My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at SMI Book Club.
BOUND is the first of a two book series by Lorelei James about the martial arts master Ronin and the sheltered but feisty Amery, and how they become lovers after a chance meeting in his Denver dojo. Amery has only recently escaped both the restrictive influence of her fundamentalist family and the dysfunctional relationship with the man she thought would love her enough to never stray. Ronin, on the other hand, is a complete mystery to both Amery and the reader, sharing only the barest details about where he came from and what makes him tick. Naturally, once he meets Amery, his dominant nature compels him to make her his own, even as she wonders what she’s gotten herself into while melting into his powerful embrace.
Here’s the part of the review where I would normally politely share what went on in BOUND and how it did or didn’t work for me. But honestly, this book has me in an emotional headlock about whether I actually liked it or not. A big part of the problem I had with this book was how it was so obviously designed to hook the reader into the budding romance between Ronin and Amery when there was almost nothing based in reality to make you think they should even be together. She knows absolutely nothing about him, other than that he says he’s crazy about her, while everyone else keeps warning her that he’s no good and will only put her in danger. Yet even that is all just supposition based on no real evidence, and we’re left wondering what the heck is going on with this guy anyway. And because this is only the first of the two books, it’s damn certain that whatever we do ultimately find out about him is what will send Amery off into the night, overwhelmed by righteous indignation at not being trusted with the secrets that Ronin is so obviously keeping to himself.
When that big reveal finally arrived near the end of BOUND, it was all I could do not to throw the book against the wall. (It was a print ARC, so I didn’t have to worry about damaging a valuable ereader, but I resisted all the same.) Of all the possible secrets swirling around Ronin, the one that made Amery insist their relationship (such as it was) was over for good was so ridiculous, so innocuous, compared to what we’d been led to believe, that I wanted to smack both of them for being Too Stupid To Live. How this book could be from the same author who wrote the Blacktop Cowboy books, one of my most favorite romance series?
When BOUND was focused on its more intimate moments, however, it was as good as anything I’ve read by Lorelei James, especially when Ronin had Amery fully immersed in his world of rope bondage. Those scenes kept the book from being a DNF for me, and helped me slide past all its other more troubling parts enough to want to read the second book.
So if you’re willing to look past weak characterizations, an apparent fetish with all things Japanese, and a ridiculous cliffhanger which exists solely for the sake of continuing the story in a second book, then you might enjoy BOUND. I can only hope that Lorelei James is back to her usual overall form in the follow-up book UNWOUND and that the sex scenes aren’t the only reason to recommend it.