bare - Lynn Kelling Review originally posted at Sinfully. Check it out and enter to win a copy!

If you've never read Lynn Kelling because her dark or hardcore subject matter made you nervous, this is the book you should read. It’s a beautiful love story that contains the multilayered characters I expect from Lynn Kelling. It’s also a coming of age story that follows Ev’s breaking away from the constricts placed on him by a religious and political family as he finally follows his heart and explores the sides of himself that make him as nervous and scared as they equally excite him.

When Adam discovers Evelyn as he's working as a nude model for another art teacher, he sees Ev as the perfect model for the series of paintings he is creating for a show that will highlight the vulnerabilities and the feminine beneath the masculine. It’s not long at all until Adam has quickly fallen for his muse. It’s not just Ev’s physical beauty that draws him, it’s what he sees beneath. He sees the war between Ev’s shame and desire and how Ev fights it and that draws out the dominant side of Adam. The side that wants to take care of Ev.

Evelyn has repressed everything he is in order to survive his family. His father is a US Senator from Kansas and they are religious conservatives. He has been used as a prop for his father’s political career. Ev knows his family would never accept what he feels inside and what he wants to do with his life. The fear is greatest with regard to his sexuality as his family and church are affiliated with a conversion camp his cousin was sent to when they were children. The fear of what happened there and the lingering threat that it could happen to him, has kept Ev on the straight and narrow until he finally made his escape across the country to attend college, much to his family’s disapproval.

When he takes on a nude modeling job at school, it’s a bit of rebellion and also something that excites him, even as he thinks it means there is something wrong with him. He likes being looked at. Ev tries to tell himself that the brief attractions he had to guys in school, teammates in the locker room, were just him liking the attention, but Ev can’t say that about Adam. From the moment Adam walks into the art room during a modeling session, Ev is attracted to the intense man with the fiery red hair and blue eyes like he has never been attracted to anyone else. Ev knows the danger of taking on an exclusive modeling job with Adam, but deep down he also senses the opportunity and he can’t resist the pull he feels to Adam.

Adam falls quickly for his muse and he challenges Ev like nobody has before. He questions everything and pushes Ev’s boundaries until Ev is challenging all his parents’ rules and his own repressed desires. From Adam’s insistence on using Ev’s full name to pushing Ev to voice and accept the truth of who he is and what he wants regardless of his upbringing, Adam is firm but loving and Ev slowly opens up and reveals all his pain, desire and fears to Adam. The modeling and the subject matter of Adam’s paintings help Ev work through his embarrassment and shame at being aroused by a man. Adam’s touch as he positions Ev lights a fire within him and Ev is soon helpless to resist the sexual attraction.

I loved these two so much, I could have easily kept reading once the story ended. Adam was tough to get a read on at the start, but he very quickly revealed himself to be a firm but caring man, truly invested in Ev’s well-being and clearly enchanted with his beauty. Ev is trying so hard to fight every impulse that was ingrained in him that what he feels is wrong, but it’s not easy. Ev has always seen beauty in art, appreciated things that his father would have scorned. Ev sees his truth through Adam’s paintings of him, in the positions Adam poses him in, and that has so much effect on his eventual decision to accept himself and allow the world to see him for who he truly is.

There is a lot of sex in the book but it’s organic to the story, flowing naturally from the modeling and from the intense attraction between the two. It ranges from tender to rough, vanilla to D/s, but all of it was scorching. Ev is new to it all and just finding what he likes and how to voice it, while Adam is an experienced Dom who likes to be in control. It’s a gradual journey for Ev opening up, laying himself bare and vulnerable even as the relationship between them moves rather quickly. Ev acknowledges that logically it may be too quick, but he also realizes how much he comes to need the one person who has ever seen the real him.

This is not a story with a magical sex cure, although it is the catalyst for Ev facing his demons. Ev is encouraged to seek counseling to deal with past abuse and the shame that was drilled into his head. The amount of his parents’ influence is clear in Ev’s shock anytime people accept his relationship with Adam. There is a master-slave relationship that evolves as Ev very naturally falls into the submissive dynamic. Adam reads Ev very well and, cognizant of his fears and worries, brings out in Ev everything he’s ever repressed, allowing him to live the life he was always afraid he never could. The master-slave and D/s lifestyle here is fairly light and shouldn’t scare you off.

Told from Ev’s point of view, you feel his constant fear of the consequences he will face for loving Adam. Those consequences that his parents and church always warned of. While I said this is not dark or hardcore Lynn Kelling, there is a bit of darkness and yes, it was hard to read when Ev has to face just how far his parents will go to save him. Even as his fantasy that someday his parents may accept him is brutally destroyed, we again see just how sensitive and loving Ev is as he still tries to see the best in his family.

There is such beauty in this story and in Lynn Kelling’s words. The pictures she paints through Adam’s brush were so clear in my mind and added so much to the storytelling. This was a softer side to her writing that I have glimpsed in the past, but is on full display here. If you were ever curious about this author I would have no reservations in recommending you start with this story. I know I’ll be reading it again in the future.