Rayna doesn’t have the time or energy for sex. Between working full-time as a dental hygienist, caring for her teenage kids, and trying to keep up with the housework, she’s exhausted by the end of the day. Still, she can’t stop herself from fantasizing about her hunky next-door neighbor. Though Rayna hasn’t been intimate with anyone since she kicked out her sleazy ex-husband, she has no trouble imagining what it would be like to be fucked by the powerfully-built younger man.
Simon, or Coach as everyone calls him, runs a gym, and he looks it. He’s massive and muscular, with shoulders that could carry an ox and thighs like tree trunks. Of course, Coach couldn’t possibly be interested in a frumpy single mother ten years older than he is, but Rayna finds it fun to dream.
Coach was attracted to the pretty, competent woman in the next house from the moment he moved in to his place, three years before. If she were any other female, he would have had her in his bed, or hanging in bondage from his basement ceiling, long ago. With Rayna, he has held himself back, out of friendship, respect, and a sense that she’s out of his league. She might be frightened by his dominance. She might despise him for it. In any case, she doesn’t seem like a woman who’d engage in casual sex, and that’s the only kind Coach ever has. He makes it completely clear to his many girlfriends that their sexual interactions will never be more than recreation. That’s all that Coach wants—or feels that he deserves.
Then one warm summer Saturday, he catches her watching him as he mows his lawn. He offers an invitation that both understand will involve sex. To his surprise and delight, she accepts. During their first encounter, he drops his guard enough to let her know she’s dealing with a man who likes to be in charge and to play rough. Instead of running away, she’s open and yielding, eager to have him lead her along new paths of pleasure.
The more time they spend together, the more they both realize their connection goes beyond the physical. Still, each of them feels unsure about the possibility of a deeper relationship. Rayna is certain he’ll tire of her as he has of all his other women. Coach worries that she’ll be terrified or disgusted if he fully reveals the hungry cruelty of his “inner demon”. It takes a near-fatal intervention by someone from Coach’s past to convince them that they must be together, regardless of the obstacles.
I really enjoyed this book, the first work I’ve read by Pebbles Lacasse and one of the most realistic romance novels I’ve met. The book brims with genuine emotion as well as erotic heat. The characters are complex and multi-layered, with believable flaws and idiosyncracies. The barriers to Rayna’s and Coach’s relationship are real, not some flimsy excuse for keeping the couple apart until the HEA. Indeed, even the happy ending is nuanced, hinting at the challenges that lie ahead for Coach and Rayna as they commit to one another. Strong as their love may be, it doesn’t erase either Rayna’s or Coach’s psychological scars.
Relationships are difficult. People harbor misconceptions about what their partners want and believe. Ms. Lacasse has captured these truths, with great insight.
The erotic scenes in Coaching Rayna are fantastic. The mood swings from desperate intensity to deep tenderness to borderline silliness, just like in real-life sex. Despite Coach’s sexual prowess, he’s not a superman. Meanwhile, Rayna’s willingness to experiment clashes with her self-image as inexperienced and unattractive. Some readers might object to the nearly instant sexual connection between them, particularly the power exchange dynamic that takes over from their very first encounter. However, I can attest to the fact that this sort of sudden, overwhelming interlock of fantasies and desires really does occur. It happened to me.
Maybe that’s why I liked Coaching Rayna so much: it woke echoes of my own initiation into dominance and submission.
Unfortunately, this novel did not receive the level of editing that it deserves. I was distracted by errors in word usage and grammar. Some of the dialogue felt stilted, and some of the sentences were awkward and overly long. I’m probably over-sensitive to this sort of issue because of my own work as an editor, but these problems did reduce my enjoyment a bit. I hope that for her next book, Ms. Lacasse finds more competent editing help.
Given my experience with this novel, I’m looking forward to that next title.