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Maya-Banks

REVIEW: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks

REVIEW: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks

Dear Ms. Banks,

Your erotic romances don’t really work for me. I’m not a fan of the one wife for four brothers scenario, and I tried a few others and they fell flat. When I heard you were coming out with a Highlander trilogy that was going to be a different kind of ‘Banks’ story, I was intrigued. I’m happy to say that this worked for me much better than your erotic romances, but I still have some hesitation on recommending In Bed with a Highlander.

In Bed with a Highlander by Maya BanksIn Bed is the story of Mairin Stuart, bastard daughter of now-dead King Alexander of Scotland. She’s been hidden away in a convent for the past ten years to keep her safe. Her father bequeathed a large tract of land to her and so whoever marries her will inherit. This makes her a prize, and one unscrupulous laird steals her from the convent, intent on making her his bride. Mairin escapes his clutches and ends up in the arms of Ewan McCabe, a rival laird and the hero of our story. Ewan finds out Mairin’s parentage and so to keep her safe, and to keep her inheritance in his grasp, he marries her. Soon enough, Mairin is trying to make her place in McCabe’s clan, and all the while her life is threatened by mysterious saboteurs.

While this book started out strongly, I had some real concerns. I’m one of those people that likes historical accuracy. I’m not saying that every cup, cheese, and type of fabric must be historically accurate or it drives me insane, but I have read enough historicals that I know the basics. I expect you to know the basics, too.

This book? Not historically accurate in the slightest. A specific year is not mentioned in the story, but it takes place about ten years after King Alexander of Scotland is dead, and King David is on the throne. A quick check on wikipedia shows that this is likely close to 1134 Scotland. Okay. That’s about as close as we come to historical accuracy, however. The highlanders in this book dress in ‘colors’, and they wear braids in their hair like Braveheart. All the highlanders live in stone castles, which weren’t really common at that time in history. There’s a castle ‘skirt’ mentioned repeatedly and I’m not really sure what that is. I couldn’t find it on google or wikipedia anywhere.  At one point, the heroine puts on a dress with the hero’s coat of arms. There are modern phrases and dialogue peppered everywhere.

I must therefore conclude that this is taking place in fantasy Scotland. You know, like the place that Julie Garwood’s Scottish historicals take place. Several of the reviews on Amazon commented on how much this felt like a Julie Garwood book, and I have to agree.

If the plot and setting sound like they’re straight out of the Julie Garwood playbook, that’s because it felt like it too. The dialogue was patterned after Julie Garwood books (“twas the truth” and characters saying “aye” to themselves repeatedly). The historical accuracy feels the same. The plot feels like a mix of ‘The Bride’ and ‘The Secret’. After a while, it bothered me because it felt more like a creative reimagining of Julie Garwood than Maya Banks.

The heroine was grating at times. She’s a “so innocent but charming” heroine straight out of Garwood territory. She has an ‘adorable’ habit of talking to herself internally, except she’s actually blurting the words out loud. And like Garwood heroines, she’s a martyr who gets beat up repeatedly for the sake of plot and for the hero to realize how precious she is to him. At one point, she’s shot by an arrow and doesn’t realize it. How can you not realize you are shot by an arrow, I ask? It doesn’t pass right through the body – the fletching gets in the way of that sort of thing.

This sounds unfair, but Banks does a lot of things right in this book. It’s a light, fun historical. I found myself smiling at some of the dialogue. There’s no brogue, so if that drives a reader away from a lot of Scottish historicals, she might like this. The heroine grows into her sexuality and once she realizes that she can play with the hero as much as he wants to play with her, it’s fun to see them get together. The steam in this book is at a much more subdued level than most Banks’ books, so don’t expect anything outside of the normal historical romance mores.

The middle slumped to the point that I wondered if I’d be able to finish the book – it all felt like something I’d read a hundred times before – but the ending picked up nicely and the sequel for the next brother’s book is set up in a good way.

All in all, unoriginal but pretty fun. A grudging B-, maybe closer to a C+.

All best,

January

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Wednesday Midday Links: Maya Banks Trailer & Agency Publishers Sued

Wednesday Midday Links: Maya Banks Trailer & Agency Publishers Sued

First up is this trailer of Maya Banks’ Highlander series. Men in Kilts. It’s must watch YouTube. (It is also part of the auction that Maya Banks won in support of our blogger friend, Fatin, when she lost her husband in a senseless shooting. Tessa Dare put it together and it features, amongst other things, Men in Kilts. At least watch the opening sequence, won’t you?

*****

This seemed inevitable. Apple and five of the big 6: Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Macmillan, and Hachette are being sued.  Random House is the only one that is not and likely because it joined the agency party late, it’s hard to point the collusion finger toward them.  First noticed by Edward Nawotka at Publishing Perspectives and explored more in depth here.  I wrote back in the day

The economic history of a vertical price constraint always leads to higher prices. Even the Supreme Court didn’t rebut that in Leegin, instead it argued that in some cases, freeloading disincentivized quality service to consumers (noting that price isn’t the only thing in measuring whether anticompetitive behavior has a pro consumer result).

In books, however, as opposed to luxury goods or technology, there is no specialized training that a seller needs to sell a particular novel. Further, I don’t think any publisher could show that they engage in any kind of specialized service or training that the Leegin court talked about in overturning the 97 year old decision against RPM.

So, no, I would never be in favor of RPMs because they are decidedly anti competitive, create artificial pricing floors.

When all publishers go to the agency model wherein the publisher sets the price (and they will all move to that model now), and the retailer is not allowed to discount, there will be no trending downward of prices. It’s very possible that if all publishers move to the agency model (unless they can prove that it is, in truth, real agency relationships), I have some doubts whether the big 6 won’t face some action of violation the Sherman Act.

My thoughts are that collusion will be hard to sustain but it may succeed in proving a horizontal cartel by mutuality of action.  However, the Leegin decision did not rule out cases involving retail price maintenance, only made them very hard to prove.  What the big six are doing, however, isn’t exactly Agency pricing because their prices are bound by the rules Apple created.

Mark Coker, the owner of Smashwords, also put out the pricing guidelines, as required by Apple.   Even if you don’t have an iThing or plan to own one, Apple pricing scheme is being adopted by five of the Big 6 and will likely inform the prices at other retailers (this is one thing Amazon is fighting for – the right not to be outpriced by Apple).

Full right to price without Apple restrictions exists for:

  • Books that do not have a print equivalent.
  • Hardcover list prices that exceed $40 in print
  • Mass market or trade paperbacks list prices that exceed $22

For Mass Markets or Trade Paperbacks

  • For any book with a print equivalent list priced at $22 or less, the cap is $9.99
  • This is for the first year only
  • After the first year, price can be anything UNLESS APPLE DEEMS IT UNREALISTIC

For Hardcovers

  • Anything under $22.00 is capped at $9.99
  • $22.01-$24.00, the maximum ebook price is $10.99;
  • $24.01-$25.00 is $11.99;
  • $25.01-$27.50 is $12.99;
  • $27.51-$30.00 is $14.99;
  • $30.01-$35.00 is $16.99;
  • $35.01-$40.00 is $19.99.

It is Apple that has decreed that books fall within certain guidelines and the publishers have followed them.  Thus, it isn’t actually the publishers who are setting the prices independently.  That may actually be the downfall of the publishers but probably not Apple.

I’ve written a few articles about the Agency pricing model:

The Publishing Perspectives piece also notes that the same law firm is looking at launching an ebook royalty class action suit, asserting that ebook royalties aren’t properly accounted for.

*****

Web Browsers for Kindle Web App

Amazon has launched a html5 web app for Kindle.  This is only useable on Chrome, Safari, and iPad.  It is NOT available for iTouch/iPhone users.  It does NOT have any way to organize your books.  It does NOT have any notes or highlighting features.  It DOES have syncing and a nice looking Amazon eBookstore.