by Delilah Dawson, contemporary (2007)
St Martin's Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-312-93655-6
For a long time, Something Naughty has it all and more. This saucy little romp does something that very few erotic romances manage to do: combine humor and raunch in an irresistible mix. It is not easy to be funny and sexy at the same time but Delilah Dawson makes it all seem so easy. The love scenes here are hot enough to make me feel as if I'm reading inside a nuclear reactor, yet at the same time this story is filled with such effortless banters and one-liners that I often find myself laughing when I am not wishing that I have some cute harem boys to make me some ice tea and fan me while I am reading this book.
The main characters are so adorable. We have Damon Becker, a former military man who, upon saying goodbye to his uniform and guns, steps in to assist his grandmother in managing a new marketing campaign for Becker Fine Tailoring. Becker Fine Tailoring has provided some of the finest suits for all formal occasions for four generations now, so you can imagine Damon's horror when his eighty-two year old grandmother reveals that she is planning a joint marketing venture with Naughty Devil, purveyor of sensual aromas, lotions, and sex toys. Henrietta Becker has not gone senile, right?
However, he has promised to be on his best behavior when he meets Tanika Davis who co-owns Naughty Devil. Therefore, he vows to at least listen to her proposals. However, Tanika isn't just a sensible businesswoman, she was also a former size-twelve model. As you can imagine, Damon soon itches to misbehave where Tanika is concerned. Soon those two are indulging in some after-office activities even as they work surprisingly well together. However, both parties are adamant that they are wrong for each other. Little do they know that come New Year's Day, they will have to revise their assumptions of themselves and each other.
Damon and Tanika have their romance novel gender roles reversed here, heh, since Tanika is the one who was hurt by love before that she's now adamant that she will stick to one-night-stands and no-strings-attached hook-ups while Damon is the one who doesn't do the casual fling thing. Oh, and believe me, Tanika is really out to get what she wants here, putting the moves on Damon until the poor man doesn't know what hit him, much to my delight. Their love scenes are really hot, especially when both partners are playing on equal footing here. There is no "schooling the innocent woman in sex" cliché here - Tanika has her own tricks to bring onto the table, so to speak.
Both characters are very likable. They have no really angsty baggages here. Tanika's heartbreak in the past doesn't cause her to act like a pity-party for one. Damon isn't an ass towards Tanika at all. Instead, these two come off as likable people who have fun playing games with each other. Even better is how Ms Dawson establishes a convincing developing bond between the main characters outside the bedroom to the point that when they realize that they're in love, I can believe them.
However, this book just misses being a keeper with me because even when the relationship between Damon and Tanika has reached a point when they have to start talking to each other about their feelings and what-not, the author continues to drag her characters through more love scenes, including one at one of the oh-so-easy-to-find sex parties that appear so regularly in oh-so-many erotic contemporary romances. As sensual as those scenes are, they come off like padding to make the story longer and I get frustrated as a result.
Oh, and while this isn't a particularly sticking issue with me, the characters in this story don't practice safe sex, which is odd considering that Tanika deals with merchandises that I'm sure include condoms of all kinds. Instead, I'm told that Tanika uses spermicide and that is supposed to make things okay, I guess. Personally, I wish authors will either talk about safe sex or don't at all. Fiction is fiction so it's okay, in my opinion, that the characters don't practice safe sex although I'm sure many readers out there will beg to differ. However, please don't insult my intelligence by pretending that "safe sex" is only a way to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Still, having said that, Something Naughty is really something. The story drags considerably in its late half due to one too many filler sex scenes, but on the whole this is a fun story that manages to be sexy, funny, and emotional all at once.
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