Shayla Black’s Wicked Ties is the most baffling of books, the kind that manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. It isn’t alone in that. There are plenty of books that should be tossed aside and disliked for whatever reason. And yet they aren’t. They can’t be, because somehow they rise above plot issues, or character issues or any number of craft foibles to be compelling and compulsively readable. Likeable…in spite of themselves. Wicked Ties does all that: gives the reader a plot that begs to have its Swiss cheese holes exposed; characters that are archetypes; and a general feeling that the only way to improve the situation is to throw the book against the nearest wall. Any yet throwing the book isn’t an option because valuable reading time would be lost. And for whatever else Wicked Ties is, it’s a book that, once started, demands to be read.
The setup of Wicked Ties doesn’t break any new ground. Heroine Morgan O’Malley is the host of a cable talk show devoted to sex while Morgan herself is afraid of her sexuality. Hero Jack Cole is an Alpha male of the highest order and a long time player on the dominate/submissive sex scene. To be frank, the set up doesn’t matter in the least, its only purpose is to give these characters the opportunity to meet and get alone and then spend the remainder of the book having sex. And that’s exactly what happens.
There are a couple of bumps on the road to that sex. The first is Morgan’s stalker. During her initial meeting with Jack – who she knows only as Master J and who she is ostensibly interviewing for her show – the stalker shoots at Morgan. Instead of doing the normal, logical thing – calling the police – Morgan entrusts her life to Jack, who she’s known for about a minute and a half. It is convenient that Jack was in the military and his current job is security. In a not-quite-professional move, Jack then convinces Morgan the only way to elude the shooter is for Morgan to dress up in out-of-character revealing clothing and allow Jack to fondle her in public. That is a device that need never be used again and a plot turn that severely tests patience.
The other bump is Jack’s campaign for revenge. His plan for Morgan is to drive her insane with orgasms – the sort that will leave her ruined to any other man – as a means to separate her from her fiancé (that relationship is a ruse) who happens to be Jack’s sworn enemy. This is really more an obstacle to the happily ever after than sex, one that never really asserts itself as vital to the plot. More importantly, it might be of an obstacle for readers who might question Jack’s morale compass and his willingness to use the heroine as a means to and end.
These elements rise quickly and are just as quickly assigned to the back burner as the plot settles into the sex soaked bulk of the book. Wicked Ties is a Heat imprint release and an erotic romance that lives up to that billing. The sex is plentiful, of a variety left of traditional romance center (read as: no orifice left unexplored). The sex is also integral to the development of the characters and their love story. While bondage and domination are the persistent themes of this couple’s sex life, the actual sex isn’t envelop-pushing or uncomfortable. It’s always titillating and within the bonds of the romance (even the story’s quick jaunt into multiple partners fantasy is about the principles’ love and acceptance of one another rather than the kink factor). The romance is paramount here, with the physical intimacy leading to the emotional connection. That said, readers who prefer their romance sex more staid should pay great heed to the erotic romance label.
The highest praise that can be paid to Wicked Ties, and conversely the harshest criticism, is that the book succeeds when it really should not. The plot and characters are addictively readable, when both should collapse under the weight of cliché. The read is immensely enjoyable, even when questionable and finally satisfies.
You can visit Shayla here and purchase this book here and here.