by DW McKinney
Reckless by Evelyn Montgomery
Independently published, July 2019
242 pages (Kindle) // Amazon
I remember the heat wafting off the pages of the first romance novel I read. It was hypnotic, drawing me deeper into the storyline as I sat curled up in the passenger seat of a friend’s red Corvette. Evelyn Montgomery rekindled that flame the moment I began reading Reckless. Set in New Orleans, the romance novel follows the complicated relationship of Gwen Coppola and Rex Roberts—former lovers with a contentious past.
Reckless is the third book in Montgomery’s The Kismet Series. Gwen and Rex were originally secondary characters in the first two novels, which center their best friends Eva and Noah, respectively. Although it is part of a series, this third novel can still be read as a standalone, which is how I read it for this review.
The prologue opens as Rex encounters Gwen at an airport bar immediately after their best friends’ wedding. His internal monologue informs the reader of their history together. Rex and Gwen were high school sweethearts, but now their interactions are strained. Their mutual rancor, lingering from their breakup a decade ago, quickly succumbs to the intensity of their sexual chemistry. By the end of chapter one, Gwen slinks away from a sleeping Rex, yearning for his physical touch but conceding that they don’t work together as a couple. But, this is a romance novel. It’s not too difficult to surmise that they will meet again within the next few chapters.
Gwen relocates to New Orleans to oversee a marketing project, which coincidentally involves Rex. They don’t quite know how to interact with each other in public beyond exchanging pointed commentary. Their true desires unfold in anxious and sexually fraught internal dialogue. Gwen and Rex want to screw each other mercilessly. Yet, they’re divided by a mysterious event that they refuse to acknowledge. They instead keep their distance—until Rex seduces Gwen with a gentle caress or faint breath on her neck. Then they have mind-blowing sex before pushing each other away again. This push and pull builds powerful tension that lures the reader to the edge of their seat, hungry for it to snap and spill out in a pile of designer clothes on a hotel room floor. In the latter half of the novel, the tension lingers a little too long and siphons the novel’s momentum.
The worldbuilding in Reckless is potent. While we don’t experience New Orleans’ full joie de vivre and secondary characters lie flat on the page, Montgomery enthralls us with her main characters. Their vivid descriptions and backstories draw us into their personalities and complicated history. When Eva and Noah arrive into town fresh from their honeymoon to visit Gwen and Rex, the dialogue is at its smoothest, and the scenes are more dynamic. Here, the novel settles into itself. The reader begins to see how this part of the Kismet universe could be more intricate and more tantalizing with a little time.
Montgomery’s language curls off the page with an elegance that defines the romance genre:
“At night, I lay awake tormented by the undeniable desire to have him in my bed, holding me, making love to me and cherishing me like he used to…The pain I felt the whole time we were together not knowing if he loved me the way I loved him is a road I do not want to walk back down.”
Gwen and Rex occasionally stymie this elegance. Individually, they fit within the formula required for a good romance novel. They are sexy and empowered characters who entice the reader and make it difficult to pick a favorite—readers may find themselves switching sides from chapter to chapter. However, their love is chaotic and pained. Once together, they overwhelm their world and each other. It’s difficult to determine why they should be a couple, but Montgomery illustrates the power of their desire so clearly that the reader leans into it until the end.
Montgomery writes firecracker sex scenes that make the erotica the real draw of the novel. You forget Rex and Gwen’s capriciousness the moment they kiss. Every word lures the reader deeper into the scene, muting the outside world such that your focus cannot be distracted from the passion unfolding across the pages. There’s no denying that Montgomery knows how to write about the body and what arouses it. It’s while Gwen and Rex are burning up the sheets that the novel’s emotions are the most palpable and the writing and pacing are at their best.
Montgomery invigorates the latter part of the storyline with cascading revelations, concluding in a dramatic finish. The conclusion is right on the nose for its genre. The hopeful ending will satisfy longtime fans of the series and genre enthusiasts.
Romance novels have always held a forbidden quality to me. They are indulgent in a way that proffers vicarious freedom. The key to this is the writing. When it’s done well, you don’t realize you’ve mentally loosened your inhibitions until well after the protagonists lie breathless and naked beside a catamaran on the shores of a remote island. While Reckless may not offer romance traditional to its genre—it’s less breathless and instead digs deeper into the complex psyche of its main characters—it portrays real interactions that still provide a sweet indulgence.
DW McKinney is a writer based in Las Vegas. Her work is featured in Bitch Media, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Stoneboat Literary Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, and others. Her essays have appeared in HelloGiggles and Elite Daily, and she currently serves as creative nonfiction editor at The Tishman Review. She holds an MA in Anthropology from Texas State University and a bachelor in Biology from Dominican University of California. She has essays forthcoming in Narratively and Road Grays. Learn more about her at www.dwmckinney.com or follow her on Twitter @thedwmckinney.