Harlequin Intrigue, $4.25, ISBN 0-373-22606-3
Romantic Suspense, 2001
Sometimes reading a romance novel at the hairdresser’s can get one into a lot of trouble. Take Bayou Blood Brothers, which sports a tantalizing line on the back cover: “Their secrets are darker… their passions run deeper…”
“Wow, gay porn! Is it good?” my gay hairdresser Tom exclaims as he tries valiantly to bring back some life into my hair. “It’s about incestuous brothers, isn’t it? Kinky!”
Helga the Dutch expatriate looks at the book cover and goes, “Honey, those three men are either gay lovers or they are strippers. No straight men I know with huddle like that with their skin exposed this much.”
Another hairdresser, Filio, has to butt in. “I never know they have gay incest romance novels now. What am I missing?”
“No incest, no gay stuff,” I manage to say.
Naturally, all ignore me. “I don’t mind if they are incestuous brothers, as long as I get a piece of the action,” Helga says.
“Amen,” Tom tells her. “The guy that looks like Sly Stallone has to wear a mask though. That or I try to be as face down as much as possible when… you know.”
“What’s wrong with Stallone?” Filio asks.
“Dumb as a brick. Nothing upstairs.”
“Nothing upstairs,” Filio says, “but what a staircase.”
No, this is not gay porn. This is a straight, heterosexual romance anthology with three typical stories with intrigue that don’t make any sense and I am already regretting my $4.25 spent on it, What a pity – having gay porn stuff here might have livened things up.
Okay, okay, the stories. Like I said, it’s about three straight blood brothers who like to huddle with their shirts all opened. Tyler, Nick, and Jules aren’t exactly biological blood brothers and they are definitely straight (sorry people), and their finding love amidst a single strand of intrigue that connects all three stories is what this anthology is all about.
A bit of background info – when they were kids, these three guys witnessed the murder of Tyler’s friend Dave by this rich, spoiled scumbag named Boyce Sincard. They help put Sincard away with their testimonials and they bonded over moonlight – not that way, people – by cutting their knuckles and proclaiming that they are now “blood brothers”. Nothing, Nick declares, will ever come between them, and they will always be there for each other. Then Tyler grabs Nick for a deep kiss and Jules jumps on the both of them and – okay, I am lying about the threesome orgy.
They grow up to be manly men. Tyler, the streetwise kid, becomes an undercover cop. Nick, the rich one, grows up to be a super rich businessman, and Jules, the white trash bad boy, grows up to be a cop. It’s Dawson’s Creek‘s Dawson, Jack, and Pacey all over again. Only without the gay Jack thing.
We start the show with Rebecca York’s Tyler. Presumed by all to be dead but actually alive and undercover, Tyler has just returned from his stint in jail when he is roped into another mission. Undercover, of course. He breaks into a computer high-tech security facility, only to find himself face to face with Gabby, Dave’s sister. He has to kidnap her along with him and his “gang” of bad guys, and now he has to keep her safe from his supposed cohorts.
Gabby, of course, has been in love with her brother’s best friend forever. Yes, it’s this tired routine rehash with none the innovation to even make it different from all the other rehashes of this theme. Even weird, the supposedly ever-present bad guys keep “staying downstairs” even as our two lovebirds kiss, shag, and psychoanalyze each other in the most dreary dull way: he kisses her and pulls away, she thinks that he hates her and hence pulls away too, and he believes that she really hates him now, so he must pull away and… oh, just kill me already.
Finally, they break away and seek sanctuary in the house of this creepy old woman who tells Tyler to “touch her in places where only a lover should touch”. Touch Gabby, not the old woman, just to be clear, I tell you, only in romance novels. Tyler and Gabby then take her advice and make slow, passionate love. Then the bad guys finally show up and get their butts kicked bad.
Inept intrigue and hopelessly dull characters, not to mention that creepy old lady, make Tyler just plain tiresome.
Nick by Metsy Hingle takes on Plot Formula B – the ex-teen lovers reunited. Twelve years have passed, but Caroline Davidson cannot get over Nick, her ex-boyfriend whom she breaks apart from for the most contrived of reasons. Now Caroline is marrying Paul, Nick’s stepbrother. Why? Love? No, because she wants to hold on to her home and if she has to marry Paul to do so… and she will never love anyone – she never did, she never even have a decent relationship with any men in the twelve years after Nick took her vee-vee – so she will marry Paul for the sake of her home!
Caroline, needless to say, won’t be winning any prizes in the spelling bee any time soon. Can she spell B-R-A-I-N-S-U-C-K-E-D?
Nick, back to the heated bayous to see Tyler – he’s alive, he’s alive, Nick is so happy, oh, oh, oh – and to attend the wedding of Caroninny and Paul. He is sure that Caroninny loves Paul – why else would a woman marry a man, right? And Caroninny loves Nick, but oh, Nick and she… oh, oh, boo-hoo-hoo!
Paul, however, dies in a car explosion soon after, and now Caroninny feels guilty. It’s all her fault! Her fault! Her fault! Nick too thinks it’s his fault. I blame those two for boring me to death with their tired approach to the reunion sex thing, and Caroninny needs to see a shrink ASAP.
Joanna Wayne’s Jules. Obviously the special editor of this project has run out of plots, her creative capabilities sucked dry after the brother’s-best-friend-is-my-lover and teenage-lovers-reunion plots, asks Joanna to write something just like Nick’s story. Teenage lovers reunion, only, of course, Ms Wayne make it “different, but still the same, only different”. Adrienne, in the grand tradition of Romance Novel Family Values, is unhappy with her big-town city lawyer job. Heaven forbids a woman to do anything but feminine stuff like living in small towns and designing bridal gowns or healing sick pigs or taking care of sick Gran. So Adrienne goes back to her shanty bayou town to take care of sick Gran.
When Jules also come back to the shanty bayou town to hug shirtless Tyler and shirtless Nick in blood-brotherly embraces, he also encounters Adrienne.He hates her late father, but oh, Adrienne, Adrienne, Adrienne. The spineless, incapable heroine who keeps needing his help, who arouses all his protective instincts. The bad guy Sincard is out for revenge, and he must now protect Adrienne.
This story takes place in New Orleans, I know. Still, there’s no excuse for the author to throw in so many irritating nicknames Jules have for Adrienne. Every sentence Jules say has to has princess or chère. Yes, I know that Jules is a macho stereotypical alpha hero who knows French, but he can drop it, please. There’s a glossary at the start of this book, and all those words they have there are present in this story.
Just like the previous two stories, this one is not good. The suspense in inept, the characters are dull and tepid, and the plot is so formulaic that the special editor must have pulled out this concept while she is wiping her backside in the toilet.
So, sorry Filio, Tom, Helga, but there is no kinky, incestuous gay sex in this novel, and trust me, I am very, very sorry as well. $4.25 for three dull, tepid – and worse, inept “intrigue and romance” novellas is too high a price to pay.