I have, hidden in the back of a cupboard, an entire box of trashy romance novels. I discovered in my first year of uni that they were an excellent form of relaxation during exam times. As I’ve said before, reading chills me out, but when I’m cramming, the last thing I need is to be caught up in some intricate plot. At those times, I needed throw-away fiction, and these cheap romance novels were exactly that.
The books have gathered dust for a while (I’d give them to a friend of mine who’s a stay at home mum, but she sits at the chaste kiss end of the spectrum and these books... don't sit there). I’ve forgotten about most of them. But because I was in catch-up mode, and I’m a glutton for punishment (and because some varieties of cheesy stupidity are just too good to keep to yourself), I decided to drag out two of them and re-read them for the CBRII.
Double the Pleasure by Julie Elizabeth Leto.
Oookay. Here’s the premise. Grey and Zane Masterson are twins. Grey is the responsible conservative one who runs the family business, a newspaper. Zane is the carefree party-animal who does, well, not much. Invests in real estate, mostly.
Grey, despite the buttoned-down exterior, is actually a raging pervert, which, because this is a romance novel, means he has sex in limos. Unfortunately for him, the last woman he had sex with was Tila Tequila, and now she’s written a book about it. Okay, it wasn’t Tila Tequila. I once tried to read her Twitter feed. There’s no way she could write a book. Hmm… Imagine Tila Tequila and give her an IQ above 100, okay? That’s who Grey slept with.
He’s also having trouble with a saboteur at the newspaper, and some wack-job stalker who showed up in a Gorilla costume and tried to seduce him. Let me repeat that: she tried to turn him on while dressed as Barney Banana.
The man has problems. The man needs a break. Enter Zane, who offers to switch places with him. To give this bizarre idea some legitimacy, Zane took a private detective course (that he’s not used since) so he’s somehow qualified to hunt down the saboteur and deal with the stalker. Grey is so rattled by strip-teasing gorillas that he agrees, and to Zane’s only request: that Grey looks in on his friend Reina Price, an ‘erotic jewellery designer’ (hey, remember when people were nurses and teachers?). Reina’s having some trouble with break-ins.
Reina is Sensual, But Won’t Let Any Man Near Her Heart. But although she never felt anything for Zane, she gets a severe case of Amazon between the Thighs for Grey. She’s currently remaking a bunch of jewellery originally created by il Gio, who’s basically the Maquis de Sade crossed with a jewellery maker. Unfortunately, somebody keeps breaking in to steal the jewels.
Grey and Reina play with the jewellery, and it turns out that all Reina needed to get through her emotional barriers was some good old-fashioned gold-encrusted bondage. Oh, and il Gio’s descendent is her long-lost father. And her mother is the one who’s been stealing from her. Of course, with Grey’s love, it’s all sorted out and they live happily ever after.
This book is exactly what it promises to be: a sexy romance novel. There’s a decent plot (for the genre), the characters are likable, and the sex scenes are the right side of kinky. So, points to you, Julie Elizabeth Leto.
Double the Thrill, by Susan Kearney.
Toni’s getting married to a Senator! Except she doesn’t want to marry the Senator. Toni also has three sisters, who each have deep and complex character traits like ‘wears pink’ or ‘student environment protestor’. Unfortunately, she can’t turn down Senator Birdstrum, because he’s going to employ her dad (and just out of curiosity, does the American Government actually have a House Committee on Ways and Means? Because that sounds a lot like something invented in a desperate attempt to get the kids interested in the family budget. ‘I call to order the first meeting of the Draper House Committee on Ways and Means… Sally, pay attention’).
The only solution is to have a scandal. A sex scandal. Of course. This is Romance Novel Law #4 (the first three concern length of penis, silkiness of hair and frequency of simultaneous orgasms): Always Choose the Stupid Idea. And, of course, her victim, sorry, suitor, will be Grey Masterson. Even though she’s never met the man, Toni decides they’re going to have fun. ‘Lots of fun. Hot, sweaty fun.’ I, on the other hand, suspect that if you decide a complete stranger’s idea of fun is YOU, you’re standing on one of the earlier steps to becoming a Scary Fucking Stalker.
A week later, Zane is lounging around his Bad Boy Bachelor Pad, having a good laugh at his poor twin, who just got had a woman in a gorilla costume show up and try to do a strip show. Grey is freaked. Zane can’t understand why his brother didn’t ‘act like every other red-blooded American man and salivate at the sight of a woman stripping’. While Grey complains about a saboteur putting oil in the ink while Toni was dancing around in her monkey outfit, Zane indulges in some fantasies about the office strip show. Zane has obviously watched Planet of the Apes too many times. Either that, or he’s a Furrie.
Zane offers a solution that equals Toni’s ‘sex scandal’ idea for sheer stupidity: Swap places! There’s a bunch of emo shit about people never looking beneath the surface and discovering the Very Different Men Underneath. Eventually, Grey agrees to the Really Stupid Idea.
Toni, continuing her plan of Stalkeriffic Seduction, is making up her face so ‘her eyes looked big enough to capture her quarry’. I think she’s going to entice him along like that freaky fish in Finding Nemo.
Zane, pretending to be Grey, comes across Toni. He is intrigued. She has big eyes and sometimes, she’s furry. He saw a girl like that in the Japanese Porno he downloaded last night! She’s got sexy confidence. I don’t think they’d call it that in court, Zane.
At this point, the author loses her shit completely: She exuded a chemistry that would have overwhelmed a less experienced man. (Chloroform?)The impact of her arrival had him intrigued by her mysterious boldness and his curiosity about her motivations upped the stakes. (Is that Engrish?)
There’s some conversation reminiscent of drunkenly earnest college students, majoring in psychology and philosophy. There’s some dates and problems with the newspaper, and Toni finally tells Zane (whom she still thinks is Grey) that she wants a sex scandal. He’s happy to oblige, because writing an article on your sex life is the number one way to increase sales of your very conservative newspaper.
Then they board their private helicopter and head off to the Masterson’s private island. (He only wants you for your gorilla costume, Toni!) On the way, Zane gives Toni a lecture on the birds of the Louisiana and Mississippi shoreline, which makes about as much sense as anything else in this cluster-fuck.
Toni and Zane get on a horse. The same horse. They then proceed to fuck on the horse. Poor horse. As a side note, I’m fairly certain the logistics aren’t nearly as simple as they were made out to be, especially when Zane made that poor horse trot. Either that, or someone forgot to mention that Toni’s a midget.
Once they’ve done that, Toni wants to watch the sunrise. This is, apparently, the single most amazing thing any woman has ever wanted, in the history of ever. It is repeated three times. Add ‘sunrises’ to the list of things that give Zane a hard-on. He’s just a bundle of complexity, isn’t he? Next we’ll discover he likes pina coladas and kissing in the rain.
Toni and Zane eat breakfast on a trampoline. There’s some more drunken first-year student psycho-babble. Then they fuck on the trampoline, also like drunken first years.
Eventually, we reach my absolute favourite scene in any romance novel. Zane has a collection of ‘sexual art’ (ie fancy sex toys). Toni shows up at his place in lingerie. Zane takes her into the kitchen. He’s kissing her, caressing her, he’s… fiddling with the microwave and getting out the olive oil. Toni’s hot and very, very bothered (particularly by the microwave). Then Zane shows her what he’s been messing around with – a glass dildo. What follows is the best line ever written in the history of literature. Picture it – she’s naked and horny, he’s just dribbled olive oil all over the glass penis, and he looks at her and says
‘I used a microwave thermometer. The glass is heated perfectly to one hundred and ten degrees.’
You’re a dirty-talking bastard, Zane.
That, however, is just the start. They’re playing with the dildo, Toni is right on the edge of orgasm, and he opens the freezer. Turns out that the dildo is one of a pair, and he’s put the second one in the freezer. Fortunately, he doesn’t waste time talking about his freezer thermometer, he just plunges the ice-cold dildo into her.
The first time I read this book, that scene reminded me of people getting their tongues stuck to frozen poles. Hence, my reaction was not one of arousal.
Frankly, after a scene like that, everything else is a bit of a let-down. They track down the saboteur. Toni discovers Zane is not Grey (yep, the whole time they’ve been screwing on trampolines and horses, she thought he was his brother). She is understandably peeved and breaks up with him. But she’s miserable, and Zane is miserable. Eventually, Zane prints a picture of himself on the front page of the newspaper on bended knee, and the headline ‘Will you marry me, Toni?’ And Toni, who got completely freaked out when the Senator was doing the same thing, thinks this is just the most romantic thing ever, and promptly marries this man before she meets his parents. Or even the brother he was pretending to be for most of their relationship.
So… happy ending?