Friday, 5 October 2012

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Bared to You (2012)
Sylvia Day
Grade: B+
Genre: erotica
Sex scenes: beyond scorching. Possibly more sex than I've ever read in a single novel
Source: own / NetGalley
Crossfire: (1) Bared to You

BE WARNED: Bared to You has more sex than even I was expecting. I didn’t count, but I’m hazarding a guess that there’s more sex and more orgasms than Fifty Shades of Grey. I was reminded of Ms Reisz’s writing with regard to the unapologetically intense nature of the sex (though nowhere near as heavy on the bdsm) and the sex in Bared to You was (IMO) more powerfully written than Fifty Shades of Grey (not difficult and review coming soon, I promise). Expect in this review: spoilers, unashamedly crude, lurid details and excerpts from scenes that will get you hot and bothered. It might get squicky. Read on at your peril.

Bared to You might not have quite reached the same ranks as Fifty Shades in terms of number of copies sold, but it’s getting there. As of now, Reflected in You, is number five in Amazon’s Top 100 bestseller charts on pre-orders alone. Crazy stuff. I predict lots of … satisfied people on October 25th. Penguin’s promotion campaigns during the summer that rode on the wave of Fifty Shades may have been a huge pain for those like me who dislike the fact that books that should be flying on their own merit are piggy-backing onto the success of Fifty Shades in order to get their names known (i.e. The Original Sinners), but that’s the fickle world of publishing for you. Anyway, Bared to You has definitely possessed me and obsessed me … a million times better than Fifty Shades could ever try to be.

Eva Trammell has recently arrived in New York to begin her new job in an up-and-coming advertising agency. She’s living with her gorgeous bisexual best friend, Cary Taylor who’s fast becoming the new face of fashion. The apartment they’re sharing may have been paid for by Eva’s mega-rich stepfather, but she’s landed herself a fantastic first job in the city that never sleeps – she’s not complaining.

The first time Eva meets Gideon Cross, she lands on her ass – literally. He’s sinfully good-looking, rich as Croesus and owns the building she works in; miles out of her league – or so she thinks. Their attraction is instant and sizzling and Gideon is not used to being turned down. Eva may be offended by his crude propositions:

“Are you sleeping with anyone?”
I inhaled sharply. “Why is that any business of yours?” …
“Because I want to fuck you, Eva. I need to know what’s standing in my way, if anything.”

but she’s no meek daisy and knows how to stand on her own and respond to him with her own fire. This is one of my favourite lines: “Why even call it a fuck? Why not be clear and call it a seminal emission in a pre-approved orifice?” Best. Comeback. Ever.

Eva may be offended by Gideon’s complete disregard for the niceties required in a normal relationship, but she wants him as much as he wants her and once they have that first taste, they can’t get enough of each other. But Eva has dark secrets haunting her past that she’s never wanted to reveal to anyone … until Gideon. Years of therapy has made Eva slowly accept that her abusive past is something she has to live with, but with every minute that is spent in Gideon’s company, Eva comes to believe that he is the one that can replace her terrible memories with positive ones …

Gideon isn’t without secrets of his own. He has a stilted relationship with his mother and her new family, not to mention a dysfunctional one with his half-brother, Christopher. His own nightmares are no more pleasant than Eva’s but he is much more reluctant to voice his feelings. As both come to realise that they are destined for each other, will Gideon bare all? Will their respective pasts be the factor that fuses them together irrevocably or tears them apart?

Having been heralded as better than Fifty Shades, I wanted to read Bared to You before I even knew what it was about. Once I did, I craved it more than before and knew that I would love it; now I know that I do. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet and Google search, I found a 40-or-so page excerpt that I just read over and over when I first found it. Considering how that excerpt ends (read it here) it was really no wonder that I was so excited to see how that scene turned out. My reaction when I saw it available on NetGalley back in mid-June was one of pure joy; but as you might have noticed, my source is ‘own.’ Seeing as it’s been over three months, I’m not expecting a response, nor do I now need one; their loss of a positive review. A free Galley is always great but I’m glad that I’ve got my own; I’ve already read parts over and over and it’s good to know that my copy will never ‘expire’.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Bared to You is a favourite, but it’s definitely made its mark. There are things that annoyed me and I’ll go into this later on, but on the whole, this was everything that I expected and more. For a start, there’s something comfortably colloquial yet endearing about Ms Day’s writing and it made the book an easy read. I was sucked into the story with all the force that you can expect to find Gideon exerting on Eva’s clit and it was very … enjoyable – the story, that is. Ms Day provides just enough hints throughout the book about Eva, Cary and Gideon’s dark and secret pasts that firstly gives you an added incentive to read on (as if the promise of hot monkey sex wasn’t enough) as well as provide the reader with a very human link to her characters that makes them real.

Eva’s headstrongness and ability to go head-to-head with Gideon in a verbal exchange are reasons why she’s a great heroine. She definitely has her faults, which I’ll get into later, but I love that she knows her mind and stands up to him where he’s completely out of line. Embarking on a sexual relationship of this nature with a man this dominating is a little risky for Eva considering her sexual history, but she does it anyway because of the intensity of the attraction she feels for him. I have a somewhat grudging, constantly wavering respect for her; she’s no one’s role model, but her strength considering her past is certainly admirable.

I mentioned in my review of Too Tempting to Resist a discussion the heroine had with her friend about words used to describe the guy’s penis. I also mentioned that Heroes and Heartbreakers had two very good articles that addressed the words used in romance novels for ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ respectively. It’s the latter that I’m going to discuss here. Ms Day doesn’t really stick to a single word in sex scenes but one that jumped out a lot was ‘cleft.’ I don’t know about everyone else, but I find myself quite averse to that word and I’m not entirely sure why. It just doesn’t sound natural and find myself a tad squicked out whenever I read it … which, with Ms Day, is a LOT.

On to the sex. Like I keep saying, there was lots of it for a 334 page novel and it was very detailed and very hot. I’m not complaining, but it did sometimes get a little old to read the same things over and over, not to mention the multiple orgasms on the parts of both parties and the amount of times that the pair have oral sex. In her defence, Ms Day knows how to write a sex scene, that’s for sure. They’re fluid, realistic, well-written and sexy as hell. She’s not afraid to mention every detail during a sex scene and whilst it may be slightly off-putting with some writers, I didn’t find this with her. There are a few that … stand out for sure amongst the haze of sexual orgies and most importantly, Ms Day knew how to use them to make them count: not just sexually, but emotionally. Eva and Gideon both have their sexual demons and Eva in particular was given the opportunity to battle her monsters in a scene that I will never forget … let’s hope that Gideon gets the same chance in Reflected in You.

Ms Day doesn’t get into the D/s stuff until the last quarter of the novel or so and I think that Eva is going to be much less … accommodating of Gideon’s sexual fantasies than even Ana in Fifty Shades is, so I’ll be interested to see what impact this has on their sex life in Reflected in You. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to be too heavy on the D/s stuff; I thought the story worked pretty well without it until Ms Day started introducing the themes and so I’d like to know her take on it over the next two books. IMO, Gideon is hot enough without too much emphasis on his position as a Dominant as opposed to his generally dominant nature; we’ll see.

Moving onto the bad points. It pisses me off to no end when we’re constantly reminded of how fucking juvenile Eva is. Laurie Gold wrote a fantastic post on Heroes and Heartbreakers (when do I not mention this site?) with a brief mention on this issue and so I’m just going to put forward my input. She just runs away EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME she has an issue. I mean, sure, Gideon is usually in the wrong (he is a guy) but the logical thing to do is to wait and confront him FIRST, then run away. Even worse is that once he does come and find her and explain, she melts straight back into his arms like putty. Well, onto his dick. Then we get onto her insecurity issues: normally, I would be on the heroine’s side and be right alongside her while she yells at the hero for even looking at another woman (Eve and Roarke, Innocent in Death, “You looked at her”, anyone?), but Eva really tops it. It’s a wonder that Cary is still her friend. Reflected in You will be interesting to see if Eva manages to grow up any.

Cary’s actions really pissed me off in the last part of the book; he started out such a sweet guy. You would think, after what he’s been through that he would want to settle down now that he’s find the perfect partner, but no. What does he go and do? Give the slut-o-meter a cause to swing into action. Yes, his and Eva’s relationship may not be one of equals, but you would hope that since Eva relies so much on the advice that Cary gives her, he would do the same with hers. Of course not; where would the fun be in that? His story will be an interesting one to watch unfold and I really hope that he manages to see sense because I would hate to see my favourite character destroy himself.

It would be a crime if I wrote this review without a mention for the covers. Below, you’ll find three versions: the original from when Ms Day self-published; the gorgeous US cover and; the UK version. They all represent something different and I’d like to take a moment to reflect on this.

  • The self-published cover is blatantly what you might expect an erotica novel to look like pre-Fifty Shades era. To be honest, there are still lots looking like this now. It plays completely on the general public’s perceptions of erotica and although it’s not the best I’ve seen, you can’t mistake its genre.
  • Moving onto the US cover, I like that while it plays on the form of Fifty Shades, it gone one step further and included … wait for it … colour. It makes so much of a bloody difference and the blues and yellows are beyond gorgeous. It’s sexy, mysterious and evocative. I love that Reflected in You has a completely different colour scheme altogether.
  • Then you’ve got the UK cover. Such a disappointment. The angle of the shoe itself looks ridiculously distorted as you can’t see the shadow of the base like you can on the spine and back cover. It’s a bad play on Fifty Shades and while I do admit to liking the flash of gold now that I own a hardcopy, it’s still just too painful when I look at the US cover and think of what could have been.

I’m unbelievably stoked for Reflected in You, but firstly, a quick mention for the change in name. Apparently, the trade thought that Deeper in You was too suggestive; I couldn’t quite believe what my eyes were reading when I came across this nugget of information. Had they not read Bared to You? Did they not know that this series is one of the most detailed, sexual and erotic books on the current market? One of the reasons that I loved the name was because of how erotic and suggestive of things to come it was – I understand that Penguin are only trying to placate their wholesale buyers and ultimately boost their own sales, but with the current takeover of erotica on recent bestseller lists, the fact that a mere title had to be de-sexualised in order for the next book to hit the shelves disappoints me deeply (couldn’t stop myself).

The comparisons between Gideon and Roarke are unbelievable. Roarke may not be a Dominant and not nearly as controlling as Gideon is, but I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Nora Roberts’ In Death while I was reading. Here are some of them:
  • They’re both multibillionaires with huge business empires that makes them the bachelor to chase. In terms of amount of money, I think that even though Naked in Death was written over 15 years ago where society had markedly different perceptions to money than now, Roarke still has the edge; but he owns half of the bloody world – need I say more?
  • As a result, both heroes garner huge amounts of media attention and so when they start dating Eva and Eve (God! I didn’t get the similarity in names until I had to type them both together! This can’t be a coincidence) respectively, both heroines find themselves the subject of unwanted attention as their names and faces are splashed across the papers and become public knowledge.
  • Gideon and Roarke are snappy dressers. Small, minor point, but I love the way Roarke dresses. When you’re one of the richest men in the world, you can afford to dress well, but both have an innate ability to know what looks good on them. Eva’s not so bad herself, but Eve is just really lucky that she has Roarke to (1) buy good clothes for her and (2) dress her in amazing outfits
  • Neither Roarke nor Gideon are afraid to admit that they’re in over their heads with their respective partners. They’ve both had their fair share of women but these haven’t even registered as blips on the radar compared to the force of what they feel for Eve and Eva respectively. More so for Roarke simply because I’ve read so much of him, but both are sweet to watch.
  • Both have troubled pasts, as do their heroines. We’ve yet to find out the details Gideon’s, but it’s clear that it’s of a sexual nature and I’m thinking that it’s going to be brutal. Roarke’s history may run more along the lines of asshole father, but it was no less important in shaping him into the man he is today.

Now for reasons that I prefer Eve and Roarke to Eva and Gideon:
  • Both Eve and Eva (God, I hate having to type their names when they are so similar!) have experienced repeated, terrible sexual assault at the hands of men they were supposed to love and trust and this has deeply affected the women they are today. I love Eve for her strength and courage and the fact that she’s battled her demons and climbed her way up the force with gritty determination and hard work; it makes her my favourite heroine ever. Eva’s a slightly different story. She was slightly older than Eve when she was first raped and so while I do sympathise for her, I can’t help but think that it would have been easier for her to fight back, whatever Eva says about being too scared to tell. This doesn’t lessen my sympathy for her nor make her history less atrocious, but Eve’s story is the more heart-breaking one, IMO.
  • I’ve just got a much bigger emotional investment with Eve and Roarke and after thirty-four full-length books, I’m not surprised. I’ve watched their unexpected relationship go beyond anything that either had ever dreamed and result in a marriage that neither knew that they needed until they found each other. They literally complete each other and their match is one of legend in the romance community. They’ll never be replaced in my heart.
  • It’s hard to compare because I’ve read over thirty In Death books and only one featuring Eva and Gideon, but even based on the first book of each series, Eve and Roarke haven’t let their collective pasts get in the way of their relationship. Yes, they’ve had their problems and yes maybe their histories have been the cause of arguments and rifts, but both are aware that they make each other stronger when they share and lean on the other. Yes, I haven’t allowed time for both Eva and Gideon to yet reach this stage, but I do hope that the time comes for this in the future.

I may not like Eva so much, but I can live with that. Ms Day writes a compelling story that drags you in and doesn’t let go until you’ve finished. Perhaps not on the same scale as Ms Reisz who comes to mind as her nearest contemporary, but miles better than Fifty Shades – take a read for yourself. It’s not to be missed.

Images: self-published; US cover; UK cover

1 comment:

  1. I have read the fifty shades trilogy and I have read the first two parts of the crossfire series. Sylvia day is a great author. The book was out of this world. It had a certain similarity to fifty shades as the trilogy inspired it but, I liked this better. It was a mix of emotions and a must read.