The first few pages in any book are critical. In those pages, an author must grab the reader's attention, stimulate her curiosity, and motivate her to continue reading by previewing both the characters and the author's style.
Dangerous Pleasures by Fiona Zedde opens with a reasonably promising line:
You should fall to your knees and thank God that you're single again.
However, the page that follows this opening would have discouraged me from reading any further, if I had not been committed to writing a review. That page was the most egregious example of confusing POV shifts that I have encountered in years. Two female characters are conversing. The point of view switches from one to the other in each paragraph, without any cues or warning. I had to read the page four times before I could come up with a consistent hypothesis about who was saying and thinking what. Not an auspicious beginning.
Fortunately, I noticed far fewer problems of this sort as I got further into the book. However, I can't deny that my first impressions of Ms. Zedde's writing were tarnished by this experience.
Dangerous Pleasures focuses on the sexual and emotional quests of two twenty-something women who have been best friends since their childhood. Mayson is a free-spirited lesbian who owns and operates a yoga studio. Renee, an artist at an advertising agency, is newly divorced after four years of marriage to Linc, a man who (we are told) claimed she was frigid and tried to remake her according to his preferences rather than allowing her to be herself. Renee feels lost and unsure where to turn after extricating herself from her damaging relationship. Mayson encourages Renee to indulge in some no-strings-attached sexual liaisons in order to satisfy her physical needs, build her self-esteem, and get Linc out of her system.
Mayson practices what she preaches; much of the book is devoted to her steamy encounters with the voluptuous, horny women who happen across her path. Meanwhile, urged on by the far more self-confident Mayson, Renee places a personal ad and begins to meet strange men in hotel rooms, seeking physical pleasure without any kind of emotional connection. She carries anonymity to extremes, insisting that her couplings take place in complete darkness or wearing a blindfold in order to remain ignorant of her partner's appearance and identity.
Ms. Zedde proves adept at penning intense sex scenes, both heterosexual and lesbian. Mayson's and Renee's sexual adventures are by far the most involving aspect of the novel - a positive point since sex probably takes up at least 50% of the book's pages. It takes considerable skill to interest me in a sexual encounter without commitment or emotional involvement. When nothing is at stake beyond a few orgasms, I tend to find sex boring. Fiona Zedde succeeded in holding my attention.
In other respects, I found the book less successful. The episodic plot wanders from one sexual adventure to another, switching from Renee to Mayson and back, without any clearly defined conflict. Then, quite suddenly, a challenge arises and the plot resolves itself in a twist that I found difficult to believe. I don't want to give away the ending, but I think it's fair to say that despite all the recreational sex in the book, by its conclusion Dangerous Pleasures feels very much like a romance, with all that entails.
Before I conclude this review, I would like to mention the back blurb. The blurb focuses completely on Renee's heterosexual experiments and implies a focus on BDSM (which does not appear, by the way). It neither mentions Mayson nor hints that the book includes a great deal of lesbian sex. Now, I am not the sort of reader who picks her books based solely on their sexual orientation. While I may have enjoyed the lesbian erotic content more than any other aspect of the book, I know from listening to readers on reader lists that some women (and this is a woman’s book) find female/female interactions distasteful. It is my impression that the Dangerous Pleasures blurb is misleading and borders on false advertising. Kensington may find itself with some irate purchasers.In summary, Dangerous Pleasures offers steamy sex between beautiful people and a happy ending. While danger doesn’t really materialize, there is plenty of pleasure. If you’re looking for an uncomplicated read, you may enjoy this book.
"Dark" has a variety of meanings in Western culture: obscure, hidden, mysterious, unconscious, exotic, violent, dangerous, associated with death or night, richly pigmented. The massacre and exploitation of darker-skinned peoples by Europeans have been rationalized by means of racist theories about who is “savage” and therefore in need of control.
The parallel treatment of women and animals has been justified by parallel theories. The fifteenth-century Christian Inquisition claimed that woman (femina) had "less faith" (fe + mina) than man, and was therefore more inclined to be seduced to the "dark side" by the Devil, envisioned as a black man or a bestial being with horns and hooves.
For centuries, the patriarchal Christian mindset, which produced these ideas, has also separated "normal" sex (horizontal, heterosexual, marital, procreative) from all the "perversions" of the instinct to mate. Supposedly, these overlapping concepts are no longer taken seriously by the enlightened, but the “darkness” described above still inspires an endless amount of horror literature, art and movies.
Every Dark Desire reads like the worst nightmare of anyone who still lives by a traditional Western value system. All the central characters are lesbian Jamaican vampires who enjoy the kinds of "power exchange" sex that go with blood sports. While they are all equal-opportunity predators when their blood-lust prompts them to hunt mortals, they prefer female playmates.
Silvija, the charismatic leader of a group of twelve vampires, is a 350-year-old survivor of an attempt by white soldiers to hunt down and kill off maroons, escaped slaves living in the hills. By the 1990s, Silvija has created, nurtured and protected her own endangered "family" of the living dead. These vampires literally seem like the dark side of European colonialism, the ones who weren't meant to survive.
This book stands out from the red sea of current vampire erotica and casts its own powerful spell. Although they are repeatedly defined as "beasts" and "fiends," these characters attract the mortal reader as they attract mortal characters in diverse places in the real world: Jamaica and Alaska, with kinky weekends in Los Angeles.
The story begins in Jamaica, a tropical tourist magnet with an ongoing history of violence, where the rich lock their gates against the poor, and where the mortal prey of vampires can easily be disguised as victims of random theft, rape and murder. Life in a Jamaican village, as distinct from the cities, is peaceful enough for Naomi, a young woman who lives in a manless family with her mother and her beloved young daughter.
However, Naomi can't resist another woman who catches her eye in the city of Negril, and she slips away from her mother and daughter for a few hours. Naomi is irreversibly "turned" without her consent. After she escapes, she must come to terms with her transformation. She dreams of what she has lost:
"Naomi dreamed that she was alive. The sun touched her with its soft golden fingers, filtering through her hair left loose and heavy against her shoulders. Its heat snuggled into her bare throat and along her arms like an old friend. She leaned against the iron railing of the terrace, looking down on a gold and green Negril. The breeze was light. Laughter hovered in the air like music and she turned, smiling, to find the source of it. Her baby, Kylie, stood on the terrace, laughing and spinning in a circle, while the sun sparkled on her wheat biscuit skin. Naomi's mama stood nearby, watching. Her look was wistful."
Fiona Zedde is not the first author to use the changing of a mortal into a vampire as a metaphor for "coming out" into a new identity, but Naomi's grief and confusion seem uniquely heartbreaking. Even after she has given herself a new name, Belle, and accepted the necessity of living with others like herself, her love for her child is a connecting thread between her old life and her new one.
The love of parents for their biological children rarely seems to be a feature of vampire fiction, but in this sense Every Dark Desire is parallel to Anne Rice’s first novel, Interview with the Vampire, in which the child vampire Claudia represents the author’s desire to resurrect her actual daughter, who died of leukemia at age five. In Zedde’s version, Belle loses track of passing time while Kylie develops into an innocent teenager, not knowing what happened to the mother who is determined to protect her from “monsters” like herself. Could this story possibly have a happy ending? Read it and decide for yourself.
Separated from her human family by her disturbing blood-lust and her vulnerability to sunlight, Belle is claimed by Silvija, who calls her “puppy” and reminds her of how much she doesn’t know about her new lifestyle. Anyone who has survived adolescence can imagine the humiliation of Belle’s position, and she reacts predictably by resenting and defying her teacher. Belle finds herself unbearably attracted to Silvija. In the tradition of the best BDSM fiction, Belle’s ambivalence and resistance to what seems inevitable lead her to self-knowledge and intimacy.
Spending her first winter as a member of Silvija’s clan in their luxurious dwelling in Alaska (chosen for its long hours of darkness), Belle comes to know her new companions in immortality. She is especially drawn to Shaye, a vampire of approximately Silvija’s age who still seems to have the energy and curiosity of a young girl. Appearances are deceptive, however, and Shaye is not Kylie. As in other vampire fiction, these characters remain physically frozen in the stage at which they were “turned,” but they continue to learn and grow inside.
There is enough hypnotic sex in this novel to satisfy readers who want to skip to “the good parts,” but the sex scenes are not simply a distraction from other kinds of tension. The reader/voyeur learns that the vampires of the “family” sometimes have consensual affairs with mortal women whom they could kill at any time. The reader also learns that the vampire clan has a polyamorous group relationship which changes every time a new member joins the group. Every seduction advances the plot, which includes elements of a whodunit, a romance and a coming-of-age novel.
The sensuality of the narrative style, the intensity of the characters’ emotions, and the complexity of the plot are all satisfying. Several of the physical details, however, seem overdone or inconsistent. Persistent references to the flowery smells of individual vampires become cloying.
Belle’s habit of breathing heavily in moments of passion until she remembers that she doesn’t need to breathe at all (being “dead”) seem unconvincing.
In addition, the reactions of Caribbean vampires to the cold air of Alaska in winter seem inconsistent. Either they are impervious to the cold, being both “dead” and superhuman, or they need to sleep pressed together to conserve the warmth they can only acquire by taking the blood of the living, but it is hard to see how the author could have it both ways.
Aside from these details, this novel shows that there is still some life left in vampire fiction, a genre that refuses to rest in peace. Fiona Zedde has done a remarkable job of adapting the well-worn tradition of Dracula, the archetypal vampire as a European aristocrat in his remote mountain castle, to other places, cultures and desires. The “dark desires” of socially-marginalized characters might simply alienate some readers, but the magic works for me.
Satisfy Me Tonight is a collection of three novella length erotic romances bundled into one, single tome. From Kengsington’s Aphrodisia imprint, the collection starts with Fiona Zedde’s Sexual Attraction, followed by Sydney Molare’s Driving My Man Wild and concluding with Kimberly Kaye Terry’s Captive.
This is the third title under Kensington’s ‘Satisfy Me…’ label which started with Satisfy Me, continued with Satisfy Me Again and has now progressed to Satisfy Me Tonight. The titles seem popular with readers and the intention is to blend romance with erotica in the genre of erotic romance.
Sad to say, I have to admit I wasn’t satisfied.
This is probably a fault on my part. Reading the reader reviews on Amazon its clear that these authors have a huge following and the books are extremely popular. I’ve previously read and enjoyed Fiona Zedde’s Bliss and have long regarded her as a competent author. I’m unfamiliar with the previous works of Ms Molare and Ms Terry. However, my research tells me that both these authors are popular with a loyal and enthusiastic readership.
In Sexual Attraction Fiona Zedde introduces us to Kenna and Ben. Their relationship begins as love at first sight. They meet in Belgium. They consummate their passion. And they hump like filthy-minded bunnies that have been force-fed Viagra. However, they both know they will never see each other ever again. This is Belgium. Kenna is due to return to her home in Atlanta, Georgia. And yet, three months later, whilst Kenna is still licking her metaphorical wounds and, savouring the taste of what might have been, she recognises a pair of honey-coloured eyes…
Then there’s Sydney Molare’s Driving My Man Wild. Six years into her marriage Berze is sitting alone in the hot tub, surrounded with romantic candles, and wondering where the spark has gone. The romance for Berze and her beloved Jare is rekindled by the purchase of a second-hand wedding dress which comes with a chest of saucy nineteenth century love-letters. The smouldering heat of these belles-lettres inspires Berze and Jare to rediscover those important parts of their relationship that they’d almost forgotten.
And, finally, there’s the story of Tessa’s kidnap in Captive. Tessa is vociferously protesting against a wicked conglomerate. Others who have protested have been threatened. And then Tessa finds herself in the custody of a gorgeous kidnapper. Rather than revisiting the territory of Stockholm Syndrome, there is a more complex rationale behind Tessa’s response to being abducted. However, the results are similar.
If I have to be honest, I think the reason these three stories failed to satisfy me was because they gave an impression of being hurried. I don’t know if it’s the novella length format and its subsequent restrictions and limitations of space, but the shortness of each story left me unsated and wishing there had been more substance to these tales.
If I’m being picky, I’d also say that there were several issues in each narrative that could have been addressed by either a little more time and patience from the author or some circumspect attention from the editor. Again – this gave the impression that things had been rushed.
This is from Sydney Molare’s Driving My Man Wild:
Of course, I’m a typical man, and probably not the target readership for these stories. Those who are more familiar with the genre of erotic romance might respond differently to these literary vignettes and find that they work perfectly for different reader expectations. Each of these three novella length stories does contain some exciting scenes of erotic romance. However, speaking solely for myself, none of them properly managed to satisfy me tonight.
“The dick was so good, I couldn’t do shit but fuck him back. I turned all the sexual frustration I held into pussy-clenching strokes. My back hurt, my lungs were bursting, my heart was thumping against the wall, but still I fucked. Even when I felt him stiffening up, making mewling sounds, I fucked. Even when I turned my head and saw his fuck face, I fucked. I fucked, Fucked, Fucked, and FUCKED until his legs gave way and he collapsed on the floor.
Then I stopped fucking.”