Title: Stripped Bare
Author: Heidi McLaughlin
Series: Vegas Billionaire #1
Release Date: 3/28/2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Erotica
Page Count: 217
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
They don’t call it the Strip for nothing. . . .
In this sinfully sexy Las Vegas romance from bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin, a man who has it all reunites with a woman who takes it all off.
Living in Sin City, Finn McCormick is no stranger to one-night stands, but the last person he expects to find losing big on the casino floor is a former high school fling. Even though Macey Webster’s clearly down on her luck, she’s still a knockout, and she’s dressed like a stripper—because she is one. Drunk off an unfamiliar cocktail of lust, pity, and compassion, Finn offers to pay Macey’s debts if she cuddles up to him around town . . . and does whatever he wants between the sheets.
Macey came to Vegas for one reason only: money. She’s got a young daughter to support, and the tips really are bigger in Vegas. But when she blows her earnings on blackjack, her guardian angel is the rich boy who once stole her heart and never called her back. Although Macey would love to turn the tables on Finn, she can’t afford to refuse his proposition—and soon she’s enjoying herself much more than she cares to admit. Macey’s used to baring her flesh, but baring her soul will take far more courage.
1.5 stars- I couldn’t see past the characters
I had a host of issues with Stripped Bare but they all boil down to the fact that I really didn’t care for the hero and heroine. As my dislike grew for Macey and Finn, I became more critical of other aspects and it compounded for the bulk of the book. The plot is similar to Pretty Woman and the blurb sounded promising, but my inability to click with the characters eliminated my enjoyment.
When the book opens, we meet Macey. She’s had a difficult life and willing to try just about anything to make things better for her young daughter. I never had a hard time with her motivations and I could empathize with most of her choices, but a few felt really incongruent with her role as a struggling single mother. The author addressed some of these, but as they piled up it was increasingly hard to dismiss. I also felt she was underdeveloped. She came off as brittle and angry for a good majority of the book. That attitude made sense given her life experiences, but I needed the softer sides too and I never got more than glimpses. The lack of balance and some of her behaviors made it difficult to like her even if I felt for her. While I could forgive Macey’s anger and rough exterior, I couldn’t cut Finn much slack. His haughty, egotistical, self-indulgent attitude made him unappealing. It was almost as if the stereotype the author was striving for got overblown. Though there’s no doubt there are people like that in the world, I don’t see them as heroes. He contradicted himself too often, saying he respected Macey, then cutting her down a page later. I’m all for the reformed playboy, but I need to see a lot of change or character development throughout the book, rather than just the end. In the latter half of the story, Macey talks about all the ways Finn makes her feel that enabled her to see beyond his brash words and actions. It was nice and you could understand why she wanted more, but the reader never sees those sides or moments. And I certainly never felt them.
Unfortunately, my difficulty with the characters extended to the other aspects of the story. The writing was okay, but it didn’t flow as well as I expected from this author. There was a lot of telling of emotions in the story, making it a bit stiff. The romance was largely lust-driven, and while that made sense initially, it also ensured I didn’t connect with the story or characters much. I was happy there wasn’t insta-love involved, but the relationship didn’t develop much beyond having physical chemistry even toward the end. I liked the hints we got that both characters felt more or appreciated aspects of each other’s personality, but it never went beyond brief flashes and I never felt their love.
Overall, I think this was a case of too far gone for me. The plot and conflicts held promise, and the execution and resolutions were solid, but it felt uninspired. I love stories featuring character redemption and growth, but in Stripped Bare the reader was just told it happened or it was casually dismissed. I wanted to see that. I wanted those tender moments where the reader sees the walls come down explored in detail. There were a few, but it wasn’t convincing enough to draw me back in. By the time there’s a shift, my walls were up and my feelings for the characters colored the remainder of the story. I found myself reading to see how it ended rather than enjoying the journey itself.