Venetian Love Knots by Normandie Alleman
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Story Rating: 2.5 out of 5 paddles
Sting Factor (kink): 2.5 out of 5
Texas girl Allison goes to Italy for her friend’s wedding, and meets Nico, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. He shows her around Venice, and everything’s going well until her ex, Cole, shows up. Cole is intent on rekindling their relationship, and Nico is intent on actually starting one. Allison has to decide which she wants more: a new start, or a second chance.
It’s a simple, straightforward romance plot, uncluttered by digression or subplot, and it moves along quickly. I think that’s about the best that can be said for it. The rest isn’t as positive.
The writing is mediocre – the dialogue is especially labored, which becomes a serious problem any time there is dirty-talking or verbal back-and-forthing going on. The sex is warm but not hot. The romantic angle is frustratingly one-sided – there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable doubt about what our heroine should do, so while Allison felt conflicted, the reader really didn’t. We were just waiting for her to come to her senses and do the smart thing.
Cole is an enormous jerk, and that’s not quite a complaint: he’s meant to come across that way. Unfortunately, his hotness does not exceed his jerkitude, and so I had a problem understanding why Allison would put up with him at all. (I say this as someone who has a soft spot for both country boys and, as we call ‘em, ring-tailed bastards. He should’ve been a shoe-in.) It made her look like a weak girl with crappy boundaries and no self-esteem, which may have been part of her problem, but was still really frustrating. He uses her, has had a history of using her, and despite the uninhibited sex, their relationship really doesn’t have a future.
Nico, on the other hand, is depicted as genuinely warm and caring. I was afraid she was going to lean too much on the suave and sophisticated angle, but the author kept it understated instead of parading it, and I liked Nico very much. There was nothing artificial or affected about him. He seemed like a good catch from the very beginning. I liked him a lot. (An accomplishment, since I go for bad boys, and Nico isn’t. At all.)
The sex is . . . well . . . Allison mostly has sex with Cole. And because he’s a boorish, oafish, really selfish jerk, it’s not the best sex. Allison likes it, but it left me unsatisfied. I really think this may be a case where the bad guy is legitimately infuriating enough to un-arouse me.
The kink is all great in theory – bondage, some verbal humiliation, some spanking with a belt. But, again, because Cole is driving, it’s mostly frustrating. He’s . . . terrible with the manipulation and domination, no sophistication or style or subtlety, no real menace, no real force, so it just didn’t work for me. We’re told he’s dynamite in the sack, but I wasn’t convinced.
The parts with Nico worked pretty darn well for me, though. It did feel forced when Allison got angry with him, and I was super-frustrated by that.
And the resolution was unsatisfying. The decision was taken out of the heroine’s hands by an out-of-nowhere complication. She chooses to pick up the pieces, yes, but she doesn’t choose to turn Cole out on his ass, and it weakened the story. We never get to see Allison be strong or decisive, and that is consistently annoying.
So, overall, not great. A nice, romantic story, but unsatisfying in several key ways. Not particularly recommended, but not a steer-clear, either.
Reviewed by Naamah