I want to talk a little bit about two recent erotic romances I’ve read. They explored similar themes, and were compelling in their own right, but I thought a comparison would be interesting.
Sheltered by Charlotte Stein was my first exposure to this author’s work. What I immediately noticed was how deeply entrenched I was in the POV of Evie, our heroine. She’s grown up in a religious home, under the control of a domineering, abusive father. Then she meets Van, who is hot and sexy and who intrigues her. Her struggle is that she is inexperienced and she’s sure she can’t possibly have anything to offer him.
I loved the setup for this story. Van and Evie felt like any kids I might meet wandering around somewhere. I thought their awkwardness and their rawness was appealing, and I loved that each of them had to struggle with wondering if they were saying the wrong things. I also enjoyed the fact that Evie’s sexual inexperience isn’t something to be cherished. It’s kind of intimidating for her, because she doesn’t quite know how to ask for what she wants. Van goes very slowly with her, though, and turns out to be a caring, attentive lover. He gradually coaxes more out of Evie than she thought possible for herself, which in the end is what makes this book so satisfying. It has a bit of a fairy tale quality, and in the end I felt that the story was sweet and endearing and surprisingly empowering.
My grade: a B+.
Curio by Cara McKenna was a different take on the inexperienced heroine finding herself through lots of sexytimes. Didier was also hyped all over my romance blogging Twitter stream as one of the hottest heroes out there, so I entered the book with my cynical hype alert going full-boar.
Caroly is living in Paris as a curator for an art museum. She’s nearing 30 and she decides she wants to get rid of her pesky virginity, and there’s this superlatively beautiful model who sleeps with women. They agree to meet, and he is everything she’s ever hoped he would be. Soon Caroly and Didier are scorching up the sheets, but of course, their hearts get involved, too.
The thing I liked about Caroly was that she knew what she wanted. It wasn’t like, “Ooh, what are these strange fluttery feelings?” She takes control from the start, and Didier is happy to oblige her. I liked that, as with Sheltered, the sex scenes were integral to the story and showed the progression of the couple’s growing feelings.
That said, ultimately Curio wasn’t as satisfying for me. I can see, objectively, that the writing is better than Sheltered, but Sheltered hooked me. Curio never did. The reason for this is the first-person point of view. I don’t inherently have a problem with first person narration, but I thought it was an odd choice. It was as if Caroly–and, of course, by extension, the author–was really trying to sell me on Didier. All kinds of superlatives were used to describe him, and we do get glimpses of what lies beneath the surface of his character, but I still ended up feeling a strong vibe of YA romance. “He’s the cutest boy ever, and soooo dreamy.”
The POV didn’t put me off reading the other Didier stories Ms. McKenna has written. I’m not in a hurry to do so, but I do like her writing, and I’m curious about where else she can take Didier as a character.
My grade: A B.