Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Brass Bed by Jennifer Stevenson

I picked this book up when I was just in the right mood. I was tired and cranky and needed something fun and undemanding. The Brass Bed is a sex farce with demons, and it delivers the comedy. It's light and fluffy (much like, as the cover blurb says, "pillow fighting naked.") This is for people who want the sex of an average Laurel K. Hamilton book, but without the angst.

Jewel is an investigator with Chicago's Department of Consumer Services. She's supposed to make sure scales are honest and the like, but this department has also gotten stuck with implementing the Policy. See, Chicago is suffering a bad infestation of magic (pink smog caused by road rage, pigeons smoking cigarettes, that sort of thing). By government decree, however, there is no magic in Chicago. So there.

Jewel has no reason to believe that there's anything magical involved when her boss asks her to check out his wife's "sex therapist." Jewel is friends with both, and sorry that their marriage is in trouble, and she can't not try to help. So she poses as a client, and the sex therapist (read - con man), Clay, introduces her to his very special brass bed.

The next thing you know, Jewel is having crazy-wild dream sex with the incubus trapped inside the bed by an old curse. Clay's sex therapy is more effective than even he knows, since he didn't know about the demon. Unfortunately, Jewel may have inadvertently broken the curse and freed the demon. Clay, already worried by government-types sniffing around, is shutting things down. Jewel's best friend is shattered by the idea of not getting her sex therapy anymore and starts scheming to get the bed. Jewel has to escort an newly-released incubus around, one who was 18th century nobility before he was cursed. Talk about culture shock. Then there are political pressures from her boss plus his continuing marriage problems, and you've got all the elements you could need for a classic romping farce, with the eponymous bed as the Macguffin.

As necessitated by the form, everything works out well in the end. Jewel gets to keep the incubus and the crazy-wild sex. She gets con-man Clay for a business partner and has some normally awesome normal sex with him as well. Her boss' marriage problems get fixed, and everyone looks to live happily ever after. However, with a good stock of characters and a universe rich with comic possibilities, one imagines they'll be back.

There's a huge market for erotic paranormal fantasy out there, and this book fills a nice niche in that subgenre, which had been focusing more on the sex and less on the comedy. Stevenson writes some truly inspired crazy dream sex scenes, and can go toe-to-toe with Hamilton for arousing sex writing. However, she also milks the comic potential of her set-up for all it's worth. It's not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, but it gets lots of smiles.

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