Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Theory

It's really a disservice to call Megan Hart just an "erotica writer." Oh sure, she writes hot sex. The kind of sex that peels wallpaper. The kind of sex that would cause my father to stroke out if he knew what I was reading. Erotica, at it's core, titillates. That's part of it's "job." Megan Hart's erotica, at least for me, is not about titillation. It's about relationships, how people behave within those relationships, and how those interactions change over the course of the story. Sex is a catalyst.

Anne Kinney adores her husband, James. They have a great life together. In love, with an enjoyable sex life, and a house on the lake, they are the couple that has it all. Then, one day, James gets a call from his old school buddy Alex Kennedy. After spending years in Asia making a gazillion dollars, Alex has sold his company and is headed back to the states. The plan is to spend a few weeks playing house guest at the Kinney home, but when Alex arrives with his smooth charm, infectious smile, and flirtatious manner, one thing leads to another. Soon Alex is sharing their bed, and complications ensue.

Menage a trois in the erotic romance universe have become so common place that they're giving Greek billionaires, virgin heroines, and secret babies a run for their money. The problem I have had with many of these books is that they use the menage a trois for titillation purposes only. Human beings are emotionally messy creatures. Sooner or later, no matter how hard we try, we are unable (or unwilling) to keep our emotions in check. We aren't machines. No matter how many times we say, "it's just sex" or "let's just have fun" - sooner or later someone mucks up the works by thinking and feeling too much.

Which is what happens in Tempted.

Anne truly believes she has the perfect life with her husband. It's not until Alex shows up, stirring the pot, that she realizes that no, it's not. Anne has spent her life trying to make everything better for everybody else. She wants to "fix" everything and everyone. Whether it be her shrewish mother-in-law, her drunken father, or her three sisters, all of whom have divergent personalities. It's Anne's job to put the shiny finish on everybody's lives. To make it all look perfect, even though it's anything but.

Tempted is the story of how Anne changes once Alex enters her life, how it effects her marriage, and how it effects her relationships with the other people in her life. If that sounds like a mountain of internal conflict, it is. And for that reason, it also means this book has a slow pace. I adore Hart's writing, and I love how her books challenge me, but this one takes a while to find some momentum. Anne doesn't have her first sexual encounter with Alex until almost halfway through the novel. Certainly some build-up is necessary, but after a while I was like, "OK, any day now." I became impatient waiting for "it" to happen so we could get on to the consequences.

I didn't love Tempted the way I loved Dirty or Broken, but honestly that's just me splitting hairs. Hart continues to use sex to explore relationships, the choices (good and bad) that people make, and how those choices impact lives. I never feel like I'm sleepwalking through a Megan Hart novel, and Tempted keeps that tradition alive.

Final Grade = B+.


Kristie (J) said...

I've had Broken for a while now and I really need to start reading it. Tempted is a bit past my barriers, but if I like Broken - hey I'm ready to make them bigger. I've heard such good things about her writing.

AuthorM said...

Wendy -- thanks so much for reading Tempted and taking the time to review it. And for the kind words about Dirty and Broken. :) I really appreciate it!

Tempted was written in the summer. Laaazy summer. Maybe that's why it's slower. :)

Happy New Year and again, thank you for reading!!


Robin said...

Am I the only person who thinks this sounds a lot like Sex, Lies, and Videotape gone threesome?

I loved Dirty, still liked but had some issues with Broken, and will read this one, but I kind of hope Hart wows me with a new take on the "woman finds her perfect life an illusion" storyline. And I definitely hope I can read it without a mental image of Andie McDowell talking about all that abandoned garbage, lol.

Wendy said...

Robin: Ya know - I've never seen SL&VT. My excuse? I was too young to see it when it was first released, and I've just never gotten around to watching it. I'll take your word for it though :)

Megan: You're welcome! Your books have been the highlight of my Year In Reading 2007 (future blog posts in the works on that subject).

Kristie: I do so hope you like Broken. That book was an emotional punch in the gut for me - so says the girl who doesn't "cry" over books. Just keep in mind that it ain't a romance novel (nor does it try to be) and you'll be OK....

Robin said...

OMG Wendy, part of me wants to insist you see SLV (it really is a great film and James Spader is creepy and sexy and oh so powerful) but another part thinks you're lucky you didn't see it before you read Tempted, lol.

Rosie said...

Your review is so close to my conversation with my sister about this book that instead of writing the review I think I'll be lazy and link to yours.

I love that Ms. Hart addresses the messiness of human emotion with this fling. Again, I also had many things that I personally identified with like Anne's penchant to be the fixer. *raising hand* Guilty, your Honor.

Yes, slower paced I agree, but aces on the reveal of human emotions. Also, not what I would call a traditional HEA, but an honest one to be sure. Hey, this is so long maybe I'll just cut and paste it as my review and STILL link to yours.

Wendy said...

I don't care that he's a creepy looking yuppie - I love me some James Spader.

I think that's where Hart excels - in writing about the messiness of human emotion. I really feel the whole menage thing has been done to death in erotic fiction, but I love it when authors can treat it with honesty. Humans aren't robots. We do have a tendency to "feel" whether we want to or not.