Arouse: A Spiral of Bliss Novel (Book One)

Arouse: A Spiral of Bliss Novel (Book One) - Nina Lane 3.5 STARSThis book gave me a tough time to review. On the one hand I did like a good majority of it but on the other I didn't feel it resolved ANY of the issues it brought up. But it's going to have a second book, you say, which I find strange seeing as this kind of story seem like an ill-fit to the trilogy/duet bandwagon.I'm going to get this out of the way before I sally forth: the title AND the blurb are hideous ideas. I guess it was trying to attract the erotica fanbase, particularly those who have a hankering for the naughty teacher-student dynamic. Then you slap a titillating title on the cover and call it a day… and you're going to have some pretty disappointed readers (especially those who shelved this as BDSM). I guess putting "marital discord" in the blurb isn't as enticing as a professor teaching a student "the meaning of both love and erotic pleasure."And since the blurb was pretty misleading, I'm gonna be a spoilering whore for the rest of this review.I'm not gonna lie, I was full-on expecting some major teaching going on (there was none) but what greeted me in the foyer wasn't that bad either. The story is of Dean and Olivia West who have been married in relative bliss for 3 years at the beginning of the story. Dean is a newly tenured professor of medieval studies while Liv, is struggling to find her niche the employed race while also being the supportive wife.Side note: in the hierarchy of hot nerds, professor of medieval studies is in my bottom rung between molecular biologists and entomologists… in my geek harem, computer hackers are top dogs. "Liv," he said, his voice rough with tenderness, "you don't have to be afraid.""Why not?""Because I'll slay monsters for you."But what if the day came when you get to be strong enough to slay the monsters yourself? Or worse, what if the day came when you become stronger than your knight in the shiny armor and you'd have to "slay" him instead? (I'm being metaphorical here)It was like seeing a snapshot in the days following the happily ever after of your favorite contemporary romance novel and the delivery was pretty intriguing. Olivia's character throughout the novel felt like a nervous breakdown waiting to happen while Dean was just too good to be true as her loving husband. The story starts off with Liv losing her job and starts to become the floundering overeducated, underemployed wife who begins to want things she never wanted before namely, a baby from Dean. This seemingly normal desire from Liv sets into motion the unraveling of their marriage.From then on, the book shifts from a boring contemporary romance to a psychological manual on How Not to Be A Married Couple. Initially told from Olivia's POV, it was fascinating to read the workings of the mind of a wife on the verge of making some serious mistakes as she tries to figure out if love could ever be enough to make a relationship work. Especially when the trust between two people begins to crack open. Maybe this was meant to happen, this discovery of cracks where now a different new light can shine through.I was full on ready to hand this a higher rating because it really was pleasantly different from what I was expecting… but it fizzled out in the end. Olivia and Dean's point of contention (i.e. the complete and unapologetic truth versus protecting the one you love from the ugliness of it) wasn't resolved in the end. It was like having an intense chicken and egg argument with someone for days and have another person come up and say it doesn't matter because God created them both anyway so… there. The writing was pretty straightforward and reads quite easily, though the storytelling felt a bit muddled. Certain points about Olivia's and Dean's pasts were raised but wasn't followed through (which I suppose the next book is leaving room for) and I didn't feel any emotional investment towards either of them. At the end of the day, it was still an insta-love story and while the characters' internal and external conflicts were well-thought out, I couldn't find it in myself to root for them to end up with each other (if anything, I felt bad for Tyler). The shift to Dean's POV in the latter third of the book felt pointless, though thankfully his voice was made distinct enough from Liv's. Kelsey was an awesome secondary character… who I will beat away from my husband because I do not approve of her 'friendly chat' methods.I wish the publishers didn't find the need to hide this engaging story behind the guise of erotica. There were enough steamy scenes, sure, but didn't necessarily provoke anything from me other than make me think of sex in terms of another facet of married life (reading about married couple banging comes across very matter-of-fact). But that didn't diminish this reading experience for me, if not it pushed the envelope a little further beyond the automatic presumption of happiness once one finds "The One".I'm probably going to pick up the next book anyway just to see if Olivia ends up institutionalized in the end of this happily questionable ever after even if this ended in a WTF moment (the non-amusing kind).