Cooking Up A Storm by Emma Holly. I didn't come up for air until I had inhaled every glorious word of it. I then, predictably, went out and bought up as much "romantic" erotica as I could find, which back in those days wasn't much. I tried authors indiscriminately, with varying success. I enjoyed some books in those heady first days that I'm not sure would work for me if I were reading them for the first time now - a good 10+ years after discovering the sub genre. That's how I can explain my experience reading The Initiation of Ms. Holly by KD Grace. Had I read this book 10+ years ago I think I would have loved it. But now? There wasn't quite enough here to set my jaded erotic reading soul on fire.
Rita Holly is on a malfunctioning train, trapped in a tunnel, and she's claustrophobic. She's very close to a full-blown panic attack when she finds herself alone in a secluded corner with Edward. Edward who rocks her world and gives her the orgasm of a lifetime. All without knowing what the heck he looks like. But she does get his digits. When he throws her a text and invites her to dinner at the mysterious and very exclusive club, The Mount, she jumps at the chance to see him again. Instead she finds herself dining with a masked Edward, and partaking in various party favors with others in attendance. She's eventually offered an initiation into The Mount. All she has to do is endure a series of various humiliations while the villain dances behind the scenes. But for a chance to boink Edward again? Rita is just about ready to do anything.
This story reminded me a lot of books I read during my early erotic reading days. There's a whole lot of sex, and not a whole lot else. Doing a quick perusal at various online review venues, I've seen some readers liken this to "porn" and say there "isn't much plot." Oh, there's a plot. It is a little on the thin side, but there's enough plot to sustain a full-length novel. No, the problem with this story is character development. There isn't much. Certainly not enough to explain actions, and the inaction, of various characters.
I get it. Great sex can melt your brain. No, really - I get that. What I don't get, and is never really explained, is why Rita would be willing to go through the humiliation she does (two words: chastity belt) after one hot encounter with Edward. Especially since Edward isn't exactly forthcoming about, well, anything. There's also a total absence of free will in this story. As in, none of the characters seem to have it. Naturally we have a villain. A villain who rules over The Mount and it's members like her own personal fiefdom. She's also outnumbered. The only thing keeping her in charge is that the other members haven't tossed her out on her butt. Why haven't they done so? I don't know. Obviously she's a dominant personality, I get that. I also get that such sexual relationships have a whole mess of psychology behind them, plus there's a whole "secret society"-thing going on. But really? She's a bitch, she's making everyone miserable, and she's still there.....because, why again? Seriously, jellyfish have more spine.
In the end I just didn't know enough about these people and there wasn't enough on the page to explain why they acted the way they did, why they made the choices they did. What I did get was enough sex to make my God-fearing grandmother roll over in her grave. Seriously, every single chapter and about the only kink the author doesn't explore is bestiality. You name it, it's probably in this book.
Which means it all boils down to what you want out of your erotica. If all you're looking for is a bunch of sex that features plenty of variety? This one will more than satisfy. I can see a reader whose only experience with erotic-anything is Fifty Shades picking up this book and having their mind blown. However as a seasoned erotica reader, this wasn't really enough for me. I wanted more. At this stage in my reader development I'm really in it for the characters more so than just getting a bunch of hot sex. Don't get me wrong, hot sex is great and all sorts of fun - but it's just not enough anymore.
Final Grade = C