I met Laura Stone at the 2017 RT convention after the book signing. She mentioned she had a podcast about heFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I met Laura Stone at the 2017 RT convention after the book signing. She mentioned she had a podcast about her former faith, Mormonism, called “Oh My Heck.” I live near enough to the DC Mormon temple that Instagram keeps asking me to tag my pictures like I’m currently there. (I’m not, but there’s a pretty solid Pokestop in the parking lot.) So I was curious about her podcast, both because I have many Mormon neighbors, and learning about different faiths is fascinating for me. During one episode, Stone mentioned her new book, so I downloaded a sample, and once I started, I couldn’t stop reading.
The romance is complicated and emotionally staggering, with layers of internal and external tension. I loved the detailed explanation and portrayal of Brandon and Adam’s daily life as missionaries, how they practiced their faith and struggled with it and kept trying to be worthy of the expectations placed on them. There is a lot of detail here about Mormon observance.
Once the poo hits the air circulation device, however, the slow and painstaking tension built between and around Adam and Brandon becomes a plot that resolves very, very quickly. The ending was a little too fast for me – I wanted to know more about their future, what they’d do to move on with their lives, or what direction their faith might take. There is a lot that’s left open and unfinished, and while Brandon and Adam are safe, I wanted to know more about the foundation of their happiness, because it has to be constructed on entirely new ground. Very little of their upbringing and their lives up to that point remains accessible to them. I ended the book happy for them, but concerned for their mental health and well being, as well as for their futures. Also, only at the end does Brandon have chapters from his point of view, which was a little jarring, though I appreciated that he was as consistent as a point of view character as he was when being described by Adam.
I loved the way their romance included exploration of their faith, and their fearless examination of divine love as interpreted by their church vs described by the scriptures. Part of the anguish and tension is that there is no room for them inside the faith in which they were raised. Though their relationship and their joy in finding one another augments their faith in God instead of diminishing it, they can’t stay within the community in which they were raised. Because of the first 2/3 of the story, I know how devastating that would be for Adam and for Brandon; because the last 1/3 doesn’t fully balance their losses with a potentially happy future, I was left unsure and wanting more.
Bombshell by C.D. Reiss really took me by surprise in the best of ways. Based on the description, I wasLightning review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Bombshell by C.D. Reiss really took me by surprise in the best of ways. Based on the description, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d enjoy it. I’m not big on single parent characters and sometimes, with celebrity heroes, romances can often fall into the trap of including bitchy, rival female characters. Reiss is also a new-to-me author, but after this, I will definitely be checking out Reiss’ future books.
The book opens with Brad’s daughter having a fit in the bathrooms after pooping her pants. I remember reading the scene in Starbucks and laughing to hard. Bombshell really does a great job balancing humor with the romance and I never once felt the daughter was merely a plot device. There are some great female relationships and even the villain is redeemed in a way at the end, which kept the characters from feeling too one-dimensional.
The cast can be dizzying at times, and I had a hard time keeping the names and connections straight. The ending also had a ton of problems thrown in at the last moment which affected the pace. Most of the book was spent with Brad and Cara fighting their feelings, so all this extra stuff at the end felt forced.
I’ve been struggling to write this Dating You/Hating You review for weeks, simply because I’m worried I won’Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I’ve been struggling to write this Dating You/Hating You review for weeks, simply because I’m worried I won’t be able to convey how truly wonderful I thought it was. But I’m going to do my best, because this is a pretty worthy competitor for my favorite book of 2017. It’s funny, feminist, and a great example of a modern romance. I should also mention that this is a complete standalone and not tied to any of their previous series.
Okay, first off, Evie is amazing and will go down in history as one of the best heroines I’ve read.
Evie loves her work and specializes in feature films. She’s also in her early thirties, making her older than Carter, who is twenty-eight. Her boss, Brad Kingman, is a dick of epic proportions and not in a good way. A few years ago, Evie had a client bomb in a huge movie and Brad frequently brings it up as a way of undermining Evie’s work and her current successes.
Brad also uses coded language to minimize and belittle Evie.
There’s another instance where Evie kind of loses it with Carter and he has this slow realization of how different things are for him. He never has to worry about being too pushy because he’ll be seen as ambitious, while Evie has to walk this fine line of being confident, but not smug. Aggressive, but not bitchy. Nice, but not a pushover. Evie’s work life is something that will resonate with many women, though I will warn you it’s incredibly frustrating to read, namely because we’ve all been there.
I liked Carter as a hero. He’s balanced. Not too demanding or domineering, but I wouldn’t classify him as a beta hero either. He’s stylish and smart. And man, the guy knows how to give an apology. Though Evie and Carter do get into a prank war of sorts, I never felt that it was malicious. It wasn’t career-ruining stuff. Instead, there was changing Carter’s coffee lifeblood to decaf or switching out Evie’s lotion for a self-tanner. Goofy stuff.
Best of all, Evie is the heroine you want to cheer for, be best friends with, and she’d definitely come over at 2am after a date-gone-wrong for a good wine & kvetching session. While romance is well…about romance, it’s also about sharing women’s stories. Which brings me to what I truly loved about Dating You/Hating You. Evie is the star. It’s her story. She shines and Carter, as a character, takes a backseat. I didn’t feel deprived of the romance or felt that I was missing anything. He was a wonderful support for Evie, both as a partner for her and keeping the tension going for readers.
And while Evie’s was falling in love with Carter, I was definitely falling in love with Evie.
If you want the book-form of a great, contemporary rom-com (since those seem to be nonexistent from the theaters these days), Dating You/Hating You will scratch that itch. No, not just scratch it. Massage it. A full body, deep-tissue Swedish massage that will leave your bones feeling like jelly, where all you can do is close your eyes and let out a deep, satisfying sigh.
Bollywood and the Beast by Suleikha Snyder caused me to pull a Bad Decisions Book Club moment at RT…does thaFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Bollywood and the Beast by Suleikha Snyder caused me to pull a Bad Decisions Book Club moment at RT…does that mean I leveled up? Is that the Bad-Ass Decisions Book Club? So many questions.
As you may have guessed from the title, Bollywood and the Beast is a Beauty and the Beast story set in Bollywood–but it’s so much more than that. It’s a book about a bi-racial heroine not feeling accepted by any cultural identity, and it has a delicious May/December m/m romance on the side. It’s all the things, you guys.
For some reason, I woke up at RT at 2 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep. So I started reading this book, and by 5 a.m. I was still reading even though I knew I had to get some sleep because I had places to be. The entire next day was spent dashing between panels and parties, and the Starbucks across the street, where I was desperately caffeinating. I was fueled solely by cold brew and grit. It was worth it.
I’m 100% here for lovable curmudgeon heroes, you guys. I consider myself a lovable curmudgeoness half the time. It’s hard to pull it off without making the hero just seem like an asshole, but Snyder totally does it.
But the thing that really, really worked for me about this book is that it’s about family, both found and biological. It’s largely set apart from Bollywood, in the secluded Delhi mansion. Ashraf, Rocky and Taj quickly come together as a family without intending to, supporting each other and caring for each other even at their worst. Rocky becomes the glue that allows Taj and Ashraf to come closer, and slowly the three of them become a team who will fight for and love each other.
So to sum it up, we have Beauty and the Beast, found family, surprise m/m love story that broke my fucking heart, and lovable curmudgeon. It was kind of like this book was written just for me.
I thought the ending to Bollywood and the Beast was a little abrupt and I wanted more of Kamal and Ashraf, but otherwise it was totally worth the twenty-ish dollars I spent on coffee the next day.
Usually, I give book around a hundred pages before I throw in the towel. A lot can change in those hundred pFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Usually, I give book around a hundred pages before I throw in the towel. A lot can change in those hundred pages. But for Fighting Attraction, I made it to page thirty-nine before I noped on out of there. Before I get to the series of instances that seems to get progressively worse in the book, I want to issue trigger warnings for violence against women, self-harm, and issues with consent.
In the scant number of pages I read, there was a lot of showing instead of telling. Penny frequently mentions her insecurities and how she isn’t deserving of happiness.
Yes, I think he’s hot, but hot sports starts like him don’t go for curvy, broken girls like me.
Listen, I’m sure we’ve all be in a situation where we’ve doubted out self-worth, but Penny lays it on rather thick. Being in her head was exhausting and it’s clear that she’s dealing with some issues that really call for a mental health professional. On page thirty-nine, the spot at which I decided to dip out, Penny reveals that she uses self-harm, in the way of cutting, to deal with things.
I don’t take self-harm lightly in books. As someone who loves a dark, psychological romance, I’m not afraid of more taboo subjects. However, I have very complicated feelings about self-harm in romance and at times, I feel like self-harm is used as a shorthand to show that a character is “broken.” Rarely have a I read a romance that fully captures the addictive cycle of cutting and how it can take a toll on a person.
And then there’s the scene that really tipped it over the edge for me:
“Cell phones aren’t allowed in the club.” He rips open the envelope. “You agreed to that when you signed the waiver.”
“I was just noting the time. We need it for the affidavit of service.” I hope up the phone for him to see, and he gives me a cold, hard stare.
“You also agreed to be punished if you broke the rules, which you have just done.”
My blood chills, and I take a quick glance behind me to make sure the door is still open. Although Kitty has disappeared, the hallway is empty, and my escape route is clear. “I wasn’t taking pictures or recording anything.”
“There are no qualifications to the rule.” He skims the documents and tosses them on his desk. “And since you seem determined to put me out of business, I see no reason to exercise any leniency.”
“Whoa.” I take a step back and then another, my hands flying up in a defensive position. “First of all, I’m not a lawyer or the claimant in the case. I’m just serving the documents. And second, I haven’t done anything wrong. I didn’t agree to be punished for doing my job.”
Damien rounds on me, moving so quickly I stumble in my haste to retreat. “You did agree. Now, I’m wondering how best to teach you a lesson.”
“If you touch me, I’ll scream.”
Amusement flints in his eyes, and he reaches for my hair, tangling my ponytail around his hand before he yanks, forcing my head back. “Scream then, I love the sound.”
All right, got all that?
First, the heroine had signed a waiver to get into the BDSM club to serve the club owner a subpoena. ALWAYS READ THINGS BEFORE YOU SIGN THEM.
Second, here is another case of a dude being pissed off and taking it out on a woman – the heroine. Damien is angry at being served paperwork that could put his club out of business. Penny has no personal ties to the case; she’s just serving him as a favor to a friend. Now, I know nothing about subpoenas, but I’m sure there would be some repercussions if Penny didn’t follow protocol and note the time it was served. Which perhaps Damien knows? And perhaps that’s his motivation for being a total assmunch? Or it’s possibly the assmunchery comes naturally to him? I’m not sure which is worse.
And a BDSM club is all about operating on consent. And here’s this guy, assaulting a woman because she brought a phone in, despite signing something that she wouldn’t, because she’s trying to do her job, not participate in anything going on inside the club.
Let me remind you that this all happened in less than forty pages. The way things had progressed, I honestly didn’t want to see how much worse things could possible get in the remaining three hundred pages.
I spent one weekend reading The Thing About Love, and it was so enjoyable and so much fun that knowing thatFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I spent one weekend reading The Thing About Love, and it was so enjoyable and so much fun that knowing that I still had more of it to read left me in the best mood. It lifted my entire weekend, and when people ask me about it, I grin and wave my hands around and make Good Book Noise® (and then those people probably regret asking me).
There are a number of things I enjoy about Julie James’ books, among them the portrayal of ambitious characters who love their careers, and the way in which a simple and subtle conflict, like work/life balance for busy career-focused people, can be expanded into a realistic tension that informs most of the story. In The Thing About Love, the tension is partly that Jessica is reestablishing her life and adjusting her career in Chicago, while John is about to leave Chicago to restart his somewhere else. In addition, they both harbor a pretty strong dislike for one another after having been in competition at Quantico, where they found one another’s style and strengths very off-putting. They have to immediately set their dislike aside and work together with sufficient easy, visible camaraderie to gain the trust of their target. So there’s forced proximity, plus mutual dislike and past history, plus starting over vs. getting out, which makes a big helping of all my catnip.
Side note: if you like competence porn, THERE IS SO MUCH COMPETENCE PORN I cannot begin to list it all. It’s delicious, multi-level competence porn, including the side characters in the FBI who set up undercover operations with every single detail, the elements of the FBI training in Quantico and for the HRT, and the preparations that go into a sting operation. SO MUCH COMPETENCE PORN.
I had the best time reading this book. I went through my notes and highlighted sections and ended up reading a good three or four chapters while writing this review – and I noticed more subtle elements to the characters and their conversations that I hadn’t seen the first time. While re-reading instead of reviewing is total hell on my productivity, it’s also a sign that I’ll be enjoying The Thing About Love at least once, maybe twice more.
Forever Mine is a contemporary romance that made me squee and made me sigh. It’s a celebration of geek cultuFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Forever Mine is a contemporary romance that made me squee and made me sigh. It’s a celebration of geek culture, of women who love comics, and of cosplay. Sometimes I read a book and I love it so much that I basically can’t even describe how much I love it – I just shove it into people’s hands and shout “OMG READ IT RIGHT NOW!”
It’s a wonderful escape, like a vacation for your brain. I say that in a totally non-patronizing way too. I’m not doing the whole “denigrate romance as escapist fluff” thing. Escapism and brain rest are super important, you guys. And while Forever Mine is light-hearted and stress-free, it also has depth. And feels. There are feels.
The best part of Forever Mine was that there’s no real angst. Maya and Alex have to work some stuff out, but the obstacles that keep them apart aren’t dire. And I loved how Maya helped him learn about the characters and worlds his daughter was passionate about in a genuine and enthusiastic way. Add some really hot sex scenes to the mix, and basically I was in heaven.
If you need to just feel really good for awhile, or you really love cosplay or comics or guys who specialize in blood disorders, this book is absolutely your catnip. It’s “read in one sitting good.”
Obvious questions first! Is Pretty Face as good as Act Like It ?
Alas, no, I don’t think it is. It’s close, but not quite. The hero and heroine are tremendous, but the obstacles for the characters are not as seamlessly integrated into the story, and there are secondary characters in this book whose portrayals are inconsistent from chapter to chapter.
Is there a “But?”
HECK YES there is a “But.” Lucy Parker’s dialogue is top-notch, and the London theatre world is still a terrific place to set contemporary romance. The obstacles standing in the way of the hero and heroine are genuine and of different levels of influence at varying times. And whenever the two of them talk to each other, it’s the best part of the book. So many of the things I loved in Act Like It are present in this novel – the dramatic (literally) world they live in, the challenges of managing their public lives and private lives, and the crackling sharp dialogue.
The best aspect of Luc and Lily's romance, and about their scenes together, is that they are always unfailingly and deeply honest with each other. They don’t pretend or hide behind the duplicity and falsehood that make up their livelihoods as actor and director.
There is a list of obstacles in the way of their happiness. A lot of inter-family problems that were created by their parents and grandparents yield grudges which are held against Luc and Lily because of other people’s actions. In the end, those grudges were not really large or persuasive enough to make for a real and believable danger to their relationship. I think that perhaps the story was aiming for a parallel between what people say and expect vs what really and truly matters in life, such as happiness. The actions of one’s parents and grandparents may affect one’s day to day life, which is true for both Luc and especially Lily, but the pursuit of happiness and comfort and fulfillment are more important than what people might say or think when they don’t have all the facts – or any facts whatsoever.
As much as I loved Lily and Luc’s scenes together and the dialogue between characters – especially one scene in particular at a party where Lily chats with Lainie and Richard from Act Like It – I had a wishlist by the end of the book.
I wish there had been more scenes with Lily’s voice transformation, about the work she did to alter her speaking voice. That’s a fascinating twist on the makeover trope, and I wanted more about it.
While Lily and Luc fit one another marvelously, and their scenes were delightful, the other characters and obstacles that affected them didn’t fit together as easily. That said, just as the connection between Luc and Lily could overcome various real and perceived obstacles, their scenes and conversations were more compelling and absorbing than any other frustrations I had. Every one of their scenes together I re-read more than twice – they’re worth savoring and experiencing multiple times. I may not re-read this book as much as Act Like It, which is permanently in my library at all times, but I will definitely re-read it.
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase was a book I was pretty pumped about, given how much I’ve enjoyed Chase’s blenFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase was a book I was pretty pumped about, given how much I’ve enjoyed Chase’s blend of romance and humor in the past. Plus, it has a hunky royal hero and a heroine who throws a pie in his face. While the description had me salivating and clawing at my Kindle like Gollum on a rampage, the hero’s lack of growth and frequent douchery were a big letdown.
The book started out totally fine. Olivia and Nicholas have a bit of a fun, whirlwind romance in the city with plenty of Cinderella moments. There’s a very odd stalker scene that sticks out like a sore thumb, but other than that, I’m on board. It wasn’t until Nicholas takes Olivia back to Wessco that I started having issues.
He finally confesses to Olivia that he’s destined to get married in four months as part of his royal duties, but maybe they could have a summer fling of a lifetime. Olivia says yes because Amelia’s has been her life and everyone thinks she deserves a little fun.
But once back in Wessco, Nicholas truly makes an ass of himself, over and over. He says some shitty things about Olivia to a fellow royal who wants Olivia when Nicholas is done with her (he’s playing a “part” when this happens and is trying to seem aloof, which, wtf dude). He tries to get Olivia to be his mistress after his marriage. Then, he believes that she’s betrayed a very personal secret of his to the press. WHEN THIS DAMN WOMAN TRAVELED ACROSS THE WORLD TO BE YOU WITH KNOWING IT WAS ONLY TEMPORARY!
Olivia is raw and vulnerable and sacrifices so much just to have this limited experience of happiness. Nicholas sees her hauling her drunken father into bed. He sees her discomfort and insecurities being out of her element in Wessco – both socially and financially. Meanwhile, all it seems he has to give her is a few flirtatious comments and, apparently, an amazing dick.
In my opinion, he wasn’t worthy of Olivia at all.
That being said, Royally Screwed does a great job of setting up the second book, Royally Matched. We meet Henry and he’s struggling with substance abuse issues and some trauma. Though he’s a secondary character, we get to see him try and get clean and get his act together. He’s the hero in the second book and he’s already done some growth in making himself into a better man and a better person.
The second book in the Billionaire Builders series is definitely going to appeal to HGTV fans and loverLightning review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
The second book in the Billionaire Builders series is definitely going to appeal to HGTV fans and lovers of hot contemporary romances alike. When Raven Stratton moves home to open a bar/ restaurant she’s got a dual purpose in mind: run a successful business and also avenge her father. He dad died in a car accident running off with an “other woman,” and Raven has never forgiven that woman’s family for making her father out to be a con man and manipulator. So when her antique bar needs repair in time for a magazine shoot and Dalton Pierce shows up to do the work, it seems like karma. Dalton’s mom was the woman with Raven’s dad–although Dalton doesn’t know that.
The best parts of this book are the wonderful details about Raven getting her business up and running. I felt like I could get up and walk into Raven’s bar and recognize it on site. There are similar details about Dalton’s woodworking business but my understanding of home improvement is so limited that I once thought a newel post cap holding cash in my local Starbucks tip jar was a butt plug.
Raven is also amazing despite the Inigo Montoya bit. She’s tattooed, she does martial arts training, and she’s a mixologist. She’s the type of ultra-cool, nuanced heroine you want to be friends with. Dalton is more of a playboy stereotype but there is some excellent slow burn chemistry happening.
So while the revenge part and the woodworking (hur) wasn’t a huge draw for me, the sexiness, the heroine and the restaurant environment made this contemporary stand out.
Sportsball romances are usually not my thing because my understanding of professional sportsing is very limiFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Sportsball romances are usually not my thing because my understanding of professional sportsing is very limited. All I know is that it usually involves a ball of some kind and that it’s acceptable for the dudes to pat each other on the butt. The last sports book I read was League of Denial so that should tell you something right there.
Now, I make an exception when it comes to hockey for two reasons. 1. my husband is a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan and some of that has trickled over to me and 2. Patrick Sharp.
So anyway, when I saw Sarina Bowen had a hockey romance with a hero named Patrick I had to read it–and I’m glad I did because it works really, really well as a contemporary romance and it has some incredibly hot sex scenes (light role-playing and tantric sex anyone?). I liked it so much that I’m going to go back and pick up the first book in the series Rookie Move (although Hard Hitter totally works as a standalone).
There were a couple other things that I really liked about this book. At first I thought that because Patrick was this big tough guy, the solution to Ari’s stalking problem would be him going all caveman and pounding the shit out of her ex. While that would be satisfying on some level, it would also be solving toxic masculinity with toxic masculinity. Patrick doesn’t do that. He helps Ari take correct and legal steps to get rid of her ex. He makes sure she doesn’t go home alone and that the door is locked before he leaves. He loans her and her girlfriends his apartment when she needs sanctuary.
Which brings me to the other thing I loved–Ari has girlfriends! She has supportive female friends who take care of each other! Imagine that! We need more girlfriends in romance, seriously.
So for a non-sports romance type of girl, I was totally swept up by Hard Hitter. I’m adding Sarina Bowen to my auto-buy list. This was the mature, sexy, intelligent contemporary romance I so wanted and a great way to start the new year.
I originally grabbed this book because there aren’t enough romances that deal with art thievery and apparentFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I originally grabbed this book because there aren’t enough romances that deal with art thievery and apparently that’s a reading interest I didn’t know I had. I like mysteries, but I don’t like gore, entrails, and violence, so art theft plots are one way to satisfy my curiosity about who did the crime without running headlong into scenes involving intestines, torture, and blood loss. Ultimately, the art theft in this story is secondary to the romance, but I’m glad the concept lured me into reading this book because it was most enjoyable.
The real plot in this story is the differences between Jonah and Vaughn, and how their attraction to one another allows them to change, to reveal things about themselves, and to figure out a way to reach a sort of balance or equilibrium when so many aspects of themselves stand in the way of their getting along. There are significant class differences, for example: Vaughn comes from a very wealthy family, while Jonah was abandoned by his mother as a child and raised in a series of foster homes.
The story is really about intimacy – which I am always here for. I love explorations of intimate connection that don’t rest solely on sexual interaction. Jonah has to learn how to navigate a relationship with Vaughn, a man he is deeply drawn to, which doesn’t involve sex at all. Vaughn has to learn how to maintain his boundaries and remain true to himself and his identity while also communicating to Jonah that he does like him, and in his own way desires him greatly.
I liked that the ending did not require either of them to compromise who they were and what they wanted. I liked that Vaughn accepted Jonah without judgment, and Jonah, while confused by Vaughn’s disinterest in sex, learned to accept Vaughn as well. I also liked the way the story explored themes of found family and the intimacy of friendships and platonic connections.
The mystery of the art theft moves to the background as Vaughn and Jonah grow closer before reappearing at the end, and by that time isn’t nearly as compelling as the navigation of Jonah and Vaughn being together despite all the miscommunication and real and perceived boundaries between them. There is a tangible sweetness to this romance that I found charming and compulsively readable. I had a difficult time putting it down and was very excited to finish it.
There’s a lot going on, including some hints of future sequel characters, and not every part of the story was resolved as much as I would have liked. I would have liked to know more about how Jonah felt about the early stages of his relationship with Vaughn at the end of the story, and I would have liked to know that Jonah was also getting help in dealing with the emotional baggage and the hurts from his past that at one point in the novel try to crush him. I’d categorize this story has having a very optimistic Happy-For-Now ending, but it left me wanting a little more resolution, and a little more confidence that things really were going to be ok between them.
I barely recognize myself anymore. For years I’ve sneered at holiday romance and this year I’m devouring eveFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I barely recognize myself anymore. For years I’ve sneered at holiday romance and this year I’m devouring everything red, green, and glittered. Christmas has never been my favorite holiday, but in light of Dumpster Fire 2016 I’m grasping for anything happy and joyful –even if the holidays previously felt over commercialized and fake. I put up every holiday decoration I could find in the back corners of my basement. I racked up my MasterCard bill over-indulging in gift buying. I’m going to drink mulled wine until I sneeze and sweat in burgundy. It’s basically holiday overload or I might go out and buy a dozen golden retriever puppies. I NEED SOMETHING SOFT AND WARM AND HAPPY OKAY? I’m glad I broke with previous years’ traditions because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have read Glass Tidings and it’s such a wonderful romance. In fact, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.
One of the reasons I usually don’t read holiday romance is that sometimes authors use this nebulous idea of the “Christmas spirit” as a tool for resolving conflict: “Well, we hated each other for years, but now it’s snowing so much and I just realized I love you because Christmas.” In my mind, the holidays present more conflict than they resolve–lots of people who may or may not like each other trapped under one roof.
One reason I loved Glass Tidings is that it’s set around Christmas, but the holidays supply just as much conflict as resolution. It’s not about having the perfect family or perfect dinner—in fact, it’s about lacking those things. It’s about two really lonely people finding love and family in each other, and it was such a powerful read.
A big part of the conflict in this book is that Gray and Eddie are both outsiders. Gray because he’s the only gay man in a small town; Eddie because he’s never belonged anywhere or had any family. And both men have built lives around being outsiders, specifically erected walls that protect them from the pain and disappointment of their pasts. So the idea of settling in and finding a sense of home and love together is profoundly scary to both of them.
If you like romance that’s heavy on character and might make you cry a little about glass roses, I suggest you check out Glass Tidings.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately (I know, right?) so I’ve been turning to novellas for quick readsLightning review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately (I know, right?) so I’ve been turning to novellas for quick reads to help me cope.
Fling by Jana Aston is a forbidden office romance. For the most part I enjoyed it, but the romance wasn’t adequately developed (probably due to the length of the book) and sometimes the hero irked me. He was irksome.
I was kind of hoping for delicious awkwardness, but Gabe basically just decides to go for it. Enter hot forbidden office sex.
The novella was okay but it didn’t have room for much in the way of conflict and absent conflict there isn’t much development. Also I really wanted a less alpha hero. Gabe is all about fucking not loving and I’m so sick of that guy.
I think this book might be better served as an add on to the rest of the series, but on its own it was pretty meh.
I downloaded a sample of this book after Courtney Milan raved about it on Twitter. I’ve been doing a lot ofFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I downloaded a sample of this book after Courtney Milan raved about it on Twitter. I’ve been doing a lot of sample shopping, and not many books make it past the sample with me. I’m in something of a grumpy slump with my reading, a state which is entirely my own fault, and when I wanted more past the sample of Beginner’s Guide, I was very excited.
This book is a spin on a lot of familiar tropes and character types that I like. There’s the genius protagonist who is completely confused by human interaction, and seeks to understand it through the application of specific methods to produce predictable results. There are friends who care for her, making sure she has a safe place to live near the lab, and people who seem interested in getting to know her or at least welcome her into their circle of friends, but aren’t sure how. And there’s her family, who don’t always understand her, but love her and care about her happiness. And, of course the “I need a date for this major event/wedding/family gathering and I don’t like any of the dating part,” is very familiar.
The “let’s apply science to emotions!” trope isn’t new, either, but in this book, a lot of time is spent with Kaya developing and designing her own experiment. These were parts of the story I found to be slow – more than slow, even. Glacially paced. When Kaya gets stuck in her own head, circling around her theory or developing another methodology for her experiment, it dragged for me. There were points where I became really irritated with her for getting in her own way so goddam much, or for explaining all the finest details of her experiment, the purpose of it, the steps she was creating, even though I knew that the deep dive into science from Kaya’s point of view also means a deep dive into everything Kaya was doing and thinking. Sometimes her brain was fascinating and very fun, especially when she’s talking with someone, or when she’s with her family. Sometimes it was like a too-hot room with no windows and I wanted to yell at her a little.
The story starts slowly, but once her circle of acquaintances increases and she finds herself with a collection of friends with whom she doesn’t have to worry in advance what she’s going to talk about, the plot moves much more quickly. Outside influences (catalysts!) change Kaya in small but important ways.
The best parts, really, were her conversations with Nero, who wasn’t sufficiently developed for my taste, but partly because the story is told entirely through Kaya’s first person point of view (past tense, for those of you who dislike first person/present).
Seriously, if you love science and experiments and science nerdery, you’ll probably really like this book. Much of the story is about Kaya’s journey from accepting herself to appreciating herself, and her growth from keeping a massive distance between her thoughts and her emotions to learning how to relate them to one another, and to take the risks involved in engaging with other people. When Kaya invites her new circle of friends to one of her family’s mega-parties, she does so because her mother tells her to, and she’s worried about it. But bringing her science friends, all people she’s met at grad school and in the lab, to meet her family, and seeing how they all fit within her family, especially Nero, allow her to see how she also fits within her family, and that she belongs as she is.
Hold Me is both very ambitious and very uneven. We here at the Bitchery are unabashed Courtney Milan fans, tFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Hold Me is both very ambitious and very uneven. We here at the Bitchery are unabashed Courtney Milan fans, to the point where I cannot possibly read a Milan book without both bias in its favor and very high expectations. As with all Milan books, I squeed repeatedly while reading, but the overall reading experience was not as enjoyable as I hoped it would be.
I love the inclusivity of the book. It incorporates characters of different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and classes. Much of the book takes place at University of California, Berkeley, which is where I got my Masters, and I can state from experience that if the book had not included this level of inclusivity it would have been ridiculously unrealistic. Maria is Latina, Jay is Chinese and Thai, and many of the supporting characters are non-white as well. Maria is a transgender woman, and the story avoids fetishizing her or reducing her to a coming out story. She does have a coming out story and some trauma associated with this story, but her being transgender isn’t the sum of her character — she’s into shoes, she’s into math, she’s smart, she loves her brother, she likes soup, etc.
There is SO MUCH GEEKERY in this book. I love that Actual Physicist and Em flirt using math. I loved the glow in the dark shark (named ‘Lisa’) that Maria’s ex-roommate kept in a tank in their apartment (very small shark, very big tank). I loved the reference to Douglas Adams. As an urban Californian, I also loved the reference to the fact that you can get soup here from four different ethnicities within a two-block radius.
The only part of the book that I didn’t like was the actual romance, largely because Jay was so triggery for me. Actual Physicist and Em’s messages back and forth often felt fake to me, like they had been practiced and rehearsed (which, to be fair, is in fact the kind of thing you can do with a written message). I felt like I was reading things that people wish they had said, not actual dialogue. When they are together in person, they unleash their worst qualities, especially Jay.
Jay has three personalities in the book and I didn’t believe in any of them. His “in person with Maria” personality is so obnoxious that I find it hard to believe that that anyone associates with him. Actually, not many people do, which he thinks is because they move away or are too busy. Maybe they just hate the guy. I certainly do.
There were so many things about this book that I loved. I loved the shark and Maria’s explanation for why she didn’t love it all. I loved the science stuff. I loved the constant tension between people who had been raised with a lot of money and those who hadn’t, and the tension between introverts and extroverts. I loved the relationship between Jay’s parents and I loved how Maria’s Catholic Latina grandmother breaks stereotypes about Catholic Latina grandmothers. The sex scenes are great examples of how consent, particularly explicit consent, can be incredibly erotic. Not to mention math. If they had convinced me in high school that math could be sexy maybe I would have stayed awake in class more often.
I always have to grade Courtney Milan books with a standard letter grade, and I’m giving this a B- compared to the romances I have read because the writing, the side characters, Maria, the sex, and the shark are all pretty amazing. But on our very special puppy cannon scale, which we reserve for Courtney Milan books, I’m only giving it one out of ten puppies – the puppy cannon is very demanding.
I liked this story, but I went in expecting a completely different set of conflicts based on the cover copy.Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I liked this story, but I went in expecting a completely different set of conflicts based on the cover copy. Jaq is a high school teacher and she’d like to find a long-term partner. She’s got a stable life in La Vista, the town where she lives: she goes to mass with her dad (one of the most interesting, poignant ,and under-explored parts of the story) and sees him regularly, and she has a strong, loving community of friends. She’s an adult ally and supporter to the young queer people in her school and in the town, and she’s got most of her shit together.
This is the line in the cover copy that tripped me up: “But she’s just out of a disastrous marriage, she’s in the process of moving across the state, and Jaq can’t take a chance on yet another relationship where she defaults to being a caregiver instead of a partner.”
I was looking for that conflict. It wasn’t there. Hannah is aware she’s in a massive state of uncertainty and transition. She knows she overwhelms Jaq a little, and Jaq isn’t sure what to do with her powerful attraction to Hannah in light of Hannah’s situation in life. Very little was said about Jaq being a caretaker. There were a few recollections about having to pick someone up at a bar because they were drunk and lost their keys, but nothing substantial. The “default to caregiver” part wasn’t something I saw.
I otherwise would have liked this story a lot more except for the part where for at least a third of the book, Jaq’s friends, including the brides of the wedding she attends at the beginning, warn her that Hannah is “crazy.” Do they define what they mean? Not really. Does Hannah do anything that seems unsafe or erratic? Not really. For me, it was another example of the story suggesting one thing, and then delivering another, and I found that really tiresome and frustrating.
I wish the story had delivered more of the conflict it said it would, and that the characters insisting that Hannah was “crazy” and a bad match for Jaq were more specific about why they thought so. As written, it came across to me as a thin, poorly-supported conflict that didn’t do much for the overall romance. The romance itself is the weaker part of the story; for me, Jaq’s life with her father, her students, her queer student support group, and her connections to the queer community were all far more interesting, and contained more relevant, realistic conflicts. Essentially, this book delivered a completely different story than what it said it would, and while I liked parts of it, I finished it feeling confused and a little disappointed.
Prepare the squee mop y’all: this review is going to be soaked. Also I just realized how pervvy that soundsFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Prepare the squee mop y’all: this review is going to be soaked. Also I just realized how pervvy that sounds and I don’t care.
First of all, it’s no shock that I loved, LOVED The Trouble with Mistletoe. Jill Shalvis is one of those authors that I turn to for comfort reads; her books are always sexy, funny and emotionally satisfying. She writes pure Elyse-nip. That said, The Trouble with Mistletoe might be my favorite book of hers ever. It made me horny and it made me cry. I hope the publisher puts, “It made me horny and it made me cry”–Elyse, Smart Bitches Trashy Books on the back of her next book. In related news, I’m classy as shit.
The thing I love about Shalvis’s novels is all the great details she infuses into her writing. Willa has a group of girlfriends who are wonderful and supportive. She has male friends who are just friends and don’t get jealous or weird. She has regular customers who feel like real, fully developed characters even though they only appear for a few pages.
So I loved the hero, I loved the heroine, and I loved the sassy cat. More than that this book just made me really, really happy. The Trouble with Mistletoe is sweet but never saccharine, sexy, funny, and wonderfully written. It’s about kind people with good friends who love animals. It’s the literary equivalent of taking off your heels at the end of the day.
I’m probably going to reread The Trouble with Mistletoe again and I’m not a re-reader. I’ve already bought it for two friends. If you need a pick me up, do yourself a favor and schedule some time with with this book.
The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon is the second book in her m/m romantic suspense series End ofLightning review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon is the second book in her m/m romantic suspense series End of the Line. The series uses a powerful criminal enterprise, The Pentasus Organization, and the family who runs it, the Riverses, as its focal point. This book opens up after the events of Mr. and Mr. Smith when the Rivers family has suffered serious set backs and is on the run.
This series is about shifting alliances, double agents and falling for a person you don’t know if you can trust. All of that is 100% Elyse catnip. Plus there are some incredibly hot sex scenes and it’s more action movie romantic suspense than serial killer romantic suspense, all things I love.
I would suggest that this series be read in order. By itself The Talented Mr. Rivers would lack the context and world-building that Mr. and Mr. Smith provides and might feel under developed.
This book is also a quick, action-packed read–so if you’re looking for something fast, fun and sexy, I’d highly recommend it.
Perfectly Charming began as a perfectly serviceable contemporary romance about a woman who goes through a paFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Perfectly Charming began as a perfectly serviceable contemporary romance about a woman who goes through a painful divorce from her since-high-school boyfriend in a small Mississippi town, takes some money she inherited from a close friend who died of cervical cancer, and finds herself a contract nurse position in a hospital in Pensacola, Florida, on the beach, far from everyone sticking their well-intentioned but overbearing and pitying noses in her business. I liked the setup, and while I noticed some cliches and some inconsistent development, I was eager to keep reading… until the dialogue and choice of language took a horrible turn into misogyny and ruined the story for me.
I’m drawn to books about people taking a mulligan and hitting reset on their lives, either because something has happened to them, or because they are about to happen to something. In this case, Jess, the heroine, was ready for the next step in her life plan of having a baby with her husband when he comes home with a bouquet of flowers to announce he wants a divorce (in part because he’s banging the florist from whom he bought the flowers). (You stay classy, dude.) Jess is inspired in her whole-life do-over by her late friend Lacy, who died and left each of her closest friends a letter, some money, and her charm bracelet, which each friend is supposed to add to as they fulfill their lives in some way or another. Each friend’s story is a book in the series.
I expect better of the books I read. I don’t read romance to feel insulted. I want stories wherein the misogynist language isn’t left unchallenged when the hero uses it to insult the heroine. I don’t want to finish a romance feeling queasy and ashamed, like I’ve been insulted along with the heroine by the hero, who was pretty much the reason I was reading the book in the first place. The idea of someone who was intellectually brilliant achieving so much professionally then realizing he was unhappy (because a homeless person identified his misery, which is another thing this book does – uses homeless people, people with terminal diseases, and people recovering from addictions as foils and devices for the hero and heroine to learn about themselves) was interesting. Ryan was aware of himself enough to know that he needed to figure out how to function socially – and in most cases he was kind, considerate, and able to read the intentions of people around him enough to gently say no to women who were coming onto him, or give people space when they needed it. Most of the time, in early interactions, he was fine.
Then he’d open his mouth and garbage would come out and then I hated him. I hated the inconsistent characterization. I hated that the heroine internalized what he said and applied it to herself. I hated that no one in the story said, “Hold up, this is NOT ok.”
For me, this was an otherwise better-than-meh contemporary romance which was completely soured by the repeated misogyny and sexism that was never addressed. It may have been internalized and accepted by the heroine and accepted by everyone else, but it wasn’t ok with me.
Anything but Vanilla is a Harlequin Kiss romance about Alex and Sorrel, who bicker over running an ice creamFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Anything but Vanilla is a Harlequin Kiss romance about Alex and Sorrel, who bicker over running an ice cream shop. The ice cream added a nice comfort read quality to the book, but tragically all the parts of the book that did not involve ice cream were sexist, nonsensical, or both.
The romance unfolds over a short period of time as they work together to save the store. Initially Alex can’t take Sorrel seriously because the first time they meet she is wearing a tight skirt and a spaghetti-strap top. Alex’s repeated comments both to himself and out loud to Sorrel about her clothes made me wild with rage. Eventually, Alex realizes that even though she wears cute outfits, she’s also really smart. He becomes her champion, and they bond over emotional issues. Also he teaches her to like sex. I was so furious with Alex’s judging Sorrel’s intelligence by the neckline of her top and with Sorrel’s sexual issues that I ended up needing to eat a pint of ice cream myself just to calm the hell down. Sorrel’s sexual issues are too involved for me to list here but frankly they don’t make a lot of sense anyway. They exist only so that she can have the experience of being sexually initiated by Her Man, a trope I am 100% over already.
This romance left me with some unanswered questions:
- Why is Sorrel not furious with Ria? She seems pretty blasé about the whole “Ria has left without telling anyone where she’s going thus leaving Sorrel totally screwed” thing. Does Ria put tranquilizers in the ice cream? If so, can I have some?
- Are Sorrel and Graeme dating? Early on, we meet Graeme, a super uptight guy who seems determined to mold Sorrel into Wife Material. I never understood whether they were in a committed relationship or not. If they are, then Sorrel is totally cheating on Graeme, or at least considering cheating on Graeme, which is shitty. If they aren’t, then Graeme is grooming her for marriage without even dating her first. If there’s anything ickier than trying to turn your girlfriend into wife material, it’s trying to turn some random person into wife material by following them around until they become sufficiently perfect for you to date. Graeme is definitely a pain in the ass, but the question of just how much of a jerk Sorrel is remains open.
- Does Sorrel’s business plan include branching out into other cute gourmet desserts should the ice cream wave taper off? What if next year companies say to her, “We did gourmet savory ice cream at our corporate retreat last year so this year we want something different?” What if next year the Big Thing is candied pretzels, or marzipan, or interestingly flavored toffees? Adapt or die, Sorrel. Why does the book prove 5000 times that Sorrel is good at what she does whereas almost no attempt is made to show that Alex is good at what he does? Could it be….SEXISM? Maybe Alex is a shitty botanist. We’ll never know.
- And BY THE WAY, I have a huge thing for science heroes but Alex doesn’t science much. Nor does he have the way of looking at the world that scientists so often do. In my experience, scientists, and I know a lot of them, are a diverse lot in every possible way, but they all have a particular, analytical way of seeing things. Alex is just a hot guy in a tight T-shirt who travels a lot.
- I don’t get the ending. Is Alex still going to travel the world studying botany? And if not, is Sorrel going to support them both by selling ice cream? I have doubts about this as a viable long-term plan.
I like battle of wits romances, so I enjoyed Sorrel and Alex’s verbal sparring matches. I also liked the fact that Sorrel tells Alex that while her family grows their own vegetables, it wasn’t originally because they were part of the locally-sourced foods movement; it was because they were poor. It’s a nice bit of reality in what is otherwise a very cutesy story. Some readers will find the adorable setting and Sorrel’s adorable house and her collection of adorably named relatives to be enchanting and other will find it cloying. I was in the perfect mood for a cutesy romance, but the sexism in this book combined with all the things that just didn’t make sense left me cold.
During a recent podcast with Molly O’Keefe, I learned about this novella, and really, who can resist the bunFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
During a recent podcast with Molly O’Keefe, I learned about this novella, and really, who can resist the bundle of title temptation that is The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian? Not me, that’s for sure.
I really liked this story. Alas, it suffered from one of the major hurdles of novella-ing in romance: the hero and heroine didn’t know each other prior to the start of the story. That’s a lot of progress to make in a short time frame, and in my experience, the novellas that work best for me as a reader are those where the main characters knew each other before the start of the story. Maybe they were childhood friends or went to the same school, or they were loosely connected via siblings or circles of acquaintance — whatever. The prior history allows the current developments to rest on some sort of foundation.
When the main characters don’t know each other at the start, there’s a lot of getting-to-know-you that both the characters and the readers have to do and like I said, there’s not a lot of pages to get that done. In this case, I think the progress from “hey, that person is kinda hot” to “we should totally be a THING, right? Obviously,” was about 85% effective.
The ending felt rushed to me, cramming too much into too little space. I wanted more – which is part of the danger of a novella. Sometimes, it’s not quite enough, as was the case here. I wanted more of Jack, more of Erin, more of what happened next.
Ending aside, I really enjoyed reading this novella, and recommend it for fans of hotter contemporary romance. Erin and Jack don’t get into anything that defies gravity (the only thing they do while skydiving is jump out of a plane – sorry) or seemed outlandish, but the degree to which Erin was breaking out of her own limitations made the sex scenes with Jack that much hotter.
And really, I haven’t met many people who can resist that title. The story inside comes very, very close to living up to the promise of it.
For me, knitting is a comfort activity. It stimulates me creatively, but the repetitive motions of knittingFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
For me, knitting is a comfort activity. It stimulates me creatively, but the repetitive motions of knitting and purling are incredibly soothing. I don’t knit as much in the summer, but now that fall is upon us (at least, it is here), I want the cozy feeling of curling up with a movie and my latest knitting project.
When I picked up The Knitting Diaries, I was hoping for the same feeling of coziness. Normally I don’t read a lot of sweet contemporaries, but it was storming out, I was achy from fibro, and the fact that all the stories featured knitting compelled me to try the anthology.
I loved 2/3 of the book, and the whole reading experience left me warm and fuzzy. The book also comes with three knitting patterns (one for a purse, one for a puppet, one for arm warmers), but the patterns don’t contain pictures which I find unhelpful. I’d definitely recommend this anthology for knitters or anyone looking for a comfort read. Just bring tissues.
Sustained is a contemporary romance that I’ve heard compared to both a romantic comedy and a modern fairy taFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Sustained is a contemporary romance that I’ve heard compared to both a romantic comedy and a modern fairy tale. It honestly had to live up to some pretty big words-of-mouth compliments and recommendations, and I can say that for the most part, it totally did. It as funny. It was sweet. I even teared up. Twice.
Sustained is also told from the hero’s POV. While I tend to avoid those kinds of romances because the hero’s thoughts are often pretty sexist and douchey, I liked getting into Jake’s head and I honestly couldn’t imagine this romance being told with dual, alternating point of views.
It took me a minute to get used to the hero POV of the book because I’m so used to the dual POV, where the hero and heroine both having their own issues to overcome. But this was definitely more about Jake’s redemption from bad kid to defense attorney representing some bad people to feeling like he’s a person worthy of some goodness. Chelsea, to me, seemed pretty set in knowing who she is and what she wants. She just was struggling with the sudden responsibilities of raising a lot of children.
And can I say how much I loved the kids?! At first, I was extremely worried that I’d find it too gimmicky or that it would be ridiculously over the top. But I thought it was a good balance and everything seemed plausible. It also is what turned the romance into comedic territory. My stomach hurt from laughing as I read about Jake coming over after everyone is sick with an awful bug.
While I generally loved the book, I feel like it jumped the shark a bit on the pacing. Once Chelsea and Jake gave it and started a romantic relationship, most of the conflict came from a few repetitive fights and make ups where Jake would say something dumb or push her away and then apologize. But it was also nice to see them working as a team to take care of the kids. So I’m torn on this because I don’t think the latter could have happened without the former. Regardless, the first half of the “courtship” was more interesting to me than seeing Jake keep second-guessing his feelings and future with Chelsea.
But it’s still such a good read. To me, this was a feel good book and I loved reading about Jake’s own personal road to redemption as he learns that he’s deserving of love and of a good partner and a family. Because as Jake’s colleague and friend Brent likes to remind him, “A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.”
I was so, so excited for The Protector by Jodi Ellen Malpas. I mean, look at that cover! Look at it!
When I was a kid, we watched three movies on rotation at every sleepover: Dirty Dancing, The Cutting Edge and, my favorite, The Bodyguard. That cover is clearly a reference to The Bodyguard and when I saw it I was light-headed with nostalgia.
So I picked up the book and I was prepared to love the hell out of it…but I didn’t. I didn’t at all. I thought the plot was fine. I liked the heroine. The issue was the hero–Jake Sharp. He’s just awful really, and since half the book is told first person from his point of view, that awfulness just hit me right in the face. Jake really, really likes to use the word pussy, and not in a dirty-talking kind of way. No, in a derogatory kind of way.
Jake is also not coping well with living in Camille’s “champagne and cocaine” world of fashion and shopping:
“She’s doing this on purpose. I swear, all this girlie shit is turning my brain pink. All in all, I’m feeling pretty fucking pussy-ish right now.”
I’m not sure what feeling pussy-ish means. Does Jake feel powerful and remarkable? Like he’s capable of delivering human life into the world? Like he’s made of tissue both capable of experiencing sexual gratification AND possessing the materials needed to grow and sustain life?
Or does he just want to nibble on some salmon and catfish entree and rub his face on the corner of a laptop? Does he want to shit in a box? Do tell us, Jake.
I mean, I read a lot of books with emotionally constipated heroes, but I love how the idea of being in love makes Jake almost puke. Based on earlier descriptions of the guy, he’s probably syphilitic with cirrhosis of the liver, but love makes him physically ill. I’m willing to withstand a little bit of the alphahole with his head up his butt, but Jake really takes the cake.
Anyway, there were things I liked about this book. I liked that Camille starts off as a stereotypical spoiled rich girl but is revealed to have actual depth. She feels stifled by her life and does her best to navigate the challenges that come with it (like the paparazzi) gracefully. She loves her best friend, Heather, and even though she’s more famous and could leave Heather behind, she’s determined to make their dream of fashion design happen together. I love heroines who have friends, and who don’t live in a vacuum.
Overall, though, as much as I liked Camille, I couldn’t deal with Jake’s voice taking up half of the book. I wanted Emma Peel to show up and punch him in the head every time he thought the word “pussy.” I wanted someone to sit him down and explain what “feelings” are and how human beings process them. I wanted him to stop being a jerkwad to the random women he picked up.
Basically he’s a walking embodiment of Axe Bodyspray and I hated him.
I wanted so much to like this book! Because hello…female photojournalist Domme and SWAT hero submissiveLightning review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I wanted so much to like this book! Because hello…female photojournalist Domme and SWAT hero submissive. But to be frank, I found it to be rather boring.
I understand the connection between Beatrice and Warren. Beatrice grew up in a household where she had very little control, while Warren is too busy running around taking care of everyone that he just wants to not be in control for a while. However, their transformation (Beatrice learning to take control of her life vs. Warren learning to let someone else help with his burdens) was more telling than showing.
Several characters would comment on how different Beatrice and Warren seemed, but it didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level. There also wasn’t enough interaction between Beatrice and Warren, and several details regarding Beatrice’s story felt open-ended. How did Beatrice conduct herself at her estranged sister’s wedding? What’s going on with Beatrice and her part-time gig at a Domme agency?
It was a bit of a slog because a lot of the book felt like filler. The main characters interacted more with other people than each other, to my disappointment.
Though I haven’t been following the Olympics closely, I figured I should read something that aligns with curFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Though I haven’t been following the Olympics closely, I figured I should read something that aligns with current events. Besides, I really loved the cover of Blind Landing, and a romance between gymnasts opens up all sorts of possibilities for creative sexytimes.
Natalia and Spencer both reside at the same training facility. Nat is hoping to qualify at the Olympic trials and go on to fulfill her dream of earning a medal. Spencer used to compete, but an injury has left him in the role as teacher, though he’s usually coaching men’s gymnastics. So the romance has a lot of close contact between the hero and heroine and a lot of forced proximity, which I tend to like since a character can’t seem to escape the hero or heroine they’re crushing on or flirting with.
But Natalia’s journey didn’t feel real to me, partially because of the portrayal of the character’s passion or lack thereof and the lack of discipline needed to succeed. There was underage drinking and quite a bit of sex (YOU CAN DO THAT ONCE YOU GET TO THE VILLAGE). At times, I wondered if Natalia really even wanted to be training. If you look at the “Fierce Five” this year in Rio, you can definitely sense that they all want to be competing, that this is what they want to do. And I just didn’t buy Natalia’s Olympic dreams.
Within the first few pages, they gymnasts training for trials go out to drink. Booze has so much sugar, people! Natalia is also below drinking age. I feel like people who are training for the chance to make history, who train 10+ hours a day, and who probably follow a carefully regimented diet (despite one of the fellow gymnasts as being described as “malnourished”) probably wouldn’t been too keen on going out drinking. Yeah, all athletes have a cheat day or two, but I expected more from the heroine – especially because she hasn’t seen her family in a year due to her training. A YEAR. From that alone, I expected more focus to not screw up on the trials.
Back to that “malnourished” comment. It really bothered me. The heroine is out with a fellow gymnast and describes how her friend’s crop top is riding “farther up her malnourished ribs” while they are out at a bar. It was such a throwaway description, as if it wasn’t a big deal, plus there was a hint of sexualization as the woman inadvertently revealed more of her torso by moving around. Earlier, that same gymnast joked to Nat that if she didn’t land the trick their coach as asking her to during practice, that their coach would deprive her of dinner. These comments regarding weight and being starved aren’t funny, and the seriousness of these issues in actual gymnastics negates the levity of these “jokes.”
It was a struggle to finish the book and I was honestly more interested in Nat’s journey to the Olympics than anything having to do with Spencer. I honestly preferred it better when he wasn’t on the page, but those moments tended to be few and far between. Add in the subtle normalization of eating disorders and the fact that I didn’t believe the gymnasts aiming to qualify at trials were really that dedicated, and any excitement I had at the romance’s premise went right out the window. What a bummer because while I love traditional sports romance, I’d love to see other sports of athletes (swimmers, gymnasts, archers, etc) get their own HEAs.
This book might be receiving a lot of attention and the reason is, it’s pretty wonderful. I can’t go back toFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
This book might be receiving a lot of attention and the reason is, it’s pretty wonderful. I can’t go back to my copy for quotes for this review because I end up reading it again and I already lost too much time and sleep trying to make myself stop reading it.
This is a LOT of my catnip. A LOT. Like, Costco-sized portions, but from the way back of Costco where the things you buy require a forklift. YES. THAT MUCH CATNIP. A CATNIP FORKLIFT IS NEEDED IN AISLE SIX.
Here, have a list:
- There is so much humor, so much emotion. The story is told from Lucy’s point of view, and she’s adorably wonderful. She struggles with her height, because she’s very petite, and she struggles with people taking her seriously, and she keeps trying anyway because she refuses to give up on anything she’s determined to do.
- The book is nonstop dialogue that has its own energy. I could probably power the houses on my street if that energy were harnessed. Forget solar power; this book has dialogue power.
- Josh has that intoxicating Pride & Prejudice vibe of, ‘I have impressively strong feelings that I am hiding behind a veneer of aloof crankiness, and I’m 99% skilled at making sure you have no clue about any of my struggles.’
- Oh, so much of my personal favorite catnip on both sides of this couple, only dialed up to 11: I don’t want to like you, I don’t want to like you, I can’t stop thinking about your hair/ your shirt/ your lipstick and DAMMIT ALL TO HELL.
- SO MUCH TENSION. DELICIOUS FLAVORFUL TENSION.
So why no A? Why no squee cannon?
Ableist and offensive language choices. Every time I encountered an example, my buoyant, sparkly joy would deflate. There aren’t many, but when they appear, they stuck pins in my elation, to the point where I grew frustrated with the language of the book itself. The writing is superb and strong and elegant and hilarious except for that one problem, a handful of words which could have been easily fixed, and the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.
I genuinely loved this story, and these characters. There’s tension and energy in every word, and I wanted them to figure out their problems so they could be together, even though the part where they were figuring out how to reconcile those problems was the most delicious, so I didn’t want it to end. If your reading catnip, like mine, includes a blend of dialogue that crackles with intensity and emotion, cranky, stoic heroes with hidden, squishy depths, and vivid, self-assured heroines who take exactly zero crap from said hero, you should find yourself a copy of this book.
Signs of Attraction is about two college students who have very different histories and experiences with heaFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Signs of Attraction is about two college students who have very different histories and experiences with hearing loss. When Reed notices Carli struggling in class, he befriends her and introduces her to his Deaf friends. Carli and Reed quickly become a couple, but Carli’s struggles to accept her hearing loss might undo everything.
The main characters have not only different levels of hearing loss but also different family histories and means of coping.
I found this book to be tough reading because of the high level of angst, but I thought that for the most part (how could someone not know about closed captioning?) it was very realistic in showing Carli’s insecurities and sense of shame, and her journey to acceptance and a more creative, resourceful, and confident approach to her life. The book contains discussions about suicide and abuse, and also contains a scene of abuse that is quite graphic, so be prepared.
My most serious problem with the book involves Reed’s back-story. Initially, Reed is nervous about starting a relationship with Carli. His friends end up telling Carli that Reed is nervous because the last woman that he dated falsely claimed that he raped her, although she backed down on the claim almost immediately.
Not only does this reinforce inaccurate and damaging stereotypes about women falsely reporting rape, it’s not even necessary to the story. It adds a level of distrust between Reed and Carli because Reed is afraid of being betrayed again, but they already have plenty of problems and plenty of angst. The extra level of conflict is unnecessary. It adds to Reed’s fears about being perceived as broken, but the story already established those fears because of his birth parents. If it does anything, it makes Reed, who otherwise seems like a pretty OK guy, seem like the kind of sexist asshole who thinks that all women are the same, so that if one woman treats him badly he can’t trust any other women. It’s tasteless and gratuitous and I’m knocking the book down a whole grade for it (from B+ to C+).
I was so sad to see this element thrown into a story that was otherwise so positive. I loved the fact that hearing loss was not presented as a uniform thing, but rather something that would affect every individual differently (in addition to Reed and Carli, we meet Reed’s friends who also have various degrees of hearing loss). However, I did feel that this story needed one more round of editing – between Reed’s back-story with the evil girlfriend, and Reed’s adoption issues, and Reed’s dad’s death, and Carli’s issues, there was a lot of emotional stuff going on and these storylines tended to suddenly drop out of sight to make way for the next round of angst. At its best, this was a good story about thriving with hearing loss.
I was reading Twitter on the treadmill Monday morning when I saw an announcement go by that this book had beFull review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
I was reading Twitter on the treadmill Monday morning when I saw an announcement go by that this book had been released. F/F romance with a trans heroine and roller derby?
It is a testament to some kind of total body skill that I managed to one-click buy without falling off or hitting the wall. Apparently, I have walking muscle memory and one-click buy muscle memory in equal amounts.
I started reading while walking, and ended up spending more time walking than I meant to. I found that each time I picked up this story, the same thing happened – more time passed than I meant to spend. This is a very easy novel to enter and re-enter. I don’t think that’s solely a function of it being first person, present tense – which I know bugs the hell out of some of you but doesn’t bother me too much. In fact I just had to look at my copy again to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. Yup, first person, present tense, and still very easy to re-enter. I think it’s the quality of the main character, Tina, that makes the narrative so welcoming.
There is a level of kindness and warmth baked into this story, and I’m having a difficult time explaining it. Any time I thought something could potentially turn ugly or cruel, it didn’t. Problems are solved with compassion and ordinary adulting, and I appreciated that. The poignancy comes from Tina’s experiences, but not because all her experiences are cruel and negative.
It’s hard to grade a story where I really liked the characters, and I really liked the portrayal of friendship, but the romance itself wasn’t as strong. I wish there had been a little more of everything that happened between Tina and Joe. They go from meeting to intense connection and frank intimacy to emotional complications very quickly, and I think part of my lack of engagement was the lack of development of Joe. This is very much Tina’s story, and Joe isn’t as vivid. I didn’t always buy the romance between Tina and Joe as a result.
As I said, this is difficult to grade. I loved the time I spent in the world of this story, with Tina and with Ben and with the roller derby team. I loved the way the friendships were written, most especially Tina’s deep friendship with herself. I wish there had been more to the romantic aspects and to the conflicts between Joe and Tina, which aren’t very compelling, but I still have a happy post-reading smile and feelings of affection for this book.