Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down
by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Melanie George, and Jaid Black; contemporary (2005)
Pocket, $15.00, ISBN 1-4165-0159-2
Ugh, ugh, ugh, uuuuuuuuuugh. Why is it that when I open a book that is supposed to be an erotic romance, chances are it will turn out to be some unfunny cartoon with sex instead? If I want to laugh, I'd be reading a romantic comedy instead, wouldn't I? Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down isn't anything like the movie whose name this book shameless borrows from. It's all about cartoonish plots and unbelievably neurotic characters scaring the living daylights out of me because look, ma, these people are breeding, shudder. Jaid Black's story is the exception but even then, the sex scenes are oddly out-of-place and even distracting.
Sherrilyn Kenyon's Captivated By You will eventually lead to her full-length BAD novel with Pocket, which only proves that when it comes to cheese franchises, this author is going to rule that niche. BAD stands for Bureau of American Defense. And Americans sometimes wonder why the rest of the world find them peculiar, I tell you. In this novella, BAD agents Rhea Stevenson and Ace "Only in the romance genre do people not make fun of my name" Krux have to infiltrate terrorist cells by posing as a dominatrix (this will be Rhea, of course, because Fabio fans don't want to read about Ace in fishnets) and her loverboy. Every female agent seems to harbor a crush on her (more capable, of course) male colleague and Rhea is no different. Coming off like a particularly bad attempt of a plot in a pornographic movie, this story is utterly ridiculous. BAD is so inept that this story is just begging for a few tasteless jokes about the terrorists bribing Pentagon to admit failed porn stars into the secret services of America.
Melanie George offers Promise Me Forever, featuring a spectacularly neurotic heroine who finally decides to get over her ex-boyfriend by marrying for all the wrong reasons. Savannah Harper however is kidnapped right before her wedding day by the ex, Devon Jerricho, who then tries to sexually manipulate her into wanting him again. This is a Big Misunderstanding story that drags on because the main characters are obviously as intelligent as gerbils. All the infuriating plot devices that make Big Misunderstanding plots so vile are present here. Instead of clearing up matters or at least wining and dining the woman romantically, I get a dumb asshole jock shagging a silly spineless bimbo into submission. Cardboard tastes better than this story.
Finally, Jaid Black's Hunter's Right is up. This is the only novella where the author seems to have made the effort into creating a plot that doesn't have me snickering in derision and characters that won't make me wish that I can personally deliver the Darwin Award trophies to these characters' doorsteps so that I can bash them in the head with the trophies. Ronda Timpton is an US Corporal who unfortunately crashes into Arctic and ends up among a long-lost underground Viking civilization. She is naturally auctioned off (romantic erotica, after all, is this close to being synonymous with Conan the Barbarian porn) and ends up in the clutches of Nikolas Ericsson. Familiar "strong modern woman trapped in primitive society" hijinks ensue. To be fair, Ronda does come off as the only heroine in this anthology who can count beyond ten and the author takes the time to flesh out the civilization she is writing about that I wonder whether a series is in the works. This is one novella where the characters come off as likeable instead of infuriatingly stupid and the sex scenes are therefore erotic instead of cringe-inducing. Jaid Black's mainstream erotic romances seem to be tamer than her Ellora's Cave offerings and this short story is no different, though, so fans of the author's Ellora's Cave offerings may want to dial down the expectations a little when it comes to the sex scenes.
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down is one of those "let the big gals make a quick buck" books where only one author, Jaid Black, seems to make an effort into making sure that the reader receives some entertainment that is worth the cover price of the book. The title of the anthology is unfortunately accurate in this case, although "tie me down" in this context is more appropriately that of tying this book to a bag of bricks and tossing it into a river. Spare a kitten, kill a lousy anthology, that sort of thing.
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