Saturday, November 29, 2008

Watch and Learn by Stephanie Bond ***

I downloaded this from - it's one of the "Sex for Beginners" trilogy. The premise is that in a college course laughingly referred to as Sex For Beginners, the professor had the participants write themselves a letter containing their sexual fantasies. She sent the letters, unopened, back to the original writer 10 years later.

In Watch and Learn, the heroine Gemma had a fetish for being watched by strangers that she indulged in briefly in college before almost being caught. That event scared her straight, as it were, so that when she was introduced by her best friend to a law student, she decided to give up the fantasy and concentrate on him. They married - lived together for 10 years - but then he divorced her, no reason given, and moved away. She was devastated and had a hard time facing the reality of her new, single life - and then she received the letter.

Next door to her, a house that had been on the market for 2 years had a new buyer - Chev Martinez. He was a carpenter who was flipping houses between commercial jobs, so he had moved in temporarily to renovate. Of course, he was a hunky guy too - which caught Gemma's eye. Motivated by the letter and his looking out his bedroom window one day, she acts out her fantasy.

Unfortunately for Gemma, she's too conflicted by her guilt of the fetish to actually consummate ther relationship - and she still holds on to the other fantasy in her life - that her ex-husband will change his mind and come back. Meanwhile, she needs a job. With a degree in art history and no work experience beyond charity work, she finds it difficult. Happily - and way tooo conveniently - the local museum is hiring temporary help in the form of docents for an adult-themed exhibit of sexual devices and furniture. The docents are required to wear masks to hide their identity and sexy costumes, which somehow Gemma is allowed to wear home (go figure). Seeing Gemma in her outfits, Chev is moved again to put the moves on her, but she still shies away.

I'm not sure if the peacock in the story should be considered a Notable Pet, but one appears in her yard - a male looking for a mate. He's destructive and loud - and Chev has to come over more than once to chase him away from Gemma's car so she can come and go, giving him an opportunity to make small talk and expand their relationship to friends if not with benefits other than occasionally watching.

The narrator on this story was really good! I liked her voices for the characters (well, ok, her accents for Chev and his family were a little odd to me) and she did the narration interestingly without being breathy and overly dramatic (breathiness that doesn't work is my pet peeve in romance audio). She actually made the story work better for me than I think it might have if I had read it. The resolution of Gemma's relationship with her ex, who does try to come back, as well as the details of their divorce, all seemed weird and wonky to me - not very believable. I mean, he just walked out and the divorce was finalized before she had even told her parents? Don't these things take time? Maybe not in Florida, where the book was set, who knows?

And the museum job - I'm sorry, while it had to be this way for the storyline to work, surely no place who has the workers wear costumes just lets them wear them home after work, especially specialty/provocative costumes. Again, I just let those things go and listened to the narrator speak as though it were the most common thing in the world... After all, it was the job and the costumes that allowed Gemma to act out her fantasies for Chev, so without them, where would the story go? But it was the peacock that allowed them to talk, become friends and hopefully grow the relationship that led to their HEA.

so - 3 stars - I liked it.

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