Title: The Professional, Part 1
Author: Kresley Cole
Series: The Game Maker, Book 1.1
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 16 December 2013
He makes the rules...
Mafiya enforcer Aleksandr "The Siberian" Sevastyan’s loyalty to his boss is unwavering, until he meets the boss’s long-lost daughter, a curvy, tantalizing redhead who haunts his mind and heats his blood like no other. Ordered to protect her, Sevastyan will do anything to possess her as well—on his own wicked terms.
Rules are made to be broken...
PhD student Natalie Porter had barely recovered from her first sight of the breathtakingly gorgeous Sevastyan before the professional hit man whisks her away to Russia, thrusting her into a world of extreme wealth and wanton pleasures. With every day she spends under his protection, she falls deeper under his masterful spell.
Are you ready to play?
Yet all is not as it seems. To remove Natalie from an enemy’s reach, Sevastyan spirits her into hiding. From an opulent palace in Russia to the decadent playgrounds of the mega-wealthy in Paris, the two lovers will discover that even their darkest—and most forbidden—fantasies can come true..
I'm a huge fan of Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series, and think it's some of the hottest paranormal romance I've ever read. Needless to say that I was stoked when I heard that one of my favorite authors was venturing into the realm erotic - BDSM - romance. I was looking forward to some incredibly, blistering hot, sexy times. Unfortunately, I had so many other issues that I couldn't enjoy this first part of the serial.
My biggest problem was Natalie, herself. It's been a long time since I've had the misfortune of reading a character that was this TSTL (to-stupid-to-live). Honestly, by the end of the first couple of chapters I was hoping she'd die just so I could read about someone more interesting and smart. By just a quarter of the way through this very short (120 page) novella, I'd given up marking all the moments where she was an idiot. It all started when she believed the guy, that had broken into her house and watched her in the bath, was sent by her father and didn't try to run from him immediately. Scary guy in your house? Have a conversation. Scary guy flips you over his shoulder and carries you - forcibly? Go along not wanting to get him in trouble in case he's telling the truth. Scary guy takes you to a corn field where he has a private jet waiting? Run from him, get caught, and proceed to have smexy times. Give me a freaking break.
All of this was bad, but might have been somewhat less irritating if she hadn't started off on such a bad note for me.
"Mommy issues. Serial cheater. Humor void. Two-pump chump." With each guy who entered the campus bar, I ticked off my inital impression to my drunken friends.
I had an uncanny knack for sizing up males--I was a regular "manalyst." My secret? I always went negative, and the guys, well, they always accommodated.
This from a woman that's barely dated, never been in love, and never had sex. Apparently she's a genius at sizing up and judging men at a glance though. Ugh. Isn't this what we want men to stop doing to women? Double standard much. Immediately I didn't like Natalie and it carried through the book. In addition to this, I could never figure out if Kresley Cole wanted her to be this cynical, jaded, experienced person or if she was supposed to be the inexperienced virgin. Her characterization was never really solidified. She portrayed whatever trait was required for the scene and surrounding characters, not because I ever felt like it was her.
There's only a couple of other characters worth even mentioning. I suppose, Aleksandr "The Siberian" Sevastyan should be one of them considering he's the hero. He's a mafiya enforcer that's still noble. He's got dark sexual desires - you know, he's into Domination - and somehow this, coupled with the fact that Natalie is his boss's daughter, makes her triply untouchable. Not that it prevents him from watching her in the bath, touching her, having oral sex with her...all before they even get to Russia. Of course, he beats himself up for it afterwards, and pushes her away - rudely - because, well, it's the right thing to do.
Speaking of Natalie's long-lost father, Kovalev, he's a Russian mafiya vor - like a Godfather in the Russian mafia - but he's (also) noble.
"The bulk of his business is related to real estate and construction. But he also mediates disputes between gangs, and he sells protection to business owners. He does a brisk trade blackmailing politicians. No girls, no guns, no drugs."
So, we get all of the danger of a mafiya story and none of the pesky concerns about ethics. He's just doing this to protect his family and other people in his territory. Never mind that his clan brings automatic weapons to tea. Don't get me wrong, I didn't really have a problem with her father, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy that was excited to have a daughter. I'm just frustrated with how his business is portrayed. I'm more frustrated with Natalie's response to it. She starts out all affronted and worried and not wanting any part of it. But 2 seconds after meeting him she's all 'I'm more upset that I don't get to hear how you defeated them than I am about what you do for a living." When Natalie accepted a fur coat - immediately after saying she didn't do fur - I knew she didn't have any strong convictions. This was just another example of that.
The last character I'm going to talk about is Natalie's distant cousin, Filip. From the first moment we meet him, I'm quite sure of his coming role in the book/serial. He's there to offer competition to Sevastyan, as well as - I'm sure - eventually betray Natalie's father. He tries to romance and seduce Natalie - which makes Sevastyan jealous and mad - and it's clear that he's jealous of Sevastyan and his lack of place in Kovalev's business. I'm quite sure that he's going to end up betraying the business and may even be behind the current problems that they're facing.
The territory war is, ostensibly, the reason behind Natalie having to go to Russia - immediately - in the first place, but honestly, it's all pretty boring. Nothing is happening, Natalie's privy to nothing, and she's locked up in a beautiful estate with loads of money, fine clothes, jewelry, horses, and basically anything she could ever want. But, of course, the money means nothing to her - for it not meaning much to her she sure does spend quite a bit of time detailing all the things it's bought her.
As you can probably tell, I spent the majority of the book either irritated or bored. The sex scenes weren't that sexy to me, and just when I thought I was about to get some awesome sexy times (because Sevastyan seemed to be in it wholeheartedly) this Part 1 ends on a cliffhanger. I almost want to start the second one to see if it's worth continuing on...but I probably won't.
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