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VINE VOICEon September 12, 2012
Curio is a little miracle of a book. It is, by far, the smartest take on the idea of a 'fantasy man' I've ever read - like a jazz riff or a roundel, iterating a seemingly-simple idea into something gloriously complex.

And surprisingly bittersweet.

The heroine, Caroly, is a 30 year old virgin. She's obsessed with beauty -- she's attracted to it, she's deeply insecure about her own lack of it, she's conflicted about being so superficial -- which is how she ends up hiring Didier, a gorgeous male model who works as a male prostitute.

Didier is a fantasy man. He exists to fulfill the needs of his partners, to please women; he becomes whatever the woman he's with wants from a man, he's pleased when she's satisfied. And, not surprisingly, he's a bit of an emotional cripple. The more Caroly questions him, asking him what he wants, asking what makes him happy, the more his fundamental nature is revealed to be sensitive and vulnerable and delicate.

Curio is short enough that saying much more would spoil the experience. I am amazed by McKenna's skill as a writer, the kind of emotional depth and complexity she's managed to inject into a story of this length. I cried happy tears at the end.

Highly, highly recommended.
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on October 19, 2013
Caroly is on the verge of turning thirty and because of high expectations and fears she has yet to take a lover. With little experience with men, Caroly begins a journey to finally lose her virginity. But her choice of lover is not typical. Didier is a whore. He is gorgeous, a body of male perfection and there is no risk of her being rejected by a man that holds so much more beauty than she believes she deserves.

Curio is not told in a typical story fashion. We don't get to know the characters outside of the walls of his flat, but we don't need to. We know everything there is to know about them from what they share, what they experience. I loved that there was no down time between their encounters and I loved how they exposed one another to each other willingly. It was odd to become so connected to characters where there was so little interaction beyond what they shared together.

I felt like a voyeur, watching erotic and intimate moments between two lovers in secret. Silently pleading for more, more touching - more sharing - more exploring. There is just something so erotic and primal about scenes describing a man touching himself.

Caroly's eyes devoured the scenes that played out before her, watching him touch himself and wanting to reach out and touch him; to be the reason for his ecstasy. His drawn out pleasure was intoxicating and with such a slow build to the actual sex, it keeps you completely captivated.

Didier is nothing that she expected to find when she arrives at the flat. And at first you do question whether or not if it's all an act. After all his job is catering to what women want, to be whatever they need and desire. But you slowly start to see that with Caroly and her lack of experience that he is giving her the experience she needs to be able to let go, he is giving her reality.

Simply erotic, without it being forced. Cara McKenna masterfully captures some of the most intimate moments between lovers that leave you completely breathless.
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on October 25, 2011
I had no trouble seeing Didier objectified in the first part of the book. I've read plenty of erotica that objectifies women the same way. This book was a breath of fresh air. I'm so tired of sifting through seemingly dozens of kindle samples with "Navy Seal" type heroes. It was refreshing to read about a hero who was sensitive and concerned about his partner's pleasure, right from the start of the book. And it didn't hurt that Didier was hot, and the sex hotter! I loved this book -- and I'm hard to please. Give it a read.
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on October 10, 2014
What a beautiful story!! This author writes a story like the work of art a good book should be. Her prose is beautifully descriptive and unique. The sex is beyond hot. I was prepared to not like the story due to the prostitution thing but I was immediately hooked and fell in love with these characters. I will seek out all of her work.....
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on June 18, 2014
I love a book that has me giddy 'til the end. What a fantastic read for so many reasons.

My one drawback, the cover. Hence the problem with putting a person's face on the cover. This guy is probably a hottie, but the lighting or something ... don't know, but I had to erase that image before I could read. (replaced with a French futbol player - le sigh.)

Let me also say that I am a complete sucker for French men and stories featuring Paris. So, this one had me at hello. But, it was so much more than it's pretty French package, which is the theme here.

It seems contrary to say it is a sweet love story featuring a male prostitute, but it is and kudos to Cara McKenna for gradually exposing the true beauty of these characters. She took an interesting premise and created a very erotic story that took an amazing turn into heartwarming in the end.

I loved that Caroly wasn't some brain dead virgin who was unaware that she even has girly parts. I almost didn't read this when I saw that the main character was a 30 year-old virgin. Not that I have a problem with someone being that, but most in recent literature are mind-bogglingly clueless with highly implausible stories as to why they are that way.

I loved that Didier was the epitome of a sensual French man and how he made Caroly feel. He could have easily come off as cheesy, but the author added just the right about of flaw and humility to make him swooningly believable.

I will definitely be reading more from this author.
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on March 8, 2016
Paris comes to life as the fairy godmother of Didier and Caroly, working her magic to ensure these two have their intimate moments tucked safely in Didier's flat. Caroly's innocence is stripped away and Didier's secrets are exposed as they explore each other night after indulgent night. A breathless guilty pleasure from start to finish!
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VINE VOICEon October 11, 2012
CURIO by Cara McKenna.

This is relationship fiction. Two people meet and get to know each other. There is a lot of explicit sex, but it did not turn me on. I was uncomfortable watching it. There was no passionate desire. It's maybe 2/3 or half the length of a regular novel.

Caroly is a 29 year old virgin visiting a male prostitute. Her first few visits are Caroly telling Didier to do things like bathe and pleasure himself while she watches. Her thoughts and ponderings are about how perfect and beautiful his body is. Later when she is ready to lose her virginity, she tells him to pretend he is her boyfriend. Instead of passionate sex, I felt like he was a Ken doll she was putting in various positions. It did not appeal to me.

I was also unsettled with how she took a sincere interest in him, talking about his interests and his life - as if she were not a client. She wanted a permanent loving relationship with him. He appeared accommodating, but it made me think of prostitutes who say what they think their clients want to hear. We are never in his head, so we don't know if he's acting or being honest. Although his action at the end implied something positive. I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable for her. I wanted to give her advice about finding someone else.

Narrative mode: 1st person Caroly. Kindle count story length: 2857 (274 KB). Swearing language: strong, including religious swear words. Sexual language: strong/erotic. Number of sex scenes: about 7. Setting: current day Paris, France. Copyright: 2011. Genre: erotic relationship fiction. Ending: happy-for-now, sort of.

I've reviewed the following Cara McKenna books. Dates are copyright dates.
4 ½ stars. Willing Victim 2010 (He and she like the following: she fights him, he overpowers her.)
3 stars. Skin Game 2011 (12 contestants participate in something similar to the TV show Survivor.)
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on January 7, 2013
Since I read the first two books in the Curio series together, I'm reviewing them together.

This plotline has a kind of sentimental precision. This ability to turn a few nights of seduction into a psychological case study is an exceptional gift, and CM gets full mileage out of it by offering it in stingy portions across six short overpriced novellas. Accumulated, this average length story will cost you $18.99 USD today. Feels like a bait and sucker-punch kind of move.

But if you can disregard the financial toll, this is one of those stories with characters you care about intensely. You won't simply observe them through words, you will get involved in their decisions and hope they make the right ones. The revelation about Didier at the end of book 1 makes it worth reading alone without book 2. COERCION doesn't add anything to story, rather it drags it out.

So, while you might enjoy the truthful, compassionate nature of this series, it's difficult to care enough about the story to continue, knowing how much it will cost you to do so.
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VINE VOICEon October 1, 2011
A very enjoyable novella. I was not sure what to expect - I feel like this story line could have been taken in so many different directions - but I liked what McKenna did with it. CURIO did not read as sleazy, and it easily could have slipped into that. The heat factor was definitely there though - no need to worry on that score!

One thing that I found quite annoying was Caroly's view of Didier for the first half or so. Her constant harping on his beauty, how perfect he was, how she was only ever attracted to gorgeous men, etc. made me quite frankly uncomfortable. Didier was such a piece of meat to her. Since the story is told in first-person from Caroly's perspective, I also had no sense of him whatsoever, and he seemed like a blank slate.

I like where McKenna took it and how it ended and I did feel, in the last part of the book, that there was more of a connection between them than just sex and that Caroly no longer viewed him as she did at the beginning. Still bothered me though. Maybe that's part of the point she's making - that we see him that way too and then through her eyes we start to see the person, in which case McKenna did a very good job. If that's the case, then I guess for me, Caroly remained the objectifier and Didier the thing being objectified just a little too long.

CURIO was a good read and I did like it - the main characters became much more interesting than they at first appeared to be - but the rocky start turned me off and was hard to overlook. In the end, my favorite Cara McKenna novella still remains Willing Victim.
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on January 2, 2013
I thought this book was tastefully done. In the All About Romance Annual Readers Poll, in the Erotica/Romantica category, this book came in third after FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and THE PERFECT PLAY. It did not come off as trashy or tacky even though it had explicit sex scenes.

The book takes place in Paris and is contemporary. The hero, Dedier, was a gorgeous male prostitute who was quite sensitive and a good teacher for women who came to him. He was quite intuitive about his clients and what they were afraid of and was able to make them feel comfortable being with him and achieving what it was that they wanted from him.

The heroine, Caroly, was going to be 30 soon, and she was still a virgin, which made her feel like something was wrong of her. She just felt very shy and insecure around men and still saw herself as she had been when she was growing up--gawky and awkward and not attractive. With Dedier's interaction with her, she felt more and more OK about herself as a woman and was soon able to see herself through his eyes.

It is touching how they come to love and help each other. It was emotional at the end when you didn't know what was going to happen between them.
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