Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Naughty by Lena Matthews

TITLE: The Good, the Bad, and the Naughty
AUTHOR: Lena Matthews
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 28k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.99

When her right-hand man gives his notice, lingerie designer Maryam James finds herself at a loss on how to replace him. The trick of it is, though, Xavier has no desire to actually leave. He just wants Maryam to realize how badly she needs him off the clock, too…

I knew going into this story that it would focus primarily on the sex. I just wasn’t expecting the sex to be the weakest part of the story.

Maryam James is a high-pressure designer with even higher standards, both for herself and for those around her. Few can put up with her, but her assistant/right-hand man Xavier Sun handles her better than she can handle herself. They’ve been working together for seven years, but now, Xavier has given his notice, and she has four weeks to find his replacement. She doesn’t want to. Nobody can replace Xavier, but he’s not budging in his decision. For Xavier, it’s a deliberate ploy. He wants Maryam to finally admit to herself that there’s something between them. Leaving is meant to force her hand. But his plans get fast-tracked when an impromptu kiss leaves them both breathless.

There was never any doubt this story was meant to focus on the erotic. I mean, it’s a het romance from Loose Id, written by Lena Matthews. I knew all this going in. I was prepared for it. What I wasn’t prepared for was being turned off by the eroticism rather than vice versa. This author has worked for me in the past, and I adore the hotness potential between the two leads – Maryam is African-American, and Xavier is Asian/European – but the actual execution left a lot to be desired. Its primary fault is that it ultimately tries too hard. For instance, in an effort to keep the prose as varied as possible (since so much of it is sex and repetitive), there are more euphemisms than I generally like. The sex pretty much lost me at “crinkled star” in the anal scene. The attempts at dirty talk always felt over-the-top and unrealistic, even within the context of such a fantasized scenario. That’s because the author had already set up a very realistic contemporary feel with the banter between her two protagonists in the non-erotic scenes. Their dialogue was often funny and unforced, flowing far better than anything created within the sexual escapades, and the contrast ultimately lowers any heat their coming together might have created for me.

It took me a while to warm to Maryam, too. Frankly put, she’s a bitch at the top of the story. She knows it. Xavier knows it. I didn’t like her. My opinion didn’t change until I got to see her through Xavier’s more knowing eyes. His perspective turned her from a harridan into someone human, and I could finally relax and enjoy their chemistry. Or at least, I could until they hit the sheets.

By the end of the story, I found myself wishing it had been done for a different publisher that didn’t have as much emphasis on the sex. Perhaps somewhere else, the characters could have spent more time outside of the bedroom (and the shower, and her desk…) and grown into the people they had the potential to be, but ultimately were not.


7/10 – Fun banter makes up for the over-the-top sex scenes


6/10 – I always felt like there was more there that we never got to see


6/10 – My first reaction of what a bitch was tempered by Xavier’s perspective

Entertainment value

5/10 – Oddly enough, too much sex because it was definitely the weaker aspect of the story

World building

5/10 – Not a whole lot of attention paid to it



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