Liquid Silver Books, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-62210-212-9
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Helsinki is not a common setting for an erotically charged contemporary story, but there you go, The Sanctuary. Oh, don’t mind the synopsis offered by the publisher too much. It makes Arika Stone’s story seem like it’s all about sex and fetish, but The Sanctuary is a very traditional love story at heart. It may have the heroine telling the story from her point of view, but there is little typical new adult overtones here. There is sex, but not much sex trauma or sexy rape drama.
Anyway, this is Eve Lauren’s story. She is currently taking a break from her fiancé Jude, whom she discovered earlier to be fiddling with other women’s cookie jars, only to bump into Helsinki’s resident creative bad boy Val Ruska. That’s basically it for the story. They fall into bed pretty quickly, and apparently it’s love, but with him being a rock star, Eve is understandably not sure as to how she’s going to fit into his life.
While The Sanctuary seems like another rock band story, and in many ways that’s exactly what it is, this one is rather interesting in that there is minimal angst and melodramatic hand-wringing flying around. Eve and Val have a pretty smooth thing going at first – at first – and there are some unexpectedly sweet moments to be had here. Val can be very romantic kind of guy, and the absence of misogyny and mommy-hate is most refreshing. Eve doesn’t grate on my nerves, which is a plus, and she seems like a self-aware sort at first.
However, this is a full-length story, and this becomes a problem when the relationship gets neatly wrapped up with bows and happy endings and all, only to have still some way to go to the last page. The author decides to add in conflict, and that’s when things become rocky. Eve starts listening to even the dumbest things Jude tells her, and this creates plenty of friction between her and Jude. Of course, no relationship is free from disagreements, unless one half of the couple is an inanimate object, but here, the conflict feels very contrived, artificial, and annoying. This conflict also sets back Eve’s character considerably, as she goes from someone I can root for to someone who could use a brain transplant. The sad thing here is that the author could have still pulled things off, considering that Eve’s insecurities feel real enough to me. It’s just that the author uses Jude as a plot device, and Jude comes off as so transparent and, hence, Eve ends up being such a dumb-dumb.
Oh well, I guess that’s just how it is at the end of the day. The Sanctuary isn’t a bad read at the end of the day. Despite all the marketing hype about hot sex and what not, there’s still enough sweetness and tenderness here to balance the hot stuff with some heartfelt moments, and the more naughty moments feel like natural, organic developments in the relationship instead of just scenes added in to meet the heat quota. It’s too bad the last third or so of the book never matches up to the rest of the book, and it also doesn’t deliver a good pay-off. Sigh.