The Art of Mapmaking
Thalia Fand
Read by Marie Debonair

When it comes to erotica, I’m pretty fussy, I’ll admit. I’m easily turned off by little things like poor grammar, unbelievable scenarios, the term “love-button.” So, I was quite pleased to discover that The Art of Mapmaking, by self-proclaimed “friendly smut” writer Thalia Fand is, indeed, both friendly and smutty. It’s approachable and fun: smart without being pretentiously intellectual, sexy without feeling forced.

Sara, an artist and graphic designer, and regular attendee at the local amateur variety show, sets her sights on a brilliant, thoughtful and well-spoken performer, Casey. Casey draws and holds quite a crowd, but Sara angles for her attention, and gets it. We follow Sara and Casey’s burgeoning relationship, from Sara’s spark of interest through the inevitable – I hope i’m not giving anything away here – climax.

On the way, we learn more about why they’re drawn to one another. It’s not all full lips and firm breasts (though they’ve got that going on too). The visually oriented Sara is inspired by Casey’s expansive mind, and in return, teaches Casey to see light, shape, and color in ways she could never grasp before. Their complementary perspectives drive their emotional and sexual relationship, and offer ample opportunity for sensuous drawing lessons and mealtime seduction.

The progression of Sara and Casey’s physical relationship, which, of course, is why we’re reading this in the first place, seems maddeningly drawn out. We are teased with sexy fantasies, smoldering looks and hot make-out sessions. The anticipation is what makes the story work, however. Fand captures the intensity of a new relationship, the drive and burning lust that flourishes in those first weeks.

The sex itself is nothing unusual – If you’re looking for kink, this is not your book. But it’s hot, relatable, and marked by a sense of mutuality and consent. It’s easy to put yourself in the place of our heroines; this is sex you’ve had before and will have again because it’s good.

The only real hitch in the story is the brief appearance by Sara’s sassy-but-straight Latina BFF. She’s a bit too wink-wink-nudge-nudge, and her accent in the audiobook version is, at times, cringeworthy. But even that is forgivable. She is, after all, a spectacular wingman.

On a scale of my-6th-grade-teacher to Gillian Anderson, I’d give The Art of Mapmaking a solid grown-up-Emma-Watson-in-a-suit. In short, it’s fun, sexy and would be a fine companion for your quiet evening of self-care.

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