Wrapped in Red
The disclaimer to S.A. Clayton’s, Wrapped in Red, states that her debut erotic romance is full of “…some sexy times that lead these characters to fall instantly… hard and fast.” In the case of ‘insta-love’ novellas, I allow for a fair amount of suspended disbelief given the brevity of the medium. Although I was prepared to surrender to the throes of a whirlwind romance, I felt neither swept away, nor thrilled by the protagonists’ love affair in this book.
While en route to her ex-boyfriend Derek’s ugly Christmas sweater party, intrepid heroine J.J. meets hunky Liam sitting in his parked car. J.J. and Liam are immediately infatuated by each other’s hotness. When J.J. reveals her concern about facing Derek and his new fiancée, Liam offers to attend the party as her faux boyfriend. In return, Liam asks J.J. to accompany him to his parents’ dreaded Christmas Eve party. The couple agrees to the terms knowing that this charade will be a great excuse to flirt and touch each other… a lot.
At Derek’s holiday shindig, J.J. and Liam ferociously make out with each other. Overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, J.J. runs away from Liam in melodramatic fashion. Since they spent most of their time together kissing and undressing each other with their eyes, they forgot to exchange last names and contact info. Bereft at losing track of the one woman with whom he felt deeply connected, Liam vows to find J.J.
S.A. Clayton’s emphasis on physical desire and sex, while appreciated, does not work in favor of building a believable love story. The couple is undeniably in lust with each other, but their supposed authentic, loving connection is not clearly understood. While the frequent sex between J.J. and Liam can be categorized as ‘hot,’ the descriptions and dialogue are often repetitive. There are so many mentions of Liam’s hands “itching” to touch JJ that I wanted to give the man some hand cream.
J.J. and Liam are not entirely likable or relatable. J.J.’s feisty, stand-up attitude is admirable, but overall, I didn’t find her particularly interesting. At first, her identity appears wrapped up in her anger at her ex. Then, she is consumed by ‘crazy love’ for Liam.
A more compelling character than J.J., Liam is given a touching backstory that explores his strained relationship with his family. Even so, he is an off-putting romance hero, a needy alpha who delivers priceless gems such as, “I need to see the body that’s taken over my dreams.” (This line continues to chill me to the very core of my being. #thingsstalkerssay)
Clayton somewhat redeems herself by crafting a well-executed plot twist that creates delicious conflict. Had this jaw-dropping moment occurred earlier, it might have better served the story. Nonetheless, Clayton deserves credit for her effort. Wrapped in Red is a sex-filled holiday romp that falls short of joining the pantheon of great holiday romances.