Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Curve Ball by Charlotte Stein

Why I read it:  I've had this on my TBR for some time - I can't remember exactly when I picked it up (Goodreads tells me I got it for free so there must have been a promotion), but it came up in a Twitter discussion recently so I decided to open it up.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  When Judy Myers is offered a relaxing vacation to get away from her latest heartbreak, she can’t say no. A cruise on her brother’s yacht sounds like heaven...until she realises her brother’s best friend has been invited along for the ride.

Steven Stark is big, he’s loud, and he’s obviously not interested in the plump, plain little sister he used to tease unmercifully. In fact, he’s still quite happy to tease her – until she turns the tables on him. Now Steven can’t seem to keep his thoughts, or his hands, to himself. And worse, Judy’s not sure she can resist the attraction she’s kept buried for so many years.

Being trapped on a boat isn’t the best place to be, when you’re suddenly thrown a hunky curveball.

What worked for me (and what didn't): I usually like Charlotte Stein's authorial voice and this was no exception but there wasn't enough of the hero to really satisfy me.  Judy is a plus-sized girl - a self described "fat chick".  (On Twitter, the author described her as a size 18-20, but it is not specified in the book).   She is on a small yacht in the Mediterranean with her brother and his wife and her brother's best friend, Steven Stark.  Judy has had a crush on Steven for the longest time but has never imagined anything could ever come of it.  While Steven is described as a very big man, his description is all in terms of muscle rather than flab.   

The story is told from Judy's first person POV and there is not a lot of dialogue from Steven.  The first dialogue we see from him in fact is pretty damning - he's bragging (?) to Judy's brother about a "fat chick" he nailed and giving detailed descriptions including "billowing thighs" and an "avalanche of flesh, on top of me".  This is not something which endears Steven either to the reader or to Judy.  Judy feels this description could be her and is appalled to think Steven could think of her in a way that seems so insulting and unflattering.

As it turns out, Steven has a thing for big curvy girls, and one in particular but we never see inside his head so it is only at the end of the story that this becomes clear. 

However, once Judy expresses her displeasure with Steven's crass words, he starts to follow her about and (consensual) hanky panky ensues.

Most of Steven's dialogue until right at the end is clumsy or sex-based ("You make me fucking crazy") and my impression of his character was of a laddish oaf type.  He didn't come across to me as having much by way of deep thought or feeling. Surely there was more to him than that?   I didn't feel I had a handle on his personality really. 

I'm not sure I got to know Judy all that well either. Overwhelmingly, she was convinced she was going insane to think Steven could actually be interested in her and it was only right at the end that she had any confidence.  The confident Judy was much more interesting to me, I must say. 

Kudos to the author for writing a woman who is larger. There are not enough healthy at any size (HEAS) women in fiction I believe and large girls (and guys in fact) need love too.  Judy's concerns about how Steven might feel about her seemed authentic (if humourously depicted) 
I can’t afford to read too much into his stare. But I’m unable to think of anything else either. My brain absolutely refuses, on pain of death. I threaten it with books by John Grisham and rusty forks inserted into the ear, and all to no avail.
but it felt a little too much to me. As much as my own self-talk is often pretty negative, it's not something that I find attractive (even in myself) and I have a fairly low tolerance. Reading about people being run down - by others or themselves is something I tire of quickly.   I think I would have enjoyed Curve Ball more if Judy had gained confidence earlier and certainly if I had more information on whether Steven could really be trusted. By the end of the book I didn't feel I really knew enough about him to be sure. 

I enjoyed the story, it was entertaining, engaging and amusing but there are other Stein books I have liked better.

Grade: C


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