Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: Forbidden Pleasure [2007]

Forbidden Pleasure is the seventh book in Lora Leigh’s Bound Hearts series, which was recommended as a readalike for the 50 Shades trilogy. Although the writing is uneven, if you actually find yourself with a patron who is willing to tell you they’re interested in something focused on ménage relationships, this would be a good place to start.

Mac McCoy has left the FBI and his days as a member of “The Club”--a DC area establishment catering to men who prefer to share their women with other men--behind him and moved with his new wife Keiley to a farm in North Carolina. Although he’s happy with his new life, he’s been keeping a part of himself carefully controlled and hidden from Keiley, and the strain is starting to show. Mac has deep-rooted dominant tendencies and a strong desire to share Keiley with his preferred “third,” Jethro. As Mac’s brother in all but blood, Jethro has always used Mac’s relationships with women as a way to have intimacy without getting too close, knowing that he could never give himself completely. He’s also halfway in love with Keiley already, which is why he introduced her to Mac--so that he could become their third. But Mac changed the equation when he left DC, and Jethro, behind.

When Keiley begins to question Mac more and more intently about his past and The Club, he feels that she may finally be ready for the introduction of Jethro into their lives. But the relationship that Mac has in mind for himself and Jethro and Keiley will require all three of them to erase their boundaries and embark on a sensual and loving journey that will either leave them as one happy whole, or three broken individuals. Leigh also inserts a plot in which a serial stalker (from a case that Mac and Jethro worked on at the FBI) fixates on Keiley. But don’t worry, the fact that their lives are potentially in danger does not prevent them from having lots of sex.

Grade: C+

I spent several days trying to articulate how I feel about this book. I definitely didn’t love it. I don’t think it was the three-way sex that bothered me, either. Rather it was the way that Mac and Jethro would sandwich Keiley repeatedly and tell her that they would stop making coordinated sexual advances toward her if she just said no. Leigh suggests several times that Keiley knew about her husband’s tendencies and had been working her way up to interest in where that could take them, but she was too often (for my taste) put in a position where they were asking forgiveness and not permission.

The short time-span of the plot--two weeks at most--makes it difficult to believe that Mac and Keiley’s idyllic existence as a monogamous couple who engaged in very little kinky sex would transform so quickly into a completely different relationship. The writing was also a bit heavy handed, in the “Keiley didn’t know what to do about these desires, which were forbidden” kind of way. As a readalike for 50 Shades, it’s not too bad. It definitely has the dominant and kink elements, plus both the guys have the requisite tortured pasts. It’s written in the third person, but Keiley’s personality is well fleshed-out and not unlike Ana’s. She swings between deep arousal and interest to being supremely irritated at both Mac and Jethro’s high-handedness. The stalker plot is about as believable as the crisis that troubles Christian and Ana in Fifty Shades Freed.

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