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Cara McKenna

What Sarah was Reading in September

What Sarah was Reading in September

Like Jane, I’ve been reading a lot of ARCs for November and December, and wow, you’re all in for some real treats.

Riptide Publishing opens its door on October 30. It’s already open for pre-orders and sending out review copies. Almost all of the initial offerings so far listed are under 30K words. And honestly, $2.99 for 10K words seems utterly ridiculous to me. $4.99 for under 30K words$10 for 100K words? I mean, 100K words is a great story, but $10? Really?! While the stories are great and the idea behind the new press is admirable, with price points like that, I can’t see it getting very far.

Rachel Haimowitz’s Master Class is a fabulous (short) look at the beginning of a very intense BDSM relationship. It does an amazing job at getting at the psychology of both of the dominant/sadist and the masochist/submissive. I loved it. It was super-hot. It was super-intense and really heavy BDSM, but very well done. Review on release. Apparently I talked about this one last month. I’ve skimmed it since then too which is why it’s on this month’s list too. That’s how good it is.

 

Peter Hansen’s First Watch: Tentacles. This book comes highly recommended, but it’s got tentacles and I haven’t actually managed to get past the first scene with tentacles. I’ll let you know if I ever do. Just…tentacles!

Aleksandr Voinov Dark Soul Vol.1 is about the mob. And I love Voinov’s writing, but I really really REALLY have a problem with heroes who are part of a crime organization and have no intention of getting out of it. So…I’m having a hard time with this one too. No tentacles, just criminals.

Of the three Riptide books I’ve flipped through or read so far, the writing is exceptional, but the subject matter is very dark, very different. That could be a good thing and could gain the press a reputation very quickly. But I still think readers are going to balk at those price points.

I also received the Carina Press m/m holiday shorts. And OMG guys, these stories are amazing. Perfect novellas that tell wonderful heartwarming stories. More extended reviews on release for all of them.

K.A. Mitchell’s Christmas Proposition: Small town guy trying to keep his family Christmas tree farm afloat gets back together with former lover who owns a natural gas company. Told from only small-town guy’s perspective, but you see the vulnerability of both characters. And groveling on BOTH sides. :) Wonderful, as always.

Harper Fox’s Winter Knights is a ghost story about Gavin, a man whose Catholic lover Piers breaks up with him because Pier refuses to come out to his family and Gavin had issued an ultimatum. Gavin then meets some ghosts who save his life and help him find his way back into a better relationship with Piers. What I LOVED about this story was how Gavin and Piers’ relationship was actually bad for both of them and they both learn how to improve it in order to find their way back to each other. For how short the book is, it’s brilliantly constructed and I loved the characters.

Josh Lanyon’s Lone Star was like a What If? story: What if a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger fall in love? Except they fell in love before they were a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger and get back together right when both their careers are taking off and that’s the barrier between them. It’s a cute story but I didn’t 100% believe that their careers wouldn’t pull them apart again.

Ava March’s My True Love Gave To Me is the historical of the bunch. It starts the story when the two men are 19, very much in love, but one of them’s too scared to pursue the relationship and runs away to America, away from his own feelings and his lover. Four years later, he’s back, determined to win his lover back. Much MUCH groveling ensues and there’s an utterly black moment when all hope is lost. I love stories in which one character has to admit how much wrong he’d done and the other character seriously has to just…forgive him.

These four stories from Carina were unbelievably good. They’ve done a brilliant job gathering these amazing writers together for these novellas.

L.A. Witt’s The Distance Between Us and The Closer You Get are two books that follow a couple through a threesome in the first book and then the third of the threesome in the second. TDBU is about a couple who have broken up but are stuck living with each other because they can’t offload the house they bought together. They bring in a roommate and both end up sleeping with the roommate, then sleeping all three together. This allows the couple to work through their issues so that they can get back together. TCYG (releasing in November) tells the story of the roommate, a self-described slut, who goes out with the friend of one of his lover’s daughters. His blind date is a virgin and they slowly figure out how to fit together, with the help of the characters from the first book. I adore Witt’s writing — love love love it. And these books are just about characters falling in love, getting past their own emotional barriers, and finding their way to each other better than ever before. Wonderful. I’ll review both when TCYG releases.

Distance Between Us: Goodreads | Amazon  | nook

The Closer You Get: Goodreads | Amazonnook

Kari Gregg’s I, Omega was so full of WTF that I honestly don’t know if I can bring myself to read it again to review it. Three months ago, Gabriel had been bitten by a werewolf who fucked him and he’s been on the run ever since. Even though he wants desperately to be with this werewolf, he’s terrified of him too. The werewolf finds him, fucks him, and kidnaps him, taking him back to the pack’s house. He forces Gabriel into a heavily D/s relationship, collaring him and tattooing him without Gabriel’s permission, waiting for Gabriel to give his final surrender, but he never TELLS Gabriel anything. And he won’t let anyone else tell Gabriel anything. So a lot of the conflict in the book comes from Gabriel’s fear and mistakes because of his utter ignorance. It made me NUTS! It’s the total and direct opposite of Safe, Sane,and Consensual. And the sex wasn’t even that hot.

Goodreads | Amazonnook

I read S.A. Reid’s Something Different twice through, the second time right after the first time. It was a self-pubbed book sent to DA for review. I *loved* it. Review here.

Goodreads | Amazon | nook

I’m flipping through a few other books, not actually settling down to read anything because (1). I have a book I really need to review, and (2). I’ve got craploads of grading to do. I’m skimming through an ARC of Sarah Wendell’s EIKAL until I can get my hands on a paper copy. I’m having a lot of fun with it (and feel extremely honored to be quoted twice, so can’t really comment on it further with too much impartiality — see how easily I can be bought?). J.L. Merrow’s Wight Mischief – I adore Merrow’s voice. I’m about 10 pages in and love it so far, of course. Cara McKenna’s Curio – another story about a prostitute. This is the only m/f romance on this whole post. Looking forward to it. Lynn Lorenz’s Bayou’s End – I enjoyed the first story in this series, but I’ve read the introduction to this one and was seriously unimpressed with the writing, so I’ll probably skip through the rest of it and see if there’s anything worth reading.

So, anyone else reading any good m/m that I’ve missed? Any prostitute/sex worker stories that I’ve missed?

What Jaclyn Is Reading, September 2011

What Jaclyn Is Reading, September 2011

I read a lot in September, like holy-guacamole a lot. There is a letterpress broad side on the wall of my office with a quote from Erasmus that reads, “When I get a little money I buy BOOKS; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” I think Erasmus and I would have understood one another. I wonder if he would have enjoyed reading romances?

Curio by Cara McKenna. Over in Twitter-land Ms. McKenna’s story, Willing Victim, was much discussed earlier in the year. Since I read it last December I’ve gone on to read about two-thirds of Ms. McKenna’s backlist. There’s something that I find so compelling about her books, even when I don’t really like the stories themselves. When I read Skin Game, which I did not like—it read like a series of character sketches set amidst a weird Survivor-like game—I finally understood that Ms. McKenna writes her characters with so much compassion and clarity; she treats them with respect and they shine regardless of what’s going on in the story. Back to Curio. Didier is a former model turned prostitute who is patronized by Caroly, a 29-year-old virgin who wishes to finally have sex. The story is told over five encounters as they begin to form a friendship and become lovers. Ms. McKenna is masterful at using the sexual encounters of her characters to further the emotional drama she’s woven and I continue to be utterly compelled by her books. Curio has a hope filled HEA and I was charmed.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Summons: A Goblin King Prequel by Shona Husk. The pissy reviews on Amazon made me want to read this. A couple readers were bugged that this is essentially a short lead in—more like a prologue—to the book, Goblin King. I find these little shorts are a great way to sample if I like the characters and the author’s writing style. I’m glad I read this before reading Goblin King because the start of that book made more sense for having read this.

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Goblin King by Shona Husk. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Goblin King features and heiress trying to escape her abusive, black-mailing, cheating boyfriend and some sort of Celtic warrior cursed by a Druid. I generally like these stories where the heroine grows a pair and tells her abusive boyfriend where to stick it before finding love with a decent guy. The story wanders in places which led me to skim read from time to time and the police were very sympathetic to the heroine despite the evidence that has been used to blackmail her for a couple of years. Basically some of the plot points are too convenient. But the love story is sweet and the angst lasts until the final five pages.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Taken by the Cowboy by Julianne MacLean. Oh time travel, you offer so many opportunities for wacky stories. Heroine is in car accident, flung back in time, mistaken for a gun-slinging badass, meets a fellow time-traveler, falls for the Sherriff (and vice versa), is accused of murder, and wants to find a way to get back home. Some of the events are too convenient; for instance, she meets a fellow time-traveler who just happens to be the attorney she demands after being jailed? Really? Uh-huh. At times I just wasn’t compelled to keep reading and I picked up a couple other books while meandering through this one, but I did finish it and found the ending bittersweet. I’d be curious if others who’ve read this also read Jude Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armor and what you thought of the endings in comparison to one another. I hate with stabby-eye-rays-of-death the ending of KISA; Taken by the Cowboy doesn’t evoke that sort of strong hateration but like KISA, it’s tinged with sadness.

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Bound to the Prince by Deborah Court. Ms. Court emailed Dear Author asking if anyone wanted to review her book. I like fae stories so I bought a copy and started reading. I’m about 2/3 of the way through this book and just not sure if I’m going to continue. The heroine is a doormat and the story is bloated. I kept thinking it needed a ruthless substantive edit to remove extraneous scenes that probably don’t feel extraneous to the author but bogged down the pace and caused my attention to wander. There’s something not bad buried in here, but I’m just not sure it’s worth the time of skimming through the bloat to find it. DNF for now.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Future Tense by Carolyn Jewel. I’m a glom reader for the My Immortals series. I like that demons are the “good” guys, it fits my philosophy that in life there’s often no clear demarcation between good and bad, we’re all constantly moving on the gray spectrum; sometimes we’re better or worse than others. One of the things about paranormals in general that I like (and in sf and fantasy, too) is the mythology that comes with the world-building. What these people believe in fascinates me. I hope Lys, the heroine, shows up in future books, I’d like to see what happens with her witchy power of connecting to the future—the ending of this short story left me with a lot of questions.

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Good Girls Don’t by Victoria Dahl. Ms. Dahl shatters my heart with pretty much every book, and she does it while delivering humor, insight, drama, and love. Tessa and Luke both have Issues. Their lives collide when Tessa’s family business is vandalized and police detective Luke is sent to investigate. Tessa’s manic drive to keep her family together was emotionally wrenching. I felt her fear and despair when she thought it was all unraveling around her.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl. I often hear women say ‘it’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for’, but Jamie Donovan proves that the smooth, easy-going, laughing ones might have hidden depths, too, if you bother to look. Olivia is a woman finally breaking out of the mold created by her parents, and then her controlling husband. Watching a shy/repressed/timid lady evolve into a woman of confidence (whether it’s quiet or brash confidence) is something I like best about romance novels.

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To Tempt a Scotsman by Victoria Dahl Yeah, so I maybe glommed on Ms. Dahl’s books in September. Lucky me. J I hated the hero for a good part of this book. What a dumbass. The heroine is a woman of intelligence and courage and she deserves better than she got from all the men in her life; it all worked out in the end and as long as the hero doesn’t revert to his dumbassery then I’m happy for the heroine to get her HEA with her hero. But by God he had better spend the rest of their lives proving he’s worthy of her. Humph.

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I froth at the mouth waiting for the next time I can have my heart smashed to pieces and put back together by Victoria Dahl. I’m already getting a little manic for Real Men Will. Only a couple weeks to go. Alas.

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Trouble in Paradise by Susan Connell. I came across this book while scrolling through page after page of books online. It’s a breezy, entertaining, sexy story set in a Central American rainforest. I enjoyed it but I never became wrapped up or emotionally invested in the characters.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Silver Shark (Kinsmen Series) by Ilona Andrews. I’m fascinated with this world Ms. Andrews has imagined. The characters are part of a rare group of humans known as psychers—they live as much in a mental world (accessed through technology, I imagine sort of like in the Matrix) as they do in the physical world. Claire, the heroine, is hiding her true identity and enormous power in the wake of a war that her side lost. When she’s transported to another planet she continues to hide for fear that she’d be deported or executed if discovered. She’s hired by Venturo as his secretary and events conspire to reveal Claire’s true identity leaving Venturo with a dilemma about what to do with Claire. I hope there are more Kinsmen books coming.

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When in Rio by Delphine Dryden. Jack and Katie work together, in fact, he’s her boss. And on a business trip to Rio he becomes her Dom, though Jack is mostly into the D/s thing for the spanking. If we set aside the problem of doing the horizontal mambo with your boss, then this is a satisfying emotional story about two people who’ve grown to respect and admire one another over two years of close association and have decided to add sex and emotional intimacy to their relationship. At the end, when their fledgling couple hood is tested by Jack’s past I found myself irritated by the assumptions Katie made and the very easy resolution to the misunderstanding. But overall this was a good story about friends becoming (kinky) lovers. (Reviewed by Jane here)

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh. Janine has already reviewed this for Dear Author. I bring it up only because the more time passes since I’ve read this book the more dissatisfied I become with the truth about Honor’s identity and Dmitri’s evolution through the story. The violence is staggering and I just don’t see how the woman Honor is today and the woman she once was meld into a unified whole. At the same time I don’t know if I believe that Dmitri loves Honor—that is, the woman she is today. I might need to read this again; certainly I can’t stop thinking about it.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Angels of Darkness by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Sharon Shinn. I’m writing a review of this for Dear Author.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Believe it or not, dear readers, there are more, but this is probably more than enough for this post, yes? Have you read any of these? Did you like/dislike them? I hope someone has read Curio and will tell me if they found Didier and Caroly as compelling as I did.

Happy reading,

Jaclyn