Practice Makes Perfect
I’m a sucker for romances set on college campuses and this definitely fits the bill, with a college librarian as heroine and history professor as hero. At times laugh out loud funny, this was also always spot-on with insights into academia, while still featuring a sexy friends-to-lovers plot. I can definitely recommend this. In fact, I’m now exploring the author’s back list. Until I encountered Practice Makes Perfect, I’d never even heard of Sarah Title.
Helen Lee is a college librarian by day and a frustrated erotic romance writer by night. She has just received her latest rejection letter. Admittedly, this one’s more encouraging, noting that much of her book is good and that she has a strong voice. However, the editor also notes that when the hero and heroine take off their clothes the book gets boring; not good for an erotic romance. The editor suggests Helen either spice up the book or tone it down and resubmit it as a sweet romance. Sweet romance? The horror! Helen’s determined to write erotic romances.
Helen briefly toys with writing dog mysteries, while cuddling with her two beloved shelter dogs, but quickly gets focused again on erotic romances. Surely a smart woman who spends her days helping faculty research a variety of topics can research erotic scenes.
Henry Beckham – a history professor at the college and one of Helen’s best friends – knows something’s bothering Helen. Normally she is the loudest person in a room and lately she’s been quiet, and Henry plans to find out why. But Helen hasn’t told any of her colleagues about her romance novel; she has enough trouble being taken seriously since she’s not a “professor.” She’d never get tenure if her romance writing was revealed, which is why she’s horrified when Henry catches evidence of some of her erotic research.
When Helen tells Henry about her writing and describes the “boring sex scenes” comment, she’s shocked at Henry’s response. Rather than being horrified, Henry offers to help her do real world research. Yes, you’ve got it, the man thought of as geeky and “prematurely old” by his colleagues and students (primarily because he wears bow ties) wants to act out erotic scenes with Helen to help spice up her writing. Sound silly? Definitely. Improbable? Perhaps. But mostly, this is just a lot of fun!
Both Helen and Henry are great characters. Henry thinks Helen is beautiful, smart and funny. He especially loves her loud laugh and he completely understands Helen’s issues with writing about something no one respects. Henry’s specialty is local history, which gets no respect from his colleagues, as it’s not “important” history. Henry thinks of himself as nerdy, as do many other people, even Helen. But then she discovers just how creative, sexy, and completely un-nerdy he is in bed. And Helen is no clichéd, virginal librarian. She’s had a lot of sexual experience, just none recently while she’s been focusing on her writing.
The author gets so many things right about academics, including some of the language Henry uses. In one hilarious sentence Henry notes that he prides himself on being a sensitive guy, one who respects women’s experiences, and recognizes the “institutional misogyny of the patriarchy.” Yes, straight out of an academic’s mouth. I also love that Henry has piles of copies of old documents because he won’t scan them; he wants the actual paper. There’s an interesting subplot involving Henry’s research into a legendary madam from the community and his attempts to preserve her brothel which run into unexpected opposition.
What I especially love, is that while the author is spot on about academics, the book never becomes dry and is always fun. Henry and Helen are a delightful couple and I’d love to take a trip back to the college for a future romance and see how they’re doing. This novella is the first thing I’ve read by the author and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future books; this one left me smiling!