AUTHORS: Ashley Ladd, KS Augustin, Mia Watts, Catherine Chernow, Elizabeth Coldwell, Imari Jade
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 105k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
A collection of six erotic novellas, each about a romance between an older woman and a younger man…
My biggest hope when I buy anthologies is to discover new talent, but that doesn’t happen all that often. It definitely didn’t happen with this one.
The anthology starts off with “Scene of the Crime” by Ashley Ladd. Forty-four year-old Robyn returns to the college she graduated from as a history professor, but that also means returning to the town where she’d first had her heart broken by a man who lied to her about being married. Now divorced, he wants to rekindle things with her, but she wants nothing to do with him. Running out on a date with him that she got ambushed on, she goes to a local bar, gets drunk, and takes home the hot young guy she played pool with. The next morning, she’s appalled to discover he’s the spitting image of her ex. He should be. He’s his son. While the writing itself in this story isn’t bad – there’s even some chemistry between the two leads – I was so put off by the idea that this professional woman would get involved with the son of a man who hurt not only her but his wife and child, I could never really accept the too-swift love that came between them. The situation was just too complex, and people were too badly hurt, for this to succeed. It needed more time and depth to be even remotely believable, not to mention give me the reader a chance to empathize with her for her predicament.
Following the weak lead-in is KS Augustin’s “Singapore Sizzle.” Sophie is an ex-socialite who’s been divorced for two years, eager to get a little fun back in her life. She accepts an invitation to a masquerade ball, and there, she meets a gorgeous man who takes her up to the penthouse suite almost immediately. She has problems with the age difference, however, and flees the next morning. He, on the other hand, isn’t so easily put off. While this one has a better flow than the first, with a slightly more sympathetic heroine, the hero lacks much depth to give this anything more than a fling feel. Of the six stories, it has the most realistic ending, though, so points there for that.
One of the stronger stories in the collection is “Melting Melinda” by Mia Watts. Mel has been best friends with Karen for a very long time, but recently, she’s become attracted to Karen’s grown son, Ethan. The trio are practically family, but what Mel doesn’t know is that Ethan has been in love with her for years. He lets her know on the vacation they all take together, but she doesn’t want her moment of insanity to ruin the best relationships in her life and runs scared. This is the romance I bought the most of the group. The relationships between the three, as well as the two secondary characters Larry and Lyla, sparkle with authenticity. I never doubted Ethan’s feelings for her for a moment, and I really liked how the fallout was handled.
Unfortunately, liking that one wasn’t nearly enough to save me from the next. “Lucky in Love” by Catherine Chernow is about fifty-year-old Maddie Summers and the hot thirty-five year-old Jake Conroy who moves in next door. She discovers they work for the same company, and though she tries to keep things professional, he’s too attracted to her not to put the moves on. This one never got off the ground for me. The authorial voice is simplistic and borderline pedantic, with short, simple sentences and stop-and-go pacing. Maddie’s inner conflict is overwrought, and the transition from strangers to more too unbelievable for me to ever accept. Definitely my least favorite of the bunch.
“Something Within Him” by Elizabeth Coldwell is the 1st person telling of editor Kate who agrees to see someone as a potential intern as a favor for a friend. He’s cute and smart, and hiring him is a no-brainer even though the last intern she hired was a fiasco. He makes his attraction to her obvious early on, but she manages to hold him off until a trip to Amsterdam to cover a new hotel throws them together. Of all the stories in the collection, this is the one with the most sophisticated prose, with some very nice descriptions and intelligent phrasing to help counter the fantasy of the entire situation. The ending is too saccharine in relation to the realistic tone set by the rest of the story, but the author’s voice was such a pleasant change of pace and the heroine so refreshing that I was forgiving of it.
The anthology ends with Imari Jade’s “Something to Be Thankful For.” Julianne is the manager for rock star Cameron, but when he tells her he loves her and wants more, she excuses the sex that follows as a drunken mistake. He disappears after that, and she tracks him down in hopes of repairing their relationship. While I rather Julianne in this, Cameron remains an enigma. We’re told a lot about him – that he likes women and alcohol too much, and overindulges with both – but little of it meshes with what I actually see on the page. I never felt like I got to know him, and without being able to see him as an individual, I can’t invest in the romance.
Unless you’re a fan of more than a few of these authors, I’d suggest passing. Pick up the authors you like individually, or, if you don’t want have one, try Coldwell’s or Watts’. They’re the only two in this that didn’t really feel like a waste of my time.
6/10 – Relatively clean, but a couple bordered on hard for me to finish due to the voice
5/10 – Little depth in most, with resolutions too easy
4/10 – For the most part, very flat
4/10 – Unmemorable and surprisingly not very hot
5/10 – Only one seems to make any real effort here