Caution: Spoilers and rants ahead.
It’s impossible to talk about Sylvia Day’s Bared to You without mentioning E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, and thus Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. The bare essentials: A young woman falls in love with beautiful, wealthy man who stalks her, and she’s okay with that. And in that respect, Bared to You seems to be fan fiction of fan fiction. Is there a technical term for that? From the acknowledgements section: To E. L. James, who wrote a story that captivated readers and created a hunger for more. You rocked it! Huh.
How is Bared to You supposed to be read: as erotic fiction or erotic romance? Erotica doesn’t require the characters to live HEA together. But in the case of erotic romance, the characters live HEA together, and readers must WANT them to. The first book in a trilogy, there’s no conclusive ending, but it’s happy-for-now – IF you want the characters to be together.
Most romances don’t work because I don’t WANT the characters to be together. And that’s the Crossfire trilogy’s big problem: If readers are supposed to want Eva and Gideon to have a happy ending together, the author has massively failed.
Bared to You squicks me out on so many levels. I don’t like the characters individually, I don’t like them together, Eva’s love for Gideon seems superficial, and Gideon needs a therapist more than he needs a lover. They have instant lust, but I just don’t understand why Eva loves Gideon. He’s hot, he’s wealthy, he gets her off, he’s a corporate big-wig (think Richard Branson, with so many business ventures), but he’s just not FUN. He’s rude, he’s demanding, and he stalks Eva. None of the Crossfire characters has a sense of humour.
Eva’s had a tough past: Her stepbrother sexually abused her, impregnated her, and she miscarried. Since then, her mother has been overprotective, monitoring her comings and goings, and whatnot. Eva doesn’t like this (neither do I). But when Gideon does the same thing, including monitoring her phone activity, Eva lets it slide. Sure, she’s a little angry at first, but she forgives him again and again, particularly after sex. Remember that Family Guy skit of a romantic comedy film trailer? All your problems will be solved by my penis. Yeah, that’s pretty much why Eva always lets him get away with it.
So Eva spills her problems, but Gideon doesn’t share his. All we know is that he was sexually abused, and he has violently sexual nightmares. He even tries to sleep-rape Eva, and her flatmate Cary is reasonably concerned for her wellbeing. Gideon has had women love him, but he’s never loved anyone until Eva.
Okay, so she’s beautiful, she gets him off, and she makes him feel comfortable enough to share snippets of his past. But I just don’t like her, either.
And Gideon and Eva don’t want each other to have heterosexual friends. Eva has gay men buddies, but she doesn’t have any gal pals. So Gideon goes psycho when Eva becomes friendly with his stepbrother. Eva goes a bit psycho over Gideon’s friend Magdalene, and even more psycho over his ex-fiancée Corinne. But in a rare display of female alliance, Eva and Magdalene briefly bond…over their hatred for Corinne.
I like Cary in the beginning, because his concerns for Eva are mine, too, and he has a nice boyfriend. But Cary cheats with a female, and things get worse by the end of the novel, when Eva stumbles home to a ménage á quatre [sound-tracked, in my mind, by Flight of the Conchords' "Too Many Dicks (on the Dancefloor)"]. Again, Cary’s and Gideon’s back-stories must be saved for revealing in the next two books.
Gideon’s stalking makes Bared to You more psychological thriller or horror than anything else. Key quote: “I recreated your room based on the photo I took of you sleeping.” Don’t tell me that’s not creepy, because it totally is.
Ex-fiancée Corinne says “possessiveness is much better than indifference”. Eva seems to believe that, too. Gideon seems to attract a certain type of women: those that believe stalking equals love. That would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.
But I will say this of Bared to You: It packs a mighty emotional punch, with plenty of scares and conflict. It could never be accused of being “meh” – you will either love it or get angry with it. Either way, issues abound for book clubs and newspaper columns to discuss.