One-Quote Review(s): The Wild Quartet by Miranda Neville

The Second Seduction of Lady by Miranda Neville

  • Title: The Second Seduction of a Lady
  • Author:  Miranda Neville
  • Series: The Wild Quartet, Book 0.5
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, October 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($1.99 ebook)
  • Length: 100 pages
  • Trope(s): Ruined by a Rake, Big Misunderstanding, Wicked Wager
  • Quick blurb: Five years after a torrid encounter, a repentant gentleman gets a second chance with the stubborn woman he still loves.
  • Quick review: Nothing heart-stopping, but everything a prequel novella should be.
  • Grade: B

It wasn’t a deep kiss but a slow investigation of taste and texture, a scouting trip with the promise of a full exploration.

This novella wasn’t  an all-out swoon, but I loved how the quiet moments between Max and Eleanor showed a more mature and hard-earned romance in contrast to the ill-fated insta-love of their impulsive wards.

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The Importance of Being Wicked by Miranda Neville

  • Title: The Importance of Being Wicked
  • Author:  Miranda Neville
  • Series: The Wild Quartet, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, November 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Gambling Fever, Widow, Beta Hero, Big Misunderstandings
  • Quick blurb: Staid duke in need of an heiress is enthralled by his intended’s impetuous but impoverished chaperone.
  • Quick review: A bit iffy in the middle, but a full-swoon ending makes it worth the read.
  • Grade: B

The Duke of Castleton had been delightfully stuffy and teasable, and she’d managed not to make a fool of herself by leaping on him and ripping off his clothes.

Loved the relationship-building in the first half (especially the slug-fest at the masked ball), then got really annoyed with both of them, but they finally got their heads out of their asses and I got all swoony at the end.

The ‘Oh Crap It’s Only A Week Until Christmas’ Holiday Book Binge, Part 2

I did a LOT of reading last weekend. My house is a complete disaster and I DON’T CARE. Santa and his stupid Naughty List can just bite my big ol’ you-know-what.

Unless he’s bringing me stuff from my wish list. I might even actually fold all the laundry on the couch AND put it away for one of those books.

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Naughty and Nice: Three Holiday Treats (Anthology)

Naughty & Nice: Three Holiday Treats anthology

  • Title: Naughty and Nice: Three Holiday Treats
  • Authors: Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe and Stefanie Sloane
  • Series: Crooked Creek Ranch, Book 2.5 (O’Keeffe)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Historical
  • Publisher: Loveswept/Random House, November 2012
  • Source: NetGalley ($1.99 ebook)
  • Length: 210 pages
  • Trope(s): Grand Gesture, Family Drama, Small Town Guilt, Recalcitrant Farm Animals (thankfully not a goat this time)
  • Quick blurb: An homage to It’s a Wonderful Life, an HFN contemporary prequel, and a boring and silly historical.
  • Quick review: It’s all about Room at the Inn.
  • Grade: B

Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox

Mother of God, he had great hands.

Carson Vance can put those hands on me anytime. I have a major Author Crush on Ruthie Knox because she knows exactly how to Push My Buttons. Including the Gloriously Groveling Grand Gesture. She makes me use Initial Caps.

All I Want for Christmas Is You by Molly O’Keeffe

“Any promise you make…half of the promise is commitment and the other half is faith. Faith that your commitment is enough.”

This was my first by O’Keefe — I was disappointed in the story as an happy-for-now prequel, but there was enough honest emotion and realistic angst to keep her Crooked Creek Ranch series in my TBR queue.

One Perfect Christmas by Stephanie Sloane

Blast that word, “if.” Two letters, without which there was no hope.

Also a first for Sloane — unfortunately, nothing about this impressed me. I’m a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope and the MCs were likeable, but the story was oh-so-predictable and I found some of the smexing to be awkward instead of sexy.

Any Regency has to be very, very different to stand out among the hundreds of others out there, and this one was just too cookie-cutter to be memorable.

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Twelve Days by Ros Clarke

Twelve Days by Ros Clarke

  • Title: Twelve Days
  • Author: Ros Clarke
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Provided by the author (99¢ ebook)
  • Length: 35 pages
  • Trope(s): Big Misunderstanding (Big. HUGE.), Family Drama, Reunited, Flash Mob
  • Quick blurb: A public marriage proposal doesn’t go quite as planned.
  • Quick review: Sad-cry + happy-cry = *happysigh* (all in only 35 pages!)
  • Grade: B+

The singers had already reached the three French hens verse, and on cue a chicken ran across the road.

For anyone who cringed at the grand gesture in Room at the Inn, read this. Trust me.

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Wish List by Sylvia Day

Wish List by Sylvia Day

  • Title: Wish List
  • Author: Sylvia Day
  • Series: White Hot Holidays
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2005 (originally published January 2005 by Ellora’s Cave)
  • Source: Amazon, $2.51 ebook
  • Length: 40 pages
  • Trope(s): Lawyers, Secret Santa, Secret [NO SPOILERS!]
  • Quick blurb: Law firm Secret Santa gift exchange gives attorney the opportunity to fulfill his colleague’s no-longer-secret wish list.
  • Quick review: Hero goes from Alpha to Beta in only 40 pages. I love it when that happens.
  • Grade: B+

“This isn’t about getting laid,” he insisted hoarsely.

“I know.” Her hands clung to his straining, sweating back.

“This isn’t temporary.”

“I – I…”

This is another author first (I know, I know), but I shall remedy that soon.

World Series of Romance: Pine Tar and Sweet Tea by Kerry Freeman

Gay High School Baseball Coaches: A Doubleheader

First up, Pine Tar & Sweet Tea, a recently published novella with a title and cover that caught my eye, and then Caught Running, a novel that I’ve read several…[*counts on fingers*] numerous times.

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Game 1, featuring an up-and-coming* utility infielder:

Pine Tar & Sweet Tea by Kerry Freeman

Pine Tar & Sweet Tea by Kerry Freeman

  • Title: Pine Tar & Sweet Tea
  • Author(s): Kerry Freeman
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ
  • Publisher: Loose Id, October 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($4.99 ebook)
  • Length: 118 pages
  • Trope(s): Athletes, Insta-Lust, Lust in the Workplace, In the Closet, Family Drama
  • Quick blurb: High school coaches hook up at the end of the state tournament, but their one-night-stand turns into something neither is ready for.
  • Quick review: Interesting. Intriguing, even. I think I need to read more from Ms. Freeman.
  • Grade: B

* The opportunities for ridiculously obvious double entendres are endless around here these days.

It was hard to tell who started the kiss, but Matt was the one who deepened it. He thrust his tongue inside René’s mouth and tasted the last bit of sweetness from the tea. René grabbed Matt’s ass and began encouraging a slow, steady grind. Soon, René shoved his hand down the back of Matt’s jeans, his calloused fingers digging into Matt’s flesh.

René pulled Matt back by his hair. “And here I thought you were mad at me.”

“I thought I was too,” Matt whispered.

“Doesn’t matter now. Just kiss me.”

The set-up:

René is a former minor-leaguer now coaching a successful high school team. He’s discreetly out, but he’s not going back in for anyone.

Matt is also a player-turned-coach, but he’s a deeply closeted preacher’s kid shamed by a lifetime of pulpit-pounding sermons and dinner table lectures.

It’s Insta-Lust from the get-go when they meet at the state tournament…

A few of the parents thought the coach was glaring at him, but René knew a fuck-me-now look when he saw one.

…and they manage sneak in a mutually-fulfilling one-nighter after the championship game.

Did I say “fulfilling”? I meant SMO.KING.HOT.

But then their best friends start in with their own smooching and smexing, and Matt and René can’t resist falling deeper into something neither is prepared for.

The hits:

Did I mention the SMOKING HOT smexing? There’s more where that came from — along with a few swoon-worthy moments:

Matt raised an eyebrow. “Well, you do speak Spanish in bed.”

Now Rene blushed. “Sorry.”

“No no no. I loved it. Meant you’d let go. What was it you said?”

“Te deseo. Te necesito. Dentro de ti es el cielo,” Rene whispered. He clasped Matt’s hands in his. “I want you. Need you. It’s heaven inside you.”

The room shrank around them, and Matt could barely breathe. “How do you say, ‘Take me back to bed’?”

For a newbie author, Freeman gives us some really well-drawn main characters, and not just in the bedroom. Or bathroom (see intro quote above). Or locker room. René is brash but charmingly vulnerable, and Matt is just bursting to let his wild side out. Yes, I chose the word “bursting” on purpose. I’m easy that way.

The angstifying is nicely balanced by some spot-on dialogue and humor, especially from René’s best friend David:

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered as he stomped off. “Biggest game of the year, and NOW he decides to take the dick out of storage.”

…and while Matt’s preacher’s-kid family drama is a common m/m trope, it never felt forced or crossed the line into melodrama. Freeman gets extra at-bats for stuff like this:

“My grandmother was devout. Rosary, hair covering, the whole thing. When I told her I was gay, she sat me down and told me to remember one thing: God is love. He wants me to love and be loved in return. She didn’t believe that he would put me on earth only able to feel true love for a man if he didn’t mean for me to love that way.”

And speaking of family drama — ooh boy, I was not expecting that twisty bit near the end.

The misses:

Like many novellas, the pacing is pretty rushed and we miss out on the relationship-building. We know what’s keeping them apart, but we never quite get into their heads enough to feel what’s drawing them together.

And that twisty bit near the end. I’m kinda still a bit conflicted on that. It worked great as a plot wrench, but something about it is still bugging me and I can’t figure out what or why. Authors, be very grateful I’m just a reviewer and not your editor, because sometimes I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.

Random yet obligatory post-game pop-culture reference:

From Pine Tar & Sweet Tea, Chapter One….

"He'd been celibate since the season began, faithful to the players and the game."

He’d been celibate since the season began,
faithful to the players and the game.

And from Bull Durham, somewhere in the first third of the movie….

"I am, within the framework of the baseball season, monogamous."

“I am, within the framework of
the baseball season, monogamous.”

Random post-game question:

The cover: Mantitty or moobs? I’m leaning toward moobs, because they’re distracting me from the beefier delts and pecs in the background.

The final score: B

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Stay in your seats for Game 2 of the Gay High School Baseball Coaches Doubleheader:

Caught Running by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban >>

World Series of Romance Tripleheader: Hard Ball series by Abigail Barnette

Before we get started, let’s take a closer look at the covers, shall we?

Long Relief: Hardball, Book 1 by Abigail Barnette

Double Header: Hardball, Book 2 by Abigail Barnette

Just ignore the aluminum bat.

Triple Play: Hardball, Book 3 by Abigail Barnette

Drooling? Who, me? Shut up, I am a SERIOUS baseball fan, dammit.

  • Series: Hard Ball
  • Author:  Abigail Barnette (aka Jennifer Armintrout)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica, GLBTQ
  • Publisher: Resplendence Publishing, 2012
  • Source: ARe ($3.99 ebooks)
  • Trope(s): Athletes, Lust in the Workplace, Beta Heroes, Coming Out, Menage/Polyamory, MC/IR/AA
  • Quick blurb:  Interconnected novellas featuring the fictional Grand Rapids Bengals.
  • Quick review: Each story has its pros and cons, but likeable characters having good sexy times are always worth a read.
  • Grade(s): B- average (B+, C, B-)

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Continue reading

World Series of Romance: Going for It by Elle Kennedy

Going For It by Elle Kennedy

  • Title: Going For It
  • Author:  Elle Kennedy
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Samhain Publishing, November 2008
  • Source: Amazon ($2.10 ebook)
  • Length: 62 pages
  • Trope(s): Athlete, Friends-to-Lovers
  • Quick blurb: Struggling bar owner seduces retired ballplayer before she’s forced to sell her business.
  • Quick review: Nothing to recommend about this predictable novella – and a few annoyances that almost ruined it.
  • Grade: C-

Starting new would be good for her. She hoped. But she had no intention of leaving town with regrets, and not jumping Riley’s bones would be the biggest regret of all.

The heroine has lost her family-legacy business and her apartment, forcing her impending move across the country to live in her sister’s basement. But no big deal — her most important priority is to get laid by a jock.

While I didn’t have much respect for the heroine or the hero (no spoilers!), the friends-to-lovers romance was realistic and kind of sweet, I loved that the heroine did the seducing, and the grand gesture HEA was really good.

This would have been a solid C, but a few “Oh, FFS” moments kicked me out of my reading trance:

  • No-condom sex with a self-admitted manwhore. Twice. But it’s OK, because she’s on the Pill.
  • The irrelevant and unnecessary inclusion of the heroine’s BFFs — their Sex and the City drunken tell-alls were pretty eye-rolling.
  • The hero mentally describes the heroine as “saucy.” I added that adjective to to my List of Patronizing Ways to Describe Your Heroine. I haven’t decided if “saucy” is better or worse than “sassy.”
  • The heroine feels “waves of pleasure in her womb.” Let’s review: Womb ≠ Vagina. Womb =  UTERUS.
  • The hero’s only defining traits as a former pro athlete are his swagger (he swaggers a LOT) and his preference for “the three B’s…blonde hair, blue eyes and big tits.”

This was one of Kennedy’s early efforts, and reviews of her recent books have been much more positive, so I’m not going to let this short “meh” scare me off this author yet.

A Season for Sin by Vicky Dreiling

A Season for Sin by Vicky Dreiling

  • Title: A Season for Sin
  • Author: Vicky Dreiling
  • Series: Sinful Scoundrels, Book 0.5
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Forever Young (Hachette), September 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley (99¢)
  • Length: 100 pages
  • Trope(s): Rake, Widow
  • Quick blurb: Rake intends to make a beautiful young widow his mistress, but she’s not interested.
  • Quick review: Can’t really review an unfinished story.
  • Grade: DNF

Although I actually read the whole thing, I’m tagging this as a DNF, and here’s why:

Introducing the Sinful Scoundrels…

The Earl of Bellingham is nothing is not a creature of habit: money, meals, and mistresses must be strictly managed if a man is to have a moment’s peace. It’s a system that works splendidly for himuntil now. With his oldest and dearest friends succumbing, one by one, to wedded bliss, Bell is now restless and a trifle lonely. Enter the Sinful Scoundrels — Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire, and Harry Norcliffe, Viscount Evermorewho drag him back into society and draw his rakish eye to the ton’s new beautiful young widow. Bell isn’t after a wife, but a challenge. And Laura Davenport should fit the bill quite nicely…

Word count: 29,000 words

That’s the official description of this “novella” from Amazon. Do you see the words “preview” or “teaser” in there anywhere? No? Me either.

This is not a prequel. This is not a novella. This is not even a short story. Characters and conflict are introduced, but there is no resolution.

The “prequel” story ends at 67% of the Kindle version, with the remaining third an excerpt from the beginning of Dreiling’s upcoming full novel. If I had paid for thiseven just 99¢I would have been really irritated at the blatant misrepresentation.

What’s there was an OK read, but I got the impression it would be just another typical Regency. And the publisher’s tactics in charging readers for a useless bit of fluff will not compel me to pay $7.99 for the author’s next release.

One-Quote Review: Heart Murmurs by Suleikha Synder

Let the Sunday of Squee commence!
Heart Murmurs by Suleikha Snyder

  • Title: Heart Murmurs
  • Author: Suleikha Snyder
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Wild Rose Press, August 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Length: 34 pages
  • Trope(s): Alpha Male, Smart/Smartass Heroine, Age Difference, Lust in the Workplace
  • Quick blurb: Hospital heartthrob finds a challenge in a smart and prickly surgical resident.
  • Quick review: I’m having withdrawal symptoms. I think I need a sequel.
  • Grade: A

He was a prick, and Anu wanted him so bad she could taste it: sharp and hot, like his smile. It was sheer insanity. Having a crush on an attending – on a department chief, at that – was right up there with hallucinating leprechauns.

It took me 45 minutes to choose just one quote from the dozens of smartass and swoon-worthy lines I highlighted. This short story is pretty close to perfect, and I want MORE MORE MORE.

One-Quote Review: Off the Shelf by Lucy Felthouse

  • Off the Shelf by Lucy FelthouseTitle: Off the Shelf
  • Author: Lucy Felthouse
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica, Short
  • Publisher: Xcite Books, May 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Quick blurb: Travel writer gets the hots for an airport bookshop clerk.
  • Grade: B

…something about the way he was cradling a book in his hands made Annalise suspect she’d found a kindred spirit.

Fun, sexy short story with – believe it or not – a believable romance.

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I know the cover above is a stock Jimmy Thomas, but I’m glad they changed it because I just couldn’t recommend it with the original cover:

Off the Shelf by Lucy Felthouse

I’m all for beta heroes with bedhead, but good grief, that poor boy needs a decent haircut.

Series Review: Brook Street Trilogy by Ava March

  • Brook Street trilogy by Ava MarchTitle(s): Thief; Fortune Hunter; Rogues
  • Author: Ava March
  • Series: Brook Street, Books 1-3
  • Genre(s): Historical, M/M
  • Publisher: Carina Press, March-May 2012
  • Source: Thief: Free from publisher via NetGalley; Fortune Hunter: Amazon, $3.03; Rogues: Amazon, $3.03
  • Trope(s): In the Closet. Regency England
  • Quick blurb: Mayfair men and the men they love.
  • Quick review: Despite a sanitized setting, the focus on passionate relationships makes this series work.
  • Grade: B (Thief: B, Fortune Hunter: A-, Rogues: C+)

Regency London – where polite manners and spotless reputations reign supreme. Yet behind the closed doors of three elegant town houses along Brook Street, passion and lust reign as gentlemen dare to risk scandal by falling in love…

During my first reading of Ava March’s Brook Street novellas, I found her Regency Mayfair world to be sanitized and idealistic – especially compared to the claustrophobic atmosphere of secrecy and urgency and impending doom that characterizes many other M/M historicals.

All six main characters in this trilogy accept being gay without hesitation.* In Thief, the first novella in the series, youngest son Benjamin simply makes up his mind and never falters with his decision:

Before the not-so-subtle nudges from his brothers and sisters started anew to find a wife among the bevies of young ladies, he would know the truth about himself. And either way, he would accept it.

None of the Brook Street heroes are asked to deal with the pressure for an heir, nor do they confront threats of being disinherited or shunned. All are estranged, or nearly so, from their families for reasons other than their homosexuality, which feels like an easy cop-out avoid external conflicts. For these heroes, there’s no emotional trauma – or even angst – about the risks of loving another man in 19th-century England:

“Discretion is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.”

However, as I was reading more closely a second time for reviewing, I realized that by focusing on relationships rather than societal pressures, March gives her historical gay characters not only the happy endings they deserve, but the dignity they deserve as well. In the Brook Street world, we’re allowed a more intimate view of the heroes’ day-to-day lives, especially the importance of friendship in establishing and sustaining the “confirmed bachelor” façade.

Grading the stories individually….. Continue reading

One-Quote Review: Takoda by T. M. Hobbs

  • Takoda by T. M. HobbsTitle: Takoda
  • Author: T.M. Hobbs
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Short Story
  • Publisher: Books to Go Now, January 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Quick blurb: Kidnapping by “savage Indian” = Twu Wuv
  • Grade: D

His words made me feel an unusual feeling inside of me.

Simplistic first-person narration, a bare minimum of dialogue and the absence of any dramatic tension – combined with a ridiculously naive “plot” – make this short story read like a middle school homework assignment. (Lovely cover, though)

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I tried this one because I was curious if the stereotypes from the blurb made it into the story:

Sara’s worst fears are realized, when she is taken captive by who she thinks is one of the same savage Indians who killed her parents. But her captor, Takoda, is different from those who robbed her of her mother and father.

The more time spent together, neither can deny their intense attraction. With every look, a passion burns between them, and soon she understands why Takoda took her from her home.

Will Sara let go of the hurt of the past and risk everything for her bronze skinned warrior?