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Archive for 'romance'

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:

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.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
Hmmm. Erotic BDSM novel

I read this erotic BDSM novel today. I thought the world was pretty cool–slightly alternate earth, slightly fantastical. What got irritating was the BDSM. ALL the relationships were BDSM and it got really annoying. And it wasn’t the BDSM parts per se. I get BDSM and I obviously wouldn’t read it if it bothered me. That wasn’t the problem.  That’s not what annoyed me. It’s that all the women secretly wanted to be dominated. That, despite having life experiences that would indicate any sort of BDSM experience would likely be horrifying (we’re talking molestation, rape, plus a lot of violent  abuse by male relatives. And then there’s  forced submission and bondage situations for unwilling women who later want to be bound and hurt in order to have an exciting sexual experience).  These women had clearly been through horrific experiences, and then the “cure” for them was a BDSM relationship.

Another bothersome thing was that women were always the submissive and men were always the master. Never the reverse. And the dominance thing overflowed into their real lives. The women were  portrayed as always in the wrong, men always had to be patient and correct and rescue them and even though the women were supposedly strong, their strength was always requiring male guidance and discipline. The women turn out to be more childlike than adult. And again, not in a sexual way. This is in ordinary interactions. One woman who is a specialist doctor demonstrates complete incompetence and the men who have no idea what they are doing in the field always know better than she does and she’s always having to apologize or hang her head in shame. It’s really appalling.

So let me stress it’s not the BDSM I have a problem with. It’s the portrayal of the characters and the overall situations. Now the author does create a culture where the laws of society puts men in positions of power and women are essentially in traditional female roles. There almost seemed to be an unspoken genetic male impetus to be sexually dominant in a BDSM fashion. The thing is I liked some of the characters and the world, but kept getting annoyed at the way women were portrayed. Kept driving me nuts and throwing me out of the story.

The fact is, though, I’ve been encountering a lot of these sorts of stories where the women can only feel like real women or feel whole if a man abuses them emotionally or physically. And again, I’m not remotely saying that BDSM is abuse. It is not. It is consensual and the submissive has the power to stop at all times, which means that person has the power to say when things go too far for him or her, which means that person holds the power in the room. It’s a relationship of trust and vulnerability, which this book does talk about, but then makes it impossible to believe that these women could have have that vulnerability and trust in these men. In a lot of novels I’ve been seeing, including the one today, the woman (always submissive) has to suffer through agonizing pain, all for her own good, and even though she often clearly struggles against it, she always suddenly gets an amazing orgasm. What’s clear is that the situation is frequently not consensual, which is the part that bothers me. A lot.

I’m trying to figure out if there’s a titillation factor here that makes the BDSM a fantasy, but one that the writer doesn’t bother to understand. Or who twists it for a weird romantic angle. Fifty Shades tends to fall in this category for me. Twilight does in its own fashion, as the male protagonist is a stalker and a pedophile, and the female is passive and weak, requiring rescue and male care.

I guess what’s bothering me throughout is that I didn’t feel that any of these women freely consented, or that they had the ability to say no. And that means the scenes are abuse, not actual BDSM.

 

 

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?

Thursday, October 26th, 2017
Book reviews

I’m so behind on book reviews, but here are three to start getting caught up.

I’m in the mood lately for lighter fare, though I’m also loaded up with mysteries, so we’ll see if I go there soon. Anyhow, first books first. I received these from Netgalley, so you know.

This first is actually a paranormal mystery: Hide and Seek by Allie Harrison. (FYI–the publisher is the same as some of my books). It’s available now.

Here’s the back of the book blurb:

Can she stop a killer before he takes over her thoughts?

As a child, Tess Fairmont learned the horror of her psychic gift—the ability to not only see, but experience the last moments of a murder victim’s life when she grasps their hand. Now, as an adult, Tess has learned to live with the curse of her ability and does what she can to help the Chicago PD solve murder cases.

But when she uses her talent to help stop a serial killer, she finds there are things more terrifying than her visions . . . like a serial killer who can connect with her psychically. She soon finds the only place she is safe is in the arms of the medical examiner, Dr. Michael Adams.

Until the killer makes her his next physical target and forces her to play a deadly game of hide and seek.

 

I really liked the premise of this book and Tess’ talent is really unique engaging. This is a romance as much as a mystery, and I enjoyed both sides of the story, though Michael comes off a little as too good to be true. The killer is creepy and his interactions with Tess become increasingly tense and scary. I do wish there’d been a little bit more obvious connection between the killer and the victims, but the backstory did fit and made sense, plus since Tess is a random element to his story, it works. All in all, it’s a fun read (well, also creepy) and I recommend it.

4/5 stars

Next is a cozy mystery with a CORGI! Can you guess why I requested to review the book? I mean, a corgi. Anyhow, this book is Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth Duncan, available in November 2017.

Description:

The show ruthlessly goes on as costume designer-turned-amateur sleuth Charlotte Fairfax investigates the death of a disagreeable director in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery. Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company,Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright. Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way? With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery,Much Ado About Murder.

 

First, I read this a couple months ago so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, except the corgi is Rupert and very cute. Anyhow the setting for the book is a lot of fun and I really like that Charlotte is not a young thing. The relationships between the characters are real and quirky and I really felt like I was there at the inn and theater. I’m afraid I figured out the murderer a long way in advance, but that’s okay because it was more about the process and the characters than the whodunnit for me. I enjoyed this book too (if I’m honest, I find myself putting down a lot of books I don’t care for these days, but I don’t write about them because my reason for not liking them is more about where my head is right now than the books).

Anyhow, if you like cozies, this book is for you. It’s good. 4/5 stars.

I finished The Christmas Holiday today. Yes, I’m in the mood for Christmas stories. I’m fond of romances and sap and Christmas stories tend to be full of both. Maybe I should explain that a little. By sap, I mean heartwarming, with friends and family and of course, an HEA.

The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey is available now, and is a fun book. It’s got a British flair, which I enjoyed. Plus it had exotic elements as the characters travel to a variety of places.

But before I say more, the description:

Fall in love this winter on a romantic trip around the world ending in a fairy-tale winter wedding!

As winter comes to London, journalist Mia Walker is desperately hoping for her big break as a travel writer, dreaming of exotic locations and sun-soaked beaches. When she’s invited to write a romantic travel piece that ends in a huge winter wedding in London, she jumps at the chance. The only trouble is, the photographer is renowned adventure-junkie Hunter Scott, who Mia last saw five years ago when she ended their engagement.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and Mia knows she’d be mad to say no – even if it does mean spending weeks travelling round the world with the one man she never wanted to see again! But as the wedding approaches, and the magic of Christmas begins to take hold, Mia can’t help looking out for mistletoe – and wishing she hadn’t cancelled her own engagement after all…

I wasn’t sure at first how much I was going to like this book I liked Mia, but some of her bickering with Hunter seemed to go on far too long and seemed a little juvenile on occasion. But then Morrey seemed to settle in to the story more, and I really enjoyed the romance. This is not steamy at all, for those of you who want to know. There are kisses, but everything else is off the page.

I enjoyed the interactions between Liv and Sandy a lot, and between those two and our unhappy couple, Hunter and Mia. This book was a slow build and the solutions and sorting out the problems didn’t come quickly. It felt very real because of that, and yet I didn’t get bored for that slower pacing. I will say that at first I thought that the whole problem between them could have been solved long ago with a conversation, but as things developed, it became clear that a conversation wouldn’t have really done enough. Both needed to grow up some, and both needed to learn some life lessons of their own.

I definitely liked this book and I recommend it if you’re looking for a relationship read, with the emphasis on relationship. 4/5 stars.

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Saturday, August 6th, 2016
Book Review: Follow Me by Tiffany Snow

Received from Netgalley.

I enjoyed Follow Me by Tiffany Snow. It’s romantic suspense with a fair bit of geekery, which made me happy. Here’s the back of the book description.

China Mack is a fabulous character. Snow made her feel not only real and interesting, but made her believable as a genius. I also liked and disliked Jackson and Clark and thought the ending was about perfect. The plot of the suspense made sense and didn’t have big holes in the logic. The only major issue that I have, and it’s my own issue, is I’m not a fan of love triangles and I have no doubt like it’s coming. Snow has planned at least one sequel with these characters and there’s no doubt that she’s set up the triangle.

As an additional note, I’m really glad that Clark wasn’t a dick (as he said). Or at least so much of one that he went through with what he was up to. That would have squicked me beyond redemption.

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Friday, August 5th, 2016
Book Review: Sins That Haunt, Lucy Farago

Received from NetGalley.

Sins That Haunt by Lucy Farago is a romantic suspense novel. Here’s the back of the book blurb:

Civil attorney Shannon Joyce walks the line of law and order, but she learned from day one how to put up a good front—faragothanks to her con man father. Thirteen years ago, she left the east coast and her life of crime behind. Her high school sweetheart, Noah, was collateral damage, but some things can’t be helped. But now there’s no escape when her past comes roaring down the Strip—in the oh-so-tempting form of the man she left behind…

Special Agent Noah Monroe has Shannon exactly where he wants her—in the back of his car in handcuffs. Her grifter father has been murdered, and the FBI needs Shannon to keep one of his scams in play to bag the big bad guy who was financing him. Once again a pawn in someone’s else game, Shannon will have to trust her instincts to survive both the peril threatening her—and the passion Noah reignites…

I liked this book with some minor qualms. There’s a history between the characters and the initial meet made me wary. It seemed a little bit contrived. But then things quickly moved ahead and I was immersed. I thought the overall suspense arc was quite good and their history and backstory made a lot of sense and powerfully impacted the here and now. I do wish that Shannon, who is very smart, would move forward a little quicker in terms of Noah. The things that hold them apart otherwise are important and work well. I liked the twist at the ending–really, both twists. I did doubt her mother could drive the backhoe, but maybe that’s because I’m a ranch kid and driving a tractor isn’t that easy. Or didn’t used to be. Maybe it’s all very automated and simple now.

The way the end built up with multiple climaxes to various arcs was powerful and compelling.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Book Review: Romance, Hard to Handle

I received this book from NetGalley

The book is Hard to Handle by Raven Scott. It will be published August 30th by Kensington Books. It’s romance with some suspense thrown in.

Here’s the description:

A covert ops specialist, a cyber-surveillance expert, and an unmatched international security and recovery pro. These are the men of Fortis. When money is no object, discretion is essential, and the police are not an option, the wealthy and powerful call on this trio of former government agents with elite military training—not to mention charm and good looks…

Samuel Mackenzie has his hands full with Fortis’ latest assignment. Their client is a European real estate investor who is trying to close a multi-million dollar acquisition. But a competitor is attempting to block the deal by any means necessary, including threats and vandalism that quickly escalate to life threatening assault. For Samuel it’s all in a day’s work—except for one unexpected twist…

The mission requires protective detail for the client and his mistress, who is also his personal assistant. But the mistress is Mikayla Stone-Clement—the only woman Samuel has ever loved, and who always seems out of his reach. Yet things aren’t what they seem. Because Mikayla has a hidden agenda of her own, one that puts her directly in the crossfire. Now Samuel will have one chance to save her life…and make her his forever.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it a really liked, parts of it annoyed the heck out of me, and parts of it made me feel a little uncomfortable in a weird way that I will delve into a little bit deeper here.

So first, the good: Overall, I thought the romance was pretty good, and the suspense plot well designed and laid out (except for the bad guy because he came out of nowhere.) I thought the security stuff was believable and I thought the development of all the actions really smart.

That leads me to the bad. One thing drove me seriously nuts. That was Scott’s inclination to use a lot of book saidisms–insisted, muttered, yelled, etc., when people talked. That was okay, but I felt like they were frequently off. Like when people yelled when they really didn’t. Maybe they raised their voices a little–but yelling jarred me because it was wrong for the scene. Likewise, using insisted when there’s nothing to insist on. Like saying, I’d like a yogurt, only writing it as: I’d like a yogurt, insisted the girl. When no one is protesting that she have a yogurt. And then when one character mumbled when he really was murmuring, because mumbling means unintelligibility of the words. It drove me batty and threw me out of the story.

The next thing that drove me up the wall were the over-the-top connection between the two leads. I loved that there was a time when they forced themselves to keep their hands off each other because of emotional tension, but it annoyed me early on when they couldn’t because it seemed too much for these very controlled people. I think that was the writer’s point–that their passion for one another overcame their usual control–but I had a hard time buying it.

I was really annoyed that the actual bad guy wasn’t even mentioned until they pegged him as the bad guy. I wanted him at least mentioned far earlier.

Finally, and this last one may just be me, but one of the things that threw me out of the story was something that seemed to be missing. Many of these characters were people of color. While I am glaringly white, I do know that POC face various kinds of discrimination based on their skin color on a daily basis. There was no hint of that in this book and it struck me as odd. Or maybe the word is artificial. I thought this particularly for Kaylee, who is not only a black woman, but she works in a field dominated by men. In fact, she’s worked in two fields dominated by men. So I kept waiting for someone to be obnoxious both because of her gender and color and there was nothing.

Now, this may be the fantasy of the book–that there’s a world where POC don’t have to worry about their skin color any more than white people do. And maybe it’s the Black Lives Matter movement that makes me extra-sensitive to those elements in society right now. I’m not judging the writer or the book on this one. I’m trying to figure out if this is a reasonable thing to expect in a book or not. I don’t know. In expecting it, am I doing making demands of a text that I have no right to? I’m interested on what anybody here might say because I think it’s important to discuss and frankly, I’m interested in being corrected if I’m way off base.

All things taken together, I’d give this book a 3/5 stars.

Saturday, January 16th, 2016
An Announcement–Incubus Job

I let everybody know in my newsletter this week, and it’s time to spread the word. My book, The Incubus Job, is going to release on March 1. It’s going to be available in ebook only for awhile. It will also be available on all platforms. But for now, it’s only up for preorder on Amazon. I’ll announce here and in my newsletter, when it goes wider.

And now, I want to unveil the cover, which I love:

TheIncubousJob-FJM_ARE_200x300It’s tough to have a conscience when you kill for a living.

So six years ago, Mallory Jade gave up killing. Now she’s a fixer. Got a problem with a demon? She can help. Infestation of pixies? She’s got you covered. Kidnapped by an undead lich? She’s on her way. Anything you need, so long as she doesn’t have to kill. It’s her one unbreakable rule.

Aside from a few near-death experiences, her new life is good, until her job dumps her in the lap of the man she walked out on six years before. Law Stanger, her former partner and lover, wants her back in his life. He’s not above playing dirty. But Mallory knows it can never work. She has secrets Law can never understand or forgive.

All Mallory wants now is to finish her job–track down an incubus and the precious box he stole–and get the hell out of town before Law shatters her heart again. But it wasn’t fate that drew her and Law together after all these years, it was cunning calculation. Now they must face an enemy more powerful than they can imagine, one that has no intention of leaving anybody alive.

What do you think? Does it look good to you? Feel free to spread the word for me. More to come as I have information.

Saturday, October 17th, 2015
Book Review: Four Weddings and a White Christmas

I received this book from NetGalley.

I’ve been in the mood for some light romance and some Christmas reading. I don’t know why. It’s not even Halloween. Maybe it’s because of the recent shooting here in Oregon, and I just needed some happy, sappiness. Four Weddings and a White Christmas by Jenny Oliver was a pretty fun read and generally I liked it. The key thing is that it was really light and not a lot of deeper emotional stuff.

So the story, as you might have guessed, revolves around four weddings and a snowy Christmas. Set mostly in England with weddings christmasforays to New York City and France, the story revolves around Hannah, a newly-graduated dress designer, who is reconnecting with old friends. One of them saw her graduation project and asked Hannah to design her wedding dress. Hannah, a single mother of a five year old girl, both living with her parents, is looking to have a life and develop her career. She’s eager to reconnect with old friends and that is one of the key elements of this book.

At the first wedding–rather right before–Hannah and Harry meet. He’s a top chef in a New York restaurant. He’s not looking for romance any more than Hannah is. He grew up in a strained household and is struggling to figure out how adult Harry connects with his parents and sister.

Harry and Hannah meet infrequently, mostly at the events of the title (very much like Four Weddings and A Funeral). Harry discovers he’s attracted to Hannah and to her daughter as well. He’s not as anti family as he thought. However he can’t bring himself to want a real relationship and Hannah is working to hard to find roots and a stable life for herself and for her daughter.

Even so, they grow closer, and then Harry’s world falls apart when his estranged father dies. Hannah gets offered a hug opportunity and struggles with finding her feet. In the end, of course, as in all romances, the two find their way to be together.

What was fun about this book was that it focused more on the people growing and changing and as a result, and part of the process, they discover each other. This is a ‘sweet’ romance, with no sexual situations. I’d definitely recommend this one.