“ Genre: Romance / Author: Mari Carr / Paperback / 232 Pages / Book is published 2009-08-04 by Samhain Publishing Ltd „
**Warning! Learning Curves is an erotic book and therefore this novel is intended for adult eyes only**
Learning Curves is a book by Mari Carr containing two short stories. I had never heard of the author when I got this book on a book swap website and I'm not generally a fan of short stories but the stories sounded interesting so I decided that I had nothing to lose (except perhaps a couple of hours). I had absolutely no expectations of this book at all which I think tends to be a good starting point!
The first story in this book is about a writer called Julia who is suffering from writers block. After the death of her cat she's feeling down and her publisher, Ross who also happens to be her best friend suggests that she starts writing erotic fiction. When they both get stranded in his cabin during a snow storm Ross suggests that they start researching for her new genre. After all, how can you write erotic novels without experiencing the things you're writing about?
When I told my friends about this story they laughed and said that it wasn't very imaginative. They're right really, it doesn't take a great deal of imagination to come up with the plot of this story and it's not exactly original but that is where the criticisms end. This story isn't original but that's not important. The book is supposed to be about eroticism and romance so who cares if you've read something similar before?
I think it can be difficult to write short stories well and one of the pitfalls tends to be over or under developing the characters. Either you end up with a novella that's so focused on developing the characters that everything else gets neglected or there's no character development at all and everything feels very superficial. One thing that Carr does well in both novella's is developing the characters. She seems to have found the right balance, giving you enough information to get to know the characters but still focusing on action and the plot. I felt that in this novella I did get to know the characters and did really like the characters. I felt that throughout the novella both characters developed well and you could see them grow as people but this wasn't all the novella was about.
Setting the book with both characters stranded with only each other for company, and not having any plot other than sex and romance, means that Carr is free to focus entirely on the erotic and romantic content of this novella. I think perhaps that's why she seems to have struck just the right balance, this novella isn't overly ambitious like so many others. She seems to know the limitations of writing such a short story and therefore focuses entirely on the main components that make up an erotic romance story. There was so much heat between these two characters which of course made for explosive sex scenes. The only real complaint that I have about the sex scenes is that she never really takes them far enough. There are a number of very kinky sex scenes that all start very well but they all feel like they end too soon and like she doesn't focus enough on one kink. Instead by the time you get into one she's already moved on. One thing that I liked is that there's a sense of security for the characters. You still have the will they won't they thing that characterises this genre but because they're such good friends you always feel quite secure in that. For me this novel felt both exciting and very comfortable, kind of what you would want in a good relationship and it worked well in this novella. It wasn't just about feeling secure within the relationship, the security also characterises the sex. They try out some pretty kinky fantasies that I think a lot of women fantasise about but they aren't things you would actually want to happen, I think that by having two characters play out those fantasies rather than writing a novel where those things really happen, Carr allows both the characters and the readers to explore sexuality in a comfortable way.
I really enjoyed this novella, it was romantic, it was erotic and it was certainly a page turner. My only complaint is that I really feel that it could have been a full length novel and would have been quite happy to read 300 pages of Julia and Ross.
The second novella in this book is Tequila Truth, a story about a two men and a woman who are friends and flat mates. Kylie, Heath and Colt have been friends since college and they've been playing tequila truth regularly since they met. The rules of the game are that you drink tequila, ask each other questions and that people can only answer honestly. It's basically a game of truth or dare, with tequila and without the dares. On Heath's 25 birthday they play Tequila Truth and one of the questions is what is your ultimate sex fantasy. Kylie's answer is a threesome with spanking and bondage. Heath and Colt offer to make Kylie's fantasy come true, proposing a weekend of no strings sex. But when Monday comes will anyone want to go back to the way things were before?
I don't want this part of the review to repetitive of what I said about the first novella but there are a few things that hold true for both novella's. Again Carr strikes the perfect balance between character development and the plot, something that is even more difficult to do with three characters. With this novella the stage is already set, so to speak, the characters have a history, they have a deep bond of friendship and crossing the line into romance isn't such a huge leap. In some ways this novella felt like you were starting the story somewhere in the middle, I know that sounds like a negative but it really isn't. It's like Carr has written about a short, momentous period in their lives but you know that it's just a snapshot, a short period of time in three long and eventful lives. You don't need to know their entire history or know every aspect of their personality, you just need to know who they are in that moment and what they are feeling in that relationship. You get the feeling that they are complete, well rounded people even though the focus of the story is very narrow.
Again this novel was very erotic and kinky. I felt that the sex scenes were absolutely scorching and incredibly well written. Both male characters are dominant and I really liked the way that they cared for Kylie as well as dominating her sexually. You just get the feeling that they really care for her and even when they're all acting like it's just a weekend thing you know that it's more than that for all of them. I think that perhaps one of things that didn't feel quite right in this novella is the relationship between Colt and Heath. In this story they are friends and there is nothing sexual between the two of them but I felt that there was chemistry there, not friendship chemistry but sexual chemistry. I like novel's where the men in the ménage aren't sexually involved with each other, just as I like stories where the men in the ménage are involved sexually so this isn't about me having a preference. It just felt like them not being together was a bit forced when actually maybe the characters did feel an attraction towards each other.
I really enjoyed this novella. I thought that the eroticism was done excellently with plenty of kinky action interwoven with tenderness and love. The characters were likeable and well developed for a story of this length and the whole novella had a really fun and exciting feel to it.
I am going to give this book four stars. I really did enjoy this book but there were times when reading Erotic Researcher that I didn't feel that the sex scenes developed enough and I was left wanting more and never getting it, that is the only reason why I have not rated this book as five stars.
==Price and Availability==
Learning Curves is available in print format on amazon. It retails for around £11 (although you can probably get it cheaper on amazon market place). Both novella's are also available separately on amazon in Kindle format for around £2 each.