Hot for You by Jodi Lynn Copeland. This is a friends to lovers story (the first of two in the anthology). Carinna was a cocktail waitress at The Liege, a resort in Las Vegas. She likes her men like her martinis “dirty as a girl could get ‘em.” The man she want right now is her good friend, Jack. Jack is a local fireman who is working to parlay his mastery at the poker table into a classic car restoration business. Carrina loves Jack and Jack loves Carrina but Carrina can’t allow herself to have a relationship.
The story is told in alternating first person. I don’t mind this technique and I thought the author did a good job showing the distinct personalities through the varying narration but I did feel that Jack’s narration was a bit florid with unintentionally comic results:
The thought of her warm pussy sucking at my tongue had me returning to that fateful night four months ago.
“Pussy sucking” and “fateful nights” aren’t two phrases that I ordinarily would put together in the mind of one man. The paragraph goes on having Jack ponder their “intertwined destiny”. The problem with this story along with all but Dane’s is that the non stop sex (aka pussy sucking) overshadowed any character development (fateful nights). Carrina’s rationale for not wanting permanency with Jack was a common one (for romances) but not well developed which made her look foolish and sometimes mean. C-
Stripped by Lauren Dane. Dahlia is a burlesque dancer at The Dollhouse. She’s dancing to pay for graduate school. Nash Emery, brother of the owner of The Dollhouse, sees Dahlia and crassly hits on her, assuming that private performances can easily be obtained. Dahlia turns him down flat. Nash is intrigued and begins showing up on a regular basis and continues to pursue Dahlia.
The problem I had with this story was that it lacked conflict until the very last. It was a good conflict wherein Dahlia questions whether she, a burlesque dancer, can fit in with Nash’s upper crust, wealthy society crowd. I did feel this was undercut a bit by the fact that Nash’s brother owns The Dollhouse, but it was sold fairly well. The problem was that it was too little, too late. C
Red-Handed by Kit Tunstall. Amy and her cousin, Kevin, try to rip off The Liege and get caught. Amy is hauled to a back room and is threatened with owner and knife wielding maniac, Roan Cavello. Immediately upon discovering that Amy is a woman and not the young boy Cavello thought she was, he gets a hard on and starts thinking about “driving his cock into her pussy”.
“Torn between guilt and curiosity, he continued his perusal, deciding she had nice legs from what he could see under the baggy denim. In her current state, she was a six, but, with the right tools, she could definitely be an eight.”
So he carts the thief off to his bedroom where she bargains off her debt by serving as his sub for six weeks. At this point, the sexual tension was so contrived that I just had no desire to keep reading about these two. I know that space is short in an anthology contribution, but there was no transition from hating cheaters to enslaving them as a sex sub. Roan goes from holding a knife to her to calling her “Beloved little cheat” within the space of about five pages and Amy being told “Your body already knows who its new master is” within that same space. He’s lying on top of her, fondling her breasts and her body suddenly knows that there is a new master? That breast must be some kind of receptor. DNF.
The Deal by Anya Bast. Cassidy is a shill at The Liege where she goes around gambling with house money and encouraging patrons to play more freely. James carter was a dealer at The Liege and the best friend of Cassidy’s former fiance, Damian. Damian had stood her up at the altar much to James’ delight and guilt. Delight because James had always wanted Cassidy and guilt because he was happy that Damian stood her up.
James has been biding his time until he can approach Cassidy and once they physically get together, he believes the deal is sealed. Cassidy is determined that the physical aspect of their relationship not affect their friendship in anyway. James response to this is to bet Cassidy a card game where the winner gets to decide five nights of sex. I had no idea what the card game had to do with keeping the physical aspect of the friendship separate from the friendship. It seemed that it would only exacerbate the mixed feelings that Cassidy was trying to balance, but since this was an erotic romance, who cares about those nit picky plot things. Bast is actually one of my favorite erotic romance anthology writers but this one seemed all sex and no emotional connection. C-
What Happens in Vegas is an erotic romance but the emphasis was on the sex and not so much on the romance.