by Bertrice Small, contemporary (2007)
NAL, $14.00, ISBN 978-0-451-22131-5
Sudden Pleasures is actually one of the most enjoyable erotic romances I've read in a while. Yes, a part of me is still unable of believe that I actually wrote the previous sentence, but it's true. This one sees Bertrice Small removing nearly all the purple prose that she is infamous for, so we have "penis" or "cock" rather than "love lance", for example, this time around. This book also reminds me why I keep buying this author's books when it is more fashionable to turn up my nose at her books. Sometimes, authors like Bertrice Small and Virginia Henley are so confident in their bestselling status that they dance to their own tune and come up with wonderfully unconventional heroines. Sudden Pleasures is one such book with such a heroine.
Ashley Kimbrough is the richest woman in Egret Pointe. Sure, she comes from money, but she is also a successful businesswoman who worked hard to turn her lingerie boutique Lacy Nothings into a successful chain. She is unapologetic about her success and I like her for that. Ashley is also an unapologetic regular at the Channel, a virtual reality sex service also featured prominently in the last two contemporary romances by this author. However, when her grandfather passes away, his will stipulates that Ashley needs to get married before her 35th birthday or everything she stands to inherit will go to the local UFO-watching society. Because Lacy Nothings was started using her grandfather's money, she will also lose her business if she doesn't get married before the month is out.
Ryan Mulcahy is in the same dilemma. He owns a successful property restoration and replication company called - what else? - Restoration & Replications. Like Ashley's grandfather, Ryan's father decided that tough measures were needed to ensure that he trots in line and pop out brats for the family, so Ryan has to get married before his 40th birthday or he too will lose everything he has. His lawyers and Ashley's lawyers swim in the same waters, which is how these two get together and decide to have a marriage of convenience.
Apart from the fact that Ryan has a penis of eleven-and-a-quarter inches in length and two inches in diameter and Ashley the size queen is actually thrilled instead of running away screaming in the opposite direction, everything about Sudden Pleasures is shockingly sane. Ashley, for example, wants prenuptial agreements to be drawn up and Ryan to be tested for STDs before she agrees to marry him. How many romance heroines do you know that will consider protecting themselves in this manner? Ashley is also all for sex. She wants to have sex with Ryan. She thinks the whole "no sex please, we're in a marriage of convenience" thing is insane. She spends her bachelorette party playing the Roman sex slave of two powerful lords in the Channel. She can even laugh at how her previous three serious relationships go down in flames.
Ryan isn't the most well-drawn character here, mostly he's this very nice guy with a big penis who falls head over heels for Ashley. Ashley however is simply adorable as this smart woman who likes money, sex, and hot guys without making any apologies about the fact. There isn't much plot to this story since it's all Ashley and Ryan getting to know each other when Ashley is not making virtual whoopee at the Channel, but I find it very sweet when Ashley and Ryan fall in love.
"And I love you, too," Ashley said, tears in her eyes. "But I can't claim to have not said that before, because I have. But now I realize I didn't really know what the devil I was talking about. I didn't feel anything for Carson or Chandler or Derek that I feel for you, Ryan. I never thought about babies with them."
"You're thinking about babies with me?" His mouth turned up in a smile.
Call me a sap, but that exchange makes me laugh even as I go, "Awww!" a bit inside.
That's another revelation I have about Ms Small: she's quite funny here. Ashley isn't just a smart character, she is quite witty in a sarcastic and sometimes cynical manner as well, such as when she announces during her wedding day that she won't be responsible for what she does to the first person who dares to sing The Bride Cuts The Cake.
That's not to say that this book is completely well-written though. There are too many instances, especially in the first dozen or so pages in this story, where characters tell each other things that they already know in an obvious attempt to provide exposition for the reader. Still, for a heroine who is a sharp cookie, a romance that is actually very sweet, and some luscious sex scenes with not a single purple euphemism in sight, Sudden Pleasures is a very readable book where I am concerned. It's easily my favorite Bertrice Small so far and, if it were better written, it would have easily received a keeper grade from me.
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