Pure Temptation
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
(Harl. Tempt. #744, $ 3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25844-5
Pure Temptation is pure reading delight. This month's Blaze by Vicki Lewis Thompson is a dynamite combination of sensuality and tenderness. When lovers care about each other emotionally and sexually, as they do here, the result can be a ‘red-hot read.'

Each summer Tess Blakely has a goal, a summer project. This year's goal is probably her most important, but achieving it won't be easy. At twenty-six, Tess wants to lose her virginity. For most women that might be easy, but Tess has four big brothers who've warned away all comers. Not only that, but Copperville, Arizona, is so small that people who sneeze at breakfast get chicken soup for lunch.

All her life Tess has dreamed of life outside Copperville. In the fall she'll be moving to New York City and working with teenaged girls. Tess keeps wondering how she can counsel them on sexual behavior if she doesn't know anything about sexual behavior. So losing her virginity is really important.

Tess asks her best friend since childhood, Mac MacDougal to help her. They've been friends for so long that they look at each other as sister and brother. Tess wants Mac to help her make a list of candidates, guys that he considers prime nominees for deflowering her. But the more Mac pictures Tess being intimate with other men, the more upset he becomes. He ultimately decides that he's the only one who can initiate Tess adequately and correctly. He won't trust any of the town bozos to do it right

At this point the nuances of this title, so aptly chosen, came into focus. Finally we've got a title that makes sense, isn't cutesy or misleading.

As Tess and Mac begin talking about her ‘goal', they each admit to having lustful thoughts about the other. Their platonic friendship will be a strong foundation for their summer of awakening. Being such good friends allows them to discuss the fantasies and lust-filled dreams they've entertained about the other. Lady Godiva makes a dandy fantasy for them to enact.

Tess and Mac are uncomplicated people who want what most of us do, a strong relationship that weathers all of life's challenges, a relationship that allows people to be the better for it, that makes them two strong parts of an invincible whole. Being such good friends gives them an edge, but it also makes for some wonderfully light-hearted moments.

Tess wants to be an informed lover, someone who's not afraid to be aggressive, someone who isn't reluctant to try new techniques. With that end in mind, she does her research, buying sex how-to books to study. Mac is a bit rattled when she discusses techniques. Her candor as she reveals her desires and questions him on his wants surprises Mac, but soon he realizes that Tess, his best friend, is also the woman he's been waiting for all his life.

What's he going to do when she leaves in September?

What makes Mac so special is that he, too, would like to leave Copperville. However, as an only child, he feels obligated to remain on his family's ranch. As Tess's departure approaches, he's experiencing conflicting emotions. He empathizes with her desire to leave; he feels that bone-deep need himself. But this is Tess, his best friend, his lover, his other half. How can he let her go and not feel as though his heart has been ripped out?

Pure Temptation is what category romances are all about. There's ample character development, and their motivations are clear and sensible. The humor is gentle and plentiful. Tess and Mac are realistically portrayed, with fears and strengths common to all of us. The dialogue is crisp and snappy, the sex is tenderly tempestuous, and it's easy to want the best for this couple. Mac and Tess are winners. So is Pure Temptation.

--Linda Mowery

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