Reblogged from Tina's Reading Books:
Closer (Loose Ends Book 2) - Kaia Bennett

his review is based on an ARC received for an honest review

So you know how in figure skating the judges give out scores twice? Once for Technical accomplishment and once for artistic? Well, this is kinda how I ended up feeling when I was struggling with how to rate this book. And struggle I did.

On Technical merits, this book gets very high marks. The writing is strong and assured. This is a work of erotica. So the sex scenes are plentiful -- plentiful -- and they are explicit and they are well done. On the characterization front, the author does a good job of crafting two distinct people and getting you into their emotional head-space. This is the sort of writing you want to be reading -- descriptive, emotional and interesting.

On the Artistic merits, however, this is where I struggled. And to be fair when I use the term 'artistic' is isn't in reference to the author's vision, but rather how the book spoke to me. How did I feel about these people? Did I understand and enjoy them? Do the ups and down of their love story grab me and make me want to root for them? And I think it is in that sense this book didn't really 100% succeed for me.

This is the second installment of a serialized story following the love story of Nicole and Gabriel. She is a recent college grad who had been in love with and fascinated with Gabriel for years. Gabriel is a few years older than Nicole and is just on the cusp of reaching commercial success with his rock band.

The first book of the series, #1 Crush, is an erotic novella that introduces them to the reader and allows them to recognize their attraction to each other and scratch a sexual itch. It ends with them going their separate ways, having agreed that the sex was fun but they each have other priorities. That book was pure erotica and a sort of appetizer for this meatier dish.

In this book, Nicole and Gabriel re-enter each other's orbit. Nicole is much more into Gabe emotionally than he is to her at first. They hook up again and their sexual attraction is immediate and strong. From there they continue to use sex to feed their emotional attachment until the two start to build something deeper and fall in love.

Because this is a serialized work, this installment doesn't dot all the romantic I's and cross all the Happy T's. This is another segment in their road happiness, but it isn't the end of it. And therein I think lies my larger problem.

Since the story doesn't end here, the romantic conflict felt somewhat manufactured. The internal conflict at first is just that Nic and Gabe can't admit to each other they love each other. This went on for awhile and it got a little tedious. They simply couldn't communicate. When they finally could admit their feelings, you knew that something else was going to come along and muck it up. And it did. I actually recoiled from some of the actions of the characters in the last 10% of the book. Honestly, it kind of put me off them. Nicole came off as immature and honestly rather stupid and easily manipulated. Gabe fared much better and I was really on team Gabe here. But in the end my overall feeling as I was reading wasn't that there was a strong, believable obstruction between the couple and their HEA that I wanted to see them work through, but rather here was a conflict to throw in to get them to the next book.

So in that sense I think the serialization aspect works against my own emotional involvement in the story.

I do recommend this to readers who like really sexy erotica with an angsty emotional component and don't mind serialization.