Personal Assets
by Emma Holly, contemporary (2004)
Berkley, $12.00, ISBN 0-425-19371-3


For the fans of Emma Holly that have read only her more conventional romances, please take note that Personal Assets is technically an erotica. There are threesomes as well as one-on-one couplings and the characters swing both ways in some of the kinkier scenes. If this kind of kink is not your cup of tea, it's best to wait for the author's upcoming more conventional romance novel. Having done with the PSA, let me now say that I don't find Personal Assets close to the best the author can offer.

One thing I do know for sure though: the prologue describes Paris and the Meilleurs Ames antique/collectible boutique so beautifully that if Good Housekeeping somehow wants a write-up of my hovel that I call home, I'll get Emma Holly to describe my place in pretty, pretty words so that people will think that my place is better than Oprah's. The reader will soon learn that this story revolves around two women: Béatrix Clouet who now inherits the Meilleurs Ames after her mother passed away and her friend Lela Turner who will run the New York branch of Meilleurs Ames. For Béa, sex and romance are found with her stepfather Phillip Carmichael. For Lela, sex with Simon Graves kills all her brain cells to the point that she is oblivious to the fact that Simon is planning to zoom in and buy out Meilleurs Ames which is in financial difficulty.

Maybe I am cynical to the author's apparently compulsory urge to pit at least one woman against another woman in her story, but Béa's "romance" with Phillip is an utter flop. Here, Béa's mother is depicted as a shallow and despicable skank, although it seems that Béa is the only person that is taking the late Evangeline's shallowness and selfishness personally. I can't help but to wonder whether Béa's sleeping with Phillip is yet another of the woman's attempt to give Momma the finger. Although come to think of it, the act of taking in Momma's sloppy seconds doesn't seem like that much of a fingering. Phillip is one-dimensional and I don't have a clear idea what makes him tick, apart from his his erection, that is. Béa is also a difficult heroine in that not only does she feels like a Jerry Springer guest waiting to happen, she also exhibits some annoying inhibitions that cause the sex scenes involving her to be less enjoyable than they should be. It is hard to enjoy reading love scenes involving a frigid and neurotic walking Electra complex.

On the other hand, Lela and Simon - oh! Now those two are hot. Simon's initial "audition" for Lela is sizzling. These two seem perfect in their red-hot firecracker of a sexual tension and love scenes that burn, until Simon starts going on and on about how he lied to Lela but he didn't really lie that bad as he didn't use the information the gullible dingbat hands over to him. A man that comes off like Bill Clinton on the stand isn't my idea of a romantic hero. Still, I am not too bothered by the bittersweet happily ever after as the women have proven themselves to be inferior intellectually to the men in the story and they don't deserve to win.

Maybe I am being unfair by imposing romance novel standards on what is essentially an erotica, but since the author also tries to emphasis an emotional bond between her boinking characters, I don't see why I can't comment on her success (or lack of) in that department. I find Lela and Simon a much more believable couple and their relationship has a more credible foundation, unlike Phillip and Béa who seem to be working out their Mommy/Mommy's Darling Gigolo issues in the bedroom instead of on the shrink's couch like they should. Romance aside, I also find some of the love scenes - especially the threesome scenes that come out of nowhere - have a rather perfunctory feel to them. Some of Lela and Simon's scenes are very erotic but on the whole, Personal Assets doesn't feel as erotic as some of the author's books in the past.

Emma Holly has proven that she can write erotic stories very well. When it comes to writing a romantic story, which Personal Assets apparently tries to be, she is however still not too successful in that endeavor.

Rating: 73


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