Like menage? How about a little m/m action? What about a possessive alpha male that doesn't want to share? Well, I don't know how the hell Charity Parkerson did it, but the extremely talented author was able to cram all of these elements and more in UNSURPASSED, the first book in her new No Rival series which is only 85 pages. (my kindle actually says 79, but who's counting? :) I'll be honest, I usually steer clear of novellas (anything under 100 pages), mainly because more often than not they leave something to be desired. Most of the time shorter novels suffer from lack of character development, rushed plots, which in turn causes the actual love story to feel implausible. But something drew me to UNSURPASSED. Maybe it was the careful wording of the synopsis that had me intrigued. There was just something about the book blurb that hinted this story was somehow going to be different from the rest. Oh, how I love to be right! This review may be a little shorter than some of my others mainly because I want to avoid spoilers. Part of the appeal of UNSURPASSED is the twists (and there are quite a few!) so I will try my hardest to stay away from any major plot points.
Here is what I liked. UNSURPASSED starts off like any other typical menage story. Ryan and Max, co-owners of a gym, seem to have one thing on their mind-- to finally possess their friend Aubree, the sexy blonde that walked into their establishment months ago. At the time, Aubree was looking forward to trying out a kickboxing class their gym offered, never expecting to gain Ryan and Max's friendship along the way. While she savors their closeness, she can't help but yearn for more...and working out at their gym is sending her hormones into overdrive. Who wouldn't get all hot and bothered watching two sexy alpha males pump iron? However, being equally attracted to two men at the same time is foreign to Aubree and fears their rejection if they should find out about her dirty little fantasy. After all, how can she choose just one? There is Ryan, the kind of guy who always has a smile on his face and a good sense of humor. Then there is Max, the brooding silent type. Best of both worlds, right? It's not until they show up at her apartment for dinner when she starts to realize that maybe the attraction she feels isn't so one-sided. Could they BOTH want her? When she agrees to go with them to a weekend party/charity event hosted by famous MMA champion Drew Alexander, Aubree never expects her wildest dreams to come true...and then shattered.
Up until the party, the plot was going in the direction I had expected. Ryan and Max are a pair of hot alphas that compliment each other and fit into the typical mold of the kind of men I expect in a menage story. Usually one is the easy going guy, the other is the more serious one. But then something unexpected happens. Once Drew Alexander enters the picture, all of my preconceived notions went right out the window. At first I was on guard, just like Aubree was. Drew is the kind of man that can melt the panties off of any woman with his looks alone. Then he opens his wicked, sexy mouth and automatically you get the sense that this is a man that is a player and is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants with little effort. Aubree thinks she knows Drew's "type" and has him neatly put into a box. But she can't deny his outrageous sense of humor and provocative banter and is surprised how much she enjoys the harmless flirting. Here are a couple of my favorites:
"Just think," he said, allowing a bit of devilry to show. "If you hadn't shown up this weekend, you wouldn't have met me. That would've been a real shame for you."
Aubree narrowed her eyes, but her grin gave her away. She was ready to play along. "How do you figure?"
"You would've missed your chance to seduce me, and although I'm not easy, I'm totally worth every moment...You'd better get started." He made a show of looking at his watch. "I don't know what time you usually go to bed, but I've only got a few hours left in me. Wine me, dine me," he paused and smiled roguishly. "Well, you know the rest."
The look on her face was priceless. It was a mixture of flattered and exasperated. She raised her hands and dropped them back to her sides as if she had no idea what she should say. "You make me want to scream."
He nodded his understanding. "Don't worry. You will. I can hear my name on your lips and reverberating off these walls already."
Again, I was really worried that Drew was trying to take advantage of Aubree, but once his true nature is revealed and her involvement in bringing out this different side of him, I was a goner just like her. You think Ryan and Max are alphas? Well you haven't met Drew yet :)
"I'm fighting my nature here as we speak. I want to throw you over my shoulder and steal you away from this place. I want to hide you away while I show you every pleasure your body is capable of enduring. I don't intend to let you come up for air until I've touched, tasted, explored, and penetrated until you've accepted you are mine."
Ryan and Max...playboy Drew...a shocking betrayal...who will Aubree end up with? Usually, it doesn't take rocket science to answer this kind of question in romances like this. It's always quite apparent. But by the time I got to the end of UNSURPASSED, I realized this story doesn't follow the typical formula. Parkerson kept throwing in twist after twist that constantly left me asking "what if". I so wish I could get more into detail, but I will have to leave it at that!
For those wondering about the sex scenes...SCORCHING hot and perfectly paced. The scenes weren't so overpowering that it felt like it took away from the story. Nor did they feel contrived. They were well written and satisfying yet at the same time leaving you wanting more more MORE.
So why only a 4.5 rating instead of the full 5 stars? Sometimes I annoy myself with my attention for detail. After reading the story in one sitting, I noticed some questions I had jotted down along the way. These are very minor things, but I have to wonder if the story had been a tad bit longer, if these questions would have been absolved. Why did Aubree want to join the kickboxing class at Ryan and Max's gym? Was it just for fun or did she have a life threatening experience that caused her to want to take it as a form of self defense? The obvious answer is wouldn't she have just taken an actual self defense class if that were the case? I'm probably over-thinking it. That leads me to question number two: why does Aubree seem to have a low self esteem? Yes, as women, we are constantly criticizing ourselves. But there are quite a few times in the story where she doubts her appeal, first with Ryan and Max, then later with Drew. So I was just curious if this self esteem issue stems from previous bad relationships. Lastly, in the synopsis, it states that Max and Ryan are ex-marines yet I don't remember this being mentioned once in the story. Maybe I am wrong or my eyes were moving faster than my brain, but I wonder how this connects to the story.
UNSURPASSED is a refreshingly well written erotic romance that packs a lot of punch. Charity Parkerson is at the top of her game and it is no wonder that she is a multiple award winning author. To be able to add in the erotic elements on top of well developed characters AND unexpected twists to keep you guessing til the very end all within an 85 page novella is no easy feat. I wait with bated breath for UNDAUNTED, book 2 in the No Rival series.
1. UNSURPASSED is definitely a refreshingly unconventional menage erotic romance, meaning, it doesn't follow the typical formula that most readers of this genre are used to. What inspired you to write about not two, but THREE uber sexy alpha males?
CP: I'm incapable of writing sex without love, even if it's unconventional love. I went into this book thinking I would try this one time to write a no-strings-attached story, but it's not me. The story began with Max and Ryan, then along came Drew. He was supposed to stay on the side, but as my characters tend to do, he refused to behave. I love an alpha and MMA is a testosterone filled sport packed with confident men. The idea of bringing three spectacular men to their knees was too good to pass up. I hope readers agree.
2. I read somewhere that UNSURPASSED is the first novel in a planned 5 book series. I have an idea who will be the main characters in book 2, then again, you are sneaky, based upon the unexpected twists in book 1! Can you give us any kind of teasers? Or any kind of tidbits about what we can expect from the rest of the No Rival series?
CP: I have signed for five books in the series, and I already have an idea for book six. Everyone comes back for book 2, Undaunted, but the main heroine is Mandy. She made a couple of short appearances in Unsurpassed. Max's father has passed away. His death brings together a few characters and reveals several secrets. I have an unofficial blurb I can share with you-- to the horror of my editor, I'm sure-- along with the cover, if you'd like a sneak peek. (See sneak peak of the cover and unofficial blurb for Undaunted below)
If you fall in love with a character along the way, and I hope that you will, they're coming back. I've almost finished book 5 and I haven't given any up yet. I'm a sad case when it comes to my characters. I don't want to let them go.
Here's a list of the series:
I've had more fun writing this series than anything I've ever written. I've shared hilarious emails with fighters while doing research, laughing uproariously at their extremely candid answers to some of my uncomfortable questions. Not to mention, the hours spent searching through pictures of hot men in an attempt to find models who meet the image in my head. That was grueling, lol. This series is close to my heart and I'm thankful beyond measure to everyone who takes the time to check it out. I truly appreciate the interview.
Brothers, Rhys and Knox, have been in love with the same woman for years. While Rhys has been open about his feelings toward Mandy, he’s kept her firmly locked in the friend zone. That is, until a night filled with too much alcohol explodes into passion.
Unfortunately, while Rhys doesn’t remember a minute of it, Mandy remembers every detail all too well. As secrets and betrayals begin to unravel their friendship, Knox seizes his chance to—finally-- claim her as his own.
With two sexy fighters willing to square off to win her heart, which will Mandy choose, the charming reprobate who’s been the center of her desire-- yet always wrecks her life-- or the merciless bad boy who wants to give her the world?
Rhys and Knox are coming soon. Summer 2014.
Charity Parkerson is an award winning and multi-published author with Ellora's Cave Publishing. Born with no filter from her brain to her mouth, she decided to take this odd quirk and insert it in her characters.
*2013 Readers' Favorite Award Winner
*2013 Reviewers' Choice Award Winner
*ARRA Finalist for Favorite Paranormal Romance
*Five-time winner of The Mistress of the Darkpath
*Named one of the top 10 best books by an Indie author in 2011- Paranormal Reads Reviews
*Best Paranormal Romance of 2012- Paranormal Reads Reviews
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