Downtown, $15.00, ISBN 0-7434-4290-3
Contemporary Fiction, 2003
Zane, best known for her erotic novels such as The Sex Chronicles and Addicted, humbly submits a romantic novel for the consideration of readers more inclined to reading about true love. Unfortunately, The Heat Seekers doesn’t know whether it wants to be a Sex in the City clone or a silly romance novel, it tries to both, and ends up being a somewhat unsatisfying read. It is the author’s very salty and naughty prose and her very acerbic humor that makes this book readable from start to finish.
Do be warned though: the sex scenes are very tame compared to the author’s previous books. If I have to tag an NC-17 label to this book, that’s because of the language, not the graphic nature of the sex scenes.
The story focuses on four people that are best described as “players”. Tempest is the posh one who at least tries to give out to the best men she can find while Janessa lives in a poorer area and gives out to all the wrong men. Their male counterparts are Geren and the ultra-slutty Dvontè. Friends Tempest and Janessa meet the friends Geren and Dvontè at the singles club and they hit off. Even as Janessa becomes more and more unhappy as Dvontè treats her badly, Geren and Tempest hit it off like a match to a sparkler. Their relationship is sorely tested by a secret in Tempest’s past and when Dvontè throws Janessa out of his place after Janessa refuses to abort her baby.
Dvontè and Janessa are far from likeable people. Dvontè is repulsive as a player who refuses to use a condom in his bed-hopping and then blames the women when they become pregnant, and I wish the author has left him rotting in the trunk of Janessa’s car after Janessa pushes the car into one of Canada’s many lakes. Janessa is more pathetic than sympathetic as the woman who deludes herself about her man so much so that she becomes a willing partner to abet her own victimization. On the other hand, while Ms Zane succeeds in creating a surprisingly sweet romance between Geren and Tempest, those two are far from saintly either. Tempest is often cruel in her treatment of those she deems inferior to her while Geren sometimes display a misogynistic streak. Also, Tempest and Janessa’s so-called enduring friendship (they’ve been tight since they were kids) are somewhat rocky – there are times when I swear those two women probably hate each other and will be more than happy to rip each other’s liver out with their bare hands when given the chance.
However, while I won’t say I like these four characters, I can’t say I find them dull. The author knows how to create well-defined characters with distinct personalities. Even at the lowest points of the book – Tempest’s very familiar secret and the author giving her way too many subplots (the underdeveloped counselor to abused women thing, for example) – the conversation still sparkles and I often find myself laughing out loud. One of the best things about this book is its crude but passionate embrace of female sexuality. Sexual middle-aged women are often the butt of jokes in many romance and mainstream women’s fiction books, but here, when Tempest’s grandmother wins a dildo in a Pin the… er, let’s just say the game involves pinning a tassel on the tip of a well-hung man’s penis on a poster, and warns Tempest not to even think of stealing it from her, Zane really means business and I just know Grandma is going to put the dildo to good use and have fun while she’s at it.
Readers looking for a saucy and very vulgar read or Sex in the City fans may enjoy this one. Tempest and Geren really have a sweet thing going, and despite their player personalities, I find myself buying their romance very fully. Any book that teaches me – at last count – thirty-two new ways to insult ugly and fat people and ten new swear words, including four new ways to describe a penis and three to describe a vagina, to incorporate into my daily conversations has to have something really good going for it.