French Quarter, by Lacey Alexander

>> Monday, September 04, 2006

French Quarter (excerpt) is my first book by author Lacey Alexander. It was published by Ellora's Cave, and it's the first in the Hot in the City trilogy.

When Liz Marsh hires P.I. Jack Wade to find out if her fiancé is cheating on her, she has no idea she's about to embark upon a sexual odyssey through New Orleans' steamy French Quarter. Raised to be a prim, conservative woman, it takes Jack's sizzling sexuality to make Liz shed her old self and release the secret woman inside her, a woman who seeks every sensual adventure she can find. With Jack on her arm and the decadence of Bourbon Street beckoning, Liz's sexual daring knows no bounds.
I've been going through a streak of not-so-good books lately, and I'm afraid French Quarter was one of them. Like with One Forbidden Evening, I wish I'd liked this one better, because it had certain things I appreciated very much, but ultimately, it bored me, so I'm going to have to go with a C+.

The book starts with what I thought was a silly twit alert. Liz Marsh's fiancé has been acting weird lately, coming home very late from work, and so on, and Liz suspects he might be cheating on her. Before she confronts him, Liz wants to confirm her suspicions, so she decides to hire a PI to follow him around. Through a friend's recommendation, Liz decides to hire Jack Wade. So far so good.

And here came what made me groan: she gets it into her head that she cannot bear to let this PI (who she hasn't even met, remember, and who she suspects will probably be a paunchy, burnt-out old guy) think that she's a loser because she suspects her fiancé could be cheating on her. Therefore, she will dress up sexy (see-through blouse, that kind of thing) so that the guy will think her fiancé is crazy for cheating on such a bombshell of a woman.

Fortunately, the book doesn't continue in the same idiotic vein. Jack, the PI in question, who happens to be young and hot, is so impressed by this sexy lady that he takes the case, even though he's stopped doing adultery cases years ago. He follows the fiancé, sees that he's spending his evenings in a strip club, even going into the private rooms with some of the women, and takes some photos. But since the photos come out a bit too dark and don't convince Liz 100% that the man with the bare-breasted woman in his lap is actually her fiancé, she insists in going to the strip club and seeing for herself.

And here starts Liz's change from shy and proper "good girl" to adventurous sex kitten. She and Jack embark on a journey of sexual exploration, which includes from girl-girl action in the strip-club to a threesome with Jack's best friend, in which Liz is an enthusiastic participant and Jack an extremely supportive and appreciative companion.

I liked that unlike in some other erotica I've read that centers on the heroine stepping out of her comfort zone, I never got the feeling that the hero was somehow pressuring the heroine to do things she didn't feel comfortable with. Not at all: in this case, Liz was the one who took the lead, with Jack enjoying everything very much, yes, but mostly concerned about what Liz would like.

So why a C+? Well, it's simple. I loved the idea of the heroine exploring her sexuality, but the actual explorations involved didn't work for me at all. Unlike the similar scenes in Emma Holly's All U Can Eat, I didn't find these scenes particularly erotic or engaging. In fact, except for some very specific scenes (LOL, no, I'm not going to share exactly which!), I ended up pretty bored by most of them. Many, especially those between Jack and Liz, which should have been developing their relationship, I felt very tempted to skim.

As this might indicate, the romance didn't work for me very well. At the end of the book, I didn't buy that Jack and Liz were in love. In lust, sure, but not in love. And the suspense element with Liz's fiancé who refused to let her go was very weak and didn't add much to the story.

Eh, well, at least it was a quick read!


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