It’s been ten years since clean-cut, sexy-as-hell police officer Todd Keenan had a white-hot fling with Erin Brown, the provocative, wild rocker chick next door. Their power exchange in the bedroom got under his skin. But love wasn’t in the cards just yet…
Now, life has thrown the pair back together. But picking up where they left off is tough, in light of a painful event from Erin’s past. As Todd struggles to earn her trust, their relationship takes an unexpected and exciting turn when Todd’s best friend, Ben, ends up in their bed—and all three are quite satisfied in this relationship without a name. As the passion they share transforms Erin, will it be enough to help her face the evil she thought she had left behind?
Release date for LAID BARE: August 4, 2009
LAID BARE is a wonderful story that depicts an emotional and erotic journey to happily ever after and it totally took me by surprise. Sometimes you stumble upon treasures where you least expect them. I must admit that I wouldn’t have jumped up to review this book if it wasn’t for a glowing endorsement from Ann Aguirre on Twitter when Lauren Dane was offering the eARCs of it. I had heard of Lauren Dane’s writing via fellow ROOB-reviewer Leontine whose raving reviews put Lauren Dane on my to-watch list but I hadn’t had the compelling urge to reading her work yet. There were other books whose pull on me was much harder. Now I stand corrected though, because after reading LAID BARE I know I will be reading more of Lauren Dane’s work soon and I am glad I have some of her books in my possession already.
Back to LAID BARE and my review of it. It is the story of Todd Keenan and Erin Brown. They meet when rock chick Erin becomes Todd’s neighbor and clean-cut cop Todd is inexplicably drawn to Erin even though she is not his type. He watches her from afar and doesn’t approach her because he doesn’t want to give into the feelings of sexual dominance that pummel him every time he sets eyes on her. For Erin the situation is similar, she is intrigued by and attracted to Todd but he is so not her type. After some encouragement and baiting by her brother, Erin decides to take a chance and makes the first move. They hit it of big time and it’s all hot and heavy until Todd breaks up with Erin after a few months for fear of the intensity of their relationship and the man he becomes when he’s with Erin, a man who answers easily to his dark sexual urges when he was raised not to do so.
Ten years later their paths cross again when Todd moves back to Seattle after moving to Boston for a fresh start and a new career. He has gone through a marriage and divorce, has been in a coma after getting shot on the job and after his rehab decides to go back to his hometown to start a security consultancy company with his longtime friends Ben and Andy “Cope” Copeland.
Erin’s life hasn’t stood still in those ten years either. Her career as a rock musician took a flight and with that came fame and a very traumatic experience, one that almost destroyed her completely: she lost her only child in crossfire with an obsessed, murdering lunatic stalker. After that terrible experience she disappears from the limelight and is happy running her café, writing songs and doing studio work for her brother’s band.
The actual story starts when Todd coincidentally wanders into Erin’s café. Erin has never been far from his mind during his failed marriage and he has learned to accept the man he really is, the man he was with Erin. Todd becomes determined to make up for his mistake of breaking up with her but he is not aware that her loss has changed the way she used to go through life. While Todd embraces his feelings for Erin and wants to act on them without reserve, the trauma Erin went through has caused her to be reluctant in giving her affections. The road to their HEA is a complicated and difficult one, but it’s also one that pulls at the heartstrings and provides a lot of scorching moments.
There is so much more to this story than I could summarize without giving away too much. Some of that “more” is the fact that even though Erin and Todd’s relationship starts with just the two of them, it eventually evolves into a three-way relationship with Todd’s best friend Ben Copeland. This part of the story is wonderfully done by Lauren Dane and very believable. It is set up gradually and effortlessly imbedded in the story, easing the reader into it alongside the characters and making it easy to accept the M/M part of it. For a reader like me, with no fascination for M/M erotica and little to no experience with M/M sex scenes, the ones in LAID BARE were perfect. While I don’t care much for M/M erotica the concept of M/F/M erotica does fascinate me and I must say Lauren Dane’s M/F/M action in LAID BARE ranks pretty high on my scale.
Next to the sizzling erotic scenes Lauren Dane wrote some very likable characters in this book. Erin has a free spirit that even a traumatic loss could not destroy. Though she went through a rough time after the loss of her child, she didn’t lose her straightforward, candid and direct character. She is very comfortable with her sexuality, doesn’t hide her desires and is willing to go for the unconventional.
Todd’s true character doesn’t come out until the reunion part of the book. In the first chapter he is the perfect gentleman, nice and controlled, keeping his emotions on a tight leash. Before his return to Seattle he has learned that life is to short and precious to hide his true character and out comes the man he always was: sexually confident and a bit bossy, giving into the desires that were always inside him.
Ben is the glue that keeps both Erin and Todd in check. He is as bossy, protective and dominant as Todd is but in a way that is more smooth and easy going. His character developed the most during the story. Going from Todd’s best friend to being Todd and Erin’s lover was a logical step but one he has to come to terms with, with both himself and his family.
It’s not only Ben who has to find his way and place the relationship, so do Todd and Erin. They accept it but there are moments in the story where they seriously think about the consequences of their choices. I loved Lauren Dane’s believable portrayal of this in the book. I was so glad she kept it realistic and genuine, making the three-way relationship something that they did not carelessly commit to and something hard to accept for some family members instead of everybody magically and easily accepting it.
If I ever read a book where the balance between the characters, both between hero, heroine and the characters supporting them, was perfectly done then LAID BARE was it. The secondary cast comprises mostly family members of Erin, Todd and Ben and a few people from their past and present environment. Their interactions have a hint of witty banter in them, even when the dialogues take on a heavy emotional tone. Even in painful and emotionally distressing dialogues there is that hint of banter no matter if it is dialogue between Todd, Ben and Erin or one of them with a secondary character. I really liked this and it made the book richer in depth and made it an erotic romance that is so much more than a string of erotic scenes interspersed by a plot.
Even though Todd and Ben took center stage as leading male characters, their brothers also most certainly caught my attention. From Lauren Dane’s website I understand that Erin’s older brother Brody has his own story due in January 2010 but I would also love to see a story on Erin’s younger brother Adrian and I hope Ben’s younger brother Cope will get his own story too.
It’s difficult to capture in words what this book did to me as a reader. I think it should be read to be experienced. I started out admiring how good Lauren Dane was in describing the attraction and sexual tension between Erin and Todd and before long I was completely swept away by the way she combined emotionally complex feelings and situations with erotic scenes that melted the pages. What kept coming to mind while reading was that this was an exceptionally hot and emotionally intense read. On one page I would be moved to tears by situations and dialogues that just broke my heart and on the next I would be fanning myself at the sizzling eroticism. And all in a pace that kept me glued to the pages. Lauren Dane took me from one emotional and erotic high to another, with deliciously witty dialogues and banter in between the highs.
The richness and layering of the story came not only from the secondary characters and the dialogues. The things that also did it for me were the characterization, the eroticism and the perfect combination of the two. I really got to know Erin, Todd and Ben, knew their fears and desires, their insecurities and their likes and dislikes. Next to that I was treated to some original erotic scenes that were tastefully and lascivious at the same time. It takes a talented author to capture that exquisite balance and make it work without tipping the scale to either side. This all made LAID BARE a full circle story that excelled in eroticism and character development.
For me LAID BARE was a unique blend of deep emotions, raw sexuality and storytelling capable of keeping me reading until the last page was read and making me crave more now that I’ve reached the end. It was sweet, funny, sad and intensely erotic, all packaged in a book worth savoring.
The intricate tattoo on her belly connected to the one covering most of her back. The tree of life. On her belly lay roses and ivy. They embodied her. Sharp, barbed and yet beautiful and essential. Sweet and intoxicating.
He looked at her. Into her. She felt bare to her bones. His scent rose from his skin, heady and warm. He smelled different than she remembered. This was . . . She leaned in just a bit, giving in to her needs . . . deep and dark. A man who worked with his body; clean sweat, sex, alluring, something she wanted to lick.
“You’re thinking, Erin. It’s like a movie, watching your face. Don’t run from me. I’ll come for you. I want you and you want me. Let yourself have it.” His whispered breath was hot on her ear and it sent a shiver down her side. She nearly dropped her beer from fingers gone nerveless. How did he get her so well?