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Posted by Amanda

The Trouble with Grace

The Trouble with Grace by Jenn LeBlanc is 99c at Amazon and iBooks! This historical romance serves as a prequel for the next book and seems to feature a triad of sorts. Readers recommend this one for those wanting a different sort of historical romance, while others said it was hard to get invested in the romance.

She had no idea what passion was,
Until she saw them…
 

Lady Alain needs a husband, and Quintin Wyntor will do just fine.

She will offer him a mutual agreement of respect and independence–
As long as he never visits her bed to claim his marital rights.

But seeing him with a man, with Calder, changes it all.
For better–and for worse.

Passion stirred.
Desire ignited.

And yet, she still never wants to touch or be touched.

But Quinn’s heart is shattered when his lover walks away so he decides to explore his feelings for Celeste to ease his broken heart.

In one unchecked moment of passion, mutual need spins out of control and bringing Calder home now may just be impossible.

Will Celeste give in to what Quinn wants for her?
Or will she stand her ground and hope they find another way…
 

This book is the story of Celeste and has her happily for now.
It is also the beginning of Calder and Quinn’s story which will be continued in THE SPARE AND THE HEIR.

This book is an autochorissexual romance (on the asexual spectrum) but contains important pieces of a gay romance. Both are explicit.

Warning: this book has a cliffhanger ending for Calder and Quinn, but is very much part of their story.

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Down & Dirty

Down & Dirty by Tracy Wolff is $1.99! This sports romance is the first book in the Lightning series. Readers said that while the book is definitely a sexy contemporary, it has some great emotional depth. However, some felt the romance aspect happened a bit too quickly.

This hard-bodied football star is used to scoring. But he needs all the right moves to get past a fiery redhead’s defenses in a steamy standalone novel from the bestselling author of Ruined.

Emerson: Talk about bad first impressions. I have too much riding on this job to show up late on my first day looking like the winner of a wet T-shirt contest, all thanks to an arrogant quarterback who drives like he owns the road. Hunter Browning thinks that because he’s famous, he can fix everything with a smile and a wave of his hand. He’s too bronzed, buff, and beautiful for his own good. Or mine. I can’t let on that I’m a fan . . . no matter how much fun we’d have in the sack.

Hunter: Hitting that puddle was my best play since winning the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass. Sure, it’s not my preferred way to get a girl wet, but I’ll make an exception for Emerson Day. She’s got a sharp tongue and a red-hot temper, even with her soaking clothes plastered to her every curve. Now I know exactly what my next play will be: hire Emerson as my personal real-estate agent, save her job—and see if I can take her off the market.

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A Summer for Scandal

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Adres is $1.99! This is a historical romance set in the Caribbean with a heroine hiding her writing identity. One promising review said the feeling between the hero and heroine is very much like Mr. Darcy and Lizzie, but some said the plot execution could have used some work. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads.

Arroyo Blanco, 1911.

When Emilia Cruz agreed to accompany her sister to a boating party, she had no idea that the darling of the literary world would be in assistance—or that he would take such pleasure in disparaging the deliciously sinful serial she writes under a pseudonym. No one save her sister knows she’s the author and to be found out would mean certain scandal.

Stuck on his long-awaited second book, Ruben Torres has begun to edit in secret a gossip paper whose literary reviews are as cruel as they are clever. The more he writes about the mysterious author of a popular serial, the more papers he sells…and the more he is determined to find out her identity before anyone else can.

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Vampire Warrior Kings Boxed Set

The Vampire Warrior Kings Boxed Set by Laura Kaye is $1.99 at Amazon and iBooks! It’s $2.49 at all other vendors. This set collects books 1-3 in the Vampire Warrior Kings series and features vampires, obviously. Just a note that these romances are on the shorter side.

Get Laura Kaye’s three bestselling and award-winning Vampire Warrior Kings stories at one great price! Travel from Northern Ireland to Moscow, Russia, to Tromso, Norway in this exciting series featuring the world’s remaining vampire warrior kings as they battle immortal enemies in an escalating war and find unexpected love.

In the Service of the King
Kael, Warrior King of the Vampires loathes the Night of the Proffering. He needs the blood of either his mate or a human virgin to maintain his strength, but hasn’t enjoyed the ritual since he lost his mate. Until he lays eyes on his new offering, Shayla McKinnon, who will give him anything he wishes. Will Kael give in to their overwhelming desire–even if it means risking Shayla’s life?

Taken by the Vampire King
Henrik Magnusson is supposed to be immortal but, thanks to a mysterious ailment not even the blood of the Proffered can sustain him now. Then he rescues a beautiful young woman, and is filled with blood lust and desire he hasn’t felt for centuries…

Seduced by the Vampire
Kate Bordessa has fled to Russia to escape her family’s hopes that she’ll become one of the Proffered. But when she stumbles upon a wounded vampire, she’s instinctively driven to protect him. Will her connection now to Vampire Warrior King Nikolai Vasilyev be strong enough for her to embrace a destiny neither of them was expecting?

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A Series of Unfortunate Monograms

Sep. 21st, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Jen

Who thought this was a good idea?

 

Or this?

(Never in my life have I so fervently hoped that a cake was chocolate.)

 

Or, Aunt Flo help us, this?

"So, when's the party?"

"At the end of the month."

 

Amy M., Jenna B., & Kim W., URQTs. At least, I like to think that you are. Not in a creepy way, of course, or like I know firsthand because I secretly stalk you or anything...that would just be weird. I mean, look, I'm just trying to give you a friendly compliment, in a completely platonic, non-stalker-esque kind of way, Ok? Ok. As you were.

*****

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Posted by Carrie S

B+

Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

by Helena Kelly
May 2, 2017 · Knopf
Nonfiction

I am sorry to inform you, Dear Bitches, that Jane Austen: The Secret Radical is not the stirring tale of an undercover Jane who lives a life of seeming calm while secretly running top secret missions for the abolitionist movement in the dead of night. However, it’s a fascinating nonfiction piece of detective work that points out that in the context of her day, Jane would have come across as a much more politically and socially progressive writer than she does to modern readers.

Author Helena Kelly’s premise relies on the idea that every time period and every culture has its own frame of reference. If I tell you that I do all my shopping at Walmart, that tells you something about me that is different from me saying that I do all my shopping at Whole Foods. Cultural references aren’t always that name brand specific (“name brand” is, itself, a phrase that is a cultural reference) but we all rely on thousands of these references without ever thinking about it.

Over time, certain themes stay current, which is one of the reasons that so many older books remain relevant and meaningful. However, most of the references with which the books’ original readers approached the text are lost, giving the book a different flavor with each new generation of readers. Kelly tries to look at Austen’s texts through the lens of Austen’s first readers, and she finds a lot of plausible evidence that Austen was writing very progressively about marriage, class, slavery, and money during a time when England was at war and dissent or criticism was repressed, often severely.

Here’s an example: In Mansfield Park, there is one reference to slavery that all readers can easily understand, and that is when Fanny brings it up at the dinner table and is shushed. Readers with more knowledge of history also know that when Sir Thomas goes to Antigua, he’s probably dealing with problems on his plantation, which is run by slaves. So far things are pretty overt. However, readers who read Mansfield Park when it was published would also have noticed that Fanny’s favorite poet, William Cowper, was famous for his poems in praise of abolition, and that Maria quotes from a passage about slavery written by Laurence Stern that was all the rage at the time. These, among other references, are obscure today but would have been glaring to Regency Era readers.

The other method Kelly uses is to analyze the text for things like repeated words and certain symbolism. For instance, in Mansfield Park, a book that deals with the idea of being trapped in multiple ways, the word “chains” is used thirteen times whereas in all other her other books combined it’s only used twice. In my opinion, sometimes this method of analysis is plausible and sometimes not so much. It’s clear that Kelly knows her Austen. However, all English majors know the trick of making everything symbolic, whether it’s intended to be or not. I buy the idea that Northanger Abbey is a book with a lot of content regarding sexuality but I don’t buy the idea that the scene in which Catherine opens boxes is about masturbation. Sometimes a box is just a box.

This isn’t light reading, but it’s also not mired in academic jargon. To my surprise, I read it in two days, lured on by the suspense of wondering just what Austen allegedly had to say about various topics. I found the chapters on Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park to be the most convincing and entertaining. The amount of scholarship and the clarity and approachability of the writing is truly impressive.

One of the reasons that I loved the chapters on Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion is that while Kelly does get into the darker subtext, she also celebrates reasons that the romances in those two novels are successful at a level I hadn’t considered. With other novels, Kelly is less sanguine about the eventual happiness of the couples. If you don’t want anyone casting aspersions on Edward from Sense and Sensibility, or Knightly from Emma, or Edmund from Mansfield Park, back away from the book slowly.

I would recommend this to people who have an interest in Jane Austen at an academic level. I would NOT recommend it to people who simply enjoy Austen for some nice reading, nor to those whose primary attachment to Austen is from the television and film adaptation, which tend to soften things considerably. If you fall into either of the latter groups, then this book will either irritate you or successfully ruin all conception of Austen as light and happy. If you like getting into the nuts and bolts of writing and history, then this book will be perfect for you.

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Posted by SB Sarah

After our first and second installments of Podcast and Episode recommendations, my playlist has grown considerably. I listen to podcasts while walking my dogs and while cooking, and I find that sampling new shows is both fascinating, affirming, and intimidating. Fascinating because I learn about so many new cool things, affirming because I’m so excited when there are new shows, and intimidating because I pay closer attention to finer details of my own podcast after I listen to a new one.

But! I always love finding new episodes to recommend, either from shows I’ve already subscribed to, or shows that I’ve just discovered. Here are a few recent favorites.

Still Processing Podcast header with photographs of the two hosts back to backI’ve already recommended Still Processing from the NY Times, hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. You can listen on the NYT website, on Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you haven’t tried Still Processing, please, please try the episode titled, “We Care For Ourselves and Others in Trump’s America.”

Morris and Wortham talk about the concept of self care, the co-opting of the term, and the history of personal, physical, and spiritual care for marginalized people. They also have a guest, Matthew Steinfeld, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, talk about diagnosis and care – and about the mental and emotional toll of contentious conversations, and the personal cost of doing the work to engage with people who hold views that are toxic and bigoted. I have listened to this episode, no lie, three straight times. It’s mind blowing.

Adrift podcast I’ve also tried a new show: Adrift, with Geoff Lloyd and Annabel Port. It’s a comedy podcast that seems to be partly about social awkwardness and embarrassment, and partly about random comedy. The two were radio DJs or presenters, and their show ended in March of this year.

The first episode featured stories about Annabel’s dog that had me laughing so hard I couldn’t go up my stairs until I calmed down. It’s sort of silly absurd comedy mixed with stories of social hesitance, and for the most part the two episodes I’ve listened to so far have been quite funny.

Rough TranslationAnd finally, also new: Rough Translation, a new podcast from NPR about issues affecting countries around the world that have a parallel with issues we’re facing in the US.

The first two episodes, “Brazil in Black and White,” and “Ukraine vs. Fake News,” were so interesting, I kept shushing the dog who was whining at me. Then I realized he was whining because I was standing completely still in my kitchen, holding his food bowl, stuck in place trying to fully process what I was listening to. Poor dog (yes, I fed him and his brother).

You can find Rough Translation on NPR’s website, on iTunes, and on Stitcher.

What podcast episodes have rocked your brain lately? Got any to recommend? 

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Posted by Amanda

Workspace with computer, journal, books, coffee, and glasses.It’s time for Wednesday Links, where we post some neat things we’ve found on the internet. I’m currently in one of those states where I’m not sure what day it is and when I do figure it out, it’s always earlier in the week than I’d thought. Which is a real bummer.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has a Kickstarter to be made into a movie! It’s already been successfully backed (yay!), but there are some awesome stretch goals that the team is working toward.

Big thanks to all of you who sent me the link to Entertainment Weekly’s cover reveal & interview with Lisa Kleypas. I loved this little historical fact from the Q & A:

Where did your idea for a female physician/doctor come from?

When I write these historical romance novels, I do an incredible amount of research just to get the flavor of the time period and to pick up all these details that give the story life. As I was reading about important people back in the late 1800s in England, the name Elizabeth Garrett Anderson came up. I was shocked to realize that she was the only female physician in England for 20-30 years and I had never even heard of her. After she got into the British Medical Association through a loophole after completing all these studies at the Sorbonne in France, the British Medical Association changed their rules so that no more women could be admitted for another 20 years. And I could not stop thinking about her because what an incredible thing to be the only woman in an entire country for that long. So I based this character Garrett Gibson on her and, of course, used the name Garrett, because I loved the idea of using a slightly androgynous name for this really tremendously accomplished and brave woman.

Also, what do you think of the cover? We had some thoughts here at the Bitchery.

 

The Ripped Bodice is doing a Blind Date with a Book, where readers can purchase books based on the description. Readers won’t know the actual title of the book until they receive it and unwrap it! I always love it when people do this. And just a reminder that The Ripped Bodice has graced us with an affiliate link for all of your online shopping.


Frixion click pen in blue

Frixion Erasable Pens

I love these pens far more than is probably natural. They write smoothly, they erase for real (yes, way!), and they come in a bunch of colors. I have one with me at all times.


In a previous Wednesday Links, we mentioned that Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester was being made into a stage production. Well, welcome Reader Melinda who saw it! Here’s her review:

Not long ago you mentioned on the blog that Lifeline Theatre in Chicago is doing a stage adaptation of “Sylvester” this fall. I’m a resident of Portland Oregon but realized that I’d be in Chicago visiting family during the play’s previews. So we got tickets.

Yesterday afternoon we went to the show, and I am pleased to report that it was well done and very, very fun! All of us enjoyed it–not only myself and my daughter, who are Georgette fans and familiar with the story, but also my husband and son in law who had never heard of Georgette or Sylvester.

The theatre is small, so the environment is intimate, and the production is creative (costumes are suggested, casting is diverse, each actor plays many parts, and there is a “game of love ” theme that organizes and comments on the action). I was personally amazed that such a long and complex novel could be dramatized in a way that made it manageable for a 2-hour running time and yet retained the essential character (and comedy) of the book.

Interestingly enough, the program mentioned that this is the theatre’s fourth adaptation of a Heyer novel, so it seems they have an interest in this kind of literature. They also seem to have done adaptations of Dorothy Sayers and “Miss Buncle’s Book.” If I were a Chicago resident I would definitely be keeping my eye on their future productions

Does anyone else plan on seeing it?

Erotic romance author, Selena Kitt, did an AMA (ask me anything) over at Reddit and I thought the Q & A was pretty informative for authors! Check it out! She talks about promoting books, how to manage a large backlist of books, and more.

Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!

More 99c Books from the Swerve Sale!

Sep. 20th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

Level Up

RECOMMENDED: Level Up by Cathy Yardley is 99c! Sarah and author Bree Bridges (one half of Kit Rocha!) had an entire podcast episode dedicated to squeeing about this book. If you want more geeky romances in your life, the next book, One True Pairing, is also on sale!

Geeky introvert Tessa Rodriguez will do whatever it takes to get promoted to video game engineer– including create a fandom-based video game in just three weeks. The only problem is, she can’t do it alone. Now, she needs to strong-arm, cajole, and otherwise socialize with her video game coworkers, especially her roommate, Adam, who’s always been strictly business with her. The more they work together, though, the closer they get…

Adam London has always thought of his roomie Tessa as “one of the guys” until he agreed to help her with this crazy project. Now, he’s thinking of her all the time… and certainly as something more than just a roommate! But his last girlfriend broke up with him to follow her ambitions, and he knows that Tessa is obsessed with getting ahead in the video game world.

Going from friends to something more is one hell of a challenge. Can Tessa and Adam level up their relationship to love?

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Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line by Audra North is 99c! This is the third book in the Hard Driving series, but it works fine as a standalone. I’ve read some of North’s books in the past and she does write some pretty sexy contemporaries. Readers loved the chemistry between the hero and heroine, but others wanted more racing action.

He wanted her the first time he saw her. It didn’t matter that he was on stage in front of a room full of reporters, or that his publicist was telling him to move on, or that she was asking him a question about racing. One look at her “just been bedded” hair — completely at odds with her deliciously prim appearance — and Ty Riggs is hooked.

Corrine Bellows is one of the woefully few women in a male profession: sports reporting. In a field where “Hey, sweetheart, can you fetch me a cup of copy” is part of her job description, she’s determined to keep things professional. And while interviewing Ty Riggs, the hottest new driver on and off the track, is a major scoop, Corrine knows that she is in major trouble when it becomes clear that Ty wants so much more and is determined to get it. As things heat up between them, Corrine finds herself on shakier ground. Her big secret just may destroy everything.

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Beauty and the Highland Beast

Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia Cornwall is 99c! This is a historical romance with Beauty and the Beast elements. Readers say the book has a great start introducing the hero and the heroine, but there were others who felt a lot of the plot points seemed unnecessary. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads. This is the first book in the A Highland Fairytale series and right now, you can grab all three books for less than $3!

Powerful and dangerous highlander Dair Sinclair was once the favored son of his clan, The Sinclairs of Carraig Brigh. With Dair at the helm, Sinclair ships circled the globe bringing home incredible fortune. Until one deadly mission when Dair is captured, tortured and is unable to save his young cousin. He returns home breaking under the weight of his guilt and becomes known as the Madman of Carraig Brigh.

When a pagan healer predicts that only a virgin bride can heal his son’s body and mind, Dair’s father sets off to find the perfect wife for his son. At the castle of the fearsome McLeods, he meets lovely and kind Fia MacLeod.

Although Dair does his best to frighten Fia, she sees the man underneath the damage and uses her charm and special gifts to heal his mind and heart. Will Dair let Fia love him or is he cursed with madness forever?

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Meat

Meat by Opal Carew is 99c! It doesn’t look like this book is part of any series, so you can read without worrying about details from any previous books. I wanted to include this book because the title made me giggle. This definitely falls into the erotic romance category, so expect a lot of sexytimes. However, readers thought the book could have benefitted from being a bit longer.

Just one taste isn’t enough…

I ran into Rex Keene—literally—when I was trying to catch my flight and his muscled, tattooed arms stopped my fall.

Then our flight gets canceled, and we’re stranded in the same hotel room together…it ended up being the steamiest night of my life.

All I knew is that I had to see him again.

I just didn’t expect him to show up a week later in the restaurant I manage…as our new head chef.

But the generous, tender man I spent that night with is gone; instead he’s arrogant, demanding, and terrorizing the staff.

But he won’t give up until we’re together – and I’m not sure I can stay away.

Which man is real?

Who is Rex Keene?

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Wedding Wrecks, Fangirl Edition

Sep. 20th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Jen

Imani wanted this cake for her wedding, only with bright lime green flowers instead of pink:

 

She got this:

 

Yeeeah.

 

And Meredith asked for this design with little pumpkins instead of apples:

 

... but she got this:

 

Preach.

 

And finally, as a baker herself, Zoey decided to keep her wedding cake design SUPER simple to avoid potential wreckage:

No piping required! Just plain frosted tiers and colored sugar crystals!

 

Say it with me, now:

What could possibly go wrong?

 

Oooh, Sherlock, you so bad.

 

Thanks to Imani R., Meredith R., & Zoey K., who want to know if I seriously just turned this post into a SuperWhoLock love fest. And the answer is yes, YES I DID.

*****

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Speaker of the Lost by Clara Coulson

Sep. 20th, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by SB Sarah

D

Speaker of the Lost

by Clara Coulson
September 15, 2017 · Knite and Day Publishing
Nonfiction

It’s getting a little bleak for me, reading-wise. This was the first book I finished after 8 DNFs in a row, some of which were nonfiction and some romance or fantasy. I was pretty excited that the beginning of this story was so promising. Then it became repetitive, emotionally limited, inconsistent, and then offensive.

Summary time! Stella Newport is a brand new FBI agent. Specifically, she’s a Lark, which is the name given to the agents in the paranormal investigation division. She’s sent to work with a curmudgeonly, unkind agent named Oswald Bolton, known informally as “Oz.” There are a couple of familiar character types here: the intelligent rookie who is more than she seems, paired with an experienced, jaded agent who lost his partner prior to the start of this story, and who doesn’t want to work with anyone else because emotional vulnerability is awful and he hates it. He works alone – doesn’t anyone understand that?!

This novel is book 1 of a new series called “Lark Nation,” but according to the listing, it’s part of the same universe as another series. First off: I do not think this book works as a stand-alone, and that’s a shame. The exposition and world building presumed that I knew things that I did not, and many major elements, like the entire other worlds and universes that exist parallel to the one the characters inhabit, are very sparsely described.

As a result, I switched between being frustrated that I didn’t get what the characters were talking about and being annoyed that they were so lacking in basic understanding of jurisprudence. For FBI agents, they didn’t know much about aspects of investigation that I would think were obvious. For example: if you suspect your partner has been hit in the head with a brick, throwing that brick into the water while you’re having a tantrum because she’s been fridged seems like a bad idea. Oz’s reasoning is that the rain washed away the evidence that it was used in an assault, but that’s some pretty flawed reasoning for an experienced agent. There are also multiple instances where “something” isn’t right, or “something” seems off, but the main characters shrug it off, or figure they’ll deal with whatever it is at a later time.

Stella and Oz are in Maine investigating a beheading. Some guy was walking home at night on a deserted road, and a headless horseman shows up and lops his head clean off. So Stella is sent to assist Oz, who is already on site, but because there are so many supernatural crimes happening all over the country – a byproduct of some event that happened in the earlier series which I didn’t read – there’s not much in the way of backup for either of them. At one point Stella has a call with her supervisor where she has to tell him about a few more beheadings that happened, and I was so confused how that wasn’t information said supervisor would need to know as soon as they had happened.

The book started out pretty strong: Stella is nervous about her first investigation, but very smart, capable, and confident in her training and her abilities.

Then we meet Oz. Oz is grumpy and also, he’s an asshole. They start by trying to figure out why the dude lost his head. Then more people start dying, and the narrative starts repeating itself. For example: I was told over and over that Stella isn’t sure if she wants to be the one who breaks down Oz’s defenses/”scale the concrete wall Oswald…had built around his heart”/lather rinse repeat.

Honestly, I didn’t care if she did or not. It was perhaps the second or third day of their working together, he barely managed to treat her with respect, and I didn’t really know the scope of what happened to him in the first place. I have dreadfully low tolerance for characters who lack any emotional fluency, and even less for people who use that excuse to treat other people poorly. Example: here’s Oz after he berates a local cab driver – and this is in a small town where he and Stella are already worried about gossip regarding the FBI’s presence and investigation:

Oz knew he’d been too hard on the guy, but again, he couldn’t bring himself to care about the feelings of a random stranger who would ultimately mean nothing in the grand scheme. The cabbie would get over his scare, resume his normal activities, and live, if not happily ever after, then some mediocre variation.

Nice, huh? And it’s pretty consistent with how he treats ancillary characters. I don’t care what kind of structures he’s built around himself. It’s probably a good idea he stay inside them. One of the goals (I presume) of this book is to establish Stella and Oz’s partnership as agents, but the overtly romantic tone, the constant reassertion that it’s somehow Stella’s job to emotionally heal Oswald, and the compressed time period of a few days or maybe a week, did not do enough to make me believe in their alleged progress.

The two things that frustrated me most, aside from the repetitiveness of Stella vs. Oz Walls, were as follows.

First: there was not enough connecting the magic to reality.  There’s a magical world connected to the real one, and the FBI has some sort of jurisdiction over it. But how that works is not ever fully explained, nor is their authority over magical events that happen to humans. Stella has some kind of magical ability (more on that in a moment) and both she and Oz have mage kits and magical rings but the integration of their individual magic into the reality they inhabit was also poorly built. The magical rings are particularly ludicrous: to use one, they have to point the ring at a target and yell “SHOOT!” to make things happen. I kept picturing the elementary school kids in my neighborhood playing superhero and waving their hands at each other: “BOOM! You fell down!” Without a more robust explanation of how the magic works, what the cost is, what its effects are, why they have it and some don’t, the whole wave-your-ring-at-the-bad-guy part seemed dumb.

Then, there’s this part which ruined the whole book for me. Get ready.

Stella is described by Oz when he meets her as follows:

She was roughly twenty-five and built like a ballet dancer, with light brown skin and facial features that spoke of a multiracial ancestry. Her long hair was tamed into a ponytail of black ringlets, leaving no shadows on her face to hide her bright green eyes. No, vividly green eyes. Eyes that almost seemed to shine, even.

I didn’t read about any other characters of color aside from Stella, but figured there would be some. To my knowledge, there were not – though I may have missed a description or two, as I began reading pretty quickly once the book began to sour for me.

Then Oz and the reader learns something pretty crucial about Stella:

Show Spoiler

Stella is revealed to be a powerful telekinetic, and part fae. Oz, it turns out – and this is revealed about him after Stella divulges that her grandmother is Summer fae – hates and distrusts the fae. Which leads to this rumination on his part:

Faeries were not his favorite creatures – they stood one step below vampires on his list of THINGS I HATE – but most of his ire was directed at full-blooded fae. They were mischievous, sadistic creatures, who’d taken their inability to lie and honed it into a mastery of manipulation. They were cold, callous, crafty, and clever, and every interaction Oz had with them in the past ended in absolute disaster….

To think Newport had their blood running through her veins unnerved him. It made him question everything she’d said and done since the moment they met. But…Oz rejected the impulse to categorize Newport with her inhuman relations….

No, Newport’s interactions with Oz had been true to form. She was what she appeared to be. Headstrong. Smart. Practical. Controlled…. She didn’t have faults as an agent that a few years of fieldwork wouldn’t fix.

Weighing all those qualities against her fae blood, Oz could find no legitimate reason to shun her. Her heritage was beyond her control. Her behavior was not, and what she’d displayed so far spoke of a talented agent in the toddler phase who’d one day grow to be a truly spectacular force.

My comment on my device: “Oh, no.”

So Stella is to my knowledge the only character of color in the book, and she’s part fae. But it’s ok: she’s not like other fae, and though Oz hates them all, she’s proved herself so he won’t shun her. Am I supposed to look at Oz favorably for overcoming his own prejudice? Am I supposed to ignore the substitution of “fae prejudice” for racial prejudice?

WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. LIVING. HELL.

If I cringe any harder, I’ll develop a hernia. Sloppy characterization that’s painfully racist is not what I wanted. I’ve sat here watching my blinking cursor trying to think of coherent words to respond to that scene. Stella even lampshades herself in an earlier part of the book, joking with a receptionist who expected Oz’s new partner to be “another brown-haired man around thirty-five” that her unit is “a little more diverse.” But she’s still a token character – on multiple levels.

I get so excited when I see more inclusivity in the fiction I buy. But this is not the representation I’m looking for. This is the exact opposite.

I was close enough to the end that I finished the book, but neither Oz nor the story were redeemable for me. There was so much potential in the first chapters: a bit of X-Files with a complicated set of partners, plus a headless horseman – who talks to the heroine! They have whole conversations after he yanks his head out of his saddlebag! They were the most interesting pair in the book, now that I think about it.

I would have been a lot happier if Stella had left Oz to his grumpy racist emotional navel gazing and run off with the murdering headless horseman.

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Posted by Amanda

This HaBO comes from Amanda, who isn’t me, I swear:

I’m sorry that I can’t remember anything about this book, but there are so many paranormal romances starring vampires that they all blur together – I can’t even be sure about the plot. All I recall is the start; the heroine worked at a hospital, and was in the morgue when a recently arrived body jumps up and attacks her. As she’s slumped against the wall dying, the last thing she sees is the hero who arrives too late and takes her away to a mansion filled with other vampires, so she’ll be able to learn about her new existence. The mansion vampires are good and the vampire that randomly attacked the heroine is rogue?

All I remember about the book is that it was a paperback from a decade or so ago, from when my sister was in a vamp-fanatic phase. It just niggles away at the back of my brain, because I know I’ve read it, but browsing the vamp romances on Amazon doesn’t ring any bells.

I fill like this is a Black Dagger Brotherhood book, but it’s been so long since I’ve read one.

Contemporary Romances & YA Fantasy

Sep. 19th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

The Girl with the Red Balloon

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke is $1.99! This is a pretty new release and I mentioned how excited I was about it in this month’s Hide Your Wallet. Reviewers on Goodreads recommend this title for fans of magical realism, but some felt the heroine was a bit boring.

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

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This book is on sale at:

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and

amazon

 

 

 

Truth or Beard

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid is 99c at Amazon! I know Reid is an auto-buy author for many of you and this one has an enemies to lovers feel to it, judging by the description. Readers say it has Reid’s trademark humor and quirkiness, but warn there’s a scene where the hero is with another woman. I know that’s an off button for some, but Reader Katie Lynn explained that it isn’t a form of cheating.

Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

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Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is $1.99! This is a YA fantasy novel that was nominated for a RITA in 2012. Michelle wrote in her RITA Reader Challenge Review:

The biggest reason I picked up Grave Mercy originally was because of the assassin nuns. Because come on, how awesome does “assassin nuns” sound?

Then I saw it was first-person present tense, and almost held back from getting it. That particular style has been notoriously difficult for me to get into in the past, and I’ve been getting burnt out on it.

However, I went ahead and got the book anyway, and I’m thrilled I did. LaFevers uses language so well that I sank immediately into her style without the 5-10 pages of struggle that normally accompanies reading present tense.

Here, she’s created a fantastic medieval world of gods, saints, political intrigue, and romance that swept me away completely.

And yes, the assassin nuns were pretty much as great as they sounded.

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

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All That Matters

All That Matters by Erin Nicholas is 99c! This is the third book in The Billionaire Bargains series, but it can be read as a standalone. Also, the heroine is the billionaire in this romance! Some readers felt the ending seemed a bit unresolved, while others thought this was a rather fun romance. It has a 4.1-star rating on Goodreads.

When billionaire Emily Steele breaks off her eight-year relationship with the only boy she’s ever dated, she quickly realizes she has a lot to learn. About the world. About herself. And men. Definitely men.

A friend’s bachelorette party in New Orleans is the perfect place to get in touch with her inner vixen. Trouble is, she’s never actually met her inner vixen. Worse, her overprotective uncle’s determination to keep her safe means she’s going to have a babysitter for the weekend. A tall, handsome babysitter who makes her tingle from head to toe.

Will Weston has always thought his boss’s niece was special, and now that she’s single, he’s even more acutely aware of her beauty and charm. Her uncle’s insistence that he accompany her to the world’s sexiest city has mistake written all over it—until she offers his best friend a million dollars to be her date.

Now there’s no way Will is staying behind, even though he knows something crazy is going to happen. Because falling in love in a weekend is definitely crazy.

Warning: Contains a woman with enough money to buy a date for a weekend in New Orleans, a guy who’s never going to let that happen, a bachelorette party on Bourbon Street, hot sex to slow jazz, and beignets… because there has to be beignets.

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Posted by Amanda

This HaBO request is from Lynn, who is trying to find an older historical:

I’m trying to find a historical romance in paperback. My mom had it roughly around the 80’s-90’s. It was so excessive that I loved it.

The heroine was a mountain woman who lived alone. She saved the hero from a bear. The descriptions were awesome — I remember “bluer than a possum’s balls in a skiff of snow” and “colder than a witch’s tit”. The hero was a city feller, and I think she might have tried to make it in the city for him, but it’s been many years since I read this book.

I would love to find it, because it was crazy.

I am very interested in this heroine!

Let's Play Telephone

Sep. 19th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Jen

Ever wonder what could possibly go wrong with a simple inscription on a basic cake? Well, WONDER NO MORE. 

Below I've listed the inscriptions some of my trusty Wreckporters ordered from professional bakeries, followed by the cakes they actually received:

 

"God Bless Neal"

I hear it's His middle name.

 

"Welcome Baby Arnold"

The spacing is what really sells it.

 

"Happy Birthday Mom"

Now that's a cake only a mother named Bob could love.

[Btw, I'm starting to wonder if a baker named Bob is doing these on purpose. And if so, I want to shake Bob's hand.]

 

"Congrats British Lit"

I hope this starts a trend; I want to see all the ways bakers butcher "Kyrgyzstanian."

 

"Happy Bandwidth Upgrade Day"

"Band With Upgrade" is the name of my retro Steam Powered Giraffe cover band.

(I realize only about 3 people will get that joke... and I'm ok with that.)

 

"Grats to Dad"

I like to think this is the baker's revenge on everyone who shortens "congratulations" to "grats." "CONGRATS" IS SHORT ENOUGH, PEOPLE.

 

"Old Dirty Thirty"

At some point you stop being surprised. Or so I'm told.

 

"When I'm 64"

That's actually how John says it when he's singing in his "drunk McCartney" voice, so maybe Kit sang her order over the phone. Drunk. While imitating Paul McCartney. 

(Don't keep us in suspense, now, Kit: did you?)

 

Thanks to Colleen C., Suzanne R., Morgan & Eric, Katie D., Ethan D., Leslie C., Becky L., & Kit K. for really phoning it in today. ;)

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

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Posted by Amanda

This post is being sponsored by AdamandEve.com, and, while we have some amazing toy recommendations, here is the most important information:

AdamandEve.com is offering Smart Bitches readers 50% off a single item plus free standard shipping in the US and Canada with code SMART. Please note: certain exclusions apply, but the coupon covers most of the store.

Additionally, you also get a free gift with purchase: a pink vibrating egg, which is sure to give you some bang for your buck.

Previously, Sarah and I put together a list of personal recommendations and recommendations of popular products from the site. We also invited Reader Jaymzangel to send us some recs as well!

This time, I’m picking some items that I think would be great for the fall season – for yourself, or someone else, or both!

This post is extremely NSFW! You have been warned!

A&E Intimate Pleasures Kegel Set: Okay, this serious looks some awesome rose gold jewelry. I love how customizable this set is with two different silicone sleeves and four differently sized balls. Perfect for the classy, kinky goth!

A&E Intimate Pleasures Kegel SetKitty Playballs Set: If you prefer your Ben Wa balls more on the cutesy side, check out this set! Though it only comes with one sleeve, it still has four differently weighted balls. Plus, a pink carrying case with a lock!

Kitty Playballs Set

 

Fetish Fantasy Web Restraint: Looking to get freaky on Halloween? Or perhaps you want to roleplay Spider & the Fly with your partner? This restraint system fits any bed, comes with four cuffs, and has 24 different “web lines” the cuffs can attach to or slide along during play. The set also comes with a free satin mask as well. How much fun does that look?

Fetish Fantasy Web Restraint

The Rendezvous Gift Set: First off, this set of toys comes in a case that looks like a book. Hello!

Imagine putting in on your bookshelf and having company be none the wiser. The set also comes with nine items, which is a 40% savings if you had purchased everything separately. I’m a sucker for a bargain. There are toys, bondage tape, a mask, candle, and a variety of lube samples.

The Rendezvous Gift Set

Salted Caramel Intimate Earth Flavored Lubricant: One of fall’s signature flavors is salted caramel. Sorry, pumpkin spice fans – I couldn’t find any lube for you. This lube in particular is water-based and warms up. It’s also safe for vegans! This brand also comes in cherry and strawberry flavors that are more tart than the salted caramel one, according to reviews.

Salted Caramel Intimate Earth Flavored Lubricant

Wicked Aqua Salted Caramel Flavored Lube: I found not one, but two salted caramel flavored lubes! This one is also vegan-friendly and water-based, but I like the packaging of this one more. It looks like a fancy hand soap dispenser. It does not seem to be a warming lubricant, but it does have some other fall-ish flavors like Candy Apple and Mocha Java.

Wicked Aqua Salted Caramel Flavored Lube

Revitalize Pocket Vibrator Kit: This pocket vibrator comes in baby blue and pastel pink. It’s waterproof and features three different silicone attachments. So it’s pretty much like putting a costume on your vibrator. It only takes one AA battery and is waterproof, which is something I consider a “must have” when it comes to my sex toys.

Revitalize Pocket Vibrator Kit

Big thanks to Adam & Eve for sponsoring this post and for the coupon and free gift to our readers!

I so love doing these posts. Not only do I get to browse sex toys for “work,” but it gives me a chance to talk about them with all of you. As a side note, the romance genre and community have really helped me in terms of discussing my sexuality and my sexual needs with my partner. It’s reaffirming in the sense that sex isn’t something to be embarrassed about, though I’d definitely say I’m still in the learning process.

What do you think about the items recommended? Have any you’d love to suggest?

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Posted by Amanda

Hamilton’s Battalion

Hamilton’s Battalion is available for preorder at Amazon for $4.99! This is a historical romance anthology from Courtney Milan, Rose Lerner, and Alyssa Cole and many of you were super interested in it after it was mentioned on the most recent podcast episode with Cole. I’m excited to see the cover once it’s been finalized.

Love in the time of Hamilton…

On October 14, 1781, Alexander Hamilton led a daring assault on Yorktown’s defenses and won a decisive victory in America’s fight for independence. Decades later, when Eliza Hamilton collected his soldiers’ stories, she discovered that while the war was won at Yorktown, the battle for love took place on many fronts…

PROMISED LAND by Rose Lerner

Donning men’s clothing, Rachel left her life behind to fight the British as Corporal Ezra Jacobs–but life catches up with a vengeance when she arrests an old love as a Loyalist spy.

At first she thinks Nathan Mendelson hasn’t changed one bit: he’s annoying, he talks too much, he sticks his handsome nose where it doesn’t belong, and he’s self-righteously indignant just because Rachel might have faked her own death a little. She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t spill her secret to the entire Continental Army.

Then Nathan shares a secret of his own, one that changes everything…

THE PURSUIT OF… by Courtney Milan

What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually.

* They attempted to kill each other the first time they met.
* They’re liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred mile journey that they’re inexplicably sharing.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are…. Oh, no.

THAT COULD BE ENOUGH by Alyssa Cole

Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

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This book is on sale at:

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Shacking Up

Shacking Up by Helena Hunting is 99c! This is part of a huge Swerve sale going on and we’ll definitely feature more books this week. This book has a romantic comedy vibe and is actually pretty funny, but I’ll admit that it does take some suspension of disbelief, since it can be a bit zany at times.

Ruby Scott is months behind on rent and can’t seem to land a steady job. She has one chance to turn things around with a big audition. But instead of getting her big break, she gets sick as a dog and completely bombs it in the most humiliating fashion. All thanks to a mysterious, gorgeous guy who kissed—and then coughed on—her at a party the night before.

Luckily, her best friend might have found the perfect opportunity; a job staying at the lavish penthouse apartment of hotel magnate Bancroft Mills while he’s out of town, taking care of his exotic pets. But when the newly-evicted Ruby arrives to meet her new employer, it turns out Bane is the same guy who got her sick.

Seeing his role in Ruby’s dilemma, Bane offers her a permanent job as his live-in pet sitter until she can get back on her feet. Filled with hilariously awkward encounters and enough sexual tension to heat a New York City block, Shacking Up, from NYT and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting, is sure to keep you laughing and swooning all night long.

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The Billionaire Beast

The Billionaire Beast by Jackie Ashenden is 99c! This is an erotic Beauty and the Beast retelling and, while this is the second book in the Billionaire Fairytales series, it can be read as a standalone. Readers really felt for the hero, but felt the heroine seemed like a doormat at times.

Dark, tortured, and intimidating, these dominant billionaires will steal their innocent heroines’ breath away. Overwhelmed by their desire to control their world, they push their heroines to explore their deepest desires. But even the most unworldly of heroines can unlock these billionaires’ secrets.

Nero de Santis: Damaged. Bastard. Beast.

Nero hasn’t left his house in ten years—he demands the world come to him, and the world is only too happy to bend to the strong-willed billionaire. Ruthless, cold, and selfish, Nero wants for nothing and takes care of no one but himself. His last handful of assistants have left his house in tears, but the prim redhead applying for the job looks up to the task. Nero has spent his life shut within the walls he built, with no care to have more than a window to the outside world. But the fiery passion he senses beneath his reserved assistant’s exterior makes him want to break down the barriers he lives behind, and unleash the beast within.

Phoebe Taylor: Uptight. Misunderstood. Engaged.

Phoebe needs the obscene amount of money that comes with being Nero’s personal assistant for one thing, and one thing only—to pay for the mounting hospital costs that her fiancee’s two-year coma continues to incur. She’s heard rumors that the de Santis beast is a force that cannot be tamed—but even she isn’t prepared to handle the smoldering intensity simmering beneath his hard shell of feral dominance. Nero is hiding something, something he is fighting with every step he takes. Yet he can’t help but stake his claim on this woman who has shaken up his life, and Phoebe can’t believe this animal of a man is the one person to ever look into her eyes and see her soul. Nero wants to keep her. He wants to devour her. And Phoebe just might let him.

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The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian

The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian by Anne Calhoun is 99c! Sarah read this novella and while she felt the ending was rushed (which is a common problem for me in novellas), it still earned a B grade:

I really enjoyed reading this novella, and recommend it for fans of hotter contemporary romance.

And really, I haven’t met many people who can resist that title. The story inside comes very, very close to living up to the promise of it.

The second in the Alpha Ops novella series that features an alpha Navy SEAL and the librarian who brings him to his knees.

Jack Powell never planned on leaving the Navy, but his final mission as a SEAL left him with a tremor and a bad case of nerves. He’s home, taking some college classes and trying to figure out what comes next when he meets Erin Kent, a divorced college librarian with an adventurous bucket list and a mission to get her ex-husband’s voice out of her head. Jack guides Erin through skydiving and buying the motorcycle of her dreams, blithely accepting Erin’s promise that their relationship is purely temporary. But when Jack gets the chance to go back into the shadowy world of security contracting, can he convince Erin to break her word and join him on the adventure of a lifetime?

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Now That's A Bad Day

Sep. 18th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Jen

Where is the moment we needed the most?

You kick up the leaves and the Volvo is lost...

You tell me your blue skies fade to grey

Your baker still hates you, too, they say

But I don't need no carryin' on!


You fall in the line just to hit a new low

You pretend that you meant to, but everyone knows


You tell me it's hard working here offline

Your coworkers mock you all the time

But I don't need no carryin' on!


So you had a bad day

You're itching downtown,

You sing a sad song just to drown out the sound!


You say you must know,

You tell me don't lie,

Then you work on a smile and you opt for the pie.


You had a bad day!

Now that's a bad day.

 

Thanks to wreckporters Connie L., Deborah P., Melissa F., Fribby, Monique R., Anony M., & Rachel B. for inspiring a new CW policy: from now on, we want any and all apologies handwritten. ON CAKE.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

A-

Burn for Me

by Ilona Andrews
October 28, 2014 · HarperCollins
Urban Fantasy

The Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews is a huge hit with the Bitchery (especially Amanda) and though the series is somewhat over for now, that gives new readers a perfect excuse to binge all three books. Reader Aidee Campa has given us a great guest review of books one and two if the series to give you a nudge in the right reading direction!

Aidee recently graduated from college, where she was an English major and a political science minor. She started reading romance in high school, but isn’t quite sure which was her first romance read—Jean M. Auel, Fern Michaels, or something that she has completely forgotten by now. She loves reading, writing, chocolate, and listening to music, although not necessarily in that order. The most recent books she’s enjoyed have been Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You, Alyssa Cole’s Extraordinary Union, Ilona Andrews’ Wildfire, and Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom (there are more, but that’s probably a good place to stop).

I don’t clearly remember what made me pick up Burn for Me, but I do remember that I listened to it as an audiobook before I read it. I recommend listening to it, even if you’ve already read it, because Renee Raudman, the narrator, is really good. And before going any further, I would like it to be clear, I love this book. I have read it multiple times, and so far, I haven’t gotten tired of it. I will try my best to balance my love for this book with some critical analysis, but I can’t make any promises.

Here’s the cover copy for Burn for Me from Amazon:

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

I think Andrews does a wonderful job of working with a trope that to some may seem to have run its course—the PI in the magical world. I feel this is because Nevada isn’t like most PIs I’ve read before. She already comes with a family—one that she is not looking to distance herself from—and she is likeable but still has flaws that can lead to bad consequences. The world is vividly drawn, and Andrews generally manages to walk that fine line of explaining enough without overwhelming the reader with information. The plot moves in a logical way, and yet that logic wasn’t immediately obvious to me until I had read Burn for Me a few times—which could be because usually, when I read for pleasure, I don’t pay close attention to this sort of thing, unless it’s very annoying and incredibly obvious.

In any case, the two points that may count against this book with some readers are that it is told in first person from Nevada’s point of view, and, because of that, Rogan is a little more opaque.

Nevada and Nevada’s family are all likeable. Or at least, the family we meet in this book—this is only the first book in what is looking to be a trilogy, or possibly a quartet. Nevada is good at her job, and that is amazing to watch in action. A lot of the time, we might be told a character is good at their job, but that is never shown on the page. The first two chapters are of Nevada doing her job as a PI in a world with magic.

Nevada has a strong sense of herself and her code and how it applies to her job:

Some easy job this turned out to be. At least I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I grimaced. The welt decided it didn’t like me grimacing. Ow.

The Baylor Investigative Agency started as a family business. … We had only three rules. Rule #1: we stayed bought. Once a client hired us, we were loyal to the client. Rule #2: we didn’t break the law. It was a good rule. It kept us out of jail and safe from litigation. And Rule #3, the most important one of all: at the end of the day we still had to be able to look our reflections in the eye. I filed today under Rule #3 day. Maybe I was crazy and John Rutger would’ve taken his wife home and begged her forgiveness on bended knee. But at the end of the day, I had no regrets, and I didn’t have to worry about whether I did the right thing and whether Liz’s two children would ever see their mother again.

And here’s something a bit further down which illustrates how she thinks of her family. The affection and tension is evident here, especially if one considers that Nevada is a grown woman still living with her family:

If Mom saw me, I wouldn’t get away without a thorough medical exam. All I wanted to do was take a shower and eat some food. This time of the day she was usually with Grandma, helping her work. If I was really quiet, I could just sneak into my room. I padded down the hallway. Think sneaky thoughts… Be invisible… Hopefully, nothing attention-attracting was going on.

We are also introduced to her family at the beginning of the book, and the interactions between Nevada, her sisters, her cousin, her mother and grandmother are great. Here is another snippet, where we meet most of Nevada’s family, and which introduces them nicely:

“Let me go!” Arabella snarled.

“Think about what you’re doing,” Bern said, his deep voice patient. “We agreed—no violence.”

“What is it this time?” I asked.

Catalina stabbed her finger in Arabella’s direction. “She never put the cap on my liquid foundation. Now it’s dried out!”

Figured. They never fought about anything important. They never stole from each other, they never tried to sabotage each other’s relationships, and if anyone dared to look at one of them the wrong way, the other one would be the first to charge to her sister’s defense. But if one of them took the other’s hairbrush and didn’t clean it, it was World War III.

“That’s not true…” Arabella froze. “Neva, what happened to your face?”

Everything stopped. Then everyone said something at once, really loud.

“Shush! Calm down; it’s cosmetic. I just need a shower. Also, stop fighting. If you don’t, Mom will come here and I don’t want her to—”

“To what?” Mom walked through the door, limping a little. Her leg was bothering her again. Of average height, she used to be lean and muscular, but the injury had grounded her. She was softer now, with a rounder face. She had dark eyes like me, but her hair was chestnut brown.

Grandma Frida followed, about my height, thin, with a halo of platinum curls stained with machine grease. The familiar, comforting smell of engine oil, rubber, and gunpowder spread through the room.

Their interactions continue in this manner throughout the book, even when the family members get upset with each other for logical reasons.

Here’s a slightly spoiler-y snippet of Nevada and her mom arguing:

“Okay, so you were right. It is a little bit about Dad, and it is a lot about keeping a roof over our head. This is our home. I will do almost anything to keep it. Also I negotiated with MII, and if I die, you get the name of the agency back for one dollar.”

Her face twisted. “I don’t care, Nevada. Sweetheart, I don’t care. I want you to be okay. None of it is worth losing you. I thought we were a team.”

“We are.”

“But you didn’t tell me. And you got Bern to cover it up.”

“I didn’t tell you because you would do exactly what you did last night. You’d order me not to do it. We are a team, but you’re my mother. You will do everything to keep me safe, and there is a point where it’s my decision to stay safe or not.”

My mother considered it. “Okay. Point made.”

We only get to know Rogan through Nevada for the majority of the book. Because the book is told from her point of view, it is possible for us to have an inaccurate impression of Rogan. This impression is not fixed by the end of the book, so I learned to be careful of Nevada’s observations. She’s good, but she isn’t infallible—which I like, but which some readers may find annoying.

That’s actually one of her flaws: she is good at observing people and coming to fairly solid conclusions, but occasionally, her own biases and assumptions get in the way of her conclusions, and sometimes she doesn’t have all the information.

To sum it up, you should all go read this book and stop reading this review, because I cannot clearly communicate how great this book is. The world building is intriguing, the characters are well-done, the plot is tightly woven. In case you hadn’t guessed it by now, I anxiously awaited Wildfire. I give this book an A-.

More exploration of Rogan would have been nice, but I don’t know that it could have fit into this book so well.


White Hot
A | BN | K | iB
The adventures of Nevada and Rogan continue in the sequel to Burn for Me. I also listened to this book before I read it, because I preordered it on Audible—I was that sure I would like it. However, there is an excerpt of Wildfire at the end of White Hot in the eBook and probably print versions, so if that kind of thing is important to you, make your choice accordingly.

As I expected, I also really liked this book. All the characters grow, even secondary ones like Leon, Nevada’s youngest cousin. Nevada and Rogan move firmly into the serious-romantic-involvement realm, although it isn’t exactly clear where their relationship will go by the end of the book, due to certain choices Nevada must make. Andrews’ plotting skill is on display in this book, too, so that while some threads clearly lead somewhere, it is harder to pick out where other possible threads might lead.

This book opens with Nevada using her awesome magical skills, while still trying to preserve her incognito status. She uses a disguise which involves a cloak/cape, among other things. Then she takes on a client with a very dangerous case. However, this time, she doesn’t make the same mistakes she made in Burn for Me, which was cool to see, because books wherein characters insist on repeating the same kinds of mistakes that got them into trouble before confuse me and will frustrate me to the point of not being interested in the book anymore.

The action related to the overarching conflict begins earlier in this book than in Burn for Me—Rogan is using quarters as projectiles by chapter 2—and so does the flirting between Nevada and Rogan. This is not to say that Nevada and Rogan do not argue at all during the book. They do, in a spectacular manner, but they are also working together on a case, and they are both capable of professional behavior most of the time.

We see the sisters, cousins and grandmother take a more active role in defending the family from attack and in helping out Nevada. That was also pretty cool, because it rounds them out in a way—we knew that her grandmother was a mechanic for the army, but actually seeing her drive a tank was awesome. In that same sequence of scenes, we get Leon using his magic for the first time, which results in the following commentary:

“I live in the gym. My biceps have teeth and my teeth have biceps.”

And any suspicions you may have had about Nevada’s family being more than they appeared on the surface are also confirmed by the end of the book in a variety of ways.

The case that Rogan and Nevada are working on in this book is tied to the case in Burn for Me, but it is not a replica. Andrews also managed to stretch out the overarching conflict in a way that did not feel unreasonable. This is also hard to do, because there comes a point when you—or maybe it’s just me—wonder, why can’t we know who the bad guys are?

Wildfire
A | BN | K | iB
There is a fairly clear transition from how Nevada perceived Rogan in Burn for Me to how she sees him by the end of the book. In Burn for Me, she came to the conclusion that Rogan didn’t see people as people, but by the middle of the book, she is convinced otherwise, and by extension, the reader can also be convinced otherwise. This makes their growing romance more believable. Yes, Rogan is attractive, but for a romance, attraction can’t be the beginning and end of it. The heroine and the reader should see in the hero something beyond attraction.

Nevada thinks of Rogan as a dragon, and while her initial conclusions about him are partially correct, he is also a caring dragon with a sense of humor. This transition is believable because Andrews shows us the transition on the page—we get to see Nevada witness Rogan’s reaction to losing people who were important to him. If Nevada just told us that Rogan wasn’t a sociopath, I would be hard-pressed to believe it, because Rogan isn’t a nice guy, especially when seen from a distance.

More of the world is explained, but we still don’t know everything there is to know about it, and like I said above, we still don’t know who the bad individual pulling the strings is.

But we do have covert team of stealth ferrets and a Chinese ferret-badger, so I guess that makes up for not knowing who the big baddies are—a little.

I give this book an A-, too. I would have liked for the conflict between Rogan and his family to have been resolved in this book, and I’m hoping it will be tied up in the third book. It also would have been nice for Rogan to tell Nevada his story, but at least Nevada didn’t make a wholly uninformed decision.

Go read this book, please. Or listen to it, whichever will make you the happiest.

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March 2010

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