Book Reviews: Erotic Hacks, Dragons, and Chateaus

X Marks the Spot
A woman wants to move on, but her husband won’t let her. She’s interested in a guy from her past, but some well-meaning shenanigans by friends make for a huge misunderstanding, and now she’s not sure which one she wants.
I almost gave up on this, as I found the writing style boring from the beginning. But then. . . I want to hate the author for that big twist, and what it does to Abi, but it’s actually kinda brilliant. On the other hand, I can’t stand that this genre is seemingly required to make so many characters real assholes, but Liam is particularly gifted in that regard.
When I got through the first half I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I eventually did. The writing got better, the characters became smarter and kinder, and even the supposed bad guy grew into something better. I pretty much guessed where the sex would end up going, and that was done well too. Thoroughly pleasantly surprised after muddling through that annoying start.

Sister In Law
An abused child grows into a beautiful woman, but burning with an obsession for revenge on all men. She uses her beauty to get what she wants, without a care to anyone else’s feelings, usually. She’s recruited into a sinister plan to take down the President of the United States by the {NRA}, but finds herself falling in love.
Speaking in digital terms, the first 10% of this story is just setup; takes that long for the protagonist to be introduced. It’s followed by a long description of the physical and psychological problems she faced growing up. It’s a long flashback to the present, which basically explains her approach to sex and business once we get there. This lasts till 27%, which means it’s over a ¼ done before the story actually starts.
I liked the writing, with plenty of funny stuff. The problem is the pacing; almost halfway through and it’s still not at the main plot so glaringly told in the publicity blurb. Not that her life story is boring, but every once in a while I wish it’d moved on. If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the writing, it’s the clunky foreshadowing at the end of each chapter; not necessary.
The thing with Craig was a little obvious, but a good touch, not unexpected considering the people she was dealing with. I didn’t think I would like the letters to her BFF, but they really helped to make her sympathetic. After starting as a woman intent on revenge, she mellowed nicely, coming across as more human.
The book takes quite an unexpected turn right before the end, something I would have never imagined from the main character. I’m not sure I’d call it believable, but it was well done. But right after that there’s another twist, and I found her decision on that one not credible at all. I have no idea how I feel about the ending and its aftermath, at once noble and yet all the more upsetting. I have some sympathy for her, but not as much as her story would want from me. Also, I am officially saying this is not an erotica as advertised. The sex scenes are truncated, hardly even foreplay.
Although it was for the most part nicely written, as mentioned above, there were moments when I felt like this was a beginning writer, and in the author page I saw I was right. A great first effort, but not as great as it could have been.

Dragon’s Bride: Monster Ball
In this short novel—I read it in about two hours—a female dragon shapeshifter is basically forced by “The Elders” to mate with a seemingly emotionless leader, held captive until she comes into heat. And when she does. . . does she ever! Of course his cousin and her sister are involved, and there’s all kinds of secret relationships that that are bursting to unsecret themselves.
Eh. . .
At the heart of most romances, even paranormal, is a lack of communication, but this book ups that factor by a few levels. Even the thing with the supposed bad guys would have worked out if only these people talked to each other. It’s all supposed to come off as “love is inevitable” with a touch of “all’s well that ends well,” but it’s really more frustrating than anything else, and the sex scenes don’t have enough to make up for it.

The Chateau
A man whore/secret agent assassin takes his next unofficial assignment enthusiastically, infiltrating a sex cult. . . though it’s not really infiltrating if you tell the target what you’re doing. He’s there to “save” a relative of his chief from the dastardly “clutches” of the woman in charge, but of course things are never as they seem.
This author writes “bigger” than most erotica. This is my second book by her, and like that other one, it feels like an esoteric literary fiction with some sex scenes.
I always find myself thinking ahead, guessing at what twists might be coming up, and this one had a couple. For instance, I thought it would be amazing if the least likely of all characters—and it’s obvious who I mean if you’ve read this—is the mole. Looks like I might be right, but it’s left ambiguous. At least my guess about her ex-husband was spot on.
By far my least favorite part. . . it’s fine to say that he wants everything that’s happening to him, and she loves giving it to him, but that mind fuck about Colette and Soren. . . there’s no coming back from that. It’s just evil. I don’t care why she did it, I lost all sympathy for her there. He simply didn’t deserve that, as it’s not the kind of pain he’s into; no one does.
According to the small interview at the end, this book is a bit of a prequel, set in a universe where a lot of things, especially with this character, have already happened. If I wasn’t still annoyed by that twist I might have felt like reading those others.

Love Hack
A nerdy computer geek and a beautiful lady at a tech firm meet and get instantly hot for each other. . . of course. She’s got an annoying ex, and in what was probably an earlier entry in what feels like a series, there was a major computer intrusion that the company is still recovering from.
There’s some excellent writing here. During a scene where they’re making love by a fire, the paragraph about their shadows joining in was superb.
The plot was relatively simple, the ending obvious, but it doesn’t matter when the characters are both relatable and special, and the writing this much fun. . . at least that’s how I felt before the last twist, which was completely out of character and forced, just for the sake of. . . I don’t know why. It was the very textbook definition of anticlimactic. Perhaps there’s some blueprint, some book on writing these types of novels, that says they can’t live happily ever after just yet; there must be some other obstacle to overcome, after one or both act stupidly in some manner. That probably cost what was otherwise an excellent book a higher score.
Fun note: I think this author is a Judy Greer fan. First there’s the “Hi-Lo” line from The Big Bang Theory—which could also be an Evanescence/Lindsey Stirling shoutout—and then there’s the huge planner/organizer right out of 27 Dresses.


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