When we last left our erstwhile Brown siblings, Brody was about to embark upon his new life with his new wife, Elise and adopted daughter, Rennie and Ben, Todd and Erin were celebrating the pending birth of their first child…We pick up with the latest couple Cope and Ella, their story already in progress…
Andrew Copeland and Ella Tipton go from friends to lovers and progress from harmless flirting to hot monkey sex in such a natural progression of character development. After finishing Lauren Dane's Inside Out, I felt as though this was what they must have been talking about in Comfort Reading. An escape from the reality of the world, but so closely linked that the reader can put themselves in the place of the main characters. The abused and broken woman can become the survivor that is Ella Tipton. The husband who is drained emotionally can become Cope who is so consumed by his love for his woman that they pour from him in verse like Pablo Neruda. Beyond the main characters, we are reminded that it's already been four years since readers were introduced to Ben, Todd and Erin in Laid Bare, and as things do, life moves on, people grow, families develop and grow apart. I'm glad that this book took time to show how the lives of our favorite characters move on, all while building upon that romance that was Cope and Ella.
One very distinctive feature of Lauren Dane's writing that I love is how she develops the relationships of future characters within earlier books. It's not always overt and I appreciate that because it makes it more believable. Sometimes, love happens in a flash, but most times it's a slow build over time. The relationship between Cope and Ella doesn't come about as a result of her needing protection from an abusive boyfriend, in fact I cheered at the idea that the abusive boyfriend had no part to play in this at all (other than the afterthought of the woman who survived and learned from it). Instead, the big bad (to use a Buffy reference) proved to be the love Cope had for Ella and his own self doubt. Ella knew what she was about, and she needed Andrew to believe that as well.
What I'm beginning to see more of in my erotic romance is male leads that have more depth of character. They become more than the cock that the female lead will ride. They suffer and worry and by god they fear. Some of my favorite moments in this book were the conversations between the men (shooting the shit, as it were), they moved beyond the male posturing and were truly concerned for each other and the relationships they were in, they leaned on each other, much in the way that women do, but in such a male way. Andy/Andrew/Cope was so diverse that I wondered how the quirky, cartoon, superhero of Ella would stack up. Turns out I need not to have worried because she did just fine. Where he seemed to be tripped up at times by the emotions he has for Ella, she is willing to meet them head on and try, even in the face of failure to face them. Watching her go toe to toe with Cope's father in the hospital comes to mind.
I won't reveal all of the plotlines that made this such a fabulous read, but I will leave you with my thoughts on Lauren Dane's writing. You get so much more than great writing from her stories you get a lesson.
What makes this story SLIH-worthy: Any man who would compose poems in the flavor of Pablo Neruda and/or get them inked on his skin is hot in ways that have more to do with his talent in the bedroom.