Passion & Ink
If you do a social media survey of which current romance authors write the hottest sex scenes, there’s a more than reasonable likelihood that Naima Simone will be on that list. Her tales run the gamut from suspenseful, to emotional, to fun and flirty but never fail to entertain. With her entries in the Sweetest Taboo series, she skirts the line of forbidden romance in steamy, thought-provoking stories. Passion & Ink stars a couple bonded by family who must carve out their own happy ending, no matter the consequences.
Cypress ‘Ro’ Winters doesn’t belong in a dead end bartending job but since she moved back home after quitting her previous high-paying position due to systemic sexual harassment, it’s her current life. Well, that, and taking care of her mother, who is still recovering from a heart attack and surgery, not to mention a broken heart. So when an anonymous stranger, a devilishly handsome man, tempts her into a no holds barred one night stand, she’s ready and willing. One night, no last names, no future.
Jude Gordon can’t forget Ro and their night together. But it turns out he might have to when his stepfather’s daughter, a woman he hasn’t seen for ten years – since they were both teenagers – who has moved back from L.A., comes over for dinner – and it’s Ro. It’s too late to prevent them from sleeping together, and even knowing they are step-siblings can’t stop their attraction to each other. But Cypress’ father Dan can see there’s something between them, and he won’t have it. He’s promised to pay his ex-wife’s medical bills but he’ll cut off all funds if he suspects Jude and Cypress of behaving ‘inappropriately’, not to mention how their other family members will react to their being together. Will Cypress and Jude find their happy ending comes with too steep a price?
The author quickly sets the tone to show Cypress’s struggle to get through another day. It’s no wonder that the appearance of Jude and his interest in her is a much needed escape, even if only temporarily. Jude has expectations of clear consent in all their interactions which gives Cypress a measure of control that she’s been missing, and the chance to experience a night of steamy sex on her terms. Finding out he’s her stepbrother (yes, a bit hard to believe they didn’t recognize each other at all) and her father’s ultimatum to keep away from Jude dampens her lust, but doesn’t kill it, especially when she ends up needing a place to stay and Jude’s house happens to have several empty bedrooms. Suffice it to say that a large portion of the story is made up of passionate sexy scenes cementing their growing feelings for each other.
But there is more to the story than that. One of the key themes is relationship breakdowns and the obsession that can result. Cypress’s mother never got over Dan leaving her for another woman (Jude’s mother) and Cypress was left to pick up the pieces as a young teenager. Her mother would take any overture in her direction – even a phone call – as a sign to hope he might come back to her, to the point where Cypress chose to cut her father out of her life rather than watch her mother go through the emotional turmoil every time he wouldn’t come back home. Even now, Cypress would prefer to have nothing to do with Dan, but she needs the money for her mother’s bills. Keeping her contact with him a secret is vital, as is hiding her relationship with Jude which could set her mother on a relapse.
There is also an ex-girlfriend of Jude’s who is stalking him, convinced that he’ll come back to her. She makes scenes in public places and threatens suicide. This is particularly painful for Jude, as his mother had attempted suicide when he was younger and he’d been the one to find her, get her help, and keep the episode secret. He suffers from PTSD as a result, with panic attacks that occasionally overwhelm him. He is also dealing with the death of his younger brother and the estrangement of his older brother Knox from the family due to his relationship with the widow of his dead brother (their story is in Sin & Ink). That’s a lot of stress and he’d planned an overseas trip that is fast approaching, making his growing feelings for Cypress an added complication.
Clearly there’s a lot of emotion and angst in this story but the author does a great job of having the characters work through their issues and find compromises and strength to deal with their family members, standing up for themselves and their right to be together. Insta-lust eventually turns into real love and commitment. If you like erotic romances that delve equally into emotional entanglements as well as the bedsheets, Naima Simone should be on your to-read shelf.