Tag Archives: Forever Books

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.

Countdown to Christmas: Hunk for the Holidays Is Exactly What You Want Under the Christmas Tree

5 Dec
Hunk for the Holidays by Katie Lane (Forever, September 25, 2012)

Hunk for the Holidays by Katie Lane (Forever, September 25, 2012)

Holiday romances run the gamet. Sadly, they can be mediocre to shallowly awful, as the if the publishing house just wanted to mount a santa hat on an oiled torso for quick and dirty profits. More often than not they are good, solid romances, reasonably priced, which are like those Italian Christmas cookies I can’t help but buy this time of season – not exactly good for me when ingested in large quantities, but I can’t help myself, even if I feel a little dirty afterward. But every now and then you get a great holiday romance, one that renews your faith in love and introduces you to a terrific writer you’re going to read long after the tinsel comes down.

Hunk for the Holidays by Katie Lane is exactly that kind of great romance.

Mind you, Lane hits several of my favorite plot and character points in this book. I like mistaken identity, especially if it’s a little bit funny. I love a heroine who has certain “guy” tastes (this heroine, Cassie, has a Harley and prefers a Coors beer to a glass of champagne) and I like one or both of my protagonists to come from a large, meddling family. Check, check, and check.

Cassie McPherson has an overbearing father and four nosy brothers (two of whom live in her building on either side of her) and all of them help run their family construction business. While she adores architecture and dealing with the subcontractors who make up their work, Cassie is relegated to being the V.P. of Accounting and hates the paperwork as much as she loves the business. She’s a jeans and boots kind of woman, worried about her dad’s recent heart attack. A new company, Sutton Construction, has been wooing away clients and her father’s Scottish temper (and recently impaired heart) is suffering.

Because she can’t stand her family and friends trying to fix her up with men her workload has no time for, Cassie secretly hires male escorts for parties and work obligations. No sex, mind you, but just a handsome guy she “recently met.” So when James comes through the elevators in a gorgeous tuxedo, she naturally assumes this stunning man who oozes sex appeal is an escort (what else could he be with those looks?) and that he’s here to take her to the family holiday party.

Going Cowboy Crazy (Deep in the Heart of Texas #1) is Katie Lane's first book in this well-received series.

Going Cowboy Crazy (Deep in the Heart of Texas #1) is Katie Lane’s first book in this well-received series.

James Sutton got a message that the boss of rival M & M Construction wanted to meet him so he ran down without an appointment to see what was going on. Getting an eyeful of the total hottie dressed to kill in a barely there red dress and cleaning up a split pocketbook of condoms (her best friend and assistant Amy’s subtle plan to get Cassie laid) makes him think that Christmas came early. The further revelation that this is the daughter of the owner of M & M and that she thinks he’s her paid escort to the family holiday party (this woman has to pay men to go out with her?!) is too great a temptation to resist. As the night wears on and he realizes that he’s not only attracted to Cassie but falling for her, James determines to tell her who he is and then convince her to climb into bed with him. But circumstances end up derailing that plan (at least the revelation part of it), and the misunderstanding plot continues.

Cassie and James are perfect for each other – they both live and breathe construction and they have explosive physical chemistry. James is having trouble dealing with his rapidly growing feelings considering he’s spent a lifetime keeping it light, even with his father and stepfamily, but Cassie stirs up, not just feelings of lust, but a desire to hold and protect her. He can see her vulnerability even if her family can’t; she’s developed methods of coping in a male-dominated profession but she’s still all woman.

Cassie sees James as uber-attractive but she’s honestly having a worse time with the fallout of their relationship. Not understanding who he is is the first piece (she thinks he’s a professional escort and clearly that’s a problem in her mind), she naturally feels betrayed when she discovers his identity rather than James telling her who he is. Add in the layer of Cassie being guy-like (or, in this case, McPherson-like) in her inability to talk freely about her emotions, and you have a recipe for relationship disaster. At least, until the happily ever after gets figured out, and by then, the reader has really worked for it, watching these two screw up again and again.

I loved the subplot of the romance between Cassie’s brusque brother, the recently divorced Rory, and her best friend and assistant, Amy. Rory and Amy fell for each other years ago, the minute she started working at the company as a new teenage Mom, but he worried she was too young and she was warned off by his then-bitchy girlfriend. Amy’s boyfriend wants to marry her, but Rory and Amy’s daughter Gaby, a fabulous tomboy who adores Rory, have other ideas in mind, largely placed their by the McPherson siblings’ crazy old aunt (who you will LOVE).

Katie Lane is also an unbelievably savvy author. She has a terrific social networking presence and a clean, visually beautiful website with all information easy to find. I’m even following her on Pinterest since her boards are gorgeous, giving me even more insight into her interests and tastes (and since I like her style, it’s unsurprising I like her writing). Combined with her excellent prose, her marketing talents give the reader a solid author brand that I think will lead to a strong fan base, if it hasn’t already.

While Hunk for the Holidays was an amazing book I adored reading this season, the bigger present was Katie Lane herself, now another author I can enjoy reading in the books to come (after I catch up on her backlist, that is). Thanks for such a wonderful novel, Katie! You’ve made my Christmas a little brighter.

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