Published by NAL on December 1st 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Erotica, Forbidden, Romance
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Fall Away series who never fails to deliver a “powerfully written contemporary love story…”*
Former tennis player Easton Bradbury is trying to be the best teacher she can be, trying to reach her bored students and trying to forget her past. What brought her to this stage in her life isn’t important. She can’t let it be. But now one parent-teacher meeting may be her undoing…
Meeting Tyler Marek for the first time makes it easy for Easton to see why his son is having trouble in school. The man knows how to manage businesses and wealth, not a teenage boy. Or a young teacher, for that matter, though he tries to. And yet…there is something about him that draws Easton in—a hint of vulnerability, a flash of attraction, a spark that might burn.
Wanting him is taboo. Needing him is undeniable. And his long-awaited touch will weaken Easton’s resolve—and reveal what should stay hidden…
(*STANDALONE, NO CLIFFHANGER*)
This will be a non-spoiler review, so fear not! If your intention is going in blind, I won’t be spoiling anything that wasn’t already mentioned in the blurb.
Penelope Douglas cemented herself as one of my current favorite authors in romance with this story. I was engrossed from the get-go and even though there were some lulls in the second half of the story, this was a true triumph of a book. I’d already read Bully and Corrupt so I had a good idea what she is capable of as a storyteller. I really liked the former and completely adored the latter. Bully was a beautifully crafted story that resonated with so many readers for good reason. Corrupt is a dark erotic thriller romance at its finest. It was a fantastic mind-trip that I couldn’t get out of my head for days to come.
Therefore I had very high expectations for Misconduct. It isn’t supposed to be a dark romance but it does follow a taboo theme. Our hero, Tyler Marek, is a phenomenally rich businessman, owner and creator of his own empire, with ambition to spare. Not only is he pretty much a tycoon, he is also planning to run for senator. He enters into a torrid, forbidden relationship with his son’s American History teacher, Easton Bradbury, a former tennis prodigy who had to leave the spotlight for serious reasons. It’s important to understand that his son’s mother isn’t actually in the picture so this isn’t a story about cheating.
Where Penelope excels is… well, pretty much everywhere a book should excel. The pacing was great, the characters were beautifully fleshed and rendered, the hero gave me all kinds of delicious chills, the actual sex was beyond titillating and the twists were actually unexpected. That’s rare for me. Normally I can tell where a writer’s mind is going but not this time.
Also, I feel like Tyler deserves distinct praise as a character. The hero is a main, crucial aspect of any romance for me. If the hero doesn’t successfully catch my interest, the story pretty much falls flat on its face. Tyler is sexy and sophisticated and three dimensional enough that I couldn’t wait to crack the book open again and spend more time with him.
And to be honest, I just adore Penelope’s writing style. Her voice is both descriptive and concise. She somehow avoids being boring and wordy, and still manages to paint a vivid scene. She is mistress of creating books that are both atmospheric and evocative. I particularly enjoyed the way she used the city of New Orleans in the story as a sort of extra character. She really brought it to life, integrating it seamlessly with whatever was happening. A lot of the time authors will choose a particular location for its pizzazz but will do very little to anchor the story properly in its surroundings and make the city seem real to the reader.
I’m not a major fan of tropes where the hero or the heroine have children from previous marriages and they are heavily focused on, especially if we’re talking about the clichéd sullen teenager. In this case, however, the way the relationship between Tyler and his 14 year old son was intermixed with the romance felt relevant. These felt like real people with real issues I could understand. I loved the writing decisions Penelope made when it came to the relationship with the son, and never, not once did I question each character’s motivations. This is an impressively smart writer that understands the fine line between too much and just enough. She is adept at detail.
If I had any qualms, they are minimal. The way the main conflict was resolved in the end could have benefitted from a little more drama. The way it unfolded almost felt like a “much ado about nothing” situation, but that is just me being extra critical. Maybe the fact that there wasn’t anything over the top about the conflict resolution made the story much more real and grounded.
Continuing with the minor negative aspects, the heroine may have been just a tad too perfect and the dreaded “Mary Sue” term did pop into my head at some point towards the end, but I do love Penelope Douglas’s heroines. They’re strong, intelligent women that like being in control of their own destiny, so once again, this wasn’t really a big deal.
Did I mention the sex scenes? Because they were red hot, and I can name a couple of specific scenes that did a lot to speed my heart rate. I won’t to avoid spoiling anything but WOW. I may not have loved a particular scene set in a club involving a third party but it thankfully didn’t cross a line I would have been uncomfortable with. It would have been highly dissonant with my expectations of the relationship at that point.
I checked to see the Amazon ranking of this book and it’s shockingly sitting at number 52,483 on the overall kindle store at the moment I’m writing this review. That is way too low for a book this good. I have to assume it has to do with the high price of the e-book edition, being that this is a traditionally published book (NAL). It’s a pity because this may very well be Penelope Douglas’s most underrated book. It deserves a lot more reviews and praise. I was satisfied beginning to end and highly recommend it.
For now I’m waiting (desperately) for the sequel to Corrupt which CANNOT come too soon. I love Penelope Douglas and Misconduct is a prime example why.