After a quality dip in Volume 10, Volume 11 is back on track, although I had my initial concerns. It kept my fingers busy... turning pages, of course!
Masquerade by Jennifer Probst
Hailey, the main character wants to get layed by a man she never met, the boss of an international software company.
Advice: Skip the first 12 or 15 pages and get right to the hea(r)t of the matter. My main complaint is a common failing: Why write a pretense of a European setting if everyone and everything looks, smells, and sounds American generic? With all the great French, Italian, and Scandanavian singers, why is everyone in Italy listening to American schmaltz? Why specify a software company (obviously not the author's long suit) when Europe is hardly known for software? Why does the main character fail to catch on that a supposedly sophisticated European speaks with American colloquialisms? It's not European and the setting may as well be Lake Como in Minnesota instead of Europe's largest lake. I know this rant is about meaningless stage dressing for a fantasy, but it annoys me, and perhaps it's unfairly apparent because two other authors in the volume do foreign settings well.
The heroine was hard to take at first. She is a severely sexually conflicted woman so ditzy she seems less likely to consumate an anonymous international love affair than end up as a corpse by the side of the road.
However, along about the 18th page, the story takes off. The masquerade's Phantom (a colleague who has fallen in love with her, impressed by her sympathy during his marriage collapse and willing to overlook her serious religious hangups), turns her toward a couple on a stairway where the man is stroking the bare privates of a woman. The Phantom tells her she is to be as open with him as the woman's legs. At last the author is in her element, and she's a mistress of it. She is not at all afraid of graphic description. The sexual submissivess of the main character was delicious. Unlike some characters we've seen, she's not afraid to pleasure a man, and find pleasure in being actively oral. Ahh.
From there on out, I leaned back, [...] The trappings of the story deserve about 2 stars, but the sex gets a full 6.
Ancient Pleasures by Jess Michaels
Wow. I made the mistake of flipping through this part of the book at Borders, when I suddenly found myself aroused. I paid and ran home. I read it quickly and later on I read it more slowly to my husband. He also found this story 'uplifting'.
The trick of seduction is to get characters to suspend inhibitions, and the author does it quickly and cleverly. Within 5 pages or so, her characters get to it, and without food, water (except for a dip), or a bathroom break, they continue right up to the end. The range of 'festivities' is also broad, so varied amazon might not let me list them. I did wonder how the inexperienced heroine had [...], but no big deal. Isabella is not a passive character, but actively works up not only her own pleasure, but that of Jake as well. She is not afraid to touch herself or touch him, and both are deliciously oral.
My other compliment is that when Jess Michaels depicts foreigners she rarely makes the mistake of making them sound American. Her scene is obviously a fragment of imagination, but she does it well, giving it a 'real' feel.
The story is superbly explicit and the sex deserves more than the 5 star limit.
Manhunt by Kimberly Dean
Unlike the other stories which are set in imaginative time or space, Manhunt could have taken place next door with a male character good enough to eat. Also different is that it feels nearly book length and even includes an epilog. Finally, you should read Secrets volume 9 FIRST.
You just know that any book that book starts with a guy catching a wet, naked woman is promising. Fortunately, the author keeps her promise.
The premise is both crazy enough and good enough for a TV movie: An innocent man seizes the prosecutor, Taryn (I love that name!) who convicted him, and wants her to prove his innocence. Fortunately for us one-handed readers, he may not have been guilty of the crime, but he's not innocent at all.
The story really plays to those of us with captive fantasies. Oooo. I want to read this one to my husband.
Wake Me by Angela Knight
Whew! Wet dreams for women! This story is a twist on the fairy tale princess kissing the frog. It also is a story about a picture, a picture of a knight given a woman who begins to encounter him in her sleep, a knight who whispers 'wake me'. The knight, Randolf, it turns out, is held captive by a kind of witch in the frame and awaits release, but he doesn't wait passively. He and his 'victim' jump through time and space in all the romance novel settings imaginable, including a literal bodice-ripping.
The story gets right what other authors sometimes get wrong: she makes you 'feel' you really are in a castle, a pirate ship, or an Old West setting. It is light and self-mocking. It pokes fun at political correctness, romance writing, and even our lust for submissive pleasure. However, the sex is explicit, just the way we love it. I found myself wanting to see the author do a good 'blistering' scene, but the bondage is pretty damn fine.
Should an 'average' man happen to pick up this story, he is likely to feel inadequate. The author is obviously a believer in 'bigger is better', at least in men and Chloe's first 'taste' of him will fulfill your oral fantasies. (The story initially suggests she doesn't like oral sex which left me wondering if that might have been the unspoken reason her relationship with Chris bombed, but suddenly she loves it with the blond Viking.)
Although this didn't seem as sexual as the other stories, it is the best written. It's not as long as the others, but it has the most depth. It gave good balance and was a lovely ending to the book. Gimme, gimme... but don't wake me!
To turn a phrase around, a thousand words are worth a picture. At about 10 cents per thousand word picture, this story and this volume 11 of Secrets is a bargain.