St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-93654-0
Contemporary Erotica, 2006
Truth or Dare aims to be an erotic contemporary romance and in its first half, it succeeds pretty well. However, the second half is… ugh. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The plot isn’t anything new, really. Accountant Sonya Drummond hits the big 30 and decides that maybe she’s been a good gal settling for boring boyfriends long enough and it’s time she has a fling of her own. Naturally, she looks like hot stuff so I have no idea why she isn’t spoiled for choices when it comes to boyfriends. She gets a makeover and embarks on a singles cruise, hoping to find a hot candidate for her fling. She has no idea that Kai Armstrong, our hero, is actually hired to “retrieve” the butterfly necklace that has come into her possession.
At first, despite the whole “I was the illegitimate child of two Harlequin Blaze novels” premise, Truth or Dare works very well because Ms Dawson manages to make the premise feels somewhat grounded in reality. The hero hiding in the heroine’s closet and ending up getting an eyeful of her testing out a vibrator could have been something straight out of a tawdry pornographic tale, for example, but here the scene feels real and therefore works because the author makes the scene works plausibly within the context of the story. Sonya may be hot stuff but she comes off clearly as a rather unadventurous person so her tepid social life can be reasonably due to a combination of her inertia as well as her hectic career.
Likewise, I like how Kai is at first so adorably male in the first half when it comes to his thoughts about sex and women in general without being too much of a chauvinist and I like how he’s determined to be professional and merely lie to Sonya instead of sleeping with her.
At first, that is. I don’t what has happened but in the second half immediately after Kai sleeps with Sonya, his personality gets shot completely to hell. From stealing Sonya’s necklace while she is asleep and running off to even trying to foist her off to the bad guys while trying to keep the necklace to himself, this man has mutated into a most unlikable little weasel who justifies his actions by making himself out as the good guy in the story. Nothing is beyond the pale for him because he’s Mr Morally High and Mighty, you know, even if he starts pawing and sleeping with Sonya despite the fact that she’s clearly a criminal ho in his mind. What happened to the guy who wanted to do the right thing in the first half of the story?
This second half is a sudden burst of action and adventure compared to the sedate first half of sensual seduction and leisurely courtship, with the two halves often feeling as if they belong to different stories altogether. Sonya gets so much crap from both Kai and external circumstances in the second half that she is pretty much a defeated person by the end of the story, getting a morale boost only in an unconvincing reunion scene with Kai where she becomes happy when he tells her that he loves her.
I don’t know. Given how this man has displayed a tendency to put himself in a moral high ground and therefore allowed himself to be a complete weasel towards her, I would seriously think hard before getting into a serious relationship with this fellow if I were her. He may go from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde again the next time he starts assuming that she’s been misbehaving behind his back.
I am especially frustrated in the second half of the story because these characters seriously need to talk but they instead have plenty of sex under bizarre timing and unsavory circumstances. The last is because Kai is so confident that Sonya is this criminal harlot that I can’t help feeling that in these sex scenes he come off treating the poor heroine like a disposable sex object. Kai has some Madonna/Whore issues that are evident even in the early half, but by the second half he clearly has a few subscriptions instead of mere issues.
Truth or Dare is an enjoyable story in its sensual first half and I like Ms Dawson’s sense of humor. I also appreciate how the author makes it clear in the story that she is aware of Kai’s less flattering moments. Then again, I don’t know why Ms Dawson allows Kai’s nonsense to continue then right up to nearly the very end since the rushed reunion is far from believable. Frankly, the second half of this story is really weak compared to the first half due to the hero’s Jekyll-and-Hyde act. I’m afraid I am really not that optimistic to believe the happily-ever-after of this story.