Tour’s Books Blog

March 21, 2010

Assorted Reviews: Erotic Romance eBooks

GAH!!!!!  What is it editing these days?  The NCP Awful Editing Virus is spreading like wildfire.  Siren is completely infected.  Even Samhain has fallen victim.  I’m reading less from Ellora’s Cave, but I’ve seen the beginnings there as well.  Top that off with an ebook that had so many issues and I’m disgusted with the killer combination of higher prices and lower quality!  Just thinking about the prices these books will command in print makes me cringe.

In the last two weeks “…. he raised his hand to touch her check…”, then ” …… her interest was peaked..”, and ” …… lieing on the bed…” – no, I did not just make these up.  And here I thought “….imminently well qualified ….” was bad.  Who knew?  I am flexible on things like blogs, forums, journals, etc.  I mean, who has time to polish these things?  But the authors of these grammatical atrocities are professional writers – and more to point, asking me to PAY to read this stuff.  When I part with my hard earned money, especially in these tighter financial times, I deeply resent the disrespect that publishers and authors are showing readers by allowing such sloppy work to enter the marketplace.  The works read like unedited final drafts.  Messy and unpolished.  I’m left with a distinct sense of the author being too rushed and the publisher completely uncaring. Worse still, these were from established, well regarded, popular, authors.  Are they trading on their names?  I only tolerate that so far and stop buying.  Believe me, there a long list of authors that I no longer buy automatically – ebook and print.

When I’m getting charged increasingly higher prices for shorter and shorter works, bad editing and higher prices become a killer combination.  It’s bad enough that too many stories lack imagination and just regurgitate old themes and characters over and over, now the simple mechanics are being allowed to erode to the point where they actually interfere with the flow of the story?  No, let’s add egregious editing errors into the mix!  They are a tremendous distraction, and very insulting.  If you want top dollar for your product, I expect quality in return.  With prices of ebooks at the small publishers rapidly out pacing mass market paperbacks in escalating cost, while quality is falling short in so many easily correctable areas, the incentive to continue reading them is evaporating.  Seriously, how many ways can you have sex before the whole thing passes from hot to just plain boring – or worse, laughable?  Yes, it’s erotic romance – romantica if you prefer, not great literature, but come on, I deserve better than this!

Like most people who are lifelong readers, I enjoy the flow of words and ideas.  Quality writing is a joy to read.  I have never begrudged the money I’ve spent on books, and I spend thousands each year.  A book is something I can enjoy again and again each time I read it.  Joining PBS has prompted me to buy more books, not less, despite getting plenty of books through them as well.  I’ve found a lot of authors I might otherwise never have tried and read books I’d never heard of before.  My friends on Goodreads have added even more titles for my wish list.  As bad as the quality of print books have gotten, and there is no question that both mechanics and plot/writing are suffering with many popular authors, ebooks are on a steeper downward quality slide.

I always used to say, not all readers write, but all writers read.  We learn to speak and express our ideas through our command of language.  Is there a more important skill than this?  The clarity and definition of ideas and concepts are passed from generation to generation through the written word.  That we should treat this most important method of communicating and preserving our ideas with such cavalier disrespect is little short of criminal.  We are raising a generation unable to communicate.  Language can bring us together or keep us apart and we taking the voice from people and dumbing it down to new lows.  What a sad heritage we’re leaving.  A generation that can text but not write and can’t be bothered to read.  No wonder there’s such frustration.  They have never developed the tools they need to express themselves.  And heaven knows with what passes for quality writing these days, they stand little hope of learning them.

  • Title: The Valkyrie
  • Author:  Mandy M Roth
  • Type:  Urban fantasy
  • Genre:  First person tale of redemption and resurection
  • Sub-genre:  Supernatural loses her memory and but finds her soul
  • My Grade: C+ (3.5)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price: Short Novel, category – about 50,000 words for $4.50 (10% for short time)
  • Where Available: ebook available on the Samhain site
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from publisher’s site

This urban fantasy has the makings of a great story, but it gets short changed here thanks to a combination of too much background getting compressed into too short of a format.  It read like the first third of a longer book.  All things considered, I ended feeling frustrated about what could have been.

Valerie wakes up in a hospital unable to recall anything about her past.  it couldn’t have been good, because she has the most awful nightmares, nightmares that include her screaming and levitating objects and herself.  Despite this, she has managed to carve a life for herself thanks to a trust fund that seemed to come from nowhere while she was still hospitalized for her near fatal injuries surprisingly short recovery and rehabilitation.  She and roommate and best friend Molly Harper, a nurse from the hospital where Val stayed, share a house while Val goes to college.  Molly is still working at the hospital and flirting with the owner of the local pizza place, Joey.

Val and Molly are having pizza and chatting with Joey when Molly gets all excited about a film crew in town, Vampyre Productions, doing a movie.  As the go to The Raven, the local dance club, Val’s ex-fiance Dillion calls, annoying Val.   It turns out Mallory is really worried about Val’s bad dreams and her increasing isolation.  Not only was she helping Dillon, she arranged for Dr. Sullivan, the handsome young doctor who helped Val in the hospital and along with Molly has stuck with her since.  Now Molly has arranged for the two to meet at The Raven.

At the little place they stop Val has another moment of being someone – or something else, especially when the woman calls her valkyrja.  It frightens her and she all but runs out walking, and Doc and Val find themselves in a very bad area.  they are attacked by gang members, and Val calls out when a shot is fired at Doc, redirecting to herself.  One of gang, Thomas, stays behind when the rest run in fear.  He calls her “La bruja oscura“, a dark witch.

Back at Val’s house Doc tells about how she levitated things in her room even as she lay near death. He was drawn to her from the first and he and Molly managed to keep her abilities from the rest of the staff.  But now that he’s seen what she can do, there’s fear in eyes.  The chapter ends with her leaving.  Next chapter is months later and suddenly, they’re in bed together.  The book flows like that – or perhaps, leaps off cliffs like that.  Val  goes to ‘rescue’ a screaming woman and stumbles onto a movie set and the lead actor is Molly’s current screen heartthrob, Guytano Marsarius, who asks her out.  Then some red-headed guy with powers arrive and claims her as his.  They go out the next night and in the country and western place there’s a singer she more or less feels she should know.  (If you’re counting, we have the ex-fiance Dillon, the doctor Peyton, the actor Guytano, an über bad guy named Torin,  and now the singer whose name she knew – Gregorios.

Do all these characters confuse you?  Well try to follow them in a choppy story.  Each has like 10-15 pages and off to the next.  Poor Doc didn’t get much time at all.  There are just too many plot lines and characters for a book that just category length.  This deserved to be ‘epic’ length book.  Unfortunately, with all the ‘meet and greet’ stuff, too much of what happens here is actually characters telling Val her own history as opposed to their actually doing anything.  Yes, she’s lost her memory, but just listening to a retelling of events gets boring.  These are fascinating characters that never really get a chance to be fleshed out completely.  With the bulk of the action relegated to mere synopsis, the story lags in key spots only to have these sudden changes of pace.  It didn’t flow smoothly and priorities seemed confused.  The ending was just frustrating with 2 main characters dead, the bad guys free, and nothing settled.

The Valkyrie has the heart of a great book that didn’t quite bloom.  Either the scope and the number of characters had to be reduced,  and/or complexity of the backstory had to be removed to allow for a meaningful development of Val and maybe 3 other characters.  As it stood, between time gaps and and the compressed retelling of the prior relationships, it was like a trying to sprint through a marathon.

Was The Valkyrie worth $4.50?  Despite it’s many short-comings, I’d give this a tentative yes because it’s the first in a series.  I know Ms Roth does not typically write long stories, but I hope she will go back and re-write this book in a longer format at some time in the future.  It would be worth it – and I don’t often say something like that.

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  • Title: Jamie’s Revenge
  • Author:  Jenny Penn
  • Type:  Western historical erotic romance
  • Genre:  Feisty heroine does battle with handsome brothers
  • Sub-genre:  Pretense and tormenting backfire
  • My Grade: D+ to C- (2.5*)
  • Rating:  XX
  • Length and price: Short Novel, category – about 58,500 words for $6.50
  • Where Available: ebook available on the Siren site
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from publisher’s site

I generally like Jenny Penn.  She has a sense of humor, her heroines know what they want and go after it (even if I think some of them would benefit from a good shrink instead) and Ms Penn usually writes well.  I really liked her Sea Island Wolves and several of her other books.  Alas, not this one.  It wasn’t the story, that was actually good.  It was the writing and the most torturous, incoherent dialogue I’ve ever read.  Yes, I realize it was supposed to be representative of a less than educated person, but dear God, uneducated people aren’t babbling idiots.

Siren started a series of books commissioned to celebrate their their anniversary.  They are supposedly based on diaries and documents found by editor on her trip out West last summer.  A half way decent ploy for a themed series in the popular Western genre.  Jamie’s Revenge supposedly takes place in 1866.  For the last 5 years, that would be the entire Civil War which goes unmentioned here, amazingly enough, Jamie Traynor has been living in Boston with her uncle and his new wife.  She told her father she had married and was now going as Mrs. MacAuley.  Unfortunately, Brodie and Caelen MacAuley take grave exception to the young cowhand Danny’s calling her that. Then on the way to her father’s ranch, Danny tries to rape her and she takes care of him, shooting him in the leg. The brothers catch up, beat up Danny, and tie him to a tree at the mercy of nature.

Jamie’s father realizes his daughter is still hurt of her rejection by Caelen and Brodie years before. They did so because they felt she was too young and they were being honorable. Sheridan knows the two brothers broke Jamie’s heart, but he also knows they love her and will care for her, so he cleverly decides to send Jamie to her very pregnant sister Bridgette who is married to two of Caelen’s and Brodie’s older brothers. He knows that her sister and brothers-in-law will keep things somewhat under control.

The rest of the action takes place on the MacAuley ranch and Jamie, Caelen, and Brodie wage a war that was just waiting to be fought all these years. Jamie out of pride and hurt and the two men out of long delayed desire. Predictable fun. Except for the distracting, annoying dialogue.

Why is the horrible dialogue so annoying?  Where do I start.  I can deal with being ungrammatical, but like writing someone speaking with an accent, it GETS VERY OLD FAST.  And like someone writing an accent, it’s rare to actually capture the cadence or real feel of the speech.  Here it’s compounded by persistently breaking the very atmosphere the author is trying to create by using slang not current in that time period.  This is the same problem that authors encounter when trying to write idiomatic speech for their Scot and Cockney characters.  Why make your readers struggle through the awfulness of these conversations only to use “dick”, a slang term for penis not in use for nearly another 40 years?  But the absolutely worst, one that completely cracked the illusion, was when Jamie called Brodie and Caelen “jerks”.  I literally stopped dead and started laughing.  The whole thing was inadvertently a farce.

Far more experienced writers than Ms Penn have had ventured into the minefield of writing accents and specific local idioms and found out just how impossible it is to hold a realistic illusion.  Striking a balance between the reader’s comfort, story readability, and their desire to provide atmosphere is no easy task.  Usually, they get so caught up in dialogue tricks they forget the most important job of a writer – keep the reader engaged.  Instead, they pursue this bizarre goal at the reader’s expense.  That’s what happened here.  The ungrammatical sentence structure, redundancies, slang terms not in use the specified time period, all created a major distraction rather that providing the desired sense of time and place.

The story itself had many good moments, usually when Ms Penn abandoned her torturous language and just wrote the scene.  The one where Jamie ties the two brothers to a bed is really amusing, realistic, and hot. For me it just wasn’t enough to offset the annoyance factor.

Was the category length Jamie’s Revenge ebook worth $6.50?  Not to me.  It’s overpriced.  Siren and Ms Penn are trading on her popularity here, not quality.  The core story is sound, as is most of her work, but the overall impact is too diminished by the dreadful prose.  Stick with Ms Penn’s Sea Island Wolves and you’ll get a lot more for your money.

**************************************************************************************

  • Title: A Perfect Fit for Three
  • Author:  Sydney Holiday
  • Type:  Western contemporary erotic romance
  • Genre:  Lonely heroine is courted by two handsome brothers
  • Sub-genre:  Part of the Liebling, Texas menage series
  • My Grade: C- (2.8*)
  • Rating:  XX
  • Length and price: Short Novel, category – about 44,600 words for $5.99
  • Where Available: ebook available on the Siren site
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from publisher’s site

This book is part of Siren’s Menage Everlasting series set in Liebling, Texas, a town much like Desire, Oklahoma – only Leibling is a town of menage marriages. Not knowing the town was quietly famous for this arrangement, childhood friends Lena Morgan and Edie Bishop have used Lena’s inheritance from her great aunt to buy a bed and breakfast in Liebling, a town in Texas Hill Country called The Sweet Spot. The two women struggle to get everything ready for the opening in a couple of days when Lena takes a fall. A trip to the local clinic brings her in contact with Brock Stone.

Brock Stone is ready to settle down, if he and his artist brother Wes can just find a woman that suits them both. Lena looks like just that woman. That night at a family dinner with his parents and brothers, there is much good natured teasing by his bothers about finding his wife-to-be. Wes is intrigued and next day he takes a case of the family’s own wine to the B&B and introduces himself to Lena. Wes manages to convince her to come out to the vineyard the next day for a tour, saying she could then offer her guests the opportunity of enjoying a tour themselves. At the end, Brock joins them for some fun with grape stomping in a vat. This is something they do for the tourists just for fun. After fun in the grapes, she gets cleaned and has dinner the family. Lena was orphaned as a child and was raised by her great aunt, clean and fed, but never actually cared for. Seeing this family interact fills her with longing for a family of her own. Now the brothers just have to convince her that a permanent menage will work.

At the B&B grand opening, a strange woman arrives and becomes the B&B’s first guest. Before leaving the next morning, she bakes Edie and Lena a nut pie. They both enjoy is, but shortly, Lena finds she can’t breath. Wes and Brock find her on the floor turning blue. Luckily, Brock has an Epi-pen and the shot brings her around, but she lands in the hospital. Though Lena has eaten nuts, apparently the overload or combination brought on the attack.

The story is on solid ground with building the relationship between Lena, Brock and Wes, but falters with the threat to Lena and in Lena’s supposedly building a viable B&B. Edie does FINALLY call her on how much she’s slacking off her part of the business responsibility, but anyone who has started a business knows just how impossible the story is. Still, suspending that disbelief for a time, it’s still weak in conflict and character development. The ending with Lena’s would be killer was dumb.

Was A Perfect Fit for Three worth $5.99? Not really. You just don’t get your money’s worth. $5.99 is the price of an introductory full length PRINT novel. You simply cannot compare the cost of a print book to an ebook. Print books can be shared, sold, or given away. Ebooks can’t. They have only convenience in their favor. Judging by sales, that might be enough, because the quality of content seems to be on a rapid decline. There are much better menage books out there. Get them on sale, from a book swapping site, or used from half.com. Much better value for the money.

*****************************************************************************

  • Title: Edie Earns Her Saddle
  • Author:  Ava Mitchell
  • Type:  Western contemporary erotic romance
  • Genre:  Free spirit vegetarian is courted by two handsome cattleman brothers
  • Sub-genre:  Part of the Liebling, Texas menage series
  • My Grade: C+ (3.2*)
  • Rating:  XX
  • Length and price: Short Novel, category – about 60,500 words for $6.50
  • Where Available: ebook available on the Siren site
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from publisher’s site

Edie Earns Her Saddle is the companion story to A Perfect Fit for Three. Edie is the free-spirit, organic food cooking, vegetarian cook for the B&B that she and friend Lena opened. Thing is, Lena forgets she has to work there too, so Edie is left to do it all. In a foray to the market, she meets a handsome cowboy, Jason Chisholm. Jason has no time for the tree-hugging, tofu eating, Prius driving yuppies of the world. He’s a SEAL (why are they always SEAL’s?) home on leave, ranch owner and part owner of a popular club, Cedar Ridge, where he runs security while his brother Seth manages the place.

Edie talks Lena into going to Cedar Ridge to try and run into Jason, you know, casually. She does, at the door. Unfortunately, Edie never had much experience flirting. The exchange at the door is classically banal. In the club, Seth catches his brother staring at a woman, something he’s never done before.  Next day Edie finds herself befriending a beautiful woman staying in Liebling in hopes of rekindling her romance with some locals.  (Can it get more obvious?)  She and Edie chat over tea at the B&B.  Despite the mixed vibes, Edie gives Cassandra the benefit of the doubt.  Then Edie finds out Cassandra has been asking around about her.

Cassandra shows up after Edie, Jace, and Seth get together.   Unexpectedly, Cassandra turns on her calling her a whore and nothing more than a toy for Jace and Seth.  The ugly confrontation changes again when Jason walks in and catches Cassandra full rant.  What I disliked was the way Edie excused Cassandra as Lena did with her attacker.  It just grated on me that the heroines in both were so sickly sweet.  Then an attempt is made on Edie’s life.  As with A Perfect Fit for Three, that provides an opportunity for the heroes to be protective.  It’s better done here.

This is the usual big strong men want to take care of the beautiful little lady. She has limited experience. (Almost a virgin thing.) Happily, she doesn’t suddenly drop IQ points as so often happens. The other stumbling block is the Chisholm family and the Stone family don’t speak. Still, the story is good enough to hold the reader and the writing quality is good. No one felt the need to speak with an accent. (THANK-YOU!) For contemporary menage, about average to just above.

Is Edie earns Her Saddle worth $6.50? Maybe. It depends on what you want from your books. It was worth $4.99 to me, no more, but unlike some of the recent releases, this one was fairly well done, so it isn’t a waste of money.

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