Some authors have a truly distinctive voice. I’d definitely place Charlotte Stein in that category. Her intense storytelling and offbeat characters, amplified by phrasing that almost veers into stream-of-consciousness, definitely stands apart from much of what I read. I’ve enjoyed a few of her works in the past, but wasn’t quite sure her Under the Skin books would be quite my brand of fantasy. However, when I saw Heather Stanton’s DIK review of Forbidden, I knew I had to jump in. Taken is by turns goofy and intense, and the final product is unforgettable.
As the story opens, readers will think they have stumbled into some dark and perhaps about-to-get-kinky suspense. Rosie, a college student who needs to rethink her choice of friends, has come to a rare books shop with a friend and they start a little fire. The mastermind gets away, but burly shop owner Johann (“Han”) grabs Rosie and before she knows it, she’s handcuffed to a bed in the basement.
And then suddenly, everything somehow changes. Instead of dark suspense, we get social awkwardness and glimmers of humor as Rosie and her captor banter with one another. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s odd, but something about their awkward earnestness and flirtation blends with the edginess of the situation to create an oddly sweet story.
And not only is it goofy and sweet, but Taken is also pretty hot stuff. Rosie and Han don’t have any actual sex scenes until pretty far into the story. However, the conversation between the two keeps ratcheting up the sexual tension and so, in some ways, the story felt very sexual long before the lovers’ first touch.
The mixture of hot love scenes and endearingly awkward, sometimes cringeworthy, leads made this story quite a fun read. The initial setup of the heroine being forcibly abducted and handcuffed to a bed was one I found initially disturbing. In many books, this would be an absolute turnoff. However, Stein managed to believably establish her hero as someone who meant no real harm to the heroine early enough in the story for the reader to enjoy the building relationship without wondering if Han would turn out to be a dreaded rapist “hero.”
So many erotic romances play up darkness and angst. If you’d like a hot read that mixes emotional intensity with enough humor to make the hero and heroine seem human and approachable, Taken is definitely worth trying. Don’t be put off by the fact that this novella is part of a series; It stands alone just fine.