Thursday, May 3, 2012

All The Boys Get Lonely After You Leave

You know why authors and publishers keep cramming connected books down our throats?  I'll tell you why - because readers are suckers.  Truly we are.  Oh sure, we may moan and grown "Dear God, not another series?!" - but secretly, deep down inside, in places we don't want to acknowledge?  We want that series.  We need that series.  We want to get hooked.

Which brings me to Naked Angel by Logan Belle, the third and final book in her Club Burlesque trilogy.  What I loved about the first two books were the world-building, the colorful secondary characters, and the huge-honkin' soap opera plot.  What I didn't love so much?  The main character Mallory Dale.  So it was a bit of a relief to find Mallory and her boyfriend Alec are relegated to minor roles for the vast majority of this closing chapter.

After months of hard work it's opening night for The Painted Lady, the sexy new burlesque club Mallory and Alec are launching.  The biggest night of her life just keeps getting better too, because right there on stage, Alec gets down on bended knee and proposes!  Mallory, of course, accepts - but it's a bumpy ride on the way to wedded bliss.  First, there's Nadia - a ballerina who has had to hang up her pointe shoes after one too many foot injuries.  She's hoping to find solace and satisfaction on the stage of The Painted Lady - if only the new man in her life weren't so outraged by the idea.  Then one half of the married financial backers of the club decides to get involved with the sexy British costume designer Mallory has hired - not only putting his marriage at risk, but also the financial stability of Mallory's new endeavor.  Waiting in the wings?  Our villain, Violet Offender, new owner of the Blue Angel, and gunning for Mallory at an upcoming burlesque competition in Las Vegas. 

Let's get this out of the way first - this book does not stand alone.  Readers should start at the beginning of the trilogy and read in order to achieve the maximum effect of soapy goodness.  While all the players in this story are certainly interesting, there's not a whole lot of what I call in-depth character development.  This is more of a plot driven story, and no this is not automatically a "bad" thing.  It just means it's a different sort of read with different sorts of expectations.  I want to be transported back into the world that Belle has created, and that is what she does.  She gives me the scandal, the sex, the drama, all wrapped up in feather boas and tasseled pasties.

While Mallory and Alex are still the main players in this universe, this story focuses more on ballerina Nadia and costume designer, Gemma Kole.  While it was good to see that Mallory and Alec have, for the most part, moved past the issues that were clogging up the first two books - here they seem firmly rooted in Happy Ever After Land, although the author does try to juice up some conflict by having Alec suggest that maybe Mallory might want to cut back on preforming once they marry.  I didn't really buy into that though, as far as "serious" conflict.  No, the meat and potatoes involve Nadia, and her burgeoning relationship with a man who runs his own ballet academy - a man who thinks that just because she can no longer dance en pointe, doesn't mean she should throw out the baby with the bathwater.  He's also big on issuing ultimatums as far as the burlesque thing goes.  Honestly, even though the author does sell it fairly well in terms of his back-story and "personal issues," I still couldn't help but feel like Nadia should have told this jackass to take a long walk off a short pier - but to each his own.

Gemma is the show-stopper though.  She's one part sex kitten, two parts cold fish.  And for a big chunk of the story you're not sure what side of the page she's going to fall on - heroine or villain?  Enter Violet Offender, our clear-cut villain from the previous book, who arrives on the scene to muck things up a bit.

Everything culminates at the end of the book, with Mallory and Alec getting more page time once the story lands in Las Vegas.  This is also where the author wraps up her trilogy with a skilled hand.  I loved that while it ends happily, it isn't unrelenting sunshine and rainbows.  I loved that while it didn't seem like the villains were totally vanquished - it also doesn't mean they really "won" either.  Mallory and Alec do ride off into the sunset though, and while we don't have a crystal ball - I think those two crazy kids just might be able to make things work.  And trust me, that wouldn't have been the easiest thing to say after the first two books.

In the end, I'm left with fond memories of the world, the soap opera that left me in a swoon, and a cast of colorful secondary characters that I loved re-visiting.  I rationally know it's not the sort of thing that could go on forever without wearing thin, but darn it all - I didn't really want it to end.  The sign of any memorable trilogy, to be sure.

Final Grade = B-

Side note: I was reading this book on my lunch breaks at work, and my boss got one look at the cover and suggested, jokingly, he "book talk" it at the next manager's meeting.  I told him that wasn't a bad idea (it would certainly spice up those affairs!) - but that he really should tackle the books in order. 


Hilcia said...

Ahh Wendy, we share the love! We definitely agree on Mal/Alec, Violet and the whole Max/Nadia relationship. What a jerk!

This was such fun to read though. I almost gave it a B- too, but in the end went a bit higher because of how much I enjoyed that whole erotic soap opera vibe so much, on top of the burlesque atmosphere. I missed the first book and am definitely going back to read it. :)

Wendy said...

Hils: This is one trilogy where, if I had waited for all three books to have been released, I could have totally inhaled them back-to-back-to-back. That said, I did pretty much read books one and two that way :)

I'm a sucker for a good rip-roarin' soap opera - and if the author mixes in some naughty sexy-times? All the better. Dang, I'm gonnna miss Violet though. That girl was just too much!

nath said...

Woohoo, Wendy! I'm glad this series ended on a high note for you :) I know it's one series that you enjoyed despite some of the flaws!

And LOL, good reply to your boss!