Reading Romance: “Sweet Filthy Boy,” by Christina Lauren

BOOK Sweet Filthy Boy

Going contemporary on NPR Books’ list of 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances.

Zut alors! “Sweet Filthy Boy” is one insanely sexy book. If “Sweet Filthy Boy” were on a Chinese takeout menu, it would have AT LEAST four spicy peppers listed next to it. For some, explicit sex in a romance novel can be too awkward or too graphic or simply too much. Not for me. I LOVE a sexy sex scene, and “Sweet Filthy Boy” has about a million of them. Mon Dieu.

It’s become readily apparent (to me, at least, if no one else is paying attention) that most of these books I’ve been reading off this NPR list have been historicals. Not surprising, really, since I’ve always loved historicals that truly evoke a certain time period (my favorite book of all time, for example, is so anchored in the history of New Orleans the author apologizes in an end note for adding a fictionalized event), but kind of surprising to realize how resistant I apparently am toward contemporaries. If I try to analyze it, I can’t say it makes much sense. After all, Sandra Brown is one of my favorite authors and all she writes these days are contemporary romantic thrillers. And I LOVE THEM. But those seem different from typical genre romances, somehow, and I tend to get overly hesitant when thinking of reading a contemporary one of those. Perhaps I think they’re more frivolous or more contrived, since dating in the current day is more casual? Less likely to lead to permanent commitment? I honestly don’t know. I do think it’s hard to keep a contemporary novel truly contemporary, though, with technology being so changeable these days. Sometimes a book is painfully dated by the time I get to it, even though it’s supposed to seem current. And while the easy identification of the era is something I treasure in a historical novel, it’s something I dread in a contemporary one; I want a contemporary novel to feel like it could be happening right now, as I’m reading it, or just last week perhaps. I want that immediacy, and I recognize how hard that is to achieve. To its credit, “Sweet Filthy Boy” feels supremely Of the Moment.

More than being simply current, however, “Sweet Filthy Boy” is honestly charming, with characters and situations that feel true and earned. The book is told from the perspective of Mia, a recent college graduate who meets (and impulsively marries) a supremely sexy Frenchman named Ansel during a wild Vegas weekend. She follows him to Paris, as you do when you find yourself married to someone who lives in Paris who is also the best sex of your life, and in addition to having a super sexy, adventurous time with her new husband, Mia also comes into her own, growing into a confident and expressive woman from someone who was closed up and timid throughout college. In this way, the book really becomes as much about Mia’s personal blossoming as it is about the romance, and it gives the resolution a lot more emotional weight — to the point where I was legitimately tearing up at the end.

The sex, as I mentioned, is very hot, and I think I’ll have to add cerise — cherry — into the lexicon of sexy French phrases that I know, along with ménage à trois, Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir, and J’ai envie de toi. But while the sex is a huge part of the novel, it’s also a vehicle for Mia and Ansel to open up with one another, to be free and open, and ultimately to fall in love. And that’s a very good thing.

I love this book. There is no way in hell I’m not reading everything else by Christina Lauren, starting with the rest of this series. Maybe I’ll get some fun ideas.



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