Unmasked
by Kathleen Lawless, historical (2004)
Pocket, $12.00, ISBN 0-7434-7674-3


Kathleen Lawless' follow-up to her debut Taboo has the same old problems as Taboo, really. It's short, it's supposed to be erotic, and the characters are totally flat and underwritten.

It's 1899 and we're at San Francisco. Our widowed heroine Aurora Tremblay has been trying for a while now to talk to our hero Grayson Thorne about his legendary actress mother Celeste and the legendary Gaslight Theater, which she hopes to convince Grayson to allow her to... well, I guess this book needs something to keep the reader in suspense so I'll leave that to the readers to find out. Aurora, who's called "The Grand Adventuress" for a good reason, decides to crash Grayson's party using a hot-air balloon. However, the balloon takes off once she's made her entry, leaving her stranded as the unwilling guest of Gray. Gray is holding a party at his house for the Rose and Thorn Club. It's a gentlemen's club and those gentlemen will be holding a no-holds barred orgy in the Grayson Estate. Oh boy.

I'm supposed to believe that in over the course of three days, Gray and Aurora will orgasm-torpedo themselves into love. Maybe they will get married at Vegas like Britney Spears and her husband did. What are passed off as "character development" are paint-by-numbers overused plot devices and shoddy psychology. Of course Gray has a tormented past to excuse his current state of debauchery. Of course Gray is a hero even if he sluts around while Aurora finds Gray's slut brother unpleasant because... um... because he's not the hero, I suppose. Of course Aurora's late husband is a jerk and she is in need of some old-fashioned sexual healing. Stereotypes are the foundation of the characterizations in this book and unfortunately, that is all there is to this story - underwritten stereotypes. Okay, energetically boinking stereotypes, but stereotypes nonetheless.

Ms Lawless doesn't even come close to pushing the envelope so the sex scenes in this book are tame by my standards. So, what else is there in Unmasked? I suppose that this book will make a pleasant diversion at the beach or on a plane but I believe that anyone expecting anything more than a literary quickie will be disappointed with Unmasked.

Rating: 52


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