GUEST REVIEW: Ember and Like a Thief by Bettie Sharpe
This special guest review is from author Sherry Thomas. You’ll want to read the entire thing down to the end because Sherry and I are sponsoring a pay it forward Bettie Sharpe giveaway. You see, Bettie Sharpe gave away a fantastic retelling of the Cinderella story. Only we got it in drips and drabs, one installment a week on the blog of Dionne Galace.
But it was so good that I think everyone was salivating for Bettie’s release from Samhain. I suspect that Bettie is bound for New York. You heard it here first. (okay, maybe not here first since I think any number of people said that on Dionne’s blog).
Dear Ms. Sharpe,
Brace yourself. I’m going to French-kiss you-‘I’m talking about serious, messy, slobbering tonguing-‘and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop at just that.
I’ve railed on my blog that although romance is largely a genre by women for women, there is a lack of memorable heroines that almost rivals that of Hollywood action flicks. This is, of course, one picky woman’s opinion. But I don’t think I’m at all alone in it. Romance, in its current state, is men-centered, full of matches between larger-than-life heroes and very nice but no-more-than-life-size heroines.
While I can enjoy that match-up as well as anyone, being a very nice, no-more-than-life-sized suburban soccer mom in real life, I’ve come to realize that deep in my heart, I don’t want to be a good girl and never have. My fantasy is to be the baddest motherfucking woman that ever lived, like Queen Elizabeth I, a woman who wields tremendous power with ease and surety and harshness when necessary, and who yet is respected, admired, and even loved. And if QE1 had had a worthy man to warm her bed nightly, why then, the fantasy would be complete.
You write my fantasies–my complete fantasies.
There is no other way to put it. I don’t know how you do it. It is as if you heard all the vague moaning and rattling in my head, laughed, and said "No, sweetie, pie, this is what you fucking want."
And like the limp and sore but oh-so-happy heroine in a ménage story who’d just experienced the man-sandwich for the very first time, all I can say is, "Fuck me again, Bettie."
Oh, I guess readers would want a synopsis or two here. This is Bettie’s own introduction to Ember.
Everyone loves Prince Charming. They have to-‘he’s cursed. Every man must respect him. Every woman must desire him. One look, and all is lost.
Ember would rather carve out a piece of her soul than be enslaved by passions not her own. She turns to the dark arts to save her heart and becomes the one woman in the kingdom able to resist the Prince’s Charm.
Poor girl. If Ember had spent less time studying magic and more time studying human nature, she might have guessed that a man who gets everything and everyone he wants will come to want the one woman he cannot have.
Charm is a curse. Love is a fire. This story is no fairytale.
Ember is Tanith Lee on acid. It’s the bestest, baddest take on the Cinderella story and turns every last familiar element on its head with a "Ha!" and a fuck-you. One of my favorite such moments happens at the meeting of Ember and the Stepmother.
She paused when she saw me, and I couldn’t blame her. I knew what I looked like-‘my cold expression, my red hair and freckled skin, my angry black eyes smoldering like hot coals. Her eyes flicked to the torches flanking our door, noting, I am sure, the way the flames yearned toward me though the wind urged them in the opposite direction.
Her face tightened beneath its faÃ§ade of paint. Her white-powdered hand wavered on the verge of greeting me. In that moment, she realized my father’s tales of an innocent, biddable daughter were spun from the same wishful imagination that had let him believe her to be a noblewoman, and to believe the two hard-eyed whores (scarcely a decade her junior) who peered out of the carriage behind her were her daughters.
"Step-mamÃ¡!" I greeted her, taking her shoulders and kissing her powdered cheeks.
My lips came away white with a mixture of lead and lard, but it was worth it for the expression of surprise that crossed her face. When my father wasn’t looking, I wiped my mouth on the cuff of my velvet sleeve.
And it gets even better when the Stepmother and the Stepsisters, frightened of Ember’s power, tells her they would leave.
"Leave?" I said. "But my father needs a wife. The Old Wives say sheep dogs are descended from wolves, and the best thief takers were once thieves, themselves. You know how gullible my father can be, for you gulled him. Who better to look after him than one who knows his weaknesses?"
My new stepmother opened her mouth to protest, but the fire flared in anger at her interruption. She snapped her jaw closed and let me speak.
"Sylvia’s potion must be made and taken by the month. The price of my help, dear Stepmother, is that you stay."
"But I saw your sour face at the sight of us. You don’t like courtesans."
I laughed and every flame in the room danced with joy at the sound of it. "You mistake me, Sister. Whores are the better part of my business. A witch who shuns the custom of whores and courtesans will be a pauper. No. I dislike liars and cheats. I dislike deceivers and dissemblers.
"Now that the air is clear between us, I like you just fine. My father needs a wife, and as long as you care for him and do not cuckold him with other men, we shall get along as well as he imagined."
As I had predicted, we got along quite well.
Ember is a witch, not a nice one, but a true one, with a fundamental sense of fairness you could only hope that anyone wielding a large amount of power would possess. She is what she is, she loves as she is, and her love is as full of flaws and fascinating and dangerous as herself. She is, without a doubt, one of the best heroines (protagonists) I’ve ever read, anywhere. And the prince, he is every asshole Prince Charming you’ve ever wanted to bring to heel, and then some. And he comes to heel in the most satisfying way here.
And by the way, Ember is a free story. It was first serialized at Bam’s blog. And now available to be read online or downloaded in pdf at your website. How can anyone beat that?. An A+, for the orgasmic reading experience it was.
Like a Thief in the Night is not free, but that’s fine. I was very happy to pay my $3.50 ($3.15 in fact) for it, so as not have to go through ten long weeks, counting down the days till the next Thursday to read the next installment.
She’s a heartless assassin; he’s an immortal thief. In another life, they would have been lovers. In this one, he’s her target and she’s his prize.
Somebody would have a fit reading this story. It’s sex, violence, more sex, more violence, even more sex, and even more violence. And such language as would have fainted an entire population of Victorian ladies and exhausted the world’s supply of smelling salt. In Ember, the word "cunt" was thrown about like firecrackers at Chinese New Year. In Thief, you even used the word "twat". I believe I choked on my dinner at that and read on with even greater glee.
I love that Arden is a heartless assassin, truly a bad, bad, bad girl–and omg she likes sex too, looks for it, in fact, when she’s not killing. And I love that she’s finally come up against a man she can’t kill. And he’s caught her and is holding her in a super-secret, super-inescapable location. Mandatory sex, anyone?
I love the way Arden sees herself.
And how screwed up was she to check out the man who had stripped her naked and tied her to a chair in his basement? The answer to that question was all too obvious. She killed people for a living; she was a very sick girl. She would just have to add this newfound taste for high-stake bondage to her already long list of kinks.
And does she have kinks ever. Let me just say that though I’m not such an innocent girl at heart, this story had a good several "Holy shit!" moments for me, as in "I can’t fucking believe Bettie Sharpe wrote that"-‘but in a good way, cuz I am obviously developing a taste for kink and sick and all that good shit.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s a pretty decent love story too?
Is it perfect? No. I would have liked for you to have explored the relationship more at length. And I thought the SF/fantasy aspects were slightly pat, in the sense that they made things too easy for our protagonists at certain points. But perfection is such a pale, silly standard before the force and vitality of your writing. A-
Your talent burns like a star gone supernova. I love your lean, potent prose. I love your bad-to-the-core and yet still-worth-loving characters. And I love your take-no-prisoner voice.
And I love how I feel when I read you: like someone finally understands me, understands the rotten, crazy, bad, bad, bad girl that I am at heart and loves me all the same. The. Best. Fantasy. EVA!
And because I love it so, and because you first instilled the idea of pay-it-forward in me, I’m going to buy three more copies of Like a Thief in the Night and give them away to three commenters to this post. Jane’s Note: I liked this book too and would be willing to chip in 3 more books
Let the fun begin. And I look forward to a long, and illustrious career from you, young lady.
P.S. And I just love that my spellchecker had no suggestions to offer when it came to the word "motherfucking".
Very Important Notice: I would like readers of this blog to know that my normal writing voice is as serene, radiant, and unsullied as a Renaissance Madonna. The tone of this post is entirely Bettie Sharpe’s corrupt influence. Oh, fuck me again already, Bettie.
Don’t enter me in the drawing, because I already bought (and reviewed) my own copy. I just wanted to add a hearty HELL YEAH! to Sherry’s review. Bettie is one of the freshest new voices to come along in a long time, and I adore her lack of shame and willingness to go where no one else dares.
So….you’re saying you liked it? ;-)
Don’t enter me in the drawing. You sold me.
Off to buy a copy.
O please, please please include me in this drawing! Pleeeeeeeeeese! If I have to read about the deflowering of some witless innocent again (what’s that looooong pointy thing -I don’t think it will fit but o so surprised and delighted when it does!) I will barf! Of course I could stop reading romances -hah! That’s the addict in me talking and lying to all my friends and relations….I’ll never stop reading this stuff -it’s like crack cocaine -once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. So this book sounds like a good sharp hit of the most excellent drug you can find -I’m tired of watered down drinks -give me the good stuff!
PS Love this blog!
You sold me as well! I’ll buy my copy today so don’t enter me either – I don’t delay gratification…Lucy
I don’t need to be entered in the contest, I’ve read LATITN about ten times already, *wink*. But can I say, this is probably the best compliment evah:
What M. Lamb said.
I want–nay, NEED–that book!
Count me in!!!
Sounds really interesting. Great review.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ember, which I read during its serialization. I haven’t read Like a Thief in the Night but I intend to. (Please don’t enter me in the drawing.)
I loved Ember and Like A Thief in the Night is on my TBB list. Also, that cover art for Ember? Absolutely gorgeous.
Throw me in too. “Ember” rocked and this review slam on target. Bettie is the voice I’ve been craving.
Sounds really great! Count me in!
Ooooh, count me in! I read EMBER serialized and absolutely adored it. Off to download the PDF version now, for posterity and rereading.
Now there’s a review I can appreciate! I’m in!
Sounds like a winner! I loved ‘Ember’ and was sad to see it end, so I’m very much looking forward to reading ‘Like a Thief’.
I love your rants on this author, so certainly count me in. This sounds like a great read!
I’ll add an amen to this. Bettie is a standout talent.
May I enter the drawing too?
I also really liked Ember. Sharpe’s voice is unapologetically commanding (I love the fact that the tone of the review here reflects that!), and the writing was just a pleasure to read — so many turns of phrase in it that were at once surprising and fresh and also exactly *right.*
Another cool thing about Ember is that while waiting for each new chapter to be released, I started to get an understanding of what it must have been like for Dickens fans when his books came out in serial form. There’s something so marvelous about anxiously awaiting the release of the next installment — about turning the act of reading into a much-awaited Event.
It also got me thinking about the particular demands imposed on a book by serialization. Are there good books that would not read as well or retain my attention as closely if they were serialized? I’m still mulling this.
Anyway, I didn’t realize she had another book out. I’ll be buying it immediately, so please take my name out of the hat when it comes to the contest!
Oooh. Could I be in the drawing too? The books sounds awesome!
Note — please don’t enter me in the drawing. I’ve already bought, read, and loved Like a Thief in the Night.
Don’t enter me. I followed the serial, downloaded the pdf as soon as it was available and bought her debut first day out (but haven’t gotten round to reading it yet). I concur, Bettie is headed for NY, she’s got a shit load of talent and a fantastic voice.
Add me to the chorus of Bettie Sharpe fangirls. In fact, I just finished reccing her to another avid reader. I haven’t read Thief yet, but Ember blew me away. I’d sell my soul to write like that. The prose is lean, powerful and makes no apologies. The twist on a classic and well-known fairytale is brilliant and earthy. I loved all the characters equally. They were so human; each one complex in his/her own right, even if they only shared small moments on this brightly lit stage with the fantastic Ember.
I read a lot of books, and I can count on one hand (with a couple of fingers uncounted)the books, novel-length, novella or short-story by best-selling or new authors that equalled the punch and orignality of this short story. If New York doesn’t snap up this talented author, I’ll think there’s no hope for the publishing industry.
Ms. Sharpe, brava!!
I needed this reminder to go read Ember. I didn’t have time to read the on Bam’s blog….off to get the PDF now.
Can I just say this one of the best reviews I’ve ever read?! Ha ha. The Bettie Sharpe love is spreading and changing the world, one bad girl at a time.
I fell in love with Ember too. Her writing is just amazing in the way it creeps in and says EXACTLY what we were thinking and thought we COULDN’T say. Then Bettie’s like, why the hell not? LOL Love it.
:D I’m ashamed to say I haven’t gotten LATITN yet, mainly because of sucky payroll. I’d love to be added to the drawing. Either way, I’m getting this book. Bettie’s like heroine. I’m too addicted now.
First: Would love a copy
Second: The minute someone mentions fairy-tale, I’m in, be it Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty (Ann Rice anyone?) or Beauty and the Beast.
This post reminds me of how much I loved that movie from 1997–Snow White, a Tale of Terror with Sigourney Weaver. Instead of falling for the prince (who is sleeping with Sigourney Weaver) she falls for one of the dwarves.
Very excited about reading this online e-book. Thanks for the very entertaining review!
I love the warnings on the Samhain website for this book and will be reading it either way, but winning it would be awesome.
Don’t put me in the drawing, but I have to add that Ember is pure genius. Haven’t read the new one, but I’m going to.
Those who haven’t read Ember… oh, you’re so missing out.
For the first time ever, I bought a book based solely on the reader advisory warning on the MBaM site and it was this one. I couldn’t resist a book written by the person who’d written that warning. *g* I need to go and find Ember, too.
(So don’t enter me, either.)
Your review got me; I havn’t read a romance novel since I was in grade 9, but this intrigues me totally. I’ll toss my name in the hat.
I’ve always loved rewritten fairy tales and Ember sounds like a blast. Thanks for the review. :)
Angie, crossing her fingers for the drawing
Please don’t put me in the drawing because I already purchased LATITN because I too simply adored Ember. Each week I waited, slobbering copiously, panting for the next installment. (I haven’t read it yet–damn my selfish new baby.)
And Sherry? I’m sorry but Bettie won’t be able to fuck you again–she’ll simply be too tired after I get done with her. [/girl crush] (I too would never talk like this in “real life.” I’m a mother now for fuck’s sake.)
Okay, i just couldn’t wait after hearing everyone squee about this one, so i just d/l’d it. So you can take me out of the hat. going away to read now…
Great review. If I don’t get a freebie, I’ll shell out the money for it.
Sherry, you made me laugh out loud
It’s true. The excerpt of Private Arrangements on your site is so elegant and intriguing, which makes all your cussin’ up in here that much more delicious. ;)
Sherry & Jane, thanks for the review and the Pay it Forward contest. Commenters above, thanks! I’m floating. :D
I just wanted to add that I loved Ember (and definitely this review). But don’t count me in, I’m already purchasing LATITN.
Wow…sounds like both stories are must reads! Enter me into the draw!
Ok, I’m giving the eBook a try . . .
Don’t enter me in the drawing! Writing this amazing deserves my money! AND OMG THOSE COVERS ARE FUCKING AMAZING. I wish the romance novels in bookstores looked like that.
I anxiously clicked back and forth to BAM’s blog every Thursday waiting for the next installment of Ember. Then when the story was completed, downloaded the pdf file to reread again.
I must say Bettie that I love your writing style, voice or whatever it is called. In all honesty, as much as I enjoyed reading Ember, I was sad when it was over … nothing new from Bettie coming up the next week.
I hope you never stop writing and sharing your unique stories with the world.
Please enter me in the draw – sounds like some great reads! If I miss it, I may just have to buy them myself ;)
Btw, I love DearAuthor, you guys are the best!!
Damn you romance/erotica writers. “Just try it” you say “It’s not all weak, perfect women, falling for controlling, perfect men”. And now I had a freakin’ list of books I need to buy as-soon-as-it’s-february-and-I-have-my-book-allowance-back. Its like you all have planted squiggly parasites under my skin and they’re multiplying and hormonally inducing me into reading more. Yeah, that’s gotta be it. I mean, I don’t really like these do it? (Pssst, enter me in for the book. Please please please!)
Isn’t that an oxymoron? :P I hate controlling men. I don’t like doormats, but hate control freaks.
Did Bettie make you an addict, Michelle? I swear, some people on Bam’s blog were comparing her to crack.
After the great review and comments, I’m interested in reading this too!
I was undecided on buying Like a Thief in the Night, because I don’t read many e-books, and I wasn’t sure about the paranormal hero. This in spite of the fact that I really enjoyed Ember.
But you’ve sold me – I will take the plunge. And Sherry, I love what you have to say here:
…because a lot of my favorite books *are* flawed, but the flaws don’t mean shit in light of the gorgeous writing (I crave gorgeous writing above all things; well, that and interesting characterization). OTOH, I’ve read a few books that felt technically perfect but still weren’t keepers for me, because they were just a little flat. I prefer messy but beautiful over neat but dull, every time.
OK, I finished Ember and it was great — funny and snarky and barrelling right along. I liked her handling of the magic, too. Great book, gonna get Thief in the Night next.
And I’m ready for the sequel about Snow White. :)
This has to be the best review I have read in, well…I do believe, never. I can’t wait to read both of these stories.
Please, please count me in. I just spent a delightful hour reading Ember and can’t thank you enough for giving me a new author to love.
Reading Ember right now, and stuffing a pillow into my mouth to keep from squealing like Pig-Girl!, thus to prevent alarming my lovely S.O.
Count me on on that drawing, if you would please!
Between my addiction to Ember, and Ann Aguirre’s raving blog review of Like a Thief in the Night, I had already added it to my “Decadent Desires” list, even though I don’t normally like Sci-fi. I just can’t pass up a chance to get to know a character unlike any I’ve ever met before and who resonates so strongly with those of you that have already read the book.
But now, after LMAO while reading Sherry’s no-holds-barred review, I want it even more! So, yes, please enter me in the drawing!
Don’t enter me either. I just picked up the other book and now am reading Ember. The only word that comes to mind is brilliant. Write faster Bettie, I can feel addiction’s monkey settling firmly on my back.
I LOVED EMBER best damn short story out. I have to say Bettie has wowed me from day on and continues to. Not to mention she is the nicest person! So I’m in. If I don’t win from here my goal was to buy it anyway. YEAH for Bettie congrats and I can’t wait for the other books on her blog word counts!
If you enjoyed this review, you might want to read my…my…
Darn, I don’t write anything else in this voice.
Maybe I should get started. :-)
Contest is closed. The following winners will be send Samhain GC’s. You are on your honor system to buy the Sharpe book.
40 – Caitie
11 – KCfla
33 – SusanL
43 – KCO
48 – R.
23 – Joy
You see what happens when I go to sleep? You guys have a kick-ass contest and I miss out.
Sherry – best review EVA!
Bettie – You seduced me too. Off to buy your book for myself.
SQUEEEEE!!! I never win anything lol
I’d like to thank the academy for honoring me with this award ;)
Since the readers here enjoy re-tellings and Bettie probably can’t keep up with demand, I highly recommend picking up pretty much any book by Gregory Maguire. I completely dislike LFB’s THE WIZARD OF OZ (Dorothy and her gang grated on my nerves and I really wished the witch had gotten Toto), but Maguire’s WICKED enthralled and enchanted me with his world-building and, more importantly, his take on good and evil.
If I could write a half-decent review, I’d submit one to Jane for the “My Favorite Things” series.
OOH, thanks so much for the coupon! I can’t wait to read this.
I never win anything- Thanks!
* blink *
* blink, blink *
I won? Spiff! I’m off to fetch another pillow! Uh, yeah — Pig-Girl! devoured the last one.
*koff* [feathers, everywhere]
If I don’t win, I think I’ll have to go out and get myself a copy. Either way, I can’t wait to read it!
Caitie, KCfla, and SusanL,
I’ve sent your Samhain GCs to the e-mail addresses you provided. I hope you enjoy.
Yay! So excited to notice the GC in my email just now. Thanks so much – never actually gotten around to reading ebooks to this point *blush* even though I’ve meant to many a time – looking forward to it!
Thanks again :)
Sherry- thank you!
For those who didn’t win, you can still get the book for the bargain price of $3.15 today at My Bookstore and More ;) Tomorrow, the new books release and the book will go to the full price of $3.50 (still a bargain though!)
Congrats to the winners! One way or another, I’m getting this one as soon as I can.