Thursday 6 October 2016

#CBR8 Book 112: "How Not to Fall" by Emily Foster

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Annabelle "Annie" Coffey is writing her final thesis and with only a few weeks left of term, she propositions her adviser, the postdoctoral fellow at her lab, Dr. Charles Douglas, because she believes they have "A Thing". In a truly embarrassing and painfully awkward scene, handsome British guy Charles gently turns her down, because he is her boss and it would be massively inappropriate for him to sleep with her. Annie is convinced she's not wrong about the chemistry between them, and that she's not misreading the signals between them. She's hoping that were she no longer Charles' student, the situation would be different. So she refuses to give up hope entirely. She will have a month after she graduates, before she goes off to New York to go to medical school and she's determined to spend them with Charles.

Charles agrees, so long as Annie is well and truly no longer his student, they can explore their "Thing". He's initially a bit daunted by the prospect that Annie's a virgin, and a very inexperienced one (in practise, not in theory) at that. With the understanding that their affair is only to last a month and with the goal that when they go their separate ways, they will remain friends, Charles and Annie begin to explore their attraction to one another. Because Annie has never had any sort of sexual encounter with another person before, Charles insists on them spending a whole day on each of the four "bases", before they do the deed, so to speak. He takes his responsibilities as Annie's first lover very seriously, making sure to teach her everything she wants to know about sex, while still being careful to respect her boundaries, even when she's sometimes eager to push them further than before.

Their affair becomes more than a meeting of bodies, it also becomes a meeting of minds, with the two of them being entirely honest about their interests, hopes and fears. That is, Annie is completely truthful and open as a book. As the weeks pass, and Annie grows more attached with every hour spent in Charles' company, it becomes clear that he has not revealed everything about himself and that there is darkness in his past that looks likely to create major hurdles for their joint future.

Before you read any further, it is important that I mention that this book ends on a cliffhanger! There is NO Happily Ever After at the closing of this book. There is a second part, How Not to Let Go coming out in December, and on her blog as Emily Foster, the author suggests that if waiting is a problem, you wait to read the duology until both parts are out. Ms Foster, who also writes non-fiction scientific books under the name Emily Nagoski. She explains on her science blog that she wrote these novels as a response to reading (and being deeply disappointed) by 50 Shades of Grey. She loves romance because it's pro-woman, pro-sex, pro-pleasure and full of happy endings. Ms Foster/Nagoski felt that E.L. James' book failed at all of those things and really felt betrayed by it.

As a result, Ms. Nagoski set out to write a romance with a virgin college senior (she's 22) experiencing her sexual awakening with an older (he's 26), more experienced, powerful man who treats her with dignity, respect and affection. She calls it a feminist, sex-positive, science-driven erotic romance. Because she normally writes science non-fiction, she was unsure whether she needed a different agent to represent her, but she got the books sold under the name Emily Foster and How Not to Fall is the first part.

There is really a lot of sex in this book. This is very much on the erotica scale of romance, where there are a lot of smexy times, described in a LOT of detail. There are BDSM elements, but I think, as far as these things go, they are fairly light (I have not read a lot of that sub-genre of romance). I still felt that there was a good portion of the book with the characters getting to know each other, and where the reader got to know each of the protagonists, seeing how they could work as a couple.

Both Annie and Charles are huge nerds and there is a fair amount of the book devoted to science and the pursuit thereof. As opposed to a lot of romance, where the prose is very purple, all the body parts are referred to in very scientific names, which I thought made a nice change. I know very little about the field that Annie and Charles are working in, but didn't feel that the scientific parts detracted from the steamy smexy times. Annie is a wonderful narrator, and frequently says and does embarrassing things. To me, she seems extremely open-minded and adventurous in the bedroom, considering she's a virgin, Charles is always the one putting on the breaks. Of course, I have no idea what college era women get up to these days, based on a lot of New Adult, they are certainly getting a lot more action than I ever did.

About two thirds of the way through, the book changes in tone, and becomes a lot darker and more serious, as the secrets of Charles' past are uncovered and it becomes clear that the couple are in for a hard time before they (hopefully, I'll be cranky otherwise) reach their HEA at the end of the next book. Again, because the author seems to have a scientific basis behind the angsty reasons that Charles and Annie will not just have sunshine, puppies and rainbows in their lives, it felt a lot less bothersome to me than in a lot of these novels. There was a very believable theoretical explanation for his behaviour, and I'm looking forward to how the author is going to solve the problems she has thrown in the couple's way.

I liked this a lot, and as it's already October, I'm not too annoyed about the wait for the next book. If cliffhanger endings are a problem for you - wait another few months and read both books at the same time. I will be eagerly awaiting the second instalment.

Judging a book by its cover: A couple kissing passionately in the rain. A perfectly good cover for a romance - except for that pesky (but oh so common) fact that at no point does this scene feature in the novel. I know I'm picky and that it's a silly thing to get annoyed about, but I still am. Annoyed, that it. There are lots of delightful scenes to choose from. Quite a few that don't even involve smexy times. Why not pick one of those?

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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