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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
Candice Salinas is a creative writing grad student who just wants to be taken seriously. Since her fellowship only covers her tuition, she started writing (and self-publishing) erotic romance novels as Candy Sloane to make ends meet. And, surprise, she is relatively successful, making enough off her novels to pay her rent. But her asshat faculty advisor would disapprove and no one would take second look at her serious writing if they knew she was moonlighting as an erotic romance writer, nevermind that she kinda loves doing it (pun intended). Then James walks into the picture, as if she needs more drama. The hot barista a local coffee shop, he’s finally taken interest in her like she’s fantasized about for quite some time. But, unfortunately, he is now a student in one of the classes she teaches to earn her fellowship. The relationship is strictly forbidden, but sometimes Candy sneaks into her brain and she can’t help sneaking around with him. With so much to lose, will Candice strike out or will things work out for the best?
Candice is that character with split personalities, one minute being the level-headed, if somewhat insecure, Candice and the other being the confident Candy who goes after what she wants. While I can understand jumping between the two roles, I also became a bit annoyed when she was being overly dickish to James, who was a complete sweetheart. She usually feels a great deal of remorse and apologizes, but I still wanted to strangle her when she was getting out of hand. What made me love her, despite the drama, was how this was more about her becoming more confident in both personalities. She starts out somewhat proud, but embarrassed about her romance novels, and completely lacking the confidence needed to stand up behind her books and proclaim that there was nothing wrong with writing them and that it didn’t make her a “lesser” author like some asshats like to imply. But she grows and learns and by the end is ready to stop hiding her secondary persona. I am woman, hear me roar, type of thing.
Then we have James, the sweetest guy imaginable. He genuinely likes Candice, regardless of which personality she is displaying and puts her with her hot and cold crap. One minute she is all over him and the next she is cold as ice, claiming this can’t happen because she is his teacher and it’s not worth losing her career over. Somehow, despite Candice’s attempts to push him away, he still remains by her side when she needs him, proving time and again that they need to give it a try regardless of the fact that it would be highly frowned upon. He’s got that great ability to deliver witty comebacks when necessary and walk away when Candice is being absurd. And, of course, he’s hot enough to catch anyone’s eye.
This does have a slight love triangle, but it isn’t one of those massively annoying ones where the girls is leading two guys on because she can’t decide. She likes both in the beginning and, once she gets to know both better, it’s pretty obvious she only really likes one of them. No cliffhangers to be found either, since it is a stand alone. And, not instalove. In fact, the characters haven’t even said those three magical words to each other by the end of the book. They like each other and are attracted and really want to try the whole relationship thing, but the L word is never mentioned. So we are joyously free of the three main hang-ups I have these days.
It’s definitely a different from any other NA novel I’ve read because neither character harbors a disturbing past. There are no abusive exes or parents or attempt rape or anything sinister like that lurking in shadows of this novel. Not that I’m downplaying those elements in a NA novel because I’ve deeply loved many of those stories, but it’s absent here. Plus the idea of a serious writer moonlighting as an erotica author is fascinating. I’ve always wondered if any of the erotica authors feel a little embarrassed of their profession. I’m not implying that there is anything to be embarrassed about, more that I can see where it would steam from. I imagine introducing yourself to strangers as a professional erotic romance writer can be daunting because there is a stigma attached to it. Well there is a stigma attached to romance in general, but erotic romance especially. It was interesting to explore Candice’s feelings about her in-the-closet profession, becoming more and more proud of who she really was and the message her novels sent. Sure, they were smutty, but they still made people <i>feel</i> things and told a story that her readers loved, so what more can you ask for? For writing to be worthwhile, must it be dull and dry? I certainly hope not, for my sake as well as Candice’s. I love that, by the end, she is proud of her Candy novels and is ready to stop hiding them from the world. I love books that support that type of message, you know? That one that say be yourself regardless of what the world things. Fuck your parents, fuck your colleagues, and, most importantly, fuck the naysayers. If it is what makes you a happy and you can legitimately make a living off it, then go for it. We need more novels with that message.
It’s also very funny. Readers searching for something that will make you giggle and snort constantly, this is it. Penis jokes and double entendres galore, all of which had me giggling or smiling or somehow showing my glee. There are double entendre alerts every few pages and all of them at least made me smile. Here is a novel that isn’t afraid to show its pervy side. Speaking of pervy, we get a great few steamy scenes that does Burstein credit. The undeniable chemistry between Candice and James heats up every scene between the two, even the ones where they aren’t getting along.
This novel shines because of its originality, it’s humor, and the “be yourself” theme behind the story. It’s creative and different and exactly what I was looking for. Lisa Burstein is definitely an author to watch because it’s apparent she is going to do great things!
****Thank you to Embrace, an imprint of Entangled Publishing, providing me with an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.****