After meeting via a military pen pal program, Lt. Finn Coleman and Emma Shields engaged in a sexy cyber affair. Ever since, Finn has been hot for the sexy temptress whose words light his body on fire. He wants to meet her in person, but she refuses to tell him who she really is. Not to be deterred, he pulls in a few favors to discover her true identity and pays her a surprise visit while on leave. Although she's nothing like her online profile, he still finds her attractive and is determined to spend his vacation exploring her body and fulfilling all the sexy bondage and spanking fantasies she shared with him in her emails. Soon, for the first time in his life, Finn finds that he's grown to care for someone more than serving his country, but as a career Navy SEAL, he still has a dangerous mission ahead when his leave is up.
Emma entered the pen pal program on a dare from friends who set up a stereotypical blonde bimbo profile for her. It's easy for her to share her fantasies with Finn when he's a world away concealed behind a computer screen, but when he wants to meet in person, she balks at the idea. Emma is just a simple country girl who enjoys caring for her horses and her prize-winning roses, and nothing like her online persona. When Finn surprises her by showing up on her doorstep, she's convinced he couldn't possibly want her once he sees what she really looks like, but she's shocked to learn that she's wrong. Instead, Finn spends the next two weeks showing Emma every sexy thing she's been missing and fulfilling a few fantasies she didn't even know she had. But when her heart starts getting tangled up in their affair, she isn't sure if she can be in a committed relationship with someone who has such a dangerous career.
Spank Me is the first book of Christina James's Operation series and the first book I've read by her. It's the story of two people who met online when the heroine entered a pen pal program and started exchanging emails with the hero who is in the military. Those emails quickly turned erotic as they shared their deepest desires and fantasies. She thought it was only going to be a cyber affair, but determined to meet her, he shows up at her door one day. They discover that they have just as much sexual chemistry in person as they did in writing and spend all of his leave having hot monkey sex. But when he's called back up for duty, it leaves their budding relationship in limbo. I've had this book on my TBR pile for quite some time. I bought it because I was intrigued by the idea of two people meeting in a semi-anonymous way online and then getting together in real life, so I had very high hopes that I would enjoy it. Unfortunately it turned out to be one of those leave-your-brain-at-the-door types of erotic romances. It's filled with an abundance of sexy times, but pretty lacking in plot or character development. Even still, I probably would have rated it higher except that numerous editing issues added up to a huge distraction, so in the end, it was just an OK read.
On a dare from some friends (although who these friends are I couldn't say since none of them appear in the book), Emma entered the military pen pal program. They set up a profile for her that described her as the stereotypical beautiful, blonde bimbo type of woman, when in reality, she's a fairly ordinary brunette country girl who loves caring for her horses and growing prize-winning roses. Because she lied about her appearance, she has no intention of her online interactions with Finn ever entering real life. Living in a small town, Emma has few dating options, even though the older townspeople are constantly trying to play matchmaker, much to her chagrin. Therefore she also has limited sexual experience, but she enjoys reading erotic romance novels, which is where she gets a lot of her ideas for the naughty talk she engages in with Finn. He insists that he wants to see pictures of her and meet her in person, but she keeps sidestepping the issue until he surprises her by showing up on her doorstep. He's much more forgiving of her lies than she expected and is totally hot for her from the get-go with them falling into bed probably no more than an hour after his arrival, which is where they stay for the better part of the story. She tries to keep things casual but ends up falling for him pretty quickly. She also isn't too keen on Finn having to leave so soon to return to military service. Emma was an OK heroine for as well as I got to know her, but what I've described here is about all the reader gets to see. The author hints at the idea that she's staying on the farm where she grew up out of some sort of obligation to her dad, but then it didn't really go anywhere. However, I did like that she was feisty enough to stand up to Finn when he was pushing his arrogance a little too far.
Finn was raised by his grandfather after his parents passed away, but with them both being rather stubborn alphas, the two butted heads often. When Finn got into some trouble as a teen, his grandfather dropped him off at the nearest military recruitment office, and he ended up becoming a career Navy SEAL, who commands his own unit into some extremely dangerous situations. Much like with Emma, his men signed him up for the pen pal program, but when Emma starts sending him sexy emails, he's intrigued by her in more ways than one. All he wants is to meet her in person so that they can act out all the sexy fantasies they share, but when she refuses, he takes matters into his own hands to find out where she lives. Based on their communications, he's all but certain she isn't the air-headed bimbo portrayed in her profile, so he isn't particularly off-put when they finally do meet and he finds out she's been lying. If anything, he's even hotter for her than before, and he spends the next couple of weeks showing her just how much. But when duty calls, he finds that for the first time in his life, he's reluctant to leave a woman behind. Finn is pretty much your stereotypical, arrogant, alpha, military man who likes to be in charge, and he definitely gets a charge out of spanking Emma and playing bondage games. Heroes like this can be hit and miss with me, but Finn fell somewhere in between. He didn't really show enough vulnerability for me to genuinely fall for him, but at the same time, he generally didn't push my buttons like many alphas do. So ultimately, he was an OK hero, though not really a standout for me.
What I've outlined so far in my review is about the extent of the plot and character development in Spank Me, which is definitely on the lighter side. Oftentimes, with an erotic romance I can forgive these deficiencies if the love scenes are sufficiently appealing to make me forget the other weaknesses. Unfortunately they didn't entirely pass muster for me either. They're certainly quite plentiful and hot, and I appreciated the variety in positions, venues, etc. However, the language used is both repetitive and extremely direct. Having the same terms for genitals and the sex act used over and over started to grate, making me crave more creativity in that respect. Also while I don't mind explicit words being used, the naughty talk is just so blunt that it didn't feel very romantic to me. Not to mention, a lot of it simply didn't flow well, coming off like little more than porn film dialogue. I'm sure many will find it more titillating than I did, but I much prefer for my love scenes and dirty talk to have more nuance and romanticism rather than being so in your face all the time. Also while there was an overabundance of lust, I didn't feel much of an emotional connection. In fact, I picked up on some telling rather than showing.
In spite of the weaknesses I've already detailed, I still might have given Spank Me a bit higher rating, except that on top of everything else, it also had numerous editing issues. There are lots of repetitive words and phrases even outside the love scenes, continuity errors, typos, incorrect word choices, incorrect verb tenses, and even one paragraph where the POV switches right in the middle of it. There were also abrupt scene changes without the additional spaces that usually differentiate them, which was pretty jarring. I'm honestly not certain whether the book was never edited at all or if it was done so poorly, but it all added up to a huge distraction. I have the original version of the book that was published by The Wild Rose Press, and I've noticed that since then, the author has re-released it as an indie. I have no idea if she put it through another round of editing before self-publishing or not, but I certainly hope so.
Everything taken together, Spank Me ended up being just an OK read. I liked Finn and Emma reasonably well even though I didn't really feel like I was given a good sense of who they are as characters, and while the plot was pretty thin, it was enough to keep me reading without becoming particularly bored. I liked the inclusion of Emma's horses and her cat, Freckles, although Finn's animosity toward the cat was a little off-putting, rather than amusing or endearing like I think it was supposed to be. While the book didn't live up to my expectations, I've certainly had more frustrating reads, which is why I still gave it three stars. For readers who enjoy erotic romances with lots of hot, steamy sex written in direct language, this just might fit the bill, as long as you don't expect a whole lot more from it. Considering that this is the first in a series, there weren't many other characters introduced, although I'm going to surmise that the remaining books probably feature Finn's men as the heroes. One of them, Miller, is briefly seen and has a few lines of dialogue at the very end of the book, and he becomes the hero of the second book, Tempt Me. The author also wrote a follow-up novella for Finn and Emma titled Tell Me More. Whether I continue with the series depends. I have another book by Ms. James on my TBR pile that I'll probably try first, but after this so-so read, I probably won't be in a hurry to do so.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including bondage, spanking and anal sex, which could be objectionable to sensitive readers.
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