Archive by Author

The Enduring Romance of Beauty and the Beast

20 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It was in the Berkeley Heights movie theater. Thursday nights were buy one, get one, but I went with my friends for a matinée. Funny, I can’t remember who I was with, but I distinctly remember that first moment when the curtain drew back (yes, it had a curtain across the screen) and the first image of the movie filled the frame.

I gasped. For real. I spent the first 90 seconds wavering back and forth between thinking it was real and believing it was a cartoon. The colors were so bright, the images so crisp, it was breathtaking, as in it literally took my breath away. Minutes later, the opening number “Belle” began and I was officially enraptured. The complexity of the song, the brilliance of the lyrics, the timing of the animation. This was revolutionary. It was pre-motion captured, when digital was only just becoming part of our vocabulary. There were no DVDs yet, CDs were only just becoming known, laser disks were still the premiere idea of home movies. The Little Mermaid had taken the world by storm barely a year earlier. But Beauty and the Beast was a wunderkind of animation never seen before. Its music was fresh and exciting. Its story took a well-known tale and infused it anew with adventure and romance.

And don’t even get me started on the ballroom scene.

A few days later, I took my sister to see it before I went back to college, and after she had to endure me going on and on about it. Within the first few minutes, she turned to me and whispered, “You were absolutely right.”

Last Friday, I saw the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, not another retelling of the story, but the same 1991 animated film remade with live people as opposed to cartoons. I’ve been anticipating this movie but at the same time, had little expectation as to what it might turn out to be. Like looking forward to seeing a favorite book brought to the screen, there was bound to be new interpretations to the story that would tick me off (I’m a purist, I confess), but as I was coming off a long convalescence from surgery, I went to a matinée solo simply to enjoy seeing an old friend given new life.

It was, in a word, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Was it flawless? No. That’s an impossibility. But as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo was replaced by the Beast’s enchanted castle and the familiar words of the prologue filled the air now in a female’s voice, I knew this was going to be the rare film that met the demands of its source material. Perhaps even exceeded it.

I’m not going to go over the particulars of the new movie as it’s enough to say it’s a near perfect match to its animated doppelgänger. OK, scratch that idea. A few quick thoughts: the new movie does address a few loopholes the animated film skipped over that have plague fans for years–or maybe that’s just me. Things like, why does no one in the village see the honking huge palace in the forest? Why is it beautiful autumn in the village and winter around the castle? How come no one seems to remember there was ever a prince in residence nearby? How the hell does wee Belle manage to get huge Beast up on Philippe the horse after Beast collapses following the wolf attack? Answers are finally found. Also, where I often loathe new music added to an established libretto (Phantom of the Opera, I’m looking at you), the new songs added to this version of Beauty and the Beast fit in perfectly. Oh and Luke Evans nearly steals the show as pitch-perfect Gaston. Finally, visually, it is a masterpiece. I don’t even want to know how it was done, which part is motion capture and which part is actual people, or where the animation begins or which pieces are on a set and which are in a proper 18th-century palace. It’s a sumptuous feast on par with the magnitude of its counterpart for its time. You will not be disappointed.

But what struck me as I teared up over the ending (and yea, I did sniffle, and applaud while the credits rolled) was how this well-known and beloved story still had the power to move me. Women are weened on romantic fantasy and Disney has made a killing exploiting that deeply ingrained expectation. But archetype stories like Beauty and the Beast endure because they resonate with truth that is better than any fantasy.

In both films, the key is that Belle must fall in love with a “hideous” beast in order to break the curse. But the prince’s outward beast is merely the reflection of the inner asshole that was hiding beneath his human pretty face. As he learns not only to love, but to be lovable, the core good person who yet lives beneath both beastly versions comes back to life. This is another aspect this film has the time and means to address. Mrs. Potts informs Belle of how the prince was warped by his cruel father after his mother’s death when the prince was but a boy. Adding the somewhat rout psychological element adds layers to the prince’s repulsive behavior prior to his beastliness being made manifest, which also explains why the staff remains so loyal to one who appeared to be so horrible in both guises.

Beast also learns the sacrificial aspect to love, that truly loving someone means putting their needs first and that sometimes can cause great agony for the lover. In the new film, when Beast releases Belle to go to her father, he watches her flee through the maze, her gold dress a beacon, and sings the beautiful, new, heart-wrenching song “Evermore”.

Sidebar: Holy cats, can Dan Stevens sing. Strewth.

In “Evermore,” Beast sings about how Belle has changed his life and how he knows he’ll now be haunted by her for the rest of his days. But even as he despairs over this and the expectation that he’ll never see her again, especially since, in this film, there is a very real threat to his and the others existence, (outside of Gaston and the mob, that is), Beast knows he’s forever been changed by falling in love with her. Whatever the future brings him, he will not be the same person, man or beast, because of Belle.

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me, calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me, be a part of
Everything I do

Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore!

– “Evermorefrom Beauty and the Beast 2017 ©Disney

Poor Beastie. Fortunately, we know he’s not meant to waste away in his lonely tower without his Belle, but still! Sob.

In this live-action version of the story, as Belle and her prince dance through the final moments, she makes a cheeky request of him that makes it clear she actually prefers or at least misses his hairier visage, a request that makes the prince laugh because he knows exactly what she’s saying. She doesn’t love him more or less for now being human; she loves him period. But having fallen in love with his beastly component, she’s not adverse to his human self sporting a sartorial reminder. (And I think, for those of us who may know, there was a sly sexual component to her request as well.)

But it’s not only the Beast/Prince who is loved for himself. Belle too doesn’t fit in her environment. She’s thought to be odd and out-of-place because she reads and longs for a life far beyond that of a provincial village. In the original film, when Belle has her Sound of Music moment running up the hill while she sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned…” my young heart swelled and I got chills. When Emma Watson did the same move and sang the same words in the live-action film, my battered, weary heart swelled and I got chills as I smiled and sang along.

So many of us were that girl, nose in a book, dreaming of more, maybe a prince or at least that one person who “got” us, who didn’t think we were weird because of who we are or what we like to do. Who wanted to be with us because of what others thought made us odd, not in spite of them. Who wanted us for us. Now, as women, some of us have been fortunate to have found that person. Some of us are still looking but remain hopeful. Meanwhile, we read and, in my case, write romances to keep that hope alive. Not because we’re entrenched in romantic fantasy, but because we know the truth that fantasy exploits: happily ever after isn’t just for fiction.

This is why Beauty and the Beast is such an enduring romance. And it’s why those of us who write romance continue to believe. Be it romantic suspense or epic fantasy or erotic romance or BDSM romance or Amish romance, whatever the genre or subgenre, whether we write about hot alpha heroes or handsome beta heroes or gorgeous women who’ve got it going on or ladies in search of their own kind of special who are the heroines of their own stories, at the core, we’re spinning relationships where the parties involved find the one who loves them for themselves, for who they are at the best and worst of times (thank you Victor Hugo), who love those moments when we’re all a unique beauty and more, when we show our inner beasts.

Women may be weened on romantic fantasy, but stories like Beauty and the Beast remind us that true love sees and loves all.

And that is no fantasy.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Waiting for Godot: Living Through Series Delay

13 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Recently, an author for whom I am a big fan–in fact, I think it’s safe to say I am a superfan–released the first book in her new series. Cue the confetti. Strike up the band. Huz-freaking-zah. Right?

This new novel is in a new genre for said author and is the start of a three-book series, the remainder of which will come out throughout the rest of the year. Goodness abounds, yeah? Well, no, not really.

The author is rightly super excited about her new foray, a genre into which she has long been noodling on her own, ramping herself up to finally go for it. She also values her readers and is enough in tune with them to know not all of her dedicated flock are going to happily trot along behind this new venture. To this end, she’s taken great pains to explain the long path that’s brought her to write this series. She’s posted blogs on her web site and on social media patiently laying out, not her argument, because she needs make no defense for following her heart into writing the stories that have been weighing on her or so long, but an explanation as to what led her to make the decision to pursue this series. No author or any creative force, is obligated to take this sort of effort to, essentially, state her case. She’s done this with grace and care, and I have a lot of respect for her, or rather, even more respect for her, for doing so. And I’ve read enough of her books (over and over and over again) to feel confident that she has hit it out of the park.

That said, I’m unlikely to read this series because its genre is not in my wheelhouse. Like I said, I’m a superfan and have deep dived into this author’s extensive back list. That said, there’s a dozen or more of her novels I haven’t read, or ones where I’ve read the first in the series and the genre and situation didn’t/doesn’t appeal to me.

But, I’m woman enough to admit, this time, I’m a little miffed.

This is not because this author has written a series in a genre I don’t like, which leaves me going nearly a year without new goodness from a favorite (my choice, admittedly). Okay, it’s not only because of that. Mainly though, I’m miffed because this author has at least two unfinished series for which I am rabid and another series that readers (including moi) have been greatly anticipating for years, all of which are being denied for something new. Instead of working on what is already in play, she’s taken a new creative direction and thus created another new series.

I don’t want a new series. I want the books that have been explicitly or implicitly promised for existing series I’m on which I’m already thoroughly hooked. I want the series installments for which I have been (im)patiently waiting.

And yes, I would like some cheese to go along with that whine, thank you very much.

Look, I’m miffed, I won’t lie. That’s the reader side of me. I want my jones for those existing series to be fed. I got hooked on one of them fast and deep only to have the brakes slammed on the three or four books yet waiting to be written. Now I hafta wait out this unwelcomed series and hope that maybe next year there might be a hint of these upcoming books being in the works much less the break off series that has been promised for years.

But the writer side of me gets it. Sure, you have to sit and write whether the Muse or the spirit or whatever floats your boat gets your butt in the chair and your hands of the keyboard or not. Especially if you’re a full-time writer making a living off your words. You have to produce pages in order to get paid. It’s much easier to do this when you’re passionate for the project, when you’re driven to get that story out of your system. A writer can’t always pick and choose what story grabs her and when. In order to be true to reader expectations of the quality of your work, you have to make sure your commitment to that work is on par. That doesn’t always mean giving them the story they think they want. I know enough to know it doesn’t always work that way. Added to that, when an opportunity presents itself to do something different, something you’ve been somewhat secretly working on or leaning toward for some time, you don’t say no. You pursue that opportunity with prejudice if necessary. No author jumps off into the deep end of something new, knowing you might be risking a portion of your readership and therefore your livelihood by making a drastic turn in what you’re writing. Don’t get me wrong, I totally support this writing and admire her for having the guts to pursue this direction for which she clearly feels substantial compulsion.

To be honest, I wouldn’t want those upcoming books that I’m keenly anticipating to suffer from a rush job either. If the author isn’t feeling those stories, isn’t prepared to live in the heads of those characters, I sure don’t want her to force herself to write them simply to appease her readers’ desires when she’s not prepared to tell those stories. That disappoints everyone.

Look, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve waited on a series. Diana Gabaldon cranked out Lord John novels and novellas in-between her Outlander tomes. We all know the pain and suffering G.R.R. Martin fans have been going through for decades. Cripes, Godot shows up more often than new Game of Thrones novels.

Maybe I’m feeling this one so keenly because to me, it feels like a waste because I have no desire to read this series. This means I now have to wait for it to burn out so she can get back to writing what I want, because I’m a selfish superfan in need of her jones. God forbid she come out with an announcement later this year that she’s writing more installments in this new series. I may just plotz.

It’s a weird line to walk. I support the author’s new endeavor because I like her and I dig her work hard. I’ll probably read it too at some point, despite my dislike of the genre, because I’m curious to see how her voice comes through in that situation. What her unique take on the genre turns out to be. But I also resent it because it just means more and more delays until she writes the stories I’m waiting for with ever so-much-less patience.

The writer/reader relationship can be so wonky.  There’s an ownership a superfan feels when they’ve invested time and emotion and dollars into a writer, or any content producer really, and then something happens that makes the reader feel as though they’ve been gypped. It’s not just in books either. Lord knows, I’ve railed and fumed when TV shows and movies don’t fulfill the promise of relationships or story lines. It’s gotten to the point where I refuse to invest in a TV series until I can wait out the will they/won’t they of the primary ‘ship. (Do *not* get me started on Arrow’s abysmal treatment of the Olicity ‘ship, which has made me stop watching the show altogether.) This resentment I’m feeling now is along the same lines, the continued disappointment of not getting what I want, no matter what the motivations or desires of the content provider. And yet, as a content provider myself, I understand the creative and marketplace demands that may take precedent over one reader’s (or a thousand readers’) preference.

Have you been disappointed by a writer or other content provider’s creative decisions? Are you waiting for a book that feels like it might never come? Have you had a favorite author go in a direction you don’t like? Tell me your experiences in the comments!

Lady Smut is out and about in the wild again. We have a hot and spicy event at the upcoming RT convention in May. Share your sexy secrets at the “Never Have I Ever, Ever, Ever” game with in-person Lady Smut bloggers Elisabeth SaFleur and Isabelle Drake. We’ll have more information on the event in the upcoming weeks so be sure to follow Lady Smut so you don’t miss a trick!

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

 

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Edge of Power by Megan Crane: A Review

6 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

The highly anticipated, third installment of Megan Crane’s EDGE series, EDGE OF POWER, is finally here. Okay, technically, it releases tomorrow. Allow me the dramatic flourish.

This is Wulf’s book, the charismatic, fear-inspiring, panties-melting, ruthless leader of the raider brotherhood. Fans of the EDGE series have been greatly anticipating his book since he first appeared sprawled on a beach with lazy deception in EDGE OF OBSESSION and all readers sat up and said “hel-lo!”

Look! A blurb!

The ultimate Viking warrior meets outlaw biker: Wulf, the Raider King. He rules a future, destroyed world with the force of his will alone. Now he will meet the one woman who will change…everything.

Wulf is king of his clan and the ruthless head of the raider brotherhood.

Every foe in his path surrenders to his will. But when his mortal enemy’s beguiling daughter gets under his skin the way no one else ever has, a whole new intensity from the Raider King is unleashed…the fiery strength of dark passion and hard-hitting lust.

Kathlyn is no fan of the life she’s been forced to live under her savage father’s unforgiving rule. But the bold and powerful barbarian who steals her innocence—and her heart—is a dangerous bet. There’s nothing safe about a man who wants to destroy everything she knows and burn it to the ground. Except if Wulf can set her free, maybe safety is overrated…

Will the overwhelming heat of her warrior-king lead to something more powerful than either of them can imagine?

Strewth!

EDGE OF POWER has a lot going on betwixt it pages. But for all that, it is a slower book than the three that precede it. Let me qualify: it doesn’t read slow and the pace doesn’t drag. You’ll be hooked and unable to set it down without finishing first. I read it in one big gulp. It bulges with Crane’s signature sexy scenes and ribald, earthy language, and creative descriptions. Her world building continues to be imaginative and engaging, with increasingly more than a touch of prescience. I’m constantly struck by the relevance of this world’s structure and politics, and it, I think not accidentally, regularly calls to mind The Handmaid’s Tale. In EDGE OF POWER, a noble woman’s sexual status is noted by the color she wears. Kathlyn can only wear gold, which not only marks her publicly as a virgin princess, “but the particular property of the king.” Her virginity is considered her father’s to own and dispel as he sees fit. Kathlyn’s worth, like most women in this world, is solely equated with her sexual status. Beyond that, she has no value to her father or her world at large. Given our current political climate, a large part of which is unduly concerned with policing the sexual and reproductive rights of women, this seems like a particularly uncomfortable insight to our possible future. With or without Viking raiders.

Click on image to buy!

Click on image to buy!

EDGE OF POWER is a long burn of a story. Despite being action man, take-what-he-wants, never apologize, battle loving, Viking raider clan leader, for most of this book, Wulf is forced to bridle his instincts and usual modus operendi for a long wait and the messy, bloody dance of politics with his enemy. It’s totally against his nature. He wants to main and pillage and plunder and exact righteous revenge for the sins and insults the king has waged against Wulf’s clan before Wulf and the brotherhood were even aware of his existence. This juxtaposition simmers through the entire narrative, building a tension along the way that is almost gleeful in its release, once all things align and Wulf is finally set free of his self-imposed restraint.

This is a book about patience, not a prized virtue among the brotherhood. Wulf has to be patient and resist his instincts to rip his enemies apart and just get the job done. He knows if he makes the wrong move, all of his people will be at mortal risk. He has to taper his usual methods and play the long game, consorting with known enemies, weaklings and fools to his eyes, in order to gain the advantage and have his plan come to fruition. Kathlyn is one woman, a woman who is not under his protection. He cannot risk his clan for the daughter of his greatest enemy, a woman whose loyalties and ambitions are still a mystery. Yet, as the story goes on, his instinct and need expands to include Kathlyn. Wulf struggles to make decisions he knows will benefit his clan and his detailed, complex plan, but these are choices he also knows for which Kathlyn will, and does, suffer. He wrestles with that dual edge of being the leader when the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the king.

But Kathlyn has been at this game far longer than Wulf can initially imagine. Her patience is epic and her ability to survive the most heinous of circumstances is far beyond Wulf’s expectations. “I’m a princess, not a raider,” she tells Wulf in their first encounter. “If I launched myself into battle every time someone insulted me, I would’ve been dead long ago.”

Since the brutal death of her mother at the hand of her sociopath, psycho father, King Athenian, Kathlyn has existed in a living hell, staying as quiet and unobtrusive as she can manage, enduring unfathomable humiliations and dangers just by being the yet virginal daughter of the king, a commodity her father plans to auction off to the highest bidder at his convenience. It’s a carrot he’s dangled before the nobles for so long that Kathlyn herself is seriously tired of the wait. She wants to wear anything other than the gold dresses that define her, and not only because she’s desperate for a wardrobe change. At her level of nobility, the deflowering of a noble virgin is a public ceremony, done on a large bed in the great hall before all the world. Nothing like performance anxiety, yeah? Kathlyn wants to control at least this one thing in a world where being a princess is more of a prison than the lowliest offender has ever seen.

This is a world, remember, that had deemed sex only necessary for procreation to repopulate the world. People here enter into winter marriages where, if a child is conceived, they may stay together for a year until that child is born. If there is no child, both parties go their own ways. Pleasure doesn’t come into the matter at all. No foreplay, no fun. Just copulation for procreation.

Or, at least, for the women. The men indulge in sex for pleasure all they want (naturally). Kathlyn knows all too well how rampant this hypocrisy is among the men of the court. Finally deeming her virginity a burden she can no longer bear, she decides to offer it to the Raider King, a barbarian she’s sure won’t quibble over defiling his “host,” the king’s, daughter. Doing the deed puts Kathlyn’s life at enormous risk, but she’s reached the end of that long stretch of patience that’s kept her alive this long. Whomever she’s bargained off to in the end, she wants first to be able to make one choice for herself, especially about so intimate an event. Because, for the first time in a lifetime of restraint, of not allowing herself to want or need anything only to see it wrenched away, of living a quiet half-life always aware that her father could kill her in the next moment, Kathlyn wants. Wulf awakens in her a pulsing need, not just for sex, but for the wild freedom he represents to her. The crazy idea of choice and desire, of a life spent living and not enduring.

Here again, though, Wulf must resist his urges and instincts as he knows screwing Kathlyn will put both her life and his mission in danger. Obviously, since this is a romance, that resistance doesn’t last, but there is genuine, uncharacteristic struggle in Wulf about what he does to and with Kathlyn. He takes time with her, not only sexually, protecting her in his limited way and when he can’t, working to at least make their sins worthy of her punishments. They also take great risks to be together, and eventually, this leads to their (temporary) downfall. Even when forced into humiliating situations together, designed to denigrate and demean Kathlyn especially, Wulf does what he can to protect her, always keeping in mind what risk it may or may not pose to his mission. He strains against the inability to shield her from her father’s unreasonable and unpredictable wrath. Wulf’s burden of failure grows as he and Kathlyn’s situation becomes more and more perilous. Ultimately, he has to choose between his clan and his woman, perversely giving Kathlyn the life he thinks she wants by taking away the man she’s discovered she needs. Heavy hangs the head of the king.

Author Megan Crane

Author Megan Crane

Yet Wulf has the advantage of knowing how this game ends, or at least how he expects it to end, given his faith in the superiority of his brotherhood and confidence in the soundness of their strategy. Kathlyn takes these risks with him fully expecting to pay the ultimate price. She is so weary of her life, so tired of being afraid, so done with being victimized by her savage, sociopath of a father, even death is a relief, death on her terms, making her own choices, and, for once, feeling bliss with a barbarian who turns out to be the only man in her life to ever give a damn about her. Her strength of spirit in mind-boggling. She not only endures, she triumphs in her resolution. Kathlyn may bend and submit as she needs to in order to survive, but she is far from beaten and defeated, even when physically, she is both. Crane sketches her with such deft and layered strokes that Kathlyn resonates with the emotional authenticity of real-life abuse victims.

EDGE OF POWER is richly drawn with a fascinating dystopian world that is not so far out of our reality. Wulf and Kathlyn’s slow burn of a relationship amidst the perils and pitfalls of a ruthless, unforgiving, brutal court and king is a careful tap dance of sexy subterfuge beneath which lies the delicate waltz of conflict between duty and desire, where a woman with no hope who is accustomed to being betrayed by those closest to her falls for a man whose stalwart faith in his brotherhood and his own purpose cannot be shaken. EDGE OF POWER is sexy and sensual, fierce and touching. A fitting fulfillment of the Raider King’s story.

EDGE OF POWER is available for pre-order and will be on sale March 7, 2017.

A copy of this book was provided to the reviewer by the publisher via NetGalley. You can see more Lady Smut reviews of this series, along with a guest post from Megan Crane about the EDGE series, here.

P.S. If you join Megan Crane’s Clan Facebook page and/or check out her website, you’ll see the absolutely stunning map that her animator (as opposed to animated) husband drafted. As a visually oriented person, having the colorful, detailed map definitely helps me to picture this new, greatly changed world.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

I Love You, iBooks!

27 Feb

This week’s guest post comes from Lyla Bellatas, author of The Real Fling series, standalone, saucy vacation romances that begin as a fling, but end up as the real thing. Lyla was a hard convert to digital books and is here today to tell us why. Welcome Lyla!

I was born a reader–loved the feel, the smell, the look of books from the beginning. It was always my escape. I could get lost in a bookstore for hours looking for my next adventure. I’d reverently pick up a book, sniff it, let the feel of the pages soak into my skin. They were presents waiting to be opened. I adored looking at the covers and yes, I’ve judged more than one book by its cover.

deeper

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When my brother got sick we took him to many hospitals chasing a miracle. I’d sit at his bedside while he was asleep and read. I read to flee the horror of watching his young life fade away. Reality was too cruel to deal with, so I ran away, mentally. I remember the books I read during his last six months, vividly. I devoured them and they seared into my soul, ever so thankful they kept me company during the most awful time of my life.

When I was on bed rest during my pregnancy I was incredibly anxious. Bed rest is not as easy as it sounds. I’d get daily deliveries from Barnes & Noble and I’d be good for a little while, but it was never enough. More times than not, I’d open a book to find it lackluster, and I’d be crushed for the day.

I remember the joy and relief on my husband’s face when I got Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was huge at 870 pages. My husband thought it would keep me busy for a week. Yeah, he underestimated me. One of the few and probably the last time he did. By the time he got home that night, I was done and jonesing for my next fix. The look of disappointment and horror on his face was comical, now. Not then.

When Amazon introduced the Kindle, I balked. I kicked and screamed. No! How could I enjoy reading without the accompanying sensual pleasures? Ha! This time I underestimated me.

What I didn’t take into account is my obsession with books. It’s the stories that I couldn’t live without. The escape.

I can’t say I’ve ever been a collector of anything but books. Every trip to a bookstore would have me leaving laden down with a stack of new prizes to explore and a lot less money in my pocket.

hotter

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I’d slip my latest read in my pocketbook to sneak a page or two throughout my day. When I was traveling, books were always the hardest things for me to pack. I’d sit on my bed with them spread out before me trying to choose which ones would make the cut. How many I would be able to read in the week or so I’d be gone? The worst was deciding which would go in my carry on. What if I got on the plane, cracked open the book and decided I hated it? Then what? So, I’d over pack and my back would pay the price.

Today, with more than 4,000 books in my iBooks and a few hundred in my Kindle app, I don’t have to choose anymore. They all come with me wherever I go. It’s amazing! I can read without stuffing books everywhere you could imagine. My back thanks me!

I’m still a collector but now I browse Goodreads, Amazon, and blogger sites looking for new books to add to my collection. And, as such, I’m reading more. I read when I’m waiting online or when I take a break. I can read at night without turning on the light. I LOVE that! I read at red lights or when stuck in traffic (shh, don’t tell anyone). I don’t freak (well, almost) when the doctor’s office keeps me waiting. What a revolution! I love you iBooks.

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Romance author Lyla Bellatas

Born Armenian American on Long Island’s Gold coast, Lyla has defied convention and morphed too many times to count. Beginning her career as an engineer, she swiftly made the move to marketer then drifted to digital design, printing CEO, and tarot enchantress, collecting stories along the way. As with her career, Lyla’s passions have also led to many outlets. She’s a high performance race car driver and driving instructor, poker player without the face, loves to shoot pool and although she hates being away from home she does enjoy exploring new places.  She was gifted her first tarot deck during a chance encounter in an elevator. Innately empathic and claircognizant, tarot unlocked the natural witch within. Lyla has taught tarot, pessomancy (reading stones) and reading junk oracles. She’s read tarot, stones and junk professionally for decades and still reads with or without a deck when the moon shines just right. Swept off her feet by a handsome Greek she met at the race track Lyla finally found her happily ever after as a wife, mother to a beautiful, spirited daughter, and writer. They live in the NYC suburbs and love the fast-paced brutal honesty, great restaurants, arts, and energy that define New York City. And they never fail to light a new/full moon candle charmed now by three.

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Romance Gives Back

20 Feb

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Today is President’s Day, a national holiday that while ostensibly is about celebrating our most notable presidents, Washington and Lincoln, it mostly means a day off from work. But many people see President’s Day as a day to give back, a day in which to service their community. With the current administration seeming to work hard to destroy all that is good and just about our country, I wanted to take this opportunity to focus on how writers and readers in Romancelandia give back. No, it’s not terribly sexy on the surface, but to my mind, there’s a sexy quality to being of service to those who can’t do for themselves.

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A few weeks ago, Lady Smut Blogger Alexa Day threw down the gauntlet to challenge us as readers to support diversity in publishing by turning the page and not just buying and not just reading but truly making sure that we act on what we read to make that difference.

It’s not enough any more to just buy that book. It’s wonderful and all, but just having that one book doesn’t make you an ally. It doesn’t make you an activist. You’re going to have to read it.

Read that book. Then read another one with a different author. Consider the way the heroines walk through the world — the billionaire socialites, the ancient queens, the 18th century doctors. Travel through ancient Africa and the American South still smoldering after the Civil War. Immerse yourself in the authors’ blogs as well as their books.

We serve each other by going beyond the mere gesture. Buying that book, in order to support that author and the call for greater diversity in publishing, is absolutely fantastic. But reading it — taking in the places where your viewpoints differ, where the author’s culture teaches you something, where you have something in common — benefits both you and the author. Reading it is where we go beyond mere talk and good thoughts and move toward real understanding.

Alexa Day, Walk the Walk by Turning the Page

Many authors in Romancelandia choose to give back in tangible ways, using their exposure and reader base to support causes often near and dear to their hearts. The romance community is well know for supporting and contributing to such charities and organizations that support literacy, autism, and women and children in need, to name only a few. In this vein, I invited writer Diana Cosby to share about her current project with Habitat for Humanity, an organization I too have been privileged to work with in the past building homes in Kentucky.

NOTE: This is *not* an official Lady Smut sponsored project. All contributions by readers or bloggers are made of their own personal accord.

Take it away, Diana!

Diana Cosby’s Romance Reader’s Build A Habitat For Humanity House of Love

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Romance Writer Diana Cosby

Romance readers are AMAZING!  And, SO is Habitat For Humanity, a charity that I love supporting and volunteering for. So, I thought, why not pair the two and help a deserving family receive a home? And, the Diana Cosby’s Romance Reader’s Build A Habitat For Humanity House of Love fundraiser was born.

I contacted the Habitat For Humanity office in Grayson County, Texas, where I’ve had the honor of helping with several builds and spoke with Laurie Mealy, Executive Director. She embraced the project, and was thrilled at the thought of pairing romance readers, who love stories where heroes and heroines overcome challenges to make their dreams come true, with making the dream of home ownership for a deserving family a reality.

Goal:  Fund an entire home – $55,000. 

I kicked off the challenge by donating $200. As I write this, we’ve raised $9,165. Romance readers are amazing, and I have complete faith that as the stories they love, they will join together to raise the amount necessary to give a deserving family a home.

How it works:

As readers send donations to Habitat for Humanity of Grayson County for the “Diana Cosby’s Readers Build A House of Love,” the total contributions are updated below the house graphic on the upper right side of the homepage. Donations can be sent via PayPal by clicking on the house, which takes you to the donation page, or by mailing a check or money order to:

Habitat for Humanity of Grayson County

901 N. Grand Avenue

P.O. Box 2725

Sherman, TX 75091

**Please note on your donation: ‘For the Romance Readers Build A HFH House of Love.’

Thank you so much, Kiersten, for inviting me to visit the Lady Smut blog today and also to everyone who contributes for helping to make an incredible difference in a deserving family’s life. For when a family walk into a Habitat For Humanity house, it’s more than mortar and wood, it’s a place they can finally call home.

A retired Navy Chief, Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense.  Books in her award-winning MacGruder Brothers series have been translated in five languages. Diana has spoken at the Library of Congress, Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC, and appeared in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happy Ever After,” MSN.com, Atlantic County Women Magazine, and Texoma Living Magazine. Book two in her Forbidden series, Forbidden Knight, will be released in June 2017. Learn more about Diana’s books on her website www.dianacosby.com.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

The Devil Is Back in the Bayou

9 Jan

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Lady Smut favorite Megan Crane is back in the bayou with her Devil’s Keepers motorcycle club in Devil’s Mark. I took a look at the first book in the series, Devil’s Honor, last fall.

Look! A blurb!

Holly Chambless is tired of being the squeaky clean daughter of Lagrange’s holier-than-thou mayor. When her father is charged with corruption, she realizes that her whole life’s been a lie. Now’s her chance to do all the things she never dared, like scoring a job at a bar where reputations go to die, or reconnecting with the biker who sparked a secret hunger in her all those years ago. Holly isn’t a wide-eyed girl anymore—and this time she wants a taste of what has always been denied.

Killian “Uptown” Chenier has no time for stuck-up princesses. He likes fast bikes and wild sex. Sure, he remembers Holly. He sent her running with a wicked smile and a lesson about prying eyes. And sure, she’s grown up smoking-hot, with a body he’d like to personally desecrate. But Devil’s Keepers business is real and intense. Her daddy stole from the club, leaving his pretty blonde daughter a walking target. And when Uptown takes aim at what he wants, he never misses.

There’s a long game being played in this series, a game in which the fabric of the Devil’s Keepers is slowly unraveling. Allies are being outed as having worked against the club for some time. Other allies are dying out, leaving holes where once they served the club in significant ways. Whether the club remains a knotted mess or if these dangling strings can been sewn into something new and stronger on the other side remains to be seen as the series plays out.

Click on image to preorder!

Click on image to buy!

Against this backdrop of dangers club business, club members are having their proverbial hearts ripped up, down, and sideways. First up was Greely’s reunion with the one woman who rooted deep and sliced hard, the daughter of the club’s now dead back-door doctor. In Devil’s Honor, it’s Uptown’s turn as the Lagrange mayor’s pristine daughter in back in town after her father’s humiliating denouement as the righteous community leader secretly in the club’s pocket to lying scumbag with his own nefarious agenda, an agenda that’s put the club in jeopardy.

Holly is facing a life crisis. The entire structure of her house on the bayou mud is wobbly and weak. Everything she thought she new about her father–about herself–has been proven a lie. Sick of her Teflon-coated goody two-shoes reputation in Lagrange, Holly decides to explore her nearly non-existent wild side. First by strutting into the local strip club to ask for a job. And next, to finally indulge the temptation that has taunted her since her teenage years–Killian Chenier.

More than anyone, Uptown hates Mayor Chambless–and he has good reasons too. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a hankering for the mayor’s daughter since she caught him banging a groupie in the graveyard years before. Ravaging Holly and thus destroying her reputation is Uptown’s perfect revenge all wrapped up in a tight, sexy package with a bouncy pony-tail that won’t quit. She has a sweetness that won’t quit even in the face of biker bitches and foul-mouthed degenerates. Holly might want to lose her inhibitions with a bad boy biker, but when it comes down to it, Uptown knows a good girl like her isn’t going to want trailer trash like him long-term. But the more he makes use of her, the more he realizes that while Holly might come from slime like the mayor, she couldn’t be more genuine. And that’s a problem for the man who is planning to break her in order to beat her father into the ground.

All her life Holly has play the role written for her. Now with her family’s reputation in shambles, everything that formed the buttress of her life has collapsed. Now she’s not only confused about who she is, but who she is meant to be. Strutting into a motorcycle club’s strip joint is the first step in her plan to blow up the stultifying expectations that no longer fit her life. Getting Uptown Sinclair to fulfill a dirty temptation from long ago is even better. But as more and more revelations of her father’s duplicity are revealed, Holly wonders if being bad isn’t exactly the best plan for a good girl.

Devil’s Mark is a fast read. It plunges forward with a quick pace that doesn’t allow for things like sleep. As club business gets messier and messier, Uptown’s conflict grows. He’s not going to stop using Holly for his and the club’s ends, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t start to have serious problems with it. He’s never forgotten her, not from the first moment when her wide-eyed shock at his open-air sexcapades made him want to do filthy, delicious things to her. Now she’s a woman at his mercy and as he claims her for his own–inside the club and out of it–for the first time, he wonders what he’ll do if the choice is his brothers or Holly.

Sexy, sweet, endearing, and the right kind of dirty, Devil’s Mark plunges more deeply into the dirty water of the Lagrange bayou. As things in the Devil’s Keepers club race to deadly conclusions, a good girl will find out if her bad boy is worth all his sexy promises…and if she’ll survive taking the risk.

Devil’s Honor and Devil’s Mark are available not and will whet your appetite for the upcoming Devil’s Own coming in May 2017.

Follow Lady Smut. We make great deals with all kinds of sexy devils.

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Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, will be available on April 14, 2016. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via  @kierstenkrum.

Take More

2 Jan

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Happy New Year, Lady Smutters! Welcome to 2017! I hope the new year has been AWESOME for you all. I mean, it’s only been 24 hours, right? What could’ve gone wrong?

Wait, maybe let’s not answer that.

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My New Year’s Eve head shot. Not quite drunk yet.

All over my social media feeds, people have been bemoaning the trials of 2016. And I get it. It was a brutal year for many people in many areas: personal, professional, political. There’s been a lot of loss. A lot of sadness. A lot of disillusion and lost hope. Overall, the coming of 2017 has been greeted with an overwhelming sense of relief. Not so much hope for the new year so much as feeling lucky to get out of 2016 in one piece.

I had a great 2016, I won’t lie. I made a vow to kick the crap outta 2016 and I did a damn good job of it. I decided to stop saying “I used to” and start saying “I’m going to” or “I did.” And I worked hard at it; I’m still working hard at it. Every day facing the same challenges, the same roadblocks, the same mental high jinks to get over myself and move forward, to even just move again after so many years of barely being able to walk. And though I didn’t reach all I’d hope to achieved, I notched a lot of watersheds on my proverbial post. So 2016 was pretty righteous…right up until I slammed right into the back end of the summer and down into months of familial drama, drama that led to major life changes.

I wasn’t relieved to begin 2017, but I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of this past year. There’s something refreshing about crossing that line in the calendar. Moving through that hour into a new year. A new chance. It’s why we make resolutions, looking at the clean slate of a year yet unsullied. Unlived. Options are endless. The great unknown of time spreads before us unchallenged.

I try not to make resolutions. Somehow setting a resolution is the surefire way to not achieve those hopes and dreams. Because it’s hard, seriously hard, to stick to goals that are meant to change your life, make it better, make it stronger. Meant to make it feel more worthy, more fulfilling, more fruitful and edifying.

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That are meant to give us hope.

So if we fail to achieve those resolutions–as so many of us do–it feels like just that. A failure. As though it’s a character judgment because we weren’t able to make those changes that are dreams really, dreams of how we’d prefer to live our lives. Dreams of how we’d prefer we’d be. Thinner. Richer. Fitter. Healthier. More patient. More kind. More thoughtful. More fun. More desirable. Better at our jobs. Better at our lives. We make resolutions to fix what we see as defaults in our character. What we’re told are the failures in our selves. What we think we need to sacrifice, to give, in order to be better people. Better women.

I have a different idea for 2017. A alternative to giving up things to improve ourselves.

Take more.

Take more pictures. Take more chances. Take more trips. Take more dates. Take more drives. Take more days off. Take more time with your significant other, your children, your cat. Take more walks. Take more adventures. Take more risks. Take more quiet time. Take more books. Read longer. Read hotter. Read harder.

Take 2017 to the ultimate limit. However it turns out, you’re sure to have enjoyed the ride.

And stick with Lady Smut for another smexy year. We like to take it regularly. In a metaphorical way…of course.

Welcome to 2017. It’s a new year. Anything can happen.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities strait is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Wild on the Rocksis now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

 

Bikers for Christmas

25 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Wouldn’t *that* be something to find under your tree on Christmas morning? Alas, there was no bearded, growly, alpha yet somehow feminist-supportive, muscled, steaming hot biker stud awaiting me this Christmas morn. (Next year, Santa!)

Thank God for biker romance! Let me help you end your holiday of joyous over-eating and being nice to people you only see a few times a year with a taste of Megan Crane’s upcoming biker romance Devil’s Mark.

Look! A blurb!

Holly Chambless is tired of being the squeaky clean daughter of Lagrange’s holier-than-thou mayor. When her father is charged with corruption, she realizes that her whole life’s been a lie. Now’s her chance to do all the things she never dared, like scoring a job at a bar where reputations go to die, or reconnecting with the biker who sparked a secret hunger in her all those years ago. Holly isn’t a wide-eyed girl anymore—and this time she wants a taste of what has always been denied.

Killian “Uptown” Chenier has no time for stuck-up princesses. He likes fast bikes and wild sex. Sure, he remembers Holly. He sent her running with a wicked smile and a lesson about prying eyes. And sure, she’s grown up smoking-hot, with a body he’d like to personally desecrate. But Devil’s Keepers business is real and intense. Her daddy stole from the club, leaving his pretty blonde daughter a walking target. And when Uptown takes aim at what he wants, he never misses.

You can start your new year in the Lagrange bayou with the Devil’s Keepers motorcycle club when Devil’s Mark releases on January 3rd. Meanwhile, get started with this teasing excerpt and be sure to check out the first book in the series, Devil’s Honor, reviewed earlier this year here on Lady Smut.

Click on image to preorder!

Click on image to preorder!

Hope you had a happy and healthy Christmas day and start of Chanukkah celebrations! Be sure to check back with Lady Smut for a wild and sexy 2017!

“Here’s how this works,” Uptown said, very calmly, but being this close to him again made her a little bit dizzy.  She could see the way his dark chocolate eyes gleamed.  It did not exactly make her think of candy.  “You’re under my protection.  That’s what you tell anyone who comes at you or tries to cop a feel, okay?”

Holly bristled.  “I don’t need to be protected.”

“Baby, please.  They’ll eat you alive.”

“Well, so what if they do?” she demanded, glaring at him, that odd thing in her stomach that shouldn’t have been shame—because what did it matter what a biker thought of her—pulling into a taut, hard knot.  “What do you care?  And besides, Katelyn seems perfectly happy being consumed by the biker world.”

“You don’t want to be Katelyn.”

“I love Katelyn,” Holly snapped, because weirdness between them didn’t mean Holly should be disloyal.  “She’s been my best friend since we shared a coloring book in kindergarten.”

“This isn’t fucking kindergarten, babe.  Christ.”

“I’m sure that whatever makes Katelyn happy is good enough for me.”  She might have been talking from between her teeth, but she meant it.

“You know how your girl got her job here?” Uptown reached over then and took the end of her ponytail in his fist, tugging gently on it.  It should have been annoying, like a mosquito buzzing around her.  It wasn’t.  Instead, she could feel that faint pulling sensation… everywhere. “She blew Bart, right here in this office.  That was her warm up, but you know, nothing new for her since she’d been hanging around the clubhouse for a while.  Then she banged a couple of brothers on the couch to show her appreciation for being considered.  But we doubted her commitment because she always seemed more about the party than getting any work done, so the next night she came back and blew a line of brothers, then let Bart fuck her in the ass over the desk while anyone who wanted to watch hung out.  She started later that night.  Big tips all around.”  His head tilted to one side and she couldn’t have described that gleam in his gaze if her life had depended on it.  But she could feel it like a punch to her belly.  “That about what you had in mind tonight?  Because I should tell you, we already knew and liked Katelyn.  That was why we kept it mellow.  Some of the other girls who work here had a lot more to prove when they came in.”

Holly thought it was lucky that she couldn’t really process a single thing he’d said.  Because it was too much.  She remembered hunching over that coloring book with Katelyn when they were little, sharing their crayons even though they’d both wanted the green.  She remembered all their sleepovers over the years, lying huddled up in the same bed whispering secrets and dreams into the dark.  She didn’t want to think about her friend dispensing blow jobs or anything else.  Because if she did, she might have to pay attention to the things her body was doing, as if it was imagining her in all the positions Uptown had described so nonchalantly.  She felt… weird.  But she couldn’t let herself think about that.

“I thought Katelyn belonged to the club,” she said instead.

“Sure,” Uptown agreed, lazily.  Or maybe he was just amused at how little Holly knew about his world and Katelyn’s place in it, despite how close she’d claimed she and Katelyn were.  Worse, she was sure he could see exactly how red her cheeks were.  She could feel the crisp heat in them and had to force herself not to put her hands there and make it worse.  “She takes care of us, we take care of her.”

“And I notice that you left yourself out of that story.”  She ignored the flare of heat in her cheeks, particularly when his gaze seemed to sharpen.  “Is that a sudden fit of modesty?”

He tugged on the end of her ponytail, making her chin rise against her will.  But when he eased off the pressure, she didn’t lower it.

“Nothing modest about me.  You want to hear who I fuck and how?  I’m not shy, princess.  But I think you are.”

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A Few of My Favorite Posts

19 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

It’s that time again, Lady Smutters! The holiday craze has returned as it does every year. This year feels particularly frantic, with celebrities dropping seemingly every day (RIP Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Harry Morgan!) and each new announcement from Washington another episode of stupefying ignorance and terrifying crazy. It feel more important that ever to nurture hope, breathe kindness, and cultivate courage. Me, I like to watch David Gandy’s new Light Blue advert on repeat…

As is our holiday tradition here, we will be taking our holiday break next week, coming back to you in 2017 with all new sorts of smexy! Reflecting back on this year, I shared a lot of great books I’d read with all y’all and also ruminated on a bunch of pop culture issues and current events as they relate to and affect women. Here are a few of my favorite posts from 2016.

Women Who Make America Great

Imposter Syndrome: Do You Have It?

The Culture of Shame

His Name is Brock Allen Turner: This Week in Rape Culture

Friends for Now

The Shaming of Plus Sized Women

Navy Seals: Why They Turn My Crank

Sekrit Project No More!

Happy Christmas and Happy Chanukah to ALL our Lady Smut readers. May this holiday be filled with love and joy and hope for the upcoming year when Lady Smut will be back bringing you the smexy because we sure do know what we like.

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Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities strait is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Wild on the Rocksis now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Do You Dig It In The Dark?

12 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the new TV show Good Behavior, calling it the dark romance you should be watching. Here’s what I said then about the dark romance:

Lately in Romancelandia, the dark romance has become a thing–or a thing again as some form of dark romance has been around since the late eighteenth century. In its current conception, these are romances where the hero is a mobster or something nefarious and comes into the heroine’s orbit through some criminal manner. He proceeds to do some pretty terrible things to the heroine, despite having feelings for her. Often, these terrible things are sexual and there’s a lot of explanation about how the heroine shouldn’t like what she’s doing and oh this is so bad but she can’t stop it or A Bad Thing will happen. Things proceed, bad guys often show up putting lives in danger, feelings grow, behavior is forgiven, lather, rinse, repeat. I’m blasé about this sub genre because to me, it smacks too much of the rapetastic, forced seduction, Great Misunderstanding historicals of the 80s and early 90s only updated from disenfranchised Scottish bandits and English roses to Russian Bratva and the daughters of their mortal enemy. That’s not to say I don’t like romances with heroes and heroines of dubious character and motivation. Done right, I *love* them, but I’ve yet to find a “dark romance” that makes me care enough to send my very best. Even after reading all of the Dark Mafia Prince books and Kresley Cole’s The Master, The Professional, and The Player series, both highly recommend dark romances series, yet I remain unmoved. Though I will add the caveat that the biker romance sub genre could absolutely be seen as dark romances and, as any regular Lady Smut reader will know by now, with those books I am totally on board.

I wanted to talk more about dark romances today, because I’m still doing the facial expression of “da hell?” when I read them. I can’t figure out why it’s not clicking for me. It should be my crack–bad boys struggling with angst about their feelings for the woman who’s making them question everything in their lives plus a bunch of suspense stuff thrown in for shits and giggles.

But it’s not.

First, let’s figure out what we’re talking about when we say ‘dark romance’. A quick Google search brings up a bunch of links to Goodreads list of dark romances, but few clear defining descriptions. I found this analysis of what makes a dark romance from romance writer Roni Loren:

“Now, the definition of ‘dark’ can vary widely from person to person. A really gritty romantic suspense could be considered dark if you focus on the fact that there is violence or murders or serial killers. But that’s not what I’m talking about today. For my purposes, a dark romance is one that has an anti-hero, a villain type as the lead guy, and/or completely mindf*cks you. The usual lines of morality are blurred. These are the guys who you really wouldn’t want to mess with in real life, but who are so interesting to read about…

When I read these, I have that thought–wow, I really shouldn’t be rooting for these people or liking this hero or wanting this person to get the girl. But I do. And I can’t help it…I love when an author can pull that off.”

Now, I dig me an anti-hero, no question. But I fail to see the pleasure in reading about mindf*cks making for relationship exploration. Roni Loren says she shouldn’t be wanting for this person to get the girl or rooting for these kinds of people, but she is anyway.

I very much am not.

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Click on image to buy!

I read the Mafia Prince series on the strong, strong recommendation of fellow romance writer pal. “Oh my God, how are *you* of all people not reading this yet?!” she said to me when I admitted to never having heard of the series. Soon after, I downloaded Dark Mafia Prince. Russian mobsters, check. Brothers split apart at a young age when their parents were murdered, check. History between the H&H that goes back to childhood, check. A blood feud with another mafia family, check. An actual prophecy, check, check, and mate. Sounds like catnip to me. Honestly, I should *love* this series.

And I don’t. It’s perfectly serviceable. It’s not a *bad* series. It’s actually really well composed and densely plotted. There are a number of aspects I found unique and gutsy–no clichés need apply here. There’s even a thoroughly three-dimensional series villain who reportedly is getting his own book later on (possibly next) and who has a particularly clever quirk that feels wholly original and organic. Even when this series is “out there” it’s believable “out there”. But I didn’t finish the books and want to read them again. I wanted to read the next one because I’m pathologically incapable of not knowing what happens next. But I wasn’t jonesing for a reread and I don’t much remember the particulars of either three books in the series.

My love for certain biker romance series is well-documented on this site, but I’ve read a lot of biker romances I haven’t written about because I didn’t have that same mad, crackalicious love for them as I do for, say, Kristen Ashley’s Chaos men or Megan Crane’s post-apocalyptic Vikings or bayou bikers. There’s an argument to be made that these “heroes” are just as anti-heroic as any dark romance mafioso (there does seem to be a prevalence of made men in these dark romances.)

I felt the same way for Kresley Cole’s erotic, dark romance series, the Game Maker series. Here again we have somewhat estranged, Russian billionaire brothers with variant mafia ties and a serious preference for control. Like, pathological preference. And yet, my general response was meh when not eye-rolling at specifics. Not pain and dominance isn’t my thing, in life or on the page, which makes some of my reading choices odd given their tendency for both these things. (I’m thinking my re-read of the Kit Rocha opus applies here). In my defense, it’s hard to find an erotic romance these days that doesn’t feature such proclivities.

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Click on image to buy!

One caveat here: I really liked The Player. I think that’s because it was the brother with the least megalomania tendencies, and likely because of the heroine’s modern-day, gypsy thieves family (a sub genre for which I’ve long had an inexplicable fondness, probably due to the Irish Travelers ties), but also for the Big Reveal at the end that, if not 100% a surprise (surely, at least 95%), was absolutely perfectly crafted and seamlessly woven from the start. Actually, like the Dark Prince books, each of the Game Maker novels are perfectly good novels in the dark romance genre. I’m just meh overall. But I don’t have the urge to return for a reread or stay in these worlds.

Which continues to perplex me, because, really, this should be right in my wheelhouse.

I think it’s because I see in these stories resonance of the rape-fantasies of the 80s heyday of historical romance. Perhaps this is simply because I just read the in-depth Jezebel article on the same (which I highly recommend). But, for example, in Dark Mafia Prince, the “hero” holds a gun to the heroine’s head while she gives him a forced blow job (which, eventually, turns her on, of course) while he films it with his phone. This is so he can send it to her father (she’s his hostage against his enemy) as proof of what he’ll do to her if said father doesn’t meet his demands. Hey, it’s better than the original plan, to cut off one of her fingers and send that instead. The guy’s not a total psychopath, obviously. He’s trying to preserve her finger! What a prince!

Guys, this is foreplay for our H&H. No. Just no. When I told my friend who’d recommended the series that I’d read it and didn’t love it, she immediately referenced the blow job scene as being seriously hot. I honestly couldn’t remember the scene until prompted. Guess I wanted to block it from my memory.

But, as I mentioned briefly in that outtake at the start of this post, how is such a scene any different from the forced seductions of those original 80s bodice-rippers? How is being forced to give a blow job at gunpoint to save a digit (and not his favorite digit either) any different? Look, there are a lot of books I’ve read with a lot of highly questionable and often potentially offensive activities that, safe behind the pages of fiction, I’ve found to be seriously hot. My feminism is strong and durable, but not so naïve as to be unable to acknowledge the fact that sometimes the strong attraction is because it’s forbidden. Taboo. That’s hardly new. But there’s taboo and then there’s “oh hell no!” and–sorry, not sorry–blow jobs at gun point are the latter.

Guess I’m not dark enough for the dark romance.

What do you think? Have you dabbled in the dark romance sub genre? Do you dig it in the dark?

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