Regan and Bobby Torrance experienced a whirlwind romance in their youth and married young, only to have their relationship fall apart. The two were from opposite sides of the tracks, and Bobby's wealthy family never liked Regan. Because of her humble beginnings, they felt she wasn't good enough for him. Then there were Bobby's jealous nature and the couple's troubles in the bedroom. After the divorce, Bobby left town in a huff, but he's never forgotten Regan, nor she him. He's always been the man of her fantasies even is she's reluctant to admit it. Now Bobby's back, ready to re-stake his claim on his ex-wife, but is she ready to give him a second chance?
No Mercy was my first read by Thea Devine, and I'm sorry to say that it didn't really resonate with me. In fact, there is virtually nothing about the story that I can honestly say I enjoyed. For starters, the characters were not the typical kinds that I like to read about. I have no problem with wealthy characters as long as I can relate to them in some other way, but these characters were not only rich, but very high-powered, type-A personalities who seemed to enjoy playing games in both the boardroom and the bedroom. The author tells us that Regan was born on the wrong side of the tracks, but after her marriage to Bobby fell apart, the father of Tony, a supporting character, gave her an opportunity in real estate. Now she's a top-selling agent, working with the wealthiest clients on commercial properties and apparently making a ton of money at it. We don't get to see anything of her humble beginnings at all, and the story opens with her buying a $300 pair of shoes (the sale price:-0), which is something so far outside the realm of my experience as to be completely foreign. Bobby was born into money and his family hated Regan for her origins, not thinking her good enough for him. They supposedly had a whirlwind romance, marrying young, but their marriage failed due to Bobby not being good enough in the bedroom for the passionate Regan and also because of his extreme jealousy and possessiveness. When he returns, he claims to have changed, but he's still an arrogant alpha who seems to think he can waltz back into Regan's life and start calling the shots. The only two secondary characters are Angie, Bobby's sister and Regan's best friend and Tony, Regan's boss who has a thing for her. I never fully understood what Tony's relationship to Regan and Bobby was. He seemed to know an awful lot about their personal lives for a mere boss. The twist at the end involving Tony and Angie wasn't entirely unexpected, but I did find it to be extremely abrupt with no satisfactory explanations. Overall, I thought all the characters were very much lacking depth and none of them were particularly relatable to me.
A large part of my issues with the characters can probably be traced to the fact that the author left me with more questions than answers about them. Why did Bobby and Regan continue to carry a torch for each other for seven long years when by all reports, they constantly fought when they were married? Why did they break up to begin with if they loved each other so much? It was supposedly due in part to Bobby not being experienced enough to handle Regan's sexual appetites, so what made her think that he could satisfy her now? When they first reunited and Bobby started propositioning her, Regan said, "No sex, no sex, no sex," then abruptly did an about face, saying, "Yes sex." Why? Apparently because she couldn't resist him, but I repeat myself, why? What were Regan's carnal needs that Bobby couldn't fulfill when they were married? I almost expected her to want BDSM or to have some unusual fetish, but nothing like that ever came to light. When they got back together, they did have wild monkey sex, but nothing I'd call kinky or even particularly unusual. If Ms. Devine had taken the time to explain some of these things, I might have liked the story a whole lot better, but as is, I felt like there were a lot of holes.
The last thing that nearly drove me to distraction was the author's writing style. She engages in an extreme amount of head-hopping, where one paragraph is in one character's POV, and the next is in another's. Numerous times, I had to backtrack to make sure I was clear as to whose perspective I was reading. The characters also frequently "think out loud." It's not even what I would call meaningful introspection, but simply them having a conversation with themselves in their own mind, which I found annoying. The author would often interrupt one character's dialog with another character, to have the POV character meander off into these long passages of internal monologuing, which made me lose track of the conversation. Ms. Devine composes her prose in a very short, clipped manner which doesn't flow well, and her dialog is sometimes choppy too, not embodying the natural flow of conversation. I also thought the dialog was more or less inane chit-chat, not really advancing the character or plot development like it should have, and it also lacked the proper tags to set the emotion and atmosphere of a scene. Lastly, everything, including the love scenes felt extremely cold, clinical and lacking in feelings. It was darn near impossible to believe that these two people loved each other, because I couldn't sense it at all. It was all telling and no showing. I kept asking, "Where's the romance?" Regan and Bobby were reuniting after many years of supposedly still loving each other, and yet, there was no excitement, no tenderness, no loving feelings, no romantic gestures, just pure unadulterated lusty sex, which does not a romance make, in my opinion.
No Mercy was quite simply an unsatisfying read on a number of levels. I'm afraid even my love of reunion romance couldn't save this one from being a frustrating read. Despite all my criticisms though, I ended up giving it two stars, mainly because I didn't entirely hate it. I simply didn't connect with the story or characters in a meaningful way, but perhaps others might. I also think the author's writing style is more of an acquired taste. I may have been feeling a bit more generous too, because it was a short story. If I'd had to wade through these kinds of deficiencies in a full-length novel, I'm sure I would have been begging for mercy.;-) I may have made it through this novella, but I certainly won't be actively seeking out any more of Ms. Devine's works in the future. No Mercy can be found in the anthology All Through the Night.
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