An Original Sin

The Pleasure Master by Nina Bangs
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52445-7
If the late Douglas Adams were to reappear and start writing romance, he might come up with something like this. Unfortunately, like his famous Hitchhiker books, some will think they are cutting edge hilarious and some will say "I don't get it". Well, I didn't get this book.

Hairdresser Kathy Bartlett, she of fast mouth and one-liners, is stranded on Christmas Eve by the side of a road, holding a sack of toys for the local shelter. One of the toys is a strange contraption that doesn’t seem to have any function, but hey, it was available. Kathy decides to name it “Peter”, after her no-goodnik of an ex husband - the same ex who constantly criticized her sexual performance and left Kathy feeling like a zero between the sheets. (The heavy-handed humor of naming both of them “Peter” will not be lost on readers.)

Kathy, in frustration, wishes for “warmth, peace, conveniences, and a subservient man”. Peter begins to blink and Kathy is catapulted back into time to 1542 Scotland. Peter comes along for the ride. Kathy awakes to find she’s surrounded by three brothers in kilts. Afraid they’ll attack, she sprays two of them with mousse in a place where it’s likely to shock them. The third, Ian, is undeterred. He explains to Kathy that he’s the Pleasure Master, a man whose purpose is to give pleasure to women.

The two brothers and Ian are about to enter a competition to see which one of them can seduce a woman whose heart cannot be touched. The winner gets to be the Pleasure Master.

This is sounding more like a male fantasy every minute.

Ian takes Kathy home with him and introduces her to his people as Kathy, Princess of Hair, daughter of King Clairol. Peter, who speaks only in movie dialogue, comes along. Kathy continues to toss out smart-aleck one-liners that Ian can’t understand. The brothers plot to become the new Pleasure Master.

Oh, and her cell phone still works so she can call New York City, allowing for a secondary romance literally between two worlds.

If any of this is working for you, by all means, be my guest. I don’t mind suspending belief for the sake of a well-done time travel, but I’m afraid this was too much for me. I kept thinking of practical things like syphilis (how many women has Ian slept with?) and the likelihood that Peter’s batteries would run down. Eventually I was wishing for it. Kathy is all mouth and not much depth beyond her constant obsessing that she can’t have an orgasm. Ian is a cardboard hunk. The movie quotes were a one-trick pony and got old fast. And the “they ALMOST make love” scenario turns up over and over, to the point that I finally didn’t care if they did the deed or not.

The Pleasure Master may well find an audience among readers who are looking for something way beyond different. In a way, it's great that Nina Bangs broke a few rules and pushed a few envelope edges. Romance readers are always complaining there's too much of the same stuff on the shelves. The Pleasure Master is certainly different. If I've whetted your interest, I encourage you to give it a try, if only to let Love Spell know the attempt was appreciated.

--Cathy Sova

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