I’m looking for the perfect balance of writing craft, eroticism, genre tropes and amazing feels, but it doesn’t quite hit that sweet spot.
An advance reading copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher.
I’m so excited about Mills and Boon’s new imprint, Dare. If Off Limits by Clare Connelly [ T | F | W ] if anything to go by, this imprint is aimed squarely at romance readers who have found the genre through Fifty Shades. It’s going to be interesting to see if the gambit works, because I’ve always thought of category romance as a gateway to the genre, but in this instance, they’re trying to attract readers who are already very invested in romance.
Gemma Picton has a huge crush on her playboy billionaire boss, Jack Grant. But as in-house counsel for Jack’s company — the only one who has lasted in the role since he went off the rails after his wife’s death — she knows that keeping their relationship strictly business is the only way to protect her heart. What she doesn’t realise is that Jack is attracted to her, and when he finally makes his move, there’s no way Gemma can say no.
It’s unfortunate that Off Limits starts off as a workplace romance, and the hero is just on the arsehole side of aggressive. I had to force myself to read through the cat-and-mouse tension between Jack and Gemma. Although the story is in alternating first person (present tense, if you’re wondering), Jack comes across as a total dickhead when he suddenly decides to pursue Gemma. I know this is supposed to signal how Jack wants her so much, but it just left me cold. When they have a sexual encounter in the boardroom just before a meeting is supposed to begin, I wanted to throw the book across the room. This is not sexy! We all know who gets to be the brunt of office gossip if someone had walked in on them. And please, if two people had been getting it on seconds before I walk into a meeting, I would know!
I think if I’d read Off Limits when I was younger or newer to the genre, I would have devoured it. There’s a thread of darkness and simmering anger and slight desperation that make this story compelling if you’re gorging on books with all the feels. But the chemistry between the characters felt flat to me, partly because my tolerance for workplace harassment in fiction is pretty low, and partly because I spent most of the book wishing the writing had been more polished. I feel like a broken record by now, but first person that reads like it could have been in limited third person will almost always distract me. Off Limits is no exception.
I skimmed this book, but I think it executes the expected highs and lows of a romance story arc well enough to please the readers targeted by the Dare imprint. It feels a bit like Harlequin Presents for millennials.
His eyes are probing mine now, and I feel like every single one of my fantasies, my dirties, hottest dreams, are playing out between us like a kinky Pensieve for his pleasure.
Yes, I’m a Harry Potter diehard. Hermione was one of my first role models.
I feel like this is a niche I can grow to love, and I’m looking for the perfect balance of writing craft, eroticism, familiar tropes and amazing feels. Off Limits doesn’t quite hit that sweet spot for me.
Content advisory: Possible workplace sexual harassment (YMMV)
Published by Mills and Boon.