Since Undercover I knew Lauren Dane could deliver a smoking hot novel fraught with emotional depth and she has delivered it all over again with Laid Bare. Nothing could prepare me for the in-depth characterization of three people whose thoughts, feelings and experiences punched me in the gut and left a mark on me. From the get-go three elements worked as one; vibrant, drawn from life characters, profound emotions and a passion that often set the pages ablaze.
At first the story revolves around Todd Keenan and Erin Brown. They are the epitome of opposites attract as they share next to nothing in common. Erin is a musician; raw, passionate, into the moment when Todd is a cop; honest, polite, serious, a gentleman. Erin challenges Todd, provokes him to release his ultimate desires. In that very first chapter Lauren Dane lays a fantastic foundation for the story. It showcases the struggles of a man where the conditioning of his upbringing is at war with the liberation of his carnal needs. This internal colliding and the frustration born from it is incredible well captivated throughout Laid Bare. The connection between Erin and Todd is instant, it is hot and all consuming. Still fear is rearing its head and decisions need to be made.
Ten years and a lifetime of joy and pain later they meet each other again in Seattle. Ten years ago another side of Todd awakened and now it was time to come in to his own. When Todd and Erin meet the attraction flares to life again only there is so much more involved now then ten years ago. Because of the fact that Lauren Dane gave me a taste of who they were when they first met I felt the contrast in personalities. It kept me completely absorbed in Laid Bare, what had happened between then and now and gradually I was getting all the pieces. What this all entails is something I'd like to leave in the middle, for each and everyone should experience this first hand while reading the story as the impact will be all the greater. It involved all my emotions, from getting all hot and bothered in their carnal antics to heart tugging conversations that reestablished another, more deeper connection between Todd and Erin.
What I found so refreshing in Erin is that she's so comfortable in her own skin regarding her passionate side. She's unafraid to express what she like's or doesn't like, she shows what she feels. If she's sad, she'll cry and she made me feel it, if she is endeared, amused or aroused, she made me feel the same and I already experienced a lifetime with her and Todd only to find out I was only one third along in the story.
Todd underwent his own changes as he came in to his own, the acceptance of his own carnal needs along with the process of discovering what kind of relationship he could have with Erin gave me a remarkable insight in to his character. The man he became was sure of himself, creating a future where all the things he felt were important had a place in his heart, life and job. He is just the guy you want standing next to, sharing your world and all in it. It would be an understatement to say I enjoyed his character, the way he expressed himself, both between the sheets as verbally enamored me from the very first page.
The relationship development between Todd and Erin was very instinctual, what worked for them was the only thing that mattered. I also got to deal with a surprise in the form of the best buddy of Todd, Ben Copeland. Very subtle the two-way relationship alters in to a three-way relationship and adds a whole new set of issues to an already intricate relationship. Three-way's, you've got to love them, they bring wicked options to the story but to make it work in the romance department you need to work your magic as an author. I was thankful that Lauren Dane has that magic as she gave a beautiful and insightful portrayal of this three-way relationship.
Ben suddenly becomes key to the story. He is nurturing, understands different aspects of Erin but at the same time he is vigorous and not to mess around with. He is opposing Todd's need for supremacy without losing one drop of his masculinity. Between Erin, Todd and Ben different strings connect them and at the center it is all about Erin. The two males have a kinship stemming from a very long friendship but their feelings for Erin is what fuels this three-way. The story develops mostly in their growth as a romantic triangle with individual pain and healing process. I was absorbed by their story, by their relationship, it kept me involved and I shared their pleasure as well as their pain.
Throughout the story I met a few very, very interesting characters like Brody and Adrian, both brothers to Erin. Brody is a tattoo artist and Adrian is a singer but the family bond between the three of theme is palpable each time they met. Cope is another character that instantly captivated my attention as Ben's brother. There is a wide variety of other family members and a few co-workers that create a well rounded cast to liven up the world around the central threesome. The Mud Bay band where Erin and Adrian are a part of also play a significant part. It brings music and creativity to the story that is a much needed outlet in particular scenes. I related to this, music and emotion can become intertwined, a song can mean so much more than just lyrics and a melody. It has memories attached, it can be the expression of various feelings and it is a potent mix to add to the story.
At some point I expected a suspense thread to commence, for some evil doer to rear its ugly head but again Lauren Dane surprised me in keeping this story very close to Erin, Todd and Ben. I was presented with a very emotion-charged romance and a character driven story. From beginning to end it was all about them and that was all I needed, moreover, it touched me on all the levels that is so important to me as a reader.
When Erin meets Todd a passion ignites, but when Erin and Todd come together with Ben that passion ignites in to a scorching bonfire. Their romance thrummed though me with every emotion possible, and true to life characters as they were they aimed for a happily ever after that befitted them best. In the end, that is all that mattered to me. Laid Bare is without a doubt laying it all bare for the reader. Not only is there fiery eroticism but it also celebrates second chances and most of all portrays characters who had to go rock bottom before giving themselves wholeheartedly.
Lauren Dane has penned another romantica novel of the first order with Laid Bare. Keep them coming I would say!