Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review: Holiday Outing by Astrid Amara

My review of Astrid Amara's Hanukkah novella, Holiday Outing, is up today over at AAR. After reading Jessica's review over at Racy Romance Reviews, I decided to add this one to my holiday reading extravaganza. I found it funny and heartwarming, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Click here to read my full review. I also read this book as part of the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge.

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Tidbits

My awesome family members and Dear Boyfriend helped me move 98% of my possessions on the day after Christmas, which means we all had to drag our asses out of bed at an ungodly hour after the festivities the day before. Lucky for Bro -- who was suffering from an eggnog hangover -- I wisely hadn't yet packed the aspirin.

Moving last weekend also means that since I'm still working at my old job this week, I'm living in an apartment furnished with a chair, a folding tray table, and an air mattress. Oh, the luxury.

Every year my mom draws each of our names out of a hat and assigns us someone for Christmas. This year I was in charge of gift-giving for Middle Sis (age 27). Knowing that Middle Sis is a big paranormal YA fan, I endeavored to both surprise her with my selection, and find a well-regarded YA book that she hasn't yet read. I also took the opportunity to, ahem, expand her horizons.Which led to this conversation:

ME: "Now, I should warn you, two of these books aren't YA. They're adult paranormals, but I've read one and it's really, really good, and the other one comes very highly recommended. I really think you should give them a shot, you know, even though they're not YA."

MS (looking a bit miffed): "I do occasionally read grown-up books too, you know. You don't have to warn me that they might have adult themes. I am a big girl now."

ME (feeling acute embarrassment): "Uh, right. I didn't think that you didn't ... I mean ... um ... sorry. ... I mean, of course you read more than YA... Uh, yeah, so ... Hope you enjoy the books!" (scurries away)

Little Sis was in charge of my gift, and she did an excellent job. I drink a lot of tea during the fall and winter, but have never gotten off my ass found the time to purchase a tea kettle. So LS got me a rockin' retro red (say that 5 times fast) tea kettle very similar to the one pictured here. I'm too lazy to take a picture of my actual kettle, so y'all are stuck with this one.

At one point during the festivities, my mother decided to share a rather embarrassing story from when Bro and I were very young. After the guffawing died down a bit, Bro stated that since our family is ruled by democracy, he was taking a vote from the people who were there as to whether or not said events actually occurred.

Predictably, Mom was out-voted by Bro and I, and the story is now officially categorized under the heading of Spurious Tales Containing Vicious Lies and Untruths.

How did your holiday turn out? Good times, good food, and all that?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Review/Rant: Mirror, Mirror by Amanda McIntyre

Title: Mirror, Mirror
Author: Amanda McIntyre
Genre: Erotic Fiction
Length: Short Story
Published: September 2008
Sensuality: Burning
Setting: Urban/City
Disclosure: Purchased Myself

Unlike those that came before, lover number seventeen left Charlie aching for more, and for the first time, she regretted her and Paul’s arrangement. Theirs was a most unconventional marriage. Unable to enjoy sex firsthand, Charlie’s wealthy husband provided her with a stream of anonymous young, handsome lovers, while cameras hidden behind the mirrors enabled him to enjoy their lovemaking second hand. It was an arrangement that had sustained their marriage, but Charlie was beginning to resent her goldfish bowl lovelife. Then a chance encounter with number seventeen led to the forbidden--a hot session of soul searing sex in a clothing store dressing room, with no prying eyes intruding on her pleasure. Or so she thought. Then things began to turn really surreal, and Charlie discovered nothing was what it seemed.

For most of Mirror, Mirror, it was ... meh. I was interested enough to keep reading, but not terribly invested in the story. As the story wore on, however, I became increasingly curious about how the author was going to create that "satisfying" ending and resolve the conflict. Then the ending came and I wanted to throw the freaking book against the freaking wall. I didn't, but only because it's an e-book and I didn't want to break my Sony Reader. Suffice it to say: I was pissed.

You know those endings which at first surprise you, but then you think back over the story and realize little clues had been dropped along the way, and the ending is actually quite clever? This isn't one of those endings. Hell, this ending isn't even out in left field; it's beyond left field. The main character, Charlie, does something extremely TSTL, then on the next page all the conflict that has been building and building for the entire story is poof! gone. It was like Charlie'd had a total personality transplant and everything she'd been feeling for the last 45 pages was being remembered through glasses so deeply rose-colored as to be opaque.

In addition to it being beyond left field, the optimistic and so-called "satisfying" ending disgusted me on so many levels. But I can't explain that without giving away major spoilers, so if you want to know why you'll have to read the following Rant section.

Grade: F

This rant contains major spoilers, frequent swearing, and irrational anger. Read at your own risk. (Highlight text to read.)

Throughout Mirror, Mirror it becomes increasingly evident that Charlie is not only very unhappy with "whoring herself out" (her words, not mine) for her husband's pleasure -- he's the driving force behind her sleeping with all of these men -- she's also terrified of him. He's extremely controlling -- he literally watches every single move she makes through an elaborate video setup, she's not allowed to go anywhere alone or without permission, he chooses all of the men she has to have sex with -- and she has to constantly be on guard with her facial expressions, emotions, tone of voice, etc. She's terrified of what will happen to her and Lover #17 if Paul ever finds out that she's emotionally attached to this one, as Paul is very wealthy and powerful. It may not be a physically abusive relationship, but it is on every other level. Paul is, to put it mildly, an obsessive, dangerous, controlling stalker.

As the story wears on, and Charlie is feeling more and more desperate, I couldn't figure out how the author was going to realistically get her out of her predicament and have it all end well. What happens is that Lover #17 -- in a complete 180 of his character up to this point -- decides to kidnap Charlie, collect a large ransom, then murder her. He tells her as much when he shows up to kidnap her. And Charlie just goes right along with the plan. Seriously? He tells her he's going to murder her and she doesn't even attempt to save herself? She just follows him like a puppy dog out the door? What. The. Fuck.

But the real what-the-fuckery is when the reader is transported a month in the future to see how it all turned out. At first it seems like Lover #17's plan was to trick Paul by faking the kidnapping and murder, all so Charlie could escape her abusive husband. Uh, no. Turns out, Charlie is still with Paul and Lover #17 is in prison.

Wait, what? Charlie is still with Paul, you say?

Yep, and she's blissfully happy. No, Paul hasn't changed. He's still the obsessive, controlling, stalking emotional abuser who expects her to whore herself out to any man of his choosing. It's just that Charlie has come to realize that Paul's behavior is because he really, truly loves her. *sigh* He's just so wonderful. She's so thankful that he'd secretly implanted a chip in her cell phone, and tracked her down rescued her from the big, bad kidnapper. She's so thankful for his love that she's determined to do anything at all to please him, because pleasing him is the very least she can do after all he's given her. Oh! could her life just get any more perfect? *big sigh*


Was I just transported to some alternate universe where emotional and psychological abuse is the ultimate expression of love? Did I not just spend 45 goddamn pages reading about the heroine's increasing emotional distress and fear? Did I not read about how much she hates living every second of every day under constant scrutiny? How she feels there's no one she can trust because they're all loyal to Paul? How she wants so badly to get away from him, but is too damn afraid of what he'll do? How she's tired of whoring herself out to please him?

I'm supposed to read all of that and then to be satisfied with how Charlie's been lobotomized seen the light and realized that Paul is an abusive psycho just really, really loves her with all of his twisted big heart? I'm supposed to be happy that she's so fucked in the head grateful to Paul for controlling loving her that she's willing to do anything to please him?

Are you fucking kidding me?! I'm supposed to buy that? And be happy about it? I'm about as happy about that ending as I would be if I stepped in a big pile of dog crap.

Merry fucking Christmas to me.

Okay, yeah, I'm still a little pissed. And not a little irrational. But I'm done now. I feel much better. I've mentally thrown the book at the wall at least half a dozen times, but it's not the same, you know? I just really needed to get all that off my chest. So, uh, thanks for putting up with me reading.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Soul Christmas

Wishing a Merry Christmas to all of you of you in blogland. May your day be filled with laughter and cheer, good food and good fun, and may all your Christmas wishes come true.

On this Christmas Eve, I'll share with you one of my favorite Christmas songs, and my all-time favorite rendition of this Christmas classic. Here's Otis Redding singing White Christmas:

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Random Tidbits

I'm expecting the next couple of weeks to be crazy. I'm moving to a new city, starting a new career, wrapping-up on my current job, and on top of all that I have to deal with Christmas. To say that I'm stressed is an understatement.

While I would love nothing more than to curl up with a good book for an hour or two to relax, even a great story isn't enough to make me unwind. There's just too much going on in my head.

In other news, I've discovered a fantastic way to kick your fried chicken addiction. Just bite into an undercooked chicken tender, stare at the raw center, and obsess about possible salmonella poisoning. Trust me, it'll be weeks (if ever) before fried chicken sounds remotely appetizing. Now if I could just find a way to turn myself off of sweets...

A couple of weeks ago one of my cats, Blue, injured himself. He was healing quite nicely until a few days ago, when his paws started bleeding again -- probably from him messing with them. So we took the Cone of Shame for a test-drive.

As is his nature, Blue remained calm throughout the process, approaching it more from a "Let's figure out how to make this work" perspective. After repeated unsuccessful attempts at walking forward, he decided the best course of action would be to walk backward -- everywhere. There's nothing quite like watching a cat approach you ass first.

So the problem wasn't with Blue; it was with myself and Blue's partner-in-crime, Poe. Poe took one look at Blue with that bright blue cone around his head, and lost his ever-lovin' mind. He acted like Blue was an alien invader sent to murder us all, and alternated between cowering under the bed and executing Sniff-And-Runs. And I could only take about 30 minutes of watching my poor kitty pathetically maneuver through the apartment backwards, before I removed said Cone of Shame.

I think I've checked Amazon at least twice this week to see if a cover has been uploaded for Julia Spencer-Fleming's upcoming release One Was a Soldier, the newest installment in her abso-freaking-amazing Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne series.

It's not that I particularly care about the cover; it's more about having a cover as proof the release date is real this time -- unlike the previous date of October 27th. Until I see that cover, that April 13th date seems very tentative to me. And boy howdy, do I want that book. Want, as in: Really. Must. Have. It. Now.

My glomming of the television show Supernatural continues, as I eagerly await the arrival of Season 3 on my doorstep. I burned through each of the first two seasons at lightning speed, which included many late nights and very little reading. I'm going to attempt to savor the third season, and draw out the enjoyment a bit longer, but I'm also self-aware enough to realize that I have almost zero willpower and there's small chance of my being successful. Oh, and I might possibly be developing an itty-bitty crush on one Dean Winchester. Maybe.


What about y'all? Stressed out during this holiday season? Know a good way to battle a food craving? How do your pets react to the Cone of Shame? Irrationally excited about an upcoming release? Crushing on any fictional characters?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: Better Naughty Than Nice Anthology

Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day it's my unofficial Anthology Season. I gorge myself on holiday stories -- Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever -- and most tend to come in anthology format. This year's Blaze Christmas anthology, Better Naughty Than Nice, by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Jill Shalvis, and Rhonda Nelson provided the most solid of the new anthologies I've read this year. None of the stories wowed me, but I found all three to be pretty enjoyable. Click here to read my full review at AAR. I also read this book as part of the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge.

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Plugs and Sequel Setups: A Rant

Warning: This post contains ranting and bitchiness. 

I think I'm becoming pickier the older I get. Either that, or I have a lower tolerance for bullshit. A few years ago I wouldn't have batted an eyelash when reading this section from His Secret Agenda by Beth Andrews:
"But," she continued when Dean remained silent, "if you have a problem with people who've paid their dues to society, reconsider if you want this job." And really, did she want someone so...judgmental working for her? "One of my good friends spent time in prison and he stops by quite often."

Dillon Ward, Kelsey's brother, had served time for manslaughter after killing their stepfather while protecting Kelsey. After his release, Dillon had battled prejudice and his own guilt. Luckily, he'd gotten past all of that and was now able to move forward in a relationship with local bakery owner Nina Carlson.

Allie smiled sweetly. "I wouldn't want any of his criminal tendencies to rub off on you."
But now when I encounter sections like this? Yeah, now that middle paragraph reads to me like a flashing neon sign, jerking me out of the story for what is an obvious commercial break. Within the space of a couple of pages, the author managed to plug both her previous releases -- although the other plug was a mite subtler than this one -- and had me gritting my teeth. (In all fairness, though, I did enjoy His Secret Agenda and bought both of Andrews' previous books, so clearly I wasn't too annoyed.)

I also have to point out, as I'm sure all of you already know, that Andrews is far from the only author to plug previous books in the middle of a story, so I'm not picking on her specifically. Hers just happened to be the example I had at hand.

Maybe it's just me, and nobody else is bothered by these advertisements right in the middle of the story. Or maybe you all are just as irritated as me and want to shout: Don't plug your other books in this one, because frankly: I DON'T CARE. If I like the one I'm reading enough, I'll check out your other books. So, please, STOP with the commercials.

Then there's the case of hijacking the current story for the sake of setting up the sequel. This really ticks me off. Now, I'm not referring to not-quite-subtle hints that there will be another book in the series. I can generally roll with those. No, I'm talking about an actual hijacking of the plot, such as what occurred in Donna Kauffman's novella Lock, Stock, and Jingle Bells in the Kissing Santa Claus anthology. As I said in my review:
But what really irked me, and dropped the grade a bit, was when the author introduced a subplot midway through. At first I was intrigued, and hoped the author was using it to help bring Sean and Holly together. Uh, no. Turns out that the sole purpose of adding this little mystery was so the author could establish an elaborate setup for a future story. The ending that should have been devoted to Holly and Sean’s romance – you know, the romance in this story – felt hijacked and I felt cheated.
This little "setup" dropped the grade from a C+ to a C-, and had me pretty irritated. When I've put the time and effort into reading a book, I expect a satisfactory conclusion. I don't expect to have the characters' story shoved to the side in favor of promoting a subplot that is entirely irrelevant to the characters' romance and conflict resolution. But maybe it's just me.

With so many books containing obvious commercials, and others featuring obvious series/sequel setups, it's making me wonder if I'm the only reader irritated by this state of affairs.  
  • Do book plugs bother you, or do you like knowing that the author has another book out? 
  • Does it take you out of the story when you read a plug for another book, or are you able to just ignore it? 
  • Have you ever felt that the ending of a book was hijacked so that the author could setup the next book in the series?
  • How do you feel about obvious series/sequel setups?
  • Am I just being a total bitch and this isn't worth ranting about? It's okay, you can tell me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: Under the Covers Anthology

My review of the Under the Covers anthology by Crystal Jordan, Lorie O'Clare, and P.J. Mellor is up today over at AAR. I really enjoyed the Jordan and Mellor contributions -- Naughty or Nice and Escaping Christmas, respectively -- but O'Clare's Nativity Island didn't work for me at all. Despite one of the stories ranking pretty low, I'm happy to have discovered two new-to-me authors to read in the future. Click here to read my full review. I also read this book as part of the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge.

Disclosure: I received this book free as an AAR reviewer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: Eye of the Storm by Delilah Devlin

Title: Eye of the Storm
Author: Delilah Devlin
Genre: Erotic Fiction
Length: Short Story
Published: August 2009
Sensuality: Burning
Setting: Jamaica
Disclosure: Purchased Myself

One year ago, Marcus healed Janie's broken heart with his love. Now she has returned to Jamaica to see if their passion is as strong as before. Then Marcus's friend Cade shows up, too. Janie never really liked Cade, but when Marcus asks her to take them both to her bedroom, Janie soon learns that the two men know exactly what she needs....

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

The biggest issue I had with Eye of the Storm -- really, the only issue -- is that the heroine doesn't begin enjoying herself until the very end. The end, as in, after the sex is over. She really doesn't like Cade, and doesn't want to have sex with him, but she so desperately wants to please Marcus that she goes along with it.

During the entire sex scene -- which, given that this is an erotica short, is virtually the entire story -- Janie is visibly distressed and on the verge of tears. Marcus, who's supposed to love Janie, can tell she's distressed, but what does he do? He tells her to pretend it's him doing her and not Cade. Seriously? Maybe it's just me, but that doesn't seem like a great way to treat someone you're supposed to love.

After the sex -- which Janie physically enjoyed, but was emotionally distraught about the whole way through -- Janie breaks down in tears and admits to feeling used by the two men. I couldn't blame her; being used is exactly how it felt to me too. The two men then proceed to soothe her feelings and proclaim their love and commitment to her, but it was too little, too late for this reader. I just couldn't get the bad taste out of my mouth. What would have worked far better, in my opinion, is if this soothing had taken place before the sex. Because frankly, if the character herself isn't enjoying the sex, I'm sure as hell not enjoying it as the reader.

Eye of the Storm is solidly in D-territory for me, but I vacillated about exactly where in the D-range it falls -- mostly because, while I had problems with the plot and characters, I had no problem with the writing style. Ultimately I decided to just grade it down the middle.  

Grade: D

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review: Kissing Santa Claus Anthology

My review of the Kissing Santa Claus anthology by Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis, and HelenKay Dimon is up over at AAR. I had high hopes for this Christmas collection, but two of the stories turned out to be meh. I did, however, really like the Jill Shalvis entry, Bah Handsome!, so I'll keep the anthology just so I can re-read that one next year. Click here to read my full review.

Disclosure: I received this book free as an AAR reviewer.

Review: Tie Me Down by Tracy Wolff

My review of Tie Me Down by Tracy Wolff went up this weekend at AAR. Overall I thought this was a nice blend of erotica and romantic suspense, despite a couple of issues. Click here to read my full review. I'll definitely check out the author's next release, Tease Me, which is coming in April.

Disclosure: This was a free book I received as an AAR reviewer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music Monday: Stairway to Gilligan's Island

In 1978, San Francisco pop rock band Little Roger and the Goosebumps recorded "Stairway to Gilligan's Island," which, you guessed it, combines the classic Led Zeppelin song "Stairway to Heaven" with the theme song to the Gilligan's Island television show.

Within weeks of the song's release, Led Zeppelin's lawyers threatened to sue the band, and demanded that all copies of the song be destroyed. Odd, then, that in 2005 Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant named "Stairway to Gilligan's Island" his favorite "Stairway to Heaven" cover song.

(Sorry for the audio quality of this video, but it's the best a/v combination available.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rambling Ponderings on Authenticity

Sometime back, somewhere in my Internet travels, I read a comment by an aspiring author that said something like:
"Because I'm a virgin I've been worried that my sex scenes won't be very good, but your comments have given me back my confidence!"
I admit, my first reaction upon reading that was to think, yeah right, those scenes are going to suck bad if she's never even experienced sex herself.

Then I pondered my very bitchy cynical reaction.

I'm all for authors having the freedom to write about experiences they've never had -- occupations, places, people, etc. If all authors only wrote what they themselves had directly experienced, the book world would be a hell of a lot less diverse than it is. I want to read about firefighters and treasure hunters and lawyers, and most authors have never, and will never, hold one of these jobs. I want to read books set in Alaska and New York City and 18th century London, and I don't particularly care if the author hasn't ever lived in that place, in that time, as long as the setting feels authentic to me as the reader.

But here's the thing: Even if an author researches her butt off, she's still likely to get some of the details wrong. There are just some things that you don't know until you experience it firsthand -- and you don't know what you don't know -- so it's almost inevitable that an author will get something wrong. It may be a minor thing, or it may be a major thing, but either way, if it's a subject that you, as the reader, knows very well, the inauthenticity of it is going to pull you out of the story.

Then again, the majority of readers won't have a clue that the author got something wrong, nor will they care. Because, like authors, most readers haven't had firsthand experience with all the occupations and places featured in books. I've never been a firefighter or treasure hunter or lawyer; I've never been to Alaska or New York City or 18th century London. So the only time this issue arises for us readers is when the book we pick up happens to be one of those featuring something we are intimately familiar with. Otherwise we remain happily clueless.

As I see it, the big problem facing the virgin writer above is that the overwhelming majority of her readers have experienced sex, and they're going to know if she gets it wrong.

But, wait. It's not like Romance Novel Sex is completely realistic in the first place, is it? We have Magically Orgasming heroines and Expert Sex God heroes, and romance couples never get sand in uncomfortable places after sex on the beach. There's no awkwardness or pain or messy bodily fluids or not-so-sexy noises. It's a perfect, rose-colored view of sex, and much of it ain't exactly realistic, although I do think the realism has improved over the years.

So, if the writer in question relies on the conventions of the genre, will her sex scenes read authentically to readers?

Part of me thinks she could fake it, but the bigger part of me thinks the scenes will feel "off" in some way. Why? Because, as a reader who started reading romances long before having sex, I know that I didn't really "get it" until I experienced it. Sure, I understood the basic mechanics from sex-ed classes, and I'd read a gazillion romance novel sex scenes, but it was all still rather hazy and indistinct. It didn't click until I did it. Hell, it didn't fully click until I'd done it a lot more than once.

TMI? Anyway, moving on...

What about female m/m authors? The m/m romance and m/m erotic romance genres are rapidly growing, and it seems like most of the authors and readers are heterosexual women. Do these authors' m/m sex scenes read inauthentically given that they've never experienced m/m sex, let alone what it's like to be a gay man? As I'm not a gay man, I don't really know. But that's exactly my point: If most of their readers are straight women, they're not going to know either, will they? Which means that most readers aren't going to be bitching afterward about how the author "got it all wrong." And hell hath no fury like ticked off readers.

Which brings me back to my main conclusion: That the biggest problem the virgin writer is facing is the fact that she's relying on books, research, and her imagination, whereas most of her audience will have firsthand, intimate experience with the subject at hand. Even with Romance Novel Sex conventions on her side, she's fighting an uphill battle to convince readers of the realism of her sex scenes.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Do you think authors can ever write a truly authentic experience they've never had?

For further reading on the subject of writing and authenticity from a reader's perspective, check out Lynn Spencer's post All in a Day's Work, and Rike Horstmann's Familiar Territory.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Boys and Fire

So ... the other night I'm on the phone with Dear Boyfriend while I'm reading through some of the blog posts that have been accumulating in my feed reader. I come across this post by Jill Shalvis, and it amuses me, so I share it with DB:

ME: Hey, here's something funny. This author is blogging about her oldest daughter at UCLA. She said her daughter sent her a text message that read:
“My professor just asked if anyone has ever lit their farts on fire, because we’re learning about methane. I started laughing and everyone just stared at me. Lecture class of 250 …"
The author says:
"Poor thing. Of course she started laughing. She was raised by a wolf, aka Alpha Man. We sent her away to college to get educated, and what she’s learning is that her family is a little crazy…"
Heh, heh. Funny, huh?

DB: [silence]

ME: So ... you know. Her dad must have lit his farts on fire. Heh, heh.

DB: [silence]

ME: You've lit your farts on fire, haven't you?

DB: Who hasn't?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Texting Fun with Mom

Sometimes my mother really cracks me up, and it's not always intentional on her part. Such as this text message exchange from last night:

MOM: we have power!!

ME: awesome! i didn't know it was out.

MOM: since sunday

ME: sucky

MOM: yws but now   i am ib n the bath. aawesom

ME: r u also imbibing alcohol?

MOM: not since 10 am

My mother is not a lush. Really, she's not. She just likes her Irish Coffee. You know, in the morning.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Review: Gobsmacked by L.B. Gregg

Title: Gobsmacked
Author: L.B. Gregg
Genre: M/M Erotic Romance
Length: 38,485 words (~109-153 min)
Published: 2009
Sensuality: Burning
Setting: Upstate New York
Series: Men of Smithfield #1
Disclosure: Purchased Myself

Mild mannered Mark Meehan’s good judgment flies out the window when he finds his lover banging another man. Things go from bad to worse as Mark’s crazy revenge scheme uncovers shocking secrets—sending him straight into the arms of hunky lawman and old friend, Tony Gervase, a man of limited patience and secrets of his own.

Gobsmacked is the first novella in L.B. Gregg's Men of Smithfield series, and the bottom line is that it was just plain fun to read. It's told in the first person narrative (past tense), which works very well due to Mark's dry, humorous POV. For the first part of the story I alternated between laughing out loud, and gasping "Oh no he didn't!" When the romantic and suspense elements of the plot come to the forefront, the tale, while still humorous, is less funny and a bit edgier. Mark must deal with the fallout of his actions and the mystery he's been thrown into, as well as his renewed feelings for Tony. The change in tone worked quite well as the plot moves from being a funny scorned-lover-revenge-scheme to something darker and heavier.

Gobsmacked is one of those stories that doesn't fit neatly under labels such as Erotica or Romantic Suspense. It's officially labeled Erotica, but it feels more like a gay man's version of Chick Lit -- Dude Lit? -- combined with light-hearted-edgy Romantic Suspsense, and a shot of Erotica mixed in with all of that. Like I said -- conventional genre labels don't fit.

Regardless of the label it's given, Gobsmacked is highly entertaining, and I'm very much looking forward to the next two installments in the series, Happy Ending and Cover Me.

Grade: B

Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: Make Her Pay by Roxanne St. Claire

My review of Make Her Pay by Roxanne St. Claire is up today over at AAR. Of the eight books in the Bullet Catchers series, this one is my favorite. I especially loved the hero and heroine, and I was all over the treasure hunting mystery plot. I know St. Claire is coming out with a new series from a different publisher next year, so it appears that the Bullet Catchers are on hiatus -- or might possibly be over. If it turns out that the series is over, I'll be sad, but at least the Bullet Catchers will have gone out with a good one. Click here to read my full review.

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself.