I'll bet y'all thought I was dead, didn't you? Nope, just uninspired. But I read a book last night that got me to thinking it required a review.
You might remember that at the beginning of this year, I read and reviewed Willing Victim by Cara McKenna, a book that really pushed my boundaries. While the subject matter of the book made me very uncomfortable, I quite liked Ms. McKenna's voice and I also like her alter ego, Meg Maguire, so when Mandi at Smexy Books recommended Curio, it was kind of a no brainer.
Curio features Caroly, an almost 30-year old woman who is an assistant curator at a museum in Paris. She's a quiet, prim woman, and also a virgin. But she's determined to be rid of her virginity once and for all. Her problem is that although she considers herself average looking, she only goes for extremely handsome men. Men who are "out of her league." One day, her friend Ania shows her a series of daguerreotypes that an artist recently shot of a preternaturally good looking man named Didier. It turns out that Didier has modeled for a number of artists, and Ania knows his work (and his form) quite well. Somehow (I was never quite clear about how), Caroly discovers that Didier is also a prostitute. She decides that he will be the one to take her virginity. She makes arrangements to meet him, and when she does, she's quite charmed. Sure, he's gorgeous, but he's also an interesting conversationalist, and is quite open with his "job" and how he is feeling. The result it that Caroly, who is quite naturally curious and fascinated by him, is allowed to ask him everything and anything. He's honest with her, and is also quite willing to make himself completely available to her. She begins a sexual exploration of his body, and more, of herself that is highly sensual to read.
Overall, this book fascinated me. It's very much about Caroly's evolution, and her discovery of her body's wants and needs. While yes, she does become emotionally attached to Didier, the best parts of the book are when he's helping her to fully understand her sensual side. The book is very erotic in nature, with sex scenes that are scorching to read, even though the sex is never "kinky". I really liked Caroly's internal monologue (which is good because the book is told in first person), but McKenna offers enough glimpses into Didier that I felt like I got to know him as well.
Where the book didn't work for me was two areas: first, we discover that Didier has a mental issue that came seemingly out of left field. I believe that his issue was intended to inform his character, but instead it just made me roll my eyes. I think this is because the author didn't delve far enough into the "why" of it. He just had this mental issue and it was stated, and then treated superficially. I found that the book didn't do justice to the issue that he had, and I felt like this was a missed opportunity for the author. My second issue is that at one point Caroly bypasses using a condom during oral sex. She opts to "trust" Didier that he is clean. Now, in the story he was, but Caroly was portrayed always as a smart, intelligent, reasoning woman. Why on EARTH would she bypass the simplest precautions when performing oral sex on a man who she knows without a doubt is a prostitute?! It was enough to make me want to chuck the book.
The book also ends on a hopeful note, one that I found myself dissatisfied with. I know as a romance reader, I'm supposed to crave the HEA or HFN, but instead, I almost wished that Caroly had moved on from her experience with Didier. That he'd more or less popped her cherry and she'd learned and moved on to a real relationship. Which is an odd predicament for someone who generally craves the Happily Ever After. But in this case, I found that I didn't want the heroine with Didier. Not due to anything wrong with Didier, I just felt like Caroly would have been a more interesting character, had she walked away.
It sounds like I didn't like the book, but honestly? I really did. I motored through it in about 2 hours, and found it a compelling, and smokin' hot read. My issues with the story mostly cropped up once I'd had time to reflect. But I do really enjoy Ms. McKenna's books. I like how they push my boundaries and really make me think. If you're looking for an erotic read with fascinating character development, I think Curio might be a great place to start.
Final grade: B-