by Anne Calhoun
Series: Uncommon #2
Published by Berkley on September 3, 2013
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Cops, Erotic
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After leaving a restrictive religious community, Rachel Hill is on a mission to divest herself of her virginity. Newly independent and struggling to establish herself, she’s not looking for anything complicated. She bids on sexy SWAT officer Ben Harris at a bachelor auction, confident he’ll give her the night of her life and nothing more.
But Ben is jaded and detached, living his life in an endless cycle of danger-fueled adrenaline jags, drinking, and sex. When he misses the fact that his bachelor auction hookup is a virgin, he’s shocked by his obliviousness, and by the risk she took. To make amends, Ben offers Rachel all he can: a no-strings-attached sexual education.
Ben’s lessons introduce Rachel to down and dirty passion, but she’s searching for something more profound than sex, and she’s willing to walk away to find it. Ben can’t get Rachel out of his head, but will he come to terms with his troubled past and learn to love?
Anne Calhoun’s writing is intensely raw, honest, and thought-provoking. Beyond this, her characters are ones who will stay with you long after you’ve finished the story.
Rachel Hill is the heroine of Uncommon Passion and she is some kind of undercover badass. Raised in a fundamentalist religious community (aka cult), she makes the heart wrenching decision to leave at the age of 25, leaving behind all that is familiar as well as her father, the only family she has. Although she is somewhat unaware of the outside world, she isn’t some wide-eyed, blinking doe in the headlights. She’s smart, collected, and surprisingly in charge of herself.
In the months after leaving the cult, Rachel finds a job at a local farm, a stop on the path to becoming a veterinary technician someday. She wants to take full control of her life in every way. Rachel is a virgin and decides to have sex for the first time with SWAT officer Ben Harris, who she bids on at a charity bachelor auction. She doesn’t delude herself into thinking it will be insta-love or anything other than a new, albeit completely foreign, experience. But she knows what she wants and goes after it. See? Badass.
Ah, Ben Harris, who has the power to be super jerk and Superman all rolled up into one. I have to admit, several times throughout the book I wanted to throw something at him. He definitely knows how to turn on the charm in order to keep others at arm’s length…but things change, especially when Rachel gradually starts to get under his skin.
After their first sexual encounter, Rachel and Ben agree to an arrangement: since she’s so sexually inexperienced, he’ll teach her what she needs to know so that she’s ready to move on after him. The two have indescribable chemistry. It’s a surprise for both of them: for Rachel, who’s never slept with anyone else, and for Ben, who’s only ever had casual, unemotional sex. Inevitably, they start to care about each other on a deeper level.
There’s some family drama in the mix as well, both in Rachel’s life as well as Ben’s. Rachel is unfailingly forgiving of her father, who has basically shunned her ever since she left the cult. But still she writes to him, every week, even though his letters return to her unopened. Later, we are given a view into Ben’s family life that explains why he has built up so many walls around himself–so casual with his relationships, as a defense mechanism. But as his sexual arrangement with Rachel progresses, the more he feels something changing. He is changing…and he’s not sure what to do about that.
Indeed, the sexual intimacy between Rachel and Ben serves to transform them both. For Rachel, she is learning to trust her instincts and exercise her own desires, rather than merely submit to the male authority figures from her previous life. And for Ben, he must decide whether he is willing to let go of past hurt, as well as take down the emotional walls that he has lived behind for so long.
Anne Calhoun writes erotic romance that is intelligent, precise, and beautiful in its rawness. I’ve read this book a few times now, and each time it moves me in ways that are hard to describe, but so powerful. Uncommon Passion is one of Anne Calhoun’s best and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Rating: 5 stars