Double Dare by Saskia Walker
(Berkley, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-425-21297-1
****
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect about the recent erotica boom is that many good authors, previously published by small presses, are cracking into the more mainstream, American marketplace. Such is the case with Saskia Walker, whose first full-length novel debuts under the Berkley Heat umbrella. While a little thin on conflict, it’s easy to see that this is an author who has earned her stripes writing for respected erotica publishers like Virgin Books’ Black Lace line.

Abby Douglas is a beautiful, sexually aware investment advisor working for a prominent firm in London. While standing at the reception desk one day, a drop dead gorgeous courier comes in to drop off some documents. He thinks Abby is the receptionist, and she doesn’t correct him. This is one guy she would love to spend time with, and a lot men turn tail and run when they find out she’s a high-powered career gal. No harm, no foul, why not have some fun?

Except that sexy courier is club owner, Zac Bordino who just happens to be the son of Abby’s new client. His mother is in failing health, and has urged Zac to oversee the family portfolio. It’s when Zac gets a look at that portfolio that he realizes that Abby Douglas is no secretary. But why would she lie to him? Is it innocent enough or is she hiding something more nefarious? To find out, he begins to spend more time with her, and while he wants to find out what she’s truly about, he finds it might not be soon enough to guard his heart.

While the conflict sounds like it’s ripe for miscommunication and a big misunderstanding, Walker doesn’t write it that way. Abby’s little white lie is innocent enough, but Zac doesn’t know that – and given his playboy past and family money, he’s a little slow to trust. That doesn’t mean though that the characters sit around brooding in their internal angst. Anything but! Abby and Zac are immediately attracted to each other, with a sexual combustion that leaps off the pages. These two cannot get enough of each other, and the love scenes are sexy, erotic and imaginative without being silly and weird.

Also refreshing is that when the truth finally comes out in the open, both characters openly admit to what they’ve done. There’s no wailing, stomping of feet, or theatrical screaming matches. These two actually behave like adults, and admit that they both could have handled the situation better. It also gives the author time to explore the extremely pleasing fantasy of hot sex with a hot stranger.

While Abby is a sexually confident woman, once she and Zac hook up readers will find a monogamous relationship. Also, there is a smaller secondary romance between the real receptionist and Zac’s best friend that plays out quite nicely.

While the plot isn’t what one would call complex, and the conflict runs on the thin side, this is a pleasing erotic romance that works quite well. Walker’s previously published erotica consists of several novellas, and her ability in the craft of writing spicy sex shows. Having waded through some less than desirable offerings from the recent erotica boom, this is one of the better novels to land in my lap. It was a pleasant diversion indeed and a good start to Walker’s full-length novel career.

--Wendy Crutcher


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