Private Pleasures
by Bertrice Small, contemporary (2004)
NAL, $14.00, ISBN 0-451-21203-7

Is this book for real? As a joke, this book is fabulous. I don't normally use the phrase "rolling on the floor laughing" but that's what I nearly do when reading Bertrice Small's first contemporary romance Private Pleasures. Does any contemporary person describe his or her genitalia in terms of ridiculous euphemisms like "hot maw"? Yes, "hot maw". How about "spermed"? Is there such a word? Somehow "my hot maw is spermed" comes off more like an accident that happened to a turkey baster than a grand reason to engage in a hot session of coitus.

Plot-wise, this book has nothing much going for it. Nora Buckley is a truly helpless, truly pathetic, truly hopeless wife who has no savings of her own, no job, no employable skills, just her children and a husband, the latter she hasn't slept with in five years. And she is shocked when the husband divorces her for a younger woman. Jeff, the husband, is a truly over-the-top villain. If Ms Small wants me to hate Jeff, she only succeeds in proving to me that Nora is braindead because what kind of woman will stay with a man who doesn't sleep with her for years? And treats her like garbage in the process? Nora is created by Ms Small to be a first-class professional victim and that's not sympathetic, that's pathetic.

Nora's friends rally around her. When a sister's in trouble, what do you do? Suggest a good divorce lawyer? No, silly, get her porn! Soon Nora is having virtual sex with Kyle on the TV, which gives the phrase "reality TV" a whole new dimension altogether. Or in Kyle's case, much more dimensions. Nora also gets to sleep with Rolf, whom I know is Austrian because he speaks in a hilariously ersatz accent, and Rolf has a thing for Kyle too. I have to hand it to Ms Small here: she's one of the few authors that dare to explore bisexuality in her romantic erotica stories, unlike too many authors out there who call themselves authors of kink but for them, kink goes only as far as giving the heroes fangs and fur.

Okay, so the plot is stupid. But this isn't so bad if the sex scenes are good. Porn movies will never be lacking for an audience even if their storylines suck like lemons and there will always be a place for Bertrice Small in the world if her sex scenes are good. But they aren't in this book despite the potentially interesting aspects of the virtual sex thingie. But there is a place in the world for this book: it will be a wonderful gift for that bitchy friend (not you, of course, because you only read quality books, ahem) who can appreciate the campy joys derived from reading a truly horrific example of writing. Whether that joy is worth $14.00, I'll leave it to you.

Rating: 31

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