Spice Briefs are the tasty erotica/erotic romance digital short stories published by Harlequin, and it didn't take long after I received my trusty Sony Reader PRS-505 for me to get well and truly hooked. I've reviewed a number of them for TGTBTU and last year I impulsively clicked "buy" on a paranormal historical story, Tonight, My Love by Tracie Sommers (read full review).
Trust me when I say that story warped my fragile lil' mind. It was hot stuff, extremely well done erotica - but the ending? Wowzers. The ending was like stepping outside naked, in a snow storm, breaking through the ice of a frozen lake, and jumping in. I've been reading erotic stories a long time (over 10 years now) and never before had I read a story that turned me on and disgusted me in equal measure. People who review books always say it's the "extreme" stories they remember the most and that's not idle chatter. I slapped it with a D-, but to this day I still remember that story and my reaction to it. I also remember how difficult that review was to write. Naysayers, it is possible to write your reviews without spoilers. If I could do it with that story, it can be done with any story.
The author took the time to drop me an e-mail to say she actually liked my review. I'm not sure how she felt about that D-, but she knew when she wrote that story that people were going to have an extreme reaction to. They were either going to love it, or hate it with the heat of a thousand blazing suns. Trust me, there is absolutely no in-between. While I certainly fell closer to the "hate it" camp - I was so damn impressed by the reaction her story was able to wring out of me that when she offered to send me a copy of her upcoming release, I said "Hell yeah!"
Blame It On the Moonlight is a much more traditional story that sits firmly on the erotica-as-fantasy platform. The heroine has just caught her sleaze-bag fiance' boinking a skanky Barbie-doll clone, so she hightails it to the woods surrounding her grandfather's cabin to be alone. That's when she has an encounter with a very large wolf. He appears friendly at first, but something in his all-too-human-looking eyes makes her spidey sense tingle. That and her various girly bits. Oooh la la!
Anyone with any experience in paranormal romance knows where this is going. What especially worked well for me was the atmosphere (very gothic-like in the beginning) and the erotic scenes. There are some tinges of lavender prose here, but those erotic moments I admired in Tonight, My Love are equally as strong in this story.
I tend to avoid werewolf stories like the plague because I despise "soul mates," "fated to be mated" and all that nonsense. Color me crazy, but free will is pretty darn sexy. I need the heroine to have some semblance of a "choice," even if all the choices she has stink like 3-week-old fish left rotting in the sun. And this is where Sommers wins me over. Because while we do have the "mate stuff" here, she spins it in such a way that the heroine is not robbed of her free will. Oh happy day! Oh blessed saints! The peasants rejoice!
I know that no author anywhere likes to run up against a negative review, but this is proof positive that they aren't the kiss of death. That first story got a D- from me. Normally a grade like that is enough for me to put an author on my Never Again List. In this instance? My memorable reaction, the author's skill at wringing that reaction out of me, and her response to my response (judging by our e-mail exchange she did not start crafting an army of Little Wendy Voodoo Dolls), moved me to give her a second chance. And I'm glad I did. This was a quick, tasty, steamy (wowzers) story, that had an interesting spin on a trope I normally despise. I know a lot of readers who refuse to read "short" because they feel the stories are somehow "inferior." My response has always been that some authors can, and some cannot. Judging by my reactions to these two short stories? Sommers can.
Final Grade = B
This short story is currently only available as a digital release. It can be purchased at eHarlequin and other fine ebook retail outlets.