Outlander 3.02: Surrender

Sep. 23rd, 2017 09:00 am
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Posted by Redheadedgirl

outlander season 3 with claire and jamie on either sides of a stonePreviously: Jamie survived Culloden, and got sent home to Lallybroch. Claire had their daughter and is trying to make a home in Boston.

The title splash is a redcoat posting a wanted poster for an outlaw called the “Dunbonnet.”

At Lallybroch in 1752, three boys, in the manner of troublemaking boys, find a hidden pistol in the dovecote. They are Rabbie, Wee Jamie, and Fergus (HEY FERGUS). Their bragging is interrupted by a bunch of soldiers who are looking for the Dunbonnet, who might also be Jamie. Jenny, who is very pregnant again, tells them (as they arrest Ian), that they haven’t seen Jamie since the filthy traitor went to the rebellion. The soldiers remind them that anyone harboring a traitor will be hanged, and they tell him the same thing they told five other commanders – there’s no Red Jamie there. They arrest Ian anyway, and Fergus spits at the Redcoat who is a Corporal MacGregor.

Of course, Jamie is there, in ragged clothes, long hair, and generally looking not at all like himself. He successfully hunts a stag (with a bow and arrow) and brings it to the house after dark. When he walks in, he has a vision of Claire working in the garden, but it’s really Jenny. He’s haunted and hunted and isn’t used to talking.

Jamie carries a stag to Lollybroch. He thinks he sees Claire, but when the woman turns, it's Jenny.

Inside, they butcher the deer, Jenny and Fergus keeping the conversation going while Jamie is silent. Jenny also asks Jamie if he can help with the books, since Ian is away for a bit. Jenny also tells him that her conscious is clear when it comes to lying, because she’s not: “James Fraser hasn’t been here for a long, long time.”

Claire, in her bed, pants as she remembers Jamie in happier times (by which I mean sex and fun bed times). We get a nice shot of Sam’s butt in her memory. But it’s Frank sleeping by her side, and she’s alone.

It’s 1949, and Claire puts Bree in her bed (with her Bunny), and in the Globe, there’s an article about Irish Independence. Bree fusses a bit, and Claire tells her that she’ll want to hear this: “This is history in the making.” Bree makes her own history by rolling front to back the first time. (Claire’s dressing gown is very 1940s, but also reminiscent of one of her Paris dressing gowns, which is a nice touch). Frank comes down in just a towel and they marvel over their clever daughter who rolls over a month ahead of schedule. Claire puts on a hand on his naked chest. It’s a moment, and neither is too sure what to do with it.

Frank holds baby Bree. Claire touches his chest.

Jamie paces through the woods to his little cave covered by bushes. He hears someone outside, but it’s just Fergus, who SAYS he was very careful and doubled back on his trail. He’s brought the pistol and wants to learn how to shoot so he can be ready for the next rebellion. Jamie tells him there won’t be another one, and Fergus snaps ,”Just because you’re a coward now doesn’t mean I am!” Jamie just tells him that weapons are outlawed, so PUT IT BACK.

In the house, Jamie comes to help with the books, and finds that Jenny is in labor.  Mary tells him not to worry. The boys are doing their chores, and see a raven. Rabbie tells them that his Granny said ravens are messengers of death, and they shouldn’t be near a birth… so they decide that the best thing to do is get the pistol and shoot the raven.

Of course, there are soldiers near enough to hear the shot. Jamie is about to throttle one or all three of them, when Mary tells him that the baby has been born- a boy- and takes the gun.

Inside, Jenny is quite pleased with herself, and is going to name the new baby Ian. He is a wee chicken. Jenny tells him that Jamie looks good with a baby, and then asks how long it’s been since he had sex. Jamie tells her to not go there, and she’s like it’s been 6 years and Mary McNab is young enough. Jamie takes the baby out to meet the others, when he hears the soldiers looking for the gun. Jenny settles herself in bed, and calmly tells them that there’s no weapons. They threaten to search the house. Baby Ian starts making noises and Jamie shoves a fingers in his mouth, and Jenny’s like look, we always cooperate, there’s no weapon!

He asks her if she’s given birth, and she tells him that baby came early and was dead. (MacGregor says that’s good, it’s one less Scot to deal with.) They ask where the body is, and then the Captain gives and order to find the midwife. At the point, Mary comes in with the pistol. She tells them that it belonged to her husband, and she kept it because it gave her comfort, and she fired it at a raven to protect that baby. MacGregor scoffs at the “stupid Highland superstitions” and offers to take her into custody. The captain says nah, they have the weapon, but warns Jenny that if anything happens again, they will not be so lenient.

A solider snatches the gun from Mary.

The soldiers leaves, and Jenny muses that she’s seen the look in that captain’s eyes before… he’ll not give up. She tells Jamie to dig a fresh grave in the cemetery, just in case.

In Boston, Claire wakes Frank up and says she “misses her husband” and initiates sex (with her on top). This is the first time they’ve been together since she came back.

In Scotland, Ian is brought back, and MacGregor tells him that the garrison is searching to north and south, and they’ll be back. Fergus eyes them darkly.  Ian thanks them for the “lovely visit.”

Fergus sneaks out, where there is a soldier hidden, waiting to see who leaves the house. In the woods, Fergus knows he’s being followed, and leads the pair of soldiers, including MacGregor, on what he intends as a merry chase. He taunts them Frenchishly, runs, gestures, and taunts them a second time. Jamie hears the yelling and sneaks to see Fergus spending more energy on taunting and less on running. Fergus gets cornered by another pair on horseback, and MacGregor uses his saber to cut off Fergus’s right hand. The soldiers leave, and Jamie tumbles down the slope and puts on a tourniquet and brings him back to the house.

Jamie picks up a wounded Fergus.

Inside, Jamie paces by the fire, and Jenny tells him that Fergus is alive because of Jamie. Jamie says he should have stopped them, and Jenny sensibly points out that if he had, then they would all be dead. Jamie falls to his knees, sobbing, and Jenny holds him.

After he’s collected himself, Jamie finds Fergus, who says that Jenny has been quite generous with the whiskey (Though he prefers the taste of French wine). And that he’s sorry. Jamie says that Fergus reminds him that he does have something to fight for, and Fergus smiles: “There you are, Milord.” Fergus also reminds Jamie of the agreement they made in Paris: if Fergus lost an ear or a hand in his service, that Jamie would support Fergus for the rest of his life: “In one stroke, I have become a man of leisure, no?”

A pale Fergus, lying in bed. I have always trusted you, milord.

Claire and Frank are having Millie (the neighbor Claire met) and her husband over for dinner. They are having Eton Mess for dessert, and Millie laughs that she doesn’t do baking – if it’s not in the freezer section, too bad. Jerry says she that her “talents lie elsewhere.” They are affectionate, and easy with each other, in the way Claire and Jamie were and Frank wishes they were.

After Millie and Jerry leave, Frank pours Claire a nightcap, and after some banter, she takes his glass, removes her panties, and guides his hand between her legs. Her eyes are closed as he lays her down in front of the fire, and he asks that she look at him. She refuses, and he stops. He doesn’t want to be used as substitute: “When I’m with you, I’m with you. But you’re with him.”

Claire and Frank, face to face. Claire is untying his tie, mid seduction.

The him in question gets a drink from Ian, and Ian talks about the phantom pains he gets in his leg: “Feeling a pain in a part of you that’s lost…Claire was your heart.” I dunno, that’s laying it on bit thick, show. Upstairs, Jamie sees a tapestry with the family arms on it that’s been slashed – the British did that. Jamie muses that they won’t stop until he’s found.

Jamie’s plan is to have Jenny turn him in: that way they get the reward money, they prove their loyalty to the Crown, so the soldiers will stop harassing them. Jenny hates the idea, like REALLY hates it. She’ll hide her brother forever if that’s what he needs, because Ohana Means Family. Jamie’s plan is that Jenny will tell the British that she’s heard from Jamie, and she knows when he’ll show up, so that’ll be that. Jenny says that he’ll be “hangit” but Jamie doesn’t care all that much, and besides, it’s been seven years. They’re not hanging people that much. It’ll just be prison. Jenny asks Jamie if he’s not seen enough prisons, and he shrugs. “Little difference to the prison I live in now.”

Jenny says "Have you not seen the inside of enough prisons for one lifetime?" Jamie replies "Little difference to the prison I live in now."

In his cave, Jamie sees Mary bringing him food and offers him company. She shaves him, and cuts his hair, and he thanks her for her bravery for turning over the pistol to the British. He leaves to go bathe, and tells her to bring back the books to the house, and toss the rest. She doesn’t though: she offered him company, and he comes back to find her in her shift.

What she’s offering is a moment of humanity. She’s not trying to compete with Claire. “Something we both need. Something to keep us whole as we move forward in this life.” He wrestles with himself, and admits that he hasn’t done this for a while. She hasn’t either, but they figure it out.

In Boston, Claire walks with Bree in her pram, and Bree is a super cute baby. Claire voiceovers that she did her best to resign herself to her new role as wife and mother, while looking at a headline announcing that Truman appointed a woman as Treasurer. She’s been a part of something larger, and eventually… she picks up a knife, and holds it like scalpel, and the picture fades into her actually holding a scalpel. “I would need to do something more.”

A SMILING BABBY BREE. IN A HAT. BECAUSE BABIES COME WITH HATS

She’s in the Anatomy classroom at Harvard Medical. She’s a first year, and her professor muses that Harvard is being super modern this year, with a woman and a Black man in the class. Claire takes her seat amid the hostile glares of her classmates, until the Black man walks in. He asks if he can sit next to Claire, and she smiles.  His name is Joe Abernathy. They shake hands, while the white dudes shake their heads in disgust.

The professor starts class: “Alright, gentlemen. Let’s begin.”

Claire and Joe, looking at each other and smiling in a sea of white dude faces in their anatomy class.

At the house, Claire comes into bed. She and Frank now are sleeping in twin beds.

Frank, turning out his light next to his twin bed. Claire is asleep in the twin bed next to him.

Jenny feeds the chickens in the yard, and Jamie – shorn and shaven and looking like himself, comes to the gate. He swallows hard before saying that he’s come home (and takes off the brown hat). She says nothing, and the soldiers come out of hiding and seize him. He, acting, says, “No, Jenny!”

She, not acting, says that he brought this on himself and she’ll never forgive him for making her do this. The captain arrests Jamie and gives Jenny a large pouch of coins, and she looks away and ashamed. But she takes it. He’s loaded into the cart, and she runs into the house, crying. Jamie sits in the cart, staring at the irons on his wrists.

Jenny, yelling after her brother, "You gave me no choice, brother, and I'll never forgive you. NEVER."

Claire walks across a bridge where a man playing Scotland the Brave on bagpipes is. She pauses to put money in his case, and walks on.

RHG: JOE ABERNATHY you are my favorite new character to come out of Voyager. HELLO.

I had a lot of thoughts while watching this episode- among other things, I’m not as enamored with Voyager as I am with the first two books, so my knee jerk “grouchy when things are changed” is considerably less that it was the first two seasons.

The second was articulated beautifully by this piece on (Bustle? I think it was Bustle) about how this episode made the point that the emotional part of sex exists for men, too. Frank wants the connection, he doesn’t want to be a sex toy. Mary understands that Jamie also wants the connection, and she can and will give him what she has to give.

Fergus, oh Fergus.  Fergus, Fergus, Fergus.

Elyse: See, this is why I stopped reading after Outlander. I want my hero and heroine to overcome their pain and live happily ever after together. Instead Jamie is living in a sadness cave and Claire is sleeping in a Dick VanDyke bed next to a guy she doesn’t love anymore. Also I’m not chill about a kid getting his hand cut off.

So as a non-Voyager reader I just kinda let my head hit the back of the couch and went, “but whhhhhyyyyyy aren’t they together? Whhhhhyyy angst?”

I like that Jenny and Mary are holding everything together though. Jamie and Ian aren’t really present (by no fault of their own) and once again, Jenny is getting shit done.

What about you? How did you like this episode? 

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Posted by Carrie S

B

Alex + Ada: The Complete Collection

by Jonathan Luna
November 16, 2016 · Image
Comic

Alex + Ada is a series of three graphic novels by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. The series is a love story between a man named Alex and an android named Ada. Over the course of the story, there are many parallels with past and current civil rights movements, as well as explorations of how, specifically, a rights movement for sapient androids might play out. It’s a tender, sweet story with moments of horror and tragedy but also with a truly enduring and endearing romance.

Alex is mooning over his ex-fiancée when his grandmother decides to get him an android companion. Alex’s grandmother, who is a constant source of comic relief, expresses great and uncomfortably explicit delight with regard to the success of her own android, Daniel. One day Alex comes home and finds a surprise from Grandma – an android named Ada.

Alex is quite creeped out by Ada’s complete lack of agency or interest in anything other than whatever he orders her to seem interested in. He is polite to her but can’t figure out how to interact with her (and no, he doesn’t have sex with her). Alex finds an online forum about android rights and learns that androids were built with the ability to be sentient, but have had that ability locked away. Unlocking an android is a difficult and illegal task but a person in the forum offers to unlock Ada. Ada would be a fully conscious person albeit still in an android body.

From this point on, Ada has agency and more of the story is told from her point of view. Unfortunately, unlocking a sentient is extremely illegal, as is simply being a sentient robot. Alex and Ada try being friends and try being lovers, while they also figure out what their lives can be like as a couple and individually given that Ada’s sentient state has to remain a secret.

Ada and Alex almost kissing

The art in Alex + Ada is very simple, but I thought it fit the story. There’s no panel tricks here – everything is drawn inside uniform rectangles and the color palette is subdued. This allows the focus to remain on faces. Even when Ada is standing still and not speaking, it’s easy to tell when she is sentient and when she is not.

The focus of the story is very much on Alex and Ada, but I loved the side characters as well. The only problem is that the more villainous characters are too one-sided whereas the more sympathetic characters are either allowed more complexity or are simply more pleasant to be around. There are multiple examples of healthy, happy relationships that involve a variety of races, ages, gender preferences, and human or non-human statuses. I’m especially fond of a character with a prosthetic leg who wants to upgrade and hang his older prosthetic leg on the wall. His wife is generally supportive, but in an aside to Ada whispers, “That’s NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.”

robot love. The older model robot lacks certain parts but, says his lover, is very good with his hands. The robot says I can vibrate.
Tee hee hee

This isn’t a very complex story and it doesn’t say anything we haven’t heard before about what makes a person a person. It’s also pretty brief and could use more elaboration about the world and other characters.

However, its very simplicity makes it emotionally focused. While everyone in the story is worried about society and the place of sentient robots and whether sentient robots will kill people and how to catch them, Alex and Ada just want to live their lives together. The story is affecting because of the relationship between Alex and Ada, and between their friends. There’s tough going at the end of the story but it ends on an optimistic note, with Alex and Ada poised to be the slightly boring suburban couple they always wanted to be.

Movie Review: Home Again

Sep. 22nd, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Redheadedgirl

I feel like the romantic comedy genre isn’t dead; it’s just in a vegetative state. We get a handful of rom coms a year, and they’re usually in the range of “boring” to “well, that happened.” This is slightly to the more interesting side of “well, that happened” seasoned with a few dashes of casual racism.

Alice (Reese Witherspoon) is the daughter of a well-known, award-winning filmmaker who moves back to her father’s home with her two kids after separating from her husband, Austen (Michael Sheen). Her dad has been dead for some unspecified amount of time, and Alice is coping with her new life, and her two daughters are also trying to cope with a new school and LA life after growing up in New York. Through a series of alcohol-fueled birthday shenanigans, she meets a trio of dudes who have come to LA to break into the movie business (they had a short that was well-received at South By Southwest, so they’re not like, randomly, showing up, getting off the bus with a suitcase and a dream), so they end up staying in her guest house for a while. Alice starts a relationship with one of them, Harry, setting up a really interesting older woman/younger dude dynamic. Her husband shows up, and everyone needs to figure out what they’re doing with their lives.

I liked the relationship between Alice and Harry as a very firm “yes, you’re an older woman, and I find you incredibly attractive and sexy” with no apologies or psychological discussions. These are two people who have pants feelings for one another. That’s it. Also Pico Alexander is super adorable, and Reese is also adorable, and they have chemistry to spare. But the movie kind of skates past “why are these two interested in each other beyond the pants feelings?” You see them talking in a montage, but what are they talking about? It’s all very superficial.

I don’t know if I like Michael Sheen. I really don’t. I do know that I’ve never seen him in a comedy before, and I think I’d like to see him do more. (I mean, really, I want more comedy in general, but I think he’s at least interesting in a comedy, and he can play the straight man very well.)

I have seen some other people saying that they really liked this movie because it showed three younger dudes learning how to do emotional labor and help out this single mom. They end up helping with the kids (one plot line involves Alice’s older daughter and her anxiety, and how one of the guys helps her with that), and helping with the house. It’s very sweet, if kind of unrealistic.

The main problem I had is that I have certain expectations of romantic comedy, specifically that there’s an HEA with the two leads together. And this doesn’t. I mean, everyone is happy, at the end, and things seem to be working out for everyone, but Alice and Harry aren’t together. And I miss the movies where you have Julia Roberts giving a heartfelt, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy…” speech. Those don’t get made anymore, and I’m sad.

I did like Alice processing her life and musing about decisions she made when she was 25 that were supposed to last the rest of her life, and I love the message that yes, an older woman deserves love and sex and intimacy. I thought this was charming, to be honest. I just thought the portrayal was kind of hollow.

This was written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who is the daughter of Nancy Meyers, the writer and director of movies like The Parent Trap, The Holiday, and It’s Complicated. Meyers-Shyer had small parts in her mother’s movies, and there’s a definite throughline in Home Again about growing up in the shadow of famous parents (Alice’s mother, played by Candice Bergen, was an actress). Moreover, in a move that I think is fairly typical for people who grew up in the movie business, this is a movie about movie people and the minutiae and frustrations of getting a movie made.

Is that something people who don’t spend a bunch of time reading and caring about the movie business are interested in seeing?

There were also a couple of moments of casual racism that just didn’t need to be there, which was so frustrating. There was literally no reason for the ostensible hero to say “You know what Indians are like,” without anyone calling him out on it.

I honestly don’t see this as a movie that you need to pay full price for. I mean, it’s a movie written and directed and produced by women, and it’s mostly about a woman entering the third act of her life, but it’s just not a $13 movie.

Home Again is in theaters now and tickets (US) are available at Fandango and Moviefone.

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Posted by SB Sarah

Sarah chats with New York Times bestselling author Alessandra Torre and filmmaker and Passionflix co-founder Tosca Musk about the filming of Hollywood Dirt, and the process of turning novels into films. We also discuss the launch of PassionFlix, their goals for service, the production schedule, and some behind the scenes fun moments and challenges that made filming memorable. And we have TWO dogs on the podcast! Very exciting.

PassionFlix launched on 1 September, and Hollywood Dirt premiered 20 September on PassionFlix. They’ve optioned several other projects, including books from Brenda Jackson, and there are two more original films premiering this fall:  Afterburn/Aftershock by Sylvia Day premieres in November, and The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis in December.

Listen to the podcast →
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:

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You can find Alessandra Torre at AlessandraTorre.com, and on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. And you can find Alessandra’s latest writing on Radish.

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What did you think of today's episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that's where you hang out online. You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don't forget to give us a name and where you're calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.

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This Episode's Music

Shadow Orchestra Sweet as a NutOur music is provided by Sassy Outwater.

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This podcast is brought to you by The Scotsman Who Saved Me by Hannah Howell.

From New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell comes a brand-new series featuring the MacEnroys, a family of seven strong, seductive Scottish brothers who have come to America with nerves of steel—and who will take no prisoners when it comes to love.

The last thing Iain MacEnroy expected to find in his peaceful corner of the Ozarks was a burning cabin with a brutally butchered young couple inside. As he and his brothers bury the dead, a blood trail leads him directly to gravely injured Emily Stanton, who managed to escape the attack.

For Scotsman Iain MacEnroy, Emily’s high-tone accent is a bitter reminder of the oppressive regime he left behind. The last thing he needs is to be burdened by the needs of a beautiful, blue-eyed Englishwoman. But taking care of elegant, educated Emily begins to transform Iain in ways he never imagined. Could it be that the deep divisions from the old world no longer apply in the new—and that Iain and Emily can share a passion as lush and wild as the Scottish highlands themselves?

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Posted by Amanda

The Trouble with Grace

The Trouble with Grace by Jenn LeBlanc is 99c at Amazon and iBooks! This historical romance serves as a prequel for the next book and seems to feature a triad of sorts. Readers recommend this one for those wanting a different sort of historical romance, while others said it was hard to get invested in the romance.

She had no idea what passion was,
Until she saw them…
 

Lady Alain needs a husband, and Quintin Wyntor will do just fine.

She will offer him a mutual agreement of respect and independence–
As long as he never visits her bed to claim his marital rights.

But seeing him with a man, with Calder, changes it all.
For better–and for worse.

Passion stirred.
Desire ignited.

And yet, she still never wants to touch or be touched.

But Quinn’s heart is shattered when his lover walks away so he decides to explore his feelings for Celeste to ease his broken heart.

In one unchecked moment of passion, mutual need spins out of control and bringing Calder home now may just be impossible.

Will Celeste give in to what Quinn wants for her?
Or will she stand her ground and hope they find another way…
 

This book is the story of Celeste and has her happily for now.
It is also the beginning of Calder and Quinn’s story which will be continued in THE SPARE AND THE HEIR.

This book is an autochorissexual romance (on the asexual spectrum) but contains important pieces of a gay romance. Both are explicit.

Warning: this book has a cliffhanger ending for Calder and Quinn, but is very much part of their story.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

iBooks

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amazon

 

 

 

Down & Dirty

Down & Dirty by Tracy Wolff is $1.99! This sports romance is the first book in the Lightning series. Readers said that while the book is definitely a sexy contemporary, it has some great emotional depth. However, some felt the romance aspect happened a bit too quickly.

This hard-bodied football star is used to scoring. But he needs all the right moves to get past a fiery redhead’s defenses in a steamy standalone novel from the bestselling author of Ruined.

Emerson: Talk about bad first impressions. I have too much riding on this job to show up late on my first day looking like the winner of a wet T-shirt contest, all thanks to an arrogant quarterback who drives like he owns the road. Hunter Browning thinks that because he’s famous, he can fix everything with a smile and a wave of his hand. He’s too bronzed, buff, and beautiful for his own good. Or mine. I can’t let on that I’m a fan . . . no matter how much fun we’d have in the sack.

Hunter: Hitting that puddle was my best play since winning the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass. Sure, it’s not my preferred way to get a girl wet, but I’ll make an exception for Emerson Day. She’s got a sharp tongue and a red-hot temper, even with her soaking clothes plastered to her every curve. Now I know exactly what my next play will be: hire Emerson as my personal real-estate agent, save her job—and see if I can take her off the market.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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A Summer for Scandal

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Adres is $1.99! This is a historical romance set in the Caribbean with a heroine hiding her writing identity. One promising review said the feeling between the hero and heroine is very much like Mr. Darcy and Lizzie, but some said the plot execution could have used some work. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads.

Arroyo Blanco, 1911.

When Emilia Cruz agreed to accompany her sister to a boating party, she had no idea that the darling of the literary world would be in assistance—or that he would take such pleasure in disparaging the deliciously sinful serial she writes under a pseudonym. No one save her sister knows she’s the author and to be found out would mean certain scandal.

Stuck on his long-awaited second book, Ruben Torres has begun to edit in secret a gossip paper whose literary reviews are as cruel as they are clever. The more he writes about the mysterious author of a popular serial, the more papers he sells…and the more he is determined to find out her identity before anyone else can.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Vampire Warrior Kings Boxed Set

The Vampire Warrior Kings Boxed Set by Laura Kaye is $1.99 at Amazon and iBooks! It’s $2.49 at all other vendors. This set collects books 1-3 in the Vampire Warrior Kings series and features vampires, obviously. Just a note that these romances are on the shorter side.

Get Laura Kaye’s three bestselling and award-winning Vampire Warrior Kings stories at one great price! Travel from Northern Ireland to Moscow, Russia, to Tromso, Norway in this exciting series featuring the world’s remaining vampire warrior kings as they battle immortal enemies in an escalating war and find unexpected love.

In the Service of the King
Kael, Warrior King of the Vampires loathes the Night of the Proffering. He needs the blood of either his mate or a human virgin to maintain his strength, but hasn’t enjoyed the ritual since he lost his mate. Until he lays eyes on his new offering, Shayla McKinnon, who will give him anything he wishes. Will Kael give in to their overwhelming desire–even if it means risking Shayla’s life?

Taken by the Vampire King
Henrik Magnusson is supposed to be immortal but, thanks to a mysterious ailment not even the blood of the Proffered can sustain him now. Then he rescues a beautiful young woman, and is filled with blood lust and desire he hasn’t felt for centuries…

Seduced by the Vampire
Kate Bordessa has fled to Russia to escape her family’s hopes that she’ll become one of the Proffered. But when she stumbles upon a wounded vampire, she’s instinctively driven to protect him. Will her connection now to Vampire Warrior King Nikolai Vasilyev be strong enough for her to embrace a destiny neither of them was expecting?

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

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Posted by Carrie S

B+

Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

by Helena Kelly
May 2, 2017 · Knopf
Science Fiction/FantasyGraphic Novel

I am sorry to inform you, Dear Bitches, that Jane Austen: The Secret Radical is not the stirring tale of an undercover Jane who lives a life of seeming calm while secretly running top secret missions for the abolitionist movement in the dead of night. However, it’s a fascinating nonfiction piece of detective work that points out that in the context of her day, Jane would have come across as a much more politically and socially progressive writer than she does to modern readers.

Author Helena Kelly’s premise relies on the idea that every time period and every culture has its own frame of reference. If I tell you that I do all my shopping at Walmart, that tells you something about me that is different from me saying that I do all my shopping at Whole Foods. Cultural references aren’t always that name brand specific (“name brand” is, itself, a phrase that is a cultural reference) but we all rely on thousands of these references without ever thinking about it.

Over time, certain themes stay current, which is one of the reasons that so many older books remain relevant and meaningful. However, most of the references with which the books’ original readers approached the text are lost, giving the book a different flavor with each new generation of readers. Kelly tries to look at Austen’s texts through the lens of Austen’s first readers, and she finds a lot of plausible evidence that Austen was writing very progressively about marriage, class, slavery, and money during a time when England was at war and dissent or criticism was repressed, often severely.

Here’s an example: In Mansfield Park, there is one reference to slavery that all readers can easily understand, and that is when Fanny brings it up at the dinner table and is shushed. Readers with more knowledge of history also know that when Sir Thomas goes to Antigua, he’s probably dealing with problems on his plantation, which is run by slaves. So far things are pretty overt. However, readers who read Mansfield Park when it was published would also have noticed that Fanny’s favorite poet, William Cowper, was famous for his poems in praise of abolition, and that Maria quotes from a passage about slavery written by Laurence Stern that was all the rage at the time. These, among other references, are obscure today but would have been glaring to Regency Era readers.

The other method Kelly uses is to analyze the text for things like repeated words and certain symbolism. For instance, in Mansfield Park, a book that deals with the idea of being trapped in multiple ways, the word “chains” is used thirteen times whereas in all other her other books combined it’s only used twice. In my opinion, sometimes this method of analysis is plausible and sometimes not so much. It’s clear that Kelly knows her Austen. However, all English majors know the trick of making everything symbolic, whether it’s intended to be or not. I buy the idea that Northanger Abbey is a book with a lot of content regarding sexuality but I don’t buy the idea that the scene in which Catherine opens boxes is about masturbation. Sometimes a box is just a box.

This isn’t light reading, but it’s also not mired in academic jargon. To my surprise, I read it in two days, lured on by the suspense of wondering just what Austen allegedly had to say about various topics. I found the chapters on Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park to be the most convincing and entertaining. The amount of scholarship and the clarity and approachability of the writing is truly impressive.

One of the reasons that I loved the chapters on Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion is that while Kelly does get into the darker subtext, she also celebrates reasons that the romances in those two novels are successful at a level I hadn’t considered. With other novels, Kelly is less sanguine about the eventual happiness of the couples. If you don’t want anyone casting aspersions on Edward from Sense and Sensibility, or Knightly from Emma, or Edmund from Mansfield Park, back away from the book slowly.

I would recommend this to people who have an interest in Jane Austen at an academic level. I would NOT recommend it to people who simply enjoy Austen for some nice reading, nor to those whose primary attachment to Austen is from the television and film adaptation, which tend to soften things considerably. If you fall into either of the latter groups, then this book will either irritate you or successfully ruin all conception of Austen as light and happy. If you like getting into the nuts and bolts of writing and history, then this book will be perfect for you.

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Posted by SB Sarah

After our first and second installments of Podcast and Episode recommendations, my playlist has grown considerably. I listen to podcasts while walking my dogs and while cooking, and I find that sampling new shows is both fascinating, affirming, and intimidating. Fascinating because I learn about so many new cool things, affirming because I’m so excited when there are new shows, and intimidating because I pay closer attention to finer details of my own podcast after I listen to a new one.

But! I always love finding new episodes to recommend, either from shows I’ve already subscribed to, or shows that I’ve just discovered. Here are a few recent favorites.

Still Processing Podcast header with photographs of the two hosts back to backI’ve already recommended Still Processing from the NY Times, hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. You can listen on the NYT website, on Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you haven’t tried Still Processing, please, please try the episode titled, “We Care For Ourselves and Others in Trump’s America.”

Morris and Wortham talk about the concept of self care, the co-opting of the term, and the history of personal, physical, and spiritual care for marginalized people. They also have a guest, Matthew Steinfeld, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, talk about diagnosis and care – and about the mental and emotional toll of contentious conversations, and the personal cost of doing the work to engage with people who hold views that are toxic and bigoted. I have listened to this episode, no lie, three straight times. It’s mind blowing.

Adrift podcast I’ve also tried a new show: Adrift, with Geoff Lloyd and Annabel Port. It’s a comedy podcast that seems to be partly about social awkwardness and embarrassment, and partly about random comedy. The two were radio DJs or presenters, and their show ended in March of this year.

The first episode featured stories about Annabel’s dog that had me laughing so hard I couldn’t go up my stairs until I calmed down. It’s sort of silly absurd comedy mixed with stories of social hesitance, and for the most part the two episodes I’ve listened to so far have been quite funny.

Rough TranslationAnd finally, also new: Rough Translation, a new podcast from NPR about issues affecting countries around the world that have a parallel with issues we’re facing in the US.

The first two episodes, “Brazil in Black and White,” and “Ukraine vs. Fake News,” were so interesting, I kept shushing the dog who was whining at me. Then I realized he was whining because I was standing completely still in my kitchen, holding his food bowl, stuck in place trying to fully process what I was listening to. Poor dog (yes, I fed him and his brother).

You can find Rough Translation on NPR’s website, on iTunes, and on Stitcher.

What podcast episodes have rocked your brain lately? Got any to recommend? 

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Posted by Amanda

Workspace with computer, journal, books, coffee, and glasses.It’s time for Wednesday Links, where we post some neat things we’ve found on the internet. I’m currently in one of those states where I’m not sure what day it is and when I do figure it out, it’s always earlier in the week than I’d thought. Which is a real bummer.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has a Kickstarter to be made into a movie! It’s already been successfully backed (yay!), but there are some awesome stretch goals that the team is working toward.

Big thanks to all of you who sent me the link to Entertainment Weekly’s cover reveal & interview with Lisa Kleypas. I loved this little historical fact from the Q & A:

Where did your idea for a female physician/doctor come from?

When I write these historical romance novels, I do an incredible amount of research just to get the flavor of the time period and to pick up all these details that give the story life. As I was reading about important people back in the late 1800s in England, the name Elizabeth Garrett Anderson came up. I was shocked to realize that she was the only female physician in England for 20-30 years and I had never even heard of her. After she got into the British Medical Association through a loophole after completing all these studies at the Sorbonne in France, the British Medical Association changed their rules so that no more women could be admitted for another 20 years. And I could not stop thinking about her because what an incredible thing to be the only woman in an entire country for that long. So I based this character Garrett Gibson on her and, of course, used the name Garrett, because I loved the idea of using a slightly androgynous name for this really tremendously accomplished and brave woman.

Also, what do you think of the cover? We had some thoughts here at the Bitchery.

 

The Ripped Bodice is doing a Blind Date with a Book, where readers can purchase books based on the description. Readers won’t know the actual title of the book until they receive it and unwrap it! I always love it when people do this. And just a reminder that The Ripped Bodice has graced us with an affiliate link for all of your online shopping.


iGo Keyjuice Keyring

The iGo is an itty bitty tool that unfolds to one USB connection, plus a USB and a USB Micro, so you can plug your phone into your laptop, or into a portable battery. Excellent for tiny emergency kits, too.


In a previous Wednesday Links, we mentioned that Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester was being made into a stage production. Well, welcome Reader Melinda who saw it! Here’s her review:

Not long ago you mentioned on the blog that Lifeline Theatre in Chicago is doing a stage adaptation of “Sylvester” this fall. I’m a resident of Portland Oregon but realized that I’d be in Chicago visiting family during the play’s previews. So we got tickets.

Yesterday afternoon we went to the show, and I am pleased to report that it was well done and very, very fun! All of us enjoyed it–not only myself and my daughter, who are Georgette fans and familiar with the story, but also my husband and son in law who had never heard of Georgette or Sylvester.

The theatre is small, so the environment is intimate, and the production is creative (costumes are suggested, casting is diverse, each actor plays many parts, and there is a “game of love ” theme that organizes and comments on the action). I was personally amazed that such a long and complex novel could be dramatized in a way that made it manageable for a 2-hour running time and yet retained the essential character (and comedy) of the book.

Interestingly enough, the program mentioned that this is the theatre’s fourth adaptation of a Heyer novel, so it seems they have an interest in this kind of literature. They also seem to have done adaptations of Dorothy Sayers and “Miss Buncle’s Book.” If I were a Chicago resident I would definitely be keeping my eye on their future productions

Does anyone else plan on seeing it?

Erotic romance author, Selena Kitt, did an AMA (ask me anything) over at Reddit and I thought the Q & A was pretty informative for authors! Check it out! She talks about promoting books, how to manage a large backlist of books, and more.

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!

More 99c Books from the Swerve Sale!

Sep. 20th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

Level Up

RECOMMENDED: Level Up by Cathy Yardley is 99c! Sarah and author Bree Bridges (one half of Kit Rocha!) had an entire podcast episode dedicated to squeeing about this book. If you want more geeky romances in your life, the next book, One True Pairing, is also on sale!

Geeky introvert Tessa Rodriguez will do whatever it takes to get promoted to video game engineer– including create a fandom-based video game in just three weeks. The only problem is, she can’t do it alone. Now, she needs to strong-arm, cajole, and otherwise socialize with her video game coworkers, especially her roommate, Adam, who’s always been strictly business with her. The more they work together, though, the closer they get…

Adam London has always thought of his roomie Tessa as “one of the guys” until he agreed to help her with this crazy project. Now, he’s thinking of her all the time… and certainly as something more than just a roommate! But his last girlfriend broke up with him to follow her ambitions, and he knows that Tessa is obsessed with getting ahead in the video game world.

Going from friends to something more is one hell of a challenge. Can Tessa and Adam level up their relationship to love?

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line by Audra North is 99c! This is the third book in the Hard Driving series, but it works fine as a standalone. I’ve read some of North’s books in the past and she does write some pretty sexy contemporaries. Readers loved the chemistry between the hero and heroine, but others wanted more racing action.

He wanted her the first time he saw her. It didn’t matter that he was on stage in front of a room full of reporters, or that his publicist was telling him to move on, or that she was asking him a question about racing. One look at her “just been bedded” hair — completely at odds with her deliciously prim appearance — and Ty Riggs is hooked.

Corrine Bellows is one of the woefully few women in a male profession: sports reporting. In a field where “Hey, sweetheart, can you fetch me a cup of copy” is part of her job description, she’s determined to keep things professional. And while interviewing Ty Riggs, the hottest new driver on and off the track, is a major scoop, Corrine knows that she is in major trouble when it becomes clear that Ty wants so much more and is determined to get it. As things heat up between them, Corrine finds herself on shakier ground. Her big secret just may destroy everything.

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Beauty and the Highland Beast

Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia Cornwall is 99c! This is a historical romance with Beauty and the Beast elements. Readers say the book has a great start introducing the hero and the heroine, but there were others who felt a lot of the plot points seemed unnecessary. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads. This is the first book in the A Highland Fairytale series and right now, you can grab all three books for less than $3!

Powerful and dangerous highlander Dair Sinclair was once the favored son of his clan, The Sinclairs of Carraig Brigh. With Dair at the helm, Sinclair ships circled the globe bringing home incredible fortune. Until one deadly mission when Dair is captured, tortured and is unable to save his young cousin. He returns home breaking under the weight of his guilt and becomes known as the Madman of Carraig Brigh.

When a pagan healer predicts that only a virgin bride can heal his son’s body and mind, Dair’s father sets off to find the perfect wife for his son. At the castle of the fearsome McLeods, he meets lovely and kind Fia MacLeod.

Although Dair does his best to frighten Fia, she sees the man underneath the damage and uses her charm and special gifts to heal his mind and heart. Will Dair let Fia love him or is he cursed with madness forever?

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Meat

Meat by Opal Carew is 99c! It doesn’t look like this book is part of any series, so you can read without worrying about details from any previous books. I wanted to include this book because the title made me giggle. This definitely falls into the erotic romance category, so expect a lot of sexytimes. However, readers thought the book could have benefitted from being a bit longer.

Just one taste isn’t enough…

I ran into Rex Keene—literally—when I was trying to catch my flight and his muscled, tattooed arms stopped my fall.

Then our flight gets canceled, and we’re stranded in the same hotel room together…it ended up being the steamiest night of my life.

All I knew is that I had to see him again.

I just didn’t expect him to show up a week later in the restaurant I manage…as our new head chef.

But the generous, tender man I spent that night with is gone; instead he’s arrogant, demanding, and terrorizing the staff.

But he won’t give up until we’re together – and I’m not sure I can stay away.

Which man is real?

Who is Rex Keene?

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Speaker of the Lost by Clara Coulson

Sep. 20th, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by SB Sarah

D

Speaker of the Lost

by Clara Coulson
September 15, 2017 · Knite and Day Publishing
Nonfiction

It’s getting a little bleak for me, reading-wise. This was the first book I finished after 8 DNFs in a row, some of which were nonfiction and some romance or fantasy. I was pretty excited that the beginning of this story was so promising. Then it became repetitive, emotionally limited, inconsistent, and then offensive.

Summary time! Stella Newport is a brand new FBI agent. Specifically, she’s a Lark, which is the name given to the agents in the paranormal investigation division. She’s sent to work with a curmudgeonly, unkind agent named Oswald Bolton, known informally as “Oz.” There are a couple of familiar character types here: the intelligent rookie who is more than she seems, paired with an experienced, jaded agent who lost his partner prior to the start of this story, and who doesn’t want to work with anyone else because emotional vulnerability is awful and he hates it. He works alone – doesn’t anyone understand that?!

This novel is book 1 of a new series called “Lark Nation,” but according to the listing, it’s part of the same universe as another series. First off: I do not think this book works as a stand-alone, and that’s a shame. The exposition and world building presumed that I knew things that I did not, and many major elements, like the entire other worlds and universes that exist parallel to the one the characters inhabit, are very sparsely described.

As a result, I switched between being frustrated that I didn’t get what the characters were talking about and being annoyed that they were so lacking in basic understanding of jurisprudence. For FBI agents, they didn’t know much about aspects of investigation that I would think were obvious. For example: if you suspect your partner has been hit in the head with a brick, throwing that brick into the water while you’re having a tantrum because she’s been fridged seems like a bad idea. Oz’s reasoning is that the rain washed away the evidence that it was used in an assault, but that’s some pretty flawed reasoning for an experienced agent. There are also multiple instances where “something” isn’t right, or “something” seems off, but the main characters shrug it off, or figure they’ll deal with whatever it is at a later time.

Stella and Oz are in Maine investigating a beheading. Some guy was walking home at night on a deserted road, and a headless horseman shows up and lops his head clean off. So Stella is sent to assist Oz, who is already on site, but because there are so many supernatural crimes happening all over the country – a byproduct of some event that happened in the earlier series which I didn’t read – there’s not much in the way of backup for either of them. At one point Stella has a call with her supervisor where she has to tell him about a few more beheadings that happened, and I was so confused how that wasn’t information said supervisor would need to know as soon as they had happened.

The book started out pretty strong: Stella is nervous about her first investigation, but very smart, capable, and confident in her training and her abilities.

Then we meet Oz. Oz is grumpy and also, he’s an asshole. They start by trying to figure out why the dude lost his head. Then more people start dying, and the narrative starts repeating itself. For example: I was told over and over that Stella isn’t sure if she wants to be the one who breaks down Oz’s defenses/”scale the concrete wall Oswald…had built around his heart”/lather rinse repeat.

Honestly, I didn’t care if she did or not. It was perhaps the second or third day of their working together, he barely managed to treat her with respect, and I didn’t really know the scope of what happened to him in the first place. I have dreadfully low tolerance for characters who lack any emotional fluency, and even less for people who use that excuse to treat other people poorly. Example: here’s Oz after he berates a local cab driver – and this is in a small town where he and Stella are already worried about gossip regarding the FBI’s presence and investigation:

Oz knew he’d been too hard on the guy, but again, he couldn’t bring himself to care about the feelings of a random stranger who would ultimately mean nothing in the grand scheme. The cabbie would get over his scare, resume his normal activities, and live, if not happily ever after, then some mediocre variation.

Nice, huh? And it’s pretty consistent with how he treats ancillary characters. I don’t care what kind of structures he’s built around himself. It’s probably a good idea he stay inside them. One of the goals (I presume) of this book is to establish Stella and Oz’s partnership as agents, but the overtly romantic tone, the constant reassertion that it’s somehow Stella’s job to emotionally heal Oswald, and the compressed time period of a few days or maybe a week, did not do enough to make me believe in their alleged progress.

The two things that frustrated me most, aside from the repetitiveness of Stella vs. Oz Walls, were as follows.

First: there was not enough connecting the magic to reality.  There’s a magical world connected to the real one, and the FBI has some sort of jurisdiction over it. But how that works is not ever fully explained, nor is their authority over magical events that happen to humans. Stella has some kind of magical ability (more on that in a moment) and both she and Oz have mage kits and magical rings but the integration of their individual magic into the reality they inhabit was also poorly built. The magical rings are particularly ludicrous: to use one, they have to point the ring at a target and yell “SHOOT!” to make things happen. I kept picturing the elementary school kids in my neighborhood playing superhero and waving their hands at each other: “BOOM! You fell down!” Without a more robust explanation of how the magic works, what the cost is, what its effects are, why they have it and some don’t, the whole wave-your-ring-at-the-bad-guy part seemed dumb.

Then, there’s this part which ruined the whole book for me. Get ready.

Stella is described by Oz when he meets her as follows:

She was roughly twenty-five and built like a ballet dancer, with light brown skin and facial features that spoke of a multiracial ancestry. Her long hair was tamed into a ponytail of black ringlets, leaving no shadows on her face to hide her bright green eyes. No, vividly green eyes. Eyes that almost seemed to shine, even.

I didn’t read about any other characters of color aside from Stella, but figured there would be some. To my knowledge, there were not – though I may have missed a description or two, as I began reading pretty quickly once the book began to sour for me.

Then Oz and the reader learns something pretty crucial about Stella:

Show Spoiler

Stella is revealed to be a powerful telekinetic, and part fae. Oz, it turns out – and this is revealed about him after Stella divulges that her grandmother is Summer fae – hates and distrusts the fae. Which leads to this rumination on his part:

Faeries were not his favorite creatures – they stood one step below vampires on his list of THINGS I HATE – but most of his ire was directed at full-blooded fae. They were mischievous, sadistic creatures, who’d taken their inability to lie and honed it into a mastery of manipulation. They were cold, callous, crafty, and clever, and every interaction Oz had with them in the past ended in absolute disaster….

To think Newport had their blood running through her veins unnerved him. It made him question everything she’d said and done since the moment they met. But…Oz rejected the impulse to categorize Newport with her inhuman relations….

No, Newport’s interactions with Oz had been true to form. She was what she appeared to be. Headstrong. Smart. Practical. Controlled…. She didn’t have faults as an agent that a few years of fieldwork wouldn’t fix.

Weighing all those qualities against her fae blood, Oz could find no legitimate reason to shun her. Her heritage was beyond her control. Her behavior was not, and what she’d displayed so far spoke of a talented agent in the toddler phase who’d one day grow to be a truly spectacular force.

My comment on my device: “Oh, no.”

So Stella is to my knowledge the only character of color in the book, and she’s part fae. But it’s ok: she’s not like other fae, and though Oz hates them all, she’s proved herself so he won’t shun her. Am I supposed to look at Oz favorably for overcoming his own prejudice? Am I supposed to ignore the substitution of “fae prejudice” for racial prejudice?

WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. LIVING. HELL.

If I cringe any harder, I’ll develop a hernia. Sloppy characterization that’s painfully racist is not what I wanted. I’ve sat here watching my blinking cursor trying to think of coherent words to respond to that scene. Stella even lampshades herself in an earlier part of the book, joking with a receptionist who expected Oz’s new partner to be “another brown-haired man around thirty-five” that her unit is “a little more diverse.” But she’s still a token character – on multiple levels.

I get so excited when I see more inclusivity in the fiction I buy. But this is not the representation I’m looking for. This is the exact opposite.

I was close enough to the end that I finished the book, but neither Oz nor the story were redeemable for me. There was so much potential in the first chapters: a bit of X-Files with a complicated set of partners, plus a headless horseman – who talks to the heroine! They have whole conversations after he yanks his head out of his saddlebag! They were the most interesting pair in the book, now that I think about it.

I would have been a lot happier if Stella had left Oz to his grumpy racist emotional navel gazing and run off with the murdering headless horseman.

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Posted by Amanda

This HaBO comes from Amanda, who isn’t me, I swear:

I’m sorry that I can’t remember anything about this book, but there are so many paranormal romances starring vampires that they all blur together – I can’t even be sure about the plot. All I recall is the start; the heroine worked at a hospital, and was in the morgue when a recently arrived body jumps up and attacks her. As she’s slumped against the wall dying, the last thing she sees is the hero who arrives too late and takes her away to a mansion filled with other vampires, so she’ll be able to learn about her new existence. The mansion vampires are good and the vampire that randomly attacked the heroine is rogue?

All I remember about the book is that it was a paperback from a decade or so ago, from when my sister was in a vamp-fanatic phase. It just niggles away at the back of my brain, because I know I’ve read it, but browsing the vamp romances on Amazon doesn’t ring any bells.

I fill like this is a Black Dagger Brotherhood book, but it’s been so long since I’ve read one.

Contemporary Romances & YA Fantasy

Sep. 19th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

The Girl with the Red Balloon

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke is $1.99! This is a pretty new release and I mentioned how excited I was about it in this month’s Hide Your Wallet. Reviewers on Goodreads recommend this title for fans of magical realism, but some felt the heroine was a bit boring.

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

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This book is on sale at:

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Truth or Beard

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid is 99c at Amazon! I know Reid is an auto-buy author for many of you and this one has an enemies to lovers feel to it, judging by the description. Readers say it has Reid’s trademark humor and quirkiness, but warn there’s a scene where the hero is with another woman. I know that’s an off button for some, but Reader Katie Lynn explained that it isn’t a form of cheating.

Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

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Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is $1.99! This is a YA fantasy novel that was nominated for a RITA in 2012. Michelle wrote in her RITA Reader Challenge Review:

The biggest reason I picked up Grave Mercy originally was because of the assassin nuns. Because come on, how awesome does “assassin nuns” sound?

Then I saw it was first-person present tense, and almost held back from getting it. That particular style has been notoriously difficult for me to get into in the past, and I’ve been getting burnt out on it.

However, I went ahead and got the book anyway, and I’m thrilled I did. LaFevers uses language so well that I sank immediately into her style without the 5-10 pages of struggle that normally accompanies reading present tense.

Here, she’s created a fantastic medieval world of gods, saints, political intrigue, and romance that swept me away completely.

And yes, the assassin nuns were pretty much as great as they sounded.

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

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All That Matters

All That Matters by Erin Nicholas is 99c! This is the third book in The Billionaire Bargains series, but it can be read as a standalone. Also, the heroine is the billionaire in this romance! Some readers felt the ending seemed a bit unresolved, while others thought this was a rather fun romance. It has a 4.1-star rating on Goodreads.

When billionaire Emily Steele breaks off her eight-year relationship with the only boy she’s ever dated, she quickly realizes she has a lot to learn. About the world. About herself. And men. Definitely men.

A friend’s bachelorette party in New Orleans is the perfect place to get in touch with her inner vixen. Trouble is, she’s never actually met her inner vixen. Worse, her overprotective uncle’s determination to keep her safe means she’s going to have a babysitter for the weekend. A tall, handsome babysitter who makes her tingle from head to toe.

Will Weston has always thought his boss’s niece was special, and now that she’s single, he’s even more acutely aware of her beauty and charm. Her uncle’s insistence that he accompany her to the world’s sexiest city has mistake written all over it—until she offers his best friend a million dollars to be her date.

Now there’s no way Will is staying behind, even though he knows something crazy is going to happen. Because falling in love in a weekend is definitely crazy.

Warning: Contains a woman with enough money to buy a date for a weekend in New Orleans, a guy who’s never going to let that happen, a bachelorette party on Bourbon Street, hot sex to slow jazz, and beignets… because there has to be beignets.

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Posted by Amanda

This HaBO request is from Lynn, who is trying to find an older historical:

I’m trying to find a historical romance in paperback. My mom had it roughly around the 80’s-90’s. It was so excessive that I loved it.

The heroine was a mountain woman who lived alone. She saved the hero from a bear. The descriptions were awesome — I remember “bluer than a possum’s balls in a skiff of snow” and “colder than a witch’s tit”. The hero was a city feller, and I think she might have tried to make it in the city for him, but it’s been many years since I read this book.

I would love to find it, because it was crazy.

I am very interested in this heroine!

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Posted by Amanda

This post is being sponsored by AdamandEve.com, and, while we have some amazing toy recommendations, here is the most important information:

AdamandEve.com is offering Smart Bitches readers 50% off a single item plus free standard shipping in the US and Canada with code SMART. Please note: certain exclusions apply, but the coupon covers most of the store.

Additionally, you also get a free gift with purchase: a pink vibrating egg, which is sure to give you some bang for your buck.

Previously, Sarah and I put together a list of personal recommendations and recommendations of popular products from the site. We also invited Reader Jaymzangel to send us some recs as well!

This time, I’m picking some items that I think would be great for the fall season – for yourself, or someone else, or both!

This post is extremely NSFW! You have been warned!

A&E Intimate Pleasures Kegel Set: Okay, this serious looks some awesome rose gold jewelry. I love how customizable this set is with two different silicone sleeves and four differently sized balls. Perfect for the classy, kinky goth!

A&E Intimate Pleasures Kegel SetKitty Playballs Set: If you prefer your Ben Wa balls more on the cutesy side, check out this set! Though it only comes with one sleeve, it still has four differently weighted balls. Plus, a pink carrying case with a lock!

Kitty Playballs Set

 

Fetish Fantasy Web Restraint: Looking to get freaky on Halloween? Or perhaps you want to roleplay Spider & the Fly with your partner? This restraint system fits any bed, comes with four cuffs, and has 24 different “web lines” the cuffs can attach to or slide along during play. The set also comes with a free satin mask as well. How much fun does that look?

Fetish Fantasy Web Restraint

The Rendezvous Gift Set: First off, this set of toys comes in a case that looks like a book. Hello!

Imagine putting in on your bookshelf and having company be none the wiser. The set also comes with nine items, which is a 40% savings if you had purchased everything separately. I’m a sucker for a bargain. There are toys, bondage tape, a mask, candle, and a variety of lube samples.

The Rendezvous Gift Set

Salted Caramel Intimate Earth Flavored Lubricant: One of fall’s signature flavors is salted caramel. Sorry, pumpkin spice fans – I couldn’t find any lube for you. This lube in particular is water-based and warms up. It’s also safe for vegans! This brand also comes in cherry and strawberry flavors that are more tart than the salted caramel one, according to reviews.

Salted Caramel Intimate Earth Flavored Lubricant

Wicked Aqua Salted Caramel Flavored Lube: I found not one, but two salted caramel flavored lubes! This one is also vegan-friendly and water-based, but I like the packaging of this one more. It looks like a fancy hand soap dispenser. It does not seem to be a warming lubricant, but it does have some other fall-ish flavors like Candy Apple and Mocha Java.

Wicked Aqua Salted Caramel Flavored Lube

Revitalize Pocket Vibrator Kit: This pocket vibrator comes in baby blue and pastel pink. It’s waterproof and features three different silicone attachments. So it’s pretty much like putting a costume on your vibrator. It only takes one AA battery and is waterproof, which is something I consider a “must have” when it comes to my sex toys.

Revitalize Pocket Vibrator Kit

Big thanks to Adam & Eve for sponsoring this post and for the coupon and free gift to our readers!

I so love doing these posts. Not only do I get to browse sex toys for “work,” but it gives me a chance to talk about them with all of you. As a side note, the romance genre and community have really helped me in terms of discussing my sexuality and my sexual needs with my partner. It’s reaffirming in the sense that sex isn’t something to be embarrassed about, though I’d definitely say I’m still in the learning process.

What do you think about the items recommended? Have any you’d love to suggest?

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Posted by Amanda

Hamilton’s Battalion

Hamilton’s Battalion is available for preorder at Amazon for $4.99! This is a historical romance anthology from Courtney Milan, Rose Lerner, and Alyssa Cole and many of you were super interested in it after it was mentioned on the most recent podcast episode with Cole. I’m excited to see the cover once it’s been finalized.

Love in the time of Hamilton…

On October 14, 1781, Alexander Hamilton led a daring assault on Yorktown’s defenses and won a decisive victory in America’s fight for independence. Decades later, when Eliza Hamilton collected his soldiers’ stories, she discovered that while the war was won at Yorktown, the battle for love took place on many fronts…

PROMISED LAND by Rose Lerner

Donning men’s clothing, Rachel left her life behind to fight the British as Corporal Ezra Jacobs–but life catches up with a vengeance when she arrests an old love as a Loyalist spy.

At first she thinks Nathan Mendelson hasn’t changed one bit: he’s annoying, he talks too much, he sticks his handsome nose where it doesn’t belong, and he’s self-righteously indignant just because Rachel might have faked her own death a little. She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t spill her secret to the entire Continental Army.

Then Nathan shares a secret of his own, one that changes everything…

THE PURSUIT OF… by Courtney Milan

What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually.

* They attempted to kill each other the first time they met.
* They’re liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred mile journey that they’re inexplicably sharing.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are…. Oh, no.

THAT COULD BE ENOUGH by Alyssa Cole

Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

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Shacking Up

Shacking Up by Helena Hunting is 99c! This is part of a huge Swerve sale going on and we’ll definitely feature more books this week. This book has a romantic comedy vibe and is actually pretty funny, but I’ll admit that it does take some suspension of disbelief, since it can be a bit zany at times.

Ruby Scott is months behind on rent and can’t seem to land a steady job. She has one chance to turn things around with a big audition. But instead of getting her big break, she gets sick as a dog and completely bombs it in the most humiliating fashion. All thanks to a mysterious, gorgeous guy who kissed—and then coughed on—her at a party the night before.

Luckily, her best friend might have found the perfect opportunity; a job staying at the lavish penthouse apartment of hotel magnate Bancroft Mills while he’s out of town, taking care of his exotic pets. But when the newly-evicted Ruby arrives to meet her new employer, it turns out Bane is the same guy who got her sick.

Seeing his role in Ruby’s dilemma, Bane offers her a permanent job as his live-in pet sitter until she can get back on her feet. Filled with hilariously awkward encounters and enough sexual tension to heat a New York City block, Shacking Up, from NYT and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting, is sure to keep you laughing and swooning all night long.

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The Billionaire Beast

The Billionaire Beast by Jackie Ashenden is 99c! This is an erotic Beauty and the Beast retelling and, while this is the second book in the Billionaire Fairytales series, it can be read as a standalone. Readers really felt for the hero, but felt the heroine seemed like a doormat at times.

Dark, tortured, and intimidating, these dominant billionaires will steal their innocent heroines’ breath away. Overwhelmed by their desire to control their world, they push their heroines to explore their deepest desires. But even the most unworldly of heroines can unlock these billionaires’ secrets.

Nero de Santis: Damaged. Bastard. Beast.

Nero hasn’t left his house in ten years—he demands the world come to him, and the world is only too happy to bend to the strong-willed billionaire. Ruthless, cold, and selfish, Nero wants for nothing and takes care of no one but himself. His last handful of assistants have left his house in tears, but the prim redhead applying for the job looks up to the task. Nero has spent his life shut within the walls he built, with no care to have more than a window to the outside world. But the fiery passion he senses beneath his reserved assistant’s exterior makes him want to break down the barriers he lives behind, and unleash the beast within.

Phoebe Taylor: Uptight. Misunderstood. Engaged.

Phoebe needs the obscene amount of money that comes with being Nero’s personal assistant for one thing, and one thing only—to pay for the mounting hospital costs that her fiancee’s two-year coma continues to incur. She’s heard rumors that the de Santis beast is a force that cannot be tamed—but even she isn’t prepared to handle the smoldering intensity simmering beneath his hard shell of feral dominance. Nero is hiding something, something he is fighting with every step he takes. Yet he can’t help but stake his claim on this woman who has shaken up his life, and Phoebe can’t believe this animal of a man is the one person to ever look into her eyes and see her soul. Nero wants to keep her. He wants to devour her. And Phoebe just might let him.

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The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian

The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian by Anne Calhoun is 99c! Sarah read this novella and while she felt the ending was rushed (which is a common problem for me in novellas), it still earned a B grade:

I really enjoyed reading this novella, and recommend it for fans of hotter contemporary romance.

And really, I haven’t met many people who can resist that title. The story inside comes very, very close to living up to the promise of it.

The second in the Alpha Ops novella series that features an alpha Navy SEAL and the librarian who brings him to his knees.

Jack Powell never planned on leaving the Navy, but his final mission as a SEAL left him with a tremor and a bad case of nerves. He’s home, taking some college classes and trying to figure out what comes next when he meets Erin Kent, a divorced college librarian with an adventurous bucket list and a mission to get her ex-husband’s voice out of her head. Jack guides Erin through skydiving and buying the motorcycle of her dreams, blithely accepting Erin’s promise that their relationship is purely temporary. But when Jack gets the chance to go back into the shadowy world of security contracting, can he convince Erin to break her word and join him on the adventure of a lifetime?

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

A-

Burn for Me

by Ilona Andrews
October 28, 2014 · HarperCollins
Urban Fantasy

The Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews is a huge hit with the Bitchery (especially Amanda) and though the series is somewhat over for now, that gives new readers a perfect excuse to binge all three books. Reader Aidee Campa has given us a great guest review of books one and two if the series to give you a nudge in the right reading direction!

Aidee recently graduated from college, where she was an English major and a political science minor. She started reading romance in high school, but isn’t quite sure which was her first romance read—Jean M. Auel, Fern Michaels, or something that she has completely forgotten by now. She loves reading, writing, chocolate, and listening to music, although not necessarily in that order. The most recent books she’s enjoyed have been Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You, Alyssa Cole’s Extraordinary Union, Ilona Andrews’ Wildfire, and Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom (there are more, but that’s probably a good place to stop).

I don’t clearly remember what made me pick up Burn for Me, but I do remember that I listened to it as an audiobook before I read it. I recommend listening to it, even if you’ve already read it, because Renee Raudman, the narrator, is really good. And before going any further, I would like it to be clear, I love this book. I have read it multiple times, and so far, I haven’t gotten tired of it. I will try my best to balance my love for this book with some critical analysis, but I can’t make any promises.

Here’s the cover copy for Burn for Me from Amazon:

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

I think Andrews does a wonderful job of working with a trope that to some may seem to have run its course—the PI in the magical world. I feel this is because Nevada isn’t like most PIs I’ve read before. She already comes with a family—one that she is not looking to distance herself from—and she is likeable but still has flaws that can lead to bad consequences. The world is vividly drawn, and Andrews generally manages to walk that fine line of explaining enough without overwhelming the reader with information. The plot moves in a logical way, and yet that logic wasn’t immediately obvious to me until I had read Burn for Me a few times—which could be because usually, when I read for pleasure, I don’t pay close attention to this sort of thing, unless it’s very annoying and incredibly obvious.

In any case, the two points that may count against this book with some readers are that it is told in first person from Nevada’s point of view, and, because of that, Rogan is a little more opaque.

Nevada and Nevada’s family are all likeable. Or at least, the family we meet in this book—this is only the first book in what is looking to be a trilogy, or possibly a quartet. Nevada is good at her job, and that is amazing to watch in action. A lot of the time, we might be told a character is good at their job, but that is never shown on the page. The first two chapters are of Nevada doing her job as a PI in a world with magic.

Nevada has a strong sense of herself and her code and how it applies to her job:

Some easy job this turned out to be. At least I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I grimaced. The welt decided it didn’t like me grimacing. Ow.

The Baylor Investigative Agency started as a family business. … We had only three rules. Rule #1: we stayed bought. Once a client hired us, we were loyal to the client. Rule #2: we didn’t break the law. It was a good rule. It kept us out of jail and safe from litigation. And Rule #3, the most important one of all: at the end of the day we still had to be able to look our reflections in the eye. I filed today under Rule #3 day. Maybe I was crazy and John Rutger would’ve taken his wife home and begged her forgiveness on bended knee. But at the end of the day, I had no regrets, and I didn’t have to worry about whether I did the right thing and whether Liz’s two children would ever see their mother again.

And here’s something a bit further down which illustrates how she thinks of her family. The affection and tension is evident here, especially if one considers that Nevada is a grown woman still living with her family:

If Mom saw me, I wouldn’t get away without a thorough medical exam. All I wanted to do was take a shower and eat some food. This time of the day she was usually with Grandma, helping her work. If I was really quiet, I could just sneak into my room. I padded down the hallway. Think sneaky thoughts… Be invisible… Hopefully, nothing attention-attracting was going on.

We are also introduced to her family at the beginning of the book, and the interactions between Nevada, her sisters, her cousin, her mother and grandmother are great. Here is another snippet, where we meet most of Nevada’s family, and which introduces them nicely:

“Let me go!” Arabella snarled.

“Think about what you’re doing,” Bern said, his deep voice patient. “We agreed—no violence.”

“What is it this time?” I asked.

Catalina stabbed her finger in Arabella’s direction. “She never put the cap on my liquid foundation. Now it’s dried out!”

Figured. They never fought about anything important. They never stole from each other, they never tried to sabotage each other’s relationships, and if anyone dared to look at one of them the wrong way, the other one would be the first to charge to her sister’s defense. But if one of them took the other’s hairbrush and didn’t clean it, it was World War III.

“That’s not true…” Arabella froze. “Neva, what happened to your face?”

Everything stopped. Then everyone said something at once, really loud.

“Shush! Calm down; it’s cosmetic. I just need a shower. Also, stop fighting. If you don’t, Mom will come here and I don’t want her to—”

“To what?” Mom walked through the door, limping a little. Her leg was bothering her again. Of average height, she used to be lean and muscular, but the injury had grounded her. She was softer now, with a rounder face. She had dark eyes like me, but her hair was chestnut brown.

Grandma Frida followed, about my height, thin, with a halo of platinum curls stained with machine grease. The familiar, comforting smell of engine oil, rubber, and gunpowder spread through the room.

Their interactions continue in this manner throughout the book, even when the family members get upset with each other for logical reasons.

Here’s a slightly spoiler-y snippet of Nevada and her mom arguing:

“Okay, so you were right. It is a little bit about Dad, and it is a lot about keeping a roof over our head. This is our home. I will do almost anything to keep it. Also I negotiated with MII, and if I die, you get the name of the agency back for one dollar.”

Her face twisted. “I don’t care, Nevada. Sweetheart, I don’t care. I want you to be okay. None of it is worth losing you. I thought we were a team.”

“We are.”

“But you didn’t tell me. And you got Bern to cover it up.”

“I didn’t tell you because you would do exactly what you did last night. You’d order me not to do it. We are a team, but you’re my mother. You will do everything to keep me safe, and there is a point where it’s my decision to stay safe or not.”

My mother considered it. “Okay. Point made.”

We only get to know Rogan through Nevada for the majority of the book. Because the book is told from her point of view, it is possible for us to have an inaccurate impression of Rogan. This impression is not fixed by the end of the book, so I learned to be careful of Nevada’s observations. She’s good, but she isn’t infallible—which I like, but which some readers may find annoying.

That’s actually one of her flaws: she is good at observing people and coming to fairly solid conclusions, but occasionally, her own biases and assumptions get in the way of her conclusions, and sometimes she doesn’t have all the information.

To sum it up, you should all go read this book and stop reading this review, because I cannot clearly communicate how great this book is. The world building is intriguing, the characters are well-done, the plot is tightly woven. In case you hadn’t guessed it by now, I anxiously awaited Wildfire. I give this book an A-.

More exploration of Rogan would have been nice, but I don’t know that it could have fit into this book so well.


White Hot
A | BN | K | iB
The adventures of Nevada and Rogan continue in the sequel to Burn for Me. I also listened to this book before I read it, because I preordered it on Audible—I was that sure I would like it. However, there is an excerpt of Wildfire at the end of White Hot in the eBook and probably print versions, so if that kind of thing is important to you, make your choice accordingly.

As I expected, I also really liked this book. All the characters grow, even secondary ones like Leon, Nevada’s youngest cousin. Nevada and Rogan move firmly into the serious-romantic-involvement realm, although it isn’t exactly clear where their relationship will go by the end of the book, due to certain choices Nevada must make. Andrews’ plotting skill is on display in this book, too, so that while some threads clearly lead somewhere, it is harder to pick out where other possible threads might lead.

This book opens with Nevada using her awesome magical skills, while still trying to preserve her incognito status. She uses a disguise which involves a cloak/cape, among other things. Then she takes on a client with a very dangerous case. However, this time, she doesn’t make the same mistakes she made in Burn for Me, which was cool to see, because books wherein characters insist on repeating the same kinds of mistakes that got them into trouble before confuse me and will frustrate me to the point of not being interested in the book anymore.

The action related to the overarching conflict begins earlier in this book than in Burn for Me—Rogan is using quarters as projectiles by chapter 2—and so does the flirting between Nevada and Rogan. This is not to say that Nevada and Rogan do not argue at all during the book. They do, in a spectacular manner, but they are also working together on a case, and they are both capable of professional behavior most of the time.

We see the sisters, cousins and grandmother take a more active role in defending the family from attack and in helping out Nevada. That was also pretty cool, because it rounds them out in a way—we knew that her grandmother was a mechanic for the army, but actually seeing her drive a tank was awesome. In that same sequence of scenes, we get Leon using his magic for the first time, which results in the following commentary:

“I live in the gym. My biceps have teeth and my teeth have biceps.”

And any suspicions you may have had about Nevada’s family being more than they appeared on the surface are also confirmed by the end of the book in a variety of ways.

The case that Rogan and Nevada are working on in this book is tied to the case in Burn for Me, but it is not a replica. Andrews also managed to stretch out the overarching conflict in a way that did not feel unreasonable. This is also hard to do, because there comes a point when you—or maybe it’s just me—wonder, why can’t we know who the bad guys are?

Wildfire
A | BN | K | iB
There is a fairly clear transition from how Nevada perceived Rogan in Burn for Me to how she sees him by the end of the book. In Burn for Me, she came to the conclusion that Rogan didn’t see people as people, but by the middle of the book, she is convinced otherwise, and by extension, the reader can also be convinced otherwise. This makes their growing romance more believable. Yes, Rogan is attractive, but for a romance, attraction can’t be the beginning and end of it. The heroine and the reader should see in the hero something beyond attraction.

Nevada thinks of Rogan as a dragon, and while her initial conclusions about him are partially correct, he is also a caring dragon with a sense of humor. This transition is believable because Andrews shows us the transition on the page—we get to see Nevada witness Rogan’s reaction to losing people who were important to him. If Nevada just told us that Rogan wasn’t a sociopath, I would be hard-pressed to believe it, because Rogan isn’t a nice guy, especially when seen from a distance.

More of the world is explained, but we still don’t know everything there is to know about it, and like I said above, we still don’t know who the bad individual pulling the strings is.

But we do have covert team of stealth ferrets and a Chinese ferret-badger, so I guess that makes up for not knowing who the big baddies are—a little.

I give this book an A-, too. I would have liked for the conflict between Rogan and his family to have been resolved in this book, and I’m hoping it will be tied up in the third book. It also would have been nice for Rogan to tell Nevada his story, but at least Nevada didn’t make a wholly uninformed decision.

Go read this book, please. Or listen to it, whichever will make you the happiest.

Historical Mysteries & Romances

Sep. 17th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

A Curious Beginning

RECOMMENDEDA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn is $2.99! This is a historical mystery and Sarah really enjoyed it. She also immediately read the second one after finishing the first. Here’s what she said:

I read A Curious Beginning with an I-cannot-put-this-down enthusiasm and devoured it very quickly. I relished both the characters and the mystery. The Veronica Speedwell series is excellent and intelligent fun, and while the second isn’t quite as satisfying as the first, I heartily recommend them both.

In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

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Duke of Darkness

Duke of Darkness by Anabelle Bryant is $2.99! This is the second book in the Three Regency Rogues series and the third book is also on sale! This is a romance between a man and his ward, which I know is catnip for some of you. However, some readers felt the book lacked a tremendous amount of historical accuracy.

London, 1817

The Duke of Wharncliffe, Devlin Ravensdale, is devastated when he receives a missive announcing the death of his only relative, Aunt Min. Consumed with guilt, he regrets not having visited her in years, despite that he has chosen a reclusive lifestyle to hide his secretive past. Saddened by the loss, he dutifully honors his aunt’s last wish, to take responsibility of a young ward, Alex, and arrange a suitable marriage.

Reluctant, yet determined, Devlin sets off to collect his young charge, only to discover the he is a she, and Alexandra is stunningly beautiful…posing an unexpected temptation.

Tasked with finding an eligible bachelor, Devlin is forced back into society, a world where he has something of a dark reputation. Worse yet, it seems the beguiling beauty has a secret of her own to hide. Still, finding a husband for Alexandra shouldn’t prove difficult as long as he’s able to let her go.

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The Wild Marquis

The Wild Marquis by Miranda Neville is $1.99! This historical romance is the first book in The Burgundy Club series and was talked about highly by author Sarina Bowen in a previous Whatcha Reading. Readers love the setting of “book collecting” and found the auctions instead of grand balls a nice change of pace. It has a 3.7+ avg on Goodreads. A couple other books in the series are also on sale!

The Marquis of Chase is not a reputable man.

He is notorious for his wretched morals and is never received in respectable houses. The ladies of the ton would never allow him in their drawing rooms . . . though they were more than willing to welcome him into their bedchambers. Ejected from his father’s house at the age of sixteen, he now lives a life of wanton pleasure. So what could the Marquis of Chase possibly want with Juliana Merton, a lovely, perfectly upstanding shopkeeper with a mysterious past?

A moment’s indiscretion?

A night’s passion?

Or a lifetime of love?

Even the wildest rakes have their weaknesses . . .

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Seduced at Sunset

Seduced at Sunset by Julianne MacLean is 99c at Amazon and Barnes & Noble! This is the sixth book in the Pembroke Palace series, but it can be read as a standalone. Both the hero and heroine have secret lives, which readers liked. However, some warn that while it can be read on its own, it’s the last book in the series and does check in with couples from previous books.

USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean brings the popular Pembroke Palace Series to a passionate, satisfying conclusion…

Sometimes the matchmaker finds a love of her own…

Lady Charlotte Sinclair has long given up her dreams of happily ever after. Years ago, a tragic accident claimed the life of her beloved fiancé, but somehow she found the strength to go on—as an independent woman with a secret double life that has earned her millions. Lately, however, she has begun to yearn for something more…

While setting out to play matchmaker for her mother, Lady Charlotte meets a rugged, handsome stranger who saves her from a thief in the street, but her heroic rescuer soon turns out to be more mysterious—and dangerously captivating—than any man she has ever known. Swept away by passion into a sizzling summer affair with a man who leads a double life of his own, she vows to live only for pleasure with no promises of tomorrow. But soon she must accept that one final night of ecstasy with an irresistible lover is never going to be enough…

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Movie Review: Tulip Fever

Sep. 17th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Redheadedgirl

Among people who keep an eye on movie news, Tulip Fever has been a bit of a folk tale. It was announced in 2013, and screened at the 2015 Venice film festival, but then its release dates kept getting pushed back and back and back. When Fandango actually put up a release date, it was for the last weekend in August, but in reality it opened on Labor Day weekend.

It’s a weird movie with the most random cast imaginable. Three Oscar winners (Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, and Judi Dench), Holliday Grainger in her obligatory period drama, Tom Hollander (Mr. Collins from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice), the kid and the chick from Valerian (who I guess come as a package deal?), Kevin McKidd (who needed something to do during the Grey’s Anatomy hiatus?) Matthew Morrison for some reason, and Zach Galifianakis. It’s written by Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) and directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl). It’s based on the novel Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach.

Waltz and Vikander sitting for their portrait, with tulips in a vase in the foreground. A petal falls, because tulips don't last long. Tulips, man.

Set during the Tulip Mania in Amsterdam in the 1630s, it’s…well, it was marketed (such as it was) as a thriller, but there’s nothing remotely thrilling about it. It’s the story of Sophia (Vikander), who is married to an older merchant, Cornelis (Waltz), and he engages a painter (Dane DeHaan, aka Valerian) to paint their portraits. Sophia and the painter fall into lust, and they plan to escape after making a bunch of money on the tulip market. There’s also a plot with Maria, Sophia’s maid/cook (Grainger) who has a paramour of her own, and there’s a secret baby….

There’s just a lot happening.

Cornelis acquired himself a young wife because he wanted an heir, but he has some issues with his “little soldier.” When DeHaan shows up, Sophia has pants feelings, he has pants feelings, and after like, a conversation and a half (all held while Cornelis is in the room), they both conclude that they are in love, and must bang. IMMEDIATELY. A lot.

Alicia Vikander coming down into a room with patterned walls (leaves in curly-cue shape all over the wall) wearing a blue gown with a white lace collar.

At the same time, Maria is carrying on an affair with the fishmonger, William, who, in an effort to make enough money to buy them a farm, gets involved in the tulip market, and does really well for himself until he gets pressed into service by the navy. He’s not able to send word of where he is or what’s going on, and Maria is now pregnant. Sophia comes up with a plan to fake a pregnancy herself and to hide Maria’s. Once Maria gives birth, then Maria will be able to be with the baby, but of course I see about twelve holes in this plan right here. Meanwhile, Sophia and her painter also want to be with each other, and…and…

Show Spoiler
eventually there’s a couple of faked deaths.  Because that’s how to properly ghost from a relationship. Twice.

There are some interesting things happening in the setting. The Dutch school of painting in this era is fantastic, and the film lays out why: with the Reformation putting a stop to religious art, the artists turned their attention to ordinary life and ordinary people. When plotting out the portrait of Cornelis and Sophia, the painter offers his selections of props and the reasons for them: scales and a globe to symbolize worldwide commerce, a skull for mortality, and something else to symbolize vanity (and then a whole diatribe on how it’s vain to have your portrait painted, but if you have a warning against vanity in the painting then it’s ironic or something?). So that bit was interesting.

Alicia Vikander, next to a window with a letter. The shot is composed like a Vermeer painting with light streaming in.

The whole concept of tulip mania and the fact that people were buying tulip bulbs for absurd amounts of money were also fascinating. Like…it’s tulips. Tulips are  pretty, but…it’s a tulip. (I’ve typed out tulip so many times that it doesn’t look like a real word anymore.) I admit totally that I don’t really understand the stock market or how all of this actually is supposed to work, but I do know a frenzy involving money when I see one.  (My dad used to do stock market…stuff…and in the pre-internet age, when there was a channel that just did stock prices on a ticker, he would plunk 7 year old me down in front of it, with a list of three or four stocks I was to watch for, and I would yell the numbers up to him.  A+ parenting.)

All of the actors involved in this film are great (I was quite pleasantly surprised by Galifianakis, who I mostly don’t think about) (although seriously, Waltz as an doddering old man with no sex appeal? what?), and they are doing the best they can.

Dane DeHaan walking through the streets of Amsterdam, carrying his painting supplies. The street is muddy and wet.

The costumes are great (although I am excited to see what Frock Flicks has to say about it, because I have some questions), and the set design is fantastic. I’m enjoying this trend of “the past, especially pre-sanitation systems, is a muddy, messy place.” It makes things more real. Chadwick at least framed some shots to look like Dutch master paintings.

The problem lies in the script and the fact that the movie doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Tom Stoppard is great with witty dialogue, and there are some genuinely funny bits (Tom Hollander’s doctor is one), but they seemed rather out of place. The passage of time is unclear. The only way to measure anything is by the progression of Maria’s pregnancy.

You’d think with that writer and that cast and being produced by the Weinsteins, you might have a good movie. But the main crux of everything is just a mess. What’s the point? No one learns anything, not even the audience. No one can seem to explain why people went bonkers over tulips. No one can explain why Sophia and Valerian decided that they were in love enough to run away together. No one can explain anything, really. The movie is pretty but unsatisfying.

And again, my friend Kayleigh would think me remiss if I didn’t wonder why anyone would bang Valerian when you have Christoph Waltz RIGHT THERE.

Christoph Waltz, in a GIANT RUFF, posing for his portrait. It's kinda hot, in that Cone of Shame kind of way.

Romance Wanderlust: The Delta King

Sep. 17th, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by Carrie S

Romance Wanderlust - a yellowed and burnt edge map with a compass in the corner, with Romance Wanderlust written across itWelcome back to Romance Wanderlust, where I travel the world via the Internet in search of romantic locales. This month we have a place that I’ve actually been to: the Delta King, in Sacramento, California. I haven’t stayed at the Delta King but I can say from experience that their restaurant is nice and that they make a lovely virgin strawberry daiquiri. While I endorse the daiquiri, I can’t endorse the hotel experience as I’ve never stayed there.

The Delta King is a paddlewheel steamboat permanently moored off of Old Sacramento on the Sacramento River. Old Sacramento is a historically preserved area of Sacramento in which most of the buildings date back to the mid-1800s. It’s the kind of place where you can get saltwater taffy, crystals, creepy antique dolls, gourmet Chinese food, an elaborate costume, or a tattoo with equal ease. It’s also home to several museums including the Railroad Museum. It’s one of our claims to fame. Surely you’ve heard of it. No? Ah, well. We are a small city.

Walking down the gangplank to the Delta King

During the Gold Rush, people came to Sacramento by boat and docked where the Delta King is now. I could tell you some very unromantic things about the link between the boats, the boardwalk, and a certain cholera epidemic, but let’s just move on and picture a more romantic version of the Gold Rush.

Think of stylish gamblers, brocade vests, and a great sense of adventure. Think of Mark Twain, who lived here for quite a while, and of Calico Palace, the delightful historical novel by Gwen Bristow. Got that? Then you are ready for a visit to the Delta King.

The Delta King doesn’t actually date from the Gold Rush although it closely resembles earlier paddlewheel steamboats. It was built in 1927 and transported people between Sacramento and San Francisco. The trip lasted over ten hours and included jazz music and dancing. The Delta King website has a menu from those days. Mock turtle soup cost twenty-five cents and a sirloin steak with potatoes and rolls cost one dollar. Allegedly one might also buy alcohol on board, even during Prohibition.

These trips ended after the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge connected Sacramento and San Francisco by road. The Delta King shuttled troops during WWII and was a home to construction workers in British Columbia in the 1950s. Finally the Delta King sank in the San Francisco Bay due to causes unknown. Maybe it was just tired.

In 1984 the Coyne family purchased the boat, hauled it out of the water, and had it refurbished, preserving as much of the original wood as possible. Now it’s a hotel permanently moored alongside Old Sacramento. It includes a restaurant and a bar, and on various nights there is dinner theater, community theater productions of a more formal kind, or live music. I’ve never stayed in one of the rooms, although since we are dreaming here I say go for broke and stay in the Captain’s Quarter, which includes a private veranda and a ship’s wheel. Warning – I suspect but have not confirmed that it might be noisy because Old Sacramento at night has a lot of noise. The Delta King is also, allegedly, haunted by its first captain and by a little girl with a red ball. They are said to be benign.

I have had dinner in the restaurant, which is high in both price and ambiance. For something more low key, a few times my husband and I went to the deck bar on a hot summer day and I had a virgin strawberry daiquiri (I don’t drink alcohol and it’s nice to find a place that has a good non-alcoholic drink). Looking out over the river on one side and the tourists on the other was truly delightful and quite romantic!

Oh look someone saved me a spot.

The Delta King is romantic because it’s pretty, and it’s on a beautiful river, with the lovely Sacramento Delta breeze wafting by. It’s also romantic because you can imagine that you have just arrived in California in 1849 – you are fatigued, of course, but excited with regard to the shop you plan to open in the new city (the real riches lay in selling to miners, not panning for gold). There are great opportunities in the male-dominated landscape of the Gold rush for a woman who has a clear head for business and for personal matters – just be aware that you can expect a minimum of one marriage proposal per day.

Or, you can be more true to the Delta King’s actual history, and pretend that you are a happy member of the Roaring ‘20s, eating cheap caviar and drinking gin on the boat’s deck. Sacramento may be a little backwater, but women were given the right to vote there in 1911 and you are ready to bring women’s issues to the Capital! If you meet a handsome and progressive Senator on the trip between San Francisco and Sacramento, so much the better.

Or maybe you are headed the other direction, away from Sacramento and toward life in San Francisco, the big city, newly rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake. Although in reality the Delta King doesn’t go anywhere, in imagination anything can happen.

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