Book Review

The Professional by Kresley Cole

B-

Title: The Professional
Author: Kresley Cole
Publication Info: Gallery Books May 6, 2014
ISBN: 978-1476762319
Genre: Erotica/Erotic Romance

Book The Professional

I don’t even know where to start. You guys, this one is going to be tough.

First, let me just state that I love Kresley Cole. I’ve read all the books in her Immortals After Dark series. I own Poison Princess. I’ve even dipped into her historicals. I would probably bid on Ebay for a lock of her hair. So of course, I was curious when she announced her plans to do something more contemporary.

Cue The Professional.

Just a brief warning that this probably isn't a book for everyone. There's a difference between good WTFery and bad WTFery. I firmly believe some people won't make it a quarter of the way in because they can't get on board with the heroine just being totes okay with the whole kidnapping shenanigans while she's in her bathrobe and, I think, enjoying this book definitely lies in the suspension of disbelief.

Originally, the book was released digitally in three parts, then compiled into a full print edition.

It was hard to suss out WHAT this book was exactly. It sounded contemporary, but also with hints of romantic suspense. Reviewers commented on the “steaminess” of it, throwing it into erotica territory. BDSM was bandied about. Needless to say, I was more than a little confused, but interested.

To put any inquiring minds at ease, it’s erotica. Less than forty pages in…it’s erotica. So there you go. And I’ve found that, in most erotica, sometimes things get a little ridiculous. Like a Siberian man kidnapping a woman to meet her biological father, who happens to be a Russian mob boss. I’m going to say this right now: it’s ridiculous. As I mentioned before, if you’re a reader who wants realism and slightly less camp, this might not be for you. But if you overlook its case of the weirds and WTF-IS-HAPPENING-RIGHT-NOW undertones, you’ll be fine.

Truthfully, there’s a lot to this book. And, unless you want your eyes to start bleeding with my switching rants and praises, I’ll probably just stick to the larger points.

But let’s start on a good note. Then we'll ease into the weirdness.

Our heroine, Natalie, is a PhD student and, as someone currently pursuing an advanced degree, I related easily with Nat. It’s also told from Nat’s POV, which deviates from the IAD series. I’m not a first person fan, but it won me over:

Another round of tequila shooters arrived, sent by a trio of frat boys a few tables away. We raised our glasses, then dutifully licked, pounded, and sucked. The tequila, not the boys.

I’m a fan of innuendos and this book has it in spades, mostly coming from the mouths of a bunch of grad school girls. Right out of the gate, we’re doing pretty well.

Our hero, Aleks Sevastyan, has spent quite a bit of time surveilling Nat, keeping her safe from assassins that want her dead, though circumstances change and he needs to get her to Russia, stat!

And how does he initiate this squirreling away? By breaking into her home while she’s masturbating in the tub. Talk about timing. 

Of course, Nat winds up on that plane going to Russia with minimal fuss…save for Sevastyan chasing her down in a cornfield and the two of them almost boning in the Nebraskan moonlight. I should also mention that the threat of danger is so close, that he just scoops her up and takes her while she’s wearing a bathrobe. Just a bathrobe. Hence the cornfield dry humping.

On the plane, things are explained to Nat and there’s some obvious sexual tension, aided by the fact that he interrupted that poor woman’s me time. Sevastyan does his best to warn her away, assuring her that his tastes were too dark for her liking. NATURALLY.  But she keeps pushing and Sevastyan believes the only way to deter her is to show her. CUE AIRPLANE 69-ING!

Now, this is my first problematic sexual instance in the book. I get being worried that your kinks might be perceived as deviant or scary by someone who thinks they know better, but wanting to go into a situation hoping to turn off your partner seems…counterproductive. Of course, Nat enjoys every minute of it and Sevastyan has the nerve to be pissed off that she actually enjoyed it.

But let’s be honest, he’s just mad that he’s now under the spell of Nat’s magic vagina. One that is still virginal, I should mention, though I honestly have no problem with that. Nat presents herself as a sexually informed woman. She’s had other sexual experiences, she masturbates, she owns toys, so good for her. And good for Cole for making a woman who’s confident in her sexuality. Later on, as Nat comes to terms with Sevastyan's BDSM tendencies, she takes everything with stride and there’s some really great sex-positive soundbites. But more on that later.

Since this is erotica. There’s sex. Lots and lots of sex. In all sorts of places. With all sorts of bells and whistles. After teasing Sevastyan throughout dinner, via the foot-on-the-crotch trick, Nat is pulled into a linen closet and he masturbates onto her ladybits. As you do. Because when you’re fighting attraction for someone and you SHOULDN’T have sex with them, it’s probably the next best thing, right?

Sevastyan not only struggles with the fact that Nat is his boss’ daughter, but he struggles with his sexual tastes, and, oh yeah, having sex with Nat means they essentially have to be married according to the 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Long-Lost Mob Daughter.

My main grievance with Sevastyan is similar to my grievances with Christian Grey, though on a much lesser scale. His BDSM preferences are linked to a very traumatic childhood and unfortunate series of events. On a personal level, I’m not a fan of the “sexual deviancy borne of trauma” trope. Why can’t we get a well-adjusted Dom?! Blue collar, white collar – I don’t care. Just someone with a relatively sane childhood.

And I do think there should have been more progression along that relationship between Sevastyan and Natalie. He doesn’t believe her when she tells him it's what SHE wants. Instead, he “tests” her, by taking her to a BDSM sex club, because of course that’s the FIRST thing you want to do when introducing someone to this sort of thing.

Let's just pause right there. Her first actual taste of BDSM is at a sex club and one of her tests includes letting an orgy of people (and I do literally mean an orgy here, though they are separated by a pane of glass) watch her and her Siberian doing their BDSM business. When Natalie doesn't back down, he turns into a big possessive pisspants at the fact that people are actually watching her and using her as fodder for their…orgasms (because yes, it's noted that one special gentleman does get off due to Natalie and Sevastyan. It's kind of like a weirdly sexual The Price is Right. Or maybe Oprah – “You get an orgasm! And you get an orgasm! Everyone gets an orgasm!”).

But in a bright beaming moment, Sevastyan realizes that he should have trusted Nat with knowing her own body.

“My fantasy made flesh. I should never have doubted you to know your own mind.”

There’s also some adorable, tender scenes of aftercare between the two of them.

More often than not, I find myself liking the heroes more than heroines in romances. This was not the case here. Though Nat could be a little too curious at times, pushing when she should have exercised some patience, her insights into relationships and sexuality formed her into an intelligent, progressive, and modern woman. She’s also hilarious, especially when paired with her friend Jess.

Some highlights:

Onward we rode. In movies, getting caught in the rain with a hot guy was always sexy. I was freezing, certain I looked like a drenched cat, and terrified of being electrocuted. To add insult to injury, my riding pants were creeping up my ass by uncomfortable degrees.

 

I wasn’t a big fan of women trying to fix men, to change them. I always figured there were guys enough out there, so I should look for a total package that was already fully Ikea-assembled—or go without.

 

“You don’t have to be broken to like kink. Look at me. I had the most idyllic upbringing ever, and I can’t stop thinking about it with you.”

 

And my favorite:

“You know you’re probably going to have to cut this loose, Nat. I think you’re hoping that I’ll tell you to stick it out through thick and thin, through all his wank moppet damage. Wrong. Sometimes self-preservation means preservation of self.”

“That’s deep, Jess.” And it was exactly where I was failing: keeping the Natalie in Natalie. “Where’d you hear that?”

“Read it in a twatting romance novel.”

While some of the events are, to put it plainly, fucking insane, I honestly didn’t care. It was a fun read and I had plenty of laughs recounting the scenes to my friends. Lots of CAPSLOCK were used. And, while the hero does display some problematic and dickwad tendencies, he does show growth…mainly through Nat’s insights. His sexual experience meets up with her emotional experience. Natalie made this book for me.

Kresley Cole’s gorgeous one-liners certainly helped.

Sevastyan looked at me like a man plummeting toward death would look at a pair of wings.


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sarita says:

    I’m tempted even though I tend to find BDSM pretty meh, just cuz the of the witty narrating voice.

  2. 2
    DonnaMarie says:

    Like you Amanda, I have a huge

    <3 on Kresley Cole, but this book put a nail in the coffin of my interest in the whole first person POV BDSM rich tortured guy/innocent girl genre. My feeling is that people jump on bandwagons, or their publisher requests they jump on the bandwagon, not always to their benefit.

    So, instead of rich businessman, we get rich criminal. That’s where this book failed me. Sure I love my big bad SEAL/Marine/special forces/policeman heroes kicking ass and taking names, but I like them because they’re on the side of the angels. Kicking bad guy asses. And, yes, the IAD heroes skirt the edges, but they’re on the good side of the war, and it’s paranormal fantasy. Let’s make no bones about it, there is no such thing as a

    good mafia enforcer. He is a bad man, in a bad business.  Sure we’ve seen reformed bad guys as romance heroes before, but there’s always an element of regret and remorse, and they aren’t stone cold killers. There’s nothing sexy about that lack in Sevestyan.  That’s why this book was an epic fail for me.  Mafia men are not sexy romance heroes.  Maybe it’s the whole being half Sicilian, and being related to people of this ilk. Or the other side of the coin, where my grandfather on the other side lived his life avoiding mobsters trying to take over his business. Romanticizing this type of criminal, Russian or Italian, doesn’t work for me.

    No amount of Cole’s signature snark could redeem this one for me.

  3. 3
    Amanda says:

    @DonnaMarie: I’ll admit, the first person POV takes some getting used to and I’ll always take third person over it any day. And I think this book only works if you fully commit to the crazy train that it is.

    Sidenote: I just finished Dark Skye, the latest in the IAD series, and oh my goodness. I definitely need to collect myself before attempting a review. In a good way. I’m also dying for an IAD book where the female is the aggressor in terms of finding her mate rather than the male.

  4. 4
    kkw says:

    @DonnaMarie: I am so with you. The romanticization of the mafia is unappealing and unfathomable to me.

  5. 5
    DonnaMarie says:

    @Amanda, Dark Skye is waiting for me at the GBPL drive through as we speak.  I a have big plans for this weekend: me, a lounge chair, some ice cold hard cider.

    If she ever writes that Nix book, you might just get your wish :)

  6. 6
    Amanda says:

    @DonnaMarie: Let me know how you like! I’m going to attempt to write a review this weekend.

    Also, I was creeping on Cole’s Goodreads. They do this new feature where you can send questions to authors. I’m not sure which book is next, but upcoming characters with their own books are Kristoff, Thad, Munro, Cara, & Nix. For the next book, my money is on either Munro or Cara.

  7. 7

    Great review but THIS is the line that slayed me…

    “It’s kind of like a weirdly sexual The Price is Right. Or maybe Oprah – “You get an orgasm! And you get an orgasm! Everyone gets an orgasm!”

    BRAWHAHAHAH

  8. 8
    denise says:

    I love the reviews on this site! They never disappoint—regardless of whether one actually wants to read the book.

  9. 9
    DonnaMarie says:

    Or Munro and Cara?

    But back to our reason for being here today. I usually have vast abilities with the suspension of disbelief and riding the crazy train, but I couldn’t get my head around the whole he’s a criminal and she’s okay with that cause love = rainbows and puppies and chocolate and spanking.  I kept waiting for the surprise reveal that Sevastyan was an undercover Interpol agent or something.

  10. 10
    Jodi says:

    For BDSM with a non-tortured hero try Jenny Trout’s ‘The Boss’ (http://amzn.to/1y9I7gg).  She wrote it to show that you could have a BDSM relationship between a young woman and an older man without it being horrific or abusive and to counter ‘50 Shades.’ It’s also free on Amazon, so if you hate it, you’re not out any money!

  11. 11
    Amanda says:

    @DonnaMarie: Unfortunately, at the end of MacRieve, Munro’s mate is revealed. It’s not Cara, though I’m unsure what race his mate is. He described her looking “like a wee traveller, a gypsy,” but that’s all we get as to what she is.

    I wish she’d reveal the next pairing already! But she has more than one series going on now, so she has to divide her time. I know the next book in The Game Maker series is due out next year. That might be getting more of her attention.

  12. 12
    DonnaMarie says:

    If only she’d think of US!! It’s been so long since I read McRieve I’d forgotten that part. I’m ready for more were action. Too many demons and vampires lately, although Lothaire was a laugh out loud fest for me.

  13. 13
    Mo says:

    My main grievance with Sevastyan is similar to my grievances with Christian Grey, though on a much lesser scale. His BDSM preferences are linked to a very traumatic childhood and unfortunate series of events. On a personal level, I’m not a fan of the “sexual deviancy borne of trauma” trope. Why can’t we get a well-adjusted Dom?! Blue collar, white collar – I don’t care. Just someone with a relatively sane childhood.

    And right there is my major problem with this book.  Seriously?  Like you, I want my Dom or Domme to be well-adjusted.  This type of thing completely delegitimizes the lifestyle.  It makes it out like it’s for broken people.  Um, no.  Just no.  And it was the major complaint in my own review of this book.

  14. 14
    Alexandra says:

    Amanda you pretty much put into words what I didn’t like about the Professional. KC is an autobuy author for me, but I was kinda disappointed here. The story seemed a bit unbelievable (particularly Nat speaking Russian so well after only studying for a few years…and never setting foot out of Nebraska. Not how it works). I didn’t really like Sevastyan while I loved Nat…but even at the end I felt like she compromised way more than he did.

    KC is SO talented at writing steamy scenes and it was fun to read a book where the sex had more of a focus but the story was just kind of blah.

    The next book in the series, The Master, is already up for preorder on Amazon. Despite my disappointment in The Professional I’ll still be picking it up.

  15. 15
    EGS says:

    I flipped through this one and the sex and everything was so redonky-donk plus the criminal “hero” and of course she’s a virginal grad student. Meh. Also, stop with the 1st-person erotica. It’s awkward.

  16. 16
    Elyse says:

    I read the eARC thinking this was romantic suspense and then was all like “whoa! Why is he fingering her in a cornfield?!”

  17. 17
    VelvetTea says:

    I bought the first two parts of this serial because it was cheap and I was interested in how they were going to work the mafia angle in. The first part was very short but I honestly couldn’t say I liked anything about it.

    I hated the heroine who for a grad student who had apparently worked 3 jobs seemed far too stupid to live. The enforcer just didn’t interest me as a character either, keeps saying he won’t/can’t sleep with her because she’s the bosses daughter but then does so anyway. 

    Definitely not for everyone. I think the second part will be languishing unread on my tablet for quite some time to come.

  18. 18
    Bethany says:

    I read this as a 3 part serial, and won’t be picking up the rest of the series. I adore Kresley Cole. Am a HUGE fan, and yet… nope.
    I don’t usually go for the BDSM stuff, but if the characters are compelling enough I can set my own tastes aside while they get their rocks off. Whatever. The suspension of reality it took to turn a Nebraska farm girl into a fluent-in-Russian mafia princess, was CAKE compared to the effort it took to endure the rest…

    The heroine doesn’t stick to her guns while pursuing healthy boundaries, and other signs of a SANE relationship.
    She lets herself be manipulated and controlled by someone that OBVIOUSLY doesn’t respect her. And i’m not talking about anything in the bedroom, mind you. That’s their business. (But from what I understand about the BDSM relationships, trust and respect are vital- and yet they have neither. He just wants a whipping girl, and she wants to ride something that’s not battery operated.) 
    She has a brain, and yet puts her impressive mental hamster to a single task- change the big brooding misogynist.
    So she likes to be dominated in bed. No problem. But NO ONE likes to be manhandled, humiliated, and then physically dragged out of the airport for DARING to put on her Big Girl panties and choosing to leave the relationship. Absa-freaking-lutely NOT cool. Not sexy. That, my friends, is called abuse. And there’s never an okay trope for that.
    The hero is a pecker head. You know those little wind up penis toys that you can find at adult stores? Wind them up, and then they hop in circles on their little feet? Add a Russian accent, and a deep hatred for women, and that pretty much summed up the hero for me. Except those toys are kind of entertaining, and this so-called-hero was nothing more than an emotionally crippled bully.

  19. 19
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    I also adore Kresley Cole’s IAD books and await them eagerly.  I tried “The Professional” and found it not to be my cup of tea.  I was okay with the BDSM aspect but the Russian Mafia-murderous thug thing was too over the top for me.  My main feeling at the end was “ick.”  I’m pretty sure I’m going to skip the next book even though it’s about the hero’s brother and I usually like those types of series. 

    But “Dark Skye” is on my hold list at the library and I should be getting it soon!

  20. 20
    Bonnie Bee says:

    What pretty much everyone else said …

    I adore KC on an almost stalkerish level, but this one … meh. I had to force myself to finish it, because I had never not-finished one of her books before, and I kept waiting for the IAD characters to walk in and save it. Which unfortunately, did not happen.

    I agree with what was said above, about jumping on the BDSM bandwagon because someone’s agent or publisher said so. At least I got this one from my local library, so all it wasted was my time and not my money. Money I’ve saved for “Dark Skye”, and glad to hear at least *that* series is still right on the mark!

  21. 21
    Amanda says:

    I devoured Dark Skye. Needless to say, I enjoyed it. Then again, I’ve been waiting for Thronos/Lanthe’s story for what feels like forever.

  22. 22
    Rebecca (another one) says:

    @ Jodi

    I picked up Jenny Trout’s ‘The Boss’ (http://amzn.to/1y9I7gg). And I saw that there was a sequel that made it seem like ‘The Boss’ ended on a cliffhanger. Does it? (I could of course read it for myself, since it is free.)

  23. 23
    Meredith says:

    @ Rebecca: Read The Boss—it’s really good! I honestly can’t remember if it ends in a cliffhanger (my brain is a wee bit fried right now), but it has two sequels (as of now) but I don’t remember feeling like the books were too sequel-baity, if that makes sense?

  24. 24
    Katie Lynn says:

    The Science of Temptation books by Delphine Dryer are really good for showing normal people who prefer Dom/sub relationships. I’ve read the first three and they’re a lot of fun. Highly recommend.

  25. 25
    Jodi says:

    @Rebecca I’m with Meredith…I don’t remember if it ends on a cliffhanger or not.  I was fortunate enough to read the entire book for free on a blog before it was published.  I want to pick up the two sequels and the related novella, but I’ve been trying be good about not flooding my Kindle with every shiny thing. :)

  26. 26
    Rebecca (another one) says:

    Okay, I’ll read ‘The Boss.’ I already started it, but I wasn’t sure if I should stop at a happy place. I remember reading a review either here or at dear author that said stop a few pages from the end. The bookwasn’t a romance, and the last two pages tore her heart out.

  27. 27

    Lynda Aicher’s Bonds of … series at Carina Press is great BDSM with regular people – the few who have something in their past that damages them for relationships, it’s not childhood and it’s not what causes them to be a Dom, so I don’t think it would bug those of you on this thread who are tired of that dynamic. I don’t like the 50 Shades rich guy/innocent virgin or the “damaged childhood = BDSM” trope either, but I loved the Bonds of books that I’ve read so far (haven’t read them all, but I trust that the rest of the series is as good as what I’ve read so far).

  28. 28
    Erin Burns says:

    I enjoyed this ridiculous glitterkink precisely because of the ridiculous over the top craziness. It’s not safe or sane, it isn’t a great representation of BDSM, but I found it hilarious.

  29. 29
    Amanda says:

    @Erin: RIGHT?! You just have to jump aboard the crazy train if you want to read this book.

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