Curveball by Charlotte Stein
The Particulars: Contemporary erotic romance novella, digital-only, 2013 w/ Xcite (edition I have), 2015 Self-Published
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: At some point this was a freebie, and having just discovered Charlotte Stein, I immediately snapped it up. These days, Stein is now an autobuy.
The Review: One of my personal goals for the TBR Challenge is to focus on my print TBR. So much so that when I was traveling last weekend I actually packed a print book to read. I got 100 pages into that book before admitting I was bored out of my skull and DNF'ed it. I wasn't home, so the print TBR was off limits which meant it was the Kindle or nothing. So I went scouring through my non-review pile and found this short (roughly 80 pages) by Stein. And I loved every single word of it.
Judy has just split from her boyfriend so when her brother offers her a vacation aboard his "yacht" (OK, small boat), she says yes - expecting it just to be her brother and his wife and a nice chance to get away. She did not expect Steven Stark, her brother's BFF to also be on board. Judy and Steven grew up together. He was always around dragging her brother into various scraps and was there to tease her and give her noogies. Judy is...well let's call her festively plump and Steven is also a big guy, with a body builder-like physique. He's also a playboy, jumping from one girl to the next, skipping over Judy who nursed a serious crush on him back in the day. But something inside her snaps on this trip. It's probably the "funny" story that Steven tells about falling into bed with a "big girl," while Judy's brother and sister-in-law laugh uproariously. That story, Judy's reaction to it, set off a chain of events that, naturally, lead to something more between Judy and Steven.
I am convinced that Stein is almost single-handedly saving erotic romance from its trend-chasing self. I know this is only a short story (which will likely be the biggest gripe for most readers), but the tension in this book! The steamy sexual tension! It's the kind of book where I was gripping my Kindle saying to myself, "Dear Lord when are they going to kiss already?!?!?!" And when we finally get to the first actual sexual shenanigans scene? Skinny-dipping in the Antarctic would have been welcomed. Literally that's why you should read this story. Yes, I know it's first person, present tense, we don't get the hero's point-of-view and it's a 80-page novella but DEAR LORD THE TENSION!!!!!!!
Minor quibbles come in at the end. The I-love-yous may have been a touch fast, but at least these two people have a shared history. Although there is no marriage proposal - so it's not like the author completely lost her mind. The hero is - well, still slightly problematic. He's kind of a jerk at times, but in the grand scheme of Romance Novel Jerk "Heroes," I'm not sure he'd even register on the scale in the genre world we're currently residing in. He's more of a jerk from the "doesn't always think things through before he says them out loud" school.
Did this change my life? OK, probably not. But it's so well done. It's textbook on what erotic romance really should be but sadly isn't always. In fact I think it needs to be downloaded immediately and put in a "Break Glass In Case of Emergency" folder. Read it after you slog through another book that confuses kink for tension or one that tries to convince you that the wannabe Dom "hero" isn't really a psycho stalker.
Final Grade = A-