30 Days by Christine D’Abo

30 daysWhy I read it:  I heard about this book on a DBSA Podcast. It sounded good so I bought it.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  For years, Alyssa has been going to bed with a memory. Is she ready to wake up with a fantasy?

Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mate, but not Alyssa Barrow. She met Rob at nineteen, and they were set to live happily ever after—until he became ill. In his final days, Rob urged his beautiful, young wife not to abandon happiness—or pleasure. He even left her a special gift, a sexy game plan to help her move on: Thirty cards with instructions for thirty days of passion. You’ll know when the time is right, he’d said. Now it’s two years later, and when Alyssa meets her hot new neighbor, Harrison Kemp, she begins to think the right time is right now…

From his sculpted thighs to his devilish grin, Harrison is the kind of man women want. Before she can lose her nerve, Alyssa tells Harrison about her long-ignored cards…and asks him to help her fulfill them. It’s a favor he’s more than happy to, um, perform. With his skillful touch, and the hot press of his lips against her skin, Alyssa finds herself re-awakening to life—and a host of other sensations. But what began as not-so-innocent fun soon grows into true intimacy, and Alyssa realizes she’s opening herself up not just to sex…but to love. When it comes to a future with Harrison, what’s really in the cards?

Saucy, heartwarming, and insightful, 30 Days explores the agony—and the ecstasy—of starting over, and how a little encouragement, and a little courage, can go a long way…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I don’t think I’ve read anything by this author before. On the podcast, the story was billed as PS I Love You with sex cards and, even though it basically breaks my HEA rules, PS I Love You was a movie which I saw multiple times and made me sob buckets. Also: Gerard Butler and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Enough said amirite?  30 Days has a HEA – be in no doubt. Whereas the actual PS I Love You (the movie – which I liked better than the book) starts very shortly after the death of the main character’s husband, 30 Days starts two years after. So Alyssa has had time to grieve. She still misses Rob (her deceased husband) but she’s out from under the worst of the crushing grief and feels it’s time to start living again.

Rob made her these “sex cards” – 30 days of sex to help her navigate sex in a world without him. He was always concerned that he was Alyssa’s first and (so far) only lover. He wishes for her to have adventures and sexual experiences and he wants her to be happy and in love again. Pretty much, the similarities with PS I Love You ends here (which is fine).

When Harrison Kemp moves in down the hall, Alyssa’s libido wakes up. He’s in Toronto for three months only, on a work contract and it seems perfect. They are attracted to each other but neither is in the market for a relationship. They’ll just go through all the sex cards – thirty days of sex over three months. What could go wrong?

The story is told entirely from Alyssa’s POV and this means that Harrison is somewhat opaque throughout the story. In some ways he was too perfect but in other ways he felt… no quite fully realised as a character. Almost like you could mentally insert almost anyone else in the role and it would work. I’d have liked a bit more of him.

I did like the other people in the apartment block – which was formerly a school and I liked the way Alyssa and even Harrison interacted with them.

The sex is initially fairly tame – touch a naked man for instance – Harrison insists on doing the cards in order and one at a time (although this becomes more flexible as the story progresses). So it is actually quite a while before they actually get to penetrative sex. As a device is worked well, because they got to know one another a bit during this time and when they did finally do the deed, it felt more meaningful to the reader, as well as to the characters.  Not every card is listed in the book and they don’t do much that’s terribly kinky – unless you count some light spanking as very kinky I guess. I thought the book would be more sex heavy (and definitely kinkier) than it actually was. Perhaps this says more about me than the book… 😛

What else? I think I’d categorise this one as more of a spicy contemporary than a true erotic romance. While the characters do bond through their sexual escapades and those escapades are the main reason for them to be in one another’s company, my sense was that their relationship grew around and outside their physical chemistry.

30 Days didn’t have a lot of the angst I had been expecting and it wasn’t quite as hot either. Expectations definitely play a part in a reading experience. I liked the story well enough but it didn’t wow me.

Grade: C+

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