[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

Squee

Strawberry Summer

by Melissa Brayden
April 18, 2017 · Bold Stroke Books
GLBTRomanceContemporary Romance

NB: Please welcome Tara Scot with another squee-worthy review! Check out her previous squees of The Liberators of Willow Run and Courting the Countess.

Tara reads a lot of lesbian romances. You can catch her regularly reviewing at The Lesbian Review and Curve Magazine and hear her talk about lesbian fiction (including romance) on her podcast Les Do Books. You can also hit her up for recommendations on Twitter (@taramdscott).

If you were to ask me for a good place to start reading lesbian romance, Melissa Brayden would be at or near the top of my list. With almost 10 novels and novellas, her backlist is totally glommable without being daunting, and it’s full of fun, flirty dialogue, amazing kissing, and just enough angst to keep things interesting. Her book Kiss the Girl has been one of my very favourite romances since it came out a few years ago, and her latest offering, Strawberry Summer, is so damn good that it blows that whole backlist out of the water.

Margaret Beringer is so not one of the cool kids in her high school. If she can just stay unnoticed by her classmates and make it a few more weeks until summer break, she’ll only have one year left before she can take off for college. Courtney Carrington comes to her history class for the first time just as Margaret is about to give a presentation (the most terrifying of endeavors for a kid striving for invisibility) and somehow notices her. Courtney doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal to jump the popularity divide between Margaret and her classmates, and never cares that Margaret’s a farm kid and not one of the elite.

Courtney is quickly moved back out of town by her mother before she and Margaret can do more than kiss, but she gives her the parting gift of the new name, Maggie, and the promise of friendship with some of those previously unreachable classmates. When Courtney comes back the next summer, their chemistry is stronger than ever and they fall into a relationship so beautiful that it manages to survive each year as they part for separate colleges, only to meet up again in the summers. But their breakup and its circumstances leave Maggie closed off, with scars that she isn’t willing to examine too closely as she trudges ahead with the rest of her life. Five years later, the last thing she expects or wants is to see Courtney back in Tanner Peak, especially when it turns out that there’s something still there—no matter how hard she tries to push those feelings aside.

Strawberry Summer is told in the first person from Maggie’s perspective, which I know isn’t everyone’s favourite, but is a perfect narrative choice for this book. When Maggie and Courtney are in high school, it feels like a YA story. When they’re in their college years, it feels like a new adult romance with all the sexiness and freshness of young love that can be expected from that genre. And when they reunite for that second chance in their late twenties, it feels like a contemporary romance between two fully formed adults. And yet, because Maggie is guiding us through all of it, the story never feels disjointed. We’re just seeing the style adjust naturally alongside Maggie as she matures and grows from that lonely, awkward girl to the successful, confident, and eventually even happy woman she becomes. The only drawback is that we never get Courtney’s perspective and everything she does is interpreted through Maggie’s eyes. Even that didn’t bother me too much because Courtney is demonstrative and shares enough of what she’s thinking and feeling that we can have a complete idea of who she is as a person and a partner.

Second chance romances are also a bit of a mixed bag for me, especially when we’re taken all the way through the original romance. I find them to be much angstier than many other romances, often even unpleasant, because the whole point is to join a couple as they reunite after a painful separation and a whole bunch of time apart. Knowing all of that, I kind of went into this book with a hand over my eyes and that turned out to be totally unnecessary. The second chance aspect worked for me because, when those painful circumstances happened, they didn’t feel gratuitous and they made sense. Being taken from first meeting to friendship to lovers to breakup to reuniting and (finally!) makeup isn’t just about the romance between Maggie and Courtney. It’s also about them coming of age, figuring out who they are as adults, and becoming those people in a way that makes sense for themselves, rather than each molding to become the right person for the other.

Strawberry Summer is the perfect book to pick up as we’re looking forward to the longer, hotter days ahead. It’s a tribute to first love and soulmates and growing into the person you’re meant to be. I feel like I say this each time I read a new Melissa Brayden offering, but I loved this book so much that I cannot wait to see what she delivers next. This is a book I will read over and over again, enjoying each stage of their lives just as much every time.

Prompt for 2017-07-26

Jul. 26th, 2017 12:35 pm
sacredporn: Kris Allen icon made by Sacred Porn (Default)
[personal profile] sacredporn posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "heat wave".

Three Sweet Nothings by Nikki Sloane

Jul. 25th, 2017 06:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

F

Three Sweet Nothings

by Nikki Sloane
December 12, 2016 · Shady Creek Publishing
GLBTRomanceContemporary Romance

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Nerdalisque. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.

The summary:

Five years ago, we’d been together and on fire, but the flames burned us both. Now she’s back in my life and is all my wildest fantasies in the flesh.

I want her. The desire is too powerful to argue against, but I’m not interested in what we had. This is an arrangement about pleasure and finding out who we are behind closed doors. There won’t be talk of love or any sweet nothings whispered by either of us.

This time, I’ll control the heat between us and make sure neither of our hearts get too close to the flames.

Here is Nerdalisque's review:

Three Sweet Nothings opens with Kyle getting himself off to a memory of his ex, Ruby (because she’s SO much better than porn). Specifically, he’s recalling a time when he and drunk Ruby fooled around with another girl. This has been his go-to image for five years since their ugly breakup. And based on this single memory, Kyle is absolutely certain that “a filthy freak hid behind that deceptive, good girl front.” (Yes, Ruby’s curious about kink, but thinks her interest is “dirty” and “wrong.”)

Lo and behold, Kyle and Ruby, both lawyers, end up on opposite sides of a high-profile divorce case. She’s still angry with him, and crashes a New Year’s Eve party to confront him. They go off to the hotel’s rooftop pool to talk. Turns out, if they had just used their words five years ago, they wouldn’t have wasted all that energy hating each other. So, Ruby – who’s just “slammed” some wine (#drinking again) – decides to kiss Kyle. Like you do. And (surprise), they end up (fully clothed) in the pool having rough sex and the best orgasms EVER!!!

A few days later, wannabe Dom Kyle contacts Ruby and uses sex to manipulate her into signing a contract agreeing to a purely sexual relationship – no love, no emotions. Because that always works. The rest of the book is them having various kinds of porny sex in various places with various props and even another couple (*gasp*). Then there’s another misunderstanding because they fail to use their words again. But, twue wuv prevails and there’s an HEA. Sort of.

(BTW, there may have been some character growth, but honestly, I didn’t care enough to pay that close attention.)

This book didn’t work for me for a number of reasons. First, it’s written in alternating first-person POV. Not only does that make it all tell, not show, but I didn’t like the characters’ voices. For example, Ruby, at one of her meetings with Kyle, thinks: “A handshake? For real? I gave his dick a handshake with my vagina just a week ago.” Ew.

Second, Kyle, is a conceited, manipulative alpha-hole with a big red flag in his history. In the five years post-Ruby, he’s had a relationship with one woman – his boss. When he tried some do-it-yourself bondage with her, she freaked out about his “stupid fetish.” She wanted a commitment, and when he turned her down, she black-balled him. Kyle then did something to retaliate (just what isn’t spelled out) that was bad enough that she paid him “hush money,” and he left the city. Um, what? Worst of all, he won’t tell Ruby the whole story. And that is just one example of a third, and major, problem – their lack of honesty. Both of them enter into the sex-only partnership because they want to make the other fall (back) in love with them. That’s especially ironic because the only contract clause Ruby insists on adding is “Total honesty between partners.”

I could go on and on about other problems. They forego using condoms based only on each other’s word that they’re clean. Kyle uses his finger for “full-out [anal] fucking” without any lube. There’s some laughable writing: “violated with frigid winter air,” “the song of my approaching orgasm” (#lolololol). An offensive overuse of ellipses, e.g., “It was . . . erotic” (#facepalm) “She unleased [sic] all these . . . feelings.” (#lmfao) Like so many other things in this book, it was . . . annoying.

So let’s get to the sex. Kyle’s idea of being dominant is doing what he wants all the time – because, of course, he knows what Ruby needs (not “likes,” but needs). For example, when they’re in the pool – their first time together after not speaking for five years – he spanks her in a way he calls “aggressive and backed by a dark desire to punish.” Wow. That’s not healthy. Granted, Ruby apparently likes it, because she tells him to do it again, but he did NOT have her consent.

Again, shortly after Ruby has specifically said, “No thank you. I’m not interested in your partnership offer,” this happens:

I was spun around before I understood what was happening.

My hands flew out and I braced myself on the desktop as he bent me over with a shove. “What are you –“

He was faster than lightning. The sides of my skirt were jerked up over my hips . . .

I tried to right myself and push the skirt down, but . . . his open palm smacked hard against my ass.

I just . . . No. She was trying to stop him. And just because his fingers and dick are magic, and she ends up having an orgasm, that doesn’t make it okay.

If two people have spent five years hating each other, even if they still have pants feelings, they shouldn’t play at D/s. Especially if they haven’t communicated beyond filling out a checklist of things they’d like to try. (Kyle: “Dear God, please check anal.” #eyeroll) (BTW, Kyle lies when he fills his list out.) Supposedly Kyle gets a crash course from an experienced Dom, but it happens off the page. Since Ruby is conflicted about her desires, wouldn’t it have been good for her to talk to a sub? Maybe then she’d have known that the moment before someone penetrates you anally isn’t actually when you should decide on your safe word.

Obviously, this book didn’t work for me. I would have DNF’d it if I hadn’t signed up to review it. (I kind of did anyway, because I skimmed the last few chapters.) But I paid enough attention to identify its problems, some of which – issues of consent, the depiction of a “dominant” male – were really troubling.

I have to give it . . . an F.


Three Sweet Nothings by Nikki Sloane received a B- in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Elyse

Elyse Watches The Bachelorette with Kraken Rum and Coke with a big rose at the bottomToday’s delayed recap is brought to you by Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia: because pain doesn’t care that you have shit to do.

I actually slept though The Bachelorette last night, but I’ve got it DVR’d and I’m home today with a giant-ass coffee and muscle relaxers.

You think me recapping while drunk was interesting–just wait till the meds kick in.

A woman drinks out of a giant cup of coffee--like bigger than her head

We’re down to three men: Eric, Bryan and Peter. Last week Rachel met everyone’s family, Dean went through the pain of meeting his estranged father on camera after two years separation, and then Rachel let him go.

Last week was pretty fucking depressing.

I’m hoping this week is full of WTFery because I’ll be honest, this season has been kind of a downer.

Now, on with the show!

It’s time for the remaining dudes to meet Rachel’s family. Her sister is eight months pregnant so they are meeting in her hometown of Dallas, rather than the usual practice of flying to an exotic locale.

First up is Peter, who has definitely been more reserved than the other dudes. I personally think Rachel likes him best, but he’s more closed off emotionally than Eric or Bryan. Peter and Rachel shop for a baby gift for her sister and a present for her nephew Allister.

The best part is when Peter picks something out and Rachel gives him the “Um, no” eyes. He’s smart enough to defer to her choice. Good man.

Baby clothes are so friggin adorable you guys. I don’t want kids but I could shop for baby stuff all day long. I’m probably one more muscle relaxer away from knitting Dewey a little baby sweater and hat.

A close up of Peter and Rachel shopping for baby clothes.

Anyway, before they meet her family, Peter pulls her aside and tells Rachel that’s he falling in love with her.

FINALLY.

While speaking with Rachel’s mom, Kathy, Peter admits that he’s not sure he’s ready to propose yet because he and Rachel have basically only spent a few weeks together. He still wants to pursue a relationship with her, but he doesn’t know if he would feel right proposing at the end of the show.

While on the one hand I think this is a totally reasonable approach to their relationship, it’s also not what the show is about, so it’s kind of weird to see him say that. The dudes know when they sign up that the show ends with a proposal (usually).

You aren’t following the process–er, journey–Peter! The Rose God will not pleased! Chris Harrison just sat up in his coffin filled with rose petals, his eyes blazing in fury.

Kathy actually likes Peter’s answer, though. She does tell him that she hopes he takes their dating very seriously, though.

Then in what is literally the best shot of the night, we cut away to Rachel and little Allister playing with her dog, Copper.

Copper is a noble floof and I love him.

Copper, a big fluffy orange dog, sits in a chair . He looks like a chow-mix to me and I'd kiss his face a million times.

At one point Peter sits on the floor and colors with Allister and my remaining ovary explodes.

Peter sits on the floor with Allister while Rachel and Copper watch.

The next day it’s Eric’s turn to meet the Lindsays. Eric admits that he’s never been in love and is last serious relationship was two years ago. Rachel’s sister, Constance, is skeptical that Eric is ready for marriage.

Eric tells Constance that he loves Rachel unconditionally, but isn’t in love yet.

Later Eric asks Kathy if he can have her blessing to propose to Rachel.

But…wait? You just said you weren’t in love yet!

Kathy gives him her blessing anyway.

Rachel, her cousin Andrea, and Eric sit on a couch. Eric and Andrea do a little chair dancing.

Lastly it’s Bryan’s turn. Rachel takes him to brunch with a couple of her girlfriends then on to meet her family.

Almost immediately Bryan tells them that his mom is the most important woman in life, which is not all concerning… Like how is that the first thing you say to new people!? “Hi, I’m Bryan and I love my mom more than  anybody else.” Cue the Starbucks barista trying to write that all on a cup.

Kathy asks who would get his priority, his wife or his mom. Bryan kind of stumbles during his answer and it’s clear Kathy isn’t impressed.

Right away there’s some tension between Bryan and Rachel’s family. He’s charming, but in a superficial way. They ask him some pretty direct questions, and when they are skeptical of his answers (like when he says he knew Rachel was the one after just a week), Bryan freaks out and leaves the dinner table.

Rachel is irritated that her family seems to be questioning Bryan more intensely than they did Eric or Peter.

Rachel looks at her mom and says "I am, like, really low-key annoyed."

Bryan tells Constance that he already loves the family and she’s like, “dude, it’s been an hour.”

Bryan apparently loves everything immediately. But not as much as his mom.

Steve Carell from Anchorman says "I love lamp."

Despite all that, Kathy does give Bryan her blessing to propose to Rachel.

So just to recap: we’ve gone from Peter who isn’t sure of his feelings and is playing this close to the vest, to Eric who has never been in love, to Bryan who loves everyone within five minutes of knowing them.

Yikes.

Anyway, the family stuff is over and we can move on to the best part of the episode–Fantasy Suites. This is when Chris Harrison gives the contestants a hand written letter inviting them to sleep with each other.

I did not make that up. It’s a thing that happens.

So they all fly to La Rioja, Spain. We get a shot of Rachel sipping wine THAT SHE DOES NOT FINISH BEFORE LEAVING HER TABLE. Rachel! We never leave a wine behind! Not ever!

The first date goes to Eric. They take a helicopter to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe where they sip champagne.  Later they have dinner, and  Eric tells Rachel he’s in love with her.

They open the handwritten Invitation to Bone from Chris Harrison and head over to the Fantasy Suite. There are a lot of candles in the Fantasy Suite. A LOT. I wonder if some unpaid intern has to go around re-lighting the damn things.

After a commercial break we get the token “morning after” scene where the camera pans to an unmade bed, thereby making sure everyone knows the smexing happened. Then Rachel kisses Eric goodbye so she can go on a date with one of the other dudes and probably sleep with him.

I can’t get over how awkward that must be.

“Great job with the sex! I’m going to go have more of it with people who aren’t you. See you Tuesday!”

The next date is with Peter. They go to a vineyard where they actually finish their wine this time. Once again Peter tells her he’s not ready to propose.

This seems  like  a pretty important conversation, but they are interrupted by a little girl bringing Rachel flowers. I assume Peter planned the whole thing.

A little girl brings Rachel flowers while Peter looks at them with a smile

“She’s asking about commitment! Operation Shirley Temple is a go! I repeat, Operation Shirley Temple is a go!”

He doesn’t get off that easily, though. Over dinner Rachel tells Peter that she didn’t sign up for the show in order to find a boyfriend, she’s looking for a husband. Peter tells her that he considers engagement as seriously as marriage–he wants to be 100% certain he’s ready to be married before he gets engaged.

Rachel is more okay with their engagement still being a “getting to know each other” stage of their relationship.

The episode ends with Rachel tearing up. She feels like they aren’t at the same place and she says, “Tonight, for the first time ever, I’m thinking Peter and I might not work out.”

Then we get the dramatic TO BE CONTINUED

Do you think Peter can come back from this? Are you still watching?

[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

AppSumo has a sale on Stencil, an image editing program! Lifetime access to Stencil is available for $49.

You can make headers and images for social media and promotional graphics, plus it includes a Facebook 20% text checker to make sure what you make will fly with the FB lords.

There’s also a Chrome extension to easily share links with customized images.

Let Us Dream

Let Us Dream by Alyssa Cole is 99c! This was Redheadedgirl’s favorite story in the Daughters of a Nation anthology. It’s also nominated for a RITA® this year in the Romance Novella category. Ppyajunebug wrote a guest review for our Reader Challenge and here’s what she had to say:

Cole is one of the few authors on my instabuy list – I will buy anything she writes, regardless of genre, pairing, or length. She writes interesting, fully-realized characters with an eye towards how society shapes their experiences and personalities. “Let Us Dream” is no exception to that rule and I, and everyone else who reads it, should be thankful for that.

*This novella originally appeared in Daughters of A Nation: A Black Suffragette Historical Romance Anthology*

Harlem, 1917

After spending half her life pretending to be something she’s not, performance is second nature for cabaret owner Bertha Hines. With the election drawing near and women’s voting rights on the ballot, Bertha decides to use her persuasive skills to push the men of New York City in the right direction.

Chef Amir Chowdhury jumped ship in New York to get a taste of the American Dream, only to discover he’s an unwanted ingredient. When ornery Amir reluctantly takes a job at The Cashmere, he thinks he’s hit the bottom of the barrel; however, working at the club reignites his dream of being a force for change. His boss, Bertha, ignites something else in him.

Bertha and Amir clash from the start, but her knowledge of politics and his knowledge of dance force them into a detente that fans the flames of latent desire. But Bertha has the vice squad on her tail, and news from home may end Amir’s dream before it comes to fruition. With their pasts and futures stacked against them, can Amir and Bertha hold on to their growing love?

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

Waking the Bear

Waking the Bear by Kerry Adrienne is 99c! This is a Kindle Daily Deal and the second book, Pursuing the Bear, is a 99c KDD as well. Readers loved the park ranger/bear shifter hero, but others found the dialogue a bit…corny. Trigger warning as well, as the heroine is rebuilding her life following an abusive relationship. It has a 3.7-star rating on Goodreads.

Sexy shifter passion is awakened when two unlikely lovers are challenged by secrets, danger and an unstoppable need to claim one’s mate…

For human Amy Francis, the secluded cabin in Deep Creek is the haven she needs to map out a fresh new start. She never expected her heart to be reawakened by a distraction like Griff Martin, commanding yet gentle, too ferociously sensual to ignore. It’s clear that patrolling the forest is more than a job to Griff—it’s a means of survival. But what Amy doesn’t realize is she’s reawakened the beast within him.

Griff’s dormant hunger is stirred by this intoxicating woman…and threatened by the secret she must never learn. Duty-bound to defend his bear clan against an avenging pride of lion shifters, Griff’s entire world is upended when he meets Amy. His animal need to claim his mate has taken hold, but that very desire could seal her fate as an unwitting pawn in battle.

Now, as a shifter war looms, Griff must decide between letting Amy go or following his most carnal instincts. To have her would change his life…but risk everything he knows and was born to protect.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

Madame X

RECOMMENDED: Madame X by Jasinda Wilder is $2.99! I read this book and while it’s not quite a romance, I really enjoyed it. It’s a unique, dark, and twisted start to a trilogy. I gave it a B+:

Madame X isn’t going to be for everyone…. It’s written in first person. It does end on a cliffhanger. It deals with abuse (trigger warning) – physically, financially, and psychologically. There’s no HEA in this book as it’s an ongoing series following the same heroine. And there are also themes of infidelity.

But, if you’re still with me, it’s also one of the most unique books I’ve read in a while. It sucked me in and broke my heart. The next book cannot come soon enough.

Madame X invites you to test the limits of control in this provocative new
novel from New York Times bestselling author Jasinda Wilder.

My name is Madame X.
I’m the best at what I do.
And you’d do well to follow my rules…

Hired to transform the uncultured, inept sons of the wealthy and powerful into decisive, confident men, Madame X is a master of the art of control. With a single glance she can cut you down to nothing, or make you feel like a king.

But there is only one man who can claim her body—and her soul.

Undone time and again by his exquisite dominance, X craves and fears his desire in equal measure. And while she longs for a different path, X has never known anything or anyone else—until now…

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

The Invisible Library

RECOMMENDED: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman is $2.99! This is a fantasy novel that Carrie really enjoyed. She graded it a B+:

While I genuinely loved the characters and concepts of the book, it’s played strictly for fun adventure. This isn’t a philosophical book. There’s some character development, but it’s not huge. It’s basically just an excuse to have smart people fight cyborg alligators in a ballroom and werewolves in a museum. Luckily during the week that I read this book I was stressed out so it was just what I needed. It’s smart, well-written fluff and I ate it up with a spoon. I am avidly waiting for the sequel.

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.
 
One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

Page generated Jul. 26th, 2017 12:30 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios