Dangerous Pleasures
by Bertrice Small, contemporary (2008)
NAL, $14.00, ISBN 978-0-451-22397-5

Dangerous Pleasures is a very slim book that really shouldn't be priced at $14.00 if you ask me. Then again, I suppose it is up to what the reader expects for $14.00. If you are expecting a well-written romance with plot, this book isn't going to offer much of that. But if you don't mind paying $14.00 for a campy story that is more of an erotica rather than an erotic romance, this book may just be the one for you. I find this one a guilty pleasure. What makes a book a guilty pleasure, however, is very subjective as there is a very fine line distinguishing a bad book from a book that is so bad that it is so good to read. In other words, read on and proceed with caution, folks.

Annie Miller is our quintessential single mother heroine. Since the death of her husband, whom she supposedly still mourns for, she has raised five kids on her own. Needless to say, she has no social life. When the story opens, she realizes that her life is not going the way she would like it to be. Her kids are misbehaving, her parents are dragging her into their own personal life crisis, and she has no one but her sister Lizzie to confide in.

Lizzie springs a surprise on Annie - she has entered Annie's name into a lottery-like contest where the winner will get a free stay for a week at the spa run by the Channel. If you have read any of the author's previous books in the Pleasures series, you will know that the Channel is this big company that specializes in creating realistic virtual sex fantasies to tickle their female clients' fancy. Annie is stunned to realize that not only is she the winner in that contest - hello, multiple orgasms - but she will also be offered a full-time job at the spa. Soon, Annie isn't just slimming down into a buxom mature babe, she is also happily sleeping her way to the top.

Annie Miller is supposed to be an everyday woman, what with her being an overweight suburban mother like all romance readers are apparently supposed to be, but she is also a very stilted character. Her background is nothing more than an excuse to get readers to go, "Awww, she's just like me!" Her transformation into the curvy man-eating MILF in this story is too smooth and effortless to be believable, for one. The less said about her creepy and unnatural kids, the better. As for the plot, this story is really nothing more than a series of erotic interludes with enough unintentionally humorous lines to give me a great time. Meanwhile, the men are pretty much cardboard cut-outs of humongous penises. In other words, this isn't a romance as much as it is a story of Annie doing the guys and having a good time in the process.

What I do like a lot about this story is how the author has Annie having a great time in her adventures. There are no residual guilt, bewildering self-loathing, or other similarly depressing mood swings. Annie is having fun for the sake of having fun, which is a simple concept but surprisingly rare enough in erotic romance for me to appreciate that aspect of this story. Also, the hero - yes, there is one here despite the fact that Annie sleeps with several guys in this story - is nice enough to allow the heroine to be in charge in the bedroom. While Annie isn't exactly a dominant partner, she gets to be the boss in telling the hero how things are done in the bedroom and I like that, heh.

Dangerous Pleasures is not a book that I enjoy for the plot, characterization, or romance. In fact, I would go as far as to say that all three are not present in any significant amount in this story. I won't even consider the sex scenes erotic since they have a stilted quality to them. It is as if the author is trying too hard to be sexy but often ends up being unintentionally humorous instead. But I do like it for its camp factor and the fact that I don't mind one bit the "girls on top" fantasy that the author is selling me. This is one of those books that I have some no-nonsense fun with when I just want to be entertained without having to think too hard about things.

Rating: 74

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