Since I’m always happy to support the growing virtual world of authors I know, I jumped at the chance to review Erica Lucke Dean’s debut novel, To Katie with Love. I’ve followed Dean’s funny exploits via a serendipitous connection on Triberr for the past year and a half, so while we’ve never met IRL, I know the intimate mishaps of her daily life as documented on her blog. From the blurb, I could see the same distinct voice I’ve grown to anticipate from her:
Banker Katie James has a serious thing for romance novels. She’d almost rather settle for a fictional boyfriend than risk her heart on a flesh-and-blood man. Besides, the only real guy she’s remotely interested in is her rich, unattainable client, the mysterious Cooper Maxwell.
Looking less like the ultra-conservative man she knows and more like a drop-dead sexy character from one of her books, Cooper crashes Katie’s 29th birthday party. But one too many drinks lands Katie in uncharted territory… Cooper’s bedroom!
Drunk on love, Katie dives headfirst into the relationship only to discover that Cooper is keeping secrets… dangerous ones. As if things couldn’t get worse, her meddling mother makes a surprise visit, digging up a whole new set of problems.
Who would have guessed having an assassin for a boyfriend would be the least of her worries?
The book more than met my hopes. The pace was fast, the writing smart and true-to-life, and each chapter had at least one moment of laughter. It’s a classic bit of humorous chick lit that plays with tropes and expectations in a very clever way, using language that further supports Dean’s characters’ development:
How excruciatingly embarrassing. Well, at least I didn’t have to go on an expedition to find my clothes in order to sneak out. If I didn’t run across my boots on the way, I would simply hike out in bare feet.
And Monday? Well, I had yet to use a single sick day. I could surely invent some horrible illness to keep me from work for at least one day.
Dean threw me back into that tentative, insecure mental framework of a young woman early in her career and still uncertain about how to define herself, let alone a good, healthy relationship. Her headlong dive into a relationship is both predictable and realistic, but Dean throws in enough twists to make the culmination of the story a unique take on the happily ever after required by the romance genre.
For anyone who enjoys contemporary romances with a hint of mystery and a tongue-in-cheek approach, this book is worth the price of admission. Run and enjoy a fun afternoon read.
About the Author
After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica Lucke Dean moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains, where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost.
When she’s not writing or tending to her collection of crazy chickens and diabolical ducks, she’s either reading bad fan fiction or singing karaoke in the local pub. Much like the main character in her newest book, To Katie With Love, Erica is a magnet for disaster, and has been known to trip on air while walking across flat surfaces. How she’s managed to survive this long is one of life’s great mysteries.
Where to Buy:
The original plan was to hop around the first release date she’d been given. Unless there’s a time-warp, we’re a week early for that goal…
And there you have my snark, sass, and serendipity commentary all wrapped up in one sentence, because next week also starts the madness that is the A-Z blog challenge. So Fi gets a day all on her own this week on my blog to revel in the snarky fun of her book.
Because the world revolves around me that way.
And because Fiona’s story is about a woman with her own challenges about snark, Fiona has invited those of us with experience writing about those kinds of characters to share a little of our stories. Since one of the prizes in the give-away that goes with the blog hop is the first two eBooks of my Red Slaves series, I thought I’d give a small preview of the kind of snark you’ll see there:
“Do you remember what you were doing before you zoned out?”
“Sure. Igor was saying the language on the cards was some variant of Chinese and Ivan was using Vasily and Fyodor to see if they couldn’t access draconic memories. Ivan grabbed my hand and pulled me into it. I saw a vision of a sky full of dragons and the oldest of them landed in front of us. He addressed us as children!” The memory of that epithet still makes me scowl.
“We knew the race was long-lived from what Natasha had told us, so 30-something human years is unlikely to impress any elders.”
“Yeah. But he didn’t have to make it sound so condescending. After all, we were looking for a source of knowledge or insight. That’s not childish behavior.”
“Maybe you’re just sensitive.”
I stick my tongue out at her. “Now you see childish behavior.”
Our laughter brings Andrei and Igor hurrying into the room. “You’re awake.”
“Quod erat demonstrandum.”
Igor snorts and says, “The men are all still non-responsive. Maybe if you try, you can get them to waken?”
I glance at Olga. “Do we know it’s necessary for them to wake up? Olga made a cogent observation earlier: We don’t know what the norm is for these beings.”
“You are one of them, so you should stop talking that way.” Igor hasn’t lost his habit of injecting the last word into a conversation.
“Fine. I’ll see what I can do. But if their teeth are as sharp as mine, I’m staying at least an arm’s length away.”
Good luck to those participating in the Rafflecopter–and to Fiona. May her book sell like hotcakes, launching her career in the style it deserves.
I’ve been an unabashed Anne McCaffrey fan since I read Dragonflight in 9th grade. I plowed through all the remaining books about Pern as soon as they came out, and wore out the binding on a few of them, I read them so often. It wasn’t until I was halfway through college, though, that I discovered she wrote in an entirely different genre: Romance, my (at the time) secret addiction. I had escaped my college town for a weekend trip to Boston to stay with friends of friends, and had found my way to a Barnes & Noble, where I was looking for the latest McCaffrey offering. Since I was unfamiliar with the store and was wandering aisles, I stumbled across this, described on the back cover this way:
“You’ll want to have a look at this. Here is love, romance, even sex, but the point is the life of Mirelle Martin… who’s making some changes in her life and her feelings… One of the catalysts is the handsome pianist James Howell, a pleasing contrast to her too-often-absent husband; another is the sculpture she’s working on of Lucy – her best friend, now dead. Mirelle risks everything to make her life more meaningful…”
I have to admit part of the reason I bought this was the similarity of the character’s name with one of mine. The book, however, struck a deep chord with me. It was a candid snapshot of what it was like to be a woman constrained in the historical ways we’ve generally been limited – by others’ perceptions, by social expectations, by the roles we’re allowed access to, and by our acceptance of those constraints.
McCaffrey does a great job chronicling how Mirelle grows up as a mother, wife, and artist over the course of a year, starting from this already somewhat unconventional standpoint:
Easy, gal, she cautioned herself. Forgetting the husband to lunch with another man? She snorted at the whimsy, impatient as the cross-highway light held her up. As if Howell were that type. He was only interested in her work and that part of herself was completely divorced from her family or her marriage, for all the overlapping. It was the as yet unhampered, unpossessed soul of her that she had refused to relinquish to Steve’s possessiveness. She had told him, early in their marriage, that she had given him her body, her worldly possessions, obedience and loyalty: she had given him all her love and devotion but that inner part of her that was unalterably Mary Ellen LeBoyne was not his. By the same token, she did not expect to possess his innermost secrets and soul. She doubted if Steve had any conception of such basic privacy. Very often he acted as if that final reserve were an offense against him, instead of her defense against the world. He was always striving for complete capitulation.
It’s considered romance, but I’d say it’s also chick lit, since the way Mirelle navigates through her circumstances brings her face to face with quite a bit of drama and other concerns. It’s a story that doesn’t shy away from the dark underbelly of life and it was startling to consider her perspective as a collegian with optimistic, romantic goggles on about how my life might evolve.
In the end, Mirelle’s self-empowerment and the place she carves out for herself in the standard 50s/60s housewife role make her compelling. I read the novel in an afternoon, and then eagerly followed up with McCaffrey’s other books in the same cross-over market. Not everything in these worlds comes up roses, and it’s worth revisiting these books for their perspective on how far women have come in just 50 years. I can highly recommend this one (or any of the others, really) to anyone who wants to revisit how hard it was for a female to find her individuality in that context.
I got myself in over my head this week… I’ve never reviewed erotica before, and hadn’t planned on ever doing so. However, one of the women who did me an early review favor for Dust to Blood contacted me to ask if I’d support her new release. Without asking further details, I offered to return the favor. The publishing house sent me an ARC for review purposes, and then I started thinking this might be a wilder ride than I had anticipated.
So I’m giving you fair warning: This is graphic erotica of the BDSM variety, something that may not be completely obvious from the blurb (though the book is appropriately tagged, rated, etc., in its Smashwords listing):
Julia has the chance to become one of the vampires of the Blue Moon House. Before being accepted, however, she must prove herself to each of the vampires, and each has their own exacting cost. Ranging from lesbian, to being forced, to physical torture, she is pushed to her breaking point time and again. Eventually her perseverance pays off and she crosses from submissive to dominant and vampire.
The story starts in the deep end and doesn’t relent, however, there is a real and intriguing basis to the plot: An old vampire wanted to avoid killing all her donors, but wanted to keep the mystery of her race intact. So she conceived of a very specialized kind of brothel where the clients expected the pain and silence she required to manage both elements of her goal.
For those of you who are intrigued by the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, but have been warned off by or worried about the dismal quality of writing, this would be a much better alternative. The writing is clear and smooth, and even though the kink Dawson describes is not the kind I enjoy, I was sucked into the novella and had no problems finishing it and appreciating the happily ever after the main character receives.
I’m still looking forward to Dawson’s guest post visit later this month, so keep your eyes open for what is bound to be an interesting post.
As promised, Jennifer James is back one last time to spread a little more excitement about Love Kinection (which I reviewed earlier this week). Take it away Jenn:
It’s my job today to interview Tom from LOVE KINECTION. I’m nervous. He’s really cute and funny and I don’t want to stare at him and be a dork. *sigh* We’re meeting for coffee at a Panera Bread that’s in a nice central location between our houses. (I may have an ulterior motive of scoring one of the giant cookies from the pastry display, but I admit nothing.)
Jennifer James: So, Tom. Hi. *blushes because he’s so handsome and grinning at me.*
Tom Walker: Hi Jenn. Good to see you again. Are you hot?
JJ: Ermm, no. *blushes more*
TW: *smiles wider* You know, Abby used to turn red like that around me. Not so much anymore though. I think after you’ve seen someone naked enough times, the effect starts to wear off.
JJ: What effect? *takes a gulp of coffee and burns herself*
TW: The effect all sexy geeks have on women. We overwhelm them with our special nerd aura.
JJ: *laughs* Uh-huh. I see. So, I’m supposed to ask you some questions.
TW: Is it safe?
JJ: Don’t cross the streams.
TW: Keep it secret, keep it safe.
JJ: What? *breaks cookie in half and shares it with the hunky man across from her*
TW: Noob. It’s from Lord…
JJ: I know what it’s from. I’m just not tracking with how that follows mine.
TW: Sorry. I’m not that great at movie quotes. That’s more Abby’s area. *He lets his arm rest on the table long enough for me to see the new ink he’s sporting on the inside of his forearm. “Abby” scrolls across the muscle in black lettering*
JJ: *grabs Tom’s hand to get a better look at his tattoo* Awww…….
TW: *His lips twitch and he lets me look my fill* She’s a great girl.
JJ: So, when are you guys tying the knot?
TW: Soon. She doesn’t want anything big, just us and a few close friends. Moms and dads, that sort of thing.
JJ: Better to do it before she’s showing, right?
TW: How did you know Abby’s pregnant?
JJ: *Smug smile* You just told me. She told me to ask you how practice was going, and she was gorging on Ben and Jerry’s. so….
TW: Ah. Well, I guess you’re a smart nubby, anyway.
JJ: Thanks. So, my friend Sarah wants to know how you spent five years staring at Abby and never asked her out.
TW: Oh. Well, when I first met her I had a fiancée. We broke up before the wedding, but by that point Abby was dating the douchebag. I wasn’t much up for a new relationship. Then she got screwed over and I didn’t want to be her rebound guy so I gave her space.
JJ: Hmmm…so, what’s your favorite MMORPG game?
JJ: Wow? What the hell is that?
TW: World of Warcraft. *coughs into hand* Nubcake.
JJ: Shush. I don’t speak text. Dork. Keep it up and I’ll confiscate what’s left of that cookie.
TW: You can try.
JJ: *turns scarlet and looks at the floor* Ahem. So, Tonya also wants to know if you make tech house calls often. I think she might need you to come fix something….
TW: *Snickers* No, actually I don’t. I try to leave work at work. Plus, when you start messing in people’s systems, you run across all their porn…It gets awkward.
JJ: *Wide eyed* Oh.
TW: If Tonya needs something fixed, I’ve got a single friend that can help her out. *winks*
JJ: *giggling* Oh, I’m sure you do.
Blogger Interjection: HEY! I’m happily married, here!
JJ:Now, back on topic. We all need to learn more about you.
TW: Ah. It’s like Christmas, but with more….me.
JJ: I thought you didn’t do movie quotes that well.
TW: I lied.
JJ: Okay Mr. Stark. Did you really forget that cable?
TW: Yes. Of course. Think I planned leaving it there so I’d have an excuse to go back?
JJ: *arches eyebrow*
TW: No, really. I did forget it. I was so turned on I couldn’t see straight. And aggravated.
JJ: Okay…over share. *sips coffee and tries to calm heartbeat.* Let’s back away from the sex stuff. What do you like best about yourself?
TW: What is this, a job interview? I have nice toes.
JJ: Nice toes?
JJ: Boxers, briefs, or commando?
TW: Women and men’s underwear. Look, the only time it matters is when I’m taking them off. Right? But for the record, I go boxer briefs. And not silk or something like that. They’re all slippery and crawl up your—
JJ: GAH! Stop. Just, stop. Too much. Besides, if they’re red, then they’re Satan’s panties anyway.
TW: *laughs* Nicely done. So let me ask you a question.
JJ: O-kay. *Nervous*
TW: Have you watched Season 4 of True Blood yet?
JJ: *sighs* No.
TW: Abby and I watch that show together.
JJ: Me and hubs do too. But I think he’s more in it for the boobs.
TW: Nothing wrong with that.
There you have it: More reasons to grab a copy of Love Kinection, to find out about Tom and Abby.
Multi-published author are not three words that Jennifer James ever thought she would be associated with. Author of erotica and erotic romance, what she likes best are happy endings – whatever that might mean for the characters. Wife, mother of two Tiny Divas, college student, and office drone, when not writing Jenn enjoys the outdoors, adventures of all sorts, horror movies, and the occasional comic book.
Blogs I contribute to: Paranormalists http://paranormalists.blogspot.com/
Love Scenes and Wet Dreams: http://lovescenesandwetdreams.wordpress.com/
This is the week of Jennifer James. 😉 As I mentioned Friday, she’s the founder of the crit group I belong to, and has given some very useful feedback to me on my writing, so I’m happy to return the favor and help her while she faces the madness of releasing two books in the same month. Then I won a give-away she ran as part of her blog-hop promo tour. And her publisher sent me the book Tuesday night. I thought… “I’ll just make sure it loads before I go to bed.”
Famous last words.
I’m lucky it’s novella-length, because it sucked me in and didn’t let me go until I’d turned the last page.
Here’s the blurb:
Love, romance, hearts, flowers, cupid…. Rubbish.
Abby Fine still hasn’t gotten over the pain of a year-old betrayal and plans to spend this Valentine’s Day drowning her sorrows with a ménage of men named Ben, Jerry, and Riesling.
Her plans are diverted when she drops and breaks her new iPhone and gives in to a momentary hormone surge, agreeing to let office hottie and tech god Tom Walker squirm his way into her condo to fix it.
Tom shows up with his Xbox, spicy Chinese food, and a habit of stealing kisses every time she lets her guard down.
Can a weekend of laughter, video games, and movies change Abby’s opinion of stupid Cupid?
I’m not typically a fan of contemporary romance; I like a little more distance from the world I know when I look for an escapist read. This one, though, appealed to all my fan-girl tendencies. James’ writing is tight, her pacing is quick and light, and I could fully identify with the broken-hearted betrayal that allows a girl to think she’s put her heart in a lock-box, never to be retrieved. Then there are conversations like this one:
“You’re a thirty-something-year-old man with an Xbox. You use gamer slang. Geek.” I arched a brow at him in challenge, and he shrugged.
“You’ve got a huge collection of sci-fi and fantasy novels. Anne McCaffrey. Lois McMaster Bujold. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit.”
“I like dragons. And subversive humor. Besides, it’s much harder to create something completely from your imagination than it is to write about regular old people if you ask me.” My arms crossed over my chest, and I lifted my chin.
“Okay, so you collect books. Let’s talk about the movies then. Let’s see what we’ve got. Oh, look. The entire Star Wars saga on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Complete collections of every season of Dr. Who, Angel, Firefly, Buffy, Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica…. Let’s not forget the shirt you’re wearing right now. There are Star Trek sporks in your utensil drawer.
Seriously? I think the author peeked in my bookshelves. I know this girl!
Just for the world where uber-geeks can find each other, I give this a double thumbs-up. I loved the ending, and am really looking forward to the character interview with Tom that the author has promised me for Friday (keep your eyes open!). For anyone who likes a tightly written novella with modern touches and romance, I can highly recommend this one. This is an explicit romance that doesn’t forget that the reason we want the characters to fall into each others’ arms is because of the intellectual connection they forge to support the physical sparks.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Despite all my intentions to the contrary, I did get to read at least a few books in between all the writing and editing of the past two months… Sneaking in other people’s words like the true bookaholic I know myself to be. And I always said… it’s only a little while. A few hours don’t make that much of a difference. The enticement of free eBooks was just too much. My fellow authors on Twitter are such enablers.
In this case it was J.R. Barrett, on Twitter as @JuliaRBarrett, who made me the offer I couldn’t refuse. Her blurb had just the right mix of intrigue and romance to sweep me off my feet:
Sara Wise is sick of ghosts. They’ve haunted her since she was a child, destroying her family, endangering her life. When an incorporeal being appears in her shower, she curses him soundly and orders him out, but this ghost is sticky. Not only does he invade her shower, he moves into her home, invading her dreams, sharing her bed. The reluctant Sara finds herself falling in love with a dead man.
Despite Sara’s objections, Natan de Manua isn’t permitted to leave. Protecting the woman is both his penance and his means to redemption. She’s not easy to protect, she fights him nearly every step of the way, except in her bed. Nathan may have come to regain his soul, but instead he risks losing his heart.
I hadn’t ever read this kind of ghost story before, where ghosts are not the horrifying element.
Nathan stretched, feeling his long legs slide through soft, sweet-smelling cotton sheets. Ah, so much kinder to the skin that homespun linen. He opened his eyes with a start. He’d slept.
Only living men sleep. The dead never sleep. His heart pounding in chest, he turned to reach for Sara, but she’d gone, leaving a tangle of blankets behind. Rolling onto his back, he slid a hand beneath his head and stared at the ceiling.
This makes no sense. It’s not possible. He remembered his mother’s words. She’d spoken of a final gift.
I was a little leery of a story written from the perspective of an aspiring author; typically that speaks to a certain inexperience on the author’s part. In this case, I wasn’t distracted by that pursuit–except to understand it much more personally because of my own writing and editing process. All of Barrett’s characters are fully fleshed, with quirks and insecurities and a fully realized character development arc. The twist of having the ghosts of the story be the helpful, guardian types, while the “humans” represent the darker element was very well done.
I’m not even typically a great fan of contemporary romances; in this case having Natan originate from the bloodiest time of the Inquisition injected enough of the past to satisfy me. Even the resolution to the dilemma of how to give the two main characters their happily ever after was a twist I don’t think many will see coming.
I’m happy to recommend this to any romance junkie who’s willing to stretch their boundaries a little into the paranormal, as well as any urban fantasy addict who enjoys a bit more of the love story than the typical adrenaline rush that action provides. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these characters, so for anyone else who’s curios about the wildly different ways you can experience this genre, Barrett provides a welcome escape into a world only slightly different from our own.
Once again, I have to say: I feel lucky for having found a great group of mutually supportive writers via Twitter/Triberr. In this specific case, Barbara Rose (who also writes as Barbara Mack, whose book Chasing the Sunset I reviewed a few months back) has released a new young adult fantasy. She was kind enough to share it with her tribe mates, and I had to fight my natural inclination to gulp down new, intriguing fiction while I met other obligations.
The blurb for this one is a little vague (probably to avoid spoilers), and lets the reader know this will be the first in a new series.
When Allison Mack’s boyfriend and his family are killed in a car wreck, she suspects that her life will never be the same. She knows it for sure when her dead boyfriend comes to visit her on her sixteenth birthday. He warns her to beware of Under Places and then disappears again, only to reappear later. Is she losing her mind, or is something supernatural going on?
Ally finds out something startling about her own family. They are all in terrible danger, and she might be the only one who can save them…
The story captures the young, sweet side of first love–on the other side of a life-changing disaster. The sense of being different, though, is underlined by actual differences from standard human existence.
The story kicks off on her 16th birthday with that unexpected visitation from her dead boyfriend and gets odder from there. In the meantime, her mother is stuck trying to revise her own history by living vicariously through her daughter:
“Oh, you have to have a sixteenth birthday party, Allison,” she told me. “I never got to have one, and I’ve always regretted it.” At the time, it hadn’t seemed very important so I gave in.
Well, she was having her party now. And I was opting out of it, right now.
My eyes burned and my throat ached as I opened my window and threw one leg over the sill. They can wait forever for me to open those presents, I thought as I climbed out the window and down the tree. I hung by my hands from the lowest limb and dropped to the ground.
Her fraught relationship with her mother (and her dead boyfriend) notwithstanding, Ally comes across as a pretty well-adjusted teen, looking forward to getting her driver’s license and figuring out a new course for her life now that she’s seen first-hand how plans can go awry.
Her coping mechanism seems to be her snarky side–and she does spin out some snappy comebacks throughout the book.
The pacing and unique story line hooked me so this ended up being a very fast read, and I could see where fans of PC & Kristin Cast’s House of Night series would also enjoy this book–though it’s significantly lighter fare (as in no evil, murdering goddess inducing significant sexual exploration).
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a paranormal cast including ghosts and fairies, and an introduction to a coming-of-age series.
Today on Twitter, @evilmynx @PavartiKTyler shared a review of a book currently on sale at Amazon… for FREE. I’m a sucker for free, given all our many expenses, and Pavarti’s review was so good I had to see for myself what the fuss was about. It was totally worth the gushing! I had a hard time not snapping at people who were trying to interrupt my enjoyment of this apocalyptic romantic fantasy.
The tagline reads: The DOGs want to destroy the world. The gods want to make a new one. The trick is to survive both.
It grabbed me from there and took me places I never expected. I know I’ve complained in the past when an author inserts a Deus Ex Machina moment into a story… But this author COMPLETELY earned her nomination for Best Romantic Science Fiction/Fantasy in 2010 and Best Debut Book in 2010 by The Romance Reviews; she knows how to break the rules in such a way that the reader is carried right along on the current of the action with no further question than “WHAT NEXT?” I’ve gone ahead and started stalking her on Twitter too (she’s at @LK_Rigel for everyone else who picks up this gem and is converted by her storytelling genius).
Many of the reviews already out there on this tale emphasize the very subtle, bite-sized introductions to the world Rigel spreads throughout the narrative. They flow so seamlessly into the action and the dialog that they are worthy of plaudits. But this story really stands on the strength of the characters and the way they develop as individuals, enhanced by the way they play off each other. Char starts out as a reluctant not-quite-evacuee and learns to live again in a remarkably credible series of scenes in a very short book.
The layers to Jake, from his start as an unassuming flyboy to a real person and valued partner are as deftly limned. Even Mike, a guy you really do need to hate by the end of the story, doesn’t immediately show up on the reader’s radar as anyone other than what he’s presented to be: a friend with some inside information, taking care of his girlfriend’s sister.
The primary leimotif regarding the gods, belief, and religion plies both ends of the spectrum, with one early commentary representing one end:
The Space Junque rolled over, and they were looking at the earth. Rolling tufts of benign white obscured the planet. The clouds looked like angels diving to earth from heavenly cliffs. She’d pray if it weren’t ridiculous.
and a later one indicating a developing sense of faith:
Sky was definitely dead then, and Char was about to be. Maybe she should be comforted knowing that the afterlife indeed existed. Heaven or hell, here I come.
All of these elements lend real credence to a world gone pear-shaped, and the other very interesting leitmotif about being “natural” carries the thread of the potential resurrection of a much-abused planet to a very strange, but nonetheless convincing conclusion. I’m all but slavering to read the next books in the series–and will have no problem shelling out $4 and $5 bucks for the next two installments already available. Excellent strategic marketing idea to add to the author’s skills, then.
So I have to reiterate the injunction that moved me: Get thee to Amazon and download this quick read for a very satisfying foray into what the apocalypse could very well look like!