My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.
This review contains spoilers for BOUND, the first book in the Mastered series. You could read UNWOUND as a stand-alone, and I’m not entirely convinced that would be a bad thing. But others might disagree.
UNWOUND, book two in Lorelei James’s Mastered series, continues the story that began in BOUND. I did not love BOUND. I thought it sacrificed both plot and character development for the sake of an absurd cliffhanger ending just to ensure a second book would be needed to supply the rest of the story. Yet the quality of its intimate scenes provided a compelling enough reason for me to want to read UNWOUND. if only to see if it would contain all the pieces missing from the first book. When I started reading UNWOUND, I did something I almost never do: I skipped to the last chapter just to make sure the happy ending was there. That’s how burned I felt by BOUND.
I’m happy to report that UNWOUND more than made up for my mixed feelings about BOUND. It did a great job of showing me exactly why its hero and heroine belonged together, culminating in a happy ending more along the lines of what I’ve come to expect in an erotic romance by Lorelei James.
When we last saw Amery Hardwick, she’d just walked out of Ronin Black’s life after finding out he had never told her about being the heir to a billion dollar multinational corporation. There were so many other secrets about Ronin’s life that he hadn’t shared with Amery, mind you, but that one was the dealbreaker for her. After the loss of Amery, Ronin has resorted to engaging in the type of underground Mixed Martial Arts fighting that he’d given up years before, presumably in an attempt to drown his sorrow with violence. But Ronin isn’t as young as he used to be, and his most recent fight has left him bleeding and semi-conscious, pounding on Amery’s front door at 2am. But why is he at her door when they aren’t together anymore? The story then flashes back to 6 weeks earlier, where we see how unhappy the two of them are apart, and how they were mysteriously brought together again on the night of Ronin’s near-fatal fight.
As Ronin and Amery’s rekindled romance unfolds in UNWOUND, we finally get everything that was withheld before: all the secrets Ronin had kept from Amery (and why), all the triggers from Amery’s past which had exacerbated her feelings of betrayal, and more of their individual experiences and motivations. They have both been guilty of assuming the worst without bothering to ask for the truth, and of letting their mutual lack of trust keep them from a more substantial emotional connection. But even as Ronin and Amery are finally being more honest and open with each other in UNWOUND, there are new betrayals yet to come, and other more dangerous secrets that could damage more than just their second chance at love together.
UNWOUND confirmed my decision that it would still be worth it for me to see Ronin and Amery find their happy ending together, despite how I’d reacted to the book which preceded it. There is a large amount of background and plot packed in this second book, but Lorelei James somehow manages to unveil everything in due time without losing track of the romance. Even the newly revealed threat against Amery fits well into the story and never overshadows the undeniable progress she and Ronin are making in learning to trust each other with more than just their individual sexual needs. I especially enjoyed how Ronin’s sister was believably transformed from a vaguely threatening enigma into a genuine friend and confidante for Amery, and someone who could provide Amery with additional insight into the part of Ronin’s past of which even he was not aware.
I may not have loved BOUND, but I’m so glad I stuck with the Mastered series and read UNWOUND. It restored my trust in Lorelei James as an author I can rely on to provide a well-written erotic romance, and reminded me that you can’t judge a writer (or even a series) by a single book.
Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 4 (multiple rope bondage scenes, discussion of past extreme BDSM interactions with other characters)