Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Once Upon a Moonlit Night

Once upon a time Harlequin had a digital shorts line called Spice Briefs and I read a lot of them.  I like to read short anyway, but it's a format that works exceedingly well for me in erotica.  Back in 2009 I read one called Tonight, My Love by Tracie Sommers and it warped my fragile little mind.  A rarity in erotic romance circles, it was an F/F/M story and holy hot Batman!  Then I got to the ending.  An ending I was totally not prepared for.  Harlequin had always claimed that the Spice lines weren't necessarily "romance" - but c'mon, 99% of them were and those that weren't at least skated around the edges.  But Tonight, My Love?  Let's just say it was "erotic horror" and leave it at that.  Needless to say we're talking 8 years since I read it the first time and that story is still burned into my consciousness.

About a year later the author wrote another Spice Briefs, Blame It On the Moonlight, which was a more conservative werewolf story.  I liked it, but then Sommers went back to writing urban fantasy under her Tracey O'Hara name. The rights to both of these short stories have since reverted back to her and she's self-published them as a duology retitled Once Upon A Moonlit Night, which includes an alternate ending for Tonight, My Love.

Once...in a Whitechapel Alley (originally published as Tonight, My Love)

Andrew and Isabelle are a genteel couple who like to bring third parties into their bedroom.  They're cruising the streets of Whitechapel looking for a willing girl when Isabelle spies Lizzie.  A former maid, Lizzie was fired by the mistress of the house when she found out the master was "visiting" the help.  Lizzie is not an experienced prostitute by any means, but she has no money, is hungry and figures she might as well get paid for what the master was taking from her for free.  She's reluctant to go off with Andrew and Isabelle, what with Jack the Ripper on the loose, but they convince her - sending her to sexual heights she never would have imagined.

This is the version of the story that O'Hara slaps with the alternate ending and the romance reader in me likes it.  That said, she keeps the original epilogue in place, which mainly just serves to leave a big ol' question mark.  It's one of those stories where the reader is left with the feeling of "Wait a minute...."  On one hand I like it - because it allows the reader to create the ending they want for the story.  But then, now 8 years removed and totally prepared for the original ending?  I think I prefer that one.  It's just edgier and more shocking.  While I was horrified at the time I read it, looking back I really appreciated it.  I mean, honestly?  It was stunning.  If you can swing with the "erotic horror" thing?  The original ending has more bite and luckily O'Hara includes it at the end of the digital file - so readers get BOTH versions.

Once....in a Midnight Forest (originally published as Blame It On the Moonlight)

Jaz envisioned a romantic getaway to the cabin she inherited from her grandfather with her fiance.  Too bad he brought along his drunken fratbros, their playthings of the moment, and she spied her fiance banging his BFF's latest bimbo of the moment behind the tool shed.  Needless to say, she is unthrilled.  She runs off into the woods, alone, to think.  And that's when a wolf, with strangely human eyes, finds her.  The wolf is Lucas, her first love and the boy who gave her her first kiss.  Sparks immediately fly, hot times in the woods quickly follow, and Jaz learns of a family secret.

This is more of a traditional erotic romance story and it's a fast mover.  Jaz and Luca pick up right where they left off, and O'Hara speeds things along with mind-blowing sex and a soul mates themes.  Yes, yes, Wendy normally hates, abhors and wants to burn all soul mate themes to the ground.  But in this instance at least O'Hara does something interesting with it.  It's not a foregone conclusion.  In other words, the author does not strip her characters of free will.  They have to make the choice to bond together and become soul mates.  And you know what?  That works for me.

These are super short stories and likely won't work for some readers for that reason, but I loved revisiting these.  Erotica works well for me when it's served in bite-size pieces and O'Hara makes interesting choices in both of these stories.  Not for everybody, but if you're looking for some quick heat and to potentially have your mind blown - well look no further.

Final Grade = B

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