Monday, March 31, 2014

Telling Tales

What I enjoy about Charlotte Stein's erotic writing is that she's very capable in conveying all sorts of moods.  She's probably best known for the humor she infuses in her work (which I love!), but she can also write gut-wrenching and angsty when the mood strikes her.  Telling Tales features some of her trademark humor, but there are moments of emotional tug-of-war here between the heroine and the primary hero that really made me swoon.  Yes, technically, this is a menage story - but at the end of the day, it's all about Allie and Cameron.

When they were in college, Allie, Kitty, Wade and Cameron spent a lot of time at their writing professor's home.  Now the professor is dead and he's left all four of them his house - with the stipulation they spend one month living there.  Granted that sort of thing wouldn't hold up in court, but they're all tempted and can take the month away from their real lives to relive the past.  Walking through the door also means finally addressing old baggage - most notable being that Allie is hopelessly, desperately in love with Wade.  In college he spent all his time being "friends" with her while shagging every other girl within a 50 mile radius.  Allie isn't the most sexually adventurous person on the planet (she's considered a bit of a prude) but she sees this month-long forced proximity experiment as her chance to finally get Wade to open his eyes and see her.  Instead what she gets is an eyeful of Cameron.  Turns out while she was pining for Wade, Cam was pining for her.  Gee, what do you think is going to happen next?

I love Stein's voice, but her writing style does take some getting used to.  She's a bit stream-of-consciousness and it usually takes me a chapter or so to really sink into her world-building.  The plot here is a little on the thin side (it's never really explained to my satisfaction the professor's involvement in all of this), but if you're a sucker for house-party tropes, this one scratches that itch all while giving you debauched sexual shenanigans.  Dude, how peanut-butter-and-chocolate can you get?

Yes, erotic writers need to write "good sex" - but the very best erotic writers excel at writing "longing."  Stein pulls out all the stops here, especially with Cameron, who you practically bleed for on the page.  I didn't know whether I wanted to lick him from head to toe, hug him or take him home to meet Mom.  He's that delicious.  There are some S&M elements at play here (Cam would be in the M role), but the author doesn't drop the reader exclusively and extensively into that "world."  This is more like two people enjoying each other and finding out what flips their respective switches.  Honestly with the proliferation of "lifestyle" and "sex club" stories, it's really nice to read about two people just having some fun and experimenting on their own.  Because, you know, isn't that usually how this sort of thing plays out in real life, or is everybody a member of an exclusive BDSM club and they just haven't told me yet?

Naturally Wade and Kitty get in on the act, but even with two more partners added to the mix I never felt like the focus was taken away from the growing attraction between Cam and Allie.  Yes, Wade and Kitty are fun - but at the end of the day, Cam and Allie need to man-up and admit what they have with each other.

I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending (I wanted more blood on the page), but it ends with a lovely happy-for-now and it's entirely believable, in my own imagination, that these two are going to make it.  Cam certainly has some issues (he's not exactly emotionally open), but him and Allie together are better than him and Allie apart.

Final Grade = B


Brie said...

I confess that while I love her books, the menage aspect kept me from buying this one, but now your review is making my one-click finger itch!

Have you read Cara McKenna? She is another ER favorite, although her books have no humor at all, but she is doing interesting things, especially in terms of setting and tropes. I recommend After Hours.

Wendy said...

Brie: I have one McKenna title in my TBR - the sub hero one. I need to try it!

You know, even with the menage, I think you'll be OK here. I never felt like the menage aspects "overshadowed" the primary romance. And I also felt like we never lost sight of the fact that, primarily, this is really Allie's and Cameron's story. Wade and Kitty felt more "secondary character" to me. Gah, and it was so nice to read an erotic romance that featured S&M without any sex clubs, billionaire Doms whose Mommy's didn't love them enough, or naive heroines who need to be "schooled." Still plenty of kink to go around, but none of it felt like a tired retread.

ClaudiaGC said...

I'm a bit late to the party but I'll add my two cents. That's what I like most about Charlotte's books, too. There is plenty of S&M but never a dungeon or any other of those stereotypes. And her heroines (mostly) know what they want. It's like a revelation to them sometimes but they go with it and just enjoy it. I love that! I'm not big on menage stories either (especially when the men are super conscious of not touching each other). But she makes it totally work that they just feel like that at this moment without being too cliché about it (if that makes sense).
If I wouldn't have read Telling Tales already I so would after your review.

Wendy said...

Claudia: The more I think about it, the more I'm thinking this was a B+ read. Not quite an "A" because I'm not sure I'll reread it - but it really was a very strong book in a lot of ways.....

Becky said...

I'm just double checking... Cameron is a man?

Wendy said...

Becky: Yes, Cameron is a man.

There is same-sex-sex in this story - IIRC, only during scenes when all four characters are....uh, playing together ;)