Cowboy Heat by Sable Hunter

  • Title: Cowboy Heat
  • Author: Sable Hunter
  • Cowboy Heat by Sable HunterSeries: Book 1 in the Hell Yeah! series
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, October 2010
  • Purchase: Amazon, free (now regular $4.99, free in Kindle Lending Library)
  • Tropes: Insta-Love, Virgin Heroine, Alpha Male, Wicked Ex-Wife, Magical Orgasm Cure, Plot Moppet, Simile Sex, Sports Metaphors, Religious Metaphors, Cowboy, Sensitive Artist
  • Quick blurb: Virgin cancer patient, artistic cowboy, orgasmic brownies. You do the math.
  • Quick snark: A truly astounding collection of Sex Similes.
  • Grade: D-

I’m always on the lookout for cheap, fun and short erotica, and this one caught my eye because it was free, it had decent ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, and the blurb was intriguing:

Aron McCoy has sworn off women – except for sex. When Libby Fontaine arrives at Aron’s Tebow Ranch, she is determined to cram a lifetime of living into a few short months. The doctor has told her that she can’t count on her remission from leukemia being a permanent one. Their attraction to one another is instantaneous and overwhelming. But when Aron finds out that Libby is innocent – he backs off. He has nothing to offer a girl who deserves white lace and promises. Then Aron catches Libby pleasuring herself in his stock tank and hears her cry out his name – and the heat is on.

I wasn’t expecting award-winning literature, but this went straight onto my “Thank God It Was Free” shelf. Inconsistent characterization, random point-of-view changes, painful dialogue, laughable sex….

And the similes. MY GOD, the similes.

You’ve never seen a collection of Sex Similes like this, and you likely never will. Here’s a quick sample to get your juices flowing:

Twin globes of perfection hung down like the most delicious melons. Sweet Jesus! Honey-dews!

No, really. And that’s just a teaser.

(Didja get that “juices flowing” metaphor? <snort> I crack myself up sometimes.)

Read the rest of the review at DearAuthor.com

Love, Come to Me by Lisa Kleypas

  • Love, Come to Me by Lisa KleypasTitle: Love, Come to Me
  • Author: Lisa Kleypas
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Penguin, August 2011 (first published June 1988)
  • Purchase: Amazon, $7.99
  • Tropes: Bodice-Ripper, Insta-Love, I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: Rebel-in-Yankee-Territory gets the hots for a New England snob.
  • Quick review: Great setting, so-so heroine, inconsistent hero. It kinda sorta almost works.
  • Grade: C

Full disclosure: I own every one of Kleypas’ historical romances, and her recurring character Marcus Marsden, Earl Westcliff, is my Fictional Boyfriend.

Therefore, I was compelled to purchase the recent reprint of one of her earliest novels, Love, Come to Me, despite the promise of an unhealthy amount of bodice-ripping:

Bewildered, startled, she felt his lips against hers, tasting her in a way she had never dreamed of. His mouth was blazing and hungry, she was shaking, this time not from cold but from a heat that burgeoned deep inside her.

When strong and handsome Heath Rayne pulled lovely young Lucinda Caldwell from a winter river, he rescued her from an icy death. But soon he was plunging her into a torrid torrent of passion that this New England beauty had never suspected could claim her. Heath was unlike any other man Lucy had ever known — a dashing, mocking, sensuous Southerner who came as a stranger to Lucy’s Massachusetts town…and stayed to conquer all the odds against him…as he stripped away Lucy’s last shreds of resistance to the demands of desire and the flaming fulfillment of love…

It’s a good thing an introductory Author’s Note was included in this new edition – Kleypas herself sums up my own reaction:

I hope you enjoy the story of Lucinda and Heath, which was written with an enthusiasm that will hopefully atone for any weaknesses that I must cheerfully ascribe to youth and inexperience.

It’s very obvious this was the work of a rookie novelist, with a LOT of angsty, repetitive internal monologuing. But overall, it’s oddly charming, with enough sparks of Future Kleypas flaring up to keep me interested.

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The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

  • The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie KlassenTitle: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
  • Author: Julie Klassen
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical
  • Publisher: Bethany House, January 2012
  • Purchase: Amazon, $8.99
  • Tropes: Disguised as a Servant, Reunited, Pirates
  • Quick blurb: Rich girl fleeing icky arranged marriage hides out as a housemaid in former suitor’s home.
  • Quick review: A valiant, yet ultimately unsuccessful, attempt at a predictable plot.
  • Grade: C

I’m not one for the fangirl “OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS” stuff, but Julie Klassen’s books have tempted me to engage in some literary peer pressure. “It’s not a preachy inspirational, trust me!”

I was drawn to her books by the intriguing titles, beautiful covers and well-written blurbs, and all four of her previous novels exceeded my expectations. I’ve read them all several times, and I still can’t decide between The Silent Governess and The Apothecary’s Daughter for my DIK list.

I had The Maid of Fairbourne Hall on my “yay coming soon!!!” wishlist for months and bought it the day it came out. But then it lingered in Mount TBR for another few months because, oddly enough, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. I call it “Book Anxiety,” which I may write an essay or treatise about sometime.

ANYWAY, I’m not sure if it was the title, the blurb or the cover that made me anxious….

Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt—and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?

Observing both brothers as an “invisible” servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?

On her journey from well-born lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of “serve one another in love.”

I did a mental “huh?” double-take when I saw the “disguised as a servant” trope, and after reading – well, score one for the Book Anxiety.

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The Outsider by Ann H. Gabhart

  • The Outsider by Ann H. GabhartTitle: The Outsider
  • Author: Ann H. Gabhart
  • Series: Book 1 in the Shaker series
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical
  • Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Company, August 2008
  • Purchase: Amazon, free (regular $9.99)
  • Tropes: Insta-Love, Star-Crossed Lovers
  • Quick blurb: Local doctor disturbs the peace of a reclusive religious community.
  • Quick review: A fascinating glimpse into Shaker life, but dragged down by inconsistencies and narrative flow problems.
  • Grade: C-

Ooooh, free stuff! Free is good. Sometimes.

For as long as she can remember, Gabrielle Hope has had the gift of knowing–visions that warn of things to come. When she and her mother joined the Pleasant Hill Shaker community in 1807, the community embraced her gift. But Gabrielle fears this gift, for the visions are often ones of sorrow and tragedy. When one of these visions comes to pass, a local doctor must be brought in to save the life of a young man, setting into motion a chain of events that will challenge Gabrielle’s loyalty to the Shakers. As she falls deeper into a forbidden love for this man of the world, Gabrielle must make a choice. Can she experience true happiness in this simple and chaste community? Or will she abandon her brothers and sisters for a life of the unknown? Soulful and filled with romance, The Outsider lets readers live within a bygone time among a unique and peculiar people. This tender and thought-provoking story will leave readers wanting more from this writer.

An inspirational book blurb that calls a religious sect “peculiar”? Not a good sign.

I’m really glad I got this as a free promotion, and didn’t pay the (ridiculous) full price of $10. As much as I wanted to like The Outsider, it ended up being kind of a dud.

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A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

  • A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacleanTitle: A Rogue By Any Other Name
  • Author: Sarah MacLean
  • Series: Book 1 in the Rules of Scoundrels series
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, February 2012
  • Purchase: Amazon, $4.99
  • Tropes: Reformed Rake, Spinster, Gambling, Revenge
  • Quick blurb: Former childhood friends reunite as rake and spinster. With some gambling and revenge stuff thrown in.
  • Quick snark: Yawn.
  • Grade: D+

I’ve read and enjoyed all four of Sarah MacLean’s previous books – especially Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, which earned a spot on my favorites list for having a kick-ass heroine, a scholarly yet swoon-worthy hero and a surprisingly unique plot.

This one? The blurb had me slightly concerned even before I bought it:

What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets . . .

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . even her heart.

Reformed rake, spinster, gaming hell. And this will be different because…?

I was never able to answer that initial question, because it wasn’t different. There is nothing here to set it apart from a zillion other formulaic Regencies. Asshole hero, waffling heroine, predictable plot, repetitive angst and pretty much devoid of any charm whatsoever.

I have no clue what happened between the author’s first trilogy and this big ol’ mess. I felt like Sarah MacLean just put her writer’s brain on autopilot to churn out something to give to her editor, expending little or no effort on creating good characters or a good story. And that left me as a reader feeling more than little insulted.

The only thing saving it from a straight D grade – or even an F – is the sequel-bait epilogue featuring the heroine’s bluestocking sister who decides she “requires ruination.” I’m a sucker for books about smart women; let’s hope the MacLean can do her justice.

Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander

  • Title: Shattered GlassShattered Glass by Dani Alexander
  • Author: Dani Alexander
  • Series: Book 1 in the Shattered Glass series
  • Genre(s): Contemporary M/M Romantic Suspense
  • Publisher: Self-Published, January 2012
  • Purchase: Amazon, $2.99
  • Tropes: Insta-Love, Cops, Sex-for-Hire, Gangsters
  • Quick blurb: Cop falls in love with rent boy. With some Russian mob stuff thrown in.
  • Quick snark: The main character need to sit down and STFU. Then maybe I’ll finish this.
  • Grade: DNF (for now)

Two words:  Bunny. Slippers. How could I NOT buy this???

A male prostitute, a mangy cat, a murder and an obsession that threatens his career, his impending marriage and his life. Nothing is going as planned for Austin Glass.

Austin Glass seems to have it all: A loving fiancee, a future with the FBI and a healthy sized trust fund. At least on the surface. He also has a grin and a wisecrack for every situation. But the smile he presents to the world hides a painful past he’s buried too deeply to remember, and his quips mask bitterness and insecurity. Austin has himself and most of the whole world fooled—until he meets a redhead in a pair of bunny slippers.

As events unfold in the biggest case of his life, Austin’s carefully planned future unravels, and he finds himself pushed into making quick, life-changing decisions. But can he trust himself or anything he feels, when each event seems to be just a series of volatile reactions?

I was sure I was going to love this because of all the rave reviews, but I gave up about halfway through because it just left me exhausted. I felt like I needed to get my anxiety meds adjusted or something.

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Austenland by Shannon Hale

  • Title: AustenlandAustenland by Shannon Hale
  • Author: Shannon Hale
  • Series: Book 1 in the Austenland series
  • Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction (or, god help us, Chick Lit)
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury, May 2007
  • Purchase: Amazon, $1.99 Kindle Daily Deal (regular $7.01)
  • Tropes: Austen, TSTL
  • Quick blurb: Single New Yorker takes on a Regency fantasy camp deep in the heart of England.
  • Quick snark: A complete lack of subtlety – on a Looney Tunes anvil-dropping scale.
  • Grade: D+

My daughter and I loved Hale’s Princess Academy, so I was really looking forward to seeing what a Newbery honoree could do with some grown-up Austen fluff:

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Unfortunately, it was a weird combination of too much and not enough – this Regency fantasy camp was more like a middle school cafeteria.

I debated this grade for a while, but ultimately had to go with with a D+. While it wasn’t truly painful, it was really disappointing and I can’t think of anyone I’d recommend it to.

The + on the D+ is for the cute cover.

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