Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis

Archive for the 'writers who are not me' Category

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
Book Review: THE DARK BONES

I recently read The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White. It’s a romantic suspense, and I’ve got to say, it’s just about a perfect book.

First, the back cover blurb:

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
Book Review: Somebody to Love By Aurelia Fray

About the book:

An unlikely pair, an impossible mission, and a hilarious hunt for somebody to love.

Henry was only tasked with fixing the leaky office pipes. So, when a crazy woman barges in and confesses all her secrets like a challenge, he’s faced with two choices: Tell her he’s not the man she’s looking for, or roll with it.

Rachel knows there’s something amiss about her new shrink–he’s far too handsome for starters–but she’s desperate to straighten her life out. With only three weeks to find a date to her best friend’s wedding, she’s willing to try anything. Even rely on a complete stranger to help her find love.

My take:

I’ll be honest. I was a little put off at first by Cassy, who I was afraid would be a more prominent character in the book, but luckily, she wasn’t. Mostly she was really obnoxious and Rachel took it laying down in the beginning, which I found annoying. But then she walks into the office and she’s so funny, and so real, and she’s not at all flat or one-dimensional. She’s got some hangups as we all do, but she’s also talented and smart and not at all a doormat. AND she stands up to Cassy at the end, which made me very happy.

I like Henry. Clearly he was an asshole and knew it, but meeting Rachel made him reevaluate himself and his friends. It wasn’t an instant transformation, but one where he grows into love, same as Rachel. His family is amazing, and I’m really hoping Taylor and Neil figure things out. His friends are both obnoxious and wonderful, which I found delightful.

Nobody was perfect, and Henry showed his true colors in a dramatically embarrassing and realistic moment and I may have fallen a bit in love with him at that point, too.

The story is well written, fun, breezy, real, and feel good. It’s fast and I really love Rachel and Henry as people and as a couple. Definitely read this book. I’m going to look up other books by Fray for sure.

 

Thursday, April 25th, 2019
The Dogs Complain

Dear R.J. Blaine. What’s wrong with you? You’re making our mom neglect us. She kept reading that stupid book—Hypnos—and hardly noticed us. Breakfast was late. Dinner was late. We went to bed late. She barely pet us or talked to us like we weren’t even there. We’re practically skin and bones, right now. So we’re writing to ask you—please, please, please, stop writing books. They are too distracting and she doesn’t need distracting. We are the goodest of boys and deserve better than her lackadaisical care of us. She’s supposed to be at our beck and call 24/7. But your stupid books suck her right in and she wouldn’t put the book down no matter how much we licked, barked, played, or nudged. Those ALWAYS work.  We checked her Kindle. She has MORE unread books from you. We tried to delete them but we have no opposable thumbs. If you don’t comply, we will be forced to take drastic measures. Nobody wants that. Well, Merlin does but he’s naturally violent.

Sincerely,

Crowley, Merlin, and Vodood

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
Review: American Witch by Thea Harrison

I first learned of Thea Harrison when Patti Briggs said I should read her books. Sadly I was slow to get around to that, but discovered I love her writing very much. Still, with so much going on, I didn’t get to read very many of her books, though they remain waiting in the TBR mountain.

American Witch is her upcoming release, and you can get your hands on a copy on April 29th. I suggest you preorder.

So first, what it’s about. From the back cover copy: 

Power can change a person…

For months Molly Sullivan endures the inexplicable: electrical surges, car breakdowns, visions. She even wonders if she might be the cause… and wonders if she might be crazy. Then she discovers her husband has cheated on her. Again. Now Molly realizes she is a newly awakening witch and a woman pushed over the edge.

Revenge can shape a person…

Josiah Mason is a Powerful witch and the leader of a secret coven with a shared goal: to destroy an ancient enemy who has ruined many lives. Josiah lost years to this man, and his sole focus is revenge. He’s prepared for every contingency—except encountering a beautiful new witch who understands nothing of the immense Power building within her or the attraction she wields over him.

Danger can bring them together…

When divorcing her husband, Molly uncovers a dangerous secret he’s willing to kill to protect. She turns to Josiah for help, and they discover a connection between Molly’s husband and Josiah’s enemy.

As they work together, a spark ignites between them that threatens to become an inferno. But Molly is done compromising herself for any man, and Josiah’s mission is his top priority. And the enemy is cunning, cruel, and drawing ever closer.

As the danger escalates, so does the tension between them. Is a lasting relationship possible? Will either of them live long enough to try?

My thoughts:

I loved this book. Found it hard to put down, in fact, which says a lot since I’ve been having trouble reading through to the ends of books for awhile now. This was a compelling read for me.

Molly was an amazing character. Strong, stubborn, flawed, and wholly likeable. She wasn’t a doormat. She’s sharp as hell and brave as well.

Josiah wasn’t your typical asshole. He came off as focused and an ends-justifies-the-means sort of guy. He’d suppressed most of his emotions and to a large extent his humanity over years of seeking his end goal.

Also, neither are super young. They have scars and have earned those scars.

Then he runs into Molly. At first he sees her as a tool, but she doesn’t let him view her that way. She thinks and she argues and she refuses to put up with his habits of being in charge and telling people what to do. This startles him into looking at himself and he doesn’t like what he sees. Their relationship isn’t easy and grows out of respect and admiration. It’s very organic.

The path to their HEA isn’t an easy one and both are willing to walk away at various times, and then they feel compelled to do so for very good reasons. You don’t read the situation and roll your eyes and say oh, please, this could be solved with a simple conversation. No, the obstacles are real and require them both to find ways to bend if they are going to work things out.

I love the magic of the world and the intrigue of the story. There’s more to it to come in future novels. That’s clear. A struggle that will be ongoing and building toward a crescendo at some point. I’m totally planning on being on board for that ride.

I also love the descriptions of their attraction and the sex because its so very emotional. It’s not about the sex and not so much graphic as powerfully written, if that makes any sense.

I highly recommend this book and hope everyone out there will go grab a copy because it’s just that good.

Sunday, April 14th, 2019
Unexpected Choices

I happened to get my Bookbub mailer today, and in it was a bundle for “Alien Mail Order Brides.” That tripped me up. It’s on trend in a lot of ways, but it overlays the old west and even current practice of mail ordering a bride, which I find a bit unexpected. (But why is it never a man? Would gay or lesbian people be able to mail order a spouse? What does marriage mean in an alien culture? Would it be more like a mail order baby-mama?) In these books, the aliens are invaders, and no doubt superlative human-like male specimens with huge dongs and twelve-pack abs and the sexual stamina of a diesel locomotive. From the description, the women are going to be seriously happy in bed.

But the concept made me start thinking of mail order spouses in a futuristic landscape. It made me think of Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild (which is amazing and you should read it if you haven’t, and again if you have!). It also made me think of Pat Murphy’s “His Vegetable Wife.” Both are a case of alien ‘marriage,’ (and I define that term very loosely), where the difficulties of mating between two species/cultures is highlighted. (And to be clear, “His Vegetable Wife” is not a case of voluntary ‘marriage,’ but of the essential enslavement of the wife. BUT! The ending is awesome and again, if you haven’t read the story, you must.)

And then I got to thinking about ‘aliens’ and marriage in our own world, with aliens because Others of all sorts, whether othered by race, culture, education, wealth or lack thereof, age, weight, religion, and so on. Romances are often about how two ‘alien’ type of people come together and find commonalities and love. A lot of SF and F is also frequently about ‘aliens’ coming together and working together for a common goal. They also often highlight the fear of the ‘alien.’

Thinking about what I’ve written about, that’s a pretty pervasive theme in what I write. I hadn’t really thought about it that way until I started thinking about the mail order alien brides. But it makes me feel better in general knowing that a lot of books in multiple genres are tackling the ‘alien v. us’ theme and demonstrating that hatred isn’t the way to go, that people are people, no matter what color, shape, language, gender, or anything else that separates them from being the same as me or you.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019
Considering Reverse Harem Stories

Have you read a reverse harem story? Do you know what they are? Essentially they are romances involving one woman and at least three men. Two men would make it menage-a-trois, which is another category of romance. I have been told by one writer of reverse harem stories, that this is not a group sex/orgy type of book, but the woman has encounters with each man one-on-one. The focus is on the developing romantic relationships between each pairing, while the men also develop relationships with each other of a non-sexual nature.

I’ve not really read them, after learning about them last year. I happened to run across a book bundle with four or five inside by the same author, so I picked it up and so far have read two of the stories.

This writer has a particular formula. I don’t know if applies to the genre in general or not, but there are some things I found interesting about the formula as a writer. First, in these books, the woman doesn’t know the men. She meets them one by one, usually, though one many usually has a male friend with whom he’s shared a girlfriend before, and it was something they wish to repeat again.

I think this experienced couple of men is fundamental to the way she tells her reverse harem stories, because they can reassure both the woman and the other men that this can be a healthy and normal relationship. In other words, they give a kind of permission for everyone to participate in what is currently socially taboo behavior.

The woman also has a problem that she doesn’t want to ask for help for. She’s independent and spunky the men all admire and want her. There’s an insta-love sort of quality to these stories because there isn’t a lot of time to develop each romance with any depth, so the reader just has to buy that they fall in love without a lot of evidence. There’s almost no conflict between the woman and each of the men. The conflict tends to be exterior in the shape of whatever problem the woman has, and complicated by the fact that she either doesn’t want help, or doesn’t want to tell them she needs help, Often she’s in money trouble.

The men want to help her through not giving her money, but helping her dig herself out and supporting her while she does. In other words, it’s not exactly a rescue. Nor is it a “we’ll help you for sex” situation. They like her and want to help her and the implication and sometimes explicitly stated motivation is that she deserves their help whether she’s romantically involved with any of them or not.

In both these books, they five (four men and the woman) end up moving in together after each realizes they all want her and they are willing to compete and let her choose. Of course she realizes she loves them all and can’t choose, and decides to call the whole thing off. She can’t bear to hurt any one of them by picking just one and she can’t imagine that they would want to maintain the relationship, but of course, they all do. She’s just that amazing.

She has sex with each man individually, and toward the end, there’s a kind of five-way with all the men involved, touching and kissing and pleasing her, which makes them all happy. There’s no male-on-male sex. No hint that they even touch each other while they are all naked with the woman.

I have to admit, part of me kept thinking . . . wow, what a lot of work to have sex with multiple men. It feels good and she’s terrifically happy, but combined with working and living life, that doesn’t give her a lot of time to just relax. Maybe relaxation is overrated when you can have that many mind-blowing orgasms.

One other thing that I noticed is that she has to constantly reassure herself that she’s not a slut. Her word. That having sex with multiple partners doesn’t make her an awful person. I found this annoying. It’s not that I don’t get the reason why. Society says that women who have multiple sex partners, whether dating them at the same time or serially, are whores. Readers have subconscious biases against women who do have and enjoy sex with multiple men.

Men who like sex and horndog sex, on the other hand, are just players and that makes them more manly. And the men in these stories clearly don’t have issues having multiple sex partners. It’s never suggested that they are anything less than manly men. But it has to be repeated that the women are not sluts or whores, that they really are good women, and sometimes this is reinforced by them cooking amazing meals for all the men, or being domestic in some other fashion, or being really kind and generous and the fact that they worry about what might be thought about them shows that they are really good women.

The fantasy of these novels is really the chosen one fantasy. And not just one amazingly handsome, nice, wealthy, kind, generous, and big-dicked men, but four. And they are so obsessed with her that they are willing to share her with other men. In fact, it’s a good thing because they won’t have to worry about her when they are working (all tend to have their own businesses or be workaholics). Nor will they have to feel guilty for not giving her enough of their time and attention.

I’m curious about other reverse harem novels and how they approach the story. I have to admit that while this author worked hard to make the stories robust with developed characters, I found the stories a little thin and flat. Not enough depth and not filling enough. Also a bit repetitive and not enough real conflict for me.

Does anyone read these? Do you have a favorite author or book? How do other books approach this type of story?

Monday, June 26th, 2017
Book Review: The Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett

I received this book from NetGalley.

This is a terrific book. Let’s start there. I’ll give you more below, but just know it’s a really good book and you should read it.

So to begin, The Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett and available July 3, is kind of a romance, but while romance is a part of the book, it’s really about people figuring out their lives and going through difficult times and finding each other as friends and family. So if you’re looking for a strong romantic narrative, it’s not going to be coming. Doesn’t matter. It’s a fabulous read.

Back of Book Blurb:

Evie is busy running the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop and praying for an uplift in sales as soon as possible. She might be in the market of selling romance, but for Evie a new man is the last thing she needs!

That is until plumber Scott Castillo turns up to fix her boiler. She’s definitely not interested. But then, why does she keep ogling his rather attractive forearms? She’s been fooled before – she isn’t about to fall head-over-heels for some smooth-talker, right?

When he isn’t trying to balance paying the bills with caring for his sick mother, Scott has stepped in to help parent his 18-year-old nephew, Ben. Between that and working full time Scott doesn’t have time for romance. Until he meets Evie . . .

Love doesn’t always bloom the way you expect but for the customers of the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop it might just be the perfect time for romance . . .

Set in Britain, the book follows Evie’s journey back to independence after a bad relationship. She’s running her dream flower shop, but she’s got a time crunch hanging over her head. She’s got only so much time before she’s got to buy the shop or lose out on her dream forever. She’s also got a chip on her shoulder and is terribly suspicious of men. Scott is a delightful guy, but bogged down in several crises of his own. He’s given up his business and his life in London to care for his disabled mother and his nephew, who’s mom–Scott’s sister–can’t seem to be bothered. His ex-fiance blew him off when he decided to care for his mother, and so he’s skittish of new relationships, but he’s also eager to know Evie.

Things quickly go wrong for both. Corbett follows each through their separate lives, then bumps them up against each other, often with disastrous results. Each of them are putting up fronts so nobody knows just what is going on behind the facades and how difficult things have been and are, and both are afraid of what the other might think. Gradually their secrets come to light and they share, growing closer as friends and maybe something more.

Woven through their growing relationships and acting as foils, are the crumbling marriage of Evie’s best friend Laura and her husband Martin, the passionate and devoted relationship of Scott’s nephew Ben and his soon-t0-be bride Amy, the troubled marriage of Patricia and David Robinson, and the quirky and delightful courtship of Josh and Saffy.

Layered on to these relationships are the friendships that help teach each of the characters–not just Evie and Scott–how to grow and how to hold firm to what they most need and desire.

This story is a relatively slow build, but the pacing is really perfect and the story so well woven that the end is incredibly satisfying. You don’t get any of those “too-stupid-to-live” moments, and when Evie seems determined to be blind or to react irrationally, Cordelia or Laura or Saffy or others are there to catch her up short and point out that her reality is different from what she understands. But you sympathize with her because you see that those reactions are realistic for where she’s been and she owns her mistakes and she doesn’t hide from growth. The other characters find both heartache and happiness–but in the end, it’s all perfect. 

I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading Corbett’s next book.

 

 

 

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Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
Book Review

I received this book from NetGalley

This one has two elements that really caught my attention: firefighters and Australia. Burning Both Ends by Sinclair Jayne is a contemporary romance and a lot of fun.

Description:

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Sunday, June 11th, 2017
Book Review Roundup

I’m doing a fair bit of reading. I’ve discovered some new authors that I enjoy and plan to talk about those soon, but I’m behind on some specific book reviews, so I’m going to get started on them. These books are provided by NetGalley.

 

Ella’s Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson

I was in the mood for a romance, and thought this would be more romantic, but it wasn’t. It was, however, well worth reading. It was a delightful read, despite me having a significant level of annoyance at the beginning. I’ll explain, but first, about the book:

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

In the beginning of the book, Ella’s up against a really obnoxious family. Her mother and her kids seem to be unredeemably selfish and can’t seem to give Ella the time of day. She’s struggling with finances, with the financial demands of her ex, and losing her job. She gets a lifeline in the shape of an inheritance from her aunt. When she finds out what it is, she’s a bit disappointed, but pretty soon she starts to turn things around. She gets a new focus for her life, a new romance, and starts finding a confidence in herself she never had. She also starts uncovering the secrets of her past, secrets that her mother doesn’t want to come to light.

This book was a lighthearted, but very real journey of a woman to find herself and her past. She comes through it all stronger, and her family becomes stronger for it. I enjoyed this book quite. I really appreciated the deepening of Ella’s character and the way she becomes stronger and becomes the anchor for her family and friends.

This next one is a huge change of pace. Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler not for the faint of heart, either. It’s a psychological thriller and it hits hard. It’s creepy as hell. It very well may give you nightmares. This is a good thing. It’s well written and well constructed. I’m not going to say a whole lot about it overall, because I don’t want to give spoilers. But first, here’s the description:

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story.

Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, Alex begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind. And then she meets the next victim.

You can tell just by the description that it’s going to be pretty terrifying. It was incredibly frustrating to see how no one believes Alex. The plot was complex and the characters were compelling, especially Alex. The end was  satisfying and pulled things together well. I’d definitely read this one if you’re into thrillers.

Lord of Chance by Erica Ridley

Normally I really enjoy Erica Ridley, but I wasn’t all that big a fan of Lord of Chance.

Here’s the description:

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance—and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn—the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

So to begin, I didn’t have a lot of respect for Anthony Fairfax. He’s a gambler and he seems to be reckless and stupid. Charlotte is a good character, but I find it a little bit unbelievable that she gambles in a public inn with strange men or that they let her, or treat her like a lady. It just struck me wrong. I also wasn’t all that engaged in their relationship or in the ending. For me, the story just didn’t have the fun and quality of characters that her books usually have.

This next one is paranormal romance and part of a longer series. It’s called Wicked Kiss by Rebecca Zanzetti.

Description:

Working as an informant for the DEA, Victoria Monzelle is used to living on the edge. But she’s not a big fan of getting kidnapped. And definitely not by a bunch of bad boy witches with fancy-colored fire to shoot at people. So when Adam Dunne shows up and claims to be a witch enforcer, she’s not going to put her life in his hands based on his word, no matter how smooth and smart and beautifully Irish his words sound. But on the run from a tribunal of witches, she isn’t going to make it far . . .

Before she knows it, Adam’s word is all that stands between her and execution. Sophisticated, just-gotta-ruffle-him Adam has vowed to make her his one eternal mate, wild and unpredictable as she is—to save her from a sentence of certain death. But Tori isn’t interested in being anyone’s pity date. And if they think she’s unpredictable now, they should see what’s coming next . . .

Let me start by saying there’s a lot to love in this book. I’m just not sure they overcome the flaws.

First, Victoria is an informant, but she’s definitely unwilling. I went in expecting her to be more savvy about crime and etc., but really, she’s not at all. But that isn’t really a big issue for me.

The book begins right in the middle of the action and Victoria and Adam have definite chemistry and they definitely don’t get along. This has a great deal to do with the secrets that both are hiding. Now there’s no getting around that Adam is the overbearing alpha type and while challenges him frequently, too frequently for me, she ends up discovering she should bend to him. Now this is a fundamental part of the story because the (steamy) sex scenes are definitely themed with a master/submissive bondage thread. I don’t have a problem with that, except that for me, Victoria comes off as kind of weak because she gives into him sort of against her will (despite being incredibly turned on), and so she has no ability to say no or have boundaries. The idea is that he will know what she needs (submission-wise) and that he knows better than she does what to do and what she should do. That bothers me.

Victoria is constantly doing things that seem strong, but then gives up her power to Adam because I’m not sure why. There is supposed to be this equality between them, a balancing, but I don’t see it.

Plotwise, I liked a lot of what was happening. I thought the whole motorcycle gang thing was a little bit iffy, and I definitely thought Victoria’s “boss” was way out of line. I thought the Witch Council thing was cool and I thought that the story of the drug and the other realms of supernatural were cool. I was annoyed that Victoria had relatively little to do with the resolution of the story–again Adam is dominant. I guess I feel like she kept losing herself and that just didn’t work for me.

I’m torn about my feelings for this book because the writing was so good and the plot was really cool. But. I’m not sure I want to read more of the unbalanced romantic relationships. I just have a lot of trouble with it.

 

 

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Friday, February 10th, 2017
Book Review: Dark, Witch, and Creamy by H.Y. Hanna

Book provided by NetGalley

Dark, Witch, and Creamy is a fun little contemporary fantasy with the beginnings of romance in it. Here’s the back of the cover blurb:

A witch, a kitty and dark chocolate magic…
Caitlyn is used to being the ugly duckling in her glamorous showbiz family… until the day she learns that she was adopted as an abandoned baby. Now, her search for answers takes her to the tiny English village of Tillyhenge where a man has been murdered by witchcraft – and where a mysterious shop selling enchanted chocolates is home to the “local witch”…

Soon Caitlyn finds herself fending off a toothless old vampire, rescuing an adorable kitten and meeting handsome aristocrat Lord James Fitzroy… not to mention discovering that she herself might have magical blood in her veins!

When she’s dragged into the murder investigation and realises that dark magic is involved, Caitlyn is forced to choose. Can she embrace her witchy powers in time to solve the mystery and save those she loves?

I enjoyed this book. It’s sort of on the cozy side of the mystery continuum, with fun and colorful characters and of course, chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I enjoyed Caitlyn and Widow Mags quite a bit, though I wish a little more about Caitlyn’s background had come to light. I also had some questions about Viktor and I hope those get answered in the future. I thought the magic elements were charming. My major complaint about the book is that while the bad guy is identified, the story seems a little unfinished (trying not to spoil it here). There is another book in the series that I think I’ll probably pick up. All in all, the book is fun and worth reading.

4 out of 5 stars

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