It's not what you show, it's what you hide...
Grace Cantrell is a self-destructive exhibitionist uncomfortable in her own skin. Jason Wright is a fine-art photographer living life from behind his lens.
When Grace agrees to be the centerpiece for Jason's next gallery show, she unlocks his creative muse and dark sexual cravings. As Grace and Jason come together in a fusion of passion and art, they find themselves slowly breaking out of their carefully constructed cages, forcing Grace to confront the ghosts of her past.
As Jason captures what he most wants on film, can he capture it in real life? And can Grace risk exposing more than just her skin?
Grace seeks refuge from her problems by indulging her exhibitionism at a party, where she is found by Jason, an artist and experienced Dom. Intrigued by Grace, he offers her escape without limits, but both soon discover their time together is more than a casual exchange.
Jason is an intriguing character, and I was easily drawn into the sense of his artistic nature, the visual focus of his perception, and the way that bleeds into his erotic desires. Throughout the story I wanted to understand him more and more, particularly why such an experienced Dom would agree to play with someone like Grace who is so uncommunicative about her needs. I’m not sure we really get the answers to that, but through the latter half of the novel we do get to understand that he’s not as together as he makes out.
Grace is much more explicitly broken, having to come to terms with multiple incidents from her near and further past through the story. I sort of wish there had been just one focus issue or incident, or even two, as the background to Grace is a little overwhelming at times, as we keep discovering yet another issue. I really enjoy damaged characters, especially in erotic romance, but the way new issues kept popping up in Grace’s back story made me wish for a little more cohesion to her journey.
In general, the pacing of this novel is compelling, but it does lack a little cohesion in other ways too, with the first half feeling a little like it bounces from scene to scene. The erotic scenes, however, are very sexy and I think each would work well as individual short erotic stories. Despite the title, and the fact that Jason is using Grace as an art piece, there’s probably a slightly stronger focus on pain play than exhibitionism, and there’s a very hot secondary storyline between Jason and his friend Logan, who desperately wants his girlfriend to understand his desire for pain. When exhibitionism does come into play more overtly, Hugo really knows how to work the scene, for example one moment with a truck driver watching certain happenings in Jason and Grace’s car that I thought was oh-so sexy. There was only one erotic scene that I wasn’t so into (with needle-play), but even that was beautifully done and really demonstrated the interplay between Jason’s artistic nature and Grace’s submissiveness in a very sensual way.
I have to admit, the terminology used in the sex scenes was a little off for me – Hugo uses ‘sex’ where I prefer the c-word in this sort of erotic piece, but that’s a very personal preference. From a BDSM erotic-rom perspective, I also want to note that there’s a couple of scenes with a focus on aftercare in this novel which extend longer than I typically expect (or usually want) from my fiction. Once an erotic scene is done, I usually find a focus on aftercare a bit boring and like, ok wrap it up, but I was surprised to really enjoy this aspect in Exhibition, and think Jason’s attentiveness to Grace after the event was quite delicious.
The latter part of the novel has much less of an erotic focus, but this is when the actual story really comes together, as post-break-up we get to explore Jason and Grace’s longing for each other from a more emotional perspective.
This was an interesting read for me. Fascinating characters and hot scenes. I wanted more cohesion to both, but I enjoyed the journey and I’m interested to read more from this author. I’m particularly wondering if Logan will get his own story next…
Exhibition by Nicolette Hugo is an erotic romance, released by Momentum on September 24, 2015 (currently available for pre-order).
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