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Review: Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone

charlotte featherstone sinfulDear Ms. Featherstone,

Your book is officially my first erotic historical romance, and I was very pleased with the resulting read.   While the thought of an erotic romance made me apprehensive, you managed to give me a good story that really kept well, despite the sex scenes.

Jane Rankin works as a nurse in a volunteer hospital in the Ton, doing so with a handsome doctor named Richard. Despite living with a prolific, though eccentric, socialite named Lady Blackwood, Jane is actually born of an unhealthy relationship from a prostitute of a mother and an unnamed duke.   At 8, her mother dies, and the duke, who wouldn’t benefit from raising a bastard daughter, tries to sell her off to a wealthy older man who isn’t too friendly.   Because of the entirety of her childhood traumas, Jane is a spinster who avoids the idea of men at all costs in the pursuit of giving back to Lady Blackwood, who took her in after she tried to escape from the man who bought her many years before.

From the hero’s perspective, we see the goings on of Mathew Wallingford, son of Duke Wallingford.   The story opens with Mathew revealing an erotic painting at a private galley opening.   When he takes too much absinthe and nearly gets killed by a group of muggers, he gets sent to the very same volunteer hospital that our heroine works at.

He temporarily cannot see because of bandages and gauze, but finds comfort in Nurse Jane’s voice.   When he entices her to do some physical things that make them both question their sexuality.   Jane begins to wonder if she really does need a man to survive, and Mathew begins to open up to the idea of women being more than sexual toys.

Mathew gets released from the hospital with a silent promise to Jane that he will continue their relationship despite the disapproval of Richard and many others.   They set up a meeting for sometime later, though Mathew’s eyes are still troubled, and he cannot fully see his beloved.   A second meeting is then scheduled – this time with Mathew’s sight completely restored.   When he sees Jane, he scoffs at her ugly looks, and insults her directly, believing that the red haired woman he sees before him cannot be Jane.   Jane, heartbroken, gives up trying to show him who she really is, and ignores him – until they end up attending a wedding together, and they realize that there is more behind what the eye perceives.

You managed to weave an interesting tale, combining sizzling sex scenes with characters deeply rooted within their sexual identities.   Mathew’s need for rough, un-affectionate intercourse is deeply contested by Jane’s need for love and true happiness, and you manage to show both character’s need clearly and effectively.   Mathew is a likable male protagonist, and his childhood issues involving sex and women made a great impact on the storyline, and treated with a fair amount of importance that managed to be realistic based on the situation, though said realism was stretched sometimes to meet the sexual needs of the characters.

While Mathew was all well and good, and his viewpoint was visited more than enough in the novel, Jane is truly the reason I enjoyed your novel.   Her spirit is enviable. I really liked the idea of a character who is so uncommon–red haired, average looking, and intelligent without being haughty.   Her voice is fun to read, and her take on Mathew is humorous and sharp.   I also enjoyed the slight jab at steampunk through Jane’s reference of the mechanical device.

Anais called as Jane reached for the door.   “Look beneath the brashness and you will see a completely different man.”

“And see what?” Jane asked.   “A heartless, black soul?”

“A bleeding one, I think.”

“Nonsense, to bleed means that you have a heart and blood in your body.   Wallingford has ice in his veins and a mechanical device in place of a pulsating heart.   He is an amoral, unfeeling rogue.”   Page 144/145

Not only did she manage to insult him, but you were able to reference another fictional genre that takes place in the time period.   A brief mentioning of a meeting between the lovers in The Crystal Palace helped reinforce it quite well, even if it wasn’t a major aspect of the novel.   I just found it particularly interesting and executed well.

The overall relationship between the two characters was done well enough, especially considering the later trials you put your characters through.   The ultimate choice between Jane’s morals and Mathew’s ability to get past his childhood traumas was smartly put and had just enough tension to it to force me to finish right away.

The writing itself was very poetic, if at some times verging on coarse during sex.   For instance, I would have appreciated Mathew’s lack of using the f-bomb so much.   I get that he is a tortured soul, and while I appreciated his depth, the language was a little excessive during sex.   And, while I’m not the best at pointing out anachronisms, I’m not a hundred percent sure the f-bomb was used then.   But I have no expertise in that area, so take it with a grain of salt.   Other than that, the historical aspect was pretty well done, with just enough details to make it seem accurate without going overboard, such as the mentioning of The Crystal Palace and descriptions of architecture.   The scene transitions and descriptions are also welcomed – I loved how you could go from describing the beauty of a building to going inside it with Mathew and describing the deviant whores and prostitutes that lived inside of it.

However, despite all of these good things, some of the scenes are slightly drug out – if just because sex scenes compensated for some emotional baggage – and some of the character archetypes, such as the lovable matriarch and the wicked step mother, are nice and familiar, if not very original.   The use of early on blindness as a plot device for their later relationship was a win/lose situation for me, if because it made the entire story seem more of a series of bad things happening as opposed to overall emotional issues that the characters faced.   I also would have liked to see you use Mathew’s painting ability more.   It’s decidedly ignored for the middle part of the novel, and it rather disappointed me when it was such a large part of his character.   Also, Richard’s sudden dropping of Jane as a possible wife in the tail of the book is sudden, despite the forwarding time, and I would have liked a more resolute solution to it than a simple brush off from the heroine.

Sinful being my first erotic romance, I have to say I’m overall impressed with what you have to offer in the romance world, and I will try more of your novels in the future, even if the sex isn’t the major draw.   I appreciated your overall picture of the romance and the main characters, even if it wasn’t entirely original, and I would say your book ranks a solid B in my book, despite some problems with breathing originality into your work.   Whether you return to the world of Miss Rankin and Mathew Wallingford or go on to a new world entirely, I will doubtless consider picking up your next book, and I am appreciative of the fine start in erotic romance you’ve given me.

All the best,


Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook | BN | Borders
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This is a trade publication from Harlequin.

Ever since a good friend brought him a copy of Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue, he has been hooked on the romance genre. Though he primarily reads in young-adult, he loves to spend time with paranormal, historical, and contemporary adult titles in-between books. Now, he finds himself juggling book reviews, school band, writing, and finding time to add to his TBR pile.


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  2. Aislinn Macnamara
    May 13, 2010 @ 15:05:17

    The f-bomb is an old, old word. In use long before the Victorian era. Many four-letter words have been around a long time.

  3. Holly
    May 13, 2010 @ 15:44:37

    Erotic romance isn’t a good story despite the sex. It is good because of the sex and because of the story. Both parts are critical to make a good erotic romance.
    Also, it’s possible to document the “f-bomb” to the 1200s in writing. It was probably used before that in language as words are frequently spoken for a long time before they are written down. The f-word wouldn’t have been used in the drawing room – but an experienced and debauched man would most likely use it during sexual encounters and certainly when he was in conversation with other men.

    I’m looking forward to reading this book. It sounds like a sexy, emotional read.

  4. Ridley
    May 13, 2010 @ 17:31:54

    Can’t we say “fuck” on this site? Why are we pussy-footing around it?

    What didn’t you like about the obscene language, John? Was it just a personal dislike of bad words, or was it incongruous to the scene?

    If he’s a cold-hearted, debauched rake, I’d be surprised if he didn’t use coarse language during sex.

  5. CathyKJ
    May 13, 2010 @ 17:35:53

    After seeing this cover and the resultant comments on SBTB, I couldn’t help but cringe when I saw it here. Besides that, the greenish glowing gas screams “paranormal” to me, so it’s odd on what I assume is a perfectly normal historical. But, it sounds interesting, and I plan to download the sample to see for myself.

  6. Scorpio M.
    May 13, 2010 @ 18:00:15

    I really enjoyed this book. Featherstone captured a distinct tone & atmosphere that I haven’t come across in a Victorian romance before, her writing spoke in a new voice to me. It has it’s flaws, the prose got a little to precious at times & I felt a distinct difference in pacing between the beginning and latter part of the story but that did not stop me from being thoroughly enraptured.

    Wallingford & Jane are a unique couple and the author does not spare the emotional jugular. Beware, this story has an untraditional HEA but I did not feel unsatisfied. I will not soon forget this book.

    @CathyKJ – I really wish SBTB did not start that whole noxious green gas bit, it trivializes a serious read. I know it’s a joke but I was never for frat-boy/junior high humor.

    The green smoke is simply a nod to Absinthe aka “green fairy,” the drink Wallingford prefers.

  7. Jill Sorenson
    May 13, 2010 @ 18:09:07

    Nice review. I like erotic historicals and this one sounds interesting.

    @Ridley: It’s not unusual for readers to find the language in erotic romance jarring. And any word can seem excessive, if overused.

  8. Ridley
    May 13, 2010 @ 18:17:10

    @Jill Sorenson:

    Agreed. That’s why I ask.

    Passion overuses the shock language, for example, and that was a big part of why I didn’t like those sex scenes.

    Other novels I’ve read had plenty of swearing and seemed quite natural.

    It was the combo of “it was good despite being an erotic romance with lots of sex” and the “f-bomb” euphemism made me wonder if the complaint came from prudery or not.

  9. MaryK
    May 13, 2010 @ 18:54:30

    @Scorpio M.:

    the author does not spare the emotional jugular. Beware, this story has an untraditional HEA

    Well, I was interested. Now I’m not so sure.

    I did some digging and found an Amazon review that praises it for having “dark and melancholy” characters and a “realistic” ending.

    I don’t know. “Realistic” ending following on “dark and melancholy characters” sounds kind of depressing.

  10. hapax
    May 13, 2010 @ 19:02:39

    Pet peeve: not caring for lots of explicit sex in one’s reading =/= “prudery”.

    I don’t particularly care for sex scenes, and usually skip them, even though I read a fair number of erotic romances. I read for characterization and world building and the satisfaction / variations on certain genre tropes and all sorts of other things; explicit descriptions of sex and coarse language are just not what I’m looking for.

    It isn’t a moral judgment, any more than not liking stories about cats is. It’s no more a sign of prudery than enjoying descriptions of meals and especially wine is a symptom of gluttony and alcoholism.

    John explicitly wrote that this was his (?)”first erotic romance”, so it’s fairly safe to assume that sex scenes aren’t what he’s looking for in his reading either. In that context, I think that the evaluation “good in spite of all the sex scenes” would be like me rating a romance “good in spite of all the discussion of the heroine’s cat.” More along the lines of “not my usual cup of tea, but I enjoyed it a lot.” It would be rather insulting to draw from that the conclusion that I was a felinophobe.

    I’m not aiming this specifically at Ridley; the comment just triggered my annoyance at an assumption I see a lot on romance review sites.

  11. Ridley
    May 13, 2010 @ 19:23:11


    Sorry, that’s prudery. I don’t care either way, but call a spade a spade.

  12. Scorpio M.
    May 13, 2010 @ 19:42:35

    Oh, I hope I did not scare you off, MaryK!

    I can agree with ‘dark,’ in that this book explores darker themes than most mainstream romances and the hero is not a pseudo-broken man, he truly is broken & defiant. But there are moments of levity & sweetness, too. Jane & Mathew, both wear masks of sorts and in their “street persona” they are frenemies. When these two have a go at each other, it’s fun.

    I can’t agree with ‘melancholy’ though, the plot is character driven and this couple’s road to HEA is paved with difficult choices and obstacles that cannot be easily resolved and tidied up but they do find a way.

    Hence, the untraditional HEA. I can tell you this, the ending (as is) honors the genre. Matty & Jane are together & happy.

    You should check out the author’s website, she gives an explanation for the ending and provides an epilogue. Personally, I did not need it and felt the ending as is served a greater declaration of Jane & Mathew’s love for one another than a sanitized-tied-with-a-red-bow version. But I don’t begrudge anyone that need. :)

  13. John
    May 13, 2010 @ 19:58:46

    Okay, this will be along comment answering as many people as possible, so keep your panties on and let me explain! x_x

    @Aislinn Macnamara: Thank you. I appreciate the bluntness, and the history of swear words is interesting. :)

    @Holly: I get that sex is important. Really, I do. But, as I said right off, this was my first full length erotica. Let me also make it clear my sexual preferences are not entirely in this area, so the scenes, while well written and good, were not a reason I would come back to it. And again, thanks for the history. :)

    @Ridley: Okay, another confession. Romance and I haven’t known each other very long – historical wise, this is maybe my second? I love the genre, but my experience is limited, so the rake character isn’t totally embedded into my mind yet. Plus, I just would have liked some word switch ups. I’m no prude, believe me. Fucking crazy that anyone would think it. :P I just like some different vocabulary, and it got annoying after I read it several times on the same page. Not a prude, just a little too excessive.

    @CathyKJ: I love SBTB, and I thankfully got rid of the fart image. I was like ‘First major romance I review and they call it a fart book’. Frankly, I should have known. xD

    @Scorpio M.: You’re right, the HEA is nontraditional, but it really felt right to me. Jane and Mathew are such vivid characters, and it just worked. Plus, it was realistic, which is appreciated.

    @MaryK: It may seem so, but it’s not. The characters can get a little bit overemotional, and are quite dark in some areas, but the ultimate ending is happy. Realistic, but happily so. :)

    @hapax: Thank you for explaining that. I couldn’t have done a better job! ^^ Part of the reason I was so surprised was that I didn’t see the subtitle ‘An Erotic Romance’ until after I started reading. If I came in with erotica expectations, I might have felt differently. But yes, the fact is I don’t like words being used in excess for any reason – it just makes the writing seem less than it is. Even if it’s in dialogue. I would venture into erotica again – but I agree entirely that world building and characters come before the sex. Besides, I enjoy romances with slightly less sex (though still some sex) where the sex is a bigger step in the relationship, but not a major player in the relationship.

    @Scorpio M.: Very true. I loved the characters in this aspect, and they were delightfully introspective. I just wish that the sex didn’t serve as some of their points. I liked it’s use in Mathew’s development, but sometimes it felt like the same scene played again. Again, probably inexperience.

  14. Jane
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:23:47

    I appreciate knowing the different responses readers have to the books, particularly erotic romance for first time readers. Obviously the use of the curse word was jarring for the reviewer and I think that is a fair commentary. If John or any other reviewer doesn’t want to pepper his review with curse words, surely he should be able to do so without judgment.

  15. Jane
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:24:23

    @Ridley How is not wanting explicit sex scenes prudery?

  16. Ridley
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:24:36

    Hmm, then that’s a bummer. Gratuitous f-carpet bombing is distracting.

  17. Ridley
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:27:07


    Avoiding it as a rule shows you’re uncomfortable with it, ergo prude.

    Why wouldn’t that be the case?

  18. MaryK
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:30:51

    @Scorpio M. @John
    Thanks! ;)

  19. GrowlyCub
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:31:06

    I was intrigued by the description on Netgalley, but had reservations.

    Once I heard what exactly happens in the book and what the non-traditional HEA is I decided this book was not for me. I’m curious however about the epilogue and really annoyed that it’s only available if I fork over my email address and sign up for her email list. If anybody has the epilogue and is willing to share, please let me know and I’ll get in touch. Thanks!

  20. Miki S
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:35:27

    Hmmm, I wonder if this is erotic historical romance in the same vein as Robin Schone’s. I’ve enjoyed her books, those I’ve read, anyway.

    The cover is a bit much, but they all are these days.

  21. Scorpio M.
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:53:07

    I think you are the first guy I’ve ever discussed a romance novel with. Cool beans! LOL. Ok, nerd moment over…

    That was a good point you made. I too liked how Featherstone finessed Mathew’s development through sex and I agree with you, some sex scenes were not needed but I think that’s the nature of erotica. I don’t read many, Sinful was my second foray and I only gravitated towards it because it was so character driven and I’m a sucker for a broken-spirited hero & plain Jane storyline. I’m happy I picked this book up.

    P.S. I don’t think you’re a prude ;-)

  22. orannia
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:54:25

    Thank you John. I quite like the sound of this – I love character based books, and the description of the heroine has me in raptures:

    …a character who is so uncommon-red haired, average looking, and intelligent without being haughty.

    A non-beautiful heroine? I’m shocked! Every single book I’ve pick up lately has used the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the heroine. Variety is good!

  23. Maili
    May 13, 2010 @ 20:58:37

    Sorry for going off track but when I read this review, I thought of a Dutch-language period film called Blind. This is for some who like this sort of story. Summary: Stuck in a decaying stately home, Hero is blind, quite wild and uncontrollable–to the point where servants and carers quit in protest. His ailing mother hires a reader to read books out to Hero to keep him calm.
    Hero and heroine, after an awkward and difficult start, finally get on and, eventually, fall in love. Along the way, Hero imagines her – according to her description – as a beautiful woman with long, flaming red hair.
    In reality, she’s an albino with facial scars. It’s a fact she’s determined to keep from him as she’s afraid of losing him. Then one day, Hero receives an offer from his doctor to restore his sight. But the day his sight is restored, Heroine disappears before he could see her.

    It’s an interesting period drama with a distinctive fairy tale feel. It’s a romance but not quite (due to its optimistic but open ending). Either way, I do think it’s worth seeing. More info at here.

  24. hapax
    May 13, 2010 @ 21:07:24

    @Ridley: Avoiding it as a rule shows you're uncomfortable with it, ergo prude.

    Why wouldn't that be the case?

    I can’t speak for every one, but I usually skip explicit sex scenes because I almost always find them badly done.

    By which I mean they don’t resonate with my own experiences, they seem to be trying too hard to be “hot”, the language doesn’t match the activity, and frequently I suspect them to be physically impossible.

    (Similarly, I find most cats in books to be utterly outside my own experience of pleasant animals which are generally physically attractive but definitely unintelligent, mildly social but neither devoted, mystically aware, nor supernally conniving)

    Since my reactions to both are pretty consistent whether other reviewers praise the author’s skill or pan their prose, I’ve pretty much concluded it’s a matter of chacun a son gout and don’t get exercised about it. I have noticed that I have a similar dislike for any writing that goes to far into the detailed manipulation of any object, whether it’s Clancy’s weaponry or Reichl’s kitchenware, so maybe it’s just that I don’t like the minutiae of physical description.

    Why is it so important to you to make it an issue of other’s moral judgments or sexual psychology?

  25. nutmeag
    May 13, 2010 @ 21:27:24

    I’m with hapax on this one. I don’t find sex scenes to be anything near what I have experienced(and yes, some seem physically impossible too), so I just end up laughing or rolling my eyes. I skim them, or read them if I’m in the mood for a laugh, but I rarely find them necessary to a plot line. I guess that’s why I don’t read a lot of erotica.

  26. MaryK
    May 13, 2010 @ 22:03:48

    @Miki S: It reminds me of Robin Schone, too. Who I do like, but I think her endings are usually traditional HEAs, though it’s been a while since I’ve read her.

  27. EC Sheedy
    May 14, 2010 @ 00:19:24

    Just curious. What does the green gas/mist on the cover signify? Does it relate to something specific in the book?

  28. Kaetrin
    May 14, 2010 @ 01:51:29

    @ EC Sheedy – the green mist is about the hero’s love of absinthe.

    I haven’t read this one yet. I was fortunate enough to win this one and its predecessor Addicted (which has a BEAUTIFUL cover, IMO, this one, not as much with the gorgeous) and they’re on their way to me now. Saved me having to buy them – because I was planning to.

    I have read that the endings are somewhat untraditional but the author has assured that it is definitely a HEA for both. I’m really looking forward to reading both of them though – I love a tortured angsty hero.

    Also, I don’t think that not liking a lot of explicit sex scenes equals prude necessarily. Prudery is about judging others for liking it and thinking that sex is dirty (or, at least, that’s what my mind connotes when I see the word). I don’t see that in John’s review. But, maybe what I think ‘prude’ means is different to what others think it means – that’s quite possible! :)

    @ John – it’s nice to see a male point of view. Thx for the review.

    @ Growly Cub I will be getting the epilogue when I read the books, so I’ll see about getting it to you! (Don’t be in a hurry though!!). How would be best to get in touch with you?

  29. Mina Kelly
    May 14, 2010 @ 03:29:38

    I’m also on the non-prude side of the fence. I read and write erotica, but too much is still too much. Some of Laurell K Hamilton’s later books, for example, just bored me. When I can finish a 900 page book in under two hours because I’m skimming the sex scenes, that’s too many sex scenes. I mean, I read the first six or seven, but the plot hadn’t even kicked off… It took a while before I could read sex scenes in other books after that, since my now Pavlovian reaction was to skim automatically. Enough bad sex scenes, or an expectation of bad sex scenes, tends to put a person off.

  30. Ridley
    May 14, 2010 @ 07:17:36


    Whatever. I don’t see what’s so bad about acknowledging you have a prudish streak when it comes to romance. But if it feels better to call it something else, go for it.

    I skim the sex sometimes as well. “Insert Tab A into Slot B” is boring, and so is sex that doesn’t further the plot or character development. But I skim anything like that – shameless sequel baiting, fan moments with previous books’ characters, bizarre “suspense” plots in straight contemporaries – so it’s not a sex-specific thing, it’s a writing thing for me.

    If I skimmed all sex scenes as a rule, I’d declare myself a prude and get on with it. I’m certainly a legendary prude when it comes to talking about sex.

  31. mdegraffen
    May 14, 2010 @ 07:19:45

    Why is there a flower growing out of that man’s butt?

  32. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 08:00:03

    @Jane: Thank you. Again, curse words are fine and dandy, but reading an excess gets annoying. It reminds me of the people in school who use it in every other sentence, though it isn’t THAT excessive. Plus, I just didn’t expect so many f-bombs. I should be more prepared next time.

    @Ridley: I don’t avoid the sex scenes. I read through every one fine. I just didn’t care for them as much as the character sections. Believe me, it will take a lot to get me to skip a sex scene.

    @Scorpio M.: Haha, if only more men got into romance. ^^ We can only hope…
    And agreed immensely. I don’t mind one or two non-needed scenes, but, especially in the beginning when he was blind, I thought it was a little much. Afterwards, it was more natural. But kind of hard to seduce and sex when you’re incapacitated. xD And thank you, there is a fine line between being a prude and just not caring for excessive sex, I think.

    @hapax: Good point. Some authors do personify objects more than they should. Partly it’s escapism, but sometimes it gets to be too much.

    @Kaetrin: No problem. Reviewing romances is just really fun! :D And I hope you enjoy them both. Let me know about Addicted. Anais was a decent side character.

    @mdegraffen: I do not know…it doesn’t have a direct plot placement. O_o

  33. Jane
    May 14, 2010 @ 08:22:51

    @hapax I have to agree that I am finding myself skipping more and more of the sex scenes because they just aren’t well integrated into the storyline. It just seems gratuitous and frankly when you’ve read one gratuitous sex scene, you’ve read them all. Have I done a poll on this? I think I need to.

  34. Jane
    May 14, 2010 @ 08:24:24

    @Ridley I had to look up the word prude. “a person who is excessively proper or modest in speech, conduct, dress, etc” So I don’t think that avoiding something as a rule because it makes you uncomfortable makes you a prude. I.e., some BDSM makes me uncomfortable and I avoid it because it has some anti female overtones to it. Does that make me a prude (note, I said some because othertimes, it can be really well done).

  35. Frannie
    May 14, 2010 @ 08:36:05

    I would rather not read reviews of erotica by readers who are uncomfortable with graphic sex scenes, gratuitous or otherwise, or uncomfortable with explicit sexual language. I don’t for one minute think they’re wrong to have the reactions that they have, and they could always explore them in book groups or with their friends, but this is a review site and I’d like to see reviewers who are familiar with, knowledgeable about and have an affection for the genre they’re discussing.

  36. Scorpio M.
    May 14, 2010 @ 09:06:27

    I don’t think the reviewer ever said he was uncomfortable with sex scenes, that was the interpretation of another. I read this book & have been a reader of romance for over 10+ yrs. I found this review fair, objective & knowledgeable.

  37. Lori
    May 14, 2010 @ 09:29:33

    I thought this was an excellent review quite frankly but I’m curious about John’s age. I ask only because his stats on the side say school band and I’m wondering if he’s high school or above?

    I would be uncomfortable with Da posting reviews of erotic romance by an underage reviewer.

    My prudish side I suppose.

  38. Poll: Do You Skim/Skip Sex Scenes | Dear Author
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:01:54

    […] nutmeg agrees: I'm with hapax on this one. I don't find sex scenes to be anything near what I have experienced(and yes, some seem physically impossible too), so I just end up laughing or rolling my eyes. I skim them, or read them if I'm in the mood for a laugh, but I rarely find them necessary to a plot line. I guess that's why I don't read a lot of erotica. […]

  39. cs
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:29:48

    @Frannie: I never knew one had to get a degree in reading romance and reviewing it? Thanks for pointing that out.

    The whole thing about John being a prude? Really, someone needs a dictionary and it’s nice Jane provided a definition of it, just in case some were unclear.

    John it’s a shame (some) people bypassed some information in your review, being it your first erotic romance.

  40. Kalen Hughes
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:32:12

    I’m with hapax: skipping sex scenes doesn’t necessarily make one a prude. I skip them all the time. Some are boring. Some are badly written. Some simply appear to be filler and aren’t necessary to move the plot forward. I skip a lot of fight/battle scenes for the same reasons. Don’t think that makes me a peace-nik.

  41. Christine M.
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:24:09

    I have to say I’m with Lori here. On his blog, John says he’s a freshman (soon to be sophomore) in high school. That makes him, what, twelve? Thirteen?

    While I enjoyed the review in and of itself, I too, I guess, am prudish and will most likely skip reviews John makes of anything erotica. This situation makes me slightly uncomfortable.

  42. Kathleen Dienne
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:49:48

    While the thought of an erotic romance made me apprehensive, you managed to give me a good story that really kept well, despite the sex scenes.

    That is what I’m reacting to as an erotica writer.

    I think the review is well written and thoughtful, and did a good job conveying the story and tone. But I’m sticking on the idea of someone who is not comfortable with erotica being the judge of what is (and is not) good erotica on one of the most respected review sites online.

    If you like my story *in spite* of my sex scenes, and the reason is because you are apprehensive about erotica (as opposed to my writing bad sex scenes), then I’ve got concerns about the context in which my work is being judged.

    I hope that makes sense!

  43. L
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:00:30

    @Christine M.: I’m with you and Lori regarding a minor reviewing erotica.

    Call me a prude if you must, but a 14/15 year old reviewing erotica is just kinda of uncomfortable.

  44. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:50:26

    Wow, this is….Yeah. I’ll just respond in general since I’m seeing multiple concerns come up.

    Yes, I am in high-school, so 15 (how you get 12/13 is beyond me). I will again explain the situation, because I don’t think I made it clear enough.

    WHEN I REQUESTED THE GALLEY, I DID NOT SEE THE EROTICA CATEGORY. I opened the ebook and saw the tiny subtitle and realized I may be reading a lot of explicit sex. So, it’s not like it’s a common genre for me. Why that isn’t clear now is confusing.

    Second of all, you have every right to say it’s uncomfortable for you to read this review, but I think I’ve only proven myself to be mature in this and other reviews. Sex is in almost everything now, and it’s in regular romances to. While I respect the fact you have a little prudish side in my involvement with this, I’m a big-boy, and I can make my own reading decisions. If I find a book too graphic for ME, I’ll stop reading it.
    @Kathleen Dienne: I deeply apologize if my review comes off as unpolished. Part of my journey as a DA reviewer is becoming more familiar with the various romantic sub-genres. Please understand that, AGAIN, I didn’t know it was erotica until later on, so I never planned on judging the sex. If I did, I would have mentioned it. I did mention the emotional involvement with it, and I feel like that was enough. It was sex. Big deal. It didn’t have much that I would say made it good or bad. Nothing anatomically impossible or crazy of the charts amazing. Believe me, if I knew I was setting out for an erotica, I would have shaped my mind for it. But again, I apologize if my review wasn’t up to snuff as it were, but bottom line – I review romance, and I looked at the romance more than the sex within the romance.

    As to anyone else who has problems with this, let me know. I’m not going to stop reading and reviewing whatever I choose – because most of you started out around my age, I’m sure! And one sex scene as opposed to several does not change the overall opinion that sex is indeed sex. I believe I’m mature enough to know what I, as a reader, can handle, so please try to understand this from my perspective. I chose to review this and I set out to do it the way I needed to. And I never said that erotica was a main genre for me, so I don’t get where you are getting the impression that every other review will be about a book in the genre.

    And the most important part – I love the romance genre, in all of its forms, and my exploration of it’s cogs and gears does not change that fact.

    Thanks for commenting, and I appreciated the discussion – even if my email was clogged. :)

  45. cs
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:59:56

    @Kathleen Dienne: If John has said that the sex scenes were awful, or that he thought they were badly written, I’d say you had a point. Instead all he said he wasn’t very comfortable with that aspect of the book. Whilst I understand this is an erotic romance it has two genres: erotic and romance. I review, and I rarely mention the erotic part of a novel, unless the sex scenes were out of this world. Does that make my review unacceptable?

    I’ve reviewed BDSM books despite not being comfortable with the BDSM aspect, does that mean I can’t fathom an opinion on another aspect of the book? I once said I enjoyed the plot but not the BDSM aspect, the author never said my review was useless. Not saying, that she may not have said that in private but she did say ‘thank you’ regardless.

    The sex scenes did nothing for John, he used the word uncomfortable fair enough. I’m not sure why that is grounds to say his opinion means he can’t judge your book in the right context. I understand, you explained your point and fair enough. But it’s an opinion and I’m not sure why everyone is arms up in air over how he felt whilst reading a book? (Regardless if this is a “dedicated/famous romance BLOG”.

    On his age, I can see why some of you may feel uncomfortable (I suppose it may be due to be old enough to be his mother or aunt ala me). But I was his age or near enough when I started reading stuff like this, so no calling the teapot.

  46. cs
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:05:59

    @John: I was 14/15 too when I got into the “naughty” reading, so believe me I think this more to do with the fact many people here are much older than you. I’m 22, so believe me I could care less even if you were 13 :)

    You’re right, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot read. Your review was pretty epic, and it’s a nice to see you still reviewed the book despite not knowing it was erotic romance. A touch of professionalism there.

    I’ll be looking forward to your reviews. (No more clogging your email)

  47. Lynne Connolly
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:06:36

    Just a note on the word “fuck.” It was used from around the 16th century, maybe earlier (but sometimes words live a long time as verbal only before they’re written down – scholars tend to give it 25 years before he word appears in print up to modern times). However it was only used as a crude word for sexual congress, as it was called before the 20th century, not a general curse word, as it’s used today.
    Interesting that “having sex” is first recorded in 1929, according to the online etymological dictionary, which by and large agrees with my Chambers Etymological Dictionary. So sometimes the things you think are anachronistic aren’t.
    Mainly, in “Sinful” the frequent Americanisms gave me pause, but the use of “fuck” didn’t bother me.

  48. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:22:12

    @cs: That makes complete sense. It just (no offense to anyone here) gets frustrating when the time and effort to write a review is important. I really enjoyed the title, and I felt like I expressed that to the best of my abilities. I’m glad to know someone is on my side age-wise! And thank you very much – my day was getting seriously bad there for a second. And the clogging is over – the influx of emails is dwindling.

    @Lynne Connolly: Thank you for the specifics! I wish they told us these things – knowing the history of a word is quite important. It was American in some aspects, I suppose, though the familiarity probably helped in my case.

  49. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:22:21

    This is a fascinating thread for me because I’m a high school teacher. My students all know I write romance, and even though my books are tame compared to this one, I do ask them not to read them until after graduation. I will say this in John’s defense, kids are much savvier than most people realize, especially this generation. Spending time with them has taught me that.

    As far as using “fuck” in a story — it again reminds me of school. That word is thrown around in the halls constantly despite repeated scolding by teachers. I think our whole society is desensitized to it. IMHO, using that word repeatedly simply shows the person lacks a comprehensive vocabulary or else he’d be able to find many other words to get a point across. If you save that bomb for one or two important moments, the word can have a powerful impact. If it’s tossed around all the time, it means nothing.

  50. Michelle
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:23:23

    I enjoyed your review, and will look forward to your future reviews. Keep reading whatever you are interested in. You come across as a very intelligent, well reasoned, and mature person.

    I think I read a Beatrice Small-Skye O Malley when I was 12 or 13, and survived.

  51. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:36:07

    @Sandy James: Your insight as a teacher really intrigues me. While I would probably be the student who reads them anyway (I know, I know), this is also coming from someone who finds romance writers to be some of the kindest, all-around-good people. Plus, I just checked out your website, and your stuff looks very interesting. Kudos to being so well received as well. :) And they are. The teenage years are all about sexual discovery from what I’ve come to understand. People may not like to see it that way, but it’s naturally what happens. Not to go into that minefield. ^^

    And my opinion exactly – high school. For some reason the phrase ‘Let’s fuck’ only works once or twice before it gets a little stale. Despite Mathew’s rake personae, he was raised to be a gentleman, so, despite his dark sexual history, I’d expect to see some level of his breeding, at least on some psychological level.
    @Michelle: Thank you very much!

  52. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:06:52

    I’m flattered you visited my website. If you’d ever like to read any of my books, especially to review, they’re yours!! :)

    I know I have students who read my stories, and as I tell them, I’d never write anything I’d be ashamed to put my real name on. The kids are so wonderful and so supportive. I name many of my characters after students whom I love as a way to thank them. Most of the Murphy’s Law characters are named for students who encouraged me when I started writing.

  53. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:15:53

    @Sandy James: That’s sweet of you to name characters after students. With the right group of them, I bet the school year can be very interesting.

    As to reviewing, I would be flattered to review whatever you want me to. I can’t promise it right away (I do run a blog that takes a lot of time up) but if you email me a pdf or two, I’ll try and get to them asap. :) I hope your journey with writing turns out to be fruitful!

  54. Nicole
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:47:45

    Since people have been picky about word origins and “Americanisms” I should point out that Charlotte Featherstone is Canadian, so it would be more accurate to call them “North Americanisms”. Since I did not see the use of the word “chesterfield” I won’t go so far as to call them “Canadianisms”.

    When reading the review, I would never have guessed that the reviewer was in high school, so I am impressed with the level of sophistication in the analysis of the novel. And I can say that I was definitely reading novels that were as explicit as this one by 14 or 15, they just weren’t labelled “erotica”. I wouldn’t place this novel on the more extreme end of erotica anyway, and find that this is probably more of a marketing tool.

  55. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:57:09

    Thanks so much, John. I have sent Turning Thirty-Twelve and Murphy’s Law to Jane in hopes she will forward them to you. I’m also pleased you liked my website and my stories considering the cruel comments I just received on another thread of this blog.

    I look forward to your review(s), whenever you can find the time to squeeze any of my stories in. :)

  56. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:02:57

    @Sandy James: I’m sorry you got comments like that. Your website is a *bit* confusing, so I would look into maybe polishing it a bit more, but publisher-discrimination is way too far.

    Sure! I look forward to trying them out. Hopefully I’ll enjoy them a lot!

  57. Christine M.
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:28:17

    John, the reason I thought you were 12-13 is because in Canada, you enter high school at 12 years old. Sorry for assuming. =)

    At twelve I was reading my mum’s old 70s Harlequin (with perhaps a kiss or two at the end) and I read my first ‘sexed up’ romances around the age of 15 or 16 so I’m shutting up now. ^^

  58. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:33:55


    Thanks for the advice, John. Already did some shuffling around on the website to streamline a little. Definitely want to avoid confusing!! :)

  59. Scorpio M.
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:43:24

    Wow, I can’t believe all the tangents this thread took but whether you are 15 or 50 you handled everything like a true gentleman.
    I look forward to more of your reviews.

    Welcome to romanceland. It can get ugly! :)

  60. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 18:19:33

    @Christine M.: I’m sorry I didn’t know you were talking about Canada! It seems like romance readers just stumble upon these types of books in their teen years. :)

    @Scorpio M.: Haha, well, I can’t blame anyone for finding it discussion worthy! Thankfully Jane made that poll thread to channel it better. :) Thanks for looking forward to more reviews – I try to make my ones for DA extra nice, since I’m dealing with a fine set of individuals.

    I’ve finally arrived in romanceland. Smart Bitches…you’ve trained me well.

  61. Lori
    May 14, 2010 @ 23:33:06

    As much as I appreciate John’s obvious intelligence and ability to think and write, I personally feel it’s inappropriate to have a 15 year old boy (no matter the maturity level) discussing erotic romance with adults.

    It would not be appropriate to do with the neighbor’s child, your daughter’s friend or a high school student you happen to know.

    I’m uncomfortable that Jane has John reviewing books with adult content and as much as I do appreciate John’s intelligence and maturity, as much as I know that kids today know more about all of life’s interesting aspects, I consider this wrong and personally just icky.

    I would ask Jane to reconsider posting underage reviewers of books with sexual content on this site.

    And before the cries of ‘prude’ start (*g*) I’d just say that I know many mature underage people and would never discuss sex with them because it crosses a line I’m unwilling to ever cross.

    Fifteen is fifteen, whether mature or not. Sorry John and Jane, this screams inappropriate to me.

  62. coribo25
    May 15, 2010 @ 03:55:09

    Have to say I agree with Lori (post 59). I have adult content in my romances and use a disclaimer asking people to be of legal age to view it. I’m sure there are people here who know more about purveying adult content to minors and the law than me. Look up porn, underage and the internet and the waters start to get very muddy. I think all romance authors would benefit from knowing where we stand legally on this.

  63. Jayne
    May 15, 2010 @ 07:00:32

    @Lori: Just an FIY, Jane didn’t assign this book to John. No reviewer at DA is ever assigned a book to review.

  64. John
    May 15, 2010 @ 10:12:46

    @Lori: Look, I can’t explain this any clearer. I picked up the galley without a knowledge of erotica. After I requested and received it I found out about the erotica part of the novel. If you cannot understand that I reviewed it out of plot, characters, and professionalism, then I have no business explaining this to you. Jane and I have an agreement on my reviews, which are mostly YA books, and that’s what I’ve stated on here before.

    Also, I think we’ve come to the conclusion that most romances today have sexual content. Have you ever heard of the House of Night series for teens? Those books are riddled with sex and there are middle schoolers discussing them. Personally, I do not see how other people on here have taken my age and related it to their own reading discoveries and have concluded that it’s pretty natural to start reading more adult books around this time period, while you have not. And while discussing sex is of course taboo, I think we all need to understand that we are doing it for the sake of the book, and as a reviewer it’s my job to discuss all the aspects of a book that are deemed important and needed to give a fair review. And have I seriously been talking about sex in such a way as to be uncomfortable?

    @coribo25: You bring up a good point, and while I agree that adult content and minors is a sticky subject, I’ve also made it clear that I do not read these for the sex. I read for plot, characterization, and writing, all of which were well done in the book. What you do is smart, and thank you for thinking of the well being of minors who read your novels, though I think that it all depends on the type of adult content and the reader, which is why the waters are so muddy.

    To anyone else who views this, please email me regarding concerns. I feel like I’ve handled this to the best of my abilities, but if you still have issues, I’ll try and personally explain things. Understand that I did this out of professionalism, a reviewer’s duty, and out of non-sexual reasons. If I haven’t made this clear enough, then I don’t know how else to go about it.

  65. Robin
    May 15, 2010 @ 12:41:08

    While I wish more of the sex in Romance was better written (i.e. more interesting, more emotionally compelling, more visceral and erotically charged, etc.), I certainly don’t have a problem with very explicit Romance. Nor do I have a problem with ‘closed door’ Romance (those old Laura London Regencies are among the most erotically charged of any Romance I’ve ever read, and I don’t think a hero gets past second base on-page in any of those).

    So I guess I don’t understand why someone who prefers not to read explicit sex in their Romances would be a “prude.” I can think of so many reasons why one might not want sexually explicit books, from not being particularly moved by written descriptions of sex to religious belief to having no interest in sex (asexuality is far more common than many know), that I think a knee-jerk assumption of prudery unfairly and negatively judgmental. Because I sure wouldn’t say that every reader who does like explicit Romance is sexually comfortable or healthy or liberated in their sexual views.

    If we’re finally getting to a point where women can be sexually expressive without being called whores and unnatural perverts, it seems to me we can also accept women not enjoying explicit representations of sex without seeing them as prudish or hung up about sex.

  66. Polly
    May 15, 2010 @ 14:17:08


    Thank you, exactly.

    I’m not sure what the opposite of prude would be, but I’m pretty sure it’s not reading all sex scenes in books, regardless of how well- or poorly-written, gratuitous etc one found them.

  67. Carin
    May 15, 2010 @ 16:40:23

    I completely agree with Lori’s post (#59). Having a 14/15 year old review an erotic romance and discuss it with a group of adults makes me uncomfortable.

    This is not something I’d do face to face. I’d be upset if I heard of a book club or other group welcoming a teenager in a treating them like they were an adult when discussing erotica as we’re doing here.

  68. Jane
    May 15, 2010 @ 21:41:45

    I appreciate the concerns of the commenters. I think John has explained his position. No books are ever assigned to a reviewer. This is a book that John chose and per his comments, it wasn’t marked as erotic fiction. As John has stated, he doesn’t intend to review more erotic romance fiction but that is his personal choice, not something I am forcing on him.

    If a romance author has some problem with this and wants legal advice, I suggest she consult with an attorney.

  69. MikiS
    May 15, 2010 @ 21:46:34


    The epilogue is actually available online without signing up for her newsletter. The newsletter is viewable online, and there’s a link to the epilogue in it…

  70. Daigon
    May 16, 2010 @ 10:55:57

    Regardless of who assigned the book or if he chose it himself, the blog owner/manager is at fault. A minor should not be reviewing on a blog that deals with adult material.

    Where are his parents?

    This is grossly irresponsible. I do not care how old John is–he is a minor and should be respected as such. Such flagrant disregard of this is despicable and worrisome.

  71. John
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:03:19

    At the minor’s request, please stop commenting. You need to understand there is nothing legally wrong with me reviewing a book – I’ve checked, and freedom of speech covers it entirely in regards to everything. And my situation is explained more than enough – I don’t normally review books that would be considered adult content, I’m not planning on reviewing any more, and you are only hurting me and the blog by continuing to make a big deal about this.

    And as for that – Jane is a wonderful boss and respects me and treats me as she should, and this is not issue. While you have every right to voice a concern, this has gone on long enough, and I ask everyone to stop, as it has long been taken care of. Thank you.

  72. Moriah Jovan
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:32:02


    At the minor's request, please stop commenting.

    Well, I was with you until this. You can’t claim it makes no difference on one hand, and then use it as a bargaining chip on the other.

    That said, I thought you did a good job on the review and I wouldn’t have guessed you were 15. I also have no right to throw stones at age/age appropriateness of the material. I read what I was going to read and (fortunately) my mother didn’t have a clue what that was.

    And so. Bad sex.

    Just finished a book that had one bad sex scene right after the other after the other, with almost NO context and absolutely NO character development. It was billed as erotica, but there was nothing erotic about it.

    Thus, I ended up skimming the entire thing and feel like I just flushed $5 down the toilet. In fact, now that I think about it, I’ve found myself skimming a lot lately.

    I’m normally a very patient reader, but I have a very low threshold of tolerance for bad erotica, because I’ve read some extraordinary stuff. When it feels like it got turned out off the assembly line, I get a little pissy about it.

    So prudish or not, I feel cheated of my $5.

    (As it happens, I’m trudging through another few books with the same problems in varying degrees.)

    And also, I agree with Robin.

  73. Joanne
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:49:14

    @John: Dear John, (whoa! My first ‘Dear John’ letter!) Welcome to the diverse and often, very, very often, opinionated world of romance book readers!

    I enjoyed your review, I thought your follow-up comments were clear and concise, and I’m happy to know that DA does not discriminate based on age- because I’d be out on my old ass.

    “Where are her parents” was what I heard back-in-the-day when I was ‘caught’ reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover. I’m uncomfortable with a lot of things I read on this site but your reviewing of erotic romance is not one of them. (and I bet you check the sub-genre next time before you start reading, lol!)

    “Never be bullied into silence….”
    Harvey Fienstein

    I’m sure your family and friends are proud of you and I wish you well in your future reviews and writings.

  74. John
    May 16, 2010 @ 13:02:23

    @Moriah Jovan: What I meant was the attacks on Jane/Dear Author/Myself. While I respect everyone’s opinion, there’s nothing wrong being done here, and I would like people to stop making it a big deal. But thank you, and thank you especially for admitting that you do not throw stones, as the few people on here who are are most uncomfortable with me admitting to do it. While I’m uncomfortable with the whole situation, I’m not going to hide what I read from the masses. As a blogger, I can’t, and people just need to accept that people read what they read, even teenagers.

    @Joanne: Thank you. I have heard that comment many times. I just need a few days to let myself stop stewing over this. Believe me, I will check subgenre! I also hope Harlequin will make their erotic romance subtitles more clear so I know if what I’m picking up is going to be considered as such.

    In general, I thank you all for stating your opinions, and I never meant to make anyone uncomfortable. :) This has been a learning experience for me, and I take both sides to heart.

  75. Michelle
    May 16, 2010 @ 14:07:39

    Poor John-here is a phrase that you need to learn when dealing with Romanceland:
    “beating a dead horse” But to be repetitive, I think you are handling things quite well.

    If you haven’t read it yet, I would love to see a review of Clare Dunkle’s The Hollow Kingdom (YA). Awesome story and there are goblins!

  76. EC Sheedy
    May 16, 2010 @ 14:12:15

    You may be fifteen in chronological years, John, but in *real* years, you are much, much older. Handled yourself like a pro, you did!

  77. Carin
    May 16, 2010 @ 21:50:41

    While I respect everyone's opinion, there's nothing wrong being done here, and I would like people to stop making it a big deal.

    In my opinion it IS a big deal. And I won’t repeatedly post about that (well, other than this post) but I think it’s ok for people to post their opinion. It lets Jane and you know how the readers feel about it and how many readers feel that way.

  78. Monday Morning Stepback: You Raise Your Kids and I’ll Raise Mine Edition « Read React Review
    May 17, 2010 @ 09:14:46

    […] Kerfuffle alert: A 15 year old reviewer at Dear Author named John reviewed an erotic romance, and some people didn’t like […]

  79. katiebabs
    May 17, 2010 @ 10:12:58

    At John’s age I was reading some steamy romances. Sandra Brown and Beatrice Small come to mind at the age of 16 who were both responsible for showing me other types of sex and I don’t think they are considered erotic authors. I started reading VC Andrews at 13 and there is incest in those books.

    I thought his review was very well written for his age.

    I’d rather a teen read a sexually charged novel than watch a NC-17 or Rated-X movie with shocking sex scenes.

    If he had reviewed classic erotica such as Fanny Hill or Lady Chatterley’s Lover, would there be some issue then?

  80. Shiloh Walker
    May 17, 2010 @ 11:03:18

    @ John, I’m going to say this flat out… you do your parents a credit-you handled a lot of criticism with a grace many adults couldn’t handle.

    Plus, hey…guys reading romance. that’s always cool.

    In regards to John reading a rather hot book, it’s not like he’s the first teen to do it.

    But in the end, what John reads? That’s between him and his parents. If he reviews it here, that’s between him & the Janes and John’s parents-we don’t run this blog. If we don’t like it, we have the option of not visiting the blog.

    Considering how he handled some of the criticism here, well, his maturity has definitely impressed me.

    About the subject of prudery, Robin said:

    If we're finally getting to a point where women can be sexually expressive without being called whores and unnatural perverts, it seems to me we can also accept women not enjoying explicit representations of sex without seeing them as prudish or hung up about sex.


    I’m NOT a prude and frankly, if somebody calls me one, the response they’ll get is me laughing at them.

    I’m not a prude and I’m not overly concerned if somebody else thinks I am.

    I love reading erotic romance, but that doesn’t mean I have to be comfortable having a book with full frontal nudity on the cover-I’m not.

    I shouldn’t have to defend my personal likes or dislikes to anybody-nobody should.

    This is one of those things that boils down to respect-so many people want everybody to respect their viewpoints, but often, they won’t return that courtesy.

    Implying that those who don’t care for explicit subject matter is a prude…well, it’s an insult and it’s not respecting their viewpoint.

    You don’t have to agree with somebody’s viewpoint to respect it. You don’t even understand it to respect it. Just respect it, and don’t lob those glib little insults at it.

    It’s one of those live and let live things-not caring for explicit sex isn’t a knock against those who love it. It’s only a knock if those who don’t care for it are also turning their nose up and making all those snide and snotty comments we all know so well.

  81. Jane O
    May 17, 2010 @ 11:08:04

    I’m coming to this discussion rather late, but I am wondering if reaction would be the same if this were a site where men discuss sexually explicit material and the reviewer were a 15-year -old girl.

    @John –
    This is no criticism of you. I didn’t even realize you are not an adult when I read the review.

  82. EC Sheedy
    May 17, 2010 @ 11:43:43

    I’ll admit to chuckling a bit here. I don’t think calling someone a prude is necessarily an insult. If it were, my sister wouldn’t be talking to me anymore. I’ve been calling her a prude for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been calling her a romantic at heart, something she also vehemently denies. :-)

    As for me, I’m a prude about some things, and open-minded about others. Even I’m not sure what will cause one or the other of the two sensibilities to raise its head, or when. Kind of crazy, that. Almost a visceral thing . . .

  83. Courtney Milan
    May 17, 2010 @ 14:12:13

    I think there’s a difference between an intellectual discussion of sexual content (which this is), and a discussion of sex that is meant to titillate and arouse (which would be morally problematic in my mind), and this is getting rather blurred in the discussion.

    “Sexually explicit material” runs the gamut from porn to nonfiction describing how the body works. And Dear Author is nowhere near the porn end of things–that is, nobody (rational) comes to Dear Author to get off.

    I don’t have a problem with a 15 year old girl discussing her sex life with a 30 year old male doctor. Or a 40-year-old public health teacher telling 12 year old girls the facts of life. Or even a 50-year old high school teacher assigning Lady Chatterley’s Lover to her high school class. And that means I don’t have a problem with a 15-year-old reading an erotic romance and thinking intellectually about it, either.

  84. Susan
    May 17, 2010 @ 17:36:42

    Re: John’s age, really, he’s 15, not five. I think we often forget that adolescence is sort of this “fake age category” we’ve created to have a bridge between childhood and adulthood. This is a cultural thing.

    I would understand that it might be a little dicey with a 15 year old discussing sexual things in the PHYSICAL COMPANY of grown adults.

    But we’re on the Internet. There isn’t really much chance John is going to in some way be used and abused or exploited.

    And quite frankly, most of the commenters on this blog aren’t as intelligent as John is. So John being male, and nearing his prime is probably physically stronger than you, he’s more intelligent than you.

    How exactly is he your prey? Don’t flatter yourself.

    No one coerced him. He spoke his mind and his views eloquently. And he helped me make my mind up about this book. I’ve had it in a queue for awhile but wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

    Now I know I’m going to read it. That was helpful. That’s what a reviewer is supposed to do, help people decide if they should read a book.

    If John had never announced his age or anything about being in a school band, no one would have ever thought he was 15, nor would they have cared.

    Also, as has already been mentioned, books are not the same as pornography. You can be any age and walk into any bookstore in America and buy any book you want.

    Also regarding the prude discussion. I personally wonder about people who never skim ANY sex scenes.

    I think that many sex scenes are poorly written and boring and as others have expressed in no way realistic. That total unrealistic aspect takes away much of the potential sexiness of it. And often makes me question if the author has any personal carnal knowledge herself.

  85. Natasha A.
    May 17, 2010 @ 18:04:22

    Thank you John! This was an excellent review and you are very well spoken!
    I also want to throw in a GOOD FOR YOU! I have been reading romance since I was about 9 or 10 and smut/erotica/etc since I was about 15. I hid it. Good for you for not!
    And my parents had not problem with it, I was watching worse on TV.

  86. riley
    May 17, 2010 @ 18:37:35

    Really? I wonder about the nonchalant attitude regarding a child reviewing erotica. This discussion has been enlightening because I will know which authors not to buy who gave John the thumbs-up.

  87. Sussan
    May 17, 2010 @ 18:56:31

    And they’ll know which tedious readers they probably don’t want to deal with as fans.

    And a fifteen year old eloquent male is not a child. How old someone is has more to do with their mental development than anything else. And mentally he’s far more adult than 90% of the hens who catfight on this blog.

  88. Alla
    May 17, 2010 @ 19:00:33


    And I will know which authors to support, who supported intelligent teenager (not a child) who wrote extremely intelligent, eloquent review IMO.

    Thank you John, you have helped me make up my mind about this book as well. I am in my thirties, but I remember very well when I started to reading romance myself and will never say that there is anything wrong with fifteen year old reading and reviewing erotical romance. I would think of myself as hypocrite otherwise.


  89. riley
    May 17, 2010 @ 19:20:06


    A tedious reader?? LOL! A reader is a sale, tedious or not. bottom line.

  90. Shiloh Walker
    May 17, 2010 @ 19:49:32

    Really? I wonder about the nonchalant attitude regarding a child reviewing erotica.

    IMO, this isn’t about nonchalance… do I want a child reading my books? Nope, and I’ve informed more than one adult who was at their teen’s side when looking at books at signings that I write explicit material.

    However, what their kids read, in the end, is not up to me.

    I am not the reading police. That, in the end, is a job that belong to the parent-and solely-to the parent.

    I say that as as a parent as well, and this is where I take my author hat off and speak as a mother.

    I don’t want my kids reading my work, and I’ve told them they can’t until I decide they are of an appropriate age-and that age doesn’t necessarily have so much to do with a chronological age, but with maturity. My oldest-a girl, will likely be more mature, and ready to read my stuff before my son.

    But that, in the end, is my call. It’s my call, as their parent, and nobody else’s.

    What John reads is up to his parents and him. Not us.

    What he reviews, in the end, is between his parents, him and the owners of the blog.

    It’s not our call.

    But regardless of ‘age’, maturity matters a great deal. I know twenty years olds who actually believe in the idea of ‘waiting for a prince’ to rescue them. And I know fourteen years old who realize that they if they want to make things happen, they have to make them happen.

    Those are the sort of things I’ll factor when I decide if my kids are mature enough when they ask to read romance.

    Perhaps John’s parents have already considered this.

    And since we are not his parents, it’s not really our business.

    He’s an eloquent, intelligent, well-spoken young man and as somebody who has worked with a great many children and teens, I can tell you right there, that counts for an awful lot-more than likely, his parents had a hand in that-most kids don’t just pop out that way.

    Since they’ve done so well with him so far, perhaps we should leave them to it.

  91. Kathleen Dienne
    May 18, 2010 @ 06:06:02

    @Shiloh Walker: This. A thousand times, this.

    That’s why my comment was strictly related to his review (and stated up front that it was a very good review). The age of the reviewer is entirely between the website, the reviewer, and if necessary the reviewer’s guardian.

    This is the internet. No one ever knows who the other person “really” is when it comes to color, creed, intelligence, age, gender, or anything else. We should be judging each other entirely by our words, and leave the details up to the parties concerned.

    And FWIW – I was reading HQ novels at eight (long story), and was assigned to read Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series (to the extent it had been written) as part of an honors world history class when I was in the tenth grade. I was fifteen.

  92. Jaclyn
    May 18, 2010 @ 17:38:50

    Great review. Thank you for your thoughtful assessment. I’ve been in a contemporary and sf reading phase, but your review and the resulting discussion here has caught my interest.

    The description reminds me of a book I read when I was 11 or 12–can’t remember the author or title anymore, was about a 18 or year old girl who became a nurse in NYC in the early 1900s and through her work at the hospital met the hero…and I’m digressing, sorry.

    Regardless of what I decide about reading “Sinful”, you’ve presented an excellent arguement that will factor into my choice.

  93. Tori
    May 18, 2010 @ 23:19:58

    @John: First, kudos to you for being a guy interested in romances, for being proud of said interest in the genre, and for being so professional in your review.

    I’d just like to make a comment about the House of Night series: it is not labeled as erotica. That is a YA exploring sex–while not ever writing graphic sex scenes. You could say the same about Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. There’s a sex scene that is never touched upon betwixt Sam and Grace, and it is also labeled a YA book.

    Not trying to be nit-picky. To each his own. I’m 21, and while I personally would not have enjoyed discussing these types of books (erotica, or even romances for that matter) with adults at your age, reviewing is something you clearly enjoy doing. Just remember to be careful, there’s lots of crazies out there.

    @Susan: For me, at least, you’ve got your logic mixed up. I’d imagine that talking about sex around adults you DO know would be preferable to the anonymous contacts one can make over the internet.

    Also, I *think* what can be deemed uncomfortable for some–regardless of whether or not personally explored in this review–is the fact that a minor is discussing erotica with adults that he or she does not know over the internet. It was a review that did not explicitly inform readers that the writer was in fact, under age. But that’s just my understanding of the argument.

  94. Gennita Low
    May 19, 2010 @ 02:25:58

    What Lori said at #59

    And I’m a prude. As I see it, if I have a 15 year old daughter, I would not allow her to write an erotic romance review and discuss about it at a mostly adult male readers site. Sure, the 22 year old males wouldn’t see any harm in it but the 45 year old males should see the inappropriateness.

  95. » Houston, We Have a Kerfluffle
    May 19, 2010 @ 08:08:57

  96. Jess (The Cozy Reader)
    May 19, 2010 @ 08:45:51

    Description from NetGalley:

    He must find redemption in the most unlikely bedchamber… In Victorian England, vice of every kind can be purchased and Matthew, the Earl of Wallingford, makes certain he avails himself of every possible pleasure. Bored and jaded, he is as well known for his coldness as for his licentious affairs with beautiful women. Until one night when he…

    I’m sorry but what about that description doesn’t shout erotica or at least strong sexual references.

    Upon further investigation on the publisher isn’t just Harlequin, it’s SPICE.

    I personally do not want to read a review of romance/erotica by anyone underage. I would be interested in a man’s perspective but not a young boy, no matter his maturity level.

  97. Jane
    May 19, 2010 @ 09:10:01

    I appreciate that many of you have comments you want to make about this review and this book, but I do think that the sides have been adequately represented. If you have specific complaints, please feel free to email me jane at I will be closing the comments.

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