Pandora's Box

Double the Pleasure/Double the Thrill

Julie Elizabeth Leto and Susan Kearney
August 2002, Series Romance
Harl Blaze #49 & 50, $4.50, Amazon ASIN 0373790538
Part of a series

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

The price and ISBN are for Double the pleasure. Double the Thrill is also $4.50; its ISBN is 0373790546.

Double The Thrill and Double the Pleasure are two connected books released in August from the new Harlequin Blaze line. The double books are about Zane and Grey Masterson, identical twins who switch places.

Double the Thrill by Susan Kearney follows the travails of Zane Masterson as he takes over Grey's multitude of duties and attempts to discover not only who is sabotaging the family newspaper, but why someone is stalking Grey. Toni Maxwell is stalking Grey for her own reasons and it will take all of Zane's ingenuity to discover her secrets.

Double the Pleasure by Julie Elizabeth Leto details the adventures of "good" twin Grey Masterson as he impersonates his "bad" brother. Grey tries to help Zane's friend Reina Price. Reina is a designer of erotic jewelry who has suffered several robberies and desperately needs Grey's help. Reina will challenge Grey to deal with parts of his nature he has never truly acknowledged.

Linda:   I have enjoyed the new Blaze line in general and thought these two books were lots of fun. I especially liked the unique use of the "diptych" cover design of Grey and Zane. The design of the cover easily conveys that each book will stand alone, but that they are better viewed as two parts of a whole. A big plus is that the cover model actually fit the description of the twins!

Blythe:   I thought the covers were pretty cool. These two were my second and third Blazes (first was Alison Kent's All Tied Up). I had varying reactions to them. I liked the concept of concurrent stories about twin brothers, and I thought the setting was fun. But while Leto's book was at least moderately enjoyable for me, I didn't care for the Kearney. I had to force myself to finish it.

Linda:   I enjoyed the Leto book slightly more, but I think it had more to do with liking Grey better then Zane. I have always liked the concept of twins changing places. It is easy for me to believe that people can be fooled because when I was in junior high it was discovered that a pair of identical male twins had split up their course work and one attended only English and history and the other the math and science classes. They had apparently gotten away with it for over a year and it was only a fluke that caught them. Of course, we were all very envious, and thought it a great joke. The idea of using a twin to avoid unpleasant things is a nice fantasy and because of Pat and Mike I have always been open to the storyline.

Blythe:   I didn't mind the storyline, although I did think it was a little junior high-ish. I was willing to suspend disbelief for that. But you've hit upon my main problem - I thought Zane was a real jerk. What he had to recommend him beyond money, stunning good looks, and a first rate dildo collection, I'll never know. I just couldn't relate to his shallow, aimless playboy personality. And I thought he had some nerve feeling morally superior to Toni, when he hadn't even bothered to come clean about his own identity. When Grey and Reina slept together, at least they both knew whom they were sleeping with. On the other hand, I really did like Grey. The personality of the driven businessman embarrassed because the whole world had found out about his kinky escapades seemed much more accessible to me.

Linda:   I thought Zane should have been upfront with Toni too, but there certainly was circumstantial evidence linking her to the sabotage at the paper. Zane was definitely a more problematic character, a real Peter Pan-type who ran from commitment to any woman. I rather enjoyed watching him struggle for three weeks to free himself from Toni and I totally bought his final realization that he was in love for the first time in his life. I thought Zane redeemed himself with his very public display of love for Toni and I bought a happily ever after for them.

I also loved Grey's embarrassed reaction to the whole world knowing that he had made love in the bathroom at Commander's Palace. What a hoot! But, I did like Zane and I enjoyed the way the twins changed as they entered each other's life. I think that the labels of "good" and "bad" had been their way of establishing an identity separate from each other, but that they got locked into their roles and found them limiting.

Blythe:   Yeah, the Zane and Toni's ending was kind of cute, but by that point the book had already lost me. Zane was responsible for part of that (I liked Toni and her sisters) but the other part that didn't really work for me was the sex.

I know readers pick up a Blaze expecting a sexy read, but for me some of it worked and some of it didn't. If there is a storyline I can believe in and get behind, I can handle the explicit sex, even if it is a little "out there" for me. For example, I thought some of the devices Reina and Grey used and talked about sounded a little silly, but the relationship was cute, and while most of the sex seemed outlandish, it was in a fun way. On the other hand, the sex between Toni and Zane was way too over the top for me. I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to imagine someone who has never ridden a horse enjoying hot sex on one - in New Orleans, in August. It just seemed absurd to me that anyone would choose this scenario for a first sexual experience, unless they were trying to be completely ridiculous. I had a similar reaction to the dildo scene.

Linda:   Well, I thought it was a nice fantasy; one that is better in fantasy then I think it would be in reality - I mean talk about being "saddle sore". <G> I loved the scene in the bar though and thought Zane a very sexy and stimulating guy, but in the end, like you, I liked Grey better. Both women were very likable and very much ladies of the 90's; I loved their open interest in sex and men. Reina's job as an "erotic" jewelry artist was kind of over the top, but fun and I just loved Toni and her sisters - I hope we will see the stories of the other three sisters in future books. Both stories made me laugh out loud and they were quick reads.

Toni and Reina's open interest in sex and their obvious experience made me think about how romances have changed for the better. It just seems so much healthier for women to acknowledge their pleasure in sex, instead of the 70's and 80's books where a woman had to be forcibly introduced to pleasure. I never liked the forced seduction or rape storylines and I'm happy that in the Blaze world women like sex, look forward to it, and can be incredibly creative. I also liked the fact that Toni and Reina admitted to pleasuring themselves on occasion.

Blythe:   I liked both women too, and I probably even liked Toni a little better than Reina (mostly because of the sister angle, which I enjoyed). And I did find their moderness appealing. These are women who go clubbing and wear fashionable clothes. They seemed like young people rather than old people in young bodies. Itís nice to see heroines like this out there; I know many readers are really tired of thirty-three year old virgins. I do have a little age nitpick on the Leto book, though. It's a little thing, but I have to mention it because I see it all the time. At one point Grey thinks about one of his employees, fresh out of college, and calls her a "talented Gen-Xer." If she's just out of college, she's not really part of Gen X - usually said to begin with people born in 1966. Since Grey and Zane are in their thirties, they are Gen Xers, and would be thinking of themselves that way, rather than their very young employees. It's not synonymous with "early twenties" anymore. But Leto shouldn't feel too bad; Newsweek makes the same mistake all the time.

Linda:   Yes, twenties are Gen-Y's aren't they? I have kids who are both Xers and Y's and frankly don't notice any difference in their slang, which I thought rang true in both books. By the way, did you notice that these two authors populated the City of New Orleans with real people with real names and there wasn't a Remy among them? <G> I guess we are in agreement that Zane should have been more trusting of Toni and told her who he was, but his acts in the last chapter were very romantic and redeemed him for me. Plus, I liked him with Toni and felt she really did get to his soul and make him re-think his life. Grey was just a sweetheart and I loved the idea of the creative and caring lover hiding under the austere businessman's designer suit. The love scene with the chain was one of the hottest I have read in a long time and I loved the passages from the Italian lover's diaries as well.

Blythe:   LOL - I did notice the lack of Remys, thank God, and Leto in particular did a good job peppering the story with authentic names and places (although I didn't really want to think too much about Grey's naked rear end on that secluded bench by the river. How did he know it hadn't been peed on recently? <g> I lived in New Orleans for four years, and it was a great place, but you did have to watch where you sat and where you stepped. And speaking of slang, the one thing all three Blazes I've read have in common is their frank use of the word cl_t. I'm guessing that's a staple of the line, huh? Overall, I thought the concept of these books was fun, if a little outlandish at times. But I would steer readers toward Double the Pleasure and away from Double the Thrill.

Linda:   I would advise people to read them both, with a slight bias in favor of Leto's. I liked Kearney's writing well enough to want to read the stories about Toni's sisters. I think the used-to-be-overweight Bobby's could be especially interesting - it would be fun to see her re-gain the weight and find a man who loves her for herself and can help her to feel comfortable in her body whether she is fat or thin. This was a fun double read and I look forward to reading more books by both authors (especially since some of their books are already in my massive tbr pile <G>).

What are we reading next month?

Blythe:   Next month we are reading Girls' Night by Stef Ann Holm. I've really enjoyed her humorous historicals, and I'm interested to see how that humor carries over in her first contemporary.

Linda:   Well, happy reading.

Blythe:   See you next month.

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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