Secrets: Volume 8

Jeanie Cesarini, MaryJanice Davidson, Alice Gaines and Liz Maverick
2002, Erotic Romance
Red Sage, $12.99, 222 pages, Amazon ASIN 0964894289

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Burning

There are two reviews of this book.

Secrets: Volume 8, like its predecessors, features four distinctly different authors who nonetheless share a common goal: to write erotic romance that is more than just descriptions of coupling. And, like every other anthology, some of the authors succeed better than others. The best part about a collection like this is that if you are interested in reading erotica, you get to have all the fun, without having to watch the author take on the difficult challenge of sustaining the action in a sexually charged atmosphere over the course of a full-length book.

Contemporary Romance
In Jeanie Cesarini's Taming Kate, New York ad exec Kathryn Roman learns she is the proud inheritor of a legal brothel in Love, Nevada. Kathryn, who has sought refuge from the lack of passion in her life in her intense devotion to work, travels to Love with the intention of figuring out some way to extricate herself from this unwanted responsibility. Trey Holliday, the brothels overseer, has other plans for her. He is an honest-to-God cowboy, a gentleman who insists that the lady go­ or come first. Soon she has become "Lady Kate" who realizes she has sensual passion inside herself that she didn't know existed. Even though there is a futuristic story in this collection, this particular entry requires the most suspension of disbelief: the whores are called "princesses," are all beautiful, and like to have sex for money; the men who frequent them are good-looking, thoughtful, and just out for a good time; and Kate (a New Yorker) doesn't burst into hysterical laughter every time Trey calls her "pretty lady." Perhaps the ultimate fantasy is that, with all these beautiful, experienced, available women around, Trey only wants Kate, an inhibited New York career woman (she remarks on that herself). All in all, this reads like a very guilty pleasure since, although it is completely implausible, the writing and dialogue are quite good ("pretty lady" aside). I enjoyed Kate and Trey's story in spite of myself. Grade: C

Shapeshifter Romance
The next entry, Jared's Wolf by Mary Janice Davidson is a funny, sexy werewolf story. (No, I wouldn't have thought it possible either until I read this little gem.) See, there's this female werewolf named Moira who finds herself kidnapped by a human ­ Jared Rocke by name ­ who knows precious little about werewolves, except that he believes the lead wolf - ­ Moira's boss Michael - killed his sister, and he is out for revenge. Moira figures out that she will have to seduce Jared to get him to let down his guard, but she doesn't realize he is using her, too. Although neither of them trusts the other, they are both instantly attracted to each other and act like dogs in heat, so to speak. In addition to being a werewolf, and stacked to boot, Moira is an accountant, a very smart woman who, since most men only notice her rack (the author's words, not mine), has resigned herself to being alone . Jared appreciates her intelligence, which he admits to having less of than her, but he also wants to use his instinctive acumen to protect her. The sex is hot, the dialogue laugh out loud funny in a couple of places, and I wanted to read more about the werewolf world Davidson has created. Grade: A-

Historical Romance
There is a very good reason that a past reviewer mentioned Robin Schone when reviewing Alice Gaines's writing. My Champion, My Love has elements familiar to anyone who has read Schone: a sensual woman who has to hide her passion, a man who has been waiting for a woman on whom to unleash his own creative sexual energy, and a society that does not allow for the open expression of passion and sensuality. As the story opens, Celeste Broder has been placed in a mental institution by the stepchildren who want to gain control of the money her deceased husband has left her. At the behest of a mutual friend who knows Celeste, Robert Albright, the mayor of the little town where the institution lies, comes to evaluate her mental state. The real reason she has been incarcerated? Celeste has an unwomanly sexual appetite. Robert, because he is quite large and had a wife who was not accomodating, never experienced true sexual satisfaction. Upon meeting Celeste, he is immediately aroused by her plight but also ashamed of his immediate attraction to her. Robert is an interesting character, a beta male with an alpha sex drive. Their passion is believable and sexy, as is their HEA. But it has to be said that the story had a few bumps along the way, due primarily to the weak plot points. Grade: B

Futuristic Romance
The last story, Liz Maverick's Kiss or Kill felt as if it was rushed, with elements not adequately explained and characters not fully developed. It's 2043, and Camille Kazinsky is a government operative given the task of deciding if a man/machine( a robo) should be reassigned or terminated. Said man/machine, whom she calls "Meat," is all man (as she discovers, to their mutual pleasure) with the exception of his hands, which are augmented by metal that gets hot when his emotions are inflamed. Despite the fact that she will decide if he lives or dies and that he is also in handcuffs, the two immediately start to have sex and, perhaps more surprisingly, begin to care for each other. Robos, you see, are supposed to have neither emotions nor intelligence, and Camille is a guarded, suspicious person who believes that because her profession is her destiny, a screw-up will ruin her life. The sex, as one might expect from a futuristic fantasy involving one partner who is a robot, although graphic, is fairly mechanical and not particularly exciting. Although this story didn't work for me, if Maverick had taken more time developing her story and her characters it might have been a stronger entry. Grade: D

Secrets: Volume 8 is a sizzling collection not for the delicate; its wide variety of styles, setting and humor make for an awkward gathering, but it is one that can also be rewarding.

LLB: You may be wondering why we posted two reviews for this book; after all, a B- and a C aren't all that far apart. There's actually a method to my madness, and here's the explanation: readers who read erotica with some regularity approach it differently than those who rarely if ever read it. Megan is a more regular erotica reader than Rachel, and I think that shows in their reviews.

-- Megan Frampton

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