After reading and reviewing Parts I and III, I finally was able to both review Part II and read The Professional in completion.
The highly anticipated complete novel of The Professional—the first installment in #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole’s scorching Game Maker series, an erotica collection that has readers asking: How hot is too hot?I'd say The Professional could be considered rather hot, though for some reason I thought it was an incredibly racy romance novel rather than straight up erotica. I guess that wins the book points for plot?
Natalie Porter is an intelligent and lovely woman, juggling three part time jobs while working on her PhD in history. Men, dating, and drama? She does not have time for that (and besides, thanks to the growth in women-positive porn and sex toy shops, she can take care of that basic itch on her own). She works hard, and while occasionally lonely for an intimate companion, she's largely happy with her life. Except for one nagging question, who are her biological parents? Little does she know that her inquiries have born fruit... and raised some flags.
Enter Aleksei "The Siberian" Sevastyan, sexy and dangerous, who's descriptions bring to mind someone like Vinnie Jones crossed with an underwear model. He catches Natalie's eye, and unlike the other men in bar, she can't get a good (or scathing) read on him. All she knows is this man who makes her panties melt with a look seems disgusted with her interest. Confused and frustrated she makes her way home, only to shortly encounter Sevastyan again, when he reveals he has been shadowing her for a month, and he's there to take her to Russia to meet her father immediately. And no, Natalie doesn't have any say in this.
Their chemistry is scorching, with Natalie eager to experience what Sevastyan has to offer. Unfortunately things aren't that simple, her father is a poweful man and Sevastyan has a dark past and "dark" desires (ie. he's into BDSM). Natalie's father has his loyalty and his loving respect, and as the daughter of a mafiya boss Natalie is pulled into a set of rules where her affections could cause a power play. Sevastyan wants Natalie like he's never wanted anyone before, and wants to do things with her that he thinks she should be ashamed to desire. She's nothing like the women he's been with before, challenging him at every turn, not letting him deny the very obvious attraction to her and the enjoyment they both experience. When he reacts angrily to what she wants, what she enjoys, with "It made you happy, to be used by me?" She responds with "I orgasamed three times; you did once. Who's using whom, Siberian?"
But wealth and power are not enough to keep them safe, and Natalie is again pressed into Sevastyan's care as they escape from an attack that takes her father's life. It's not only Natalie's safety and their home that must be assured, but their passion that must be navigated. Natalie knows what she wants and knows that Sevastyan can provide, but he resists giving into his desires and fears her reaction if he opens himself emotionally until he nearly loses her.
So, some thoughts on the book - first off let's here it for women who like sex. Seriously, Natalie may start the book as a virgin, but that doesn't mean she's innocent. I hate the magically extraordinary innocent troupe in romance novels. She's aware of her sexuality and aware of at least her potential proclivities. Not only that, but her best friend is highly sexual and proud of it. I don't think Jess would recognize someone slut shaming her if they tried. She does tease Natalie about her virginity, but Natalie returns in kind and isn't upset about it, so it feels more like the type of raunchy humor between close friends than specifically a stigma against her lifestyle. Then once Natalie locks on to Sevastyan she is very clear to him about what naughty thoughts are going through her head.
There are some problems with Sevastyan's concept of consent and negotiation of limits. That being, said, Sevastyan generally has problems with showing any vulnerability outside of aftercare, which is the source of difficulty in their relationship (namely, that a relationship needs more than mind-blowing sex). On the flip side, Natalie lets the reader know her enjoyment, even when he pushes her limits, and when he gives her an option to tap out she resolutely stays in. Whenever he makes an assumption about her desires she challenges it and doesn't back down. Sevastyan may be possessive of Natalie, but she has her own power over him, and she uses it when he's crossed the line to let him know that he's going to lose her.
In addition to being smutty, the book made me laugh. The story itself leans more towards drama (and wild monkey sex), but there are still moments of friendship, humor, and sassy. Overall, The Professional made for steamy read that engaged for more than just the sex. But if you want to read it just for the sexcapades, you won't be disappointed.
Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.