A collection of three romantic short stories involving hypnosis published by Ellora’s Cave publishing company. Each of the three have a lovely, lonely lady paired with a seductive, sexy man though some use of hypnosis, whether it be a stage hypnosis show, a demonstration of mesmerism or in pursuit of a notorious criminal.

Commentary: What is interesting is that all three stories present different combinations of mesmerized experiences: in one, the man is the mesmerist and the last the subject, but, in another, the roles are reversed, and in a third, both are hypnotized by a third party. And while the hypnosis is not always the center of the story, it is always a major driving force in the plot.

And sex. Lots of long sighs and lustful thoughts and explicit fantasies and mental recriminations and especially wet and squishy and pretty explicit (but tasteful) sex. And always, hypnosis plays a part in that too, primarily as the initiator of the relationship but in one story, its the secret fantasy of both participants, one wanting to hypnotize the other and the other wanting to be hypnotized.

Sir Phillip Ashton’s Eyes’ by Sahara Kelly

Lady Abigail Foxworth has just rejected her latest suitor, much to her step-mother’s dismay. Its not that she’s fickle, but she is demanding of her suitors and demands only someone who can match her intelligence as well as stir her heart (and other places, as well.) Then she attends a party at a neighboring estate, at which will be a demonstration of mesmerism. But even before the demonstration, she is totally mesmerized by the sight of Sir Phillip’s eyes, just as he is mesmerized by the lovely Lady Abigail. He, in fact, is the mesmerist, and leads Abigail to be his demonstration subject, at which she performs superbly, even though she tells herself she is only acting. Afterward, she can’t keep from thinking about Phillip (or lusting for him) and he feels quite the same. But it takes quite a while for their minds to recognize what their hearts and bodies already know

Commentary: Mesmerism is the spark that unites the two lovers, and it is the running theme and convention used to describe their mutual attraction, even by the two themselves. As for Abigail, she thinks that she only ‘pretended’ to be mesmerized for the demonstration, but I suspect that like many first-time subjects, if she were to be shown a convincer test, she would be amazed to discover she was actually hypnotized.

Magic in the Works’ by Ashleigh Raine

Elaine has been working hard to get her ground-breaking Internet project off the ground. She knows her superior, who is also her vengeful ex-boyfriend, is out to make sure his competing project wins out. She is sure that he sent someone to her to sabotage the project when it demos at a trade fair. Elaine encounters Mark at the airport and is striken with him before she knows who he really is, and then she finds out that they have to work together and that he is her superior, so she suspects him of being the one who is supposed to sabotage her. He takes her to a stage hypnosis show in Vegas and their shared experience on stage only makes their connection stronger yet stranger. Their desire might cloak sabotage but it could be the prescription for a lifetime forever.

Commentary: Probably the most valid story of the three, at least from a hypnosis standpoint. All the stage hypnosis suggestion (“I always give a parting gift to the people who make my show happen. When you wake up the following morning, you’ll be relaxed, but energized, ready to face the challenges of your new day. And if you find yourself in bed with a very special partner, you will have unlimited seual energy. Just for that night, though.”) did was encourage the potential romantic relationship, perhaps even subconsciously giving the two the permission to start the relationship that they normally might have moral doubts or concerns about, without explicitly directing whom that relation will be with. That they still had professional or personal concerns that would have limited the relationship means that the suggestions they were given were only suggestions, nothing stronger.

True Lies’ by Jaci Burton

Mia is a detective. She has the inate power to hypnotize criminals into telling her what she wants to know and make them much more docile. But she has failed and now an alien criminal is on the loose. She needs help and that help comes to her as Ric, an alien bounty hunter. Ric takes Mia on an adventure of a lifetime. She wants him, but doesn’t know how to have him without coercion, so she challenges him to let her hypnotize him, with the ulterior motive to command him to have sex with her.

Ric is a bounty hunter from an alien planet. His race is hypersuggestible but he has a microchip implant that prevents him from being hypnotized. He is also smitten with the diminuative (at least from his oversized perspective) Mia and accepts her challenge to be hypnotized just as a way to relieve his own sexual frustrations.

Of course, Mia and Ric will eventually discover each other’s lies and their acceptance of them and their acceptance and love for each other.

Commentary: While this story works as a romance, to this long-time sceince-fiction reader, it falls flat as an SF story. The aliens aren’t so ‘alien’ here, having desires and appearances that are just as human as any Terrestrial. You could remove all of the alien SF elements, leaving only the use of hypnosis as an enhanced criminal investigation tool, and the story would still work.

Recommendation: Recommended for fans of romance stories, not so much for others. Not having any real broad experience with the field, I’m not sure how they work as romance stories, but they do work as fiction (with the caveat above.)

Things change, especially in the publishing field. Ellora’s Cave is no longer in business: it started in 2000 but encountered difficulties starting around 2013 with authors claiming unpaid royalties. The publisher filed a defamation lawsuit in 2015, was counter-sued, and settled in 2015 with a confidential agreement. Ellora’s Cave also threatened to sue the Romance Writers of America over RWA’s claims that Ellora’s Cave was not paying authors. Finally, Ellora’s Cave closed in 2016.

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