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.

Familiar Stories

wrath and twiI loved THE WRATH & THE DAWN–gorgeously written, lush setting, so so so much sexual tension–up until the tortured hero tells the heroine he doesn’t sleep.

I love a retelling. Familiar stories, archetype structures spun out with new depth and detail–I write them myself. And 1001 Arabian Nights is one of my favorites. This one is done as prettily as it gets, but I’ve read it before.

The unwilling killer, a self-named “monster.” The heroine with latent abilities. The physical shock when they first touch. The sassy pushy girl who dresses the heroine, in love with the hero’s best friend. The first date with an attack by a gang. The love triangle with the impetuous boyhood friend. Even the hidden cache of writing in his room.
That culmination tempered with “I’m afraid if I start, I won’t stop.”
And he doesn’t sleep.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoyed TWILIGHT.

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.

Mastered

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.

Echoes

loanaI saw The Name of the Rose when I was sixteen, in the theater, and so began my love of Umberto Eco and Christian Slater. The movie led to the book, which was-unlike the movie-about books, and their meaning and the written communication that can shape a culture.

The semiotics at the core of the book brought me to the terrifying and delightful realization that books have the power of time travel and telepathy. An author from centuries ago still marks the mind of those reading their words today.

Decades later I read Foucault’s Pendulum, during my Forgotten Year-so I shall have to read it again-but I do remember being struck by the notion that people want to believe conspiracy theories. We want our stories to connect, to have a purpose and great import, a life of their own.

A few years ago, I read The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, ironically enough about a man who loses his memory and searches through the literary mementos-books, magazines and comic books-that shaped him growing up, to discover what he has forgotten.

Umberto Eco’s books always give me a deeper understanding of the power of language, of words, the transference of thought through time. I am sad that there will be no more them, but I love the idea that his books, because they have shaped me, will have,  somewhere, a mark on my own.

THE LAST OF THE FIREDRAKES

drakes

From Amazon:
16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn’t seem so bad.
Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms–including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora’s arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear.
With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.

I found this fairy tale fascinating. The story is a heroine’s journey through every cherished fantasy setting and scenario, all pastiched together with a delicate hand. The language flows in a young person’s flighty narrative, as if a teenager were telling a juicy romantic adventure to best friends at a sleepover party, with evil brutes and cute boys, complete with all the asides and inner dialogue. (I so wish an audible version were available. This book cries out for a dramatic read by a young voice.)

The Last of the Firedrakes was first published serially-it won a Watty in 2015-and has much of that chapter by chapter episodic feel, which is perfect for a hero’s quest story.
There’s a sweetness to the book that is utterly adorable–even the names had me grinning: Duke Gabriel Silverthorne, Penelope Plumpleberry, Rafe the Black Wolf.
But underneath the cute settings and lovable cast is an intricate plot, and at the core is the classic growth from girl to woman. The best part, like all fairy tales, is the romance, and the slow building relationship between Aurora and Rafe is is wonderful. Where Aurora is naive, he is protective (and deliciously swoon-worthy).

I recommend this book to anyone who would enjoy an epic saga around a magical world in the head of a wide-eyed teenager.

 

 

A Duchess in Name

duchess

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.