Ellora’s Cave, $5.95, ISBN 1-84370-688-7
Fantasy Erotica, 2003
You’re still just a child, Roni. I’m a man. Mature and needing more of a woman to fulfill the needs I have. Someone old enough to understand those needs, not a ripe little virgin. Go home. You’re just a little girl playing with something you and I both know you can’t handle. Upon reflection, I’ve decided it’s best that our friendship terminate. I’m sick of rescuing you. Sick of the burden you’ve placed on me to protect you. Learn to protect yourself, and how to grow up. I have no idea how to raise a child, and I don’t want to start with you. Taber.
Ooh, burn. Sure, the tone of the note is not exactly full of sunshine, but the take-home message is something many useless heroines in this genre need to hear. When Veronica Andrews first knew Taber Williams, she was this emotionally needy, down in her luck young lady bent on a path that will only lead to a bad end, and she wasn’t changing anything because of daddy issues. Sure, she thought she was so sassy and cute, but she always needed Taber to help her out, give her a place to crash, and generally being a barnacle on his rear end. So, I’m glad to see him give her the middle finger and tell her to grow up.
Only, he doesn’t really mean it, so ugh indeed. He ditched her for her own good, you see, and before he left, he sort of unknowingly left her a sore-like mark that made her his mate, and that’s why five months later Roni is incapable of getting horny for any other man. Yes, really – she feels physically ill each time she tries to touch another bloke even innocently. Sexy, huh? I guess love is like herpes with these Breed types, but in a good way, and divorce is going to be really awkward.
Roni is annoyed when people spot her mark and start harassing her as to whom her mate is. How dare Taber leaves her in this situation? To be fair to him, she has been deliberately avoiding him after receiving his letter, so he decides to be a nice guy and stay away if that is what she wants. He’s been stalking her and spying on her from afar, though, and now he realizes that he can’t stay away anymore. Mating fever is too hot, you see, and he has to stick it in ASAP or they will both explode from sexual frustration or something.
The bad guys conveniently decide to show up, giving Taber an excuse to have his buddies drag Roni off to a secluded cottage where they can finally give the people who buy this thing the very thing they bought the thing for. Hurrah to the bad guys!
The Man Within is very similar to the previous entry Tempting the Beast in that once Roni gets horny due to mating fever, her biology basically forces her to lie there to take it and to let various people take all kinds of tissue samples from her to check whether she’s not going to grow mutant rashes or something, I guess. To be fair, Taber gets checked out and biopsied often, too, because sex in this story seems more like a laboratory experiment as much as it is just hormones and biology working to make it seem like once you are mated, you need to have sex 57 times a day or die. All the mating fever thing basically robs the main characters of any agency, thus making the sex scenes to be of somewhat dubious nature when it comes to consent and what not.
“What else do I have to look forward to?” he grunted. “First I rape my mate, now I’m in Frankenstein’s lab jacking off. Are we having fun yet?”
At least we can laugh at this, I guess?
“Conception.” Roni froze at the other woman’s words. “It’s the only thing that stills the heat. But you won’t be free of Taber, even then. Nature is a little smarter than we’ve given her credit for here. You and Taber will never be able to separate. You’ll always be a part of him, through the child you conceive as well as the hormone that will never completely leave your body. You’re his mate. Forever.” Roni stared at the other woman for a long, silent minute. If Merinus didn’t look so serious, Roni would have laughed in her face. Unfortunately, this just didn’t feel like a good time to find amusement in a situation rapidly bordering nightmare quality.
See, even the heroine is like, this isn’t fun, people. I suppose the fantasy comes from eventually finding some kind of joy in being trapped into this forced relationship – he’s hot, and perhaps that is some kind of consolation – but I personally find it hard to enjoy the love scenes when the main characters, especially the heroine, act like they really aren’t having a good time once the orgasm is over and they are back on earth.
As for the plot, we have a bit more intrigue here involving assassins and what not, but once again, the whole arc involving the Genetics Council is so underdeveloped that I have no idea of and no interest in what is happening. The threat against the Breeds is still on the vague scene, and the action scenes seem to be plonked in to pad the pages while the main characters recover from their last shag.
I don’t know, I just can’t get into this one because the two main characters more often than not behave and feel like the last thing they want is to be stuck to one another. Sex here doesn’t seem fun, it feels more like the result of a forced plot device to make two characters bump groins together no matter what. In the end, I’m just relieved that love and lust aren’t like this in real life – a sure sign that The Man Within doesn’t work for me.