Mixing Business and Pleasure | Erotica Reviews

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT This month’s titles feature smart women thriving, or sometimes just surviving, at their place of business—and getting in some action after hours, as well. In Helen ­Hoang’s charming debut, The Kiss Quotient, brilliant data expert and workaholic Stella tries to buy a boyfriend in the form of gorgeous escort Michael, only to realize that she had the real thing all along. Night Shift’s Taryn, from author Joanna Angel, has a decidedly less glamorous job at adult novelty shop Dreamz, but her unique vocation brings with it a lot of hands-on sex education. Two heroines toe the left side of the law with their thrilling, and occasionally dangerous, professions in Sara Brookes’s Switch It Up and Kristen Ashley’s The Greatest Risk. Quirky barista and bartender Blake, on the other hand, works where she can until she’s fired; luckily, her new job at the Coffee Bean brings her into close proximity to Gavin, her sexy future roommate who soon becomes much more, in Elizabeth Hayley’s Misadventures with My Roommate.

Angel, Joanna. Night Shift: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy. Cleis. Feb. 2018. 310p. ISBN 9781627782883. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781627782531. EROTICA

In this choose-your-own erotic adventure, Taryn, facing the death of her academic dreams, finds herself working at an erotic novelty shop in Florida. There she encounters a range of eccentric customers and learns more about herself (and sexuality) than she ever had in school. Though awkward and fairly inexperienced when it comes to sex, she quickly catches on through the various steamy, raunchy, wild, and playful scenarios that unfold in her workplace—all of which readers can select via footnote directions that dictate the course of the plot. Encounters include an old friend who struck it rich and is treating his jocular posse, a customer convinced he doesn’t measure up without herbal assistance and a special technique, and a bashful, burly lumber­jack on the hunt for something with frills—who ends up playing a big role in Taryn’s erotic education. Angel’s (coauthor, Burning Angel) writing style is wry, witty, and engaging; readers will chuckle with Taryn’s dry observations on the shop’s odd happenings and cheer her on as she expands her repertoire. Unfortunately, there are a few rocky moments, including questionable inclusions of terms such as ethnic and midget and Taryn’s unsettling assertion that women with degrees and lingerie don’t mix. VERDICT Overall, this laugh-out-loud inter­active tale is perfect for readers seeking a lively and enjoyable erotic read.

Ashley, Kristen. The Greatest Risk. Griffin: St. Martin’s. (Honey, Bk. 3). May 2018. 592p. ISBN 9781250177100. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250177117. EROTICA

This final installment in the “Honey” series, centered on the enigmatic Bee’s Honey kink club and its patrons, sees damaged Domme Sixx taking the stage. Sixx has spent most of her life hopping from one “fixing” job to another and rarely looks back—except when it comes to handsome Dom Stellan Lange, for whom she’s harbored a years-long attraction. When she returns to ­Phoenix for good, Sixx dances around Stellan, waiting for him to make the first move—which turns out to be a big one, in the form of creating an elite gladiator stadium to fulfill the woman’s deepest aggressive male-on-male fantasies (personal sexual gladiator included). Things escalate quickly when Stellan makes an offer she can’t refuse: a month of living together, with no outside sex or play, and her submission to him on the weekends. As ­Stellan grapples with the trials of committed love and Sixx finds her icy walls melting (allowing the wounded Simone Marchesa to emerge in her stead), ghosts from both their pasts threaten to end more than the couple’s complicated relationship. Clocking in at almost 600 pages, this tome is best suited for those seeking a dense, racy read with plenty of plot. Following the tradition of the earlier works in the series (The Deep End; The Farthest Edge), kinky depictions of “­alpha subs” (submissive alpha men), chastity cages, and group sex abound. VERDICT Fans of Ashley’s work will delight in this gritty finale to an intense series.

starred review starBrookes, Sara. Switch It Up. Carina: Harlequin. (Noble House Kink, Bk. 2). Feb. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781335013613. pap. $8.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488030734. EROTICA

Genius hacker Maddy Zane is bored with her all-too-easy job of perusing clients’ websites for security errors and her quiet solo life with cat Samoa. After catching a number of code glitches and running into an online predator, Maddy heads to the sleekly mysterious Noble House, a hybrid kink club and fetish site, where she directs her ire at club owner Kochran Duke and web developer Ezra Snow. She’s shocked to find that anger isn’t the only emotion she feels for the men, both of whom experience similar attraction (for Maddy and for each other), despite their best attempts to quell it. When Maddy gives in to the delicious sensation of submitting to not one but two Dominants, the trio must battle a long history of fear and pain to accept the love they deserve. Brookes (Get Off Easy) has crafted an engrossing “Noble House” sequel featuring a cast of well-­cultivated characters with full lives, hobbies, and hardships that readers will find just as absorbing as the sizzling triad. While the threesome have chemistry, the dynamics between each partnering bring their own unique love and eroticism. ­Kochran’s confidence and no-nonsense approach melts Maddy’s heart, among other things, just as thoroughly as Ezra’s subtle strength and penchant for geekery, while both men have a long-standing friendship that evolves into something more. VERDICT A playfully sexy m/m/f novel with an intriguing plot and an outstanding Dominant/submissive trio. Recommended for fans of nuanced depictions of BDSM with emotional depth and happy endings.

Hayley, Elizabeth. Misadventures with My Roommate. Waterhouse. (Misadventures, Bk. 10). Mar. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781947222977. $12.99. EROTICA

Quirky, disarmingly honest Blake finds herself working at the Coffee Bean to get by when she’s not tending bar. Coworker Gavin is having a similar struggle, barely making ends meet with his two jobs. The pair’s mutual attraction is undeniable, and Blake is extremely open to learning more about her sexy colleague after hours. A unique opportunity arises when Blake’s roommate moves out and Gavin gets the boot from his apartment. The two quickly become roommates and friends with benefits, but their casual setup evolves into something much more serious, leaving Blake terrified. Her candor and lack of a filter hide a very troubled past—but Gavin has secrets of his own. Both must work through their emotional barriers now that someone’s shown up who is worth it. Author duo Hayley (The Proposition) have crafted a decidedly unconventional erotic heroine: Blake is odd, snarky, and fairly unflappable, with deep levels of vulnerability. An unfortunately persistent focus on her slim body size is unnecessary at best and at times distracting. VERDICT Quick pacing and immediate chemistry are welcome departures for those eager to ditch the “chase” ever present in lengthier novels. ­Recommended for fans of the authors.

starred review starHoang, Helen. The Kiss Quotient. Berkley. Jun. 2018. 318p. ISBN 9780451490803. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780451490810. EROTIC ROMANCE

DEBUT Stella Lane, a successful 30-year-old econometrician with Asperger’s syndrome, is feeling the pressure from her mother to settle down. But she doesn’t like dating, or kissing, or what might come after. So she finds a practical solution: hiring escort Michael Phan for some unconventional education. When their first night doesn’t go as planned, Stella realizes that her intended field of study should be relationships, not just sex. Michael agrees to be her faux boyfriend, but neither can deny that the feelings brewing between them are very real. Debut author Hoang, diagnosed with Asperger’s herself, portrays Stella with honesty and tender­ness. Michael’s fraught family history is given lush attention, with a cast of endearing relatives who come together in a delightfully realistic portrayal of an unlikely couple falling in love. This title sits firmly in the erotic romance category, but the couple’s slow build (and ­sizzling sexual chemistry) is certainly worth the wait. VERDICT A compulsively readable erotic romance that is equal parts sugar and spice. Highly ­recommended.

Ashleigh Williams is Editorial Assistant, School Library Journal

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