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REVIEW: Saddled and Spurred by Lorelei James

Dear Ms. James,

A quick look at your other book titles and I see the pattern of “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” references to sex, especially of the raunchy variety. “Saddled and Spurred” will certainly not break this mold. So, what made me want to read it? I’d heard your name but never read any of your books, I’m trying to read books from a wider variety of publishers and the opening scenes of Harper Masterson trying to be strong and do right by her family in the face of a town with no pity caught my interest. Too bad the endless sex-fest to come ultimately dimmed my initial enthusiasm.

Saddled and Spurred by Lorelei JamesHarper Masterson just has to hang on for three more months then she and her younger sister Bailey can scrape the mud of Muddy Gap, WY off their foot ware for good. Bailey is the smart sister and has already been offered a scholarship so after her high school graduation, the sisters can put the past of a ho-bag mother – who dragged them after every man who was banging her and then finally abandoned them to run off with the town bartender – behind them. So when one of Harper’s part time jobs folds, she’s in a bind. This is a small town, with few jobs and her mother’s behavior has soured Harper’s chances for any of them. When her good friend calls her from out on the road following the rodeo circuit, Harper vents. But Celia has a plan and calls Harper back with a lead on a part time job, just long enough to pay the bills to Bailey’s graduation.

Bran Turner is close to desperate. His one hired hand is injured and out of commission for at least three months and there’ve been no takers on his job offers. When long time friend Celia Lawson calls and says she’s got him a new hand, she doesn’t say who it is and Bran doesn’t realize it’s Harper until she shows up on his trailer doorstep. A beauty queen for a hired hand on a working cattle ranch in Wyoming? Harper surprises him though with her quiet “take no shit from him” stance and he decides to give her a chance.

As the two work together for weeks, Bran is impressed. She has a lot to learn but does so without complaint. And she’s certainly not hard on the eyes. The two don’t give into their sexual attraction until ground rules are laid out but then it’s hot and heavy and a chance for Bran to experiment with some of the raunchier stuff he’s always wanted to try. But Harper is leaving in three months and it’s not until everything that he realizes he wants is driving off down the road that Bran wakes up. Can he win back this woman who’s captured his heart and his gonads?

The first third of the book is wonderful. Harper stands up for herself and proves her worth as a dependable, intelligent worker doing a job she has no experience with. She doesn’t let Bran push her around, she demands respect and doesn’t rely on her beauty or figure in order to slack off from the mud, shit and bruises on a working ranch. She doesn’t go all romcon squeely and inept – well once she knows about the goats that is. Bran also impresses me with his willingness to see beyond her face and curves. He might have lusted after Harper’s body for years but he doesn’t hesitate to revise his initial opinion about her work ethic that in front of his face.

In my notes I have the next third of the book described as sex, Sex, SEX. With a combo of the standard “we need to get this out of our systems” x with “this relationship already has an expiration, use-by, date” Harper and Bran decide to go for it. And boy, do they. I do like that they are quite clear about the fact that the banging goes on when Harper is off the clock but once the whistle blows, so to speak, it’s game on. And on and on. Despite her bod for sin, Harper is relatively sexually inexperienced while Bran is not. Their initial encounter is a hoot though as Bran goes off like a rocket leaving Harper less than impressed.

I thought, hmmm, maybe their sexual relationship will pleasantly surprise me as much as their working one did? Maybe my preconceived notions will change as much as Bran’s did about Harper? Or maybe not. It’s now that Bran shows his ass. He announces to Harper that if they go any further, it’s his rules, his way because she’s inexperienced, he’s not and he likes things the way he wants them. I though, what a dickhead. Sure he gets his banging act together and starts to give Harper multiple orgasms – which of course she’s never had with any man before – and he introduces her to every raunchy hot dream he’s ever had – though making sure she’s enjoying it too – but his caveman attitude begins to extend outside of the sexual relationship and his outbursts of jealousy and possessiveness begin to turn me off. I guess this is to show that he’s actually falling in love with her but after a few examples of him acting like a turd I see it more as controlling than loving. However, if readers like this or like this fantasy, they’re in for a hot hundred + pages.

The last part of the book is a mixed bag. Still lots of sex but the ongoing drama of the (many!) other citizens of Muddy Gap start to move to the forefront. Though it’s easy to see that this is not the first book in this “Blacktop Cowboy” series, I let my eyes glaze about all the (many!) friends and family mentioned then ignored for 75 pages. Obvious sequel bait does this to me. But now they begin to impact Harper and Bran so I had to pay a bit more attention. I do like how one substory smoothly gives Harper what she’s always wanted in the job department and that she finally throws off the chains of responsibility that had bound her to Bailey. Call me odd but the friction in their relationship makes the book more realistic to me. But Bran is still doing the He-Man thing to Harper’s personal growth and when all is said and done, I still don’t like his attitude or most of his actions. Yeah he can turn sweet and romantic to get what he wants but what then? Me don’t like the future picture.

A great start then way too many continuous pages of nothing but sex finished with liking the heroine and not liking the hero makes this a job of weighing the pros and cons. I’ll end by giving the book a C- grade. Though I realize that there are probably several more books to come, at this point, from what I saw in this book, the potential heroes don’t impress me. I also don’t usually care for sex-a-thons in my reading and from what I read in other reviews of your novels, this is what I could probably expect. I hope that Bran turns out to be less of an ass than I imagine he’ll be and that he and Harper have fun scaring the goats but after this book, I’m leaving Muddy Gap. C-

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

19 Comments

  1. Babs
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:10:10

    Haven’t read this title yet but I really enjoyed her “Rough Riders” series of books…maybe you should have tried one of those!

  2. Praxidike
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 12:37:40

    All of her books are like this. They follow a formula, for sure, especially with respect to the sex. Relatively inexperienced (or sexually frustrated) woman, big he-man, control freak. There’s always an anal scene, he’s always got control in the bedroom, there’s always a question in my mind whether he actually respects her – and of course she doesn’t care because she’s coming all over everything every time she sees his ginormous rod.

    Bleh. I don’t read these anymore. They’re formulaic and even though I can definitely get into the “he-man” thing, it becomes boring after a while.

  3. Ridley
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 13:13:24

    He announces to Harper that if they go any further, it’s his rules, his way…

    That’s trademark Lorelei James, right there. I’m on book 11 (!) of her Rough Riders series, for some reason, and that is how every single sexual relationship works in her world. It’s like Mad Libs, the sex scene generator.

  4. Carin
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 15:43:31

    This book was a DNF for me. I really enjoyed the first part, really showing Harper as a strong person and strong woman. Then came the time she was so tired she got out of the pickup truck and just laid down on the ground. So he takes her into his house and deposits her on the couch (where she slept another night.) But oh, no, this night she’s so tired that she gets up off the couch and walks to his bedroom, strips and falls asleep on his bed. What? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been so tired I just laid on the ground, but then had enough energy to walk around a strange house to find his bedroom and strip off my clothes?

    Then all the sex started, which was fine with me, but Harper didn’t seem like the same strong woman she was before. I got frustrated and moved on to another book.

    Lorelei James is really hit and miss for me. Branded as Trouble was fabulous for me, and one of the reasons I keep trying with her.

  5. Joy
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 16:20:10

    Yup. I just read 3 Rough Riders books and they’re all kinda like that. It’s too bad in a way because she has some promising writing tucked in there.

  6. Tabs
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:27:25

    I actually loved Saddled and Spurred. I didn’t have any problems with Bran and actually thought he was pretty laid back for a James hero.

    The sex-fests, sexually dominating heroes, series callbacks, and sequel set-ups are definite trademarks of her books and if they’re dealbreakers then I wouldn’t reccomend her.

    But gosh her books are like crack for me. Lots of smart heroines, sexy cowboys, terrific banter, and humor.

  7. KK
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:34:56

    I really like Lorelei James but agree that the sexual dynamic is the same in all her books. However, I think the relationships she builds outside the bedroom make her stuff worth reading. She can write really great emotional scenes (both h/h and family scenes), that keep me coming back for more. Definitely try her Rough Riders books, I love Tied Up, Tied Down and Branded as Trouble.

  8. RebeccaJ
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:38:11

    ..”but his caveman attitude begins to extend outside of the sexual relationship and his outbursts of jealousy and possessiveness begin to turn me off. I guess this is to show that he’s actually falling in love with her but after a few examples of him acting like a turd I see it more as controlling than loving. ”
    This is one of the reasons I don’t like the majority of Presents books. Being a control freak is not a sign of true love.

  9. Ridley
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:10:52

    @Tabs:

    But gosh her books are like crack for me.

    +1

    I can’t even begin to explain why, but she is my *only* auto-buy author. Every Rough Riders book is an insta-purchase, though only two of them have rated higher than 3 stars. Something about them…

  10. Jayne
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:38:22

    Hmmm, from what everyone’s said about this being standard operating procedures from James’s books, I doubt I’ll be picking up any more. I agree that the stuff outside the bedroom is pretty good but he-man heroes and endless sex just do nothing for me.

  11. Carly M.
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 19:15:44

    Jayne, maybe try her novella “Strong, Silent Type.” It’s quite the emotional read about a couple on the brink of separation. I skip the sex in most LL books but I come back to read her over and over because she can really draw you into characters’ growth and change. Same with “Branded as Trouble” about two recovering addicts fumbling their way towards acceptance. Not for everyone, but a great writer.

  12. LoriK
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 20:29:30

    IIRC this book was actually missing one element that’s pretty much standard James fare—there was no threesome. James loves her threesomes. I stopped reading the Rough Riders books when my response to the obvious clues about which character would be the hero of the next book was, “I wonder how a threesome will solve all of his problems?”

    The first few were like crack and then I just hit the wall.

  13. Sayuri
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 21:05:30

    Hi Jayne,

    if you’re not a fan of the more erotic scences in James’ books you should try her crime novels under her alter ego Lori Armstrong. She has 2 series, the more recent being No Mercy. Loads of great characters, not so much of the smexinn.

  14. Leslie
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 21:52:09

    “Branded as Trouble” was the standout title that drew me into James’ books. I haven’t loved any of the others as much as that one, but I have enjoyed them. James’ writing is pretty solid and, in many of her books, the characters demonstrate the toughness and humor Harper shows in the first part of S & S. Try “Branded as Trouble.”

  15. Ammarylis
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 01:06:59

    @LoriK:

    I keep hearing about how LJ novels usually have menages. Maybe it’s because I skip around in her “Rough Riders” series-completely skipped books 1 & 2-but I don’t think it’s that prevalent. IIRC, “Cowgirl Up & Ride” didn’t have a menage. Neither did “Branded as Trouble” , “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” & “All Jacked Up.” “Tied Up, Tied Down” had one but it wasn’t between the hero & heroine.

  16. LoriK
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 08:45:19

    @Ammarylis: It’s been a while since I read most of them, but menages definitely figure prominently in Long, Hard Ride and Rode Hard & Put Up Wet and it’s sort of the point of Raw, Rough & Ready.

    In the newer series, menage is also the major plot point of Corralled.

    There are definitely things that I enjoy about James’ books, but between the names that are way too similar in the McKay books and the fact that “with menage or without” is about the only recognizable difference in the heroes’ sexual styles I burnt out on her books.

  17. Jayne
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 13:18:29

    @Sayuri: Now those crime novels might be something I’d look into. Thanks for the tip.

  18. Jayne
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 13:20:54

    Menage? Blerch. Sorry but that’s something I usually stay away from. I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of menage books I’ve read.

  19. jayhjay
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 14:29:11

    @Praxidike: I totally agree. I think this is pretty much how her stuff goes. Just too much alpha male I must control everything.

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