Tour’s Books Blog

June 10, 2009

June Erotic Romance Roundup – Part 1

Sometimes I have to remind myself to stop reading and start writing. As the weather gets nicer and I get busier, it seems I have less time, despite the longer days. And boy, does it feel good to get home at 8:30PM and still have it light out! The memorial high tea for my late sister-in-law who died of cancer 10 years ago this year was a great success. It was held on the weekend of the Queen’s Birthday because she was English, though a naturalized US citizen. Her collection of antique Royals – various commemoratives of kings and queens since Queen Victoria – made a nice backdrop. Milky tea (I admit I skipped the tea.), scones, even Pims biscuits made it feel like England. Plenty of photos for her family still in the UK. Would you believe I made the damn cucumber sandwiches? Do you have any idea how time consuming it is to slice cucumbers that thin without a mandolin? I’m pretty sure I heard her laughing at me, feeling it was my just desserts for the times I made her slice the carrots very thin when I was making a holiday dinner. I KNOW she was watching as my brother, the only male brave enough to hang out (OK he did hide in his man cave ‘AKA the old car annex’ and I snuck him cookies – like I used to ‘sneak’ him dinner when he got sent to bed without supper when we were kids.) acted as the director of the extreme croquet game he set up. The hats came off, the heels came off, the cold-eyed killer instincts came out and my brother bravely ordered around 6 women with wooden mallets in their hands. A few new and innovative rules were made up on the spot. Laughter, good memories re-visited and new memories made for all of us. Even the weather gods smiled. Kudos to my sister-in-law. Not many wives would throw a party in memory of their husband’s first wife, even if she was a friend. And my late sister-in-law would find it enormously funny to find I posted about it at the start of an entry on erotic romance.

Well, on to what you came here for, reviews of erotic romance books. It was a month of mixed results. Some good, some just plain awful, but most average. It seems much of erotic romance has gotten formulaic in plotting and characters. A tweak here and a change of location, and slam, bam, thank-you ma’am and we have a new book. And it’s not just an author doing it with their own books, but something of an epidemic. The differences between Kimberly Zant’s Surrender and Submission are minor variations on a theme as I discussed last month. Siren’s editing and proofreading are headed straight to hell and the homophones in the New Concepts Publishing books were so hysterical that I did a post on them. I swear, I’ll re-write the book blurbs based on these stupid – and largely inexcusable – errors. I guess this is the price we’ll all pay as more and more editors and staff get laid off as book sales drop under the combined assault of a bad economy, management with no real foresight, and the slow but inevitable erosion of print books as ebooks become more popular.

Whatever comes next, right now we’ll look at some available offerings in the erotic romance genre. Be warned – it was a werewolf kind of a month.

Endless Chase by N. J. Walters

This is the 5th book in the Dalakis series and the story of Chase Deveraux, the younger brother of Delight Deveraux, now the wife of the middle Dalakis brother, Lucian. Like Lucian, she has become a vampire. Chase has been aging as human would, and developing his considerable artistic talents, especially in the area of sculpting. Though he has achieved considerable success, he has remained reclusive and never become a part of the social art world. He has come to the old Dalakis Castle in Carpathian Mountains where the eldest Dalakis, Cristofor and his American wife, Johanna, live. The three brothers, their wives, cousin, and close friends are all coming for a reunion. Chase is keeping his own health concerns from his sister and all the rest of them. Even though he doesn’t have the test results back yet, he can feel the weight of his mortality and knows the diagnosis won’t be good.

Wandering in the forest surrounding the castle near dusk as he waits for his vampire in-laws to awaken, he finds a woman lurking in the woods, Katya. Dressed in combat boots and leather with a crossbow on her back, she isn’t exactly friendly, but Chase is irresistibly drawn to her. But is she a threat to his family? The two begin a dance between attraction and distrust. When Chase asks Christofor about people wandering the castle grounds, he goes on immediate alert. As the eldest, he is very protective of his mate and his whole family. As the extended clan arrives at the castle, Chase again runs into his sexy hunter. He struggles between his desire and the fear she means his family harm. His own sense of looming mortality runs through this as well. You’d think that would make this a grim and melodramatic story, but it doesn’t.

The reader can’t tell which side Katya is on for some time. One of the more interesting features of this book is the village priest, Father Patrescu, a simple, practical man and the one who provides the clarity that Katya needs to sort out her own feelings and her goal of revenge – and what it’s costing her. Her physical attraction to Chase is powerful and undeniable. His attraction is equally strong, but neither fully trusts the other as the secrets separate them. What Katya is is revealed about half way through the story, and with it the distrust of the Dalakis family escalates to near paranoia. Chase is set at odds with his own family while Katya won’t tell him everything.

This is one of those rare romances where I can’t say much about the story without giving away too many surprises. Not the run of the mill ending either, for Chase or Katya.  Endless Chase is a worthwhile addition to the series.

The Dalakis series is one of the better vampire series out there. N. J. Walters writes a good story and creates characters that feel real and you can care about. This is not some slapped together schlock with fangs to make it au courant. Chase and Katya make an unusual pairing, and without saying too much about the unusual twist, she’s a stronger character than usual. I was glad Chase finally got his story. The Dalakis family books have appealed to me and I’ve enjoyed each one.

My Grade: B (4*)

Who would enjoy this book: those who read Kerrelyn Sparks, Christine Warren and Lauren Dane’s Witches Knot. The rating would be NC-17 to x.

Short novel length. Ebook available from Ellora’s Cave website.

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Alphas’ Mates by Leah Brooks

Leah Brooks made a hit in erotic romance with her Desire Oklahoma series from Siren. While she has got some of the same personality traits of those male characters here, I thought that Alphas’ Mates was a better book overall than her others. Part of that was family dynamic and part was the strength of the female lead character.

Lars, Damien, Seth and Wes are half brothers, sons of the late pack Alpha who was indiscriminate in his relationships because he never found his mate. Raised by competitive mothers, they never much got along and after their father’s sudden death years ago, they split the pack into 4 separate packs and each became Alpha of their own pack. But their Grandmother, Eleanor Tougarret, was the one link they all valued and could make get together and behave – for awhile. All four packs will be coming together to celebrate her birthday as they did when her late husband, their grandfather and former pack Alpha, was alive. They all love their grandmother and are well aware her fondest wish was for the 4 of them to rule the pack as one again. While there for their visit, Eleanor’s goddaughter arrives.

The four half brothers watch as Victor, a widowed wolf and their grandmother’s right hand, manipulates their grandmother into taking a nap. Their sparring does them both good. Then all four of the alphas scent their mate – and it’s the same woman, auburn haired, green eyed Lacey Roberts, their grandmother’s ‘little’ goddaughter.

Lacey walks into her godmother’s sitting room and sees four gorgeous men staring at her and she’s hit with a wave of lust and ………….. did they just growl at her? Meeting her Nana’s grandsons was definitely a wet panty event. Whew! Man, she needed to get laid and these guys leaked testosterone. Wow! Then they spoil it all by lecturing her about driving all night.

A long time friend of her own grandmother, Nana had always visited Lacey in Ohio where she was raised by her loving, but frail grandmother who died some months ago. Her getting involved with a case of child and spousal abuse involving a prominent man in town, Ted Johnson, ended up costing Lacey her job, but she was determined to help the woman and her daughter. She shared none of this with Nana or the 4 men.

Rolph, the pack historian, informs the brothers every time there have been incidents of shared mates, the males had to learn to share or all suffered, including the female mate and with alphas, the whole pack. Not exactly the answer the brothers wanted to hear. Now it was find a way for the four of them to share one woman or everyone, even the pack, would suffer. But was Lacey going to agree?

Lacey gets a crash course in the reality of all those werewolf stories her Nana told her over the years when the brothers promptly tell her she’s their mate and all 4 of them want her forever. She thinks they’re doing this for their grandmother and takes off to town to get something to eat. Anything to get away from the 4 of them. In the diner Steven Galbraith introduces himself and gives her his card. He’s a lawyer in town and unknown to her part of a pack that hates the Tougarret, though he is a nice and easy going man and means no harm to any of them. He tells her the brothers hate his father for something that happened in the past and there are a lot of hard feelings, even though he and the brothers have never even met.

The brothers storm in, lecture her, piss her off, get her back to the house and then, with her Nana’s help explain they’re werewolves. Lars and Damien shift into wolf form. Somehow this all ends up with the four of them mating her one after the other so the ‘magic semen’ does its stuff and the mate bond forms. Mind you, she’s known them a few hours at this point. Pheromones are potent stuff I guess. But I was glad to see that Lacey at least didn’t just roll over for the males just because they all screwed her.

The next night, Nana’s birthday celebration was much larger than expected with the four packs reunited. Lacey is honest enough to admit she lusts for them, but tells them point blank she does not love them and plans to get on with her life in a few days. Then a woman is found dead, her throat ripped out. A redhead. Once they realize it’s not Lacey, the brothers smell the Galbraith pack on her. Then Agent O’Reilly arrives and starts asking questions. My question here is what authority does the FBI have in a murder? It makes no sense, personal vendetta or not, he would not be agency in charge of a local matter. I know this is erotic romance, but come on, this is basic stuff.

Despite all that’s happening, Lacey continues to help the abused wife and son of the man in Ohio that she helped rescue. She goes to Steven Galbraith to get divorce proceedings started. Then she’s threatened by the man back in Ohio. Overhearing her asking “how does someone disappear” makes them think she’s thinking of taking off herself. The brothers don’t all become emotionally attached to Lacey quickly, though the mating bond is strong. The struggle between the brothers and between them and Lacey carries the rest of the story.

There is a scene where the brothers ‘punish’ Lacey. It was major turn off for me and got me mad. I don’t like having sex used that way, especially by those who claim to love anther. It’s perverted in the sense that it corrupts a thing meant for showing affection. It’s a fairly common theme in werewolf stories and I must say it’s disturbing that so many women writers think this is a turn on.

Other than that, Alpha Mates is good, story. Not great, but solid and with good characters. Unusual for this kind of ménage, all four of the males are well defined individuals. The whole FBI thing is dumb. The killer was a bit of a surprise, but it made sense enough. The resolution of longstanding issues seemed a shade too simple, but then it usually does. The second climax made me smile. Never has a man deserved it more.

My Grade: C+ (3.25*) NOTE: The siren site has 116 ratings that average 4.6 and none are lower than 3*

Who would enjoy this book: Followers of the both werewolf and ménage genres. Fans of Bianca D’Arc’s Lords of the Were. The rating is xxx.

Full novel length. Currently ebook only at the Siren website

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Wolfen by Madelaine Montague

After reading Alpha Mates and recommending it on a forum on Amazon, Wolfen was recommended to me by Seton. It was a very different take on multiple alpha wolves with a single mate. It had a second interesting twist with the woman being older than the men – not that common in werewolf stories.

Danika Whitney works for the government and is in the small town of Maynard trying to tag wolves. Twice she’s shot one with a tranquilizer dart and tagged him and twice the tag has gone off the grid. What the hell is going on? She’s dusty and tired as she hits town when a group of young men on motorcycles pull up to a light. Irresistibly, she checks them out. Then they park right where she has to walk past them. It was bad enough she felt a lot of antagonism from the locals, why she couldn’t even guess, now she has to ogle some hunky bikers and give them the wrong impression of her. She was staying way out of town at a fishing camp cabin and didn’t need any trouble following her back.

The whole wolf problem was strange to begin with. There shouldn’t even BE any wolves for hundreds of miles! And why would they take the risk of getting near humans to kill livestock with the woods full of their natural prey? And the hostility of the townspeople was beyond odd. She wasn’t HUNTING the wolves, just tagging them. And why couldn’t she find the pack? OK, so she wasn’t a wolf expert, but jeeze, she’d spent a lot of time in the woods on various jobs, wolves weren’t THAT different. And that guy that flirted with her now glared at her as she entered the diner. What was that about and why was he limping? Her day did not improve when the only open seat was at a ‘U’ shaped booth. Hunger won her internal argument and sat there – as silence filled the diner and the bikers came in, and headed straight for her. They joined her before she could escape. Balin, Conner – call me Con, Dakota, Jared and Xavier. Leather clad, pierced and tattooed, they were quintessential gang members – except for the good manners. She was scared, attracted and interested, but why did these men remind her of wolves? Not just any wolves – alphas! Then they look downright grim when she tells them she was studying wolves in the Atlanta Zoo. They had no interest in mating. She does. Why is she so horny around these guys? It’s like her libido woke from hibernation and went directly to overdrive.

It turns out the five bikers are alpha wolfen. In this ‘world’ wolfen are natural born shifters. Humans that are bitten by wolfen and eventually get some or all of the ability to transform into wolves are ‘weres’ and genetically not the same as ‘wolfen’. Balin is a prince among the wolfen and a pack alpha. He is descended from one of the oldest and purest wolfen lines. The other four men are all alphas of their own packs and the group was sent in by the ruling counsel to investigate reports of rogue wolfen biting humans in an attempt to start a pack. Thing is, the first full moon many die in the transformation, or go insane and kill everything. It isn’t easy and many never learn to control it and have to be killed for the safety of others. It’s going to be messy and dangerous and they’d all like Dani well away from it.

Suddenly, Dani finds her ‘neighbors’ fighting each other and then Balin insists she not do her job alone. Who are these guys and what gave them the impression they could run her life? Actually, Dani is an Alpha female, even if she is a human and the wolfen are ALL attracted – but she’s off limits. Balin thinks she might be what will draw the rogue alpha out so they can find the rogue pack and kill them. There are way more weres than they thought. They were going to need backup for the full moon. New weres are unstable and the uninfected need to be kept safe from them or they’d become casualities.

For a group of wolves that don’t plan on mating a human, they sure are fighting a lot. Including combat in wolf form. Dani stumbles on them and tranqs the ones that charge her – but suddenly there are a dozen wolves. She darts all she can and makes it back safely to her cabin. Then Con staggers out of the woods half naked and pissed as hell, Xavier at his side in an equally bad mood. Xavier lets slip the wolves weren’t the pack she’d been hunting, realizes his slip and heads to the cabin.

“Where do you think you’re off to now?” Con demanded, drawing her attention back to him.

“I figured as long as I’d taken some of them down I’d tag them and put a locator in their hips,” she informed him stiffly.

Con glared at her in fuming silence for a moment. “I don’t think they’d like getting a locator in their ass anymore than they liked the fucking darts.”

“Well, I’m not going to ask them!”

Con settles the dispute by carrying her off to bed. Come morning the 4 other wolfen invade the cabin and take Con outside for a beating because who got her hadn’t been settled the night before thanks to the combined arrival of Dani and her tanq gun and the rogues. But as Con tries to figure out what happened, he suddenly realizes that Dani has gone into heat. But human females don’t do that, so what the hell is going on? She isn’t wolfen or were or they’d smell it on her. And he didn’t use a condom, which infuriated Dani. Con assures her his ‘kind’ doesn’t carry diseases and she yells, “I suppose you’re going to assure me I couldn’t have caught pregnant either!” It’s then the others catch the scent that almost eluded him – the scent of a female in heat.

Dani, mad at herself and Con starts parsing the words used. He can’t carry ‘human’ sexual disease. It wasn’t ‘that’ pack. Dani is too smart to not figure this out eventually. Especially as more bits of information come her way, like that strange man calling Balin ‘prince’.

Balin is trying to do a little piecing together of information himself. Dani shouldn’t be affecting them this way. The council laws forbade mixing wolfen and human – and in theory it would yield no offspring, so how could she have latent wolfen genes? But it was a lot more than just a human female at the peak of her cycle.

She goes after the wolves again that night and finds herself the hunted rather than the hunter, just making it back to the cabin. Balin, furious she disobeyed him – since when was he the boss of her? – ends up in bed with her only to get himself kicked out of the cabin when he accuses her of calling him Con when she was trying to say ‘condom’. Next day Dakota gets left behind to guard her and they end up together. A dinner with too much beer and Dani invites Jared and Xavier to try a threesome with her.

Finally she learns what they are and why they’re there. She does all she can to help come the full moon, but the clean up afterwards keep them there as she leaves, sure she’ll never see them again.

In many ways, this was a far more creative and complex way to look at werewolves than the usual stuff out there. There’s a kind of caste system and converted weres are not the biological equivalent of a wolfen. The abilities are different and managing the weres, teaching them becomes something the wolfen community takes on when things like this happen, but not before many die in the transition. They use a very clever way to shelter those not infected by the rogues and keep them safe from the weres.

Wolfen did suffer for the same problem that most ménage books with 3 or more males, not all the male characters are equally well developed. In this case, Balin and Con are the two standouts and Dakota gets some substance, but Jared and Xavier sort of blend in a bit.

Dani is no shrinking violet. She deals with the results of her dalliance with the wolfen, expecting nothing from them. The Alphas all know what price they will pay for being with a human and the idea of sharing is not one they relish, but none seem willing to walk away. In most ways this is less a ménage than it is a polyamorous romance. The ending was no fairy tale, but it was satisfying. Thank-you Seton for the recommendation.

I have had more than one bone to pick with New Concepts’ Publishing and their editors who need some kind of remedial training in homophones. It can be very disconcerting at times. This is a book people, not email, not a blog – a BOOK and just because it’s an ebook doesn’t mean editors get to slack off and do some half assed job. Clean up your act and your books.

My Grade: B (4*)

Who would enjoy this book: Any ménage or werewolf fan would like this, although, as I mentioned, it isn’t the usual ménage arrangement. The rating is X.

Full length novel from New Concepts as ebook or print

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1 Comment »

  1. LOL. You are giving me too much credit for the recommend. All I wrote was that I DNF Alphas’ Mates cause I already went thru it with WOLFEN. 🙂

    Great job with the reviews.

    Comment by seton — June 11, 2009 @ 9:51 pm | Reply


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