Bared To You is the first book in a series of five by Sylvia Day, labelled the Crossfire novels, which are all works of erotic fiction. I don't go out of my way to read erotic fiction because it's a genre that I usually find pretty bland in terms of plot and characterisation. I don't have a problem with sex scenes in books - most chick lit usually ends up with quite a few graphic scenes in them and from there to erotic fiction is often a very small step - but I like them to be there because they are essential to the plot rather than for a few cheap thrills. Most bedroom scenes tend to have me smirking and rolling my eyes good-naturedly at the author's questionable choice of erotic words, particularly for naming body parts or terms of endearment. I won a copy of Bared To You on a recent Mumsnet book giveaway though, so I was keen to see what I'd think - Sylvia Day is apparently a multimillion best-seller and not only had I never read one of her books but I had also never heard of her.
The book starts without much originality - having recently moved to New York, where she shares a flat with her BFF (who happens to be male and drop-dead gorgeous but it's strictly platonic), Eva gets herself a new job and stumbles (quite literally) across an Adonis in the same office block. His name is Gideon Cross and what she doesn't yet know is that he actually owns the office block, amongst other things. He's successful, powerful and doesn't hang around long before he's telling Eva he wants a no-strings sexual relationship and she has basically no choice in the matter. Luckily, Eva is sassy and confident and shares the reader's inevitable conclusion that Gideon is a total arse, so she boots him to the touchline! The rest is pretty predictable - Gideon promises to change his ways and, with his endless sex appeal, manages to win her around but she moulds him into a more acceptable and less misogynistic partner. Forget the taming of the shrew - this is the taming of the jackass.
The book was written in 2012 and, rolling in on the wave of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, it seems inevitable that it (like all modern erotic fiction, it would seem) involves elements of a dominant-submissive relationship, albeit in a much tamer and more believable way than Christian Grey. What came as a big surprise, and a pleasant one at that, was the fact that it wasn't the sex scenes that caught my attention - they are there in all their glory, as befits a work of erotic fiction, and are more convincingly written than many I've read ! - but the evolution in the characters of Eva and Gideon. I started off thinking he was a total jerk, but we soon learn, along with Eva, that he has a softer and more vulnerable side, which echoes Eva's own traumatic past. We know that they are both survivors of traumatic abuse in the past but enough is held back for us to want to continue reading the subsequent novels to find out more. For the first time ever, I think, I got to the end of a work of erotic fiction feeling like I really knew, understood and cared about the couple involved - it's not just a hot read, it's also a poignant read that grabs you by the heart as much, if not more, than your nether regions !
I didn't really expect to like the novel all that much, but as soon as I finished it, I jumped on amazon to buy the sequels - they're on a 3 for £10 offer at the moment so I'll be jumping back into the crazy, hectic, conflictual but ultimately tender relationship evolving between the two outwardly tough but inwardly damaged and vulnerable lovers. I'm hoping they'll get a happy ending but I'm guessing there will be a lot of fireworks before they get there, and not just in the bedroom department !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £7.99