way, but to the reader–total left field shot) at close to 65% of the book.

Something so basic, I would expect a good number of the many unnamed secondary characters knew it–and yet, it’s never mentioned within PJ’s hearing. Just a bit too coincidental, frankly.

Eventually, Asa comes clean, and it’s a big deal for PJ–except, no, it isn’t. After one fairly low key scene, during which he realizes he’s hurt her and apologizes (no real grovel, by the way), the big thing is basically a non-issue.

Sorry, say what?

At any rate, most of the actual conflict centers on PJ’s relationship with her family, especially her father, which isn’t too terribly dysfunctional, as these things go, but has plenty of “why do you put up with this crap?” moments for me. Suffice it to say that PJ–and her siblings–were patient and understanding for a helluva lot longer than I would have been.

(On this, you should take into account that I live four thousand miles, give or take a few hundred, away from all my family. By choice.)

One of my main issues with this part of the story, was that the business aspect just didn’t make sense to me. Color me ignorant of racing, specialty tires, and other car-related business, but a lot of the plot–for lack of better–that revolves around PJ, the family business, and the family as a whole, just didn’t gel. It felt mostly that is was put in as a vehicle to show just how smart and talented and special PJ is.

And, quite frankly, I didn’t think any of that was needed to show the reader that PJ is all of those things.

Then there’s the sex.

See, I have a weird reaction to the sex in Ms Dane’s books.

One the one hand, I love that her heroines are generally sexually empowered. These are women who know what they want and don’t make bones about getting it. And, as the other side of that coin, they are not afraid to say no–this is particularly true of PJ, by the way. There’s a scene where Asa attempts to initiate anal sex, and PJ basically says (using a great 2001: Space Odyssey quote, too–go, geeks!), “this is my body, and these are my boundaries; don’t like it, there’s the door.”

On the other hand, I often find some of the language the characters use–in their thoughts and in dialogue–to be on the crude side. Call me a prude, I’ll own it, but there are times when that takes me out of the story. Obviously, this is a very personal issue–what bothers me, probably goes completely unnoticed by most other readers, but hey, this is my review.

In this particular novel, I pretty much skimmed/skipped over several of the sex scenes, mostly on the last third, because I didn’t feel they contributed anything to the emotional connection between Asa and PJ.

I do love Ms Dane’s dialogue–it always feels very real, very natural. People who know each other really well, people who like each other, talk the way she has friends and/or families in her novels talk.

My problem in this book was that there were too many things explained, either via internal monologue, or outright, such as (paraphrasing, but not a lot), “and then so and so yelled for a while, but this other character shut them up, and then the first character left, and then they all moved on.”

Which completely ruins the reading experience for me, because I am no longer inside the action; I’m no longer in the story, but aware that I am being told a story.

So while Opening Up is an easy read, it’s not a memorable one for me; I am not even curious about the rest of the cast of characters to look the next Ink and Chrome novel up, unless it comes up on a really good sale. 7.00 out of 10.

~ * ~

¹ Me, I know nothing about cars. As long as mine is not leaving parts behind, and takes me where I need to go, I’m perfectly content. (Well, I prefer metallic paint in blues or greens to pretty much any other color, but that’s it, really.) So it’s a good thing I did not read this for the technical details, hm?

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4 Responses to “Opening Up, by Lauren Dane”

  1. bamaclm 14/08/2015 at 7:19 PM #

    I don’t usually read out and out erotica but I got this when it was on sale awhile back because the blurb made the plot sound a little different and someone actually said no to anal sex, lol.

    Haven’t read it yet, however. I imagine I’ll do a lot of skimming too. 🙂

    Thank you for the review.

    • azteclady 14/08/2015 at 7:30 PM #

      Who’d’ve thought, eight years ago, that readers would be excited to see heroines saying no to anal, right?

  2. Monika 08/08/2016 at 2:28 PM #

    Loved your review, made me chuckle in several places. I have recently started to branch out into reading erotic romance. Though it seems kind of contradictory to me to read an erotic romance if you then are going to skip over the sex scenes 😉

    • azteclady 08/08/2016 at 2:39 PM #

      I have this quirk…if I want to read for the sex, I’ll read erotica. If I am reading for the characters and the relationship, I’ll read erotic romance.

      However, when reading erotic romance, I need the sex to contribute to the relationship, not just to be there because so many pages have gone by and no sexytimes. I felt that, in this particular book, most of the sex was of the second type–there only because erotic romance needs graphic sex scenes.

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