Book Reviews

Hairpin Curves (Elia Winters)

Hairpin Curves (Elia Winters)Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters
Published by Carina Adores on July 28th 2020
Genres: Dystopia, Horror & Ghost Stories, Witches, Zombies
Format: ARC
Source: Edelweiss, Library

RITA® Award—winning author Elia Winters delivers a sexy, playful frenemies-to-lovers road-trip romance.

Megan Harris had hopes of seeing the world, but at twenty-five she’s never even left Florida. Now a wedding invitation lures her to Quebec…in February. When her ex-friend Scarlett offers to be her plus-one (yeah, that’s a whole story) and suggests they turn the journey into an epic road trip, Megan reluctantly agrees to the biggest adventure of her life.

A week together in a car is a surefire way to kill a crush, and Scarlett Andrews has had a big one on Megan for years. The important thing is fixing their friendship.

As the miles roll away, what starts as harmless road-trip games and rest-stop dares escalates into something like intimacy. And when a surprise snowstorm forces Megan and Scarlett to hunker down without the open road as distraction, they’ve got a bigger challenge than making it to the church on time: facing the true nature of their feelings for each other.

Carina Adores is home to highly romantic contemporary love stories where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.

I’ve said SO MANY TIMES this year that I want to read more romance, but I inevitably get drawn in by my go to choices of fantasy and sci fi instead, so when I got an invite to the Hairpin Curves tour and the blurb had plenty of things to intrigue me, I decided it was time to finally do some more of that romance reading!

Scarlett and Megan are ex-best friends who, thanks to a combination of reasons and possibly some poor judgement, decide to go on a road trip to another friend’s wedding. That would be awkward enough, but Scarlett’s long-buried feelings for Megan make things even more complicated.  As the two travel across the country and into Canada, they’re forced into a mixture of fun adventures and uncomfortable conversations that keep the tension throughout the story without ever becoming too bleak. I don’t think I’ve ever read a road trip story before, (unless maybe you count American Gods), but it made for a really fun and unusual perspective for the romance.  Winters has taken two people with a troubled past relationship, not-particularly-stellar communication skills and a whole tonne of sexual tension and stuck them in a car for a long period of time without any escape from each other. It’s massively stressful – they’ve effectively moved in together temporarily – but at the same time it’s like a really long first date too, with both women showing off their best features and their most irritating habits. I really liked seeing the places they visited, hearing about the reasons why they chose to visit each and particularly getting to see both women’s points of view of each stop. At the moment, stuck at home with holidays cancelled etc, this was escapism at it’s very best and exactly what I needed!

The two women are vastly different, but neither is a stereotype which I LOVED. As a bisexual woman I know this is a hot-button area for me and I was thrilled that there isn’t a cliche bisexual-sex-obsessed-sleeps-with-everyone character. There’s no sex shaming or judgement, and there are frank conversations about being adult women who are comfortable enough to admit they have sexual desires (or that they don’t!) and that’s okay, which is something I feel we don’t see enough of, particularly in the LGBT+ stories I’ve read. This isn’t a coming out story or a figuring out their sexuality story, it’s a romance that happens to feature a F/F couple – there’s a lot more to Megan and Scarlett, and to the story, than just the women’s sexualities and who they’re attracted to. Megan and Scarlett feel like real people, with contradictions and surprises, just like you’d expect, and seeing the way the two women see themselves as well as each other is great. Megan is the one who loves routine, who has returned to her home town, is organised and loves planning; Scarlett sees her as a bit anal and predictable, but Megan has plenty of surprises up her sleeve and shows that she can be the more adventurous of the two at times. Megan sees Scarlett as a bombshell who is always put together, while Scarlett sees herself as the one who can’t handle it when things get rough – less of an adventurer and more of a flight-risk.  As time goes on on their road trip, they get to know each other better and gradually start to figure out who they’ve become in the years since they last spoke. Each woman also pushes the other, as great relationships do, forcing them to step outside their comfort zones and learn a little more about themselves.

Hairpin Curves was much steamier than I expected, but I loved that about it. I’ve said before that I don’t read much romance, and some of the romances I have read fall into the trap of so-much-sex-and-so-detailed-you-don’t-really-care-anymore. Obviously lots of the novels I read, although not romance, do still have a love story, but it’s often in a hints-only-and-fade-to-black kind of way (particularly the LGBT+ novels I’ve read). Hairpin Curves doesn’t fall into either of those traps: it’s genuinely a romance and a love story and it also happens to have plenty of steamy, sexy scenes. I thought Winters did a brilliant job of balancing the romance and the sexiness, keeping things steamy without ever descending into porn without plot. You care about the characters, and so the sex isn’t just hot, but it’s heat you’re invested in too. Yes, at times, Hairpin Curves is a bit predictable, but that in no way lessened my enjoyment of the story – I don’t think many of us pick up a romance without expecting a few things to feature, and we’d be more disappointed if they didn’t than if it was predictable because they did! I’d have liked it to be a little longer, because the ending felt a bit rushed and then wrapped up a little too neatly but all in all, a fun, enjoyable, sexy read. Just beware, this maybe isn’t a title you want to read on a busy commute but instead should save for an evening (that might just be me though!).

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