Guest Review: Party Favors by Jaime Clevenger

NB: Looking for an erotic lesbian romance to pick up? This review is from Reader Tara Scott! If you want to read her previous guest reviews (and we highly recommend that you do), you can see them all here.

Tara reads a lot of lesbian romances. You can catch her regularly reviewing at The Lesbian Review and Curve Magazine and hear her talk about lesbian fiction (including romance) on her podcast Les Do Books. You can also hit her up for recommendations on Twitter (@taramdscott).

As a child of the 80’s and a voracious reader, I spent a lot of time with my favourite series like The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. Every so often I’d take a break from them to pick up a Choose Your Own Adventure book, intrigued by the idea that there were so many possibilities all in one binding. You can imagine my surprise and delight to find a lesbian erotic CYOA-style book and, even better, that I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Party Favors opens with: “You’ve made a mistake. Not the typographical their-versus-there in an email to a boss sort of mistake, but the life-changing kind of mistake that results in a sixty-dollar Batman costume rental.” And it just gets more fun from there.

Like the old CYOA books, Party Favors is written in the second person so that the reader is the main character. After a week-long break to get some space and perspective, you’re meeting your girlfriend, Janine, at what she told you is a “fancy dress party.” Because she’s German, you think she meant a costume party. Except it’s not. You’ve shown up as Batman to a black-tie event. So what do you do? Your first choice is:

A) Face up to Janine and stay because you need a glass of champagne and your night can’t get any worse

B) Leave the party with a wave of your cape and an ounce of dignity

No matter what you choose, you’re almost certainly going to get laid. If you do stay, Janine gives you a hall pass for the night and you agree to meet up the next morning to decide if you’re going to stay together and be exclusive.

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this book, but it ended up being way more fun and hot than I’d imagined. All paths head towards some kind of sexual encounter, and no two encounters are the same. Knowing this, each time I met a new person, I wondered if I was going to sleep with them, whether it was the party host, a local actress, a member of the wait staff, my best friend, an executive from my workplace who I run into at a sex shop, or my neighbour. There’s anything from sweet, slow sex with feelings, to banging someone I’ve just met and am about to get onstage with at a drag show. Some characters I have sex with in more than one scene, so that sometimes I’m topping them, and sometimes they’re topping me. There are threesomes, strap-ons, and even a little voyeurism. If there’s something you like to read in a lesbian sex scene, you’ll find it in this book, plus a Batman costume. And boy does that costume ever get put to good use, whether in roleplay scenes, or even just jokes like this:

“Who are you looking for?” Katherine, suddenly standing next to you, gives you a sly smile.

“I was looking for you,” you admit. “But so much for my Batman senses. I didn’t hear you come up behind me.”

“I was channeling Cat Woman,” Katherine says.

So how did I read it? On my Kindle, for starters, which was the perfect reading experience for me. At each decision point, the reader has a choice to keep reading or click to another section. At first I did exactly what the author suggests in her note to readers and followed my first impulse after considering each option. That led me to always click rather than keep reading and to a fantastic first story that may or may not have included Wonder Woman.

Along the way, however, I figured out that if I always clicked, using the “back” function on my Kindle would always return me to the decision point, where I could then just read ahead. I’m not suggesting anyone read it like that, but I did like that it turned reading the book into a “what if” exercise and let me skip my least favourite part of CYOA physical books—the dreaded going back to the beginning and flipping, flipping, flipping to find new decision points, never satisfied that I covered all the content.

Also, although there are some romantic moments in Party Favors, I would never call it a romance and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who only likes their sex scenes accompanied by a HEA. If cheating is absolutely a no-go for you in your fiction, you may want to give this book a pass. Not only do you have your hall pass from Janine, which each of you take advantage of in different scenarios, but sometimes your partners for the evening are cheating on their boyfriends or girlfriends.

However! If you like erotica and books that are seriously fun, definitely check this one out, and even better—read it with a friend. I read it at the same time as a couple of my good friends and had so much fun talking about it with them.

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