Vi Keeland is consistently one of my top 10 favorite authors. If she writes it, I’ll read it. If she writes it with a partner, I will read that too. In fact, I gobble her books up like manna from heaven. Like manna, it nourishes my romance-loving soul, and I cannot get enough.
I had The Naked Truth sitting in my Kindle library. It kept calling to me, but I was wrapped up in reading ARCs for other books with review deadlines, that I had to wait until yesterday to start it. And like the other books I’ve read by her, this one did not disappoint.
“I remembered, ‘I said you were the rainbow of my life. You cleared the way for the rain to stop.'”
The Naked Truth is the story of Gray and Layla. Gray and Layla meet in prison, when Gray, serving a brief sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, and Layla, a lawyer completing a community service requirement, work together in a prison class. They spend Saturdays talking about their lives and falling gradually for each other. Eventually, Layla accidentally finds out that Gray is married, and she cuts ties with him. Fast forward one year, and Gray is the new client with Layla’s firm. Working together forces them to engage in the truth of their relationship, and they begin to fall in love again when suddenly another life situation strikes, threatening their relationship. Will they survive this new challenge?
One of the things that Keeland does so well is writing characters. She does an exceptional job of writing male heroes who are seemingly a%$holes at the outset of the story, but their true character becomes apparent fairly quickly in the story. They border alpha types, but they usually do not overpower their female counterpart because Keeland writes strong women to balance the power dynamic.
This is definitely the case in The Naked Truth. At the beginning of the story, I wasn’t sure if I would like the character of Gray. He seemed like a domineering playboy. Again, that was my assumption. Fairly quickly, we find that Gray is multi-layered. He’s intelligent, compassionate, and sacrifices his own happiness for those around him. He’s noble in his pursuits. As his feminine foil, Layla is strong, albeit flawed. No, we shouldn’t blame her for not allowing Gray to explain his story, but she makes assumptions about him without allowing him to offer his truth. This occurs throughout the story setting up the conflicts in the story. The “push-pull” of their relationship makes the story for the reader.
As is the case with most of Keeland’s stories, the male and female characters meet, struggle against each other, fall for each other, encounter a difficult situation, split for some time, and finally find each other again. The moments when the man and woman are separated are felt strongly, and the reader worries for a “happily-ever-after.” However, Keeland never betrays the trust of her readers, and her male and female protagonists find each other in the end. In this book, the story follows her standard narrative, but the scenarios that separate Gray and Layla are significant, and it’s understandable why they keep them apart. But in the end, the two of them find each other again because as Gray tells Layla, “I love you. I’ve never been surer of anything in my life. I fucking love you, Layla. We are meant to be together. We both knew it from the very first day. Loving you is like breathing; I can’t stop.”
Sexiness Quotient: 💙💙💙
When I measure the sexiness quotient of a book, I am measuring it by the levels of sex and sexual acts found in the story. There is clear sexual chemistry between Gray and Layla, and the promises of sex are pretty dirty (in a good way). However, the actual sexual acts offered to the reader are pretty tame for some of the sexual acts found in other books. Again, it’s still a sexy book, but it is fairly typical of a contemporary romance.
I believe I’ve decided that a writer’s style should allow for the movement of the story without an overabundance of words to say something simply. The style isn’t stilted; it flows for the reader. This is always the case with Keeland’s writing. Once I begin one of her books, I’m captured in her prose and sent along the way of the story with the ease of her words. She does this well in The Naked Truth. There are moments of interesting strings of words: “But when our eyes locked, we began to make love. Real, true, raw, painfully beautiful love. Like nothing I’d ever experienced.” The words grab you and throw you through the turmoil, the sexy, and the best moments of the story.
It’s impossible to decide my favorite Vi Keeland book. The Naked Truth comes close to being my favorite because Gray as a male character holds the characteristics I love in a man: nobility, compassion, and loyalty. Even though we perceive him at the outset of the story as a fleeting playboy, his love for Layla is clear and breaks down her barriers heroically. Any woman would feel blessed to have a Gray in their life who isn’t willing to let her go when times become difficult. To me, their relationship is the beauty of this book: “Before I met Layla, I hadn’t even realized something was missing. Yet now, without her, I felt totally incomplete.”
In love and romance,