Friday, August 31, 2007

Hot Phoenix Nights by Gabrina Garza

TITLE: Hot Phoenix Nights
AUTHOR: Gabrina Garza
PUBLISHER: Amber Quill Press (Amber Heat)
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 15k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.00

After walking in on her boyfriend with another woman, Josie Salazar decides to take advantage of a work weekend away in Phoenix to let loose. There, she meets Crow, the drummer of the band she’s there to review, and with chemistry sizzling between them, succumbs to a night of passion. And then another. But how long can it last when a good girl tries to be bad? Josie’s about to find out.

Short stories are hard. When they’re done well, they’re like perfect little gems you can tuck away to appreciate time and time again. When they’re not, the one thing you can be glad for is that at least you didn’t waste too much time reading them. And then there’s that gray area in the middle, where a story is good, but for one reason or another, just isn’t great.

Hot Phoenix Nights falls in that gray area, though admittedly, it’s a much stronger short than many others I’ve read. Written in 1st person, the author gives her heroine a strong and entertaining voice that helps to draw the reader in. Josie is real and, more importantly for a contemporary, relatable. When she decides to throw caution to the wind and take advantage of her attraction to Crow, I was right there with her. I was even there with her when she had her doubts. I would have been there with her if she’d had another 20k of story, even.

That’s where the story falters. The author raises enough questions – and generates enough interest, frankly – in her heroine and her plight to warrant making this much more than a short story. We’re never allowed more than the quickest of peeks into Crow, so while he’s perfectly serviceable as an erotic figure, he suffers when a reader might want more from him. In essence, he’s foreplay. If that’s all you want, then great. If, though, like me, you want more, you’re going to be left wanting at the end. Because Crow never quite comes through with that wallop he promises. Not through any fault of his or the author’s, but rather through the lack of story that surrounds him.

Still, I enjoyed the story. A lot, actually. Josie is sharp and funny, which goes a long way for creating a pleasurable reading experience. Accept the whole thing as a taste of what the author can offer, and you should walk away satisfied.


8/10 – A fun voice for the heroine helps compensate the “sameness” feel the story has


8/10 – Fun and likable, though I think the story’s brevity works against making her more sympathetic


6/10 – Hot as a one-night stand, but we don’t know very much about him otherwise to connect with him better

Entertainment value

8/10 – A fun, quick read, as long as you’re not looking for anything more

World building

6/10 – There’s barely enough room for the heroine in this, let alone painting a very good picture of her life and work



Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Carnally Ever After by Jackie Barbosa

TITLE: Carnally Ever After
AUTHOR: Jackie Barbosa
PUBLISHER: Cobblestone Press
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 14k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
COST: $3.99

Being stood up at the altar doesn’t stop Lady Louisa Bennett from admitting her desire for her groom’s best friend, Alistair de Roche, especially when he professes his own needs to have her. Their clandestine meeting in the chaos after the aborted ceremony has to remain a singular event, however. Societal demands ensure Louisa’s marriage will still take place, and Alistair has his own fiancée waiting in the wings. What do they do, then, when their passion and feelings prove too fierce to deny?

I don’t let bad covers stop me from buying a book if a blurb and excerpt look interesting enough (look at Jorrie Spencer’s The Strength of the Pack), but when I see a cover that catches my eye, I tend to be a lot more forgiving. The cover for this e-book completely enchanted me. I think it’s elegant and seductive, without being cheesy, and though the cover model didn’t match the plus-sized description of the heroine or feel very period, I was okay with that. I just really liked the composition, the sepia tones, and the look in the model’s eye. It said, “Buy me.” So I did.

It’s a shame, then, when the story doesn’t live up to the packaging’s promise. Louisa seems like a typical historical heroine, until she starts to bemoan how fat she is and that she’s been stood up because her fiancé can’t possibly desire her. This is all well and good as something different, especially when Alistair steps up and says he finds her more than desirable, and I had high hopes going into the first sexual encounter. I was a little taken aback then, when in an attempt to maintain her virtue, Alistair suggests anal sex instead. Not that anal sex isn’t hot, but the author expects me to believe a woman in 1816 – a virgin and a member of society with no previous sexual experience other than masturbating a little bit – isn’t going to balk even a tiny bit at this suggestion? That stretches credibility far too much for me, especially when used in conjunction with verbiage such as, “weapon of pleasure,” in regards to Alistair’s penis.

I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for awhile, but ultimately, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the whole story. Throughout most of the book, both Louisa and Alistair go on and on and on about how they can’t marry each other, in spite of being in love. How they absolutely have to marry the others they don’t want. They’re adamant about it. Very adamant. So when a final resolution is reached, I literally stared at the screen in shock. Lame doesn’t even begin to cover it. I literally cannot understand why they didn’t come to that conclusion after the very first chapter, which makes me question why I had to waste the time to read the story anyway.

Walking away from this story, I’m left with a feeling of, Why did I bother? It wasn’t bad, but in the end, I don’t feel it offered anything entertaining enough to make it worth heartily recommending.


6/10 – The erotic scenes were a touch on the purple side for my tastes.


6/10 – A tad flat, though at least she’s not as dumb as most heroines


6/10 – Left me feeling meh in the end

Entertainment value

5/10 – Very middle of the road, I wasn’t bored, but I wasn’t hugely entertained, either

World building

5/10 – Honestly, if it wasn’t for their worries about social standing and Louisa’s clothes, this could almost have been set any-when



Monday, August 27, 2007

Sweet Vibrations by Melinda Barron

TITLE: Sweet Vibrations
AUTHOR: Melinda Barron
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 45k)
GENRE: Contemporary BDSM erotic romance
COST: $5.99

Financial difficulties give Lucy Travers no choice but to sell the prized motorcycle her uncle left her when he died. When she meets the potential buyer, Lake Ross, however, she’s not prepared for the physical attraction, or for the knowledge that he’s a Dom. A submissive at heart, Lucy has been out of the scene since she got burned on her divorce, but Lake is determined to be her new Master. When he discovers an unknown key under the seat of the bike he bought, however, danger arises in Lucy’s life that threatens both of their happiness.

I read BDSM for a lot of reasons, but for it to really work for me, it requires a balance. Pain with the pleasure. Reward with the punishment. Give with the take. That’s what the D/s relationship does for me. Different authors have different approaches – some of them take it easy and stick with a little bit of mild bondage, while others focus on the control aspect – but in this particular story, there’s a schism. Repeatedly, the characters talk about trust, a crucial aspect to any D/s relationship, but the vast majority of the interactions between them in the BDSM milieu are punishments. Granted, Lucy deserves some of them. I understand, too, Lake’s need to build trust in her. But reading punishment after punishment was tedious by the time I was halfway done. I had to fight to finish the second half of the story, especially when Lucy turned around with the most inane twist of logic and deliberate decision that made me want to pop her head off like a dead dandelion.

My reaction to Lucy is probably a little extreme, but I’d already had a few problems with her prior to the ridiculous and inexplicable reason she had to deliberately lie to Lake 2/3's of the way through the story. The information about her submissive side is blurted out to the reader at the end of chapter two, when Lake tells her that her friend Margaret already told him that she was a sub. It’s the first indication the reader gets that Lake is a Dom, too, and from that point on, Lucy’s personality changed. All of a sudden, she was far more submissive, and the transition felt schizophrenic at best. Her thoughts from that point on are all about how can she trust Lake, and how she wants to submit to him, when there was little to no acknowledgement prior to that point that she even had those tendencies. It became very difficult to invest in any kind of romance then, especially with all the punishment issues I already had.

If the subplot regarding her dead uncle were stronger, maybe I wouldn’t mind so much about the problematic romance. But the early efforts to build the suspense of what the mystery could be are shafted by most of the climactic events being summarized or glossed over in the latter half. The whole thing feels like a very flimsy excuse to have Lucy act out against Lake, and for Lake to give another punishment. Since I was already well done with that aspect of the story, it wasn’t enough for me. By then, I needed something to keep me interested in the story, and the subplot failed to supply it.


6/10 – Simple enough prose, though uneven pacing and character jumps means it doesn’t engage as it should


4/10 – This one suffers from random acts of stupidity that annoyed me to no end.


6/10 – No amount of posturing elevates a rather flat Dom

Entertainment value

5/10 – Too much repetition of punishment as erotica combined with a heroine I wanted to strangle made the latter half of this tedious to read.

World building

6/10 – When they were at the BDSM club, I believed in their world. Outside of it…not so much.



Friday, August 24, 2007

Devil's Pearl by Dawn Halliday

TITLE: Devil’s Pearl
AUTHOR: Dawn Halliday
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 20k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
COST: $4.45

After fleeing the man she’s convinced will break her heart because he only thinks of her as a mistress, Julia Beaumont attempts to rebuild her life, only to find herself thrust into her ex-lover’s path again one year later. For his part, Sir Devlin Vaughn wants to teach a lesson to the woman who captures his thoughts and turned him into London’s laughingstock. Neither one of them expects that the passion they shared will change their lives forever.

I never know what to expect with these EC novellas. It’s that feeling of having gotten two or three shocks after stepping into a newly carpeted room, and then being afraid to touch anything else for fear of getting shocked again. Will this hurt? Will this? I’m relieved to say that this time, I didn’t get the shock.

I couldn’t stop reading it. When I checked to see what the word count was for the purposes of this review, I was shocked to see it was over 20k. That was the fastest 20k I’ve read in a long time. Even the sections that made me scowl were fast. Credit for that absolutely has to go to the author. Her style is smooth and effortless, and even though use of modern terminology in some of the erotic scenes jarred me a little bit, it wasn’t nearly enough to pull me out of the flow.

Dev, even when he was pissed off and holding Julia at gunpoint, was sexy as hell. The whole intentness of his personality was mesmerizing for me, the way he honed in on the moment and everything else be damned. Of course, that’s also his major flaw and contributes to one of my issues with the book, but I think the fact that much of the story is told from his POV – or it felt like it was, anyway – is the biggest reason I was as sucked in as I was.

I wasn’t sucked in because of Julia. The biggest problem this story had was that much of the conflict that’s separating these two happens off the page. We hear about it second and thirdhand. It weakens the storytelling, and when the bulk of your heroine’s character is built by offscreen events, it’s hard to connect with her. I think the sex would have definitely been hotter, too, if I was more emotionally connected with her. It was still hot, but it was hardly the driving thrust of the story for me. How unusual for an Ellora’s Cave story! But honestly, my enjoyment of this came from Dev’s anger and then honest (if a little thick-headed) confusion. I believed him. I felt for him. Because of him, I wish the author had made this a full novel complete with all the details of Julia’s life in that missing year and more about Devlin instead of this tiny snippet I got. What a rich story that would have been…


8/10 – I’m not sure I’ll ever adjust to seeing modern terminology in historical erotica, but when it’s this easy to get sucked in, I can overlook it for now


6/10 – I would have known her better if I’d been able to read her story instead of being told about it


8/10 – A little thick, but still magnetic

Entertainment value

8/10 – In spite of how much more I think this could have been, it was the fastest 20k I’ve read in a long time

World building

7/10 – The story’s brevity means detail is lacking



Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Runner's Moon: Jebaral by Linda Mooney

TITLE: Runner’s Moon: Jebaral
AUTHOR: Linda Mooney
PUBLISHER: Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 49k)
GENRE: Sci-fi erotic romance
COST: $5.99

Waitress Hannah Pitt has had bad luck with men. From an abused father, straight into the arms of an abusive boyfriend, she yearns for someone to treat her with honor and respect. Someone just like her regular breakfast customer, Jeb. When her boyfriend Carl goes too far, Jeb takes matters into his own hands and spirits her away, protecting her from any more harm. Already half in love with him, she doesn’t expect him to return her feelings. It’s just too bad Jeb’s not human. Or that he’s on the run himself from the alien species determined to return him to slavery.

I have a confession. If I had known from the beginning that the heroine in this story was a woman in an abusive relationship, and that the crux of 2/3’s of the book would be her hiding out from her abusive boyfriend while getting taken care of by the hero, I never would have bought it. But there’s absolutely no indication of the heroine’s true situation from the blurb on Whiskey Creek’s website, and the excerpt is the prologue where Jeb’s spacecraft crashlands on Earth. I don’t have anything against these kinds of heroines, but more often than not, they’re just used as devices for the hero to prove how wonderful he is, crying all the time and never showing any backbone. Sadly, this book falls into the same paradigm.

Hannah is frail and weepy for much of the book, so many of the interactions are based on that mindset. It’s no wonder that she falls in love with Jeb; he’s the first person to ever treat her like a human being. Jeb, for his part, does the best he can, but he’s just not interesting enough to compensate for Hannah for me.

Some of the word choices worked against the story’s favor, as well. Jeb is alien, so it makes sense that he’d have different terminology. But choosing to call his penis a “manpipe” was an unfortunate selection. I laughed every time I saw the word and, as a result, couldn’t invest in any of the romantic scenes. Body parts have perfectly good names, and I never understand what people have against using them. It’s a body part. I can appreciate using coarse terminology can be hard for some people, but I don’t feel – and have never felt – that applying such logic to medically accepted terms for your body makes sense. It instills a sense of shame in your body, and do we really need that on top of all the other stuff in the world today?

The book marks the first in a series about Jeb’s alien race, but I have to say, I probably won’t bother with future stories. The author’s style didn’t engage me enough to get past my problems with the story, and I don’t care enough about the other aliens to bother risking it again. Hopefully Hannah and Jeb will have a nice, angst-free future. I’d hate to see her crying again.


5/10 – Reasonably error-free, but too many words that just completely pulled me out


3/10 – I’m just really not into the abused woman/victim who cries all the time


5/10 – All right enough, if a bit boring

Entertainment value

4/10 – Not my cup of tea, especially with the sci-fi stuff just as window dressing

World building

7/10 – Jeb’s world is mildly interesting and unique enough to merit some points here



Monday, August 20, 2007

The Edge by J.J. Massa

TITLE: The Edge
AUTHOR: J.J. Massa
PUBLISHER: Linden Bay Romance
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 33k)
GENRE: Gay erotic romance
COST: $5.99

Tyler Baker has been transferred. Strike that. He’s been shipped off as part of a bribe, from all his troubles in San Jose to Philadelphia where supposedly he gets a clean slate from the suspicious murder of his partner/lover 14 months earlier. His new partner, Paytah, is Mr. By the Book, but when they get thrown into the middle of what’s been discounted as suicides, Paytah learns that there’s more to Tyler than just his pretty face. The connection and respect grows between the two men as they try and find the redheaded woman they think is a murderer, until their passion explodes. Only problem is, so does their case.

J.J. Massa is one of those authors whose name I’ve seen online here and there, but have never bought from before. Considering the rash of not so great gay romances I’ve seen around lately, when I found one that sounded like it had a real plot, I decided to take a risk. For once, my risk-taking didn’t screw me over.

The prologue on this story is a marvel. It’s short, but its brevity gives it even more of an emotional punch. In it, the reader is thrust in shallow waters on a beach, with Tyler talking to Daryl. Except Daryl’s dead, and Tyler is almost so, and what could have been melodramatic turned into a gutwrenching wallop that completely sucked me into the story. For the most part, the rest of the story held me there, even if it never quite reached the magic of those first few pages.

Paytah is a gorgeous alpha male - Native American (yum!), tall and broad, intelligent and forceful - but my primary complaint about the book is that I never really bought the romance between him and his new, openly gay partner. It’s one of those stories where one of the heroes never, ever considers a male partner…until the perfect one comes along, courtesy of the author. Those kind of stories only work for me when the author takes the time to show why he’s willing to switch hit all of a sudden, to build the UST and make the coming together inevitable. That didn’t necessarily happen here, though I think the fact that this is only 33k – with a pretty hefty cop story running alongside the romance – held it back. There are hints of some really good UST, but the sex when it happens wasn’t nearly as mind-blowing for me the reader as Tyler claimed it was for him the following morning.

The advantage this story has to others where I don’t completely buy the romance – gay or straight – is that there’s a solid enough B-story to keep me engaged. These two men act like cops, spend time acting like cops, and do enough things other than staring at each other googly eyed to entertain me as a reader so that the romance isn’t nearly as crucial to me as it could be. That’s a lot more than most romance writers do these days.


8/10 – Realistic dialogue and reliable pacing keeps this an even flow.

Hero #1

8/10 – I felt for poor Tyler, even if I didn’t completely believe the romance

Hero #2

7/10 – Not as sharply drawn as his counterpart, and his sudden jump from hetero to gay didn’t ring true

Entertainment value

7/10 – A solid enough read with a good balance between the romance and the cop world

World building

8/10 – Nice to see a world where it feels like a world I could actually live in, with a good balance of varying personalities



Friday, August 17, 2007

Reaper's Reward by Marie Harte

TITLE: Reaper’s Reward
AUTHOR: Marie Harte
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 42k)
GENRE: BDSM erotic romance
COST: $5.99

Satyr’s Mist is an exclusive resort that caters to the sexually adventurous. Investigator Jewel is sent on assignment to retrieve a damaging blackmail video, and one of the first people she meets is the stalwart Ethan Reaper. Ethan is there for a job as well. Half-owner of a successful security company in Seattle, he’s been brought to the private Caribbean island to find out who has been stealing artifacts from the resort’s owner. Neither expects the volatile chemistry between them, but neither denies it. Ethan has finally found the woman strong enough to submit to him, but can he protect her when their cases collide?

When I saw there was a longer companion story to Tied and True, I knew I couldn’t resist. The author decided to give Jared’s business partner his own story, and wow, what a story it is. Ethan is a giant of a man, with a giant sexual appetite, and the chemistry between him and Jewel leaps off the page almost from the moment they meet. Jewel has just enough spark to keep her from being a total doormat – which is exactly what Ethan is looking for – and while I don’t know if I’d cave as quickly as she did, I certainly believed her eventual submission.

Oh, who am I kidding? I would have totally caved. Ethan was hot. Definitely one of the hottest heroes I’ve read in awhile.

Most of the middle of the book focuses on Ethan “training” Jewel, and when it’s doing this, it works. It works well. There's light bondage, some spanking, and anal play, and the author does a good job in keeping the primary plot – that of the thefts and blackmail – a part of the story as she’s paying the proper attention to her lovers. The eventual action sequence that serves as the climax is tightly choreographed and strong, too, but I have to admit to being a little disappointed on who the bad guy was and why. It felt a little out of left field for me. Maybe a little more detail or build-up in the beginning would have made it more believable, because as it stood, I felt like there was something I was missing.

Do I think the story could have been better? Yes. But if I look at this book strictly from an erotic romance perspective – ignoring the overlaying plot – it completely worked for me. It was hot, the build-up of the relationship between the characters solid enough to be believable, and did I mention hot? I’m as satisfied finishing this as Jewel was with Ethan. Trust me. That’s a lot.


8/10 – Easy and engaging, as I’ve come to hope for from this author


8/10 – Spunky and smart without being perfect


8/10 – In a single word, HOT.

Entertainment value

9/10 – Taken for an erotic romp, absolutely satisfying

World building

7/10 – The backstory with the Roman artifacts left a little to be desired, but otherwise fairly solid



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stiff Assignment by Skylar Sinclair

TITLE: Stiff Assignment
AUTHOR: Skylar Sinclair
PUBLISHER: Siren Publishing
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 18k)
GENRE: Gay erotic romance
COST: $2.99

Undercover agent Daimon is put on the case to determine once and for all whether or not wealthy businessman Jefferson Bartel is linked to the mob. What he doesn’t anticipate is practically falling into the man’s lap, and worse, falling head over heels in love with him. What happens if he discovers that the new lust of his life really is crooked as they come? Will it be too late to save his heart?

When the surname of the hero in the story doesn’t even match the surname given in the blurb, you know there’s going to be problems. When there are leaps of logic not indicated in the story (like when Daimon gets hit over the head and wakes up to find himself in Jefferson’s house, freely admits he remembers nothing between going unconscious and waking up, and has never even had contact with the other male in the story, but immediately jumps to the conclusion that yes indeed, he’s in Bartel’s house), you know there’s going to be problems. When the whole story is packed with dialogue like:

I am totally hypnotized when your cock goes from flaccid to steel covered in silky flesh as it raises along the trail of hair up your stomach. The evidence of your desire unmistakable by the cum dripping from the head of your cock as I lick your balls.

…you know there’s going to be problems. The only thing this story had going for it was the fact that it was so short. At least I didn’t have to put up with the problems for very long.

I don’t even know where to start. The hokey, melodramatic dialogue maybe? Nobody talks like these two men. The most realistic exchange in the whole book happens in the first chapter between Daimon and his boss. Every time Jefferson opened his mouth, I cringed, and when Daimon got around him…oy.

Then there’s the plot. I bought the book based on the blurb and the semi-normal sounding excerpt from the first chapter. The blurb puts the emphasis on the conflict between the two men – one’s a cop, the other might not be exactly law-abiding – but the story handles it differently. There is a single chapter devoted to Daimon investigating Jefferson – and not even that much, because it quickly devolves into Daimon blowing Jefferson – and that’s it. All the rest of the story is about Daimon deciding near instantly that he trusts this so-called crook and Jefferson deciding at the age of 50 with 30 years of playboy behavior behind him that the man he sees roaming the beach outside his house is the one for him. Not believable. In the slightest. I don’t care if it is supposed to be escapist romance. In order to qualify as good escapist romance for me, there has to be some sort of realistic evolution to characters.

Oh well. Maybe next time.


4/10 – Stilted dialogue and over-the-top prose make even a novella hard to wade through

Hero #1

4/10 – What starts out with promise devolves into a romantic mess

Hero #2

3/10 – Our enigmatic playboy never rises above the ideal the author tries to paint him as

Entertainment value

3/10 – Early hot sex can’t make up for the plot slapped on from nowhere

World building

3/10 – The author doesn’t even try to create the criminal world our hero is supposed to be investigating



Monday, August 13, 2007

Snowdance by Sarita Leone

TITLE: Snowdance
AUTHOR: Sarita Leone
PUBLISHER: Whiskey Creek Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 53k)
GENRE: Mainstream romance
COST: $5.99

Elinor Montoya has lived a long, fruitful life. In the captivity of her snowbound home, she reflects on the paths that have led her to these particular moments, nearly a century of them added up together to sculpt her world.

From the very first chapter of this book, there is a distinct nostalgia that crooks a finger at the reader and beckons them to indulge. The descriptions of the central character’s home and the storm that rages outside are simple yet evocative, painting pictures with words that put me in the middle of that house, in the middle of that storm, watching and wondering over each individual pattern of snowflake falling outside the window. This isn’t a book to read when you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. The heroine is nearly a hundred years old, and the pace of the entire novel reflects both her experience and the simple, unadorned lifestyle she has had her entire life. But it still sucked me in, wrapping me up and making me smile, even when I wasn’t in the mood for it.

Not a whole lot happens in this. It’s a series of flashbacks interspersed with time spent in the present day. The flashbacks aren’t hugely original, either – there’s the obligatory death to deal with, a love at first sight scene – but the first one and actually my favorite is one with Elinor and her cousin Sara when Elinor is 8 years old. They’re contemplating their different lives, and how each is jealous of the other, and all that comes out in this discussion they’re having about how oak trees are made. It’s simple and so real that I finished it completely invested in wherever the story was going to take me after that. So if maybe some of the scenes were a little expected, that was all right. The point was, I wanted to be there by then. And that was enough for me.

I do wish that some of the dialogue wasn’t as stilted as it was. The author’s strengths are in descriptions, not in making her dialogue real. A 4 year-old in this came across as a teenager to me until I was told he was four. Even then, I didn’t quite believe it.

But in spite of this one quibble, I fell for this simple story head over heels. It’s more than a romance. It’s a story of a life. And how love shapes and forms everything that we are.


8/10 – Mostly clean and evocative, with a nostalgic rhythm that sucked me in


8/10 – Dialogue is stiff, but otherwise, I wanted to know this woman even more


6/10 – The flashback device is awkward in some places, and there’s nothing hugely original about the vignettes the author shares

Entertainment value

8/10 – I completely fell for the melancholy nostalgia in this, due mostly to the quality of writing

World building

9/10 – I felt and saw every snowflake. I knew Elinor’s home as well as she did, I thought.



Friday, August 10, 2007

Whose Afterlife Is This, Anyway? by Elisa Adams

TITLE: Whose Afterlife Is This, Anyway?
AUTHOR: Elisa Adams
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 58k)
GENRE: Paranormal erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Librarian Carrie Holiday is bored. Bored with her job, bored with small-town life, just plain bored. So when her sister Lauren asks for her help in finding Lauren’s deadbeat soon-to-be-ex-husband, Carrie agrees. The last thing she expects is that her sexy neighbor Luke is on the same case. When they agree to work together, her secret crush on him gets harder and harder to hide, especially when he flirts back at her. It’s just too bad Luke’s a vampire. And that looking for her brother-in-law just might get her killed.

I probably should have guessed it from the title, but when I read the blurb and excerpt on this story, I didn’t really expect the tongue-in-cheek tone of the entire book. The fact that it took me by surprise is my own fault, probably. Maybe that’s why it never really worked for me. It became obvious very early that the author was trying to be funny – or at least, to make Carrie funny – but I never laughed. I didn’t even smile. In fact, I’m pretty sure there was eye-rolling involved. Of course, the author created a heroine that talks out loud to herself when she’s alone – why, oh why, do authors do this over and over again? Most people just don’t do that – and I’ll freely admit that’s a peeve. But the repeated attempts to be humorous fell short for me, throughout the entire book.

That’s not to say I hated it. I didn’t. Luke, the hero, is appropriately dark and sexy, just like any other vampire. There wasn’t a whole lot original about him, but I certainly don’t have any complaints. And Carrie, while a shade on the side of annoying, felt marginally real enough for me not to dislike her. Their UST was pretty hot, actually, especially considering her body image issues – though for someone who at the top of the book claims to be perfectly okay with her size 14 figure, she sure did whine about it a lot. Even the sex was okay, which makes for a nice change from some of the other erotic books I’ve read recently.

In the end, though, I think that describes my overall feelings about the book. Okay. There wasn’t anything in it that screamed at me, Hate me!, but on the other hand, nothing jumped out, threw its arms around me and said, Love me!, either. There might be somebody out there, however, that can appreciate the author’s humor and enjoy the book more than I did. Unfortunately, that wasn’t me.


7/10 – Easy enough to read, though didn’t suck me like I kept expecting it to


6/10 – Too flipfloppy for my taste, and the attempts at humor didn’t work for me


7/10 – Charming enough, if not all that unique

Entertainment value

5/10 – The plot didn’t hold me, and the tongue-in-cheek tone grew old after the first third of the book

World building

6/10 – I never really get that smalltown feel Carrie keeps harping on



Wednesday, August 8, 2007

One Night in Boston by Allie Boniface

TITLE: One Night in Boston
AUTHOR: Allie Boniface
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 82k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $5.50

Maggie Doyle has twenty-four hours to come up with over $15,000 to save her life as she knows it. That’s how long the bank will give her to come up with her mortgage arrears on her business. If she doesn’t, she loses her house, and most likely, everything she has been working for. With the clock ticking, she turns to the only person she can think of who might be able to bail her out, her estranged stepbrother. The path that leads to him, however, is paved with memories she’d rather not revisit. And a love she’d long thought lost.

I’ve got an interesting dilemma with this book. On one hand, I’ve got an author whose voice sucks you in, is easy to read and has some evocative phrasing. On the other, I’ve got a heroine I dislike so thoroughly that I’m half-hoping through the latter half of the book that she really does lose her house, because, frankly, I think she deserves it. So what’s a reader to do? I’m still not sure.

What’s so wrong with the heroine, you ask? Well, for me, it all started with this mortgage problem. Maggie has an interior design business she runs out of her house and a mother with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home. She’s willing to risk her mother’s care to save a house that she’s only lived in for 5 years. Maggie doesn’t even want to consider having to rent someplace, which never makes sense to me considering how much she supposedly loves her mother. Then, the story of her so-called secret comes out. There’s a night of high school sex that she blames her stepbrother completely for, taking zero responsibility for herself even though she willingly made out with the boy in question, followed by an STD with the unfortunate side effect of giving her cervical cancer that requires a hysterectomy. At this point, Maggie decides she’s only half a woman and undeserving of pretty much any kind of future (which is the sole reason she breaks up with her college boyfriend and the love of her life, because she can’t give him children, oy). Yuck. Somebody else might find her sympathetic, but I didn’t. Self-centered, yes. Sympathetic, no.

The author knows how to write, that’s for sure. Her prose is clean, and the format she’s chosen – breaking the story into hour breaks instead of chapters – is an excellent device to hook a reader in. Just look at how many people are hooked on 24, even when a particular season's storyline might be lacking. I’m a little confused why she would choose a format that’s specifically garners suspense, however, when she uses a good third of the book for flashbacks, and most of the first half is used to set up characters and their relationships. I wondered if it was to fill time on those hours where her heroine was driving or the hero working. So much time was spent on the others, in fact, that halfway through the book, before the full story of the heroine’s background came out, I couldn’t have told you if she was going to end up with the stepbrother – who she stubbornly kept emphasizing was not her brother – or the engaged college boyfriend. The former felt like he had too much story dedicated to him at that point not to be one of the two central players, and the latter was happily engaged to the perfect woman. So happily, in fact, that when he has a change of heart later on, I didn’t buy it. The entire effect is it drags down the pacing. If she wanted a suspense book, she didn’t get it, because there is zero of it until she gets to Boston halfway through the story. If she wanted something else, well…I’m not entirely sure she did want something else, considering the events late in the book.

So where am I left on this story? Kind of middle of the road. I’m not going to read it again – no way am I putting up with Maggie’s self-centered whining again – but the author’s writing style is one of the better ones I’ve seen. She’s one to keep an eye on for now. Hopefully her next heroine isn’t so annoying.


8/10 – An engaging voice loses momentum with awkward pacing


3/10 – It’s next to impossible to feel sympathy for someone who doesn’t take responsibility she should, and makes mountains out of molehills


7/10 – Charming, even if his turnaround isn’t entirely believable

Entertainment value

5/10 – The author’s voice can’t save my dislike of the heroine or the uneven pacing of the story

World building

6/10 – Solid enough, but nothing exciting here



Monday, August 6, 2007

The Call by Jourdan Lane, BA Tortuga, & Emily Veinglory

TITLE: The Call
AUTHOR: Jourdan Lane, BA Tortuga, & Emily Veinglory
PUBLISHER: Torquere Press
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 65k)
GENRE: Gay paranormal erotic romance
COST: $5.95

A trio of novellas, featuring gay romances where at least one of the partners is a werewolf.

The first story in this anthology is “Instinct,” by Jourdan Lane. In it, construction firm owner Ethan is a reluctant werewolf, scarred by the whole experience by the man who turned him, Jake. He meets Noah, another wolf, who’s interested in some work done at his pack’s home, and surprise surprise, the two fall in love. Like…right away. Seriously. Within minutes of meeting, they’re having sex on the floor of Ethan’s office. There is very little time to actually get to know Noah before they’re supposedly mated, which completely disengaged me from getting emotionally involved in the story. Worse, 24 hours after reading it, I couldn’t even remember what this story was about without going back and skimming it. That’s never a good sign. Pass.

The second story is called “Son of a Bitch,” by Emily Veinglory. Small town werewolf Nate works midnight shifts at the gas station, supplements his income with various online activities, and is hiding out from the pack he ran away from, trying to make his own place. Human Steven breaks down outside the station one night, and Nate falls in lust. Veinglory is the one author of the bunch with an original voice; she has characters that leap off the page with their eccentricities, and her turns of phrase are some of the most vivid I’ve seen in recent months. Unfortunately, she’s also the author with the most mistakes riddled throughout the story. There was at least one on every page, and often, more than that. It gets very distracting, and pulls me out of a story faster than headhopping when it’s that prevalent. Which is a shame, because hers was the story I actually wanted to like, simply because I enjoyed her main characters so much. How can you read a story that doesn’t even look like it’s been proofread? The answer is with a lot of difficulty.

The final story in the anthology is “Home Fires,” by BA Tortuga. Werewolf Houston stumbles into his mate Jackson’s home after having been held prisoner and tortured for the past two years. Together, they have to try and get over the pain of their past, as well as heal Houston’s physical and mental wellbeing. By the time I got to this story, I didn’t have high hopes. The first two had been disappointing at best, so when this story grabbed me by the shirt collar with the opening page, I was delighted. I got sucked into the hurt between these two men, enthralled by the rather vicious sex that happened as they came back together. There weren’t nearly the same number of typos or errors in this story that afflicted the others, which made it easier to enjoy it. Unfortunately, that enjoyment didn’t last. What started out with a sucker punch – easy prose, heartwrenching emotion – turned into more of the same, over and over again, as the story progressed. Sex, lots of mate talk, angst from Houston. Sex, lots of mate talk, angst from Jackson. Sex, lots of mate talk…well, you get the idea.

While a good idea in theory, the execution of this anthology of gay werewolf romance falters under its own weight. There are too many technical problems with the editing to believe it a professional presentation, and at least one of the stories has zero believability in regards to romance. I’m all for werewolf mates, gay or straight, but there’s a balance to be struck that none of these authors found. Unless you’re a fan of one of these authors, or don’t care about spelling errors, wrong word choices, or missing words in prose, don’t bother with this one.


5/10 – Riddled with typos that make even the most engaging voice difficult to read


5/10 – I was invested in only 1 of the 3 romances, and 1 not at all


6/10 – This gets saved by Veinglory’s story; hers is the only one with full-fleshed, interesting characters

Entertainment value

5/10 – This would have been higher if I didn’t have such a headache trying to work my way through all the technical errors

World building

5/10 – Each tries to build its own unique werewolf world; each only marginally succeeds



Friday, August 3, 2007

Sacred and Profane by Nina Merrill

TITLE: Sacred and Profane
AUTHOR: Nina Merrill
PUBLISHER: Amber Quill Publishing (Amber Heat)
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 39k)
GENRE: Time travel romance
COST: $4.50

Scholar Jennie Pierson is completely enamored with the history of the Templars. When a cryptic cipher throws her back in time 700 years, though, the reality of Paris and the men of honor she studied colors everything she ever believed. She is drawn inexplicably to Templar Tibald de Bergere, but there are more obstacles to their growing feelings than just his devotion to the Order. There is his companion Napier, a traitorous spy in the Order’s ranks, and the ever-growing fear that she could return to the present day at any time.

You know, for as much as I love time travel romances, I hate the history lessons that invariably go with them. Well, they go with the not-as-well-written ones, at least. For as many good things as this story has going with it, it falls into the same trap. A good chunk of the opening scene is an explanation of the French Templars and the highlights of their history, a primer for the uninformed reader. It’s clunky, and it’s boring, and it does nothing to suck the reader into the story whatsoever. The author makes her job all that much harder by doing this, and I can’t help but feel that the story would have worked so much better if she’d found a more interesting way of disseminating the information. If she even needed to at that point. Maybe it might not have been necessary until later on, like after I’d gotten to know the heroine? As it was, it took me forever to get past the first few pages of this novella, simply because I wasn’t interested in reading a history lesson. I bought it for the romance.

…Which works for me, by the way. Once I got into the past – or Jennie did, at any rate – it was very easy to get sucked into the story of her trying to get the Templars to believe her warnings about their fates. Tibald is a charming hero, one of those noble ones that make me melt a little bit on the inside. He fights his attraction for Jennie far longer than most writers would have made him, which is a credit to the author being true to the spirit of the Templars. Then when he does yield to it, it’s totally realistic. This man who’s rarely had sex comes like a virgin, which, trust me, is just as frustrating for Jennie as it was for me. Thankfully, he’s an excellent student, so later scenes are far more satisfying.

There’s a subplot where his companion and best friend Napier is in love with him that feels tacked on, at best. Nothing happens between the two men, but I’m never completely sure that it won’t, which, with the open ending, was one of my problems with this book. It’s not that I was looking for a ménage. I wasn’t. Well, I’m always looking for a good ménage, but I knew from the get-go this wasn’t it. What I mean is, I liked Napier too much to leave the poor guy hanging like that. Limbo is never fun for favored characters.

I can’t say that Jennie was a favored character, though. Even she disparages how much of a girly-girl she acts like in the story, and her dialogue is way more stilted than the 700 years in the past men.

If you’re looking for a hot, sexy read, this isn’t the book for you. There’s a reason it has Amber Heat’s lowest heat reading. But the romance is sweet and believable, and if time travel or this period interest you, I say go for it.


6/10 – Some clunky historical lessons in the beginning segues into smoother reading. Except for our heroine’s dialogue. Oy.


5/10 – A lot of fainting and dialogue I couldn’t believe made it hard to connect with her.


8/10 – Believable with the period detail, and charming

Entertainment value

6/10 – The open ending and my issues with the heroine keep this from being higher.

World building

8/10 – The period details are vivid and consistent, as well as realistic.