As much as I love erotica, the recent erotic-romance boom has left me largely unmoved. The books/authors that have worked for me are the ones I would classify as "erotica with romantic elements." I truly love romance, but for erotica I'm not necessarily looking for a love story. I'm also not necessarily looking for titillation. What I am looking for is character depth and a story that challenges preconceived notions of female sexuality. This has apparently been a tall order to fill, and for a while only Emma Holly was consistently delivering. Well, looks like I can now add Megan Hart to the list. Kudos to Harlequin Spice for snatching her up, because she's easily running away with my Biggest Discovery of 2007 award.
Broken tells the story Sadie, a psychologist living vicariously through the erotic stories that Joe tells her on the first Friday of every month when they meet for lunch. Joe might just hold the record for Most One Night Stands, and as he tells his stories (some sad, some funny, some very sexy), Sadie places herself in the starring female role. In reality, Sadie goes to work, then comes home to her husband - a brilliant, creative, maddening man she fell in love with in college. Adam is a writer, a poet, an exquisite lover, until a skiing accident turns him into a quadriplegic. They change, their marriage changes, and Sadie walks in a fog - lost until she finds Joe's stories that leave her feeling part guilty and part desperate.
What I loved about this book is that Hart makes you feel desperate right along with Sadie. This is a broken woman, with broken relationships, a woman who has lost herself and resigned herself to playing a role. She is who people expect her to be. She loves her husband, but the stress of his condition has taken a toll on their marriage. She's emotionally cheating, but she's so desperately hungry for anything remotely emotional the reader can't help but bleed for her. This is a woman who breaks down and sobs after a massage when she realizes nobody has physically touched her in a very long time.
I love how Hart never makes things easy for her characters. There are ugly realities in this story - everything from Adam's paralysis and his moods to Joe's inability to commit. I don't always like these characters, and I suspect Hart doesn't want me to. To unconditionally like them is to welcome complacency. You want to understand them, flaws and all, and it makes this story that much more gut-wrenching.
I love how Hart can give the reader hope, rip their heart out, and give them hope again. This story is sad. Very sad. It ends on a hopeful note, but there is a price to be paid - as in real life. Actions, consequences, bad things happening to good people. Sunshine Happy Rainbows this isn't - but riveting it is.
What I also found really fantastic was how Hart connects Broken to her earlier release Dirty. Elle (the heroine from Dirty), shows up in this story but the author weaves it so seamlessly that readers of the first book will love the return appearance and new readers won't realize that they're supposed to already know this character.
I loved Dirty, and I equally loved Broken. And much like Dirty, I have no idea who to recommend this novel to. It certainly is erotic, but Hart's brand of eroticism isn't meant to titillate. It's meant to get you thinking. It's meant to make you understand the characters. Ultimately it's meant to get you emotionally invested in their fictional lives to the point where reality begins to blur. This is one talented author. I hope, pray she is finding a wide readership and Harlequin has the brains to sign her to a huge, fat contract. Simply wonderful.
Final Grade = A