Photographer Delilah Hudson is traveling by train back home to New York City on Christmas Eve when the train becomes stranded during a blizzard. Since it looks like she's going to be stuck there for a while, she decides to make her way outside to snap a few pictures. Fellow photographer, Austin Morgan, coincidentally has the same idea, so they end up meeting on the platform at the back of the train. After bonding over their shared career, they make their way back inside to Austin's private sleeper compartment, where their instant attraction turns combustible. They while away the hours with some sexy fun, while also sharing an immediate camaraderie. But once the train gets moving again, is what they've shared enough to base a relationship upon or merely a perfect moment out of time with no future?
"Exposed" is the second novella in Donna Kauffman's Men of Rogues Hollow series, in which each novella focuses on one of the four Morgan brothers. This story is about Austin, one of the middle brothers. In it, Austin and his heroine, Delilah, are traveling on the same train on Christmas Eve. Austin is heading home for the reading of his father's will, while Del is heading back home to New York City from a photo-shoot in Atlanta. Both characters are photographers. Her subjects are objects, while his are sexy models, primarily of the female variety. When their train becomes stranded in a blizzard, they have a chance meeting in which they bond over their shared career and end up back in Austin's private sleeper compartment, where they while away the hours with some sexy fun. But when the train starts moving again, they have a battle within their own minds over whether their connection is enough upon which to base a long-term relationship.
To be quite honest, I only read "Exposed" to complete the anthology in which it's found. I've previously read three other Donna Kauffman novellas, including two in this same series, and not a single one of them even broke into the three-star range for me, which is a pretty dismal track record. Therefore I went into reading "Exposed" with no more than slight hope that it would finally be a story that engaged me, but alas, that wasn't meant to be. There's virtually no plot to the story. Austin and Delilah meet, talk, have sex, talk some more, have more sex... rinse, wash, repeat... until they finally part ways over their disagreement regarding whether they should pursue things any further than that one perfect moment out of time. Then the last couple of chapters are about how they reunite with an HFN ending.
I'm sorry to say that the story simply lacked an engaging premise, and the way in which it was written made it drag so that it felt like a much longer tale. There's a pretty big info dump right at the beginning, and then a couple more of them later on in the novella. There are really long passages of introspection that I felt could have been pared down, and I also felt that all of this could have been integrated better with the action (read love scenes, since that's the only action there is :-)) and dialogue. The story gets two stars for Austin's grand romantic gesture at the end, which I thought was sweet, and to a lesser extent, for the hot love scenes, although I have to admit that even those weren't perfect for me. I've never been much of a fan of the instant meeting and mating, although if done well with a strong emotional connection, I can appreciate it. However, here there just wasn't enough of that all-important connection to make these scene really sizzle for me. I also wasn't very pleased with the lack of protection, which is a major pet peeve of mine in contemporary romance. I know many authors and readers simply say it's all about the fantasy, but I don't find irresponsible behavior like this with no good reason for it to be sexy at all. Anyway, that's my two cents. If a Donna Kauffman story shows up in a future anthology I've picked up for a favorite author who's in it, I suppose I'll once again feel obliged to read it. But I most definitely won't be actively seeking out any more of her work, because it clearly doesn't resonate with me. "Exposed" can be found in the anthology Bad Boys Next Exit.
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