Category Archives: not another excuse to bring up Christian Grey again

All He Wants

All He Wants (Book One of the All or Nothing Trilogy)
by C. C. Gibbs
Published by Forever / Hachette Book Group
376 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4.5 / 5

First of all, don’t buy into any comparisons between this book and those Fifty Shades creatures. It’s better written, with far more entertaining characters. Okay, yes, I like Christian Grey, bless his tortured soul. But are those books well written? Seriously? Let me bite my lip, roll my eyes, and consult my inner goddess while I ponder that.

This is the first of a three-part series (for those of you in the UK, books one and two have been published under different names – Knight’s Mistress and Knight’s Game), and I cannot wait for the second one. Like, for reals. Please, CC Gibbs. Help a sister out.

Here is why I liked this book soooo much: the dialogue.

Yes, I know. I’m not one to choose dialogue over hot headboard rockin’ (and let me assure you, there is some hot headboard rockin’ going on here), but the dialogue hooked me in and kept me turning the pages. Interesting dialogue comes from interesting characters, and both are indicative of interesting writing.

The basic storyline features Dominic Knight, a self-made billionaire whose company is under some sort of cyber sabotage. His right-hand man hires Kate Hart, fresh from college, to suss out the malefactor. Dominic immediately is drawn to her, even if he can’t quite figure out why. For her part, Kate is attracted to him, but the stories of his professional and personal acquisitions leaves her quite wary. The fact that his adored wife died suddenly several years earlier only increases Kate’s resistance. She refuses to allow Dominic’s company to hire her, but she does agree to work for him on a project. Or two or three …

Work turns to romance when Dominic asks Kate to stay with him in Hong Kong for one week. He’s convinced he can change her mind about working for his company, and she is convinced she can say no. And here is where the hot sexy times come in. Strap on your vibrators, girls, because those scenes are deliciously written. Dominic is turned on by dominating (GET IT? DOMinic? DOMinate?), but Kate is reluctant to submit. In fact, those scenes are fairly tame compared to what you read in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. The vanilla scenes actually are more explicit.

But the dialogue. Oh, kids, the dialogue. Dominic and Kate actually talk to each other. They verbally spar, as each tries to understand what makes the other tick. They bait each other, refute each other, and challenge each other. Their conversations are a lot of fun to read, and because they are so conversationally compatible, it only heightens those scenes in which they rock the headboard.

I liked this book a whole lot. And like I said, let’s hurry along the next one, CC Gibbs.

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Run to You

Run to You
by Charlotte Stein
Published by HarperCollins
200 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Strap on those vibrators, girls. This is a hot one.

Alyssa leads a dreadfully dull life, one so uninspiring that when she discovers her roommate’s agenda with an appointment titled “assignation,” she takes off for the hotel, planning to masquerade as the roomie.

She meets a gorgeous, electric businessman named Janos, and although the two exchange no words (she even hides from him in a closet), she is drawn to him. He leaves her his business card, and the two soon meet again. And again and again.

As their relationship progresses, Alyssa struggles with understanding why Janos is attracted to her. She believes herself the physical embodiment of her dull job and dull life. Janos sees more than that, though, and fights to be with her.

He also, it must be said, brings her a considerable amount of sexual pleasure. So much so that you might want to try and knock some sense into Alyssa.

For all of the headboard rockin’ that goes on in this book, there is also an equal amount of character development. We understand Alyssa’s reluctance to allow herself to fall deeply for Janos, even if it frustrates us. We also understand his attraction to her; she changes him, and he lets her. That he so willingly forsakes certain unproductive patterns in his life for her tells us that he is a good man. Her sexual satisfaction is as important to him as his own – more so even. Connecting with her sexually is Janos’ way of showing his affection for her.

I liked these two. I liked how she challenged him, both to admit his weaknesses and shortcomings and to be honest with himself. I liked how he was willing to do both of those things for her and, more importantly, for himself.

The weaknesses are a bit too much time spent in Alyssa’s head and an ending that borders on cheesy. Still, though. It’s good.

The sex scenes are scorching hot. There is one in an elevator that just … whoa. Really, all of them are detailed and explicit and seriously hot. Some spanky panky takes place, but unlike the Christian Grey rabbit hole, this truly is a manifestation of Janos’ need for power and dominance.

Read it and enjoy. Just make sure you follow the step in the first line of this review.

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Entwined with You

Entwined with You (Crossfire, Book 3)
by Sylvia Day
Published by Berkley Trade
368 pages
Genre: erotica, romance
3.5 / 5

Gideon Cross.

Those two words ought to stir your quiver, girls. If they don’t, then you need to begin here (Bared to You), continue here (Reflected in You, which I just realize I have never reviewed … must fix that). You need to connect with Gideon Cross, who puts the MAN in man.

For reals.

As a caution: this review will include information from the first two books, so if you haven’t read them, stop what you’re doing and READ THEM. Then come back, read this review, and go get a copy of Entwined with You.

When last we left Eva and Gideon (le swoon), they were facing their next step together after Gideon murdered the man responsible for abusing and terrorizing Eva. This one picks up right after that, as our happy couple navigates those stormy waters.

The murder pops up here and there in this book, and the threat it poses for Gideon and Eva looms over them throughout. Other issues come into play as well, and by “other issues,” I mean, “too damn many.” At one point, Eva even wonders what else can happen to her and Gideon, pointing out that every time they start to gain some equilibrium, something – or someone – comes on the attack.

I had issues with Eva in Bared to You. I thought she took off running too quickly, and I could not see what Gideon found so attractive about her. In fact, I asked Sylvia Day that very question on Twitter and was told that Gideon saw some of himself in Eva. Both were victims of sexual abuse, both were protective of their hearts, both enjoyed some frisky relationships in the past.

In this book, I finally came to love Eva. She is firmly on Gideon’s side, and she appreciates him and what he brings to her life. In one scene, she reacts with her typical knee-jerk reflex, but as she examines what has pissed her off, she comes to see that Gideon wants nothing more than to protect her and make her happy. The “old” Eva would have taken off and run. This Eva sticks around.

Oh, she does run at one point, but not so much from Gideon as from herself. She isn’t fleeing their relationship or him, but rather trying to make peace with a mistake she believes she made.

We continue to learn more about Gideon and Eva, and we continue to love that hunka hunka burnin’ love that is Gideon Cross.

Which brings me to the sex scenes.

Strap on your vibrators, girls. It might just be possible that Sylvia Day has outdone herself.

There is loads (no pun intended) of hot headboard rockin’ in this book. One particularly memorable interlude takes place on Gideon’s plane, and it is shattering. He and Eva rock headboards, walls, nightclubs, bathrooms. No place is off-limits, and thank goodness for that. Gideon connects with her through sex; he needs sex with Eva because he believes theirs, for all of its rawness and fierceness, is pure. It cements their union. When Eva wants to burrow into Gideon’s core, when she wants to help heal him, she does so through sex. She understands its importance to him.

And, of course, his stamina is a fantasy that makes Christian Grey grind his teeth with envy.

As hot as the sex scenes are, though, the rest of the plot disappoints. There are WAY too many things going on, and they do nothing but serve to muddy the story. I get it, Sylvia Day. You want us to keep reading. But trust your characters; trust that you have created two people we care about and want to continue to read about, if for no other reason than their scorching sexy times. You don’t need to throw all these different loose ends at us to keep us reading. Good grief. In this one alone, we have a surprise pregnancy, a potential Russian mob connection, a suicide attempt, extortion by sex tape, and an illicit affair between two former lovers. It’s too much. Pare back to what matters: Gideon and Eva.

The good news is that it looks like we might be in for a fourth installment in Gideon’s and Eva’s story. The bad news is that it does have to end sometime.

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The Submissive

The Submissive: The Submissive Trilogy
by Tara Sue Me
Published by NAL Trade
304 pages
Genre: erotica; BDSM
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
3 / 5

I am starting to develop a Pavlovian response to BDSM-tinged trilogies. That response is a throat scarring, “PLEASE STOP.” Why are erotica writers like lemmings? Why must they follow a trend? Good grief, people. Just write a damn book. Don’t make it about the trilogy. Make it about the characters and the story.

Okay. I’m through. On with the review.

Unlike others of its ilk, the happy couple in this book meets when she approaches him. That right there makes it different, in a good way.

Abby King has long suspected that she has submissive yearnings, even if she wasn’t quite sure what it meant. She knows she needs a Dom to guide her through the lifestyle, so she quite literally interviews with the one she hand picks: Nathaniel West. He’s hot, he’s rich, he’s successful. (Apparently those three qualities are necessary in a Dom because every one of the literary variety has them.) He also is very attracted to Abby.

Did I mention that Abby is a librarian? Yep.

She and Nathaniel decide to give this arrangement a weekend-long test drive, and if after that Abby wants to continue, she can sign on the dotted line.

Well, of COURSE she will want to continue, because HELLO, Nathaniel is HOT. And he knows how to please a woman. And he knows how to give the spanky panky in a way that elicits certain responses. Certain delicious responses.

Yum.

Yeah, it’s predictable. Yeah, you’ve read it before. In fact, supposedly this series sprang from the same fan fic site as Christian Grey. So, yippee for that.

Is it good? Ehhhhhh …. well …. the sex scenes sure are. Tara Sue Me (I’m sure it’s a pen name) can write about some headboard rockin’, faithful readers. She will have you either reaching for a fan or a man, depending on what’s available. Will I read the next one? Of course I will! I am weak and powerless against these books.

I’ll give it this much: what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in writing. Tara Sue Me is a far stronger writer than E. L. James.

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Claim Me (Stark Trilogy 2)

Claim Me (Stark Trilogy 2)
by J. L. Kenner
Published by Headline Pb
Genre: erotica, BDSM
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5

Picking up right where Release Me left off, we return to Nikki Fairchild and Damien Stark, two BDSM-crossed lovebirds who just want to be happy. And have tsunami-causing sexy times.

Nikki, she of the former beauty pageants, and Damien, he of the former tennis championships, each know something about pretending to be what you aren’t. Nikki can paint a smile on her face, pirouette, and appear to look happy. Damien can conquer and vanquish and appear to be satisfied. What they see in each other is a kindred soul, someone who has ceded control to others and chafes against it.

Their relationship, begun in Release Me, continues here. You don’t need to have read the first one to pick up this one, thanks largely to Kenner’s occasional summaries. I do suggest reading the predecessor because of the sex scenes, if for no other reason. Nikki and Damien continue to chart the course of their relationship, each trying to establish autonomy while also relying on the other. They crave independence, but they crave each other more.

The first book hinted at some of Damien’s past struggles, and here they are laid to bare, so to speak. He confides everything (or apparently everything) to Nikki, which further cements her affections. Not that all goes smoothly. Of course it doesn’t. They get angry with each other, she leaves, they reunite, rinse, repeat. When she heads home, even she knows it isn’t permanent. She needs to be apart from him to find her bearings, but just as a compass always points north, so does Nikki’s vagina point to Damien.

For reals.

And it should, because MY GOODNESS, Damien Stark can please a woman. There is some BDSM here, but nothing as extreme as what Christian Grey, Nora Sutherlin, or Gideon Cross enjoy. The headboard rocking with Nikki and Damien is, however, extremely passionate and extremely luscious. You will want a Damien of your own.

There is a third installment, due out later in July. I can’t say that Damien and Nikki stick with me the way Gideon Cross or Nora Sutherlin do, but I look forward to continuing to read about them.

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Enslaved

Enslaved: Book I in the Enslaved Trilogy
by Shoshanna Evers
Published by Pocket Star
152 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
3.5 / 5

Here we go again with the trilogies, The good news is that this one really does fit expectations for what a trilogy entails.

In Enslaved, we meet the three men we will get to know over the course of the novels: Trevor, Marc, and Roman, aka the BAD Boys. BAD as in Billionaire Arrogant Doms. All three are the stuff of fantasy. They’re all tall, all gorgeous, and all extremely wealthy. Sound familiar? Shut UP, Christian Grey.

An aside: is it just me, or do all of these literary Doms start to look the same? It’s as if there is a proscribed outline for them for which erotica writers must not deviate. I’m sure it’s just me.

The fair damsel at play here is Elisabeth, a “pain whore” recently dismissed by Gregory, her gay (!) Master. Gregory is not completely unfeeling, however, and he attempts to fix Elisabeth up with her next Dom. In this case, he sends her to meet with Trevor.

Elisabeth has certain sexual needs, not the least of which is to be hurt. Despite being a Dom, Trevor isn’t into pain for pain’s sake, and he’s reluctant to hurt Elisabeth the way she likes. Plus there is the teensy issue of Trevor really liking Elisabeth. He wants to keep her, but he wants her to be happy and want to be there. So he turns to Roman, who has no problem inflicting pain on a sub.

There is an attempt at characterization here. Elisabeth’s need for pain stems from certain events of her childhood, We also get some background info on Trevor and Roman. Marc sort of exists in the background, serving primarily as peacemaker when his two friends have their differences.

In fact, it’s when we delve into Elisabeth’s story that the book takes a poorly aimed turn. For the most part, this is a novella that knows its purpose: entertain and titillate. And, um, stimulate, because the sex scenes? They are steeeeeamy, faithful readers. Oh, are they nicely steamy. But this whole Elisabeth thing. It becomes distracting, largely because there is sense of reaching too high. Just entertain us. Don’t make this a psychological examination of a woman’s need to suffer pain as part of sexual pleasure.

Trevor is a nicely drawn hero. He’s the sort of man we expect him to be, whether professionally, physically, or in his desire for Elisabeth’s pleasure. Elisabeth? Meh. She’s a little dull, to be honest, and you might find yourself wondering what Trevor sees in her. You can’t help but think he can do better.

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Miss Chatterley Trilogy


 Miss Chatterley, Part I: Hungry
Miss Chatterley, Part II: Dirty
Miss Chatterley, Part III: Torn
Miss Chatterley, Part IV: Spent
by Logan Belle
Published by Pocket Star
Genre: erotica; romance; chick lit
Thanks to edelweiss for the previews
3.5 / 5 (for each and the series as a whole)

For some reason – and I’m looking at you, Christian Grey – authors seem to think in threes. Now, this is all fine and dandy when you have three books to write about within one series. But it’s problematic when you have one good book and spread it out into three separate ones. We saw this in The Fetish Box trilogy, which ruined what could have been an entertaining book by splitting it into thirds. Perhaps we blame the publisher for wanting to squeeze as much financial gain as possible. Really, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It must stop.

And so we come to Miss Chatterley, which dips a toe into that turgid stream.

A warning: this review is for all four parts and contains spoilers. Read ahead at your own caution.

If you read the D. H. Lawrence classic, then you have some idea of the premise. Bored wife (in this case, girlfriend) seeks sexual stimulation in the arms of a man who is not her husband (in this case, boyfriend).

In Logan Belle’s retelling, Connie has followed boyfriend Cliff out to Silicon Valley, leaving behind her beloved New York, as he starts up a Twitter/Facebook sort of website called … wait for it … Chatterley, which happens to be Connie’s last name. Cliff is focused exclusively on his project, leaving Connie feeling neglected and lonely.

Come on, kids. You know what neglected and lonely mean in romance and erotica novels, right? YES! Sexy times!!

Enter personal trainer Oliver, all muscled brawn and studliness. Before you can say “workout,” he has Connie feeling sated and flush, if not a little bit guilty. But hey. Cliff is nowhere to be found, and when Connie does make a move, he has what you might call performance issues. Paging Cialis!

Oliver is all sex, oozing it like melted chocolate over strawberries. In addition to fantastic orgasms, he gives Connie something Cliff just cannot: attention. He focuses on her with such shattering intensity that she practically climaxes just from the way he looks at her. D. H. Lawrence would be impressed.

Meanwhile, Connie’s sister is in the throes of relationship issues herself, preferring the company of a married man to one not so encumbered. She even tells Connie to go ahead and throw down with the hottie. In another subplot, Cliff’s assistant takes a shine to a potential investor, and those two have some really hot – and I mean SCORCHING – headboard rocking. In fact, in the fourth one, the two (plus a comely companion) enjoy the best sex scene of the series.

Throw in some corporate intrigue, and there is your plot. Stretched quite thinly over four – count ’em, four – volumes.

The thing is, Logan Belle has a good erotica outing here. Her sex scenes are well done with just the right amount of detail, and her characters are interesting enough to keep you hooked. The problem is the story. There just is not enough of it for different books. Combine them into one, and you have a much stronger novel.

But this isn’t about literary merit. It’s about sex scenes and cash. At 99 cents a copy, you can splurge and buy all four, and you’ll want to, if for no other reason than to get to that threesome in the last installment.

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