(Disclosure: the author and I are online friends. I feel embarrassed about giving 5 stars to a friend, but all I can say is, I don't always. He earned(Disclosure: the author and I are online friends. I feel embarrassed about giving 5 stars to a friend, but all I can say is, I don't always. He earned this.
Reviewed from an e-arc provided by netgalley.)
This takes all the unwritten rules about BDSM romance and says, "Fuck that, I'm going to be about real people." Real people, who don't always have their kinks tidily arranged by age, size, wealth or social status, or always express them in a proscribed way. And it tells a story about two of those people falling in love, and experiencing an opposites-attract romance that grows to be just right for them, and it does it without preaching or screaming the agenda. I admired it and got totally lost in it....more
3 1/2 stars. This is a collection of horror stories that's also a portrait of a long term, loving, secret r(reviewed from e-arc provided by NetGalley)
3 1/2 stars. This is a collection of horror stories that's also a portrait of a long term, loving, secret relationship. Inspired by classic horror tales, folklore, and Holmes and Watson, it tells the story of ghost-hunter Simon Feximal and his chronicler Robert Caldwell, who has been carefully editing their relationship out of his tales for decades. But as he has learned from his life with Simon, whose skin literally give a voice to ghosts, "stories must be told."
There are plenty of chills and suspense here, but I think I most enjoyed seeing the characters age together; they have to deal with the realities of life in the Victorian Era, as well as its supernatural aspects. Simon is so powerful, both physically and magically, yet even he is vulnerable because of his love for another man. The ending of the story during World War I is bittersweet and poignant, as Robert dreams of a place where "two aging gentleman may share a house in peace, without prying eyes and the threat of shame in a country that makes a fetish of death and a crime of love."...more
I used to be more of a mystery fan, so I came to romance with an automatic suspicion about any character(reviewed from an e-arc provided by NetGalley)
I used to be more of a mystery fan, so I came to romance with an automatic suspicion about any character who's disappeared and is assumed dead. So it was no surprise to learn that Lily, the dead sister of the hero of The Secret Heart, was only mostly dead. Actually, she ran away from home, married a Turk, and has been laboriously making her way back to England since his murder -- carrying a most valuable item with her. But after being welcomed home by her Machiavellian father, she discovers that the life of being used and manipulated she ran away from hasn't changed at all. And the newest person trying to use her is her own adolescent hero, former travel writer John Tacitus Ware.
This story was all about the couple, for me. I barely understood most of the plot, to be honest -- my fault, most likely, because historical politics make my eyes glaze over. But I enjoyed the romance and the character arcs very much.
John is a particularly complex version of the starchy hero -- less stuffy and proper then he is simply clueless. He's not very experienced with women, and his attempts to get information out of Lily, while also dealing with an overwhelming attraction to her, blow up in his face; he falls apart magnificently. I love a good romantic betrayal, and John's betrayal of Lily is really juicy, perhaps especially because he's a generally honorable man being so dishonorable, and because he has no idea how seriously his actions will affect her.
Lily is the bad girl heroine you have to love. She's matured since she ran away, and is able to see how terrible it was to make her family suffer as she did. But she will never stop fighting on her own behalf, which makes her ruthless in the best possible way. Several times during the book I had to cheer for her.
Even if you're good with politics, I think the plot is the weak point of the book. The titular pearl is given more symbolic weight than it really deserves, since it's basically a mcguffin. I also thought that Lily's father was weirdly inefficient for an evil genius. There were many times in the book where Lily/the pearl seemed vulnerable to attack, yet that was rarely taken advantage of. But I enjoyed the characters so much, I think the story is well worth reading just for them. There's also some valuable exposition, more than the usual sequel bait, involving a returning character who will be the hero of the fourth book.
Note: this is closely linked to the first book in the trilogy, and loosely to the second. Although it can be read as a stand alone, I'd recommend reading The Secret Heart first....more
Like many fans of the "Maiden Lane" series, I've been curious about a story for Lady Phoebe Batten, a young woman who's been progressively losing herLike many fans of the "Maiden Lane" series, I've been curious about a story for Lady Phoebe Batten, a young woman who's been progressively losing her sight over the course of the previous books in the series, and one for Captain James Trevillion, who started out as sort of the Sheriff of Nottingham to the previous heroes and then became an ally. Their pairing is a fairly obvious choice for romance -- vulnerable heroine with protective hero. (Who also has his own vulnerability, because of a leg injury.)
In some ways this was better than I expected. In my memory, Phoebe was a fairly meek, dependent person. But perhaps getting older, or losing more of her vision, or being stuck with a full-time bodyguard, or a combination of the three, have made her start to rebel against her sheltered life:
"I know [my brother] cares for me. I know he worries for me. But in doing so, he's constrained me utterly. Even before this attack Maximus wouldn't let me go to parties or fairs or anywhere he deemed dangerous. I'm afraid after this that he'll pack me in cotton wool and set me at the back of the cupboard for safekeeping. I... I just don't know if I can live like this."
Later she tells her brother, "I deserve to run and trip and fall without having my every move plotted and planned... and tied down so that I never, ever risk living."
Unfortunately, Phoebe still comes across as helpless for much of the book. Perhaps this is realistic: she hasn't been allowed to learn any tools for taking care of herself. But she wanted more for herself and I'd have liked to see her really get it. ...more
3 stars because it has some good points (I liked the honesty of the heroine's pov) but when the hero is nasty all through the book, and the heroine do3 stars because it has some good points (I liked the honesty of the heroine's pov) but when the hero is nasty all through the book, and the heroine does the "tender finger" thing to silence the apology I've been waiting for for the whole damn book, I kind of want to bite it off. ...more
Short, hot contemporary read, bad dates, no-strings fling with a friend... to be honest, this had "not r(reviewed from an e-arc provided by NetGalley)
Short, hot contemporary read, bad dates, no-strings fling with a friend... to be honest, this had "not really my thing" written all over it. But I thought this author might make it work for me, and I was right.
It's not that the story doesn't fulfill what it promises in the blurb, but it doesn't feel the need to do it stereotypically. Milla, a travel blogger and youtube personality currently stationed in England, has a refreshing attitude towards her bad dates -- she cuts her losses and moves on. They might be funny, but they don't make her ridiculous.
And being with Milla is a genuine risk for Charlie: he's been badly burned by a (literal) East End Boy and West End girl marriage, and by social media. His trust in her as a friend and lover, nonetheless, is adorable. Of course there's a conflict, but part of what I most liked about this story is that the characters change, but not through any kind of coercion. It's always their decision.
If you like blokes with beards, this is the book for you. Many of the sexiest moments in the book involves Milla's fascination with Charlie's beard:
"The sharp edge of his scruff scratched deliciously at her lips as she brushed them back and forth across his mouth, tempting him to open them."
"His beard, she discovered, had reached the soft, curling stage. She stroked it with her palms as his mouth coaxed hers open, savoring the sensation of smooth, hot tongue contrasted with the denser, soft hair around his lips."
And then there's a shaving scene...
Charlie's art is also used for sexy metaphor. He "had learned patience handling sand heated until it became liquid, pliable. He'd learned how to seduce a woman by working with heat." But it's not just that, but an integral part of his personality. His commitment to his art, and what it says about him, gives substance to the story.
My only complaint is that the short format leads to a few initial short-cuts of telling rather than showing. I pretty much forgot about that as I read on. This isn't a heartbreaker like Breath on Embers, but confirms my opinion that Calhoun is one of the authors who really makes short form romance worth reading....more