Friday, April 15, 2011

Schooling by Sommer Marsden

TITLE: Schooling
AUTHOR: Sommer Marsden
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 18k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.45

As Ellie and David drop their daughter off at college, they come face to face with the fact that they’re about to be alone again for the first time in eighteen years. The past year has not been kind to their marriage, and the distance between them seems to yawn wider every day. At least until David proposes they have their own freshman fifteen – fifteen intimate moments – in an attempt to find the spark that made them fall in love in the first place…

Sometimes a premise of a story is enough to suck me into buying it. This one paid off in that regard, but let me down in others.

Ellie and David Gray drop their daughter off at college to start her life as an adult. Over the years, they’ve grown apart, but the past year has been especially stressful, leading to a lot of bickering and only a handful of quiet sex sessions. Ellie still loves David, but fears they’ve changed too much to make their marriage work. However, David has other plans. He suggests a freshman fifteen, but instead of it being weight, they have fifteen intimate moments in the few days they have until they have to return to their stressful lives. Ellie agrees, and it isn’t long before they both feel like newlyweds again.

In my opinion, there aren’t enough romances about married couples out there, but then I suppose that goes against the nature of the genre in many ways. Readers want the journey to falling in love, and not the work that comes afterward, so when I find a story like this, I have a tendency to be more easily swayed into buying it. I don’t regret buying this one since in the end it was an all right read, but I can’t help but feel it could have been so much more than it was.

Part of that is the fixation on the sex. I knew that when I bought it, it would be focused on that. I mean, it’s Ellora’s Cave after all. I didn’t mind, but really, the sex was the weakest aspect of this. The author’s voice veers toward the pedantic for me, and the eroticism never hit my hot buttons. It also felt like she was trying to cram in as much varied sex as she possibly could in such a short space, and that sensation is never good when it feels as forced as this.

But that gets saved by the author’s commitment to the emotions involved. Ellie and David’s hurt was very real, from the very first page, as was their love for each other. It lent a poignancy to each of their encounters that it really needed, bolstering the flagging eroticism to passable standards for me. I liked both of them as people, even when Ellie was being so shrewish in the beginning, but honestly, I never really felt like I knew very much about either of them. The short space doesn’t allow for very much exploration into their pasts or personalities, just the most cursory explanations for their current situation. Toss in the fact that Ellie seems to turn on a dime from this shrew at the top of the story to the sex kitten David married, and my trust in their characterizations wavers even more.

Fans of the author would likely enjoy this, however, as it does provide a sweet, emotional, easy read. It was worth giving a go, for the reminders we all need every once in a while to tell our loved ones how important they are to us.


7/10 – In spite of the poignancy of the emotion, the eroticism ends up being rather pedantic for me


6/10 – I believed in his love for his wife, but never felt like I really knew him


6/10 – The switch between her harried appearance at the beginning to sex kitten was too abrupt to be believable

Entertainment value

6/10 – The poignancy of the emotions between the two elevates eroticism that never really felt hot to me

World building

5/10 – The focus is on their sex lives; I never got a sense of the world they lived in



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