Shane Walker and Ella Davenport have been best friends nearly all their lives. They share almost everything and have no secrets from each other, but neither had ever really thought of the other as more than just a friend. That is until six months ago, when Shane realized that he was developing feelings for Ella that went much deeper than simple friendship, but Ella's relationship with her current boyfriend has kept him quiet up until now. Shane was offered an important career-advancing position with a law firm in their home state of Texas and is moving back there to take the job. Now he can't bear to leave without finding out if Ella could possibly feel the same way about him as he does about her.
Ella is a grad student in art history and has been taking a course in historical erotic literature. Lately, she has started to have erotic fantasies, but instead of her boyfriend being the star of her daydreams, it's Shane. El chalks it up to the fact that Shane is moving, and this is the first time they'll have been separated by so many miles. The thought makes her feel a little lonely, so she thinks it's all just her mind playing tricks on her. Shane has been working on apartment renovations for Ella, and she is stunned to return from her studies at the library on their last weekend together to find that Shane has prepared a romantic candlelight dinner with food from her favorite restaurant. As they talk and share the meal like the old friends that they are, the air around them is charged with an energy that wasn't there before, and when the power suddenly goes out bathing the city in blackness, anything can happen. Before Ella knows it, Shane is fulfilling every one of those fantasies she's had, and then some, but when the lights come back on, will she be able to face the truth of her feelings for him?
Night Moves has one of my favorite romance themes, best friends who become lovers. Shane and Ella have been friends since 2nd grade, so their relationship has a very sweet quality to it. For a short book, I thought the author did a good job with the character development by showing bits and pieces of their past together through introspective flashbacks. Both of them had rather sordid and difficult childhoods in which they relied on each other a lot for support. They've done nearly everything together including moving from their home state of Texas to New York to attend college. They also have no secrets from each other and share everything right down to their deepest desires and fondest fantasies, so it's not too surprising that Shane came to the realization that he's in love with Ella and wants to convince her that they should be more than just friends.
For the most part, I liked both Shane and Ella. In spite of their less-than-stellar upbringings, they are both strong career-oriented individuals (he is an attorney and she is hoping to become a museum curator) who have, in many ways, helped each other to become successful in life when their families failed them. Their long-term friendship laced their overall relationship with incredible chemistry and gave their sexual intimacies a beautiful level of trust that neither of them had experienced with previous partners and which was a joy to read. Shane is a yummy hero who went to great lengths to woo Ella including planning a romantic dinner by candlelight with food from her favorite restaurant, and secretly writing his own erotic stories to get her blood boiling. I loved how intuitive he was, always seeming to know exactly what his sweet El needed even when she didn't realize it herself. The only thing about Shane that gave me pause was his willingness to seduce El while she was in a serious relationship with another man, which I'll address momentarily. I liked Ella's passionate, adventurous spirit, and the only man who seems to be able to match her zest for life is Shane. The problem is she's rather blind to that fact, and instead has given in to thinking that the only thing in her life that matters is finding a man who can give her a stable close-knit family that she can be a part of, which is something she's always wanted but never had. Unfortunately, that's the one thing Shane can't give her, and so in that respect, I thought she was a little too stubborn and protested too much. Otherwise, she was a fairly likable heroine except for her willingness to have sex with Shane while she was involved with another man.
That brings me to my chief complaint with this story, which was that Shane and Ella technically cheated on Ella's boyfriend, Tony. I'm not a fan of love triangles and especially ones that involve cheating, so this somewhat diminished my enjoyment of the book. I was waiting for some kind of twist in which Tony was secretly an ogre, had been cheating on El first, realized he was gay, or something else to make their actions more palatable, but nothing ever materialized except that Tony was merely a boring vanilla kind of guy both in personality and bedroom skills. It was also rather annoying to have Tony's name frequently coming up in both discussion and introspection, which made him seem like a ghostly third wheel. Readers who have a strong aversion to any cheating whatsoever may not care for this book, but there were a couple of things that somewhat saved this part of the story for me. One was that Tony and Ella weren't married, though admittedly they were serious enough to make Ella think that they would be soon. The other thing was simply that Shane and El had such an amazing connection, it was sometimes hard for me to remember that Tony was even in the picture. It was pretty obvious that El had latched onto a boyfriend who was a poor fit for her personality merely for his close-knit and entertaining family. It was equally obvious to just about everyone except El that she and Shane belonged together, and if she had realized this a little sooner, she might not have even gotten involved with Tony in the first place. So ultimately, a couple of extenuating circumstances kept this part from being thoroughly distasteful, but it still bothered me enough to knock off a few points for it.
On the other hand, I had to give Night Moves a few extra points for Julie Kenner's creativity particularly in the love play. I thought it was very unique to have the heroine taking a graduate class on Victorian erotic literature. The author actually included citations of and at least one excerpt from real historical erotica, as well as having the hero and heroine read some passages together. While the denouement of the the love scenes was a little rushed and less descriptive than I would have expected from a Blaze novel, all the stuff that led up to them were smokin' hot. Readers who are turned on by the idea of a steamy boudoir-style photo shoot, and a scorching game of Truth or Dare that leads to a sexy striptease by the hero and culminates with a bit of exhibitionist love-making will probably enjoy this book. Those scenes certainly gave me need of a fan and an ice-cold drink. Not to mention, having the blackout as the background provided the perfect ambiance for all of this to happen.
Even though I would have preferred that the conflict not involve a third person, Night Moves had a high enough likability factor for me to mostly enjoy it. After a string of low or no heat reads, I had been looking for something steamier and this book definitely did not disappoint me there. Anyone looking for a quick, hot, sexy read may want to check this one out. Night Moves was my first read by Julie Kenner, but I really liked her writing style and will be looking to read more books by her in the future. This is also the first book in the multi-author Blaze series 24 Hours: Blackout, but from what I can tell there are no carry-over characters between the books in the series, just the common thread of the blackout. There is however, one secondary character in Night Moves, Veronica Archer, El's friend and the professor teaching the erotic literature class, who was the heroine in a previous stand-alone novel by Julie Kenner titled Silent Confessions. This is a pretty minimal connection though, and they can easily be read separately. I'm normally a stickler for reading books in order, and even though I had not read Silent Confessions, I did not feel like I was missing anything.
Note: Night Moves reads very much like an extra-steamy, traditional, contemporary romance, but the inclusion of some light bondage and a couple of instances of exhibitionism give it a borderline erotic feel.
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