Lush by Lauren Dane will be published on April 2, 2013. I received an advanced reader copy from Berkeley Trade.
This was my first Lauren Dane novel and while I have some hang ups, I did finish this and then immediately buy another Dane novel.
Mary Whaley has her hands full running a successful catering company and overseeing her supper club. She’s got everything she ever wanted—or so she thought. When she meets ridiculously hot and very dirty rock star Damien Hurley at her friend’s engagement party, the attraction she feels is overpowering—and she isn’t about to deny herself.
Damien is used to a hard and fast life. He and two of his brothers started a band when they were all in high school—then they hit the big time and stayed there. He’s also a legendary madman on the stage and in the bedroom. But when he meets Mary, something clicks, and the bad boy starts thinking he may have finally found something good.
What begins as a series of fleeting trysts soon get much more complicated. Damien can’t figure out why Mary doesn’t want more from him. And before long it’s Damien who wants more of Mary. But it turns out Mary is no stranger to the celebrity news and he’s got a very big job ahead of him—proving that he’s worth more than a one-night stand…
This is part of a long, on-going series. This book is part of a series titled “Delicious” but even that is an off-shoot of another series. So, by this point, the characters have long, intertwined story lines. For the most part, Dane does a good job filling in the holes so that for people like me coming fresh to her material, you can follow along. But I did find it challenging at points to keep everyone straight as there are just a lot of characters, they know a lot about each other, and the history between them is enormous and has clearly already been told.
To the center of this novel: Mary and Damien. Loved their romance. Dane does a great job establishing from the beginning that Mary and Damien like each other, a lot. And yet, Mary is a no-nonsense woman who has a career (as a chef and caterer) and a life in a small, quiet place and she is not afraid to put up boundaries to protect them. I won’t lie — it was fun to read a story where the internationally famous male rock star is so desperately into the woman but she is the one holding back, making sure that their commitment does not upend her life.
Here is a scene about halfway into the story when Damien, who is baffled that this woman who clearly likes him isn’t pining away to spend every moment with him, talks to Mary about where their relationship is headed:
“Okay, so the deal is, I think you not begging for me to marry you is different and it does catch my attention. But not because it’s a challenge or whatever. Because it’s part of you. Because you don’t want me because I’m a millionaire. You don’t want to toss aside your life and be in mine. You’re your own person. It makes you more beautiful. Interesting. I think you should give me a chance.”
“I’m letting you peel my celery, aren’t I?”
She was scared. She liked him. A lot. It could be more if she let herself envision it….A man like this could break her heart and it would be monumentally stupid to let him get close enough to have that power.
Damien gets her completely. And the very thing holding her back from committing to him is the thing that makes him want to commit to her. But the reality of his life as a rock star and hers as an up and coming caterer is a true hurdle for her as it would be. She’s right. Makes it all bittersweet.
One of my favorite things about this book was that I did not know how it would resolve. I enjoy that in a romance novel. Even as the predictability of the romantic finale is something for which I read romance novels and while I often don’t mind if I can see how it will happen, I am always thankful when an author can make me question the outcome right up until it finally comes to fruition. Kudos to Dane on that front.
Now, there is a final thing I must address before wrapping up.
I did not like the sex in this book.
I said it.
When I finished this book I thought, “this would be stellar if it didn’t have sex in it.” My biggest issue was with the word gate, though their naughty bed talk was something to be desired.
Dane really likes the metaphor that the entrance to a woman’s vagina is a “gate” through which the man pushes his fingers or his cock. But every time (all 7 times) I read “gate,” I thought of medieval drawbridges and then moats and things creaking. Decidedly unsexy in my mind.
And since I have now bought and read part of another Dane novel, I find this is a metaphor she uses often.
I was conflicted then at the end. Because I enjoyed this novel overall. I LOVE Mary. I found Damien to be real and sweet and come play some drums with your shirt off in my house. But then I was also thinking about rusty drawbridge gates.
Still, I did want to read more Dane and I will continue to read Dane in the future, even if I roll my eyes and sigh at every “gate” reference. Her ability to craft a romance between two believable characters is stellar.
I give Lush 3 out of 5 stars.
Pre-order it: Amazon. Indie Bound. Dane has more links for pre-ordering at her website.
I *think* Lauren Dane responded to my blog post on Twitter today. Though, I think she actually responded to my tweet about my review:
AND I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THIS LAUREN DANE: