Secrets Volume 11
by Angela Knight, Kimberly Dean, Jess Michaels, and Jennifer Probst; romantic erotica (2004)
Red Sage Publishing, $12.99, ISBN 0-9754516-1-8

Sometimes, such as after reading Secrets Volume 11, I wonder: do we even need plot? Sure, plots are good and we all like to use the Plot as a way to differentiate our books from those skanky Porn Without Plot books. But when the plot is so ridiculous to the point that the whole premise turns into a lurid cartoon, I think it's probably better if the authors dispose of the plot and write some really hot, erotic love scenes instead. Why need a silly plot involving bullets and other nonsense anyway? Get two pretty people to meet up and shag up the room and - bam! Erotic story accomplished. Anyway, if we insist on having plots, Secrets Volume 11 proves that there are many ways not to go about plotting the G-spots.

Jennifer Probst - ahem, don't snigger, people, that's rude - offers Masquerade, where the heroine Hailey Ashton, who is named Hailey because Frigid is already taken, decides to attend a sex orgy bash in order to "loosen herself up", although not in the vulgar manner one would imagine when it comes to that phrase. Seriously, what's wrong with meeting up with nice men over dinner? Frigid Hailey attending a sex bash is like someone who can't ride a bicycle signing up to compete in that event in the Summer Olympics. Painful, non-erotic mercy-shag antics ensue when Hailey is saved from depravities that actually take place in these kinds of parties by her best friend Michael who has been secretly in love with this neurotic frigid hag for a long, long time. Personally, I'd rather read about Hailey going wild and taking all comers everywhere and anywhere in that party, even if that will be crossing the line to outright porn, because that would be better than another unimaginative Frigid Brigid story.

Jess Michaels' Ancient Pleasures is hilarious in all the wrong ways. A bunch of tourists in 1897 Egypt, led by Isabella Winslow, visit the pyramid her late husband discovered only to discover the presence of tomb robbers inside led by our dubious hero Jake Turner. Then the pyramids shake and everyone gets separated or lost inside the catacombs. What do people do in this situation? Have sex, of course! And our heroine, being the Frigid Brigid type, encounters erotic arts on the wall and gets the hots for Jake who rescues her from being hammered into actually having some sense by falling rocks. Actually, all those moaning and heaving can't be wise, considering the lack of stability in the pyramid, er, sorry, "pleasure tomb" (don't ask because I will snort and giggle non-stop for the next ten minutes if you do), but what's a little logic when it comes to the power of pulverizing loins, eh?

Kimberly Dean's Manhunt is the most down-to-earth but then again, there's that darned Plot thing again. Taryn believes that Michael is her best friend forever until he turns out to be some drug dealer. Oh my goodness, our assistant district attorney is not amused. But Michael nonetheless escapes from jail to surprise her in the shower, where they eventually have lots of sex before remembering the location of some convenient files in her possession that can prove Michael's innocence. I guess the moral of the story is: a romance heroine can be infinitely stupid but a hero can always shag some sense into her. Don't try that at home, kids. Stupid women don't use birth control and next thing you know, kiddies, you're married to them.

Angela Knight redeems what little that can be redeemed in this anthology with Wake Me, where the heroine Chloe discovers a painting of handsome knight Radolf, whom she ends up dreaming of having wild sex with at night. Of course, since this is a romance novel, she doesn't see a shrink. Instead, she saves Radolf from his unhappy plight and they live happily ever after in that time and place where multiple orgasms happen at the drop of a hat. I wish I'm going with them. Anyway, this one is hot, sexy - oh, a typical Angela Knight story, really, although I miss the intensity of her previous novellas that are absent here - and has enough emotional drama to add to the satisfaction of the well-written love scenes. The plot, for a big plus, isn't as ridiculous or contrived as those in the previous three novellas.

Red Sage Publishing is doing something right if the Secrets franchise can last into eleven volumes. But I think it's time to step up on quality control and stop publishing stories that come off like Ellora's Cave reject bin material.

Rating: 49

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