Out with a (Wall)Bang(er)

Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger, published by Omnific Publishing on November 27, 2012.

I started this site on May 14 of this year for many different reasons. It’s nice to have some record of the books that I read. Writing these reviews helps me process what I have read in a way that I enjoy. I like writing. This site helps justify receiving advanced reader copies (let’s be honest).

I know there are a few of you out there (literally, a handful) who read this site and I appreciate that so much. I hope you’ve found some of my reviews (at least one) useful and that, more than anything, it’s led you to a book that you, too, have loved.

I hope to write many more reviews in 2013. Spoilers for what’s coming up soon: I’ve read AMAZING books by both Sarah MacLean and Ruthie Knox that I can’t wait to review as soon as I have the time; I’ve read a bunch of books in the vein of 50 Shades that I hate and will review in one big post as a larger critique on the genre; I’ve read a book about having a baby and one in the vein of 50 Shades that I loved even though the I assumed going into them, based on the plot descriptions, I would hate them. All that to come in the new year.

But I want to leave 2012 by reviewing a book that I adored: Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger. Starting 2013 with this book in your hand means you will start the year with a big old grin on your face.

Summary from Clayton’s site:

Caroline Reynolds has a fantastic new apartment in San Francisco, a KitchenAid mixer, and no O (and we’re not talking Oprah here, folks). She has a flourishing design career, an office overlooking the bay, a killer zucchini bread recipe, and no O. She has Clive (the best cat ever), great friends, a great rack, and no O.

Adding insult to O-less, since her move, she has an oversexed neighbor with the loudest late-night wallbanging she’s ever heard. Each moan, spank, and–was that a meow?–punctuates the fact that not only is she losing sleep, she still has, yep, you guessed it, no O.

Enter Simon Parker. (No, really, Simon, please enter.) When the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. Their late-night hallway encounter has, well, mixed results. Ahem. With walls this thin, the tension’s gonna be thick…

In her third novel, Alice Clayton returns to dish her trademark mix of silly and steamy. Banter, barbs, and strutting pussycats, plus the sexiest apple pie ever made, are dunked in a hot tub and set against the gorgeous San Francisco skyline in this hot and hilarious tale of exasperation at first sight.

Let me be honest. There was a single thing that I did not like about this book and it’s evident in the summary/teaser above: some of Clayon’s cutesy words. As in having Caroline refer to orgasms as “O.” More than anything, though, I hated “Lower Caroline,” Clayton’s jokey phrasing for Caroline’s vaginal region. I would have preferred the generic “down there” to “Lower Caroline” (or, “LC,” for short).

BUT over time, as a I got more into the book and learned more and more about Caroline, it bothered me less and less. It fit the character. Still, the cute language was the one thing that would drag me out of the story, something I never liked because being inside the story was a happy place to be.

Now onto enumerating the many, many things I enjoyed about this book (some spoilers ahead):

1) Simon

The only word that comes to mind when I think of this character is “swoon.” He’s such an adult. He has issues with commitment but he’s upfront about it and it never actually stops him from committing to Caroline. He hesitates at one point and Caroline is hurt by it but it’s because he values her friendship so much. There are much worse reasons for men to shun commitment in romance novels (trust me, if we tried, we could find at least 100 worse reasons that authors have come up with over the years).

The title of the book comes from the fact that Caroline can hear Simon’s headboard banging into her wall when he has sex with other women. Three particular women, we come to find out (to whom Caroline gives rather funny nicknames). And it turns out that Simon is a total adult about these relationships, too: he travels a lot and hasn’t found anyone he wants to commit to so he has an open sexual relationship with these three women who also don’t want to commit to him. They all know about each other so there are no secrets, no jealousies. When Simon explains this situation to Caroline, it makes sense. He never apologizes for it and I like him for that.

Plus, Simon is a travel photographer, he loves zucchini bread, and he can cook. SWOON.

2) How their relationship plays out.

It is slow. They are instantly attracted to one another but they don’t act on it. They become fast friends, spending evenings together, cooking and watching movies. They laugh a lot. They have a lot of what Caroline calls “verbal foreplay.” Eventually they spend some nights spooning together (and that’s all).

Even late into the story, when they travel abroad together on vacation, they build up to actually having sex, choosing to round the bases, if you like, before going all the way. They have spent months getting to know one another, becoming friends, and falling in love and yet, when finally all the cards on the table, they want to enjoy each other and not rush into it. It’s exhausting as a reader but in the best way possible.

AND THEN it’s not the best sex ever (man, I love a romance novelist that embraces the reality of not-good sex).

It’s the sex they have after returning from their vacation that will have you panting and cheering.

It is a long wait but worth every word it takes to get there.

3) Caroline’s job and the appearance of the ex-boyfriend.

Caroline is an interior designer who takes her work very seriously and who is very good at it.

I got nervous when Clayton had Caroline’s old flame show up out of nowhere and commission her to design the interior of his new apartment. It is at a point in the story when Caroline is unsure of where she stands with Simon and is vulnerable emotionally. She had ended the relationship with her old flame when she saw that he would never take her career seriously.

What I did not want was to watch a long, protracted plot line of Caroline choosing between the two men, inspiring them to acts of jealousy. We already know who she is going to end up with because SWOON.

And while the old flame makes a play for Caroline, he is still terrible about respecting the seriousness of her commitment to her job. And Clayton, thankfully, does not drag that plot line out at all.

This novel, in all the best ways, set me up to think I was reading the same old romance tropes and then almost immediately turned around and  did something I was not expecting.

4) Clive, the cat.

A wonderful supporting character who I loved as much as Caroline or Simon.

I could actually keep going with my list of things I loved about this book. I really can’t recommend this highly enough. I’ve added it to my list of favorite romance novels.

I give Wallbanger 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase it: Amazon


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