Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Justine Hoffman was raised by a mother who never wanted to settle down and stay in one place, never allowed her daughter to put down roots. Consequently, Justine craves stability, and as the co-owner of a bed-and-breakfast in Friday Harbor, Washington, she strives to make her guests feel at home. The one thing she despairs of ever finding, though, is love. Justine and her mother are hereditary witches, and it turns out that when she was a child, her mother placed a geas on her, cursed her to never find love so that she would never experience the pain of loss. Justine decides to break the curse, no matter the consequences.
Jason Black is a very wealthy video game designer and reclusive mogul. When his assistant books rooms for Jason and his team at Justine's B&B, he has ulterior motives. Jason knows he has no soul, and he believes Justine's grimoire holds the key to saving him, whether she wants to loan it to him or not. He just didn't plan on falling for her first.
This book could have been so good. It's the fourth installment in a lovely series of magical realism romances, although I accidentally read it third. Unfortunately, Kleypas jumped on the 50 Shades of Grey bandwagon, opted for explicit sex scenes with bondage, and lost interest in making the characters or main relationship likeable.
The concept of Jason having no soul was muddled: supposedly all that meant was that when he died, that was just...it. No afterlife. Which really made him desperate enough to do genealogical research on hereditary witches and enlist his assistant's family's help to do the impossible, regardless of the cost to himself or anyone else? So if he was in all other ways "normal," why did he have to be such a ruthless, controlling jerk? Why are his eyes described as "fathomless...shrewd and opaque as blackstrap molasses--could have belonged to Lucifer himself"?
The fact that Jason was manipulative instead of kind completely undermined the story's central relationship. There was just no foundation for any kind of believable romance--nothing in common, no real friendship or companionship, nothing whatsoever to form a scaffolding for building a life together.
The tipping point for me, however, was when the hemp ropes came out and Justine allowed Jason to turn her into a human pretzel during a graphic sex scene. How can I put this...um, NO. A thousand times NO! There isn't anything wrong with choosing to be passive. Being tied up, restrained, unable to move, on the other hand, I find neither sexy nor erotic. All I could think was, "OW!! Use your safe word! USE YOUR SAFE WORD!!" But she never does, and then she wakes up to find him vanished, having stolen her most valuable possession. Yep. What's even better is that she only stays furious for a few days and then melts for more explicit sex when she catches up to him. Because, see, he "loves" her. Yes, indeedy--this relationship is solid!
Ugh. The more I think about this book, the more the bad parts eclipse the good parts. So I'm going to stop concentrating on this one and move on to writing my next review. (Of book 3 in this series, which I adored!)
For readers' advisors: story doorway. Do not suggest it to anyone who didn't love 50 Shades of Grey or similar titles.
View all my reviews