Lana Rodriguez is a complex heroine. She is beautiful, sexy, has a razor sharp tongue and while she keeps and outward appearance of perfect calm, she is inwardly vulnerable and insecure doing battle with many past demons. Lana is sexually experienced and has always assumed the control with her past liaisons never allowing a man to get too close. That is until Jason….
Jason “Jace” Koa, Olympian swimmer, surfing champion, local legend, restaurateur and entrepreneur, lives on a luxury houseboat moored in a private lagoon on the island. The setting is absolutely breathtaking. Jace is strong minded and completely comfortable in his own skin. He is secure and happy with his upbringing and very involved with his large, tight knit extended family. Jace also likes control and is a dominant in the bedroom. Jace has enjoyed his pick of any female he has wanted over the years but has never considered settling down or committing himself to one woman. Then along comes the prickly and seemingly cold hearted Lana Rodriguez….
After admiring their ‘surfing instructor’, Melanie makes a joke about enjoying some male ‘companionship’ while on the island. Lana decides that is just what the doctor ordered and arranges for male escorts for herself and her friend through what is supposed to be a ‘reputable’ agency that is known to be very discreet with respect to its clientele’s privacy.
Meanwhile, Jason is at his popular restaurant “Jace’s” and his cousin Ipo “Po” Koa, pays a visit. Po is a slimy little cretin who just so happens to own “Hawaiian Nights”, which is the same escort service (and strip club) that Lana has called for her and Melanie’s ‘dates’. Po brags about a ‘celebrity’ booking an escort and Jason puts two and two together. At first he tries to ignore his desire to see Lana again, however, since the opportunity has presented itself, he decides to approach Po with an offer to step in as her ‘escort’.
When Lana opens her hotel room door to find her paid escort is none other than the surfing instructor who she had words with earlier in the day, surprise is an understatement to describe her reaction. Jason will not be pushed around or patronized by Lana and she quickly learns he isn’t about to be controlled, in fact, it is exactly the opposite.
There are a number of passages of sensual prose in the narrative of this novel hot enough to boil your blood. I chose one from Jason and Lana’s initial sexual encounter just as an example to titillate.
“He seized her mouth in a hard kiss. His male essence flooded her awareness, leaving room for nothing but a hot, erupting desire. She clutched onto his shoulders then desperately sank her hand into his hair, holding on for dear life as a tsunami of lust pounded through her. He penetrated her lips and made free with her mouth. She found herself striking out hungrily with her own tongue, ravenous for more of his flavor.
She was so overwhelmed with the power of his kiss she didn’t realize he’d untied the halter of her dress until he lowered the material to her waist. He sealed their lips. She trembled. The man’s kiss could more accurately be called an attack. That’s how it seemed to her jangled nerves and screaming senses.”
Paradise Rules © Beth Kery
Lana is a victim of childhood neglect and abuse and continues to suffer the after effects of that trauma. I found her to be quite fearful of the passion Jason arouses in her when he takes control during their sensual encounter, but at the same time she experiences a sense of awe at the magnitude of her response. In reaction to these unaccustomed feelings she patronizes Jason and pushes him away and he leaves angry never expecting to see her again. Then Lana discovers who he really is and finds herself unable to ignore her desire to see him again while she is still visiting the island. It is, after all, just sex.
Lana seeks Jason out at his houseboat:
“She distantly heard the sound of water splashing. She walked over to the window and watched, her breath burning in her lungs, as Jason arose out of the ocean with a flex and bulge of defined muscle. He’d obviously taken an afternoon swim. He used his fingers to wipe water out of his face, and then casually swiped his hand over a ridged abdomen, making a stream of water splash off taut, sun-bronzed skin. Lana stood rigid, paralyzed by the sight of him glittering and flashing in the bright sunlight like an ancient Polynesian god.”
Paradise Rules © Beth Kery
Ms. Kery brought these characters to life for me, I could literally hear the dialogue between Jace and Lana, visualize their special moments together as well as the beauty of the various settings.
Jace Koa, simply ROCKS. He knows Lana is struggling with relinquishing control to him, but certainly flourishes and responds. Lana is not sexually naïve and despite allowing Jason to take the reins, gives as good as she gets.
Jason finds Lana captivating, but at the same time it becomes evident fairly quickly that she has major issues with commitment and tells himself that she is “not his type”. So, when tempers flare again and they part ways, he leaves the decision up to Lana as to whether they see each other again. Which, of course, they do….
“He tapped at the ice in his glass with a straw, his eyes glued to her curving mouth. He couldn’t believe she’d just walked into his place looking hot enough to ramp up the testosterone in the room to record-breaking levels, and cool enough to care less.”
Paradise Rules © Beth Kery
Jason is stunned Lana has again chosen to seek him out and convinces her to spend a night and a day with him, with the condition that she follows, “his rules”. These two are “volcanic” together and the narrative is laced, but not overburdened with what I have come to know as Ms. Kery’s signature emotional, sexually charged love scenes. As I mentioned, the backdrop of the beautiful lush island makes the scenes all the more special. There is an especially endearing scene as Jason helps Lana through one of her fears which enables her to enjoy snorkeling and the wonder of the lagoon's underwater life. He also sees her vulnerable side and insecurities and gradually begins to peel back her defenses. Lana, in turn, draws strength from Jason.
I also enjoyed some of the dry wit incorporated in the dialogue, both of these characters manage to slip some pretty good “shots” that had me snickering and laughing out loud.
Trouble peeks over the horizon however, when a press leak with provocative pictures of Lana and Jason “playing” on the beach in his private lagoon are broadcast all over the local television station. The news story also intimates Jace is involved in the escort service. This leads to family strife with Jason’s name being tarnished and he assumes Poe has leaked the information.
Lana doesn’t just see red, it is scarlet and she not only goes after Poe, but also blames Jason. It is not a pretty scene.
There are a number of great supporting characters which all have a small role in Lana and Jace’s story. Especially memorable is Lily Koa, the grand matriarch of the family who lays eyes on Lana and reveals startling information about her past which leads to an emotional climax.
Melanie, who knows Lana as well as she will allow anyone to, also plays a pivotal role in the dénouement of the story.
I also want to comment that while this is a completely different story, I found the tone of “Paradise Rules” had the most in common “Wicked Burn”, Ms. Kery’s 2008 novel.
“Her Island, His Rules.” With Jason’s strength, nurturing and eventual love, Lana comes to accept both him and her island, and as a reader, I was happy she did.