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: Man vs. Durian

How adorable is this cover?
I love it.

I received an e-ARC of this book from the author for an honest review.

This book is one of my favorites of the year. It’s the third in a series that I haven’t read, and I loved the side characters. I will definitely be reading the first two books.

Valerie had a bad year. Her boyfriend cheated on her and she had to quit her job due to sexual harassment. She’s working at her best friend’s Ice Cream shop where she meets Peter. Peter is a landscaper who hates durian. Valerie spills durian ice cream all over Peter, and it was an excellent meet cute. Peter asks Valerie out and she turns him down but asks him to be her fake boyfriend. Then they both catch real feelings.

I had so many favorite things about this book: 1. The excellent communication. 2. Peter’s appreciation of Valerie — supporting her without pushing. 3. All the food! And finally, Valerie can only orgasm with certain stimulation, and she is NOT “fixed” by Peter’s magical man parts! He has to learn how to please her and what works for her, and he is a VERY eager student.

I give this book five heart-eye emoji stars! My highest rating. haha. I loved this book and I already can’t wait to read it again. Jackie Lau has such a great voice and awesome characters. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Flash Review – Trashed

I received an e-ARC of Trashed by Mia Hopkins from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This was the second book in The Eastside Brewery series. I have enjoyed both books. This was about the middle brother, Eddie, and how he makes a life for himself after prison, and of course, the woman he falls in love with along the way. Eddie was a great character. I don’t always like first-person Hero point of view books, but I liked his voice.

Carmen was an awesome heroine — a badass chef who sees the good in Eddie. I wanted more of her and more conversations between the two of them. There was a side story about Eddie finding out what happened to his father, who supposedly died while Eddie was in prison. It was necessary to Eddie’s story, but I really wanted more of him and Carmen.

It’s cool to read about characters who aren’t your typical romance novel main characters. Of course, they’re still above average attractiveness, but they’re not rich or privileged. Eddie struggles. Carmen struggles. They help each other.

I give this book four stars. It was so well-written. The blurb at the end from the third book in the series has me on pins and needles waiting for it. It sounds amazing. I highly recommend this entire series. It’s sexy as hell and shows a side of life not often found in romance.

Review: Once Upon a Bad Boy

My only complaint of the cover is I imagined more of a height difference. The heroine is only 5’1″.

This book is a very sweet, emotional m/f contemporary romance, with a second chance at love. Sadie and Bo were childhood sweethearts, but Bo broke up with her on prom night and broke her heart. They don’t see each other for 10 years. They end up having to work together on a movie that is Sadie’s big break as an actress and Bo’s biggest job as a stunt coordinator. The old sparks reignite and they don’t fight their feelings.

I appreciated that they didn’t run from what they felt for each other. They both accepted really early that they were each other’s person. But the road is not all smooth sailing as they still have ghosts from the past to face. She never knew why he broke up with her. And she also kept a big secret from him.

I was able to guess what the secret was pretty quickly, but I didn’t mind. I liked the way they talked to each other. I liked the way they cared about each other. I liked the memories of their time together as first loves. But it drove me crazy how long it took them to talk about their past. I wanted to scream at them to just talk already! But really, that’s a minor complaint.

All the friends from the previous books in the series were there, and they were fantastic. I would have liked more of them, actually. We got to see so much of them in the first book, which was a smart way to kick off the series. In fact, this book might be my favorite in the series. I loved the first one because of the big, sexy ginger hero, but this one gave me more feels. It was a bit of a slow start, but once I got into it, I couldn’t stop.

I give this book 4.5 stars. It was a fun, sweet read, and I will probably enjoy it on rereads. In fact, I’ll probably track down a print copy to go with my copy of Getting Hot with the Scot. Also, I really love the covers they are putting on this series.

Review – Somebody to Love

I received an e-ARC of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I really hate writing negative reviews. I like squeeing over books and it bums me out when I don’t like something. But I really did not like this book. All of the characters were stupid and mean. That sounds really harsh, but it’s true! The main characters meet when the heroine mistakes the plumber (hero) for her new psychologist, and he realizes her mistake and pretends to be the doctor. She feels like he’s probably full of shit but agrees to another session (I guess because she’s self-hating and curious??) and then continues seeing him for coffee and other activities while still pretending she thinks she’s getting therapy. At first, I thought she mistook him for a prostitute she had hired and that would have been less ridiculous, or at least less offensive. But then she starts spilling her guts to him and I realize she thinks it’s therapy. Maybe it’s my extensive history with mental health care services, but I couldn’t believe someone would pretend to be a therapist. And it’s not a funny meet-cute to me.

The heroine has this cousin/best friend who’s a total monster and makes the heroine feel like shit all the time. Both MCs screw around with other people over the course of the book. The hero’s girlfriend is another mega-bitch crazy woman. It just felt really woman hating. Although the heroine was plus size and mostly happy about it, there was fat-shamey language throughout the book from other characters. Including the hero. The mega-bitches get their comeuppance in the end, but the heroine sinks to their level too much for my liking by publicly humiliating them. 

I didn’t get the feeling that this author truly likes romance novels. It felt more like she was trying to subvert tropes and mocking them instead. There were some funny lines though. And the cover is adorable.

Reading this Week – June 9

  • Hardcore by Dakota Gray – m/f, workplace, sort of second chance. This was first person narration from the hero’s point of view, which I feel like is hard to do well. First person of anyone is hard to pull off, but I’m always impressed when the hero’s POV is done well and it was here. He was a dirty dude though. Wow.
  • Want Me by Neve Wilder – m/m, college. Definitely the most explicit m/m I’ve ever read, but it also had these moments of true sweetness from the two alpha bros who fell in love. Typically, I don’t love an alpha bro, much less two, but seeing these guys come together was lovely. So.Much.Sex. though. So if you’re looking for lots of plot and dialog, probably want to skip this one. I loved it though. I’ve already read it two more times.
  • Dedicated by Neve Wilder – m/m, workplace, friends to lovers – Another sweet one from this author. This one had more conflict and less sexytimes, but it was still really good.
  • Knight’s Fire by SJ Himes – m/m, paranormal, DRAGONS! I fucking love dragons. I don’t know why, but I do. This mythology was a little different. Rather than a human/dragon shifter, the dragon was a true shape shifter and could assume any shape. He preferred to assume the human shape so he could get it on with the knight. I’m looking forward to the next in the series, about their wedding and resolving the Big Bad.
  • Jericho Candelario’s Gay Debut by R. Cooper – m/m, friends to lovers, virgin hero – This was the sweetest, most precious (in the best sense of the word) love story. Jerry is my favorite. And I loved Lincoln’s dad bod.

Reread this week:

  • Band Sinister by KJ Charles – My #1 go-to comfort read. And fitting my theme of only reading LGBT books the rest of this month for Pride.

Review: Teach Me

I received an e-ARC of Teach Me by Olivia Dade from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Teach Me is a fantastic m/f that falls under “seasoned romance” because the hero and heroine are in their 40’s.

Rose is a teacher with a twenty years of experience at her school, and Martin is a new teacher who is brought in and assigned to her favorite class to teach. Martin is immediately drawn to Rose, but he grows on her slowly. She makes the first move and he turns her down due to insecurities, not lack of interest. Then he realizes what a dumb move that was and goes about trying to thaw her out. They both work on their insecurities. They let each other in. They find happily ever after.

What I loved about this book was the ease and gentleness of it. There was no dramatic gestures or big romantic overtures or aggressive pursuit, just a grown ass man respecting and listening to a grown ass woman. Blurbs bill it as an ice queen and a cinnamon roll and that’s accurate. But he’s not a sickly sweet cinnamon roll covered in too much icing. He’s iced just right. I loved the writing from his perspective when he realized he loved her. I would quote it but I don’t want to spoil it.

I give this book 4.5 stars and I highly recommend it. They both accepted each other and appreciated each other for being exactly themselves. I think that’s my biggest romance catnip — respect and acceptance and seeing someone for who they really are.

Reading this Week – May 27

  • The Learning Hours by Sara Ney (m/f, college) – I don’t usually like stories about douchey college students, but in this one, the girl was the douchebag and the guy was a sweetheart. It was a nice change. And I always enjoy Sara Ney’s writing.
  • American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera (m/m, billionaire) – Second in the series and I love it! Camilo and Tom are the cutest and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. I will probably have to buy this book in paperback as well for my keeper shelf. It’s sooooo good. Squee!
  • Create a Life to Love by Erin Zak (f/f, cw: domestic violence) – I have a full review of this one coming up soon.
  • The Major’s Welcome Home by Tessa Bailey (m/f, virgin hero) – I love a contemporary virgin, especially the hero. And Tessa Bailey writes steam and dirty talk so well. This one was fun. And it’s on Kindle Unlimited!
  • A Slice of Honeybear Pie by Jacqueline Sweet and Eva Wilder (m/f, paranormal bear shifters, plus size heroine) – I heard about this sweet series through #RomBkLove and it is fun! And it’s on Kindle Unlimited.
  • A Taste of Honeybear Wine by Jacqueline Sweet and Eva Wilder (m/f, paranormal bear shifters, plus size heroine) – Second in the series. Another cute one.
  • Thirsty by Mia Hopkins (m/f, contemporary) – This is the first in a series and I have an ARC of the second one so I wanted to read this first. I don’t usually go for gang stories, or mob or motorcycle club or any other organized group devoted to nefarious purposes, but I’m so glad I read this. It’s a sweet, very sexy story about a man trying to change his life and he falls in love with a good woman who encourages him to be his best self. But she doesn’t take any shit either. Great book.
  • Wrapped: A FIT adjacent Christmas Novella by Rebekah Weatherspoon (m/f, plus size heroine, ginger hero) – This story was catnip on catnip. So much fun. I loved it.
  • The First Sinners Club by Kate Pearce (m/f, historical, erotic) – This novella was enjoyable.

Flash Review: Smitten by the Brit

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love this cover. So far this series has some fantastic covers.

This was the second book in this series and I was really looking forward to it. They set up the flirtation in the first book, Getting Hot with the Scot, and I liked Bonnie and Theo. The elements were there. Her engagement ends. They run into each other in Chicago and then she ends up in England for the summer.

They have undeniable chemistry. I guess I just wanted more from them emotionally. She’s an Anglophile and he’s British and thinks she’s hot. That seems to be the whole basis for their relationship. I don’t know if I missed something or if something was missing. This just didn’t hit all the right notes for me. But the author writes good banter and fun scenes.

I give this book 3 stars. I think it works better if you’ve read the first in the series because you can see how they met. But it could stand on its own as well. I will definitely continue with the series.

Review: Getting Hot with the Scot

I received an e-ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Getting Hot with the Scot is about an American named Cassie who is vacationing in Europe with her best friends. She wants a hot vacation one night stand, and she meets Logan, a sexy red-headed Scottish dude. Full disclosure: I have a major thing for gingers. My first crush was a little red-headed boy in kindergarten, and I managed to fall in love with and marry a ginger. All that to say, I am predisposed to love a book with a ginger hero.

Back to the book, Cassie and Logan meet when he plays a prank on her for his web series. She refuses to sign the release but they end up banging anyway. Logan kinda creeps on her for the rest of her vacation and they have more sexytimes. He never mentions the release but she finds out anyway and is pissed. Cassie goes home without saying goodbye and she signs the release and goes home to Chicago. Logan ends up in Chicago for work and he tracks her down. They make up and there’s another misunderstanding or two and then they live happily ever after.

I enjoyed this book. Logan was funny and sexy, but a bit of a creeper. I felt like he should have been more honest with Cassie upfront. Another less-than-cool aspect was Cassie’s best friend gives Logan Cassie’s number without her consent. It helped the story move along but it was a violation of privacy. On the other hand, I liked Cassie and how she grew from “I’m not a relationship person” to “I think this could really be something,” in a real, honest way. And here’s a tiny spoiler — I really liked how she turned the drama over the prank and her romance novel reading into a story about strong women who read romance. I think there are more of us out there than the world would expect.

I give this book 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for Goodreads. If you’re looking for a very light, no-angst, funny read, pick this one up for sure. Also, the book very obviously set up the rest of the series, pointing a big neon sign at the next couple and giving clues to another friend’s story as well. It was almost distracting from the main story, but I enjoyed the side characters, and I am excited to read the next book in the series.