Pure Sex
by Lucinda Betts, Bonnie Edwards, and Sasha White; contemporary (2006)
Aphrodisia, $12.95, ISBN 0-7582-1466-9


I can think of many alternative titles to this erotic romance anthology and Pure Sex isn't one of them.

Lucinda Betts starts off the anthology with The Bet, which demonstrates the perplexing principle of an author taking an overused premise and blending the already tasteless ingredients into even more unpalatable mush. Perhaps this one is for readers with a taste for the sexual fantasies where the heroine is forced into such situation and therefore cannot be held accountable for her actions?

Anyway, Zoe Lauterborn is the only woman in her financial manager job and she chaffs at being left out of the old boys' club. She's nicknamed - yes, you've guessed it, "the Ice Queen". So, when colleague Phillip Kingdom proposes a bet, she accepts it. They are both in the running for an upcoming job promotion. If she gets the promotion, she gets to keep his bonus. If he gets the promotion, she's his for one night for him to do anything and everything he desires. Oh dear, maybe someone should tell her that offering her body isn't the best way to win the respect of her male colleagues? At any rate, it only comes as a shock to her that the men close ranks among themselves and give Phillip the promotion.

Phillip is torn because he feels that Zoe deserves the promotion. Anyway, she's clearly unhappy about that and she also threatens to sue him for sexual harrassment over the bet. Plus, she was drunk that night when she agreed to his bet. So what is gentlemanly Phillip to do? Force Zoe to pay off the bet, that's what. And so, after a night of spankies and kinkies, they're in love and they're also partners in business and life. How sweet.

The moral of the story is that, clearly, a woman should play the corporate world version of the casting couch in order to get ahead, and she'll find love to boot. Who cares if gentlemanly Phillip is pretty much forcing an unwilling Zoe into a sexual situation. She loves it in the end, that's all that matters, no?

I suppose you can argue that mediocre smutty fiction, sorry, "romantic erotica" doesn't necessarily need to be politically correct. I agree, but in this case, I like my stories to feature two consensual partners and I like it if the reason they hop into bed isn't so clichéd and done to death already. The fact that this story insults my intelligence to no end is only stinky icing on the moldy cake.

Next, Bonnie Edwards' Slow Hand, which is definitely fantasy when the heroine Teri Branton discovers and starts watching a few of hero Jared McKay's porn stash and is struck by unabashed romanticism of those movies. I mean, seriously now, I dare anyone to tell me upfront that adult films depict relationships of which fairy tales are made of. No, the one with the actors and actresses all dressed up like Shrek and Carebears doesn't count.

Teri was going to get married except for a small hitch in the scheme of things - the bridegroom had decamped. She decides to go ahead and enjoy the honeymoon that will now never be, which brings her to Jared's luxury charter boat and her watching Jared's purportedly romantic and sexy pornographic tapes and realizing that she wants a rebound fling with the hunky captain.

This one is sweet on the whole, with the sexual situations inserted in here and there in a manner that has me suspecting that this story is probably originally some kind of romantic comedy rejected by Harlequin until Ms Edwards inserts some long-drawn explicit scenes for this anthology. If this is the case, that's okay, everybody does it, just as everybody denies it vehemently when I suggest it. There's nothing wrong with it, really. This story is as clichéd and predictable as the previous story, but at least it is sweet rather than insulting.

Sasha White's The Crib tells the tale of a PI, Lexy, who is trying to clear an old friend's name by investigating a murder by posing as a waitress in The Crib, a biker bar. She encounters a hot stranger named Devon who makes all the right moves and pushes all her buttons beautifully, but is he a friend or foe?

This one is the most problematic story of the three because it is a story that seems too big for its length. The author inserts plenty of exposition to the point that it feels as if The Crib was originally a much longer story and with plenty of scenes cut out, Ms White has to insert expositions here and there so that the story makes sense. The Crib flows awkwardly as every scene of action is almost always followed by some exposition to explain some backstory. I find it difficult to get into this story due to these technical problems.

The three stories don't really stand out in one way or the other. At least this anthology isn't called Pure Gold, I suppose, because that will be really pushing it. If the reader is looking for Pure Sex and only that, she may find what she is looking for here. Just don't expect too much of anything else.

Rating: 53


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