The Last Gladiatrix by Eva Scott

The Last Gladiatrix by Eva Scott

  • Title: The Last Gladiatrix
  • Author: Eva Scott
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Escape Publishing (Harlequin Australia), April 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 77 pages (or maybe 109? it’s a novella anyway)
  • Trope(s): Kidnapped Warrior Woman, Studly Centurion, All the Usual Stock Roman Characters, Insta-Lust, Insta-Love
  • Quick blurb: Soldier offers to train a comely captive as a gladiatrix to save her from the shame of becoming a courtesan.
  • Quick review: Cheese-fest from beginning to end, with a major “Oh, FFS!” moment that killed the entire book.
  • Grade: F

The skin at the back of her neck prickled, as if in warning.

Yeah, that quote in the third paragraph should have been my warning of !!!Cliches & Caricatures Ahead!!! But I kept reading because it’s just a novella, how bad could it be? My status updates (below) sum up how bad it got.

I finished it (because I have enough fortitude to finish a damn novella, dammit), but even before the end of the first chapter, a bit of throw-away characterization made me lose all respect for the story and the author. This is our introduction to the general’s villainous aide-de-camp:

Maximus was slender and fine-boned, like a woman. He also possessed a woman’s love of gossip and — if rumours were true  a woman’s love of men. Yet Maximus did not like him, and Titus was happy to return the sentiment.

WHY was this included? It was completely pointless, because this temporary villain appears in only two additional (and very short) scenes. I’m guessing it was an attempt to make the FLAMING EVIL HOMO a glaring opposite of our MANLY AND OBVIOUSLY VERY HETERO AND MASCULINE AND DID WE MENTION MANLY? HERO, because, you know, how else would we grasp the immensity of his heroically heterosexual manliness? But at least the Flaming Evil Homo doesn’t have the hots for our Hero of Heterosexual Masculinity, because that would just be gross.

Badly done, Escape Publishing (an imprint of Harlequin Entrprises Australia). Badly done indeed.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Read With Me Vicariously: Status Updates

  • 18% – Cliche + cariacature + insta-lust while chained = I’m not sure if I can finish this…
  • 20% – Loins are heating and unnamed forces are compelling…
  • 23% – Dream sex. On a bed of soft golden cloud. Fever pitch, waves of sensation, pinnacle of desire, etc.
  • 36% – Primeval masculinity, primordial drums, molten ecstasy and synchronized heartbeats.
  • 46% – It’s a trap!
  • 69% – An “oh, BARF” moment in the middle of the freaking arena. Sheesh.
  • 82% – Uh-oh, hero is summoned by the Senator’s wife. I wonder what she wants… *wink wink*
  • 82% – “In his experience women, especially high-born Roman woman, were dangerous – more dangerous than a host of Huns.”
  • 86% – Senator’s sexy wife is reclining on a bed eating grapes. I shit you not.
  • 100% – Plundering lips. The end.

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

If you’re an Eloisa James fangirl, walk backwards slowly with your eyes on the floor until you reach a safe zone. Then turn and run like hell, because this is going to be ugly. (See what I did there?)
The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

  • Title: The Ugly Duchess
  • Author: Eloisa James
  • Series: Fairy Tales, Book 4
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Avon Books, August 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via Edelweiss ($6.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Plain Jane, Big Misunderstanding, Friends-to-Lovers, Reunited, Pirates
  • Quick blurb: “Hey, my wife of two days yelled at me because I married her for her money so I guess I’ll run away and become a pirate and shave my head and give myself a flowery facial tattoo and then show up out of the blue seven years later at the special session of Parliament called to declare me officially dead and then I’ll get all pissy when my bitter bride doesn’t immediately succumb to my piratical sexiness.”
  • Quick review: Hated it. It was awful. Dreadful. Did I mention I HATED IT?
  • Grade: F

In the weeks and years to come, when she looked back she identified that as the precise moment when her heart broke in two. The moment that separated Daisy from Theo, the time Before, from the time After.

In the time Before, she had faith. She had love.

In the time After…she had the truth.

What’s not to love about such lovely romantic angst like that, right? If only there was more of the angsty romance and a lot less piss-me-offery.

Theodora/Daisy is annoying, James/Jack is an idiot and the plot is all kinds of FUCKED UP. I don’t want to recap the whole mess of crap, so here’s what pissed me off the most:

After that the duke proceeded to demonstrate for his duchess almost all of the terms he knew for the sport of Venus. He was a pirate. He knew a lot.

THAT WAS THE HEA, FOR FUCK SAKE.

The happy ending was the “hero” showing off the boinking and boffing skillz he learned and earned while fucking prostitutes during his long absence at sea. I don’t consider that to be romantic AT ALL.

The opening scenes were promising — a plain but confident heroine and the childhood friend who realizes he loves her. But the Black Moment occurs way too early in the story, and then it was just more and more incarnations of “OH. FOR. FUCK. SAKE.”

An hour later, James had a shaved head and a small poppy tattooed beneath his right eye. He appropriated a name from Flibbery Jack, the pirate captain who would no longer be needing it, and gave it too himself.

Yes, FLIBBERY JACK. I mean, come on. Was that really necessary?

When Dread Pirate Emo Whiner made his Dramatic Reappearance precisely seven years later at the special session of Parliament just as he was about to be officially declared dead, I gave up and skimmed through to the repulsive conclusion and barf-worthy epilogue. Blech.

When her characters aren’t off randomly fucking around, Eloisa James is a really good writer. The quiet and introspective moments are lovely, her wit is wicked, and she’s brilliant at showing instead of telling.

James is not without a few quirks , though — she slathers on the similes and metaphors, but they’re just ordinary purplish prose, not full-on Simile Sex:

  • …like tradesmen’s wives seeing the queen.
  • …like a fox with a clutch of hen’s eggs.
  • …like tepid milk at bedtime.
  • …a tongue as sharp as a cracked mirror.
  • …as convincing as Marie Antoinette pretending to be a shepherdess.
  • …like a hollyhock that someone forgot to stake.
  • …as if she were a dog in a fight.
  • …like a drunken meringue.
  • …as if minutes turned into drops of honey.
  • …as tightly as puzzle pieces.
  • …as tightly pressed together as ha’pennies in the church box.
  • …like a marauding Visigoth.

And of course there’s the obligatory reference to a mythological goddess:

“Theo (the heroine) is like the huntress Diana…. Beautiful and yet slightly deadly, ready to whip out a bow and arrow, or turn a man into a squealing swine. Sensual, and yet with just a snowy touch of the virginal about her.”

I can easily ignore fluff like that, and I can even disregard the gratuitous inclusion of the Prince of Wales saying “what ho!” because no one calls him “Prinny.”

However, I most definitely cannot shrug off the casual acceptance and justification of infidelity.

I’m not new to this series – I really liked When Beauty Tamed the Beast, and I LOVED the novella Storming the Castle. In fact, I’ve read James’s entire backlist, which I attribute to Everyone Else Loves Her, I Must Be Missing Something Syndrome.

But I think I’m done with this author now. With very few exceptions, her books have left me with a vaguely squirmy feeling – a sort of lingering veneer of squickiness and disgust at her repeated reliance on no-consequences adultery as an amusing plot wrench. That’s a deal-breaker for me, and I just can’t give James another pass.

One-Quote Review: One Naughty Girl by Alexx Andria

  • Title: One Naughty Girl
  • Author: Alexx Andria
  • Series: Landry James, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, free
  • Quick blurb: What. The. Hell.
  • Grade: F

The black buck noted her quickened breath and the way she reveled in the scene before her.

Yes, a character – a nameless hookup in a sex club – is described as a “black buck.” Since when is something like that considered acceptable??? I refuse to give any links to this insult to real erotica writers.

The Cowboy’s Princess Wife by Mysty McPartland

  • The Cowboy's Princess Wife by Mysty McPartlandTitle: The Cowboy’s Princess Wife
  • Author: Mysty McPartland
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing, January 2012
  • Source: Amazon, $4.99
  • Trope(s): Virgins, Alpha Males, Cowboys, Mystery Marriage, I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: Scottish Princess shows up on doorstep of Cowboy Earl claiming proxy marriage.
  • Quick review: I can’t decide which was worse – the bad history or the bad editing.
  • Grade: F

In the interests of fairness, and to prove that I’m an Equal Opportunity Crank, I decided to try out another title from the publishing house that signed Sable “Hell Yeah!” Hunter.

I chose The Cowboy’s Princess Wife because of the bodice-ripping title, the author’s stripper-rific first name and the blurb:

Even though she made a promise to her dying grandfather, Carlin only intends to deliver the letter to the Earl and leave. When he refuses to let her go she takes time to contemplate the situation and being attracted to him decides to give their marriage a chance.  Her husband was so annoying at times she re-thinks her situation and once again makes plans to leave.

Surprised at finding two beautiful women in his parlor Haydon cannot deny the overwhelming attraction he feels towards one of them. He is shocked senseless when he finds out his father has married him to the woman he desires. Bound by duty and honor he can never let her go. However, it doesn’t take him long to become irritated with her and all the crap she fill his house with. What makes him furious though was all the deception.

Can Haydon keep his princess wife safe? Can their love for one another over come all the obstacles?

Verb tense disagreement, missing commas and a house full of crap in the blurb? Wheee, let’s get started!

But before we get carried away….

Let’s take a look at the dedication page:

Author Dedication page - The Cowboy's Princess Wife

Reason #1 Why Secret Cravings Publishing Is Collectively Smoking Crack

The opening scene….

With her heart beating wildly in her chest, her stomach twisted in a knot of nervous tension, Carlin thought she just might be sick.

Oooh, barfing in the first sentence! But if this is a historical, shouldn’t she be casting up her accounts?

Her eyes wide open, she kept sweeping the area with fearful apprehension. Dear Lord, what had her sweet grandfather forced her into she silently asked?

All righty. So that’s the way it’s going to be. Thanks for the early warning.

Lord, she didn’t want to do this, did not want to be here, well she couldn’t do anything about it now since she already arrived, she despondently told herself.

I’m silently telling myself despondently that I don’t really want to read this but I paid $5 for it because I’m trying to prove a point so I’m damn well going to finish it.

“Och, Carlin, it dinna look too bad.” Layla tried to reassure her cousin….

Fake Scottish brogue and historically improbable character names. The WTF list is growing and we’re only on the fourth paragraph.

She definitely could feel herself becoming annoyed.

Well, we wouldn’t want her to waffle about it, so it’s a good thing she’s definitely definite.

Continue reading

Her Magic Touch by Sable Hunter – The Full Review

  • Her Magic Touch by Sable HunterTitle: Her Magic Touch
  • Author: Sable Hunter
  • Series: Hell Yeah! Book 3
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, October 2011
  • Purchase: Amazon, $4.99 (YES, I paid $ for it)
  • Tropes:  Insta-Love, Virgin Heroine, Cowboy Alpha Male, TSTL, Simile Sex
  • Quick blurb:Misogynistic daredevil asshole, paralyzed in a motocross accident, hires ugly voodoo priestess, who doesn’t know she’s really a guardian angel, to restore his manhood. Also, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse makes a cameo appearance.
  • Quick review: Continuing Adventures in Epic Assholery and Virgin Sacrifice: In Which Sable Hunter Mistakes Misogyny for Romance
  • Grade: F

NOTE: I’m deleting the separate posts with my “read along” status updates because I was lazy and copy/pasted them into the full review…. And because I figured I should try to contain all the bitchiness within a smaller blogographical area. I’m leaving the Bad Sex roundup intact.

At the end of the Hell Yeah! Book 2 review, I mentioned that a few glimpses of the main characters of Book 3 made me cautiously optimistic that we would finally get a grown-up female worthy of being called a “heroine.”

I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

I also bitched and whined about the misogyny in the previous book, but Oh. Dear. God.

This was worse.

Therefore, I’m subtitling this review:

Continuing Adventures In Epic Assholery And Virgin Sacrifice: A Misogyny Manifesto

NOTE: For the purposes of this review, I’m defining “misogyny” as:

  • Infantilizing or otherwise demeaning and marginalizing women;
  • Inferring or stating outright that life without a man is not worth living;
  • Demonstrating double standards regarding male and female sexuality (e.g., manwhores rewarded with virgins);
  • Depicting assertive female characters as sluts;
  • Referring to female characters as “fresh meat”;
  • Repeatedly comparing female characters to abused or abandoned animals; AND/OR
  • Depicting a woman in premature labor serving coffee and doughnuts to lazy-ass men who are perfectly capable of getting the fucking coffee themselves.

It can be a little confusing, so here’s a handy dandy flowchart. Also available in printer-friendly PDF. It’s even color-coded for extra impressiveness! (Yes, I have a day job. Shut up and keep reading, and stop picking on me because I worked really hard on this and now you’re hurting my feelings.)

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the character inconsistencies, eye-rolling “coincidences” and inane detail we’ve come to expect, we also get a whole muddle of unnecessary paranormal nonsense – all of which completely distracted me from the Bad Sex. And of course that just sucked all the fun right out of this, officially making it the Absolute Worst Book I Have Ever Read.

(No, I have not read The Book That Shall Not Be Named, because I refuse to pay $10 for a crappy self-pubbed ebook. I only budget $5 for that sort of thing.)

Let’s get this over with – I need to cleanse my brain with… Something. Anything.

WARNING: This review/diatribe contains irrelevant analogies, bad sports metaphors, gratuitous musical interludes, self-indulgent run-on sentences (heh) and buckets of righteous indignation (it’s a manifesto, duh), with definite overtones of Mean Girl. It’s also very long, so I hope you brought snacks.

Read the full review at DearAuthor.com >>

Hot on Her Trail by Sable Hunter

  • Title: Hot on Her TrailHot on Her Trail by Sable Hunter
  • Author: Sable Hunter
  • Series: Book 2 in the Hell Yeah! series
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, February 2011
  • Purchase: Amazon, free in Kindle Lending Library (regular $4.99)
  • Tropes: Insta-Love, Virgin Heroine, Cowboy Alpha Male, Serial Killer, Magical Orgasm Cure, TSTL
  • Quick blurb: Homeless orphaned dyslexic pregnant virgin hides out in baby daddy’s barn to escape her bipolar stalker/serial killer.
  • Quick snark: A return to Tebow Ranch, where the women are childlike virgins and the men are misogynistic fuckwads.
  • Grade: F

Soooo, after laughing my way through the first book of this series, I strapped on my big-girl undies for Book 2:

Jacob McCoy wishes for a wife and a family. Tis the Season for miracles when a young woman shows up on his doorstep: homeless, in danger and expecting a child – Jacob’s child.

Their relationship is complicated by the fact that, A – they’ve never met before and B – she’s a virgin. Jessie is determined not to be a burden to the McCoy family. As far as she’s concerned, she is just passing through. Jacob has a different opinion – he wants Jessie in his life, in his bed and in his heart.

It’s a good thing I suited up in protective gear, because in between the vomit-inducing Insta-Love and some serious WTFery, this book PISSED ME OFF. Therefore, I am subtitling this review:

A Return To Tebow Ranch: Where The Women Are Childlike Virgins And The Men Are Misogynistic Fuckwads.

This is going to take a while, so fasten your seatbelts – it’s going to be a long and wild ride. Like getting your bra strap caught on the fake horns of a mechanical bull and you can’t get off until someone takes pity on you and unplugs the damn thing.

Warning: If you don’t like spoilers or dirty words, go elsewhere. You know, in case that “fuckwads” thing wasn’t a big enough hint.

Read the rest of the review at DearAuthor.com