Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In The British Tradition

I can always tell when an author wrote/writes for Black Lace - their "mainstream" books don't make my eyes cross. Such is the case with the erotic romance I just wrapped up:

The Basics: Double Dare by Saskia Walker, the author's first full length novel published by Berkley Heat.

The Plot: Abby Douglas is an investment advisor working for a high-powered London firm. While out near the reception desk, she flirts with a very sexy courier she first spied in the elevator. He thinks Abby is the receptionist, and she doesn't correct him. She's had bad luck with men turning tail and running when they find out she's a very successful career gal. And this guy is totally delish.

The guy is actually club owner Zac Bordino who is really no courier. His mother just happens to be Abby's newest client. Zac's mother, being in failing health, convinces her son to oversee the family portfolio. It's when he looks over that portfolio that he learns that Abby Douglas is no secretary. But why would she lie to him? Was it innocent enough or is she up to something more nefarious?

The Good: While the plot would seem to suggest that the reader is in for miscommunication and a big misunderstanding, that's not how the author writes it. Abby and Zac don't sit around brooding in their internal angst. Frankly, they're too busy having fun - and by fun I mean hot, sweaty sex and plenty of it.

This author obviously earned her stripes writing for the smaller erotica presses. The sex here is sexy and hot without being kinky and weird. Actually, it's pretty standard stuff, which by no means implies that it's boring! What makes it so good is that Zac and Abby are really consumed by each other. They cannot stop thinking about each other, which ultimately leads to several steamy encounters involving minimal clothing. So many authors get the sex wrong in erotica because (well I think anyway) they get confused by the label. Erotica does not mean Everything-And-The-Kitchen-Sink-Sex. It just means it should be hot, fun, sexy, adventurous and allow the characters the explore their fantasies. But that's just me.

The ending is also very well done. When the truth comes spilling out, both Zac and Abby admit that they didn't handle things well. There's no angst. There's no big blow-up. There's no stamping of feet and pounding of fists.

Oh, and there's a very nice romance between Zac's best friend and the real receptionist at Abby's firm. It's kind of sweet actually - they hook up thanks to a Motorhead T-shirt. Name a traditional romance novel that would try something like that and I'll eat my shoe.

The Bad: The conflict here is really thin, and I mean really thin. Even at only 280 pages, this novel feels too long. Walker's backlist is littered with quite a few novellas and it shows. She tries to pad things a bit with the secondary romance and Abby's sneaky coworkers but it just isn't enough.

Final Grade: B-, a promising first full-length novel. I'd be more than willing to read this author again.


Maili said...

"I can always tell when an author wrote/writes for Black Lace - their "mainstream" books don't make my eyes cross."

Could you elaborate on that, please? (FWIW, I thought Emma Holly was a Brit for ages because of her writing style, so imagine my surprise when I discovered she wasn't. :D )

Wendy said...

For me, Black Lace = "real" erotica. Personally, I think they're the one publisher who really "gets it." Since erotica has hit the mainstream, a lot of publishers (IMHO) have jumped on the bandwagon without doing enough homework - which I think is why I'm finding a lot of these more "mainstream" efforts half-baked.

And while you can find Black Lace titles in bookstores here in the U.S. - I would say their presence was rather limited until recent months (right around the time they revamped their cover art I started noticing them more in bookstores). So I never really thought of Black Lace as "mainstream" here - mainly because the only readers who knew about them were the erotica fans. Of course, Virgin Books is looking to change that - hence the new cover art and the more visible presence I'm seeing in bookstores of late.

Clear as mud right?