All U Can Eat, by Emma Holly

>> Thursday, August 24, 2006

More and more, I'm realizing I prefer very hot mainstream, vanilla romance rather than all-out, no-holds-barred erotica. However, there are a couple of authors for whom I make an exception, and one of them is Emma Holly. Her erotica works just as well for me as her more mainstream romance does... the same things that don't work at all for me in other writers' work are just perfect in an Emma Holly. All U Can Eat (excerpt) is a good example.

A tale of sex, lies, and big, juicy burgers . . .

Sassy diner owner Frankie Smith just lost the battle to keep her wandering boyfriend home, a fact everyone in her small Southern California town is happy to comment on. With looks like hers--and never mind her mean mesquite fries--she's soon swimming in offers to cheer her up. But when a local society girl turns up dead behind her diner, and Frankie becomes the prime suspect, it looks like world-weary cop, Jack West, might have the inside track!
All U Can Eat was pure steamy fun, with a perfect blend of romance, hot sex and a neat mystery. A B+.

Frankie Smith owns a diner in the Southern California town of Six Palms and has a good life. But things start getting complicated when her boyfriend, Troy, suddenly leaves her for another woman (after some truly excellent sex, to add insult to injury), and the new couple start parading together all around town. To make things worse, a body turns up in the alley behind Frankie's diner, and there are some indications the victim might have been mistaken for Troy's new girlfriend, which makes Frankie a suspect.

Jack West is Six Palm's chief of police, and he's long had a bit of a crush on Frankie. He hasn't found the nerve to approach her yet, but as the murder case gets more and more complicated, and as surprising revelation after surprising revelation start coming out, Jack and Frankie finally get together.

The first thing I should mention, because this is something that might be an issue for many readers, is that we see Frankie doing a bit of sexual exploration before she gets involved with Jack. There's Troy (which, strictly speaking, doesn't really count, because when we see them having sex they're actually still in a relationship), there's the mysterious, tortured stranger with whom Frankie engages in some rebound sex, right after Troy leaves her, there's the two bi-sexual owners of a local garage with whom she has a threesome... you get the picture.

It didn't bother me at all. I have to say, though, I was glad to see those sexual explorations limited to the heroine. I don't mind seeing the heroine exploring her sexuality with other people, but I tend not to like seeing the hero sleeping with someone else, even before he and the heroine get involved (not that I refuse to read a book that has this element, or that I've never enjoyed one. I'm just talking in general). Yes, yes, I have double standards when it comes to this. I know it, and you know what? I'm reading romance for pleasure, so I see no reason to try and change it. I'll just stick to what I like in this area. Anyway, I actually liked that Frankie had no problem sleeping with whomever she was attracted to, and that she didn't torture herself about it. And, even better, she's not punished for it by the author!

Also, however much I've enjoyed Holly's more open relationships in the past, I liked that when Frankie and Jack do get together, they are faithful to each other. And I loved their relationship. I loved that Jack had had a crush on her forever, and I loved how he was much less "perfect" (older, more tired) than Frankie's partners earlier in the book. And of course, he's a bit vulnerable about that.

The mystery is not the focus here, but it was lots of fun. It was very intriguing, and very sexually charged itself, too. The people in Six Palms, California sure do have interesting sex lives, and we get to hear all about them! ;-)

Coming out next November, Prince of Ice, which is set in the same universe as The Demon's Daughter. Yay!


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