Devoted to Pleasure
Shayla Black opens up her new series about bodyguards and the women they love with her hot new contemporary romance, Devoted to Pleasure.
Professional body guard, ex-soldier and all around nice dude Cutter Bryant is desperately protective of his quasi-adopted sister, Brea Bell, who has been impregnated by his criminal-leaning co-worker One Mile. One Mile bartered Brea’s body for Cutter’s life when Cutter was stuck in a hostage situation without back-up. Brea, who was a virginal preacher’s daughter before this, is in an awful mess now that she’s pregnant, so Cutter has vowed to do the right thing and help her out by marrying her, in spite of the protestations of his brother, who suggests that Cutter is avoiding living his own life. And while Brea doesn’t really want to marry Cutter, she does want to quell the gossip that surrounds her. Cutter refuses to be like his charming bounder of a father, and wants to be a good, responsible husband, which is why he’s taking one more lucrative body-guarding job before retiring and settling down with Brea for good. Not that he’s proposed yet.
Soap opera actress Shealyn West, star of Hot Southern Nights, is hiding a dirty secret – she’s in a fake-for-PR relationship with her co-star and onscreen romantic partner Tower Trent, who is in love with someone else; and on top of that she’s been caught on a hidden camera having sex with her ex-bodyguard. When she’s blackmailed over it, her agent hires Cutter when things get too threatening, while Shaelyn plans to make a money drop-off to nip it all in the bud. She’s busy enough worrying about her little sister Maggie, who’s caught between two men, and the antics of her various co-workers.
Unfortunately, Shaelyn and Cutter are instantly attracted to one another. Soon Cutter has to choose between doing his job and doing Shaelyn, and sex-starved Shaelyn has to be very careful not to let on about the fake relationship with Tower. But what will Cutter do about Brea? And as violent threats toward her escalate, what will Shaelyn do about her blackmailer/stalker?
I have to give Ms. Black credit for swerving me here; I was pretty sure Cutter and Brea would be our main pair for the first twenty pages. However, that was the best twist that the book had to offer; much of the rest of Devoted to Pleasure is a standard bodyguard-based erotic romance.
Shealyn is a fine, inoffensive heroine, but I didn’t really bond with her; she’s the typical stock-in-trade actress character who can’t stand the isolation of fame and secretly yearns for her cowpoke Texas home. There are some new twists – like a dysfunctional childhood, and the poor luck she had in trusting her previous bodyguard – but she’s pretty bland.
Cutter is your standard cookie-cutter(!) alpha male ex-soldier type; honorable to a fault, possessive, stereotypically manly to a fault and uber-horny. His code of honor about protecting Brea makes him interesting, but it’s hard to see a man whose reaction to watching Shealyn’s sex tape is to bone up and get jealous and brag that certainly he’d never leave her unsatisfied as a ‘nice guy’.
Their connection is basically driven by sex. Instead of getting to know each other, their relationship is based on assumptions – “he seems like a strong man – he was a soldier” or “’She seems unpretentious unlike other actors” . They act like aggressive assholes toward each other for the majority of the book and are frequently combative and I couldn’t believe in their HEA when it finally arrived.
Black’s plotting is fairly tight and sharp, the character voice is overtly, loudly horny and her pop culture references are fun (Hot Southern Nights is clearly a pastiche of the soap Nashville). There is next to no chance that Shealyn and Cutter are gonna keep it solely professional thirty pages into the novel (he gets alpha-jealous over her right away, and his big tip-off that Tower isn’t into her is Tower’s polite respectfulness on-set during a love scene – i.e he doesn’t stare at Shealyn’s ass in a professional setting), but the author does a decent job of keeping the sexual tension taut between the pair. The suspense plot is decent, if over-the-top soapy.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block is the Brea plot. By the end of the book I was hoping the girl would find some kind of relief from her endless slate of misery, while Shealyn and Cutter play hide the cannoli. The whole mess surrounding her and One Mile is icky, and the author strongly hints another book in the series might be about them. Protip to authors: there’s nothing romantic about a man who sexually coerces a woman into having sex with him.
Devoted to Pleasure is a perfectly average, decently entertaining book, but there isn’t much of a spark or uniqueness about it.