Ellora’s Cave, $5.95, ISBN 1-84360-418-3
Fantasy Erotica, 2003
Lora Leigh is one of the grand doyennes that spearheaded the behemoth that is the mate-mate-mate naughty romances. While one may argue that Christine Feehan was the Queen of Cornball Vampire Mate-Mate-Mate Romances – still is, maybe; I don’t know as my allergies become too severe for me to keep reading her stuff – but there is no denying that when it comes to the gloriously cheesy, cringe overload kind of furry romances, Lora Leigh is one of the undisputed queens in that arena. Her Breed series were huge back then. Because this place prides itself as the – ahem – cornerstone of class and literacy scholarship. one overarching comment that keeps coming to haunt is that we aren’t reviewing enough of Lora Leigh’s stuff and hence, clearly we are plebeians and frauds.
Well, that changes now and there’s no better place to start than the title that started it all: Tempting the Beast. And yes, I’m reading the original version, which comes complete with the cover art of a woman placing her left hand on a naked man’s rear end as she… I don’t know, maybe checking for lice in the fur of his pee-pee area. A lion looks on, so this means that the hero is pure Lion-O with a Sword of Omens that extends to a prodigious length as he swings it around.
Callan Lyons is going to be our heroine Merinus Tyler’s greatest triumph. She knows that she is ready to become a big-time journalist at her family-owned paper, but her father and brothers all view her as the baby to coddled and underestimated. Well, no longer. Callan is a genetically-engineered super soldier with lion DNA, and he was carried by a now dead researcher friend of Merinus’s father, and the man had promised Dr Maria Morales to look for Callan. Merinus is going to fulfill her father’s promise because, as she reasons, she’s a woman and she knows how to be persuasive when it comes to men. Not to mention, Maria’s notes pointed out that Callan is all alpha; he’d respond less favorably to other brawny men telling him what to do. No, this is definitely a woman’s job.
Furthermore, her investigations have paved the way for Callan to expose and take down the evil Genetics Council that created beings such as Callan – all she has to do is to convince him to emerge out of hiding and work with her to bring those mean mad scientists to justice.
So, I find myself reading surreal scenes such as Merinus on the phone talking to her brother while spying on Callan playing with himself. Awesome.
Poor Callan. He’s hot for the woman he knows to be a journalist stalking him, but the problem is, his pee-pee surges to attention only when she’s around. Therefore, our virile, overly lusty dude has to either boink the woman he knows to be trouble or suffer from blue-tinged testicular angst 24/7. Fortunately, our heroine gets into everyone’s favorite contrived scenario to force the hero to come to her – oh help, she has wandered into the dark and creepy woods, and now men are going to rape her, eeeee – and guess who has to come save her. Ho ho, now that he has touched her, he’s not going to be able to stay away now, and the sex show can finally start – so thank you, would-be rapists in the woods!
Now, there is actually a potentially interesting story here revolving around Maria’s death and the Genetics Council – who may not be responsible for her death, after all – but every time things threaten to go in that direction, Lion-O will quickly drags everyone’s attention back to his erection.
“And they succeeded. But it wasn’t the Council.” He stared down at her, his eyes hard, furious. “I know their scent, I know the stench of their evil. As cloying and cold as the scent of your arousal is sweet and hot.”
Merinus opened her mouth to argue until the last words penetrated her brain. She felt her face flush, her heart rate increase. She stared at him in surprise. How had he known?
“Explain to me why a young, innocent woman is standing here before me, her cunt wet and prepared for an animal? And I am an animal, sugar, unlike any you will ever know.”
Thank you, Lion-O.
Still, the naughty scenes are almost too hot for words. Almost, that is, because each time things threaten to get really steamy, there will be boo-boos like Lion-O going all corny about how Merinus’s, uh, honey from down there tastes “as delicate as spring, as hot as summer”. Never mind whatever that means – what kind of alpha sex-mad Fabio-O says things like this? Talk about a mood killer. So long as he stays quiet, the whole thing is pretty hot.
I should point out here that the naughty scenes here can be of dubious consent in nature and even creepy. These two first have sex in basically a mating pen-like situation, at the mercy of hormones, drugs and some mating fever thing. Merinus is also treated like a livestock more than anything – even as she has sex with Merinus, his people do things like taking her vaginal sample for tests. While I’m sold on the fantasy here, some readers may not be so keen to buy such a fantasy, so they should approach with some degree of caution. Tempting the Beast utilizes several tropes common in erotica, but these tropes may be a culture shock to romance readers who may not be into erotica much.
Now, aside from the sex scenes which are mostly top notch in terms of delivering the sizzle, this one also has a pretty decent alpha hero who doesn’t treat the heroine like dirt, and a heroine who still does come off as a woman with her own mind and resolve, despite the story never allowing her to be anything more than the receptacle of the hero’s lust. Merinus also has a degree of self-awareness about her circumstances, which elevates her into being something more than just some bland, passive love mattress of some alpha male.
My sole frustration here is how little the plot is advanced here. I know, this is an erotic romance first and foremost, so the sexy stuff takes priority, but if this is the case, why have a plot and why keep reminding me that the plot exists, when the scenes that don’t involve close contact of naked bodies feel half-arsed and slapped in more to fill up space than anything else? Why not just focus on the mating fever? That way, the plot feel less like an annoying distraction, and I can happily focus more on the naughty scenes. Well, until Lion-O opens his mouth and says something that will pull me out of the mood. Still, I’ll take this Lion-O over that douchebag POS in those Kate Daniels books any day, anytime.
So, Tempting the Beast: great naughty read, terrible urban fantasy. Adjust your expectations, put on Fabio’s terrible album in the background, and let the cheese and sleaze take you to a lovely place.