Monday, April 8, 2013

Call Me Anytime

Note: If anything good came out of the nightmare that was That Trilogy That Shall Not Be Named hype - it was that the Black Lace imprint relaunched.  Sadly though, it appears that relaunch has not quite extended to US distribution yet.  I'm not finding this book for sale (new in print or in digital) in the US, which will likely annoy some blog followers.  To which I say, Americans aren't the only ones using the Internet, and Lord knows over the years the Europeans have been screwed by book distribution much more than US readers have.  So, um, yeah.....

I've blathered enough about it all over the Internet that I'm pretty sure even small children in Africa know that I am "over" BDSM.  Which would beg the question on why I'm reading The Accidental Call Girl by Portia Da Costa.  The reasons?  I like Da Costa.  Even when her books don't work for me (the grade spread ranges everywhere from DNF to A), I still like Da Costa.  Why?  Because while she certainly has her pet themes and tropes (more on those in a minute), she's one of the few erotic writers who consistently gives readers characters that feel like they could exist in real life.  Even the enigmatic billionaire types.  They feel like guys you could see walking down the street.

Lizzie has skipped out on a party and finds herself at the bar of the Waverley Grange Hotel.  Across the bar she spies an impossibly beautiful man, looks are exchanged, he sends over a drink, and before you know it - he's coming over to talk with her.  What follows is Lizzie realizing that he thinks she's an escort.  With her Bettie-Page-like haircut, her stylish, innocent-yet-somehow-naughty clothing, and the silent exchange they just shared - she knows she should be insulted, but she understands how the presumption occurred.  Instead of correcting him though, she plays along.  She's "Bettie," and he's unimaginatively, "John Smith."  Before you can say Erotica As Fantasy, these two are burning up the sheets - although it's certainly not a one-time-deal.  John's in town on business, and the sex is so off the charts (for both of them), that staying away from each other isn't in the cards.

This book is the first in a trilogy following the couple and will undoubtedly draw a lot of comparisons to That Other Trilogy That Wendy Doesn't Want To Talk About.  You have an older hero (40-ish) who is a mysterious billionaire tycoon type, a younger heroine (20-ish), and naturally he introduces her to BDSM.  Uh, sort of.  The big difference?  Lizzie.  What I tend to love about Da Costa's heroines, besides that they always strike me as the perfect best gal-pal a girl could have, is that while they may be innocent in some sexual matters (in this case, being submissive), they're adventurous girls.  Lizzie doesn't cry or cower in a corner or simper and whimper.  In turn, John isn't an abusive asshole.  Yes he's mysterious, yes he's enigmatic, but deep down you know this is a good guy.  He won't hurt Lizzie, well outside of possibly breaking her heart, but our girl isn't going to end up in the ER because he's a dick.

This is familiar territory for Da Costa, who has been doing the Mysterious Hero Thing about as well as anybody for a number of years.  For fans I would classify this one as somewhere in the ballpark of Entertaining Mr. Stone (2006) meets Kiss It Better (2010).  And certainly Da Costa has loosely connected a number of her stories around the Waverley Grange.  The new thing is this trilogy idea, which plays well for these characters.  The vast majority of this story is told from Lizzie's point-of-view, although we do get a few teasing, tantalizing glimpses from John.  The author reveals just enough about him to hook readers, but leaves more than enough dangling to fill up two more volumes.  This is hardly a new idea, but an effective one - and the kicker?  John isn't a jackass so the prospect of two more books featuring him as a hero is certainly no hardship.

Like pretty much all of Da Costa's contemporary work, this one has a decidedly British feel to it - complete with slang.  Americans turned off by this sort of thing will likely be annoyed, but I tend to like it.  I don't know - characters talking dirty to each other just sounds sexier in an accent.  Maybe that's just me though.  Also, having explored BDSM themes before in previous books, Da Costa stays fairly true to form and continues with what I call BDSM-lite.  There's some light bondage, some spanking etc. - but again, John isn't hauling off and beating the crap out of the Lizzie.  Which, you know, thank God.

So where does that leave me, The Girl Who Is Over BDSM?  Well, I'm still over it.  But reading this book didn't make me want to drive my fist through a wall, didn't have me wishing I had more hard liquor in the Bat Cave, and heaven help us all - I'm totally on board for reading the next book in the series.  If you can roll with the British-ness and aren't over BDSM?  Your grade could very well be higher than mine.  As it is, it's a bloody miracle around these parts that I'm slapping a BDSM book with a B.  Cue the brass band!

Final Grade = B-


Liz Mc2 said...

Hmmm. Like you, I really enjoy Portia Da Costa's voice. Like you, I'm feeling weary of this trope (don't know if I'm "over" BDSM books for good, but I'm not really interested right now). In Canada, I CAN get an e-book. But it's almost $10. This review isn't really helping me make up my mind! Perhaps I'll wait to see if my interest in this kind of plot revives.

Wendy said...

Liz: My dissatisfaction with BDSM books (at the moment) is that they're ALL the same. The heroine is always the sub. The hero is always the Dom. And if I think I might actually get a Domme heroine? Nope! Turns out she's a switch or has some secret desire to be on bottom, blah blah blah ugh! Dear Lord can't anyone do anything remotely "different" with this trope?!

Anywho, tangent aside *g* - this is a solid story that follows the current trend. It didn't knock my socks off, and Da Costa (IMHO) doesn't tweak the theme or do anything really different with it. But it's readable, and enjoyable - for what it is. I did enjoy that Da Costa kept it playful, and didn't dive head first into a bunch of needless angst (There's no "Mommy didn't love me so now I'm into BDSM" nonsense). But yeah - I wouldn't call this book ground-breaking or different or somehow transformative of the current BDSM trend. I think it's enjoyable for what it is - but if you're currently burnt-out on this sort of thing? I didn't find anything here that made me go "Wow! I need to start reading BDSM again!" It was more, "I like Portia's books, and this was readable, and I liked it despite my BDSM burn-out, and I'll read the next one, but I'll likely never reread it and it's nowhere near my favorite of her work."

Long-winded response that hopefully helps :)