Beyond Desire
by Thea Devine, historical (2003, 1993 reissue)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0550-3

Beyond Desire is my first Thea Devine romance novel. I read it back in 1994 and back then, it's one of the most explicit romance novels I've read. Time has passed, I've read spicier stuff, and Thea Devine has even out-spiced Beyond Desire with her subsequent books. So why should one read Beyond Desire? I have no idea. The sex scenes here are almost similar to the choo-choo orgasm train thing found in the much better Sinful Secrets. Incoherent evil family soap opera? Well, one can find that in any Thea Devine story.

Maybe if you find the hero of Thea Devine's Sinful Secrets not alpha enough, then you'll be as happy as the heroine Alexandra deLisle. In adult film industry speak, Ryder Culhane is all "trade". Which is to say, he takes but he never gives back, if you know what I mean. He's a hard, hard man, and the non-bedroom scenes in this book makes me want to knock Ryder's head against a wall until the skull cracks to release the gas trapped within.

Alexandra's life is turned upside down when her sister is missing. She believes that she may be abducted by a nasty guy whom Ryder is also after. She also has something he wants really badly, so he is forced to take her along a train ride and later a camel trek across the middle-eastern sands. And since this is a Thea Devine book, there's sex in the train, sex on the top bunk, sex on the bottom bunk, sex in a tent, sex in a bedroom, and sex in a carriage. I'm being vague in the synopsis because I must confess that after rereading the book countless times, I still have no idea what exactly is going on in the story! The very confusing confrontation with the villain is no better.

But, hey, the sex is fun. It's surprisingly, er, fun to read about Alexandra and Ryder tussling and wrestling on the ground only to have him, er, getting excited between her legs and her going, "Ooh!" It's quite funny that scene where she wants to see just excited he can really be when he is really, really excited. I must also confess that I feel very exhausted after the initial deflowering scene - that must be the most tortuous thing I've ever read. All you people who think it's just pushing A into Slot B best think again, Thea Devine has a few pointers to show you. Unfortunately, while the sex scenes are hot (this book is written when the author is not restraining herself, after all, in her love scenes), the hero is strictly trade. Alexandra has to do everything - she has to put on a show, she has to climb on him, she has to tease and tease while he just sits there and growls like a martyr.

There's one telling scene where she teases him to remove her socks - and that selfish oaf grits his teeth and half-heartedly pulls just one sock off - and that's after she has tried so long to cajol him. I'm not in the mood by the time he acts as if he's made to pull off with his bare teeth the socks of soldiers after a long basic exercise training sessions. Unlike some of the other Thea Devine heroes, this one doesn't reciprocate much in the act of coital pleasures. Ryder is strictly Pump-Pump-Pump-Ah-What's-Next. Maybe readers that like being dominated by alpha brutes that try their best to look indifferent or bored when they do the doggy will love Ryder Culhane because he's more trade than a used car salesman. I like my heroes to give as much as they take, however, so he annoys me more than anything.

It's not much better outside the bedroom. Alexandra's a dumb bunny, but that's probably to be expected in a Thea Devine book, and Ryder often treats her as if she's an annoying kid. I don't blame him for that, mind you, but when he's selfish in the bedroom and acting no better outside the bedroom, Beyond Desire exasperates me more than it entertains me. Ryder is too high-maintenance for me. He's the kind of guy that expects the woman to go down on him on the first date but good luck getting him to return the favor.

There are good "first times", and there are forgettable "first times". Speaking for myself, I'll chalk Beyond Desire down as one of the latter. Okay, it was good back then, but it's not as if I have much to compare it to. Now that I'm wiser, I look back and I go, "Meh. What was I thinking?" If you're a Thea Devine virgin, please don't make Ryder your first. He's not worth it, trust me.

Rating: 72

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