by Samantha Winston, contemporary (2007)
Total-ebound, £2.49, ISBN 978-1-906328-05-4

In Samantha Winston's Hotline, our heroine Ashella "Shelley" Astrada works for a phone sex service. That's so cool. It's a job I would have taken up if I knew what phone sex was back in those days, sigh. Easy money, easy work, sigh. At any rate, Shelley has a problem. Her favorite client, Angel, is getting really personal with her, telling her his real life problems and calling her his "friend". Like every smart phone sex provider, Shelley knows that she has to steer Angel back to more neutral topics like what she is wearing and what she will do to his bare behind with her riding crop.

The silence stretched out again, longer this time, and Shelly stared out the window at the dark sky, watching the lights from the Chinese restaurant across the street as they blinked green and red. Finally Angel said, “This is what I know about you, Shell. You have an amazing imagination and are incredibly generous. You never say, ‘when you’re done,’ you say, ‘when we’re done,’ as if we’ve made love together, instead of it just being me jerking myself off to the sound of your voice.”

“Angel…” She heard so much pain in his voice. It killed her.

No, really, I'm touched. No, I'm not being facetious. The fact that we have one fellow playing himself while listening to a phone sex operator can be pretty sad, but for some reason when this fellow admits that he's one sad person, he suddenly turns into a nobly tragic self-effacing hero. I need help, I know.

Then Shell turns stupid and asks Angel about himself. He claims to be Angel Pasqually, the NASCAR driver who was all that and more until an accident claimed his sight and reduced him into a nobody said to be living with his mother. Even better, Angel needs a favor from her.

The latest trendy charity cause supported by NASCAR is blind kids and therefore they finally remember Angel and want to trot Angel out in public as a sign that they really care for blind kiddies. Angel is cynical enough to see through the "gesture" but at the same time, he is no longer the cocky and arrogant person he once was. He sees an opportunity to make some kind of difference for other people and therefore agrees to make an appearance at the upcoming NASCAR charity ball. He wants Shell to be his date.

Whether you will enjoy this story or not lies in your ability to accept Shell's decision to meet and go out on a date with Angel. For me though, I cringe when Shell and Angel start getting frisky in the car the moment they meet because she finds him so hot. How about some build-up in this relationship? There is also a small problem with Shell repeating her reasons for holding her current job to Angel when she told him of more or less the same thing in their last phone conversation. He's blind, but I doubt he's forgetful.

Nonetheless, the rest of the story is like a dream as Shell gets to live out her Cinderella fantasy of being Glamorous among the glittering upper crust society. I adore the fact that Shell can hold her own in her situation despite the butterflies in her stomach. She and Angel have some fun rapport system going as they play each other off nicely.

A part of me will always think that Angel and Shell are more interesting when they are apart and one of them is a pathetic - if hot - hunk, but Hotline is nonetheless a cute, if often saucy, fluffy Cinderella-style fairytale romance. If you can get past the whole part about Shell going off to meet her client in real life without doing a thorough background research on him first, you may have as much fun as I did with this one.

Rating: 83

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