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REVIEW: A Lover’s Call by Claire Thompson

Dear Ms. Thompson,

A Lovers CallA Lover's Call, your Ellora's Cave BDSM “Quickie” (rated E-rotic) happens to be the first Ellora's Cave offering I've read. Yes, before your novella came along, I was an Ellora's Cave virgin.

The heroine of the story is Rachel, a librarian by day who works a phone sex line by night. We are told that Rachel daydreams of bringing a man to his knees with a smoldering glance, but her outward personality is described this way:

…Rachel was a sensible girl whose modesty was genuine and bordered on the insecure. She had chosen the career of librarian precisely to avoid situations in which smoldering glances might get her in trouble.

I liked Rachel, but you portray this aspect of her personality so well that it's difficult for me to understand why someone as modest and as initially sexually repressed as Rachel is (she hasn't dated very much, and in her limited experience, sex was disappointing) would be a telephone sex worker. I liked the explanation that Rachel feels sorry for lonely men because she was lonely herself, but I still couldn't completely reconcile her choice of moonlighting job with her personality.

One night Rachel, working the phone under the name Velvet, gets a call from a man who tells her he loves her voice, but doesn't want to listen her cooing over the size of his sex organ or otherwise cater to his fantasies. No, he wants to know her secret fantasies.

Richard comes on strong; for my taste, a little too strong, especially for a stranger on the telephone. In Rachel's shoes, I'd probably have hung up on him and alerted the operator not to transfer any more of his calls to me. But, this being an Ellora's Cave quickie, I read partly for prurient reasons, and so, I decided to go with the flow.

It isn't long before Rachel gives Richard her real name, and later, begins to tell him about herself and her life. Eventually she gives him her real number, and, somewhat nervously, starts following his suggestions of things she could do for and to herself.

Even though I thought a couple of Rachel's ways of claiming her sexuality, buying herself sexy bras and high heeled shoes, were a little obvious and not new, it was still fun to see Rachel so excited to come out of her shell.

As for the BDSM phone sex, it was a mixed bag for me. I find power games sexy, so I liked it when Richard got all firm and commanding. On the other hand, some of the things he told Rachel to do, such a smack her nipples lightly with a ruler, seemed more silly than sexy to me.

There were a couple of instances of language that threw me. At one point, Richard calls Rachel “My sweet slut.” For me, being called a slut, even a sweet one, would be a turnoff, and moreover, this description was so unsuitable to Rachel that I couldn't understand why it was there. Another time you describe Rachel's arousal by likening her to “a bitch in heat.” Again, I was thrown. The dog metaphor is not my idea of sexy. Fortunately these were the only two cases that I felt this way about.

It's not until toward the novella, when Rachel and Richard are about to meet for the first time, that we got Richard's POV. This was where I finally warmed to him, but the background he turned out to have seemed unlikely to me. I also think that calling a sex phone line for a lark is a little like reading Playboy for the articles.

At the close of A Lover's Call, after meeting and having sex together, Richard and Rachel declare their love.

“I love you, Richard,” she answered, knowing it was the truest thing she had ever said.

I was puzzled by this sentiment of Rachel's. Yes, Richard has bossed her into some great orgasms, but how well does she really know him? I can believe that she feels some affection for him, but it seems like more of an infatuation than true, lasting love. That's okay with me, so I didn’t need the declarations.

My Ellora's Cave virginity is now gone. Losing it wasn't a painful experience, but I also didn't feel transported. I closed A Lover's Call feeling that it wasn't a bad way to pass the time; the heroine was very sympathetic but the hero less so, the sex was titillating at times, but for me, not scorching hot; the prose could have been more polished, and for these reasons, I almost certainly won't reread A Lover’s Call. For me, this novella fits the definition of a C read in our review grade explanation almost to a T, and that is the grade I give it.



Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.


  1. Keishon
    Mar 13, 2007 @ 18:06:36

    Oh, no. You must try Shelby Reed. Her stories are very character driven. I’ve read two of her books and rated them B – reads. Entertaining.

  2. Janine
    Mar 13, 2007 @ 18:09:03

    Okay, Keishon. I’ll put Shelby Reed on my list of authors to try.

  3. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 13, 2007 @ 20:13:45

    I agree. Shelby just has a wonderful way with words. And congrats Janine on losing your EC virginity. *G*

  4. KS Augustin
    Mar 13, 2007 @ 23:03:05

    Just popped over from Smart Bitches and see the same issue re story length. An EC “Quickie” is sub-15K which is not a novella. Novellas are usually sup-20K although EC defines it as sup-15K. What Claire Thompson has written is more a short story. No judgement call on the story itself…just wanted to straighten the nomenclature.

  5. Ann Wesley Hardin
    Mar 14, 2007 @ 03:06:55

    Yes, this is definitely a cause for celebration!

    *tossing confetti*

    There are lots of EC authors waiting in the wings for ya, Janine, praying, hoping…*gg*

  6. Teddy Pig
    Mar 14, 2007 @ 07:44:24

    Dear Jane,

    WTF? You never bought an EC novel?

    Oh my god you mean you have not read Samantha Kane?

    Get back over there right now and pick up both

    The Courage to Love

    Love Under Siege

    *taps foot impatiently*

  7. Janine
    Mar 14, 2007 @ 10:49:40

    Thanks for the correction, KS Augustin. Is there an easy way to tell the number of words in an e-short story or e-book? I think of a short story as being shorter.

    Teddy Pig, I hate reading on a desktop screen or printing out entire books, so I didn’t read e-books at all until this year. But Jane’s enthusiasm for digital books is contagious, so I recently got a PDA. Figured I should have one if I was going to blog here.

  8. Teddy Pig
    Mar 14, 2007 @ 10:59:17

    You have been missing out.

    It’s the only reason I read romance anymore.

    eBooks as a whole are much edgier, more likely to contain subject matter most publishers would balk at and well, they are just plain addictive.

  9. KS Augustin
    Mar 14, 2007 @ 16:24:35

    Hi Janine! Lengths of works are so rubbery and completely dependent on the publisher. I always thought sub-10K was a short story but I see different publishers sometimes take it up to 15K but that’s the max. And you get “short” novellas, “super” novellas, “extended” novellas, “short” novels, etc. For my previous comment, I used EC’s own Book Length classification, so a “Quickie” is definitely shorter than a “novella”.
    Also, it’s a mindset-thing, which is also rubbery…no help there, right? :). You really need different mindsets to write the different lengths. I’m a very comfortable novella writer, e.g., trying to push the boundaries by tackling a novel. We’ll see how it goes!

  10. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 04:25:14

    Teddy Pig-

    Ebooks being edgier. You know, that used to be true, but I’m not so sure anymore. My Spice books are as edgy/realistic as my PROMISE series, and for years, while editors loved that series they couldn’t buy it because it was “too outside what a reader had come to expect from a western historical”. Now, Spice bought the Hell’s Eight Series and I don’t have to change my normal word count (over 125K) nor a thing in the books to make them more “PC”. A very different reaction than what I’d been conditioned to expect from NY when I propose a Western Histroical romance. I did go through a time of angst post handing in of Caine’s Reckoning when I imagined Susan was going to kick the manuscript back at me and say, “This isn’t what we wanted, start over” * All in my head, I should point out. I just couldn’t beleive a NY house was going to set me loose with my verson of a Western Historical romance. I was worried precisely because the manuscript/series is romance. If it had been erotic fiction, I wouldn’t have stressed about being held to genre rules, but a book set in the old west and clearly being a romance, even when erotic, could trigger the knee jerk, “WH must fall within these parameters” response. Happy to report my fears were groundless. Susan loved the finished product.

    A loosening up of genre restrictions, IMO, is a good thing, and another benefit I see coming from the rise in ebook popularity, but something I wasn’t sure NY was ever going to embrace again when it came to the more traditional genres. Seeing change in one of the most traditional sub genres is very encouraging.

  11. Teddy Pig
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 04:47:48

    You go Sarah!

    Oh I know times they are a changin. You are right and I bow to your real world experience…. I think eBooks may have a loosening effect on the acceptable subject matter morals of the (new catch phrase!) pBooks.

    pBooks! HAH!

    Anyway, I shall remain an eBook snob holding my nose whilst crossing in front of bookstores harboring those immoral decadent paper pushers.
    Till I get published at least, and start gathering my faithful internet warrior fan grrrrls as they beat my critiques into a bloody pulp and I shall start yelling at people to buy my hardcovers dang it! (baby needs a new pair of shoes).

    I will have sold out by that point and have no personal integrity.
    I am a pig ya know.

  12. Jaci Burton
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 09:41:05

    Janine, if you enjoy the BDSM genre, Joey Hill writes some phenomenal BDSM for Ellora’s Cave, though in a lot of her books the heroine is dominant. Not all though. And Cheyenne McCray writes awesome BDSM for EC too.

    There are so many great EC books and authors. I could list all my favorites, but that would take up too much space. lol. And I second Keishon…Shelby Reed writes very emotional, character driven books that I just love.

  13. Janine
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 10:48:19

    Sarah, it is so good to hear that publishers are loosening restrictions in traditional genres.

    Jaci, I don’t mind dominant heroines a bit.

    OK guys, where should I start with Joey Hill, Samantha Kane, and Shelby Reed? My TBR pile is so heavy it’s groaning, but I’m always open to more recs.

  14. Jaci Burton
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 10:57:02

    For Joey Hill, Natural Law is fabulous. For Shelby Reed, I really liked A Fine Work of Art. Though you could choose any of their books and be satisfied, in my opinion.

    I think you’ll love both these authors. They have incredible voices.

  15. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 11:55:45

    Teddy pig- *holding up white flag while clutching sides* OMG, that whole post needed a spew alert. How funny!

    Janine- I don’t think you can go wrong with any of those authors. They all have very distinct voices and styles.

    KSA-Best of a happy muse writing that novel. *whispering so as not to startle your muse* *G* It is a very different mind set writing different lengths. I naturally write about 125K. Shorter takes me a lot more time and concentration because I have to totally rethink the approach. No 5K love scenes when writing a novella! :(

  16. Ann Wesley Hardin
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 12:10:53

    Sarah–novellas are definitely different. I’ve written everything from 15-50k for EC, and while I’d like to say shorter is more difficult (because it’s dayum hard to pare down) my latest full-length is suffering because I got so used to short. My crit partner told me I had no middle. Just a beginning and an end *sob*.

    However (there’s always a however, isn’t there?) I’ve found that my “mindset” at the start of a book is everything. In other words, if I envision the book as a novella or quickie, that’s what it’ll be no matter how much I might want to change that as I write it. If it’s a novel, so be it. The difference, IMHO, is conflict. In novellas or quickies, only one person has one. The other is la di da–much like you might find in real life. One conflict is much easier to solve than two. And that’s what I think is the magic formula that might be missing in some shorter works. KISS–Keep It Simple Stupid. *gg*

  17. TeddyPig
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 12:44:21

    Oh Sarah,

    It is only a matter of time before I shall have to confess my first pBook publishing date. You and I will force ourselves to adjourn to your private Lear jet provided by Harlequin and torment our souls while we are whisked away to New York as we dine on peeled grapes from the well rounded and lovingly oiled muscular butts of a well hung group of young Chippendale dancers.

    I myself will remain most meditative and recite passages from Nietzsche’s Precious Moments Collection while watching my morals take a nose dive into that dark abyss of the bourgeoisie.

  18. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 15, 2007 @ 16:12:09

    Ann- I can see that. I’ve got to finish up my third HQN book and then write my second Spice. Both are in the 12)K range. Then I’m writing my Berkley anthology which means I have to switch to 3 35K stories. No doubt, I’ll be constantly telling myself, keep it short. Actually, the way I set up the anthology should help tremendously. It’s kind of different. We’ll see.

    Teddy- Wow! *laughing* You do dream big! Lear jet, Chippendales, copping feels and attitudes. This could be fun!

  19. Dear Author.Com | Unforgettable by Shelley Munroe
    Mar 23, 2007 @ 04:01:31

    […] I’m not a recent Ellora’s Cave virgin like Janine, I’m still not a “rode hard and put up wet” veteran either. Since my tastes […]

  20. Claire Thompson
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:40:44

    Hi Janine, Thank you for taking the time to review A Lover’s Call! I just came across this totally by accident. Your reaction was a mixed bag, but a thoughtful, thought-provoking piece that I really appreciated reading. I would like to send you something with a bit of a different twist and see what you think. It’s a full-length novel, and concerns my latest passion (A Lover’s Call was written quite some time ago but only recently sold and released) which is male/male erotic romance. I’d love to get your insightful take on my first gay love story. Even if you think that’s not your cup of tea, just take a gander at the first chapter and go from there…email me if you’d like a complimentary copy of Golden Boy and I will happily send it along.
    Thanks again, Love, Claire

  21. bunnytiger
    May 23, 2007 @ 11:57:29

    A Lover’s Call is actually a re-write of an earlier book by Claire Thompson called 1-900-BDSM. I actually preferred the earlier version a lot better – I thought it was a bit more honest, somehow. Ms. Thompson has re-written another one of her earlier books too, The Stalker – new version Obsession. I haven’t read the new version there. Her books are very well written but range in quality, and some of them (not the ones on Ellora’s Cave) tend to get quite extreme. My favorite is Secret Diaries.

    Another EC author that hasn’t written anything new recently that I know of that you might like is Chris Tanglen. Her books have lots of humor – even laugh-out humor – in them, which is pretty unusual for the romance/erotica genre. The best ones are A Third Party and A Third (and Fourth) Party, which, as you might guess from the titles, involve menages.

  22. Claire Thompson
    May 23, 2007 @ 15:05:07

    bunnytiger, please email me directly, I have something for you! Claire ([email protected])

  23. Lisa
    Jun 14, 2007 @ 06:31:07

    I enjoy Claire Thompson! I read her black lace novel Hard Corps and three of her Ellora’s Cave works, which for me is a lot of books by one author. (I’m not very loyal to authors and tend to buy books more on whether the premise and blurb interest me or not.)
    Her voice is very distinctive and she’s one of these writers who make it look like writing is as easy to her as breathing ‘though I’m sure she’d say it isn’t. lol

  24. Claire Thompson
    Jun 14, 2007 @ 14:22:01

    Thank you Lisa for your comments. Email me directly and we’ll talk about easy as breathing! Laughing, Claire

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