Wallbanger is a book that was much-talked-about in the Unapologetic Romance Readers group on Goodreads, was featured quite highly on many "enemies to lovers" lists (a category I needed to fill for my romance reading challenge) and also had a hefty waiting list for the library, which is usually a good indicator. So I went for it!
Well, this is an enemies-to-lovers story, yes, but but it's really an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story, and the enemies portion is very short. Essentially, the story is about Carolina, who's newly moved into a gorgeous apartment in San Francisco that her boss at an interior design company is letting her sublet, when she discovers that she has a very noisy neighbor. Mainly, a guy who's having sex with three women--not at the same time--which Carolina dubs Spanx, Purina, and the Giggler due to their, erm, sexual proclivities. There's an embarrassing incident in which Carolina confronts the neighbor while wearing a sexy pink nightie, and then at a housewarming party, they officially meet and find that their friends are very attracted to each other but apparently the couples are mixed up. Carolina and Simon, as the neighbor is called, set out to fix this and begin a long, slow burn of verbal foreplay. Their banter is witty and sexy, and you can definitely feel the chemistry there...until they actually begin to have sex, which is not nearly as sexy as all of the lead-up led me to believe it would be, given that Carolina is preoccupied with trying to be witty regarding her "lost" orgasm, which she talks about for a lot of the book.
The real strength here is the characters. Carolina and Simon are both fully fleshed-out characters and their friends are pretty great, too. It was refreshing to actually see Carolina having positive relationships with other women, because that's so rare in romance novels, where most women are just presented as competition at best. But these girls had regular brunches, still got together to get ready for parties together, meddled relentlessly but helpfully in each others' love lives... It was nice. Simon's friends aren't as present because the book is entirely from Carolina's point of view, but Simon himself has a backstory that, while tragic, is also believable. He has a career and a life and passions other than just sticking his dick in whatever comes by, and even his three sexual relationships early in the book stem from a believable place, and he's also a very respectful guy. Carolina was also good; her obsession with not being able to have an orgasm for most of the book got old pretty fast, since the maximum amount of time she goes without talking about it is about about two pages, and she tries to be funnier than I think Clayton is really capable of, but she had ambitions and dreams and was overall a good character.
Oh, and Clayton does have a knack for writing descriptions of food and places. From the Sausalito house to the lodge in Tahoe to the coast of Spain, the locations and all of the foods and drinks that come with them were top-notch. You could pretty much read this book for food porn in addition to, you know, real porn.
But while the characters and lead-up were enjoyable for this book, it's missing a pivotal conflict. The "conflict," as it is, consists entirely of Carolina going "Well I like him but I haven't had an orgasm in a while and besides he's having sex with three girls despite the fact that I know very well he hasn't been having sex with three girls since we officially met." There's a bit of a snafu involving a hot tub in Tahoe, about halfway through the book, but it's relatively minor and once the awkwardness is dealt with, it's just a slide to them having sex for the remainder of the book.
This is the first in a series of four books, with the second also focusing on Carolina and Simon and the other two focusing on different couples. I'm not really interested more Carolina and Simon, but I might look into the other two books. I do hope that they have a stronger central conflict other than "I wants the sex but noooooooo!" though.
3 stars out of 5.