I've previously read two books by Lauren Dane: Laid Bare and Sweet Charity. While the romance in the former eventually included more than two in a bed, in the end I preferred it to Sweet Charity because of the author's handling of difficult emotional content. I don't choose to read any romance for Big Issues, but Laid Bare just so happened to tackle some - surprising enough where erotic romance is concerned - and tackled them well. So when Carina Press made available via netgalley Dane's re-write of Second Chances (originally published by Loose I.D. in 2005), I asked for a copy to read. As with her other books, I couldn't put this one down, but I encountered some problems along the way.
Rori Simon returns to her small Texas hometown after ten years. She left overweight, shy, and brow-beaten by her mother for her lack of appeal to the opposite sex. Now, after college, a Rhodes Scholarship, and time living in Paris with a boyfriend she eventually found cheating on her, she's back...and confident, attractive, and secure in herself and her sexuality.
She soon appears on the radar of all the town's hunks, including Jude Callahan, the gorgeous bad boy who works with his brother Mac, also Rori's brother-in-law, on the police force. Though the two were friends in high school, now he wants her in his bed, and though she understands he's not in it for the long haul, she wants to act upon their attraction as well. The two share a night that shakes each to the core. She discovers she craves domination while Jude realizes that Rori is not only the perfect submissive - she's also the perfect woman for him in a long-term kind of way. Not only does he actually like her as a person, she is the one and only woman who matches his every sexual need. But because he's a Bad Boy Who Never Felt That Way, he throws another woman in her face and she dumps him.
Not long after she meets Zach Helm, a friend's younger brother who'd been a nerd in high school. Now he's all grown up, in a very, very good way. Like Jude, he recognizes the perfect submissive, but unlike Jude, he's not about to throw away what might be the best thing in his life. Their relationship progresses, with some obnoxious interruptions by a jealous Jude, and it looks as though Rori and Zach are the book's happily-ever-after.
But not entirely...the book's title is a constant niggle that something else is going to happen and bring Jude back into Rori's life and bed. Mac diagnoses his obnoxious behavior: Jude's being an ass because he loves Rori. He realizes his brother is right and works to redeem himself in Rori and Zach's eyes so he can at least resume their friendship.
I can't actually get into more of the "niggle" feeling without revealing spoilers, but can say that Rori's relationship with Zach is slightly "off." Zach adores Rori and seems to do and say all the right things, but occasionally he'll make a whopper of a mistake. From what I understand by reading BDSM stories, Dominants are all about psychology, and arranging a piercing for Rori without her knowledge and/or agreement and not understanding why that might bother her seemed out of character. Even more out of character was his plan to change their living arrangements drastically for a six-month period without first discussing it with Rori.
A tragedy fairly late in the book changes everything. It resolves that niggling feeling - I thought I knew what was coming, although didn't know how it would happen - but in a manner more clumsy than I expected from author Dane. On the one hand it brings the story back into balance and allows growth for Rori's mom and for Jude to become the man he was meant to be, but on the other, I expected the author to get from Point A to Point B in a better way.
That I'm still thinking about the book days after finishing it says something. This isn't the perfect book by a long shot - there are some real "wow, that's creepy" moments, but in the end I give Second Chances a qualified recommendation for those of you looking for a contemporary erotic romance offering real depth and complexity.