But pleasure comes in more than one flavour when Zachary Blackwater, the charming ice-cream vendor also takes an interest, and wants more than just a tumble in the surf. Zach offers her warmth that she never felt from her ex, and soon it's not just the ice cream that's melting. When Kara learns that the two men have been unlikely lovers for years, she becomes obsessed with the idea of a threesome. Zach is reluctant, until he sees the dynamic effect Kara has on Ric's emotions. She might be the key to finally capturing Ric's heart.
Soon Kara is wondering how she ever considered binding herself to just one man. She's never had so much fun or felt so uninhibited, but just when everything seems so perfect, the man she left behind returns with some very old-fashioned ideas about rescuing her and taking her home to his own idea of wedded bliss.
Mischief is a relatively new erotica and erotic romance imprint from Harper Collins UK. Since I’m always curious about new things, I wanted to read one of these titles. I was particularly interested in Madelynne Ellis’ “Anything But Vanilla,” but was a bit put off by the price on Amazon ($7.99) – especially since the title was being sold at a %50 discount in the U.K. Imagine my delight when Ellis offered up review copies on Twitter. I emailed her right away and shortly thereafter had a review copy of my own. I admit that I wasn’t exactly sure where the book was headed, but was won over by the characters.
Kara North decides to let loose on the night of what was supposed to be her wedding - after she broke off her engagement. She attempts to take control of her life back by having a hot and heavy encounter with a stranger in a somewhat public place. Shortly thereafter, a homeless Kara travels to a remote island to her brother’s new home to watch over it and make it habitable. Right away, she meets erotic photographer and lord of the manor, Ric Liddell. Ric rules the island and believes in the droit du seigneur tradition. While Kara isn’t a virgin, Ric does seduce her quite handily. However, he withdraws himself emotionally immediately afterwards, confusing Kara.
We then learn that Ric is involved in a long-time affair with Zach. Zach is in love with the emotionally closed-off Ric and is struggling to get Ric to commit. Zach is aware of Ric’s involvement with Kara and is deeply hurt by it – even though Zach is the stranger with whom Kara has sex at the start of the book. Unfortunately, neither Zach nor Kara can resist Ric who sees nothing wrong with continuing his polyamorous lifestyle.
At this point, Kara and Zach team up to seduce Ric into a committed threesome, hoping that he will be more likely to become emotionally involved with both of them. I did wonder about how likely it would be for such a strategy to work. Ric certainly had some weird abhorrence to being labeled a gay photographer, and this seemed to be one of the reasons he did not want to commit exclusively to Zach. It seemed like a rather lame excuse, especially since Ric does love Zach despite the fact that he does not want to admit it.
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t sure exactly where the author was taking this story. Was it going to be erotica or would there underpinnings of erotic romance? Kara’s anonymous sexual encounter, her fast response to Ric’s sexual overtures and a brief f/f scene made me think this was going to be erotica. However, there is real emotion among Ric, Kara and Zach, emotion that is devastating at times. And there is a sense of happiness for the three at the end. I actually felt that the latter third of the book was my favorite – apart from one very specific plot point.
Ric has a stalker, referenced above in relation to the f/f scene, who actually ends up raping Ric. While I think that Ellis handled the scene really well, I believe that this fact could upset many readers. Also, the stalker’s presence in the story is a bit odd. I couldn’t figure out what her purpose was – well, until the rape scene which serves to bring about the romantic resolution among Ric, Kara and Zach.
“Anything But Vanilla” is an emotional read with a great deal of angst – mostly caused by Ric, the dominant personality in the threesome. Ellis did a great job building the romance among the three, although at times, a happy ending seems questionable. And the ending is a bit more of a happy for now than a happily ever after. The book is highly erotic with many of the sex scenes threatening to overshadow the romance. But overall, “Anything But Vanilla” is a sexy and entertaining read.
Book Disclosure: An ebook was provided by author.