The Pleasure Master
by Nina Bangs, historical/fantasy (2001)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52445-7


Memo to that LoveSpell dude who writes the back blurb of this book: She failed Sex 101 is not an inspiring thing to put at the back cover if you want to sell this book. Eat more vegetables and start thinking with your brain, please.

But alas, the heroine in this nonsensical "What the hay-ell?" story may as well failed Sex 101. She just have no genuine libido at all. Then again, all the characters populating this story come off as fake. The Pleasure Master tries so hard to be clever and cute at the expense of the story that it's like watching the local weirdo snorting Kool-Aid through his nostrils. It's funny for the first few seconds and then it starts to grate on my nerves.

Kathy Bartlett is the type of heroine to talks to toys just to be cute. You know, "Why men are such jerks, why my husband dumped me" talks. (Maybe the husband fled because Kathy is a crazy weirdo? Just a guess.) While doing this supposedly cute "Awww" chat with a toy called Peter (again, you can say that this is a metaphor for this woman's inability to confront her denial about her libido, but then again, I'm probably giving this book far too much credit). To be fair, she is raised in a puritanical home where touching yourself there is bad, bad, bad, but then again, she does behave like a lobotomized creature later on in the story.

Anyway, Peter sends her back in time to some world where Ian Ross is the Pleasure Master. That is, he is an overrated gigolo where women far and wide come to ask him for a sample of his goodies. But Kathy, lobotomized freak she is who talks to a toy named Peter, just won't. Even though she feels. She won't. And won't. And won't. Peter, oh, where's her Peter? (And alas, her relationship with Peter is unfortunately strictly platonic.)

The humor is off, way off. Nina Bangs missed earth by two galaxies where her humor is concerned. A heroine talking about hairdressers to 16th century dimbulb males is not funny after the twentieth time Ian goes "Huh?" Ian calling her "Princess Kathy of Hair" is not funny at all, and it grates after the hundredth time he calls her that. (By the way, hair where?) I don't even know what sort of toy is Peter, but judging from whatever vague descriptions of its shape, I can safely tell you it is not a walking, talking vibrator. Alas.

And finally, despite being called The Pleasure Master, this book isn't that sensual. At most, it's probably around a PG-13 thing, nothing your grandmother would get a heart attack over.

The humor is off, the characters are more intent on sprouting unfunny wisecracks instead of being real, the plot has only one premise (frigid heroine gets screwed!) that is dragged on and on until it's deader than dead, and oh yeah, a heroine that doesn't like to think about touching herself there (and who talks to a walking toy called Peter) shouldn't be dispensing sex advice. It's not funny. It's tragic.

Now, if someone can confirm to me that The Pleasure Master is indeed a post-cubism revolutionary abstract story of a woman's fear and disconnection from her sexual psyche and her mindbogglingly complex discussion with an imaginary detached male penis about human sexuality, karma, the clitoris, and masturbation (discussed using quotes from movies), I will look at this book with new found appreciation. But my current appreciation of this book is akin to my feelings while observing a train wreck.

Rating: 46


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