The Chateau

IMG_8595This was so much fun.
Clever and marvelously explicit as always, but THE CHATEAU has a slightly different feel than the original Originals–a little more action, a little more intrigue, and a whole lotta King.

We go back in time, to a younger Kingsley, on a mission that takes us to a castle themed after The Story of O, only now the roles are reversed, and Madame’s women rule the rooms at the chateau.
King is 24, and full of…er, spunk, so to speak, but we get a deeper PoV that makes us bleed for him, and fall in love that much harder as he unravels the mystery and risks getting unraveled himself.

I was so lucky to get an early version of this one, and it might be my favorite so far. I hope we get more bawdy thrillers starring our favorite filthy Frenchman.

THE CHATEAU comes out June 5th–you can pre-order it on amazon over here.


Uncommonly Good

51wKigKPT8L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_From Amazon:

Finishing school taught Amelia Wheeler how to put on a well-mannered performance—when she’s not bored and looking for trouble. Lady Grantham’s is behind her and now it’s time for Amelia to keep her promise to her dying mother: marry a title and leave her wild days behind.

That promise would be much easier to keep if Nate Smythe hadn’t just reappeared in a London ballroom. The son of an impoverished sailor, Nate—Natty, as he used to be called—has grown up to become handsome, rich and polished. He claims to be looking for a proper bride who can advance his business interests, but that doesn’t stop him from seeking out Amelia every chance he gets. Challenging her. Kissing her.

Suddenly, struggling against her simmering passion is the least of Amelia’s problems—one of her titled suitors is hiding a desperate secret that could stop Amelia from pleasing her parents or finding happiness with Nate. As a weeklong house party threatens to derail her hard-won future, Amelia must decide: fight against disaster or act like the lady she’s promised to become?

I love Amanda Weaver’s writing, but especially her historical romances. This follow up to A DUCHESS IN NAME is even better than the first.  Amelia is a blast to read, and reminds me of some Amanda Quick’s heroines: intelligent, rebellious and fun. And Nate is handsome and dashing and earnest, in all the ways he should be. The marvelous Genevieve Grantham returns, as well as shrewish Kitty Ponsoy.

What sets this book above many others in the Regency genre is the acknowledgement of how difficult and unfair women had it during the time period, when men decided the fate of their daughters and wives and appearances were everything–not everything is ribbons and bows–but how Amelia foils the Society “system” with its own rules is so fun to read.
Weaver’s books are also hotter than most; the bedroom (or carriage) door is left wide open, letting us in to some sexy scenes and hilarious and intimate conversations.

I can’t wait for the third, and I hope the series goes on for many more.


Call Her by Her Name

51aU0vgefaLFrom Amazon:

In Call Her by Her Name, the poet and performance artist Bianca Lynne Spriggs creates a twenty-first-century feminist manifesto suffused with metaphoric depth. This collection is a call-and-response of women—divine and domestic, legend and literal—who shape-shift and traverse generations. Through these narratives and cinematic poems, a chorus emerges of stories and lives rarely told.
Call Her by Her Name seeks to give voice to the voiceless, including lynched black women, the biblical “Potiphar’s wife,” and women who tread the rims of phenomenal worlds—the goddess, the bird-woman, the oracle. While these poems reflect an array of women and women’s experiences, each piece could be considered a hue of the same woman, whether home-wrecker, Madonna, or midwife. The woman who sees dragons was perhaps once the roller-skating girl-child. The aging geisha may also be the roots woman next door. The woman who did not speak for ten years could have ended up sinking to the ocean floor. Spriggs gives each one life and limb, breath and voice, in a collection that adds up unequivocally to a poetic celebration of women.

Bianca Lynne Spriggs is an amazing creative voice in the Bluegrass community-an Affrilachian poet, an incredible visual artist and a stellar actress. Every few years we meet in the throws of theater and have marvelous talks about writing, race, self-image and magic.
She’s a vortex of expression and art. With a few sentences she can make me feel like a naive white girl who doesn’t listen enough, and the next moment she’ll kindle me to roar with glamour and color and words and soul.

I was so excited to see she’d had another book of poems out. It came in the mail yesterday, too impersonally.
I gobbled this poetry collection like a teenager running through her first art museum. I have to remind myself not to read so fast.
I’m lucky, I’ve heard Bianca’s voice in person. I can catch her smile in some words, heavy thunder in others, a mystic’s question, a-not-so-subtle pointed glance.
(All those sentences started with I.)
(The words pull me inside myself, turn me inside out.)

They’re all women, these poems, and they shine, and have a flavor. Sometimes they’re rough. Sometimes they’re sharp. Some are sex and guts and glory and longing. They all tell stories. The deepest and most haunting are those of The Lynched Woman.
My favorites are the witchy ones, like “Alchemist,” though the pieces all have a touch of that, the woman-magic-power.
The book sits on top of the stack by my bed; a folded page corner on “Recess: A Bop,” because Mami Wati makes me grin, and I will go back and read her for comfort when I need it.

Seven and Eight

51YUvJqLl3L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve enjoyed Jeanette Grey’s writing for a while, but I really loved her Art of Passion series.

SEVEN NIGHTS TO SURRENDER starts in Paris, with a tentative young woman with a sketchbook, and a jaded pick-up artist. Both Kate and Rylan are running from their past and choices they have to make. He’s ridiculously bold, and she sees through him, but their mutual attraction leads to a trip to a museum and explorations in bed.
The sex is lovely and hot, and the emotional arc is the perfect balance of “aawww” and “I-want-to-slap-these-two-upside-the-head” but my favorite parts are the descriptions of the artistic process Kate goes through on her creative self-discovery.

51FTZDUv6mL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_EIGHT WAYS TO ECSTASY starts with a bang (er-sorry-nah, not sorry) where the first book left us, in New York, where Rylan and Kate have to figure out their relationship in the real word, beyond their fantasy in Paris. Instead of running from the messes they’ve inherited from their parents, they must deal with them, while caught up in their own turbulent need for the other.
Again, the sex is beyond steamy, but this time I was especially drawn to Rylan’s emotional journey and his coming to terms with his family and his father’s dubious legacy. One chapter involving an art gallery, some high-octane jealousy and the backseat of a Bentley was particularly awesome.

I’d recommend the Art of Passion series to anyone who enjoys a sultry New Adult romance, has been to art school, or walked up the steps to Sacré-Cœur.

Personal Confessions and Tiffany gems.

41GtTg20zcL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_One of the things I love about Tiffany Reisz is how personally her writing hits me. Beyond the wit and the banter and the sexy feels, there is always a theme that grabs at a deeper internal level. Sometimes there’s a kink that pushes my curiosity and makes me wonder if my hard limits have cracks in their rigid walls. Sometimes I get a new understanding of doctrine and faith. Nothing is left untouched in her frank discussions of sex, feminism and religion.
THE CONFESSIONS delves into this almost exclusively. Two short stories-conversations with one of my favorite characters, Father Ballard (from POINSETTIA)-and an author interview. It’s a quick companion to the Original Sinners series.

The first story, THE CONFESSION OF MARCUS STEARNS is a lovely peek into Søren’s mind, and probably the closest we will get to his PoV. His interaction with his Jesuit friend and confessor-an insightful and liberal priest with good taste in music-is hysterical. The descriptions of Eleanor are melting.
The second story, THE CONFESSION OF ELEANOR SCHREIBER, is Nora’s unloading on the same priest, a look at choices and hidden desires that stabbed me sweetly in my barren guts as she discusses her decisions about childbirth.

The last third of the book, THE CONFESSION OF TIFFANY REISZ, is a conversation with romance critic Cyndy Aleo. The interview is hilarious, running the spectrum of Catholicism to kink. The two discuss the Church and the biblical parallels of the characters in the Original Sinners, gospel passages and other Christian Literature. They also talk about the distinctions between “safe consensual” play and “risk aware” play, and pushing the limits of dubious consent. Another thoughtful conversation delves into the age of teenage sexual agency-again, a topic hitting close to home for me-I’ve also written on that particular knife edge of moral discomfort.
This section was a special treat. I met Cyndy online in 2009, and fell in love with her writing, her endless pursuit of the sexy off-beat and sensually creative, and her acerbic honesty. Recently, she has edited four of my manuscripts, so in a fashion, she is also my confessor. Three years ago, Cyndy was also the one who said “You must read THE ANGEL, or I’m not speaking to you again.” I did, of course, and then looked up the author on twitter, and said, “Wait–I’ve met you!”
A few years previously I was at a book event at Joseph Beth, my favorite local bookseller, and a friend of the featured author was there-a vivacious woman, jubilant because she had just signed on with an agent for her literary erotica.
Turns out, Tiffany Reisz lived in my hometown. Fast forward to 2014-she invited me to a writer’s crit group at the library. Afterward I met her and her guy (Andrew Shaffer) and had one of the funniest, most encouraging and inspiring conversations over a cup of Starbucks I’ve ever had. (They promptly moved across the country.)
So I confess I have to agree with Cyndy, despite the author’s protests, when she says that Tiffany is the embodiment of Nora: petite, dark haired, clever and funny, with an unrivaled boldness about sex, God and writing. But that’s only a little sin, and I’m sure Father Ballard would forgive me.

THE CONFESSIONS is quite spoilery, (there’s even an Easter egg Fun Fact appendix at the end) so I would recommend reading the entire series before grabbing this little jewel.


51A7PNWr8dL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_From amazon:

She’s ready to try again.
  Sasha Blake is scarred from a BDSM session gone wrong, but she can’t deny how much a strong Master turns her on. Determined to overcome her fears and rejoin the Partners in Play community, she asks Abby and Nathaniel West to set her up with a Dom who can help her feel safe again as a sub. They know the very experienced Cole is exactly the kind of man who can push all of Sasha’s buttons—and she soon wants to go much faster than she had planned.
  Cole knows that Sasha is not the kind of submissive he needs. He wants someone who will serve him 24-7, not a part-time partner. Still, the further they go into their play, the more Cole begins to wish he could make Sasha his all the time.
When forbidden desires turn into scorching action, Sasha and Cole come face-to-face with their demons—and realize their scorching relationship might be too dangerous to last.

I’m fussy about my BDSM romance. It has to be clever, well-written, and value consent over all. The Submissive Series does this, and I grab each book as they come out with a “yes, please, more.”

This book is my favorite in the series so far. The tension between Cole and Sasha is tight and brilliant. The physical play is as good as Tara Sue Me’s books get, but the psychological dynamic between these two is what makes this book really shine.

I fangirled @tarasueme on twitter and it was neat to have her mention that this book was her favorite too, for the same reasons. The fun she had writing this pair really shows through.

I also love the way the cast in these books has grown without turning into a soap opera.
I hope we get to see more of these two.

Also, I’d really like to have the cover as a poster on my wall.

A Duchess in Name


My friend and colleague Amanda Weaver wrote this amazing story that I will gush over until I die. The cover is exquisite and the plot and the characters are superb.

The blurb from amazon:
After graduating from British finishing school, an American heiress fulfills her duty and weds a destitute earl. A lie brought them together, but will it also tear them apart? Find out in this can’t-miss Victorian marriage-of-convenience story from a compelling new voice in historical romance.
(Read more here.)

My review:
So good. The characters were so well crafted that my heart was bleeding for them the whole book. Gorgeous and sexy, angsty and delightful. One of my biggest critiques of period romance is that the clothing is described inaccurately, but I was safe in Weaver’s hands. Her costuming background makes for perfectly drawn details–my absolute favorite scene takes place in a dressmaker’s shop.
A fast read that tugs on the emotions the whole story, with the bedroom door left wide open for some delicious moments.
I can’t wait for the next one.

The Forest’s Son

forestI was outside taking a reading break while waiting for a Papageno mask to dry and the redbud tree overhead dropped a few leaves on my iPad. One of those perfect moments.
Cyndy Aleo released THE FOREST’S SON as serialized novel, and I clawed the walls for each installment. The tease:

Two things differentiate Vance Welburn from the rest of his college classmates: his loyal to the point of social suicide female best friend and forgetting everything including his own name approximately once a month.
Each time Vance loses his memory, his best friend Donovan grows more frustrated. Then they both discover the secret Vance has been keeping even from himself: He’s part of a legendary tribe of women said to live in the forests of Poland. They kill all male children. And he and his mother have been on the run for nearly 200 years.
Before they know it, Vance and Donovan are fighting for their lives against this tribe most believe is mythological. Realizing their feelings go deeper than friendship leaves him with a choice: Donovan or destiny?

I loved loved loved this book. I wanted illustrations by Brian Froud, and a movie by Guillermo del Toro ala Pan’s Labyrinth.
Cyndy has since collected the sections and published them as a single book. Here are my goofy reviews per installment:

Unknowing: A gorgeous opening- it’s like walking into a forgotten myth and discovering you have deeper roots than you thought. It’s a little sexy, and a little dangerous, and I can’t wait to read the rest.
Awakening: I love the way this is unfolding; Vance is fascinating, and I really like Donovan’s voice. I’d forgotten how fun it is to read serialized stories.
Supplanting: Edge of my seat–so much tension and I don’t want to leave spoilers but lots of action twists that I didn’t see coming-
Leaving: This section ran in fifth gear for me, angsty and gorgeous and sexy!
Ending: So good. I wanted more, a second helping, an invitation to the next party, but there’s closure and icing on the cake.

Find it on amazon here.

Well Woven

Always2d-200x300Amanda Weaver’s book, ALWAYS, is a delight. A quick but intense read that spans six years, this angsty romance is a coming of age story, for both our protagonists. We watch Justine grow into her career in the music industry and we see her mature emotionally, as well. We also see Dillon come to terms with his codependency with his best friend, and how he learns to be honest with himself.

The story shifts PoVs effortlessly between the two, and though there is no doubt in our minds that these two will eventually find their always, watching them getting there has you cheering them on (and occasionally wanting to wring their necks.)  Some parts felt obvious–the train wrecks hitting these two are obvious from a mile away–but Weaver writes each situation almost from the perspective of a close friend, with hints and warnings and the grace not to say I told you so…

The glimpses into the music scene are interesting and well written. I would have loved to see even more of those moments, when you feel our two working together; their “musical chemistry” is as interesting as the sexual tension.

I enjoyed Dillon, he’s a good guy, and patient; we learn more of who he is by his interactions with others than by seeing him act on his own, but Justine is just plain terrific. What I love about her, and what makes this book so wonderful, is how she makes her principles and stands by them. Even in the beginning, when she’s just a young girl trying to make it in a world where excess is the norm, she doesn’t compromise, and by the end, we are so sure of her strength, we trust all the decisions she makes.


sleepers-awake-eden-barber-paperback-cover-artEden Barber’s gorgeous story Sleepers, Awake? has some ties to Neil Gaiman’s A Game of You (which owes much to Bones of the Moon, by Jonathan Carroll) but the story itself is lovely and unique.
It’s a complicated setting, yet tragic and beautifully. Agnes grows on you, becomes you, and dares to dream and love the way you wish you could. And her best friend is the absolute best. All the people grab you as real, and the main character’s choices and her obsessions and her wolves are flawed and perfect at the same time.
Sleepers is a book that takes brains; and is not for the faint of heart or those wishing for a mindless forgettable read.