REVIEW: Unlaced by Jaci Burton, Jasmine Haynes, Joey Hill, Denise Rossetti
Unlaced, as you might have guessed by the number of authors in the title of the post, is an anthology. It is an erotic romance anthology of three contemporary stories and one paranormal contemporary story. I admit that I did not read the last story by Denise Rossetti. I just haven’t been in the mood from something otherwordly and thus I skipped it but since I did read 3/4 of the anthology, I felt it was sufficient to give a review.
The Ties That Bind by Jaci Burton. Dear Ms. Burton:
I’ve always enjoyed your anthologies and this entry is no exception. Lisa and Rick Mitchell were irresponsible high school sweethearts whose youthful love and lust led to Lisa getting pregnant at age 16. Lisa and Rick tried to get married but because of their youth, their marriage fell apart and they divorced when their daughter, Kayla, was three. They remained a tightly knit family with Rick providing what he could to Lisa and their daughter until Lisa got an education and began providing for herself. But now there daughter is graduating and Rick has met someone and Lisa feels like it is time to move on or so Lisa thinks. Lisa jets off for a vacation for one in the Caribbean determined to allow herself an adult adventure only to find Rick at the same resort.
Rick has never really stopped loving Lisa, even though he dated other women. Lisa has never gotten over Rick. The two take the opportunity to explore their long held feelings for one another and release years of pent up passion. The downside to this novella is that there is little conflict and what conflict there was seemed contrived. Lisa thinks that Rick is just doing this because of Kayla which made no sense because Kayla was graduating and moving out of the house. It’s sexy and enjoyable but a little emotionally lite. B-
Undone by Jasmine Haynes. Dear Ms Haynes:
Undone is a very fun, unusual story featuring the hot topic of the day – the Cougar. Yes, Margo Faraday is a forty-five year old who takes up with a younger man. (I thought the reference to Margo, a mortgage broker suffering because of the subprime mortgage debacle given that this novella must have been written more than 6-9 months ago was prescient). Margo’s life is kind of in the shitter. Her business is suffering, she has two long term failed relationships under her belt, and she’s, well, getting older. Margo sees an ad by an amateur photographer looking for a “real woman” to photograph for a set of erotic photos. The photographer is a friend of the brother of Margo’s friend looking to create an art exhibit of the female form. Margo laughs this off with her friend Lorie but memorizes the email address at the end of the ad.
Thus Margo becomes the model for Dirk, the thirty-three year old who reads a bit more like a mid twenties guy. Their exchanges are sweet, funny, and highly erotic. Margo is amazed at the way that Dirk sees her and the experience revitalizes her. Dirk, however, has fallen in love with Margo. Even though she rebuffs him once the photography sessions are over, Dirk is determined to win her over. I struggled, at times, to see Margo and Dirk as a couple and primarily because there seemed to be some inequality in the relationship and I couldn’t pinpoint where it was. Having said that, it was a very sex positive story and one that reaffirms the beauty that is a woman’s body, at every stage of her life. B-
Controlled Response by Joey Hill. Dear Ms. Hill:
I’m an unabashed fan of your writing and I feel that you could make people looking at each read more erotically that some of the most explicit sex scenes written. This story, Controlled Response, is very erotic but the unintentional messaging of the story bothered me a great deal. It bothered me to write this review because I do have such respect for you as a writer and a story teller, but I felt to not write a review would not be fair.
The story opens with Lucas bicycling in the Berkshires when he comes across a woman splayed on her Harley, pleasuring herself. He can no more leave her than a parched man in the desert stumbling upon a pool of water could pass up a drink. They have an encounter but the woman leaves him, wanting and without the means to find her. He can’t even think to memorize her license plate. As fortune would have it, the woman, Cassandra, is brought into his office about a month later as a negotiator hired to navigate a business deal between the company that Lucas works for and another. Lucas believes that Cassandra is too uptight and it is his mission to teach her how to let go.
It grated on me, how Lucas and his team treated her as a sexual object. During the first meeting, Lucas’ team exchange text messages about how hard she is making them. He accosts her in the woman’s bathroom and basically says that he can see through her facade and her attempts at being in control and goes about destroying her control in the middle of the negotiations.
There’s an effort in the story to make it seem like Lucas is really doing Cassandra a favor, that she wasn’t really living without having been taken on the conference room table by all of the team members because they really, really are going to respect her after this. There is one scene in which they bind Cassandra to a chair during a conference call with Japan and there is a set of Japanese men with a woman bound to a chair in the videoconference and the camera that is piped to the American’s office is of the Japanese woman’s bare pussy. The scene is written as if this was all so beautiful and right and how these men were simply honoring the women that were being pleasured but I found it horrifying.
"They have one camera positioned beneath the table. You’ll notice their gazes keep moving from her to a wall beyond our view. They have a screen there, showing that camera’s feed. They’ve provided me the patch to it in here. . . They have a little bet running with her as well. If she doesn’t come before the advisor gets done, then they’ll each have their turn . . . .when the meeting is done."
"You set this up," she managed under her breath as Ben asked a question.
"Everyone knows the regulatory check is as dull as dirt. I thought you’d enjoy the entertainment."
I could not believe that there was anything beautiful or uplifting about this particular set piece. As a business woman, you struggle everyday to be taken seriously and I just found this whole thing to be stomach turning.
I know you’re worrying your reputation is ruined with them. It isn’t. Trust me on that. Your beauty and intelligence, and the desire you show us now-‘it’s a gift to any man breathing. We treasure it
I particularly hated the justification of it – that it was for Cassandra’s own good. I think the worst part of this story was that Lucas always knew what was best, not only for Cassandra but for her family. There was this overweaning paternalism to the story and while I can accept the politically incorrect story, this went beyond my own personal boundaries. The irony is that I find most of your writing to be so female positive and I suspect that this is how you wanted this story to be read. I just didn’t find it so. D.