My first encounter with this author was through her PRETTY STOLEN DOLLS book that she wrote with K. Webster. PRETTY STOLEN DOLLS was a Pretty Stupid Book, but since it was a joint effort, I wasn't sure who was to blame for the suck and figured, hey, it's been several years and maybe she's honed her craft and this is gonna be awesome.
EMPATHY is about two psychotic brothers who - you guessed it - are lacking in empathy. One of them is chaotic good (a contract killer who's acting out his revenge fantasies through the violent murder of his pedo father), and the other is chaotic evil (a violent, misogynistic incel who enjoys exploiting women). Between them is one woman, the idiotic Melody, who makes questionable life choices. #1 bad choice: courting these two assholes.
Also, I'm down for sociopathic heroes, but I'd prefer that they were done well and don't just spend most of their narrative gloating about how bad they are.
This could have been a fun train wreck to watch, but the writing was absolutely terrible. I couldn't get into it at all. It's clunky, amateurish, and totally dragged me out of the story. I'm surprised at how many people gave this book high ratings, that's how bad it was. I guess most of them probably aren't grammar sticklers like I am - each example of bad syntax was like an unscratchable itch that kept pulling me from the story. If you like good grammar, do not read. Bleh.
If this had an alternate title, it would probably be Idiotic Love Triangle: The Musical! ONE IS A PROMISE is not a genre of romance I would ordinarily read, as nothing makes my eyes roll harder than another dominant millionaire who thinks that he can treat women however he wants if he's hot enough and stuffs his crotch with enough hundred dollar bills, but I really, really enjoyed her other book, DELIVER, which is also a book in a genre that I don't normally enjoy. My thinking was, if she could win me over once, she could probably do so again.
Danni is a dancer/dance instructor working at a Moroccan restaurant as a belly dancer. She used to be married but isn't anymore, although we don't know why in the beginning. She's on a date with another man when a rich blowhard literally interrupts her date to make her an offer she can't refuse. When she turns him down, he breaks into her house to restate the offer, and rather than calling the damn police, the little idiot flirts with him.
This book is told and back and forth timelines, one with her now-missing husband, Cole, who as far as I can see is also a wannabe-dominant asshole, and in present with the wannabe-dominant asshole millionaire, Trace. I heard people talking about how there is a love triangle, so my guess is that Cole comes back and finds Danni in flagrante delicto with Trace, and then testosterone canons start firing.
The quality of the writing is fine, but I thought Danni was an idiot, and when a book is told in first person and you're supposed to relate to the narrator, it's really hard to like and relate to someone who is such an idiot. I also thought her "witty" back and forths with Trace were lame. Fast-talking film noir dame she is not. They sounded like children bickering at a playground. Also, I'm down for an antihero/sociopathic love interest, but at least don't make him an odious slimelord like Trace.
I don't think I'll be finishing this one. Another Kindle freebie, scratched off my list.
Not quite my fastest DNF, but it didn't take me long to realize that this book wasn't for me. THE AIR HE BREATHES employs your typical Early New Adult Formula, which means it's 2 parts tragedy, 3 parts insta-love, 1 part toxic gender roles, and 5 parts cliche.
Elizabeth meets Tristan when she accidentally runs over his dog. She's about as sympathetic as one might expect, i.e. not very. ("Oh my God, why is he being so mean to me? What did I do?") Honestly, if someone ran over my pet and then started arguing with me about what the fastest route to the animal hospital was, I'd probably be pretty sour, too.
Tristan is a bit of a psycho. He yells a lot and when we first meet him, he's running around without shoes. I'm guessing that his rage is what he uses to hide his emotional pain, because he's just too ~macho~ to emotion, you guys, oh, the suffering, oh, woe, woe.
It seems that each of these characters had someone close to them die and now they're upset and afraid of letting others in and being hurt all over again. Tristan has a dog. Elizabeth has a young daughter. Both of them (Elizabeth and Tristan) have the emotional maturity of teenagers. I guess if you're into authors like J.A. Redmerski and Abbi Glines, you might like this. Me? Not so much.
I really wanted to like this one because the recommendation for this book actually came to me from my mom. Denise Domning writes historical mysteries, in addition to historical romances, and my mom read the mysteries when they were on sale and really liked them. When she saw that the author had bodice-rippers on her backlist, she naturally thought of me, and luckily for me, on the day my mom was telling me about this author, one of her books was free! Unfortunately, it wasn't the one that looked the spiciest, WINTER'S HEAT, but this one looked good, too. I was a little leery that it was a Topaz publication, as those tend to be heavy in 90s-bodice-rippers and super fluffy/cheesy, but I took a chance.
The premise is actually really good. Philippa is the bastard daughter of nobility. She lives with her abusive husband and abusive mother-in-law. One day, a 'knight' and his lord come to their impoverished castle, and she finds out that her husband is involved in a lawsuit against her half-sister, Rowena, from the previous book, which is contesting her inheritance. She's brought to her sister who is initially displeased to see her, until she finds out that this is all a big scam on Philippa's husband's part to get more money.
Meanwhile, the 'knight' is not actually a knight but the bastard half-brother of the man that Rowena married (also from the previous book), Rannulf. His name is Temric and he has refused knighthood for reasons I forgot... but anyway, Philippa is off-limits to him, which is a shame because her vulnerable, delicate nature makes him want to protect her. Then there's also the whole unfortunate thing about in-laws being considered blood relatives, so being with his sis-in-law = medieval incest. Seems fake, but OK. He's about as good at resisting his attraction as a colander is at holding water.
This was just too fluffy and ridiculous for me to like. I didn't like all the flowery language or that the plot takes forever to get moving. I liked how Domning tried to introduce the concept of domestic abuse in Medieval times in a real way, but Philippa was such a dull heroine and Temric was pure generic good and I didn't really root for them or feel invested in their futures because they read as cardboard cut-outs of characters without any real panache or personality.
Basically, this was the epitome of everything I find it hard to like about 90s bodice-rippers. Sorry, mom.
There are many popular reviewers on Goodreads who enjoy reviewing New York Times best-sellers and the latest trendy young adult book, but I'm not about that life. I enjoy reviewing out of print bodice-rippers and weird erotica with titles like CRAMMING HER CANDY BAG. I'm actually a little disappointed because I was hoping this was going to be an erotica about a woman having sex with actual candy, kind of in the vein of those bizarro erotica shorts like I FUCKED FROSTY or BAGGED BY THE GROCERIES. karen reads a lot of these, and I find them equally terrifying and hilarious.
CRAMMING HER CANDY BAG is not one of these monsteroica second cousins once removed, however. It is straight-up normie erotica about a middle management pencil-pusher named Melanie whose big dream in life is to push four pencils, all at the same time (hurr, hurr). She has a boyfriend named Wesley and is hurled unwillingly into dat single life when she comes home from work to catch him having a threesome. Because he is a gentleman, he offers to let her join.
A messy break-up ensues, rife with fat-shaming (because he would go there). Melanie self-pity shops for vintage outfits and a sexy costume for the mandatory company Halloween party and then masturbates at work, thinking about doing her execs. At the party, we learn that all four of her bosses have been lusting after her since she was hired. Sex quickly ensues, with some of the most terrible scenes I have ever read, and some truly heinous euphemisms that are straight out of Bertrice Small, like "love box."
Their big cocks rattled around in my hot box in the most wonderful way! I couldn't stop cumming. It was like a waterfall running out of my pussy (96%).
It was like drilling for pleasure and hitting a big vein, only we were using our flesh drills and the oil was her unending squirts (87%).
There's a brief blip in which Melanie learns that they were attracted to her when they hired her and is afraid that maybe they didn't actually bring her on to the team for any professional skills. The men all panic, as visions of lawsuits dance in their heads, but they come to the conclusion that she won't sue the firm because she's a "kind and compassionate person," which, wtf. Way to victim-shame.
Including the men's POVs in this book was a big mistake, I think, because all they do is hate on HR and objectify Melanie.
Those harpies at HR could all go to Hell. We were human, dammit! And this was our humanity, giving our bodies to each other! (58%)
At least it has a happy ending, though. She marries all of them (although since bigamy is illegal, what I think she actually does is marry one of them officially and live with all of them unofficially) and they live polyamorously ever after. And the whole company (including, I'm assuming, HR) comes to their wedding and all of their clients are 100% fine with this. Because that's totally realistic.
This book is currently free so if you're into this kind of thing, today's your lucky day. I'm not really into the book equivalent of porn unless it has a cohesive storyline and actual character depth, but if you're a fan of Alexa Riley or even Virginia Wade, you might like this one. Part of me is tempted to read her other book, FILLING HER STEINS, in which one woman has six partners at the same time, but that sounds a little too hardcore, even for me. I found myself cringing in this book when Melanie has double-penetration anal with no lube. She does this vaginally, too, which is equally yecch. Not sure how that would work with six guys, unless they triple-up? How about no.
One thing to note: in the ebook, the author has embedded some links asking for reviews and encouraging you to sign up for her mailing list at the end ofthe book. When I accidentally clicked on this link, it appeared to be a malformed URL and was blocked by my web browser, which is potentially suspicious, so be cautious about clicking on the hyperlinks.
Fun fact, this book was free in the Kindle store on the same day that I had a date with an actual guy from Macedonia. The date, like this book, didn't really work out. Kismet? Maybe. Either way, it's funny - and so is this book, unintentionally. MIDSUMMER MIDNIGHT is apparently named after a celebration that seems to be Macedonian Mardi Gras. The heroine, Sigourney Hamilton, is a journalist who ends up being kidnapped by Damon Demetrios because he wants her to report on the Macedonian rebellion (I'm guessing from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) based on the date that this was published). However, she keeps referring to the secret police organization VASIK, which, if this was SFRY-related seems like it probably should have been OZNA? Also, hilariously, the dictator dude in this book is named Agamemnon. Yeah, like that Agamemnon. *side-eye* Is his #1 VASIK thug named Achilles?
I have had mixed success with Parris Afton Bonds's novels. She wrote primarily during The Age of Bodice Rippers. DUST DEVIL, one of her earlier books, was the story that gave no f*cks. Racism, mutilation, rape, torture? Why not? It's fun for the whole family! I might have liked it for the sheer ballsiness of the narrative, if not for the unspeakably dull last act, and for the happy ending-baiting that occurred in the second act, only to end in utter calamity. The other book of hers I read, LAVENDER BLUE, was more in line with what I expect from bodice rippers - dangerous, sexy hero, backdrop of danger and war, and a heroine who is bold to the extent of being unreasonable. It probably would have been a five-star book, if not for the hero's Mr. Hyde transformation in the last of act of the book, where he randomly decides to ill-treat the heroine. You know, for funsies. I don't expect my books to be 100% politically correct, but by golly, if you're going to write a character one way, you keep them that one way and don't do a 180 for shock value!
MIDSUMMER MIDNIGHT was completely different from these other two books in that it is a contemporary romance (the other two were historical) and seems to be trying to emulate the Harlequin Presents sort of storytelling, with the ingenue heroine who gets mixed up with the sexy and sexually formidable European alpha hero who dazzles her with his blend of riches and intimidation, although I will give Bonds credit for forgoing the typical Italian/Greek/Sheik formula for something slightly more esoteric. I'm pretty sure most people in the U.S. don't even know that Macedonia is a country, and wouldn't know where to begin looking for it on a map (no, it's not in Africa).
MIDSUMMER MIDNIGHT failed me because it is boring AF. I wasn't excited to read it at all, and when I rediscovered it on my Kindle and tried to continue where I left off, my brain wasn't having it. I'm kind of shocked, because both DUST DEVIL and LAVENDER BLUE had me flipping the pages trying to figure out what happened next, but I couldn't care less with MIDSUMMER MIDNIGHT. Maybe it was partially tarnished by my unsuccessful date, but mostly I felt like there wasn't enough chemistry between the h and the H or enough action in the storyline to keep me engaged.
Man, I always secretly dread the BBW challenge. In principle, I think the concept is great. As a plus-sized woman, it's awesome to see curvy or heavy women gracing the covers of romance novels. When I saw the cover of this book in the Kindle freebie section, I snagged it instantly, because of course I want to support that.
The problem is that these sorts of books usually come across as cliche-ridden and fetishistic. PRETTY IN INK is no exception. Aubrey is rich and overweight. When we meet her, she's at a bar with her skinny-bitch sister who's getting married. They're double-dating (Aubrey's seeing the best man). Aubrey has issues about her weight (and it's suggested that she's this heavy because she eats), but refuses to starve herself to become as slim as her sister. Her entire family is this cliche bunch of villains that demonize her for being heavy, and this loser she's dating actually tries to veto her dinner order at the bar to force her to eat a salad and chicken instead of cheese and steak. It turns out this loser is just dating her for her money and utterly resents her for being fat.
Cut to our hero, Garrett, who loves big women because they give him a "smooth landing" or something like that. He loves curvy women a little too much, actually, because his attraction to Aubrey is simply because she's big, and that makes sex more fun for him. I guess that's fine, but at the same time, he's not really seeing her as a person, but as a plus-sized blow-up doll, and while I get that that is the point of these short, sexual fantasies - objectification, but in a "positive" way - it still feels gross. Particularly since the narrative appears to be trying to belabor the point that Garrett is such a nice guy for willing to date her for herself, and that he's the only one who sees her as a sexual being with feelings and not as some gross blob, so he is validating her very existence, blah, blah, blah.
PRETTY INK INK tries really hard, but the quickie format just doesn't work for the topics it broaches. It made weight-shaming and body image issues feel cheap. Maybe if you enjoy Alexa Riley romances, you'll enjoy this, as they are very similar in tone - there's that same protective alpha, "I MUST CLAIM HER" caveman vibe that their fans seem to love. But if you're expecting something substantial, with good plus-size rep, you're going to be very disappointed.
I was intrigued by this book because I enjoyed what I'd read of this author's Boston Underworld series. Also, my interest was piqued because several dark romance readers I follow said that this book was too dark for them to finish. How dark is too dark, I wondered?
Isabella is a singer/personality who sold out for pop music in order to sell more records. Her father has weird government ties and an association to a mysterious and dangerous man named Javier, whose mother had schizophrenia and harmed him in her delusions. The file she read suggests that Javier killed her, but once Isabella learns more about him, that's not so certain.
What is certain is that Javier is a freak. He watches Isabella, putting recording devices in her apartment and watching her while beating off and entertaining dark fantasies. It isn't surprising when he kidnaps her and subjects her to physical, psychological, and sexual torture, involving burns, blood and knife-play, starvation, and more. The brutality didn't really bother me, though, because both characters felt so shallow. It wasn't like a Pam Gordon book where the violence hits you hard because of the way you get invested in the characters, and the suspense keeps you turning the pages in fear.
Disgustingly, Isabella falls for him quickly in spite of what he does to her, and of course as soon as something bad happens to her and he shows up as death's door, she's only too happy to play nursemaid. That was when I stopped reading. Captive romances are tricky, and I felt that this one was done very poorly. They require a finesse that a lot of authors aren't capable of delivering; I felt like the psychology of Stockholm syndrome just wasn't really fleshed out here.
I don't care about these characters or what happens to them. Maybe you will?
P.S. I don't know if this problem is exclusive to the cloud reader, but this e-book (at least my edition) has a purple background with black text. It is absolutely hideous and so hard to read. To add to this calamity, each narrative has an ugly graphic, with Javier's being a thorny branch and Isabella's being a rose. Both look like Myspace clip-art circa 2006. Who the hell signed off on that?
My new friend Brandy and I decided to BR a royal romance in honor of the Royal Wedding and this was a Kindle book we both had sitting on our Kindles. I'd never read anything by this author before and to be surprised, I was kind of surprised it was a romance about a prince because the dude on the cover looks more like a well-groomed biker or a rock star, but hey, to each their own. Maybe he'd be a sexy rebel cast in the mold of Harry Windsor and I could get my princely fix.
This is so stupid. It's about two scammy sisters named Zelda and Ava who like to go to casinos and scam money. They're con artists. One day, they go a scam too far and end up catching the attention of this exiled dude from a made-up country named "Monagasco" (a portmanteau of Monaco and Madagascar?) who blackmails them into agreeing to cozy up to the prince of Monagasco, or else he'll report them to the casinos for fraud, etc.
I stopped reading when the prince encounters one of the sisters (Ava, I think) standing outside on a balcony reciting poetry to herself during a big party. Honestly, that was the straw that killed it for me because that was so unbelievably stupid. Who does that? I mean, seriously. This book was just one big suspension of disbelief after another. I'm already kind of suspicious of made-up countries because that, to me, is indicative of lazy writing (i.e., "I don't want to do any historical or cultural research, so I'm going to make something up"), and the culture and history of "Monagasco" was super vague. Why do they speak French, for example? Why not a made-up language? Monagascese?
The prince, what's-his-name was also super-skeazy. He's basically a NASCAR driver; he spends all his time racing. Which, I'm pretty sure a prince would probably not be allowed to do because of the danger factor. I don't think hobbies that could kill the heir apparent would be encouraged. Also, he and his brother (or was it his cousin?) brag about their conspicuous bad-boy activities, like orgies and cocaine, and I'm just thinking, "Cool, so the major export of their company must be tabloids, because who the hell lives like this sustainably and where are they getting the money for these activities?"
And then I got to the poetry on the balcony scene and I was done.
This is just another one of those basic romances with poor quality writing and uninspired characters. It almost reads like the author had two disparate ideas and just decided to cram them into one book. Spoiler: it didn't work.
I don't think I'll be reading anything else by this author.
We all have some friends whose opinions about books are so similar to ours that if they rate a book highly, we immediately zoom out to the Kindle Store to buy it. I know I do. But there are also some bloggers out there whose tastes are so antithetical to mine that if I see that they have given a book five stars, it automatically goes on my internal do-not-buy list.
This happened in the case of THE SILVER SWAN, but unfortunately, I had already downloaded it from the Kindle Store, and I figured that maybe it could be good. Sometimes I like dark smutty stories, if they're dark and smutty enough. But they have to be well-written and they have to be interesting.
THE SILVER SWAN was neither.
THE SILVER SWAN kind of feels like it was heavily influenced by Penelope Douglas's Devil's Night series and Erin Watt's PAPER PRINCESS. The main character, Madi, is a "troubled" rich girl whose mother killed her husband's mistress before killing herself with one of Madi's own guns (Madi's a gun nut). As a fresh start, her father has enrolled her in a rich kid's school in a rich kid area, in the hope that such richy richness will magically cure her psychological problems, because I guess therapy is just another word for Aston Martin. *eye roll* Dad of the Year is an award that this man will not be getting, because he is so taken with his new wife that he neglected to inform his daughter that her step-mom has a step-brother her age, whose room is next to hers - and oh, yeah, he's a pervert.
Once at her new school, things take a turn for the TWILIGHT where Madi ends up with a Jessica of her own, only this Jessica is named Tatum and is rich as sin. She also meets ten Edwards, only these Edwards are more like his Christian Grey incarnation, if Christian Grey was a sleazy seventeen-year-old who divides his free time between lurking outside expensive nightclubs and beating off. All of them are immediately intrigued by her, even though their attention cannot be captured by any SINGLE girl, such is the immense power of their collective testosterone. Plot bonus: pervy step-brother is a member of this dicktastic elite collective, redundantly known as the Elite Kings.
The Kings waste no time in stalking Madi, sexually harassing Madi, threatening Madi with rape, with bodily harm, and even with murder. They keep making all of these vague threats about how she will die soon, or that there is a secret about her that they cannot share (thanks for the helpful info, guys). The most unstable Christian Grey of them all, Bishop, even tells her that he thinks she has a sexy spine and wants to break it, and this is of course after he threatens to disembowel her right before they have sex - yet again. I suppose if you find the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker healthy, you would see no problem with this, and it seems like Madi does, so yay for her, I guess?
As a reader of bodice rippers, I am not a stranger to OTT smut and wtfery, and when it is done well I will even tolerate it in modern erotica. Case in point: PAPER PRINCESS and, most recently, A. Zavarelli's CROW, a book that I thought I would hate and ended up loving instead. I had hoped that something similar might happen with THE SILVER SWAN, but I ended up being pretty fed up with the book because of what I perceived to be lazy writing (highly repetitive descriptions, for example: "eyes filled with mischief" occurring in two succeeding paragraphs; lots of typos) and way too many asides. The obsession with food in this book is particularly curious, with Madi constantly telling us what she wants to eat or is currently eating, and exactly how much progress she is making as she continues to eat or obtain this food in question, whether it's a sandwich, an apple, Krispey Kremes, or enough Burger King to "feed half a state."
I also didn't particularly care for Madi, and her "I'm not like other girls" attitude was particularly jarring and irritating, as was her vapid, superficial lifestyle and her easy judgment of girls who were just as quick to jump in bed with men as she was. After the umpteenth luxury product name-drop, I wanted to go to Debauve & Gallais just so I could throw an expensive projectile at her head in a particularly poignant display of irony - also added hilarity, Madi speaks of Sulpice Debauve the way Trump spoke of Frederick Douglass, implying that he continues his great work to this day, lol.
The disappointing climax was the cherry on this disappointment sundae. I'm sorry that I was not more impressed with this book, because the premise really did sound interesting, but so many other authors have run with the "rich kids hiding a deadly secret" premise and done it one better, and honestly, I'd rather just watch Hana Yori Dango, because as far as I'm concerned, that story is the OG. Many thanks to Meggie for participating in this BR with me. You should check out her review.
You know those 90s makeover movies where the guy feels like he ought to have "first dibs" on the newly beautiful girl because he liked her when she was "ugly"? This book is basically a gender-flipped version of that, except it's between annoying brat of a heroine and a hero who has Asperger's, and she feels super possessive of him because she feels like she's the only person who treated him like he was "normal" before everyone else realized that he was just a normal, even cool guy too. You know what the problem with that is, though? You're assuming that you deserve gold stars for just treating people the way they want to be treated. And this 'heroine' right here? She wants all the gold stars.
PUDDLE JUMPING has a 4.22 average rating among my friends, so I was expecting to like it. I wasn't expecting to hate it, or have it fill me with disgust - which it did. First problem for me is that the writing style feels really amateurish and is super chatty, with tons of pointless asides from the narrator that add nothing to the plot. I was willing to roll with it in the beginning, because it's written from the POV of the 'heroine' as a child, but the problem continues - and worsens - over the course of the story. It's just bad writing.
Second problem, the treatment of the hero with Asperger's. The whole 'romance' is basically the heroine's big crusade to make the hero her big makeover project. Right away, she goes up to this other girl who's also dating a neurodivergent guy and starts asking for tips. She Googles Asperger's and is totally shocked that people with Asperger's are people, too.She gets a big stick up her bum when the hero gets a job and skips out on prom (not somewhere someone with Asperger's might want to go) to work at his new job, which he loves, and gives him a big lecture about how she is just as important as his job, and then gets his mom on his case to make sure he follows up on all their subsequent dates. At the end of the book, the hero gets an amazing opportunity to pursue his dreams abroad, and the heroine storms out of his party without congratulating him, because she had his future planned out for him and this goes against her plans. She felt like she should have been consulted first, and wants to make him stay. His mom actually has to come over and explain to this 'heroine' what a great job she did with her son, and butter her up to make her cool with it.
The constant tone of superiority and condescension hanging over this book like a cloud really put me off. At first, I wondered if I was maybe being too harsh on this book, so I kept reading, and the more I read, the less I liked. By the time I got to the end, I couldn't brush aside my qualms anymore. It had this galling "savior" tone to it, like the heroine was making it her personal mission to "humanize" the neurodivergent and it was her own personal discovery, and she expected all the awards for it. I went to look at the negative reviews for this book once I had finished and saw, to my relief, that I was not alone. Some people used the word "fetishization" and I think that's the word that was escaping me: Colton's hotness was basically used as an excuse to make him worth pursuing, in spite of what made him different, and the entire journey was one-sided and written entirely from a privileged, ableist perspective about how brave people are who bother befriending those who are different.
Thirdly, I really didn't like the slut-shaming and the way sexuality is treated in this book. It's a short book, and yet the 'heroine' is constantly making jabs at her friend, Harper. Oh, and this girl who gets chlamydia from a tanning bed is called "Chlam-face" - by the heroine, no less. Is the heroine innocent and pure? Of course. She's so innocent and pure that she's too afraid to get birth control from her parents, so she has a friend steal her some from a clinic. #InnocentAndPureFTW
For better romance novels about neurodiversity, I'd suggest K.J. Charles's AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION, and Jennifer Ashley's THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. Both are historical fiction, unfortunately, since I don't read too many contemporary romances, but I thought both did a fairly good job with this - although I will be honest that THE MADNESS (as the title might suggest) comes across as dated and shares many of the same issues as PUDDLE JUMPING.
This was a pretty terrible book. I took a nap before reviewing it so I wouldn't sound *too* cranky, but it still made me pretty irritated (as you can probably tell, haha). I wouldn't recommend it.
Good books make you ask questions - but sometimes, bad books make you ask questions, too. Questions like, "Why is this book so long?" "How did this even get published?" And, most pressingly, "What is it about this book that people actually like?"
I read SEMPRE for our book of the month over at URR, and am only just now finishing it because of how awful it was. It wasn't even spectacularly awful - just dismally so. Everything about this book dragged. Most of those 500 pages? They're all padding. The story, without all that fluff, is pretty simple. Haven is a teenage slave. Carmine's father buys her. He falls in love with his slave, and she falls in love with him, and it's all hearts and cuddles and tender moments - until the mafia steps in and says, "Hell no."
I hate to say it, but I was on the mafia's side in this one. I was like, "Hell no," too.
Here's my biggest issue. SEMPRE reads like the author wanted to write fanfic of Goodfellas, Godfather, and Sopranos, but she also really wanted to write a disgustingly fluffy book like Stephanie Perkins, but she also wanted to write a really edgy new adult book with SEX, but she also really wanted her hero to be a Nice Guy, but she also really wanted her heroine to be pure and virtuous.
Even though, you know, she grew up in a world of sex trafficking.
So what we have is a PG-13 mafia/human trafficking book where most of the book takes place in high school and there's a few random scenes that seem to be heavily inspired by the three mafia books I mentioned, all written from Carmine's father's POV. Haven is a slave, whose mother is basically a sex slave, but Haven herself is used for cooking and cleaning and that's it. She's innocent about everything, and even asks, in all seriousness, whether there are colleges in California.
I mean, there's sheltered, and then there's how-the-hell-did-you-not-know-that.
Carmine is everything I hate in a hero. He swears a lot and punches people out to show how tough he is, and Darhower desperately tries to make him the good guy by punching out these people on Haven's behalf and having all these forced intimate moments with her. Forced in the technical sense, that is: not the rapey sense. And Haven is so naive that she makes me sick. You can tell that she's just supposed to be so adorable because she nibbles at food, nuzzles at people, peers up at people, and chases fireflies while the adoring Carmine just sits there and smiles in vacant admiration because that's what people do when they watch cat videos, and Haven is basically supposed to be the human equivalent of a cat video - only for some reason, it's not cute when a person does it, just disturbing.
I'm still blown away by how boring and terrible this was, and that it has a 4.2 average rating on Goodreads (did we read different books?). SEMPRE took a dar topic and tried to make it a cute love story. The result is a book that comes across as both tone deaf and ridiculous.
I'd had my eye on this book for a while because I love dark historical romances (because bodice ripper queen, obviously) and the idea of a modern author reviving the trend had a lot of appeal, as the only two authors who really "revamped" the bodice ripper genre with any modicum of commercial success are Anne Stuart and Anna Campbell. When it showed up for free in the Kindle store, I thought to myself YAASSS, and was thrilled when my friends Heather and Brandy agreed to a buddy read of it.
I only made it to about halfway before the book became intolerable. First, don't be fooled by that awesome title or the many reviews branding this as "dark." Gregory isn't a dark hero at all. He's an immature jerk but he's not a gamma hero - not in the bodice ripper sense and not even in the Anne Stuart sense. He's just a jerk who loses his cool whenever someone calls him the B-word.
Arabella, likewise, is one of those unconventional heroines who doesn't really garner more than a side-eye or the occasional unkind word from jealous rivals, even though she does things like ride side saddle or speak in thinly veiled innuendo in public. She kind of reminds me of some of Catherine Coulter's heroines, where foot-stomping is a form of feminism, because real women CANNOT be tamed, ooooooh! She has hints of a dark back story but nothing to give her serious character; both she and Gregory felt very one-note and bland to me, as insignificant as the side characters.
Oh, and let's talk about the writing. Now, I get that this is self-published, so a certain degree of clunkiness is expected. Sometimes that "diamond in the rough" style can give an author's awkward style of writing things a certain gawky poetry. Tarryn Fisher's works are like this - you can tell she is indie, but her works are well-written and there are passages of exceptionally gorgeous and insightful writing. Not so in Addison Cain, particularly the sex scenes, which were about as sexy as a trip to the gynecologist for a routine pap smear. It was unbearable. I literally could not go on.
I'm sorry I didn't enjoy this more because on the surface it seemed like a story that I would embrace with open arms. Sadly, DARK SIDE OF THE SUN feels like a very washed-out, coffee-stained hodgepodge of Anne Stuart's TO LOVE A DARK LORD and A ROSE AT MIDNIGHT. To this book's incredible misfortune, I just read those two books and the comparison was fresh in my mind. This book failed to live up to its predecessors in just about every way, shape, and form.
I picked this up as a Kindle freebie a while ago. Sometimes in the Kindle freebie store you can find an understated gem that you never would have picked up otherwise. But sometimes, your find is better left in the "Kindle freebie graveyard," my name for my failed experiments with finds picked up from the freebie section.
The premise of this book was really interesting to me: it's F/F NA about a girl with a rich and prestigious political background who ends up falling for a mysterious girl in one of her poli-sci related classes who also happens to be a woman of color. There's also some mystery elements.
What really made this a DNF for me was the writing style. It was very juvenile and unpolished, with some very odd metaphors. I also thought it was really gross how when the two MCs meet, Ainsley is going on and on about how hot and wet she is "down there," even wondering if her dress will have a wet spot when she stands up? Um, ew, gross, please stop, you don't even know this girl.
THE CHOSEN ONE is not my chosen one, and I'm sorry for that, because I was really looking forward to reading a self-published NA romance.
My romance group, the Unapologetic Romance Readers, picked this as our May group read. Some of us really enjoyed it - but others fell into the camp of, "Excuse me, what is this?"
As far as I can tell, the plot of these books can be summed up as "Men Who Have Beards... and the Women Who Want to Do Them." (The men, that is - not the beards, although given the strangeness of this book, beard sex probably isn't off the table.)
Beau and Duane Winston are two of these Men with Beards. They are identical twins, although with opposite personalities. Beau is the Elizabeth Wakefield of the two: friendly, sociable, intelligent, good ol' boy, whereas Duane is the Jessica Wakefield: moody, sarcastic, mean-spirited, and selfish.
Jessica - I mean the Jessica of this book, Jessica James (not to be confused with the far more awesome Jessica Jones) - has been in love with Beau her whole life. So when one of the twins decides to cop a feel and then more than a feel, she naturally assumes it's Beau and just rolls with it. Little does she know that the twin she nearly does in the shadowed corners is actually Duane (and if that weren't icky enough, he knows that she thinks he's his brother and doesn't tell her).
Honestly, this happens so much in romance novels, and I think it's such a gross, fetishy trope. I can't imagine twins IRL pulling sex pranks on their love interests or pretending to be their twin in order to get some booty. That feels almost rapey to me, because you don't technically have their consent to have sex with you. I didn't like Duane from that moment on, and his treatment of his stripper girlfriend, Tina, and his creepy, Travis Maddoxy assertion that he and Jessica are "suited" just continued to make me like him less, and less, and less.
I also didn't really care for the writing style or the humor in this book. Penny Reid kind of reminds me of L.H. Cosway with her awkward asides and weird, rambling humor about totally random stuff, and I believe Reid and Cosway actually did a collab, so that's probably a match made in heaven. Not my heaven, obviously, but somebody's. Somebody who is not me.
I was going to try to force myself to finish this but I have so little time these days that I may go back to rating and reviewing books I haven't finished. Normally I just chuck them to the side, unread, but I feel like if a book is so bad that pushing yourself to continue actually ruins your day a little, the public should be informed.
P.S. What is up with the biker gang sub-plot? It's like the author herself realized, "Hmm, this book is actually kind of boring. Better add in some pointless action."
P.P.S. Does Jessica have a circumcised penis fetish? She was really into the fact that Duane was circumcised. Like, REALLY into it.
Sometimes you read a book so awful that you almost need a new rating system to express how bad it really is. DIRTY BAD WRONG, which should be called DIRTY BAD GROSS, falls under that category. It reads like FIFTY SHADES OF GREY fanfic, like someone read E.L. James's book and thought to herself, "Hmm, this is pretty messed up - but I could write something even more messed up!" If you think I'm kidding, there's even a FSoG reference in here, as if the author herself was like, "Didn't you get it? Didn't you get my clever joke??"
THIS IS ME LAUGHING:
Amazon pulls a lot of my erotica reviews for being too "racy" so let's see if I can swallow some of my rage and keep this G-rated.
Lydia works at a software company and is sad because she just found out her boyfriend cheated on her and possibly got another woman pregnant. She ends up falling hard for her boss, James, the CTO of her software company. But James has secrets, too - by night, he goes to this erotic club where he tortures women sexually under the name "Masque." Also, he gets off on making people cry and wants to lick their tears when he sees them.
The problems start pretty early on with some of the grossest sex scenes I have ever read. If you are curious, you can check out my Goodreads status updates for direct quotes, but they involve words like "squelched" and "sluprs" and "thwacky." Oh - and my personal favorite, "a hungry baby with teeth" and, "filthy brown lips" to refer to something that isn't a mouth. Guess what it is. GUESS.
The problems continue when James and Lydia want to get together. James and his friend are gleeful over the fact that Lydia used to self-harm, because apparently to them, cutting = a sign of enjoying pain in bed. Which, no - and also, the fact that NEITHER of them expresses any real concern over this is incredibly disturbing to me, since a real Dom would either a) be reluctant or b) be hyper-vigilant about initiating a relationship INVOLVING PAIN AND HARM with someone who used to do that to themselves. But not James. James is just like, "Ka-ching." (Insert swearing here.)
But Lydia is also a jerk. When talking to James's friend, Bex - the same friend who gleefully reported to James about Lydia's self-harm, I might add - she tells Bex that she wants to get with Masque. Bex (who knows Masque's real identity), tells her that if she wants to get with Masque, she must first seduce James. Lydia makes a joke about date rape and asks if Bex has any roofies. Bex finds this so amusing and tells Lydia that she won't need them. What. The. (Insert swearing here.)
Masque is into some pretty non-standard stuff, and while I didn't find this "offensive" as the author warns in her little author's note on Goodreads, I did side-eye it a little, because that author's note does not really prepare you for women getting whacked (sorry, I mean "thwacked") on their hoohahs with metal rulers and the enthusiastic pee-drinking that happens in the last act of the book, all with some of the most unfortunate phrasing and disgusting metaphors possible. Are we all being trolled? Maybe. All I know is, I thought this book was DIRTY BAD STUPID, and I'll be giving the rest of her books a hard pass.
How often do you grab books while they're free or discounted on Kindle and then never read them? For me, pretty much all the time. That's why my friends and I have started the Kindle Clean Out club where we BR books that have been sitting in cyberspace, gathering virtual dust. You can read Sarah's review of this book here, and Heather's review of this book here.
This is actually my second book by this author. The first was STILL LIFE WITH STRINGS. I received a copy of the book directly from the author and ended up giving the book two stars because even though I loved the idea of a romance with a sexy violinist (*drools*), the romance felt rushed and unrealistic, the heroine was kind of a judgmental little sh*t, and the two of them had sex without a bloody condom - my #1 erotica pet-peeve.
I leaped at the chance to obtain PAINTED FACES because this sounded like yet another interesting concept - a romance between a baker and a straight drag queen. "Yes, okay, just give it here!" said foolish me. "I'll totally sign up for that!" I began reading the book and was dismayed to find myself with yet another book that also felt rushed and unrealistic, with a judgmental little sh*t of a heroine who has sex without a condom.
Oh. My. God. There is no escape from the madness.
Fred is the worst heroine. She's always making judgments about everyone around her, slut-shaming women, body-shaming women, reverse-slut-shaming women (if you're not actively having sex, you're all dried up). She's snide about a woman with a college degree who became a stay-at-home mom. She makes fun of her friend Anny for having a threesome. She age-shames this woman for having sex with Nicholas (before she and Nicholas are together) because having sex with a younger, attractive man makes you desperate. Her mouth (or at least, her words) is always running to deliver these constant asides that make her seem desperate to relate to you, the reader. Do you enjoy relaxing in sweatpants? Do you like watching people eat the food you cooked? Do you think furry animals are cute? Wow, you do? Oh my God, you're so unique and quirky...JUST LIKE FREDA.
Her relationship with Nicholas starts out with them being friends, but that, too, felt rushed and desperate. I liked how secure Nicholas was with his sexuality, and how he indulged in both stereotypically masculine and feminine activities without making a big fuss over it. Unfortunately, Nicholas is also an alphahole who gets really grabby with the heroine. When they first meet, he presses himself up against her backside while she's cooking (ew, predatory, no). He's constantly grabbing her breasts or talking about her body. He sleeps around with other women and then mocks them - either behind their back or in front of them, to other women (mostly Freda) - and uses them to make other women who want to sleep with him jealous (everyone). He's constantly tearing at her clothes, at one point yanking her dress down so he can molest her in a bathroom (again, before they're together). He employs the heroine with a job that's 100% pretense so he can gauge whether or not she's worthy of him. It's all so sick-making and by the end of the book I despised him. How can you possibly like a hero who tells the heroine that she's pure and clean, while other women are dirty, and after sleeping with another woman, tells the heroine he was imagining her while doing it??
I wanted to like PAINTED FACES, but I didn't. I liked parts of it - the role music had to play, the drag shows and performances, the descriptions of middle class Ireland, baking - but the whole of the book was ruined by the two main characters and the wasted potential. I feel like this book could have stirred up some very interesting dialogues about transphobia, homophobia, sexuality, gender fluidity, sexual abuse, and heteronormative relationships that would have been incredibly relevant and interesting. Instead, it just took the same tired old cliches and tried to gussy them up with sparkly heels and mascara.
Do you have a favorite author whose works are so niche that there's no one else who really writes like them? I have two: Heather Crews and R. Lee Smith. One supplies my dark vampire romance fix, the other my alien/interspecies romance fix. It's like they deep-dived into my mind and found the sorts of stories I'd comb through Fanfiction websites as a teen for, and then wrote them. "This is my original character"-type stuff, only actually original and bad-ass AF.
Science-fiction/futuristic romance is an especially niche genre because you have to be 1) a big ol' nerd and 2) you have to be a big ol' nerd who likes romance. Those two things shouldn't be mutually exclusive, but science-fiction hasn't traditionally been a safe space for women, what with all the dudes trying to keep us out of their Questionably Phallic Spaceship Appreciation Society for Big Boys Only™ club through the usual dudebro tactics of Passive-Aggressive "Are You a Fake Geek Girl?" Trivia Questions™ and Women Are Not the Target Audience Because My Penis Told Me So in a Dream - or Was It an Alternate Reality Brought on by a Singularity? Either Way no Non-Sexualized, Agency-Possessing Representation for You
™ "logic." Basically, it's a niche genre for a niche audience that is only now starting to really grow.
R. Lee Smith is one of my favorite authors, and I'm super bummed that she appears to be on hiatus right now. Nobody writes like her. If you had told me ten years ago that I would think lizard men or zombie men or insect men could be hot, I would give you the side-eye before backing away slowly to the other side of the street. Her stories are just so full of emotional development. They are entire worlds, packed in book form, cinematic in scope and epic in the way that books rarely are anymore. She basically writes GONE WITH THE WIND, only with lizards instead of carpet-baggers. Go fig.
So anyway, with R. Lee on hiatus, I needed a replacement fix. Penelope Fletcher's book, VENOMOUS, shows up on a lot of the same lists as Smith's work, and if you search for Smith's work on Amazon, VENOMOUS shows up as a suggestion there, as well. Targeted marketing, indeed. I was super curious about the book because the premise seems really great. The heroine, Lumen, is auctioned off as a prize to a bunch of aliens fighting in a gladiatorial arena. The one who wins her ends up becoming her lover, and then he takes her back to his home world where, I assume, racism and sexism rear their ugly heads in a Cosmically Star-Crossed Battle of Fiery, Interspecies Love
Or so I would imagine.
The problem was that a lot of my friends had given this book very low ratings on Goodreads. I trust my friends (or I try to - except when they lead me astray. *cough* Disappointments *cough*). But here, their concerns actually seemed pretty legit and I couldn't bring myself to pay for VENOMOUS. But the author, perhaps sensing my weakness, said, "That's okay, boo, it's free now. Enjoy." And of course, being a trash queen with zero self control, there was no way I was saying no to a free-ninety-nine price tag - especially not when it was a book I was actually really interested in. I "bought" it.
First, let's just say that all the complaints about this book are true. It reads like one of those late-80s bodice-rippers. Like early-80s bodice-rippers, late-80s bodice rippers had rape (or, "dubious consent" if you're living in Delusionland
™) . Late-80s bodice-rippers, though, felt a teensy bit guilty. Not guilty enough to remove the rape, but guilty enough for a rebrand. So, like a third-tier celebrity who's erroneously spilled the tea and then deletes all their Tweets and Instas like they think the Internet has no collective memory and won't remember all those ugly brown stains (spoiler: we do), late-80s bodice-rippers decided to rebrand the way they presented sex, where the no-no-nos became no-no-yeses, and the heroine's traitorous body made her realize that she could trade consent for true love, like exchanging a return item at the mall. VENOMOUS takes this approach, with some very dubious consent actually becoming very pleasurable for the heroine once she decides that she didn't really have a choice anyway, and at least he's sort of hot in a four-armed iguanodon sort of way.
I have no problem with dubious consent, but I didn't like the way it was presented in this book. I feel like characters should react to situations with some degree of realism or else your characters just kind of feel like a bunch of cartoony finger-puppets on a cardboard stage. It doesn't help that the writing in this book is exceptionally awful. It reads like the author had a thesaurus on stand-by and was trying to write the Great American Novel, if the Great American Novel had sex scenes where orgasms were called "harmonies" and penises were referred to as "stems." Some of these words were being used incorrectly or could have been substituted for better words. The writing is also very clunky. She has a habit of starting her sentences with a verb or a noun, so you'll get things like, "Proudly he lifted his viridian grated chest ribbed with proud scales and laid his orbs upon his mate." That's my own sentence, FYI, not hers, but it's a pretty close approximation of her style, imho. It's really weird.
I'm giving up on this book because it's not for me and I don't really have much of a stake in finishing it. If you're interested in the book right now, it is still free for Kindle, so I recommend grabbing it now while it has that free-ninety-nine price tag and maybe seeing if her style works for you. Just keep in mind that the reviews are right, she is no R. Lee Smith - she's more like early Johanna Lindsey.
Can I just take a moment to say that I finished not one, but BOTH of my romance group's monthly picks? As someone who is notoriously bad at buddy/group reads, I take pride in this! #yaass
SPARROW was our January pick - I think I was actually the one who suggested it, because I'd gotten it for free from the Kindle Store & was trying to give myself a reason to get to it faster. Mafia romances are not usually my thing...I don't think I've ever read one I liked, and that's usually because "power" is portrayed as "moronic jackass who likes to wave his designer gun around." I don't know much about the mafia, but I'd imagine politics and business dealings are far more effective weapons than a pistol.
Troy Brennan is definitely a jackass who enjoys waving his gun around. To be fair, in the beginning of the book, he felt genuine. There was an icy restraint to him that felt authentic and convincing, kind of like Bastien Toussaint from Anne Stuart's Ice series, on steroids. I felt like that subtlety was far more threatening than anything overt. This disappears pretty quickly. Troy wants you to know he's a bad guy, so he's always wearing his gun, always using the f-word, always brandishing that stupid list of his so you know he means business. In the beginning, we see him kill one guy and get a graphic description of how he tortures another guy, and that was genuinely scary but after that, it's adolescent posturing, with Troy bawling out, "SHE BELONGS TO MEEEEEEEE!" to anyone who will listen.
But - he's also a CHEATER.
When he first gets married to the heroine, Sparrow, he gives her a gift and then gleefully tells her that his mistress picked it out. It's lingerie. When she needs a dress, his mistress sends her one. He sleeps with his mistress in the bedroom he shares with his wife, because he is a CHEATER.
He also fetishizes the heroine's virginity in a very weird way. At one point, he implies that her being a virgin makes her taste better after oral sex. The heroine is so afraid that he's going to rape her on their wedding night that she slices her foot and puts the blood "in there" so she can tell him she's on her period. Troy makes her take her underwear off, demanding to see the blood, and then PUTS HIS FINGER IN THERE AND LICKS SOME. Ew. I think that is worse than the tampon scene in FSoG. Even grosser, we find out later that Troy was forced to marry Sparrow by his father to get her inheritance, and knowing that, he kept her a virgin her whole life by threatening anyone he thought was interested.
"[He ke]pt you a virgin all this time so he'd be the one to pop your cherry" (246)
She was a blank, clean, white sheet for me to scribble on (222).
What makes this even more annoying is the fact that Troy has no problem sleeping around. CHEATING aside, he's slept with most of the women in their city, and brags about it. But God forbid his wife cheats on him. He threatens her about this several times, putting her purity on a pedestal.
Sparrow isn't much better, personality-wise. She doesn't have a personality, really. All we know about her is that she's a virgin, 5'3", underweight, and very young looking. (I think in the beginning of the story, she describes herself as looking barely legal.) She makes a big point of insulting all the other women in this story, including (especially) Troy's mistress, Cat. But not just Cat. Any sexually mature woman is portrayed as a vile, swooping harpy, whose only mission in life is to titter lasciviously in an attempt to coax men to cheat, usually juxtaposed against good, sweet, PURE Sparrow by means of comparison. Here's how she describes an innocent waitress whose only crime is to check out a man in Sparrow's presence:
"A middle-aged waitress with fake boobs and enough makeup to sculpt a small-sized vase brushed past us and eye-licked Brock..." (173)
She never appears in the story again, but it's so important that you know what a scheming tramp she is that not one, but two, descriptors are applied to her appearance to make you realize how pathetic she is.
I will admit that, bar a few typos, the writing in SPARROW was pretty good. And the beginning of the story showed a lot of promise. In my book group, I initially praised the author for taking the time to actually show - NOT TELL - us that the hero was a bad guy. I think the problem was that the author seemed to want Troy to be this troubled guy, who was so much MORE than an evil, heartless mobster (as that big reveal with Cat towards the end seemed to suggest). I.e. "He's damaged and just needs a hug, etc., etc." But his portrayal fell apart, and he became very immature and unprofessional, and his constant need to posture just made him seem insecure instead of powerful and intimidating.
I'm not sure I'd read another book by this author. Even though this is definitely the "best" mafia romance I've read, I still didn't enjoy it. I was tempted to give it a 2* because I felt like the author really did try her best, but I was just too annoyed with the hero and that tacked-on happy ending. A 2* would have felt fake. If you enjoy mafia romances, you'll probably enjoy this one, as it is better written than most. Just be aware that there's CHEATING, for those who are bothered by that trope.
It's been a while since I've actually finished a book I really didn't like. ALPHA had a great summary, and I'd seen so many people singing its praises...surely, there had to be some solid basis for those many glowing four- and five-star reviews, right?
...Well, um, hmm...
Now I'm finished, and I'm not really sure what to say. The premise of this book was really great. You have this impoverished (white) girl with a dead father, a brother in college, and a mother in assisted living. She's just been fired from her temp job, after receiving a quid pro quo offer from her perverted boss. The bills are piling up, she's out of options...and then she receives a check completely out of the blue for $10,000.
What would you do? Would you cash it?
It really is an interesting question. In a slightly different story, I think it could have been fascinating to explore the psychology behind the characters who would a) send out the check in the first place and b) cash it in. I thought I was getting a dark erotica about Stockholm Syndrome featuring an impulsive female protagonist who ends up reaping the consequences from a single moment of weakness.
That would have been an amazing story.
I did not get that story.
The problems of this book start when the sender comes to collect, and our plucky protagonist, Kyrie St. Claire, proves that she is, in every sense of the word, way too stupid to live. She allows a strange man into her apartment, goes with him into a strange car, and only tells her best friend where she's going. She then allows herself to be taken onto a strange plane, and then taken, blindfolded, into a strange home. There's a strange reveal early on where it's revealed that the hero has saved Kyrie from being raped and murdered several times, including getting her out of the clutches of what is essentially a serial killer.
Our hero, V.R., is what you'd get if you combined the Beast and Christian Grey into a blender. He's a strange blend of "you cannot leave, but I'll give you anything you want" and "I want to sex you up in ways that push every single one of your comfort zones." These are conflicting motivations, and cause the character to seem inconsistent. Like, for example, he'll say that he isn't interested in Kyrie just for sex, but everything they do is sexual, and they only ever seem to talk about sexual things or how attractive they find each other, so his talk never matches his walk. Not once. He's stalked Kyrie for years, has files built on her and flashdrives full of pictures (no nudes, he insists - what a gentleman! you might say, although later he says that it's because that they would be too much temptation for him to have around, so not so gentlemanly, after all). He takes care of all her financial matters in exchange for her total submission in all things, and repeatedly says he owns her and her family.
Here's my question, though...what makes this situation different from the employer at the beginning who said that she could only keep her job if she sleeps with him? V.R., unlike that creepy 60-year-old dude with the wrinkly weiner, is hot. Norse God, Greek God, Aleksander Skarsgard - he's compared to all three of those entities multiple times. And what drives the point home even more is that Kyrie herself says that she would have considered sleeping with her boss in the beginning to keep her job if she thought it would be fun and he was actually hot. So really, that horrible moment in the beginning of the story is just put in there to foreshadow and explain the attraction between V.R. and Kyrie later.
I also really didn't like the sex scenes in this book. I don't find the word "boobs" sexy at all, for example. That's the word I typed into calculators in math class when I was eight (8008). The author also overuses several words like "thick" (thick peaks, thick and pink, etc.) and "pebbled", and bizarre phrases like "fat licks" that just sound gross instead of sexy. There's also this scene that was actually kind of stupid, where V.R. decides to stick a bullet vibrator up Kyrie's butt - bullet vibrators are small and not meant to be inserted. They're for stimulation only. So it could have easily gotten stuck up there. That's actually why plug toys are shaped the way they are, just FYI. So they won't get stuck.
Finally, the big reveal of this story. Well, I guess it was shocking. I mean, I wasn't really expecting it. There was so much build-up and secrecy over V.R.'s identity that I kept expecting something earth-shattering. It was pretty much the only reason I continued reading, to be honest. I wanted to find out what persuaded him to stalk her for years, and why he was so obsessed with her. I'm a sucker for a good mystery, what can I say. But when you shed his reveal of the shock factor, it basically comes down to - again - "I thought you were hot."
ALPHA was a huge miss for me. It seems to be popular with the erotica crowd, and I guess if you are looking for a quick, easy read that's more sex than plot, this is the perfect book for you. It was a fast read, I will say that. The pages just flew. But if you're hoping for a complex story that's darker than dark and has actual chemistry and tension between the characters, keep looking, because this book isn't it.
I will not be continuing this series, although I'd be willing to give Wilder another go. Supposedly this series is an exception to her usual lineup, and I think I've got FALLING INTO YOU on my Kindle.
For a while, captive romances/erotica were the major trend in erotic fiction and everyone was trying to outdo everyone else with who could write the most dysfunctional and depraved relationship. TWIST ME by Anna Zaires is written in this vein, starring dippy heroine, Nora. When she meets the man who's going to kidnap her, she's only 17, but he waits until she turns 18 before accosting her during her date, beating up the other boy, and then spiriting her away to his tropical island for some rape.
Here's the thing about kidnap erotica - once you have the hero kidnap and assault the heroine, the good-guy card is off the table. At best you could have an antihero after one hell of a redemption arc, but don't, for the love of all that is holy, try to make the rapey hero seem romantic or chivalrous.
My problem with TWIST ME is that there are way too many mixed signals that make this book feel icky. Nora actually does make an attempt to fight her captor, Julian, but she also constantly refers to him as a dark angel and frets about her traitorous body many, many times. Julian is also one of those slimy villains who tries to act all suave, conveniently forgetting the fact that he is in fact a douche who kidnaps women for sex. Add to that a brain-washed minion named Beth whose one job on this island appears to be Professional Gaslighter, and the whole book just has this skeezy, unclean vibe that makes you feel like you've gone a day too long without a shower.
I've decided to DNF this book because I don't want to waste time on books that seem like they're only going to end up annoying me. I'm shocked at all the good reviews this has, as it's certainly nothing special in the kidnap genre, and the writing is repetitive and incredibly subpar.