REVIEW: Overheard, by Maya Banks

Overheard

I downloaded this novella because I’ve always wanted to read something by Maya Banks, whose very cool sounding name seems to be everywhere, and the shorter length was about what I could handle this week. Published in 2007, Overheard is categorized by Samhain as “Contemporary Romance”. Perhaps because I purchased on the Kindle (approximately 100% of my purchases are ebooks these days), I didn’t notice the subgenre or the “Caught By Cupid” on the cover, and found myself surprised by the romantic angle.

The heroine, Gracie, has had bad luck with men, who mock her for her nipple rings and adventurous sexual fantasies. Overhearing Gracie’s woes, her friend Luke realizes Gracie is hot, and decides to date her and to make her fantasies come true with their other friend Wes. This being a contemporary erotic novella, only a few details are given about the main characters, one of which, oddly, is that they all like to hunt.

[As an aside, Luke uses "pussy" to refer to wimpy men of the sort Gracie has dated, and also to refer to Gracie's nether region. I don't love it when men insult each other with feminine terms -- bitch, pussy, girl --  and then use the same terms to refer to women and their body parts.]

This book featured two of my secret favorite “tropes”: (1) the bar/club scene (I have no idea why, but I pretty much love every scene set in a bar or restaurant in any romance I have read, whether it involves a fight, a first meeting, a date, a jealous spat, or, as in this case, dance floor sexxoring), and (2) the cabin getaway (I prefer my h/h to be stranded and estranged, but you can’t have everything). The long time friendship between Gracie and Luke made the accelerated sexual time table believable, and Banks certainly knows how to write hot. One question I had was whether Gracie would make the leap without blinking from vanilla sex to BDSM-lite.

If the threesome had enjoyed their weekend and the book ended, that would have been a fun read about a woman having her fantasies come true in a safe environment with two good friends who care for her.

But, to my great surprise, Banks has Luke and Gracie not only fall in love, but throws in a Big Misunderstanding, and a marriage proposal (!) complete with bended knee and ring (!!). Holy Harlequin Presents, Batman! The time line made this very awkward, Gracie having had every imaginable kind of sex with her fiance’s BFF hours prior. On the other hand, Wes French kisses Gracie to congratulate her on the engagement, so maybe he will continue to be a very special kind of best man in their lives after the wedding.

I would certainly read another book by Ms. Banks. Any suggestions?

19 responses

  1. I really like Maya Banks. I read Be With Me last month and I really like how each character worked through their feelings regarding their relationship. For me, it really worked.

    Oh, and I discovered you via Dear Author in case you were wondering :)

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  2. I really love this story. I find most het menage cheesy and unbelievable, but I couldn’t help myself with Overheard. Yes, the ending is a little saccharine, but I’m more than willing to overlook it in this case. It’s a very cute novella. :)

    I also enjoyed Colters’ Woman, but mostly because it’s sooooo far outside the realm of reality and is just angsty, silly, sexy fun. Lots of stereotypes in that one. It might not be your thing, but I had fun with it.

    Unfortunately, those are my only two Maya Banks reads. I hear good things about Be With Me though.

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  3. I haven’t read as many novels or short stories by Ms Banks as I would like, but those I have read, I’ve enjoyed:

    Be With Me, 8 out of 10 (here)
    Love Me Still, 6.75 out of 10 (here)
    The Tycoon’s Pregnant Mistress, 7 out of 10 (here)

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  4. You obviously really enjoyed this book – and I enjoyed learning that you have a thing about bar/club scenes and stranded H/Hs – reminds me so much of myself – I have very specific feelings about these romance novel ‘elements’. (And BTW I also love strandings – especially snow-ins!)

    This sounds like a lot squashed into a novella but I’d give it a go. You make it sound like a fun read.

    You may like Mathilde Madden’s Mad About the Boy. Her books are very fun, but she addresses how a real couple work out the rules for these sort sexual desires in a way that I feel seems authentic.

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  5. Jill Sorenson wrote:

    I’ve never read a Maya Banks or a menage story (besides Dirty). This must be remedied!

    That was me, exactly, prior to this one, and it worked for the same reason the Dirty menage worked: it was always clear who the main h/h were, and “the menage” (God, must I always and forever think of Seinfeld when I type that? “This is like discovering Plutonium by accident!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6_pv_vRHKI) was not going to be a description of the ongoing emotional relationship, but only of a sexual experiment.

    But the thing that occurred to me, was that it might not be that likely that a couple would enjoy a threesome and then be satisfied with each other, as Hart has it in Dirty.

    Maybe I should read what Tumperkin suggested:

    Tumperkin wrote:

    You may like Mathilde Madden’s Mad About the Boy. Her books are very fun, but she addresses how a real couple work out the rules for these sort sexual desires in a way that I feel seems authentic.

    Tumperkin wrote:

    I enjoyed learning that you have a thing about bar/club scenes

    It’s insane. I can tell you what Min was drinking when she met Cal, what Mary had to eat on her first date with Rhage, what music was playing when Bobby Tom whisked Gracie Snow out of the bar, what Dan said to Elle after their dance floor encounter, how Savi was dancing when Colin watched her. A good bar scene can elevate a so so book, as in Lori Foster’s Hard to Handle. Half my love of Crusie is her many bar and restaurant scenes. I ask you, where would Welcome To Temptation and Bet Me be without them? And one particular bar scene in Crusie’s Manhunting is probably in my top 3 of all time.

    Same for the cabin fever scenes, which I especially love to find in non-suspense contexts, a rarity.

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  6. Be With Me was pretty good, and I’m a limited fan of hers.

    I do a monthly erotic romance review on my blog and the contemporary menage I liked the most this month was by a new author, Alisha Rai titled Glutton for Pleasure from Loose-ID. Her heroine is Devi Malik, and she’s the chef in the family’s Indian restaurant. Lots of food involved. :-)

    The others I read were mostly paranormal and futuristic.

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  7. Oh you should read it! I would love to hear what you think of Madden’s dominant heroines and their uncompromising ways. I find them authentic to how modern women are in their lifestyles and thinking. Her books are more erotica with a romantic edge more than romance.

    Actually, I would really LOVE to know what you think of my fave Madden – Equal Opportunities – about a woman with a thing for guys in wheelchairs.

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  8. “Alisha Rai titled Glutton for Pleasure from Loose-ID. Her heroine is Devi Malik”

    Just delurking to say the publisher is Samhain, not Loos-ID.

    btw, love your posts here. I come by every day.

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  9. to my great surprise, Banks has Luke and Gracie not only fall in love, but throws in a Big Misunderstanding, and a marriage proposal (!) complete with bended knee and ring (!!). Holy Harlequin Presents, Batman!

    I’ve read Harlequinlandia endings in a number of earlier erotic romance novellas and some Ellora’s Cave erotic romances a few years ago (e.g. Lacey Alexander, Rhyannon Byrd).

    I’ve read that the quick wrap-up was about feeling pressure to conform to the “rules” of romance with a happy ending comprised of 1 man + 1 woman. The implication was that that constraint was loosening. That may be the case, given there are a number of erotic romances with equivocal (2+1) endings, or perhaps there has always been a variety and my perception is entirely about my reading path through the genre.

    maybe he will continue to be a very special kind of best man in their lives after the wedding

    I’ve read a couple of similarly suggestive kisses from fiances’ BFFs, and even some explicitly stated agreements to remain a threesome. Emma Holly’s Menage comes to mind, and there are a lot of Ellora’s Cave books involving brothers in menage.

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  10. OOPS – Jaq – Thanks for correcting the publisher on Rai’s book. I’ve just finished several Loose-ID books and they’re on my brain. :-) Now let me make sure I did it it right in my blog! At least I can fix those mistakes. :-)

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  11. Tumperkin wrote:

    I would really LOVE to know what you think of my fave Madden – Equal Opportunities – about a woman with a thing for guys in wheelchairs.

    That sounds dreadful. I would love to read any good romanc,e and if the h/h has a disability, great. But paraplegia as a fetish? Sounds demeaning.

    RfP wrote:

    The implication was that that constraint was loosening. That may be the case, given there are a number of erotic romances with equivocal (2+1) endings, or perhaps there has always been a variety and my perception is entirely about my reading path through the genre.

    I was surprised, too, but maybe you’re right — I find my erotica via romance websites, so my path through the genre may not be reflective of the “average” erotica book.

    jaq wrote:

    Just delurking to say the publisher is Samhain, not Loos-ID.

    btw, love your posts here. I come by every day.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting, and complimenting. And thanks for the correction.

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  12. @ Jessica:

    I’ve not reviewed the book but suggest you check out Dear Author’s review – which is what prompted me to check it out

    http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2006/10/25/equal-opportunities-by-mathilde-madden/#more-1000

    I think the book actually raises more questions than it answers. It’s not a judgemental book that puts forward a view on whether the heroine’s fetish is ok or not. Perhaps that neutral quality is down to the fact that it’s written in revolving first person POV so you get both H/Hs very subjective take on what is happening and therefore the difficult issues it raises are left open. I didn’t shut the book thinking “oh, well, it’s fine for someone to lust after someone in a wheelchair BECAUSE they’re in a wheelchair”. But I did finish really liking the H/H and with my view that relationships are very complex reaffirmed.

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  13. @ Tumperkin:
    Thank you for the link. That sounds really interesting. Add it to the ever growing list! (At least most of my TBR pile is in my head and not in my closet).

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  14. I’m blinking here. She has nipple rings AND vanilla sex? Maybe it’s just my suburbanite mentality talking, but I would have thought–not that I’d know–that you turn your back on vanilla sex once you’ve your nipple rings firmly in place.

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  15. Sherry Thomas wrote:

    I’m blinking here. She has nipple rings AND vanilla sex? Maybe it’s just my suburbanite mentality talking, but I would have thought–not that I’d know–that you turn your back on vanilla sex once you’ve your nipple rings firmly in place.

    I take it the nipple rings were a step in the direction she wanted to go. I agree that it is kind of an odd first step, but it’s the one the character could do on her own — she didn’t have a male partner who was willing to try out the other stuff. So nipple rings it was!

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  16. I think I didn’t entirely understand this comment at first:

    She has nipple rings AND vanilla sex?

    because my first reaction was, Why would her jewelry tell us anything about her lifestyle? But now that I see Jessica’s reply, I read it differently:

    I take it the nipple rings were a step in the direction she wanted to go.

    It sounds as though the piercings were being used that way in the book, i.e. the author feels that nipple rings = intent to lead kinky lifestyle. That’s a whole different layer of discussion. I’m still not convinced that nipple rings are a universal symbol, though. I know people who have a piercing, or a tattoo, or a streak in their hair, as their one “fun” touch in an otherwise conservative style. On the other hand, some pop culture histories say that 30 years ago tattoos were always signals of biker/outlaw/scariness. (That makes me picture people crossing the street to avoid drawing a tattooed biker’s notice, rather like sliding down the bar to escape Wyatt Earp’s gaze :) But isn’t that biker/rough hero image used in a number of romances? So perhaps the nipple rings fit the genre’s norms: a character with an un-aspirational personal style may be read as unconventional or perhaps culturally incompetent.

    Not having read this book, I may be completely off base, but this reminds me of the type of authorial signaling that I tripped over in Megan Hart’s Broken. My take there was:

    I’m pretty sure Hart intended some subtext about Joe that’s not well supported in the text. … I’d thought his whole character arc was a minor life transition, from Carefree Single to Guy Wanting Relationship. I missed the big redemption arc from Utter Manwhore to Good Guy. And why did I miss it? … The leap to Manwhore isn’t in the text.

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