Monthly Archives: January 2014

Blindfolded Innocence

blindfolded innocenceBlindfolded Innocence
by Alessandra Torre
Published by Harlequin HQN
304 pages
Genre: erotica; New Adult
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

One of the things I enjoy about Alessandra Torre’s writing is that she doesn’t just deliver hot, hard headboard rockin’, she also challenges the way you think about sex.

In Sex, Love, Repeat, her heroine vigorously embraced sex with two men, one of whom she loved, the other of whom she enjoyed. (wink wink) In Blindfolded Innocence, she continues with her “sharing” theme, this time asking you to consider how willing you would be to allow your partner to watch while you partake in sexy times with someone else (or several someone elses at the same time).

Julia is a college student preparing to apply to law school. (Again the girl is young – they are ALWAYS YOUNG in erotica.) She lands an internship at a big time law firm, where she winds up working for a somewhat dull but extremely driven attorney. While she slaves fifteen hours a day, she hears nothing but fun times coming from the wing housing Brad De Luca, resident rogue divorce lawyer. When Julia actually meets Brad, he almost literally takes her breath away. Older (OF COURSE HE IS because men in erotica novels are ALWAYS OLDER AND RICHER) and considerably more experienced, Brad is intrigued by Julia.

He makes sure their paths cross, and he asks her to join him on a weekend jaunt to Vegas. He doesn’t want to be alone, and Julia – ever perceptive, because these young girls in erotica novels are always Wise Souls – senses that Brad is secretly lonely, despite all of the sex he has. Despite her wariness, she joins him in Vegas.

Fortunately for us, what happens in Vegas does not stay there because Alessandra Torre shares all of the fun stuff. Brad and Julia get “close,” but … well. There is ALWAYS A “BUT” IN EROTICA, and it tends to relate to the man’s ISSUES.

So Brad and Julia have some things to discuss, namely his enjoyment in watching.

Yep, THAT KIND OF WATCHING.

At least that’s different, non? He’s into something potentially kinkier than spanky panky.

The problem is, though, that Julia may not be. So what will our happy couple do? And will you care?

Yes, I think you will. Brad is fun. As in FUN. He knows how to please a woman (and he should, because he’s been with nearly 200 of them). Can you blame him for wanting to share his talents? I mean, really.

His talents are indeed prodigious. Strap on your vibrators, girls, because this one is hot. Brad has Needs, and you will enjoy reading about his pursuit of satisfying those Needs.

Bless him.

Oh, yeah, Julia. She’s not nearly as annoying as most erotica heroines. She’s feisty, and she doesn’t seem as vapid as her genre sisters. I liked her much more than I thought I would, although not as much as I like Brad.

I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series, even though I am so over erotica series. But for Brad De Luca, I will make an exception.

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Filed under erotica, hot headboard rockin', New Adult lit, Uncategorized

And We Stay

and we stayAnd We Stay
by Jenny Hubbard
Published by Delacorte Press
240 pages
Genre: YA 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5

 

When you hear the words “school shooting,” odds are that you picture children being led from Columbine or Sandy Hook. Grieving parents. Yellow ribbons and candles.

Odds are not that you think about the people the killer left behind.

In And We Stay, Jenny Hubbard introduces us to one such survivor: Emily Beam, whose boyfriend brought a gun to school and killed himself.

Now in a boarding school in Amherst (we never know where Emily lived prior to this, aside from the name of a fictional county), Emily is rigid with survivor’s guilt. Hers has many layers, though. Paul appeared to want to kill her, he was angry with a breakup she precipitated, he was angry with decisions she made without consulting him. He was angry. Hurt. Heartbroken.

And she believes – she knows – it was all her fault.

Her roommate, KT, also suffers from survivor’s guilt, and this commonality helps bind the two girls. Emily manages to form other relationships, specifically with a wayward artist and a French teacher – but for the most part, her attempt to regain her footing and forgive herself is one she does by herself. Well, she does have some help, in the form of the ghost of Emily Dickinson.

Like Miss Dickinson, Emily Beam is a poet. She writes to help herself make sense of what happened and how she feels about it. Her poems are an outlet not just for creativity, but survival of sorts. She also reads and re-reads a collection of Dickinson’s poems, and she occasionally wonders if Dickinson’s ghost isn’t hanging around a wee bit.

Hubbard peppers the story with occasional flashbacks to Emily’s relationship with Paul and what happened the day he died. The more we know, the more we sympathize with Emily. What she suffered and witnessed was horrific, and that she is able to function at all is admirable.

While the story here is solid, it feels as if it is written to keep us all at arm’s length, which is ironic because Emily Beam struggles throughout the book to get closer to Emily Dickinson. She uses Dickinson’s poetry to help make sense of her struggles, but we are not afforded the same privilege. We want to know Emily better. Where is she from? Why is her first reaction to a piece of unsettling and potentially devastating news to tell her parents, yet she seems to pull away from them? Do they have a good relationship or not? Why does she appear to have no friends to keep in touch with from “back home”? She was a cheerleader. Was she an outcast, aside from her relationship with Paul? Yes, we understand why she doesn’t pursue friendships at her new school. But what about the hometown kids?

And what of Emily’s relationship with Paul? She seems fairly unapologetic for its outcome, yet theirs was a romance that moved at a bit of a quick clip. Emily becomes intimate with him within a matter of weeks, even though she appears to be unmoved by sex and sexuality.

Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad. Emily may keep us all at arm’s length, but she can’t stop us from caring about her. Yes, we have questions – lots of them – but we can’t blame Emily for what happened. If nothing else, we like her too much to do so.

Still, though, I would have liked to know more about her.

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Slow Seduction (Struck by Lightning)

slow seductionSlow Seduction (Struck by Lightning)
by Cecilia Tan
Published by Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
272 pages
Genre: erotica 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
1 / 5

Join me, will you, in emitting a heavy sigh for yet another erotica trilogy.

Is there a law somewhere – a regulation – that all erotica must come in threes? Is it not possible for a writer to just tell a story and end it on the last page of ONE BOOK?

Apparently not.

Oh, what E. L.  James hath wrought. And, no, Cecilia Tan, that is not a compliment.

So here we have the second book of the threesome. I didn’t read the first one, and while having done so would have helped understand one of the major plot points, I have a feeling that said major plot point would still be a mystery.

Following the predictable course of erotica, we have Karina, in the last year of her graduate studies (yes, she’s another young one), getting over the broken heart left her by James (yes, he’s another older, richer one), who apparently did not like that Karina “broke through his walls” and “saw the real him” and “forced him to realize that he can love.”

Does this sound like other erotica we’ve read? Yes, it absolutely does.

So Karina heads to London to work at an art gallery, but more importantly to try and track down James. It turns out that, in addition to his BDSM lifestyle, James is also an international rock star. And apparently also an artist.

To find him, she accepts an invitation to The Crimson Glove, a BDSM playground. Damon George, another purveyor of spanky panky, wants to take Karina under his black leather belt, so to speak, and help her understand the Mind of the Dominant in hopes that she can get James back.

One thing leads to a spanking leads to another thing, and Karina’s plan works. Sort of. I mean, it can’t work too well, because a third book must be written.

We know nothing about James, and that’s what I wonder about the first book. Is he in it more? Do we know him? Or is he still a mystery? I suspect the latter, and I suspect I would end reading Book One much like I did Book Two: asking what in the world is so great about Karina.

Yet again, we have the dull heroine. Oh, she’s supposed to be high spirited, but she isn’t. She’s a sniveling, whiney, woe-is-me-I-miss-James-I-love-James-my-heart-cannot-go-on-without-James kind of character.

Now, Damon is a bit more interesting, but even then, we’ve read him before.  Nothing about him or Karina, or James, for that matter, stands out.

Which brings us to the sex scenes.

Again, nothing new here. They’re hot, but since Karina has a “no penetration allowed” clause, you might suffer from blue, er, ovaries for most of the book. I don’t think you will need to strap on your vibrator for this one.

Give it a pass and read Blindfolded Innocence instead, which at least has an interesting heroine AND super hot headboard rockin’.

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Filed under Christian Grey continues to cause problems, erotica, not as hot as it should have been, sometimes the book just isn't good

Blog Tour: Rome: A Marked Men Novel

RomeRome
by Jay Crownover
Published by William Morrow
384 pages
Thanks to the publisher for the preview
Genre: New Adult, romance
3.5 / 5

Do you like your men big, strong, and a bit imposing? Do you like them rough? Maybe a little damaged?

If so, you, my friend, need a Rome Archer in your life.

Yes, Rome is his name, and, no, it is not the quirkiest name in this book. That might belong to his brother, Rule, or their friend Jet.

One thing Rome is, though, is need of salvation. Not necessarily of the religious kind, but more of the post traumatic kind. Rome, you see, is freshly home from several years in Afghanistan, and as the lone survivor of a bombing, his survivor’s guilt is nearly unbearable.

It’s a good thing Cora is up for a challenge. As tiny and sparkly as he is big and gloomy, Cora works in the tattoo parlor co-managed by Rule. Shortly after meeting Rome, she launches some of her snark and sarcasm, and he finds his interest piqued. Cora, though, is interested in Mr. Perfect. She’s struggling to get over a crushing heartache, and Rome, with all of his issues, is not at all her idea of perfection.

Until he takes his clothes off, that is.

These two attempt to heal themselves through the melding of their naughty bits, as well as some conversations and cuddling. But their road to true love will not be an easy one to trod. Rome has terrible nightmares, while Cora approaches romance with a healthy dose of skepticism. Their friends are equally as suspicious, and Fate appears to prefer toying with them to getting out of their way.

Cora and Rome are adorable, independently and together. She is spunky and feisty, exactly what Rome needs. He tenderly calls her Tink (after Tinkerbell … she really is a tiny thing), and she calls him “Big Guy” or “Captain No Fun.”

For all of their differences, they are copacetic when it comes to rocking the headboard. Rome is almost surprised at how great their first night together is, but he knows that coming together as a couple will be fraught with difficulty.

Another similarity they share is a somewhat fractious family life. Rome is the oldest of three brothers, one of whom has died, and when he feels that he can’t shoulder the burden, he reacts by withdrawing. Cora deals with her family in a similar way. Her mother abandoned her, and she moved out of her Naval admiral father’s home as soon as she could, largely because she wants stability. But can she find stability with a man suffering as much as Rome?

The story here is good, which is all due to Rome and Cora. You will enjoy their narratives and will cheer them on. You also will enjoy their sexy times. Rome. Oh, girls. ROME. Remember, she’s really tiny, and he is NOT. When Cora gets a little nervous about the size differential (yes, THAT size differential), it’s difficult not to chuckle out loud.

This is a cute book. It may not last with you for a long time, but you will enjoy it while you’re reading Jay Crownoverit.

For more information about Jay Crownover, check out her blog and follow her on Facebook.

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Filed under blog tour, hot headboard rockin', New Adult lit, romance

Three Minutes to Happiness (The Logan Series, Book 2)

3 minutes to happinessThree Minutes to Happiness (The Logan Series Book 2)
by Sally Clements
Published by Sally Clements
170 pages
Genre: romance, chick lit 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

 

This breezy little romance is high on cuteness, if not a bit low on substance.

Photographer Val is divorced and not really looking for romance, but nonetheless agrees to join her friend at a speed dating get together. Only one man intrigues her enough to click the “yes” box, and that’s architect Finn Logan. He checks the “yes” box for her, but never calls her.

They meet again, this time when Val photograph’s a wedding that Finn attends. And this time, Finn won’t let her go, even if letting women go is an art he enjoys practicing. Finn is all about no strings being attached, and he believes that anything with Val will require attachments. But he’s attracted to her, much to his shock, and willing to be a one woman man.

But Val might not be so amenable. She is not one to believe in fairy tales, and she isn’t so sure she wants to risk her heart with Finn.

Val and Finn are cute and entertaining. Their reluctances to commit to each other are realistic, but dispensed with with remarkable alacrity. In fact, that is the central problem with this book: there is no tension. Every obstacle is easily surmounted, and it ultimately rings false and a bit unsatisfactory.

Oh, the sexy times are nice. Finn and Val enjoy some hot headboard rockin’, and those scenes are fun to read.

The rest is fine, but don’t expect much else.

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The Consequences

consequencesThe Consequences
by Colette Freedman
Published by Kensington
320 pages
Genre: women’s fiction 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

A follow-up to Freedman’s The Affair, this novel follows the aftermath of a wife’s discovery of her husband’s affair.

It is Christmas Eve night, a scant few hours since Kathy confronted Stephanie about having an affair with Kathy’s husband Robert. Despite promising to spend New Year’s with her, despite asking her to marry him, and despite promising that he would talk to his wife, Robert left with Kathy.

Devastated, Stephanie leaves Boston and flies home to Wisconsin, where she attempts to process the day’s events. She loves Robert, and she thought he loved her. But he walked out of her home, following his wife. It’s over, she believes. And so here she is, in frigid Wisconsin, with a family she rarely acknowledges, much less sees, and the dawning fear that she might be pregnant.

Contrary to how it appears, Robert truly did plan on leaving Kathy, and he does love Stephanie. She is younger than he is, sexually available to him, and life with her promises to be one of freedom and excitement. Yes, he left with Kathy, but that means nothing to him. No promises were made. Well, that part may not be true. He might have told Kathy that he would stay away from Stephanie, and he might have led his wife to believe that he loves her and wants to repair their marriage. But a new year is upon him, and Robert thinks now might be a good time for a “New Year / New You” philosophy.

Kathy is reeling. Several years earlier, she thought Robert was having an affair. With Stephanie, no less. But he wasn’t, and when she happened across proof that he is now, she feels rendered in two. But Robert left with her. He chose her, not Stephanie. And Robert’s reasoning for the affair – that he believed Kathy no longer loved him – is not unbelievable. With introspection, Kathy realizes that Robert might have a point. She even acknowledges that Stephanie seems like a decent sort of woman, and she believes Stephanie’s claim that if the other woman thought Kathy loved her husband, she would have never had the affair with him.

But what now? What if Stephanie is pregnant? What about Robert’s “New Year / New You”? And what about Kathy and their two children?

Told from Robert, Kathy, and Stephanie’s points-of-view, we are privy to how they think and what they think. We are there with Stephanie when she takes the pregnancy test, just as we are there with Kathy when she suspects Robert may not be keeping his promise.

And that’s the weakness of this book. I like that we’re in all three heads, but we are in them to the point of repetition. Entire conversations are rehashed from the different viewpoints, and that gets old the second or third time it happens.

Freedman also clearly paints a villain in this novel. I did not read The Affair (you don’t need to in order to understand this one), so I don’t know if she so obviously chose sides then, but she does now. The problem is that she demands that we agree with her. There are no blurred lines here. One of the three is the Bad Guy, the other two are the Good Guys. We don’t have the opportunity to decide for ourselves because Freedman’s heavy hand removes that for us.

The anguish that the three feel is written realistically, though. Robert’s fears about his business and children are what we would expect him to have, as are Kathy’s fears over losing her marriage and Stephanie’s over losing Robert and potentially being pregnant with his child. Thanks to that aspect, this is a decent, quick read.

I just wish Freedman had let me decide who I think is the Bad Guy … or even if there needs to be one.

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The Swiss Affair

swiss affairThe Swiss Affair
by Emylia Hall
Published by Harlequin MIRA
384 pages
Genre: fiction; mystery; romance; women’s literature 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4.5 / 5

 

Before we begin, let me say that I loved this book. I hated – HATED – the ending, but in the best way possible.

Hadley is a college sophomore and leading a fairly staid, predictable, if not slightly dull life. She lives at home, where she helps her parents take care of her young brother. It isn’t that life isn’t good; Hadley’s life is almost idyllic to a certain extent. Her parents are happily married, her brother precocious, and she’s one of those people destined to lead a happy life.

When the opportunity to study in Lausanne, Switzerland, arises, Hadley applies at the last second. She fears leaving her family in the lurch because she knows they rely on her. But her mother urges her to apply, and before Hadley has time to regret or second-guess anything, she’s heading to Lausanne, where she plans to study literature. She has a particular affinity for American literature, and an even more particular affinity for Ernest Hemingway, whose first – and perhaps most beloved – wife was named Hadley.

On her first night, she comes across a gorgeous, older American man whose casual “Take it easy” makes her heart whirl. We know – even if Hadley may not – that she will see this man again, so when it turns out that he is her professor in a Hemingway class, we aren’t terribly surprised.

But how does Joel feel about Hadley? She senses that he’s interested, yet he always seems to be a few paces out of reach. Fortunately, Kristina, a beautiful Danish girl, shows up and moves in next to Hadley in the dorm. Hadley is as taken with Kristina as she is with Joel. Kristina is exotic and worldly, and she has a confidence that Hadley envies as much as she does Kristina’s bra size. Kristina confides in Hadley that she’s having an affair with a married man, and while a little shocked, Hadley feels more curiosity than anything.

Another new friend is Hugo, an elderly Swiss man who quickly becomes an important confidante. Hadley’s life in Lausanne is coming together, and, even more significantly, Hadley herself is coming together. She is discovering who she is, and Lausanne is as important a factor in this self-realization as Hadley’s new friends.

But then …

Tragedy strikes.

Hadley has to rely on two of her friends to help her understand what happened, why it happened, and who might be at fault. She is intellectually prepared for this, but not emotionally. The neat outline she crafted for her life begins to veer off course as she opens herself up to feelings she had not previously experienced. Her calm, orderly life did not have a Kristina in it, or a Joel or a Hugo. But it does in Lausanne, and Hadley has to adjust to what this new world means for her.

The mystery at the heart of the novel sends Hadley on a mission for truth, and as she uncovers those truths, she slowly reveals to herself – and to others – the person she is becoming.

Emylia Hall’s writing pulls you into this story and does not let you go until the last period on the last page. And even then, you find yourself going back to Lausanne and Hadley, wondering what would have happened if … if 

You will adore Hadley, for all of her faults and occasional too-good-to-be-true-ness. She is a young woman eager to learn, not just about Hemingway but about her friends, Lausanne, and herself. She knows she has been presented with an opportunity, and she will not squander it. Joel is an enigma for much of the novel, although, like Hadley, you will realize perhaps too late that you understood him all along. I liked him so much.

Hugo is adorable, if not somewhat frustrating. He understands how the story will end for Hadley, and we are grateful that he is there to help her navigate her way through the events that befall her. Like Joel, Kristina is also a bit mysterious. She is everything Hadley is not, and the one complaint I have about this book is why Hadley is so entranced with Kristina. Is it that she’s just different from everyone else? She performs a favor for Hadley early on in their friendship, but surely that minor moment is not what binds Hadley to her? She seems selfish; she withholds as a means of control, and I wish Hadley could have seen that in her. Hadley’s response to Kristina seems extreme, yet it is that response that shapes Hadley more than anything else.

Now, about the ending. It is gut wrenching, and I kept hoping that I wasn’t reading what I was reading. I wanted a different ending, even though the ending I wished Emylia Hall wrote is not an ending that in any way was possible. This novel ends the way it has to end – there is no other option – but oh how I wanted something else.

I loved this book. Loved it. And you will, too.

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Filed under mystery, really really GOOD literature!, romance, women's lit