This year, RWA is live-streaming the festivities once again at 7:00pm EDT this Thursday, July 27th! We hope you’ll be watching along with us and cheering on your favorite books from last year.
Earlier this afternoon, The Ripped Bodice accepted the award for the 2017 Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year! Congrats to Leah and Bea! You can see their acceptance speech here.
If you’d like to look through the books up for a RITA this year, check out the reviews from this year’s RITA Reader challenge! Here they are broken down by genre:
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance
Romance with Spiritual or Religious Elements
Best First Book
If you’d prefer the quick and dirty overview, we’ve compiled all of the grades this year in a spreadsheet. Be sure to click on the GRADES tab at the bottom of the sheet.
Check back tomorrow with a more in-depth breakdown of the reviews, grades, and the winners in each category!
Which books do you think will take home an award? Any betting pools going on?
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Coco. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the YA Romance category.
For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.
Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.
Here is Coco's review:
I picked up this last-minute review of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever last week because I felt like doing one more of these RITA reviews when the opportunity came, but, well, it was a push to get it done and written before the deadline! I hadn’t read the book—as YA isn’t normally my happy place within the romance genre, despite the odd fact that I reviewed another YA RITA earlier this year—but I thought it’d be fun, and then life happened, and it didn’t go quite according to plan. Instead of a leisurely full seven days to read and write a simple review, I, of course, didn’t get the time to do it until two days ago. Luckily, reading it quickly wasn’t a problem as I was drawn into the story by the midpoint and raced to finish it.
At the beginning, however, I was dubious. I thought it was going to be another melodramatic YA story chock-full of painful childhood experiences, which were then overcome quickly at the end by the power of young L-O-V-E. You know. And, I think it’s far to say, there is an element of that in this story that might turn off some readers. (When I was adding the TWs, I was like, damn, this story sounds majorly dramatic!) But—BUT—it’s not that simplistic. I was ultimately submerged in the story and impressed by the author’s commitment to talking about the long-term effects of childhood neglect and abuse. I’d say it’s a pretty even mix of a coming-of-age story with a YA romance. I wasn’t familiar with the author, but she appears pretty prolific, and has done a mix of independent press, self-publishing, and major pub houses (like this one from Harlequin Teen); she writes predominantly YA, YA fantasy, and New Adult. I like to find out a little bit about authors, and while I didn’t have the time to do that here, I liked the impression I got of her simply from her Acknowledgements section, especially when she refers to the way in which someone else “adeptly dubbed this book one of my horcruxes even though the last time I checked I didn’t commit a great evil. I think.” It makes me think that this story was important to her, and I like the idea of authors putting little pieces of their souls into their books—but, you know, without the evil part.
In The Problem with Forever, Mallory (“Mouse”) and Rider (…of course his name is Rider) spent several years together (maybe, like, from ages 4-13?) in the same unsafe foster home. The foster sibling thing wasn’t emphasized that much—helped in part because the house was so dysfunctional that they were nothing like a family—and instead their relationship was framed in terms of friendship.
Perhaps most importantly, Mallory’s survival mechanism was to be as silent as possible and to hide alone to avoid the wrath of the foster “parents”, whereas Rider sought to attract (negative) attention in hopes of protecting Mallory.
They are eventually separated as tweens and lose track of each other. Mallory ends up adopted by two doctors (in a rather miraculous turn of events) and begins the hard work of dealing with her trauma, seeing a psychiatrist and a speech therapist, and working through (but, thankfully and more realistically, not simply overcoming everything) her issues, the most tangible of which is her difficulties around people and with speech. This was fairly well fleshed out, considering it’s a romance and can’t focus entirely on her recovery. After homeschooling for a few years, she wants to try high school for her senior year in order to see if she would be able to eventually handle college. On her first day at school, she sees Rider again for the first time in three (or four?) years. Despite the fact that he tried to find her, and she asked her foster parents about him, they never reconnected or even knew if the other one was still alive. But, luckily, they’re in the same speech class!!! Bam! Insta-romance-plot-development!
I appreciated how Armentrout eventually complicated the early depiction that Mallory (and the reader) had of Rider. At first, Mallory views him merely as a White Knight figure but she ultimately realizes he has self-destructive tendencies and doesn’t see his own self worth, which led to behaviors that one might mistake for heroic but, with maturity, she could recognize as potentially problematic. This is an example of the tightrope that Armentrout walks when playing with both traumatic storylines and classic bad-boy-saves-shy-girl tropes.
There are a few other instances of life-and-death drama (including a fatal shooting and a potentially life-altering disease) that serve as turning points in our protagonists’ lives, and I feel somewhat conflicted about their treatment. I think one is handled with more care than the other, but they still felt at times like literary devices to spur changes in the characters. But, then again, things that happen to other people obviously can have a big impact on us, especially at that age, when it’s easy to turn everything into something about yourself.
There are some moments of awareness that touch on class and race and the incredible role luck (good and bad) can play in determining young people’s lives and their prospects. I wish she would have gotten more into those issues and be more explicit with regard to the drugs and gun violence present in many young people’s lives, but I didn’t have a huge problem with Armentrout’s depictions and at times oblique explanations.
Armentrout uses is Margery Williams’ 1922 classic, The Velveteen Rabbit—which is available to read online here, in case you’ve forgotten this harrowing children’s story—to nice effect (or it might seem overly saccharine and unrealistic, depending on your point of view and if you’ve been sucked into her world). The story is a common refrain throughout the book and is used when developing Mallory’s and Rider’s backstories, their relationship, and each one’s personal growth.
The other theme that occurs throughout the book, and the titular inspiration, is the concept of forever and its connotations. Again, the story begins somewhat simply as Mallory remembers how Rider said he’d always protect her—forever—which doesn’t happen. Again, by the end of the story, I was somewhat impressed with Armentrout’s ability to deepen Mallory’s understanding of what all “forever” implies, both good and bad.
Forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist… Then there was me. I’d thought I’d be stuck the way I was for forever, always scared, always needing someone to speak up for me. I’d learned to cope with my fears, found my voice, and realized that Carl and Rosa would love me even if I wasn’t perfect. Forever wasn’t real. And I guessed, for me, that I was lucky it wasn’t. But for others, I wished it was real, that they had forever.
As soon as I returned to find a few quotes pertaining to Mallory’s self-realizations in the latter half of the book, I felt a little dubious about their effect as, once again, I wondered it was too over-the-top. But, to Armentrout’s credit, when I was reading, I didn’t have those doubts; I was fairly engrossed and simply present in the world she’d created. It’s only looking back that I question myself and the somewhat dramatic prose, like “Forever wasn’t a problem. Forever was my heartbeat and it was the hope tomorrow held.” Dramatic, yes. But, shit, I mean, she’s not wrong?! And only teens can get away with the kind of bold and sweeping statements.
Even though now I tend to look back at that time of life, and teen characters in fiction, with a somewhat more jaded and indulgent half-smile, I still kind of love teens and young adults for this very reason.
And Armentrout does lighten the tone at times. For instance, she has Mallory observe that “our story was something straight out of an Oprah special or an ABC Family movie” and later Mallory quips that Rider looked “good in the way I didn’t know a teenage boy could look. Like they did on TV, when played by twenty-five-year-olds.” And Ainsley, Mallory’s one real friend before starting at the public high school, rants about another boy, “Do you know, one of his friends last week actually argued with me about that? He was all like, let me wannabe mansplain this to you while incorrectly explaining the First Amendment.” I’m not sure this is how teens talk, but I liked it and it was nice break from the intensity.
And though I don’t tend to want to read YA romance too often, a good author can pull me back into that mindset.
And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I mean, it doesn’t last forever.*
*C’mon, you knew I had to do it!!!
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
RIPPED BODICE RECOMMENDED: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is $2.99! This has romance, a bit of mystery, and some historical elements. On a podcast episode with Bea and Leah of The Ripped Bodice, Leah mentioned that she recommends this book pretty frequently. Have you read this one?
Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard’s Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation’s identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?
Blood of the Earth
Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter is $2.99! This urban fantasy novel is the first in the Soulwood series, which seems to be a spin-off of Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. It was also recommended during our SBTB Reader Recommendation Party at RT 2017. I remember because I immediately added it to be TBR pile.
Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth.
When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.
Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.
Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…
Dare to Run
Dare to Run by Jen McLaughlin is $2.99! This is the first book in the Boston-set Sons of Steel Row series. The heroine is a bartender and the hero has criminal ties, which I know isn’t for everyone. Readers loved the pacing and action, but wanted the heroine to have more of a backbone. It has a 3.7-star rating on Goodreads.
The New York times bestselling author of the Out of Line Novels takes readers to Boston where one gang of criminals knows how being bad can be so good…
She knows what he’s like on Boston’s mean streets. Now she’s going to find out if he’s got some heart.
Lucas Donahue is not ashamed of his criminal past, but after a brief stint in prison, he’s ready to go legit and live a normal life. The problem is, no one leaves the gang without permission—even if he is one of the boss’s top men. Plus someone’s placed a hit on him. And then there’s that feisty little bartender who’s going to cause him even more trouble.
Heidi Greene knows to keep her distance from a ladies’ man like Lucas—even if she can’t keep her eyes off him. When he rescues her from an attack in the alley outside her bar, she’s forced to stay by his side for safety. But the longer she spends time with him, the greater her chances are for getting hurt in more ways than one.
The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth by Tracy Anne Warren is $2.99! This is a contemporary workplace romance set in the world of advertising. Readers loved the antagonism between the heroine and hero, but found the hero was a bit of a jerk overall. It’s the first book in The Graysons series.
From New York Times bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren comes a sexy and romantic new contemporary series about corporate combat in the boardroom and under-the-covers passion in the bedroom……
Idealistic good girl Madelyn Grayson believes in doing what’s right. Even as a high-powered executive in the mad world of advertising, she doesn’t cut corners, making her ad campaigns sizzle without having to burn anyone along the way.
Rival exec Zack Douglas never wastes an opportunity to land the next big deal—especially when it benefits him. A bad boy with a reputation to match, he has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to get ahead, no matter who gets in the way.
When a hot promotion pops up at their company, both Zack and Madelyn wind up on the short list for the position. But as the two square off, they discover that being heated rivals in the office makes for scorching bed play behind closed doors. Will Madelyn’s steamy, secret affair with Mr. Vice make her compromise her ideals—or worse, lose her heart?
Here at Bitchery HQ, we are constantly recommending books, music, and podcasts to one another, and it occurred to me that our podcast recommendations, both for particular episodes and for entire series might be of interest – and that you probably also have episodes and shows you like, too. So, hey, there, new feature!
Seriously, this is one of the things I love about blogging: New idea? Cool! Run it up the flagpole, see who salutes.
Actually, let’s be honest: “Run it up the flagpole, see who salutes” is how I do most things creatively. It’s like the cousin to, “I can’t be the only one who finds this freaking fascinating, right?”
Now, I can’t recommend my own show (HA YES I CAN It’s right here) but in part because I host and produce a podcast, I listen to a ton of others. Here are some episodes and new shows I’ve really enjoyed while walking the dogs or cross stitching.
By the Book is a new-ish show from Panoply wherein the hosts, Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer, try a different self-help book for two weeks and record their results with interviews, candid conversations with their spouses, and a post-book conversation between the two of them. There’s also an epilogue for each where they respond to reader and listener feedback.
One episode in particular that was deeply touching for me was their focus on French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. The conversation dealt with self-harm, eating disorders, and Greenberg and Meinzer’s relationships with their own bodies, and the epilogue was equally affecting for me. It also created a new guideline for their show: no more diet books. That episode is available at Panoply’s website, on Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your fine podcasting programs.
Still Processing is a podcast from the NY Times, hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. They discuss culture, current events, music, television, BBQ, and the ways in which the media they consume affect them. From the description: “Still Processing is where they try to understand the pleasures and pathologies of America in 2017.” It’s terrific.
RedHeadedGirl, who has her own podcast, Anglofilles, recommends the Dunkirk episode of Stuff You Missed in History – and says that pretty much every episode is great. You can listen on Stitcher or at the podcast website.
Amanda says, “I’ve been loving The Daily! It’s produced by The New York Times and focuses on one or two current events, complete with interviews with the people who cover said events at the NYT. It’s Monday-Friday and is usually less than a half an hour. Because it focuses on current events, there’s no pressure to go back and listen to the archives. Unless you really want to!” It’s available on Stitcher and at the NYT podcast page, too.
And finally, my never-ending perennial recommendation to anyone who loves uplifting, funny, and engaging podcasts to try: Friendshipping with Jenn and Trin.
Every time there’s a new episode I squee, and my Thursday afternoon or Friday dog walks, depending on weather and download times, are my favorites. They take questions from listeners about friendship problems, they have the best theme song, and they offer advice from a place of incredibly warm empathy and kindness. It’s one of my very, very favorites, and I’m so happy I found it.
What about you? What podcast episodes or programs do you love? Any that you’ve just discovered? (And would an entry on how you listen to podcasts be helpful? Let me know in the comments and I’ll put one together!)
Max Seventeen is a science fiction romance that has a lot of problematic elements (several of which ambushed me near the end of the book). On the other hand, it has an action heroine of color, a rickety spaceship with a motley (and diverse) crew, and mosasaurs. Once I started the book I couldn’t stop reading it, and every time I said to myself, “Wait, WHAT?” another mosasaur or some other shiny plot device popped up to distract me.
Our story begins with a trial and a heist.
Our heroine, Max, is busted for various crimes and sentenced to one year of slavery. She winds up shoveling fuel into a train engine. Meanwhile, our hero, Riley, signs on to a rickety spaceship (the Eurydice) as engineer in order to escape from being a soldier with The Service, a military group. After Riley and the rest of the crew rob the same train that Max is on, Max ends up on the Eurydice as Riley’s property. It’s all very complicated, but basically, there are technical reasons why Riley can’t free Max until her year of servitude is over. The ensuing plot includes, but is not limited to:
- Found family
- A lot of explicit sex and violence
- Dry humor
- Competence porn
- Potentially triggery descriptions of child abuse and rape
- Children, mosasaurs, and many adults in peril
- Discussion about consent
- The defeat of a massive conspiracy
- A plot twist I truly did not see coming
The first two-thirds of the book contain some content that I was ambivalent about. I honestly could not tell if this book is sex-positive or slut shaming. Sometimes Max’s joyful tendency to sleep with every willing person she can find comes across as a celebration of her agency and seize the day mentality, but she also worries that people see her as a toy, and her eventual decision to be monogamous is portrayed as a sign of her increasing self-esteem. Sometimes sex work is portrayed sympathetically, but sex workers are also portrayed as disloyal and dishonest (although frankly, so is everyone else).
The book does a better job when it comes to the problem of power imbalance between Riley and Max. Riley refuses to have sex with Max for quite a while because even though he is only Max’s owner in the technical sense he still (rightly, in my opinion) believes that Max can’t truly consent because of the power imbalance. When they finally do have sex, Max has consented verbally and specifically over and over again, but she calls Riley out later when he refers to them as equals. While Max insists that she has enough agency and control to honestly consent to sex, she also points out that as long as Riley owns her she can’t be, and isn’t, his equal in their relationship. Although they establish a relationship while she’s still serving out her sentence as a slave, there’s always an understanding that they won’t, and can’t have a true HEA until she’s free.
One of the interesting things about these characters is that Riley has been both falsely accused of rape (one of my least favorite tropes EVER) and a victim of rape. He was raped by a female military superior who threatened to ruin his career if he didn’t sleep with her. Meanwhile, Max is the survivor of a rape in which she was physically overpowered. Given their experiences, it makes sense that Riley is so alert to the idea of rape stemming from an abuse of power whereas Max is comfortable with power structures (she ignores them) as long as she feels physically safe.
In the last third of the book, a few of my very least favorite tropes pop up out of nowhere and Riley acts like a jerk. Seriously, it’s as though a different author jumps in, seizes the story for about 50 pages, and then jumps back out. Spoilers regarding Riley’s behavior:
Just as I was about to toss the book aside, we suddenly find ourselves in a science fiction Regency novel and of course I had to see how that went. Everything sort of magically resolves itself, and there’s going to be a sequel which I will inevitably read in one glorious, confusing day. The sequel, Firebrand, came out on July 4, 2017.
Clearly I had a rocky journey with this book, and yet it’s amazingly fun. There’s constant action and intrigue. Max and Riley are both very good at what they do (she’s a programmer and he’s an engineer). There’s a wild, madcap quality to the story, fueled by Max’s high energy, her unpredictable behavior, and the science fiction setting, which is like a crazed mash-up of Firefly, The Expanse, Mad Max, and Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s a ton of humor, from slapstick to wry, like Max’s lament when she realizes she’s about to be fed to a mosasaur:
“Fuck it! I was going to die old, in bed, surrounded by five young men.”
In case you are wondering about the mosasaurs Max later explains:
Actually, interesting biological sidebar, apparently they aren’t mosasaurs, really, because they died out on earth millions of years ago, but no one knows what they are so that’s what they call them.
I read this book in May and for various reasons I didn’t sit down to review it for several weeks. What stuck in my head weeks after finishing the book was the character of Max careening defiantly through life. Max is hyper-vigilant, violent, uncouth, and wonderful. She’s determined to enjoy life even though she has suffered. Even though she and Riley get a happy ending, they also both have serious issues that they will probably always need to deal with, and I found that to be realistic and honest. She has a shaved head and when Riley first meets her she’s covered in sewage and yet she is irresistible (after having had a bath) because she has so much energy.
I loved this character and I enjoyed the book, even though I’m still not sure if it was a liberating read or problematic as hell. Am giving it a C for the major problems that I couldn’t escape, such as the inconsistent portrayal of sex workers and of Riley’s attitude in the last third of the book, but a ‘+’ for solid and energetic writing and a fun, creative, exciting story.
I was shocked – SHOCKED – when Reader Jessica left a comment about virgin hero recommendations and my deep dive through the SBTB archives turned up nothing.
Of course, there are some obvious choices and probably a handful of lists on Goodreads, but personal recommendations of books you’ve loved and why go much further, don’t you think?
Amanda: Also…the anthology is currently 99c. Just thought you all wanted to know.
Amanda: I don’t think I know of any virgin heroes, but I’ve read a few sexually inexperience heroes that I really loved. The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) has a man-bunned, NFL hero who has never had penetrative vaginal sex. His first sexual experience was traumatic for him, so trigger warning for that.
I know you have virgin hero recommendations! Let us have ’em!
The Distance from A to Z
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by PamG. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book, YA Romance category.
Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.
That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.
But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.
Here is PamG's review:
I am not a big fan of YA. Oh, the books are fine, but as a genre label, YA is meaningless. Meant as a marketing ploy, I think this faux genre is just an excuse for lit snobs to be dismissive of some of the truly magnificent literature for young people. Unfortunately, The Distance from A to Z would not provide a great argument against the genre label. It’s totally YA.
Abby is the storyteller of Distance. She’s going into senior year in her Chicago high school and is spending her summer at a college in New Hampshire where she’ll be taking an intensive eight week course in intermediate French. Abby adores the French language as passionately as she hates all things baseball. Her family are baseball maniacs (Cubs fans), but she has long since eschewed the masochism for the joys of French. Needless to say, she meets the requisite cute guy on day one and is revolted by his baseball shirt and cap. The rest of him, on the other hand, is pretty damned pretty, from the golden curls peeking out from under the hat to the hot athletic bod beneath. Nice to know sports are good for something.
Zeke (get it, get it?) is also taking the intermediate French course, much to Abby’s surprise. What’s more, he’s better at it than she is. As the only two high school students in the course, the two of them are forced to work as partners and frequently find themselves in proximity almost as close as a mountain cabin in winter. Abby pre-judges Zeke based on his athletic wear and he doesn’t hesitate to call her on it. Their subsequent exchanges are pretty entertaining.
Aside from Abby and Zeke, the most developed character is Alice, Abby’s roommate. Alice is a talented and superbly disciplined poet, who is taking an intensive poetry seminar. She entrances Abby from their first encounter.
She’s using a fountain pen.
I think I’m in love.
“Sec,” she whispers, more to herself than me.
I’ve found my spirit animal.
I know this moment for her like it’s mine. I know the feeling of being so deeply invested in something that the idea of forcing yourself out feels like a tooth extraction. Like the tight grip of a book you don’t want to put down.
Alice suffers from a fairly severe anxiety disorder. Abby adores her on sight, but still needs to be schooled in how to respond to Alice’s anxiety issues. Actually I kind of adored her on sight myself. Within her comfort zone, she totally kicks ass. More on this later.
I had problems with both Abby and Zeke. That’s probably why Alice seemed so refreshing. She was more mature than any of the other characters. Perhaps part of my problem with A & Z is that they do act like total teenagers. Abby narrates so we get her point of view much more than Zeke’s. Done well, I like first person POV and I think it can convey quite a lot about other characters. Unfortunately, the inside of teen’s head may be a little too self-absorbed to convey those telling details about the people surrounding her. Of course Abby’s single minded focus makes her interesting but also annoying. Loving French language and culture is appealing, but her loathing for baseball gets old. Once she loved it, but too many people have let her down over baseball. So–boom!–she hates it, my preshussss. She develops a bit of self awareness later in the book, but maturation should be a process, not a revelation in the last couple of chapters. At one point someone calls her mean, and she’s all “Who? Me?” And she isn’t mean. What she is is thoughtless. See “self-absorbed” above.
Abby is attracted to Zeke, but as they work together she begins to separate his personality into two distinct Zekes. There is French speaking Zeke who is quite delightful and whom she really begins to care for, and English speaking Zeke who’s kind of a major toque de derrière. Much of Abby’s narrative consists of her internal dithering about which is the real Zeke and do they have any sort of chance as a couple. This waffling got extremely tedious. Of course, Zeke has a Big Secret which later explains his dual personality, though in less detail than is warranted by his hot and cold running behavior. Trouble is, his big secret is so blatantly obvious to the reader that the big reveal makes your eyes roll like a ground ball on a T-ball field. So what is Zeke’s peculiar behavior?
However, none of this explains why Zeke is so frequently spotted with girls hanging off of him. Abby tends to be mildly shut shamey in her response to college girls Stephie and Chloe, rather than putting the blame where it belongs, squarely on Zekey. One of my favorite scenes, featuring Alice, takes place when both girls are in their dorm room and Stephie is using her feminine wiles on Zeke in the hall right outside their door.
“Oh yes,” she whispers, her voice all breathy. Though unfortunately for me and Alice, the fact that she’s directly in front of our door means that even if she was in our room we couldn’t possibly hear them more clearly.
“Please kill me, ” I mouth to Alice, conscious that if we can hear them from in here, they can hear us from out there.
“Your Zeke?” she mouths.
I think of shaking my head because there’s no my Zeke, but that seems like splitting hairs.
Alice presses her lips together and then opens them wide. “Abby!” she shouts. “I’m not going to hang out in the common room and wait for you guys to finish making out. I want to go to sleep, and I’d rather be able to do it without listening to you guys suck face all night.”
Her speech is so shocking, from the lie to the fact that it’s Alice bellowing it out, that I don’t even think to stop her until she’s looking at me triumphantly.
“And I can’t believe you guys are watching that movie together . I mean, get a room. Not my room. A room where you can be alone.”
“Alice!” I squeak, not knowing whether to high-five her or slap my hand over her mouth.
“Rawr”, I hear Cloy Voice say, which makes me want to go out there and pull her off of Zeke. Because what kind of girl says rawr in real life?”
“C’mon, we should get out of here,” Zeke says, and he doesn’t sound nearly as flirty and happy as he did before.
And suddenly I’m quite sure that as utterly humiliating as Alice’s speech was, high-fiving her wasn’t nearly enough to thank her.
So I tackle-hug her instead.
I got a kick out of this scene and there were others I really enjoyed.
However, one in particular I absolutely hated. In one of her off-again phases with Zeke, Abby decides to go out with some of the other kids in the program, most of whom are college age. Since she’s feeling defiant, she accepts drinks from a seemingly bottomless flask that gets passed around. Unsurprisingly, she gets falling down drunk and Zeke finds her with some clown’s hand on her thigh and rescues her. My problem with the scene is that it’s completely gratuitous, adds nothing to the story except to give Zeke an opportunity to “rescue” Abby. This scene and A’s inability to figure out Z’s Big Secret pushed her into TSTL territory a couple of times. Then when she did discover Zeke’s secret, she reacts explosively–as one does–and accuses him of lying to her. Didn’t happen. True, he didn’t tell her. For reasons. But he didn’t lie. Yes, there’s that whole omission thing, but I felt she accused him of lying to ramp up the drama and justify her extreme reaction. Earlier in the story, she was devastated because Zeke called their first kiss a “mistake” when in point of fact, she interpreted what he said as mistake. As written, he didn’t actually say that. Be pissed, but be pissed about what happens.
Needless to say, our young lovers achieve their HEA which, considering that they are high school students, one based in Chicago and one in San Diego, is more of an HFN, Unfortunately, by the end of the book, I didn’t have the energy to really care any more. Hence, the C grade. Might have been C+ if I were sixteen. (I didn’t like baseball either.)
The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt received a D in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.
It’s Wednesday Links time! Which is news to me, because it certainly doesn’t feel like a Wednesday. RWA 2017 is kicking off in Orlando. If you’re attending, make sure you say hello to Sarah who is also there!
A GoFundMe campaign is underway to turn Beverly Jenkins’ Deadly Sexy into a feature film:
The making of Deadly Sexy is a significant step for all authors. It will give hope to those who dream of having their book made into a film. It also open doors of opportunity for actors and crew members who desire a chance to show their skills during the production. It also gives independent film makers a chance to show the advancement of our products to the masses.
Jenkins is also receiving the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award this year!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was a previous SBTB Book Club pick and now it’s being made into a movie!
a little love note from me to you pic.twitter.com/vUxJvKUinn
— Jenny Han (@jennyhan) July 21, 2017
Leah of The Ripped Bodice made an appearance on the TV game show Hollywood Game Night. You can check out her appearance here.
Thanks to Reader Suzanne for letting us know about this Gothic romance comic anthology on Kickstarter. Here’s what she said:
Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, a new comics anthology currently funding on Kickstarter, is updating the gothic romance genre with tales that are diverse and not-rapey, but still dark and spooky. The full-color book will contain 200 pages of new comics, some licensed Lou Marchetti prints (he’s the guy who did all those MM paperback covers), and a Korean gothic comic from the 70’s. You can find more about the anthology, the creators, and lots of sample art over at their Kickstarter page.
All right, who’s interested?
Lastly, I recently watched this trailer for Bright. It’s an urban fantasy movie coming to Netflix on December 22. It starts Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and Lucy Fry. After watching it, some say it’d work better as a series and I’m inclined to agree, but it still looks pretty damn fun.
Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!
The Infamous Heir
The Infamous Heir by Elizabeth Michels is 99c! This is book one in the Spare Heirs series. It features a prize-fighting hero who suddenly takes over his brother’s title of nobility. Readers wanted more chemistry between the hero and heroine, but many really loved the hero. I mean, based on the book’s description, who wouldn’t?
The Spare Heirs Society Cordially Invites You to Meet Ethan Moore: The Scoundrel
Lady Roselyn Grey’s debut has finally arrived, and of course, she has every flounce and flutter planned. She’ll wear the perfect gowns and marry the perfect gentleman…that is, if the formerly disinherited brother of the man she intends to marry doesn’t ruin everything first.
Ethan Moore is a prize-fighting second son and proud founding member of the Spare Heirs Society-and that’s all he ever should have been. But, in an instant, his brother’s noble title is his, the eyes of the ton are upon him, and the lady he’s loved for years would rather meet him in the boxing ring than the ballroom.
He’s faced worse. With the help of his Spare Heirs brotherhood, Ethan’s certain he can get to the bottom of his brother’s unexpected demise and win the impossible lady who has haunted his dreams for as long as he can remember…
More Than a Stranger
More Than a Stranger by Erin Knightley is $2.99! This historical romance is the first book in the Sealed With a Kiss series. It features a friends to lovers, off limits romance. There is a mystery element to the romance. Some enjoyed it, while others felt it didn’t work as well.
When his family abandoned him at Eton, Benedict Hastings found an unexpected ally in his best friend’s sister. Her letters kept him going—until the day he had to leave everything behind. Years later, Benedict has seen his share of betrayal, but when treachery hits close to home, he turns to his old friend for safe haven….
After five torturous years on the marriage circuit, Lady Evelyn Moore is finally free to live her life as she wishes. So when her brother shows up with a dashing stranger, she finds herself torn between her dreams…and newfound desires. Despite his determination to keep Evie at a distance, Benedict cannot deny the attraction that began with a secret correspondence. Yet as they begin to discover one another, the dangers of Benedict’s world find them, threatening their lives, their love, and everything they thought they could never have…
Taming a Wild Scot
Taming a Wild Scot by Rowan Keats is $2.99! This is the first book in the Claimed by the Highlander series. Readers really liked the healer heroine, but other readers wanted more chemistry between the hero and heroine. Have you read this one?
In the Highlands of Scotland, plays for power are fought without rules, treachery and intrigue hold court, and, in one woman’s heart, danger stirs as relentlessly as passion…
Wrongfully accused of murder and left to die in a hellish Highland dungeon, Ana Bisset has lost all hope of freedom. But the beautiful healer’s luck takes an unexpected turn when a hooded stranger appears as her rescuer. After a harrowing escape, Ana settles alone in a quiet village where no one knows her past or her reputation. The last thing she ever expects is to meet her mysterious savior again…
Niall MacCurran is no hero, but a warrior on a dangerous mission to expose a threat to the realm. After his decision to free Ana, he now realizes that it is he who needs her help—willing or no—to advance his quest. But his growing feelings for the delicate yet resilient beauty soon jeopardize their safety—and not even Ana’s healing gifts may be enough to protect their love, or their lives.
Earls Just Want to Have Fun
Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen is 99c! This was a 2016 RITA nominee and the first book in the Convent Garden Cubs series. Some readers found the plot and characterization a little improbable, while other readers said the romance had a good balance of light moments and darker emotions. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads.
His heart may be the last thing she ever steals…
Marlowe is a pickpocket, a housebreaker-and a better actress than any professional on the stage. She runs with the Covent Garden Cubs, a gang of thieves living in the slums of London’s Seven Dials. It’s a fierce life, and Marlowe has a hard outer shell. But when she’s alone, she allows herself to think of a time before-a dimly remembered life when she was called Elizabeth.
Maxwell, Lord Dane, is intrigued when his brother, a hired investigator, ropes him into his investigation of the fiercely beautiful hellion. He teaches her to navigate the social morass of the ton, but Marlowe will not escape so easily. Instead, Dane is drawn into her dangerous world, where the student becomes the teacher and love is the greatest risk of all.
Today's post is dedicated to all the engaged couples out there. That's right, lovebirds, I thought we might take this opportunity to consider the most important cake of your entire lives: your wedding cake.
Now, I know I feature a lot of wedding wrecks, and I know a lot of folks will point out that asking for a fondant design recreated in buttercream is asking for disaster, but don't you worry. I'm here to help. After all, this is what Leah D. ordered for HER wedding cake:
And look what she got!
Ok, yes, it's a wreck. BUT - did you notice how the inspiration cake was all buttercream, and the wreck itself is fondant? I'm just sayin'. It works both ways.
Now, don't you feel better?
Ok, then how about what Susan A. ordered for her wedding?
Not a great picture (you don't see mimeographs much these days), but I think you get the general idea.
And here's what Susan got:
Granted, I'm not sure how this is supposed to make you feel better, but trust me, guys: the REST of us are feeling grrrrr-REAT. (John! Go make some popcorn! These are gettin' GOOD.)
Sara M. wanted her wedding cake to be a hunk a' hunk a' burnin' love:
The cake! The cake! The cake is on FI-YUR!
(That was my attempt at a slide-rule trombone effect. I know: I'm a veritable foley artist with words.)
And finally, Elizabeth P. dreamed a dream of ribbon-wrapped sweetness for her big day:
...but ended up with something only a mummy could love:
Ouch. Uh...that's a wrap!
Thanks to all of today's brides and just remember, guys: wreck or Sweet, we're gonna need to see your wedding cake! (Oh, and we're all invited, right? RIGHT?!)
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.
Three Sweet Nothings
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Nerdalisque. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.
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.
Today’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.
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.
Anyway, before they meet her family, Peter pulls her aside and tells Rachel that’s he falling in love with her.
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.
At one point Peter sits on the floor and colors with Allister and my remaining ovary explodes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?
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*
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?
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.
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…
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…
This HaBO is from E.D., who has been searching for this book for at least a decade:
I’ve been looking for this book for over 10 years.
All I remember is:
- The cover had a swan I think, not sure if it was part of the cover or a publishers logo.
- I know the characters wore corsets and lace up petticoats, but I’m not sure about the time frame of the book just that it was set in the past. Pre-1900s I think.
- The main character has freckles and at one point is using some sort of cucumber cream when she falls from the barn loft right in front of the main guy.
- She’s kind of tomboyish, and the dress she’s wearing when she’s with the main guy to visit someone is too big for her. The person they visit points it out and says the dress is ugly, might have been yellow in color.
- The guy is kind of mean/rude to her at first and sees her as a bother.
- Something about horses. I think the guy rides them and she wants to, but since she’s a girl she isn’t allowed.
- They end up in a compromising situation so they have to get married, but they were set up by his and her family.
- After she thinks they have sex for the first time, she wonders why she isn’t walking funny, like she’s seen the mares do after they are mounted by a male.
- She ends up pregnant, and they both are very in love.
- Near the end, I think she’s sitting cross legged on the bed pregnant and naked with her long hair covering her breasts, and her husband thinks she’s beautiful.
That’s a lot of detail! Someone knows this book.
Remember how we all loved the game "Telephone" in kindergarten? Well, add in a cake, and the fun never stops!
This order was for a "black high heel":
(It's a hill, people. Get it?)
Specifying punctuation is always tricky:
Although I suppose if Aunt flashed Mom that would liven up the party, and it's certainly preferable to Aunt slashing Mom.
(Ok, this one is tricky, I know: the order was for Aunt/Mom - a slash, in other words.)
Here we have a beautifully done blue horse. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be a blue house.
If your message is "Philip...Woohoo!", and you actually have to say the words "dot dot dot", be prepared for just about anything.
And of course these never get old:
Although interestingly enough, I think that icing IS light pink. I guess the decorator was covering all her bases.
Thanks to Danielle M., Stefanie D., Rachel S., Michael T., and Chandra.