[ed. note: yesterday’s capsule reviews did not get posted because of a computer upgrade gone horrifying. I am back, but certainly not in time to post twenty capsule reviews today, so I expect they will be posted Thursday or Friday. Until then, normal reviews shall abound.]
Aphrodite Hunt, Deflowered (Aphrodite Hunt, 2013)
Aphrodite Hunt’s opener for the Eight Tasks for the Blushing Virgin series, a (60pp.) novella in the seemingly-exploding genre of romance-masquerading-as-porn, is as I write this absent from Amazon, less than two weeks after I picked it up there free. I’m a little confused as to why, since I have now read it and can’t imagine any of the contents here would have sparked the ire of the usual braindead suspects who get up in arms about stuff and try (usually successfully, more’s the pity) to get it pulled from Amazon for being offensive. It’s not all that great thanks to some stylistic quirks, but it’s certainly not offensive unless you’re the kind of hardcore prude who’s up in arms about FX showing a flash of naked butt every once in a while.
As a side note, while I don’t know this for certain, I’m assuming from the series title that there will be eight novellas in this series; according to the (extensive) liner notes here, four have been published so far.
The plot: our Blushing Virgin is Sofia, just turned eighteen (of course), raised in a strict Catholic school (of course), and has never even touched herself (of course), much less anyone else touch her (of course). It seems her father is in dutch to a big-time bookie, Nicholas Greco, to the tune of fifty grand. As her parents are blue-collar, there’s no way they can come up with that kind of scratch, so Sofia decides to go to Nicholas and offer up her body as payment for her father’s gambling debts.
Now, if this were actual porn, you would have been instructed where to tune…ah, kidding. But if it had been actual porn, Nicholas would have immediately accepted the offer, got down to doing the deed, and by the time these sixty pages had been exhausted, both Nicholas and Sofia would be, too, after trying out at least two dozen different positions, and probably roping in Nicholas’ strongman Abe (and just to twist the knife on you a bit, every time I saw Abe’s name, I mentally added “Vigoda”. You’re welcome.) and his PA Alyssa as well. Heck, maybe even Nicholas’ late wife Karina. But as I throw all this out there, especially when I add that (a) Nicholas is still mourning said late wife and (b) Alyssa has long had feelings for Nicholas and he knows it, you can feel the ticklings of plot strings there, can’t you? And they are there indeed, plus the usual, if a bit atypical in this case, romance setup before the big bang. Rest assured, this is solidly in the romance section, not the porn section. And it’s pretty well-plotted, at least so far. Enough so that I wish I were rating this higher.
Such, however, will not be the case because of two glaring problems. The first, and easiest dispensed with, is that while the book does clock in at sixty pages, an unacceptable number of them are liner notes. If I say “liner notes” when talking about music, you know exactly what I mean. In book form, I’m talking about the stuff at the beginning (“other novels by…”, which is usually a page in print books, stretched a ridiculous six pages here) and the end (you don’t even want to know how much) that ebook authors traditionally use to bulk out their offerings. I expect some of it, but Hunt goes way, way overboard. I’m hoping in future offerings, she’ll tone it down a little.
The second problem rests with Sofia’s narrative voice. While her character is consistent enough, and I bought her thoughts and reactions all the way through, her voice has a tendency to go from pristine Catholic school girl to sailor, sometimes switching halfway through a sentence. We go in the space of a few paragraphs, for example, to “I have never really touched myself down there. I don’t masturbate, or explore, or think about things like these.” to “His eyes raked my pussy.”. Well then, Sofia, you’ve obviously thought about things like these enough to know the word “pussy”. Not the kind of word you’d expect from someone who demurely referred to her pubic area as “down there” a couple of paragraphs previous.
That may be a minor thing to you, or it may be a major thing. (For all I know, Hunt is playing to a specific niche, like an innocent-girl-who-talks-filthy-in-bed market or something, that I don’t even know exists.) For me it was major enough to knock the rating down pretty hard, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thrown the other three parts extant so far on my TBR list. Both Sofia and Nicholas are relatable characters, though I’m not entirely sure they’re likable yet; I’m interested enough to continue on and find out, though. **