Secrets Vol. 4 anthology

>> Monday, July 30, 2007

TITLE: Secrets Vol. 4
AUTHORS: Jeanie Cesarini, Desirée Lindsey, Betsy Morgan & Susan Paul and Emma Holly.

PAGES: 222
PUBLISHER: Red Sage Publishing

SETTING: Contemporary for the Cesarini and for the Morgan and Paul story, historical for the Lindsay and fantasy for the Holly.
TYPE: Erotic romance
SERIES: Only the Cesarini, which is a sequel to another story, published in the previous Secrets volume.

REASON FOR READING: Purely for the Emma Holly story. I've liked what she does with paranormals and fantasy romance, and I believe this was her first try at it.


Jeanie Cesarini is a pseudonym for Jeanie London. I've read a couple of the Blaze books published under the London name, but An Act of Love was my first for the Cesarini name.

Shelby Moran’s past haunts her and has left her terrified of sex. International film star Jason Gage is hired to gently coach the young starlet in the ways of love. He wants more than an act — he wants Shelby to feel true passion in his arms.
As I mentioned above, this story is a spin-off from the one in the previous Secrets anthology. From the beginning, we know that the heroine, up-and-coming Hollywood actress Shelby Morgan, went through some traumatic experiences in that other story, when she was a teen. We're not told exactly what happened until much later, but it has left her with some problems. Sexual situations spark off panic attacks, and that includes acting in the sex scenes in her latest movie.

Jason Gage is a former Hollywood star and well-known acting coach who's retired, got a degree in psychology and now teaches in a university. He's pressured by the director from Shelby's movie into coaching her through her traumas, but the minute he meets her, he doesn't just want to teach her to act through her fears. What he wants is for her to really get over her problem and learn how to enjoy sex -with him.

The plot is of the "oh, please" variety. How much more unprofessional can a psychologist get? And we don't really get much character development before Jason and Shelby hit the sack, so the sex wasn't as erotic as it could have been. On the plus side, though, both of them were pleasant people and clearly liked each other from the very beginning, which made this a painless story to read. And even though Jason is 15 years older than Shelby, I never got a dirty-old-man vibe from him.

I'll give a it a C, then.

The next story, Enslaved, was written by an author I'd never heard of: Desirée Lindsey.

Lady Crystal Halverton is in turmoil. Lord Nicholas Summer’s air of danger, dark passions, and irresistible charm have brought her long-hidden desires to the surface. Will he be able to give her the one thing she desires before it’s too late?
I'm marking this one down as a DNF, but really, it was more like a PDES (Practically Didn't Even Start). I went uh-oh right at the dedication:

To my reader:

Everyone loves a good, angst-filled love story and adore (yes, "adore", without an s) a tender, provocative hero. Here's to vulnerable alpha heroes -to a sensate adventure with Nicholas and Crystal, their undying love, fierce passion, and all things as brilliant as his gift to her...

I give you award-winning seduction -may your hearts be Enslaved.
I read 4 or 5 pages and the writing style was just as overwrought and purple as the dedication. Plus, the plot seems to be that perennial favourite of bodice-ripper authors: the heroine who can't conceive with her husband and, with his encouragement, goes to another man to get impregnated. Definitely not a favourite of mine, so I wasn't going to waste my time trying.

Next, a collaboration: The Bodyguard by Betsy Morgan and Susan Paul

Kaki York is a bodyguard, but watching the wild, erotic romps of her client’s sexual conquests on the security cameras is getting to her — and her partner, the ruggedly handsome James Kulick. Can she resist his insistent desire to have her?
Another DNF (and I'm starting to get worried), but at least I read half the story this time.

The plot description above is pretty accurate: Kaki is hired to be a bodyguard to nymphomaniac actress Alana Manley, who's recently acquired a stalker. The hero, James, is Alana's chauffer, who's more than qualified as a bodyguard himself. Alana's entire appartment has been wired with hidden cameras and about the point where I stopped reading, Kaki and James are starting to have to use them for surveyance, even while Alana's having vigorous sex.

I'm not much into voyeurism, but I guess this could have been interesting, if only I hadn't gotten bored waiting for the story to start. As of the midway point of the story, I don't think we've spent more than a couple of pages where hero and heroine are front and center. It's been all long and unexciting sex scenes between Alana and her latest conquest. I'm getting tired of saying this, but watching characters I don't know or care about getting it on? Not erotic to me, no matter how kinky the actual acts involved are. Plus, in the one scene in which we see Kaki and James together he acts like a sexist jerk, all angry because a woman can't be a bodyguard. Idiot.

As you might imagine, after these stories, getting to the Emma Holly felt like a prize for good behaviour. The Love Slave was the title.

A woman’s ultimate fantasy. For one year, Princess Lily will be attended to by three delicious men of her choice. While she delights in playing with the first two, it’s the reluctant Grae, with his powerful chest, black eyes and hair, that stirs her desires.
It felt like a prize not just because it was an Emma Holly, but because of the plot. A fantasy of a matriarchal land, where the princess is served by her personal Love Guard, three men she choses among hundreds and over whom she has total power? In Emma Holly's hands, it sounds like it could be deliciously dirty. Erotica about sexually dominant men bores me, but switch the roles and give it to a talented author, and it just might work.

Thing is, the roles aren't switched here. Not really. Not at all, in the case of one of the Love Guards. Princess Lily technically has total power over Col, Ian and Grae. Col and Ian are fine with it, but Grae isn't and Lily just doesn't have it in her to assert herself. I stopped reading after he spanks her. Yes, her slave spanks her. Pissed me off. Too bad, because it had started well, and the sex scenes, at least, were yummy.

*Sigh*. Yes, another DNF.

I think this was probably the weakest anthology I've ever read. One very blah but inoffensive story, three I couldn't bear to finish. That adds up to a D- in my book.


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