tl;dr: two sex therapists that have a lot to learn about love
I don’t normally read back-of-the-book blurbs, but in this case, I did. It seemed interesting enough, and so I checked it out from the library, mostly because the blurb to the follow-up book, By The Hour, looked even more intriguing. Unfortunately, the library didn’t have that book, so, wary to purchase a book without knowing if I would like the author’s style, I borrowed this one first. And I’m so glad that I did, for a variety of reasons, least of which is that the most interesting part of the story was a complete surprise.
The first few chapters are a bit of an extended prologue where we get to know Marin and Donovan. Donovan is a doctoral student working on his thesis about aural methods of female arousal, by recording himself dictating fantasies that are supposed to be coming from the female gaze, or at least, more arousing for women than pornography, which tends to work better for men. After a week of working together on the scripts for the audio recordings, Marin and Donovan have passion sex on one of the desks in the lab. Marin doesn’t give him her real name, and she doesn’t even plan to see him again, ever. Due to a family crisis, she ends up dropping out of school and thinks that she’ll never see him again…
Yeah, right. HA! Gotta love a great set-up like that. Fast forward nine years later, and Marin has earned a PhD in human sexuality, but finds out that just when she needs to be able to help her younger brother out with his college tuition, she’s being let go from her position at the university. Her boss and mentor gives her an interview at a fancy recovery facility and at that interview she finds out that the other clinician training her is none other than Donovan. Nine years apart hasn’t dimmed their attraction in the slightest, and when Donovan finds out that Marin’s only sexual experience ever was the one time with him, he can’t help but offer to educate her a little more in carnal matters.
Both Marin and Donovan come from really messed up family backgrounds, and they need to sort through all of their own baggage before they can see if what they have between them is worth pursuing, and also worth the possible risk. Part of that baggage deals with mental illness and trauma, and I felt that those issues were handled very well. The book tackles anxiety and depression, which isn’t terrible uncommon in fiction, but also substance abuse, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. And that’s from the main characters; some of the patients that the therapists see battle a variety of sexual disorders.
One of the things I most appreciated about this book was how alive not only the main characters were, but the ancillary characters as well. Nate, Marin’s brother, in particular was so fully formed, and I loved him and the added depth his presence lent to the story. Dr. Elle McCray and Lane Cannon were great as well, and not only because I was so intrigued by the set up near the end that led to their own book.
The setting was also well depicted and easy to imagine. My only very minor complaint would be that Oriana was set up as a friend for Marin but she didn’t feature much in the middle of the book, only showing up at the beginning and again at the end. Marin’s friendship with Lane was used more, probably because he was a pawn in order to make Donovan a little jealous (which, that scene was fantastic).
I really enjoyed this book, and was captivated by the very first page. Not only were the sexy parts incredibly sexy, but the characters were alive and the plot was engaging. I will be checking out the rest of this author’s stuff and I highly recommend that you do the same!