Book Review: Pleasure by Jacquelyn Frank

I’ll start by saying that I had mix feelings about this book. Pleasure was more of two and a half novellas spliced together rather than a full novel with a continuous storyline. It took me a while to warm up to the book, which is something I mentioned in my review of Rapture also. Anyway, the teaser from Jacquelyn Frank’s website (BTW, check out her new web design. It rocks!)

Beyond our world lies a land where darkness reigns—the land of the virile, sensual Shadowdwellers. Yet their mysterious abilities are no match for the power of desire…

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE…

As Chancellor of the Shadowdwellers, Malaya’s first duty is to her people. Her bodyguard, Guin, knows this only too well. For tradition’s sake, Malaya must marry, and the thought of this lush, vibrant, woman in a loveless union is impossible for him to bear. Guin loves Malaya—not as a subject loves his queen but as a man craves a woman. And even if he cannot keep her, he’ll show her everything she stands to lose…

Discipline. Penance. Order. A Sanctuary priest’s life revolves around such things. But when Sagan is taken captive and thrust into the Alaskan wilderness, he encounters a woman who challenges his faith and his self-control. Valera is a natural born witch who almost lost herself to the lure of dark magic. By rights, Sagan should shun her, but convention will count for nothing in the face of a passion that could change the realms of Shadowscape forever…

The story started where her last novel Rapture left off with Sagan. We find out what happened to him and meet his heroine, Valera. For me, Sagan played such an insignificant role in Ms. Frank’s other novels, I really had no interest in him. Unfortunately, the way the storyline played out, at the end I still had no interest in Sagan or Valera.

One item that continued to bother me with the Sagan/Valera story line was the lack of urgency. I had this issue with the characters in Rapture also. It reminded me of Stephan R Covey’s self-help book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” in which he talks about the Time Matrix activities which includes four categories, urgent/important, urgent/not important, not urgent/important, and not urgent/not important.

For Nightwalkers, everything seems to fit into the two Not Urgent category, which doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Think about it. If our President’s life were in danger, it would be bumped to the Urgent/Important category. If someone kidnapped your child, it would be in the Urgent/Important category. There seems to be too much dinking around and sex when bad things are about to jack up their world. If the main characters don’t care enough to do something about a potential disaster, why should I?

Another other thing which bothered me about the Sagan/Valera saga, and I don’t think this is much of a spoiler since every romance has a scene where the hero and heroine part ways for whatever reason was their departure from one another. It reminded me of the old romances. “Run, Johnny. And don’t look back! You run as fast as your legs can carry you.” Kinda of cheesy, but oh well.

As the story progressed, I began to wonder where was Sagan? I couldn’t understand why no one had thought to bring him forth to ferret out the culprit with his mind reading skills. I don’t know. It didn’t jive with me. Sure having him use his powers would end the novel, but I still like things to unwind logically.

Then the dreaded side characters’ POV again. For Sagan/Valera’s story, I found no good reason to do it. It certainly didn’t add anything to the story for me.

For the most part, I read this wishing I was just a reader and had not learned techniques from other writers. It took away some of the joy out of reading as my mind continued to go into critique mode.

So what did I like about Sagan and Valera’s story? Funny thing, I’m not a cat lover. However, I loved the cats in her book. They definitely had attitude.

****

Guin and Malaya’s story I liked better and actually had been looking forward to it after the last novel. In many ways it touched me. I thought it awful to have the one you love romantically bump and grind another in your presence. It seemed odd at times, making Guin’s love more brotherly. It was hard for me to put myself in his shoes even though I sympathized with him.

As far as sex in the novel, I liked some aspects of it while others not so much. For instance, I found the characters thinking or talking too much without a lot of action. I always imagine good sex to be too sensual and breathtaking to have a coherent conversation. Not the case with Malaya and Guin. They had all sorts of conversation. And when not talking, they were heavy in thought. It made the time they spent in sexual exploring seemed more like an examination—just too clinical to blow my mind.

Then again, it had a bit of realism to it. The idea of being distracted or stressed during the midst of sex can lead the mind to wander rather than getting wrapped in the erotic senses. But then, would the sex be as mind blowing as the characters said if they were so distracted? I’d prefer not to have distractions rule majority of the erotic scenes though. To me, good sex is free of external worries. I also found Malaya to be a bit inactive during the sex scenes, kind of like a limp doll. It might have been because she was too busy thinking to bother with moving.

I’m not sure if this is a spoiler, so I’ll give the warning anyway. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Malaya’s ignorance annoyed the heck out of me. Sure, she didn’t realize Guin was interested in her at first. I can see that. But once he came out and said it, why did she continue to play dumb? Well, actually, it wasn’t even playing, she just was oblivious. I don’t know. I can’t imagine anyone being that blind or being that far out of touch with reality.

****

Drae and Magnus made a significant appearance in this novel. I’m not sure why, since they already had their story. Personally, I didn’t think the two deserved such a large role in a book featuring other stars. I don’t like the secondary character POV, but this area definitely made the exception. For once the secondary characters had more at stake (Drae and Magnus). It was definitely fitting to see the world through their POV. But then again, why did they have such a big role in this novel anyway? The shift pulled me out of the Malaya/Guin story. Even so, as a separate storyline, I thought it was well done. I would have loved Ms. Frank to pull something  like this in Rapture instead of this novel.

It brings to mind advice I found on Nalini Singh’s website. She suggested thinking of the most horrible thing you could possibly do to a character, and then do it. Awesome job, Ms. Frank! It truly brought out my empathetic side for Drae and Magnus. Only things, the details of how the culprit managed to accomplish the evil deeds were a bit sketchy. I would have liked the details brought to light. As it was, I really don’t believe the culprit could have gotten away with it all.

So, let’s fast forward! I may have problems getting into her books, but one thing for sure, Ms. Frank really knows how to write an ending. Kapow! I think this is why I continue to come back to her books. Her endings are so powerful it’s easy to forget the struggles of getting to the finish.

The Nightwalkers novels build upon each other. Definitely start at the beginning (Ecstasy) if you plan to read these books. My review of Rapture can be found here.

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