Thursday, May 17, 2007

Outside Protocol by Dawn Ryder

Dawn Ryder - Outside Protocol - Ellora's Cave

Category: Dark Chocolate - loved by some, just "meh" to me. (C-,D+)
Flame Height: 5” out of 9”

From EC "Rules surrounded her every day. It was just the way life was. Robyn didn't question it until she ran into Jace and Nash. It was hard to believe there were men who lived outside all the rules she'd been living under. One bite of forbidden fruit and she was hooked, unwilling to close her eyes to the temptation again. Not that anyone might blame her, one stunning male was enough to tempt a girl to sin…two was impossible to resist.

But it couldn't last. People just didn't fall in love in numbers of three. The sweet temptation of it haunted her though, as Jace and Nash refused to leave her. They pushed their way right into her life and took her with them when they faded back into the shadowy world they lived in. Special Forces, guns and betrayal should have turned her away but it only added more fascination to her growing addiction to remain with them. Without rules, the possibilities were endless and even love wasn't out of the question.

As long as you lived outside of protocol."

Outside Protocol was so highly recommended from several sources that I fully expected to enjoy it. Unfortunately, because of three problems, I never connected with the characters or story. I guess I can understand that a writer could be so close to her work that she can't step back and view it with an objective eye, but what surprises me is that Dawn’s beta-reader/writer’s group/editor apparently did not point these inconsistencies out to her. Bad beta, bad editor! No cookies!

But, rather than simply leave it at that, I am going to be presumptuous and critique this book in much the same way I would have done if I had been her beta reader (and, no, I’m not auditioning for the job). I have heard time and again that authors, while wishing that everyone loved their books (and I truly wish I DID love every single one of them), don’t mind a less than stellar review if the reviewer can convey WHY the book didn’t work for them.

Let me preface this by saying that I am far less tolerant of problems in non-paranormal, non-sci-fi/fantasy contemporaries than I am of any other genre. Once a story is set in the contemporary real world then I automatically expect it to follow real world rules. So, having said that, here are the three roadblocks I encountered when trying to enjoy Outside Protocol:

* After meeting Jace and Nash and leaving them at their private club, The Play Yard, Robyn says to herself, “No way. She was not going to risk her health for anything. They could have AIDS or any number of sexually transmitted diseases, or beat her up or slit her throat or…” Yet for the next two nights she has unprotected sex with both men before suddenly becoming outraged that they didn’t use condoms.

If the subject had never been brought up, I might have wondered about it, but shrugged and accepted that this was fiction afterall. I would even have accepted the lame but often used “We’ve never had unprotected sex before in our lives and would never endanger you.” Considering the circumstances under which she met them and that this was meant to be a temporary sexual relationship, I would have considered Robyn TSTL if she took their word for it, but I still would have gone with the flow. However, once you brought up STD concerns, you needed to deal with them. To be honest, that first sexual encounter in the restaurant was a bit cold and emotionless so the excuse of being carried away by passion wouldn‘t have worked for me either.

* The double penetration shower scene should have been swoon worthy, but that scene lost all credibility as soon as I read, “A single finger found her back entrance as Jace used the water to penetrate her bottom.” If you had omitted that sentence, I would have assumed she was still lubed up enough from the brief insertion of the butt plug earlier in the evening. I could even have accepted an in-the-heat-of-the-moment improvisation with (owie) shampoo or soap, but water is absolutely NOT an anal lube, particularly for an anal virgin. All I could think of during the entire encounter was OUCH!

* Even though it seemed like forcing a Bengal tiger to be a Friskies loving house cat, I could swallow that these teams of former Marine Special Ops now worked for the assessment company of their team leader and former CO, Dack. They are a high priced firm that consults for “…businesses hiring private firms to assess and critique office procedure in order to reorganize and maximize profit.“ But, what I just could not wrap my mind around was, these men are in imminent danger from many enemies, so what’s to stop these enemies from seeing that they are hired by a company of the enemy’s choosing and wipe the team out when they show up? It is, after all, a well known and high priced firm as evidenced by the fact that Robyn’s boss was thrilled to get a firm of their caliber at such a low price.

Those three points took me right out of the story, but having said all that, I liked the basic premise of the book. These two uber alpha men, who ordinarily would also be uber possessive, depend on each other for survival- “[Nash] and Jace lived together or they’d be dead together. They never slept at the same time, never fucked at the same time. One always watched the other’s back.” These facts of their lives mean that they also need to share one woman. And they had accepted that their lives would never include love because they assumed that no woman could truly love them and accept their lifestyle. So Robyn's love and the love they felt for her was an unexpected gift for them.

I also find Dack Tyden and the story behind his dishonorable discharge and betrayal by a traitor VERY intriguing. He obviously earned great loyalty and respect from his team of warriors and I would love to read his story.

Now, since I want to be completely fair to Dawn, I want to point out that other readers apparently did not agree that my issues with Outside Protocol were a roadblack to their enjoyment of the book. Several people on Lora's board raved about it; Love Romances gave it 4.5 hearts

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