Aphrodite's Passion
by Julie Kenner, paranormal (2002)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52474-0

There's a defiant, unapologetic "Yeah? I'm CAMPY, so there!" air in Aphrodite's Passion that is charming. Too bad the hero's a giant banana wrapped in a condom and the heroine is the same old pathetic "Mousy old me needs to get laid but damn it, ee ee ee!" kind of creature.

Still, there's a scene of female masturbation here that takes me by surprise. If Julie Kenner decides to switch genres, Superman porn may find its new superstar. (I'm not being sarcastic, mind you. I think the world needs more Superman porn. I read a hilariously bad Superman porn piece once where Superman has green goo shooting out of his - you know - to actually impregnate the very male villain Lex Luthor. It's unbelievably hilarious!)

The Girdle of Aphrodite. Cooler than Wonder Woman's Wonderbra, this girdle will make its wearer irresistible to the opposite sex (memo to Julie Kenner: "camp" and exclusive heterosexuality don't go hand in hand well, for more information, see: ABBA, disco, Kylie Minogue, and Olivia Newton-John). In this world where superheroes called Protectors take care of us mere dim-witted mortals, where Protectors can jump over single building in a single bounce, cross continents faster than you can blink, and shoot green goo to impregnate Lex Luthors of the world - maybe not the last one - a bad Protector wants to seek out the girdle.

Seriously, won't it be easier to just work out or get comestic surgery to be irresistible to the opposite sex?

Then again, this girdle thing doesn't just give one Sexual Pumpies, it can also bestow one Super Powers. The Bad Guy has to be stopped. Here is where our superhero Hale steps in. No, he doesn't green-go the Bad Guy into motherhood. He decides to green-goo our heroine Tracy Tannin instead into giving him the girdle she has unwittingly inherited.

On her part, Tracy is the usual mousy/timid/shy/ee-ee-ee nitwit who has no idea why men are all coming on to her. And no, she is not taking advantage of it all, because good girls don't have sex unless the man lies to her, uses her, and treats her like dirt first, you know. Then you know he's the right man for you and you surrender your virtue and then hope that he will take pity and marry you. If the author has shown this irritating brown cow trampled to death by a hoard of sex-mad men, I'd have given this book a big two thumbs up, but no.

So while there are a lot of bad, campy fun here - the talking ferret of the hero, the hero being a romance cover model (because we all know romance novel cover heroes are sooooo sexy instead of the overbrawny, greasy-haired daytime soap-opera-actor wannabes that they mostly are in the first place), and a hilariously bad villain, the author decides to focus on the romance. Bad, big mistake. If the author has sidelined the romance and concentrated on the bad campy zaniness, well, I'll like this one. But she decides to concentrate on the Seduction of the Unbelievably Clueless by the Unbelievably Thick-Headed Mule, and it's like watching a grown-up bully beating a baby black-and-blue over a piece of candy. Tracy is no match at all for Hale despite her getting some good lines.

Julie Kenner may be single-handedly trying to create a new niche within the paranormal subgenre - Austin Powers romance, anyone? - but really, she should've fixed her priorities. If she wants to write a romance, she better concentrate on the romance. What's the point to creating a scene of utter camp only to focus on the really boring and trite romance? Aphrodite's Passion calls for off-the-radar zaniness and buffoonery, Superfriends porn, and dirty jokes to work. Too bad Julie Kenner has no idea how to mine the potentially lucrative oil field she is squatting on.

Rating: 69

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