I'm deliberately writing this review while I am still bathing in post-coital glow of finishing. Which is to say, I'm babbling like a giddy fool quiteI'm deliberately writing this review while I am still bathing in post-coital glow of finishing. Which is to say, I'm babbling like a giddy fool quite deliberately.
I want to express, too, how unlikely it was I would ever pick this book up at all. I stopped reading het romances a long, long time ago. I just can't find heroines I like. They are wet, they are...well, best left unsaid. And the HEROES. I cannot, cannot abide the "you must sit here whilst I go slay dragons." There was the tiniest bit of that here, but not really. It was done in a way that didn't make my allergic reaction--which is acute--flare up.
I'm surprised and yet not to find this is a fifteen year plus old romance. How I missed this I don't know; this was back in the day when I read everything under the sun in romance. I think the covers put me off. Even this one is ridiculous. Hair the wrong color, she looks nothing like Jess, and the flavor is completely ridiculous. Soft pastels. Honestly? Nothing at all of the actual flavor is in that cover. But this is indeed back from the golden age, or my golden age. My god, but the 1990s was a glut of a feast.
This book. THIS BOOK. It's like Heyer with sex. Real sex. A heroine buying naughty watches and baring her breasts to get herself seduced--and staying in character. CHARACTER. Holy fuck. Character up the goddamn wazoo and back again. Jess, Dain--even dear stupid Bertie.
But I think best is her narrative voice. OMNISCIENT, and in a romance, and it's REAL omniscient, and it works. It works like nothing I've ever seen. Just a dash to keep us in that "once upon a time." So essential to that prologue, prattling off the horrors of a little boy that lesser women would have schmaltzed into a gooey slop. No, she breaks our hearts like eggs in a skill to rival Julia Child, down to the 'oops, dear, mind yourself' as she casts aside any stray bits of shell. She buys and sells us in that prologue--PROLOGUE. A PROLOGUE THAT IS ESSENTIAL. I want to marry her. I want to do obscene things for her. My god, Ms. Chase. My GODDESS.
And this is how she goes, on and on and on for a deliciously long time--for what is a "short historical." I forgot that what is longer than god's left arm in epub is just a tease in trad romance. Oh, the days. THE DAYS. I miss the 1990s.
Let's not forget the plot. Every goddamn convention is trotted out and then crucified on itself. Utterly destroyed. The sizzling first meet--lust for both parties, and it's he who breaks and she rises. Wounded hero--who never simpers. NEVER. The stolen kisses--in the rain, drenched, no syrup allowed. The ruination--without the stoic shit. And THEN--well, I can't say. It will spoil. And you need to experience him. But she just walks in, in a RED DRESS, and she does it. And it was set up! Mentioned! Just like the icon, and the bit with Beaumont. Just tossed in like dross, and then they are fucking LYNCHPINS. Even how Dain dealt with V. I forget his name. Even Dominick--again, trope, trope, but NOT.
It is because of books like this that I fell in love with romance. It is for skill and mastery like this that I stopped writing dirge and moaning prattle and tried writing better. It is books like this that saved my soul when I was as broken as Dain, teaching me not what that fucking idiot Susan Quilliam thinks, on what to look for in a lover, but how to save myself. On how every ending can be happy.
And how story can be fun and uplifting and exhilarating--and light and fun and happy. How not all great stories must be literary greats--and how "trashy romances" can be better than any canonized dreck. This. THIS is the sort of story that I sold my soul for and gave up sleep for, because reading books like this was more restorative than unconsciousness. The same goes for money that could have bought nourishing food. One can live on ramen if one has romances.
Now here Ms Chase has done the impossible. She stopped me slashing within two pages of meeting Jess. I no longer wanted to imagine Dain with a man. I wanted him to have Jess, because that was right. I wish there were a way to show how radical this is. Only my fellow slashers, I suspect, will understand.
Brava, Ms. Chase. Brava, brava, BRAVA. And oh, god bless you, but I don't even have to cry encore. This is my first of yours. And you, you deliciously wicked and wonderful woman, have a backlist. I look forward to having my slasher's goggles ripped off again and again and again.
I've already re-read this book three times, and I love it more in each sitting. Whimsical, heartfelt, and yes, cute, Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost gaveI've already re-read this book three times, and I love it more in each sitting. Whimsical, heartfelt, and yes, cute, Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost gave me that most coveted of all reader reactions: the urge to sigh, "Aw!" while clutching my Kindle to my now mushy heart.
The ghosts are subtle and have their own story, and I love the underscored idea that true love will always live on no matter what. The still-living lovers are absolutely adorable, both in their earnestness and their cluelessness. It reminds me ABSOLUTELY of Jane Austen's Emma and in all the best ways. It's a fall-in-love-with-your-best-friend story.
And did I mention it was cute? As a BUTTON....more
I actually read this one first before the other one, and while I love them both, I love this one best. I love Dirk and his too-small suit. I LOVE whenI actually read this one first before the other one, and while I love them both, I love this one best. I love Dirk and his too-small suit. I LOVE when he's not in a too-small suit at the end. And I love most of all the dealing with the panic attacks.
I've had Mr. Suede on my radar for some time now—well, I'll be honest. After he gave a glowing review of Double Blind, calling it better than SpecialI've had Mr. Suede on my radar for some time now—well, I'll be honest. After he gave a glowing review of Double Blind, calling it better than Special Delivery, he had Randy's attention, because Randy has a soft spot for people who like his book better. Now that I knew his name, I kept seeing it on lists and in various corners of the Internet. Then I saw him give an interview, and I saw he had a book.
Randy was intrigued. Especially when he saw the cover and read the blurb.
So the other night, I bought it, and I read it, all in one sitting. This alone from me is high praise, because I like nothing more than a book I can wolf down like a pack of Ding Dongs. Hands down for me the best part of Suede is his voice. It's strong and intense and deliciously manic. If you want to know if you'll like the voice, just read the excerpt. You will or you won't, and he begins as he means to go on. He was full of one-liners and banter and Mutant Enemy-esque quips. It was a very good time. And pacing—I'm not sure I want to ride in a car with Suede without sedation, because if he drives like he writes, he must not dip the needle below sixty very often even in town. Love that in a book, though, so I was entertained. Highly.
Like a good human, Suede has his flaws. I would like to sit with him and a fifth of Jameson's and discuss arcs and flashbacks (NO!) and above all, that only Tolkien gets to have that many endings, and it didn't even work when he did it. (Didn't work when I did it either, and I'm looking at you, Miles.) But in my opinion, his strengths compensate for these niggles in a big way, so I'm cool. But man alive, I'd like to be his beta reader.
Now, I'm also going to discuss one point I can see others calling a flaw which I'd like to defend in advance: the relationship he describes between the boys. I can hear "it's been done" or "the porn setup is too cute" and a million other dismissals. In my mind that's not a flaw. That's called embracing the genre. The whole point of picking up a romance is to feel comfortable. It's okay if an author wants to introduce twists or step outside the box, but it's also perfectly okay to say, "You're going to see this coming a mile away." And for a first novel? Good play by Suede. I would say, in fact, that using the best-friends-turn-gay trope plus the plot setup we KNOW will lead to delicious trouble was a brilliant way to give himself a rock.
So the takeaway is that I loved this book, and I recommend it. You might want to peek at the excerpt to make sure his mania is going to delight you not drive you up a wall. But if you want to watch two very Noo Yawk men and a big fat Italian family (plus one of the best fucking dykes I've ever seen) romp around for several hundred pages while love blooms in the middle of some deliciously hot fucking—then I say go for it....more
I will start this review by confessing that I never connected to it. I tried, I really did, but the first person narrator was not exactly endearing. I I will start this review by confessing that I never connected to it. I tried, I really did, but the first person narrator was not exactly endearing. It's possible that as a staunch LGBT advocate I had less than usual patience for him, but..yes, I don't know. He was very whiny. I get why, but he was so self-centered and so incredibly slow to change--he has a rather miraculous turn around at the end, but I didn't trust it coming.
Most of the time I wanted to beat Paul about the head. While I'm quite sure his attitude was accurate of the time, this wasn't written in 1970, so I want it to feel relevant to right now. As a result, Paul was whiny, immature, and aggravating to me. Honestly, I read most of the end braced for him to be a complete idiot and possibly get JJ hurt. I had no sense that this wouldn't happen.
I think that was my biggest problem. I started the book irritated with Paul, loved Chris, and then, as the back of the book promises, he dies. Chris, the only reason I was reading, was gone, and it wasn't until JJ showed up that I had anyone to plug into emotionally again. And because it was set in the 70s and Paul had proven himself rather cowardly and barbaric when it came to homosexuality, I kept fearing for my boy JJ.
I felt this book had a good concept but wasn't executed in a way I could access....more
I have a Thing about books revolving around abuse. In theory I like to read them, but they're so often poorly done, and a poorly done abuse book is aI have a Thing about books revolving around abuse. In theory I like to read them, but they're so often poorly done, and a poorly done abuse book is a terrible, terrible thing. The balance is as delicate as a spider's web. It can't be too angsty, but it can't be too glib. Most authors think the way to deal with abuse is for the character to wallow directly, which I have to tell you, I've never seen a real abuse victim do in real life. The stories are also often so heavy you can't stand to read them without antidepressants.
Not so Between Sinners and Saints. The story has humor, to start. Sexton manages the balance of an abusive past by showing us not only Jamie's weaknesses but also his strengths. It's also not primarily a story about abuse. It's a story about past and pain, and most important of all, it's about family. Between Sinners and Saints is a story of what it means to be broken, what it means to be saved, and how no matter what has happened to you and no matter who you are, everything can be healed by love.
And Marie wrote it. She's always good. Go buy it today....more
Very much enjoyed this one both times I've read it. I love the way Rafe is so reluctant and messed up and Jonah is so sure. The whole circus thing isVery much enjoyed this one both times I've read it. I love the way Rafe is so reluctant and messed up and Jonah is so sure. The whole circus thing is fun too, not your usual romance backdrop. I only nicked a star because it felt sometimes like I was just waiting for them to get over it and be together. I wasn't sure the first time I read it if I was being cranky or not, but it bugged me again this time, so I reserve the right to use that last star to ding the boys upside the head a bit.
That said, fucking loved the book and will always auto buy everything these authors write together. The end....more