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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Allure by Nina Lane

(Spiral of Bliss, Book 2)
By Nina Lane

“We both want this so badly. I can feel it resonating between us like the hot pull of our first attraction, tangible and intense.”

After lies and betrayal almost destroy their marriage, Dean and Olivia West reignite their blissful passion. The medieval history professor and his lovely wife are determined to fix their mistakes, and Liv’s unexpected pregnancy intensifies their desire to fall madly in love all over again.

Then a family crisis forces Dean back into a feud with his parents and siblings, dredging up guilt over a painful family secret. Dean fights to shield Liv from the hostility, but for the first time, Liv resists her white knight’s defense. Her newfound resolve clashes with Dean’s desperate need to protect her.

Liv and Dean have battled obstacles together before, but bitter family conflicts now endanger their fragile intimacy. And when Dean’s career is suddenly threatened, he and Liv must struggle with events that could damage them in ways they had never imagined.

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Lea's Review: 
Dean and Olivia West are married from the start of this series.  Just knowing this alone gave me trepidations of reading the series.  How did I feel about a couple that was already bonded?  Will there be enough of my favorite ingredient of any love story which is tension?  How do you take a married couple and introduce additional dynamics to capture and maintain the reader’s attention?
With these thoughts in mind, I went into the series a bit hesitant, but I couldn’t ignore my curiosity as to how the author, Nina Lane, was going to deliver and spin the love story of Dean and Liv.

Nina Lane did not disappoint.  My excitement was apparent when I found myself jumping right into Allure, the second book of the series.  Mind you, I usually read other books from different authors in between to take a break, but it wasn’t the case here.  To understand Allure, I highly recommend reading the first book, Arouse.  There is quite a bit of back story in Arouse that you need to be aware of in order to understand the psyche of Dean and Liv as individuals and as a couple.

Allure picks up immediately where "Arouse" left off.  Lane truly takes the time to cultivate the romance, tension, and problems that exists in a marriage and she takes what Dean and Liv went through in book 1 and has her characters still affected by those same events in book 2, with the addition of more problems, of course.  Thus, making this series so solid and believable.  She is realistic in the notion that there is no perfect marriage.  How does a couple who love one another so passionately get to a place of betrayal, resentment, and distrust?  Lane spins their story cleverly by going back and forth between past and present.  In order to understand Dean and Liv’s present thoughts, how they react to situations, how they feel towards each other, we must know their past.  Lane has a talent for aligning experiences of their pasts, whether it be their childhoods or they developing relationship, and applying their experiences to how they react to their present situation.

Dean is deeply protective, impressively successful, and continually strives to exceed at his job of being a Medieval History Professor.  He is also flawed by a troubled past.  Liv is different in that she still struggles to find herself.  Her successes does not reach that of Dean’s, but she takes her life step by step and has small successes of her won that is, in my opinion, equally gratifying.  She, too, is flawed by a troubled past.  However flawed they were before meeting, however successful or non-successful, Dean and Liv share a passionate love that is continually tested.  Their marriage is testimony to the unconditional commitment it takes to keep a marriage together.  This is evident in a tragedy they shared, a tragedy that is just one of the crisis that they endure.  Dean’s protectiveness and need to fix things are reflective of his childhood and how it formed him into the person that he is now.  Liv’s struggle to not always run to Dean at times of crisis is a reflection of wanting to find her place in this world and the need to establish a sense of importance after a childhood of standing by the sidelines, being a wallflower, and just trying not to be a “hindrance” to her neglectful mother.  These individual qualities are highlighted through the experience of this tragedy.  We are brought to poignant times in their pasts that help us understand how they react to a tragic experience in the present.

This is just one example of how Lane develops her characters.  In order to understand someone, we must know their past and how it shaped them into the person that they are with respect to the decisions they make and the opinions that they have.

One may think that the continual jumping back and forth through past and present can be confusing especially if the reader doesn’t read the book in one sitting.  Since I would pause ever so often, I did get confused with which moment of time the story was in, but it was easy to get back into the time of the story right away just by going back a few paragraphs and rereading.  I kept in mind that knowing the past was important.  It brought a better understanding of the present.  Lane does this on purpose and she delivers masterfully.

Dean and Liv have more obstacles to face and the book ends with a huge decision for them along with important revelations from Liv as to why they treat each other the way they do and just how limitless their love is.  She proves to be just as strong as Dean, if not stronger, and he is reminded of how much he loves that about her.  It’s a very emotional moment summed up by this part in the book:

“Our relationship, our love, cannot and will never be perfect.  It will, however, always belong only to us in all its flawed, intense beauty.  Perfect in its very imperfection.”

I cried with Dean and Liv.  I cried for them, as well.  I found myself relating to Liv in the fact that she struggles to find herself, yet she is a pillar of strength for Dean when he is at his lowest.  I admire Dean in his deep love for Liv, his recognition of her strength, and I even accept his protectiveness for her.  It’s been a constant quality of his that is quite endearing, but not overbearing.

Lane does a splendid job of making these characters real.  There was slowly-evoked tension and then there was in-your-face tension.  There are a myriad of dynamics not only between the couple, but amongst the two families.

This book, and this series, for that matter, has gone above my expectations and leaves me wanting to be at every step they take, every decision they make, every rise and every fall, and every passionate moment.

I can’t wait to read Awaken (book 3) of their continuing love story.

Rating: 4 Stars - I Loved It!

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