Wildest Dreams
by Janice Maynard, Morgan Leigh, and LuAnn McLane; contemporary (2003)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0694-1


Wildest Dreams are the debut offerings from the three newest cadets from the Planet Of Lori Foster. Unfortunately, the heroines treat sex like a joyless ordeal that it becomes a teeth-gritting chore to finish this anthology. None of the three erotic novellas are in any way erotic. The authors are like little girls putting on their mother's lipstick and then boasting that they are big girls now. How does one tell them that they are... well, not what they think they are?

Janice Maynard's Suite Secrets is a story that will make readers that are familiar with well-written eroticas howl in laughter, and not in a good way. Rebecca Fraser, our reporter heroine, must get the expose on Sebastian Tennant's famous hotels to prove her mettle to her boss. Sebastian challenges her to pose as his wife as they visit his newest hotel and the usual bang-bang fun happens. Only, it's not fun as Rebecca's often noisy self-recriminations after every love scene never fail to ruin the mood. It is hard to feel kinky when the heroine treats sex like some abomination to human nature. Rebecca is a mess of contradictions. One moment she doesn't want to have sex and she wants to go home, but in the next scene, without rhyme or reason, she'll be going down and bopping around like a pro. What gives?

Sebastian is a creepy hero. He keeps describing the heroine as "too young", "innocent", and he gets the biggest hard-on of his life when he makes the heroine wears a dress that "takes off ten years" from her actual age. Rebecca is twenty-six and it is pathetic, not arousing, to read a heroine of that age described as innocent. I strongly suspect, from Rebecca's constant recriminations, tears, and what-not, that she's more likely sixteen and writing for her high school paper instead of twenty-six. If Ms Maynard wants to do a Lolita Porn story, she will do well to remember next time that the original Lolita is described as precocious and wise for her age, not an emotional mess like Rebecca.

Oh, and after all the fuss about Sebastian's hotels, I am expecting a sex club with nubile young things for hire, but instead, all I get is a hotel with rooms decorated to resemble tacky boudoirs. I think there are motels in Vegas that provide similar function at cheaper rates and one doesn't have to make reservations in advance to book a room there. Suite Secrets comes off like an inept attempt at writing sexy by an author that half the time doesn't know how or doesn't dare to experiment at pushing the envelope. Instead, she relies on the tried and true Harlequin Blaze-like notions and concepts of female sexuality, with unfortunate results.

Morgan Leigh's Voices Carry is a throwback to the "I Sleep With My Boss" secretary stories, but the heroine is a throwback to the dinosaur days when Barbara Cartland's stammering heroines reign supreme. The heroine Camelot Reeve stammers and her mind paralyzes in the presence of her boss, is so painfully shy, treats sex like some nerve-breaking ordeal she has to get over with, and is generally so painful to read as everything she does and says just grates on my nerves. Jonah McCauley is her boss and he wants her. She is too shy, too timid, too nervous, and damn if she doesn't come off like a fragile creature whose neck is more likely to snap and her head roll off the bed to bounce down the stairs during the grand event. The story's many aborted foreplay scenes and the hero's agonizingly tortuous pampering of Camelot just to get her pants off, coupled with the heroine's irritatingly fragile personality, make reading this novella more agonizing than undergoing the Chinese Water Torture.

LuAnn McLane's Cabin Fever is the "Me Sexy/Not Really" story. Rachel Manning is a successful inspirational romance author that, inspired by an erotica website she visits where she submits a prize-winning novella, also moonlights as Jade Johnson, an author of erotica. Publishers fight to get Jade Johnson to write for them. I am half-tempted to dismiss this story as a Mary Sue gibberish by the author but I can't envision, for the life of me, Lori Foster's website as an erotica website. Oh well.

While I do understand why authors of erotica will prefer to write under a pen name (especially an inspirational romance author!), Rachel takes this to new insipid heights: she writes erotic romances only when she's holed up in a secret cabin where she writes so well, apparently, that she gets her jollies off from the scenes she writes. And here's the best part: Jade Johnson's excerpts aren't erotica material as much as they are purple love scenes from a typical romance novel. Talk about a silly narcissist getting excited by her own (not so) hot words.

Her agent Jake Nichols invades her cabin after getting the location of Jade's Cabin Of Love from Rachel's mother. They are soon holed up in the cabin thanks to a convenient snowstorm. Rachel, caught up in a "I'm Actually A Secret Sexy Woman" haze normal people will need drugs to attain, soon decides to use Jake for research on her latest book. Judging from her excerpts, I'd say she's better off getting at least three more men to help her in that area. The heroine predictably insists that he must leave when the snow melts outside, blah blah blah, but at the end, they love each other, the end. Hopefully he will eventually manage to steer her away from erotica.

Cabin Fever is the least irritating one of the bunch because despite suffering from the same old overused bipolar Madonna/Whore personality and yammering the same commitment-phobic psychobabbles, Rachel doesn't come off as fragile or inept like the other two heroines. She's just a very stale stereotype.

I am looking forward to this anthology because I am hoping that I will find another author with an exciting voice like MaryJanice Davidson - someone that can write fun and sensual love stories without relying on the same old schtick of innocence, duty sex, and weird Madonna/Whore complex. Unfortunately, relying on the same old schtick of innocence and weird Madonna/Whore complex is exactly what the three authors did in Wildest Dreams, and in a singularly unimpressive style at that. And they are supposed to be the best from the pile of materials submitted to that Brava contest? I shudder to imagine how bad the rest of the slush pile must be.

Rating: 44


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