Tag Archives: Erotic romance novels

December Read-a-Thon: Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin Delivers Emotion and Eroticism to a Blended Holiday

14 Dec

Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin (Carina Press, November 21, 2013)

The Jewish holidays are always given short shrift in the ocean of holiday romance that comes out this time of year, and it’s really a shame (I think I need to write a sexy, Hanukkah romance to prove to myself that it can be done more often). When I spotted Matzoh and Mistletoe, a novella by Jodie Griffin, I was elated to have a Jewish protagonist. What took me aback was how beautifully emotional this BDSM holiday romance was, and by the last page, Jodie Griffin had made a new fan.

Rebeccah Rickman is used to volunteering her time on Christmas and Easter at her local police precinct. For the last five years, she’s fulfilled her family’s tradition of doing a mitzvah, a good deed, by riding in the same car as First Officer Jeremy Kohler. Since she was a married woman, she’s managed to keep her attraction to him a secret, simply reveling in his company. Handsome, smart, dedicated and with a wicked sense of humor, he’s the total package. She’s seen him in the best and worst of situations observing him in his job during their time together.

Unfortunately for her, she’s been through a lot in the last several months, including an ugly divorce brought about by physical abuse suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, who had very specific ideas about what a “nice Jewish girl” should want in the bedroom (and out of it). Rebeccah has been made to feel guilty about her own desires and her time with a therapist has made it clear that her ex’s verbal abuse of her has left scars during the course of their years together. But she’s taking hold of her life and living it the way she wants, and that just might include Jeremy, if he’s interested.

Jeremy is no saint; he’s volunteered for Christmas and Easter duty because it was the two days of the year he has gotten with the chestnut-haired beauty doing a good deed. He’s actually forbidden the other officers to request her, keeping Rebeccah all to himself, although he knows she’s off limits as a married woman. When he’s startled by her tired but beautiful face and obvious weight loss, he asks her what’s wrong and is angry to hear that she’s been single for nine months – nine months without him knowing she was free for him to pursue. Seeing her reaction to his anger makes him realize an inkling what she’s been through, and her experience might be exactly what could keep them from acting on their attraction to one another.

Public domain image of mistletoe via Pixabay

Throughout much of history, mistletoe was seen as an embodiment of the divine male essence – which is why you kiss under it today. (Public domain image of mistletoe via Pixabay)

That’s because Jeremy is a Dom in the bedroom and while Rebeccah is a natural submissive with inclinations clearly geared toward that life, her abuse makes her associate the word “submissive” with anything but pleasure. Jeremy has never been with a woman who didn’t already know all about the lifestyle, and never with anyone with a history of abuse. He’s not sure that this woman he would risk everything for can adjust to his needs in the bedroom, even if she admits that it’s what she has always fantasized about. Just as Jeremy would never ask Rebeccah to be anyone other than who she is, he can’t be someone he’s not.

For a 100 page novella, this story managed to be outstandingly full-featured, with Rebeccah and Jeremy shown as compelling characters you instantly like and cheer for, yet each carrying baggage that presents an obstacle to their happily ever after. I liked that Rebeccah referred to her therapy and was conscious of how she was reacting to certain triggers based on her past with her ex-husband. Equally as helpful, Jeremy had clear experience and training regarding domestic situations, as well as being an experienced Dom, which has its own set of communication guidelines. This combination made it obvious that he was doing everything he needed to in order to set boundaries and help Rebeccah feel comfortable. The BDSM piece was a little more intellectual with some very interesting psychological twists I didn’t expect, and it made the sexual intimacy truly illustrative of the couple’s growing feeling for and trust in one another.

At a mere $2.51, I would recommend every erotic romance reader who wants something other than the small-town Christmas story (and I love those too, but change is good) to trot to their nearest e-bookseller and grab Matzoh and Mistletoe.

Happy reading!

When Romance Isn’t Romance at All – The Disappointment of Vristen Pierce’s Between Friends Erotic Novella

10 Oct

Between Friends by Vristen Pierce (Forever, October 1, 2013)

I’m going to try and not belabor this post. Normally, I only review books that I recommend for purchase, but in this case, I think this book makes a really important point that publishers need to listen to, particularly with the giant wave of erotica that the Big Six publishing houses have decided to surf. There is one simple rule of romance. One.

Romance novels have a happy ending between two people.

We can amend that to two or more people in the case of menage erotic romance, but it’s a hard and fast rule that you cannot break. If you do, your book isn’t romance.

Between Friends by Vristen Pierce is not romance.

Yet, Grand Central which publishes the very popular romance line of Forever, has chosen to publish this book under exactly that category, a choice that I believe has led directly to its abysmal ratings on Goodreads and Amazon. Romance readers pick up books because of this one rule (see above) and when you don’t deliver, we wind up like a Cy Young award pitcher, ready to hurl this book across the room and never, ever buy a book from the author again.

And I’m disappointed, because not only did this book have a tremendous amount of potential since there is a substantial following for menage erotic romance, but it also featured an African American heroine in an interracial relationship. That’s awesome and something we do not see enough in romance.

The novella starts off with Stacy Washington getting dumped by her boyfriend and heading out with a friend to have a good one-night stand to remember that she’s a desirable woman. In addition to the hot bartender Evan, she finds gorgeous Justin with whom she promptly fulfills her goal of the evening. The sex is great and a few days later she wants more, this time from Evan since her best friend has reminded Stacy of the rule of not going back to one-night stands (it smacks of relationship). Stacy ping-pongs between the two men (who happen to be friends) and it’s really just sex. Everyone likes each other, Stacy feels empowered at work and begins to make some changes, and before you know it, she’s headed off to England. Alone.

*needle screech* I’m sorry, what?

Yep, not only do we not see either guy develop into anything resembling a relationship (and we are told that she’s falling for each of them because they do end up hanging out but we are never shown any kind of deeper connection), but Stacy doesn’t want to choose so she figures it’s easier to just leave the country.

First of all, I get annoyed with first person erotica (it feels lazy to me and I want different perspectives) unless it’s in the hands of a maestro like Charlotte Stein, and Vristen Pierce is no maestro (and what is with her name – Vristen? If her parents named her that, it’s mean and if she chose it as a pen name, it’s weird). Because there is little to no emotional intimacy with the characters, the sex is flat (because good sex scenes are not about putting tab A in slot B), and we get zero happy ending. Second, it is not a mystery that this book is in the under 3 stars category on Goodreads, because the author and the publisher has literally betrayed its faithful romance readership by putting out this novella under their name. It’s not romance.

I’m going to stop here, but I think that Forever did Vristen Pierce a huge disservice not editing her novel differently and certainly by putting this out as a romance. I think she has succeeded in alienating readers (certainly me) when there was a terrific opportunity to put out a erotic romance novel with a fresh new perspective.

The Erotic Tempo of Heavy Metal Heart by Nico Rosso Will Have You Making Finger Devil Horns While You Read

7 Oct

Heavy Metal Heart (Demon Rock #1 – Trevor and Misty) by Nico Rosso (Carina Press, September 30, 2013)

I do enjoy rock star romances as long as they don’t descend into skeevy groupie sex territory. As long as everyone is consenting and of age, I’m usually the first to admit that this environment is terrific for erotic romance as rock n’ roll is all about sexual energy. Like the drummer from This is Spinal Tap says in the bathtub, “Well, so long as there’s sex and drugs I don’t need rock n’ roll.”

Nico Rosso’s Heavy Metal Heart, the first in his Demon Rock series, is a thundering paranormal romance set in this world of rock star celebrities. Trevor Sands is understandably jaded. When you are a near-immortal satyr capable of channelling the elements, you’ve pretty much seen it all. Together with his bandmates, they rock audience after audience in order to feed off their energy as they’ve done since the Bacchanalian revelries of ancient times. Yet throughout it all they have practically given up on the ideal of the “Muse” – a destined mate for each satyr who once found can feed him forever.

But even while admitting it’s probably a myth, Trevor has always dreamed of a green-eyed woman, even immortalizing her in his music, but it’s been over a millennia and she’s never appeared. When she does turn up at one of his gigs in Los Angeles, the connection is palpable and thankfully she seeks him out after a high-energy concert where she stood out like a beacon in the crowd. Trevor found himself singing directly to her, yet knew that if she was the one, she had to come to him.

Nymph and Satyr (1860) by Alexandre Cabanel. Image from Wikipedia.com.

Misty Grant couldn’t stop her feet moving toward Trevor Sands if she tried. She has felt a connection to him since the first time she heard his music and listening to him sing directly to her tonight has only strengthened her desire to be with him. But when he, emboldened by their unbelievable sexual encounter, reveals his true self to her, she runs – right into the heart of a world that could kill her for what she is.

This is a nonstop, page-turning story imbued with not only highly poetic language but also a cinematic narrative. Like many movies, the action is relentless and I imagine this pace is a direct result of the novella length of the story. My only criticism is that I did wish for a little lull in the sex and violence (not that I didn’t enjoy those aspects) so I could see the two characters relax and get to know one another in a less stressed environment. (I think it would have strengthened their connection even further.) It was unsurprising to discover from Rosso’s bio that he worked in the film industry, both from his insider knowledge crafting Misty’s mind-numbing job as well as his approach to the conflict and action of the story.

The overwhelming eroticism in Heavy Metal Heart is natural in a world of satyrs born from the energy of revelry long since past. It’s impressive exactly how many sexual encounters Rosso manages to pack into about 130 pages ;-)! The hunger Misty and Trevor have for one another is amplified by the energy they are capable of exchanging with one another and it shows in sex where the earth literally moves. While Trevor has suffered more than Misty, their sudden connection must be like someone sitting down to a banquet table when they haven’t really eaten in months.

Finger devil horn gesture – it’s all about appreciating the rock n’ roll, people.

This novel definitely falls under erotic romance, with voyeurism and a little back door action part of the sexual experience of the protagonists, so check your reservations at the door. At least Rosso didn’t give the satyrs two penises like I’ve seen in other paranormal romance involving this type of supernatural creature (that just sounds unnecessarily complicated)!

Fans of music throughout the ages will enjoy the numerous references to musicians past and present as well as Trevor’s original lyrics quoted throughout the story. He has put his centuries of experience – particularly his yearning for connection with the mysterious green-eyed woman who has lived in his fantasies – into his songs and this lends a wonderful dimension to the narrative. The poetic phrasing and dialogue does take a little adjustment as a reader, but it seems appropriate that long-lived creatures would not speak with the same cadence as the modern era around them.

I would definitely pick up the next book, particularly since I think the shorter length of the novella lends itself to world-building over the course of a series. I’m now heading over to Spotify to listen to some growly, fast-paced rock n’ roll, so I can flip my own devil horns to the computer screen while thinking about Trevor and Misty. Thanks, Nico Rosso!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 15th

15 Sep

Upcoming Books

Historical romance writer Anna Randol is coming out with the final book in her Sinners Trio, Sins of a Wicked Princess, on October 29th, and the print copy is currently discounted to only $4.79, so fans might want to leap on this while it stands. I love her writing (her Turkish set A Secret in Her Kiss blew my mind with its unique voice and setting) and this book, featuring a jaded spy ready to get out of the game and the feisty princess who may or may not be behind his final assignment looks like a terrific end to a great series.

Steampunk maven Bec McMaster has a new book coming out October 1st, My Lady Quicksilver, and Amazon has also been clever enough to lower the cost of this paperback to $4.79 for the pre-order period. This book, the third in her London Steampunk series, combines the elements that have made these books so popular – hot romance, a unique view of paranormal creatures, and an alternate history of the city that’s completely intriguing. I really need to review this series – you find yourself falling for these characters hard.

Contests and Giveaways

Erotic romance author Cari Quinn can always be counted on to provide a sensual and emotional story. Her Entangled novel, No Flowers Required, came out at the end of August to great reviews and if you haven’t had a chance to buy it yet, you may want to consider entering the Goodreads giveaway for a copy. This novel about a down on her luck florist and the sexy man whose family is about to foreclose on her shop is a page-turner, so enter for your chance to win prior to the September 21st deadline. Her even hotter book, Unveil Me, published by Ellora’s Cave and containing two novellas both set in a sex club, is also up for grabs, and you just might win it if you enter by September 16th.

Erotic romance writers Vivian Arend, Lauren Dane, Alyssa Day, HelenKay Dimon, Kit Rocha and Moira Rogers have banded together to for The Hot Spot Facebook page, a communal page definitely worth watching. To celebrate it’s grand opening, they are having a variety of giveaways, so check out that part of the page for more details.

Don’t you remember my telling you what a phenomenal author Laura Kaye is? Her latest, Hard As It Gets (OMG, the cover!), begins her Hard Ink series as of November 26th, but while you’re glancing at the clock, enter to win a copy before September 17th on the Goodreads giveaway. This story, featuring a former military man turned tattoo parlor owner and the daughter of his military commander who has always been off limits, is bound to have her usual blend of heat, great characters, and an emotional story that wins your heart.

For romance authors and bloggers, please note that the excellent blog Romance in Color is having a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card and free advertising space and teaser promotion if you add their badge to your website. You’ll notice I’ve already done that on my sidebar, not only because this is a great giveaway, but because this blog is dedicated to heightening awareness of diversity in romance, and that’s a damn important issue. Anyone whose agreed with my lamenting about the dearth of good Native American romance or who stood up and cheered when Meljean Brook gave her acceptance speech for Riveted, you want to be reading what this talented group of readers is putting out. Even if you are uninterested in the contest, do yourself a favor and add this blog to your RSS feed or sign up for their newsletter.

Falling under the “fabulous contest” category, the announcement from Laura Kaye that several romance authors were banding together to offer an incredible prize to the writer who produces a 1500 word fan fiction piece based on one of their novels. What do you get? A free trip to the 2014 RT Convention in New Orleans! This includes registration, hotel stay and a plane ticket (between a $2000 and $3000 value) and you can use as your inspiration the work of Laura Kaye, Sophie Jordan, Cora Cormack or Jennifer Armentrout, whose website has all the details of the contest. Even the runner up prizes of signed books are wonderful, so try your hand at writing using these authors wonderful books as a base.

Fun Stuff

A lot of romance readers enjoy a fairy tale wedding, but what about if you combined your love of romance novels and weddings into…a dress? Yep, Jennifer Pritchard Bridal Design’s blog is featuring a stunning wedding dress made entirely of pages from romance novels. I wonder which ones they chose to cannibalize? Does it crackle when you walk down the aisle in it? Needless to say, there won’t be candles at this wedding.

Do you ever wonder about the pressures on romance writers to produce multiple books a year? The ever-wonderful Popular Romance project has a video clip starring editor (and professor) Sarah Frantz discussing how authors used to put out a book every couple of years, but now they are considered slackers if they do less than two annually (and that’s not counting short stories and novellas). It’s worth watching, especially the next time you’re busy thinking “where is the next one?” for your favorite series.

Yes, aspiring romance authors, it’s that time of year again – Harlequin’s “So You Think You Can Write” mini-online conference and all-around inspiration is about to begin with the friendly editors at this publishing powerhouse coming online to coach you with each aspect of what it takes to be a Harlequin writer. Considering the amazing number of top-selling writers who got their start at Harlequin (many of whom continue to publish the occasional book with them), it’s bound to be educational and (knowing Harlequin) fun.

For your dose of science this week, the Kinsey Confidential blog is going over the literature surrounding “Why Women Orgasm: Do We Really Know?” Lots of ideas, but no definitive answers. Sadly, most men are in the same place as the scientists.

September is an amazing month for readers, particularly those within commuting distance of Maryland! This coming weekend, September 19th to the 21st, Lora Leigh and 18 other fantastic authors are having a Reader’s Appreciation Weekend (RAW) in Hagerstown, Maryland. For only $100, you can hang out with your favorite authors and pick their brains for the scoop on your favorite characters and series, particularly about their new books coming out this fall. With such fabulous authors as Dana Marie Bell, Stephanie Julian, Darynda Jones (!), Mari Carr, Sylvia Day, and Bianca D’Arc, you are guaranteed a great time.

In a related note, perhaps this time more for authors than even readers, Laura Kaye mentioned the fantastic sessions to be offered at the Baltimore Book Festival, at the Maryland Romance Writers’ stage. Taking place from September 27th to the 29th, this incredible festival (which is so much more than just romance, so bring the family) is located in the Mt. Vernon area of Baltimore where they actually shut down streets and let books take over for the weekend. Take a look at the official website for directions and more information.

Great Deals

Lisa Renee Jones’ first book in her Tall, Dark and Deadly series, Hot Secrets, is marked down to only $.99 on Amazon. Capitalizing on the always dependable romance trope of three brothers who start their own security business, this first book in the series stars Royce Walker going after the prim, beautiful ADA who always fascinated him. That she’s as hot underneath as he’s guessed is a bonus – look out villains who want to hurt her, you’ve met your match!

I know you are still sneaking looking at the People or Us magazine with all the royal baby pictures, but please know you can feed your addiction by taking advantage of Harlequin’s awesome “Royal Baby” three pack of Harlequin Desires books based around a happy royal addition. Packing 463 pages from such writing powerhouses as Caitlin Crews, Maisey Yates, and Sharon Kendrick, this $.99 bargain is a must have.

Winning the “Holy Cow Who Is Their Cover Designer!” award is Harlequin Blaze‘s three pack Uniformly Hot! Volume 1 which has three books in the Uniformly Hot! series (and this series is AWESOME) by Rhonda Nelson, Tawny Weber and Karen Foley, all writers who can be depended on for great characters and serious bedroom heat, particularly when former military heroes are involved. Only $.99 for 502 pages of rippling abs, ladies. The packaging does not lie!

You know what’s better than $.99? Free! Ellora’s Cave erotic historical Western, Five Card Stud (book 1 in the Eclipse Heat series) by Gem Sivad is now available for free for people who like a combination of corsets and guns with their sexy times. A bounty hunter and a lady gambler out for revenge provide serious heat in the wild West in this full-length novel, so take a look – it costs you nothing.

Fans of BDSM literature should pick up Love Letters 1: Obeying Desire at Amazon since that’s also available for free right now. I enjoyed the third volume of this short stories series, each of which is based on different trope or subgenre, and many of the same authors write in this volume as well.

For historical romance readers who want a little free present this week, Delilah Marvelle has a tale of a titled and independent forty year old widow who definitely doesn’t want a man in her life. Lady Cecilia Stone finds her opinion changing when she receives the help of a shadowy Russian gentlemen who offers to help her travel to Russia and stop her eldest son from marrying an actress. Pick up Romancing Lady Stone for free to find out how this intriguing tale plays out!

Whew! There’s a lot going on this week. Happy reading, everyone! 🙂

The Real Romance: Librarians and Readers Find More to Love on Public Library Shelves

11 Jun
Public Domain image via Pixabay

Public Domain image via Pixabay

If you’re a romance reader, chances are the first romance you picked up was in a library. It may have been in the children’s section (or Young Adult space if you’re under 30) or in the adult fiction area, but romance novels and libraries have had a great relationship for decades.

According to a recent article by Publishers Weekly, romance publishers heavily encourage this dynamic, knowing that romance readers – hooked by an author or subgenre – tend to be strong purchasers of romance and the best word of mouth proponents. Whether it’s Harlequin or Avon, publishers and editors make a point of being at library conventions (national ones like the American Library Association conference or regional groups), and run sessions touting the upcoming releases in the hope that librarians will push them to their patrons.

On the surface, it doesn’t make sense. How many people are going to go out and buy romance novels if they can get them for free at the library? But publishers know that cultivating readers means cultivating buyers. If you were given a piece of free chocolate, chances are that you would go out any buy more chocolate even if you knew you could occasionally find the exact flavor you wanted for free nearby. You’d eat both the free chocolate and the purchased candy, wouldn’t you? It’s the same with romance books.

How Your Library Buys Romance Novels

But how many people read romance from their public library? A Springfield, Massachusetts librarian, quoted at the beginning of the article, indicated that while romance makes up 35% of her branch’s 5000 item collection, it accounts for 43% of the circulation, a ratio that many librarians would agree with across the country. Dollars spent on romance go farther as well, with romance (which is usually in trade paperback form) costing less than other genres and getting more checkouts before falling apart.

Because libraries adhere to a collection development policy, it’s important to note how they choose books for their romance shelves. Romantic Times, PW (Publishers Weekly), Library Journal and Booklist are all professional journals employed when deciding how the budget will be spent. Most policies clearly state that before a book is purchased it needs to get a certain number of positive reviews in these professional resources, which is librarian speak for CYA (cover your ass). If a patron decides to challenge a book being on the shelf (and the sexual content of many romance novels makes this genre vulnerable to this type of complaint) the library is able to show that experts in that field of literature have listed it as being a well-written book.

Note where they don’t look. When I’m not being Tori MacAllister I work as a librarian in education, a job which requires me to be well-informed, not just from traditional professional sources but also all the great bloggers out there discussing young adult literature and services. Romance publishing is no different and we all have great blogs we follow. But when it comes to protecting a book’s right to be on a public library shelf, those blogs don’t count for diddly when you have a uptight patron. Public librarians probably do what I do, which is to find titles raved about on blogs and then search out the reviews from professional sources which allow them to adhere to the policy and put it on the shelf. It’s a pain in the butt (and take a look at PW sometime – there are very few romance reviews in there) but librarians will do anything to get a good book in the hands of someone who is going to read and enjoy it.

Erotic Romance vs. Erotica: Don’t Worry, You’ll Find Both at Your Library

Another theme that came through when reading this article was not just how many great public librarians are out there fulfilling patron needs but how so many of those librarians, like most romance readers, have an interesting idea of what “erotica” means. Prompted by the popularity of books like Fifty Shades of Grey, librarians across the country touted the popularity of erotica when the article author asked them about the circulation of more explicit romances like this one.

Yet I was startled to see authors like Nalini Singh (known for her paranormal romances like the Psy-Changeling series as well as her amazing Guild Hunter books), Lori Foster, and Jaci Burton (author of the Play by Play series) compared to Fifty Shades.  Singh and Foster write what I would consider traditional romances with simply a high level of sensuality – what would usually be termed “scorcher” by most reviewing sources – but this doesn’t make them erotica writers by a long shot. Burton does write erotic romance, with more explicit language, longer sex scenes, and occasionally showing characters engaging in sexual behavior like anal sex or BDSM behavior, all of which would fall into more of an erotica category.

In actuality, because Fifty Shades contains a relationship between two people which results in a committed relationship and HEA (happily ever after) it actually falls under the category of erotic romance rather than erotica, which is better defined as a story chronicling an individual’s sexual journey and may or may not result in a committed relationship at the turn of the final page. It seems that librarians and maybe even publishers are still struggling with this terminology as romances get spicier and what was seen as being previously aberrant behavior is more mainstreamed in literature.

If you own an ereader, ask your library if they have an Overdrive subscription. You won’t be sorry!

It was fascinating to see the prevalence of ereaders a key medium for libraries delivering erotic romance to readers. With the advent of the database Overdrive providing libraries with an effortless way of supplying time stamped ebooks to patrons (use your library card to download books to your device and watch them expire on their due date), people who would have donned big sunglasses before checking out a spicy paperback will cheerfully download one erotic book after another from the privacy of their home. Ellora’s Cave, one of the premier publishers of erotica (and Romantica, which is what they call their erotic romance line), offers many of its titles through Overdrive and they like that partnership. A representative of their company clearly states in the article that many libraries, particularly those in the South, were hesitant to carry paper versions of the books knowing that some patrons would have objections. Since no one sees the racy ebooks unless they are specifically searching for them, Overdrive is the perfect way to provide the books people want to read with none of the controversy.

Reader Advocacy

kiss-63054_640Keep in mind if you are an enthusastic romance reader that almost all librarians will attempt to fulfill reader requests, so cultivating a relationship with your local library and letting them know of the authors and series you enjoy will make it far more likely to see those items on your shelves. Ask at the desk who is in charge of purchasing decisions and mention (after looking in the catalog, please!) the books you like that the library doesn’t have, dropping the idea that you have lots of friends who also use the library and would love the chance to check out the books you’re mentioning. Libraries often receive funding using metrics like how many library cards are issued and how many circulating items go through that branch, so your interest and that of others equal more dollars that go to that institution.

Consider donating your read romance novels (in good condition) to the library, knowing that if they don’t put them on the shelf, they’ll probably sell them, using the proceeds to buy more books (print and electronic) for you. Talk to the library about any advocacy you can do (going to a town meeting when they discuss appropriations for municipal institutions, writing a state representative, etc.) or let them know that you have an ereader and are looking for databases like Overdrive.

Every romance reader should cultivate a relationship with their library, not only because its an important local institutions but because they are literally growing more romance readers. That newbie reader might be checking out a YA romance or downloading a book to their iPhone, but they are standing in the place you were years ago – embarking on a relationship with romance that is just the beginning.

Countdown to Christmas: This Quintet of Erotic Romance Authors Will Light Your Christmas Fire in A Very Naughty Xmas

14 Dec

A Very Naughty Xmas by Stephanie Julian, Olivia Cunning, Raven Morris, Cherrie Lynn, and Cari Quinn (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, December 1, 2012)

One of the ways to have a toasty Christmas is to indulge yourself with some well-written erotica (or romantica, if you perfer that term for erotica geared to romance). When I saw A Very Naughty Xmas had a roster of some of the best erotica and erotic romance authors out there, this became a must-read.

And I want to make clear that this is both erotica and erotic romance. In case you’re unclear about what I mean, erotic romance has the end result of two (or more) people ending in a happily ever after or happily for now relationship with some type of commitment involved. True erotica, and some of these stories most assuredly fall into that category, has the focus of an intense sexual experience with no necessary commitment, although I prefer it if the encounter shows a degree of caring between the consenting adults involved.

While it won’t come as any surprise to fans of any of these writers, this is an outstandingly well-written anthology which falls under the “amazing value” banner since the ebook version is only $4.99 and you get 302 hot, well-written pages! I would cheerfully for over $4.99 for one novella from any of these authors to say nothing of one from each of them, so this is an example of Christmas coming early for me.

“Jingle Ball” by Cari Quinn

Des and Cole are business partners who share an apartment above their offices, among other things. They share women (and occasionally pleasure each other) but mostly they run a successful business. The only problem as Christmas approaches is that Des cannot stop thinking about his hot secretary, Wendy. She’s a sweet, beautiful woman who needs this job to take care of her sick mother, but all he can think about is her sexy Southern accent and killer body. After a year of getting to know and admire her, he’s not ready to admit to more than wanting her (although Cole knows better) but he refuses to be that boss. His mother knew all too well what it was like to have a boss who took advantage and Des would do anything to not inflict that heartbreak on a woman he cared about, especially one who needed her job.

No Dress Required (Love Required #1) by Cari Quinn (Entangled Publishing, December 25, 2011) – This great novella also involves the spirit of Christmas with two people who loved each other from afar finding each other when one Christmas party goes differently than they each expect.

Wendy doesn’t know about Des’ tortured past, just that she has been head over heels in love with her boss since she got a good look at him. That he’s a caring, hard-working man only makes him that much hotter, but she knows that she’s not likely to ever get a taste of him, and isn’t that a depressing thought for the holidays! Everything changes, however, at the building’s holiday party when Des catches Wendy in Cole’s office masturbating. He thinks she’s doing it thinking of Cole, but in actuality she couldn’t resist after seeing (and smelling) Des’ shirt draped on Cole’s chair. Des decides to teach her what happens to bad secretaries who do naughty things in the boss’ office, and calls Cole in to help him dispense a little justice.

I loved this story (Cari Quinn never disappoints) in the way she depicts such hot yearning between Des and Wendy without either of them letting on how deeply they care about the other person. The menage with Cole is really there to make Des more comfortable being with Wendy, but it is hurtful and confusing to her why she can have sex with Cole and do plenty of things to Des (and he to her) but Des never has intercourse with her. It was typical guy logic how Des rationalized that if he didn’t have sex with Wendy he wasn’t going to be like his father, but the ending was so sweet (and hilarious when her mother and aunt walked in on them) that I forgave Des any illogical thinking.

“Christmas Is Coming” by Raven Morris

Wow, wow, WOW. I honestly didn’t believe that married sex could be this hot, but Raven Morris (the erotica pen name of fabulous paranormal romance author Judi Fennell, who I have had the pleasure of hearing speak at a workshop for my romance writers chapter) proved me very wrong.

Jacked (Tied with a Bow #1) by Raven Morris (Amazon, July 1, 2012)

Deb and Jack are a professional husband and wife very much in love and with a smokin’ hot sex life. Previously that year, Jack gave Deb a present she’d always wanted – a threesome – arranging with his friend David to come over and make all her fantasies come true. This Christmas, Deb is beside herself at the thought of reciprocating. Her college roommate Amanda, gorgeous and always sexually adventurous, is in town for the holidays and Deb wants to tie her up with a bow and give her to Jack for the two of them to enjoy.

These two people live in a haze of love and sex so evident to others that the partner’s wives at the Christmas party pester Deb for sex tips and details about Jack. For one novella, this story packs so many jaw-droppingly hot sex scenes that you will need a pitcher of ice water to get through it (and you may need to pour it over yourself rather than drink it to cool off). I guarantee you will never look at a 16″ strand of pearls the same way.

While I’ve read plenty of menage erotica, I had never read one about a couple who each invite a partner into their bed (yes, David shows up as Deb’s present and Amanda is Jack’s present) so a menage a quatre was something new for me. I was a little worried about it, as multi-partner sex can devolve into who-is-putting-what-where but Morris blinds you with a writing ability that is so strong, the emotional quotient never wavers. This highly sensual experience is between caring people, two of whom are doing it to bring added pleasure to their life partner. It’s incredibly sweet, actually, which is honestly not something I thought I’d ever write about four people having sex together!

This is part of Morris’ Tied With a Bow series, the first book of which, Jacked, is actually the story of Jack presenting David to Deb for her birthday. As of right now, Jacked is available for free on Amazon, so I’d head over there and get this story downloaded to your ereader ASAP to double your pleasure. I’ve bought the first anthology of this series since I was so impressed with this story.

“Light Me Up” by Cherrie Lynn (Ross Siblings #2.5)

This story is actually part of the Ross siblings series and the epilogue to Cherrie Lynn’s second book in that series, Rock Me, an incredibly popular book in the world of erotic romance. Please note that this story and/or the anthology is not listed in the series list (something I hope Lynn can remedy) so if you’re a fan there’s no way you want to miss this!

Rock Me (Ross Siblings series #2 – Brian and Candace) by Cherrie Lynn (Samhain Publishing, May 4, 2010)

I can see why fans are so enthusiastic. Brian is the ultimate bad boy with a boatload of sensitivity under the surface. He and Candace have been together for about a year and a half and they are head over heels in love with each other, at least in her opinion. She comes from a pretty awful family, one of the rich ones in town, and her parents and siblings are not happy about her being involved with a Ross. After her mother corners her at the mandatory holiday party to ask her where her relationship with Brian is going, Candace doesn’t appreciate her raining on her parade.

But naturally it makes her begin to wonder, and watching Brian makes her even more nervous. It’s clear that he’s not comfortable with her mother talking to her about this and despite all their amazing sexing it up, she’s worried. Candace just determines that she’ll take Brian however she can have him because having him in her life is more important than having a ring, when he turns the tables and gives her an incredible Christmas present.

I immediately went and bought this book (and the first in the series as well) because of how utterly impressed I was with this story. While told totally from Candace’s perspective, this story showcased not only their deep love for each other but also how Lynn can infuse sexual situations with so much emotion that the overall reading experience is heightened beyond belief. Brian is the ultimate bad boy every woman wants to turn to the forces of good but he is one artistic, romantic hero who I imagine causes women to swoon all over the reading world.

“An Indecent Proposition” by Stephanie Julian

By Private Invitation by Stephanie Julian (Berkley, December 31, 2012)

I’m not going to lie, I am a GIGANTIC Stephanie Julian fan. I’m not joking, I have read all but three of her books and I still own the three I haven’t read and have them on my to-read list. She’s consistently one of the best erotic romance writers and I have learned more about Etruscan culture (no, that’s not a typo) than I ever thought possible via her hot paranormal series like Magical Seduction, Lucani Lovers (heart you, Kyle!) and the Forgotten Goddesses books. Like Raven Morris, I’ve also taken a workshop with Julian at my PLRW chapter meeting which was fantastic. This author is hard-working, creative, and extremely nice, with an air of earned authority wrapped in a friendly approachable package. What more can you ask for?

Had I known I would have asked for a super-hot erotic novella, but wait…Stephanie Julian just gave me one in this anthology! As usual, she manages to infuse what could just be hot relatively anonymous sex with caring and affection so the encounter becomes something so much more. I never get tired of her (which is why I’ve already ordered her newest book coming out in a couple of weeks – take a look at the image to the right).

Erik Riley and Keegan Malone have been best friends since their rooming days at boarding school. While in Princeton, they learned that sharing women brought them both a great deal of pleasure, so they dabbled in that while getting their degrees. Setting up a highly successful company, their good luck seemed to run out three years ago when Erik got caught in an explosion in one of their labs. Keegan is wrestling with his conscience as he was the one who was supposed to be in the building. While Erik has brutal scars that even reconstructive surgery can’t repair, Keegan has watched his vibrant best friend retreat into himself and show no interest in anything. Even their sex games, when Erik chooses to indulge, is about him watching in the shadows or participating in a way that no woman they share can ever see his face.

But things change when the company’s holiday party benefits from the beautiful Julianne Carter as a waitress. Keegan has a reaction once Erik points her out over the remote com they use so he can see the proceedings and their mutual fascination has them making an outrageous offer. They will give Julianne $500,000 if she comes to the house for a sexual encounter.

Julianne Carter can really use that half a million dollars. Her mother had breast cancer and her asshole father gambled their money away and spent a bunch of it on hookers while treating her mother like crap. He’s fortunately out of their lives, but there are plenty of bills to pay and her twelve-year-old Civic isn’t getting any younger. One of her friends works for the man making the offer, and has assured her it’s on the up-and-up; if she’s the slightest bit uncomfortable she can just walk away from the situation. Julianne enjoys sex, as long as it’s with someone she thinks is attractive and likes, so she’s uncertain whether she’s going through with this.

One look at Keegan Malone and her body practically makes a cha-ching sound! Sleeping with this gorgeous, strangely nervous man will be no hardship, but she gets the sense that there is someone watching in the beautiful shadowed Victorian room they are in. Keegan almost has a heart attack when Julianne calls into the shadows to Erik and even more of one when Erik decides to show himself to her. This could be exactly the breakthrough they both have been waiting for.

This was incredibly sensual and so utterly clever the way the situation and the sexual energy broke down Erik’s remaining barriers and let fly some of the tension between him and Keegan. I loved Julianne’s openness and she comes across as a hard-working, great daughter who is ready to try something safe and sexually adventurous, particularly when she realizes it’s totally on her own terms since she can walk away at any time. With her experience with her mother, she’s older than a lot of women her age and has already learned to look past the surface to the real person underneath. If I had any complaint, it’s that she drove away at the end of the night, although it was hinted that it wouldn’t be the last she’d see of Erik and Keegan. I’ve got my fingers crossed for another novella with these three since they’ve haunted me ever since I read this.

“Share Me” by Olivia Cunning

Try Me, Tempt Me, Take Me (the first three books in the One Night with Sole Regret series) by Olivia Cunning (Vulpine, December 6, 2012)

If you happen to love rock and roll and enjoy erotica, you need look no further than author Olivia Cunning. Famous for her fantastic Sinners on Tour series about a rock band and their finding lust and love on the road, she has also penned a slightly more mild (and it’s still raging inferno erotica, do not misunderstand me) series called One Night with Sole Regret.

More than any other story in this collection, this one is true erotica. In this prequel to the One Night with Sole Regret series, Lindsey and her best friend Vanessa are at a Sole Regret concert drooling over the band members and decide to follow the tour bus slogging through the blizzard to see if it stops somewhere they can meet the guys. When the band takes a break at a scenic view to wait out the storm, the two women end up on the bus, basically having hot sex with all the band members (and the bus driver).

Cunning does a great job introducing each of the band members and hinting at their personalities and/or tortured pasts. The two women are imminently likable and clearly indulging in a one-night only fantasy they can cling to when they have crying children with chicken pox somewhere down the road. While this story certainly didn’t have the emotional charge of many of the other stories in the anthology, the band members are depicted as caring, friendly guys who don’t want to push the women into doing anything they aren’t 100% on board with (and fortunately they are on board with a lot). It’s a facile vehicle for setting up with series as a whole and I was overjoyed when I discovered the above anthology of the first three books available for free as part of my Kindle loan program. I’ve got it until January 2013 and plan on using it to save on electricity since I’ll be able to turn my heat down while reading it!

In summary, this anthology represents the very best of erotica and erotic romance, lining up one powerhouse writer after another to take us on a variety of journeys, all of which occur during the holiday season. Like any good collection, this one nudges you to other books and series that will provide you with hours of enjoyment, while lighting your Christmas fire from deep within. Partners and spouses would do well to consider giving this book as a gift this holiday as it might very well be the gift that keeps on giving!

Many thanks to Stephanie Julian, Cari Quinn, Raven Morris, Olivia Cunning, and my new find Cherrie Lynn for being such hard-working and talented writers turning out book after wonderful book. You are all the best Christmas present a reader could ask for! 🙂

Countdown to Christmas: Three Erotic Romances Ready to Fill You with Holiday Heat in Red Hot Holiday

2 Dec

Red Hot Holiday edited by Angela James (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) – anthology with novellas by Anne Calhoun, K.A. Mitchell, and Leah Braemel                                                     ebook only, $6.79 for 262 pages

Carina has definitely got their holiday sweater and antlers on for the month of December (or in this case, their sexy holiday red underwear), turning out one great anthology after another. As usual, Angela James assembles three terrific erotic romance writers giving us a great value with her buffet of holiday treats.

Kudos to her for including a male/male romance in this grouping. I think there are a lot of female readers who would never try m/m romance, even if they have read about its growing popularity among heterosexual women, so if you’ve had reservations, this could be a nice way to sample the genre.

Right off the bat, the first thing I notice is the terrific cover. Not just your typical tangled bodies shot, this one has a sexy couple (the female model is actual biting her lip – mrrrroooww) and the lit red candle, in case you’re missing the overall symbolism! The ornaments and subtle holiday ribbon take the holiday theme home and it manages to be both simultaneously erotic and elegant.

Wish List” by K. A. Mitchell

Wish List by K. A. Mitchell (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) – $2.99 ebook if purchased singly

Jonas and Evan have been together for two years and things are going great until Jonas finds a set of wedding rings in Evan’s desk along with tickets to Manhattan for New Years’ Eve. The thought of spending the rest of his life with Evan sends Jonas unto a total panic attack as he has a bucket list of sexual to-do items, and at the top of his list is BDSM, which he’s always been drawn to but never tried. He even writes a sexual wishlist down while at Evan’s family’s house for Christmas, but can’t bring himself to tell Evan what he really wants. What if Evan looks at him in disgust, or worse, disappointment because he can’t give Jonas what he needs?

Evan finds Jonas’ list and cannot believe what he was reading. Evan left the BDSM lifestyle because he was possessive in relationships and realized the only way having a sub would work for him would be if there was an emotional connection. The idea of having that with Jonah, who Evan truly loves, is arousing beyond belief, but Jonah needs to tell him first what he wants.

I meant it when I said that this would be a great first male/male story for someone thinking about trying out the genre. Evan and Jonah are obviously in love and the sex between them is both hot and very emotional. I thought the lack of communication between them completely typical for two men and clearly they both need a lesson in talking about things rather than letting them fester. *choking both heroes slightly* The scenes in Evan’s family home for the holiday were especially well-written and I loved how Evan’s cousin’s breakup fueled Jonah’s emotional spiral.

The only piece I was really uncomfortable with was Jonah’s back and forth with the BDSM guy who posted on his online dating page. Yes, Evan addressed it and was pissed off about it, but Jonah never told him about the private messaging that had taken place and that felt creepy and cheating-ish to me. I know they were solid at the end of this story, so I’m just going to guess that he confessed all after the awesome New Year’s Eve sex since I really loved this story. Even the BDSM part was pretty mild and handled very well (I always sigh when it emerges in a story since it’s not something that interests me and it seems to be everywhere since Fifty Shades of Grey), with plenty of love and concern for the sub’s pleasure factored into the encounter. This is a terrific story on all levels and I’m going to enjoy reading more of K. A. Mitchell’s work now that I know she’s such an excellent writer.

I Need You for Christmas” by Leah Braemel

I Need You for Christmas by Leah Braemel (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) $2.99 ebook if purchased singly

Ryan and Megan have dated since college, but their relationship has been long-distance for a while now. Her dream was to become a Mountie while a car accident left him the guardian of his younger siblings who are finally ready to take flight. When Meg flies in from the arctic to spend the holiday with Ryan, she is ready to admire all his latest artwork. But they each have a surprise for the other for Christmas.

There is no way to read this wonderful novella and not think of O. Henry‘s “Gift of the Magi.” Ryan is a hunky sculptor, who welds and chisels, but he’s always wanted Meg in his life, even when circumstances were beyond their control and he’s made arrangements to leave his family and friends to move himself and his studio to the arctic to be with her. Meg has loved being a Mountie, but she knows in her heart that she’s lived her dream for a while and she can now transition to being a cop near Ryan so he can have his career and be near his family. Both are planning to spring the news on each other at Christmas, but there are people who are unhappy about the situation who try to spoil the surprise.

Braemel does a great job with this heart-warming erotic tale. The heat between Meg and Ryan is off the charts but it’s so grounded in a long-standing and abiding love that it ends up being extremely tender. The domination piece of their relationship is very mild, mostly just involving Meg being restrained, so even readers not 100% comfortable with a BDSM scene would not find this aspect of their relationship unpalatable. It was no worse than the Regency heroes and heroines using the ubiquitous silk scarf to tie their loved one to the bedpost! I’ve read a few Braemel stories and enjoyed them, but the talent she evinces in showing such grounded, lengthy relationship which still flares with passion has me thinking about buying a few more of her books.

Breath on Embers” by Anne Calhoun

Breath on Embers by Anne Calhoun (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) $2.99 ebook if purchased singly

Thea Moretti moved to New York from Ohio to get away from painful memories. Her husband died in a car accident six years ago around Thanksgiving and ever since then she’s been dark and cold inside. Using loud music in her ears and divorcing herself from life has been a coping strategy, but almost a year ago she picked up an unbelievably sexy fireman for a sweaty anonymous encounter. It was so good that she and Ronan O’Rourke have made it a regular event, but now he’s hinting that he wants to get to know her better, that he might be ready for something more.

Ronan is an alpha male of infinite patience. He lost both his uncle in 9/11 and his best friend a couple of years ago, par for the course for a New York firefighter, but an extremely painful one, nevertheless. It means he knows all about grief, though, and he understands more than anyone what he sees in Thea’s shadowed eyes. She says she’s gone cold inside, but Ronan knows the truth. Thea is so busy tamping down feeling anything that she is deliberately not letting herself feel what already exists between them.

Ronan begins pushing the envelope, gently suggesting they go places and then reminding her of the connection between them with hot sex afterward. When Thea suggests a menage with his friend and fellow firefighter Tim, Ronan knows that she’s testing that she wouldn’t feel this way for someone else and he’s happy to go along. Will she be able to let go of her demons and finally embrace life again, life with Ronan?

In Angela James’ letter at the start of this anthology she makes a point that this is a highly emotional tale and it lives up to her description. Thea is filled with pain, fighting life with all she has lest the renewal of her living again dishonor the memory of the love she had for her husband. Ronan is the perfect man for her – understanding and patient – but naturally with his job she can imagine losing him somewhere down the road and it’s terrifying. His relentless and strategic assault, which was so carefully and respectfully done, held a brilliant understanding of what Thea was feeling. Not only was the sex fantastic between them, but I admired each of them – Thea never lies about what she wants their relationship to be (or that she’s struggling) and Ronan has too much respect for himself to hide the fact that he deserves more from Thea.

Red Hot Holiday as a whole impressed me, not for it’s amazing heat content which you’d expect from an erotic romance anthology, but for the sweet, emotional content of the writing. Each author does an amazing job demonstrating what love looks like at different stages – a two-year relationship in the case of Jonas and Evan, Ryan and Meg’s long-term relationship, and Thea and Ronan who are just moving from sex into something much deeper and more profound. This quality makes this the perfect anthology for the holidays as the miracle of Christmas is, at its heart, a profound act of love. Many thanks to K. A. Mitchell, Leah Braemel and Anne Calhoun for using their prodigious talent to help us feel that love which is at the center of a wonderful, and red hot, holiday.

A Delicious Victorian Erotic Novella: Improper Relations by Juliana Ross

3 Jun

Improper Relations by Juliana Ross (April 23, 2012 by Carina Press)

When I began seeing the reviews for Improper Relations by Juliana Ross cropping up in the blog-o-sphere, my first thought was “Yowza! What a great cover!” Historical romance, even those with an erotic element, are often reduced to the back shot of the unlaced dress (which often barely reflects the time period accurately *inelegant snort*), so it’s delightful to see a racy cover for this novella set in the Victorian era.

Hannah is a widow reduced by circumstances to being the lady’s companion for her demanding relative. Dressed in plain clothes and an unflattering hairstyle by her employer, she’s attempted to be a proper and invisible woman rather than lose her job. Hannah has tried to ignore Leo, her very distant relative and her employer’s roguish son, but when she accidentally witnesses him receiving oral sex and bending the chambermaid over the table to pleasure her from behind, Hannah’s eyes are opened. Her late husband didn’t do ANYTHING like that and she’s incredulous that the maid seemed to take such pleasure in both acts.

Before she can sneak out, Leo let’s on that he knows she’s there…and knew the whole time he was copulating with the maidservant. Never really noticing her before, he’s impressed she’s not having hysterics but rather seems curious and intrigued by what she witnessed. He offers to show her some of details left out of her sexual education by her deceased husband. Since Leo had mumps as a child, he was left sterile and is rather a hit with the ladies of all stations because of it. His loss can be Hannah’s gain, in this case.

When I began reading, I was a little nervous because the book is in Hannah’s voice alone and I really prefer two points of view for my romance novels. After a chapter or two, I bought in hook, line and sinker. Hannah’s voice is a clear, engaging one and it was clear from her descriptions of Leo’s behavior how much he was smitten with her, even when she didn’t realize it. In actuality, the first person account gave a strong authenticity to the Victorian nature of the tale and definitely helped emphasize the moral code and social strictures of the time.

The happily ever after is FABULOUS – so romantic! – I was ready to go out and marry Leo myself. A novella of about 58 pages, this book is a tasty treat (and a highly affordable one in the $2 range) for anyone with an interest in historical erotic romance.  Enjoy!

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