Never Enough
by Joan Elizabeth Lloyd, contemporary (2003)
Kensington, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0109-5


I have such high hopes for Never Enough. Joan Elizabeth Lloyd isn't another series author who believes that adding a few more pages to her love scenes equals a brand new Brava romance. The author is something like an erotic sex guru with a few non-fiction books devoted to sexual fantasies and intimacy in her backlist. Her fiction trade paperbacks deal with prostitution and phone sex and more. Never Enough, her most conventional "romantic erotica" and one Kensington is targetting to Brava readers, certainly is no coquette. Anal sex, mild BDSM and bondage - everything goes. Unfortunately, this book is so unbelievably contrived and hackneyed that even the most disillusioned Harlequin reader who swears she has read every plot contrivance in existence can drop this book down and run screaming for the mountains. It's that bad.

The biggest problem of this book is the heroine Tracy McBride's unbelievable cluelessness about her sexuality. In her mid-thirties, this college professor is still smarting from her dumping from her husband. At the start of this story, Tracy's sister is unexpectedly pregnant with twins. This is good news, except that this means sister Kim, the sex guru, will have to find a replacement to take over her upcoming seminars at a hotel resort. Tracy is dismayed when Kim asks her to. Oh no, she's lousy in bed! She's frigid! But Kim persuades her to at least visit Kim at her seminar so that Tracy can really see how it really is. At the resort, Dave Markoff, the manager, decides to seduce Tracy. Oh no, she's lousy in bed! She's frigid! But never mind, Dave will administer the Power Boost Jab and cure our heroine of her insecurities once and for all.

If anyone wants to discuss cardboard cutout characters, well, look no further. Tracy is a grotesque character that is all whiny neurotism and pathetic sexual victimization. I find it hard to imagine that any woman will be so pathetically clueless that she lets her husband, and I paraphase, spits on his dingdong for lubrication and rams it home at Tracy because apparently Tracy can't get moist enough. I mean, hello? Would any sane person accept this kind of treatment for so long? Tracy being so unbelievably stupid is made even more so when she starts getting wildly aroused just at the sight of a vibrator and bondage gear on display at the seminar. Curiosity, fascination, that I can understand. Unbelieavably aroused? I suggest Tracy best go see an endrocrinologist fast about that damaged pituitary gland of hers.

Her husband is so unbelievably vile in bed, yet at the same time I am also expected to accept that this husband cheats on Tracy. How on earth will such an inept lover find so many women to cheat on his wife with? Then there's Dave. For all the depths he display, he may as well be a cardboard cutout of a vibrator. It is mystifying to imagine that he is willing to let a frigid idiot like Tracy take over the sex seminar, especially when he knows just what an idiot she is and he has financial stakes in seeing the seminar being a success. It is perplexing that Kim is willing to risk her entire reputation by letting Tracy conduct the seminar to her clients. I am even more bewildered as to why Dave doesn't take over the seminar himself, apparently because in this book the man can lay on the sexual healing like nobody's business. Although judging by Tracy's brainpower, I suspect one doesn't need Phallon the Amazing Sex Guru to lay her down, she probably won't know the difference if Pepe Le Pew catches her instead.

And now let's move on to the laughably bad writing. I really have the best laugh of my life when Tracy catches her husband in bed with her friend Sharon. I mean, Evil Hubby and Slut Best Friend actually ignore her and go at it right there before Tracy in all the mouth action glory one can have, and Tracy, after staring at her hubby's hairy you-know-what you-know-what in Slut Best Friend's mouth for so long, finally stammers, "What is going on?" That really slays me. Really, read pages 65 and 66 for a jolly good laugh if you come across this book at the bookstore. I also love it when Kim, when describing how an unpleasant fellow forces her to have anal sex, actually describes the whole action in detail to Tracy. Because that's what you discuss with your sister, in pure technicolor detail, right down to how the man lubed his condom, how he ram it up the OWWWWW, and all. I am so terrified that I pray these two don't get into some discussion about enema or worse. Thankfully, it's just the OWWWW thing. And when one consider the identity of the OWWWWer in question, the whole conversation turns into nothing more than a sad attempt by the author to offer some cheap tantalization to the reader. The no-brainer here is that she is preaching about how men that humiliate a woman are ba-aaa-aaa-ad but here she is, describing the sisters' humiliation in graphic detail.

In the late third of Never Enough, for some reasons only the author will understand, Tracy's clients overwhelm the story with their silly dysfunctional sex. Paul, Debbie, and, er, well, whatever their names are, I really can't be bothered to care because these characters just appear out of the blue like some unnamed extras in a porn movie for the group orgy scene. It is bad enough that Tracy is a one-dimensional pathetic loser and Dave a one-dimensional creepy sex mahaguru, but the plethora of cardboard characters only worsen the already annoying underwritten state of this book.

It is bad enough when the characters of a book are so thinly written they are merely ciphers for whatever it is that the author wants to preach to her readers. It is ghastly when the heroine seems to be walking around with a gaping void where her brain should be. College professor, oh please. It is painful when the characters behave in nonsensical and illogic ways. And for Never Enough that have all of these and more, there is really never a case of never enough. Like getting drunk and ending up in bed with a total loser only to throw up from a bad hangover next morning, Never Enough is best chalked up as one horrible ordeal one will try to forget for as long as one lives.

Rating: 28


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