by Susan Johnson, Dee Holmes, Stephanie Laurens, and Eileen Wilks

June 1998
ISBN: 0-312-96599-0
Reviewer Graphic Button St. Martin`s Press
Mass Market Paperback

Warning! The language and situations depicted in this book are explicit and the passions intense! From the cover photo of a rippling male torso to the final page, these stories cover just about every facet of erotic romance. (Be prepared to explain to others why you're reading a book with a semi-naked man on the front!)

Susan Johnson's story, Playing With Fire, opens this book and certainly gets the ball rolling in a big way. With a well-deserved reputation as one of the premiere writers of women's erotic fiction, Ms. Johnson spins a tale of two people trapped by circumstance into a marriage that neither wants. The Duke of Ware's financial situation demands he wed money - and quickly - while Olivia Overton's despotic father wants a title in the family and will spend whatever is necessary to get one. Rupert Ware is angry with his bride; Olivia, the new Duchess of Ware, is disgusted at the thought of marrying a rake with a reputation as a libertine of the worst order. How these two reconcile their emotions through lovemaking and fighting makes for an interesting tale - Susan Johnson fans will not be disappointed.

In Simple Sins, Eileen Wilks offers us the story of Felicity Armstrong and her search for a document she knows exists in the house presently occupied by stunt man Damon Reed. In this well-crafted short story, Damon and Felicity's history is gently revealed as their passion for each other rises. We learn about them as they are learning about each other and this places us, the readers, squarely into the house with them. Eileen Wilks skillfully manages to blend an interesting story with wonderful characters and sensual lovemaking - it is a delight to read and perhaps the best story in the book.

The third story, Once Burned by Dee Holmes, introduces us to ex-lovers Mariah Thornton and Deke Laslo. Deke is the typical lean, strong hero (with a snakebite scar on his right thigh - most important!) and a dark, low voice. After having walked out on Mariah, Deke is not pleased to find himself driving her from Florida to Connecticut. Mariah, of course, has never really fallen out of love with Deke, and this trip promises to be a difficult one for both. Though predictable, the characters are well drawn, and the rising sexual tension is believable and exciting. This tale of lovers reunited fits nicely with the others in this book.

Finally, Stephanie Laurens gives us Melting Ice, wherein Lady Fiona Winton-Ryder meets her mate. Fiona, single by choice for far longer than most women of her social class, realizes that the man she has unconsciously been waiting for is her childhood playmate, Dyan St. Laurent, now Duke of Darke. Dyan has returned from many years in India only to be driven out of his home by importunate relatives and forced to seek shelter with another friend who is, unfortunately, hosting an orgy at the time. Not a problem for the worldly Dyan, but definitely a problem for the naive Fiona who begs shelter at the same house at the same time. Fiona and Dyan rapidly realize that they have strong feelings for each other but that the middle of an orgy is probably not the best place to examine these feelings! So they seek privacy to explore their own sensual world. As always, Stephanie Laurens effortlessly creates a steamy and passionate tale with believable characters and a touch of humor - the perfect conclusion to an entertaining anthology.

Reviewed in August 2001 by Celia.