Reviewed by Tori
“I wanted to change.”
“And I wanted you here.”
Over Exposed is the third book in Stephenie Julian’s Salon Games series that is based on a hotel that caters to any and all hedonistic pleasures. We first met our main characters-Greg Hicks and Sabrina Rodriguez in book two-No Reservation. Greg, an infamous Hollywood producer, photographer, and playboy took promotional photographs of Sabrina wearing a friend’s lingerie. Greg couldn’t believe the heat of the attraction that sparked between the two of them but he has issues that prohibited him from acting on them. In the beginning of Over Exposed, Greg is hiding out at Haven Retreat. He unhappy with the direction his life is taking and is looking for some time alone to think things through. When Sabrina shows up, he’s angry. He doesn’t need to be fighting his attraction to her on top of everything else he’s dealing with.
Sabrina works full time at the Haven Hotel. Her first real job utilizing her college degree, Sabrina wants to make a good impression on the owners-Tyler and Jared Golden. Sabrina also feels the extreme heat sparking between her and Greg but her own issues that forces her bury her libido. When she agrees to go help take care of Greg at the Retreat, she attempts to maintain a guest/employee relationship.
When a snowstorm strands Greg and Sabrina together at the Retreat, they decide to act on their passion and so begins a night of wanton abandonment in the areas of exhibitionism and voyeurism. Though the snow subsides, the passion only grows as Greg finds his creative muse in Sabrina. Writing again, Greg begins to explore options he never thought he could have because for the first time in his life, the woman in his bed is also in his heart and he wants to keep her there forever.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Julian’s Salon Games series. Emotionally plump with dynamic characters whose journey to love is littered with realistic internal and external conflicts. Enticing erotic scenes only add to the overall appeal. In No Reservation, Greg and Sabrina ignited in the small amount of time we saw them and I was looking forward to seeing their romance play out in their own story.
Over Exposed was steamy and deliciously hot on the visual scale but emotionally, but it seemed to be missing that “spark” that the first two couples had. A strong linear storyline moves us along at a steady pace, injected with various interesting subplots that take the story beyond a simple erotic based romance. Equal parts of romance, humor, and self examination on the parts of our lovers gives this story a deeper more introspective feel to it.
A perfect blending of strength and vulnerability, Sabrina was fun to meet. Strong, intelligent, funny, and practical, she has a healthy sense of self that resonates throughout the story. After watching her mother give up all her dreams to be with men who eventually left her, Sabrina chooses work over relationships. She chooses caution over abandoned.
Greg is a sexy delicious alpha who challenges and pushes Sabrina without attempting to change her. Equal parts arrogance and charm, He sees her strength and enthusiasm and it only increases his attraction for her. Greg has some issues that make relationships hard for him too. He’s workaholic whose inability to delegate is the reason his fiance cheated on him.
Sexually, these characters scorch the pages. Greg and Sabrina are well matched. Some characters just click and you can feel that between connection between them. Exquisite chemistry and thick sexual tension gets your heart pumping as these two begin on a whim and slowly emerge as much more. Ms. Julian writes some incredibly graphically sensual scenes that leave no doubt these two are compatible in this area.
His head fell back as fire spread every place her mouth pressed a kiss. She moved from his neck to his chest, where she stopped to lick at his nipples, while the hand on his cock began a slow but steady pump that made it thicken and throb.
If he let himself go, she could bring him off just like this, with her teeth sinking on to his nipple and her hair falling over her shoulders to brush against his stomach.
I loved that neither were ashamed of their sexual appetites. They had no problems telling each other what they wanted or getting down and dirty to get it. With this strong chemistry they had, I found myself honestly confused why that couldn’t flow over into the emotional aspects of their relationship. It left me seriously conflicted on whether these two could ever have it all. They have no problems speaking to others about how they feel so why not to each other? This brings me to the main problem I had with the story overall.
One problem I had that remained a constant through the story was Greg and Sabrina’s inability to communicate. This was their conflict and it was long and never ending. Neither seemed capable of saying what they were truly feeling or wanted once the relationship was established. Both characters play it extremely close to the vest emotion wise. Greg is trying, for the first time, to be the man he wants to be with Sabrina but it comes across at times callous and unfeeling because all his explanations and excuses are in his head. He’s in the middle of a movie shoot and his two main stars, one of whom he was engaged to at one time, are giving him fits. He is forced to indulge in a long distance relationship with Sabrina. He comes to Haven when he can but when they are together, it’s mainly sex with small interjections of personal information. Greg also has a habit of pushing Sabrina but not explaining his intentions behind them. While Sabrina understands he’s extremely busy, jealousy rears it’s ugly head time and time again. This proves extra hard on Sabrina as she is already unsure of her and Greg due to his fame, past exploits concerning women, and her employee position. She never says anything about how she feels to him and keeps a small part of herself from him throughout most of the book.
“And what happens when he doesn’t consider you his anymore?” Because you know it’ll happen. You know he’s not going to always want you.”
Complex and beguiling characters filled the story, each more than able to hold their own. We see some old friends and long with a few new ones who I do hope we see more of in the future. I liked that Sabrina her own life and her own set of friends that isn’t dependant or a result of her relationship with Greg. A new introduction-Sebastian-proves to not only be a good friend to Sabrina, but a strong shoulder for her to lean on when her doubts get to be too much. His back story looks to be interesting and I do hope we see him in his own book. Kate and Annabelle are both in here and have Sabrina’s back one hundred percent. There was a small issue concerning Kate that bothered me. Those who read book two know what I’m talking about. I think it elephant in the room should have been addressed far earlier than it was.
I did feel that the ending came quickly and abruptly without any real resolution to their problems. I was also disappointed that the “salon” didn’t play a more pivitol role as it did with the first two books. Regardless of my issues, this erotic more than lights a few fires and I look forward to more forbidden delights from the Salon and Ms. Julian.