Review of Laid Bare, by Lauren Dane

Laid BareI picked up a used hardback copy of Laid Bare, by Lauren Dane.

Description from Goodreads:
Unexpected Desire…

It’s been ten years since clean-cut, sexy-as-hell police officer Todd Keenan had a white-hot fling with Erin Brown, the provocative, wild rocker chick next door. Their power exchange in the bedroom got under his skin. But love wasn’t in the cards just yet…

Now, life has thrown the pair back together. But picking up where they left off is tough, in light of a painful event from Erin’s past. As Todd struggles to earn her trust, their relationship takes an unexpected and exciting turn when Todd’s best friend, Ben, ends up in their bed–and all three are quite satisfied in this relationship without a name. As the passion they share transforms Erin, will it be enough to help her face the evil she thought she had left behind?

If I was going to title this review, I would call it Bondage & Ménage for Beginners. That’s what this book is. It is nice in that it allows the reader to indulge in a little BDSM without the humiliation that so often accompanies it. This is great for people like me who enjoy the occasional foray into the bondage scene, but hate the abusive humiliation that so often goes with it. Though this comes across as really light stuff (there is only a little bondage and domination play, but a big deal is made of it), it was nice to see one theme without it’s darker, more disturbing shadow.

Much more time is dedicated to the ménage à trois, but it’s still pretty lightweight stuff. Don’t get me wrong, the sex is smokin’ but it does tend to repeat itself in an attempt to not portray anything too extreme. Excuse me for my opinion, but if you’re brave enough to write a committed ménage relationship, you need to be brave enough to include all the ways a m/f/m grouping can engage in coitus (or at least more than just the safe for polite conversation ones). Otherwise, exclusions stand out as glaring omissions.

This would be a great introduction to kinky erotica. Not only because it only dips its toe in the kink factor (while pretending it’s going all hog wild, allowing readers to do the same) but also because there is a whole marshmallow soft underside to it. It’s incredibly safe.

It includes and endless supply of conversations like this, “Good. I feel that too. I want you to know I respect what you and Todd have. I’d never do anything to harm that. I care about you both.” It’s just so painfully earnest and therefore unrealistic, but it provides a gentle cossetting for any nervous reader. Personally, this kind of thing drives me up the wall. I don’t want to be cossetted, so all I get out of it is the irritation left behind by the internal, “yeah right, like he would really say that.” But some readers need and like it. 

This whole artificial safety net is further enhanced by the strictly proper use of D/s in the MCs’ conversations. It often made me feel like I was actually reading some sort of how-to manual. It’s not that it was wrong, just too exact for believable dialogue, especially since the characters are new to the D/s scene. It’s like listening to someone talk about sex, but always saying penis and vagina. It’s perfectly correct grammatically, but who really talks that way?

This left some of the sexual dialogue feeling stiff. It was in general anyway, but this enhanced it. Things like Todd showing up after 10 years and 10 minutes into their first conversation saying, “I want to dominate you.” No nervous, getting to know you again conversation for him. No feeling her out to see if she’s still into that sort of thing. No dancing around the subject or using pretty euphemisms, even though he’s never actually spoken this way to anyone before. It’s unrealistic and often highlighted ‘oh yeah, this is fictitious’ for me. It is, of course. But that doesn’t mean I want to be dramatically reminded of it.

If I’m honest, every-time the characters progressed form one stage of their relationship to the next it was blunt and sudden like this, no finesse. People don’t just leap out of their social mores so easily, but that’s a whole different issue.

These are all only small annoyances really. My only REAL complaint is that the broken, victimised, scarred, scared woman who finds a strong man to put her back together and protect her has been done and done and done and DONE. It’s beyond cliché. Now, throwing Ben into the mix was at least an unusual twist on the well-rehearsed plot, but it was halfway through the book and felt very tacked on to me. However, I will grant that seeing the two men 100% dedicated to the protection and pleasure of a single woman was a heady experience. And Todd and Erin’s history gave a believable reason for him to be so overly enamoured with her.

All in all, I enjoyed it. But I spent a lot of time groaning at the exaggerated feel good factor. I highly recommend it for any reader who wants to have their first literary BDSM or ménage experiance, but aren’t sure if they’ll like the genre or not. Anyone with any significant experience with the subject matter will probably share some of my eye rolling moments.

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