Huh. There's a lot going on here. One question: it looks like the series is focused on giving all the male members of the club HEAs with the straight-...moreHuh. There's a lot going on here. One question: it looks like the series is focused on giving all the male members of the club HEAs with the straight-laced women of their dreams... but what about the female members? Personally, I'd like learning more about Evie than another passive bunny like Beth. Especially if all the heroes are as pushy as Razer. (I like there to be a little more balance between romantic leads in terms of power dynamics.)(less)
The beginning was rough both in terms of structure and writing, but the worldbuilding and character potential kept me going. Generally enjoye...more3.5 stars
The beginning was rough both in terms of structure and writing, but the worldbuilding and character potential kept me going. Generally enjoyed it, though the big action scene at the end was... a big action scene (you say tomato, I say boring).
I liked how morally conflicted Oscar was. Even before he unexpectedly developed magical powers (which are considered dangerous at best, evil at worst), he was internally questioning the dominant worldview. Throughout the book, he would try to find the joy in his new powers and his new role, but the constant reminder of hatefulness and inequality kept him from fully embracing the path he was forced on. I'm currently reading "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" which made that stuff all the more interesting -- even so, after a few hundred pages of his waffling between his impatience to be free and his desire to belong, it got a little tiresome.
Added to his struggles with accepting how he was treated, he was also horrified to be ordered to kill / help colonize the Goblins (sentient, magical humanoids from another plane). A fan of colonialism, Oscar is not.
All that said, if your reaction to the concept of institutionalized racism is to go on a rant about people playing the "race card" as if that's an actual thing, you're probably not going to understand most of this book. And if you do, you're not going to like it.
As for me, I'm happily anticipating starting book 2! (rumor has it some of the writing and character issues I had concerns with are much improved).(less)
Foreshadows some of Howard's later work, but not the best in the series. So much effort went into saying that an HEA was impossible that when it final...moreForeshadows some of Howard's later work, but not the best in the series. So much effort went into saying that an HEA was impossible that when it finally happened I couldn't believe it. Also, the whole premise behind Rachel hiding Kell instead of calling the cops was pretty weak--to work, it would have required Howard to write a heroine who's skeptical of the legal/defense system and I don't think she can do it. She certainly didn't do it here, so Rachel just knowing that it wasn't safe? ... eh, no.(less)
"Poverty ground you down, turned you into a social parasite, or it made you tough."
Richard, the straight, able-bodied, Christian, white male...more2.5 stars
"Poverty ground you down, turned you into a social parasite, or it made you tough."
Richard, the straight, able-bodied, Christian, white male who grew up on land owned by his grandfather, didn't like being poor as a kid, so picked himself up by the bootstraps and did everything he could to amass wealth. ("But land is a form of wealth," you exclaim, "and being in a position where you can turn down foodstamps is far from the lowest rung on the poverty ladder!" Shh, don't look behind the curtain.)
Unfortunately for this member of the Moral Majority, he married an evil slutbag who likes having sex with other men and who was so horrified by the idea of being pregnant that she had an abortion. That's all because she grew up rich and didn't learn the value of hard work, so has no impulse control.
And while Richard could handle having hate-sex with his slutty wife for a few years whenever he felt the itch, abortion was just the last straw. So when he and Sweeney begin to fool around while Richard is getting a divorce, we all know that Sweeney isn't the evil other woman.
Snark aside, the sociopolitical subtext of this book is fascinating. Too bad it got in the way of me enjoying the romance between Richard and Sweeney.(less)
The characters never really made much sense to me -- it felt like either the author changed her mind about who she wanted them to be between...more2.5 stars
The characters never really made much sense to me -- it felt like either the author changed her mind about who she wanted them to be between the beginning and the end or I didn't pick up on the clues as they revealed their true selves.(less)
I picked this up because of a promotional deal (or something, I can't remember) and didn't realize until I started reading it that I'm not actually a...moreI picked this up because of a promotional deal (or something, I can't remember) and didn't realize until I started reading it that I'm not actually a fan of this author duo.
Fortunately, while it retains the element that makes me not a fan -- the hero having some pre-determined idea about how no woman can ever handle his true self or whatever, to the point where it seems like he has never paid the slightest attention to the woman he's supposedly in love with -- it mostly didn't bother me in here. I think because Katsu was an interesting enough person to overcome Evan's assheadedness.
The thing is, the major thing that was so weird to me throughout the book, is that not only was the heroine's name Katsu, but Evan used -kun as an affectionate honorific when talking with her. (Sometimes spelled -kan.) Katsu is usually a guy's name and -kun is usually used when speaking to guys (-ko for girls) so... The combination of those things made me a little unsure whether the authors had done that intentionally to somehow reference her military father or if they were just making stuff up after watching some anime. The book also seemed unsure whether to describe her as a "Japanese doll" or "not like a Japanese woman" because she has boobs .... seriously weird. She's also half-white (I assume; her father's ethnicity isn't referenced but he has blue eyes and people seem to write white as the unmarked default.) I don't know, man. I support offering more stories about non-white characters, but this wouldn't be something I'd recommend to someone looking for interracial romance. The whole thing borders on Asian fetish fantasy a little too often.
Oh, yeah, and I almost forgot -- the sex. (How I almost forgot given it's 70% of the story, I don't know.) The bdsm stuff is pretty exclusively domination and submission with a little light spanking and very mild bondage.(less)
This is an odd, odd grab-bag. I picked it up for the Kit Rocha story and at this point wish I'd waited for that novella to be released as a standalone...moreThis is an odd, odd grab-bag. I picked it up for the Kit Rocha story and at this point wish I'd waited for that novella to be released as a standalone.
Copper King / Vivian Arend -- *** -- sweet, but as with a lot of VA's stuff, the sweet overpowers any potentially meaningful conflict so it's not terribly memorable
Marked by Temptation / Deana Chase -- DNF -- the heroine is a sex witch who trolls for one-night stands by sending out magic or pheromones to make her prey have sex with her. It all seems a little too rape culture for me. I bailed pretty early. I'm not here for that.
Rumpel's Prize / Marie Hall -- to read
Shattered Web / Crista McHugh -- maybe to read
Tank / M. Malone -- to read
Cage Wolf / SM Reine -- * -- the writing isn't bad, but for me it was most memorable in the sense that it creeped me the fuck out. Way too much nonconsensual sexual violence.
Collateral / Roxie Rivera -- eh, maybe too read. I don't trust this compilation anymore
Beyond Solitude / Kit Rocha -- *** -- Likable, but I wish I'd waited for the standalone release. That feeling is coloring my response to the story.
Blue Roses / Mimi Strong -- *** -- The first chapter had me near tears, chapter two had me laughing. I was all set to love this but neither the hero nor the heroine were mature enough to even try to get passed their first fight. Instead they both were all Mopey McAvoiderson until a convenient accident forces them together. It was really frustrating, in the way that I sometimes get frustrated with my friends for taking stupid risks but not important ones. I think if you're more into the Debbie Macomber scene than I am, this might be more up your alley. (But beware of the rest of the stories in this compilation.)(less)
Marak Interesting set-up, the initial world-building and character building drew me in. Dhampir heroine out to revenge her sister's death, vampire prin...moreMarak Interesting set-up, the initial world-building and character building drew me in. Dhampir heroine out to revenge her sister's death, vampire prince who rescues her when she's overpowered by a Rogue (evil vampire). But the switch from their wariness of each other and fighting their mating instincts to deciding to get married to having sex to... the end? Way abrupt. Even for a short story, I need at least another 10 pages to make the transitions work.
Vixen We start getting to know Vixen, the only female vampire warrior in history, as she awkwardly performs femininity at the prince's wedding. While she's in bridesmaid drag, Kalen makes his move. They've been arguing/flirting for years, but now they each realize their feelings might not actually be unrequited. But then, Vixen is kidnapped by (view spoiler)[the pixie king because he wants to marry her for some never explained reason (hide spoiler)] and Kalen is desperate to save her. Shenanigans ensue. Except for my total bafflement at Vixen's kidnapping, the lusty-angsty thing works for me.
Feral This was the one I was most excited to read, as other reviewers made it sound funny and sweet. Unfortunately, I was so bored I gave up 30 pages before the end. I can't handle both instalove and "will they, won't they" teasing, and then to add a magical baby to the mix? Gah.
The hateful "she was more curvy than the usual stick insect" and "Tessa was a real woman, not a stick insect" lines were also annoying. And lest you think it's the normal BBW thing, she's also "slender" and has a "wasp waist" (which I will grant was actually amusing given that wasps are insects).
Also, massive editing errors in all three stories. We're talking misspelling "swap" as "swop" and "bugger" as "buggar" kinds of errors.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I saw this posted on the Smart Bitches list of where to start with Linda Howard, so dug it out of storage. I forgot how totally goofy this story is.
Fr...moreI saw this posted on the Smart Bitches list of where to start with Linda Howard, so dug it out of storage. I forgot how totally goofy this story is.
From the description of the hero: "In his veins ran the blood of two of the most warlike peoples in the history of the world, Comanche and Celt." I seriously LOLed at that.
To the inner musings of the heroine: "She was dressed as warmly as she could manage, unless she put on socks to wear with her sensible shoes, but she drew the line at that. Dainty white anklets with long ruffled skirts were one thing, but knee socks with a wool dress were something else entirely." Weird anklet preference aside, this is before she sets forth in -7 degree F weather. I've lived through that weather, and am awestruck that the heroine didn't immediately return home to put on the heavier socks.
And we can't forget the so very '90s mentality of fighting racism by... ignoring it. Structural racism, individual racism, it can all be best battled by being colorblind, right? I mean, if you can't see color you can't see racism so therefore it disappears, right? And if you ignore your own race, well the sky's the limit in terms of how far you can go! (that was me being sarcastic, btw. And I will admit, the phrase "colorblind" does always makes me think of the En Vogue song Free Your Mind from 1992, a little after this book was released.)
(That said, I kind of wish I had an electronic version of this, as I'm pretty sure "breed" and "half-breed" were used eleventy billion times in this story. It was a little weird.)
Finally, Wolf's determination to cure Mary of her post-attempted rape trauma by using some sort of quick-acting Pesso Boyden reenactment therapy? It's a memorable variation on the "cured by magic wang" trope, I'll give it that.
I did still enjoy the story, but more in a giggly nostalgia way than the angsty wonder with which I first read it. I'm not sure that this is where I'd recommend people to start with Linda Howard, though.(less)
Lauren = typical LMR Mary Sue of a heroine. I usually find them more entertaining than Lauren, but she was ok Jacko = awesomesauce the villain...more2.5 stars
Lauren = typical LMR Mary Sue of a heroine. I usually find them more entertaining than Lauren, but she was ok Jacko = awesomesauce the villain = weak sauce
This could have been 4 stars with more Jacko POV and less villain POV. I kind of want a sequel just so we get more Jacko - he's smart, capable, caring, and he discovered he has a strong artistic side while he was ineptly pursuing the heroine. So adorbs.(less)
I didn't quite get why Sophie was so against the MC lifestyle since she admitted to being completely...moreUh, I liked Sophie and Ruger together at the end?
I didn't quite get why Sophie was so against the MC lifestyle since she admitted to being completely clueless about it -- there were a few hints at the beginning that something bad had happened that Ruger should have known about, but the big reveal didn't actually reveal much and it wasn't related to biker gangs at all, so... I don't get it? I mean, her relationship with Zach sounded pretty traumatizing, and I can think of reasons for why one would not be keen on biker gangs, but... maybe her anti-MC stance was more to do with her antagonistic relationship with Ruger than to MCs themselves?
I actually didn't get a lot of her interactions with Ruger, the push-pull, hot-cold thing they had going was exhausting. And she was so judgmental about other women, but in a way that modeled the MC hierarchy of women so... I'll just put that down to internalized misogyny combined with jealousy, I guess.
Or maybe Sophie just needed a few months of financial and emotional stability and maybe a little PTSD counseling to get her head on straight, then she could have made more reasonable decisions. She's pretty young and has had a rough life, so I can get why she'd be in bad place, mentally and emotionally. I really wish there'd been space in the story to allow Sophie to come into her own a bit instead of just shoving her into a relationship with Ruger.
I was kind of interested in Em's story when I started this one, but at this point... eh, maybe I'll try again later. The author did build a pretty vivid world in this series. I just wish she'd do the same with the romance part.(less)
2.5 stars. Rounding up because I was intrigued enough to try book 2.
Overall, I alternated between fascination and horror. It was like visiting an unpl...more2.5 stars. Rounding up because I was intrigued enough to try book 2.
Overall, I alternated between fascination and horror. It was like visiting an unpleasant alternate world, which I'm cool with in SFF but not hugely fond of in romance. (Kind of how I like both raisins and carrot cake, just not together.)
I also found it really interesting how every time a character says "it's not rape" it highlights 1) that consent was neither requested nor received. (Coercion is not consent.) and 2) that there's no point in going to the police with anything because they won't care*. For this latter point, I'm still not sure whether that subtle implication was a sign of despair or (when said by a guy) another sign that guys hold all the real power in this world and they know it.
*unless they have a particular ax to grind with the accused and are just using the victim as a tool(less)
The story seemed to be a pretty standard Harlequin secret baby thing, which I could have dealt with if the characters were brighter and/or the writing...moreThe story seemed to be a pretty standard Harlequin secret baby thing, which I could have dealt with if the characters were brighter and/or the writing had more bounce. Instead it was all flat, dull and predictable. I only finished because I didn't feel like making another book choice. On the plus side, it was free.(less)
A lot of potential here, but everything was at such a superficial level that I spent 95% of the book wondering if Daisy's interest in Easy was just he...moreA lot of potential here, but everything was at such a superficial level that I spent 95% of the book wondering if Daisy's interest in Easy was just her self-destructive tendencies in action. Because while he was an ass to everyone in general, he was particularly vicious toward her from the get-go. Also, why are people so mean to (view spoiler)[prostitutes (hide spoiler)]? Based on the couple of people I've known in that line of work, I'm always surprised that people aren't more angry on their behalf. Shitty childhood + few options should not equal villain or pariah, and yet that's how they're treated. It's gross. /end rant["br"]>(less)