Book Review

Reckless Pleasures by Tori Carrington: A Guest Rant Review by Nina

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Title: Reckless Pleasures
Author: Tori Carrington
Publication Info: Harlequin 2011
ISBN: 978-0373796212
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Every now and again I get irate email from readers who are absolutely hair-pulling livid about a book they just read. We romance readers take our book reading very personally, and if a book doesn’t live up to the expectations of a reader in the most basic of ways, there is fury like furies have never furied before. This is especially true when there’s infidelity, moral weakness, or a completely unhappy ending. Nina is PISSED about this book. She is IRATE. And she has a LOT to say about it. Behold: A Guest Rant Review.

Book Cover Nina writes: Warning: This review is chock full of spoilers.

This book made me sick. And not only because the heroine of the story cheats on the hero, but because she’s cheating on a man who’s risking his life in a dangerous, scary place thousands of miles from home.

Don’t get me wrong— I’m not saying that infidelity can’t be addressed in an entertaining and intelligent way. Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s treated in Tori Carrington’s Reckless Pleasures.

Now this isn’t the first Harlequin Blaze I’ve read that featured a woman who cheats on her boyfriend. It’s not even the first time Tori Carrington has dealt with this—see Reckless.

In Reckless an engaged woman sexes up her fiance’s best friend—because their sexual attraction is so strong, you see. But really it’s not so bad because her fiancé was actually cheating on her before she started cheating on him (she doesn’t find this out until the end of the book, though the best friend knew all along).

In some ways Reckless Pleasures is a rehash of plain ol’ Reckless. We have the woman (Megan), the man she loves (Darius or Dari), and his best friend (Jason). But this story kicks it up a notch.  All three are Marines, though Megan and Jason have retired. Jason, Megan and some fellow ex-servicemen have formed Lazarus Security and soon become involved in searching for a missing child in Florida.  This is the backdrop and non-romance subplot to the story, but frankly I was too distracted by the horrible behavior of two of the main characters to much care.

Dari is a reservist who has been called up to serve eighteen months in Waziristan.  Jason, being the good buddy he is, promises to look after Megan while her guy is away. Trouble is, he’s attracted to Megan and perhaps secretly a bit in love with her (you saw that coming, right?). Oh, did I forget to mention he’s survived a terrible childhood? We’re not given much detail about this, but we’re sure to find out in an upcoming installment of the “Pleasure Seekers” series. Looks like Jason is sizing up to become the “hero” of another book.

In addition to being something of a replay of “Reckless”, this book has elements of Carrington’s “Shameless” as well. Jason, like Gauge, had a shitty childhood and can’t connect emotionally. He doesn’t let much—even bad orthodontia—get in the way when he wants some sexin’. Megan is like ditzy Nina. She can’t deal honestly with the fact that she has the hots for two men and has to invent excuses why it’s okay to sleep with both of them. And Darius, well, I won’t say he’s like Kevin. He’s not the passive-aggressive wimp that Kevin was. In “Shameless” Kevin imagined he was the wronged party, even though he never had the guts to admit his feelings to Nina. In “Reckless Pleasures”, Dari really is the wronged party.

So, even though Darius is his best (possibly only) friend, and Jason’s so hot he can have any woman he wants, he has to fixate on his buddy’s girl. And Megan is not completely unaware of Jason’s charms, either. After all, her guy has been gone four months and even though they’ve been talking and sexting, hey, she’s only human.  It’s been a week or so since she’s received any calls or texts, so you’d think she’d be scared shitless for her man’s safety instead of thinking “me so horny”, but what do I know?

Now I do not mean to make light of women and men missing their loved ones serving overseas. And I can certainly sympathize with someone being lonely and horny due to such a separation, but come on.  The guy’s been gone four months, not four years. Why not just break out the vibrator? But that’s not good enough for our heroine, so here’s what happens next: Jason proposes he and Megan have “just sex” and she agrees! You see, it makes perfect sense—since they’re not in love, it’s not a threat to Megan and Dari’s relationship. And since Jason is Dari’s best friend, it’s like he’s helping them out, see? Yeah. Whatever.

“No one needs to know,” he said quietly. “Just you and me. And it will only be once.”

Unless…

The unsaid word hung there.

Yep. Jason won’t mind going again if the chance arises. And since Megan is not exactly a fortress, you have to wonder how often they’ll comfort each other if Dari is gone the entire eighteen months.

Anyway, to make it less intimate, they agree no kissing. In fact, they won’t even face each other while they do the nasty.

This is the point where the reader might ask herself “This is a romance I’m reading?”  It’s also the point where she might decide to stuff the book in the shredder. Not only are these people cheating on a man who is risking his life for his country, they have convinced themselves it’s okay because they’re using each other like fucktoys.

However, if you’re sick like me, you keep reading because you have to find out what happens next. Is it possible that Jason and Megan will end up together?

That’s part of the problem with the story. Just who the hell is the hero, anyway?  Ostensibly, it’s Darius, but he’s absent the first seven chapters of the book.  Asswipe Jason gets as much or more attention.  I’m not even sure which guy is getting his shirt pulled on the cover. Is it Dari or Jason? It’s pretty sad if the hero can’t even make the cover of his own book.

So Jason and Megan do the deed and all is well until later that day when they both get the message that Dari is returning home.  Megan starts getting the guilts and Jason tries to tell her no big thing.

But very big thing, because Dari returns with his leg in a cast after being injured by an IED—improvised explosive device. He’s in physical pain and dealing with horrible memories of what he experienced. Megan gets a double dose of the guilts.

If you haven’t shredded the book yet, this is where you’re again tempted to do so. Why were the characters okay with cheating when they thought Dari would be gone longer?  Did they think the episode would just fade away and they’d forget about it?

And of course there’s the whole conundrum created by infidelity: to confess or keep your big mouth shut? If you say nothing, it’s a lie of omission and there’s always that secret between you and your partner. But spill your guts and you’re just unloading the guilt at someone else’s expense. Not to mention you risk getting your ass dumped.

She pushed from the table and paced. “This…You and I just talking like this feels like a betrayal.”

“We didn’t betray him.”

“How can you say that? Of course we betrayed him!”

“Now you’re just talking stupid.”

She’d never seen Jason so upset before. At least not with her.

“It was sex, nothing more.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m going to tell him. I have no other choice. Not now that he knows something’s wrong.”


Well, Dari’s not stupid. He knows something’s up, considering Megan can’t look him in the eye. But Jason starts to lose it:

“Damn it! Don’t I have a say in the matter?”

He paced across the room and then back again, looking like a caged animal desperate to escape.

When Megan starts to leave the room, Jason grabs her arm.

He took a deep breath and released her. “Sorry.”

She didn’t say anything.

“I just don’t understand how telling him is going to make anything better.”

“It will clear my conscience.”

“And rip his heart clean out of his chest.”

She winced at that.

The last thing she wanted to do was hurt Dari. But she couldn’t keep this from him any longer.

“Look,” Jason said quietly, “he’s the best friend I’ve ever had. My only true friend, if you want to know the truth. If you tell him…”

Arghh! God, how I hate these people! They’re only thinking about themselves. But that’s why cheating sucks so royally. Once it’s done, you’re an asshole, and there’s no way out of it without becoming an even bigger asshole.

Of course, Dari learns the truth and it all goes to hell.  Here are his choices: dump Megan’s ass and look like a hard-hearted SOB or take her back and look like a wimp.  Another reason why cheating sucks.  Not only does it turn the participants into assholes, it places the injured party in a no-win situation. (Think Silda Spitzer and the wives of all those other politicians who got caught with their pants down.)

The fallout: Megan is sorry and still loves Dari. She and Jason, both guilt-ridden, studiously avoid each other until we reach this cringe-inducing scene where Jason apologizes:

Megan ultimately shook her head. “Apology not accepted.”

She turned to walk away and he lightly grasped her arm.

“I’ve already lost one goddamn friend over this. I don’t want to lose another.”

She smiled. “You’re not. Losing a second friend, that is. I don’t accept your apology because you have nothing to be sorry for.”

He stared at her as if unsure she was telling the truth.

“Seriously,” she added.

“So what you’re telling me is that this is the first time I’ve apologized to a woman in my life, and there was no reason to…”

How sweet, they’re still friends. Though Jason is no more responsible for the affair than Megan, this whole scene makes me want to puke.

Just when you think Jason can’t be any more of a creep, there’s this scene, when he shows up at Dari’s apartment:

Jason advanced on him. Only this time, he was clear-eyed and determined, whereas in Florida, he’d been suffering a hangover. “Will you climb down off the cross already? We need the freakin’ wood.”

Dari wanted to hit him so badly his knuckles itched.

“What happened was unfortunate. It wasn’t a purposeful crime against you or anyone else.” His onetime friend seemed to have a death wish. “God, are you so stupid you can’t see how much the woman loves you?”

Dari opened his mouth to respond.

“I know what happened was wrong. Hell, we all do. But we can’t take it back. But we can move forward.”

Jesus, I can’t stand this guy! He won’t even let his friend grieve—no, he has to make stupid remarks and hound him so that everything can be the way it was.

Dari, who’s always had a grudge against his mother because of her infidelities, has a talk with his father and learns a family secret. He also learns that “Love isn’t about who you can live with, it’s about who you can’t live without.” (That must rank up there with “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”) In any event, this enables him to forgive Megan, though he knows it will be a long time before he can forget.

This would all be some long-ago, faded memory, a wound that had healed but left a scar behind as substantial as the one on his leg. But just as he would push forward and not let his physical injuries impede his progress, he didn’t intend to let this emotional one keep him down.

Makes me want to cry. Darius has to soldier on, wounded physically and emotionally, while the other two merely have to wrestle with a few icky feelings.

In the end even Jason the jerk is accepted back into the fold. This is your “happy ending,” folks.

Oh, by the way, there’s a bit of a twist in the subplot, but it didn’t ring true to me. In a community where a child has vanished, wouldn’t people be hyper-vigilant and suspicious of that “harmless” guy who attracts kids like the Pied Piper?

But the book was not a total loss. It really got me thinking. How do people in the military and their partners deal with such long and difficult separations? (Better than Megan did, I’m sure.)  They have my utmost respect.

And I was inspired to look up Waziristan on the internet. So I learned something.

But maybe I’m too hard on the characters. Am I just a judgmental bitch? After all, people get lonely. They make mistakes. Isn’t forgiveness possible? Well, of course. And so is growth, maturity and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Otherwise, you’re just another guest on Jerry Springer.

Megan for the most part is sorry for the affair (although the orgasm Jason gave her was “exactly what she needed at the time.”) So all right, I guess I could accept Dari forgiving her. I don’t expect her to follow in the footsteps of other famous heroines and wear a scarlet letter or take poison or throw herself in front of a train.

But no way can I accept Dari forgiving Jason.

We’re told over and over how tough Jason is, how smart and sexy. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a total fucking coward and a great big pussy. He was only sorry he got caught and after he got caught he behaved like a complete ass. I hated his guts.

In fact, I’d like to throw him in front of a train.


This book is available from Amazon | Kindle | Book Depository | Powells | eHarlequin.com

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Helly says:

    It’s pretty sad if the hero can’t even make the cover of his own book.

    I concur. Great review. Going to look up Waziristan now.

  2. 2
    Cät von J says:

    Thanks for this review!
    So Waziristan is a real existing country with real people in it? I love to learn new things!
    I would not have been able to finish this book. The idea of romance is that the main characters get their HEA. Which would make me happy. The idea is not that everyone hates everyone and me as a reader as well hates everyone. Which would not make me happy.

    He doesn’t let much—even bad orthodontia—get in the way when he wants some sexin’.

    I´m dying to find out details…

  3. 3
    tracykitn says:

    My DH is military, and he’s been deployed to Iraq 2 times—once for 15 mos and once for a year. I learned to love my vibe and we made sure the second time to both have laptops with webcams for chatting. Granted, I know plenty of marriages that have ended over cheating during deployment (on both sides). But it’s possible (not fun, but possible) to go a year or more without another person in your bed. So thanks for the warning; I might have read this and been disgusted.

  4. 4

    Tori Carrington is two people writing under one name, isn’t it? I’d hate to think they were married.
    See, what you’ve described could have made a reasonable menage, treated right. But for an m/f romance? Nah, no way. Because, as you said, it makes them creeps. There are two ways this story might have been redeemed. To make them confess, and let Dari make the decisions, or to make Dari kick them both out of his life, and then go on to find someone else. If the sex had been in some way impulsive, even drunk sex, that might have helped. But planned infidelity while thinking of yourselves first, and not the fallout isn’t romantic and never will be.
    Or an exploration of an open relationship, even. Where Dari had given her full permission to sleep with someone else while he was away, and later discovered he can’t take it. Or that he can. Nobody’s ever explored an open relationship kind of marriage or partnership in romance. Or have they?

  5. 5
    Servicemen Get Cheated On says:

    They get cheated on all the time, Nina. Not only that, but divorced and taken for every penny they’re worth if possible too.

    This novel highlighted two things:
    a) cheating is being normalised socially
    b) the psychological problems of servicemen aren’t being addressed adequately.

  6. 6
    LG says:

    I never want to read anything that makes me confused about who the hero is. Plus, I’d like to be able to like both the hero and the heroine. I’ve read one book in recent memory in which the heroine cheated – also a Harlequin Blaze – and it was a Friends sort of situation: the heroine had a boyfriend but things were a bit rocky between them (he was moving too slow for her tastes but I think was too much of a wuss to flat-out tell him so), so she decided they were on a “break” but didn’t actually confirm that her boyfriend felt the same way. The guy she cheated on her boyfriend with was the hero of the book. While the sex scenes were nice, I was peeved at the heroine. If she had actually been married to the other guy, I would have been a good deal more than peeved, and at least the hero wasn’t the boyfriend’s best friend. Reckless Pleasures sounds like it would make me want to stab many of its characters.

  7. 7

    Nina:

    This is a tough review but it sounds like this book was pretty tough to get through too.  I haven’t read it, but I’m also uncomfortable with issues of infidelity generally.  What seems even worse here than the “sexual” infidelity is the emotional infidelity.  Darius doesn’t just get cheated on, he gets betrayed. 

    I’ll give this one a pass based on your review. Thanks for your honesty, but I tremble in fear that you’ll ever take on one of mine!

  8. 8
    RebeccaJ says:

    I do NOT want to read about infidelity in my romance novels. To me, the novels have always been an escape from reality but in a good way. Granted there are some dark storylines, like illness and death, but I WILL NOT EVER be okay reading about infidelity. There’s no “happily ever after” in that. And I’m surprised the couple—and yes, they ARE a married couple!—that wrote this book are even “going there”…disappointing.

  9. 9
    DS says:

    Well, Harriet Klausner gave it 5 stars.  She said “Tori Carington puts a powerful spotlight on the human cost of deployments as Dari feels betrayed by his beloved and his BFF while he was in theater. The kidnapping provides tension and twists including a brilliant spin that fans will relish while waiting for the Wicked Pleasures of Linc’s tale. ” 

    Sounds like Book Blurb as review.  Also sure doesn’t sound like the book that has been reviewed here and at DA.

  10. 10
    Bianca says:

    “Will you climb down off the cross already? We need the freakin’ wood.”

    *mouth agape in horror*  UGH UGH UGH.  This just sounds awful; Megan and (especially) Jason sound creepy and horrible as all get-out.  I mean, maybe if this book was treated as a serious exploration of the effect of deployment on couples—okay.  But, this is a romance!  If the characters who are falling in love aren’t even a little likeable, what’s the point? 

    @ Lynne Connolly: I’m pretty sure Tori Carrington is a married couple writing under one name.

  11. 11
    LizW65 says:

    I think I’m just as bothered by the sudden lapse into present tense in the third excerpt as I am by the characters, who all sound like whiny, self-absorbed douchebags.  Where was the editor on this?

  12. 12
    Danielle says:

    Wow, they sound like throughly unlikable characters. :( Even if this had turned into a menage it would still suck, but at least you could kind of understand where the writer was coming from. This? Uh-uh.

    @Lynne: agreed, having this plotline but with an open relationship would have made the characters a lot more interesting and their angst a lot more palatable. It could have been quite interesting.

    captcha: issue57. Even the computer agrees there are at least 57 issues with this book.

  13. 13
    joanne says:

    Fortunately readers new to romance aren’t likely to pick up a Harlequin Blaze book to start so at least the whole genre won’t be painted with this crappy brush.

    I admit to only having read one Carrington book and I got the feeling then that I was reading some male high school student’s idea of what is romantic.  This book brings to mind all the recent (and not so recent) headline grabbing adulterous behavior and the devastation it leaves behind. Blah.

    Self indulgent,  hurtful and juvenile behavior is not romantic and not what I look for in romance books.

  14. 14
    Rachel Aaron says:

    I know the world is full of different tastes and its difference of opinion that makes horse races and all of that… but I honestly can’t see how a cheating story in a romance that occurs after the hero and heroine have already established their relationship could ever be anything other than enraging. Just thinking about cheating (for either party) makes me furious, and furious isn’t what I want from my love stories.

    Obviously I’m not the intended audience here, but I have to wonder who is the intended audience? I’ve always considered people coming together in love, or at least mutual respect, to be the point of the whole romance genre. Cheating undermines both of those… so wtf is it doing in a romance?

    Just don’t get it.

  15. 15
    MissFiFi says:

    Sorry, but this sounds like absolute garbage. What bugs me the most is that the majority of the books put out by this couple always seem to rate as crap. And yet, they continue to get published and paid. <head to desk>
    Who would want to read about this self indulgent couple who claim to love their friend so much, but have sex anyway? That is not romance and nor is it handled well. Books like these anger me because plot is important, especially if you are going to tackle a sensitive area such as soldiers facing deployment and then throw in serious betrayal. As an author you better understand the psychological issues and emotional issues of your characters instead of regurgitating some pop psychology crap one read in a blurb in some magazine back in high school.

  16. 16
    Sharon says:

    Harriet Klausner is still around?? I thought she’d fallen by the wayside at some point over the past couple of years.

    But anyways, I have less of a problem with infidelity as part of a storyline (if handled appropriately) than I do with the “hey, let’s just use each other like sex toys” storyline. The infidelity here is totally inappropriate because it’s based on just that: two shallow, selfish people who use each other to get off. I’m sorry, but if you love someone, you don’t plan to cheat on them for your own immediate gratification.

  17. 17
    Lori says:

    Nina, I feel your pain. My review of Shameless was almost this ranty and as bad as that book was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as this one sounds.

    It seems to me that, in a weird way, this book was the inevitable next step in the Carrington oeuvre. All their books feature characters who are, IMO, incredibly unlikable and yet some people apparently enjoy the books because they keep selling. TC is apparently determined to push until they find out exactly how bad characters can be before readers rebel.

  18. 18
    Jayne says:

    This sounds remarkably unpleasant for a romance novel. I read these for fun, so no thanks.

  19. 19
    Tamara Hogan says:

    When I read this book, I honestly wondered if it was going to be a menage – which might have been interesting to explore. As written, I couldn’t tell who the hero was supposed to be. The cover model’s dog tags were my only real tip-off.

  20. 20
    Jane says:

    That’s part of the problem with the story. Just who the hell is the hero, anyway?  Ostensibly, it’s Darius, but he’s absent the first seven chapters of the book.  Asswipe Jason gets as much or more attention.  I’m not even sure which guy is getting his shirt pulled on the cover. Is it Dari or Jason? It’s pretty sad if the hero can’t even make the cover of his own book.

    This was my biggest problem in the book. if the story is to explore infidelity, why is jason’s POV important? why do we care about him? isn’t the point to explore how infidelity occurs and then how you overcome and if so, doesn’t that mean we should be talking about the two main protags?

    If the first 7 chapters was sequel bait, it was pretty poor sequel bait.

  21. 21

    I’m as thoroughly no-no-aigh over cheating as everyone else – but I also get greatly annoyed by factual mistakes. (That’s what started me writing years ago – one mistake too many in a book). Please say that the authors are clear that Waziristan is an actual place, a part of Pakistan, and they don’t present it as one of those fake little countries? And, I’m having a hard time suspending my disbelief over “leg in cast” after an IED hit … does the hero have shrapnel wounds? Did he nearly lose his leg, and have to have several surgeries? Or is “leg in cast” one of those convenient injuries like Regency limps?

    “price49”: The price our soldiers pay for our wars is 49 times higher, no, it’s incalculable, than what we at home pay.

  22. 22
    Lori says:

    And, I’m having a hard time suspending my disbelief over “leg in cast” after an IED hit…

    I wondered about this as well and I don’t have a great deal of confidence that it was explained in any logical way in the book. In Shameless TC described an apartment building as having an “al fresco” painting in the lobby. 

    If they didn’t bother to look up the fact that al fresco means outdoors and a fresco is a type of painting I don’t think anyone should be looking for them to have worked out the details of IED injuries.

  23. 23
    Miranda says:

    “dump Megan’s ass and look like a hard-hearted SOB”

    I don’t think dumping her would have made him look hard-hearted at all, but I grew up with a Dad who cheated, and adultery has always been one of my hot buttons. I thorougly applauded Mom kicking him to the curb and always enjoyed her sarcastic renditions of “Stand by Your Man”.

  24. 24

    Cheating is a huge issue for relationships where one or both members are deployed. It always has been (Dear John letters etc). I couldn’t have read this book without getting ill, though.

    If this is Blaze’s attempt to be edgy, I think they missed the mark. There’s nothing romantic about this scenario, and it seems from the review, there is no character growth either.  Distasteful does not = envelope pushing.

  25. 25

    I have just seen it in stores. I really wouldn’t buy it and reading your review makes me happy :)

  26. 26
    Danny says:

    @Lynne Connolly: I think you’re right about the open relationship take on this story, it would have softened the jackass edges these characters seem to have. Megan and Jason still would have felt bad, even though what they’d done had been with Dari’s consent… Dari would have returned, probably feeling something like, “I’m not as okay with this as I thought I would be, and with my best friend of all people.”

  27. 27
    SAO says:

    Why is slang for female private parts used as an insult to men? I was with this review until “pussy” was used as a synonym for coward.

    Come on, Woman, have some self-respect!

  28. 28
    Donna says:

    I agree @Miranda. Why would removing two poisonous people from your life make you the hard hearted one? Having sex with your significant other’s best friend is hard hearted. Having sex with your best friend’s significant other is hard hearted. The REALISTIC response would’ve been to let two people who obviously deserve each other have each other & go find someone who deserves you.
    And what did these two do while they were both active? I know people who’re married to fellow service(wo)men, and they aren’t often deployed at the same time or to the same place. Sometimes they’re lucky if it’s the same country.

  29. 29
    jcscot says:

    As an Army wife, it’s hard to see infidelity (whether on the part of the deployed person, or the one at home).  I’ve known couples where this has happened and it certainly was no picnic.  I haven’t read the book but the review makes it clear that the issue isn’t handled well or realistically at all.

    Deployment places a strain on a relationship – I know, I’ve been there several times.  My husband gets deployed again later this year and it will be hard for him to be apart from me and it will be hard for me to be a de facto single parent (although I do it all the time as he’s been in an unaccompanied job for the past eighteen months, only making it home for a couple of days every two to three weeks).

    Infidelity is understandable, if unforgiveable when faced with the realities of Service life but it shouldn’t be trivialised like this.

  30. 30
    Anna says:

    Thanks for the warning! It sounds like a book I want to avoid like the plague. I don’t read romances to dislike the major characters, and I would have felt really cheated by that if I’d bought it.

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