The usual Valentine Review disclaimer applies once more.
Standard Lex Warning:
I often spew spoilers in my enthusiasm. If you hate spoilers just skip down to the bottom to see how many Valentines I gave this book.
I offered to review this book and the editor sent me an ARC. So this book deviates from the others that I review by virtue of the fact that it wasn’t something I just picked up because it sounded good or it was written by a favorite author of mine, although I was encouraged by the fact that Delilah Devlin and Portia Da Costa were in it. They are authors I know and admire.
This book also deviates from my norm because it is a print book. (It is offered in eformat too but the print book is what they sent me.) I pretty much have given up on print books. I love em, but I love my Nookie more. And I get in trouble for adding to the monumental amount of paper books I already have in my house.
Rott said this week, “I was looking for the box with the Christmas stuff and every box I opened had books in it!” Let me tell you, when he saw me ensconce myself in the recliner with my reading glasses, a bottle of water, Louie my faithful acolyte (ie cat) and a PRINT book…his eyes narrowed to evil slits and I knew he was thinking of those boxes and boxes of books in every closet of our little condo.
So to the editor and authors of this book, know you this: I risked the wrath of my DH to read this book and Rott in a snit is a fearsome thing.
One other thing before I start talking about these stories, I am prejudiced. I don’t read stuff without HEAs anymore. I don’t normally enjoy books without HEAs. I like everything all tied up neatly with a bow that says, “I love you” at the end or at least “I think I’m falling in love with you.” This book isn’t really a book that has HEAs. These are truly short stories, vignettes, romantic versions of Penthouse Variations stories, although more perfectly crafted.
I read a ton of those in my 20’s. I have a box of the books to prove it. (Rott never threatens those books like he does my romances.) I had a distinct sense of familiarity when I was reading this book and then Rott mentioned the Variations when he was looking in the closet this week. The lightbulb went on over my head. Once I finished the book, I turned it over and read the back cover, discovering the editor’s connection to Variations which felt rather karmic to me at that point. (Cue the Twilight Zone music.)
My overall impression of Passion is that every single story lived up to the theme. In spades. I didn’t like every single story in the anthology, but that doesn’t matter. My reasons for not liking some of them had nothing to do with how they were crafted. They were mostly personal prejudices including my preference for a HEA. And really, calling this book erotic romance didn’t quite fit the bill to my way of thinking. (Although, how I define genres isn’t necessarily how the publishing industry defines genres.) Some of the stories definitely fit the romance part. To me, others only fit the erotic part with romantic overtones.
An example of this is The Arch of Triumph, a story about a cougar encounter in Paris. Loved the story. Loved the visuals. Loved the sexual tension. Loved the romantic overtones. I’m a cougar. I usually adore cougar stories. But this one had no HEA or even an expectation of one. It was always clear this wasn’t a romance.
That story was awesome and I liked it, but my personal prejudices kept me from adoring it as I did the story of the cop who arranges to have the elevator stop so he has a chance to get back the woman he loves. OMG did I love Third Time’s a Charm. But then, it had a HEA or at least the expectation that one would occur. I wanted to know more about Nick and Lynn, wanted backstory and epilogues to fill out their hot sex and “I love yous.” I felt the same about the two stories about riding public transit, one of which was by Delilah Devlin.
Delilah’s story, The Morning Ride, gives you a taste of two people caught in the same net of attraction and building passion. It focuses on the internals of this couple, the searing heat that builds from the brain and percolates to the groin the longer they watch each other. Plus it had a freaky little twist that I really liked. And I really felt that the couple were headed for the beginning of a relationship that could only have a HEA. I mean, c’mon…freaky little paranormalish twist, yanno.
The other public transit story is An Easy Guy to Fall On by Annabeth Leong. In this story, you get a more traditional sort of boy meets girl with a progression to sex. The passion between Saeed and Ina is in part fueled by what you think are his secrets. She wants to know. You want to know. And when you find out, you just sigh and think, “Awww…”
A couple of the stories take long time couples and reheat them to the boiling point. Rekindle has a hot sweetness that makes you long to brush your finger along the sinew of your man’s forearm or stroke your palm over his jean clad ass. Dear in Headlights makes you feel the urgency of need, needing to be with the man you love so much that you’ll risk sex in public over the hood of a car.
The other two stories I fell in love with were Riding Wild Things and No Risk, No Reward. In Riding Wild Things we have a hero who wants to do right by the woman he’s fallen in love with. He won’t fuck her standing up, out in public where someone could come by. He says the L word. He takes her to his trailer for privacy. He doesn’t want to do her unless she too wants something more than just hot sex. How can you not adore a man who won’t fuck you because he loves you?
In No Risk, No Reward we find a couple who are saying goodbye and the goodbye brings their lives and their hearts sharply into focus. Yes, there’s public sex and yes, it’s hotter than hell. But it’s the anticipation of them both acknowledging that there is something growing between them, something they dare not let get away, that sucks the reader in and makes their heart pound.
Anticipation fills The Efficiency Expert. The anticipation of the hero and heroine. The reader’s anticipation as they wait to discover why the hero had woman trouble. And the anticipation of both the reader and the heroine as they edge closer to the end of the story, neither wanting it to end. And then the hero does what heroes do and he gives in to the possibility of love. *sigh* For a guy who was an asshole at work, this one turns out to be hot, sweet, and full of promise.
So yeah, there were things I didn’t like. And yeah, there were things I liked a lot. But overall, this book delivers. And that’s saying something when you’re dealing with stories this short. They may be short stories, but they are so not short on passion.
As an Epic male I know would say, “Go. Buy it. Buy it NOW.”
Passion: Erotic Romance for Women
Editor: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Publisher: Cleis Press
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Short Stories
Big-Bed Sex by Donna George Storey
My Dark Knight by Jacqueline Applebee
Dear in the Headlights by Angela Caperton
The Cherry Orchard by Wickham Boyle
Autumn Suite by Suzanne V. Slate
Contentions by Isabelle Gray
The Silver Belt by Lana Fox
Five Senses by Rachel Kramer Bussel
The Arc of Triumph by Monica Day
Crave You Close by A.M. Hartnett
Any Easy Guy to Fall On by Annabeth Leong
Lingua Franca by Justine Elyot
Third Time’s the Charm by Charlene Teglia
Riding Wild Things by Lizzy Chambers
No Risk, No Reward by Saskia Walker
If by Emerald
Getting It Right by Teresa Noelle Roberts
The Morning Ride by Delilah Devlin
The Efficiency Expert by Portia Da Costa
Rekindle by Kathleen Bradean