by Bertice Small, Susan Johnson, Thea Devine, and Robin Schone

September 1999
ISBN: 1-57566-450-X
Reviewer Graphic Button Kensington Publishing
Trade Paperback

In order to review a book which bills itself as "Erotic Romance", one must remember that the definition of erotica is very subjective. That which arouses and excites one reader may elicit no more than a yawn from another. There is also the question of balance between the erotic and the romance. At what point does the erotic content overshadow the romance, and vice versa? Again, it is all in the eyes of the beholder, or in this case, the reader.

Bertrice Small's story, Ecstasy, is a case in point. With a well-developed reputation for erotic fiction, Ms. Small capably recounts the tale of Dagon, a captured prince, who is bought as a gift for the queen of a mystical realm where men are subservient slaves and sexual playthings for the women who rule the hidden land of Kava. The beautiful Queen Kalida is, of course, entranced with her new toy (and his astounding - er - assets) and the story of their involvement progresses through sexual dalliance into deeper emotions. However, this story tends to read like a cross between the Kama Sutra and an adolescent's wet dream. It was impossible for this reviewer to keep a straight face when reading about the size of Dagon's "love lance" - and the erotic component was completely overwhelmed for me by the inadvertent humor. Perhaps Ms. Small intended for this to be tongue-in- cheek? Although the cheek was one of the few places that a tongue didn't go in this raunchy tale.

Bound and Determined by Susan Johnson takes sensuality along a different path. Hugh Dalsany, the Marquis of Crewe, has sworn off sexual dalliance due to excessive boredom (there's an interesting premise for you) and on his way to his country estate is kidnapped by armed guards only to find himself tied to a bed and required to perform stud service! The lady in question has been ordered to produce a child (her husband is apparently unable to accomplish the job) and Hugh was selected as an appropriate substitute. The eventual reversal of roles and relationship that develops between Hugh and Sofia is punctuated by hot and heavy lovemaking - described in very explicit language. Be warned.

Thea Devine's tale, Dark Desires lives up to (or down to) its title. The romance in this story seems to have been displaced by the need for power, sexual dominance, submission and control. Drue Caledon weds Court Sommerville at her father's insistence, even though she fancies herself in love with Gerard Lenoir. (One has to wonder how these heroines fall for such obvious dimwits when Mr. handsome hunk hero is standing right next to them?) Court is determined that Drue shall become his true wife - desiring him and no other. To "train" her, he devises a program which includes nakedness, bondage and the slow awakening of Drue's sensual needs. Unfortunately, it is hard to feel any kind of empathy for Drue or Court; the story places a great deal of emphasis on the wielding of sexual power and the fear of its loss rather than the growth of a deepening relationship between the two. It was also difficult to envision the bondage devices Court used on Drue - they must have been uncomfortable to say the least!! Even the upbeat ending did little to redeem this lurid tale of sexual dominance.

Finally, we come to A Lady's Pleasure by Robin Schone. This is a story of two lost souls; Miss Abigail Wynfred, about to turn thirty and facing a passionless and bleak future, and Colonel Robert Coally, a convalescent soldier trying to escape the psychological horrors of the Boer war. Abigail has retreated to a remote coastal cottage for a final period of freedom to live without corsets or other restrictions, and to indulge her secret passion for erotic literature. Robert has stumbled upon her cottage during a savage storm and demands shelter. The way Robin Schone paints a word picture of these two makes it easy for us to see the unwilling attraction that rises between them and when they undertake to fulfill each other's sexual fantasies, we are right there with them. Ms. Schone has managed to achieve the delicate balance between the erotic love play that Abigail and Robert indulge in, and the romance that blooms in spite of their best intentions to remain uninvolved. This story is worth the price of the book and would appear to define the category of "erotic romance" - the heat of passion is front and center, yet the emotions, which touch the heart of the reader, are also involved and the ending is unashamedly romantic. Bravo, Ms. Schone!

If you have read books by some of these authors before, then by all means try Captivated, but please be aware that these tales are very steamy and explicit. If you are unfamiliar with this genre, you might want to check our other reviews for something in the same vein that is a little lighter in tone.

Reviewed in August 2001 by Celia.