M. O’Keefe, a new pseudonym for Molly O’Keefe, is a brilliantly intense romance between two actually damaged characters. O’Keefe has never flinched for writing the ugliness of human nature, even in romance, where such scrutiny is rare. This book is actually less painful to read than some of her other books, which is interesting, given the characters’ respective situations. Here’s the blurb:
I didn’t think answering someone else’s cellphone would change my life. But the stranger with the low, deep voice on the other end of the line tempted me, awakened my body, set me on fire. He was looking for someone else. Instead he found me.
And I found a hot, secret world where I felt alive for the first time.
His name was Dylan, and, strangely, he made me feel safe. Desired. Compelled. Every dark thing he asked me to do, I did. Without question. I longed to meet him, but we were both keeping secrets. And mine were dangerous. If I took the first step, if I got closer to Dylan—emotionally, physically—then I wouldn’t be hiding anymore. I would be exposed, with nothing left to surrender but the truth. And my truth could hurt us both.
The heroine Annie is fleeing an abusive situation and her backstory is unfolded naturally, and we come to learn the hero Dylan’s story as well, albeit less completely (probably his story will be told more fully in the second book, The Truth About Him). The two embark on a relationship that occurs entirely over the phone, giving Annie a comfort level she would not have if she were meeting Dylan in person.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the story is told from Annie’s point-of-view, which is in first person, and Dylan’s, which is in third (Apparently the next book flips that, so Dylan’s POV is in first, and Annie’s is in third.)
What make this book totally work is that Annie — and Dylan, to a lesser extent — is resolved to take risks in her life, where she never did before (because her earlier life didn’t work out so well for her, as the bruises at her throat attest). It’s less a romance than a novel where there is some romance, but the focus is on Annie and her own growth — dyeing her hair, getting a job, doing some previously forbidden things, discovering her own sexuality — and although Dylan is a crucial part of that, it’s clear that Annie was primed to do this, and Dylan’s presence in her life is the catalyst, but not the sole reason. It’s edgy women’s fiction, if that were a genre. Which perhaps it is now, thanks to O’Keefe. This is the kind of book you could possibly share with your litfic-loving friend without them turning up their nose (and she might even ask for more like this).
Be warned; this book ends on a helluva cliffhanger, so don’t expect resolution. It’s got a satisfying conclusion in some aspects, but definitely leaves you dying for The Truth About Him.