Virtual Desire
by Ann Lawrence, contemporary (2000)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52393-0


His silver blond hair blew back from his magnificent face. His black leather breeches hugged every inch of his well-muscled thighs. He was every womans fantasy; he was the virtual reality game hero Vad.

And funny thing is, what's inside isn't far away from the cheesiness of the above excerpt from the back cover. Virtual Desire has the hero, a computer game character, and the heroine, an everyday lass like everyone (only prettier), going into a computer game to help the hero complete some quest to restore his honor.

But the author falters when it comes to sustaining momentum and creating realistic emotions between Vad the computer pixel hunk and Gwen the heroine. For instance, I'm not even told exactly what sort of game Tolemac Wars II is all about. Is it an RPG-like game or a pure shoot/beat-'em-up style game? Then there is the matter of the plot itself. Computer games, at least the rip-'em-up genres, don't have much of a plot, admittedly, but to extrapolate the lack of plot into a romance novel is to sabotage its emotional intensity.

For instance, every character these two meet is one-dimensional. Of course computer game characters are one-dimensional, created only to give aid or cause trouble to the players. But I wish the author has created some depths to the characters. The handmaidens and the Councillors in this story barely make an impact on my memory. The main characters are pretty much stock creations. The heroine is the feisty yet insecure sort and the hero, well, I am rarely given a clue what the hero is actually thinking of or feeling most of the game. Come to think of it, I have no idea why they can fall in love. Most of the time I'm reading about them fighting pixel evils and saving the world instead of gazing into each other's eyes.

At the end of the day, there is very little to savor about Virtual Desire. I have no lasting impression of the hero or heroine, and I don't even have a vague picture of what Vad's world is like. It's medieval in nature, I think... and that's it. It's as if I have just played some sort of mediocre virtual reality game. When it's over, it's really over.

Rating: 62


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