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Posted by Guest Reviewer


How I Married a Marquess

by Anna Harrington
April 26, 2016 · Forever
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by NoeRD. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Historical category.

The summary:

Josephine Carlisle, adopted daughter of a baron, is officially on the shelf. But the silly, marriage-minded misses in the ton can have their frilly dresses and their seasons in London, for all she cares. Josie has her freedom and her family . . . until an encounter with a dark, devilishly handsome stranger leaves her utterly breathless at a house party. His wicked charm intrigues her, but that’s where it ends. For Josie has a little secret . . .

Espionage was Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney’s game-until a tragic accident cost him his career. Now to salvage his reputation and return to the life he loves, the marquess must find the criminal who’s been robbing London’s rich and powerful. He’s no fool-he knows Josie, with her wild chestnut hair and rapier-sharp wit, is hiding something and he won’t rest until he unravels her mysteries, one by one. But he never expected to be the one under arrest-body and soul . . .

Here is NoeRD's review:

If I had to sum up in a few words what I thought of this book, I would say: It’s the first too stupid to live heroine I like. No, no, cross that. Both main characters where pretty stupid or reckless in the course of the book.

The thing is I found them endearing most of the time and the banter between them was very entertaining too. So, let me begin again with this review.

The hero, Thomas Matteson, son of a duke and Marquess of Chesney, by himself is an ex-spy that wants to become a spy again. We are told that he was shot a year ago and this had something to do with him not being a spy now. He has something that I assume is post traumatic stress disorder and some anxiety issues because of this and he is desperate to go back to his old ways and not let this event define the rest of his life. So, because the War Office is not minding his requests, he feels he has to get a recommendation from a very powerful lord who has asked him to catch a highwayman who is robbing his guests in some country state.

Enter Josie Carlisle. She is the adopted daughter of a baron and because a lot of pompous asses won’t marry her for this reason, she is pretty much on the shelf. She is, most of the time, very smart and ballsy. She still takes care of the orphanage where she lived prior being adopted and is very independent by that time standard. She meets Thomas in the very powerful shady Lord’s house and the chemistry between them is off the charts. They can see right through each other and is a lot of fun to see how they try to outsmart the other.

Although I found the book very fun to read, the pace just perfect and the characters endearing (I like that word!), there were some flaws that could kill the book for you if you don’t get in its hype.

Firstly, I mentioned Thomas anxiety issues. As a partner of someone with anxiety issues I understand Thomas’s problems and motivations, but the book falls in the misdirection of pretending love cures them all. Thomas is first attracted to Josie because she “calms” something in him in their first meeting, and he decides to pursue her because he wants to know why. Then, his sleep anxiety disappears the first night they spent together. That’s not how anxiety works for most people and it could be harmful for your relationship to pretend that love is a magic cure. The only part when it’s done right is in a scene when Thomas and Josie are alone and a shot is heard in the distance and Thomas gets in full panic attack mode. Josie intuitively tries to appease him and does it by the way she speaks to him not through her mere presence.

Another thing that bothered me was that for all the admiration that Josie’s badassness causes in Thomas, he doesn’t trust her 100%. Sure, when he asked her not to do something she went and did it, almost getting herself killed. But near the end of the book, he locks her in a cell to stop her from meddling in his plans instead of telling her those plans and asking for her cooperation.

Then there is the issue of Thomas’s spy skills. He is like the worst spy ever. Thank God he chooses love above his country, because there would be no Queen alive otherwise.

Which brings us to the matter of “The secrets.” Josie has a secret that is very obvious from the start and is revealed around the 30% mark of the book. I had no problem with that. There also is a veil of secrecy around the details of Thomas’ shooting and it makes you wait for it and then is… meh. So I didn’t get why the secrecy in the first place.

All in all, beside its flaws I really enjoyed this and will look forward to reading more books from Anna Harrington.

How I Married a Marquess by Anna Harrignton received a B+ in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

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Posted by SB Sarah

In the Bitchery HQ Slack this week, Amanda shared this link to the ever-outstanding Kelly Faircloth on Jezebel:

Men Are Apparently Adopting Ambiguous Pen Names to Sell Psychological Thrillers to Women

From Kelly’s write-up:

“…there is a huge market demand for psychological “Girl Who” thrillers, often featuring dead or missing women, written largely by women for female audiences. And the guys—and their publishers—want in.

Her source, a Wall Street Journal article with a truly cringetastic headline:

These Male Authors Don’t Mind if You Think They’re Women

Well, thank heavens, because you know I was worried about it.

Jessica Jones rolling her eyes mightily and dropping her head to her chest

The WSJ article is behind a paywall, but the salient details are also on The Guardian:

Riley Sager is a debut author whose book, Final Girls, has received the ultimate endorsement. “If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this,” Stephen King has said. But unlike Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, The Girls, Luckiest Girl Alive and others, Final Girls is written by a man – Todd Ritter. This detail is missing from Riley Sager’s website which, as the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, refers to the author only by name and without any gender-disclosing pronouns or photographs. (His Twitter avatar is Jamie Lee Curtis.)

Ritter is not the first man to deploy a gender-neutral pen name. JP Delaney (real name Tony Strong) is author of The Girl Before, SK Tremayne (Sean Thomas) wrote The Ice Twins and next year, The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (AKA Daniel Mallory) is published. Before all of these was SJ (AKA Steve) Watson, the author of 2011’s Before I Go to Sleep.

“Literally, every time I appear in print or public,” Watson says, someone asks about why he uses initials. It was his publisher’s decision to avoid an author photo and to render his biography non-gendered. He has never hidden, but when Before I Go to Sleep went on submission, editors emailed his agent and asked, “What is she like?” Watson found the mistake flattering.

Right, because with profit, they’re “okay” with you mistaking them for women.

I’m so relieved.

Never mind the incredible violence faced by, you know, actual transgender individuals.

Wow, did that entire reading experience leave me with side eye and a frown. There’s already plenty of barriers to entry within publishing if you’re not a white dude, so this was the news equivalent of rubbing a cat backwards from the tail to the shoulders.

This part of the WSJ article particularly rubbed Amanda the wrong way, as it did Kelly Faircloth. She wrote at Jezebel:

One of the authors featured has gone so far as to try on a bra so he didn’t make any obvious mistakes that might throw female readers out of the story. Wonder if he also gets the infuriating emails or the creepy DMs or the generally patronizing bullshit?

…Nevertheless, if only being a woman in, say, serious nonfiction or literary fiction were as straightforward as publishing under the name Steve.

Well, thank God the bra question was addressed.

Given that Elyse and Amanda both love thrillers, especially those that focus on women, they had a few things to say about this discovery.

Amanda: Since I just got Final Girls, I’m kind of bummed about this, Elyse.

Elyse: Dudes ruin everything.

Amanda: It’s weird how my excitement for the book just got sapped out of my body.

RedHeadedGirl: It’s one thing when women are exploring the things that make the world unsafe for us.

It a whole other thing when it’s men and since they are, you know, one of those things, it feels exploitative.

Elyse: THAT.

RedHeadedGirl: DUDES.


Sarah: Because Money.

Elyse: I guess I have two books to donate.

I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers written by men, and I have no issue with that. I think the reason this is squicky for me is that so many of the “Girl” mysteries deal with deep female POV, and that POV is often dealing with themes like toxic masculinity and gaslighting by men.

Sarah: The whole picking another name thing seems a lot like gaslighting.

Elyse: Yes. I have written about why I really love this new trend of female driven psychological thrillers. It’s reclaiming a genre that commodifies violence (often sexual) against women. It’s about female rage and about reclaiming our bodies. For me the genre works because it subverts the traditional narrative in a genre dominated by men.

Sarah: It’s a familiar feeling. An unpleasant one.

Amanda: Going back to RHG’s comment about women exploring things that make them feel unsafe, I’m skeptical of a man being able to accurately write a woman’s experience.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but (as an example from the WSJ article) how is trying on a bra really going to get to the heart of the experience of living as a woman and having to factor in your own safety to your daily routine?

It all just feels like a gimmick to me and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, given the amount of violence that often occurs against women at the hands of men.

Sarah:  And…cue the sound of us all nodding and grimacing as one.

I’ve been pondering this for the better part of a day, wondering if my reaction is outsized or uneven. For example, JK Rowling adopted the Galbraith pseudonym to write without the expectation and pressure that came with the Rowling surname on the cover. I get it.

These individuals masking their gender to sell thrillers, as RHG pointed out, feels exploitative, not because of the pseudonym, but because of the pseudonym and the subject matter of the genre – not to mention the politics of gender identity – in the exploitation and insecurity inherent in identifying as female.

That said, it is entirely possible that I’m cranky and there are much better uses for my ire and snarly energy.

What about you? Are you a thriller fan? What do you think? What’s your reaction?

Movie Review: Their Finest

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Carrie S

Their Finest is a British movie that had limited release in the USA. If, like me, you missed it in theaters, you can see it now on iTunes. This movie is slow and matter-of-fact but it snuck up on me and had me bawling my eyes out by the end. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but due to a plot development near the end and a significant amount of tragedy it’s better described as a drama. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers, but here’s one I know none of you will mind:

There are two dogs in the movie, and they both end up fine. One of them ends up adopted by a strict but fond Helen McCory. We should all be so lucky.

Their Finest is a movie about a woman who makes a movie. Catrin, played by Gemma Arterton, gets a job helping to write a propaganda film (The Nancy Starling) in London during the Blitz. She’s supposed to provide the women’s touch on a film that, by order of the government, is to broadcast a sense of “authenticity and optimism.” Her co-worker, Buckley, is cynical and sexist but also very good at making a coherent story out of almost anything.

Buckley is played by Sam Claflin. Sam is one of the prettiest men ever to live, and as an actor he has perfected the art of wordlessly broadcasting intense and unrequited longing. It’s a relief that he spends the movie under an unfortunate, though period appropriate, mustache, as otherwise I would have spent the entire movie staring at him in a trance. He’s sardonic and bitter and funny and horrible and has fantastic chemistry with Gemma Atherton.

Catrin and Buckley typing side by side
Smart is Sexy!

Gemma plays Catrin, our heroine, and she is simply perfect. Whether she’s standing perfectly still or walking and talking very quickly across a set, she simultaneously broadcasts vulnerability and steeliness. In keeping with all opposites-attract type romances, Catrin and Buckley constantly look like they can’t decide whether to strangle one another or just start ripping off each other’s clothes in the middle of the office.

Back to the plot: Catrin meets middle-aged twin sisters, Rose and Lily, who took part in the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk. They stole their drunken father’s boat, but never made it to Dunkirk because the engine gave out. They got a tow home from a bigger ship and took some of the soldiers from that (overcrowded) ship. One had a dog in his kit bag, and another, who was French, tried to kiss Lily.

Catrin brings this story, minus a few details, to the movie people, who are thrilled. “It has authenticity, optimism, AND A DOG!” one of them crows. Soon she and Buckley are writing non-stop as the Rose and Lily of The Nancy Starling become pretty young women, their abusive drunk father becomes a funny drunk uncle, a fictional love triangle forms around the fictional Rose, and the dog has a stirring action scene.

There’s just so much to unpack in this movie, which is quiet and slow (at about two hours, it felt like more) and restrained in the most British way but which tackles sexism, the war, grief, friendship between women, the creative process, the art and business of making movies, and some very nice hats. Helen McCrory does what she always does, namely takes a small role and simply walks away with the movie entirely. Bill Nighy promises Catrin that “Between you and I, we’ll have them weeping in the aisles” and then delivers on that promise. The whole cast has a chemistry which manages to progress from mass antagonism to a sense of comfortable familiarity. The actors who play actors combine certain narcissism with real warmth. When Bill Nighy sings a song with the line, “Will ye go lassie, go/and we’ll all go together,” to the cast, they feel like a real family, truly at ease with one another, and truly comforted during dangerous times by each other’s company.

Throughout is presence of war. Although this film is very funny in a deadpan way, I was surprised to see how many people have described it as a romantic comedy. It doesn’t have a romantic comedy ending, and anything funny transpires against a terrifying background. At one point Catrin has to literally step over corpses to get to her flat. “I’ll be alright after a cup of tea,” she tells her husband, only to be informed that the water main is out, a development that even the stoic Catrin cannot tolerate with equanimity. The making of The Nancy Starling is serious business that might affect the course of the war, and the war takes such a toll that at one point they fear that they’ve run out of enough people to finish it.

Towards the end of the movie, something happens that could make the viewer feel cheated. I felt shocked and sad, but not cheated, and here’s why:

  • The movie takes the time to follow through the ramifications of the event.
  • An arc has, for all intents and purposes, been resolved.
  • The movie has been hinting all along that all kinds of unforeseen events can and do happen, whether they be the result of bombs, guns, or, in one character’s case, being hit by a tram while on leave. Death is sudden and arbitrary. This is a theme all throughout the movie so when it causes a sudden tonal and plot twist, it feel both shocking and inevitable.

This movie was marketed as a romantic comedy, and up to a point it has the structure of one – very attractive people, the unappreciative husband, the witty banter, the chemistry, opposites attracting, etc. However, one of the running themes of the movie is that the movie within the movie keeps having different agendas and themes tacked on to it. The Nancy Starling is an action movie and a war movie, it’s a love story, it has comedy and tragedy, it’s meant to inspire America to join the war, and it’s meant to motivate the British to keep fighting. That’s not even a complete list of all the jobs that the poor Nancy Starling is expected to do. Through the writing of this film, Catrin is insistent that the film is, at its core, the story of Lily and Rose.

The Rose and Lily of the movie within the movie, piloting the boat
The fictional version of Rose and Lily

Similarly, Their Finest is marketed as a romantic comedy, but at its core it’s not the story of one couple or another. It’s consistently Catrin’s story. This means that while many characters undergo significant arcs, Catrin’s arc is the only one that matters and…

it requires her being alone for a while. Buckley dies so that from a character arc perspective we can see Catrin face being alone and independent instead of bouncing from one relationship to a volatile man to another. Basically he’s fridged for feminism.

The movie is also an ode to the women who kept Britain running during the war. They are paid less than men, they are resented and feared by men, and yet they are expected to manage the impossible. When Catrin finally goes to a screening of The Nancy Starling, she sits by an older woman who weeps copiously through the movie and explains that she’s seen it five times. “It’s our picture isn’t it?” she says, patting Catrin on the hand, “They’re our girls.”

I cried like a baby.

Their Finest is available for streaming/purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google:Play, & iTunes.

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Posted by SB Sarah

I almost titled this episode, “Same Library, Different Tastes.” While having dinner the other night, I was talking to Adam, my excellent spouse, about a series he was reading, and I realized we hardly ever talk about what he’s reading. I’ll go on for hours about what I’m reading (and I have!) but unless I’m asking him if he’d enjoy a book I just found, he doesn’t talk much about what he reads, and he reads a lot. So he made cocktails and I handed him a microphone, and we talked about it.

We don’t like any of the same things, but we both love reading. So I asked questions about his favorite series, books he’s enjoyed that I’ve successfully recommended (YES!), and what makes a narrative world appealing.  Adam likes to read fantasy, and he loves never-ending world building and deep nerdy dives into back story, so he’s a very avid and engaged reader. But he keeps most of it in his head. So I ask him nosy questions about that. We also discuss series and trilogies he loves, including Game of Thrones, Libriomancer, The Inheritance Trilogy, and a lot more – expect a big list of books.

Listen to the podcast →
Read the transcript →

Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:

We also mentioned Elyse’s Bachelor and Bachelorette recaps.

And if you’d like to try it, here’s a recipe for Bee’s Knees, my new favorite cocktail.

And! The RWA Signing! July 29, 2017, from 3:00 – 5:00pm! 

Hundreds of romance authors in one place, and all proceeds of book sales go to literacy organizations. Some of your favorite authors are likely to be there, like Alyssa Cole, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Julie James, Cecilia Tan, Beverly Jenkins, and Jill Shalvis. And, for the first time, I’ll be signing, too – yay!

The signing is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Pacific Hall. Saturday, July 29th from 3-5pm. And if you come and find me (I’m in the Ws near the cashiers) and mention the podcast, I have a special sticker for you – if you’d like one.

Get all the details at:  https://www.rwa.org/literacy.


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

Thanks for listening!

This Episode's Music

Our music is provided each week by Sassy Outwater, whom you can find on Twitter @SassyOutwater.

This is from Caravan Palace, and the track is called “La Caravane.”

You can find their two album set with Caravan Palace and Panic on Amazon and iTunes. And you can learn more about Caravan Palace on Facebook, and on their website.

Podcast Sponsor

This episode is brought to you by Too Scot to Handle by Grace Burrowes. This New York Times bestselling series with its “heartfelt emotions, humor and realistic, honest characters [is] a fan favorite,” raves RT Book Reviews.

In this second book of the Windham Brides series, Burrowes delights Regency romance readers once again with an irresistible rough-around-the-edges Scot who takes on saving an orphanage to win over the fiery, intelligent woman who captures his heart.

As a captain in the army, Colin MacHugh led men, fixed what was broken, and fought hard. Now that he’s a titled gentleman, he’s still fighting-this time to keep his bachelorhood safe from all the marriage-minded debutantes. Then he meets the intriguing Miss Anwen Windham, whose demure nature masks a bonfire waiting to roar to life. When she asks for his help to raise money for the local orphanage, he’s happy to oblige.

Anwen is amazed at how quickly Lord Colin takes in hand a pack of rambunctious orphan boys. Amazed at how he actually listens to her ideas. Amazed at the thrill she gets from the rumble of his Scottish burr and the heat of his touch. But not everyone enjoys the success of an upstart. And Colin has enemies who will stop at nothing to ruin him and anybody he holds dear.

As Tessa Dare puts it, “Grace Burrowes is a romance treasure.” Don’t miss Too Scot to Handle, on sale wherever books are sold this Tuesday, July 25th.

Transcript Sponsor

When It’s Real

Our podcast transcript is being brought to you by When It’s Real by #1 New York Times bestselling author Erin Watt.

A pop star. A regular girl. The world’s watching…

Wealth, fame and a real-life romance she never expected—seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett lands it all when she agrees to become a pop star’s fake girlfriend in this smart, utterly addictive novel.

School Library Journal calls it “a fast-paced, ‘he said, she said’ page-turner.” Kirkus Reviews writes: When It’s Real is “undeniable fun” and “a quintessential beach read.” You’ll fall head-over-heels in love with this electrifying and addictive new romance.

Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.

There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.

Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.

Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…

You can find When It’s Real wherever books are sold.

Remember to subscribe to our podcast feed, find us on iTunes, via PodcastPickle, or on Stitcher.

Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase

Jul. 20th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Guest Reviewer


Dukes Prefer Blondes

by Loretta Chase
December 29, 2015 · Avon
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Middleclassmanhattan. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Historical category.

The summary:

Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can’t see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax’s nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child is in trouble, she turns to tall, dark, and annoying barrister Oliver Radford.

Though he’s unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford’s never been part of fashionable society, and the blonde beauty, though not entirely bereft of brains, isn’t part of his plans. But Clara overwhelms even his infallible logic, and when wedlock looms, all he can do is try not to lose his head over her . . .

It’s an inconvenient marriage by ordinary standards, but these two are far from ordinary. Can the ton’s most adored heiress and London’s most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?

Here is Middleclassmanhattan's review:

The hardest part of writing this review was trying to remember the actual name of the book. Dukes Prefer Blondes hints at nothing in this story, save for the fact our heroine is blonde. The title itself is unremarkable.

However, Ms. Chase delivers a book that is anything but! Filled with vibrant characters, witty dialogue, Dukes Prefer Blondes was a delight to read and a truly memorable love story. This was my first Loretta Chase book, and I understand why she has a great fan base, and why beloved author Julia Quinn is quoted on the cover.

To start with, the hero and heroine are equal parts intriguing, sexy, and quirky. You have your rich heroine, Lady Clara Fairfax, who wants to make a difference in society, and if she marries at all, Clara wants to marry someone who appreciates her intellect. And you have your genius Sherlock Holmes-like hero, Oliver Radford (known as Raven), who doesn’t have outrageous wealth (yet) but is building a standout career, and he doesn’t want anything to get in his way, most especially an illogical, emotional relationship. Our hero and heroine end up, after several adventures, with a heart-warming HEA. Perhaps that sounds as memorable as the title? Oh, but you would be wrong! Ms. Chase knows the magic formula for creating a HEA unique and memorable.

This review could be ten pages long explaining everything that appealed to me about Ms. Chase’s writing style and this particular book, but I’ve decided to limit my gushing and highlight three elements in particular, which for me, make it stand apart from other historical romances.

The first and most gratifying is the chemistry between the hero and heroine, which comes across through their amusing dialogue. Each Lady Clara and Raven scene is filled with quick-paced, charming banter. It reminds me of my favorite couple from the old TV detective series Remington Steele. The dialogue says that they find each other aggravating, but the subtext is altogether different. Here’s a typical example of the couple’s back-and-forth:

After a moment’s hesitation, he took the maid’s chair. “You must try to take nourishment,” he told his patient. “You must do exactly as I say, and get well, because I’ve promised you would and if you don’t, I shall be disgraced, and then—”

“I know. Your career will be ruined. You’re so charming.”

“Everybody says that,” he said.

“No, they don’t. Never. No one has ever said that about you in all your life, I’ll wager anything.”

“Perhaps they did not exactly say charming,” he said. “Perhaps… Yes, now I recollect, the phrase was ‘tolerable in very small doses’.”

“And yet I missed you,” she said. “Fancy that.”

She made it so difficult to stay detached. At this moment, it was impossible. He couldn’t stop his other self from getting a word in. “I missed you, too,” he said gruffly.

“Of course you did,” she said. “Because I’m so lovable.”

“You’re not lovable,” he said. “You are excessively annoying. And managing. But I’m accustomed to hardened criminals and half-witted judges, and being with you reminds me of home at the Old Bailey.”

Such a smile, then, more like her usual one.

How can you not look forward to reading more about this couple? Especially since Raven’s dialogue often had me thinking of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes.

In addition to the couple’s chemistry, I thoroughly enjoyed the well-thought-out subplots, which contribute to the rich character development. Ms. Chase certainly uses the subplots to push her characters together, but she also takes it a step further. She uses them to flesh out each main character so completely that you cheer for Clara as an individual, and you cheer for Raven as an individual, and then you cheer even more for them to become a couple.

For example, the subplot involving the bad guy and his attempts to kill Raven could be a stand-alone book as they add so much suspense, but while you’re wondering what’s going to happen next, you are also learning all about Raven’s law career. And like the master magician she clearly is, each of Ms. Chase’s subplots give the reader insight into Lady Clara and Raven’s characters while keeping the reader highly entertained (the mock courtroom scene involving Radford and Lady Clara’s parents is certainly a delightful highlight). There is no chapter, no moment in the story that isn’t making the reader fall in love with the main characters. Ms. Chase even makes the secondary characters and the scenes without Raven and Clara intriguing and fast-paced enough that I didn’t skip ahead to when the two main characters were back in the same scene. (And, yes, my iPhone-addled, lack-of-focus brain lacks patience for parts of a story that bore me after a page.)

The subplots are filled with period detail, which is the third standout element in this story that I wanted to mention. Ms. Chase injects the story with enough factual history to leave you with more than just a taste of the time period without pulling you out of your happy escapist-romance-novel-reading time. In addition to the imagery and attention to period detail evident throughout the book, each chapter begins with a quote or a short excerpt of a piece published from the period.

DUKE, in Latin Dux, à ducendo, signifying the leader of an army, noblemen being anciently either generals and commanders of armies in time of war, or wardens of marches, and governors of provinces in peace. This is now the first rank of the nobility. —Debrett’s Peerage, 1831

Ms. Chase draws you into the time period a little deeper with these excerpts, as if she were saying to you directly, “You know this is the type of thing Raven and Lady Clara would be familiar with, dealing with, etc.” I appreciated the added whisper of historical flavor. I even found myself Googling some of the books quoted.

The dialogue, the subplots, and the attention to period detail combined to make this a memorable story for me. But of course, no romance novel review would be complete without a comment on the sex scenes. I was half-way through the book before I realized there had been no sex yet, and even then it barely registered as the story is so engaging. Ms. Chase spends time creating sexual tension, so when you get to the sex scenes you won’t be disappointed.

I would give Dukes Prefer Blondes a solid A, and I look forward to reading the other books in the Dressmaker series.

And finally, my dear romancelandia readers, forgive me if this review reads like a fourth grader’s book report. After finishing such a rewarding, heart-warming, thoughtful, well-crafted story, all I really wanted to do was jump up and down, wave my arms, and shout, “Read it!” With that said, I’ll end with the most important part of the review: “Read it! Read it! Just read it!”

Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase received a B in a previous review by Carrie.

Contemporary & Historical Romances!

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

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

READER RECOMMENDED: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata is a 99c Kindle Daily Deal at Amazon! At a previous RT, SnarkyWench and I gushed about sports contemporaries over some wine for a good twenty minutes, and she highly recommended this book. I immediately added it to my TBR pile because it features a football player and a marriage of convenience plot. The hero (who is Canadian) wants to marry to keep his US residency. Readers loved the slow burn between the hero and heroine, but found it a little too slow. Any Zapata fans in the Bitchery?

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

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Wait for It

Wait for It by Molly O’Keefe is $1.99! This is the fourth book in the Everything I Left Unsaid series, though it can be read as a standalone. Also, trigger warning as the heroine has an abusive ex. I also believe the hero is the ex’s brother. I’ve read previous books in the series and if you love angst, whooo boy, you’ll love the entire series. I can’t recommend O’Keefe’s books enough.

In a blistering novel of raw emotion and desire, a tormented woman teaches an alpha male that money can’t fix everything . . . but love can.

Tiffany : After fighting for a new life, I don’t want to play the victim anymore. However, with three kids to raise, I’m getting desperate enough to make a deal with the devil. My estranged brother-in-law, Blake, says he just wants to help, but he’s been trouble since I met him. I don’t know if I can believe this kinder, gentler Blake, and there’s a friction between us that has turned into the sweetest chemistry. He could be my salvation . . . or my downfall.

Blake : I haven’t always had Tiffany’s best interests at heart but I’m ready to make up for my sins. Besides, I can’t help admiring her: The girl’s a genuine survivor, tough and lean, with eyes of steel. But the more I get to know Tiffany, the more I want her. Every inch of her. Which means I’m about to make a bad situation a hell of a lot worse.

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Catching Captain Nash

Catching Captain Nash by Anna Campbell is 99c at Amazon and $1.99 elsewhere! This is the sixth and most recent book in the Dashing Widows series and I love the dress on the cover. You can grab all six books in the series for less than $5 and the first book is free! And if it’s your catnip, this romance has a married couple reconnecting after the captain hero husband was presumed dead.

Home is the sailor, home from the sea… 

Five years after he’s lost off the coast of South America, presumed dead, Captain Robert Nash escapes cruel captivity, and returns to London and the bride he loves, but barely knows. When he stumbles back into the family home, he’s appalled to find himself gate-crashing the party celebrating his wife’s engagement to another man.

No red-blooded naval officer takes a challenge like this lying down; but five years is a long time, and beautiful, passionate Morwenna has clearly found a life without him. Can he win back the wife who gave him a reason to survive his ordeal? Or will the woman who haunts his every thought remain eternally out of reach?

Love lost and found? Or love lost forever? 

Since hearing of her beloved husband’s death, Morwenna Nash has been mired in grief. After five grim years without him, she must summon every ounce of courage and determination to become a Dashing Widow and rejoin the social whirl. But she owes it to her young daughter to break free of old sorrow and find a new purpose in life, even if that means accepting a loveless marriage.

It’s like a miracle when Robert returns from the grave, and despite the awkward circumstances of his arrival, she’s overjoyed that her husband has come back to her at last. But after years of suffering, he’s not the handsome, laughing charmer she remembers. Instead he’s a grim shadow of his former dashing self. He can’t hide how much he still wants her—but does passion equal love?

Can Morwenna and Robert bridge the chasm of absence, suffering and mistrust, and find the way back to each other? 

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A Dangerous Deception

A Dangerous Deception by Maggi Andersen is 99c! This romance has a fake relationship, forced proximity, and a heroine dressed as a man. Hello! Readers loved the heroine and the blend of action in the romance. However, some felt the plot a bit messy at times. It has a 3.9-star rating on Goodreads.

London, 1816. A handsome baron. A faux betrothal. And Horatia’s plan to join the London literary set takes a dangerous turn.

Baron Guy Fortescue arrives in England to claim his inheritance, abandoned over thirty years ago when his father fled to France after killing a man in a duel. He is set upon by footpads in London, and on his way to his country estate, robbers attack him again. Guy escapes only to knock himself out on a tree branch.

Aspiring poet, Horatia Cavendish has taken to riding her father’s stallion, “The General,” around the countryside of Digswell dressed as a groom. When she discovers Guy lying unconscious on the road, the two are forced to take shelter for the night in a hunting lodge.

Someone wants Guy dead. Is it his relative, Eustace Fennimore? He has been ensconced in Rosecroft Hall during the family’s exile and will become the heir should Guy die. Guy proposes a faux betrothal to give him more time to discover the truth.

Horatia is determined to keep alive her handsome fiance, who has proven more than willing to play the part of her lover even as he resists her attempts to save him.

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The Red by Tiffany Reisz

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Elyse


The Red

by Tiffany Reisz
July 11, 2017 · 8th Circle Press
RomanceHistorical: European

The Red by Tiffany Reisz is an erotic journey though art history. It’s a book that pushes the envelope, and one that won’t be for all readers, but one that I found immensely enjoyable. In many ways it reads like an erotic fairytale, complete with an ending that felt a little too convenient.

Mona Lisa St. James promised her mother that she would do anything in her power to save the family art gallery, The Red. Unfortunately, the gallery is half a million dollars in debt.

In true fairytale fashion, a mysterious man named Malcolm appears and offers Mona a million dollars for twelve days of sex. They will have an assignation one day a month over the period of one year. In return he will pay her in art worth a million dollars. Malcolm is handsome, dominant, and almost supernaturally appealing. Mona agrees to his terms.

The rest of the book is set up almost in vignettes, scenes in which Mona and Malcolm play out one of his fantasies, one month at a time.

All of Malcolm’s desires are inspired by famous paintings, and the first one he and Mona reenact is Olympia by Manet.

The painting Olympia by Manet. A nude woman reclines in bed. There's a flower in her hair and she wears a velvet choker. A Black woman presents her with a bouquet of flowers. A cat stands on the end of the bed.

Mona waits for Malcolm, nude and reclining in bed. The subject of the painting, Olympia, is a sex worker, defiantly staring at the viewer, unabashed by her profession. The Black woman holding the flowers does not feature into their fantasy.

Mona is clearly having sex with Malcolm for financial reasons, but she finds the idea of being his whore intriguing and titillating.

“You do like your whores, don’t you?” she asked.

“I have trouble respecting a woman who gives away what she could sell for good money. Whores are the only women who know their own worth. I mean that.”

“What about male prostitutes?”

“Their clients are generally men as well. I don’t fault anyone who takes a man to the bank before going to bed with him. I wouldn’t let a strange man put his finger in my mouth and whores take far more into their bodies every single night. It’s skilled, brave work. Bless those lasses, they’ve saved my life and damned my soul. What more could I ask for?”

Just like in her Original Sinners series, Reisz subverts the idea of sex work as degrading; instead she empowers the sex worker and applies a logic to it.

As the novel progresses Mona gets drawn deeper and deeper into Malcolm’s fantasies and develops feelings for him, and he for her.

Because this is erotica, much of the book is about Mona’s sexual journey. However, she is never a blushing innocent. She is occasionally shocked by what  she enjoys, but she’s no Anastasia Steele tormented and conflicted about the kind of sex she craves. At no point do Mona or Malcolm attribute a desire for kinky sex to a moral failing or any kind of emotional damage.

After a particularly intense BDSM session, Malcolm articulates what Mona is feeling:

“You only love me tonight because of the beating. You understand that, don’t you?”

Before tonight, she would have said “no,” that made no sense, there was no logic to it. He’d done something to her mind as well as her body. By the end of her beating, she couldn’t tell the crop apart from kindness. They were one and the same to her so that every strike of the crop was tender as a kiss and every word of tenderness made her crave the crop.

“Now I understand,” she said, because now she did.

There’s a lot of kink in this book. There’s bondage, sadomasochism, penetration by objections,  flogging, group sex, anal sex, and at one point Mona has sex with a minotaur (for realsies). As their scenes together become more vivid, Mona questions whether or not Malcolm is giving her hallucinogens to make these fantasies feel real.

As the book progresses, the mystery and supernatural elements associated with Malcolm become more clear. Weirdly, this was the part I didn’t like. When we finally got the explanation for who Malcolm was and why he sought out Mona, I was disappointed. The fantasy and intrigue surrounding him was so well constructed than any explanation felt disappointing. I just wanted him to be a mysterious, other-worldly fucking machine.  I wanted him to stay an enigma who entered Mona’s life every month, even while I acknowledge that’s not great storytelling.

Fans of Reisz’s Original Sinners series will gobble this book up. For those looking for erotica without a ton of emotional angst, The Red is right up your alley. It’s a delightful, wicked fairytale and it’s a ton of fun.

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Posted by SB Sarah

Missinglettr square logoI’ve been using a new social media campaign tool called MissingLettr, and currently they are running a deal where new subscribers get six months for the price of one. There are three price tiers, and I’ll get to the particulars in a moment.

NB: the links in this post are affiliate coded, which means if you choose to subscribe, I will receive a percentage at no extra cost to you. That said, I’d recommend MissingLettr even without an affiliate account. 

MissingLettr is great for bloggers, reviewers, and pretty much anyone who posts frequent content on their blogs. It works by scanning your site for new content, then automatically creates a year-long drip campaign for Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+ using images and quotes from your content. The feed is spread out, as I said, over a year, and each item is posted automatically to your choice of social media.

They have an intro video that explains it better than I could:

Missinglettr – Intro from Benjamin Dell on Vimeo.

For me, Missinglettr is terrific because it resurfaces and promotes content throughout the coming year, allowing me to highlight reviews and cover snark long after they’ve been posted. While blogs do come with an expectation of timeliness and newest items are always first, well, some things don’t really get old – cover snark and book recommendations especially!

If you’re a reviewer or book blogger, this would resurface content from your archive for a year. If you’re an author, you could schedule posts about your books automatically for a year as well. There are a lot of possibilities!

You might have seen some of the MissingLettr posts on our Twitter or Facebook feeds (they also link to LinkedIn and Google+, and I hear rumors that Pinterest is next). Here’s an example:

MissingLettr auto-magically created the quote box image in blue, using quotes from inside the review. I can also upload alternate images and select from a bunch of different quotes from the content. I can also edit the text that’s part of the Tweet or FB post, too. The ability to customize is pretty substantial.

I’ve really enjoyed using MissingLettr and have had a great experience with their customer service after I accidentally changed my subscription and couldn’t switch back. I recommend them most enthusiastically. And this deal is pretty sweet, hence my posting about it!

Personal Business and Small Team plans with price and details below - I'll explain in the text don't worry

There are three plans, and with this offer, which expires July 25th, you can get six months for the price of one. Then, if you decide to continue after six months, you’ll receive 20% off the subscription cost going forward.

The Personal plan is $15 per month, and you can link two sites with four campaigns a week. The automatically scheduled content from one post is a campaign. So if I had cover snark and two reviews, and had campaigns scheduled for all of them, that would be three total. You can link four social profiles and upload custom images.

The Business plan is $40 per month. It comes with unlimited sites, 10 campaigns per week, 10 profiles, plus advanced analytics (which are coming soon).

The Small Team plan is $65 per month, includes unlimited sites, 10 campaigns per week, 25 social profiles, and additional team members who can approve content.

Plus, if you sign up for the six months free deal, if you decide to continue (and you can cancel after six months) you’ll receive a lifetime discount of 20% off the cost of your plan.

This is a pretty spiffy offer, and since it’s saved me a bunch of time and boosted inbound traffic by resurfacing content, I didn’t want you to miss it. Again, this offer expires July 25th, so if you’re thinking about it, think quickly! Again again, the links in this post are affiliate coded, but this post is not being sponsored. This is my own overly-verbose opinion, as usual.

Any questions, please ask in the comments, or email me!

Podcast 4, Your Transcript Awaits!

Jul. 19th, 2017 10:00 pm
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Posted by SB Sarah

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books Podcast
The transcript for Podcast 4. Claudia Dain, subversive women, and empowering heroines – February 10, 2009 has been posted!

This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.

Click here to subscribe to The Podcast →

Thanks to our lovely Patreon supporters, we are so close to our goal to transcribe older episodes that I am starting with some of the very earliest (and shortest) podcast episodes from our archives! I hope you enjoy!

The Master by Tara Sue Me

Jul. 19th, 2017 06:30 pm
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Posted by Guest Reviewer


The Master

by Tara Sue Me
February 2, 2016 · Berkley
RomanceScience Fiction/FantasyErotica/Erotic Romance

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Jillian Boyd. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.

The summary:

Tara Sue Me’s New York Times bestselling Submissive series continues with a delicious new story that explores the thin line between pleasure and pain. . . .
She’s ready to try again. . . .

Sasha Blake is scarred from a BDSM session gone wrong, but she can’t deny how much a strong Master turns her on. Determined to overcome her fears and rejoin the Partners in Play community, she asks Abby and Nathaniel West to set her up with a Dom who can help her feel safe again as a sub. They know the very experienced Cole is exactly the kind of man who can push all of Sasha’s buttons—and she soon wants to go much faster than she had planned. . . .

Cole knows that Sasha is not the kind of submissive he needs. He wants someone who will serve him 24-7, not a part-time partner. Still, the further they go into their play, the more Cole begins to wish he could make Sasha his all the time. . . .

When forbidden desires turn into scorching action, Sasha and Cole come face-to-face with their demons—and realize their scorching relationship might be too dangerous to last. . . .

Here is Jillian Boyd's review:

Y’all, this book made me do something very, very bad indeed. 10 pm at night and I had promised myself one more chapter (I had a good chunk of the latter half to go before I finished – and work the next day) before I went to bed.

This was not what happened.

What happened was that by 2 am I had turned the page on the epilogue, eyes leaden with sleep but with zero regrets because this is That Kind Of Book.

The Master is part of Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series, but enough context is provided that you don’t need to read the other books if you’re not keen (I am *so* going to, though). For example, you don’t need to go and frantically look for what happened to Sasha to get her to the point where this book starts – it is explained.

And Sasha Blake, it’s safe to say, has had a lot happen to her. Several months prior to the events in this book, a BDSM play scene went horridly wrong for her, leaving her with scars both emotional and physical. She has spent some time away from the scene (and from the Partners in Play group, which is run by Abby and Nathaniel West, who are the lynchpin couple of this series), recovering, but wants to come back to the group and retrain as a submissive to overcome her fears.

She is assigned to experienced and stern Dominant Cole Johnson, who takes her on for retraining with the caveat that their relationship remain just that – a temporary training one.

This does not happen. What happens is that, slowly but surely, Sasha and Cole end up healing each other.

Cole’s previous partner, Kate, was in a long term 24/7 Master/slave relationship with him. Cole is still a bit adrift after having her walk out of a dynamic that has lasted for several years – he’s not sure what he wants, and even though the relationship between him and Sasha blossoms, he’s not convinced he’s the right Dominant for her. But is he really looking for another dynamic like the one he had with Kate?

Sasha’s journey of healing is wonderfully handled. It is clear from the start that she has an immense strength to her, evidenced by her coming back into a community after experiencing something terrifying and traumatizing. Even though she’s initially taken aback by Abby and Nathaniel assigning Cole to her retraining, the two grow to complement each other beautifully. Cole’s awe at seeing Sasha open up again, under his tutelage, is nothing short of adorably sweet.

And having that connection between the two characters makes any scene where they’re getting down and dirty spark all the more. Seriously, the play scenes are not only well-written, but also hot to the point that I would advocate not making the same mistake I did and reading them on a packed London Underground train.

Or, you know, other more local to you forms of public transport that might question why you’re blushing red like a traffic light (“Oh, you know, just reading a little anal sex, as you do…”)

Anyway. I loved this book, and I am definitely going to seek out the other books in the series. (Speaking of which, there’s some set up for the next book – The Exposure – in the series within both the latter half of the book and the epilogue. So if the brief glimpse of the dynamic between the two characters involved has you wanting more, that one’s available now.)

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Posted by Amanda

Workspace with computer, journal, books, coffee, and glasses.So I guess it’s officially summer (at least in the U.S.) and I’m not here for it at all. The boob sweat is eternal at this point and all I want is the sweet, chilly embrace of central A/C. Anyone else sharing in my heatwave woes?

In typical “the Smithsonian is awesome news,” they’ve created an interactive map for all of you Jane Austen fans:

A look at the houses and towns that shaped the life and writing of the famed author on the 200th anniversary of her death…

Beloved 19th-century author Jane Austen’s satire of Georgian Britain’s high teas and grand balls is so slyly entrancing, naïve readers might mistake that world for her own. Born in 1775 into the “pseudo-gentry,” an educated but landless lower class, Austen, whose literary oeuvre includes Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Lady Susan and Emma, only peeped high society through better-off relatives and friends. “The experience of observing, rather than joining in, is what gave her insight into the lives of the rich,” says Lucy Worsley, chief curator of the conservation nonprofit Historic Royal Palaces, and the author of Jane Austen at Home. “A novelist needs a bit of detachment.”

I’m all for infographs or anything that blends interaction with learning!

Yoshi Yoshitani is one of my favorite artists I follow on Twitter and she recently started a Kickstarter dedicated to her mermaid illustrations!

The art book features illustrations of mermaids inspired by different colors. It’s hard to pick a favorite from the previews, but I’m really digging the Jade mermaid.


iGo Keyjuice Keyring

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

Going to RWA or in the Orlando area? On July 29th, come say hi to Sarah at the free and open to the public RWA Literacy Signing! Since proceeds benefit organizations that focus on literacy, books will be available to publish at the signing.

I know we have several members of the Bitchery who knit or crochet, and you all will probably love this article on how those hobbies for young girls increase their interest in the sciences.

While the research is only in the beginning phases and no hard data is available yet, researchers are confident that knitting can be used to teach math concepts, and they are using the studies to figure out which concepts work best. They hope their findings will be used in the near future to convince schools that knitting a scarf or crocheting a sweater provides a unique opportunity for students to learn hands-on, problem-solving skills in a way that is fun and interesting. And they are hoping that bringing knitting into math class will alert girls to the career possibilities of STEM.

Heck yeah, I’d read that research so hard!

Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!

Don’t miss a thing with Daily SBTB updates!

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Posted by Amanda

The Fifth Season

RECOMMENDED: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is $2.99! Elyse loved this book and gave it an A:

The Fifth Season is also a relatively quick read. It opens with a cataclysmic disaster and doesn’t slow down its pace. Its characters travel widely. My only word of warning is that the book ends on a massive cliffhanger. Fortunately the sequel, The Obelisk Gate, will be released in August. After finishing this book I’m making desperate grabby hands for the next one.

If you like immersive, action-driven fantasy and if you want a fantasy world that’s not Euro-centric–or if you just love a really, really good story–I cannot recommend The Fifth Season enough.

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

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By Her Touch

By Her Touch by Adriana Anders is 99c! This is the second book in the Blank Canvas series. The first one, Under Her Skin, ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) is also on sale and I can’t recommend it enough. Fair warning that these romances on the darker side and feature abusive backstories. I was halfway through Under Her Skin when I bought By Her Touch. If you like angsty characters trying to rebuild their lives, check out this series.

He Will Always Bear the Scars

Undercover cop Clay Navarro left the Sultans biker gang a changed man. Its ringleaders may be awaiting trial, but he wears the memory of every brutal act he was forced to commit tattooed across his skin. He doesn’t have space in his messed-up life for anything gentle–not now, maybe not ever.

Dr. Georgette Hadley is drawn to the damaged stranger’s pain, intimidated but intrigued by the warmth that lies beneath Clay’s frightening exterior. But when the Sultans return looking for revenge, she finds herself drawn into the dirty underbelly of a life forged in violence…that not even her touch may be able to heal.

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Broken Open

Broken Open by Lauren Dane is $1.99! This is a small town romance with a musician/rancher hero. Readers say this is a sexy read (as are most of Dane’s books) and the main characters have a lot of chemistry. However, some found the slow burn a little too slow for their liking. It has a 4-star rating on Goodreads.

Beyond passion. And beyond their control…

Five years ago, Tuesday Eastwood’s life collapsed and left her devastated. After an empty, nomadic existence, she’s finally pieced her life back together in the small Oregon town of Hood River. Now Tuesday has everything sorted out. Just so long as men are kept for sex, and only sex…

Then she met him.

Musician and rancher Ezra Hurley isn’t the man of Tuesday’s dreams. He’s a verboten fantasy—a man tortured by past addictions, whose dark charisma and long, lean body promise delicious carnality. But this craving goes far beyond chemistry. It’s primal. It’s insatiable. And it won’t be satisfied until they’re both consumed, body and soul…

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Collision Course

RECOMMENDEDCollision Course by Zoe Archer is 99c! This is a scifi romance and the subject of one of Carrie’s earlier guest reviews. She gave it a B grade:

If you are new to romance, or if you are new to science fiction, this probably won’t be the book to win you over to either genre. But, if you want to have a great time with some familiar tropes that are vividly and freshly drawn, then you will have a wonderful time reading Collision Course.


In a galaxy torn apart by war…

Mara Skiren is a scavenger, a black-market dealer. Blackmailed into helping Commander Kell Frayne infiltrate a treacherous corner of the galaxy, Mara learns that her biggest danger is from her sexy, by-the-book partner. She’s a loner with more than a few battle scars on her heart, but something about Commander Frayne stirs up her long-buried need for an intimate connection.

An ace pilot for the elite Black Wraith Squadron, Kell’s mission is to rescue a lost pilot and ship. Unable to deny his attraction to the beautiful, rebellious Mara, he decides bedding her would cool his ardor. But one taste is not nearly enough, and he finds himself sharing more of his real self with her than he has with anyone.

With deadly criminals on their heels and an increasingly dangerous assignment to complete, he’s starting to wonder…if they survived, could he let her go? And will Mara want to stay?

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Posted by SB Sarah

Welcome back to Stuff We Like, a regular column where we shop and share items we think you’ll love. By reader request, I’m building a Stuff We Like series on one-bag packing and tools to help you organize and travel light.

So far, I’ve shared the Calm Traveler Packing List Template for Business Travel – many of you emailed to say how useful it was, so thank you! I have also written about the tiny bag I carry with me all the time, and the tech essentials inside it.  I’ve also shared Calm Traveler Packing List Template for Family Travel, which many of you have told me was very helpful as well. Yay!

Today: toiletries! My goal here is to give enough of a sketch so that if you’re traveling this summer, either with your family or to a conference (like RWA, for example) you can downsize what you bring with you so you have one bag, perhaps even a carry-on sized bag, and travel lighter, faster, and with less stress.

In both the Calm Traveler Packing Lists for Business and Family Travel, I left the tab for toiletries blank. Now, they’re filled in, so if you click on either link above, you’ll be taken to the spreadsheets. You can copy and paste the “Toiletries” tab to your own packing list, or you can File -> Save a Copy to grab your own. Either way, let’s get started!

Toiletries operate on the same principles as the packing list templates: Identify your essentials, then streamline everything else.

I keep my toiletry bag 95% packed at all times so that when it’s time to pack for a trip, I don’t have to run all over the house gathering the things that I need. Plus, with different airports varying the attention paid to the “3-1-1” rule, it helps me out immensely to know Past Sarah has already assembled TSA-approved toiletries and smaller sized containers.

First, I’m going to share some links to different toiletry bags I’ve used, or that you’ve recommended. Then, I’m going to give you a tour of my toiletry kit. (Yup, I feel a little vulnerable about that part, but whatever!)

NB: Most of these links are affiliate coded, which means if you shop through them, the site receives a percentage of the purchase at no extra cost to you, which helps keep us in hot pink business. So if you use them, many, many thanks! 

Also: if you find shopping for luggage, packing accessories, and the like to be very tempting, please be warned. (Also, Hi! We’re very alike!)  Shopping is about to begin!

I use this toiletry kit from eBags:

eBags Pack it Flat toiletry kit a raspberry colored bag with one large main compartment and three side compartments. it is about 2 inches thick
The eBags Pack It Flat Toiletry Kit, $35

The Pack It Flat Toiletry Kit works really well for me because it’s very thin – about 2″ or 5cm deep. But it holds a LOT – which you’ll see in a moment.

I’m a fan of toiletry bags that hang, so I can hook them over the door or on the towel rack – or that magnifying mirror that gives me the gibblies (I really don’t want to see my skin that close up. It’s a recipe for obsessive fixation, I think).  For this one, I usually leave each pocket halfway unzipped so I can reach in for things I need.

Another great eBags option is this one:

The Portage toiletry kit, which has a trangular shape with a wide bottom and a hook for hanging on the inside front lid
The Medium Portage Toiletry Kit, $30

The eBags Medium Portage Toiletry Kit is $30, but there are three sizes. The Small is $25, and the Large one is $35.

This style is a little more bulky, and since I like to slide my toiletry case on top of or behind my clothing and packing cubes (more on those soon!), this wouldn’t work for me. That said, this style does sit upright on the counter or table, which means you can keep the items inside pretty organized. The slim one I use doesn’t stand up on its own.

There areton of different toiletry bag options on eBags, in a bunch of different shapes, sizes, and profiles.

For a long time, I used this toiletry bag from LL Bean:

A purple zipper bag that unfolds to hang on the wall with two separate side zipper pockets
LL Bean Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag, Medium, $30

The Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag (Medium) is $30, and is designed to hang off the back of a door or sit up on the counter. It has a bunch of pockets and different side zipper pockets, and works well as a sort of dispensary for all your personal items. I used it until I replaced it with the slimmer profile one above.

In my experience, the bigger the bag, even a toiletry bag, the more you’re tempted to stuff into it, even when you don’t need those specific items. 

In previous installments of my Stuff We Like: Calm Traveler Edition, a few of you commented that insulated lunch boxes like the ones from LLBean work very well as toiletry cases since they’re water proof and lightweight. Good call! I personally love compartments, but as a family all-in-one or a pet med and supplies case, a lunchbox would work well!

Since my goal when I travel is to bring as little as possible and organize what I bring, the slimmer profile of the eBags Pack It Flat Toiletry Case is ideal for me. Let me show you everything I can fit inside it.

My bag, in raspberry, zipped up and sitting on my sink

Here’s my bag, mostly packed and zipped up, the way it is when it’s not traveling. But, it’s time to pack!

To make the amount it holds more clear, I took everything out. This was a pretty useful exercise, as I found I was carrying way more acetaminophen/paracetamol tablets than I needed.

Here’s everything that lives inside my toiletry case:

All my travel toiletries on the counter, including shampoo, toothbrush, makeup, etc.

Ahoy, all my business, laid out on the counter. That’s pretty much everything, aside from my super-sexxy mouthguard, which I add before I leave, and any extras I may need for that specific trip. Let’s take a tour!

The far-left zipper pocket on this bag is lined with a thick clear plastic, so that’s where the wet, potentially leaky things go.

Potentially leaky things- shampoo, face wash, hair product, and face oil

This stuff right here. These are also the items that have to come out when I go through TSA screening, so I keep it in a separate zip-top bag that I got at Gatwick airport when I went through security screening there. A Ziploc sandwich bag also works.

One key to toiletry packing that I recommend: decant or repackage everything.

Travel-size toiletries are often very expensive, but I’ve learned that you can buy them once then reuse the containers. The shampoo bottle, the black one, is filled with my regular shampoo from home. The Bumble & Bumble bottle isn’t hair product – that’s my evening face wash. The Boscia face oil is a sample I ordered on eBay, but I refilled it with my favorite face oil.

(Also, can I just say, as a person who went through two courses of Accutane in her 20s, the idea that I’m putting oil ON my face instead of desperately trying to get rid of it is HILARIOUS to me.)

The two little round tubes on the bottom are awesome. I loves those. One has my face scrub, and the other has hair product. They are from humangear, and they are the small size GoTubbs. You can see both sizes here:

humangear Go Tubs, small and medium

The GoTubbs in Small hold .4oz, and are 1″ tall and 2″ wide. They’re $7.50 for a set of three.

I can fit a pretty solid amount of my face scrub in one, and it’ll last me about a week.

Two small GoTubs, one with my face scrub inside

The Medium GoTubb holds about 2oz and is about 4″ wide. A set of three is $8.

I have an orange one in my toiletry case that I use for medication:

Close up of orange GoTub with medication inside

I know somewhere, a pharmacist is screaming, but I know which pills are which and can put a week’s worth inside one tub.

I’ve bought two sets of the GoTubbs in small and medium, and we use them for everything now. Allergy meds for the boys, medication for the dogs (labeled, obviously), some cooling gel in case we get sunburn. They’re ridiculously useful.

Note: There is also a GoToob with a soft silicone bottle meant to hold shampoo, conditioner, or other liquids or gels, but I had one set and really didn’t like them. The suction cup on the side did not hold, the lid cracked in my bag, and that made it leak. So it wasn’t as useful as repurposing a travel-size bottle and refilling it each time I go.

So, back to the leaky stuff. I put all the 3-1-1 TSA liquids in a separate zip top bag, and put that in the toiletry case on the far left side.

Liquids in a baggie on top of my case

When I go through security, if I need to place liquids separate from my bag, I can grab the baggie and off I go.

The far right zipper pocket does expand if I need it to, but the most it holds is my toothbrush, paste, and floss. I keep a separate toothbrush in my bag so I don’t have to move my home toothbrush around. I get so many from the dentist, I have spares.

Far right slender pocket holds toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss


Now for the main compartment: this is where I keep my pills, my mouthguard, and a few larger items, plus some first aid items, too.

In the small zipper pocket in the middle, I keep bandages, Tylenol sinus, ear plugs, emery boards, tweezers, and a tiny pair of nail clippers.

Close up of badnaids, tweezers, tampons, tylenol, ear plugs etc going into zipper pocket


In the main pockets of the middle section, I keep Tylenol in a small bottle, plus Q-tips, a deodorant (full size), and a comb.

Close up of Tylenol, deoderant, and comb

I have very short hair, so I don’t need much in the way of travel hair product. A comb and a small tub of styling cream are plenty. But when my hair was longer, I had a small brush and a snack-sized zip top bag with hair ties, bobby pins, and the like in this section, too.

Now on to the makeup. This took a few trips for me to refine, especially because most of the time, when I travel, it’s for something business-related, and I want to look somewhat professional.

Usually I don’t wear a lot of makeup. My cats don’t care if my eyelashes are thick and full, and my skin dislikes it. Around the third day of a conference, my skin starts freaking out – what is this silliness? Stop it!  So I carry very basic cosmetics that I know won’t make my skin irritated, and that are versatile for different occasions.

Again, all of these items are for travel only. I keep these items in my travel bag, and leave them there. They last longer and I don’t lose them.

Here is what I carry, starting with the largest item.

This is the Budoir collection from Too Faced ($39).

Too Faced Boudoir Eyes collection
Too Faced Boudoir Eyes, $39

It’s housed in a metal container so it’s durable (it’s never been a problem in security, either).

The key here: INSTRUCTIONS IN THE LID. Seriously. I am not that skilled with eye makeup, and the instructions make sense and I don’t feel like a total idiot.

Too Faced Budoir eye palette with 9 shades plus instructions

The tin doesn’t come with brushes, but after a few cosmetic “bonus with purchase” bags, I have an eyeshadow brush that came free with one bonus, and I bought a narrow, slant-edged brush for using the darker shades as eyeliner (which works really well for me).

fine edge eyeliner brush
Eyeliner brush: $10

I love the Too Faced eyeshadow collections, and this one is great for travel. There are two others in metal tins: the Natural Matte collection ($40) and the Natural Eye collection ($40). I have another collection, but it lives at home because the housing is paperboard. The Boudoir collection is the only eye color I have in my bag.

This is the rest of the makeup I carry:

The rest of the makeup I carry

Much like the idea that large items of clothing are worn twice on a trip, most of the items in my bag can be used in multiple ways. Here’s a list of what I carry:

All of these items, plus my mouth guard, fit into this case easily. I have extra room, even. But I haven’t found myself in a hotel missing something I vitally needed.

To develop your own toiletry kit master list, or pack yours up now, you can use the existing Packing List Templates:

The second tab, “Toiletries,” is filled in with the basic essentials I carry, but it’s a spreadsheet, so here’s literally thousands of cells for you to customize for yourself (but don’t carry thousands of thing! You’ll hurt your back).

The process is very similar to the Packing Template sequence:

  1. Identify your essentials
  2. Identify the things you need each morning and evening, when you shower or bathe, and when you get ready for a professional event
  3. Streamline products when possible
  4. Decant or distribute existing full-size products into smaller travel-friendly containers
  5. Assemble the items and pack your kit!

Now, whenever you’re ready to travel, you won’t have to run everywhere gathering each item. It’ll be ready to go when you are.

If you’re enjoying this series, you can get this content early and exclusive extras on personal organization, both digital and actual, from the Organization Academy newsletter:

What are your toiletry essentials? Any products you swear by and never leave home without? What type of bag is your favorite? 

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Posted by Amanda

The Bawdy Bookworms box is something we’ve reviewed before. Both Redheadedgirl and Elyse have give the romance novel & sex toy themed box a try. They both had favorable things to say and, judging from their reviews, I think it’s a box that just keeps getting better.

From their about page:

Each month, you’ll receive a specially curated package with a smokin’ hot book plus a few sexy surprises. And yes, sometimes batteries are included. All in discreet packaging, of course. That’s not all. Bawdy Bookworms is also a virtual book club that will offer our subscribers access to a private forum.

I can vouch for the discreet packing and that they have a really fun Facebook group. The fact that batteries are included with the box is an excellent touch, as there’s nothing more frustrating than having to scrounge around your apartment, playing battery Hunger Games as you decide which electronics can deal with on dead battery while you switch it out for a good one.

The box is also ships quarterly (every three months) and costs $34.95 per box.

The Bawdy Bookwoms package with a teal bow


To gauge whether a box successfully delivers (heh), I like to see if the items inside are equal to or more than the subscription price. Also, are the items inside decent quality and will I use them? Trust me, I do not need any more clutter in my small Boston apartment.

Here is a list of the items inside this box:

  • A copy of Breaking Clear by MJ Summers ( A | BN | K | iB )
  • Butterfly Kiss G-Spot Vibrator with an organza bag and set of batteries
  • Intimate Earth Discover G-Spot Stimulating Serum
  • Coochy Rash Free Shave Creme
  • Coochy After Shave Protection Mist
  • Noxema Bikini Shave & Trim Razor
  • Candy!
Image of the packaged items
Candy not pictured because I devoured it.

The theme of this box is “lady garden love” and everything is cutely packaged. It game with delicate tissue paper and a teal ribbon. So A+ for presentation! While it may not matter to some people, I love opening a pretty arrangement of things.

There were two things I loved most. One was the item card that came with the box. It outlines the contents of the box, so you know whether or not you’re missing anything. It includes descriptions and tips.

Breaking Clear
A | BN | K | iB
The tip under the “sweet treats” item reads: Keep candies away from genital areas. Sugar may cause yeast infections. Yes, men can get yeast infections. Seriously.

I’m all for being adventurous during sexy times, but I appreciate the due diligence from Bawdy Bookworms.

The back of the card also has “play ideas” of how to pair the items inside during intimacy.

Take your new Butterfly Kiss into the shower or bath to relax (or stimulate). It’s better than Calgon!

The second thing I loved, and this is the most important, is the book selection. As someone who “works” in romance. (WHAT?! How lucky am I?), I know quite a bit about books coming out and most likely, already have a galley sitting in a stack. There have been other boxes I’ve tried where I receive a book I already own.

Breaking Clear by MJ Summers is a completely new to me author and I was surprised at my own surprise. Imagine that. For me, the draw to subscription boxes (and not just ones with books) is about trying new products. If you like something, you’re already probably buying it. To get a box where all the items are new to me is a slam dunk and it’s what I want from all the subscription boxes I try.

Fully unpackaged items
I wanted to show the size of the “sample” items. Pretty dang good.

Now back to my earlier statement about boxes being worth the subscription cost. I tried to roughly estimate the total retail price (according to the items on Amazon) of the items inside, and the box is over $50, which is more than the $34.95 box price and free shipping.

Even if you’re in an area that charges for shipping, the items are still worth more. And sex toys can be freakin’ expensive, man. I know I’ll definitely be using the after shave mist. My skin gets so dry and irritated after shaving sometimes, especially in the winter months. Plus, there’s another vibrator to add to my (growing) (heh) collection and I love having variety.

So would I recommend this box to readers of romance, especially ones who like to experiment in the bedroom? Hell yes.

Big thanks to Kim from Bawdy Bookworms for sending us a box to review. Each month gets better and better. And right now, we have a special discount for SBTB readers!  The last day to subscribe at the $34.95 rate is July 22, and you can get free shipping in the US, and $6 off shipping for international shoppers with coupon code smartb! 

Podcast 5, Your Transcript is Ready!

Jul. 18th, 2017 10:00 pm
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Posted by SB Sarah

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books Podcast
The transcript for Podcast 5. Victoria Dahl, responding to reviews, and talking dirty: February 23, 2009 has been posted!

This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.

Click here to subscribe to The Podcast →

Thanks to our lovely Patreon supporters, we are so close to our goal to transcribe older episodes that I am starting with some of the very earliest (and shortest) podcast episodes from our archives! I hope you enjoy!

The Dirty Secret by Kira A. Gold

Jul. 18th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Guest Reviewer


The Dirty Secret

by Kira Gold
March 28, 2016 · Carina Press
RomanceContemporary RomanceErotica/Erotic Romance

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by HeatherT. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Erotic Romance category.

The summary:

From the Desk of Donna Edith:

My services are unconventional. My clients come to me with needs and I match them to other clients with needs of their own…

Promising young architect Killian Fitzroy: Driven, clever, eager to prove himself. Starved for sex, though he’s come to me for professional assistance, not personal. Needs: Someone unique, creative and fast. An artist with a feminine perspective to breathe life into a house he’s built.

Aspiring scenic designer Vessa Ratham: Sensuous, spontaneous, but secretive. Recently returned to Vermont armed with an art degree that qualifies her for little more than waiting tables. Needs: An opportunity to shine.

Yes, Killian and Vessa will satisfy each other nicely—in more ways than one.

Here is HeatherT's review:

Oh, hey. I agreed to review this book, but I don’t really remember much about it even though I finished it yesterday. I know that it mostly was about decorating a house, and that the heroine had a secret and that there was a LOT of not particularly interesting sex.

Let’s try this again. The book starts with Vessa, our heroine, visiting a woman named Donna (like a title) Edith. Donna Edith matches people with various needs – we know that from the frontispiece of the book, not the book itself. It appears that Donna Edith is meant to be a gimmick around which a series will be built. Vessa just moved back to Vermont, but for some reason needs to keep her presence in the state a secret. She is a scene painter and she needs a job. Donna Edith sets her up with Killian, a young architect who needs a model home decorated in a short time.

Vessa and Killian meet, immediately agree to work together and then they each spend a lot of time thinking about and having pants-feelings for the other, even though they have scarcely spoken. The story is mostly decoration porn. As the project goes along, each room is lavishly described, right down to each layer of glazing on the walls. No room is simply painted – there are stripes and chair rails and wainscoting and layers and layers of glazing. There are screens and plants and trompe d’oeil. For some reason, there is a garden chair crammed into a tiny powder room. It is all a bit much, and not to my taste, but that is really what the book is about — rugs and pillows and pictures and lampshades. Somewhere along the way, Vessa and Killian start having sex.

For a book that is billed as erotica, the sex was remarkably unimaginative. There is a lot of it, but it gets less interesting as the book goes along. There’s face-to-face vaginal sex and occasional oral sex or handjobs in every room. Sometimes she’s even on top! The sex seems to end quickly after penetration and is always from the male gaze. Seriously, it had all the excitement of seeing rabbits in spring — just a vague sense of “there they go again.”

The book was relatively well-written with good secondary characters (including a female plumber, yay!), excellent consent and a relatively interesting backstory for Vessa, involving her secret – which as secrets go was a pretty believable one that worked for present-day. I did enjoy that Vessa and Killian behaved like adults; that when there was a problem, they behaved like real people would (they used words!) and there was no sign of the magic peen or magic hoo hoo. But Killian was one-dimensional; he only existed as a foil for Vessa and his more interesting friends.

Also, the book had strange moments that continually took me out of the narrative. Among them:

  • Vessa, a set designer, shows up to measure a room with a tailor’s measuring tape (the kind some of us use to see how resplendent our butt has grown). Killian, the architect of the fucking house, doesn’t offer to give her the plans so that she’ll have the measurements handy.
  • A gardener is described as “his fingers and jeans were stained green.” Ummm, that’s not how gardening works.
  • This: “The subdivision lay in a sprawl below, streets meandering around a few huge maple trees, unbuilt lots marked with surveyor’s flags. . . She stepped to a window, ‘The view is fantastic.’”

The strangest moment, yes, even stranger than a gardener with literal green thumbs or an unfinished subdivision as a fantastic view, was the climactic scene. Vessa is specifically hiding her presence, even her existence, at the insistence of a Specific Person. However, when that Person discovers that Vessa is in town, that Person throws a very loud, very public fit in front of lots of people that draws everyone’s attention to Vessa and who she is. Huh, what? Wasn’t the whole idea to deny Vessa’s existence?

In the end, if you are fond of over-the-top decorating (okay, even I found the old apothecary bottles charming), this book might be for you. Read it for the decoration porn; God knows that the other kind isn’t going to be very satisfying.

Scifi, Time Travel, & More!

Jul. 18th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

Wanted and Wired

Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson is $1.99! This is a scifi romance that was just mentioned in the comments of out latest Whatcha Reading. Reader Julia said, “Just started: Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson – the hero is the strong silent type and the heroine is a flirty assassin. Yes please.” This is the first book in the Tether series.

A rip-roarin’ new snarky, sexy sci-fi paranormal romance series with the perfect balance of humor, heat, and heart. Now that Texas has seceded and the world is spiraling into chaos, good guys come in unlikely packages and love sprouts in the most inconvenient places…

Rogue scientist • technologically enhanced • deliciously attractive
Heron Farad should be dead. But technology has made him the man he is today. Now he heads a crew of uniquely skilled outsiders who fight to salvage what’s left of humanity: art, artifacts, books, ideas-sometimes even people. People like Mari Vallejo.

Gun for hire • Texan rebel • always hits her mark
Mari has been lusting after her mysterious handler for months. But when a by-the-book hit goes horribly sideways, she and Heron land on the universal most wanted list. Someone set them up. Desperate and on the run, they must trust each other to survive, while hiding devastating secrets. As their explosive chemistry heats up, it’s the perfect storm..

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren is $1.99! This is a YA scifi/fantasy novel with time travel back to 14th century Italy! Some readers found some details to be unbelievable (aside from the time traveling), while others liked the blend of adventure and romance. This is the first book in the Rivers of Time series, and the other books are also at a discounted price.

What do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?

Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives among the romantic hills with their archaelogist parents. Stuck among the rubble of the medieval castles in rural Tuscany, on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds…until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.

Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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RECOMMENDED: Feed by Mira Grant is $2.99! This is one of my favorite books, and as someone with a younger brother, I had such a connection to the brother/sister main characters. I laughed. I cried like a baby. I was on the edge of my seat. If you like thrillers, zombies, dystopian stories, political intrigue or any of those combined, you’ll like this book. Feel free to comment below on why you loved (or maybe even hated) this book.

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

FEED is the electrifying and critically acclaimed novel of a world a half-step from our own—a novel of geeks, zombies, politics and social media.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is $2.99! I know Carrie really loves this book (and the entire series, I believe). It’s also a Hugo Award winner! Readers really loved the scifi world building, though some admitted wanting more action in the first book of the Imperial Radch series. It has a 3.9-star rating on Goodreads.

Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Posted by Amanda

This HaBO is from Jenna. It sounds like she’s looking for a contemporary romance, but I’m not 100% sure:

There’s this romance I read that I really want to read again about this famous playboy movie director and his assistant, I think her name was Megan.

They hate each other at first, but director guy can’t function without her – she’s his assistant, etc. She also sometimes helps with continuity in the movie they’re shooting. I think it’s set in Italy or France and the movie they’re making is in trouble financially or something.

What I remember more than the romance is the way this girl is superbly written, she came from poverty and she always works her ass off and is always saving money. They always bicker about how she’s so plain and low-maintenance and how he’s such a manwhore and is so wasteful with money. I remember that he first fell in love with her when he saw her with her hair down, because she always puts it up in a really tight ponytail.

I also remember that the house they’re renting to shoot the movie in belongs to this old guy who Megan is fond of and they always play cribbage. Anyway it’s a really great read and I hope someone out here has read it too.

Well this book sounds all sorts of fun!

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Posted by Elyse

Elyse Watches The Bachelorette with Kraken Rum and Coke with a big rose at the bottomIt’s that time of the week again. Armed with Kraken rum, Coke Zero and very girdy loins, I watch The Bachelorette so you don’t have to.

I was going to do a sober recap tonight because I’m already pretty tired, but then I remembered it’s Hometowns and I can’t do watch that without liquid fortitude.

Last week Rachel narrowed the field down to Eric, Dean, Peter and Bryan. Now it’s time for Hometowns aka The Most Awkward Episode Ever where Rachel gets to meet the dudes’ families. That’s right, no one is safe from the wtfery.

This episode looks like it’s going to be too cringe-worthy for Dewey, who has crawled under the sofa to hide.

Take a drink everyone. It’s time for the show!

First up is Eric, showing Rachel around his hometown of Baltimore. He takes Rachel to the neighborhood basketball court where he played as a kid. He tells her that he grew up in a tough neighborhood where drugs and violence were common. He tried to stay away from negative influences and focused on school, but as a result he felt like the guy who took care of everyone else while no one took care of him.

Now remember, Eric has never brought a girl home before. He’s never been in love before, either. Rachel feels a lot of pressure being his “first.”

Eric and Rachel sit down on a basketball court and talk.

They go to Eric’s aunt’s house and meet a large group of his family members.

Eric’s Aunt Verna tells Rachel that she has no doubt that Eric is ready for marriage. “He’s not the type of person who’s afraid of commitment,” Verna says. She and Rachel also discuss the pressures Rachel faces as the first Black Bachelorette.  Rachel says that she feels like she’s being judged differently by different racial groups, and that she doesn’t feel her journey (take a shot) should be any different than any of the previous Bachelorettes.

In an earlier episode Eric said that he didn’t feel his mom showed him love. They talk one-on-one and she tells him, “Growing up, there was probably a block there for you because you felt like I wasn’t extending the love. But, just like I told you, there’s a lot of great men in our family, but a lot of them didn’t reach their stars because they reached for what was next to them, which was their mother. That was my best way of showing you love, because I wanted you to become the man that you was designed to become.”

Nothing like unpacking a super complicated mother-son relationship on TV.

They have lunch with Eric’s family. Later Eric and Rachel go for a walk alone together and Eric says, “For the first time today it came to me, damn, I really love this girl.”

Cue some noisy kissing and I take a drink because misophonia.

Eric stands smiling against the Baltimore skyline.

Next up is Bryan who hails from Miami, FL. Rachel has repeatedly said that she thinks Bryan is too good to be true and “too charming.”

Bryan takes Rachel to Calle Ocho where they play dominoes, eat some amazing looking food, and go dancing. He reminds Rachel that he’s an only child and that his mom is very protective. Remember, Bryan said his last relationship failed because his girlfriend and mom didn’t get along.

Boy, that sounds promising.

Olga, Bryan’s mom, starts setting off huge red flags right away by saying, “We really have such a wonderful relationship that for me, a woman who would separate him from me, that would terrible.”

Olga immediately throws down and tells Bryan that he’s dated a lot of women, and she finds it unrealistic and convenient that he falls in the love with the one he met on TV.

A kitten puts it's paw over it's mouth as if saying "OMG."

Next Olga talks privately with Rachel. “Bryan is my life,” she says. “I just want to give you a warning. You’re marrying the family too. If he’s happy, I’m happy. If not, I’ll kill you.”


A black and white cat rears back, eyes wide.

Then Olga cries and says she’s so happy to meet Rachel.

At this point I’m looking at my drink. I just had one right? It’s still mostly full, right?

I hope the contestants on the show get vouchers for therapy.

Bryan and Rachel talk alone, do some noisy kissing (SERIOUSLY WE NEED TO STOP WITH THE SLURPING), and Bryan tells her, “Rachel, I’m in love with you.”

Bryan and Rachel kiss in a shop. He does this thing where he holds her face really tightly and it weirds me out.

Next up we’re in my home state of Wisconsin to meet Peter’s parents. Rachel runs up to Peter and fucking launches herself at him, adding more weight to my theory that she’s already chosen him.

They go to Madison’s farmer’s market and eat honey sticks and homemade pickles. They meet some of Peter’s friends at a restaurant. “I consider my friends an extension of my family,” Peter says. Privately, he tells his friends that he’s afraid that he won’t be ready to propose.

Next she meets Peter’s family. His family has the most Wisconsin couch ever – the kind with built in drink holders. He tells his mom, Lynn, that he’s afraid he’ll be too reserved when the time comes, won’t propose to Rachel, and will miss out.

So that’s the second time on his Hometown that he’s expressed his anxiety around commitment. Yikes.

Rachel asks Lynn if she thinks Peter is ready for marriage. Lynn basically says that she thinks Peter is ready for commitment but not necessarily marriage. Rachel isn’t super happy with that answer.

Peter sits next to his mom. They both look pensive.

Unlike Eric and Bryan, Peter doesn’t tell Rachel he loves her.

After a commercial / pee break, Rachel meets Dean in his hometown of Aspen, CO. They ride ATVs and have a picnic with the mountains in the background.

Dean and Rachel sit on hay bales and enjoy a picnic.

Now Dean’s mom died when he was fifteen and her death broke up the family unit. His family will all be under the same roof for the first time in eight years in order to film this episode.

That’s probably not great.

Dean hasn’t spoken with his dad in two years. Rachel asks him why.

“My follow-up question to that is, is it my responsibility to talk to my dad? Is it my responsibility to reach out to him and make sure there’s a relationship there? If he wasn’t there for all of those years [after Dean’s mom died], then I don’t really see the point in putting in the effort.”

I agree with Dean 100% and I don’t understand why Rachel has to meet his dad when they are clearly estranged. According to Dean, he got no parental support after his mother’s death. It’s not his job to make sure things are okay with his dad now. If their relationship felt toxic or one-sided to Dean, it’s totally fine for him to walk away.

I mean, you know what sounds like a FANTASTIC IDEA? Putting an estranged family together for the sake of reality TV. I bet no one cries at all!

As they walk up to his dad’s house, Dean starts to have a panic attack.

“I’m going to be right here,” Rachel tells him.

Yup, her and all of those cameras.

Dean tells Rachel that his dad converted to “a Sikh of some kind,” six years ago. I’m not sure how to unpack that, and I’m not sober enough to try.

His dad, who changed his name to Paramroop S. Khahsa, is a yoga instructor. He starts off the visit by playing the gong, then giving Dean and Rachel feathers that he says are a symbol of his late wife’s love for her children.

Dean's dad, Paramroop looks off camera.

Paramroop asks to speak to Dean privately. He acknowledges that he barely talks to any of his children.

Dean tells his dad that when his mother passed away, everyone fractured and went their separate ways rather than unifying.

Dean tells his dad that he felt abandoned. Paramroop says that he had a lot of anger surrounding his wife’s death, and that he didn’t know how to be the parent he should have been.

Dean clearly wants to discuss the point further, but Paramroop shuts him down.

“You’ve still got one fucking foot stuck in the past,” Paramroop shouts.

“I love you regardless,” Dean says.

“Whatever,” Paramroop replies and storms outside.

Dean breaks down crying.

Rachel asks Paramroop if she can talk to him, but he tells her that he’s done. He says that she’s welcome back, but it’s clear he wants to get the fuck off camera.

So. That was intense. I need an otter. Anyone else need an otter?

An adorable otter pokes his head out of a bowl.

Even amid all of this, Dean tells Rachel that he’s falling in love with her.

Next we cut to Dallas, TX. Rachel is struggling with the fact that she has to send one of the guys home. Luckily Chris Harrison is there to talk things through with her, and to tell her which soul he’d most like to devour.

“I’m falling in love with all of them,” Rachel says.


A preview for Bachelor in Paradise comes on.

“What’s the point of Bachelor in Paradise?” my husband asks.

“What’s the point of any of this?” I counter, despairingly, and slam my drink.

Chris escorts each of the men, individually, to The Dreaded Rose Ceremony. They’re less likely to escape that way.

About two seconds into the ceremony Rachel starts crying.

The first rose goes to Bryan.

The second rose goes to Eric.

Then Chris shows up to tell us we’re down to the final rose.


I’m pretty sure that string music that used to be in every Zales commercial comes on.

The final rose goes to…Peter.

Called it.

Rachel and Dean both cry as they say goodbye.  “I hope you find what you’re looking for,” Dean tells her.

Once he gets in The Limo of Sadness, Dean turns bitter. He feels like Rachel lied to him about how seriously she felt for him.

Maybe he’s just really pissed off that he dragged his family through a painful and public reunion.

And that’s where this episode ends. If you like watching families slowly being destroyed by grief and a lack of communication, then I guess it was great. Me? I’m going to watch Game of Thrones because I need something to chill me out.

Next week the remaining three dudes meet Rachel’s family.

Are you still watching? Who do you think the winner will be?


wendylove: Wendy: I know such lots of stories (Default)

July 2017


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