Monday, October 13, 2008

He's So Shy

Whenever a non-erotica reader expresses interest in trying the genre I always tell them to start with Emma Holly's Black Lace titles. In my opinion, she's the gold standard, and her books tend to have happy endings, albeit nontraditional ones. Well, after finishing In Too Deep, the latest from Portia Da Costa, I'm revising my statement. If you've never read erotica, but are curious to try it? Yeah, start with this book. Hands down it has got to be the sweetest, funniest, most charming erotic novel I've read to date. I laughed, I sighed, and I found it all very sweet even when it was making my toes curl.

Gwendolyne Price is a perfectly respectable librarian in a bit of a rut. She's in the middle of a divorce (and her ex is trying to screw her over on the sale of their house), and doesn't have much of a life outside of work. That is until one day when cleaning out the library's old-fashioned suggestion box she comes across a highly erotic letter addressed to her. It's full of naughty suggestions, purple prose, and it's signed "Nemesis."
Nemesis? Oh please...The man's a raving pervert, fond of purple prose and probably dangerous...and he calls himself Nemesis? It sounds like something a teenage gamer would call himself when playing online.
Despite the obvious stalker-ish vibe of the letter, Gwendolyne finds it all oddly flattering. She's a smart girl, with ample curves in all the right places, but she's not the sort that inspires erotic love letters. No, her gut tells her Nemesis is a harmless pervert, and besides she's too busy being distracted by the library's visiting local celebrity, Professor Hottie McHotStuff AKA Professor Daniel Brewster. Between his shy academic demeanor, curly hair and glasses - I mean, how could a girl resist? Too bad their relationship is strictly professional....that is until they literally run into each other and Gwendolyne notices he can't stop looking at her boobs. Seems the Professor isn't completely immune to her charms.

What follows is a tango between Gwendolyn, Daniel and Nemesis - with our heroine wondering if Professor Hottie is masquerading as the letter-writing Nemesis. As the story carries on, she soon finds herself "in too deep" - between her growing feelings for Daniel, and her curiosity surrounding the secret that is obviously weighing on his mind. The man is hiding something that's for sure, and although she's determined to enjoy the fling (and oh, what a fling!), she can't seem to stop herself from falling hopelessly in love with him.

This book is so fabulously charming it's hard to know where to begin. Told entirely from Gwendolyne's point of view, In Too Deep ingratiates itself to the reader with it's self-deprecating manner and witty British-isms. I couldn't help smiling when Gwen tells the reader that she fancies Daniel "something rotten" and I can't tell you how many times this book had me laughing out loud....in a good way!

Daniel, oh sweet, adorable Daniel. I'm an equal opportunity girl when it comes to men and romantic heroes, but Daniel is my favorite sort of bloke. He's charming, he's sweet, and slightly unsure of himself until our dear heroine literally takes matters into her own hands. Once these two are burning up the library stacks together, he goes from sweetly Beta, to take-charge Alpha. It's enough to make a girl positively swoon.

Portia Da Costa keeps the proceedings hot, erotic, and mostly vanilla. Outside of shenanigans in public places, light bondage, and a bit of spanking, there's really nothing totally off the wall here. This is really a story of Gwen opening herself up to a new adventure, and Daniel pursuing her in his own way. When these two get their happy ending (and yes, there is a happy ending) I was sighing contentedly right along with the characters.

This is the sort of book that works best if the reader lets go and rides along with the fantasy. I could poke holes in this plot all day long - namely starting with the Nemesis letters and Gwen finding a Professor Hottie in a public library. I work in public libraries people. Most days we're just happy to see men who look like they bathe regularly and know how to use deodorant. Also, the reader has to trust Gwendolyne's gut involving Nemesis. I mean, a guy who leaves letters like that? Yeah, in real life they're creepy as hell and you're calling the cops. Just saying. So in order for this book to work, the reader has to be willing to suspend their disbelief.

I was willing to do that. Mostly because I was so utterly charmed by the end of the first chapter that I was too swept up in it all to nitpick it to death. As much as I loved Portia's other librarian heroine novel, The Tutor, this one is my new favorite. Sweet and funny, she charmed the socks right off of me. Good show!

Final Grade = A-

Note: This book is available now in the UK, and the US laydown date is November 11.

25 comments:

Barbara said...

The books sounds really good. Sigh...I'm still fairly new to erotic romance and I think maybe I started with something less harsh than I had, lol, because as I read my jaw was hanging off my face :o I'm a little less shocked now, but yeah, I think people who are chartering in this new and unfamiliar territory should start with something subtle.

Kristie (J) said...

This one sounds delicious. I just tried ordering it but because it's not out yet, I couldn't get free shipping. But when it does come out - I will be getting it :)

Anonymous said...

Portia is a DOLL!! I know her from a writing forum we're both on. I'm sure she'll be thrilled with this review.

Rhonda

Wendy said...

Barbara: I think erotica is a difficult genre to jump into blindfolded. I tend to advocate The Baby Steps Method ;-)

Kristie: Oooooh, I know erotica isn't normally your thing, but I think this book will work very, very well for you. Truly. You must let me know what you think of it when you read it. Laydown date is November 11.

Rhonda: Portia is the greatest isn't she? Loved this book, and so glad I've got more of her stuff in the TBR.

Portia Da Costa said...

You guys! Thank you so much! I was totally blown away by Wendy's lovely review, and now the comments are making me a bit teary [in a good way] too.

Wendy, you've made my day, my week, my month... whatever. I was so hoping that this book would work for you, because of our 'librarian' connections and because you'd liked The Tutor. But I can never tell whether I've got it right with my books. Sometimes I think, 'ooh, this's cool... this works' and other times I feel I could have done much better but I don't quite know how...

But ITD is one of my books of the heart, really, because of the library, and Gwen being a bigger girl [like me] and also the gorgeous Professor Hottie being an expression of my major crush on Charlie Eppes! So I was really hoping that the good feelings I had about it were reflected in people's experience of reading it!

Thank you so much, Wendy! Am grappling at the moment with a WIP that's not so biddable as ITD was, but today, I feel a lot more confident and eager to write! :)

mdvelazquez said...

Oh, Wendy! I'm GREEN. I haven't met a Portia DaCosta book I didn't like.

Emma Holly and Portia DaCosta were the first two erotica authors I read. These are the two authors I always recommend as a starting point.

Did you read GOTHIC HEAT, CONTINUM or HOTBED?

Jill D. said...

I have been wanting to read this book since you posted about it a couple of weeks ago. It sucks that it doesn't release in the states until Nov 11!

~ames~ said...

Great! I'm ordering my copy for sure.

I've never read Portia either, so any other suggestions? :P

Liza said...

So I haven't tried any erotic romances yet, but thanks for the suggestion on one. I like the idea of starting off slow.

Kati said...

Wendy - I'm with you, I always, always recommend two authors when people go looking for erotica authors from me: Emma Holly (I'm a fan of Menage) and Portia's The Tutor. My copy of The Tutor is seriously sorry looking at this point, it's been well loved.

I can't wait to get my hands on this book. Thanks for such a comprehensive and wonderful review of an author who I adore!

Sayuri said...

Man, now I want this. ....

Barbs said...

OK you talked into it! LOL it's on my wish list

Wendy said...

MD - I know how much you love Portia's work, and a thousand thank yous for recommending her to me what now seems like a billion years ago. And no, of course I haven't read any of those books yet! LOL - but they're all in the TBR.

MK: Black Lace has reprinted several of Portia's books, but not The Tutor...yet. I'm really hoping they get around to it because I just adore that one.

Hope everyone who picks this book up enjoys it. I found it very much in the vein of a traditional romance novel....just with lots more naughty bits ;-)

little alys said...

Wooooo... this sounds good. If you're using Emma Holly as a marker, then oh yes, I'm getting this one. And the former.

Something about the sweet, gentle and slightly unsure hero tends to get me. ;) The sexy librarians help too. Switch in roles. Teehee.

Must get. Soon.

Portia Da Costa said...

Hi again, guys! I do hope IN TOO DEEP works for you all, and lives up to Wendy's wonderful review of it!

Hey, Wendy... I *think* The Tutor is to be reprinted in 2009. Keep your fingers crossed! I pointed my editor in the direction of this review, and with any luck, he'll get the message. :)

Kati said...

Wendy - I paid $16 for my copy of The Tutor. I just had to have it. There's this scene with a sawhorse...SIGH. LOVE IT!

azteclady said...

To my shame, I have yet to read Ms DaCosta's work, but after this one I have to put ITD right at the top of the wishlist... Thank you, Wendy!

Nikol said...

Wow this one sounds really good, must put this on my list of books to check out. Great review Wendy!

Tracy said...

Ok - you've definitely got me hooked and I'm going to go find it now!

Jessica said...

This sounds great! I am one of those shy readers and this sounds like something I would like. Ordering it ASAP!

Wendy said...

WooHoo! I'm crossing my fingers that The Tutor does indeed get reissued in 2009!

Allison('s)Reads said...

Hi Wendy, I've been wondering which Portia Da Costa to start with! Thanks :)

Alyssa said...

Oh, this sounds wonderful! I'm definitely going to look out for it . . .

Fiordiligi said...

You know what, I never wanted to try another DaCosta erotica title, but you really made me curious, damn. Usually, I don't go for this humping around. I like sex betwen the hero and heroine, but the "free go for all" rule that usually applies to Black Lace titles (with the exception of Emma Holly, I totally agree), isn't to my liking. And after stumbling upon an incest scene from DaCosta I wanted to forget her name. Grrr :-)

Wendy said...

Fiordiligi: If this helps you at all, the hero and heroine only have sex with each other over the course of this story. No multiple partners.

Although the heroine does "pleasure herself" after she receives some erotic letters/exchanges from the mysterious Nemesis. But actual physical contact sex? Yeah, just hero and heroine.