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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Secrets Volumes 11 and 12

Secrets, Volumes 11 & 12. Romantic erotica.

This is a book club omnibus of two anthologies.

Secrets, Volume 11:
  • ***½ "Masquerade" by Jennifer Probst.
    This gets an extra half-star because it's one of my favorite romance plots--the best friend romance.

    Hailey and Michael are best friends, but Hailey decides to make one last try at shaking up her life and finding the romance of a lifetime, by going to the weekend-long masquerade party thrown by their enigmatic boss. She gets Michael to find out what costume their boss will be wearing and plans to seduce him. Michael, of course, appears in that costume.

    Unfortunately, I have the same complaint I always have about masquerade romances--I can't believe she doesn't recognize him. I also have a little difficulty believing the setup of a weekend-long masquerade house party. Maybe in the Regency era, but not contemporary. And finally, Hailey was too simultaneously cold-blooded and credulous for me. Deciding that their boss, who she'd never met, must be The One for her, and setting out deliberately to "catch" him... not a heroine I can relate to.

  • **½ "Ancient Pleasures" by Jess Michaels.

    This one also gets an extra half-star, because the setting was fun. Think The Mummy, or The Book of True Desires.

    Isabella is investigating the tomb that her husband had been obsessed with before his death, when she's separated from her companion and encounters Jake, an American tomb robber. They start out trying to find a way out, but keep being overcome by lust, obviously an ancient curse.

    Sadly, the ancient curse sounds like it was written by a hormone-crazed teenage boy, because it mostly takes the form of voyeurism and exhibitionism of masturbation. I'm not sure if my distaste stems from the fact that it's not my fantasy, or if it really did have that juvenile ooh-this-is-naughty tone to it.

    The icing on the cake was ****spoiler**** that the curse was against sex without love, and that our heroes were safe because it was True Love between Jake and Isabella after a couple of hours and a half-dozen or so orgasms. **** Please.

  • *** "Manhunt" by Kimberly Dean.The hero, Tucker, is a cop unjustly accused of a crime. So far, so good--it's making me think Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli in One for the Money. But his big plan is to seduce A.D.A. Taryn into helping him. And not seduce as in convince with words. He intends to have sex with her until she can't think straight, basically.

    Worse yet, it works. She decides he's innocent because a guilty man couldn't give her so many great orgasms, of course. At least there was humor and a mystery to make up for it.

  • ****½ "Wake Me" by Angela Knight.

    Oh, thank goodness there's an Angela Knight story. This makes the whole book worth buying.

    Chloe's long-time boyfriend has just married her newly-divorced friend, and she's not in the mood for romance, to put it mildly. Then a package is delivered, containing a life-sized portrait of a sleeping, naked knight.

    The knight portrait is Radolf, and he comes to Chloe in steamy dreams, which she enjoys until she discovers that he's real and cursed to eternal sleep, feeding the witch who cursed him with mortals' passion, and that he needs her to awaken and save him.

    I'm not going to spoil it, but the solution is cute and clever. And of course Angela Knight is one of the best at writing sex scenes that are both erotic and fit the story.

Secrets, Volume 12:
  • **½ "Good Girl Gone Bad" by Dominique Sinclair.
    If I were capable of not finishing a story once I've started it, I'd have quit reading this one.

    Journalist Reagan gets an assignment to write a series of articles about romance and the independent woman. But she's a bit repressed, so she goes to a book store to research. Where she runs into lifeguard Luke. Who takes one look at the books she's selected and offers to be her teacher.

    Again, maybe it's just that it's not my fantasy, but that hit my squick meter really hard. Add that to Reagan being unbelievably naive about sex, and then their penchant for sex in public places, which I find more inconsiderate than hot, and I was gagging.

    It picked up a little when Reagan started writing articles about their encounters, but I didn't understand why she got in trouble when it turned out that she was the woman in the articles and not a friend.

  • *** "Aphrodite's Passion" by Jess Michaels.
    This one starts out really quite interesting. Gavin Fletcher is hired by the offspring of the colonel who died while saving his life to find their stepmother, the colonel's much younger second wife. Selena had disappeared, and they want her back so they can have her committed to an asylum and get their hands on their father's money--of course they tell Gavin that she's insane.

    Gavin finds Selena in Greece, where she's gone with a friend, Isadora, who's started a cult and temple of Aphrodite, devoted to sensual pleasure. But anyone who discovers the cult must join or die, to keep it secret, so Selena protects Gavin by taking him for her first lover.

    Up until this point, I loved this story. Then I started having a lot of trouble understanding Selena. She doesn't like the cult, but even after she falls in love with Gavin, she feels obligated to stay, even if he has to die. I'd understand fear, or if she didn't think he'd stay by her, but...

  • ****½ "White Heat" by Leigh Wyndfield.Woo-hoo! A science fiction erotic romance! Not only that, but a very good one.

    Raine has been living on an ice planet for two years after the rest of her team had been killed, when Walker escapes from the prison and makes his way to her hideout. Walker is half-alien, a healer whose body requires and generates a lot of heat. Turns out they've both been betrayed by the same villain, so they join forces to escape the ice planet and retaliate, and along the way they fall in love.

    The worldbuilding is convincing and natural--impressive in a novella length, and the characters were unusual, but with traits that fit perfectly with their descriptions. Raine, for example, talks aloud to herself quite frequently without realizing it--a consequence of having lived completely alone and isolated for two years, that ends up being at times amusing, or revealing. I'll definitely be looking for more from this author.

  • ** "Summer Lightning" by Saskia Walker.Sally rents a cottage at the shore to do her art in peace, and she meets a gorgeous hunk, Julian, who's camping out nearby, doing an environmental assessment. I should have liked this one, with an environmental scientist as a hero, but...

    Sally first sees Julian when she's sunbathing. He doesn't see her, and he strips nude, walks out thigh-deep in the water, turns back to shore, then masturbates before going for a swim. Uh, right. Maybe I'm wrong, and this is a usual thing for men to do. Carl thought it was nuts, but he also thinks watching sports is nuts, so maybe he doesn't know, either.

    Be that as it may, a lot of the dialogue and characters' actions struck me as unbelievable. There was also too much backstory and authorial intrusion shoehorned into any gap between thought and speech or action, and that kept me from getting involved in the story.

    I think this is one of those stories that you have to read very fast to get the gist of and then let your own imagination fill in the blanks.


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