Desert Isle Keeper
Uncommon Passion is one of my very favorite romances. I’ve read it again and again—it’s my favorite of Calhoun’s books and has been since it was first published in 2013. It’s a virgin/rake story and, like the best of that trope, is a testament to the redemptive power of love.
Rachel Hill, age 25, has recently escaped the Elysian Fields Community of God, an isolated religious community in rural Texas where she grew up. Rachel left Elysian Fields because, as she says,
They needed me to be someone I am not. They expected me to surrender all choice and control in my life to God, and if God’s direction wasn’t clear, my pastor or my father would explain it to me.
One choice Rachel’s never made is to touch or be touched by a man. In Elysian Fields, all sexual contact is saved for marriage and Rachel, who stayed stubbornly unwed, is a virgin in every sense of the word. Rachel’s ready to change that and, one night, while working at a charity bachelor auction, Rachel decides she’s ready to get rid of her virginity (and a large swath of her savings) by bidding Ben Harris, a sexy SWAT officer up for auction. Ben looks to Rachel like the perfect man for the job.
Perfect, because she’d just bet two thousand dollars that he had no interest in a relationship, no sense that sex was something special reserved for the marriage bed, no inclination to call again.
Ben doesn’t give a fuck. Not about anything but his job and his brother. He sure as shit doesn’t give a damn about the women he screws. But when he wakes up the morning after bedding Rachel, he’s first shocked and then furious to see blood on his cock. He tracks Rachel down and asks her what the hell she thought she was doing. She tells him her virginity was hers to lose and, anyway, she didn’t think he would know or care. Ben, angry and intrigued, tells her he wants another shot, that he’s got what she needs.
“You don’t know what I need,” she said as she glanced toward the barn….
“I remember,” he said without lowering his voice, “how you were shaking under me at the end. Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t need more.”
She went still again, stiller than he thought possible….
“I want an explanation. You want to do it again. Longer. Slower. Hotter. This time we’ll both get what we want.”
Ben, who has slept with so many women he can’t remember their faces let alone their names, finds making love with Rachel disorienting. For him, sex is a means to keep emotion at bay. Fucking Rachel is terrifyingly different.
Rachel uses sex the way she uses everything: as an implement for self-discovery. As Ben watches Rachel push herself to experience all she was denied at Elysian Fields, Ben starts to see himself differently. Rachel lives life authentically and Ben, whose self-imposed limits are destroying him, finds himself longing for what Rachel demands for herself.
It’s profoundly satisfying to watch Rachel evolve. Every experience Rachel has, whether it’s watching the way the Texas A&M boys working at the farm for the summer play poker or taking in the expressions of amateur poets at open-mike night at her favorite bookstore in Galveston, Rachel uses it to build on what she’s previously seen and felt. Rachel doesn’t need rescuing–she’s compently and curiously creating a life with meaning.
It’s Ben who needs saving. His reckless bravado hides a complex, angry man. He’s estranged from his family and has spent years punishing himself and his father. The man he is in the beginning of the novel is sexy to Rachel–and to the reader–because of his confident diffidence. But the Ben the novel slowly reveals, the man Ben begins to understand he can be, that man, a Ben loves and lets himself be loved, is spellbinding.
Ms. Calhoun’s writing thrills. Every scene feels necessary to the storytelling; her descriptions broaden the novel’s emotional scope. The sex scenes are lush, erotic, and singular. The pacing layers the narrative; the ending holds a sense of sweet inevitability. If you’ve not read Calhoun or if you’re just searching for a love story with verve and heft, check out Uncommon Passion. It’s superb.