I downloaded this as a freebie and only meant to read a few pages. Before I knew it I was sucked in. The book was quite good. Strongly written actually and it worked on quite a few levels.
The basic plot is that Lori is a virgin who feels that she can't quite get to the next step with relationships because she finds her virginity to be somewhat of an awkward hurdle. Rather than making this eye-roll worthy, the author actually manages to sell the point for me.
So Lori decides to hire a pro. Enter Ander. He is a consummate professional who works only through referrals. His services range from simple dinner or date companionship (The boyfriend experience?) to full on sexual. He has a list of things he will do and things he won't do and a fee scale based on how intimate (to him) he considers the act.
Now, normally, I would be a bit pearl-clutchy right about now. There is a tawdriness to all of this that does not quite befit a romance novel hero/heroine. An author really has to walk a fine line when creating an h/H in a romance novel that is also a sex worker. I tend to shy away from books with gigolo or male prostitute main characters. Just doesn't turn my crank, really. I have less of a problem when female characters are in that position. I think it is because I feel like authors are up-ending the long held tradition of the unsullied heroine in romance novels when they do dirty her up a little. I give a small approving mental nod to the subversiveness of it all.
But I thought the author did a great job here of making Ander and Lori's initial night together so matter-of-fact, so business like that it seemed almost natural in it's clinical sterility. Lori is initially shy and a bit awkward, but Ander's straight forward explanations make her more comfortable and soon she's as business-like as he is.
Ander and Lori's first sex scene is written with all the correct erotica graphic words and sounds that normally make up really steamy hot sex scenes. And yet, the result is a decidedly unsexy scene. I thought it was a neat bit of scene crafting there.
As I read on I got a bit nervous wondering how the author would move them along and how she'd reconcile Ander's profession with what would assuredly become a relationship. There was a point when I did get rather impatient with the appointments and some of the sex scenes got rather repetitive. But as the story moved forward and as Lori and Ander talked and got to know each other, the growing connection between the two became more apparent. And the sex scenes started to feel more conventionally sexier.
The story is told from Lorie's POV. So you know immediately when her feelings for Ander start to grow deeper. Although Ander doesn't have a POV, I thought the author did a great job with signalling how Ander also began to get more emotionally involved. This author definitely knows the difference b/t "showing" vs. "telling". In Ander's case the cues were both sexual and behavioral. Slowly you could see how his professional demeanor began to break down. It isn't something that happens all at once but rather as a cumulative thing.
The book has an HEA ending so of course Ander stops being a male escort. The main conflict isn't just that they fall in love but rather how to deal with the reality of Ander's ex-profession. I also thought this was well handled. Ander is supremely pragmatic he went into his profession with his eyes wide open. And while he was not 100% happy with life, he lives un-apologetically with the decision he made. Lori is the one that needs to come to grips. And the author allows her luxury to do that.
My only real eye-roller is that Lori is a romance novelist whose pen name is the same as the author of the book. That is just a little too meta for me.