Desert Isle Keeper
Willing Victim: Remastered
Kink alert! Willing Victim is definitely not a book for everyone, but if you’re interested in a gritty, kinky book with a heart, it’s a great read. I was excited to hear that Cara McKenna had regained the publishing rights to some of her older books and would be releasing re-vamped eBooks of each. Willing Victim is the first up so I knew it was time for another read of this novella.
I think that this was the first book I ever (digitally) picked up that came with a warning label. McKenna makes it clear that the story may prove troublesome for some readers, as it features scenes of consensual rape role-play. After seeing that, I was actually more surprised by the fact that the first sex scene of the book features the heroine watching the hero with another woman rather than the role-play aspect; but more on that later.
Laurel has a chance meeting with a big, brawny guy named Flynn and asks him out. He’s cagey about responding, but invites her to watch him fight one night. Flynn is expecting that the basement fight club beneath a bar will scare Laurel away, but she is intrigued by the rawness of the event and is drawn to Flynn’s intense masculinity. As she’s watching him fight, she gets drawn into a conversation with the female bartender. As it turns out, this lady has plans to go home with Flynn for their regular evening of rough sex, and she invites Laurel along to watch. Laurel is totally out of her element, but agrees to accompany Flynn and the bartender back to his apartment, if only to find out exactly how rough Flynn really is.
When I read a review of the first edition of Willing Victim that mentioned the voyeur scene, I expected to be shocked or bothered by it. I have read other erotic novels where the hero or heroine gets it on with a third party, and sometimes it works and sometimes it’s off-putting. The way that McKenna handles the scene makes it sexy rather than jarring. Laurel is so drawn into Flynn and watching him, that the bartender becomes an accessory to Flynn’s seduction of Laurel. She is picturing herself in the other woman’s place and wants nothing more than to try out this role-play for herself.
As for the rape fantasies, they actually aren’t too bad. Flynn gets off on women struggling a little, or being bound, and the parameters for this play are laid out beforehand, so it’s obvious that it is consensual and safe for all parties involved. Had Flynn started smacking around or choking Laurel, I probably would have been done with the book, but instead, the rape fantasy is mostly Laurel pretending to resist. I can understand that some readers would be bothered by even that, but I didn’t think it was bad.
What makes this book an DIK is the amount of heart that lies beneath all the sex. Flynn is a real tough guy; he makes it clear to Laurel that he is okay with their arrangement being sex-only, and if she wants to end things he will accept that answer. However, the reader starts to see that there is more there than he admits. He sees the walls that Laurel puts up and points out that that she is actually the one keeping them from being more than just a hook-up. The scene where the two finally come to terms with the emotional growth of their relationship gets me every time I read it.
“You’re the nice, smart, hot, funny woman I’m sleeping with. If that’s still true in a couple weeks, and maybe you throw in a night when we sleep together but don’t get around to fucking…yeah, I’d probably tell people you’re my girlfriend.”
Flynn and Laurel’s romance isn’t typical, but it seems like exactly the way two scarred people who got together through a scenario that started with watching the guy have sex with someone else, would come to fall in love. It isn’t the happily ever after one would expect from most books, but it’s the perfect one for this book.
I’ve read the original version of Willing Victim twice, and as far as I can tell the biggest change to the remastered edition is that the ending is beefed up to give a little more romance and closure to the story, which is a nice touch.
If you’re a fan of erotica, and aren’t easily shocked by the taboo, I highly recommend Willing Victim. McKenna is always a winner for me and I look forward to acquiring the other backlist titles that she puts out.