Red Sage Publishing, $12.99, ISBN 0-9754516-6-9
Mixed Genre Erotica, 2006
Well, look at that. They are putting subtitles on those Secrets anthologies. Not surprising, I suppose, given how those anthologies are coming out what seems like every three months or so and they are all starting to become hard to distinguish from one another. This one will be known as “the one with the ugly prison inmate on the cover”. “The one with pointless and badly written stories” is more descriptive but unfortunately, there are too many Secrets anthologies that can fit that particular description.
Here, all stories are contemporary romances except for Charlotte Featherstone’s contribution which is a historical romance.
Secrets Volume 16: Forbidden Desires starts off with Cynthia Eden’s Never Enough which is an exercise in imbecilic futility from its first word. Abby McGill and Jake Steele are shagging. But Jake is planning a hostile takeover of the company run by Abby’s father. Abby knows this and finally decides to break up with Jake. Jake decides that he wants her more than McGill Properties but he doesn’t tell her that he’s now the good guy. Instead, he blackmails her for a week of sex where he’ll be the master and she’ll do all he tells her to. No, I have no idea why he just can’t tell her, “Honey, I’m not going to take over your father’s company so you can take me up your behind with conscience clear, so come over here, toots, and get naked!”. This story is just an excuse for some lame and oh-so-typical silly sex complete with purple prose and over-the-top alpha male antics. As I turn the pages and read this story with the pleasure usually reserved for IRS brochures, I’m starting to feel mocked by the title of the story, Never Enough. No really, I have enough, thanks for playing.
Bunko by Sheri Gilmore is another clunker. Tu, our heroine, has the hots for her boss Jack but they don’t act on their attraction until Jack overhears her discussing him with a friend and sets out to woo Tu with his voodoo (say that quickly if you can). This leads to an unamusing game of “Omigod, I kinda like Clark Kent but I like Superman too, oh what shall I do?” confusion when Tu picks up a masked man and has sex with him with him wearing the mask all the time and she then starts wondering whether Jack or that man in the Devil’s mask is the one for her and… oh, sorry, am I supposed to care about what the silly Tu thinks? Meanwhile, Jack is supposed to be this suave ladies’ man but he comes off like Johnny Bravo instead making the move on the ladies. I believe Ms Gilmore has to really start watching real ladies’ men in action as well as finding a better plot for her future works. Bunko is a whole load of bunk, that’s for sure.
Chevron Gael – not to be confused with that car – comes up with Hide and Seek where Kyle DeLaurier is in San Andreas looking for a way to exorcise grief and all due to the death of a friend and our heroine Darcy McLeod is a PI charged to bring Kyle back home so that he can facilitate an important business merger. Darcy pretends to be a tourist and those two hit off. This one is predictable right down to the circumstances and timing of the revelations. The characters aren’t too annoying, which I suppose is a plus of sorts, even if this story is too familiar to be memorable. However, in this anthology I’d take a boring story over just plain annoying ones.
Finally, Charlotte Featherstone closes the anthology with Seduction of the Muse. Emily Beaumont loves Aidan, the Duke of Rutherford, but when he finally realizes that he loves her too, he’s been scarred and now lurks in the shadows and moaning that he’s not worthy of Emily. That doesn’t stop him from indulging Emily’s sexual fantasy of prancing around in a female brothel (“the Temple of Flora”, of all things). Emily is later aghast when someone starts publishing lurid serial tales featuring a thinly-veiled heroine that is clearly her. She wonders whether the author, a “Dark Lord”, is her mysterious veiled lover at the Temple of Flora. And on and on this story goes in a mess of evil twin brothers and other spooky plots that would have been overcome easily if Emily and especially Aidan will talk to the other person instead of assuming the starring role in their personal melodrama where they get to play the biggest martyr. When it comes to silly sex and a plot designed to be riddled with the most annoying contrivances, this story stands out in this anthology for all the wrong reasons.
When the most enjoyable story in this anthology is the one that is just plain boring and devoid of even a little personal authorial innovation, I think it’s safe to say that Secrets Volume 16: Forbidden Desires is easily one of the worst Secrets out there.