This novel is a rip-snorting pornographic fantasy, much like an X-rated cartoon movie. The characters make up in exuberance what they lack in depth, and the plot turns out to be clever and satisfying. Eventually, all the women get what they want, even if they don't know what that is until it sinks in (so to speak), and the male stud at the center (or centre) of the action receives the kind of justice he claims to believe in. This book is unlikely to win any literary awards, but it makes an excellent light snack. It seems physically smaller than the average paperback, as if designed to be carried in a small purse or a large pocket.
The author flirts with stereotypes, and the camp quality of the characters is part of the fun. Meet Victoria, a sensitive blonde widow with large pillowy breasts, a graduate degree in English which she has never used (she loves poetry), and a fortune which she has inherited from the man she married on the rebound. The only man she ever really loved is her fellow-Canadian, a hunk of manhood who manages to combine a roving eye, a tireless cock, a desire to mark shapely female bottoms with various implements, and leftist political convictions. This man, Ray Torrington, left her years ago to go to Cuba, a mecca for the socially-conscious and for refugees from northern winters. Now he is in London, England, to give a speech at a world conference on housing for the homeless.
Victoria, who is in England to wrap up the disposal of her late husband's estate, summons Ray to her hotel room by telling him that she has a potentially fatal heart condition. Neither he nor the reader knows how seriously to take her metaphorical broken heart, but Ray can't resist her luscious body or her need for his attention. Their reunion is the first sex scene in the novel.
Cut to a scene of the flame-haired English card shark, Penny, in a high-stakes game of poker with a bevy of distracted men. Penny is slim and cool, and she uses her sex appeal as well as her instincts to part rich men from their money. She learned to take care of herself while staying in Canada during the lean years of her youth, when she worked as a nightclub dancer. Few of her London rivals or admirers know of her shady past across the Atlantic, but Ray is part of her emotional baggage, or her unfinished business.
Much as he enjoys reuniting with Victoria, Ray never stops looking for new territory to conquer. Bai Lon from Hong Kong, who tells Ray to call her Lonnie, fascinates him for reasons which have nothing to do with his claim to be "so inspired by [her] decision to embrace the socialist perspective regarding basic human rights like housing and healthcare." Her hunting style is described:
"Lonnie liked to tease such a man by coming on slowly and then, just when he resigned himself to a night of polite courtship, dropping a bomb like 'I'm a sensualist, Ray.' With her dark little naively tilted eyes and creaseless lids, her gaze suggested she didn't quite know what her words implied, as if she had slightly misunderstood the definition of 'sensualist.' She would retreat behind her mask of Asian coolness, then dart out again when least expected and boom! Drop another bomb!"
Boom! Ray manages to shuttle back and forth between Lonnie the tease and Victoria the devoted submissive during one hectic day and evening. Meanwhile, in apparently unrelated chapters, Penny takes on a male movie star who wants her to teach him to play poker and a lordly African chief whom she happens to meet while waiting for the lift (elevator). Penny gets what she wants by taking risks with strange men both in bed and at the gaming table. Before leaving her hotel room, she carefully dresses to create the right effect on her audience. She wonders why her calls to Ray's cellphone go unanswered.
Each of the major characters has a distinct fetish or two: Victoria likes rough treatment, Ray likes to dish it out, Lonnie likes to tease and to be watched, Penny adores games of chance and anal action. And then there is Victoria's "nurse" (or is she?), Verushka the statuesque, no-nonsense Russian whose dialogue resembles that of Natasha, the sexy Soviet spy in an American cartoon show of the 1960s, "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show." Verushka's version of medical therapy is intense and effective.
Ray is intrigued by Victoria's self-centered mind-games, as he sees them, but he avoids giving a clear answer to her repeated invitation to come to Cuba with her at her expense. Will Ray continue to manipulate women while passing himself off as a savior of suffering humanity? Will they all continue to regard him as "King Fuck?"
To Ray's and the reader's surprise, solidarity eventually prevails among the oppressed (or screwed) masses. Women who appear at first to be sexually dependent on men discover their own attraction to each other, and not simply because the Man likes to watch.
After the camera’s eye of the narrative hops from one scene to another, giving the reader a brief glimpse of London landmarks along the way, all the major characters converge in the same hotel room for a memorable all-night group scene. At a delicious, pivotal moment, the traditional male fantasy of a traveling man collecting a harem changes to a scenario of sexually-empowered women playing with their boy-toy.
The climactic trip to Cuba which Victoria has been planning throughout the novel takes place on schedule, but with some changes in the seating plan. The merry band of players only leaves the hotel bed to pack quickly and board the plane which will whisk them away to a tropical paradise which is also politically correct. On the plane, Penny deals the cards. When asked what the game is, she explains: “Stud poker, of course. Queens are wild.” A kind of subtitle on the cover of the book brags: “The winner takes all.”
As part of the Black Lace stable, this novel is advertised as “erotic fiction for women by women.” It covers all the bases traditionally covered by “men’s” (sexually explicit) magazines and cheap paperbacks, but in a woman-centered way which does not dehumanize any group of human beings more than any other. As a Canadian writer, Madeline Moore has included two major white Canadian characters in a cast of fetishized national, racial and social types. She describes this as: “a first, I think, for Black Lace.” It’s heartening to know that someone is working to make Canadians appear both visible and sexy in this context.
This novel could keep you entertained on a plane or in a doctor's waiting room, but it is not a heavyweight in any sense. There is meatier stuff available for the connoisseur of erotic fiction.