Book review of Alluring Attraction by A F Zoelle

Alluring Attraction (Illicit Illusions #1)

Ryder and Hunter are in the same classes at university, but they don’t get along. They compete for the top grades and often get into heated debates that consume large portions of class time. One night Ryder reluctantly accompanies a friend to an exclusive brothel only to find that Hunter works there. He selects Hunter, to find out if it’s really him, and they both admit to being attracted to each other. They sleep together, and a few nights later, Ryder comes back for more. Hunter isn’t working at the brothel voluntarily, and Ryder’s visits are the highlight of his nights there. Until the brother owner, Hunter’s adoptive dad, realises that Ryder and Hunter are getting too close, and threatens them both. Meanwhile, Hunter has a new co-worker that he can’t resist.

This story is told in third person omniscient point of view, which would be fine, but the point of view changes from paragraph to paragraph, and sometimes even within a single paragraph. It took me a long time to be able to move past that. Aside from that, the writing style is very good, but I definitely think the book would be greatly improved if the author was able to maintain a single viewpoint for each chapter.

‘Ryder shrugged, not really caring one way or another. “I don’t know. I mean, I guess it could belong to a relative or something?” He sounded somewhat uncertain.’

 

I thought the characters were great, and I thought Hunter was particularly strong. It would be good to be able to see some balance in Hunter’s dad, because no one is totally evil, and yet we don’t see any balance there.

The author mentions multiple times that Hunter and Ryder are rivals, but we don’t really get to see that. It’s still being mentioned at the end of the book during sappy romantic or sexual times, when the characters are WELL past thinking of each others as rivals, and it feels a bit forced. Like the author can’t think of another word to use, because boyfriend and lover don’t quite fit.

‘Letting his thumb trail from the knuckles down to the tips of Ryder’s fingers, Hunter maintained eye contact as he slowly leaned forward and reverently placed a kiss on the back of his rival’s hand.’

Although Hunter works at a brothel, I was surprise by the steamy scenes between him and Cesare. The first one felt like it was moving the story along and letting the reader know more about Hunter and the situation he was in, but the more that Hunter and Cesare were together, the more Hunter seemed to be falling for Cesare. He thought Cesare was more satisfying in bed than Ryder. At that point I was like ‘Woah, where is this story going again?’ Actually, the title of the book, Alluring Attraction, seems more suited for Hunter and Cesare than Hunter and Ryder. But Cesare isn’t even mentioned in the blurb. I’m so confused!

‘Being with Ryder was its own form of incredible pleasure, but getting fucked by Cesare was physically gratifying all the way to the core of Hunter’s soul.’

The book finished without resolving anything. At this point, Hunter could end up with Ryder, he could end up with Cesare, or the three of them could decide to get together. Who knows?

I think the story has potential. If the point of view issue was fixed, it’d be an easy read. Aside from that one (major) issue, the writing style is great. The story has good pace and a perfect level of conflict to keep the reader engaged. The main characters are interesting and likeable, and it would be easy enough to add some depth to Christophe. I’m just not sure where Cesare fits into things. And ugh, cliffhangers. I gave the book two stars because I think it needs some more editing.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Cliffhangers and ‘Happy for now’

‘I am confident that, in the end, common sense and justice will prevail. I’m an optimist, brought up on the belief that if you wait to the end of the story, you get to see the good people live happily ever after.’ ~ Cat Stevens

I read romance novels almost exclusively. Within the primary romance genre, I read virtually every subgenre there is, with some being more favoured than others, of course. I read romance because I demand my ‘happily ever after’, and the romance genre is the only genre that promises this. Or does it? I have been noticing a trend lately in the romance genre for books to have either cliffhangers or end with the couple ‘happy for now’. Most often, these books are followed by a sequel where the couple continue their relationship, and may or may not arrive at their ‘happily ever after’. Is it a ploy to get readers to buy more books? A natural consequence of readers delving more deeply into characters’ lives so the stories take more than a single book to tell? Or do romance readers no longer care about ever after? We live in a world where instant gratification is demanded by so many, and where the future is a distant, intangible thing that will sort itself out. Are these books a result of the world in which we now live?

‘The magic is as wide as a smile and as narrow as a wink, loud as laughter and quiet as a tear, tall as a tale and deep as emotion. So strong, it can lift the spirit. So gentle, it can touch the heart. It is the magic that begins the happily ever after.’ ~ Walt Disney

This is something that I have been pondering for some time, and another theory has occurred to me. With the proliferation of ebooks and self-published books, there are huge quantities of novels coming onto the market all the time. Far more than have ever been available previously. Perhaps many of these books have romance as a subgenre, rather than a primary genre.

Let’s look at Nalini Singh’s hugely successful Guild Hunter series, which is marketed as ‘paranormal romance’. The first book features Raphael and Elena as the primary characters. The second book also features Raphael and Elena as the primary characters. In fact, so do the third, sixth, ninth and eleventh books in the series. So they didn’t get their ‘happily ever after’ in the first book. So are these books paranormal fiction first, and romance second? Or are they paranormal romance novels that simply don’t have a ‘happily ever after’? Interestingly, the first book in the series, Angels’ Blood, is ranked in Amazon’s fantasy and horror genres, although it is highest ranked in the romance genre, in the paranormal subgenre.

The Guild Hunter series is far from the only example, just a high profile one. Share some of your examples with me, and your thoughts about them.  How do you feel about ‘romance novels’ that end on a cliffhanger or just a ‘happy for now’? Are you satisfied? Do you buy the next book in the series? Do you feel they even qualify as romance novels? Is the ‘guaranteed happily ever after’ gone from the genre?

‘Have you thought of an ending?’ ‘Yes , several, and all are dark and unpleasant,’ said Frodo. ‘Oh , that won’t do!’ said Bilbo. ‘Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?’ ‘It will do well, if it ever comes to that,’ said Frodo.’ ~ J. R. R. Tolkien