My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I probably had much higher expectations for this novella than I should’ve going in, but I’ll be honest. I feel terrible about not liking “Open All Night” – the first part in a serial story called “The Fetish Box” by Nicole Camden. Not only did the cover seem very pretty (the half melted candle was a nice touch alongside the font), I was interested in seeing what directions a woman owning a sex shop would promote. Seemed like it would offer a combination of an atmospheric and character driven read from the premise, but unfortunately, all I came out of it with was something that felt like it ended too soon, and played into many cliches currently in the genre.
The story revolves around a woman who inherits her own sex shop and falls into sorts with two guys vying for her affections. Pretty much this novella has the “instalove machine” thing going. (“And I won’t work for nobody but yooou…” Sorry, tangent.) It toggles between Mary’s perspective and the guys John and Max. Max is the so-called “ladies man”, John’s more of the grounded guy with a bit of a love streak himself.
I wasn’t taken with the fact that the story jumped right into a sex scene that Mary clearly stated she wasn’t ready for. I’m thinking who would do that with someone they just met, and had no sexual experiences really to speak of? She’s noted as a virgin, but the guy in question doesn’t even kiss her or have much of an introductory conversation with her, just starts going for the sexy times (an explicit gesture at that). This kind of instaloving always turns me off because I like to see the characters connect in other ways first and build their relationships. Or, if they are in sexy times to start, there’s already a well-established relationship between them (in this case, there wasn’t.)
I’m trying to think of things to say about the characters themselves, but none of them really stood out to me, reflecting back on it. The development is very much surface, and there’s not a true, deep POV to speak of here, even for a novella. John’s reflections in some places looked like they were the closest to going for a deep POV, but they were mostly in and out between the sensual scenes. Maybe the in and out of the three POVs here were what turned me off – it felt like it was trying to go for too many things in such a short span of time, and maybe that was a product of the serialization – trying to cram all of it into one go in order to prep for the next transition (which made for a really awkward ending point). I think it would’ve turned out better if it just took its time and been a little fuller in composition, as well as been more realistic with respect to the interactions of the characters. I understand trying to start with the sensual elements considering the genre, but here – it felt forced and awkward in transition. There were a few parts in the writing that I did like in terms of development, but they didn’t go as far as I think they could’ve gone – again for the brevity issue.
I’m going to give the second story a try to see if it improves, but I’m not very confident, unfortunately.
Overall score: 1.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Pocket Star.