Aphrodisia, $12.95, ISBN 978-0-7582-1650-2
Contemporary Erotica, 2007
I like to imagine myself as a pretty open-minded person. When other romance readers wince at the upsurge of “romantic erotica” because it gives plenty of ammunition to the critics of the genre to intensify their criticism of the romance genre as smutty fiction, I’d prefer to ignore what other people say and enjoy the tales.
But books like Rachelle Chase’s Sex Lounge are making it very hard for me not to feel sheepish about my stance. This particular book is terrible. It is nothing more than thin and tired smut clichés stringed together as if the author has read one or two Ellora’s Cave books, seen dollar signs everywhere, and decided that she too can write something like those books.
The heroine Nichole Simms is this cool professional woman whose secret sexual yearning is to be dominated by Derek Mitchell, the client of her talent agency and the fellow behind Chaise Lounge Designs. Naturally, our heroine, when she’s not standing in broad daylight to imagine herself in sexual clinch with Derek, writes all her sexy smut doodles in her Hello Kitty Diary of Romantic Pornography. Normal and reasonable people who keep such diaries keep them in a drawer in their bedroom, but Nichole naturally brings her Hello Kitty Diary to her workplace. I don’t know why. Can anyone tell me why? Maybe she needs something to read when she’s sitting on a toilet bowl. Derek naturally gets his paws on the Hello Kitty Diary and if Nichole wants it back, she will have to carry out every sexual situation in it with him. You see, Derek wants her too.
In case you’re wondering why Derek can’t just send her flowers like a normal person or threaten to kill some kittens like a normal romance hero would in order to get her to sleep with him, that’s because Derek has some very contrived and stereotypical issues about love. I’m sure you can guess how he came to have such issues. Nichole is a dunderhead heroine who is a stammering, babbling mush in Derek’s hands. She’s also hot but has no self-esteem because her mother has watched Mommy Dearest too many times. Both characters are paper-thin and the author’s attempts to give them depths instead make them come off like dunderheads for not seeing a shrink or something to get those issues sorted out.
Any story with a Hello Kitty Diary being taken to the workplace, job interviews, schools, or any other contrived place is already handicapped from the start and Ms Chase doesn’t improve matters by writing this book as if someone has a gun against some kittens and will fire if she doesn’t finish the book by lunchtime. There are some bizarre continuity issues that give me this impression, such as characters can show up in a scene wearing something and leave the scene in a different set of clothes. This story isn’t that long, so perhaps the author and the editor should have been more careful during the production process of this book.
At any rate, the paper-thin plot and ridiculous characters all make Sex Lounge come off like the work of an amateur trying too hard to write sexy grown-up stories. This story isn’t sexy, it’s a cartoon trainwreck. Keep the Hello Kitty Diaries in the drawer under lock and key where they belong!