Tour’s Books Blog

May 5, 2009

Erotic Romance and ebooks – May Roundup Part 1

Here we go again with the popular erotic romance roundup.  As usual, we have a mix of good and bad, and a first for me – one I found so offensive I couldn’t finish it.   It was an odd mixture this month.  Some are real ‘keepers’ and others forgettable.  This month might be 3 parts as it seems I read more novellas/short novels than usual and fewer full length books.

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A Little Less Conversation by Rhyannon Byrd (novella)

This traditional little contemporary love story is about two everyday kind of people, Mark Logan, a womanizing bar owner and Melanie Green, the owner of a travel agency directly across the street from the bar in Foggy Bottom Beach.  They’ve been staring at each other and smiling for 6 months now.  Or ‘mooning over her’ as Mark’s older brother Cain keeps teasing him.  For the first time in his life, Mark wants more than uncomplicated sex, he wants …….. more.  Of course he won’t get anything if he doesn’t at least ask her out.

Melanie Green has been fantasizing about Mark Logan since she moved to Foggy Bottom Beach six months ago.  Despite some offers, she has no desire to date anyone – except Mark Logan, the drool worthy bar owner.  She’s damned tired of being such a ‘good girl’, the ‘dopey geek’ and longs for a walk on the wild side, and Mark Logan has the ‘wild man’ reputation.  But why would a guy like that be interested in her?  But finally, FINALLY, he asks her out!!!!!

Mark is afraid to move too quickly and Mel wants him to get his ass in gear and get to the good stuff.  She doesn’t want another man who treats her like a sister and that’s just what it feels like when Mark takes her out for some Mexican food.  Shit.  No more friends with privileges.  Been there, done that – never again.  Mark thinks she mad about his hard-on.

Crossed signals are the theme here and they happen several more times in this amusing and sometimes touching story of two people who seem determined to misunderstand each other.  But Byrd carries off the old scenario with style and likable characters.  It doesn’t break any new ground, but there’s a good, solid story packed into the slightly over 110 pages novella. (Note:  Ellora’s Cave considers this a short novel.)

My Grade: C+ to B- (3.7*)

Who would enjoy this book:  Byrd’s fans will like this as will traditional contemporary romance fans, though there is more sex than the usual mainstream, it’s not really kinky.  My Rating is NC-17.  Available at Ellora’s Cave.  Short novel length.

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Fall Fury by Jaci Burton

Jaci Burton links two of her more popular series into one book – her Devlin Dynasty, a werewolf family saga, and A Storm for all Seasons, about the Storm family of elemental magic users.  It’s an interesting blend of the two tales.

Max Devlin, a marketing consultant has been told by his parents, and pack alphas, to go to New Orleans, establish his business and take over the local packs – if there are any.  The senior Devlin’s have some very clear goals about the controlling the werewolf packs nationwide and their off-spring to achieve their goal.  Max might not want to leave his family – and he sure as hell doesn’t want to live down south, but he does what his alphas tell him, just like his other brothers have.  His one other assignment, find a mate.  He hates the heat and would rather be anywhere but New Orleans in early September when the air is thick enough to drink.

Shannon Storm is pissed as hell that her brother is hiring some hotshot marketing guy his wife knows to help launch their new Rising Storm Casino in New Orleans.  She’s been doing a hell of a job in Public Relations and she sure as hell doesn’t want – or need – some man to do her damn job for her.  Shannon wants to be recognized for just how good she at her job by her family.  She’s mad and more than a little hurt by her brother’s actions, but determined to get rid of this interloper ASAP.  It’s the start of the fall, her season, when her powers become hard to control – and she not above scaring this guy if she has to.

Max is the arrogant and determined guy who really is as good at what he does as he thinks he is and he always wins what he goes after, and he’s after Shannon.  It’s a classic adversarial setup – except Max is a werewolf after his mate and Shannon is a magic user.

Their first meeting triggers and uncontrolled reaction by Shannon – a huge wind storm in the conference room that would send any sane person running for their life, but Max seems unfazed.  The attraction to the man is more annoyance than welcome and Shannon is determined to ignore it – despite the incredible erotic dreams she’s having about him.  It was hard to swallow that he also knew more about marketing outside the state and especially overseas than she did.

The night of the PR party Shannon gives into her desires and she and Max go out into a sheltered area of the balcony and have intimate, emotional, wild sex that causes her to release more of her storm magic – and lose some of herself.  She immediately regrets it and does her damndest to reestablish the distance she needs to keep herself whole. Angelina, her mother tries to tell her Max has power of his own, but she’s too busy rebuilding her walls to listen.

She ignores him at work.  He asks her to go look at a house with him – because he’s moving to New Orleans.  Her first thought – he wants a piece of the Storm family business and she informs him point blank it wasn’t going to happen.  Then he laughs and says he’s not after her fortune, his is already bigger.  Their pleasant dinner and house hunting has a strange ending when she freezes him out.  Max Devlin is shot down.

Hoping giving Shannon some space will bring her around he doesn’t push things with her for a few weeks as he makes arrangements to move.  The entire Storm clan descended on him on moving day to help him settle in and Shannon is still refusing to acknowledge their bond.  Her family presses her while Max shamelessly eavesdrops.

Max wakes and shifts back to human to get her back to the house, glad she can’t see his wounds.  Slowly Shannon wakes and hears Max in the shower, goes in – he’s all torn up.  He has to explain what he is quickly – all of it.  And how she’s his mate.  The result isn’t quite what he expected.

“You don’t understand a damn thing! All you understand is what you want, when you want it and how you want it. You want me, but that’s all I’ve ever heard from you. You’ve decided I’m your mate, that I should move in with you, but have you ever once asked what I want? No, you haven’t. I’m sick of you and everyone else telling me what I should do and how I should feel!”

Max had no way to make things right because Shannon refused to answer his calls or even set foot in the office.  Max realizes he’ll have to swallow his pride to win this one – and the way he does it is was just right for the story.

Jaci Burton does a good job spinning a variation on the traditional battles of wills with a werewolf and a touch of magic.  Shannon and Max both have flaws and yet they remain strong, likable characters.  Yes, running from the house in the night in a storm was under the ‘too stupid to live’ moment, but otherwise, these are classic independent, strong minded people that anyone can identify with.  The moody is suitable moody in spots.  It remains solid and good, but not inspired.

My Grade:  C+ to B- (3.7*)

Who would enjoy this book:  Anyone who follows Christine Warren’s Fixed series, Lauren Dane’s Cascadia Wolves or Bianca D’Arc’s Lords of the Were.  The rating would be NC-17 to X. Available at Ellora’s Cave.   Short novel length at about 118 pages.

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By Daylight Come by Tielle St Claire; Part of the Enter The Dragon anthology

Tina Branson loves her nieces and loves babysitting them, so when they beg her to cast a spell from an old book they just unearthed up in the attic of the old family home, she agrees – and it changes her life.

“By Dragon’s Light and Dragon’s Fire

Bring me now my heart’s desire

Warrior, Maiden, Protector, Three

By daylight come my Loves to me.”

When the door bell rings and it’s just their mom coming to take them home, the girls are disappointed.  Pam tells Tina it’s about time she found a guy.  Thing is, Tina is most attracted to Sheriff Dane Sheridan, ex-husband of one of her best friends.  As she watches her nieces walk out the door, backpacks slung over their shoulders, she says, “I’m looking for a purple-eyed dragon to save me.”

Next day, Tina watches her students struggle to finish a test and idly wonders how she’ll curve the grades as she stares out the window anticipating her long weekend and the spring weather.  As she watches something appears in the sky – a bird?  A HUGE bird?  ………………. A dragon?  She looks again, green-blue scales, huge white teeth and ………… lavender eyes.  Not possible.  It was just NOT possible.  It looked wounded.  She rushes the kids out, tells another teacher she can’t make the staff meeting because of a doctor’s appoint and rushes home to her remote house on the edge of the state park, half afraid and half excited half terrified at the thought of finding a dragon.

She finds him, off in the woods bleeding lavender blood.  When he asks, “Do you accept me?” says replies, “Of course.” The dragon, Raython, shifts into a man with blond hair and the long lean build of a swimmer.  She takes him home to care for him and his wounds.  Almost as she watches, the outer wounds heal leaving no scars.  Raython asks about their Warrior, the third part of the triad.  She is the Maiden, he is the Protector but they need the Warrior – and the image of Dane with her in passionate sex enters her mind.  As if he shares her mind, Raython approves and then announces he needs sex to heal faster.  (I can hear Marvin Gaye, can you?)

It’s been two long, dry years and this gorgeous hunk wants sex, now?  He even offers to adjust his size to suit her – like his cock wasn’t already perfect.  Turns out, he’s a virgin dragon.  Man.  Does it get any better?  Well, yeah.  He’s a horny dragon too and a very fast learner.  Then he finds out she and Dane haven’t yet had sex and he’s worried Dane will kill him.  Raython’s duty is to facilitate the love between the Warrior and the Maiden.

The spell she cast awoke the Hunters and they well come for him.

“I said the spell which was supposed to draw my true love to me…not a dragon. No offense.”

“No, the spell calls both of your loves. Your Warrior and your Protector.” He shifted forward. “A true love is made up of three. The Warrior, the Protector and the Maiden.”

“But I thought love triangles always end badly. At least they do in the movies. Someone ends up hurt.”

Raython drew back. “No, the triangle is the most stable form. The three points create the plane of love and allow the three to exist on that plane. If all are open to it, no one is harmed and all are loved.”

Oh boy.  Dane was so not the sharing type.  But the Hunters, demons created by evil wizards, want the dragon for his blood and her for the usual demon activity – rape.  Now, how to convince Dane any of this real and she’s not a raving nut case.

Then Dane shows up in the morning with a suit claiming to be FBI looking for ‘a glider painted like a dinosaur.’  He was so lying to she’s prepared to lie right back when Raython comes downstairs, naked.  This is a pretty funny scene and it continues as the two try and explain the urgency of their joining because of the Hunters.  Dane is overwhelmed even though he sees Raython bleed lavender blood when he cuts him.  But a ménage?  What the hell is Tina thinking?  Good lord, he so not ready to even think about that.  He still isn’t sure about the dragon part, despite what he saw.

When Dane returns that night, Raython has prepared Tina for him by teasing her sexually all day.  Despite his reservations, he can feel Raython casting a sensual web that catches him as well as Tina.  They spend a night that’s sexually exhausting and leaves Dane confused, especially about Raython and how he seems to be able to control them and their passions.  He needs to work and he needs some distance to try and work this out in his head.

As Raython predicted, the Hunters come for him and Tina.  In fighting them, Dane feels the Warrior take over and he just seems to know what to do and feels no remorse for the killing.  The link among the three of them lets them sense each other minds and back at the house, they both hear Tina’s call for help.

Finally, the Hunters are defeated.  It’s Dane that fears what he can be and it’s Tina that eventually helps him find peace with what he is.  Dane even delights in discomfiting the FBI agent the next morning.

This could have been a trite and predictable story without a single original element.  Instead, despite some well used elements in the basic premise, the novel plot twists bring the story to life.  Tielle St Claire packs a lot of story and a ton of hot sex into a long short story format less than 80 pages long.  The characters were well done, but it’s Dane that commands the most attention, not Raython or Tina.  Dane has the most complex personality and the one who keeps perspective for the reader.  It is thru his eyes that the reader feels the full impact of what’s happening, the bonding, the surreal nature of what’s happening, the mind link they share, the erotic sex and strange sense of being two people at once.  My one complaint, and it’s a big one, is Tina fades to the background after the first 30 pages or so and its Dane and Ray who carry the story.  She just becomes a kind of sex object, no longer a complete person much less a more complex one and her family disappears.

The story is surprising intricate without getting unintelligible, plenty of action, tension between the characters – mostly between Dane and Raython, and a good dose of humor and realistic emotion – mostly from Dane, who has serious issues getting used to the idea of apparently being two different people at one and being part of a ménage, sharing is not natural for him.  Well written, it’s about as good a story for an erotic ménage urban fantasy in a shorter format as you’ll find anywhere.

My Grade: B- (3.8*)

Who would enjoy this book: Readers of erotic urban fantasy, like the Christine Warren Fixed series, Jory Strong’s Supernatural series, and N. J. Walters Dalakis series.  The rating would be xx to xxx.  Available at Ellora’s Cave.  79 Pages – long short story to novella length.

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Tooth and Claw by Annmarie McKenna

I find Annmarie McKenna is one of those writers that I sometimes like and sometimes don’t.  This novella/long short story fell solidly into the ‘like’ category.

Paxton Tenor is a police detective that lost her longtime lover to a rogue vamp two years ago.  Seth Gramble is a vampire consultant to the Houston Police Department working with his old friend Luke Summer’s, who happens to be Paxton’s partner.  For 6 months he’s been fighting his attraction to Paxton and he knows, however she feels about vamps in general, she’s attracted to him.  Seth keeps throwing out little lures, trying to intrigue her, draw her in.

Then they get summoned to the captain’s office.  Of all the idiot assignments, the three of them get pulled into ‘The Panty Bandit’ case.  Someone has been raiding people’s houses and swiping panties.  The latest victim was the mayor and he had a red lace thong stolen.  It would have been bad, except they were his, not his wife’s.  A call for a middle aged woman sends them off to a crime scene.  That means bulletproof vests – even for the vamp.  Luke heads for the car and leaves Pax and Luke to go get the vests.  She kept up her mantra about all vampires being killers.  It wasn’t helping with her hormone overload.

In the basement, the two of them finally give into the need that has been simmering for 6 months.  It’s too fast, but they both desperately want the release.  And Seth marked her as his and she heard him in head for the first time.  One look at them and it seems everyone knows – especially the Captain and Luke.  The reaction stuns Pax a little as it seems to be, “About damn time.”

When they get to the scene of the latest panty theft, Pax learns something really bizarre about Seth, he’s not just a vampire, he’s a shifter – a jaguar.  They need that enhanced sense of smell so he needs to shift in the car and slip out quietly.  Not only is he one of a handful of vampire shifters in the world, but Pax also learns there are a LOT of shifters out there, many times more than there are vampires.  The public just doesn’t know about them yet.  Fascinated, she watches him shift.  Seth disappears around the corner of the house.

“Yep,” Luke snorted. “The kitty is real good at bringing out the best in his canine companions.”

“Is that what all the noise is about?”

Paxton snagged her vest from the front seat as an inhuman screech strong enough to vibrate in her chest ripped through the night. She pictured the man she’d very recently made frantic love to and then watched turn into a huge black-spotted panther, tell all the obnoxious dogs to shut the hell up.

Luke and Pax go to speak with Ms. Carmichael.  Both sense there’s something she’s holding back.  Seth reports back there are only two scents in the house, a male and a female, and the male is all over the bedroom where the panties were swiped.  It’s the only male scent in the house.  Ms. Carmichael’s son.

Luke goes back to the house and Seth and Pax head to her apartment where they manage to at least make to the bed this time.  They barely finish and snuggle in when they’re called back to the station.  Chris Carmichael and his college roommate Brian have been arrested for the panty thefts.  A distraught Mrs Carmichael pulls a knife and goes for Brian, but Seth gets in her way and Pax wings her so she drops the knife.  (I realize this is a ‘dramatic ploy’ in the story, but honestly, no police officer would discharge a weapon in such a situation.  There’s too much risk of injuring or killing another officer.  I suppose f I can believe in a shifter vampire, I can ignore the laws of physics while I’m at it.)

Frightened for Seth who is badly wounded, Pax gets mad at Luke for casual attitude.  He reminds her about how easily vampires heal.  Luke seems to be OK, right up until the time he sees his own blood – and faints.

Tooth and Claw starts out well, focusing on Seth and Pax, then the ‘panty bandits’ took too much time away from them without adding to the core of the romance.  I enjoyed the characters and the amusing premise of the story, but the limitations of a novella (more like a short stroy) format does support the opportunity for main character development and interaction, as well as a strong secondary plot line in the ‘Panty Burglers’.  This was unfortunate as I felt that it wasn’t just Pax and Seth that had a stand-up quickie, it was the readers.  The story was light and fun fluff.

My Grade: C+ (3.5*)

Who would enjoy this story:  Fans of Bianca D’Arc’s Brotherhood of the Blood and Christine Warren’s Other’s series.  My rating would be PG-17 to NC-17.  At less than 60 pages, novella might be pushing the description, but that’s how Samhain sells it.  This is more a mainstream romance than erotic romance.

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Cowboy Boots and Untamed Hearts by Natalie Acres

This ménage story started out in a very questionable fashion and then got interesting and finally creeped me out with icky, seriously perverted people and I had to stop reading it.  I was not turned on, I was mad as hell at the characters, mainly Sam Kane, the father – and I use that word in place of ‘sperm donor’ – of Sydney Kane, his barely 18 year old daughter.

Sam Kane is supposedly an operative for the US government – one of those deniable ones – who has gotten crosswise with some drug lords.  He periodically sends Syd away somewhere safe while he’s off on a mission.  As she sits and watches her father surround by his ‘men’, especially the green eyed Brock, she knows what’s coming and is tired of having her life constantly uprooted – in having a half life really.  Knowing she will again be sent away, Syd argues with her father.

“It’s only for a little while,” he told her.

“Yes, for a little while. I’m eighteen and can’t start my life because I have to hide from yours. Why now when I’m ready to start college and my own career?”

“Because I made choices a long time ago and those decisions still follow us today.”

And they would tomorrow and the day after.

“When do I start making some of my own decisions?” she asked, fury whirling in her veins.

This is about the only ‘real Sydney’ we see – a girl turning into a woman who is dominated by her father, his life, what he wants and needs – never allowed a life of her own or the unconditional love of a real parent.

In prologue two we learn that for two years – YEARS – one of the men she’s supposed to be relying on for safety and protection is actually using her is an extreme BDSM relationship where he’s been training her more as a sex slave than a submissive.  I found this scene bordered on a kind of subtle mental and physical torture – a strange relationship where people actually begin to believe that degrading treatment ‘normal’.

Now the story starts 3 years later and Syd, now 23, is trying to get on with her life without her ‘master’.  Yet every third thought she is still about ‘him’.  This is a person who has undergone extreme psychological conditioning for 2 years.  You don’t break free of that kind of thing without years of therapy, if ever, and she certainly hasn’t had that.  Once again Sam Kane is away and Syd is apparently alone on the farm except for her watchers.  We know her ‘master’ is still one of them, she doesn’t.  She hasn’t seen him at all in 3 years.

A young filly has gotten loose and Syd can’t get her back in the barn.  She calls the Donovan’s place next door and Riley answers.  He and his brother Kevin arrive to help.  There’s a blizzard coming in.  As they talk, she finds herself responding as if they were her Dom, not just neighbors.  The two other Donovan brothers, Jett and Luke, show up and naturally they all get snowed in.

Rather creepily in the background, the Master sits, watching everything (the entire house is covered with spy cameras ostensibly for security reasons) while an older man asks if he can stand watching while she taken by four men.

The four brothers start their planned seduction/domination of Sydney.  After supper her father calls them.  This is where I got both grossed out and insanely mad – Sam Kane is not only aware of what the Donovan’s are, Dom’s, he WANTS them to make Syd theirs to “make her happy” and keep her safe from his enemies.  OK – I freely admit, my flesh crawled here as I realized that she’d been setup by her own father.  When ‘the watcher’ shows up, it’s Brock – and it turns out Brock is the oldest of the Donovan boys.  We now have 5 Dom’s and one woman who was trained as a teen to be a sex slave – all with her father’s knowledge – in fact, with his tacit approval.

Anyone want to throw-up? I could not take any more of this.  Any man who deliberately warps his own daughter to the point where having a normal, healthy relationship with a man is actually impossible, and a submissive/slave relationship is both desirable and perceived as ‘happiness’ by her is one sick puppy.  Ostensibly, this is being driven by the fact Sam Kane is dying – 10 years too late as far as I’m concerned – and trying to make sure his ‘little girl’ is kept safe by the big, strong men.

I was offended not just as a woman, but as a human being.  This was about ‘human rights abuse’.  If Sam Kane was a drug lord everyone would want to chop his head off and put it on a spike.  Are we seriously expected to accept this was the best way to insure Syd’s safety?  Please.  He is a man without honor and decency who is so twisted that his ‘love’ was far more for himself and his guilt perverted every facet of his interaction with his daughter.  His love was always conditional on blind obedience.  Plus all of the male children in the Donavan household didn’t have a father, they had a twisted monster who played head games and justified it with crap like ‘serving the nation’.

I had to stop.  It was sick on too many levels to count.  I glanced at the rest of it and learned that the Donavan father was ‘in’ on all of this from the start.  He was the one tormenting Syd’s ‘watcher’ Brock.  Two twisted, sick fathers and somehow I’m supposed to find this understandable?  Sympathetic?  More like head-spinning anger and a desire to personally shoot both fathers and Brock.  As for turning his daughter into the sex slave/submissive for 5 men to keep her safe – please, that’s just beyond lame.

The author ends her story with:

Her right to choose was lost a long time ago. Society and her father’s choices ensured she rarely had the pleasure of living the life she wanted to lead.

It didn’t matter anyway.

This was far better than freedom. Being enslaved to five lovers who wanted and needed to take care of her trumped anything she ever tried to experience one on one. What she wanted and needed, she

found in them. It was far better than overrated freedoms.

Talk about insane justification.  This was just twisted beyond conception – and I blame Sam Kane.

My Grade: DNF – it was just revolting.

Who would enjoy this: People who think extreme sexual psychological and physical conditioning is somehow excusable if one is trained to be happy about it.  Full novel length, if you can stand it.  This book is from Siren.

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