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hero in pursuit

REVIEW:  She’s Got Dibs by A.J. Nuest

REVIEW: She’s Got Dibs by A.J. Nuest

Dear Ms. Nuest:

I picked up She’s Got Dibs when it was free a few weeks ago, but then deleted it when the ebook opened to a dedication that made me think it would be a particularly heavy inspirational. Lesson learned. After I saw some enthusiastic discussion on Twitter, katiebabs was kind enough to lend it to me. I mostly enjoyed reading it, though not as much as she did.

dibsShe’s Got Dibs is most notable for its twist on the billionaire hero. Actually, two twists: Dibs (David Isaac Brenner) is not only a very sweet beta but — unusual realism — he’s not entirely in control of his money. His domineering family holds the purse strings to his charitable foundation, a fact that will lead to trouble.

The story is told from the point of view of events planner Tessa, who shares a steamy one-night stand with Dibs after they meet in an airport, then resolutely tries to shake him off. A very painful broken engagement has left her cynical and somewhat hysterical about love and relationships. Dibs pursues for awhile, then — again, a twist — actually gets the message and backs off. But when they wind up sitting next to each other on a plane, his hurt feelings burst out and an ashamed Tessa agrees they can be friends.

Since Dib’s idea of friendship is wining, dining, flowers, and caring for her every need, and he’s pretty darned hot, it’s not too surprising that Tessa finds herself falling for him against her will — which is, of course, exactly what he was aiming for. But things get complicated when both Dib’s disapproving parents and Tessa’s ex come into the picture.

This is the sort of story that inevitably brings the word “cute” to mind. For the first half, it was  fun to see Dib’s playful, semi-subtle wooing of Tessa, whom he nicknames Rex because of the way she attacks her food. Even if I didn’t entirely get why he was so into her, a hero with strong feelings who isn’t a controlling asshole is just kind of delightful to read about.  The book seemed overly long and there were a few editing errors, but since the storytelling was generally good, it was nothing I couldn’t overlook.

The second half of the story goes in a much angstier direction, and I started having some real issues with it. The prose began to feel over the top:

She longed for Dibs to arrive, needed the comfort of his arms, the soothing murmur of his voice in her ear. And at the same time, terror sizzled along her nerve endings each time she envisioned meeting his discerning gaze.

But there was no stopping the clock, and when the doorbell rang at five forty-five and she lifted her chin, a sob lodged in her chest, the weight of her decisions almost to much to bear.

Love shone like a ray of light on his face.

I also kept tripping over odd turns of phrase:

Cold steel hardened his gaze, and with the next stuttering heartbeat, grim reality sharpened every facet of the room down to one abhorrent truth.

And I started to get tired of the repetition. Tessa’s wangsting about how relationships always go wrong, Dib’s constant adoration, even the frequent references to his cologne got on my nerves.

But the kicker was when Tessa lied to Dibs when he most needed her honesty — practically gaslighting him — and not only was she hurt by his completely justified mistrust, but the lying was later framed as a virtue on her part, something she did for his sake.  That rocketed her into my heroine Hall of Shame.

I’m really torn on what to grade this, but because I was engaged for much of the book, I’ll potentially err on the higher side. C-

sincerely,

willaful

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In re Lisa Marie Rice/Elizabeth Jennings

In re Lisa Marie Rice/Elizabeth Jennings

Shadows at MidnightI am a glommer and if I find a book that I like, I usually go and purchase the backlist of that author.   This is particularly easy to do in this day of digital backlists.   It’s even easier if the author you are glomming is a epublished author as is the case with Lisa Marie Rice aka Elizabeth Jennings.   I had read LMR before, back in the day but neither Port of Paradise or Dangerous   Lover interested me enough to engage in the glom.   It took Shadows at Midnight by her alter ego Elizabeth Jennings (release date August 3, 2010). Over the past couple of weeks, I have read every Elizabeth Jennings and Lisa Marie Rice book that I could get my hands on.

Under the Elizabeth Jennings name are the titles: Homecoming (Cerridwen Press), Dying for Sienna (Cerridwen Press) and Pursuit (Warner). Under the Lisa Marie Rice name, I read the following titles: Midnight Man, Midnight Run, Midnight Angel (EC), Dangerous Lover, Dangerous Secrets, Dangerous Passion (Avon Red), Woman on the Run (EC), A Fine Specimen (EC). LMR/EJ wrote a few Precious Gems under the Elizabeth Jennings name but most have been re-purposed and released under her LMR handle.

I feel like a scholar of her work now. One of the dangers of glomming an author is by reading one author’s works close together, you start to see author tics or repetitive tendencies but I think it gives you a great sense of what kind of writer the author is and what kind of book you can expect. LMR/EJ does not have huge range but what she does well is very compelling.

Most all of the above stories begin with and are dominated by the hero’s point of view. The heroes are invariably of military occupation at some point except for Nick from Dying for Sienna who is a former hockey star but part of his plot arc is becoming a detective. None are active military during the courtship except for Bud in Midnight Run and Alex in A Fine Specimen. In those two cases, both are detectives.

The heroines are a bit more varied but often in fall into general categories of writer, painter, scholar or decorator. The heroines usually date male versions of themselves.

The men you were dating didn't excite you, sweetie. And how could they? They were you. In male form. Talking about the Century Theater playbill and the new Scorsese film and how beige is the new black. You don't need that. You get that from me and from Claire. You're such a feminine woman, Suzanne. You need the opposite. Someone yin to go with your yang. Someone to stir your juices. Someone-someone really-male."

Source: Midnight Man

The plots usually go as follows: Man meets woman. Man is in instant lust and somehow recognizes this lust is different than any other lust he has experienced before. Man sets out to make woman his. Woman recognizes this and responds. Woman becomes in jeopardy. Man uses past military skills to save woman and they live happily ever after. The outliers for this plot are Dying for Sienna and Homecoming.

Consistently the men like it rough but perceive the women to be too delicate for their uncontrollable lusts. Unfortunately, the man cannot hold it in his pants nor is he capable of any tender lovemaking, particularly in the beginning, because his lusts are simply too strong for him to bear.

Her breathing sped up as she looked at him and damned if he didn't swell a little, just from her eyes on him.

Oh Jesus, no-’his spine was tingling and his balls start to rise. This wasn't good. He was going to blow his wad the instant he got inside her. He'd done that too many times.

Alex recited a few sections of the Traffic Code in his head and dropped to his knees, taking his dick out of sight range.

"Oh." Caroline's startled gaze met his. She was surprised he wasn't jumping her bones. This wasn't good. He'd trained her to think that his erection meant instant fuck. Well, how was she supposed to know otherwise? It had been his MO up until now.

That had to stop.

Source: A Fine Specimen

Another type that is found in the LMR/EJ book is the hapless hero. Not inept, but hapless when it comes to the heroine:

She was one of those women who caught the light and gave it back with a glow. It was impossible not to look at her when she was in the room. At least Cooper found it impossible-which was why he was trying to concentrate on rusty pipes and leaky gaskets. Left to his own devices, he'd simply stop and stare at her endlessly. Probably scare the shit out of her, too.

The truth was, he'd fallen in instant lust with this Sally Anderson and now he had no idea what to do. He'd completely lost the knack of dealing with females. Human ones, at least.

Source: Woman on the Run

There is also a tendency toward repetition. If it was worth saying once, it is worth saying again sometimes exactly the same way and sometimes slightly different. The repetition happens not only in the books, but also across the books. For example, she used the phrase striations of muscle to describe the lean toughness of her heroes in more than one book:

The man was raw, naked male power. He didn't have the bulked-up muscles of gym rats or wrestlers. His muscles were lean, so stripped of fat she could actually see the striations of muscle tissue under the skin. She knew her anatomy and could see the muscles, one by one, how they fit over one another, worked together. He must put himself through incredible workouts to have muscles like this, deep and toned

Source: Dangerous Passion

Another descriptive phrase she likes to use is that the hero’s spine becomes liquified and that is the cause of all the semen he ejaculates.

It was as intense as hell and couldn't possibly last. When she gave a sharp cry and started climaxing, he shouted and thrust up into her in one last, hard jolt and exploded.

He had no idea how he had all that come in him, seeing as how he'd just climaxed. Maybe his spine melted and drained straight into his dick. Maybe he was using up all the liquid in his body and would dry up and blow away into dust.

Whatever.

Source: Dangerous Secrets

When Elizabeth Jennings/Lisa Marie Rice is on the top her game, her heroes are adorable, helpless in the face of their want for the heroine, and the heroine is savvy enough to know this but sweet enough not to abuse it:

he pulled her mouth away, a fraction of a inch. Just enough so she could form the word, but close enough for him to feel her breath. "Tree."

He looked down at her, face strained. His lips were suffused with blood and wet from her mouth. One big hand on her backside pulled her towards him as he ground against her. She fluttered inside, and looked helplessly up at him. "John." There wasn't any air in her lungs. The word came out more as a stirring of the air than a sound.

He arched his head away from her, neck tendons corded, jaws clenching. He looked at the ceiling for a long moment, and brought his head back down as he stepped back reluctantly, frowning. "You're going to use sex to get everything you want from me, aren't you?"

She didn't even have to think about it. "Yes."

"It works, damn it," he grumbled. He reached for his sheepskin jacket and stopped, pointing a finger at her. "I don't want you going anywhere," he growled.

Source: Midnight Man

At her worst, LMR/EJ books give off creepy misogynistic vibes. I could barely finish Dangerous Secrets because of that.

Obviously I enjoyed most of these books or I wouldn’t have continued the glom. When I was reading the Midnight series, her best in my opinion, I was reminded of the heydey of Ellora’s Cave and what that publishing house brought to the romance table. It wasn’t just sex for sex sake and the hotness of LMR’s books don’t rest in strange positions or multiple partners. The sexiness in these books start first in the hero’s head, then in the frankness of the language used to describe the sexual acts, and finally, in the utter abandonment the characters experience in each others’ arms. These were good, steamy romances. Over the next few weeks, I am going to try to review every LMR/EJ book I’ve read leading up to the August release of Shadows at Midnight but if you want to get started, I’d recommend the following:

  • Midnight Run
  • Woman on the Run
  • A Fine Specimen
  • Pursuit

I didn’t really enjoy the Dangerous series. The first one was a bit boring, the second featured a huge asshole, and the third had a arms dealer as the hero (calling Louis Ronsard).

Where to buy.   Almost all these books are at Amazon (also under Elizabeth Jennings) but the cheapest place to buy the EC books is, unfortunately, through Ellora’s Cave. I’d love to know what you think of LMR/EJ.