Arouse (Spiral of Bliss #1), by Nina Lane ✰✰✰✰✰


“One day I’m going to touch you in a thousand different ways and show you how to touch me,” he said.

And he did.

Struggling with a tormented past, undergraduate Olivia Winter once led a practical but isolated life. Then she met Professor Dean West, a brilliant scholar of medieval history who melted Liv’s inhibitions and taught her the meaning of both love and erotic pleasure.

But after three years of a blissful, lusty marriage, Liv and Dean now face a crisis that threatens everything they believe about each other as dark secrets and temptations rise to the surface.

My Casting

  • Dean
  • Liv

    A beautifully written, confidently simple story of a man and his wife. Secrets, lies and their bone deep love for one another.

4.5 stars for Dean and Liv

This adult romance begins where most of the books we read would end. That, in itself, makes it unique and intriguing. Dean and Liv look like they’ve got their happily ever after. They’re happily married, they adore one another and their sex life is scorching.
But what happens when one of them finds out that the other has been keeping something from them? A seed of doubt is planted and they plunge into an unavoidable downward spiral that they don’t seem to be able to claw their way out of.

Our marriage has always been an island, a safe place where sea-dragons and monstrous creatures can’t reach us. Now we’re letting them in, gnashing teeth and all, and we are failing to protect each other.

Arouse is written mostly from Liv’s POV, but we do get a few chapters from Dean’s POV too. The placing and content of these alternate POVs works brilliantly, giving an insight into the thoughts and motives of each character and the vicious circle of doubt that their relationship becomes. Each circumstances fuels the next until you can’t even remember what the initial cause of the problem was.

This book is so passionately written. Angsty, emotional, real. It’s plot is fairly simplistic. If you’re looking for car chases, evil villains or out-there stoylines, you’re looking in the wrong place. But that doesn’t make this book any less gripping. It’s so cleverly done. Nina Lane is a very talented writer because despite the lack of explosions, this book will have you hooked from the beginning. The story, although quite straightfoward, will still keep you guessing until the very end.

“I’ll be here, beauty. Waiting for you.”

I really liked Olivia. She was definitely my favourite character, which is rare, for me. I usually prefer the male lead, hands down. She is honest, vulnerable and she hero worships her husband. At twenty-nine, she is still trying to find herself, working odd jobs, volunteer positions and busying herself with bits and bobs, whilst her husband forges a definite, stable career for himself. She has had a life filled with heartache and disappointment. She has learnt not to let anyone in and not to rely on anybody but herself. He is the first man she has ever trusted.

“Professors have a lot of power.”
I almost smiled. “Even medieval history professors?”
“Especially medieval history professors,” he assured me.
“Knights on horseback and all that?”
A responding smile tugged at his mouth. “And damsels in distress.”

So when everything goes wrong, you can just feel her fear that everything that she knows and trusts is slipping away from her. I really felt for her in that way. However, she is not without blame in this book and oh my goodness, I was soooo frustrated with her at a couple of points in the book.

Now… My feelings for Dean are complicated. I wanted to love him. And to an extent, I did. Dean is nine years Liv’s senior and he definitely adopts the role of her wiser, worldly protector, early on in the book. I loved the flashbacks and the way him and Liv came together. I loved the way he wanted to keep her safe from her demons. I loved his quiet strength and distinct masculinity. I loved his intellect and his dedication. In that way, and at first, he is the perfect man.


“Liv,” he said, his voice rough with tenderness, “you don’t have to be afraid.”
“Why not?”
“Because I’ll slay monsters for you.”

But… there were things that I really didn’t like. Things that really disappointed me about him. Once the shit hits the fan in this book, Dean retreats into himself. That whole protective male that I loved in the beginning all but disappeared. I really felt that he handled the whole thing so badly and didn’t give Liv the support or assurance she needed. After gaining her trust and assuring her he would keep her safe, I felt that he’d completely let her down when it mattered. And it made me so angry with him. I wanted to yell at my Kindle, ‘For Christ sake talk to her! Love her! Protect her! Reassure her!’ It was such a typical ‘bloke’ reaction and I don’t want that from my book heros.

“I gave you everything I am. Why couldn’t you do the same for me?”

So that, along with the fact that I felt the book was a little slow at around the 30% mark, are the reasons that I knocked off half a star. I’d been told that this is a firm favourite for so many people and to be honest, it didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but it was still great, and I know so many people really did love it. It just wasn’t quite stand-out for me. I’m intrigued to read the further two books, though.

Part of the theme of this book made me a little uneasy. I know it’s idealistic but I like to think that when we leave our characters, when they get their happy ending in their book, that it really is a happy ever after. I don’t like the idea that after their happy ever after, they go on to have more issues that I’ll never know about, perhaps separate, perhaps even divorce… That upsets me and leaves me feeling unsettled. Oooobviously, in my realistic mind I do know that life isn’t all hearts and flowers, and it’s such a silly thing, but it did upset me a little to think ‘well, how many more of my beloved characters have gone on to have these kinds of troubles after we’ve left them?’ I’d prefer to stick my head in the sand and pretend they do in fact, all live happily ever after! I know, it’s daft.

“Christ Liv, sometimes the way you look at me makes me feel like I can hang the fucking moon.”
“Because I’ve always believed you can.”

I did, however, love that the characters felt so real. They are an ordinary married couple, from the outside. The picture perfect young couple, in love. They live in a small apartment, they aren’t particularly wealthy, Liv is a young woman trying to find her place in life, whilst Dean is a career driven academic who has worked hard for his accolades. They are true and relatable. But like so many of us, they have their own stories to tell.

The tension between this couple is written brilliantly. It’s palpable. My heart ached for them. Mainly for Liv, but also for Dean as the story went on. He was struggling. She was struggling. They were pulling apart and they could see it but just couldn’t work out how to put themselves back together. It’s painful to see and I would imagine that so many women will be able to relate to alot of this pain. Equally, you can also feel the love that they have for one another. Which, in turn is what makes the whole thing so heart breaking.

I love him to my bones, but suddenly I’m wondering what I might have been without him.

As you would expect, from such a passionately, well written book, the sex scenes are sensual and moving. There is no sex for the sake of sex in this book. Each scene is important to the develop of the story and the characters and each scene is heart wrenching. There is loving, gentle sex, angry, rough sex, desperate sex… all brimming with emotion and depth. I really liked that about this book.

“Easy, beauty,” He presses his mouth to the tears that have slipped from the corners of my eyes and down my temples. His breath rasps against my ear. “Come first, and then I’ll fuck you.”

I adored the ending. It was realistic and just perfect. The right mix of ‘Thank goodness for that!’ and ‘Oh my god, what?!’. I’m really interested to see where this series goes from here because I just don’t know how much this couple can deal with, without it breaking one or the other of them… or both.

Have you read Arouse? What did you think?


Arouse Statistics
• Steam Rating (out of 5): ♥♥♥♥
• Ending: Happy ending with a slight cliffhanger
• Length: 406 pages
• Narrative: Alternates between Dean and Liv’s POV. Mainly Liv. First person. Present tense.
• Series: ✓
• Reading Order:
– Book #1 – Arouse (Spiral of Bliss, #1) 
– Book #2 – Allure (Spiral of Bliss, #2) 
– Book #3 – Awaken (Spiral of Bliss, #3) 
• Can this be read as a standalone? Yes
• Themes:
Married couple
• WARNING. This book includes…
Sexual content. Infidelity.
• Writing: Good

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This entry was posted in Angst Overload, Arouse, Four & a Half Stars, Nina Lane, Series, Steamy Reads, Student/Teacher Romance, Virginal Heroine. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Arouse (Spiral of Bliss #1), by Nina Lane ✰✰✰✰✰

  1. Michelle says:

    Great review! Welcome to the Dean West club! 🙂

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