Second edition, Self-published, 2018
Even as a child, Wren had unusual abilities. Sometimes she could sense the future. Sometimes she seemed to hear people’s thoughts. Sometimes her intuition told her things she couldn’t possibly know. Despite her talents, though, she didn’t foresee the tragic death of her parents—a lapse her younger sister Abby has never forgiven.
As an adult, Wren lives a deliberately quiet and solitary life, with her gay neighbor Lawrence as her only real friend. Her attempts to find romance and sexual satisfaction have failed miserably. She has closed herself off, body and mind, afraid of where her psychic powers might lead her. When Abby disappears, though, Wren is forced to act. She enlists the services of private investigator Derek Chapman, who discovers Abby may be associated with a shadowy sex club which has turned up in his research about another missing woman.
Wren and Derek try to keep their relationship professional, but neither can ignore the strong attraction that draws them together. In fact, when they are aroused, they can read each other’s minds. Even as the couple tentatively explores their sexual and emotional connection, Wren is plagued by mysterious erotic dreams involving a seductive, invisible man, and stalked by a shy but persistent stranger from work. Wren senses that the man who has invaded her dreams is connected with the sex club, but when she visits there during the day to ask about Abby, she doesn’t expect to be kidnapped, bound and ravished by multiple people.
Mind Games is a hot paranormal erotic romance with BDSM overtones. Wren is a strong and believable character, psychically precocious and sexually inexperienced, treading water in her life so she can avoid the depths of pain and uncertainty that lie below the surface. Derek is somewhat less compelling, a bit too good to be true with his sensitivity, his consideration and his big cock. The author tried to provide him with some tragic back story, but for some reason I wasn’t convinced by his fears and insecurities. As for Evan, the dream stalker, he’s revealed so late in the tale that there’s no time to really understand or appreciate him. I would have liked to know more about him and his psychically-marked crew, and especially, how Wren fit into their society.
Cecilia Tan has a gift for writing complex, intense, deeply arousing sex scenes, a gift definitely on display in Mind Games. She understands how imagination, emotion and trust ultimately determine the level of eroticism in an experience. When you can read your lover’s thoughts, when you know almost before he does what he craves—and vice versa—of course sex is going to be mind-blowing. I loved the sex in this novel, especially the gradual progression as Derek prepares the essentially virginal Wren, over multiple sessions, for his ultimate penetration. There might be nothing as hot as delayed gratification.
Nevertheless, again and again, I felt that the author was holding back. She toys with BDSM symbols and themes, but never lets herself really explore the power exchange dynamic hidden in this tale. I know this isn’t because of her own personal reticence; nobody writes more convincing and visceral BDSM than Cecilia Tan. I have to assume she wasn’t sure how romance readers would react if she set her imagination free.
The ebook I read includes a several page preview from Ms. Tan’s upcoming book Initiates of the Blood. This graceful, intense, stunningly erotic flogging scene offered a sharp contrast to Mind Games. Of course, Mind Games is a relatively early book for this author, possibly even her first romance after focusing mostly on speculative erotica. Her more recent romances in the Secrets of a Rock Star series show much greater confidence in mingling happily-ever-after with BDSM. I guess even stellar authors like Cecilia Tan improve over time.
In any case, Mind Games is well worth the read, an intelligent, arousing story that will please most fans of paranormal erotic romance.