Secrets Volume 15
by Cynthia Eden, Leigh Court, Saskia Walker, and Jane Thompson; romantic erotica (2005)
Red Sage Publishing, $12.99, 0-9754516-5-0


If Secrets Volume 15 has come out before the much better Secrets Volume 14, I would have hailed this particular collection as a marked improvement over Secrets Volume 13. As it is, it is as if the franchise has taken two steps forward only to take one step back with this particular anthology. Oh well, I suppose the sun doesn't shine every day, sometimes it has to rain too.

Jane Thompson's Simon Says has a womanizing rich life-of-the-party Simon Campbell and proper librarian Georgina Kennedy being stuck in close proximity despite them not exactly having the other person on the top of their list of favorite people they'd like to spend time with. But underneath Simon's sexist jerk exterior however is the kind of man that a woman like Georgina can appreciate while Georgiana has a wild streak in her that will surprise Simon. This is an entertaining romp about people being more than what they seem to be at first and it is fun watching this couple at first stun and later delight each other by revealing just how much they are similar in ways they can never imagine early on. This is the best story in the anthology, which is good. What isn't good is that it's downhill all the way after this story.

Cynthia Eden's Bite Of The Wolf is yet another horny alpha-werewolf chasing after a woman that he decides is his - yes, you've guessed it - mate. I tell you, if there is a law banning the use of the word "mate" in paranormal romances, there will be many authors forced to hit the streets the very next day to sell Avon cosmetics. Of course, Gareth Morlet also realizes that his enemy may get to him through our heroine Trinity Martin but he still decides that he will make her his mate anyway (what she has to say about the matter doesn't matter). This is already a pretty familiar story but the short story format means that Ms Eden ends up making Trinity come off as pretty schizophrenic. One moment she's screaming that she will never be a doggie-buddy to Gareth, then she's willing to be his darling furball forever, and then without rhyme or reason she's back to screaming that she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life bathing in tick shampoo once a week. Trinity ends up being really annoying and the story choppy and disjointed.

Next is Saskia Walker's Falling For Trouble, which is one of those stories that don't even try to make a little sense. The plot is all about how the author can get the main characters to have sex, like the plots all those adult movies have. The plot involves our heroine Sonia Harmond and our hero Oliver Eaglestone (with a name like that, he has to be a cop) supposedly carrying a bunch of very important papers that can jeopardize world peace if they fall into the wrong hands, but really, the plot is just an excuse for the clothes to fall off. At least the love scenes are hot, if that's any consolation, since this story is silly and the characters are often doing things that sensible people carrying papers of mass destruction won't normally do.

And finally, Leigh Court's The Disciplinarian sees Ms Court trying to be Robin Schone. Isn't she, oh, six years too late to jump on the bandwagon? Everyone wants to be Angela Knight, Sherrilyn Kenyon, or Christine Feehan now, after all. Miserable "No homos, please, we're shagging!" sex is so not in compared to Hairy Fur/Fang Sex nowadays. In this story, Jared Ashworth is the - da da dum! - Disciplinarian who "teaches" assertive and strong-willed women to become submissive and proper wives of the Victorian era. I suppose I should be grateful that the heroine is Clarissa Babcock instead of Queen Victoria herself. Clarissa's abusive husband wants Jared to "warm up" Clarissa properly for the man's nasty brand of loving and I suppose you can guess what will happen between Clarissa and Jared. The thing is, Ms Court's idea of discipline makes me laugh because everything about Jared and his, er, curriculum is over-the-top and funny. Clarissa doesn't even know his name, so Jared is always being addressed as the Disciplinarian. The whole portrayal of discipline and submissive has me giggling, but what's really funny is Jared's "hissing" that he wants Clarissa to marry him towards the end. Or is that "Marry me Claris-sss-sss-sa?" Too funny, really! It will be easy to be frustrated at the lack of even a little tenderness from both the characters in this story if it doesn't make me laugh for all the wrong reasons.

Only Jane Thompson's story hits the right note with me, although I have a blast with Leigh Court's story for reasons that the author may not appreciate. Secrets Volume 15 is much better than some of the recent anthologies that come before it, but having come after the above average Secrets Volume 14, this one is a slide backwards in terms of quality and entertainment.

Rating: 64


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