St Martin’s Griffin, $13.95, ISBN 0-312-33916-X
Contemporary Erotica, 2006
My, my, Honk If You Love Real Men is an erotic contemporary romance anthology featuring, in this case, an author who is more well-known for romantic comedy that can be sometimes a little too sweet. Color me shocked that Pamela Britton’s contribution is nothing at all like her usual offerings. I feel like a daughter who has stumbled upon the intimate ramblings in a diary belonging to her sweet old dotty mother or something – I never knew Ms Britton has it in her to come up with what she did here!
Carrie Alexander kicks things off with Naughty Girl, a story where our heroine Estrella Ianesque decides to be a “naughty girl” by going ahead and invite that construction worker hunk Jesse “Drum” Drummond to some rumpy-pumpy fun while pretending that the car and the condo with pool are hers and not her boss Eve’s. Eve, by the way, is away for the weekend. Shades of the movie Working Girl, you ask? Please, this story is utterly bizarre, such as Estrella squealing in horror at the sight of Jesse’s tattoos because they remind her of her terrible ex-husband. I’m hard-pressed to believe that she can gawk at a construction worker and yet not consider or realize that he may have a tattoo or two. Besides, how old is Estrella, fifteen? Estrella doesn’t mind that Jesse has been in jail before though. Tattoos are not okay but being in jail is, for some reason. Maybe Estrella is into games involving bending over to pick up the soap. Don’t ask me why a woman with issues about a previous relationship would invite a perfect stranger to bed under false pretenses. I think the title of this story should be Nutty Girl. And no, it’s not erotic, not when the heroine is as dumb as a pinata shaped like a doorknob.
Pamela Britton’s One Blooded Man is more straightforward erotica rather than erotic romance because there are elements here that normally don’t show up in erotic romance, including a lesbian scene. At first the premise seems typical of an erotic romance: our heroine Breanna Miller is need of some sexual healing and she decides, on a trip to her hometown, that her old flame Trent Walker is the no-holds-barred kind of therapy that she needs. Things get murkier when it comes to the erotica/erotic romantic boundary from that point. Bree had been raped before and, ouch, the cops refused to believe that she didn’t ask for it. Now she can only achieve organism using a vibrator. She wants to achieve one with another human being and Trent is of course willing to help her. This one is more of Bree’s story rather than a romance as she tries to get her jollies off with someone else. The language is naughty and crude, which fits the context of the story very well. Unfortunately, this story soon gets bogged down by Bree’s baggage. I understand where she is coming from and I applaud her for taking matters into her own hand in more ways than one, but soon naughty sexy stuff gives way to too much introverted psychobabble. Perhaps a better balance of both would have improved this story. As it is, all I can say is, if Ms Britton puts out some naughty stuff in the future, I’ll be most interested to see how they turn out.
Susan Donovan proves that perhaps it is best not to try too hard to be “out there” when it comes to erotic romance. Her Have Mercy sees scriptwriter Winifred Mackland deciding that she can get over her writer’s block and finish that erotic action script due in a month – uh, is she writing for Skinimax or something? – by accepting her agent’s offer to move to some cabin in the woods. Yes, yes, this is a plot that has been done before. The agent also arranges things so that Win will have to ask the hunky neighbor Vincent Macbeth over often. Win decides that real life sex will do wonders to jazz up her creative juices and Mac can’t agree fast enough with her. This story is mundane when it comes to the admittedly overused premise but there’s sexual chemistry by the spades here as well as some humor. Besides, Mac is good with his hands at fixing many, many things so it’s easy to overlook his last name when he has, er, many better attributes to focus on.
Lora Leigh’s Reno’s Chance feels like a Diana Palmer story, only the sex here could have sent any genteel elderly Diana Palmer fan into a faint. Raven McIntire loves her brother’s best friend Reno Chavez since forever but alas, he is a Navy SEAL and Raven’s own father was one as well. Her father died when she was ten, causing her mother to sink into depression. Raven feels that she doesn’t want to get involved with any man that holds dangerous jobs. Reno, on the other, has been waiting for Raven to “grow up” (or more precisely, if you ask me, grow breasts) and now he decides to introduce Raven to the true meaning of R&R: mind-blowing he-man sex! Don’t believe me? Reno actually vows to “fuck” Raven “into submission”. I guess I should find comfort in the fact that such a fate is a little less painful than being bludgeoned into submission by Reno’s meaty fists. Raven naturally loses her hold on her principles the moment Reno launches an assault on her body so in the end she’s more than happy to have Reno any way she can, Navy SEAL or no. Now, I’m all for he-man monkey sex but I do wish the author hasn’t made the heroine pretend to have some principles only to have the principles washed away like a sandcastle on the beach during high tide. The whole “fucking Raven into submission” thing as a result feels more like sexual manipulation of an utter fool of a heroine rather than a rough-and-tumble dirty little romance.
Honk If You Love Real Men isn’t a completely successful anthology. Two stories are readable while two boast some rather spectacular examples of stupid heroines in plots tailor-made to reflect the heroines’ state of mind. Maybe this one should be retitled Yawn Because This Isn’t The Real Thing.