The Rec League: Virgin Heroes

Jul. 27th, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by Amanda

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookI was shocked – SHOCKED – when Reader Jessica left a comment about virgin hero recommendations and my deep dive through the SBTB archives turned up nothing.

Of course, there are some obvious choices and probably a handful of lists on Goodreads, but personal recommendations of books you’ve loved and why go much further, don’t you think?

Redheadedgirl: There’s a virgin hero in one of the stories in the Rogue Desire anthology ( A | BN | K | G ).

Amanda: Also…the anthology is currently 99c. Just thought you all wanted to know.

Elyse: When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James ( A | BN | K | G | iB )

Amanda: I don’t think I know of any virgin heroes, but I’ve read a few sexually inexperience heroes that I really loved. The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) has a man-bunned, NFL hero who has never had penetrative vaginal sex. His first sexual experience was traumatic for him, so trigger warning for that.

There’s also Ripped by Edie Harris ( A | K | G | iB ). The hero (if I recall) has only had sex once. He’s a grumpy lawyer and the heroine is a British assassin.

I know you have virgin hero recommendations! Let us have ’em!

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

C

The Distance from A to Z

by Natalie Blitt
January 12, 2016 · HarperTeen
RomanceYoung Adult

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by PamG. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book, YA Romance category.

The summary:

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.

Here is PamG's review:

I am not a big fan of YA. Oh, the books are fine, but as a genre label, YA is meaningless. Meant as a marketing ploy, I think this faux genre is just an excuse for lit snobs to be dismissive of some of the truly magnificent literature for young people. Unfortunately, The Distance from A to Z would not provide a great argument against the genre label. It’s totally YA.

Abby is the storyteller of Distance. She’s going into senior year in her Chicago high school and is spending her summer at a college in New Hampshire where she’ll be taking an intensive eight week course in intermediate French. Abby adores the French language as passionately as she hates all things baseball. Her family are baseball maniacs (Cubs fans), but she has long since eschewed the masochism for the joys of French. Needless to say, she meets the requisite cute guy on day one and is revolted by his baseball shirt and cap. The rest of him, on the other hand, is pretty damned pretty, from the golden curls peeking out from under the hat to the hot athletic bod beneath. Nice to know sports are good for something.

Zeke (get it, get it?) is also taking the intermediate French course, much to Abby’s surprise. What’s more, he’s better at it than she is. As the only two high school students in the course, the two of them are forced to work as partners and frequently find themselves in proximity almost as close as a mountain cabin in winter. Abby pre-judges Zeke based on his athletic wear and he doesn’t hesitate to call her on it. Their subsequent exchanges are pretty entertaining.

Aside from Abby and Zeke, the most developed character is Alice, Abby’s roommate. Alice is a talented and superbly disciplined poet, who is taking an intensive poetry seminar. She entrances Abby from their first encounter.

She’s using a fountain pen.

I think I’m in love.

“Sec,” she whispers, more to herself than me.

I’ve found my spirit animal.

I know this moment for her like it’s mine. I know the feeling of being so deeply invested in something that the idea of forcing yourself out feels like a tooth extraction. Like the tight grip of a book you don’t want to put down.

Alice suffers from a fairly severe anxiety disorder. Abby adores her on sight, but still needs to be schooled in how to respond to Alice’s anxiety issues. Actually I kind of adored her on sight myself. Within her comfort zone, she totally kicks ass. More on this later.

I had problems with both Abby and Zeke. That’s probably why Alice seemed so refreshing. She was more mature than any of the other characters. Perhaps part of my problem with A & Z is that they do act like total teenagers. Abby narrates so we get her point of view much more than Zeke’s. Done well, I like first person POV and I think it can convey quite a lot about other characters. Unfortunately, the inside of teen’s head may be a little too self-absorbed to convey those telling details about the people surrounding her. Of course Abby’s single minded focus makes her interesting but also annoying. Loving French language and culture is appealing, but her loathing for baseball gets old. Once she loved it, but too many people have let her down over baseball. So–boom!–she hates it, my preshussss. She develops a bit of self awareness later in the book, but maturation should be a process, not a revelation in the last couple of chapters. At one point someone calls her mean, and she’s all “Who? Me?” And she isn’t mean. What she is is thoughtless. See “self-absorbed” above.

Abby is attracted to Zeke, but as they work together she begins to separate his personality into two distinct Zekes. There is French speaking Zeke who is quite delightful and whom she really begins to care for, and English speaking Zeke who’s kind of a major toque de derrière. Much of Abby’s narrative consists of her internal dithering about which is the real Zeke and do they have any sort of chance as a couple. This waffling got extremely tedious. Of course, Zeke has a Big Secret which later explains his dual personality, though in less detail than is warranted by his hot and cold running behavior. Trouble is, his big secret is so blatantly obvious to the reader that the big reveal makes your eyes roll like a ground ball on a T-ball field. So what is Zeke’s peculiar behavior?

Possible Spoiler
He has some physical issues that he won’t talk about. He’s addicted to his phone and keeps his conversations extremely private. He makes mysterious trips into Boston on a regular basis. He slowly unveils the reasons for some of these things, so when it’s finally revealed, you just want to go “Oh, puleeze.”

However, none of this explains why Zeke is so frequently spotted with girls hanging off of him. Abby tends to be mildly shut shamey in her response to college girls Stephie and Chloe, rather than putting the blame where it belongs, squarely on Zekey. One of my favorite scenes, featuring Alice, takes place when both girls are in their dorm room and Stephie is using her feminine wiles on Zeke in the hall right outside their door.

“Oh yes,” she whispers, her voice all breathy. Though unfortunately for me and Alice, the fact that she’s directly in front of our door means that even if she was in our room we couldn’t possibly hear them more clearly.

“Please kill me, ” I mouth to Alice, conscious that if we can hear them from in here, they can hear us from out there.

“Your Zeke?” she mouths.

I think of shaking my head because there’s no my Zeke, but that seems like splitting hairs.

Alice presses her lips together and then opens them wide. “Abby!” she shouts. “I’m not going to hang out in the common room and wait for you guys to finish making out. I want to go to sleep, and I’d rather be able to do it without listening to you guys suck face all night.”

Her speech is so shocking, from the lie to the fact that it’s Alice bellowing it out, that I don’t even think to stop her until she’s looking at me triumphantly.

“And I can’t believe you guys are watching that movie together . I mean, get a room. Not my room. A room where you can be alone.”

“Alice!” I squeak, not knowing whether to high-five her or slap my hand over her mouth.

“Rawr”, I hear Cloy Voice say, which makes me want to go out there and pull her off of Zeke. Because what kind of girl says rawr in real life?”

“C’mon, we should get out of here,” Zeke says, and he doesn’t sound nearly as flirty and happy as he did before.

And suddenly I’m quite sure that as utterly humiliating as Alice’s speech was, high-fiving her wasn’t nearly enough to thank her.

So I tackle-hug her instead.

I got a kick out of this scene and there were others I really enjoyed.

However, one in particular I absolutely hated. In one of her off-again phases with Zeke, Abby decides to go out with some of the other kids in the program, most of whom are college age. Since she’s feeling defiant, she accepts drinks from a seemingly bottomless flask that gets passed around. Unsurprisingly, she gets falling down drunk and Zeke finds her with some clown’s hand on her thigh and rescues her. My problem with the scene is that it’s completely gratuitous, adds nothing to the story except to give Zeke an opportunity to “rescue” Abby. This scene and A’s inability to figure out Z’s Big Secret pushed her into TSTL territory a couple of times. Then when she did discover Zeke’s secret, she reacts explosively–as one does–and accuses him of lying to her. Didn’t happen. True, he didn’t tell her. For reasons. But he didn’t lie. Yes, there’s that whole omission thing, but I felt she accused him of lying to ramp up the drama and justify her extreme reaction. Earlier in the story, she was devastated because Zeke called their first kiss a “mistake” when in point of fact, she interpreted what he said as mistake. As written, he didn’t actually say that. Be pissed, but be pissed about what happens.

Needless to say, our young lovers achieve their HEA which, considering that they are high school students, one based in Chicago and one in San Diego, is more of an HFN, Unfortunately, by the end of the book, I didn’t have the energy to really care any more. Hence, the C grade. Might have been C+ if I were sixteen. (I didn’t like baseball either.)


The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt received a D in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

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Posted by Amanda

Workspace with computer, journal, books, coffee, and glasses.It’s Wednesday Links time! Which is news to me, because it certainly doesn’t feel like a Wednesday. RWA 2017 is kicking off in Orlando. If you’re attending, make sure you say hello to Sarah who is also there!

A GoFundMe campaign is underway to turn Beverly Jenkins’ Deadly Sexy into a feature film:

The making of Deadly Sexy is a significant step for all authors. It will give hope to those who dream of having their book made into a film. It also open doors of opportunity for actors and crew members who desire a chance to show their skills during the production. It also gives independent film makers a chance to show the advancement of our products to the masses.

Jenkins is also receiving the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award this year!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was  a previous SBTB Book Club pick and now it’s being made into a movie!

 


Battery chargers!

Every few months a bigger, better, and lighter weight battery charger comes out. At this point I have 3 in various sizes—lipstick sized, 6.5oz, and the 12.5oz, which lives in our travel bag. I can recharge my kids' DS, tablets, my phone, etc, before it runs out of charge. - SW


Leah of The Ripped Bodice made an appearance on the TV game show Hollywood Game Night. You can check out her appearance here.

Thanks to Reader Suzanne for letting us know about this Gothic romance comic anthology on Kickstarter. Here’s what she said:

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, a new comics anthology currently funding on Kickstarter, is updating the gothic romance genre with tales that are diverse and not-rapey, but still dark and spooky. The full-color book will contain 200 pages of new comics, some licensed Lou Marchetti prints (he’s the guy who did all those MM paperback covers), and a Korean gothic comic from the 70’s. You can find more about the anthology, the creators, and lots of sample art over at their Kickstarter page.

All right, who’s interested?

Lastly, I recently watched this trailer for Bright. It’s an urban fantasy movie coming to Netflix on December 22. It starts Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and Lucy Fry. After watching it, some say it’d work better as a series and I’m inclined to agree, but it still looks pretty damn fun.

Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!

Don’t miss a thing with Daily SBTB updates!

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Historical Romances on Sale!

Jul. 26th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

The Infamous Heir

The Infamous Heir by Elizabeth Michels is 99c! This is book one in the Spare Heirs series. It features a prize-fighting hero who suddenly takes over his brother’s title of nobility. Readers wanted more chemistry between the hero and heroine, but many really loved the hero. I mean, based on the book’s description, who wouldn’t?

The Spare Heirs Society Cordially Invites You to Meet Ethan Moore: The Scoundrel

Lady Roselyn Grey’s debut has finally arrived, and of course, she has every flounce and flutter planned. She’ll wear the perfect gowns and marry the perfect gentleman…that is, if the formerly disinherited brother of the man she intends to marry doesn’t ruin everything first.

Ethan Moore is a prize-fighting second son and proud founding member of the Spare Heirs Society-and that’s all he ever should have been. But, in an instant, his brother’s noble title is his, the eyes of the ton are upon him, and the lady he’s loved for years would rather meet him in the boxing ring than the ballroom.

He’s faced worse. With the help of his Spare Heirs brotherhood, Ethan’s certain he can get to the bottom of his brother’s unexpected demise and win the impossible lady who has haunted his dreams for as long as he can remember…

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

More Than a Stranger

More Than a Stranger by Erin Knightley is $2.99! This historical romance is the first book in the Sealed With a Kiss series. It features a friends to lovers, off limits romance. There is a mystery element to the romance. Some enjoyed it, while others felt it didn’t work as well.

When his family abandoned him at Eton, Benedict Hastings found an unexpected ally in his best friend’s sister. Her letters kept him going—until the day he had to leave everything behind. Years later, Benedict has seen his share of betrayal, but when treachery hits close to home, he turns to his old friend for safe haven….

After five torturous years on the marriage circuit, Lady Evelyn Moore is finally free to live her life as she wishes. So when her brother shows up with a dashing stranger, she finds herself torn between her dreams…and newfound desires. Despite his determination to keep Evie at a distance, Benedict cannot deny the attraction that began with a secret correspondence. Yet as they begin to discover one another, the dangers of Benedict’s world find them, threatening their lives, their love, and everything they thought they could never have…

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

Taming a Wild Scot

Taming a Wild Scot by Rowan Keats is $2.99! This is the first book in the Claimed by the Highlander series. Readers really liked the healer heroine, but other readers wanted more chemistry between the hero and heroine. Have you read this one?

In the Highlands of Scotland, plays for power are fought without rules, treachery and intrigue hold court, and, in one woman’s heart, danger stirs as relentlessly as passion…

Wrongfully accused of murder and left to die in a hellish Highland dungeon, Ana Bisset has lost all hope of freedom. But the beautiful healer’s luck takes an unexpected turn when a hooded stranger appears as her rescuer. After a harrowing escape, Ana settles alone in a quiet village where no one knows her past or her reputation. The last thing she ever expects is to meet her mysterious savior again…

Niall MacCurran is no hero, but a warrior on a dangerous mission to expose a threat to the realm. After his decision to free Ana, he now realizes that it is he who needs her help—willing or no—to advance his quest. But his growing feelings for the delicate yet resilient beauty soon jeopardize their safety—and not even Ana’s healing gifts may be enough to protect their love, or their lives.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

Earls Just Want to Have Fun

Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen is 99c! This was a 2016 RITA nominee and the first book in the Convent Garden Cubs series. Some readers found the plot and characterization a little improbable, while other readers said the romance had a good balance of light moments and darker emotions. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads.

His heart may be the last thing she ever steals…

Marlowe is a pickpocket, a housebreaker-and a better actress than any professional on the stage. She runs with the Covent Garden Cubs, a gang of thieves living in the slums of London’s Seven Dials. It’s a fierce life, and Marlowe has a hard outer shell. But when she’s alone, she allows herself to think of a time before-a dimly remembered life when she was called Elizabeth.

Maxwell, Lord Dane, is intrigued when his brother, a hired investigator, ropes him into his investigation of the fiercely beautiful hellion. He teaches her to navigate the social morass of the ton, but Marlowe will not escape so easily. Instead, Dane is drawn into her dangerous world, where the student becomes the teacher and love is the greatest risk of all.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

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Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

What do you do if your significant other thinks that you will go no where with your dream?

My boyfriend is a well known, local photographer. He does mainly fashion photo-shoots and is honestly, very talented at what he does.

I’m newly, discovering modeling. I had tried it before when I was younger; but, it didn’t workout since I had acne. I didn’t get my face cleared until I was almost 30 (ancient in modeling years). But I enjoy my hobby. I have discovered this new passion of mine. Walking on the runway feels great and I get a lot of compliments on my walk! People want to book me for shows, work with me in photos and I even try their new designs! Its very exciting.

I even came up with a concept for a photo-shoot. I made a head-piece, found a makeup artist, made sure to communicate how I want the lighting and am going to see my idea come into fruition. I would have never believed, I could bring that many people together to make an image. But, I can!

It all sounds great… but, my boyfriend doesn’t believe I’ll go anywhere. He’s made so many comments about the photos we’ve done together. He’s literally told me, “You’re not Naomi Campbell,” and he’s even tried to hide a photo-shoot he was doing with a couple of models from California… saying, “You would only be jealous of their careers.” And then invited me to hold the lights.

I have no idea what to do. I told him, I’m not jealous of anyone, but the fact that he got nervous about telling me was odd. I honestly, thought it was because he was going to flirt with them; not because “You’ll be jealous of their careers.”

I’m not sure where he would get a comment like that in the first place? And I’m tired of him trying to put me down with his harsh criticism. He told me, he would say things like that, because he works in a an industry where its normal for people to say those things… However, he’s had a TON of other photo-shoots and has never told anyone else these things? I guess, I don’t understand.

I know, he doesn’t believe I will walk in New York Fashion Week. He’s reminded me that I’m 5’7″, on a daily basis, saying he’s just giving me a “Realistic perspective.” But I never asked him. I also, didn’t even have that as a goal… I just, honestly like what I’m doing. Its inspired me to create things, to try new adventures and meet new people.

My heart is kind of broken because he’s the one person, I thought, would believe in me. Or at least, be proud of me…. instead, all I get is “You’re not Naomi Campbell.”

I told him he could no longer take my photos. We can no longer work together. And I have no time to doubt myself. I work a full-time day job. I have shows booked until November and I want to plan more things! There should be no time wasted on being self-conscious.

We have talked about this issue a lot over the last few days and we worked out some resolutions we are both happy with; along with boundaries of not working together anymore…

But there is still this pain, knowing that he doesn’t believe I can do this. I tell myself, I never needed anyone before, why would I still want his approval?

What should I do?

Half of me, thinks that we can still be together despite this. Because I am quite old, it’s too late to walk the New York runways. I wouldn’t even qualify for them at my height. He has a point…

But there is that other part of me, that still wants to continue. That never wants to place a ceiling on my passion… And that part, is extremely hurt, the love of my life wants to give me a “reality check.”

Thanks in Advance,

The Independent Model

Dear Independent Model,

If you want to talk “reality checks” I checked with Reality and it said “Hey, you’re already a model!”

You’re already a model. You are creating photo shoots. You are walking runways. You are being booked for work. You are already doing it. You have a gorgeous attitude about the work and the adventure of meeting new people and making beautiful images. You have me kind of dying to see your photos because you sound so positive and cool and I want to see the face of the person who makes me feel this excited reading about her work! Just from your letter I can tell that you are stunning and striking and that people want to be around you.

Your boyfriend is right about what people sometimes say about and to models in the fashion industry. In a student film I made long ago there is a scene where two women pick apart the appearance of a third (the scene starts around 5:40). The actresses who play the stylists both worked as models a lot and their dialogue was improvised 100% out of things people have said to them in real life. They were expected to stand there and not react because “professionalism.” It’s shitty and hurtful and objectifying, and just because it happens in real life doesn’t mean you have to internalize and live it like it’s the truest thing about you. And it doesn’t mean that your boyfriend has to contribute to it, to participate in it. Is this how he talks to all the models he knows? Or does he save it all for you, the woman he supposedly loves? Either way, misogyny and cruelty are not a good look, dude.

It’s okay to not collaborate with your romantic parter even if you are in the same field. It’s actually smart to put boundaries around that sometimes. I need my husband and I to to love each other even if we never make another movie or write another word, or even if we make stuff that’s terrible. If the relationship only goes well when the work goes well, then there’s a fear that if the work goes badly it will make the relationship go badly. So, it’s okay to decide not to cross the streams of work and also smart for you to seek out other photographers. That’s not even the problem here.

The problem is that I think his comments about you being jealous of other people’s careers are him projecting all over the place. He’s jealous of other photographers and their careers. He’s jealous of you, for launching into the space he thought was his alone, the space where he has authority and gets to pretend he’s a gatekeeper of some sort, the space where he thought his giant lens gave him power to decide what’s beautiful enough. He’s jealous of you for blowing the doors off the illusion that he’s some sort of tastemaker. He’s jealous of you for not accepting what he thought were the rules of your industry. He’s jealous of you because you’ve already surpassed his expectations and he can tell that you are about to surpass him. He’s jealous of you because you’re not jealous when he works with other models, and it would be cool if that made you sort of jealous, because it would make him feel powerful. He’s jealous of you for being braver than he is, and instead of sitting with that discomfort and deciding, whoa, my girlfriend is AWESOME, he’s chosen the path of “Well, don’t get your hopes up, babe.

Go ahead and get your hopes up, lovely Letter Writer. Get your hopes up about creating new work and expressing yourself and enjoying what you do for as long as you want to do it. And get your hopes all the way up about finding a partner who will celebrate you and believe in you. Your boyfriend is not that guy. He is a small man with a limited vision and a smaller heart. You, on the other hand, are a g.d. Valkyrie. It’s never going to work, I’m sorry. You’ll never be able to make yourself small enough to fit into the box he thinks is marked “girlfriend.” You’ve already outgrown it, and him.

Break up. Be sad for a while. Keep going with your dream. Keep doing your work. The world holds all the “reality checks” and rejection and doubt and failure any of us will ever need. We don’t actually need any of that from people who say they love us.

Edited to Add Because I Like Visual Aids:

This is the incomparable Stanley Tucci playing Paul Child, Julia Child’s husband in the movie Julie & Julia. He’s looking at his wife, who found her passion quite late in life. He’s wearing a giant heart on his jacket and toasting her at a Valentine’s Day celebration. Look at how he looks at her:

stanleytucci

Image description: Stanley Tucci as Paul Child in Julie & Julia. He’s wearing glasses and a groovy striped tie and a paper heart pinned to his jacket and holding a glass of champagne and his eyes are full of love and pride.

THAT’S how we look at the people we love when they shine at doing the thing they love. Like we might explode from how proud and excited we are. Imagine this guy saying “I don’t know, television’s a really hard field, and you’re no Grace Kelly.” Imagine the world where he said that and where Julia let that stop her. Who wants to live in that shitty world? Not me. Not you. Not ever.

 


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Posted by Guest Reviewer

Squee

Strawberry Summer

by Melissa Brayden
April 18, 2017 · Bold Stroke Books
RomanceContemporary RomanceYoung Adult

NB: Please welcome Tara Scot with another squee-worthy review! Check out her previous squees of The Liberators of Willow Run and Courting the Countess.

Tara reads a lot of lesbian romances. You can catch her regularly reviewing at The Lesbian Review and Curve Magazine and hear her talk about lesbian fiction (including romance) on her podcast Les Do Books. You can also hit her up for recommendations on Twitter (@taramdscott).

If you were to ask me for a good place to start reading lesbian romance, Melissa Brayden would be at or near the top of my list. With almost 10 novels and novellas, her backlist is totally glommable without being daunting, and it’s full of fun, flirty dialogue, amazing kissing, and just enough angst to keep things interesting. Her book Kiss the Girl has been one of my very favourite romances since it came out a few years ago, and her latest offering, Strawberry Summer, is so damn good that it blows that whole backlist out of the water.

Margaret Beringer is so not one of the cool kids in her high school. If she can just stay unnoticed by her classmates and make it a few more weeks until summer break, she’ll only have one year left before she can take off for college. Courtney Carrington comes to her history class for the first time just as Margaret is about to give a presentation (the most terrifying of endeavors for a kid striving for invisibility) and somehow notices her. Courtney doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal to jump the popularity divide between Margaret and her classmates, and never cares that Margaret’s a farm kid and not one of the elite.

Courtney is quickly moved back out of town by her mother before she and Margaret can do more than kiss, but she gives her the parting gift of the new name, Maggie, and the promise of friendship with some of those previously unreachable classmates. When Courtney comes back the next summer, their chemistry is stronger than ever and they fall into a relationship so beautiful that it manages to survive each year as they part for separate colleges, only to meet up again in the summers. But their breakup and its circumstances leave Maggie closed off, with scars that she isn’t willing to examine too closely as she trudges ahead with the rest of her life. Five years later, the last thing she expects or wants is to see Courtney back in Tanner Peak, especially when it turns out that there’s something still there—no matter how hard she tries to push those feelings aside.

Strawberry Summer is told in the first person from Maggie’s perspective, which I know isn’t everyone’s favourite, but is a perfect narrative choice for this book. When Maggie and Courtney are in high school, it feels like a YA story. When they’re in their college years, it feels like a new adult romance with all the sexiness and freshness of young love that can be expected from that genre. And when they reunite for that second chance in their late twenties, it feels like a contemporary romance between two fully formed adults. And yet, because Maggie is guiding us through all of it, the story never feels disjointed. We’re just seeing the style adjust naturally alongside Maggie as she matures and grows from that lonely, awkward girl to the successful, confident, and eventually even happy woman she becomes. The only drawback is that we never get Courtney’s perspective and everything she does is interpreted through Maggie’s eyes. Even that didn’t bother me too much because Courtney is demonstrative and shares enough of what she’s thinking and feeling that we can have a complete idea of who she is as a person and a partner.

Second chance romances are also a bit of a mixed bag for me, especially when we’re taken all the way through the original romance. I find them to be much angstier than many other romances, often even unpleasant, because the whole point is to join a couple as they reunite after a painful separation and a whole bunch of time apart. Knowing all of that, I kind of went into this book with a hand over my eyes and that turned out to be totally unnecessary. The second chance aspect worked for me because, when those painful circumstances happened, they didn’t feel gratuitous and they made sense. Being taken from first meeting to friendship to lovers to breakup to reuniting and (finally!) makeup isn’t just about the romance between Maggie and Courtney. It’s also about them coming of age, figuring out who they are as adults, and becoming those people in a way that makes sense for themselves, rather than each molding to become the right person for the other.

Strawberry Summer is the perfect book to pick up as we’re looking forward to the longer, hotter days ahead. It’s a tribute to first love and soulmates and growing into the person you’re meant to be. I feel like I say this each time I read a new Melissa Brayden offering, but I loved this book so much that I cannot wait to see what she delivers next. This is a book I will read over and over again, enjoying each stage of their lives just as much every time.

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Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

Recently, my husband and I have been talking about taking a step to be more open in our relationship. We had made attempts to do this before, but we sort of jumped in without enough discussion and then had to pull back because if something hadn’t been explicitly outlined for him as being okay, his default was that it was and he would be willing to soldier forward regardless. It was a little more of a “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” kind of a situation and I kiboshed that because I need boundaries to feel secure. Anyway, we have been talking and talking and talking and someone sparked his interest and so we talked about baby-stepping our way back into this situation with much clearer boundaries and I felt totally okay with it – until recently.

So this woman, I will call her Pandora, came over to our house for dinner and things were fine until she and my husband started to have some weird and ambiguous conversation about an appointment she had the next morning bright and early. This goes on for a while, so finally I was like “Hey! I’m in the room and I feel like you’re having a conversation around me and it is making me uncomfortable! What are you talking about?”, at which point, Pandora goes “Oh well I have a lot of drama going on in my life right now and it is just best that I keep some things vaulted.” Which like, okay, but then also don’t vaguely drama dump in front of me in my living room.
Anyway, she left and then my husband goes “You want to know what that was about?” and I said “yes!” because of course I do when baited with juicy morsels of gossip. Well it turns out that Pandora has been fooling around with this one particular couple when they do MDMA and now has started hooking up with the dude half of the couple without the woman’s knowledge. In fact, the appointment she kept referring to was a six am visit from this dude, who was going to hook up her secretly on his way to work.

For context, this info was dropped on me at close to 2 in the morning and I had work the next day, so I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I spent the whole next day thinking about it and it seriously made me annoyed and upset. Like do I think her morning secret hookup dude takes a large share of the blame for stepping outside his primary relationship as he is the committed person? Yes. But it genuinely bothers me that she was intimate with this woman, knew exactly what the woman’s boundaries were and what the boundaries within the primary relationship were, and then decided to go there anyway. To me, sex isn’t just something that happens, it’s something that you choose to make happen and they chose against the wishes of the other person involved which is sketchy as fuck. That to me shows a huge sign of disrespect and I told my husband that it really made me upset and uncomfortable to bring this person into our lives in an intimate way. My reasoning was that if she is so willing to do this to someone she has had sex with, I don’t see what would stop her from doing the same to me, a casual acquaintance.

At this point, he says that they have had multiple boundary talks and she has assured him this won’t be an issue to which I think my exact response was COME ON, MAN! Also, during this conversation, he insisted on trying to contextualize her decision in her other relationship by saying things like “We have no idea what that other primary relationship is like!” and then he also bomb-dropped that this couple is very close friends with some other very good friends of mine, so I can’t talk to them about this because they could probably figure out who I was talking about via context clues, and he said that I can’t tell Pandora I know because she made him promise not to tell anyone and it would implode his friendship with her if she found out she broke his promise as she would be really embarrassed. I again told him that if she is sneaking around with this dude, whatever the current status of the other primary relationship is, they know it is not kosher and that it actually really bothers me that this early in the game she told him to keep secrets from me which, I think, are important contextually. Also, I seriously can’t help but wonder about not only the emotional healthiness of this situation, but the physical health as well. Like I can’t really imagine a situation where she’s like “Yeah, the guy I am also seeing is sneaking around behind his partner’s back and is kind of a cheating scumbag, but he’s really fucking diligent with condoms!”?

Anyway, I told him I am not comfortable with him taking things any further with her in light of these things and he responded by saying that he feels like she has explained things to him to his satisfaction and that because he has self-control and he is a good judge of character that he thinks that should be satisfactory in in this situation. If I have concerns about this situation, instead of unfairly shutting it down and taking this away from him, I should trust him, or, I am still feeling uncertain, I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries, however I would have to do so without mentioning I know about her cheating scenario.

This whole situation bums me the fuck out because I feel like Pandora soiled all of it with her bad relationship mojo. I mean I am not against him seeing someone else – that’s totally fine with someone who is honest and above board with all sexual partners! -I am against this particular boundary breaking person and he keeps harping on the fact that they have an emotional connection and I am taking this away from him even though things haven’t gotten fully physical between them yet.

So I guess my question is – what the fuck do I do here? At the end of our last conversation, I agreed that we would put a pin in things on that front right now, but like, with the way things are now, I cannot imagine what scenario would ever make me feel comfortable enough to pull the pin out. (Maybe if she broke things off with the downlow dude and stopped pulling sketchy shit?) I mean how can I possibly trust this person? I feel seriously backed into a corner here.

Yours sincerely,
Sick Of Dealing With Pandora’s Box

Dear Sick of Dealing,

You feel backed into a corner because you have been backed into a corner.

You confronted the weird behavior at that awful-sounding dinner party, you trusted your (excellent) instincts and gathered your thoughts and then told your husband “Hey, Pandora is telling you who she is, which is someone who does not honor agreements around sex. I am not cool with that!” You have not been vague or unclear or unreasonable. You have been a rock star of boundaries and keen observations about the likelihood of emotional fallout and poor condom diligence.

Is there a version of ethical fun cool open relationships that allows for you to say this?

Look, I deeply dislike Pandora and from what I’ve seen she is a shitty friend, lover, and dinner guest. I wouldn’t trust her to water my plants when I’m out of town or drop a letter in the mail on her way to the bus stop. My strong preference is that she is nowhere near our lives from this moment onward. But clearly you want to fuck this person real bad, so please go get it out of your system with a minimum of fuss, a maximum of safer sex precautions, and zero amount of making me sit through dinner with her ever again or pretending that this is okay with me.

(I imagine you wearing something kind of awesome and dark and voluminous and sweeping dramatically out of the room after delivering this speech. Your eye makeup – if you wear eye makeup – has never looked more perfect than at this moment.)

No?

I like your script better: “COME ON, MAN!”

“BE SERIOUS, BRO.”

Pandora’s “Oh, my private dramatic secret jokes are definitely not designed to make you feel like a weird date-crasher in your own house, teehee, why would you think that?” game at dinner at your place was a classic Mean Girl power move. She cast her and your husband as a sexy team with sexy secrets and you as the one prying into “the vault.” Fun!

Unfortunately for you, your husband the one who is like “Yeah, but her boundaries are good enough for my emotional connection with her my deep desire to have sex with someone I know is probably terrible (but also have you still be cool about this.)” He knew exactly what she was doing with this other couple before that awkward dinner and he still tried to make Pandora happen in your life. He also told you her secret (good, not great, but better than lying more) but now expects you (?) to keep that secret (?) so Pandora won’t be mad at him for telling it(?) and for you (?) to also somehow confront her (?) about her poor boundaries in a way that will make the situation all cool so he can sleep with her?

Am I parsing this correctly? And there was something something about him “being a good judge of character?” Except he brought the “Heyyyyyyyy, I make agreements with people about sex and then break them when it suits me!” lady to your house? And he thinks there is a way forward here?

If you veto Pandora I predict they will either be secretly fucking before the clock strikes August or he will heroically not fuck her while reminding you of his enormous, heroic (so heroic) sacrifice weekly for the rest of 2017. Fun!

I guess my questions are:

  • What’s appealing about trying an open relationship again, right now, with this guy, for you?

That was gonna be a list but actually that’s my whole question. What’s in this whole situation for you? Pandora is clearly looking out for Pandora, so who is looking out for your heart and your comfort level and your health and your right to have informed consent? Who is treating your feelings and (excellent, fully-functioning) instincts with importance and care? Right now it kinda sounds like “Mostly just you” and that sounds…well…the word “lonely” comes to mind.


Prompt for 2017-07-26

Jul. 26th, 2017 12:35 pm
sacredporn: Kris Allen icon made by Sacred Porn (Default)
[personal profile] sacredporn posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "heat wave".

Three Sweet Nothings by Nikki Sloane

Jul. 25th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Guest Reviewer

F

Three Sweet Nothings

by Nikki Sloane
December 12, 2016 · Shady Creek Publishing
GLBTRomanceContemporary Romance

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Nerdalisque. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.

The summary:

Five years ago, we’d been together and on fire, but the flames burned us both. Now she’s back in my life and is all my wildest fantasies in the flesh.

I want her. The desire is too powerful to argue against, but I’m not interested in what we had. This is an arrangement about pleasure and finding out who we are behind closed doors. There won’t be talk of love or any sweet nothings whispered by either of us.

This time, I’ll control the heat between us and make sure neither of our hearts get too close to the flames.

Here is Nerdalisque's review:

Three Sweet Nothings opens with Kyle getting himself off to a memory of his ex, Ruby (because she’s SO much better than porn). Specifically, he’s recalling a time when he and drunk Ruby fooled around with another girl. This has been his go-to image for five years since their ugly breakup. And based on this single memory, Kyle is absolutely certain that “a filthy freak hid behind that deceptive, good girl front.” (Yes, Ruby’s curious about kink, but thinks her interest is “dirty” and “wrong.”)

Lo and behold, Kyle and Ruby, both lawyers, end up on opposite sides of a high-profile divorce case. She’s still angry with him, and crashes a New Year’s Eve party to confront him. They go off to the hotel’s rooftop pool to talk. Turns out, if they had just used their words five years ago, they wouldn’t have wasted all that energy hating each other. So, Ruby – who’s just “slammed” some wine (#drinking again) – decides to kiss Kyle. Like you do. And (surprise), they end up (fully clothed) in the pool having rough sex and the best orgasms EVER!!!

A few days later, wannabe Dom Kyle contacts Ruby and uses sex to manipulate her into signing a contract agreeing to a purely sexual relationship – no love, no emotions. Because that always works. The rest of the book is them having various kinds of porny sex in various places with various props and even another couple (*gasp*). Then there’s another misunderstanding because they fail to use their words again. But, twue wuv prevails and there’s an HEA. Sort of.

(BTW, there may have been some character growth, but honestly, I didn’t care enough to pay that close attention.)

This book didn’t work for me for a number of reasons. First, it’s written in alternating first-person POV. Not only does that make it all tell, not show, but I didn’t like the characters’ voices. For example, Ruby, at one of her meetings with Kyle, thinks: “A handshake? For real? I gave his dick a handshake with my vagina just a week ago.” Ew.

Second, Kyle, is a conceited, manipulative alpha-hole with a big red flag in his history. In the five years post-Ruby, he’s had a relationship with one woman – his boss. When he tried some do-it-yourself bondage with her, she freaked out about his “stupid fetish.” She wanted a commitment, and when he turned her down, she black-balled him. Kyle then did something to retaliate (just what isn’t spelled out) that was bad enough that she paid him “hush money,” and he left the city. Um, what? Worst of all, he won’t tell Ruby the whole story. And that is just one example of a third, and major, problem – their lack of honesty. Both of them enter into the sex-only partnership because they want to make the other fall (back) in love with them. That’s especially ironic because the only contract clause Ruby insists on adding is “Total honesty between partners.”

I could go on and on about other problems. They forego using condoms based only on each other’s word that they’re clean. Kyle uses his finger for “full-out [anal] fucking” without any lube. There’s some laughable writing: “violated with frigid winter air,” “the song of my approaching orgasm” (#lolololol). An offensive overuse of ellipses, e.g., “It was . . . erotic” (#facepalm) “She unleased [sic] all these . . . feelings.” (#lmfao) Like so many other things in this book, it was . . . annoying.

So let’s get to the sex. Kyle’s idea of being dominant is doing what he wants all the time – because, of course, he knows what Ruby needs (not “likes,” but needs). For example, when they’re in the pool – their first time together after not speaking for five years – he spanks her in a way he calls “aggressive and backed by a dark desire to punish.” Wow. That’s not healthy. Granted, Ruby apparently likes it, because she tells him to do it again, but he did NOT have her consent.

Again, shortly after Ruby has specifically said, “No thank you. I’m not interested in your partnership offer,” this happens:

I was spun around before I understood what was happening.

My hands flew out and I braced myself on the desktop as he bent me over with a shove. “What are you –“

He was faster than lightning. The sides of my skirt were jerked up over my hips . . .

I tried to right myself and push the skirt down, but . . . his open palm smacked hard against my ass.

I just . . . No. She was trying to stop him. And just because his fingers and dick are magic, and she ends up having an orgasm, that doesn’t make it okay.

If two people have spent five years hating each other, even if they still have pants feelings, they shouldn’t play at D/s. Especially if they haven’t communicated beyond filling out a checklist of things they’d like to try. (Kyle: “Dear God, please check anal.” #eyeroll) (BTW, Kyle lies when he fills his list out.) Supposedly Kyle gets a crash course from an experienced Dom, but it happens off the page. Since Ruby is conflicted about her desires, wouldn’t it have been good for her to talk to a sub? Maybe then she’d have known that the moment before someone penetrates you anally isn’t actually when you should decide on your safe word.

Obviously, this book didn’t work for me. I would have DNF’d it if I hadn’t signed up to review it. (I kind of did anyway, because I skimmed the last few chapters.) But I paid enough attention to identify its problems, some of which – issues of consent, the depiction of a “dominant” male – were really troubling.

I have to give it . . . an F.


Three Sweet Nothings by Nikki Sloane received a B- in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

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Posted by Elyse

Elyse Watches The Bachelorette with Kraken Rum and Coke with a big rose at the bottomToday’s delayed recap is brought to you by Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia: because pain doesn’t care that you have shit to do.

I actually slept though The Bachelorette last night, but I’ve got it DVR’d and I’m home today with a giant-ass coffee and muscle relaxers.

You think me recapping while drunk was interesting–just wait till the meds kick in.

A woman drinks out of a giant cup of coffee--like bigger than her head

We’re down to three men: Eric, Bryan and Peter. Last week Rachel met everyone’s family, Dean went through the pain of meeting his estranged father on camera after two years separation, and then Rachel let him go.

Last week was pretty fucking depressing.

I’m hoping this week is full of WTFery because I’ll be honest, this season has been kind of a downer.

Now, on with the show!

It’s time for the remaining dudes to meet Rachel’s family. Her sister is eight months pregnant so they are meeting in her hometown of Dallas, rather than the usual practice of flying to an exotic locale.

First up is Peter, who has definitely been more reserved than the other dudes. I personally think Rachel likes him best, but he’s more closed off emotionally than Eric or Bryan. Peter and Rachel shop for a baby gift for her sister and a present for her nephew Allister.

The best part is when Peter picks something out and Rachel gives him the “Um, no” eyes. He’s smart enough to defer to her choice. Good man.

Baby clothes are so friggin adorable you guys. I don’t want kids but I could shop for baby stuff all day long. I’m probably one more muscle relaxer away from knitting Dewey a little baby sweater and hat.

A close up of Peter and Rachel shopping for baby clothes.

Anyway, before they meet her family, Peter pulls her aside and tells Rachel that’s he falling in love with her.

FINALLY.

While speaking with Rachel’s mom, Kathy, Peter admits that he’s not sure he’s ready to propose yet because he and Rachel have basically only spent a few weeks together. He still wants to pursue a relationship with her, but he doesn’t know if he would feel right proposing at the end of the show.

While on the one hand I think this is a totally reasonable approach to their relationship, it’s also not what the show is about, so it’s kind of weird to see him say that. The dudes know when they sign up that the show ends with a proposal (usually).

You aren’t following the process–er, journey–Peter! The Rose God will not pleased! Chris Harrison just sat up in his coffin filled with rose petals, his eyes blazing in fury.

Kathy actually likes Peter’s answer, though. She does tell him that she hopes he takes their dating very seriously, though.

Then in what is literally the best shot of the night, we cut away to Rachel and little Allister playing with her dog, Copper.

Copper is a noble floof and I love him.

Copper, a big fluffy orange dog, sits in a chair . He looks like a chow-mix to me and I'd kiss his face a million times.

At one point Peter sits on the floor and colors with Allister and my remaining ovary explodes.

Peter sits on the floor with Allister while Rachel and Copper watch.

The next day it’s Eric’s turn to meet the Lindsays. Eric admits that he’s never been in love and is last serious relationship was two years ago. Rachel’s sister, Constance, is skeptical that Eric is ready for marriage.

Eric tells Constance that he loves Rachel unconditionally, but isn’t in love yet.

Later Eric asks Kathy if he can have her blessing to propose to Rachel.

But…wait? You just said you weren’t in love yet!

Kathy gives him her blessing anyway.

Rachel, her cousin Andrea, and Eric sit on a couch. Eric and Andrea do a little chair dancing.

Lastly it’s Bryan’s turn. Rachel takes him to brunch with a couple of her girlfriends then on to meet her family.

Almost immediately Bryan tells them that his mom is the most important woman in life, which is not all concerning… Like how is that the first thing you say to new people!? “Hi, I’m Bryan and I love my mom more than  anybody else.” Cue the Starbucks barista trying to write that all on a cup.

Kathy asks who would get his priority, his wife or his mom. Bryan kind of stumbles during his answer and it’s clear Kathy isn’t impressed.

Right away there’s some tension between Bryan and Rachel’s family. He’s charming, but in a superficial way. They ask him some pretty direct questions, and when they are skeptical of his answers (like when he says he knew Rachel was the one after just a week), Bryan freaks out and leaves the dinner table.

Rachel is irritated that her family seems to be questioning Bryan more intensely than they did Eric or Peter.

Rachel looks at her mom and says "I am, like, really low-key annoyed."

Bryan tells Constance that he already loves the family and she’s like, “dude, it’s been an hour.”

Bryan apparently loves everything immediately. But not as much as his mom.

Steve Carell from Anchorman says "I love lamp."

Despite all that, Kathy does give Bryan her blessing to propose to Rachel.

So just to recap: we’ve gone from Peter who isn’t sure of his feelings and is playing this close to the vest, to Eric who has never been in love, to Bryan who loves everyone within five minutes of knowing them.

Yikes.

Anyway, the family stuff is over and we can move on to the best part of the episode–Fantasy Suites. This is when Chris Harrison gives the contestants a hand written letter inviting them to sleep with each other.

I did not make that up. It’s a thing that happens.

So they all fly to La Rioja, Spain. We get a shot of Rachel sipping wine THAT SHE DOES NOT FINISH BEFORE LEAVING HER TABLE. Rachel! We never leave a wine behind! Not ever!

The first date goes to Eric. They take a helicopter to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe where they sip champagne.  Later they have dinner, and  Eric tells Rachel he’s in love with her.

They open the handwritten Invitation to Bone from Chris Harrison and head over to the Fantasy Suite. There are a lot of candles in the Fantasy Suite. A LOT. I wonder if some unpaid intern has to go around re-lighting the damn things.

After a commercial break we get the token “morning after” scene where the camera pans to an unmade bed, thereby making sure everyone knows the smexing happened. Then Rachel kisses Eric goodbye so she can go on a date with one of the other dudes and probably sleep with him.

I can’t get over how awkward that must be.

“Great job with the sex! I’m going to go have more of it with people who aren’t you. See you Tuesday!”

The next date is with Peter. They go to a vineyard where they actually finish their wine this time. Once again Peter tells her he’s not ready to propose.

This seems  like  a pretty important conversation, but they are interrupted by a little girl bringing Rachel flowers. I assume Peter planned the whole thing.

A little girl brings Rachel flowers while Peter looks at them with a smile

“She’s asking about commitment! Operation Shirley Temple is a go! I repeat, Operation Shirley Temple is a go!”

He doesn’t get off that easily, though. Over dinner Rachel tells Peter that she didn’t sign up for the show in order to find a boyfriend, she’s looking for a husband. Peter tells her that he considers engagement as seriously as marriage–he wants to be 100% certain he’s ready to be married before he gets engaged.

Rachel is more okay with their engagement still being a “getting to know each other” stage of their relationship.

The episode ends with Rachel tearing up. She feels like they aren’t at the same place and she says, “Tonight, for the first time ever, I’m thinking Peter and I might not work out.”

Then we get the dramatic TO BE CONTINUED

Do you think Peter can come back from this? Are you still watching?

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Posted by Amanda

AppSumo has a sale on Stencil, an image editing program! Lifetime access to Stencil is available for $49.

You can make headers and images for social media and promotional graphics, plus it includes a Facebook 20% text checker to make sure what you make will fly with the FB lords.

There’s also a Chrome extension to easily share links with customized images.

Let Us Dream

Let Us Dream by Alyssa Cole is 99c! This was Redheadedgirl’s favorite story in the Daughters of a Nation anthology. It’s also nominated for a RITA® this year in the Romance Novella category. Ppyajunebug wrote a guest review for our Reader Challenge and here’s what she had to say:

Cole is one of the few authors on my instabuy list – I will buy anything she writes, regardless of genre, pairing, or length. She writes interesting, fully-realized characters with an eye towards how society shapes their experiences and personalities. “Let Us Dream” is no exception to that rule and I, and everyone else who reads it, should be thankful for that.

*This novella originally appeared in Daughters of A Nation: A Black Suffragette Historical Romance Anthology*

Harlem, 1917

After spending half her life pretending to be something she’s not, performance is second nature for cabaret owner Bertha Hines. With the election drawing near and women’s voting rights on the ballot, Bertha decides to use her persuasive skills to push the men of New York City in the right direction.

Chef Amir Chowdhury jumped ship in New York to get a taste of the American Dream, only to discover he’s an unwanted ingredient. When ornery Amir reluctantly takes a job at The Cashmere, he thinks he’s hit the bottom of the barrel; however, working at the club reignites his dream of being a force for change. His boss, Bertha, ignites something else in him.

Bertha and Amir clash from the start, but her knowledge of politics and his knowledge of dance force them into a detente that fans the flames of latent desire. But Bertha has the vice squad on her tail, and news from home may end Amir’s dream before it comes to fruition. With their pasts and futures stacked against them, can Amir and Bertha hold on to their growing love?

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

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amazon

 

 

 

Waking the Bear

Waking the Bear by Kerry Adrienne is 99c! This is a Kindle Daily Deal and the second book, Pursuing the Bear, is a 99c KDD as well. Readers loved the park ranger/bear shifter hero, but others found the dialogue a bit…corny. Trigger warning as well, as the heroine is rebuilding her life following an abusive relationship. It has a 3.7-star rating on Goodreads.

Sexy shifter passion is awakened when two unlikely lovers are challenged by secrets, danger and an unstoppable need to claim one’s mate…

For human Amy Francis, the secluded cabin in Deep Creek is the haven she needs to map out a fresh new start. She never expected her heart to be reawakened by a distraction like Griff Martin, commanding yet gentle, too ferociously sensual to ignore. It’s clear that patrolling the forest is more than a job to Griff—it’s a means of survival. But what Amy doesn’t realize is she’s reawakened the beast within him.

Griff’s dormant hunger is stirred by this intoxicating woman…and threatened by the secret she must never learn. Duty-bound to defend his bear clan against an avenging pride of lion shifters, Griff’s entire world is upended when he meets Amy. His animal need to claim his mate has taken hold, but that very desire could seal her fate as an unwitting pawn in battle.

Now, as a shifter war looms, Griff must decide between letting Amy go or following his most carnal instincts. To have her would change his life…but risk everything he knows and was born to protect.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

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Madame X

RECOMMENDED: Madame X by Jasinda Wilder is $2.99! I read this book and while it’s not quite a romance, I really enjoyed it. It’s a unique, dark, and twisted start to a trilogy. I gave it a B+:

Madame X isn’t going to be for everyone…. It’s written in first person. It does end on a cliffhanger. It deals with abuse (trigger warning) – physically, financially, and psychologically. There’s no HEA in this book as it’s an ongoing series following the same heroine. And there are also themes of infidelity.

But, if you’re still with me, it’s also one of the most unique books I’ve read in a while. It sucked me in and broke my heart. The next book cannot come soon enough.

Madame X invites you to test the limits of control in this provocative new
novel from New York Times bestselling author Jasinda Wilder.

My name is Madame X.
I’m the best at what I do.
And you’d do well to follow my rules…

Hired to transform the uncultured, inept sons of the wealthy and powerful into decisive, confident men, Madame X is a master of the art of control. With a single glance she can cut you down to nothing, or make you feel like a king.

But there is only one man who can claim her body—and her soul.

Undone time and again by his exquisite dominance, X craves and fears his desire in equal measure. And while she longs for a different path, X has never known anything or anyone else—until now…

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This book is on sale at:

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The Invisible Library

RECOMMENDED: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman is $2.99! This is a fantasy novel that Carrie really enjoyed. She graded it a B+:

While I genuinely loved the characters and concepts of the book, it’s played strictly for fun adventure. This isn’t a philosophical book. There’s some character development, but it’s not huge. It’s basically just an excuse to have smart people fight cyborg alligators in a ballroom and werewolves in a museum. Luckily during the week that I read this book I was stressed out so it was just what I needed. It’s smart, well-written fluff and I ate it up with a spoon. I am avidly waiting for the sequel.

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.
 
One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

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This is question #1000.

Jul. 25th, 2017 01:54 pm
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Posted by JenniferP

I know people have been anticipating what I will answer for reader question 1,000. Thanks for the emailed suggestions and the hype, it’s awesome that people are excited! Milestones are cool!

It’s also way too much pressure and I’ve started answering people privately the past week or so because it’s like “Well, this is a great question, but is it QUESTION NUMBER ONE THOUSAND?” “Shouldn’t QUESTION ONE THOUSAND sort of sum up everything I think about conflict and awkwardness?” (Answer: No, that’s a book. A book that I am trying to figure out the shape of. A book that will happen.)

So, here is question #1000. It’s a placeholder. I choked. I’m sorry. What I’ve got is that writer’s block trick of “okay if you don’t know how to write the next thing, try writing a next thing and figure out where it all fits later.”

I’ve got some It Came From The Search Terms to knock out this week and then we’ll be back sometime with #1001, which will be a normal question with normal significance and normal amount of (pretty damn interesting!) interestingness.


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Posted by Amanda

This HaBO is from E.D., who has been searching for this book for at least a decade:

I’ve been looking for this book for over 10 years.

All I remember is:

  • The cover had a swan I think, not sure if it was part of the cover or a publishers logo.
  • I know the characters wore corsets and lace up petticoats, but I’m not sure about the time frame of the book just that it was set in the past. Pre-1900s I think.
  • The main character has freckles and at one point is using some sort of cucumber cream when she falls from the barn loft right in front of the main guy.
  • She’s kind of tomboyish, and the dress she’s wearing when she’s with the main guy to visit someone is too big for her. The person they visit points it out and says the dress is ugly, might have been yellow in color.
  • The guy is kind of mean/rude to her at first and sees her as a bother.
  • Something about horses. I think the guy rides them and she wants to, but since she’s a girl she isn’t allowed.
  • They end up in a compromising situation so they have to get married, but they were set up by his and her family.
  • After she thinks they have sex for the first time, she wonders why she isn’t walking funny, like she’s seen the mares do after they are mounted by a male.
  • She ends up pregnant, and they both are very in love.
  • Near the end, I think she’s sitting cross legged on the bed pregnant and naked with her long hair covering her breasts, and her husband thinks she’s beautiful.

That’s a lot of detail! Someone knows this book.

Munich Meetup, July 27

Jul. 25th, 2017 04:54 am
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

From Fia, your host:

Hi Captain Awkward!

Just wanted to notify you about a meetup in Munich that we planned for Thursday the 27th of July at 6:30 pm.
We are going to meet at the same place like last time. The PotAsia Ost. It is in Berg an Laim, Baumkirchnerstr. 21. More details and map here: https://www.potasia.de.
To quote forum member Mercy for directions: “From Tram 19, Haltestelle Baumkirchnerstr. From the corner of Kreillerstr. and Baumkirchnerstr., walk past the Aumüller bakery and it’s about halfway down the block, across the street from the Maibaum.
From U2 Josephsburg, take the exit for Kreillerstr, turn left, and walk a long block to Baumkirchnerstr. From there the directions are the same.”
I will bring my Pusheenicorn so people will be able to identify the table.
If somebody needs to get in touch, there’s the “Munich?” thread on
the forums or you can contact me by email on fianakiara@web.de.
Thanks so much and have a nice day! 🙂
Have a nice day yourselves, Munich!

The Master by Tara Sue Me

Jul. 24th, 2017 06:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

B+

The Master

by Tara Sue Me
February 2, 2016 · Berkley
RomanceErotica/Erotic Romance

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by garlicknitter. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.

The summary:

Tara Sue Me’s New York Times bestselling Submissive series continues with a delicious new story that explores the thin line between pleasure and pain. . . .
 
She’s ready to try again. . . .

Sasha Blake is scarred from a BDSM session gone wrong, but she can’t deny how much a strong Master turns her on. Determined to overcome her fears and rejoin the Partners in Play community, she asks Abby and Nathaniel West to set her up with a Dom who can help her feel safe again as a sub. They know the very experienced Cole is exactly the kind of man who can push all of Sasha’s buttons—and she soon wants to go much faster than she had planned. . . .

Cole knows that Sasha is not the kind of submissive he needs. He wants someone who will serve him 24-7, not a part-time partner. Still, the further they go into their play, the more Cole begins to wish he could make Sasha his all the time. . . .

When forbidden desires turn into scorching action, Sasha and Cole come face-to-face with their demons—and realize their scorching relationship might be too dangerous to last. . . .

Here is garlicknitter's review:

I initially had a hard time getting into this story, but once I did, I enjoyed it very much. I think the initial problem was because this is book eight in a series, none of which I have previously read. The story started off with a meeting of a lot of characters who would be well known to fans of the series, but of course for me it was like being dumped into a group of strangers. I had trouble remembering names and kept mixing people up until I had hung out with them long enough to have some idea of their individual personalities.

So, basic story: Pretty much everyone in this book is into BDSM to various degrees. All the named characters are or have been members of the same play group. Some of them have already formed long-term relationships (presumably in earlier books). Sasha, the heroine, is a submissive, but (TRIGGER WARNING for abuse) she was hurt badly by her previous Dom in a scene where he had her bound and gagged and they had not set up a safe signal. (He ends up being permanently kicked out of the group because of this incident and his behavior afterward.) Sasha still wants to be a sub because that’s what turns her on, but now she’s prone to panic attacks when asked to do some things. She asks for help from the play group, and they pick out a Dom to retrain her, someone they know has the experience to really help her reestablish trust. (At first I was like, uh, does she get any say in who retrains her? But within the first few chapters it is clearly stated that if she doesn’t want to work with their choice she can ask for someone else.)

The Dom the group chooses is Cole. Not everyone thinks he’s a good choice, because he’s apparently really intense when he plays. (I don’t feel like this really came out in the book – it’s stated repeatedly that he’s so intense, but the described scenes didn’t seem especially intense to me – I kind of assume any kind of BDSM play would be intense to the participants, and the scenes read about like I would expect, given that.) However, intense or not, Cole is really good at taking care of subs and keeping them safe, which is exactly what Sasha needs. He starts off carefully with her – one of the first things he tells her is he won’t be having sex with her. He’s just going to retrain her in being a submissive. I wasn’t initially sure what he meant by that, since (like most non-participants, I imagine) I tend to think of BDSM relationships as being about kinky sex, so taking the sex out doesn’t seem to leave much to do.

Of course that’s an oversimplification. Sasha needs to get past her trust issues, and for that she needs someone utterly trustworthy – Cole can be that guy for her. He’s very clear what behavior he expects from her and very strict about enforcing his rules, but he makes it clear that even when he punishes her for breaking his rules, he will always make her as safe as he can. For one thing, every time she uses a safe word, he praises her lavishly. Also, when he tells her what he expects from her before they play, he always asks her if she has any questions. He doesn’t assume he always knows what’s best for her, he checks with her, and when he thinks she has concerns she’s not being open about he uses his Dom powers to push her to be more candid.

Of course the no-sex thing doesn’t last. As Sasha progresses in her retraining, as she becomes stronger, she wants more domination. She genuinely enjoys submission. Serving a Dom turns her on, being bound turns her on, being flogged turns her on, etc. She knows Cole is good at all those things, and she also finds him incredibly hot, so naturally she comes to want more from him. She knows he was previously in a 24/7 Master/slave relationship, and she’s intrigued and wants to try a taste of that, but he spends the first half of the book explaining why she’s not ready. He’s explaining to himself as much as her; he also finds her incredibly hot and likes her submissive style. Eventually, at the end of her initial retraining, they do have sex, and once that happens he gives in to what they both want and agrees to a temporary Master/slave relationship, which is a resounding success. The rest of the conflict is a typical “I love him/her, but he/she deserves better/isn’t ready/wants something other than what I have to offer,” which is neatly resolved with friends of each pointing out that they seem to be stupid in love with the other and maybe they should follow up on that.

Without being a BDSM aficionado, I’d say this book does a good job demonstrating the principle that being a Dom is not just about ordering subs around and using them to get off – job number one is taking care of the sub, keeping them safe, giving pleasure as well as taking it, and making sure that even if some of the play hurts, it doesn’t actually harm.

Grade? I’m going with a B+. The writing was clear and didn’t get in the way of the story. This is a big deal for me – clunky writing can make it impossible for me to engage with a story. The characterizations were reasonably believable – or at least I was able to ignore potential issues like how does a journalist (Cole) have this much money? As stated above, I found the final emotional conflict pretty typical, but it was handled nicely and I was happy for everyone at the end.


The Master by Tara Sue Me received an A in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

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