Southern Comforts
by Sandy Steen, contemporary (2000)
Harlequin Temptation, $3.99, ISBN 0-373-25873-9


Former white trash Beauregard Stuart returns to Rosemont with the whole town in his pockets. Good girl Lily Matthews, who has spent her whole life pleasing and caring for her mother and aunt, decides that at twenty-four, it is time she lose her precious big V.

Yes, it's that same old tired drill the romance mill churns up in automated regularity every month. Bad boy approached by stupid timid woman who wants to have sex. He demurs, she demurs, they do it anyway, baby comes, and communication breakdown occurs. Heroine scrambles to hide her indiscretion from her mother - oh, she will DIE if she finds out, et cetera. In the end, happy with her one "dangerous" indiscretion, she marries the man who ruins her. The end.

Southern Comforts I just cannot take even if the author tries her best to breathe life into her by-the-book story. The whole premise just shrieks "Tired, tired, tired" like rusty, un-oiled machinery clanking out its last life. Not to mention that the whole premise is ridiculous in its depiction of how women have to do yoga contortions just to get laid. A woman who looks like Lily can just walk into a bar and ask any man. I'm sure male barflies aren't that picky. But here she is trapped in a library, unable to have any orgasms until she begs for it. Then she is penalized for her indiscretion. Viva la female-choices-in-life.

Anyway, I am hoping something different will occur. How about Beau giving Lily the brush-off after the boinking? And Lily can commiserate about how lousy first lovers always are, and how they always tell you they will be your first and only, and you realize too late that the words they say are all part of the game. Then Lily can exert her own brand of revenge after watching Fatal Attraction for the fortieth time and inspiration strikes.

Southern Comforts celebrates female passivity and the illusion that the first time will always be the one forever and after. A nice fantasy, but one peddled, stocked, restocked, repackaged, recycled, and totally wasted beyond palatability where this reader is concerned. Not when there is hardly any attempt to make this nth rehash any different from the previous rehashes of the same theme.

Rating: 41


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