If This Bed Could Talk
by Liz Maverick, Kimberly Dean, & Lynn LaFleur
(Avon Red, $13.95, NC-17) ISBN 0-06-088536-X
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Yes, another erotica imprint. After catapulting to popularity thanks to smaller presses and electronic publishers, the latest major house to jump on the bandwagon is Avon. Despite being marketed as “hot, sexy fiction” romance readers will be happy to note that every story in this launch anthology features a happily-ever-after. They also feature some wicked sexual tension, effectively dispelling the myth that erotica is nothing more than mechanical sex with no emotion behind it.

Liz Maverick gets things started with “Agent Provocateur,” which features some unsavory plot devices that would sink this story in no time flat if not for the incredible chemistry between hero and heroine.

Vienna James is a gunrunner who has just been arrested for the third time. Three strikes and you’re out in this futuristic world means one thing – slavery. Vienna is on the auction block and the only thing that will save her from execution is if someone buys her. Michael Kingston buys Vienna because she’s the spitting image of his brother’s traitorous former fiancé. He wants Vienna to seduce their enemy, and steal back something he took from his brother. However when he goes to “train” her, he finds himself falling under her spell. It makes handing her blithely over to the villain a bit more complicated.

A hero who buys the heroine and a revenge plot could have made this a disastrous story, but the sexual tension is enough to peel wallpaper. This is one hot, sexy read – well advertised and delivered.

Next up is Kimberly Dean with “Unrequited.” Trista Christiansen is on a date. Her divorce from her professional baseball player ex has been final for eight months and her friends have been urging her to get back out there. Thanks to her date’s ineptitude, they end up eating dinner in a sports bar. The same sports bar where her ex-brother-in-law is enjoying a game of darts and a beer after a long day at work.

Ty cannot believe that Trista is on a date! Especially with such a weenie. He’s had a thing for her for a long time, but she was always Denny’s girl. Well Denny screwed up, and he’s ready to take a shot. Now to convince Trista that they belong together.

Unrequited love is such a great, bittersweet theme. Ty is a blue-collar guy who stayed away from Trista out of respect for his selfish baby brother. Trista is hesitant to get involved with Ty even though she’s wildly attracted to him. Plus, she always considered him a “friend.” That’s the last thing she wants to mess up. Like the Maverick story, the sexual tension leaps off the page, and the final moment when Trista realizes that Ty is the one for her is sweet, sexy and touching.

Last on the list is Lynn LaFleur’s “Victim Of Deception,” which features one of the more imaginative plots I’ve come across in a while.

Karessa Austin has just inherited a Victorian house from her Aunt Grace. She was thinking of selling, but once she sees the old girl she decides to renovate and move in. Maxwell Hennessey is a professional treasure hunter who is sure a very old, very valuable bearer bond is hidden in the Victorian. One small problem, he used to date Karessa and betrayed her over a “job” he was on. No matter, she’s renovating – he’ll use his connections to get on the job site.

LaFleur’s tale is actually a story within a story – with the Victorian being haunted by Karessa’s great-great grandparents who were murdered. Mary and Aaron have been stuck in limbo over the last 100 years, and feel the key to their freedom is through Karessa and Max reuniting. Luckily, they don’t interfere too much – as Max and Karessa have never truly gotten over each other. All they need a little nudge.

The sex in all of these stories is hot, hot stuff – with LaFleur pushing the envelope almost off the table. That said, all of these characters truly care about each other – giving all of the stories a depth of emotion, and ratcheting up the sexual tension into the stratosphere. With many jumping on the growing erotica bandwagon, I’ll admit I was skeptical. What a pleasant surprise to find three authors, all in the same anthology, getting it all so right. Sit back, enjoy the ride, and lose yourself in the fantasy.

--Wendy Crutcher


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