Tag Archives: erotic romance

Bridgewater Menage Series Book 1: Their Kidnapped Bride by Vanessa Vale

Make no mistake, this western historical romance was the worst book I had the displeasure to read in 2016, has a place on my online list of The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read, and Vanessa Vale is on the Avoid at All Costs list I maintain in my noggin.

Emma James is sold to a brothel by her evil step-brother. Given a choice between paying off the cost of her purchase by working as a prostitute or being auctioned off as a bride, she chooses the latter. I’ll let Amazon take it from there: One look at Emma James and Whitmore Kane and Ian Stewart know she would belong to them. Marriage was the only way to truly claim her… they return to the Bridgewater Ranch and teach her the ways to please not one husband, but two.

Not just badly written, Their Kidnapped Bride is one of the vilest, most offensive romances I have had to draw on an iron will to finish, and I’m pretty sure it was actually just a novella. Never mind the threesome aspect of the plot – that’s a “to each their own” element – the story itself is a bizarre alt-right, meninist fantasy entrenched in patronizing, misogynistic notions of “female empowerment” wherein so-called female power derives from gladly subjugating herself completely to the husbands who know best what she needs and what will fulfill her.

Kane and Ian served together in a fabricated Middle-Eastern-sounding country based on ethnic stereotypes, Mohamir, and learned from their way of life that women are most satisfied in plural marriages in which all authority and obedience is given to her husbands. Contentment and happiness come from her acceptance of subservience to the men and their roles, in turn, of providing protection and sexual gratification. With constant refrains of “good girl”, Emma is treated like a child, humiliated, and physically punished to learn her place and soon she is a desperately begging for sex and seeking to keep her men sated. Nothing belongs to Emma, not her body, not even her pleasure. It is theirs to command and control.

Conveniently for the ongoing series, the threesome lives in a community in which all of the men served in the same unit as Kane and Ian and their relationships are also based on the sharing of a wife. At her first meal, Emma meets Ann and learns what awaits her. For an acquiescent woman, even eating supper is an opportunity for to prove her worth and joy by deciding she needs sex too badly to concentrate on eating.  Her men reward her with what she needs. In this way, the story alternates between erotica, shards of plot, and discomfiting juxtapositions of carnal relations and submissiveness.

I did read another menage a trois romance this year, Home for Three, and it was awful as well, but in a completely different way. Links to my other reviews (including books worth reading) can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Sidebar: For once, I approve of the limited WordPress dictionary. It doesn’t recognize “meninist” as a word.

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The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I just hated them so much! I recommend none of them.

There can be no doubt, Kresley Cole would have more entries had I continued reading her novels.

Sarina Bowen, Penny Reid, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips have the dubious distinction of being both on this list AND my recommendations list.

  1. Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
  2. Barrett, Jo Nothing to Commend Her (Magnus/Agatha)
  3. Bennett, Sawyer Alex: A Cold Fury Hockey Novel (Alex/Sutton)
  4. Berg, J.L. When You’re Ready (Logan/Clare)
  5. Blair, Annette Jacob’s Return (Jacob/Rachel)
  6. Blake, Jennifer The Tuscan’s Revenge Wedding (Nico/Amanda)
  7. Bliss, Chelle Throttle Me – Men of Inked Book 1 (“City” Joey/Suzy)
  8. Bowen, Sarina The Fifteenth Minute (DJ/Lianne)
  9. Boyce, Elizabeth Once a Duchess (Marshall/Isabelle)
  10. Brogan, Tracy Highland Surrender  (Myles/Fiona)
  11. Butler, Eden Thin Love (Kona/Keira)
  12. Callihan, Kristen Idol (Killian/Libby)
  13. Cole, Kresley A Hunger Like No Other  (Lachlain/Emma) VILE
  14. Cole, Kresley Macrieve  (Uilliam/Chloe) VILER
  15. Darcy, Norma The Bluestocking and the Rake (Robert/Georgiana)
  16. Dee, Cara Noah (Noah/Julian)
  17. DiPasqua, Lila Undone (Simon/Angelica) *Worst of 2013*
  18. Dune, Lyla Low Tide Bikini (Brock/Sam)
  19. Ford, Rhys Sinner’s Gin (Kane/Miki)
  20. Foster, Melissa Sisters in Love (Blake/Danica) a. God b. Awful
  21. Garvis Graves, Tracey Heart-Shaped Hack (Ian/Kate) – Worst of 2016 Contender
  22. Goodger, Jane When a Duke Says I Do (Alexander/Elsie)
  23. Harber, Cristin Sweet Girl (Cash/Nicola)
  24. Hawkins, J.D. Insatiable 1 and 2 (Jax/Lizzie)
  25. Jackson, A.L. A Stone in the Sea (Sebastian “Baz”/Shea)
  26. Johnson, Julie Not You, It’s Me (Chase/Gemma)
  27. Kell, Amber Attracting Anthony (Silver/Anthony)
  28. Lee, Jade Wedded in Scandal (Robert/Helaine)
  29. Lilley, R.K. In Flight (James/Bianca)
  30. Long, Andie M. The Alphabet Game (Gabe/Stella)
  31. Mabie, M. Bait (Casey/Blake)
  32. Malone, M. Tank (“Tank” Tanner/Emma)
  33. McNaught, Judith Once and Always (Jason/Victoria)
  34. Merrow, J.L Muscling Through (Al/Larry)
  35. Michaels, Jess An Introduction to Pleasure: Mistress Matchmaker (Andrew/Lysandra!)
  36. Novark, Anna Marie The Doctor Wears a Stetson (Cameron/Jessie)
  37. Pamfiloff, Mimi Jean fugly (Maxwell/Lily)
  38. Phillips, Susan Elizabeth This Heart of Mine (Kevin/Molly) WORST HEROINE OF 2014
  39. Reid, Penny Elements of Chemistry (Martin/Kaitlyn)
  40. Reid, Penny & L.H. Cosway The Hooker and the Hermit (Ronan/Annie)
  41. Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
  42. Schone, Robin The Lady’s Tutor (Ramiel, The Bastard Sheikh/Elizabeth)
  43. Singh, Nalini Rock Addiction (Fox/Molly)
  44. Stewart, Nicole Home for Three (Selwyn/Jack/Kess)
  45. Vale, Vanessa Their Kidnapped Bride (Kane, Ian, Emma) Worst of the Year 2016
  46. Ward, JR Dark Lover (Wrath/Beth)
  47. Wylde, Anya Penelope (Charles/Penelope) *Most Inept of 2013*

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The Wild Seasons Series: Wicked Sexy Liar and A Not-Joe Not-So-Short Short by Christina Lauren

Finally, a Christina Lauren couple that doesn’t scream the house down in the throes of passion. Quiet people need love, too.

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In the first three books of the new adult romance Wild Seasons series, each of a trio of close friends made impulsive marriages on a graduation trip to Las Vegas. The aftermath of each of these choices was the basis for Mia, Harlow, and Lola’s novels. Book four brings Lola’s surfer roommate, London, to the fore and pairs her with Mia’s ex-boyfriend, Luke. I have enjoyed the Wild Seasons series and I think Wicked Sexy Liar may be my favourite. It struck the right balance of romance, sex – which is important given that Christina Lauren writes novels billed erotic – and character development.

Luke Sutter is a protector-type in rake’s clothing. He has been playing the field, sowing his oats, and tapping everything in sight for the past few years. A legal intern about to undertake law school, he’s 23 years old and out for fun. In Mia’s book, Sweet Filthy Boy, he was portrayed as a total player who had broken her heart. Of course, his heart was broken, too, and while he has created the impression that he handled it well by seeing a succession of women, he hasn’t been in a relationship since the “Great Breakup of 2010”. As the one with Mia lasted about 7 years, the reader quickly realises he has good boyfriend potential once he decides to grow up.

London has completed university with a degree in graphic design. Rather than toil for peanuts and build a clientele, she is taking some time to figure out what she wants to do as she surfs by day and tends bar by night. When Luke approaches her and they have a one night stand, he is smitten, but she is wary of the delicious man in front of her.

I have railed against the plot I call “The Pig Becomes a Person“, but that is not the case here. Instead of being some louche douchecanoe waiting for a magical transformative female to attach himself to, Luke has proven that he is capable of a steady and healthy relationship, he just needs to climb out of the hole he has dug himself into. Often, those heroes who have been chasing any and all willing females, but have never met The One and don’t change until they do. Luke had and lost his One and Lauren does a really good job of his slow recognition that he has turned into a skeevy guy who needs to do some rearranging with his life. Convincing London of this takes a while. She sees him as a potential boff buddy, but nothing more and, after a distasteful public encounter, not even that. She also struggles with her obligation to her circle of friends. It felt realistic within the heightened reality of a new adult romance. Liking both of them, and the sister who gives Luke endless sh*t about his life, Wicked Sexy Liar made for a relaxing, romantic read.

A Not-Joe Not-So-Short Short after the jump

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In Flight (Up in the Air Book 1) by R.K. Lilley

Another contemporary quote erotic unquote romance in which the hero specifically talks about “violating” the heroine.

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From Amazon: When reserved flight attendant Bianca gets one look at billionaire hotel owner James Cavendish, she loses all of her hard-won composure. For a girl who can easily juggle a tray of champagne flutes at 35,000 feet in three inch heels, she finds herself shockingly weak-kneed from their first encounter. The normally unruffled Bianca can’t seem to look away from his electrifying turquoise gaze. They hold a challenge, and a promise, that she finds impossible to resist, and she is a girl who is used to saying no and meaning it… If only it were just his looks that she found so irresistible about the intimidating man, Bianca could have ignored his attentions. But what tempts her like never before is the dominant pull he seems to have over her from the moment they meet, and the promise of pleasure, and pain, that she reads in his eyes.

Judging by the plot description, I assume the R.K. Lilley is both a genuine flight attendant and a sincere BDSM aficionado.

My challenge with In Flight was that I couldn’t tell if it was genuinely

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or just me being uncomfortable with other people’s tastes. The author gets credit for explaining why the characters needed this kind of interaction. I’ve read a couple of (free, I want to stress that they were free) books like this now and the young, inexperienced  heroine always starts with,”Jeepers, I don’t know. Um, I guess I shouldn’t, gee willikers, I mean, it’s kind of wrong, I guess, supposably, but I am kind of curious, and, shucks, he makes me feel so safe, gosh, but also kind of threatened, heavens to Betsy, but, wow, in such a sexy way,” and after this brief “Mother may I?” phase, the rest of the story acts as a primer as she is introduced to BDSM and builds to increasingly risque and intense sexual behaviour.

The hero, James, is supermodel good-looking, wealthy, and powerful which leads me to ask why the men in these books are always titans in their field and ruler of all they survey, yet still need to find someone vulnerable and pretty to dominate. I don’t get it. Shouldn’t they want a little humiliation instead of asserting yet more power in their private lives? With that in mind, the book lost me on page 17 when he said, “I will put you over my knee every time you lie to me, Bianca.”  It’s belittling and repellent, but, of course, Bianca’s reaction is different.

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James politely and sexily stalks Bianca as they move towards an intimate relationship. Though there are some bumps in the road – “James opened his eyes suddenly, looking more furious than I’d ever seen him,” when she’s known him for less than one rotation of the earth. – They move past this difficulty and it’s time for the Big Night: “I’m going to tie you to my bed and take your hymen.” Ew. “He used it like a handle. Or a leash. He pulled me, not ungently, up the stairs by it.” She’s referring to her HAIR. He actually uses her hair to drag her into his lair and once there “It was beautiful and frightening. It was a bed made for beauty and pleasure. And bondage and pain.” He has myriad restraints and a “cushioned ramp in the middle of the bed”.

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Bianca is fine with it; in fact, she’s a 23 year old virgin and apparently that first time:

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which, by the way, she ENJOYS. If I may?

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but it also made me want to do this for the heroine:

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I continued to read, but like this:

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and occasionally wishing

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but this is the book I had chosen and

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I forged on

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as things went from bad to scary mutually-consented-upon-violence, while Biana was still

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and I kept asking

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as James invades her privacy and intrudes on all aspects of her life. A sampling:

“I can’t wait any more for this. Nothing has ever made me feel this wild. I need to mark you. I need to own you. I need to punish you. I need to open you up and strip every detail out of you.”

Don’t worry, he only metaphorically pees in a circle around her to mark his territory. There may also have been a slave collar of some sort. I’m not certain as I’ve blocked as much of it out as I can.

“It’s just for cutting clothes. I would never cut your skin. The thought is abhorrent to me. I just want to blister it a little.”

OW! Let’s let Bianca’s best friend take over: “We’re all shaped by our childhoods. Accepting your preferences is not the same thing as being a victim. As long as you like what he does, and it doesn’t harm you, I say let it go and enjoy yourself.” Okay, the author has me there, but James infiltrates every aspect of Bianca’s life. He virtually moves in, he “rifles” through her things, he tells her what to wear, monopolises her time and her personal space,

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follows her to work (as a flight attendant), stalks and controls her. I know that my viewpoint in all of this

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is patronizing and presumptuous, but the whole thing struck me as genuinely awful and unhealthy and I am baffled by the high ratings these novels get on GoodReads and Amazon. I can say, “To each their own,” but I don’t care how much they rationally explain the origin of the characters’ desires when each revelation makes me feel

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I may have started reading In Flight with this perspective

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and progressed to

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in the end, I landed securely on

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Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

The Wild Seasons Series: Sweet Filthy Boy, Dirty Rowdy Thing, and Dark Wild Night by Christina Lauren

With the Wild Seasons series, the writing team known as Christina Lauren is hitting its stride. Stronger than the Beautiful series, each of these books features one of three childhood friends who have just finished university and are figuring out where their lives will go next. When a weekend in Vegas turns into three impulsive marriages, Mia, Harlow, and Lola react differently by staying married, getting it on then getting it annulled, and getting started on the annulment immediately. Lauren’s fun female friendships are included here, as well as the delicious men they write so well. As erotic romance, the Wild Series does not shy away from sex, but they strike a good balance with the sincere emotion necessary to make the stories work. As with the Beautiful Series, each couple has bedroom predilections that feature heavily in their sex life.

Sweet Filthy Boy (Ansel/Mia)

Mia spots Ansel across a crowded room and is instantly smitten, as is he. She had been on track for a dancing career before a terrible car accident, and having graduated with her Bachelors’ degree is staring down an MBA program she doesn’t want to attend, but has been cowed into by her domineering father. Her last hurrah weekend turns into a summer in Paris when she marries Ansel on impulse when their friends marry each other as well. “Half Adonis, half puppy,” and French, Ansel is absolutely adorable. Fun and impulsive, he encourages Mia to be with him for the summer; in fact, she made him promise not to get an annulment when they got married which he remembers, but she does not. A sensible woman, if a little lost, Mia rejects the suggestion of a summer in Paris before coming to her senses and showing up at the airport before the flight. They have a wonderful time, even if he is working constantly, until Ansel makes a big mess of things. Luckily, stupidity can be fixed with apologies and lessons learned, so these two crazy kids work things out.

Ansel was my favourite of the heroes, but this was not the best book in the series. Mia and Ansel’s courtship includes evenings of roleplay, but, while fun, they could have used more regular relationship building time. Sweet Filthy Boy is still very much a recommended read, as is the whole series, including my anticipated purchases of the entries that haven’t been published yet.

Dirty Rowdy Thing (Finn/Harlow)

This book as B and some light D, but neither S, nor M. Frankly, I found the love scenes boring. I get it. There was rope.  They both like it. Moving on.

Finn and Harlow married impulsively just like their friends, but after enjoying their wedding night, they sensibly divorced. There followed one more weekend together on Vancouver Island (when Finn resides) before Finn makes a trip to San Diego (Harlow’s stomping grounds) for business purposes. They reconnect at a party and find that they really enjoy each other. As with their friends Mia and Ansel (who pop up on the regular), they each have some information that should have been shared sooner rather than later and this causes the schism that leads to their inevitable reconciliation.

Dirty Rowdy Thing features great banter and Harlow is a take-no-prisoners pip.

Dark Wild Night (Oliver/Lola)

I’d say that Lola and Oliver are they sensible ones of the group of friends, but everyone is pretty grounded. Let’s say they are the quiet ones, stalwart and self-contained with a private wild edge. Oliver is Australian, Lola American, but, unlike their counterparts, they live in the same city.

Oliver is the protector type  – gentleman on the streets, wild man between the sheets – as well as the quintessential sexy nerd. He’s tall, he’s handsome and fit, he has floppy hair, he wears glasses, and he has just opened a comic book store. That sound you just heard is the sigh of a thousand fangirls finding their perfect romance hero. Sorry ladies, he’s taken. Oliver may have married Lola on a dare, but he started to fall for her immediately thereafter, so when Dark Wild Night opens, he is an absolute goner. She is oblivious to his affections, but not immune to his charms. Lola is very caught up in having her first graphic novel not only being published, but optioned for a movie as well. She’s flustered and overwhelmed and, in the way that life has of throwing everything at one all at once, this is when she decides to act on her Oliver crush. Things move fast and she gets overwhelmed, leading to a very awkward situation. Breaking up with your best friend and within a tight-knit circle of friends is the opposite of fun. Don’t worry, sweet, steady, surprisingly-loud-in-the-sack Oliver will help her figure things out as she finds the balance she needs.

I have pre-ordered the next Wild Seasons book Wicked Sexy Liar.

Sidebar: What is with all the slapping, bruising, and biting during coitus in these books? Do the authors realise how HARD one has to hit, squeeze, or bite to leave marks hours later? Ouch. Also, why does everyone have to SCREAM in ecstasy and do so loudly enough they can be heard from a great distance? What is up with that? We GET it. They are having sex, really hot, intense, mind-blowing sex. Pipe down.

Reviews of Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Series can be found here and here. A complete list of Christina Lauren’s catalogue can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.