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REVIEW: Taken by Selena Kitt

REVIEW: Taken by Selena Kitt

Dear Ms. Kitt,

This is a difficult review to write because I have conflicted feelings about the story. You’re a talented author with a compelling literary voice. Taken isn’t the raunchy smut I expected. Unfortunately, neither is it an “erotic ménage romance” as the Kindle edition clearly states.

Taken by Selena KittI checked out your backlist on a recommendation from a DA reader. Many of your stories feature content and situations that do not appeal to me, but competently written f/f/m is hard to find and I can’t afford to be choosy. I bought Taken because I thought it was a romance.

The story is told in first person by Lizzie, a telemarketer. It begins with some light-hearted banter between Lizzie and her boss, Sarah. Lizzie teases Sarah about one of their coworkers, David. He’s “older, practically old,” but hot. He carries a torch for Sarah and asks her out every weekend. To Lizzie’s consternation, Sarah always says no.
On this particular Friday, Sarah makes up the excuse that she and Lizzie are having a girls’ night. As soon as David is out of earshot, Sarah invites Lizzie over for real. They get caught in the rain and end up hanging out at Sarah’s apartment in their underwear. The dialogue between them is very natural and friendly, almost familial. Looking over it a second time, I found several references to their respective ages. Lizzie is 22 to Sarah’s mid30s. Twice, Lizzie says that Sarah “sounds like her mother.”

They have a comfortable evening together, compliment each other’s beauty, and have sex. Does that sound abrupt? It was. Although the scene is detailed and sensual, not rushed, I felt disconnected from the characters and disinterested in their encounter. There were no furtive glances, no hint of attraction between them. They just…went at it.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Sarah wakes Lizzie up to call home. Lizzie lives with her parents and Sarah doesn’t want them to worry. I found this scene jarring and indicative of a recurring theme that became problematic for me. May-December romances are not my favorite. Same with boss-employee. Lizzie’s lack of independence, paired with Sarah’s nurturing touch, gave me a strange feeling. And not the good, tingly kind.

So far this is an interesting, well-written story with no sexual tension and an age/maturity difference. But it’s not a romance, because Lizzie is not a romance heroine. She’s an inexperienced college student, trying to find herself. She has a steady boyfriend but she doesn’t give him a second thought when she sleeps with Sarah. Although I found her actions believable and realistic, I didn’t like her.

Infidelity was an issue in the last story I reviewed so I picked a passage that highlights this theme and gives a taste of your writing style:

I couldn’t stop. Once we started, I just couldn’t stop. And I didn’t tell Tim. I tried, a few times, after one of our quick and fumbling encounters in the back of his Firebird, to tell him about the sweet and magical and amazing things I’d discovered with Sarah. I loved Tim—he was kind and thoughtful and he tried very hard to please me—but we’d been having sex for over a year and I still hadn’t once had an orgasm in his presence.

Since my relationship with Sarah began, I’d asked myself more than once if I might be gay instead of just bi…but my love for a hard cock and, more importantly, men, simply made that impossible. Still, I didn’t think of my relationship with Sarah as “cheating” on Tim. How could he compete? It was like apples and oranges. Where he was hard, she was soft—there was just no comparison to be made. They gave me such different things.

Sarah and Lizzie embark upon a torrid affair and do all sorts of naughty things in private and in public. Sarah uses toys to dominate Lizzie. The story veers into BDSM territory and I skimmed through the sex scenes. The D/s play served to exaggerate the elements I already felt uncomfortable with. Sarah adopts a stern tone, calling Lizzie “Elizabeth” and “good girl” a lot. Lizzie finds this exciting but doesn’t reflect on why. She’s more like a pliable plaything than a fully-developed person.

Sarah has better chemistry with David, who notices that the women have become special friends. If Lizzie had plotted to bring David into the bedroom for Sarah’s benefit, I might have found her character more appealing. But no. Lizzie makes the suggestion because she wants to come with a cock inside her and doesn’t think she can do it without Sarah.

Sigh.

***SPOILER***
[spoiler]We find out that both Sarah and David are divorced, and that fertility problems led to their broken marriages. This emotional reveal creates a bond between them. Sarah invites David home with her and Lizzie. I’m pretty sure he knows what he’s in for. Lizzie falls asleep on the couch, waking up to watch Sarah and David make love. This is the only scene I found truly sexy. When Lizzie joins them, it feels like an intrusion. David doesn’t complain, but there is no indication that he wants anyone besides Sarah.

They have a long three-way orgy and everyone is satisfied. Except me. At the end of the story, Lizzie has to go back to college. David rocks her like a baby while she cries. She breaks up with Tim and has no idea if David and Sarah stay together.
[/spoiler]***END SPOILER***

You’re a great writer and I enjoyed parts of Taken. But I didn’t care for the narrator and I felt robbed of the actual love story. David and Sarah’s first kiss happens off the page, Lizzie is a non-entity, and there is no happy ending. Without the paternal undertones, it might have been pretty hot. I’m not sorry I read this but it just wasn’t good for me. C-.

Best regards,

Jill

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REVIEW: Three to Tango by Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Emma Holly and Bethany Kane

REVIEW: Three to Tango by Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Emma Holly...

Oh dear. Yes, that’s what I said when I finished reading this book. During the various stories I also said the following: WTF!?, Shut UP!, No way…, and Huh?

Three to Tango is a collection of four novellas all featuring m/f/m ménages and the tag-line on the cover says “sex is best when it’s one-on-one … plus one”; this is a little misleading because while two of these stories are about ménage relationships, two are more love triangles where the third person causes angst and discord.

three to tango I picked this volume up because I’ve read and enjoyed Emma Holly’s books–this winter I went on an Emma Holly read-a-thon after a conversation with Dear Author’s Janet; I’ve also read Lauren Dane’s Inside Out, which I loved. I had never read anything by Megan Hart, though I’ve been meaning to, and Bethany Kane is a new-to-me author; I love reading collections of short stories, they are great during my short commute to work or for a quick read on an evening when I don’t have the energy to read for hours.

I was sitting in the airport, waiting to board a connecting flight on the way home from a short business trip and reading an advanced reading copy of Three to Tango when I emailed Jane to comment that this read a lot like a draft. Particularly Lauren Dane’s and Emma Holly’s stories struck me as less polished than other of their work that I’ve read.

Three to Tango suffers from two main problems:

  1. Unpolished writing.
  2. Absurd scenarios.

dirty/bad/wrong by Lauren Dane

This is the story of Ava, who returns to her hometown upon her mother’s death and comes face to face with men from her past, Luca and Angelo. Ava has mommy issues (her mother was a selfish alcoholic who slept with married men). Angelo has being gay issues. Luca’s issue is that Ava and Angelo have issues that keep them all from being together.

Of the four, this story has the most flow problems. Sometimes I was confused about the activity going on, and that distracted from the emotional arc of the story. Other times the writing felt unpolished. The story itself is has great emotional potential, but the writing kept dragging me out of it. Here are two examples (the story is full of other examples):

She hesitated as past and present swam in her vision, disorienting her with a wave of memory so very strong and sweet. Her first days there when Maryellen had ever so gently tapped her shoulder each time she found her looking at the floor.

The first sentence is overwritten. The second is confusing. In the context of the story flow we understand that in the second sentence Ava is remembering how Maryellen helped Ava during a difficult time in her life by showing her kindness and caring.

Here’s another example:

The downy trail of hair leading from his navel inside the waistband of his jeans led to places she’d never forget.

I understand this sentence. And in my opinion it’s overwritten. In the sentence before this one we learn that Luca is in jeans, so delete “inside the waistband of his jeans”. The trail of hair shouldn’t have “led” in the same sentence that it’s “leading”. How about this:

”The downy trail of hair led to places she’d never forget.”

The writing in dirty/bad/wrong feels rushed and it was examples like these that made me comment to Jane about draft-like quality of this book. I don’t recall the same feeling of rushed writing in Inside Out, which as I recall was an emotional, tight book with characters that I loved.

In the end, I found the story less than compelling because the overwritten, rushed writing kept grabbing my attention away from the emotional drama of the three characters. F.

Just for One Night by Megan Hart

This story is the bright spot in the anthology. In Just for One Night Kerry and Jeremy have been dating for a long time and live together, they’re happy and comfortable together, except that Kerry still fantasizes about her high school best friend Brian. Jeremy encourages her to sleep with Brian because the thought of his girlfriend having sex with another man turns him on.

What follows is a satisfying emotional journey where Brian and Kerry have their one-night stand, then realize they want more. While Brian and Kerry each sort out what they really want, Jeremy gets hot imagining them together in bed. Of the characters, Jeremy is the least interesting and I found his actions were thoughtless and short-sighted. This story engaged me, the writing was tight. B

Flipping for Chelsea by Emma Holly

What I like best about Emma Holly’s books is that she creates memorable characters that she treats with respect and care. But I absolutely did not buy into this story because I don’t for a minute believe Liam’s acceptance of being part of a ménage with his BROTHER and the love-of-his-life.

Shay (Seamus) isn’t Liam’s blood brother; however, they were raised together and both called the same people Mom and Dad, and ‘brother’ is how they think of each other throughout the story.

I understand why Liam loves Chelsea. I understand why Shay loves Chelsea. I understand why Chelsea loves Liam. I understand why Chelsea emotionally loves Shay, but I do not understand why Chelsea needs Shay in a sexual relationship. And I absolutely do not believe that Liam would agree to include Shay in the romantic and sexual relationship that might develop between him and Chelsea.

In the end this story didn’t work for me because it felt contrived, and I didn’t believe the characters actions. What really killed this story was when Liam made a revelation about a past relationship/encounter. I  absolutely did not believe it fit with the character I’d come to know throughout the story—this particular moment crashed the entire thing and reduced it in my mind to a gratuitous set up solely for the reader’s titillation rather than a true emotional journey of the characters. F.

On the Job by Bethany Kane

This story is tightly woven story with polished writing. In fact, if not for the ménage I’d probably have rated it a B, even with Walker’s crazy dominating wacko-ness. However, the occurrence of the ménage was such an absurd set up for a spanking (you messed with another dude? I’m going to punish you…even though I told you to do it) that it ruined all credibility of Walker’s character.

Walker and Madeline were in love until Walker joined the Secret Service in an effort to pull himself out of poverty and make something of his life. He comes back into Madeline’s life as her bodyguard, hired by her friend Tony to keep her safe. Tony has pissed off the Russian Mafia and thinks Madeline might be killed because he’s convinced everyone (except Madeline, who considers Tony a good friend and occasional fuck-buddy) that he’s Madeline’s finance.

Are you still with me?

Madeline and Walker come back together and have hot sexual encounters with Walker dominating Madeline and getting all possessive and telling her she’s his. Fast forward and they’re all on Tony’s yacht when Walker decides to spank Madeline for touching another man, then does an about face and tells Madeline to give Tony a blow job because he’s going to prison.

WTF?! Seriously. W. T. F.

Thankfully this was the last story. I am done with Three to Tango and just want to erase this book from my brain. F.

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