4.5⭐️ – Kris Bryant, aka Brit Ryder, promised this story would be hot and she didn’t lie!
Claire Weaver is a newly-minted judge on the eve of her first trial. A visit to the museum to get her nerves under control ends up in sizzling sex with a stranger and her strap-on. A stranger who happens to be one of the experts involved in the trial, Emery Pearson. Now that they’re not strangers anymore, Claire and Emery can’t seem to get enough of each other. Claire loves that Emery always knows what she wants, when she wants it and how she wants it, but she’s not ready for more than casual, albeit magnificent, sex.
If you’ve read Shameless, you already know Claire and Emery. Not Guilty is told in first person from Claire’s point of view. The story begins just before the events in Shameless, then goes on to follow the protagonists after that first encounter.
I love that the author is Kris Bryant who, under that name, writes romance with a lot of emotions. As Brit Ryder, she lets chemistry take the lead and it’s pretty amazing too. Claire’s life is all about work – and her new career as a judge – and no-strings sex. She’s very good at ending things when the women she’s having sex with start to get feelings. And the idea that she would get feelings is ludicrous. Until it’s not.
Some passages are a bit abrupt, which would have bothered me a lot more had the story not been told in Claire’s voice. I can easily imagine her being busy and impatient and, yes, abrupt in her quest to advance her career as well as for pleasure. She knows what she wants and goes for it unapologetically. And if character growth is important to you as a reader, Claire is an interesting case.
This book goes from erotica with scorching naughty fun casual sex to heartstrings-tugging romance with a side of crime. In romance as in real life, overly romantic characters sometimes mistake lust for love. In this story, love grows from lust. And as I wrote in the review of Jaime Clevenger’s One Weekend in Aspen Rach and I published at Les Rêveur, this is the kind of chemistry that’s so strong it has to be rooted in compatibility beyond sex. While I enjoy Kris Bryant’s romance novels a lot, I certainly hope she keeps Brit Ryder busy too.
Technically, Not Guilty could be read as a standalone but I recommend reading Shameless first (it’s a novella, it won’t take long to read and it’s just as steamy as this book). As it is, I thought Shameless was still fresh enough in my mind to not re-read it first, but I was only half-right, and ended up reading it again immediately after I finished Not Guilty. And though I remembered what had happened between both women pretty well, I had forgotten a third character, whom I hadn’t recognised in Not Guilty. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story but (re)finding out about her added a new flavour to it in retrospect. TL;DR: read Shameless first then enjoy Not Guilty fully.