by Delilah Devlin, Lillian Feisty, Allyson James, Sherrill Quinn, Denise Rossetti, and Jory Strong; romantic erotica (2007)
Ellora's Cave, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-4199-1015-9
Ellora's Cavemen: Seasons Of Seduction Volume 1 offers a mixed bag of stories. The first three stories showcase bad comedy sex from authors who probably should consider looking into performing stand-up comedy instead of trying so hard to write erotic romances. At least when they are doing stand-up comedy routines as bad as their stories and I happen to be in the club, I can boo and get instant gratification. I may even get to persuade the club owner to give me a few drinks as compensation, who knows. The last three stories however are enjoyable to read. It's as if the person compiling these stories has a Mr Hyde and then a Dr Jekyll moment during the editorial process.
Delilah Devlin starts the show with Her Lance-alot, where a knight, Lord Roland du Bary, starts off drinking too much, acts like a Neanderthal, and shouts a lot about swiving and all, while the newlywed virginal wife, Margaret, is trying to find ways to delay the inevitable swiving. But somehow the drunk lecherous goon, who claims to have "never bedded a gentlewoman before" (sleeping with whores is now an appealing trait in a hot stud hero, I see - don't mind the Sexual Top Dog or STD!), manages to show her the power of the orgasm so intense that she decides he's not scary but totally shagworthy after all. The rest of the story is about Roland trying to school Margaret in her duties the same way, as he puts it, one would "break a horse to halter". Oh, and the author actually uses the word "mushroom" to describe Roland you-know-what. This is a throwaway story of silly sex with a message: a bath will magically transform your alcoholic ill-tempered husband into a perfect gentleman as well as studly lover who will compare you to his favorite horse. All I can say is, people, don't try this at home.
In Lillian Feisty's Dance Of The Plain Jane, Michael is dragged by his Navy buddies to an Indian restaurant in San Diego Bay to watch this belly dancer that makes Michael feel like he's popcorn popping all over on a hot pan. The belly dancer is Jane who for some reason believes that she will convince the man to stay if she gives him a free quickie against the wall. He's in the Navy - she thinks giving out to him just because he drags her off the floor and takes her against the wall will earn her his respect. He probably does this to many women in seedy places like this, and he clearly respects them more, enough to pay them their fees for services rendered, at least. After all, all Jane gets from the encounter is humiliation. Did I mention that no condoms are used. No disrespect to men in the Navy, but dude, he's from the Navy. Who knows what things he's done and who he's done them with in his shore leave. After all, he shagged a belly dancer in a seedy bar without using any rubber. At any rate, Michael helps Jane piece together her tattered pride by coming back and giving her a ring. She's like, "You're so nice to me just because we shagged! How rude!" All I can say is: everyone in this story is completely bonkers and this story is a waste of my time.
Allyson James' Club Vamp is next. Ghislain Avent Brennan or just Lord Kenelm for short is a vampire who runs a club and has a group of blood slave for his wholesome pleasures. Adam Chase is his PA, best friend, blood bank, and party pinata. They are looking for this woman that is destined to be their playmate but tonight, like always, she doesn't show up. Since the reader is expecting hot sex, Adam and Kenelm put on an undead gay sex show while waiting for that inconsiderate wench to show up and be the tuna filling of their undead sandwich. Helena Girard, a reporter, is on TV and she happens to be wearing an ankh when the two sated undead dudes turn on the TV. Apparently because tattoo of an ankh on her collarbone is proof that she's a reincarnation of his girlfriend and not because, say, she happens to visit a tattoo parlor and like that particular design, Kenelm orders Adam to bring her to him now.
It turns out that Helena is a daughter of Osiris and she can electrocute the guys she is having sex with. No, really, electricity will shoot out from her fingertips - what, you're expecting me to say some other part of her body? - and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "electrifying sex". Before they can short-circuit themselves, the trio are attacked by creatures called the Guardians that show up out of nowhere and I'm like, "Who on earth are these people? Why are they attacking everybody? I thought I'm here to see Helena fry those two to crisp with her magic hot grill vagina!"
So these three run away... to the next apartment or something because they haven't been running for long before they are making electric undead sandwich sex again. Why am I not surprised when Kenelm tells Helena that their magic sex will result in that precious Magic Baby thing? And won't Helena accidentally kill their baby while she's giving birth should those contractions overstimulate her down there and send those sparks cracking? Am I overthinking this nonsense?
The only way this ridiculous story could be saved is if Helena actually shoots electricity from her you-know-what instead of her fingertips during sex because that will be hilarious. Club Vamp is so over-the-top stupid - bad guys show up without explanation and disappear just as fast, the heroine is nothing more than a chalice for the vampire's uber-sperm that will beget on her some kind of Magic Baby, and really, what the heck is this thing again?
Sherrill Quinn's story is Choosing Madison. Madison Marquette - with a name like that, I'm not surprised when the author lets me know that Madison writes "steamy futuristic romance novels", no doubt for Ellora's Cave - and her friend Julia are going to watch While You Were Sleeping and make me unable to watch that movie again without associating it with the taint of this story. Damn. Madison and Julie are good friends who spontaneously launches into conversation about the kind of men they are looking for in their life. You can guess, I'm sure - tall, looks like Fabio, and yet safe and dependable. Then aliens show up to collect Julie, who turns out to be an alien princess, and in the process she wants Madison to come along with her so that Madison can attend Julie's upcoming wedding. Julie's escorts Gaelen Brecca and Leax Ilan turn out to be dead ringers for Fabio that send Madison's personal Ellora's cave all heated up. Apparently the custom of Julie's people is that a woman will have two husbands. Oh, sorry, "husband" is such an unfashionable word". I mean "mates", of course. Oh, and it's marriage, it's "bonding". Take a cheesy space romance complete with overused jargons and multiply the cheese by two and you'll get Chasing Madison. Still, this story actually has a story that flows well, the characters aren't walking braindead Slot A being filled by Tab B, and the heroine, especially, isn't a walking braindead like the heroines in the previous short stories. Thank heavens for small mercies.
Come Howling - I think there's a spelling mistake in the title - by Denise Rossetti sees Luc Kaminski having a hard-on the moment he hears a woman's voice outside his office and thinking of his twin brother's hot wife subsequently. That will put in the mood to keep reading, I tell you. Luc's horns are popping out, his pupils are on fire, his tail is showing, and I'm sure you can imagine the state of that thing in his pants as he hears more and more of the woman arguing with the receptionist Mrs T. Boy, I hate to see what happens when Luc switches on the TV and watches an episode of American Idol. Boy may lose it completely when Sanjaya Malakar takes the stage. Luc is not human, as you can surely tell by now. Maeve O'Brien, accountant, doesn't know that though. But Maeve isn't human herself - she's an banshee, which makes it embarrassing when she can't stop wailing and screaming whenever she's near someone who is about to die.
There's a good joke in here somewhere about an accountant sorting out a devil's account books for the IRS, I tell you. This story is really fun though. The sex scenes have a playful quality to them although some readers may find these scenes probably too icky for their liking and the characters are good together as they have a playful and easy-going thing between them that allows me to believe that they actually like each other outside the bedroom.
I wish the author hasn't used the phrase "oily drops" for you-know-what though. "Oily" isn't the sexiest word in this situation. It makes me want to grab the liquid soap and start scrubbing at that thing with a sponge until everything is clean and shiny.
Jory Strong's Lyrael's Sacrifice closes the anthology. Set in a fantasy setting modeled after Arabian Nights, this one has the young girls of the Azzura being treated like gold by their tribe, and that's because one of them is to be sacrificed to the Djinn every time the tribe makes the long and dangerous trek across the desert to distant cities and ports for trade. No dead girlie, nobody leaves the desert alive, that sort of thing.
Our heroine Lyrael and her sister follow their tribemates on that trek at the start of the story, hoping to be married at the end of the journey. However, she knows through her dreams and from tradition that she's been marked by the Djinn as the lucky sacrifice for this particular trek. Left in the desert to the mercy of the Djinn, Lyrael meets Asrafil, the Prince of Djinns, and her story, so to speak, takes off from there.
Lyrael's Sacrifice stands out in this anthology because, one, it is written in a style that is more lyrical than flippant and tongue-in-cheek, and two, despite the overload of the Middle-Eastern fantasy elements, the romance between the two main characters is probably the most realistic of that in all the stories here because the author emphasizes the emotional bond as well as the sexual bond of her characters. I also like the way the author uses an obvious Biblical stand-in in this story that fits in very well with the canon of the Djinn. This story is easily the best in this collection because the story feels complete and the canon fleshed out enough to give me a vivid picture of the author's setting and all that sex actually fit in the story very well without coming off as gratuitous badly-written smut.
So there you have it. Ellora's Cavemen: Seasons Of Seduction Volume 1 gets progressively worse until the third story, where subsequently it actually gets better and ends on a high note. I don't know what to say. Still, the three good stories that I enjoy reading do go some way in making up for the three horrid stories. I wouldn't say this anthology is a complete waste of money and I wouldn't say one has to grab this book and read it now either; it's an okay anthology, with the last three stories going some way in making me feel that I haven't completely wasted my time and money on this anthology. I don't completely regret purchasing this anthology, but in hindsight I'd have done better purchasing the longer works of the authors of the three better stories.
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