It took me a little while to get into Exposed, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it. Taking two characters who have obviously had pent-up feelings for each other for a while and who are part of a tight-knit friend group, and throwing them into a ‘casual’ relationship is bound to make for a good story once it gets going.
As the book opens, Brenna James has an essential problem: she’s horny. Or at least, that’s the only feeling she will own up to from her larger mess of emotions. Dissatisfied with her job and questioning her life as she watches her friends pair up, Brenna finds herself in a bar bemoaning the lack of good sex in her life. And just who should overhear her but Rye Peterson, bassist for Kill John, the band Brenna manages, and her longtime crush/nemesis.
Rye too, has carried a torch for Brenna for years. He’s tried to ignore it as she’s his friend Killian’s cousin as well as the band’s manager. But after so long on a low simmer, hearing that Brenna just wants regular hot sex with no strings attached, sends him over the edge. Not caring how desperate he sounds, Rye tells Brenna he wants to be the one to take her edge off. Resistant at first for fear of what it could do to their circle of friends, she eventually relents.
While the initial build-up to this relationship feels a little uncomfortable and awkward – a man overhearing a woman’s complaint about her love life and taking that as an excuse to pursue her despite her reservations is not exactly romantic – the strong feelings which already exist between Brenna and Rye, along with Rye’s willingness to back off when Brenna isn’t receptive, saves the story here. And once they move past that initial dance, it’s easier to see what there is to like about Brenna and Rye together. For all that they’ve been rubbing each other the wrong way for years, they know each other very well and have natural chemistry. Rye shows Brenna he truly wants to cease hostilities by going out of the way to get her favorite coffee for her, paying her extra attention, and always respecting her wishes when she speaks up. After that it’s a quick slide for her into a romance, because who wouldn’t cave to that onslaught of charm and respect?
When Brenna decides to take Rye up on his offer, the two agree to start a secret ‘sex-only’ relationship, each too chicken to admit they want more than that. But it’s not long before they’re cuddling, having sleepovers, and sharing secrets like a normal couple. Their chemistry is so strong and easy, the relationship seems to write itself. Brenna opens up to Rye about her desire for a career beyond Kill John, and Rye shares details of a personal injury which has him worried about his future as well. Despite a misunderstanding towards the end of the book, born of their struggle to communicate how important this relationship is to each of them, Rye and Brenna are clearly a good fit.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the initial premise of this book, I fell head over heels for Brenna and Rye once they got going. Although Exposed can be read as a standalone, I’d recommend reading the VIP series in order as the first two books are some of my favorites by Kristen Callihan, and it makes the character cameos that much more fun when you have the backstory. Fans of the series will definitely enjoy this latest entry.