This is a book review for Closer by Kaia Bennett, available here.
We first met the lovely Kaia during Diverse books month on the blog when we interviewed her and reviewed the first book of this series, #1 Crush. We were delighted when she offered the rest of the series for our review and accepted without hesitation.
Closer picks up several months after #1 Crush tails off. Nicole and Gabriel are living separate lives but claiming time together whenever they can, indulging in the primal part of their attraction in order to not have to deal with the emotional side of it. When they end up spending a few weeks together thanks to some fortunate scheduling, they finally make the jump to being exclusive, but it’s not all sunshine and roses.
I think that’s really the first thing to say about this book. If you were expecting some light and fluffy smut to follow on from book one, you will find yourself sorely misled. This whole book has a much darker flavour. In indulging in their active and obsessive sex life, Nicole and Gabriel have found themselves in a kinky and occasionally depraved state of affairs.
Striking the balance between kink and abuse in an informal or low protocol setting is really difficult to do. If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time you’ll be aware that it’s one of my pet peeves so it should really mean something when I say this: despite a few uncomfortable moments (entirely to do with my own triggers, I’m sure), it is handled with remarkable sincerity and dexterity. There was only one moment that I felt sex was used as a weapon and in that regard they were as bad as each other.
The characters are likeable but intensely frustrating. Nicole is strong and on the surface she knows what she wants, but beneath that she is deeply vulnerable to self doubt and the manipulation of others. Gabriel is insecure in a different way, afraid to really be himself in case it scares her away. At times they can both be prone to staggeringly petulant and childish behaviour, playing mind games and believing gossip instead of just talking to each other. It’s hard not to get annoyed with the way they constantly let Meredith in to screw things up.
For that reason alone, I didn’t enjoy reading this as much as I did the first one, despite the fact that it’s just as steamy and absorbing. That is no reflection on the author. In many ways it is a credit to her that I cared enough about the characters to get annoyed with them screwing up their pursuit of happiness.
I’m looking forward to reading book 3!