Review: Watch and Learn, by Stephanie Bond

An unusual Blaze with an exhibitionist heroine and the man who accepts her trenchcoaty ways.

Watch and Learn

Series?: Yes, first in Bond’s series about women who took a Sex for Beginners course in college. Their professor sends them their secret fantasy class journals 10 years later.

Setting: Tampa, Florida, put to good use by A/C breakdowns and reoccurring peacock character.

Heroine and hero: Gemma is a recent divorcee at loose ends and trying to find herself after being a high profile politician’s wife for years. Chev is a Puerto Rican American contractor who flips houses between jobs. He happens to be on the job next door.

Plot: Gemma’s recovery from the divorce. She gets a job as a scantily clad tour guide for an adults-only sex exhibit at the local museum, allowing her to explore her exhibitionist fantasies, dormant since college.

Conflict: Gemma’s not ready for a new relationship, especially when she still has unfinished business with her ex.

Fun factoid: Ms. Bond bought the shoe store where she worked while a sophomore in college.

Racy Romance Review:

I listened to this on audio, narrated nicely by Drosty Kane. Blazes are about 6 hours and work really well on audio. Sticklers may not be too happy with the light “Hispanic” accent she gives Chev.

This was very much Gemma’s story, with very little from Chev’s point of view. Chev was unformed as a character. Also, while one can usually count on lots of h/h interaction in Blazes, Gemma’s exhibitionism meant their interactions often took place with panes of glass between them.

Gemma has to pick up the pieces of her life, and in the course of the book she comes to realize her marriage was not what it seemed. I was not convinced that Gemma was ready for a new relationship — the ink was barely dry on her sudden divorce. I felt that the HEA was very unbelievable between these two characters who never even went on a date in the course of the book. So much time was spent on Gemma’s recovery and renewal (which was quite interesting and kept me listening) that she had very few interactions with Chev.

Probably the most intriguing part of the book for me was the focus on Gemma’s exhibitionism (or “E” as I will refer to it from here on in). Gemma’s E surfaced in college, when, in some unappealing flashback scenes, she exposed herself and masturbated in public. She married a straight laced lawyer who became the Florida state attorney general, and curbed her wanton ways to play helpmeet for several years.

In a stroke of pure luck for an exhibitionist who needs a job, the local museum wants hot women to dress in platforms, short short, and masks to give tours for a new sex exhibit. Gemma is turned on by her outfit and returns home to masturbate in front of her window for Chev.  She begins the book thinking her habit is shameful, and ends by claiming it as a part of who she is. To my utter shock, the HEA includes Chev accepting her E, and her plans to continue it, with other men.  How exactly did this get past the censors at Harlequin?

Like Gemma, I had some E in college, at the Boston Public Library, courtesy of a drunk man in a trench coat with a beer belly and a flaccid penis which he excitedly waved at me as if it, rather than the copy of Aquinas’s Summa contra Gentiles I was reading, would reveal the secrets of the universe. It was an experience I never want to repeat in this or any future life.

I did some research on E, and found out that “exhibitionism” is listed in the DSM_IV as a sexual disorder, in the family “paraphilias”, from the Greek meaning “outside of” and “friendship/love”, the idea being they are socially prohibited sexual practices. Other paraphilias listed include masochism, sadism, transvestite fetishism, and pedophilia.

E is only a disorder if it interferes with quality of life and normal functioning. Most people with E are males (the vast majority) and have problems with sexual relations and often other illnesses like depression.

I don’t think Gemma’s E, in the end, qualified as a disorder, as it did not negatively impact her functioning (indeed, she got a job, a promotion, and a lover out of it!). And all of Gemma’s targets seemed to consent, at least tacitly, to her shows of skin (although this raises some interesting questions about consent which I won’t get into here).

And even if Gemma’s behavior did fall under E as defined in the DSM-V we all know that this manual has a long sordid history of providing medical and normative support to harmful societal prejudice (homosexuality, drug use, and women’s health being just three examples). To ask just one question, what counts as “normal functioning” and who decides?

But I confess I found it hard to believe that a man in love would accept his partner’s need to bring other men to arousal as a way to stimulate herself, as Chev appeared to do at the end. It just didn’t work for me.

Review: Caine's Reckoning, by Sarah McCarty

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My Take in Brief: Good. Really well and economically written. Intense, almost claustrophobic focus on sexual relationship. Raised some questions for me about metaphors of masculine sexual strength. Maybe not the best choice on audio.

Cover comment: So which Harlequin Spice editor drew the short straw to sell her first born child to the devil in order to get to all of the best covers in romance? Cause that’s the only explanation I will buy.

Series?: Yes, published in 2007, Caine’s Reckoning is the first in the Hell’s Eight series, of which there are two in print.

Setting: Texas territory, middle 1800s

Heroine and Hero: Desi was raised a privileged woman back East, but is now an orphaned recovering victim of sexual abuse and other trauma. Caine Allen is a Texas ranger, typical alpha male with a sweet spot.

Fun Factoid: Caine’s Reckoning won the AAR reader’s poll for best Frontier Historical/American romance. In her gracious response, Ms. McCarty wrote,

“For years I’ve been fighting my own personal uphill battle. I started my career with my western historical Promise series. For those that don’t know, making the decision to start a career with a western historical series these days is tantamount to saying, ‘I’ve decided to jump off the Empire state building without a parachute. I think it could be fun.’ Pretty much everyone looks at you like you’re crazy, and no one wishes you luck. Western historical romance is a ‘dead’ genre, killed off through preconceived notions of what a WH must be. Notions honed through the years when the genre was glutted and the multitude of offerings blended to a proven story line.

Also I totally love it that McCarty gives you a choice of excerpts, regular and extra crispy spicy.

Word on the Web:

Karen Scott, very positive

“Caine’s Reckoning is definitely a character-led story, so for the readers who crave fast-paced action, and guns flaring on every other page, this may not be the book for you. However if you appreciate a slower sensual ride, where you have time to smell the roses, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, and fall in love, then I would highly recommend Caine’s Reckoning.”

Azteclady (at Karen Knows Best), 9 out of 10

There is plenty of graphic language and sexual descriptions in this novel, which may shock some readers out of the story. As far as I’m concerned, though, these scenes both further and highlight Desi and Caine’s developing relationship, the deepening of the trust between them, and their increased understanding of themselves and each other.

The dialogue is another hit with me—there are no flowering speeches, no long winded expositions. Most of it is short and to the point.

Rosie, Nobody Asked Me, mostly positive, but…

Yet, I was waiting for there to be some sort of resolution or turning point because we certainly get the pot stirred and boiling often enough in this book. My quandry is over not really feeling there’s adequate explanation or understanding how Desi and Caine could enjoy the relationship Ms. McCarty carves out for them given Desi’s past. I found myself looking for cues in the book that would make their particular sexual relationship realistic. I just wasn’t comfortable with it.

RR&H Novel Thoughts and Book Talk, B+

Book Binge, Casee, 4 out of 5

TGTBTU, Sandy M, A

Tumperkin, Isn’t It Romance?, has an interesting post on this book, which she rates a B:

But it had a distinct BDSM flavour alright. Caine (the big ole protective cowboy) was very much in charge and Desi had to learn to obey him. And whilst he was very kind about how he trained her, train her he most assuredly did. He was the teacher, she was the pupil, and the watchwords were: protection and trust.

Racy Romance Review:

I listened to this one on audio. It is unabridged, read by Zoe Winslow, and is 14 and a half hours. Winslow is excellent (she also narrated Megan Hart’s Tempted). Be warned that Winslow does a Texas accent. I don’t know how authentic it is, so if you are picky about those things, her performance may not be for you.

Although the story is punctuated by bursts of excitement, for example at the beginning when Caine first meets Desi trying to escape her captors, and then at the end, when the long awaited encounter between Caine and Desi’s tormenters takes place, what I remember about this book is the frequent and extremely long sex scenes.  When I say “long” I mean, not just covering a few pages, but covering a few chapters. This can be quite boring on audio.

What made it work for me as well as it did was that McCarty managed to get a lot of character and emotion in the sex scenes. Here’s an excerpt, with a few explicit lines deleted, that gives you a sense of McCarty’s writing :

Urgency gathered in the base of his spine, different than before, hotter, laden with potent embers of emotion he’d identify if passion weren’t riding him so hard. Releasing her breast, he lifted her forward and up. “I need you, Desi. Don’t hold back.”

Her lashes flickered under the lash of truth, but he didn’t see distaste in her expression, just a deepening of the confusion as he coaxed her up. …

Her hair slid free of her braid and tumbled around them. The scent of lilacs and Desi filled his next breath.

He held her gaze and let her see his excitement, his restraint, his passion. A slow blink heralded the arrival of his cock at its destination. The delicate muscles clenched in an intimate kiss. The pressure in his balls built. He wanted her to go with him. Wanted this to be more than a fulfilling of an obligation for her.

He rubbed the petal-soft skin of her cheek. “What’s going through that head of yours, Desi girl?”

“I don’t know who you are.”

“I’m your husband.”

“But what does that mean?”

He pressed up while urging her down, keeping it slow and steady, watching her face for signs of discomfort. “It means you’re not alone anymore.”

Both because Desi was raised to think enjoying sex was not what a good woman did, and because Desi had been whored out by her captors (can you get anymore Madonna/whore than this woman?) the bedroom was the arena where all of her issues lay. Since a lot of things were being worked out, not just the sex, but the relationship and her recovery, I didn’t mind the looooooooong and frequent sex scenes as much as I might have otherwise (but I still found myself wishing they were just cuddling, or maybe gardening, at least 40% of the time).

Now, this is erotic romance, and it is part of the fantasy that one way to help a woman overcome sexual trauma is to make her have a lot of envelope pushing sex (this is very common in the romances I have read with heroine victims of sexual abuse or trauma. Someone ought to write a paper on it). The first sex scene was not consensual and I thought I was going to have to abandon the book, as it was presented as erotic. But I kept going when Caine himself realized this and resolved to stay away from Desi. Of course, we can’t have them apart for long, so after a week we are told that it is worse for Desi to wonder what Caine is going to do to her than to actually have him do it. Is this consensual? You tell me.

I quoted Karen Scott, Azteclady and Rosie above because they all made great points I completely agree with. I really liked McCarty’s straightforward yet detailed and slow paced writing. It was almost like meditation to listen to. She is so focused on details, but unlike the mundane details that had me wanting to throw my iPod at the wall when I listened to Linda Howard’s book, the details here became important. I also really liked the Western setting. And I liked Desi, even though she wasn’t all that likable at several points.

Also, Tumperkin’s comment about BDSM was right on: Desi needs pain, in fact, to orgasm. It is interesting that in this book, Desi’s masochism wasn’t viewed as a legacy of her abuse. I was of two minds about this, the usual battle between my feminist (what bullshit!) and liberal selves (hey, whatever floats yer boat!). I could write about this for several hundred words so I will stop here. You are welcome.

There were two “tropes” used in this book that I found annoying. (1) In their first several sexual encounters, Caine thinks to himself that he wants unleash himself on Desi, but is afraid to.  What does this unleashing entail? Thrusting really hard? Drowning her in copious amounts of semen? I really don’t know. I found myself worried for Desi. Worried because, (2) Caine has a super large penis, like all erotic romance heroes. So large that Desi actually has to work up to it, in fear and trembling. It actually seemed kind of painful, just too effortful and dangerous. I have to ask myself, when in real life most women are satisfied with the size of their partner’s penises, and when width has more to do with a woman’s satisfaction than length (there are even support groups for couples dealing with the problem of too much penis length) exactly whose fantasy is this?

Anyway, I may well try the second book in this series, but on paper.

Retirement Reception: Please Join Us

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Every great performer must take a final bow. Please join us as we bid a fond farewell to some well known conflicts that have provided outstanding support to contemporary romance.

At a black tie reception, co-hosted by the talented authors whose books would not have been possible without them, we will usher into retirement the following methods of keeping our modern couples hundreds of pages away from their HEA:

1. I was hurt once, and will never allow anyone to get close enough to hurt me again.*

(*Vigorous snogging excluded)

2. I am a brutal warrior, too dangerous for your alluring softness.

3. I do love you, but … the person you think I am? In point of fact, I am someone else entirely.

4. I can’t have a relationship right now. I have to work. Really hard.

5. You are so incredibly hot, but there’s an excellent chance you are also a murderer.

6. I am not worthy, because I am poor or because you are wealthy or both. Anyway, tracks are involved.

7. You cheated on me (at least that’s how it looked from behind a tree. 700 feet away. In the rain. Not that I’m telling you about it.).

8. You’re a drop dead gorgeous bachelor stud, and I — while my nipples pebble with the best of them (honestly, they could cut glass) — am not.

9. We’re really good friends. That’s no way to build a relationship!!

10. We can’t be together because… I’m not sure, actually. I am dumb as a rock.

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We are also delighted to announce that we will have Parlé-Quinn Publishers on hand to introduce their new line of 21st century conflicts (for flexible OLED e-readers of course):

1. I want to have a baby the natural way, but he insists on IVF and pre-implantation screening.

2. Our courtship has been conducted on Twitter. What if he expects me to use more than 140 characters at a time in conversation?

3. I’d like to make her my wife, but she says she’ll quit her job to raise babies if I do.

4. How can I tell her I’m the geek from high school with a face transplant?

5. The ultimate secret baby: her eggs, his sperm, a gestational surrogate, and two adoptive parents. Who will pay for college?

6. She’s a traditional girl who believes strongly in the old-fashioned threesome. Is there room in her heart for … just one more?

7. Can their happiness survive his knowledge of his true origins: her cloning lab and a skin cell lifted from a really hot model?

8. Can he accept her for who she truly is underneath the neuroenhancers? (Somewhat dim, chronically sleepy, and much less likely to keep her music or closet so well organized)

9. In an envelope-pushing bid to overcome speciesism in the romance genre once and for all…

normal_lovelycouple

Strangers. Stranded on a desert island. Will love blossom?

Disclaimer: This is just a little fantasy of mine. In all seriousness, regular readers know that contemporary is my favorite subgenre of romance, and I have loved books with all of the “retiring” conflicts listed above. But I now really appreciate the fresh yet believable conflict, especially those rooted in well-developed characters. What do you think?

Warning: New Website Design

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I had no idea what I was doing, but I changed my theme last night to displace some of the nervous tension I felt as the Red Wings went into overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks (they won and are now in the Stanley Cup finals. Again. Woohoo!).

I hope to have my old banner back up eventually, but otherwise, what you see is what you get.

My old theme was very old and had never been updated. This one is much newer and much easier to work with. I like the numbering and layout of the comments, I get bottom widgets, and I can get more stuff on the page without it feeling cramped.

Thanks for your patience!

100 Days with my Kindle 2.0: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s been just three months with my Kindle 2.0, my first ebook reader. I thought I would sum up my experiences so far as an average, if avid-bordering-on-out-of-control, reader.

The Good:

1. I LOVE having an ebook reader. Compact (holds lots of books), lightweight, enlarged font is easy on the eyes. I do not miss paper at all. In fact, a book in paper-only format is a lost sale to this buyer. There are just too many other books I can download effortlessly. I may still buy paper for a very special “keeper” kind of book, but that hasn’t happened yet. (My book purchasing has at least doubled since I bought a Kindle and I am hardly unique.)

2. Whispernet: to my surprise, I love this feature. I use it constantly, to buy books (I have even gone to Borders with my Kindle and downloaded books from Amazon while browsing). I also use the admittedly slow and cumbersome (I live in one of the few places in the US without 3G speed) internet option to use Twitter and check comments on my blog. But since I do not have an iPhone or Blackberry, it’s that or nothing. YMMV.

3. Notetaking: this was one of the two features that led me to the Kindle over the Sony 505 (the Sony 700 has it. The other issue was Mac compatibility. More on that below). It is cumbersome, no doubt about it. But it’s there and I use it. I also enjoy the search feature and bookmarking features. Losing my place in paper books, which seemed to happen constantly, is one of my pet peeves in life.

4. Amazon customer service, selection, and pricing are phenomenal in my experience. Example: I had one of the first batch of Kindle 2.0s and it suffered from the fadeout in bright sunlight (a known defect). I actually did not bother to attempt to return it until last week, after almost 3 months of use (there is very little actual sunlight where I live, it seems). I got online, asked to have a CS rep call me, and my phone rang immediately at 7:00pm EST. I had a new Kindle in my hands within 24 hours. Not only that, but I turned on Whispernet, and not only did all my books appear, but it opened to the very book, and the very page, I had been reading on my old one. Also, at least for now, Amazon has the best selection and pricing for the books I want to buy. (Check out this site for ebook price comparisons)

The Bad:

1. No way to organize my ebooks. It’s great that whatever books I am currently reading show up first in the list of books, but I have to scroll through page after page to get what I want otherwise.

2. No page numbers. Instead we get “positions”. Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite A Husband has 4026 “positions”, and I am 46% of the way through it. It is hard to get a sense of where you are in a book, and puts a real crimp in my use of the Kindle for writing academic papers which must be cited properly. (This blogger has attempted to find a formula for converting positions to page numbers.)

3. No back light. E-ink readers cannot have true backlighting. Only the Sony 70o has a built in light (it is side-lighting actually, and there are complaints that it does not illuminate evenly or enough in the middle of the text. YMMV.). Attachable lights like the Mighty Bright Book Light are just too bulky and bright.

The Ugly:

1. A limit on notetaking and highlighting. I did not know about this limit until after I had exceeded it. Instead of telling you when you have exceeded it, the Kindle just lets you blithely go on highlighting and making your notes without saving them. You plug in your Kindle to your laptop to download your notes and highlights and BAM! You see half the material you expected. Apparently, Amazon decides on the limits, they apply to both DRM and DRM free files, they are different for each book, and there is no way the user can detect them before hand. A fellow Kindle user, Shelley, has recently posted a very good account of the practice and the problem. This is HORRIBLE. And is mentioned NOWHERE in the Kindle user’s guide or promotional materials.

2. Obviously, the big one here is DRM and the restrictions Amazon places on where I can buy content and my control over it. If I stop using the Kindle, or if Amazon goes out of business, I say bye-bye to the 42 books I have on it. Here’s a good article, the Top Tem Arguments Against DRM that explains the problems with DRM. In fact, Amazon’s lawyers went after a “reverse engineer” recently who had figured out a way to allow Kindle users to purchase books from non-Amazon vendors. Mind you, these were people who wanted to legally purchase content, not people who wanted to steal anything.

In conclusion:

I had avoided the Sony 700 e-reader in part because the contrast is not as sharp as the Kindle and this is still true. But I had also chosen the Kindle because I am a Mac user and feared the necessity of downloading software to get content from my Mac onto my Sony reader.  I have since purchased books in PDF or Mobi from independent publishers, and gotten them easily onto my Kindle.  If I had known how easy it is to get books onto my e-reader this would not have been a factor in my decision, and I may well have bought a Sony, also given its native support for Word and PDF files, which Kindle lacks.

While I do think people get a little obsessively focused on the DRM issue to the exclusion of everything else (I want to ask them — have they eaten factory farmed meat? Are they wearing clothes made in a sweat shop? Do they support local farmers? Do they know anything at all about the worldwide business practices of Amazon’s competitors and how they compare? Does Amazon get no credit at all for stimulating ebook sales and availability, the way Apple did in the early days of the iPod? Sheesh.), there is no question that it is a big, bad problem.

I love, love, love having an e-reader and will never go back to paper books. But if I had to do it all over again, would I still buy the Kindle? Probably. But don’t be surprised to see my Kindle on eBay if Sony comes out with a new reader with wireless connectivity (yes, I am addicted to it now) and a clearer screen.

Romance at the End of Life

I’ve been a Hospice volunteer for a few years now. Hospice is an organization that helps patients and families at the end of life, who have decided they will no longer seek a cure for their illness, but rather will attempt to stay as comfortable as possible and live as fully as they can in the time they have left. Ideally, the Hospice patient will die at home, but sometimes patients need skilled nursing care. When a patient is referred to Hospice, they get a whole team — physician, nurse, CNA, social worker, chaplain, dietitian, etc., and they get assigned a volunteer if they want one. Hospice volunteers do a wide range of tasks, from relieving tired family caregivers, to running errands, to sitting with the patient and talking, watching movies or reading with them. Volunteers are trained to provide companionship and support in whatever way is needed, short of medical tasks.

I have had several patients, or “friends”, since I started with Hospice, but I am still a newbie. I attend volunteer support meetings with people who have been doing it for 20 years or more. I can’t express how much I admire those long-timers, or how much they have taught me. They are kind of like the Skin Horse in the Velveteen Rabbit. They aren’t just full of wisdom, they are full of lovingkindness, and it’s my hope that one day a little of their sheen will rub off on me.

That said, I have been doing it long enough that I am starting to notice patterns. Of course, every patient is singular — their lives, their deaths, and everything in between. But it hit me the other day that one near constant is the role of romantic love in their lives, even at the end.

I’ve noticed that when I have a patient who is well enough to be read to, they often prefer love poetry (and they always, always, have a volume called “100 Greatest Love Poems” somewhere in their house). If they are well enough to hear music, they will ask for “romantic” music, like the big band music of their youth (Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and the rest). If they want to watch a movie, it’s West Side Story, Casablanca, or His Girl Friday.

It is a cliché to say that as you lay on your deathbed, you don’t talk about your career. This is absolutely true in my experience. I have had patients who have had amazing academic careers, won Purple Hearts, hobnobbed with political leaders around the world, you name it, but it’s the last thing they want to talk about. Instead, they want to talk about their children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren).

But most of all, they want to talk about the loves of their lives.

Usually, they have lost their spouse or partner by the time I get to know them, but it doesn’t matter whether it happened last year or 40 years ago, the memory of that person is still alive to them. They tell me about their partner’s virtues, foibles, hobbies, youth, and — if they can stand it — final days. They love to show me pictures of their wedding, and if they can no longer see them, they describe them to me as I look. If they have the energy to say only three words, I guarantee their spouse’s name will be one of them. If they are in pain, and they call out a name, it is their loved one’s. If they reach out blindly for someone I can’t see, it is for their lost love.

I’ve had patients who haven’t been blessed in romantic love  — some have been long divorced and never remarried — and, surprisingly, they often want to talk about love as well. Whether a patient has been lucky in love or not, they often seem to focus on that specific kind of close personal relationship at the end of life, on how love has mattered to them, or not, and why.

I got the idea for this post from something that happened the other day. I was visiting with a new “friend”, who happens to be blind, and quite taciturn, and we were trying to figure out what I could read to her. It’s been a bit of a challenge this time around to be helpful (I sometimes feel like I am just useless, underfoot and unnecessary, and then I remember it is not about me). I suggested poems, the Bible, a few other things. She just stared straight ahead, shaking her head almost imperceptibly at each idea. Finally I said, “How about Nora Roberts? Have you ever heard of her?”. She lifted her head, turned towards me and said, clear as a bell, “Of course I have heard of Nora Roberts. Everyone loves her!”

We are two chapters into Sea Swept.

Review: Hard and Fast, by Erin McCarthy

My Take in Brief: Enjoyable, but drastic u-turn in last 10% took points off. Also, hero makes a claim about women and “pulling out” that I have never heard in my entire life. Is it true?

hardandfast

Series? Yes, this is the second book in her stock car racing series (Fast Track)

Setting: Present day Charlotte, North Carolina, stock care milieu. Did you know what a stock car looks like? I did not. Here’s one:

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(Psst. It’s not real. It’s from one of those funny fake news stories. Maybe you have to be Jewish to pee your pants laughing at this?)

Heroine and Hero: Imogen is a serious, nerdy grad student in sociology, Upper East Side upbringing. Ty is a stock car racer who is dyslexic.

Plot: Two people date and fall in love.

Conflict: For the first 90%, this was the most conflict-free romance I have ever read. Then, bam.

Word on the Web:

Tracy’s Place, 3.5 out of 5

Lurv A La Mode, 3 scoops out of 5

Babbling About Books, A-

Stacy’s Place on Earth, 4.5 out of 5 (link is to blog home. I couldn’t find link to page)

All About Romance, Katie Mack, C+

Breezing Through, Nath C+, Ames B-

Dear Author, Jane, B

Amazon.com 4.5 stars after 9 reviews

RomanceNovelTV, Maria, 4.5 out of 5

Romance Rookie, Jill D, A

Sportpickle manages to review this book without actually reading it, calling it “This Weekend’s Book Not To Read”

Fun factoid: I had never heard of this author prior to Flat Out Sexy, and thought she was a newbie. It turns out she has written 24 single title romances in 7  years.

Racy Romance Review:

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the idea of attempting to say anything new about this book after so many reviews have been written. I enjoyed reading this book, as I did the first one in the series, Flat Out Sexy. Sometimes reading a romance really is like reading a People magazine or watching an action movie. Just passing entertainment. This was a nice, steamy story of two people who seem quite different (the brawn and the brain) falling in lust and then love.

A number of reviewers have mentioned the pacing, and I agree it was all over the place. We have already been introduced to these characters and their flirtation in Flat Out Sexy, and in the first scene of Hard and Fast, they end up kissing in the rain on a porch things proceed pretty quickly from there. Then, things kind of stall. Then get crazy.  Like many readers, I appreciated Imogen’s honesty, Ty’s charming personality and their fun (if not, for me, exactly “sparkling” — it is this book’s misfortune that I read the fishing scene in Hard and Fast only a couple of weeks after the incomparable fishing scenes in Jennifer Crusie’s Manhunting) dialogue. They were just a normal couple without any real conflicts. Makes great use of Shakespeare. For the first 9/10’s I really enjoyed it.

But Hard and Fast took a nosedive for me at the end and the HEA turned into a HFN for this reader. After a fairytale whirlwind courtship, Imogen and Ty suddenly wake up and realize they don’t know anything about each other and are very different. That would have been fine if they had had more than a few pages to work this out.

Continue reading

Review: Devil's Bride, by Stephanie Laurens

My Take In Brief: Sometimes I love a romance because it is new or different. I loved this one because it was all the regular things you expect from romance, done (mostly) right.

Devil's Bride

Cover comment: Above is the original cover. I couldn’t resist showcasing the original stepback, with the Duke and Duchess of Grunge. Matching pirate shirts, ahoy!

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Series? Yes. Devils’ Bride (1998) is the first in the long-running Cynster series. The 15th, Temptation and Surrender, was published in March 2009, and Laurens’ website indicates there are 5 more to come.

Continue reading

Contest Winner: MAERED

I finally got around to typing everyone’s name in and generating a random list of entrants at Random.org. The winner is Maered. Congratulations!

Maered, please email me at jessica@racyromancereviews.com and let me know to which bookseller you would like a $15 gift certificate.

There were 55 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

  1. maered

Timestamp: 2009-05-20 12:58:34 UTC

Thanks everyone for participating. I now have an awesome list of potential books to read (the Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie being first), and some very interesting insight into where and why fellow online romance readers buy books! Thank you!!

Bkwurm.com

Bkwurm: /book*worm/ n. a person devoted to reading and study

VacuousMinx

Blog in Progress

Nyssa Harkness

Media and Cultural Studies with a focus on Genre Fiction, Gaming and Creative Society

Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

Love is the Best Medicine

Harlequin/Mills and Boon Medical Romance Authors

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

specficromantic

reviews by a speculative fiction romantic

Centre for Medical Humanities

News, updates and insights from the Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is the loquacious spinster from Austen's Emma. No doubt she read romances ... here's what she would have thought of them.

Badass Romance

heroes, heroines, and books that demand to be taken seriously

bad necklace: not quite pearls of wisdom

mala, media, maladies, and malapropisms

Thinking in Fragments

but making connections too

Tales from the Reading Room

A Literary Salon Where All Are Welcome

momisatwork

thinking about teaching, learning, home and family

Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Fit and Feminist

Because it takes strong women to smash the patriarchy.

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

(previously known as "Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty," but we're not going to be "almost fifty" forever!

Heloise Merlin's Weblog

Virtual people read books, too!

Victoria Janssen

Just another WordPress.com site

Bblog Central

Your source for book blogging.

Insta-Love Book Reviews

Deflowering romance - one book at a time

A Striped Armchair

Bookish thoughts from a woman of endless curiousity

Sonomalass's Blog

Another day in paradise

RR@H Novel Thoughts & Book Talk

Featuring Author Interviews and Commentaries

Something More

my extensive reading

Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog

Reviews of Crime Fiction with an emphasis on classics

The Romantic Goldfish

"Cheapest mother fucking goldfish on the planet"

Shallowreader's Blog

...barely scratching the surface of romance literature, reading and libraries

Joanna Chambers, author

Historical romance

THE DAILY RUCKUS

ROYALTY, ROMANCE NOVELS, AND A LITTLE RUCKUS

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