William Morrow / November 5, 2013 / $13.99 print, $3.99 digital
Pepper has been hopelessly in love with her best friend's brother, Hunter, for, like, ever. He's the key to everything she's always craved: security, stability, family. But she needs Hunter to notice her as more than just a friend. Even though she's kissed exactly one guy, she has the perfect plan to go from novice to rock star in the bedroom: take a few pointers from someone who knows what he's doing.
Her college roommates have the perfect teacher in mind. But bartender Reece is nothing like the player Pepper expects. Yes, he's beyond gorgeous, but he's also dangerous and deep—with a troubled past. Soon what started as a lesson in attraction is turning both their worlds upside down, and showing them just what can happen when you go past foreplay and get to what's real....
Sophie Jordan’s New Adult foray with Foreplay—featuring uniquely-named redhead Pepper and sexy, misunderstood Reece—is charming and effortless, and happily lives up to its charged title with a boundary-pushing heat level. All of this takes us back to the early days of first love and sexual awakening in a poignant, lovely way, one of the marks of a successful New Adult novel.
Pepper has a dilemma: she finally has the opportunity to move on making something happen with her life-long crush, Hunter. But second-guessing doubts and a heady fear of inexperience have her quaking and lead her to form a drastic plan, a crash-course in the art of foreplay. And she sets her sights on Reece, the hot bartender at the neighborhood bar in her college town.
“I’m not exactly experienced, but I thought it would help if I could gain some experience from someone who knows what he’s doing. You know. If I could be better at… at stuff. The intimate stuff. All the girl-guy action.” I released my fingers and motioned between me and him.
There. I’d said it. And it sounded every bit as bad as I thought it would.
I met his gaze head on, hoping the fact that I was shaking inside didn’t show on the outside.
He revealed nothing. It was as though my words made no impact on him whatsoever. He was like some kind of stoic, hard-faced soldier staring down the enemy. Only that enemy was me.
Finally, he spoke. “So you’re saying you’re looking for a fuck buddy?”
There’s an instant chemistry between Pepper and Reece that flares up from the page, and from the moment they meet, it’s an artful dance. Will they or won’t they? Is it possible to separate the intense sexual chemistry from an everlasting love? The tension builds expertly, and by the time Reece marches Pepper up to his bedroom, we wonder just how far it will go.
His pale eyes gleamed in the dim, red-gold light from the floor lamp.
Deciding to act, I stepped forward to follow him, but he shook his head at me, those eyes of his glittering like shards of glass. Leaning back on the mattress, he propped his elbows on the bed, looking deceptively casual.
“Take off your clothes.” The request was anything but casual, and yet he uttered it as though he were asking me to pass the salt.
An odd strangled sound rose up in my throat. I fought it, pushed it back down, and tried for speech that sounded half-way normal. “What?”
He angled his head to one side, studying me. “You wanted to learn foreplay. Isn’t that why you came here?”
The best thing about Foreplay is that it really lives up to its name. Jordan magically creates a connection between Pepper and Reece that is both searing and sweet. Each scene of foreplay between them builds just as it should, going a little further and meaning a little more. Pepper is innocent but not naïve, and Reece’s patient but passionate guidance coaxes her into a level of comfort that has her really giving herself over to him and what she set out to do.
But as an undeniable relationship grows with Reece, Pepper has to continually examine how her feelings have changed and where they lie when it comes to Hunter. This is a struggle throughout the book, but Pepper’s motives are sound. Given her sad and turbulent childhood, she wants stability above anything and that’s what Hunter represents for her. Reece’s background, similar to her own, leaves too much to chance whether they could ever really make it in the real world. But it’s refreshing that Reece is made aware of Pepper’s objectives from the beginning. Reece’s reactions as they get deeper into their arrangement are not always what you’d expect and only help push this triangle to a head.
“This was a bad idea.”
“You. Us. This date we’re pretending to be on.” Reece was silent and I flicked my gaze to Hunter across the restaurant and back to him again. “Did you have to do that?”
“Do what? Make you look desirable?” He looked at me in exasperation. “You should be thanking me.”
“I just took you from one category… the-girl-I-never-pictured-naked category, and dropped you into I-wonder-what-she’s-like-in-bed.”
Even as things develop with Hunter, Pepper’s drawn to Reece and it’s nice that she allows herself that. A girl in the middle of two very good but very different guys could easily veer into becoming unlikeable, but that just doesn’t happen here. Her fears are valid, and in this we sympathize with her as she takes the journey of a New Adult heroine, growing up faster than she should have and making important choices about the rest of her life at such a young age. But there’s one thing she feels more than anything.
My chest rose and fell like I had just run a marathon. Reece’s eyes were that pale bright blue I was coming to recognize as a sign that he was hot for me. I glanced from the food to him, part of me hoping that he would say forget the food and haul me upstairs with him.
My body didn’t even feel like it belonged to me anymore. It was one pulsing ball of nerves, throbbing and aching and yearning desperately for all this foreplay to just reach its most natural conclusion.
The focus here on foreplay shows that it can be more potent than sex itself, and what starts as a game becomes much more. Lessons in pleasure designed to be separate from real emotion and feeling show that the best-laid plans don’t take into account how two people may naturally fit together. And in the end love doesn’t have to be perfect. Pepper and Reece prove that.
Learn more or order a copy of Foreplay by Sophie Jordan, available November 5, 2013:
Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.