Willing Victim

Willing Victim - Cara McKenna I bought this book for two reasons:1. It's set in Boston and written by a local.2. The characters act out rape fantasies.It met my expectations completely on both accounts. Boston was a living, breathing character and the rape scenes were deliciously dark and satisfying.Laurel White is nearly thirty but she's spinning her wheels working as a waitress at a tourist trap. She hasn't been able to make a relationship work long-term and she's stuck living with two roommates in a small apartment in the North End. When she sees a bruiser of a construction worker break up an escalating lovers' spat at a downtown park, she's immediately drawn to him, following after him to ask him on a date. He initially turns her down, but when she presses him, he writes an address on a napkin and hands it to her. “Friday and Saturday nights, eight to one. Tell the guy working that Flynn invited you...If that doesn’t scare you off,” he said, “you can try askin’ me out again.” As it turns out, Flynn has invited her to one of his boxing matches - held in the basement of a South Boston dive bar - and to meet Pam, the woman he has rough sex with. Before he gets involved with her, he's letting her know just what sort of beast she's poking at. When Pam invites Laurel to watch her and Flynn "scratch each other's kinky itches," that night, Laurel agrees to go, intrigued despite herself.Laurel and Flynn then forge a "friends with benefits" sort of arrangement where she explores a hitherto unknown part of herself that is unspeakably turned on by rape fantasy.The book is in third person, but told exclusively from the heroine's point of view. Flynn is a chatty Cathy (while somehow managing to stay the strong silent type as well, not sure how that happened) so he's made completely real to the reader despite the lack of his POV. Being in Laurel's head is integral to enjoying the unorthodox sex scenes. Watching Flynn with another woman would have been off-putting if the reader didn't know how much Laurel enjoyed the spectacle. The forceful rape scenes - complete with fighting, spitting, and name-calling - would have been disturbing without the firm assurance that Laurel felt completely safe and was completely on board.As a result of the focused POV, the book relies strongly on dialog, and does a smashing job of it. When Laurel expresses her nervousness, Flynn calms her nerves in a way that both explains what they're doing and gives a glimpse into the kind of person Flynn is.“Neither of us is here to prove anything,” he said. “We’re here to have fun, and for you to maybe get your motor cranked like you never knew it could be. Or not. Who knows? My ego’s not tied up in this going a certain way. The only thing that makes me nervous is hurting you by mistake, and I trust myself enough to think that’s unlikely.”The characters are constantly communicating and nearly all of the character development comes through in their own words. Since they're basically talking it out with me, they felt especially real. Flynn was pitch-perfect working-class Boston as well. The bit where he intentionally held up another driver on Laurel's tiny North End street just to be a prick was classic. I lawled.Where the book fell apart for me was the ending. Ms. McKenna may insist she writes erotica and not erotic romance, but whatever she intended, she's effectively written 90% of an erotic romance. Just as the characters are admitting feelings for each other, exposing vulnerabilities and showing greater insight into who they are, the book ends without much of a resolution to it. It's not completely devoid of a HFN, but to end a book 5 pages after introducing a number of new character revelations? Not nice. Sure neat and tidy is ultimately forgettable, but you can have resolution *and* leave open possibilities at the same time. I was just the teeniest bit frustrated after finishing it.