Today’s review is the type of book you would expect from me…Dakota Davies’ Her Wild Coast Haven.
This is the story of a teacher, running from her past, seeing safety, and a fresh start in the anonymity of a small Alaskan town. It is also the story of two best friends who know exactly what they want, whether that be a camp for troubled youth or the innocent, yet sexy, schoolmarm for them both. And they aren’t afraid to take risks, to go for their dreams, and work hard for them. In other words, real heroes worth writing about, loving, and holding out for.
Jumping right in, as usual:
1) Characters – That is the primary draw for me with this book. Cody and Jared are impressive, not for their looks, muscles, or the size of their… But for their minds and hearts. Friends who grew up in a rough neighborhood, lost their way, and got caught up in bad things in their teens and twenties. Then found the strength and determination to get out and turn their lives around. Now, they are close to having it all, except someone special to share it with. Enter Tasha.
These characters are rich, complex, and profound. I especially identified with way Tasha was torn between her attraction to both Cody and Jared, her initial confusion when she released that she could have her cake and eat it too, and her struggles to reconcile how right this unusual relationship felt with society’s judgemental attitudes.
I can feel their scorning looks and hear the gossip twittering from person to person like a game of telephone. Part of me wants not to care – what I’m feeling with Jared and Cody is something special, something pure and real. To hell with what people think. But I realize I do care. My peaceful life could get very difficult. I can’t possibly turn back now, though, not after what’s happened between us. Not after how they made me feel. Together.
That’s real, genuine. The feelings that assail anyone choosing an alternative lifestyle. Weighing the pros and cons of being who you are and facing the stigma of it.
As for Cody and Jared, these are men. Not immature bad boys. And they respect women, especially this special woman in their lives. Whether it is, “Nothing’s off limits to us, darlin’,” or “Is this too much for you, baby?,” or “Just say the word if you need us to stop.” They understand consent. And they always put her needs before their own. What more could a romance reader possibly want in a hero? Or a woman in a man?
2) Pacing – This is a short read. It only took me a day to finish it. On the one hand, I do enjoy books like that. Quick, straight to the point, and satisfying. That does sometimes mean that important details are left out, that things move too quickly, and at its worst, the story seems contrived. This one does not. Nonetheless, there are a few moments when I would have enjoyed a bit more detail or backstory. Overall though, it does not detract from the story.
3) Point of View – This one is told from an alternating first-person viewpoint. So, unlike last week’s Four Horsemen series, you get insight into the thoughts and feelings of the heroes as well as the heroines. This is a significant positive in this book.
4) Theme – This one is just as crucial, if not more so, to what makes this book truly special to me. The romance genre is full of bad boys who need saving by a good woman. It is as tired and destructive a trope as the damsel in distress one. Love, real love, is partnership. It is about saving one another…and owning your own shit.
That has been one of the primary reasons for my personal writer’s block for the past three years. When you find that type of love, it changes how you view the unrealistic and destructive tropes of this genre. One of the criticisms of the romance genre has always been that those damsels in distress and changing bad boys themes have given women, in particular, unrealistic expectations of relationships. I have felt that sting personally with several of my stories.
But that is not always the case. Her Wild Coast Haven is not to be confused as one of those damsels in distress stories. This is a young woman, keyword being ‘young,’ who grows, makes her own decisions, and owns her shit. Yes, Jared and Cody are protective of her, but not in a demeaning, ‘she can’t look after herself,’ ‘little woman’ way. But instead in a partnership, where each utilizes individual strengths to build the whole.
Of course, as the author of Nothing Done In Love, I sincerely appreciate the alternative lifestyles theme of this book. It is through literature that society has always been transformed. Writers lead the way, compel people to examine their prejudices and assumptions.
I am encouraged that so many poly stories are becoming popular, it portends a future where every relationship will be a personal choice just as mine and my partner’s was an active decision to be monogamous, rather than a societal default. That is where the real value of erotica lies…in challenging us all to examine our hearts and minds.
This story does that well. It casts an as yet unusual choice in a realistic and positive light without being either kawaii or condescending. What does bother me is that this author feels the need to write under the pseudonym of Dakota Davies. I long for the day that writers do not face the stigma of writing erotic romance or erotica.
So, Dakota, if you ever read this, I hope one day we don’t feel the need to hide behind pen names. That we, as writers, and people like our characters, have the freedom to live our lives as we see fit without shame or condemnation. Whether that be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, polyamorous, or anything else…as long as it is consensual between mature people, it ain’t no one’s business but our own.
Because like my character Joy Danvers, I believe…
Nothing Done In Love…can ever be wrong.
And I am delighted to see that theme reflected in the work of other authors such as Dakota Davies’ Her Wild Coast Haven.