Ann Bruce has now made these two sexy short stories available again via the magic of self-publishing. Both have a hint of suspense, and both of them feature enough Sexy Times to peel wallpaper. However one of them worked better for me than the other.
A Naughty Noelle finds Noelle Mason aimlessly wandering through New York City two days before Christmas. She flew into town wanting to surprise her fiance', and instead she got the surprise when she caught him in a compromising position with another woman. She's naturally upset, not paying close attention to her surroundings, and she ends up getting dragged into an alley by a Bad Man. Coming to her rescue is Sergio Ramirez, an undercover cop infiltrating a mob operation. When he's then sold out by a mole in his own department, and wounded in the process? The station house, hospitals - not the best options. So instead he hides out with the woman he met quite be accident. Gee, whatever shall they do to pass the time?
Short stories are not easy to write, and adding on a suspense angle doesn't make it any easier. The entire wrap-up to this aspect of the conflict is saved for "off page" and the nature of Sergio's mission is rather glossed over to begin with. The Sexy Times are certainly sizzling stuff, and I could understand Noelle hopping into bed with Tall, Dark And Mysterious after her pride is wounded over catching her fiance' in flagrante delicto. The problem is the whole time I was reading about these two burning up the sheets (and shower), all I could focus on was the knife wound in Sergio's side that Noelle doctors up the best she can. Sure she runs out and grabs him some "painkillers" - but she strikes me as the sort of heroine who hits up Walgreens, not the guy standing on the corner selling Oxycontin.
Final Grade = C
Rules of Engagement is a slightly longer story that features the ol' Stuck Together In A Cabin theme. The last woman Jake Duquesne had sex with shot him three times in the chest. That was enough for him to start riding a desk and to get away for a little seclusion. He's staying at his cousin's cabin when he stumbles across a woman snooping around outside. Not one to take chances, he knocks her out and handcuffs her to his bed - only to discover that his cousin sent her to the cabin for a little seclusion as well. Seems Dear Ol' Cuz thinks Jake and Katarzyna could heal each others' wounds.
Katarzyna Delaney was recently jilted by Fiance' #3 when he announced he was gay, and took off with his best man. Waking up handcuffed to Jake's bed isn't exactly what she had in mind for her vacation, but heck - as long as she's here, why not see if Jake is willing to help her dispose of her pesky virginity?
This is another story with a suspense thread. The only real quibble I have here is Jake's job is entirely too mysterious. I'm not sure what he is exactly. ATF? PD? FBI? NSA? So readers are treated to another member of the Bad Ass Supah Sekrit Unknown Law Enforcement Agency Of Some Sort that only exists in Romance Novel Land.
The 28-year-old virgin heroine thing is also something that's going to boil down to reader preference. For me, personally? It depends, and here I bought into it. Engaged three times and still a virgin does strain a bit (for me), but three overprotective older brothers who like to butt into her life? I can roll with that.
The Sexy Times are suitably sexy, and even with me not knowing exactly what Jake is, the suspense/danger aspect of this story is handled well in a climactic finish. I can also buy into Katarzyna and Jake as a long-term couple more so than Noelle and Sergio from the other story, hence....
Final Grade = B-