Calendar Girl by Audrey Carlan
This recent series is a runaway success by an previously unknown author, so naturally I had to take a look. In a flooded romance market, what catches—and holds—readers’ attention?
The premise doesn’t stand out in erotic romance: Young woman needs money for a morally strong reason, so she takes a job as a high-class escort. In the case of Calendar Girl, Mia’s aunt runs the escort service, which specializes in high-end clients for short-term, live-in arrangement… where sex is not an obligation but can mean an extra bonus.
Mia’s father is in big-time, shady financial trouble with… Mia’s shady ex-boyfriend. Mia is like most aspiring actresses in LA—nearly broke—and she needs a million dollars to bail her father out. But where this book could take on an angst-y, New Adult-y tone, it instead veers in another direction. Mia is sassy and flippant in most situations, giving the book a light, fun feel (despite the fact that her situation in real-life terms sounds dismal and depressing).
I don’t usually focus on what I don’t like in these reviews, I think it’s important to point out that there were a lot of things that didn’t work for me in the book. For this reader, Mia’s conversations with her exotic dancer best friend were a major turn-off. What was (I think) supposed to be funny and flippant, like calling each other “bitch” and “whore,” made Mia feel 1.) like a teenager and 2.) not relatable. In addition, Mia’s seamless transition into Wes’s high-end life, even if she was an actress, and into his family was too much of a stretch for me.
But. Still. This book worked.
I get it. Mia has Stephanie Plum appeal, and she has a whole lot more explicit sex.
But I think it’s the brilliance behind the concept that lifted this book. The premise, a book for every month, means a finite but large number of installments, the number predetermined and explicit for the reader. If we readers dive into a serial, many of us want to know how long we have until the resolution… and that there will eventually be a resolution (which, I’d argue, is part of the diminishing appeal of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series: Around Book 8, I realized she’s never going to get any further with either Ranger or Morelli. Arg!).
The Calendar Girl books aren’t very long (maybe about 30,000 words, half or less of a full-length novel), and I’ve seen a lot of backlash against serials these days. Still, Carlan made this series work. For this reason alone, if you’re an author looking for successful model, this is a read for you!