Toxic Desire

by Robin Lovett
March 19, 2018 · Entangled: Scorched
Erotica/Erotic RomanceRomanceScience Fiction/Fantasy

If you ever just need to turn your brain off for a sec, might I suggest Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett. It’s an erotic science fiction romance where two enemies are stranded on a sex planet. There are some pacing issues and the pages given to all of the sex scenes may have been better utilized, but it’s so over the top and campy that you just have to settle in for the ride.

Before we go any further, I want to make it abundantly clear this is an erotic romance. There is sex and lots of it. If you were unsure of the level of sexual content, let me assuage your worries and reiterate for the people in the back: THERE IS LOTS OF IT.

Nemona or “Nem” is a deserter of the Ten Systems. The Systems are known for their tyrannical rule and violent quest for power. Nem was part of their military but after realizing this wasn’t the kind of government she wanted to support, she gathered a crew of Ten Systems citizens who felt the same way and went rogue. Now they use their Ten Systems ship to conduct research missions, wanting to know more about the universe and people in it.

Oten is a Ssedez, a member of a god-like warrior race with impenetrable armored skin. They’re very snake-like in appearance with forked tongues and fangs. There is no love lost between the Ssedez and the Ten Systems, as Oten’s race was forced into faking their own genocide to go into hiding after the Systems sought to eradicate them. Seeing a Ten Systems ship near their new hidden home forces Oten and his warriors to attack the ship.

Things definitely don’t go as planned as the ship and its escape shuttles crash on the planet Fyrian. The planet was given that name by outsiders because it’s been rumored that planet is literally on fire. But Oten and Nem soon realize it’s a “fire of the loins.” The atmosphere makes them experience physical and insatiable lust.

To complicate things further than being trapped on a sex planet with your enemy, the Ssdez have a mating ritual known as the Attachment. It’s sort of kind a “mate for life” scenario, though several steps have to be completed for the Attachment to take. Several things happen to Oten that signify he’s found his mate and being mated is something that he’s always longed for. However, Nem is human. Even if she did reciprocate, Oten isn’t sure how his fellow Ssedez will handle the news.

Oten’s backstory and his conflict about finding a lifelong partner is more heavily addressed. He’s adorable and confused and just wants to be loved. With Nem, her emotional baggage doesn’t make much of an appearance until the end and is a bit out of left field. But she is a stern badass. She’s also infertile, a procedure that was required as part of her military service.

I’m honestly torn about that detail because it was revealed once during a rather emotional and pivotal scene, only never to be talked about again. On one hand, Nem doesn’t seem to regret the decision, but I’m not an advocate of any forced sterilization, given how it’s been used throughout history. It also felt that though Nem was presented with a choice, saying no wasn’t really an option.

Toxic Desire is clearly divided into two parts. Part one is Nem and Oten’s “road trip” in the wilds of Fyrian. They’re trying to get to her crashed ship to see if there are any survivors and if her research has been destroyed. Part two is the reunion with her crew and the meeting of native Fyrians. The second half, for me, is where the good stuff happens and the sex is balanced out by introductions to new characters, a better understanding of the planet, and how Oten and Nem will address their relationship.

Not that the beginning half was bad, but all the sex scenes began to blur together without anything new being revealed. Oten has sex venom, fangs, a forked tongue, his ejaculate is silver, and that his Achilles’ heel is located in his penis.

Feel free to read that last sentence several times.

Not only is that a lot of detail, but it’s all unloaded in one go. Much like Oten himself, lololololol.

The biology of the Ssedez is revealed rather quickly, which meant a good portion of the sex scenes were there for the hell of it. The scenes weren’t “furthering” anything for me in terms of plot or character development. I eventually reached a point where I did some skimming. I have no issues with erotic romance, but I would have preferred a more evenly threaded balance between sex, world building, action, and character development. It was a little lopsided.

Now let’s talk consent.

Consent can only be freely given when all parties and clear-headed and unimpaired. With the atmosphere of the planet heightening the characters’ arousal to painful levels, they were compelled to have sex to offer temporary release. Nem and Oten are almost frenzied to ease their sexual pain. But were they in their right mind? Were they in possession of all their faculties?

I would say no. However, there are moments when Nem makes it clear that she doesn’t want to have sex with Oten and he keeps his distance. They’ll have to achieve release on their own and they do.

The issue of consent left me conflicted, though I ultimately came to the conclusion that Oten and Nem respected each other’s boundaries when communicated. Other readers may have a different interpretation, so I’d rather everyone be forewarned before picking this up.

There is also a discussion of gender identity that I want to warn readers about as well. Nem makes a decision as captain that her crew should keep their genders hidden. This happens at the beginning of the book, and toward the climax of the story (literal climax, not sexual climax – there’s more than one of those). The directive to conceal gender is s a leftover tenet they’ve retained from when they served the Ten Systems. Nem believes wearing androgynous suits will help curb any conflict or bias, and will keep her crew safer. Her crew highly disagrees with this decision, wishing to express their gender identities freely. When Nem is reunited with the survivors of the Ssedez attack, she’s surprised to see they’ve adopted a democratic process and have reversed some of her mandates she made, namely keeping gender identities a secret.

Rather than re-establishing her position as captain, Nem respects the decisions her crew has made, though seems slightly unsettled. She’s lived her life being ambiguous in terms of her own gender, and she has some anxiety that she’ll be judged or viewed differently by her crew, or those that think women shouldn’t serve in positions of power

It was an interesting concept that I wish were explored more, though I found it oddly coincidental that her surviving crew members were all women or identified as such. I would have traded some of the sex scenes for several insightful discussions between Nem and her crew, mainly because I found this to be more fascinating than all the creative ways Nem and Oten made use of their parts.

However, I never felt that Nem truly accepted this decision on a deeper, personal level or substantially wrestled with how this affected her own negative feelings about being a woman in a position of power, or her thoughts on finally being able to see her crew. She never reflected on her initial call to force her crew to hide their gender identities.

I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t enjoy this book because I did. It’s a bonkers fun read and sometimes, that’s what I need. My main issue was the pacing and how certain aspects of the plot were distributed. And while some fascinating aspects were introduced in regards to the different alien races and Nem’s crew, they fell just shy of giving me what I wanted, which was a deeper examination of all characters involved. There are also several things I mentioned (gender identity, sterilization, and consent) that could be particularly sensitive issues for readers.

The books in the series appear to be connected; I’m assuming I’ll get more info for my nosy brain when I continue. Yes, it’s a “when” not an “if.” Mostly, I’m just curious what sorts of things Lovett will write next because her imagination seems limitless.

Look, it’s a romance set on a sex planet. It does what it says on the tin. Besides, aren’t you the slightest bit curious?

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