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REVIEW: Bound to Please by Lilli Feisty

Dear Ms. Feisty:

book review
Even though I got this book for review, I decided to go ahead and purchase an ecopy as that is my preferred mode of reading and I hadn’t read it pre-release. I haven’t seen Warner/Grand Central put out much of any erotic romances so I was curious to see what this story would be like. Suffice to say that I was pretty much expectation free, or so I thought.

Ruby Scott is a 37 year old event planner whose sex life is perceived to be something its not. She used to have a relationship with a semi famous Bay photographer whose speciality is erotic photography. Ruby was one of his subjects and his personal collection includes works featuring Ruby tightly bound. Her sexual relationship with her former boyfriend was actually quite "vanilla" to use the description of Ruby. When her friend, Meg, begins to press her for details, Ruby confesses she hasn’t experienced much but that she’ll go with Meg to pursue the knowledge of kink.

This confession or invitation is made, inadvertently, in front of up and coming musician Mark St. Crow who just so happens to be very interested in Ruby particularly because he recognizes her tattoo from an erotic portrait he purchased.

There are a lot of arc threads that are introduced in the story but few were well developed. I believe that Ruby was intended to be portrayed as a strong character who is torn between wanting something exciting and wanting something secure. The greatest problem I had with Ruby was that she came off more like a young twenty something than a thirty-seven year old. She seemed to lack security in herself as a woman, her knowledge of her own sexuality, her reaction to men. I wondered if she engaged in any introspection prior to showing up on stage, so to speak, in the pages of the book because she seemed to lack any self awareness.   Contrast this with Mark.

Mark, the younger of the two, has far more personal recognition of himself as an artist, a sexual being, and as a man. His problem? Fidelity, frankly. I found that his easy distraction by other women only feeds the preconception of readers that HEAs with musicians aren’t believable. By the end of Bound to Please, I wasn’t convinced that Mark’s eyes wouldn’t constantly be straying and that it wouldn’t take but one drunken night for him to deviate from the path of fidelity.   This is a bit ironic because fidelity is big part of the overall arc for Ruby whose great fear is the inability of Mark to settle down and be happy with Ruby.

Further, Ruby’s fears of instability with Mark are never really allayed but by a few assurances of Mark’s. Nothing in Mark’s behavior indicated to me that he would think of anyone but himself and his music first, even in one scene that I’m sure was supposed to be super romantic because Mark is lost in a song he’s written for Ruby. The fact is that his devotion is toward the song and not to Ruby despite the fact that she is the muse or subject of the song.

Another arc thread is that of the bondage theme. Mark and Ruby play at the bondage concept but it’s never carried out. In other words, Mark "orders" Ruby to do many things, some of which Ruby does and some Ruby does not do but there is no actual meaningful look at the bondage lifestyle and the sex scenes, except for one at the end, are pretty vanilla. However (and this is where the expectations come in) because the title was Bound to Please and the initial setup seems to be about exploring boundaries, I expected more boundary pushing than I actually read in the story and I think my expectation affected my pleasure with the book.   My main frustration, though, was with the characters themselves and the lack of believable HEA at the end.   (Note, there is an HEA. I just wasn’t convinced by it).   C-.

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from an independent bookstore or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

25 Comments

  1. Barbara B.
    May 13, 2009 @ 06:53:18

    I could never bring myself to read a book by an author named Lilli Feisty. I think cute name, cute story. I HATE cute.

    Anyway, thanks for the review, Jane! Sounds like a pretty half-assed story all around.

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  2. Jane
    May 13, 2009 @ 06:55:03

    @Barbara B. Worse, the author uses the term feisty when the hero is describing the 37 year old heroine. Egads.

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  3. Joy
    May 13, 2009 @ 06:58:23

    Sigh, I still haven’t read this. It was an impluse print buy when I was stress book shopping; it was on the table at Borders, I’d read the author before, and the title intrigued me. After reading a few pages once home, I decided I had other books in my TBR to read first.

    I suppose I’ll get to it in a few weeks….

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  4. Lizzy
    May 13, 2009 @ 10:00:54

    Yes, please, no more author names that sound like they should be on the marquee outside the “gentlemen’s lounge” in my Indiana hometown.

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  5. Anaglyph M.
    May 13, 2009 @ 11:12:07

    “I could never bring myself to read a book by an author named Lilli Feisty.”

    Perhaps this is part of the reason:

    Feisty: ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from earlier feist, fist [small dog,] from fisting cur or hound, a derogatory term for a lapdog, from Middle English fist [break wind.] Compare with fizzle.

    (from the New Oxford American Dictionary)

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  6. Randi
    May 13, 2009 @ 11:55:38

    Jane,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review. I was sooooo hoping someone here at DA would review it, so I could add my two cents. ;)

    Like you, I had a preconceived idea about what the book would be about, based on the title and, to a certain extent, the cover. The story did not, at all, live up to it’s packaging. Also like you, I was sorely disappointed in the lack of depth of the BDSM relationship. And, also like you, I didn’t quite believe the HEA.

    Mostly, I was disappointed with the superficial BDSM. There just aren’t a whole lot of really good BDSM stories out, yet, so, when something comes along, I get super excited about it. Usually, I’m disappointed, but sometimes I get surprised (Shiloh Walker, I’m looking at you! I really enjoyed Chains, especially the first segment). On the one hand, I’m glad BDSM is becoming more mainstream in romance; on the other hand, not too many authors seem to know much about it, so the stories come off as really shallow.

    Was this a terrible book? nope. Was it a great book? nope. It was definitely smack dab in the middle. It’s not a keeper, but I read it on a plane, and that was about the perfect place to read it.

    Thanks for reviewing!!

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  7. EmilyRD
    May 13, 2009 @ 22:49:34

    Goes to show how tastes differ. :) I picked the book up and put it down again four or five times before I finally decided to buy it. I was expecting a heavy BDSM story and didn’t want one – I wanted a romantic read about a couple interested in bondage but not in “lifestyle” immersion. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished.

    Ruby’s insecurity/so-called lack of self-awareness didn’t strike me as off. I know many women who don’t realize aspects of themselves until late in life – a preference of women over men, for example, or a realization that they hate their jobs or feel trapped in their marriages. By the same token, I know younger men who are far more self-aware than their older counterparts.

    Mark and Ruby each demonstrated complexities that appealed to me on “real person” v. “idealized hero/heroine” levels and I’m glad I decided to buy it. BOUND TO PLEASE is a keeper for me.

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  8. Randi
    May 14, 2009 @ 09:24:04

    EmilyRD: Based on what you were looking for, I can see how Bound to Please would be a good read for you. I’m curious, though, if you believed the HEA, or if you had the same problem Jane and I did, with it?

    Also-if you had planned on reading Shiloh’s new book, Chains, I’d be interested in your impression of the first story.

    -Randi

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  9. Jane
    May 14, 2009 @ 10:52:09

    @Randi Was your problem the
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    cheating incident or the “I didn’t show up at your super important business event because I was too busy writing music?”

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    r

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  10. Sam
    May 14, 2009 @ 11:34:38

    I read this book as well, and I agree with EmilyRD.

    Personally, I took the book as a HFN not so much HEA. There was definitely romance in this book but with Marks issues with his music I don’t know how 6 months down the road Ruby won’t get tired of his ass.

    I didn’t like that part in the book at all, (referring to Jane’s spoiler) and I also didn’t like Ruby’s response outside the hotel. I wanted to throw the book into the wall. Overall I enjoyed the dynamics and I really liked the Author’s voice.

    I did have issue with the “feisty” comment in the book, but then I took that as tongue-in-cheek.

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  11. Randi
    May 14, 2009 @ 11:54:31

    Following is as general as I can make it so to answer Jane’s question AND not have spoilers. Hope it’s successful…

    @ Jane: In conjunction: both. But it’s amplified by, what I perceive to be, Mark’s casual attitude towards Ruby. Oh, he says he understands her fidelity concern and admires her business and that she has a career, but his actions just don’t play out (that whole saying vs showing thing). Additionally, I just didn’t get the feeling that Mark was ready to settle down. I get that he has feelings for her, but not the long lasting love kind. I don’t remember Mark having to give up or risk anything for Ruby, while Ruby does (though I read pretty fast so maybe I just missed it).

    So, while I can see Sam’s HFN, I don’t see the HEA. I think, if we were to see Ruby and Mark five years down the road, they would be seperated. I can also see that Mark would, after some more years go by, get a real HEA. But it would require him to be in a different place in his life, and also understanding how and why he and Ruby didn’t work. Considering his fairly well-evolved understanding of himself, I could see that happening. On the other side of the coin, Ruby just didn’t strike me as ornery or aggressive enough to be able to handle Mark in the long run.

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  12. Randi
    May 14, 2009 @ 12:02:32

    Sam: I think you nailed it. If I re-think my reactions in relations to an HFN (which clearly I did after you mentioned it), it actually works for me. I still wouldn’t say it was an A grade book, but I would have felt more satisfied if I had gone in with an HFN expectation. But I also don’t think the author meant to have an HFN. If she did, then I have to say she succeeded. If she meant an HEA, then I think it didn’t come through very well.

    But see, here’s my take, and I know there are posts all around Romancelandia debating this. If I find you (a book) in the Romance section, I expect an HEA. If I find you in Fiction, anything goes. But my default expectation for Romance shelved books is HEA. So when I get a book out of Romance that ISN’T HEA-I fell cheated. And I have to say, this is happening more and more.

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  13. Sam
    May 14, 2009 @ 12:19:07

    @ Randi: I agree with you about finding mis-labeled genre in the wrong sections. It’s annoying and insults me on many levels. Since I have been burned before I research new to me authors before laying down some cash. I think Borders loves me solely because I shop till I drop weekly. I found this Author through another Author I read, Eden Bradley. Ms. Bradley’s books are found in the Erotic section and not the romance. I knew going in this might not be a HEA. Which I’m fine with.

    I have read books by Maya Banks that I feel have HFN and she’s also in the romance section or Megan Hart also in the romance section which I think should be right next to Eden Bradley in the Erotic section. I don’t know who makes these decisions but obviously they need to do something about that.

    As for “reader expectation” yep, if you label it a romance and it’s something else, damn right I’m going to be pissed. I remember reading a certain “erotic romance” and wanting to shove that book up the publishers a$$. Another burn was by Cameron Dean who was shelved in the ROMANCE section and after her third book she killed the HERO. Ooooh that really pissed me off. Reader expectation? I think publisher’s need to get their acts together and stop relying on the romance community to make them a quick buck.

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  14. Randi
    May 14, 2009 @ 12:31:48

    @Sam: hahahahaah, Cameron Dean. Yeah, I wasn’t happy about that and I KNEW going in what the end was. It still didn’t make a lick of sense to me.

    The other problem is, there is not uniform shelving instructions. So B&N can, and does, have differnent shelves from Borders, than Half Price Books, or Powell’s, or whatever. For instance, B&N has a huge Fiction section, and that’s where you can find Erotica, right along with Moby Dick. You can actually find some Romances in Fiction (like Lauren Willig; she’s shelved in Fiction, rather than Romance). I’ve also found me some Jennifer Crusie in Fiction, though she is also shelved in Romance. So, often, I’ll check both sections if I’m looking for someone specifically. HOWEVER, if I’m up for something new (which is often), I can’t go rummaging around Fiction for three hours and check every shelf. So I go straight to Romance, because that’s where I’m supposed to find my HEA romances.

    I don’t know if publishers, or even the stores themselves, can do much about it. Because I know, from other threads about this very topic, that there are just as many people who are fine getting a non HEA romance in the Romance section. So, how to please both sides? And if publishers were to, say, code books on the spine with HEA or HFN, or whatever, who decides which it is? For instance, my first Megan Hart book was Tempted. I didn’t like it much and I for sure did not find it a HEA. Hell, I didn’t even find it a HFN (there wasn’t much happily at all, for me). However, tons of people loved the book and had their HEA. So, just because I didn’t get the HEA, doesn’t mean others won’t.

    It does bug me, but I just don’t see any workable solution to it.

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  15. Sam
    May 14, 2009 @ 12:45:39

    @ Randi: We are of the same mind with Tempted. I think publisher’s should be aware of the differences they are marketing. I’m sure an editor who is working on an Author’s story knows the difference between HEA and a HFN.

    I just do some research before I compulsive buy. I used to just buy it and then put it in my DNF pile and send them off, but not anymore. I also noticed that certain publishers use large print in the books, comes out to like 320 pages but if it were in regular print it would be like 150 pages and they charge $25 for the hardback. Not very nice either.

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  16. Randi
    May 14, 2009 @ 13:40:40

    @Sam:

    I also noticed that certain publishers use large print in the books, comes out to like 320 pages but if it were in regular print it would be like 150 pages and they charge $25 for the hardback. Not very nice either.

    Hmmm, thinking of Moning’s Fea series, at all? hahahahahaha. I’ve noticed that with the bigger Mass Market soft covers as well (it is MM, right? Those are the bigger books? As opposed to the regular sized paperbook? I can’t keep it all straight. LOL. ) I look for thick MM books, because I’m not about to lay down $16 for what’s essentially a novella. The anthologies are the worst, imo.

    Sorry for highjacking the thread, Jane!

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  17. Jane
    May 14, 2009 @ 13:42:49

    @Randi Not at all. I’m nodding at everything you and @Sam are saying

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  18. Randi
    May 14, 2009 @ 14:10:37

    @Sam:

    I'm sure an editor who is working on an Author's story knows the difference between HEA and a HFN.

    But again, what one editor classifies as an HEA, another might classify as an HFN. It seems, to me, from experience, the diff b/t an HEA and an HFN is subjective; so if it’s subjective, how does one classify it? I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you either; imo, the ending should be pretty unambiguous; but clearly, many aren’t.

    I’m not sure, not being in the writing industry, how often an editor actually reads an entire MS; or even if they’re required to do so. If they are, is the ending part of their domain? I know a lot of the epubs have editorial problems, and we all know that Anne Rice and LKH have contracts that exclude them from editorial review. So it’s not unheard of for a MS to go to print without review. And is it the editor’s responsibility, anyway, to classify the ending? Or is it marketing, or the store? It’s these types of issues that prevent me from ever seeing a real workable solution, aside from word of mouth (which includes blogs, Amazon, and other internetty things).

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  19. Sam
    May 14, 2009 @ 15:56:29

    @ Randi: I have been reading romance novels for over 20 years, I personally don’t need a HEA with every story and I do have some favorites with the HFN. With that said, I now buy conservatively and I rely on reviews, whether they are bad or good reviews I will make my own decision but at least I know from the start what I’m picking up.

    I think it’s marketing plain and simple. As for the KMM books, I was pointing the finger at St. Martin’s Press and Ace….. They also do that in some MM, Kenyon’s Dream Hunter books are coming to mind.

    So big thanks to Jane and all the reviewers over here for insightful and honest reviews. You make it easy for me to wade through what I don’t want to spend my money on and for that I’m truly grateful.

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  20. EmilyRD
    May 14, 2009 @ 20:15:15

    Lost my reply to Randi. Oops.

    **spoiler**
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    * (I think it’s a spoiler?)
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    Short version: I was not as crazy about the last chapter as I was about the remainder of the book. The romantic commitment could have been more couple-initiated and their HEA/HFN would have been more believable for me had Ruby or Mark initiated, rather than been thrust together by Yvette.

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  21. Randi
    May 15, 2009 @ 08:47:35

    @EmilyRD: Yeah, your example is one of the reasons I didn’t buy Mark’s commitment to Ruby. He didn’t have to give up anything, hell, he barely had to work at, getting his HEA. So, how are you going to treasure an HEA that you essentially got handed to you on a silver platter?

    @Sam:

    So big thanks to Jane and all the reviewers over here for insightful and honest reviews. You make it easy for me to wade through what I don't want to spend my money on and for that I'm truly grateful.

    I second that motion!

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  22. Jane
    May 15, 2009 @ 09:34:49

    @Randi and @Sam, we appreciate your comments as DA would not exist in its current state without commenters.

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  23. jep
    May 25, 2009 @ 17:28:46

    I wish I had read the review before I bought the book. I want my money back!

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  24. Jane
    May 25, 2009 @ 17:42:44

    @jep You weren’t satisfied with the ending? or the sex was too tame? You didn’t like the characters?

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  25. Lilli Feisty
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 19:47:49

    I just happened to stumble on this review-I know, two years later! I just wanted to say thanks for the review and the really interesting discussion! I especially like the “gentleman’s lounge comment”. I can’t help it. Pretty much everything I do is tongue in cheek and I never take myself too seriously!

    It’s also interesting reading this now when the industry has changed so much since that book came out.

    You guys are great! Thanks again!

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