by Delilah Dawson, contemporary (2008)
St Martin's Press, $13.95, ISBN 978-0-312-36936-1
Ouch, Up All Night is so hot, it should have come with a warning so that I will know to put on my asbestos gloves in advance. Delilah Dawson's previous two titles are spicy contemporary romances, but this one sees her trying to take on the likes of Zane and Sasha White for the throne. This is one of those stories that make me feel like I ought to read this book behind closed doors or people will notice the flush on my face and realize just what kind of story I'm reading.
Natasha Madison is not ready for a relationship, given that she has plenty of psychological baggage stemming from a lifelong valiant attempt to please her attempts and a recent busted relationship with an unfaithful boyfriend. Still, as a favor for a friend, she decides to sign up as a guinea pig for The Orchid Soul, an online matchmaking service that will pair you up with a person whose sexual fantasy matches yours the best. Things go wrong, as beta software always tend to do, and Natasha realizes that she is not an anonymous as she initially thought she'd be. Worse, she's been paired with hot Logan Taylor, who pretty much dares her to indulge in her sexual fantasy with him. Before long, these two are doing all kinds of really naughty things both behind closed doors and in public places. The tricky part is, of course, keeping their emotions in check.
Oh my goodness, I could have burst into flames while reading that scene in the pool room, I tell you. Anyone who claims that playing pool is a boring game clearly has not read this scene. What could have been a hilarious James Bond fantasy turns out to be a steaming hot scene as "Mr Harden McCock" gets punished for being an impertinent bad boy. As an erotic read, this one delivers both the main course and the dessert with style.
I have to warn you guys, though, Natasha is a pretty difficult heroine to follow. The gender roles are reversed here. Natasha plays the role normally associated with the hero - she's the one who refuses to fall in love and she is the last to admit her feelings to the other person. Logan plays the very patient nurturer and supportive boyfriend role here on top of being the sex guru from Planet Yummy Yum-Yum.
The problem here is that while I can understand where Natasha is coming from, I have a harder time believing that Logan can find her abrasive attitude attractive. Natasha is happy enough to play along with Logan's seductive games, but once she's had her fun, she will lash out at him without fail, every time, to the point that Logan comes off like a masochist of some sort to keep coming back for more of such treatment. Won't he feel... used, after a while? Natasha takes everything from him and gives back very little, unless you count post-coital frostbite, in return.
Perhaps it is better to view this story as an escapist fantasy rather than a straightforward romance. Just like how big boys win the woman by breaking things up and beating up the bad guys in movies aimed at men, in this story the fantasy aimed at women is that a woman can sulk, treat the man badly, take him for granted, and take her time making baby steps towards becoming her own woman and the man will still be there, waiting in the wings and patiently loving her because everything is about Natasha. Logan is not just a hero, he's an impossibly perfect fantasy man. He gives great orgasms in bed, always attuned that he is to the woman's pleasure first and foremost; he is a sensitive and understanding man who always says and does the right thing to make the woman feel as if she's the queen of the universe; he is fabulously rich... and you know he will never grow old or flabby. Some of the non-sexual scenes here where he comforts Natasha are actually more potently erotic in a way than the hottest love scenes because in those scenes, I'd feel compelled to marry Logan myself if he were real. He's that good, people. I want three of him.
The heroine is quite a challenge on my patience, I must admit, because there are many times when I feel that she is being unreasonable and even ridiculous. But still, with all those erotic love scenes and a hero that is to die for, I'm not exactly complaining too much here.
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