Moon Shadow
by Lucinda Betts, paranormal (2007)
Aphrodisia, $12.95, ISBN 978-0-7582-1467-6


I needed the perfect man.

So, I prepared to cast the Rurutu spell, a spell lost and uncast for millenia. Maybe longer.

With a shrug of my shoulders, my thistle-colored robe fell to my feet, a puddle of silk. My nipples hardened in the room's cool air - and with anticipation. I became increasingly aware of my desire hormones coursing through my system.

The long, lilac-colored feathers of my wand vibrated as power gathered and coalesced, and my stomach muscles contracted in the expectation of desire. The intricate hearts carved into the ebony floor began to shimmer with golden light as they channeled the earth's electromagnetic energy.

I run my fingers through my honeycomb tresses, my ambrosia-flavored rose-petal lips forming a mild scowl that mars slightly the marble perfection of my face as I wonder whether the above four opening paragraphs of this story are better off in, say, a sexually explicit Sailormoon fanfiction.

My blood flow slowed, but pulsed with increased force. It inundated my smallest arteries, imbuing them with oxygen and nutritious glycogen. My fingertips, my clitoris, my lips and the tips of my toes every small, erogenous part of my being swelled with this thick, slow blood.

My blood carried power.

And the hormones of desire.

Secretions from glands in my cervix moistened and lubricated the walls of my vagina. I was hot. And I was wet.

And I was shocked by the power of this spell.

I would love to applaud the use of the word "glycogen" in the above excerpt, but I have to wonder how the heroine's blood can slow when she's supposed to be aroused. I love the use of the words "cervix" and "vagina" as well. Is that some kind of subliminal message reminding pre-menopausal female readers of this book to make an appointment with the doctor to get a Pap smear test done?

The man I sought had to have particular testosterone distributions. His dopamines and serotonin needed to be just right. Endorphin triggers needed to be easily accessible. His tears and sweat and semen needed to be worth all the effort I'd expend in extracting them.

Ms Betts wins the grand prize. This is the best laugh I've had in a while. Endocrinology meets cheesy erotic romance clichés. You have to read the full account of the entire ceremony to appreciate it. The excerpts here don't even justify the sheer amazing "Oh no, she didn't!" magnitude of the opening scene. I personally don't know why this magical ceremony has never been cast in the last millennium, since the heroine has so much fun touching herself down there in the process. I'd think folks will want to cast this spell every day and all day long.

Esmenet Sokaris, the heroine of Moon Shadow, is a witch who uses her magic to help rape and abuse victims find some peace of mind. She casts the above magical spell to help her find a male apprentice that will be able to assist her in her day-to-day magic spellcasting. Her spell leads her to Gage Feldspar, a homeless man who uses magic to, I suppose, keep himself muscular and in shape because our heroine certainly doesn't go, "Eeeuw!" when our homeless alcoholic hero shows up.

As an urban fantasy romance set in a world where humans use magic and co-exist with not-so-human creatures like orcs, Moon Shadow is like two different books somehow bound together. On one hand, Esme is ridiculous in how overly sexualized her magical abilities are. I can't take this character seriously at all. I keep expecting her to transform into Sailormoon and then bend over to reveal that she's not wearing underwear because she's such a cartoon character. Gage, on the other hand, is a very sympathetic fellow. Sure, he's a screw-up and he's not entirely blameless for the situation he is currently in, but the author manages to develop poor Gage into an appealing woobie character. He and Esme seem to have walked out from two very different stories.

Yet, as different as the characters can be, the author muddles up the situation when she decides to have these characters alternate between chapters when it comes to the first person narration. The problem is, the first person narration "voices" of the two characters are very similar. Oh, I can tell them apart. The one who behaves like a sexed-up blow-up doll is Esme. The one full of angst is Gage. But it will be nice if the author has succeeded in giving each of her characters a "voice" that is different from the other.

There is a mystery here as well as Esme not wanting to fall in love to provide some story for all that shagging taking place, but as I've said, I find it hard to take this story seriously when everything about Esme is an exaggerated cartoon of a sex doll where every other thing she does has to be sexual in some way. And even so, Esme is overly sexualized in a comical manner rather than in a genuinely erotic way. Factor in the use of all those jargons straight out of a college-level reference book on endocrinology and I get a story that is more hilarious than erotic.

Moon Shadow has such a ridiculously high camp and cheese to substance ratio. The big question here is whether you are willing to shell out $12.95 for an erotic romance that turns out instead to be this schlocky comedy.

Rating: 54


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