Cheer Up

I received an eARC of Cheer Up: Love and Pom Poms by Crystal Frasier, Val Wise, and Oscar Jupiter from Netgalley and Oni Press in exchange for an honest review. 

This is a light and sweet graphic novel about two cheerleaders discovering first love and learning more about themselves. Bebe is trans and the team treats her like a token or mascot. Annie is a grumpy iconoclast who needs cheerleading to pad her college applications. They used to be best friends and it’s never clear why they fell out of touch but they reconnect through cheerleading. They crush on each other and they smooch. The ending wraps up a little too quickly and nicely. The cheer team magically realizes they were treating Bebe badly and her parents suddenly accept her and give her more freedom. 

I give this four fizzy feel-good stars. I really enjoyed this graphic novel and the art was great. 

Traipsing Through the Tropes: Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett

It’s our last Enemies to Lovers book, and I went with a highly erotic space tale, Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett. It kicks off a fantastic series. We discuss the horny bits and the word building. As always with this type of post, spoilers abound so know that before you keep reading!

Me: So…Toxic Desire. What did you think?

Him: It was … good?! Mostly? It think. Yes. It was good.
It almost lost me halfway through.

Me: Definitely the horniest book I’ve ever gotten you to read. 
What almost lost you?

Him: Totes horny.
The horny with no plot or character development.
As in, it was almost character de-evolution the more they fucked.

Me: That’s kind of the point of the toxin. 

Him: Which, I guess, is the point of the book / planet / scenario.

Me: hahaha

Him: Yes, yes. I know.
I guess the continued spiral into increasing horniness almost felt like the characters were losing agency – EVEN though they kept talking about preserving it.

Me: So what got you back on board?

Him: When the actual science fiction world-building entered the scene.
It’s one thing to listen to the two characters hate themselves for feeling compelled to fuck their sworn enemies.It’s another to get the backstory on that animosity.

Me: When they got back to the human ship?

Him: Yes. When Nem’s friends from the ship found them.
As in, they found Nem with her pussy pounded into near oblivion.

Me: Yes. She’d definitely been over-fucked. 

Him: To be clear – I don’t need the author to hold my hand while explaining plot devices and backstory.
But some context is important.

Me: What did you think of the fact that the rebels we meet are all women? Surprised?

Him: I was pleasantly surprised by that. I expected a relatively even split between men and women.
But an all-woman crew was a delightful surprise.
I also enjoyed the “We ran from the fascism of Earth, so we are going to try democracy again” framing.
Very apropos given how 2020 is going.

Me: True. It came out in 2018. Before its time. 
What about the fact that Nemona had to become Ssedez?

Him: I’m not sure I liked that. I thought she could have formed a bond with Oten without changing her species/form.
I liked their conversations. I liked the bond they felt for each other.

Me: They had to come up with a way for her to match his life span. Happily EVER after. 

Him: That’s true. I forgot about that.
It was the reverse of Arwen deciding to shorten her elvish lifespan to be with Aragorn.

Me: LOTR can GTFO. hahahahaha

Him: You say you’ve never watched the movies or read the books, yet you KNEW WHO I WAS TALKING ABOUT.

Me: It’s like herd immunity. 

Him: There was a bit of “not all humans” and “not all Ssedez” to how they arrived at their cultural understanding.

Me: Show your work. 

Him: Umm… Oten said that the Ssedez fired on Nem’s ship as a matter of self-defense. The last time the humans came near the Ssedez, humans attempted mass murder of the entire race.
While Nem did acknowledge that was wrong, she said that there was a small contingent of rebels who had always been fighting the fascists.
Her ship represented the people who weren’t like other humans. They were explorers who wanted to find a different way.
Fine, fine – it wasn’t literally “not all [enter group in power here],” but it felt close to it at times.
I could be over-analyzing.
I’ve done that before.

Me: That’s fair. 

Him: So, that’s rather thin “work,” but I tried to show it.

Me: Now, what I like about the book is the horny parts. I think the sex toxin is interesting and amusing. I like the Fellamana, who we get more of later in the series. And I like Oten’s Attachment and the way Nemona fights it. Even though I’m kind of over “I can’t love because I’m so damaged.”
I gave the book four stars. 

Him: The horned-up parts were highly descriptive and detailed. Lots of variety to keep things fresh and interesting.
The idea of the toxin is a good one.

Me: His “ribbed for her pleasure” dick amused me as well. 

Him: It reminded me a lot of the toxin from “The Naked Time” in Star Trek TOS and “The Naked Now” in Star Trek TNG.
And the fact that the literal weakness of the entire race was found unwrapping his exoskeleton starting with his dick.
Just a “chef kisses fingers” level of detail.
Why else did you like the book? Besides the copious doin’ it?

Me: I said it above. 

Him: Yeah, I saw that. Tell me more about The Attachment and why you don’t always like the “I’m too broken to love” trope.

Me: I like when the hero falls first and just treasures the heroine. And when Oten goes to protect her, he realizes how dumb that was because she’s smart and strong enough to protect herself, even though at that point she’s totally human.  

Him: Oh yes – Oten realizes early on that Nem is very strong and capable. I liked that.

Me: I just find the “too broken to love” or maybe just feeling unloveable in general uninteresting as a conflict. Personal preference. Slightly different from “I can’t love you because I’ll hurt you” which I’m ok with. 
Or I was hurt by love and I’ll never love again. I can be ok with that if it’s done well. 

Him: I get how those two perspectives are alike but just similar enough to make a difference.
Like most tropes – they must be done well.

Me: Truth. 

Him: I was instantly curious about the Fellamana.
What can you tell me more about that species without spoiling the later books?And can I guess that Nem & Oten’s respective assistants fall in love in Book #2?They are very emotional and emotive and sensual. 

Me: Good guess!
And Koviye is a protag in book 3. 

Him: Very cool.

Me: They’re very comfortable with sex. As you could tell by the glass walls and sex furniture everywhere. The Sex Games show up again in Book 2 and there’s participation. 

Him: I like their collective “We’re voyeurs, but we’re appreciative, not creepy” take on sex and sexuality.

Me: I have trouble with their unexclusive polyamory because I prefer commitment, no matter how many people it is. Also, I imagine them as very cool looking. Like living auras. 

Him: You’ve mentioned your preference for exclusive polyamory before.
And yes, I also imagined them with ever-present auras that reflected what they were feeling.

Me: I’m glad you mostly liked it. I purposefully picked a very erotic romance for you this time. Combining space with extreme sexy times. 

Him: I did mostly like it!
I guess I wanted 25% less fucking and 25% more exposition about intergalactic conflict.

Me: That’s fair. I was satisfied with the actual ratios. 

Him: Robin Lovett is a very good writer.
Excellent descriptions of the planet, gear, species, the technology, etc.

Me: I think you have to be to keep that much fucking interesting and not monotonous. 

Him: Very satisfying as a Star Trek nerd who likes technobabble.
Most definitely.
Any final thoughts?

Me: Just…do you think you’ll continue in the series?

Him: I think I could, mostly because the Fellamana are interesting as a concept AND because I guessed correctly about the protagonists for Book 2.
But it’s not jumping my TBR queue any time soon.
No offense.

Me: That’s fair. Someone’s got to keep the lit fic “she breasted boobily” authors paid. 

Him: Wow.
Just wow.
No one is reading Jonathan Franzen ’round here any time soon.

Me: Follow @menwritewomen on twitter. 

Him: I do. Don’t you worry.
I found that account through you.

Me: You’re welcome. 

Well, that’s all for this installment of Traipsing Through the Tropes and next month’s post will be a whole new trope to explore. I’m thinking Fake Relationship. Do you have any recommendations? We like to do one contemporary, one historical, and one paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy of each trope.

Review: Better Than People

I received an e-ARC of Better Than People by Roan Parrish from Netgalley and the publisher.

Roan Parrish is an auto-buy author for me, so I was really excited to read this book. And it did not disappoint. This is the story of Jack and Simon. Jack’s an animal lover with a broken leg, and Simon is a guy with severe anxiety, especially social anxiety, who also loves animals. They are connected through the PetShare app, which connects people who have pets with people who do not have pets but want to be around them. (This sounds like an amazing app and I need it to exist because I need puppy snuggles but there are too many loose legos in my house these days to get a dog.)

Simon lives with his grandmother, who’s allergic to animals, and he agrees to walk Jack’s “pack” (several dogs and a cat named Pirate) twice a day. Simon can’t talk to Jack at first, but eventually he can text and he starts talking more throughout the book. There’s a relationship and no drama and a satisfying as hell HEA. It’s just what I say I want in a book: Nice people falling in love and having sexy times in regular life.

This book is all about the characters. Jack is wonderful, somewhat bitter at first, patient, smitten, and passionate. I want to be his friend. Simon is…well, Simon is my favorite. I want to wrap him up in a blanket and give him butterscotch candies, and blow his nose on a used kleenex that I keep in my purse. Basically, I want to be his grandmother, which is totally unnecessary as he has an excellent grandmother, but he inspires grandmotherly feelings in me. He’s so brave, and he knows it, but he still struggles so much.

There’s excellent mental health rep in this book. Simon has accepted his anxiety as part of him and anyone who is going to be in his life needs to accept it to and not try to change him. That’s what I loved the most. I think most people wouldn’t choose to have a mental illness, but once it’s there, you have to accept it and learn to live with it. Having someone constantly trying to fix you or even fix situations for you is exhausting. And Simon gets that. Jack gets it too, eventually.

There are two side characters worth noting, Simon’s grandmother who is wholly lovely, and Jack’s brother, Charlie, who I would love to see get his own book. And Jack’s pack is like a set of secondary characters as well. They all have distinct personalities and I want to cuddle Bernard (the Saint Bernard) so bad.

I give this book five heart-eye-emoji stars, and recommend that you buy it as soon as you’re able. The Ripped Bodice is supposed to have signed copies so get on that. I know I will.

Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown

I received the e-ARC of Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert from Netgalley in a giveaway by Avon Books.

I have to start by saying, I love Talia Hibbert. I unabashedly love everything she has written. Her heroines are the most interesting and her heroes are the swooniest. And her HEAs are the happiest and most satisfying. That being said, in this time of pandemic, I’ve mostly been reading paranormal and brief novellas so it took me a few tries to get through this one. But I’m so glad I kept trying.

It was a slow start for me because I couldn’t really identify with the heroine. Danika is confident (in most ways) and driven and a witch, like with crystals and charms and stuff. I’m not super driven and my inner monologue is variations on a theme of what a horrible, ugly person I am. (Working on it in therapy though.) So I can’t say I really “get” Dani. But I admire her for sure.

Then I got to the hero, Zafir, and he is just awesome. He’s tall and burly and has a beard. He reads romance novels and has a crush on Dani. He runs a sports club thing (Rugby, but all the sportsballs run together for me.) that teaches boys how to avoid toxic masculinity and express their emotions in healthy ways. He has anxiety and a history of depression. He gets it. He’s emotionally intelligent. And did I mention tall and burly?

They end up in a fake relationship that becomes friends with benefits that becomes a HEA. It’s funny and smart and just a joy to read. There’s a big romantic gesture and it’s just perfect.

What I loved the most was how Zaf accepted Dani and how she didn’t understand his acceptance because she’d never had anyone apart from her sisters and her BFF accept her before. She didn’t know how to deal with it. But she learned. And Zaf was patient with her.

And as always with Talia Hibbert, there were some great lines and phrases in this book. A couple of my favorites: Zaf to Dani, “I know what a chaos demon you are, and I think it’s great.” And “Maybe, before, you stumbled across people who only wanted bits and pieces of you. Never the whole package. Never enough.” And then there’s the love, “Zaf loved Dani in bold black-and-white, stark and completely unsubtle, no shades of gray to be found. He loved her absolutely and uncompromisingly.” GAH, So Perfect!

I give this book five heart-eye-emoji stars. And I can’t wait for the final Brown sister’s book, but I don’t know if a hero can get swoonier than Zaf or Red (from Get a Life, Chloe Brown). If you are waiting to read this series, get on it!

Traipsing Through the Tropes: Work for It by Talia Hibbert

We continue with Enemies to Lovers with a discussion of Work for It by Talia Hibbert, who I consider to be the writer of my heart. Her stuff resonates with me on a deep level so there was a lot of pressure for my husband to like it. Let’s see how he felt!

Me: So, what are your first thoughts about Work for It?


Me: Elaborate, please

Him: Tortured. Emotionally stunted, yet curiously vulnerable
Look – I mostly read literary fiction and contemporary science fiction. Both of those genres are notorious for terrible sex scenes, though there are a few who do it well.
Marlon James & NK Jemisin write lively sex stuff. Their characters have agency and strong libidos.
But Olu and Griff are just horned up all the time.

Me: But they don’t even hold hands until 50% in!

Him: Which – not to sound like a prude – took some getting used to.

Me: It was a slow burn, I tell you!

Him: But they talk about it all the time.
The book opens with Olu going cruising at a club for some dick.

Me: It’s a coping mechanism. 

Him: But when he gets the guy back to the room, he doesn’t want it any more – even though the guy is naked in his bed.

Me: He’s depressed!

Him: Of course it is – but he still thinks about it.
And the first time they meet in the village pub, they talk for about 10-15 minutes before Olu wants to go to the alley.

Me: I thought it was fewer minutes than that. 

Him: All of that to say, yes – it is a coping mechanism for Olu, but Griff talks about it lots, too.

Me: Prudey pruderson. 

Him: That’s me! Prudey Pruderson.
Talia Hibbert is a fantastic writer.

Me: Tell me more…

Him: She has a gift for authentic inner dialogue that most “literary” authors only dream of possessing.
Her descriptions of the scenery are VERY tactile.

Me: Yes. This was her first book in first person POV. She nailed it. 

This was her first time writing first person POV?

Me: Yes. 

Him: You couldn’t tell!

Me: She usually does third person limited omniscient with head jumping. 
Or does that make it fully omniscient? If you get both perspectives just never at the same time?

Him: Fascinating. I’m used to head-jumping from Star Trek.
I’d say it’s limited.

Me: What did you think of Olu?

Him: Class A jerkface.
Type One Alpha Asshole.

Me: But is that the real him?

Him: I mean – probably not to that degree, but still a bit.

Me: Fair enough. 

Him: A lot of it is probably tough guy persona from having to navigate upper-class British school waters as someone who doesn’t belong there under the traditional class system.
Olu has lots of defense mechanisms.
Including the “Keynes” moniker he deploys.

Me: And his depression. What did you think of the mental health rep?

Adam: Very authentic, from my experience.

Me: His inner monologue is so damn real. 

Him: Most definitely.

Me: Now, what did you think of Griff?
Don’t talk shit about my tiny giant bb Griff. I will fight you. 

Him: Griff was much more down-to-earth and relatable than Olu.
I think a lot of that had to do with how his mom raised him, how she left him, and how tight his friendship with Rebecca was.

Me: Sure. 

Him: Neither of them let Griff totally hide from a world that didn’t want to accept him.

Me: And neither does Olu!

Him: Indeed! I think Griff gets that.
That’s eventually what forges their connection – they don’t let the other give up on themselves.

Me: So true. 
What Hogwarts House is he? (Olu is obvi — Slytherin). 

Him: Griff is Hufflepuff.
He’s Sprout’s not-so-secret protege.

Me: Good call. 
The plants. 

Him: The plants. The willingness to serve others at the expense of his own interests.
So he’s an Enneagram 2?

Me: And Olu is so 4 it hurts. 

Him: Griff is totally a 2.
I don’t think Olu is full 4, but he has some 4 traits.

Me: Interesting. 

Him: What do YOU like most about the book?
You’ve read it three times AND have it as an audiobook.

Me: Most? The beautiful, clever, hilarious turns of phrase. 
I love Olu’s progression. 

Him: Hibbert is such a wonderful writer!
Clever and witty without going over-the-top.
Those turns of phrase serve a purpose.

Me: From depressed grumpy loner asshole to on-the-road-to-less-depressed, grumpy, partnered jerkface who loves someone. Well, two someone’s. He already loved his sister. 
One of my faves: My brain tries to tell me I’m an idiot. I tell it we don’t think things like that anymore, and it it’s not going to be a positive part of the team, it can piss off. 
I’ve started telling myself that. 

Him: I like that! That’s a very tactical and pointed mantra that’s not all hippie-dippie.

Me: But the weaknesses swear that Griff isn’t like everyone else, that we’re something entirely different together, something precious,  never-before-seen under this sun. Something perfectly us. 

Him: I liked Olu’s story, but I preferred Griff’s progression – from melancholic loner footstool with only one close friend in the world to someone who’s found the love of his life and stands up for himself.
“Something Perfectly Us”

Me: Fair enough. Griff is so solid. He’s there for Olu without being demanding. 

Him: Sounds like the name of the book you need to write.

Me: He would say “You will never exhaust me” to Olu. 

Him: He’s not demanding, except when he puts his foot in his mouth by prying too much and trying to get some sort of forward motion from Olu.
Griff would TOTALLY say “You will never exhaust me” to Olu.

Me: I want an epilogue story of them with kids so bad. 

Him: That would be fun.
It was just an excellent read filled with superb characters who were complex, layered, and realistic.

Me: I guess I identified with Olu. Not just because of the depression. But mostly. 
It was just so well done. 
And the discussion of pills. Perfect. 

Him: And I identified with Griff. Putting his head down, sacrificing himself for others, stumbling when he doesn’t know how to navigate his feelings.

Me: Yes. I’m glad I picked this one for you. 

Him: And I’m glad you picked it for me. I really enjoyed it.

Me: Good. Even if there were a lot of sexy times?

Him: The sexy times didn’t bother me or scare me away.
It was just more intense and more …
shall we say “descriptive” than I’m used to.

Me: Yessss…Another thing I love about Talia Hibbert.
She uses the c-word when writing about vagina sexy times. Which is still very taboo to me, even if I don’t want it to be. 

Him: **Note to self**

Me: I love her descriptive sexy times. Not specifically that she says cunt. 

Him: I was more interested in how she described the intimacy and romantic nature of the afterglow.
They both loved just being together more than they probably thought.
Sure, the fucking would be good, but their internal thoughts about the post-coital bliss made me happy.

Me: “I want to fall asleep on top of him like he’s a mattress”

Him: Which brings to a running thought in the back of my head throughout the book:
I’m almost positive she says Olu is 6’2″ or so at some point. Olu is not a small man.
But Griff must literally be a giant.
Olu calls him “My Giant” at some point.

Me: Yep. He’s a big motherfucker. 
And burly. Dad bod. I had issue with the cover model. 
Not enough  meat on them bones. 

Him: Was the cover model Griff?

Me: I think so? White guy. 

Him: Yeah. No.

Me: Beard. 
Olu doesn’t have a beard. 

Him: That cover model is in NO WAY anything like Hibbert describes.
His muscles are too well-formed, and he’s not bear-ish enough.

Me: Yep. 
Ok, so final thoughts?

Him: Good story. Good characters. GREAT inner voices.

Me: Cool. 

Him: Just an all-around excellent read.
You know how to pick ’em!

Review: American Sweethearts

The covers on this series are fire!

I received an ARC of American Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Adriana Herrera’s American Dreamers series was in my top reads of last year. I loved the stories of these immigrants finding their Happily Ever Afters. I was thrilled to get an ARC of this book. Unfortunately the arrival of the ARC coincided with the beginning of the pandemic and my brain shut down so it took me a while to be able to finish this story. But it was through no fault of the book itself.

This is a second-chance love story between Juan Pablo and Priscilla, who were on and off from their teen years. They story picks up where they are completely broken up and have been distant from each other for a long time. They meet up again at a friend’s wedding (the hero of the second book in the series, Milo), and sparks fly. More than sparks though. Priscilla can tell Juan Pablo has changed. Come to find out he’s had a lot of therapy and has been consciously working on making himself a better man — for himself and for Priscilla. He is not ready to give up on them, but he never pushes her. He’s done that in the past and everything blew up. This time, he lets her come to him and is just a supportive friend and lover. There’s a fantastic scene where he takes care of her while she’s having cramps.

Priscilla is a great character. She’s a cop who has a side hustle teaching sex classes to minorities, particularly immigrants, and she has a blog and podcast. She teaches sex-ed through a social justice lens. She’s increasingly unhappy in her day job. Juan Pablo thinks she could make it a full-time career out of it, but he doesn’t push her, much. The recovering fundamentalist in me had trouble understanding sex-ed as social justice, but I think I get it. I want to get it.

Through the book, there’s no manufactured drama or angst. It’s just two grown-ass people learning to communicate and make each other a priority while also taking care of themselves. That’s what I love about Herrera’s books. They are grown-ass people, having grown-ass relationships and sexy times together.

I give this book 4 Stars, and I highly recommend that you read it. It’s one that I can tell will grow on me with future re-reads so I might bump it up to 4.5. If you haven’t read the rest of the series, start with American Dreamer. It’s my favorite of the bunch.

Traipsing Through the Tropes: A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

Welcome to the first in a new monthly series here at HEA or GTFO: Traipsing through the Tropes, where I get my husband to read a romance novel and we discuss it via Google Chat. We’ll pick one trope and read several books from different subgenres and then go on to the next trope. We will be discussing the book in detail so spoilers abound. You’ll probably enjoy these posts more if you’ve already read the book we’re talking about. The idea was to kick things off with the One Bed trope, my personal favorite, but you’ll see where we ended up in the discussion.

We’re kicking things off with A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare. It’s the first novel in her Spindle Cove series. They’re standalones, but we do discuss other couples in the series so fair warning if you’d rather be surprised.

With that said, and one last reminder that spoilers abound, let’s go!

Adam: Good evening!

Here we are. “A Week to be Wicked.”

I truly enjoyed – once I got into it.

The first time I attempted reading this one – about a year ago – I remember being thrown off my the nomenclature.

Jennifer: At what point would you say you got into it?

What nomenclature threw you off?

Adam: Really got into it? After the stuff with the brigands.

The overuse of “rake” and other such terms.

I was like, “Did people really go around calling people notorious / infamous rakes to their faces?”

Jennifer: I think it would be like calling someone a player. Or maybe a jerk. 

A jerk player

Adam: I get that. In theory.

But then, I realized it was something akin to the “technobabble” used in science fiction – especially Star Trek.

As in, this is the lingua franca of the genre.

It’s the ebb and flow of the actual style of writing / reading / creation.

Jennifer: You do have to get into the rhythm to enjoy romance. 


Adam: Exactly!

As in, this is the part I have to take at face value if I want to appreciate the deeper story.

Rhythm joke!

First innuendo!

Jennifer: So what did you think of the characters?

Adam: Minerva was a top-notch heroine.

Jennifer: What do you think of Colin?

Adam: He was obviously written to be a jerk with a heart of gold.

Which I assume to be a common trope.

Giving him a tortured sort of backstory was nice.

Jennifer: Very common. Or jerk to everyone but the heroine. 

The only thing that keeps me from hating him is the list of M names he made. 


That was a genius revelation 3/4 through the book.

Truly a chef’s kiss detail by the author.

Jennifer: Yep. Oh, I realized on a reread, it’s not a true one bed trope romance. 

Adam: Why do you say that?

Jennifer: They negotiate sleeping together before the journey starts. One bed is usually a surprise, something they’re forced into by circumstance. 

Adam: There were a few times they had to share one bed.

Ah. Well then. I guess that’s a technicality.

But kind of a key one. 

You’re the expert.

Jennifer: What makes one bed so delicious is the forced proximity aspect. 

Adam: We could start with “Enemies into Lovers.”

Jennifer: Yes, this is definitely that. 

Adam: I found her love of science believable. She’s not a Mary Sue. She just loves geology.

Jennifer: Yeah, Minerva rocks. hahahaha

Adam: Tessa Dare is an excellent writer.

Jennifer: She is. Her stuff is always imaginative and funny. 

Adam: I was pleasantly surprised at the level of humor that runs rampant through the book.

And by surprised, I mean, “The romance novels my Mom read when I was in high school always looked laborious, cookie-cutter, and completely over the top.”

Dare imbues her characters with HEAPS of life, agency, and personality.

Jennifer: I always like her heroes even if they are a type I would usually dislike. 

Yep. It’s more than angst and doing it. 

But the doing it is integral to the progression of the story. 

Adam: Exactly. “Angst & Doin’ It” – the name of your podcast.

Jennifer: I don’t do angst. I like fluff. 

Adam: The doin’ it was VERY integral to the progression of the story.

Jennifer: You’ve read lots of literary doing it in your many travels, but what did you think of this type of writing of the doing it?

Adam: I was just thinking about that, and it’s mostly boring or faux-edgy.

Jennifer: replace literary with “literary”

Adam: This doin’ it was hot.

As in, straight white dudes can’t write sex scenes for shit.

Jennifer: That’s what I was about to ask. 

How it compares

Adam: I mean, there’s very little comparison.

This was well-written, creative, erotic, purposeful, and integral to the story.

Jennifer: Yep. The centering of women’s pleasure, the female gaze. 

Most sex in literary fiction is dry, rough, very dude-centric, and lacking creativity. Lacking vitality too. And nowhere near what sex is like in real life. Not that all romance novels are near what sex is like in real life either….

Adam: Most definitely.

This was wet in every positive sense of that word.

I really enjoyed this read. The only scene I didn’t like was getting captured by the brigands.

Jennifer: What didn’t you like about it?

Adam: I get that their conversation while walking with Francine AFTER she frees him is important, but the whole thing felt like just one MORE obstacle.

It didn’t really add much, IMHO.

Jennifer: I don’t know. I think her saving him was important. 

I think that’s why Dare didn’t waste a lot of time seeing him being captive. 

Adam: I’ll grant you that. The scene itself didn’t take up much of the book. She didn’t bother herself with overwroght descriptions of him being tortured.

It just happened, and the next morning/day, Minerva appears with Francine and saves him.

Jennifer: I don’t think they’re apart overnight. 

I think he gets captured early in the day and she rescues him at like 3pm. 

Several hours later. 

Adam:  I can see that. Obviously the timeline blurred in my head a bit.

What did you think about everything that happened in the Sex Castle BEFORE the smokin’ hot sex?

Jennifer: I thought it was hilarious. And a good setup for the Duke as a hero later in the series. 

Minerva as Melissande was great. 

Adam: Agreed. It took me a few pages to see where Dare was going, but that was probably me being unfamiliar with the genre.

Jennifer: Here’s a question. What side characters do you think get their own book(s)?

Adam: The obvious guess is Kate Taylor, since she gets her own little POV vignettes.

Jennifer: Can you guess her hero?

Adam: Again, I assume it’s the crusty Corporal Thorne.

Jennifer: Good job!

Adam: Thanks!

Jennifer: Does the guaranteed HEA detract from your reading experience at all? Like removing suspense or something?

Adam: Not at all! It was very akin to reading a Star Trek novel. I know my space friends will mostly be all A-OK by the end, but a good writer will make the trials and tribulations come alive EVEN if you know the end.

Jennifer: Oh…I have a good space alien enemies to lovers we can read.

Adam: And that’s exactly what Dare does so expertly. Just because I know Colin and Min get together in the end doesn’t mean I know exactly HOW it will happen.

Part of me wanted to see Dare make even more hay with Colin’s money (or lack thereof or lack of access to it) hanging over his head, but that’s a minor quibble.

Jennifer: Interesting. I don’t think I would have liked that. 

The first book actually talked about that more. Colin whining about not being able to leave Spindle Cove because of his money. 

Adam: I get that. It would have introduced a level of detail about his finances that could have bogged things down.

Jennifer: These are standalone but they really do build on each other. 

Adam: Him whining about it is all we really need.

Because obviously enough people know about it if Minerva can bribe him with 500 guineas.

Jennifer: I don’t think he ever cared about the 500 guineas. 

And I’m too lazy to google. Is a guinea more than a pound?

Adam: IDK. I thought about googling it while reading, but I just assumed that it WAS more than a pound.

That’s the impression the novel gives us, and that’s the hallmark of a good writer.

Dare didn’t feel it necessary to launch into a few pages of exposition about currency in Regency Era England.

Jennifer: It’s one pound and five pence. 

Adam: So – just a little MORE than a regular pound?

That system makes no sense.

Jennifer: yes. 

It’s ridiculous. This is why JK Rowling came up with her insane exchange rate. 

They do weird stuff with money in England. 

Adam: **Insert comment about creating a single global currency here**

Jennifer: And on that note…any other comments?

I think we’re wrapping it up. 

Adam: No comments at this time other than I really enjoyed the read, and I’d like to read more in the future.

The scales have been removed from my eyes.

Jennifer: More Tessa Dare or more romance or both?

Adam: Both – as long as they write as well as Tessa Dare.

I just wonder if I will prefer historical, contemporary, or fantasy/science fiction.

Jennifer: She’s hard to match for wit. 

Adam: If this novel is any indication, I’d probably enjoy everything Dare writes.

Jennifer: I could see the fantasy/science fiction annoying you for being too far from the tropes for that genre. 

Adam: As in, being too far from traditional sci/fi tropes?

Jennifer: Yes. 


Adam: That’s a fair assessment. You have a good idea of the science fiction I read – not even considering Star Trek.

This has been fun!

I look forward to doing it again next month!

Review – Candy Hearts

I received an e-ARC of Candy Hearts by Erin McLellan in exchange for an honest review.

I read the first book in this series, Stocking Stuffers, and loved it so I was super excited for the chance to review this book. I have been in a bit of a reading slump and haven’t been able to handle more than quick novellas. This hot, sexy novella was just what I needed.

This is the story of Benji, the young mechanic with a love for lingerie, and William, the older workaholic who is finally ready for a real relationship. They meet at a Valentine’s getaway weekend Benji’s sister invited him to and sparks fly. They decide to be secret, fake valentines for the weekend so they can have some fun sexytimes and move on. The more William learns about Benji, the more he wishes they were real valentines. Benji lets William in and shows him a side of himself that he always felt like he had to hide from lovers, but he’s afraid of getting hurt again. There’s a misunderstanding. There’s a disastrous date. There’s talking and working it out and discovering real feelings.

Erin McLellan is becoming an auto-buy author for me because her books are hot, hot, hot. This series heavily features the use of sex toys, and it’s so fun and playful. I laughed out loud several times while reading this.

I give this book Five Super Steamy Stars and I can’t wait for the next book in the series. I think it’s coming this summer.

My 2019 Favorites

This was a good year for reading. I read more than 250 books (includes novellas) this year. And I read some amazing stuff. Here’s my top 15 in alphabetical order with blurbs and customized superlatives.

  1. A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde – A trans man and nonbinary billionaire fall in love. Superlative: Most Self Acceptance
  2. American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera – Workaholic Food Truck Owner and emotionally guarded librarian overcome their issues to be together. Superlative: Main Characters I Want to Be Best Friends With
  3. Band Sinister by KJ Charles – Gentle country guy sweetly seduced by citified atheist with excellent friend group, meanwhile his sister recuperates and falls in love with her doctor. Superlative: Best Primary and Secondary Romances
  4. Bond by Piper Scott and Virginia Kelly – Second in a bananapants crazy series about dragon shifters and mpreg egg laying. Superlative: Best Food-Based Nicknames
  5. Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean – All hail the Year of Hattie! And give me more Whit! Superlative: Most Admirable Heroine
  6. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert – Prickly heroine living with chronic pain attacks her “get a life” list with the help of a hot ginger painter. Superlative: Best Heartbreaking Scene
  7. Heat Stroke by Tessa Bailey – Opposites attract when two lifeguards get it on and fall in love. Superlative: Best Gentle Giant Juice Maker
  8. Love Around the Corner by Sally Malcolm – Enemies IRL but a budding romance online figure out how to find love that lasts offline. Superlative: Best Internet Romance that Breaks Your Heart
  9. Man vs. Durian by Jackie Lau – In a year of amazing heroes, Peter might be my favorite. Fake boyfriend becomes super real. Superlative: Most Thoughtful and Eager to Please Hero
  10. Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon – Surgeon needs nanny. Sexy ginger biker comes to the rescue. Mutual attraction becomes more, and he’s also very good at the sex. Superlative: Hottest Ginger Biker Nanny
  11. Small Change by Roan Parrish – Tattoo artist and sandwich chef fall for each other. Also includes pickletinis. Superlative: Best Flirting with Sandwiches
  12. Teach Me by Olivia Dade – Over 40, plus size teacher is gently wooed by the single dad, also over-40 teacher who gets assigned her favorite class to teach. Superlative: Best Pursuit of Heroine
  13. Want Me by Neve Wilder – College housemates get it on until they fall in love. Superlative: Best Use of Sex for Plot Advancement
  14. Work For It by Talia Hibbert – Probably my favorite book of the year. I’ve already read it three times and then some. Olu and Griff are the sweetest. Superlative: Best Book with Grumpy, Sarcastic bb’s Falling in Love
  15. Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon – Marriage of convenience becomes real between bisexual teacher heroine and plus size chef hero. Superlative: Made Me Blush the Most

Flash Review – A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas

I received an ARC of A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas by Jackie Lau from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Jackie Lau is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance writers. Her stories are low-angst, steamy, and feature strong heroines. She deals with serious issues sometimes, but there’s never unnecessary drama between the couple. They talk about their feelings like grown ups. This was true of A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas. It’s the second in a holiday themed series about the Wong family. Greg and Tasha were each other’s first love, first everything, high school sweethearts who broke up because of distance and immaturity. They are pushed together on a road trip and sparks fly. They get snowed in! There’s only one bed! They both feel their feelings come back and there’s a lovely grand gesture at the end before the HEA. 

A few weeks ago on Twitter, I said “I just want to read about nice people falling in love and having hot sexy times.” That’s exactly what I got with this book. Greg and Tasha are nice people. They respect each other. They appreciate each other and celebrate the things that make them different. This book was charming and sweet. I loved it. 

The only thing that hit me wrong was the way they so quickly went from “haven’t seen you in 15 years” to “I love you.” But maybe that’s realistic in this situation? I don’t know. 

I give this book four stars. I wish it had been longer. I wanted to know more about Tasha, especially. But it was a great book. You should get it.