Bliss River


The Forever Kiss by Thea Devine
(Kensington, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7582-0399-3
There are certain things I expect when I read a Thea Devine novel: 1) A convoluted suspense thread that makes little sense and 2) enough naughty reindeer games to make me overlook the convoluted suspense thread. Unfortunately, the author strays from this tried and true formula in her latest erotic ďromance.Ē

Dar St. Onge is some sort of secret covert soldier in 19th century South Africa when his colonel summons him for a new assignment. Lying, near death, in a hospital tent is Ducas Sangbourne - a man who looks so much like Dar itís uncanny. Ducas has been up to no good and the colonel wants Dar to return to England and Sangbourne Manor to ferret out Ducasí secrets.

Feigning amnesia, Dar weasels his way into Ducasí life - which includes a high-strung mother, a clueless stepfather, and their swinging lifestyle. Even worse, the country home is full of visiting hedonistic guests and the local constable is harassing them about bloodless animal corpses found near the estate. There is also the half-gypsy Angene - a woman who is determined to become Ducasí mistress whatever the cost.

Will Dar be able to pull off the masquerade long enough to learn the truth? What sort of nefarious evil is Sangbourne Manor hiding? How long do I have to put up with this plot until I get to the sex?

First things first - this plot is a complete mess. The reason for Darís mission isnít made entirely clear from the beginning. The reader has no clue what prompts the colonel to send Dar on his merry way or even why, until well into the story. By the time I was told what prompted this mission my head hurt too much to care.

Then thereís Angene - exactly who is she? Good question. All this reader could determine about her is that sheís half-gypsy and horny as hell. She desperately wants to become Ducasí mistress, nothing more. Why? Good question. Why is she so obsessed with him? Good question. How could she make out with Ducas before he left for war, then have hot monkey sex with Dar afterwards and not know he wasnít Ducas? Good question.

Confused yet? So was I - for the majority of this book.

Iíve long admitted that I adore Devineís brand of naughtiness. Sheís the only writer I know who can churn out a soap opera plot that could rival Melrose Place and steep it in enough sex to make me almost ashamed of myself for enjoying it. However, in The Forever Kiss, I had to slog through a plot that didnít make much sense, a heroine I did not know in the least, and on top of that - I had to wait over 100 pages to get to the sex. I was truly vexed.

While I count myself as one of Devineís legions of fans - even I admit that her work is largely hit or miss. The Forever Kiss is readable in portions - mainly when the suspense thread is put on hold and Dar and Angene get down to business. Other than that, Iím afraid it largely didnít work for me, and I was left even more confused when I read the close of the last chapter. Lord, I hope it doesnít mean a sequel.

A couple of naughty sex scenes do not a good guilty pleasure read make. With a mysterious heroine, and a completely wacky plot, Iím afraid I canít even recommend Devineís latest as a summertime diversion. Coupled with the hot sun at the beach, it would probably just leave readers wandering aimlessly out into the surf.

--Wendy Crutcher

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