Published by Macmillan on May 30th 2016
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When he wins a sexy bet, billionaire Linc Blair can’t wait to get Lauren Neill naked. He’s never gone for her type in the past, and he’s pretty certain it has more to do with her buttoned-up hotness than the nagging sense that something is missing from his life. But when he gets a glimpse of the vulnerable woman beneath the conservative, yet oh-so-sexy clothes, it’s a game changer.
Lauren can’t believe she’s spending a few days with one of sexiest, and most annoying men she’s ever met. But she can’t deny the chemistry between them, and for once in her life she’s letting down her guard so she can explore a different side of herself. The side only Linc brings out in her.
Taking it slow, he unleashes her sexuality and it quickly occurs to him that what started out as a bet for him has become something more. With their weekend nearly over, and her ex showing interest in this new confident version of Lauren, Linc will have to risk it all if he wants to win the game of love.
I’ve always maintained that novellas are tricky business. Short, to the point, with very little manoeuvring space in the narrative other than to get to the heart of the matter with characters that should be more than half-formed caricatures or puppets dangling from the author’s fingertips. Which is why in 68 pages, ‘Learning Curves’ is surprising enough for me to (sort of) buy into this short, short tale that is pretty much a drawn-out transition from UST to RST while charting out a somewhat smooth path to a happily ever after.
The latter I believe much less than the former, but it doesn’t detract from the hedonistic pleasures the short story actually provides. But I wonder if this is about wish-fulfilment as much as it is about satisfying a quick, easy read (and straight onto the next book) as well. There is a reason why I try to avoid millionaire/billionaire stories like they carry the plague because of their lack of realism, made all the more difficult given their sudden proliferation on the shelves. Simply putting aside the ‘super-rich’ background somehow makes a pairing more real to me when the main characters are simply reduced to man and woman and the common denominator that’s mutual want, respect and well, lust, minus the trappings of social standing and whatever the heaping pile money can offer.
Thankfully, there’s some of that and not too much of it in ‘Learning Curves’, where the focus is more on the down and dirty. Plot, backstory and characters are pulled together in the boiling, screaming cauldron of a stadium during a game where undeniable attraction and chemistry simmer along with the sweaty play on the field. A bet is made and won, or lost, depending on whose side we’re on for a weekend of sex and off we go, straight into the long, drawn-out scenes where the mambo is done horizontally, vertically and in every other position in between.
Both Linc and Lauren slot easily into roles that the chick-lit genre has defined for both genders of this century: the rich womaniser (a character that has become commonplace and disposable, ironically) and the buttoned-up and not-too-experienced woman who somehow manages to screw up his entire worldview about women and relationships. I found myself liking Lauren more than Linc; her insecurities were more relatable than the disconnect and repulsion I always feel when it comes to a rich commitment-phobe playboy with some Neanderthal tendencies, but then, maybe that is really the point here.
That Linc and Lauren went from fling to affianced however, was when it all faltered for me personally. Entertaining as it was in the beginning, I thought a better fleshed-out male protagonist – that at least defied some of these awful clichéd stereotypical traits – and obstacles in the way to this all too easy ending would have made it a more believable read.