Dear Ms. Banks & Ms. Dane,
Both of you are “auto-buy” authors for me, although lately, I’m having much better luck with Ms. Dane than with Ms. Banks. Generally speaking, I avoid novellas of any sort because I find that the build up to “I love you” is not drawn out enough for my tastes. But given that generally I enjoy your writing styles so much, I was happy to give this duology a shot.
Exiled by Maya Banks
Talia Monteforte is a young woman who worked at the palace in Cristofino, a fictional kingdom. She meets Prince Alexander after she inadvertently knocks some flowers off of a table in front of the king and Xander helps clean it up. The prince takes one look at Talia and is captivated. He is determined to find out more about her. The first thing he finds is that she’s young and has a mother who is very sick. He decides to provide for Talia and her mother with the understanding that at some point, he’ll call Talia to him and she must come without question. That day comes when Talia is 22 years old. She’s brought to an island paradise in the Caribbean where the prince has been in exile during political unrest in his country. Talia isn’t stupid, she’s well aware that she’s being brought to the island to act as mistress to the prince for six months — she read the contract he sent her requiring her to submit to anything he desires of her. In exchange for her submission, she’ll be pampered beyond her wildest dreams. Part of Talia’s submission involves having sex not just with Xander, but with his three closest friends, Nico, Garon and Sebastian any time they wish.
This book struck me as very Harlequin Presents-ish, if HP had a four heroes/one heroine line (“The Prince, His Security Team and the Virgin Florist”?!). Xander is beyond autocratic, and the other three heroes seemed distinguishable to me only by their penis size (he’s Mr. Super Huge, he’s Mr. Super Thick, he’s Mr. Long But Hits Me in All the Right Places). There was no true emotional connection between Talia and any of the heroes. I didn’t really understand why she would have fallen in love with Xander, who behaves as a dictatorial ass most of the time. Just as big an issue for me is that I’m finding more and more that books about one heroine and four heroes just don’t do it for me at all. There is one particular sexual encounter involving oral sex that literally left my stomach upset for the poor heroine. I understand that there are many readers who will find multiple-partner, every orifice love scenes scintillating but any more for me these scenes end up coming off as stomach turning. The lack of enticing sex scenes plus not one, but FOUR autocratic heroes make this novella a miss for me.
Exiled gets a D from me.
Sway by Lauren Dane
My favorite series by Lauren Dane is the Brown Siblings series. The final book in the series introduced a new group of characters, the Delicious dinner club. The first installment in the Delicious series focuses on Daisy, a 24-year old artist who meets Levi, an 40-year old attorney when he comes to take dance lessons at a studio where she is subbing for an absent teacher. Levi doesn’t need lessons, and is resentful that the bride (his future sister-in-law) has forced him to attend. But once he’s holding Daisy in his arms, he’s convinced that the dance lessons were a great idea, need them or not. When Levi sees Daisy again, hanging a fabulous piece of art in an office building he frequents, he decides he really must ask her to dinner. Daisy, feeling the connection too, happily agrees to have dinner with Levi. At dinner, the sparks between them are flying. Soon they are intimate, and both are really happy with their connection. That is, until Levi’s family comes into play. Levi lost his wife years ago, and even though the family’s memory of her is much happier that the reality of her was, he’s hesitant to introduce his 24-year old girlfriend to them. But when Levi’s troll of a sister-in-law has a chance encounter with Daisy at a posh restaurant where she and Levi are eating, Levi realizes that he’s going to have to find a way to smooth things over both with his family and with Daisy.
I’m already in love with the characters for this series. And I really enjoyed the older man, younger woman scenario in this story. My complaint is really a singular one – I wanted more time with the characters. Daisy is such a vital, interesting personality, and I felt like the story would have only been more vibrant with a higher word count to fully flesh out her romance with Levi. I liked Levi a lot and I enjoyed the subtle D/s relationship that you built between them. The sex was spicy and entertaining, and I believed the characters were headed towards a happy ending, despite the fact that I felt that the ending was somewhat rushed. This is a series that I am delighted with and can’t wait to read more of.
Sway gets a B+ from me.
Overall the Cherished duology gets a C+, with one novella working far better for me than the other.