“Power tends to corrupt”, wrote Lord Acton in 1887. When I opened the erotic anthology Power Plays, I was looking forward to a set of decadent and decidedly corrupt stories about the way that people in politics wield their power in the sexual realm. I rubbed my virtual hands together at the prospect of feverish trysts fueled by the charisma of a popular leader. I expected that some of the authors would bring together the notions of political power and the “power exchange” that is at the heart of BDSM. Perhaps I would see political potentates gladly surrendering to the erotic power of a master or mistress. Maybe some author would explore the implications of a seasoned Dom being elected as president or prime minister.
For the most part, I was severely disappointed. As a group the stories in Power Plays do not exploit the potential of the anthology theme. They are mostly rather ordinary sexual romps in which the political affiliations of the characters have little impact on the conflict, the plot or the interactions. Several of the stories, notably “The Sanctuary” by Olivia London and “Changing Moon” by Angela Cameron, stretch the definition of “politics” well beyond what seems reasonable. Ms. London's story chronicles an affair between an office temp and her supervisor, with a passing mention of “office politics”. Ms. Cameron's tale is a sexy and atmospheric werewolf romance concerned with a leadership struggle within the pack, a sensual tale, but too far from the book's proposed topic to fit well.
“Filibuster” by Vanessa Vaughn offers a tasty ménage with a bit of an edge, but it hardly matters that female and male protagonists are both members of Congress. We might see these office antics in any company or organization. Victoria Lacy's “A French Tryst” gives us the first woman president, seduced in a museum by a classically sensual Frenchman. Their coupling is torrid but the scenario (a U.S. president, on her own without security?) is completely improbable. In any case, the heroine could be any high-powered businesswoman. There's sex here, but no power, no politics. “Board of Directors” by Jen Bluekissed, is set against the backdrop of a corporate election, but its main focus is sex and chocolate --always a popular topic, but not really related to politics and power.
A few stories save the collection from total mediocrity. Maryn Bittner's “Whatever It Takes” is a satiric gem. Set in Florida during the disputed presidential election of 2000 (and with artful references to the future election of 2004), the story is told by a savvy Republican mover and shaker, sent to guarantee a Bush victory. He meets a wealthy and distinguished man who promises to deliver just that – but at a carnal price.
“Voter Registration” by L.A. Mistral is also noteworthy for its original voice. Gorgeous and horny Tequila, the main character, is a power junkie turned on by the politicians she sees on TV:
The onscreen politician reached out to her and her alone from the high-def, quantum-leap megapixels of her TV. His sturdy, knowing hand reached out for support and for national unity. I want to support you, he said. I'm reaching out to you, he said. Tequila imagined his hand on her, holding her, supporting her. His four-square image and the conviction of his imagination spread over her pale body like a symphony, plucking every secret need and every unspoken melody. His words untied her diaphanous robe and let it fall away. Her red robe was so sheer, it was more of a whisper than a word. His face smiled over her body as she lay open for him, his eyes appreciating her favors, her rapt attentions and her pledge of support. Tequila did the rest.
Despite the occasionally mixed metaphors, the author manages to create a unique character here, one for whom politics is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
A third story with some unusual aspects is “Small Town Tastes”, by K.D. Grace. A randy congressman attends a small community's annual picnic and is captivated by the mayor's nubile daughter. We think we know the outcome, but in this story, nothing is quite as it seems.
Overall, however, this collection is far from outstanding. I found the editor's one-line commentary at the start of each story gratuitous and annoying. For the most part the production of the book is adequate, but for some reason the final story was marred by such serious formatting flaws that it was nearly unreadable.I approached this book with a frisson of excitement. By the time I had finished, I felt like I'd been through yet another one of those electoral contests in which one votes for the lesser of multiple evils.