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Monday, December 6, 2010

Fortune by Annabel Joseph

Fortune by Annabel Joseph
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (131 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/F/M, Multiple Partners, Anal Sex, Dubious Consent, Toys, Spanking, Caning, Voyeurism, Shibari (Japanese rope bondage)
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Violet

Kat doesn’t know whether or how to end her six-night-a-week party habit, not to mention her unhealthy addiction to meaningless sex. Then an accident lands her in the hospital. She wakes to find a menagerie of origami figures—and a gorgeous neurosurgeon—beside her bed. The complexity of the paper creations is nothing compared to the complexity of dark-eyed, authoritative Ryan, who seems determined to give her life some direction. Trouble is, Kat’s just as determined to resist his efforts to tame her wild side.

With persistence, Ryan draws Kat into his world of dominance and submission, where quiet commands and lengths of rope awaken needs and desires she never knew she possessed. But Ryan’s intimate, erotic shibari sessions frighten Kat as much as they excite her, for each simple knot requires infinite trust and inspires complicated emotions.

Then a family crisis tests their love and threatens to snap the fragile ties that bind them. Will fortune ever smile on this unlikely couple, or will fate tear them apart?

Mix a club hopping girl, a highly tactile brain surgeon of a Dom, her large Russian family with a fortune telling matriarch, one thousand origami cranes, and you touch the surface of Annabel Joseph’s Fortune.

I have a confession; I’m a huge Annabel Joseph fan and really wanted to review this book. In Fortune, we meet Ekaterina Argounov "Kat" a Russian book translator who club hops six nights a week as her coping mechanism and then goes home to her large Russian family. Although Kat is from a large, loving family she is not happy. She is most likely depressed and self-destructive. She goes through many Mr. Tonights with the explicit rules of no kissing, no oral sex, and no commitments. This changes after she falls down the stairs at a club and is treated by brain surgeon, Ryan McCarthy. A Dom, Ryan senses Kat’s submissiveness. Although Kat is scared of a relationship, Ryan won't give up till Kat gives in. In Ryan, Kat not only discovers pleasure, but happiness.

Ryan is a very tactile hero. He enjoys Origami, practicing Shibari on his sub, spanking his sub, and did I mention he's a brain surgeon? The moment he meets Kat, he dreams of molding her into his perfect submissive. Ryan loves Kat, but also wants to possess her. He's scared that he could lose her. To handle his fear he starts making origami cranes to create a Senbazuru, one thousand cranes for Kat. By Japanese tradition, a Senbazuru represents a wish to the person who makes it or is made for. The ultimate fate of the Senbazuru reflects the ups and downs of the book.

The supporting characters of the book play very poignant parts. Kat's mother is a fortune teller who gives Ryan courage when his faith is lagging. Her father is an ex-Russian spy who doesn’t always know who he is since returning home. It turns out he has a brain condition. At the climax, his condition becomes known and Ryan steps up as a true hero. Kat’s conversations with Ryan’s friends, Dave and Sophie were truly touching.

Still, I had trouble identifying with Kat and Ryan. Kat is lost and operates on fear. She does find happiness with Ryan, but I don't see her as healed and thriving. At the beginning of the book, Kat seems damaged and can’t derive pleasure from life. In her relationship with Ryan, although she does derive pleasure from the BDSM games they play, I also felt her fear. Kat’s fear was palpable to me and kept me from enjoying some of their sex games.

Ryan’s actions also kept me from truly being able to bond with him. To start, he whips her before even talking about domination and submission. Then when Kat doesn’t want anything to do with him, he uses her family against her to force her to see him. When they finally do talk about domination and submission and negotiation the conversation was point on, but never revisited. I was also turned off by Ryan’s sometimes rough handling of Kat. I felt using a rattan cane on her the third time he spanked her was extreme.

In Ms. Joseph’s other books; the heroines have had careers and interests that define them as much as their relationship. In a sense their relationship was completing their lives. In Fortune, it seemed as if Kat had no life until she met Ryan. Then Ryan got to mold Kat into his perfect sub. I question any relationship serving as the end all, be all for a woman. Nor is a relationship a fix that will heal a person with real issues. Kat was definitely damaged, and my guess is she had issues from her father being a spy who came home damaged. I not only wanted see Kat heal enough to be happy in a relationship, but also grow outside her relationship. If I had seen Kat as stronger or growing to be stronger or even use her safe word once, I probably wouldn’t have taken issue with Ryan’s actions because I would have believed Kat could handle herself. Perhaps she could have embraced her job as a Russian translator or even written an English/Russian textbook. With Kat, Ms. Joseph walks a fine line between someone who is lost and someone who has psychological issues.

Fortune is a sequel to Deep in the Woods with Dave and Sophie. Although it is a sequel, you can easily read this book without having read Deep in the Woods. I intentionally didn’t read Deep in the Woods so I could determine whether I’d feel a gaping hole by not reading it first, I didn’t. I would say there’s probably one spoiler if you didn’t read the previous book, but it won't ruin the book. Dave and Sophie do appear in the book and provide incredible fodder not only in a hot M/F/F/M encounter, but also as a successful relationship counterpoint to Ryan and Kat’s burgeoning relationship. In addition, the use of Shibari did heighten sexual tension.

Origami was a really unique addition I’d never before seen used in a romance. I enjoyed them so much I’ve actually made a few origami cranes of my own. The creation of the Senbazuru highlighted the underlying theme of your fortune being built one day at a time. As did Kat’s mother being a fortune teller. Although Kat says origami is just paper, she still treasures every origami creation Ryan makes for her in a shoebox. When it matters though, she really started to believe in the power of the Senbazuru and helps Ryan make cranes. At the climax, Kat and Ryan’s interactions will tug at your heart. You can feel Ryan’s frustrations and fear of being in an impossible situation. The resolution to the climax was beautiful and truly touched me. If the book had ended there, I would have been left feeling gushy and with hope. But the epilogue left me disturbed. In it, Ryan’s need to ensure Kat knew she was his made my skin crawl. One of the things he did would have been kinky fun, the three together not so much.

I also want to acknowledge that there are contradictions in this review and in the book. In some ways I believe this book is a study of two very opposite people. Ryan is incredibly controlled with an absolute vision of where his life is going, whereas Kat is flighty with no direction or goals or even dreams. The absolute opposites make a better whole. Kat is a contrary person. She’ll often say the opposite of what she means. For example she says has no belief in Ryan making 1,000 origami cranes, but she’ll stop wearing a favorite clothing item if something bad happens while wearing it. There are other less obvious contradictions in the book, too. Ryan is a brain surgeon who probably sees more death and tragedy than most, but believes in making the Senbazuru. In addition, Ryan is a brain surgeon who tries to help Kat’s father, but doesn’t recognize the man has a problem until a major medical crisis. Kat lives in her family’s home and shares a room with younger nieces, but no one has a problem with her coming home late after clubbing and sex to share a room with the girl. I’d say this book is like a rose, and as you pull the petals off, some are better than others.

In closing, let me say that Ms. Joseph created a complex love story of two very unique individuals. Both Kat and Ryan are fully formed interesting individuals with different wants and needs. They didn’t have an instant attraction relationship or lightning bolt meeting. It was more real, slowly building one day at a time. One of more stirring moments is when Kat returns to the club she always went to and feels out of place, because she’s changed from the person who found solace there. The relationship had ups and downs, and required trust and faith from both Kat and Ryan. It was touchingly real, not something you read every day.

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