Heights of Desire

Heights of Desire - Mara White 4.5 stars

This is a like watching a car-wreck. And not any namby-pamby fender bender, a full blown 30 car pile up, with an explosion and bodies covered in sheets on the side of the road. I don't mean that it is horrible-- well it is horrible-- The car-wreck effect is due mostly to our heroine, who gets herself in deeper and deeper, as we look on spellbound, mouths-agape at her decisions.

It is sucks you in and you just can't stop reading.

Heights of Desire is a page turner, and a train wreck all at once. I hesitate to call it a romance because I really don't believe that it is. Our "couple" doesn't fall in love, in my opinion, and the book isn't about them finding a happy ending (more on that later). So at least in the traditional sense of the word this is not a romance.

There are romantic element, but I wasn't routing for our brave pair-- Kate and Jaylee (god what a STUPID name) at all-- because I couldn't, because they really aren't meant to be together. I don't know that anyone is meant to be together at the expense of all other people in their lives. On the other hand I wasn't routing for Kate and her husband either (yes, it is that kind of story, so for those of you that don't like to read about cheating spouses, this one is NOT for you.)

But I also hesitate to even call it a love triangle. The setup for one is there, a forty-two year old married woman starts carrying on with a man-boy twenty years her junior. At first I was all about Robert and I couldn't believe what Kate was doing to her seemingly innocent-bystander of a husband. The problem is that as the novel progresses you start to hate the husband as much as you kind of hate Kate for making a complete and total mess of her life.

And a mess she does make. I mean like a serious mess. It was the sort of crazysauce mess, complete with obligatory accidental pregnancy and possible jail time that usually makes me want to bang an author upside the head and say, "really? really?!" But it works here.

I was tentative when starting this book because I got it for a steal-- 99 cents-- and it's self-published. (I don't have anything against indie authors, but there are more terrible self-pubs than good ones out there right now, especially in the "erotica" genre, and I have HAD it with reading unedited dribble.) Not to fear! There are a couple of editing issues (very minor), but the writing is smooth and pleasant to read.

White should also be commended for her use of dialect when she writes dialogue. Since our hero is literally a gangster living in NYC, he needed a pretty specific linguistic register and one that is totally different from hoity-toity Kate. The dialogue of Jay and his amigos was accurate and believable and the Spanish was right on. In fact, all the secondary characters were pretty strong.

But back to the car wreck...Kate made me want to throw my kindle across the room. There were multiple occasions when I either yelled, or groaned and banged things against the wall (if I used gifs this is where I would insert one). It's been a while since a "romance" got that sort of reaction from me. Kate starts out and continues throughout the whole story to make Really Bad Decisions. She knows she's making them and yet she can't seem to stop. To some people that might be infuriating in a protagonist, but again it works here-- because it feels authentic. I felt like it was honest. Kate knows she's being stupid and destroying her life, her family and marriage, but she doesn't stop. She CAN'T stop.

I'm all for happy books with strong females, but I also think they are sometimes unrealistic. A woman in a situation like this-- born with a silver spoon in her mouth, a stay-at-home mom, who is BORED because she has nothing else to occupy her time-- I think that that woman would cheat given the circumstances presented in this book. Because with Jay she is presented with the opportunity for fun, excitement and danger, and a chance to feel desired as she hasn't felt for a long time. Everything that Kate does, no matter how exasperating, is in character and fits with that motivation.

Now Jaylee...well he's an anti-hero if ever there was one, but I'm not sure he won me over. There was always a little too much mystery and a little too much edge with him. He's plainly immature, but streetwise. He is equal parts sensuality and violence. His behavior, according to his character was right on point. He's a gang member with a father in jail, and a drug dealer-- he's going to be dangerous and explosive.

So the character portrayal is spot on, but that doesn't mean that as a reader I wanted to swoon over him, because I didn't. He was sexy, sure, but that didn't mean much when you add everything bad and terrible thing about him in. Throwing a woman onto various objects to have your way with them is a little too caveman for me, even if Kate does think that she likes it: The scene in the public restroom in the park with Kate performing a oral certain act on Jaylee with an onlooker was , while an absolute "Oh My God" moment, also absolutely objectionable from a reader standpoint, though she says she likes it. Again, cue Kate with the Amazingly Bad Decisions.

The one issue that I really have and the reason that I had to hold back the last 1/2 a star is the use of the idea of love. Kate and Jaylee keep talking about how they are "in love." But I don't believe it. Not at all. Especially from a woman who is/was happily married to a man she did actually love, at some point, with whom she built a life. Maybe, towards the very end I could agree that Kate and Jay had found some sort of deep affection for each other, but mostly they are in some serious lust. A definite case of insta-love if nothing else. Really though, it is some serious, make-you-need-a-fan-while-reading, hot and heavy lust.

Romance often confuses love and lust, but I expected more of Kate despite all her impulsive, rash decisions. I expected her to realize that she barely knew Jaylee and even though she worried about him and bailed him out of crap situations, she didn't love him, because she didn't really know him. Throughout, their conversations are neither deep nor long. Their interactions mostly walk a fine line between violence and sex, with Kate constantly thinking that she is going to end things with him right that very minute. Ha!

For all of that, this is a kick-ass book. I picked it up in the morning and I couldn't put it down until I was finished. I was FURIOUSLY angry that there was a cliffhanger and no release date in sight for the sequel. That makes me crazy. The more I think about it I should probably knock off more for the complete lack of ending, but I'm not going to, because this book provoked a reaction, something that has been sorely lacking in a my reading life lately and if an author can do that, then I say it was a worthy read.