Lauren Dane is undoubtedly at the top of the pack when it comes to erotic romance; she’s an author who can be counted on to supply some key basics to any story. Her work is deeply psychological, filled with strong women and the men who grow to love and worship them, in an atmosphere filled with internal conflict and with characters surrounded by rich, caring friends. Yet, for all these consistencies, each one of her many books (and I’ve read a lot of them) is as unique as the characters who inhabit them – characters who you feel could step off the page and hold a conversation with you. But talking might just be overrated since Dane is renowned, and rightly so, for her romance novels burning up the erotic end of the spectrum, rife with love scenes so hot you’ll think your e-reader is developing an electrical problem.
Her Delicious series is set on the picturesque spot of Bainbridge Island, next to Seattle, where a group of friends (Gillian’s good friends from Dane’s Brown Siblings book, Never Enough) have a long-standing supper club, one that becomes a thriving business for several of them. In the dual anthology Cherished, Lauren Dane starts off this series with the novella “Sway”. Levi Warner is tired of his brother’s fiancee making demands of their family leading up to the wedding, particularly when one of them is that every member of the wedding party attend dance classes. Levi knows how to dance but is happy to take lessons when he catches sight of his partner, a tattooed, vintage-dressed, twenty-something Daisy Huerta. She’s one of the dance instructors and her beauty stimulates Levi as much as her intelligent bright eyes and the way her body submits to his on the dance floor. They are both left a little breathless, but with Levi almost twice her age in his early forties, he knows she’s not for him.
Convinced they inhabit different spheres, he’s surprised to see her in the foyer of his friend and lawyer Cal Whaley’s building supervising an art installation. Daisy is elated to see the sensual older man whose air of command got her blood flowing in their dance class. She wants to run her hands through that salt-and-pepper hair and see if his dominance extends to the bedroom as well, but he’s clearly shying away from her. When they finally do spend some time together, she can practically smell Levi’s affluence but they both put aside their possible incompatibility in order to explore what’s between them.
Levi cannot resist this incredibly talented young woman whose confidence and art ability puts her in an older emotional class than her age of 24. With Daisy, Levi is able to be himself in the bedroom, a dominant, and like a true Dom, he cherishes and lavishes pleasure on his sub. He knows his loving but prominent family would never accept the artsy Daisy yet he cannot stay away from her. With his disaster of a first marriage behind him, he doesn’t want forever, but Daisy is not shy about calling Levi on his avoidance of mixing her with his life and family. His reluctance might force him to lose the person who has come to mean everything to him – who lets him be exactly who he is with no pretense.
I’m going to honest that BDSM holds zero interest to me but, like lots of other sexy times in romance novels, if there is emotion and character development in the midst of that sexual practice I’m happy to read it and see how it advances the plot. Levi and Daisy in the bedroom would be a good way for someone unsure about BDSM stories to dip their toe in the water since they are both so tender and exciting with one another that the sex is less about collars and rope and more about two people revealing their innermost selves and finding they are a perfect match.
“Sway” is also a great introduction to Lauren Dane’s style of writing, which I adore. Yes, everyone has a certain amount of emotional baggage but, with the rich setting of Bainbridge Island and Seattle as a backdrop, these people work through their internal conflicts to find the love they so richly deserve.
The second book in the series, this time the full-length, 350+ page novel Tart, focuses on one of Daisy’s good friends and business partners, baker Jules Lamprey. She owns the bakery of the same name and part of her expansion with her catering friend Mary Whaley is that they both want to start using local suppliers for more of their goods. Jules heads out to one of her favorite farmers, Patrick Carter, only to discover that his gorgeous grandson Gideon has moved back to help his grandfather. One look at Jules and Gideon zeroes right in on her, wasting no time going to her bakery and making his interest clear. They embark on a hot, sexy relationship that Jules feels is the icing on her cake until one BIG complication rears its head.
That complication comes in form of her best friend, Cal Whaley. Cal has loved Jules since he kissed her when she was fifteen and he was seventeen, but numerous relationships with men and women later and he suddenly realizes that Jules isn’t waiting for him anymore. Seeing the intensity of her relationship with Gideon goes way beyond her usual approach to dating, he corners her outside the bakery and gives a scorching kiss, one that sets her back on her heels and pisses her off.
Cal has had seventeen years to make a move on her and she came to terms with him not wanting her when he starting dating guys. When he also started dating women, however, Jules was hurt since she clearly wasn’t good enough for him to be with romantically, and now he has the nerve to kiss the stuffing out of her just when everything is amazing with Gideon. She storms back to the farm to tell Gideon what happened with Cal following in her wake, only to have Gideon shock the hell out of both of them.
Gideon knows that Jules is it for him. His failed marriage behind him, he has a clear view of what he wants and needs and this kind, blond beauty with her cadre of loyal friends and demanding family is his future. When Jules bursts into his house upset, with her best friend Cal on her heels, explaining how Cal kissed her and that she responded, Gideon applies his own brand of logic to the situation. Gideon doesn’t want to lose Jules and knows there is a serious spark with this man who has been in her life since she was small. He doesn’t want to be the reason that Jules loses someone important to her and, truth be told, Gideon has had plenty of relationships with men as well as women. Cal is gorgeous so Gideon suggests that Jules and he open the relationship to include Cal.
That was the last thing Jules expected to hear. She has seen successful triad relationships like that of her friend and famous bass guitarist Erin Brown with her two partners (whose phenomenal story is the first of the Brown siblings series, Laid Bare). Could she possibly do one and particularly a relationship with two such dominant males as Cal and Gideon? Her immediate family has abandoned her, one person after another, and the thought of Cal and Gideon maybe preferring each other in the long run and leaving Jules behind is a very real fear for her.
Without my knowing how many actual committed triad relationships there are in the United States, it’s had for me to know what’s normal, but there is something incredibly realistic about Lauren Dane’s writing when it comes to these committed situations. Gideon, Jules and Cal are wicked hot and sexy together, but their issues, fights and vulnerabilities are incredibly realistic as is the reaction of some of their family members to the announcement of their partnership. Yet where other books who’ve gone for “realistic” in menage relationships have seemed so unromantic to me, Dane makes these relationships filled with love and tenderness (and heat, yowza) where loyal friends and family just want the people involved to be happy and can see how good they are for one another. Having known so many women like Jules, who are so confident in every area except that of caring for their selfish family members, it was a joy to see her grow with the encouragement of Cal and Gideon into a person who can set boundaries and demand a healthy relationship from everyone in her life.
Overlapping the events in the last third of Tart is the hot fling between Mary Whaley, Jules’ best friend and business partner, and the uber-sexy rock drummer Damien Hurley, detailed in the third book of the series, Lush. Damien is in town for all of the wedding festivities of his good friend and rock legend Adrian Brown to his English fiancee Gillian, and he is immediately taken with all of Gillian’s lovely female friends. One in particular, the curly-haired brunette siren Mary Whaley bowls him over with her sensuality and her talent. She makes it extremely clear that she would be happy to have a hot little fling with Damien. One taste of Mary and Damien realizes that she’s even more delicious than her food, and once will not be enough for him.
Mary is incredibly busy caring for her thriving business and a relationship with one of the most notorious playboys in rock doesn’t even cross her mind. But Damien keeps calling and texting her, building a real friendship with her – one that she’s happy to say includes benefits when they see one another. Spending a little more time together has her uncomfortable and astonished at the behavior of the women he encounters on tour. Damien keeps reassuring her that its her he wants but with them both so busy, Mary has her doubts that this powerful attraction between them can develop into more.
It’s impossible not to love Damien and Mary. Damien is so determined to finally have something real with this incredible woman but he has to face the reality of his past. That he comes from a down to earth family (many of whom are in the band with him) who have seen him at his best and worst helps keep him on track and making progress with Mary, but he’s aware the lifestyle sucks when it comes to relationships. Mary is a wonderful strong woman with talent flowing out of her pores. Yet she’s not afraid to stand up to her overbearing friends who think they are protecting her from the hurt Damien could potentially inflict upon her with his rock star ways. I’m hoping Damien’s scathingly hot brothers will continue the series since the Hurley family has plenty to offer Dane’s readers! *fans self*
Lauren Dane not only delivers emotionally pitch perfect romance time and again, but she’s capable of doing it in practically every genre. While she rocks contemporary erotic romance with her Brown Siblings series (I’ll have to do a post on it, it’s that good and there’s a new book coming out in October), paranormal romance like her Cascadia Wolves shifter series or her newer Bound by Magick series, and even science fiction in the form of the Federation Chronicles (which kicks total romance ass, btw). If you’re feeling a little hungry for erotic romance with amazing characters, take a taste of Lauren Dane’s Delicious series and enjoy!