In Days of Yore, Anal was Evil. (Thea Devine: Beyond Desire)

Author: Thea Devine
Zebra Historical Romance
Published: 1993

Reasons I Might Actually Remember This One: The evil cult her archeologist father devoted his life to uncovering, because that’s what archeologists do? The psychic-when-the-plot-requires-it Irish hero, with his mysterious “knowing”? No, it’s probably the anal sex harem that’s going to stick with me longest.

Well, that was amazing. I’m having the hardest time assigning “stars” to it on Goodreads. It’s written in the purplest of prose, by the end I hated the hero, the sister the heroine spends the entire book trying to rescue ends up DEAD, and the version of archeology presented is so nonsensical I have to go read some Barbara Michaels now, as a palate cleanser.

On the other hand the sex scenes are AMAZING, and the issues surrounding sex and power are infuriating but fascinating. It’s like a trainwreck where all the boxcars contain appalling beliefs about women’s sexuality: she’ll be addicted to sex! Sex renders her powerless! It would take ten men to satisfy her! If she flirts with men other than the hero, she’s putting herself in danger of rape!

Also this is an Old School Romance, so the sex is lush and baffling.

She swelled, suspended, and then it spilled, crackling like lightning all over her body, incandescent, glittering, a long silver slide of sensation up and down, white-hot, sizzling, blinding…exquisite and so all-enveloping that his thrust of flesh against flesh and his long low groan of repletion was lost in the hot aftermath of her ecstasy. (pp. 143-144)
“Flesh against flesh” reminds me of “plastic on plastic” now.

I also love how this is, according to the back cover anyway, set in set in Victorian London (and later on in Tehrin and Khartoum and The Desert Generally), yet the hero dragging an unmarried woman along with him all over the place, including the British Legation House, is just fine with everyone.

Also the hero, Ryder Culhane (seriously) mysteriously “knows” things, but still won’t believe that the heroine (Alexandra deLisle. Seriously.) didn’t have sex while she was imprisoned in Evil Guy’s Harem. So he can read the mind of the guy who kidnapped her and threatened her with rape, and read her mind all through the book, but we still have to suffer through several pages of this once she’s rescued:

“It seems my odalisque loved her taste of the harem,” he murmured as he entered the room.

“Your odalisque loved her taste of you,” she whispered, her blood thrumming with excitement.

But he couldn’t let it go; he felt like a bulldog  about to gnaw on a meaty bone. “Tell me the lessons of the harem, odalisque. Tell me what you loved.” (p. 418)

And so on for several pages, and he refuses to have sex with her because…her kidnapper might have raped her? Really? (Weirdly, he’s fine with her again later, after both her sister and two extra Surprise Bad Guys have been killed. It reads as though killing the sister who enjoyed the anal-harem somehow…cleared things up between Ryder and Alexandra. IDEK.)

I’m not making it up about the anal harem. There’s a lot of weird anti-anal stuff in this book. Like the scene  where the heroine chokes another harem inmate almost to death:

“So he admired your beauty did he? I wish I could have heard those lies,” she growled. “But your body is much like that of a boy, isn’t it, Biju? And that is why he keeps you by his side and uses my sister so badly. He trained you both to do his will, and now neither of you can withstand his power. But can you withstand mine? Can you? Can you?” she raged, pressing harder and harder into Biju’s throat. (p. 411)

Okay, okay, we get it: YOU DON’T LIKE BUTT STUFF. Simmer down, lady. There’s no need to choke a bitch.

Also, Bad Guy Who Kidnaps Her Sister* seems to be bad chiefly because he 1) has a harem and 2) prefers anal sex (once with–the horror!!!–another man). I mean, he’s also the head of an ancient religion devoted to the worship of evil. But the only form that takes is training the sister for anal sex, maintaining a harem for anal sex, and kidnapping the heroine and threatening her with–wait for it–anal sex.

Allegra looked at her triumphantly and kneeled down on the bed.

He needed no surrogate tonight to possess her. His was the way of the ancients of Rome, and she felt disgusted by his fervor and the eagerness of her sister to yield to it.

But she knew no different; this was the way he had trained her; this was how he had visited himself on her, on the slender weightless body of a young girl — boyish at best, culminating in curves later, when her tastes had been formed and the way had been set. No wonder she had been his favorite: who would surrender everything to this? (p.388)

Whereas the HERO makes the heroine agree to be his “odalisque” in return for accompanying him on the mission to rescue her sister, and at one point is said to be off getting laid elsewhere (I can’t tell if he really was, or this was misinformation), and by the end has killed as many people on his rescue mission as the Bad Guy did. Possibly more people, since he burnt down an entire harem. An entire ANAL harem.

So in the end (…ow) good and evil in this book are largely a matter of…Choice of Hole?

I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining, though.

* The Bad Guy is named Dzmura. Someone needs to buy that man a vowel.


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