Thursday 11 December 2014

Callie, Unwrapped by Amy Jo Cousins - Book Review
From the Blurb:

The best presents are the ones you unwrap early...

Callie isn't sure just how kinky anyone can get on a Tuesday before Christmas, but she's willing to find out. That is, assuming this first drink at a pool hall with her ex, Gabe, and his girl, Kate, doesn't send anyone screaming from the bar. Newly divorced after years of sleep-walking through occasional sex, she's hoping to find her way back to the fiery confidence of her youth, when she saw what, or who, she wanted and grabbed it with both hands. It's a Callie she barely remembers and that Gabe is convinced is buried somewhere deep inside her still.

But when bystanders speculate about the trio, and Gabe and Kate make surprising demands that she be an active participant in this threesome, and not simply their plaything, Callie discovers that letting herself be sexually confident again is harder than she imagined. She'll need to bare both her body and her heart to find out if she can still reach fearlessly for adventure.

The Review:

Callie is meeting her old flame Gabe and his girlfriend Kate, with plans to get a little kinky for the night. But Callie hasn't seen Gabe in a long while, has never met Kate, and has just got out of a bad marriage. Plus, it's Tuesday night, and "How kinky can anyone get on a Tuesday?"

This novella, which essentially covers one night of building tension and sex, is much more on the erotica side of erotic romance than the stories I usually read and review, but I simply couldn't resist it after reading this excerpt on Amy Jo Cousins' website. And I'm so glad now that I've read it.

Cousins' writing is beautiful. It's precise, clever, and sexy. Every aspect of Callie, Unwrapped, from the dialogue, to the witty internal monologue, to the growing sexual tension, flows perfectly, intertwining to create this lovely building wave of a story.

Callie is trying to put herself back together after her marriage fell apart. She wants to find the sexually aware person she was before her husband, John, came into her life and crushed her confidence with his disapproval. She hopes to reclaim that part of herself with the help of her old boyfriend, Gabe, who was so capable of making her feel desirable in the past.

In a lot of ways, Callie's background is the point of this story - it's what she's running away from and, conversely, what she's trying to find. But instead of becoming some overwhelming background dump, Callie's history is weaved into this night of sexual rediscovery with lines that just tore my heart apart. I want to share, well, all of them, but I'll just quote this one little bit from the beginning, when Callie reminisces on her marriage:

She’d censored her own thoughts, her own imagination, to avoid the pain of realizing that she’d made a bad, bad choice.

Now she couldn’t remember how to be natural anymore.
Now, though, Callie has Gabe and Kate to help her unleash her thoughts and imagination once more.

Gabe is an interesting character, if a little hard to place. He and Callie have a long history and she is still hooked up on him. You can feel the importance of that connection simmering throughout the novella, but, in the end, his role in the story is more about Callie's characterization than his own. He is her fixation. He is everything she lost, everything she was, and everything she might now get back. Who he is beyond Callie's Gabe remains a bit of a mystery at this point and I'll be interested to see how he develops in the rest of the trilogy (if, that is, he returns in Books 2 and 3).

I ended up becoming most intrigued by Kate. She's Gabe's current girlfriend, but she's under no illusions about their relationship - she understands that Gabe is not the forever-love kind of guy. She's confident and sexy, all swagger and watching, understanding and playing. I'm pretty much (like, totally) in love with her. I loved the way Callie's meeting of Kate became this sexy new discovery, even alongside the rediscovery of her gorgeous Gabe. And I hope she makes a reappearance in further installments of this series.

Let’s definitely not forget about fucking Kate.

Aside from Kate, what I love most about this story is the tension. Oh, the tension. It's practically tangible. Right from the beginning, this book is all about anticipation, as Callie nervously takes a cab to meet Gabe and Kate. When the three play pool (which probably covers a good third of the story), I had no idea what they were talking about in terms of the game, but it was hard to give a fuck about what they were playing with all the sexual tension flying round.

Once they finally make their way home, the sex scene (which, despite being ménage, is relatively vanilla) makes for a good payoff. But it is the lead up to the sex that really sold this novella for me. In Callie, Unwrapped, it's the not-sex, the wanting-sex, the nearly-sex that is completely delicious.

Callie, Unwrapped is the start of a trilogy, and I'm interested to see how Callie's story develops. This installment can easily be read as a standalone, though, and has an emotionally satisfying ending. However, there is no HFN or HEA and questions about Callie's future certainly remain. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Callie, Unwrapped by Amy Jo Cousins is an erotic novella, released on November 17, 2014.

Find this book at: Amazon | Smashwords | Goodreads