If I Were You by Lisa Renee Jones

One day I was a high school teacher on summer break, leading a relatively uneventful but happy life. Or so I told myself. Later, I’d question that, as I would question pretty much everything I knew about me, my relationships, and my desires. It all began when my neighbor thrust a key to a storage unit at me. She’d bought it to make extra money after watching some storage auction show. Now she was on her way to the airport to elope with a man she barely knew, and she needed me to clear out the unit before the lease expires.

Soon, I was standing inside a small room that held the intimate details of another woman’s life, feeling uncomfortable, as if I was invading her privacy. Why had she let these items so neatly packed, possessions that she clearly cared about deeply, be lost at an auction? Driven to find out by some unnamed force, I began to dig, to discover this woman’s life, and yes, read her journals – dark, erotic journals that I had no business reading. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I read on obsessively, living out fantasies through her words that I’d never dare experience on my own, compelled by the three men in her life, none of whom had names. I read onward until the last terrifying dark entry left me certain that something had happened to this woman. I had to find her and be sure she was okay.

Before long, I was taking her job for the summer at the art gallery, living her life, and she was nowhere to be found. I was becoming someone I didn’t know. I was becoming her.

Now, I am working at a prestigious gallery, where I have always dreamed of being, and I’ve been delivered to the doorstep of several men, all of which I envision as one I’ve read about in the journal. But there is one man that will call to me, that will awaken me in ways I never believed possible. That man is the ruggedly sexy artist, Chris Merit, who wants to paint me. He is rich and famous, and dark in ways I shouldn’t find intriguing, but I do. I so do. I don’t understand why his dark side appeals to me, but the attraction between us is rich with velvety promises of satisfaction. Chris is dark, and so are his desires, but I cannot turn away. He is damaged beneath his confident good looks and need for control, and in some way, I feel he needs me. I need him.

All I know for certain is that he knows me like I don’t even know me, and he says I know him. Still, I keep asking myself – do I know him? Did he know her, the journal writer, and where is she? And why doesn’t it seem to matter anymore? There is just him and me, and the burn for more.

review

What is it about possessive, all-consuming, devastatingly dysfunctional relationships that gets me all tied up in a delicious little knot begging for MORE?

As the first installment of the very promising Inside Out Trilogy, this is the story of a young art graduate but reluctantly-turned English teacher, Sara, a woman with a painful past and a strong determination to make it on her own in the world. She is suddenly in possession of some very candid journals written by a woman called Rebecca, detailing her utterly intriguing but possibly dangerous tale of submission to a man whose control she is unable to resist. The last few entries in those journals, coupled with the fact that all of Rebecca’s possessions are now in an abandoned storage unit, suggest that she might be in trouble. Sara tracks Rebecca’s last place of employment – Allure Art Gallery – and she is soon filling her shoes at the gallery, hired for the summer, determined to find out what happened to the missing woman.

Sara’s new boss and gallery owner – Mark – is a man who perfectly matches the description of Rebecca’s mystery man. Mark is a controlling, dominant but wickedly irresistible alpha male whose employees call him the “beast”. He is cold, demanding and with an unhealthy appetite for giving orders. Sara’s first reflex is to defy him but the long-desired career opportunities that he dangles before her and the chance to finally chase a dream she had almost given up on slowly lure her into unwilling obedience.

Rebecca’s journal entries start paralleling Sara’s life when she meets Chris, a well-known artist whose coveted works are also exhibited and sold at Mark’s gallery. Theirs is an instant attraction, one neither of them are able to resist. Chris tries to warn her against himself, he hints at a secret dark side of him that would eventually repulse her, he fights the way she affects him but he is also drawn to her like a moth to a flame.

“You aren’t going to like all that I am, Sara. … I’m as far from white picket fences as you can get. Sooner more likely than later, you aren’t going to like everything you find out about me.”

Sara’s attraction to him is just as strong – he affects her “deeply, intensely, completely”. She senses that Chris is as damaged by his past as she is by her own and just as distrustful with his secrets, but her growing feelings for him are something she is unable to control. Those feelings equally frighten her as well as excite her, and she cannot help but feel haunted by the similarities between what Rebecca felt for the man in her journals and what she is starting to feel for Chris.

“He’s dangerous and I’ve never wanted to live on the edge more in my life.”

What rather quickly develops between them is an almost ‘symbiotic relationship’ where their need for each other is both carnal as well as psychological. They make each other feel “alive” and they fill a void in each other’s lives they were unaware it existed.

“This ‘crazy’ thing you’re making me feel is the best crazy I’ve felt in a long time. I’m not ready to let go of you. I don’t know what you’re doing to me, Sara, but please … don’t stop.”

This might have started out as a chilling mystery but it quickly became a scorching hot story of possession and primal attraction between two people who have the power to either save or destroy each other. Throw then into the mix the uncertainty behind a young woman’s disappearance, a dark world of secret lives and questionable intentions and all you need is a bottle of wine and a tub of ice cream to make this read even more finger-licking good. I could not put it down. I hated and loved the fact that every answer we were offered only created even more questions. My mind was racing like a bullet with theories and suspicions, I felt ‘unsafe’ while reading this book, never trusting it to put my mind at ease. I knew this was only the first book in the trilogy and I knew I would be left hanging, and it still thrilled me. I felt it had the perfect balance of unanswered questions and disclosed details about characters – it was beautifully paced and it left me starving for more, so much more. The story could potentially go in a million different directions from here and I can safely say that I am incapable of predicting ANY of them. That thrills me too.

On a final note, I would like to point out that I agree that this book could be described as Fifty Shades of Grey meets Basic Instinct, but I am adamant that this story’s premise is original enough and sufficiently different from either of them to make any comparisons only passing thoughts.

4halfstars

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