by Mari Carr, contemporary (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-894-1
Erotic Research is about a historical romance author, Julia Martin, who is in a rut until her editor, Ross Phillips, suggests that she writes erotic fiction. You see, it's not like she is jumping on the bandwagon or anything, not really. It's just that the cat died and she is feeling blue and therefore it is suggested that she writes about hot sex... okay, that sounds worse, but you know what they say. Truth is sometimes more bizarre than fiction. And just like too many authors who decide to write about sex without knowing anything about the more adventurous kind of sex, Julia decides that she needs to do some research.
Because in this kind of stories the editor always has a cabin tucked away in the wilderness somewhere, Ross offers his to her so that she can "research" herself to the fullest. Naturally, it's winter, the snow is heavy, the heroine has a lousy social life (near-rapists included) and limited sexual experience, the hero is her best friend, the nights are long and lonely out there in the cabin...
It's the same old story, done so many times before, and it's that same old story here. Only this time, I think there's something creepy and sad all at once about an author who bases her heroes on her editor. Come to think of it, I'd be really disturbed were I Julia and I learn that my editor, who has passed me a big box of erotic fiction and telling me to read those things in the name of research, has a crush on me, because that big box of erotica now seems like a rather tacky "let's get kinky" message from him. But then again, I suppose sleeping with the editor may be a smart move if one wants to make the jump from midlist to bestselling author.
While this story is familiar, it does have several disadvantages. One, the heroine is really pathetic as she comes off not like a sheltered person but rather a contrived creature who is a magnet for cartoon Mr Wrong types. It is as if she has "Molest me, I'm easy!" tattooed on her forehead or something. You know the type of heroines, I'm sure - these pathetic women can't seem to bump into a man who isn't a sexual deviant of the slimy kind until she meets the hero. Ross is pure fantasy material - the hot male editor with magnificent rustic cabins all over the place and who is always sympathetic when the author can't meet deadlines because this author is very special to him. Of course, this is true love so let's not have anyone accusing the author of sleeping her way to the top or anything, oh no.
What of its advantages, you ask? Hmm, I'll have to think long and hard about that one. Well, it's a short story so it's more like sitting through an unpleasant session with the dentist rather than undergoing a surgery without anesthesia. That has to count for something, right?
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