An Original Sin

The Pleasure Master

Night Games by Nina Bangs
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52480-5/td>
Although I’m not much of a science fiction fan, I love the concept of time travel in a romance. Time travel, if done well, can really add an interesting twist to a plot. When I realized that Night Games was a time travel romance I wanted to like it, but it turned out to be a hard book to like.

The year is 2502, and Brian Byrne is the MVP of the most popular recreational sport of his time: sex. Apparently, things have become so easy for men that they have become too lazy to actually have sex - they’d rather watch it. The sport of “Monday Night Sex” is “played” in huge stadiums, where the men see how fast they can bring the women to orgasm. Brian is all tired out from the exhausting season, and decides to take a vacation all the way back to 2002, a simpler time. He chooses to go to Ireland, where his ancestors once lived and built a castle.

Once in Ireland, he bumps into Ally O’Neill. Ally is in Ireland with her Great Aunt Katy, who is researching supernatural beings for a book she intends to write. She is feeling somewhat bitter towards men, having spent her marriage trying to be the perfect wife by catering to her husband’s every whim. She even wrote self-help books for women, instructing them in the art of being the perfect wife. All of this backfired on her when her husband had an affair and accused Ally of being “boring.”

When Ally meets Brian, she is immediately attracted to him. This attraction must be purely physical, because he has quite an attitude and refers to her only as “babe,” never using her name. Brian is attracted to Ally as well, but knows he cannot do anything about it, thanks to a clause in his contract which forbids sexual contact outside of the “game.” Ally’s agent is trying to help her find a new project since her “perfect wife” series failed so miserably once her marriage ended. Her credibility is suffering, so her agent proposes that Ally write a different kind of book, one from a single woman’s perspective. The book will be about how a single woman can find a mate who is sexually compatible with her. In order for Ally to complete this book, she will need to do research. She has limited sexual experience, and, according to her agent, needs to have a sexual fling in order to write a believable book on this topic.

Not surprisingly, this is where Brian comes in. Brian has filled Ally in on who he is, what he does, and where he is from. Ally realizes that she has a sex expert right at her fingertips…the perfect person to help with her book. Ally is no dummy…she is hoping for some hands-on action from Mr. MVP, but Brian’s contract is getting in the way. Believe it or not, this “will they or won’t they have sex” conflict is a major part of the plot. This is not very compelling or exciting, since we all know that they will, of course, do it at some point.

Several people have followed Brian in order to keep an eye on him - his agent, his boss, and his trainer, just to name a few. The appearance of these characters is very distracting, and adds a lot of confusion to a plot that is already weak. Things sort of amble along until Brian’s vacation time comes to an end, and he must decide whether to go back to 2502 or stay in 2002.

Ally and Brian lack the emotional connection I like to see in a romance. Ally is a confusing character. She suffers from a lot of self-doubt and low self-esteem. She is afraid to take risks, and is quite logical and practical. Would this type of person agree to have a one night stand in order to write a book about sex? It just didn’t seem believable. Throughout the book, Ally is alternately bold and reserved, almost as though she has a split personality.

Brian has some endearing qualities, such as his loyalty and his love of children. However, his overuse of the word “babe,” and his cocky attitude about his sexual stamina grates. He does experience some growth in the book as he works through his fear of love and commitment.

While it is obvious to me that the premise of Night Games is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, I couldn’t get over the whole “sex as a sport” idea. While admittedly original and unique, it is also really unappealing. I can see how this book might appeal to readers who like a science fiction kind of slant to their romance. It had some funny moments and a lot of originality, but in the end, I just couldn’t like it.

--Kerry Keating

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