Tuesday, June 8, 2021

REVIEW: Big Guns Out of Uniform (anthology) by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Liz Carlyle, and Nicole Camden

Big Guns Out of Uniform is a romance anthology - either erotic romance or something very close to it. I'm pretty sure I bought it new.


I bought this book years ago, back when I was a huge Sherrilyn Kenyon fan and would read anything of hers I could get my hands on, even though I preferred her paranormals. This was technically a reread, but I only remembered Kenyon's story and the premise of Camden's story. Carlyle's story was a complete blank - absolutely nothing about it was familiar to me.

I recalled this being a so-so read for me, even back when I first read it. My romance reading tastes have changed a lot over the years, so I was curious to see how well this would hold up for me.

"BAD to the Bone" by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Marianne is a teacher who won a fantasy getaway in a contest. She gets to spend a week on an island, pretending to be the gorgeous heroine of her favorite romance novel while acting out scenes from the book. She'd been excited for the actor playing Brad, the book's hero, to sweep her off her feet, but the one who actually does that is Kyle, an agent from BAD (Bureau of American Defense) who's recuperating from a recent mission on the other half of the island.

Oh man, this story's premise was cringey. I can't imagine one of these "Hideaway Heroine Sweepstakes" going well. It's one thing to fantasize about your favorite romance hero. It's another to go on a real getaway with the expectation that the actor playing your favorite romance hero might seduce you. It wasn't stated flat out like that, but it was clear that the reality of the getaway (bad acting, plus edited scenes that avoid all sexual moments) did not impress Marianne.

Kyle was one of Kenyon's "tough guys who secretly want to settle down with someone sweet and ordinary but don't feel like they deserve that life." The story's length meant she didn't have a lot of time and space to establish the character dynamics, so aspects of it felt a little rushed, even though there was enough humor and warmth to make the results appealing. We had Kyle both falling instantly in love with Marianne and telling her that she was beautiful, and also thinking to himself that she was fairly ordinary and not particularly beautiful. 

Readers were assured that Kyle really wanted an ordinary life with an ordinary woman, but I had trouble imagining what he'd do with himself once he followed Marianne home. BAD seemed to be his entire life. Still, this was pure fluff written in a reasonably enjoyable way.

"Let's Talk About Sex" by Liz Carlyle

Dr. Delia Sydney has a radio show in which she gives callers sex-related advice. Her recent divorce makes her feel a bit like a fraud, but she also definitely doesn't miss her ex - he's the one who left her with a mortgage she can't afford. Until she can manage to sell her house, she somehow has to convince her piece of junk car to keep working. Thankfully, Nick, her cop neighbor, offers to help her out. 

I'm not really a fan of "heroine job involves sex in some way and is therefore inherently sexy" romance setups, and I don't think it was handled all that well here. An attempt was made: at one point in their relationship, Delia asked Nick to stop bringing up callers to her radio station during their own flirting and sex. She told him that that was her work, and she didn't consider her work to be sexy. I really liked that moment, but then it was ruined when Nick called Delia's radio station and, using a fake name, essentially flirted with her on-air by asking her a question that was really about her. If I had been Delia, I'd have been pissed, but for some reason she didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with what he did. They certainly never talked about it afterward.

On the plus side, the relationship progression was more believable than in the first story - no instalove, and I could actually imagine them as a couple with a future. 

"The Nekkid Truth" by Nicole Camden

Years ago, an accident robbed Debbie of her ability to recognize faces, even her own. She got a job as a crime scene photographer and is now famous in the art world for her nude photography. She also has a private photograph collection: dick pics of all the men who have been her lovers. The man she really wants to be with, though, is Detective Marshall Scott. Unfortunately, he keeps her at arm's length - maybe for the best, since she isn't sure whether someone who can't recognize the face of their own mother could ever really love someone.

Whereas Kenyon's story was pure fluff and even Carlyle's was pretty light, Camden's story had a heaviness to it. The first half, in particular, felt very quiet and reflective, but also weirdly emotionally distant. I think it was part of Camden's efforts to write Debbie's face blindness, so it technically fit the story, but it didn't work for me from a romance perspective. I like my romances more emotionally warm and sweet. The second half of the story delivered that a little more, but overall it wasn't to my taste.

Still, Debbie's face blindness was pretty unique and memorable. The way it was worked into the final scene was nice.

All in all, this collection was okay, but a little odd, ranging in tone from goofy to reflective. It definitely at least had a theme to it: law enforcement officer heroes plus relatively high heat level sex. Unfortunately, considering the limited number of pages the authors had to work with, I sometimes felt like the sex scenes detracted from the time needed to establish that the characters were really in love rather than just in lust and could make a relationship work. Although Kenyon's story was the most fun, it was also the worst in that respect. That said, the other two stories were only so-so reads for me as well.

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