Book Reviews: Erotic Quixotes and Groupies

Grey’s Promise
A surgeon scarred by her past finally wants to confront her repressed memories, but needs her meant-to-be but-never-happened to help her, despite how often she’d spurned him in the past.
First of all, I have a problem with this title. This is clearly her story, so why does the title feature the man?
There are three parts to this novel, one more prominent than the others; that of course is the love story. Her psychological well-being is another, while the third is the mystery of what happened to her and her family so long ago. Also present is some erotica, though even though this book is listed as such, there really isn’t very much of it here.
First, the mystery. There are more than enough clues given to make one of the characters the obvious perpetrator, so much so that I figured it couldn’t actually be this easy. In a way I was right, but after a little thinking, the real “bad guy” wasn’t hard to figure out either. The psychological stuff was done better, though at times heavy-handed. As far as the erotica is concerned, the problem is that with reunited stories they spend so much time finding reasons to not get together that there isn’t much physical loving until the end, thus making me wonder why it goes under that label.
And as for the romance, these characters went over the same ground over and over. It’s rare when a female protagonist is as stubborn as the male, but it happens here. I usually like the female leads, and I really tried to this time, but it wasn’t till the end that I was convinced she was a doctor, especially a neonatal surgeon; her personality and judgement made her seem like anything but. And I’m glad someone at the end finally called him on his crap as to why he wouldn’t go all the way with her.
It annoys me that I couldn’t like this more.

Domme Quixote
A dominatrix struggling to pay the rent for her club puts on a show and embarrasses a mobster who insults her with his attitude. Hilarity tries to ensue, but it’s not allowed.
Most stories involving dominatrices feature them having a screwed up regular life, and this one is no exception. Her desire for her security chief clouds her judgement at the worst times, but it’s her stubbornness and ego, just as much as the mobster’s, that escalate things into such dangerous situations.
But even had Don Quixote not been one of my favorite stories—seeing a fantastic version of Man of La Mancha recently no doubt helped—this would have still been a ton of fun. The sex and domination aspects were done better than the romance and mob stuff, especially the shows. There’s more than enough entertaining reading. The main character, in particular, was immensely intriguing, someone I would love to get to know better (though not as one of her slaves!).
But I kept wondering: this guy is in the mob, but he’s not the leader. She mentions she had contact with the mob when she first started the business, so she must know someone who can get Gino to lighten up. But that of course is so simple it never occurs to her. . .

In Deep: Emerald Mountain
A ski patrol boss and his new employee have a past, in which he acted like a jerk to her—though more out of neglect than active malice—and now is taking it out on her in passive-aggressive ways. When she calls him on it, the fire is rekindled, which of course leads to trouble.
I used to ski, but there’s a lot of terms here I don’t recognize. Maybe it’s stuff inherent to the rescue business, but I was definitely puzzled by “bombs” for a while, until it became obvious. This author has either done the research or grew up in this sector.
But despite the unique setting, it’s basically one of the usual stories: two people with a shared past are forced to spend time together. Everything is awkward, they try to avoid each other for what turns out to be wrong reasons, and everything would have been okay if they’d just bothered to talk it out. And yet everything turns out peachy in the end, though this one feels even more forced than most. I’m not bagging on this particular book, just that it’s an overused, by-the-numbers plot that many authors are guilty of using and abusing.
Maybe it was a simple formatting error, but headers to identify who’s doing the first person narration are missing. It gets confusing, especially when there’s a protagonist switch within a chapter.

Mission Insecure
A fallen angel has spent 800 years on Earth doing what caused him to get kicked out of heaven in the first place: sex with mortals. At least he’s not a jerk about it, using his powers to help those with sexual problems while enjoying himself. Kinda reminds me of the show Lucifer, though this character is a lot more human than the King of Hell ever will be.
In this story he manufactures a scenario to get in with a wealthy woman who’s been basically cloistered for a decade after being hurt by her slimy fiancé. Once you buy into that premise, it’s pretty good, with some hot sex scenes in its short length. As a set-up for a series it does the job, and it makes me want to read the next one, which I will soon.

Three Hearts: Seasons of Three, Book 1
Despite what the title hints at, there’s only two stories here. On the other hand, both plots feature two men and one woman, so that answers that.
In the first story, a lady breaks up with her boyfriend and immediately shacks up with her two bosses for a ménage. As the tale of a woman having rebound fun in a way she would have never imagined, it would have been fine, but the scene the morning after was too unbelievable, especially that she went along with it.
The second story features a lady having the worst morning ever getting stuck in an elevator with two flower delivery guys. There’s no doubt that if she wasn’t feeling so down after the chain of bad events hit her on the way to work, she would not have done what she ended up doing with those two guys–especially in an elevator!–but on the other hand it seemed to be just what she needed. It helped that the guys were funny; most hunks in this genre aren’t. This made the story more enjoyable, especially the guess-the-chocolate game, though that felt like it went on a bit too long. Definitely the better of the two.

Rockin’ Him Hard
A short story about a college girl who joins her friend backstage at a concert and ends up in a limo, then a hotel room, with a famous band. She picks one of them, goes off to have sex with him, then is surprised when her friend joins in. Just like that she’s inducted into the society of groupies, or whatever they call it; that’s not me being facetious, as they often use the term themselves with no derogatory meaning at all.
From the beginning I enjoyed the tone, a slight humor in what’s going on without being sarcastic. The writing is smooth, a pleasant surprise as I later realized I’d read this author before and had not been anywhere as impressed. Maybe it’s because of its shortness, but this story stood out more, just a fun hookup and move on. . . to the sequel.

Rockin’ Him Harder
Like the first one, it’s short and sweet. This time our favorite groupie has to share the hunk with two of her traveling sisters.
If you read the first one, this is more of the same. Whether that’s good or bad depends on how much you liked the first one.

Rockin’ Him Fierce
This time around the featured groupie wants the rock star all to herself, though thankfully she’s not all mean and backstabby to her gal friends. Jealousy is present but not explosive, and unlike most stories the people here actually talk to each other to work things out. There’s one big sex scene in a limo, but unlike the other stories, it’s not as much of a focus this time around.

Rockin’ Him Solo
In the inevitable conclusion, the now-in-love groupie and the also-in-love rocker go to his hotel room without any other girls tagging along; the title is bandied about more than few times. It’s kinda sweet, if you want to believe in the happily-ever-after.



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.


Book Reviews: Sci-fi, Mystery, and Other Necessities

The Bronze Skies
After fleshing out all corners and eras of her massive Skolian universe, Doctor Asaro goes back to the beginning in the second book in the Major Bhaajan series. The first was so amazing it’s gonna be a tough act to follow, though it just might have.
I was particularly excited when the blurb mentioned Jagernauts were involved, so I was really hoping Digjan was in this! Nope, Dr. Asaro is just teasing me as usual. Instead it’s a much more seasoned psychic warrior that’s on the warpath, so Bhaaj is called in to find her before she can make another attempt at murdering one of the most important people in the empire, leading into one of Dr. Asaro’s favorite subjects, AI. In what might be called a glut of “robots will rise up and take over” stories nowadays, this one stands out, even from her own previous books like the Alpha series.
Archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, sociology, and of course the inevitable high-level math and science are all happily present here. The best parts, however, are the small moments, especially when she’s helping her people: trying to get a permit for one to sell his wares aboveground, arranging a martial arts competition between her students and an academy, and so on. They really round out her character, making her more than just a detective. At the beginning of the first book she didn’t have much personality, though she grew throughout that story; here she’s even more human, to the point where she’s even telling jokes full of sexual innuendo. It’s a bit startling, considering how tightly wound up she was in the first one. Even more so, she finds out more about the powers she’d been afraid she had at the end of the first.
This story also expands the already large scope of the undercity, but also introduces the above world other than Cries, the legendary planet where human life was transported from Earth so long ago. In the scope of the three huge space empires it’s pretty insignificant, but somehow harder to grasp. I’d been hoping this would lead to finding out what alien race seeded the planet with humans in the first place, but despite the clues in what they left behind it didn’t go that far. It did give us an archaeological site that sounds like it came right out of a video game, and the special Jagernauts that guard it. I anticipate many more stories coming out of that.
So in the end Bhaaj—Calaj too—saved the universe every bit as much as Soz, but just like her, no one will ever know. . .

Beg for Mercy
Mercy went from growing up in a brothel to becoming an assassin, but retains enough humanity to chuck her assigned job when she finds a conspiracy that’s much bigger and more dangerous for what remains of the western United States. Along the way she gets involved with a legendary figure that shares a common enemy.
Yes, this is a dystopian romance/erotica, though that last part was minimal. Not unheard of, but definitely rare.
Not sure about this one. The many factions made it hard to follow, and Mercy was just too stubborn to root for. At one point she puts herself out as bait to catch the bad guy, having conveniently forgotten about the bounty on her. The action was realistic, but the sex scenes didn’t pack as much heat.

The Unity
A military leader in a sprawling authoritarian space empire questions his oath when his second-in-command tries to kill him. From there the story sprawls all over the galaxy, with a huge cast of characters and ships, far too many to keep track.
There are some nice moments, like the intro and background for Dr. Aravantis; short but sweet, and most importantly memorable. His creations were also a delight to get to know, but the negatives far outweighed them. I had huge problems with the conspiracy, and especially all the killing, alternatively making me annoyed or sad, and I don’t like that. Most of the circumstances were unnecessary, and the dead are hardly grieved over at all. In fact, the whole book seems devoid of emotion. It definitely didn’t make me want to read the sequel.

Girl, Wash Your Face
I picked this up because I’m a huge fan of Rachel Hollis, though that’s her fiction rather than her lifestyle website. So this work of self-help was new territory for me, but I was quickly relieved to find her amazing humor was still there.
This book feels like a bunch of blog posts, which for all I know is true. At the beginning there’s a section on the true but tired platitude of taking care of yourself before you help others, which by now is so overused it’s hardly a new concept. She does manage to weave several points together, which does help.
This would have been just as good without all the religious stuff thrown in. I feel the earnestness; I don’t believe anything written here is less than genuine. But I can’t be sure if that belief is there because I’m a big fan of her previous works. Nevertheless, it’s more than worthwhile reading for those who aren’t familiar with her Girl series and have no preconceived notions.

Egyptian Enigma
Having enjoyed this author’s previous works, taking place mostly in Australia with fictionalized history tours to the old civilizations of Mesoamerica, this entry tackles Egypt, possibly the only place that would have even more fodder for stories like these. Though it follows the pattern of trying to solve an old archaeological mystery, this book has less in the way of modern conundrums. Most of the story involves who’s in the sarcophagus, but other than a stolen notebook and a break-in, there’s no real mystery until the end, and that’s only a setup for the next book.
The one thing I love the most about this character is her memory palace, and the way it works as a library. If she wants to remember something, it comes up as though brought to her by a librarian. Pretty cool. Just as fun is her amazingly diverse family, if you don’t count all the cats.
It’s funny that the author takes the time to write out the Welsh dialogue, as it’s never pronounced like it’s spelled.
Despite liking Egyptian archaeology very much, I’m not enjoying this nearly as much as I did the previous books, with the flashbacks in Mesoamerica. But if nothing else, this book rekindled my interest in the 18th and 19th dynasties of Egypt. And all the references to Buffy, Firefly, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. . . seriously, this writer is from my tribe.
Long recipes and glossary at end, along with dedications. Wait, my archaeological crush Dr. Kara Cooney was in there and I missed her? Ouch. Please don’t tell her.
There was one point I disliked. In one of the sections taking place in ancient Egypt, the rulers tasks her scribe to check the records to “seek guidance from the ancients.” He does find something similar in the past, but it never occurred to the ruler that, in this time where anyone could be a suspect in the conspiracy, this guy could make up anything he wanted. . .

The Treachery of Russian Nesting Dolls
I do hate coming to a series late—this is the fourth—but it sounded too intriguing to pass up. It starts with a bang in the red-light district of Amsterdam, and the most unusual foot chase you’ll ever read.
The main character is intriguing, which is more than I can say for the plot, which did not invest me at all. The mystery-solving had its bright spots, but then the writer ruined it by not giving me a chance to solve the case; the clue that did it was not given to the audience till after. Not fun.
Second off, I didn’t like the roller coaster ending, mostly because I didn’t see the point of it. Maybe there was something in the previous books that led to that big moment, but it doesn’t seem likely. The author has an agenda we’re not privy to, other than his obvious hatred for the latest Russian baddie in power.

The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times
This is a picture book that wants to be more than that.
The first part reads like Intro to Human Anthropology. There’s an intriguing observation about shapes, the round and the square in Liberia shown as examples. One gorgeous photo brought good memories of Stonehenge, before it was fenced off. The Big Dipper-Great Bear-laptop thing was a bit forced, though that was quickly overshadowed by the most beautiful shot of a spiderweb ever.
This is definitely not something you should read in one sitting, with numerous philosophical discussions that will make you pause to think. This isn’t a coffeetable book that gets opened to look at pretty pictures; the photos here serve to highlight the text.

Love and Laughter
Right at the start, when the author introduces herself, she writes, “In the pages that follow, we’ll talk frankly (because I don’t know how to be anything else!). . . My name is Beth Liebling, and I’m a sappy, emotional, hopelessly optimistic romantic. I believe in happy fairy tales and forever love.” She also mentions that she’s a divorce lawyer. . .
A very conversational intro leads to exactly the same in the main part of the book. It’s important to go into this expecting it to be fun rather than a serious discussion about sex, though the title should have been enough of a clue. At one point she compares romance to going to the theater, then being in a play with your partner. It’s a little trite, but her enthusiasm is infectious.
There’s artwork, sometimes small shots of lingerie as chapter headers, but other times full drawings that seem cartoonish, which works in this setting. Some of the jokes are hokey, and sometimes she goes out of her way for a joke that isn’t really there, but on the other hand I prefer earnestness to sullen any day.
And that’s it exactly. More than just fun, it’s optimistic. I can easily imagine her responding the exact same way in person at her shop.


Book Reviews: Errrrrotic

Endless Chase—Dalakis Passion, Book 5
In what is book 5 of a series I haven’t dipped into before, a semi-supernatural woman goes to Transylvania to avenge the murder of her parents, and finds something much different than vengeance.
This is one of those stories where the two leads look at each other and instantly fall in love, thus saving a lot of time on “getting to know you” and dates and stuff. They even have psychic sex at one point. Halfway there’s a pretty weird twist involving the female protagonist, but that’s about the only unexpected moment. There’s a lot of characters, no doubt introduced in the previous books, but my fave is the priest, and that’s coming from an atheist.
This was a bit difficult to judge. It went on longer than I expected, especially after the final battle. It’s a strange romance, and that’s saying a lot in this genre. And if the title is a pun on his name, too bad the author didn’t use it in the story.

Breaking the Rules
A woman comes home to El Lay when her mother gets sick, and in between taking care of her and looking for a job she joins her brother at the gym and falls in lust for the owner, who used to be tease her when they were kids.
Amara is an interesting mixture of contradictions. Sometimes she’s sassy, other times shy. Abhors violence, but has the hots for a professional fighter. Worried about reputation, but preferring one-night-stands to relationships. I often fall in love with the women in these stories, but there’s something special about Amara that pushes her into the category of most memorable even with all those strange traits.
As for the book, I like the funny moments, the banter. If it wasn’t for the first half being all “we can’t,” boring me after a while, this would have been truly excellent, even with the whiny petulant older brother.

Training Sasha
A young woman who kinda grew up in an S&M club still has the hots for the new owner after five years, even though he treats her horribly. But then she’s a submissive, so that seems to work for her. Unfortunately he’s a dom into pain rather than sex, so he doesn’t want to have anything to do with such an innocent, even if she is curious about the lifestyle. It doesn’t help that her brother works at the club.
Like some of the most annoying of this genre, it does the “I can’t!” mental speech over and over. The fact that it’s the man doing it doesn’t make it any less annoying. Even worse, I do believe this is a new record for the most stubborn, stupidest character I’ve ever read, and that is saying so much. . .
I know I harp a lot about misunderstandings and no communication being so overdone in romances—there really wouldn’t be any without them—but it’s particularly sad when one party for the most part isn’t allowed to voice her thoughts anyway.
I didn’t think I was going to end up liking the ending, but thankfully the author did a masterful job of redeeming what looked to be the biggest asshole in literary history. Still wish the ride there had been more enjoyable, though.

A woman who strips to pay for her degree doesn’t want to quit the job when she’s graduated and working as a therapist, for several psychological reasons as well as money. That old saying about counselors receiving counseling to know what it’s like doesn’t apply here, as she seems to have more problems than her patients. The biggest of those hang-ups is a fear of love, which she mentally discusses over and over, but it also turns out she as well as her fellow therapist had an eating disorder.
On the other gender side is a guy who appears to be simply smitten by her, but the truth is much more sinister. She’s right to wonder why he’s so hot for her, even if it’s not what she thinks.
At first it’s confusing as to why there’s an occasional chapter written by another guy; it took me a while to realize it was someone else. That guy’s a real downer, even beyond how closed off the primary two are. At least at the end it all makes sense, a good job of tying it all together. But seriously, these people are so damaged they induce sadness, even pity, much more than any rooting for their sputtering romance. Even if they end up happily ever after, it’s not enough to overcome this.
I’ve complained about how introspective some of these books are, but I can forgive it this time because she’s a therapist. On the other hand, despite it being a relatively short book full of that, I still grew annoyed at how often they got together and then he huffed out. I liked the writing more than the structure; don’t want to say plot, because it’s actually an intriguing premise, but the repetition made it difficult to stay invested.

Switch It Up
What an intriguing premise!
White hat hacker breaks into a sex club’s website, finds a Sim, and gets so mad at something that she goes right to the club in real life to give the owner a piece of her mind. Then the fun begins.
Despite all the erotica I’ve read, including plenty of power and domination stuff, this is the first book I’ve seen full of the phycology of the switch. It’s pretty interesting, especially the fact it’s a male. Most menage stories feature the two guys with the girl only; rarely do the guys play with each other too. That made this different.
I’m always amazed that stories like these go so long. There’s a section where she’s talking about anatomy, and it’s so matter-of-fact that it’s kinda jarring compared to the previous playful nature. But in the end her being a hacker wasn’t that important; would have been cool to see more scenes of her doing her stuff, maybe catching more bad guys. Overall it was more than okay, but I still feel Maddy’s character was shortchanged a bit. Would have preferred more of her.


Book Reviews: Ran Out of Erotic Metaphors

Alpha’s Prize: A Werewolf Romance
“My eyes crack open, gritty and sore. I’d rub them if I weren’t in wolf form. Where am I? I rise and knock against metal bars. Oh fates. I’m in a cage—a fucking cage.”
That early sentence says a lot, though from the title you probably didn’t need the wolf mention. A female werewolf on vacation in Mexico gets imprisoned by the local pack to breed with their young alpha; seems inbreeding’s a thing. But because this is a romance. . . well, you can figure it out.
There are a lot of viewpoints used, especially at the start. I get the need to introduce all the main characters, but it was a little confusing. But more than anything, I really wish this book had been more FUN. Everyone’s miserable, even when the story shifts to Paris.
I’m more used to Ms. Rose’s sci-fi, which I like a lot more than this werewolf stuff. The main male character started out as a douche but redeemed himself, so that’s a good point. I liked her from the start. There’s some interesting cultural stuff amid different locales, but despite the good writing, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I feel I should have.

Zandian Pet
As in the last installment of this series, the female lead is not a human slave that her dom eventually falls in love with, but one of the last surviving Zandian females. In fact, she’s the sister of the main female character of the previous book. This one is accidentally found in a sex den that caters to aliens. She doesn’t mind, as she’s been in what she considers worst situations before.
This chapter of the long-running series was, in a word, typical. It should not have been, given where it started, but it has definitely settled into a formula, which is too bad. It always consists of the two protagonists making dumb decisions. The sex is great, the bondage well done for those into that, but I wish the psychological aspects were done better. One thing that kinda bugs me is that the guy in these romances is always the first one who spots her!

Off Limits
The execute assistant has the hots for her billionaire boss, who on the one hand can’t forget his dead wife and the other has nothing but one-night stands.
A quarter of the way through and I was completely bored. Various cycles of “Will-they-won’t-they” are interspersed with “yes-they-will,” leading to regrets and starting the cycle again. Hardly anything else takes place or matters. With all that introspection, it was easy to get distracted. One of the bright spots was the discussion on flowers, which was surprisingly deep and funny, one of those moments that is in no way necessary to the story but adds to the enjoyment. That, however, was more of an exception.
It’s amazing to me how these books, which are basically about the start of a relationship, can last for so many pages. I liked some of it, mostly because I liked her. As usual, I didn’t like the dominating ass she’s into. Just felt like it went on for too long.

The Traveling Sex Game
If you see a suitcase or purse or such with ribbons hanging from it, it could mean the owner plays a sex game. Ribbons signify what kind of sex you want. It’s supposed to be an anonymous hookup, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
This book is basically sexual vignettes reminiscent of Penthouse Forum, held together by small bits of reporting and sexual psychology. After the reporter’s intro to the game and a few interviews, the book moves to individual stories. Unfortunately this guy’s writing style didn’t do it for me; felt like he didn’t have much experience writing. The sex scenes were kinda matter of fact; obviously these were hookups and not romances, but they could have been longer.

A woman not-so-mysteriously comes back from the dead, only to find her reunion with her fiancé is not how she thought it would be. (I don’t feel that’s a spoiler, because with the dream at the beginning overdoing it to such a huge degree, the “major” twist wasn’t at all surprising.)
In a genre known for stubborn characters, this one goes beyond. I’ve climbed mountains more pliable than this guy. I liked her, but most sane women would have cut their losses no matter how deeply in love they might have been.
Just when he has a breakthrough, thanks to the last person he or we would expect, things go to crap again. Despite it being a cliché, this part was well done.
There were several parts I really liked, but more that I couldn’t stand. The last fight scene was too convoluted to picture. There’s a lot less erotica than expected, which is too bad because those scenes were written the best.
As a former Marine, the soldier patter made me laugh.

His Human Bride
Funny: when I started this I had no idea it was a sequel to a book I’ve already read.
In the first book, a nurse/scientist helps a Roswell alien escape captivity and flees with him off Earth, wanting to help cure his people of an epidemic. Now, after spending pretty much all of the voyage having sex, she faces her toughest challenge: his mother, the queen. After a quest, needed because momma gave the thumbs down, it’s time for the final judgement.
As is pretty much expected from a romance, even if this one comes with a generous heap of erotica, there’s plenty of misunderstandings to go around, although this one has a bit of an excuse in that alien species think differently. On the brighter side, the characters are likeable, and no matter how stubborn Mom can be, she’s heaps better than the scientists and soldiers of the previous book.
But my favorite part is at the end: “I have to thank Carrie Fisher. I don’t know her. I never met her. But she inspired me so much it seems wrong to publish a book without thanking her. Thank you, Princess.”


Book Reviews: Erotic Bartenders, Painters and Santa

Double Trouble
“This time, he won’t take no for an answer.”
This is not the way to start any book.
A bartender is tricked by her sister into putting herself into a charity auction. The sister knows damn well there’s a rich guy who wants her, so she’s basically pimping her out for donations.
The story had barely started and I already hated this mother-fucker. He’s a sadistic dom, but luckily—and conveniently—she turns out to be a closet sub. Then his brother appears. . .
The descriptions of the renovated mansion are tedious. I skipped them; not here for architecture. Other than that, this is excellently written, with plenty of genuinely funny moments, particularly in her introspection. My favorite parts were the amazing lead female character and the intriguing sex scenes. The only downside for me was the lead male character at the beginning, but even he got better. Even the sister got better, though I would have never forgiven her.

The Submissive Muse
One year after her dom husband died, a woman plans her suicide, only to be stopped when she discovers what might be a dead body in the barn. Then it gets complicated.
I’m conflicted about this one. As usual when it’s a good book, I liked the female protagonist, and didn’t care for either of the guys; since they were so opposite from each other, maybe someone in between would have worked for me. The story itself is well written, if a little long; felt more drawn out than necessary, with quite a bit of fluff. Took a long time to get to any erotica or bdsm; it reads more like the journal of three damaged people. The timing of her finding him in the barn just as she’s about to off herself is a little too big of a coinkidink. But even with that I enjoyed some of the psychological aspects, more so her submissiveness than his illness.

Sexting St. Nick
Cam girl falls for new customer, and of course vice versa, so much so that they take it offline. Then things really get weird.
Despite the shortness of the story there was more than enough to make the leads, as well as the elves and her best friend, likeable. Not so sure about the Frosty one, though.
Even though there’s plenty of real and virtual sex, this really is a cute romance. Her past was told small but heavy, and certainly made understanding her easier.
If only the motorcycle had been shaped like a reindeer with a red headlamp. . .

Painting Class
An art teacher in her forties finally has an exhibition of her work, where one of the female gawkers is a past student who had the hots for her. The teacher feels similarly and takes her student home for a bout of body painting and anything that might come out of it.
It’s a short tale, but considering it only consisted of two scenes—three, if you count the preview of the sequel—the length was perfect. From the hesitant flirting in the art gallery to the gentle sparring to finding out if the other is interested and what the boundaries are, this was just a fun read. The art-making is given just as much importance as the lovemaking, reminding me of an old four-hour French movie with a slightly similar design.


Book Reviews: Erotic Stepbrothers, Babe Geeks, and Aleins

The Billionaires: The Stepbrothers
Insurance investigator finally gets to interview an art robbery suspect, but she finds him so hot she can’t think straight. And he knows it, using the control she’s given him to get her into bed while convincing her he’s innocent. So she goes to interview his stepbrother and, guess what, same thing happens.
As would be expected, after she sleeps with them separately there are times when both have her together. If it was just about the sex it would be relatively easy to write, but when she’s in love with both and wants a threesome relationship it’s a lot harder. Happy to say this writer pulled it off pretty well, as well as making a good mystery. The parallels of the car accidents and subsequent survivors’ guilt was well done.
Enjoyed this thoroughly. I’m predisposed to liking the lead because I love redheads, but the guys were better than most in this genre and the plot was enjoyable. Just one question: what happened to the puppy during that first night. . .?

Play Crush
A young geeky—but of course hot—female techie is tasked with doing the field work to test football helmets in hopes that head injuries will be curtailed. The players love her, one—actually more than one, but only one matters in this story—in particular.
I love this girl, at least most of the time, when she’s not being a pushover. I like the set-up. The guys are okay, probably because I semi-remember some of them from a previous book. But there’s something off about this; not enjoying it like I should, given all that’s going for it. At some points it went as far as tedious. It’s easy enough to say that lack of communication is a problem, but then that happens in just about all books in this genre, so I can’t use that one here.
As I said in the other book in this series that I’ve read, it’s hard to keep track of all the players. For example, Bam feels like a giant lineman; I’m surprised each time it’s mentioned he’s the halfback. Perhaps a character sheet should be included.
The ending, and all the Star Trek jokes, made me feel better about it, but I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have thought.

The Roswell Affair
As you can see from the title, the Roswell crash is the setting for yet another story, this time with a hot nurse/scientist called in to interrogate a not-so-alien alien in the famous 1947 crash. Within minutes she’s in lust for him and they’re communicating through sex, which is why the military failed to establish a dialogue.
This works because the main characters are likeable, with an immediate chemistry that might actually be chemical, not just the way the word is used today. Some slight touches of the era were nice, though even for something that takes place 70 years ago it’s hard to imagine the government agents being such asses; ditto for the soldiers. Don’t think they needed to be painted with such black strokes in order for this story to work, though maybe because it was so short there wasn’t time to do anything else with them.
It turns out to be a complete Mary Sue, but since I liked it I’ll let it pass. But for such a short story it didn’t help that 10% of this is ads for other books at the end.

Adam: Doms of the Silver Screen Book 2
A “scream queen” actress gets a role in a “serious” production, only to find her estranged husband is directing. She doesn’t want to quit, but she doesn’t want anything to do with him either. He harasses her until she gives in. (This story takes off from the first book in the series, but reading it is not required to understand this one.)
Even though he’s the Dom of the title, the story is really more about her. There are funny moments in the first half, most of them on the set—I’ve actually seen a bed break during filming, but that actress’s reaction was far different—but there’s just one overwhelming problem, which I can boil down to: I love Nicki, I loathe Adam.
That’s really all that needs to be said. Most of these types of stories feature an alpha male who won’t take no for an answer, but this is a new low. I doubt I will ever hate a character more than I hated Adam. This might have been an okay book if he wasn’t such an unlikeable asshole.
The first book in the series, even if it was far shorter, was so much better.