WOW... this 3rd book in the Inside-Out trilogy just didn't do it for me. Up to this point, one of the main reasons I enjoyed this series so much is that it DIDN'T remind me of FSOG... at least not much. In this book, I felt the influence of FSOG in the worst ways. To say that I'm disappointed is mild.
It took me nearly a month to read this book, when I should have been able to devour it in a single night. Why did I start and stop so many times, you ask? Good question!
This book seems to subsist mostly on dramatic highs and lows. Lots of emotion and jumping to conclusions, mostly on Sara's side of the equation. Sure, I can give Sara a pass for awhile, since right before this book opens, Sara was attacked by Rebecca's killer in a very dramatic, heart-stopping encounter. And in the midst of that, Chris pretty much gave Sara another ultimatum: go with him to Paris to learn more about his "secrets" and his past or... that's it. Relationship over.
It's a trust thing with Chris, and I get that. But between Chris being so secretive and so sure that Sara can't live with his past and Sara being so emotional, jealous, jumpy, and jumping to immediate and mostly wrong conclusions, this book felt like a whirling, nauseating, high-low carnival ride that you can't wait to get off of.
Beyond that, Ms. Jones seems to go towards the "if you're into BDSM, you must be damaged" bit, especially the "if you are a sadist or masochist, it's because you don't have a positive way to deal with pain". That's insulting to anyone truly a part of the BDSM lifestyle. Now, I'm not part of that lifestyle and never have been. But I resent, on behalf of those who are, the assumption that there's something WRONG with these people... that they need love to heal them, and if they get love and trust, these people don't need to be in that lifestyle. UGH.
"...But I lied to both of us when I said I'd watch your pain if that's what you needed. I won't watch. I won't let you be hurt again. I won't let you need that (pain, whipping) again."
Too FSOG-ish for my taste and a complete misrepresentation of the issue at hand. Chris is a sadist; he LIKES pain. He GETS OFF on pain. That's OK. At times, he might use pain to the extreme, to distance himself from his thoughts; that might not be OK, but the point is, it's up to Chris to decide that. And even if he steers clear of the more extreme pain, that doesn't mean that he's still not a sadist and will never need or use pain again in sexual situations.
I resent Sara's thinking that by having her hands and arms bound and allowing Chris to take her naked on the living room rug is some sort of BDSM experience. It's not. It's barely out of the vanilla sex league. And her ideas of what's beyond vanilla sex seem to revolve around spanking and light flogging.
"Damn you, Chris. I opened myself up to you. I gave you everything that I am, when I swore I'd never do that with anyone. I let you spank me." Pain nearly doubles me over, but somehow I hold myself upright. "I'm going home." I turn away, seeking escape.
To her CREDIT, Ms. Jones does mostly have Chris present another viewpoint of BDSM and reasonably explain a few things to her.
So while Sara and Chris manage to wind their way through their relationship issues (mostly) in this book, there's too much drama... too many extremes for me. If the drama was more focused on Rebecca's murderer or with Ella's disappearance, OK. But the problem is, those issues are just more fodder for the emotional high-lows and conclusion-jumping between Sara and Chris. Sara takes those things and gets herself so worked up over them, she can no longer think straight.
I'd HOPED that at least half-way through the book, we'd focus more on finding Ella and more on Chris's past that he wants to tell Sara himself. Both are glossed over at nearly the end of the book, with lots of hints and red herrings along the way.
By the end of the book, I was IRRITATED. I resented the tone and direction of this book. I resented the cliff-hanger ending, because if I want to find out what really happened to Ella, I have to continue reading. It makes me feel manipulated, and I don't like it when an author does that.
Ms. Jones has proven herself to be a GOOD WRITER. She evokes emotions and paints pictures for us of the world and characters. She envelopes us with thoughts, feelings, emotions... so WHY DID SHE HAVE TO TURN ON US, HER READERS? Why did she have to bully us with tactics that force us to keep reading and use mechanisms that didn't work for FSOG? Why did she have to fall on that bandwagon and virtually re-create scenes and plot points from FSOG, down to the "Don't be mad at me" dialogue?
Ms. Jones is a better writer and storyteller than that.
I'm ticked, because I could have been satisfied with a Netgalley copy of this book. But I chose to PAY for this book, rather than read it for free. Now I wish I'd chosen the Netgalley free copy.