Elizabeth Bevarly is an author I know several of my colleagues enjoy, but until now I’d never read any of her books. Most of her series books are Desires, a line I rarely read, but when I heard she had a Blaze coming out, I figured I’d give it a try. Indecent Suggestion contains some crisp prose and flashes of humor. It also moves at a dirge-like pace and has a premise that’s often embarrassing.
Becca Mercer and Turner McCloud have been best friends since the first grade. Now they work together at the same Indianapolis advertising agency, and they share a secret passion that could cost them both their jobs. In an opening that will strike some readers as cute and others as cheesy, they sneak away to a storage closet to satisfy their desire. Over much innuendo-laden banter, he asks her to light his fire. As she brings his “long, smooth rod” to her mouth, their boss walks in. They’re busted: caught smoking in the office again.
Becca decides they should go to a hypnotherapist to kick the habit. She makes a bet with Turner that he can’t go without a cigarette for a whole day. If he loses, they’ll go to the hypnotist. To make sure he doesn’t welch, she shows up at his apartment to keep an eye on him. This leads to the first of many long sections of introspection, where he looks at her and thinks how sexy she is, and she looks at him and thinks how sexy he is, and so on. The author is obviously trying to build the sexual tension between them, but these sections go on so long that they stopped being sexy and started to become dull. It was all I could do to keep from skimming. By the end of the third chapter I was already thinking, “Gosh, people, just do it already!”
Anyway, Turner loses the bet, and fifty pages into the book they finally get down to business. Unfortunately, they arrive very early for their 10:00 appointment. The hypnotherapist mistakenly believes they’re her 9:00 appointment, a couple having trouble consummating their marriage because of their inhibitions. So instead of hypnotizing them into not smoking, she plants a subconscious suggestion that they will be overcome with uncontrollable desire whenever they hear the word “underwear.” Wouldn’t you know it, Becca and Turner happen to be working on a big account for a lingerie company, and the word “underwear” comes up a lot.
I had several issues with this premise. First of all, as soon as the misunderstanding is introduced and the hypnotist plants the wrong suggestion, I knew everything that was going to happen in the rest of the book. The plot is obvious, from the sex that follows, to the inevitable dark moment when they learn the truth, to the easy resolution that will get them past it. The author never steps off that predictable path for a moment. Combined with how slowly it moved, the story already had two strikes against it.
My biggest problem with the premise, though, is that Becca is affected by the hypnosis and Turner isn’t. It might have worked better for me had they both been affected, two people caught up in the passions they’d been trying to deny for one another and now can’t. But the unbalanced nature of the relationship made me very uncomfortable. While his reactions to her are all natural, she has no control over anything she does. There’s never a sense she’s conscious of what she’s doing as she throws herself at him. She’s just this crazed nymphomaniac who will do anything to have him, no matter what the circumstances are at that moment.
There’s a deeply humiliating sequence that takes place after Becca and Turner have made their presentation to the lingerie people. This is a pivotal moment that could make or break their careers. Naturally the word “underwear” is dropped, and Becca becomes incredibly horny. She starts groping Turner under the table. In front of her boss and the lingerie executives, she tells him in a stage whisper for everyone to hear, “I need to talk to you. Outside…I need you right now.” When her boss tersely tells her that whatever it is, it can wait, she shoots back, “Excuse me, Mr. Englund, but you know, you don’t always know everything, you know? You know?” Apparently the posthypnotic suggestion not only made her reckless, it made her stupid and incoherent as well. There may be readers who find it funny or sexy to see a professional woman making a fool of herself in a business setting. I was just embarrassed for her.
For the most part, the sex is as hot as promised, and the author gets off some funny lines. The characters are somewhat likable, though also underdeveloped. But watching this woman put her job in jeopardy and act like an idiot because she can’t control herself made me uneasy, and the predictable and very slow nature of the plot didn’t help matters. Until now, most of the author’s series books have been short contemporaries. This book feels very much like one of those, just padded with tons of introspection to fill out the required word limit of a longer series book. The story itself is very simple. The endless introspection could have been reigned in without really changing anything. That would have made for a stronger book, although maybe not quite strong enough to overcome the questionable premise. Indecent Suggestion isn’t quite indecent, but I can’t say it was satisfying either.