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Wild Excerpt for Wild Week

18 May

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Hope all you readers have been enjoying Wild Week here at Lady Smut. Whether it’s Alexa Day’s Praise of the Wild Man or Elizabeth Shore hunting for ethical porn, it’s a wild time day by day to celebrate of the nomination of my novel, Wild on the Rocks, for InD’Tale’s Magazine‘s prestigious RONE award in the Suspense/Thriller: Short category. Voting goes all week, and I’d love it if you’d head on over and show some support for Wild on the Rocks, which is now on sale for $.99 exclusively from Amazon!

Vote today!

Wanna know what you’re getting into? Keep reading to see how, a year after their divorce, Jasper and Quinn find each other again in the most unlikely of places. Of all the joints in the world…

Enjoy this excerpt from Wild on the Rocks!

 

 

Casa Blanca, Barefoot Bay, Florida.

“Toldja. Beaches, babes, and booze. The unholy trifecta. Praise sweet baby Jesus.”
Twist’s voice sounded through Jasper’s ear pierce as he scanned the patio area where the rehearsal dinner
cocktail hour was under full swing.
He had to admit that, for once, Twist had got it right.
The Thornquist wedding—or the Thorny Wedding as the security team had taken to calling it—was as
opulent as advertised. Jasper stopped trying to count the number of recognizable faces from notable Washington
families after the first hour. Not that he knew a lot of them on sight. Twist had a better take on the Who’s Who,
given he came from some seriously old money, a secret he kept close and actively hid from their team.
“There’s definitely enough booze,” Jasper agreed. “We’ll be fishing women in formal wear out of the
pool before the bride gets down the aisle.”
“Ah, the wet gown contests. Nothin’ like a dirty debutante.” He sighed with such exaggeration, Jasper
fancied he felt an actual breeze. “Sometimes, at night, I can still hear the screams…of pleasure.”
He absolutely would not smile at Twist’s ridiculousness. “We’ve been here twenty-four hours and your
degenerate side is already at full throttle.”
“Brother, it’s my best side.”
“How ’bout we try to be professionals for a while. Did you tag the congressman’s daughter?”
“Your four o’clock. She’s on her third drink and laughing with the bartender.”
“Spectacular. That’s what we need: a horny bartender.”
“The bartender is a woman, and if she’s horny for the congressman’s daughter, then I’m moving in for a
ringside seat. Shee-it, she is hawt.”
At the mention of a female bartender, Jasper’s head instantly filled with the image of Quinn, her whole
body shaking with laughter at something stupid he’d said before she leaned her elbows on the bar to get closer to
him as if even the air between them was too much distance to bear.
Until she’d run out on him six months later while he was OUTCONUS and put all the distance of the
world between them for good.
Annoyed, he shook off the memory like he longed to shake off the woman. That’s why he was here, right?
To exorcise the taste and feel and haunting memories of his wife on a willing woman.
Ex-wife.
A short-term, holiday affair was the perfect way to end the self-enforced abstinence he’d endured since
his divorce. Jasper was normally careful who he fucked, his career and his family history enough that he didn’t
treat sex as casual even when having casual sex. The one time he’d taken a chance on a wild lover, she’d
quickly become his wife and soon after broken his heart but good.
This temporary fantasy away from his shattered life was the perfect place to learn from his mistakes. And
make a few new, short-term ones.
“Was it ‘hot’ or ‘horny’ where we lost you, Queen?”
Twist’s voice held more than a thread of humor in it. If he made one comment over coms about Jasper
being hard up, best friend or not, he was going to kill him.
“Sit rep,” he snapped.
“You’re not CO on this op,” Twist reminded him with no small amount of glee. “Man, you should see this
bartender.”
Jasper rolled his eyes behind his aviator shades. “We’re on a job, Twist. Not on vacation or the prowl.”
“We’re on a job on vacation, Queen. And I take my wingman duties seriously for both. Relax. You can
count on me to Set. You. Up.”
“I’ll relax when you stop yapping in my ear while I’m getting paid to look after people who could buy or
sell small countries with their pocket change.”
“You better have more than change in your pocket, brother. Not kidding, Queen. You need to come over
here and check her out. She is smokin’ hot.”
“Happy as I am to hear you appreciate the staff, maybe you could spare the rest of us the play by play,
Sisti.”
Luke McBain’s terse voice made Jasper grimace. Thanks to Twist, he was getting chastised over coms.
Soon as they were off duty, he was gonna kick Twist’s ass.
“I could do for a little play by play,” one of the other guards admitted. “These political fuckers are boring
as hell.”
“These political fuckers are our well-paying clients,” McBain reminded everyone. “Try not to disrespect
them to their faces.” A series of “yes, sirs” flooded the com line. “Rehearsal’s over. We’re headed back to the
resort.”
Along with five of his guys, McBain was down on the beach guarding the principals—bride, groom,
attendants, and parents—while the rest of them babysat everyone not in the wedding party. That McBain’s wife
and her wedding planning partners were on the beach probably had a lot to do with his hands on approach at that
vector. “Queen, report.”
“Guests are bugging out from the patio, moving into the dining room. Got ten lingering.”
“Hustle them along. I want everyone under roof in five. Rocco, Johnny, and Marlowe, you three are in
Junonia’s main room covering the dinner. It’s a sit down, so stay out of the way, but remain visible. The rest of
you patrol the perimeter. Sisti, meet up with Queen on the patio. The two of you take position inside the
restaurant at the bar.”
“Sure you want Twist close to the hot bartender?” Jasper asked.
“I’ve seen the woman. If he hits on her, I’ll want a ringside seat. I could use a good laugh today.”
Jasper wasn’t the only man chuckling over the channel at that one.
He moved from his position at the back corner of the patio from which he could see all the way down to
the beach. Table by table, he gently urged people into the restaurant proper, waiting as the women gathered the
whatnot women everywhere seemed to cart around with them no matter the occasion. His go bag had less to it
than some of these women’s purses.
He felt Twist at his six as he helped an octogenarian to her feet and transferred her surprisingly strong
grip to the arm of a waiter. The old dame patted his ass before shuffling off.
“Please tell me you’re not that hard up,” Twist begged, and Jasper heard him in stereo; at his back and
again through the coms.
Damn it.
“Fuck off,” he muttered.
“Oh ho!” Twist chortled with an elbow to Jasper’s gut. “Queen’s losing his cool! Is the world ending?!”
“Keep it up and yours can be.”
Twist snorted, and Jasper would’ve been happier to see his friend up to his old tricks if only he wasn’t
the target.
“I can do you better than a biddy,” Twist promised.
“For the love of my sanity, don’t help me.”
“Gotta look out for my boy.”
“Try doing that by not discussing my sex life on open coms.”
“What sex life? You haven’t gotten laid in months.”
“You know wingman and stalker mean two different things, right?”
“Rumor has it, you’ve got the bluest balls on the team for a man without a pregnant wife or girlfriend. The
boys have bets on how long it’ll take you to nail someone this weekend.”
“I’ll take that action,” Ryan, on the perimeter, piped in.
“Me too,” added Rocco from inside the restaurant.
“Done,” Twist confirmed. “We’ll settle up after the dinner.”
“I’m not hitting on the bartender,” Jasper vowed. “Leave me out of this little clique.”
Twist slapped a consoling hand on Jasper’s shoulder. “Ladies like it when you know how to find that
part.”
Laughter rang on the coms again while Jasper shook his head. “I can’t believe this shit,” he muttered.
“Believe it. Consider Operation King Me underway.”
Jasper’s gaze hit on McBain, who waited for them at the patio door to the restaurant. “Shut it,” he ordered
even though he knew McBain already heard Twist’s nonsense in his ear.
“When Nick gave me your names, I had no idea we’d be getting security and a show,” McBain gibed.
Jasper bit back a grimace. McBain eyed Twist with a peculiar gleam that made Jasper uneasy. “You know, don’t
you?”
That nagging sense of trouble that had been prodding the base of Jasper’s skull all day finally burst.
“What did you do?”
But Twist looked equally confused. “Swear Roy, I have no idea what he’s on about.”
Boss or not, Jasper raised a brow at McBain in silent demand. He jerked his head in a “follow me”
motion and led the way from the patio into the restaurant’s bar.
“I thought it was coincidence or a joke. But my guys only finalized her background check this morning.”
Her? Alarm snaked up Jasper’s spine. Oh, hell no.
“They gave me the final report this morning,” McBain continued. “Not hard to see you share the same last
name.” He gestured toward the bar where a woman worked to fill cocktail orders. “Don’t suppose she’s your
cousin?”
Jasper watched her move, the dance of her motions unchanged from a year before, a sinuous weave that
only hinted at the flexibility she’d brought to their bed. He’d told her once he’d never seen anyone make pouring
a glass of wine look so sexy.
This was still true.
Her dark-brown hair hung past her shoulders now to the middle of her back, long layers that fell forward
to brush her sharp cheekbone when she bent over the bar to serve a drink. He knew how those strands felt when
gripped in his hands, or scraping down his belly as her wide, lush mouth mapped its way down his body to her
target.
She wore the standard server’s uniform of white top and black bottoms, but her collared, tuxedo shirt was
fitted to her impressive rack, emphasized by the two buttons she left undone to show the tempting gulley in her
cleavage. The shirt nipped in at her waist and what little of her black trousers he could see clung to her hips. A
long pearl necklace was twisted into a knot to dangle down her front and Jasper knew, he knew, she’d be
wearing her motorcycle boots, even to this kind of wedding. When she stretched for a bottle off the top shelf, the
banner of skin left bare at her midriff came into view and Jasper proceeded to completely lose his shit.
“You already know she’s not my cousin,” he snarled while rage flooded his body and instant arousal made
him hard as a spike. “She’s my wife.”

* * *

Nettie’s tray clattered onto the bar. “Holy shit,” she gasped, eyes fixed on the restaurant’s entrance. “Is it
Christmas already?”
Quinn glanced over her shoulder as a trio of men crossed the threshold. The last rays of sun shined
through the door behind them, blinding her and making the men little more than shadows. Large shadows with
broad shoulders.
Hoo. Shah.
She shielded her eyes and turned back to the blender. “We should send God a fruit basket.”
“Full of gold.” Nettie nodded toward the man on the end. “That’s Luke McBain. He does the resort’s
security. Very married to one of the wedding planners.”
“So looky, but no touchy.”
Nettie grinned. “Exactly.”
Quinn checked the men out again from the corner of her eye. All three wore black collared shirts tucked
into belted black trousers and topped with aviator glasses they removed almost simultaneously as they came
fully into the bar and approached the women. As classic a uniform for their job as her black and white get-up
was for hers. Standing nearly at the same six-foot plus heights—though the one on the opposite end from McBain
was an inch or two shorter—they were all armed, two with weapons in hip holsters while the guy in the center
sported a shoulder rig.
To Quinn’s mind, shoulder rigs were the sexy, Mad Men version of gun holsters. In a good way. Intensely
masculine but minus the infuriating sexism. So her eyes lingered on that man, skimming over his wide, muscular
chest framed within the holster’s leather strips while she absently noted he alone of the three had his sleeves
rolled up to the elbow. His thick throat rippled as she watched and sharp hunger spiked deep in Quinn’s belly,
the likes of which she hadn’t felt in more than a year. What looked like two days’ worth of scruff covered his
scarred chin, surrounding lips she’d bet were full and a shy short of too fleshy when not drawn into their current
tight line. Coasting past raised cheek bones, the hair on the back of Quinn’s neck lifted and her nipples
contracted into painful points as her avaricious gaze met eyes she already knew were a stunning golden hazel
when not darkened with swelling rage that made his pupil expand until the color was a mere glowing rim.
“Can you imagine having that in your bed every night?” Nettie said.
“I can, actually.” Quinn replied on little more than an exhale. The bottle of wine in her hands trembled.
She set it down on the bar with extreme care and deliberately laid her hands on either side of it before looking
up into the breathtaking, hard-set face of her husband.
Ex-husband.
“Fuck, Roy, but you can pick ’em,” the third man said as he settled onto a stool, seemingly oblivious to the
heaving tension.
Quinn ignored him. She knew better than to look away from the seething powder keg that was Jasper.
“You look like a recruitment poster for Badasses ’R Us.”
He stepped toward the bar as though seconds from yanking her over it. “You look like you’re on your way
to try out for the Coyote Ugly sequel.”
His friend split a grin between them. “Okay, now I believe she’s your wife.”
Ex-wife,” Quinn and Jasper snapped simultaneously, which made the man crack up.
“Cut it out, Twist,” Jasper growled.
This was Twist? She risked taking her eyes off Jasper, fascinated to finally meet his closest friend, though
it escaped her why it could possibly mattered after all this time.
Twist’s grin didn’t falter, but it didn’t reach his eyes, either, and the frank animosity there scorched her
skin.
Okay by her. Not like she was trying to make friends.
“Luke McBain.” The other man introduced himself with a warm smile. She tore her eyes from Twist and
reflexively accepted his proffered hand.
“Quinn McQueen,” she replied without thinking and immediately regretted it when Jasper’s entire torso
recoiled.
The tailored shirt rippled over his muscled chest, mesmerizing Quinn so that Jasper startled her when he
leaned those bare, cut forearms on the bar and got right back in her space.
Holy crap, arm porn. She was in no way prepared for her ex-husband’s delectable arm porn.
He glared at her hand still caught in McBain’s until she tugged it free. “Come again?” The sibilant
whisper coasted over her skin. Quinn caught her breath.
Even though his arrival right now, right here, and all that might mean scared the holy shit outta her, even
after all the bone-crushing, lonely days and weeks she’d spent without him, even now, that deep rumble of his
voice raised goose bumps on her arms.
“Jasp,” she whispered with absolutely no idea what to say beyond that or how to justify being Quinn
McQueen again without telling him that simply having his name was a comfort when she felt more lost than ever
before in her life.
His eyes flared with heat. They were close enough now for Quinn to see that ribbon of green gold around
his pupil glow bright. She locked her knees and clutched her hands together beneath the edge of the bar to keep
from grabbing him.
“You’re using my name again? Since when?”
“About a week ago,” she admitted, her voice small.
“For hell’s sake, why?”
Because I’m on the run from the Russian mob and the only place I’ve ever felt safe was with you.
Yeah, like either of them was prepared to detonate that cans of worms.
She forced herself to shrug. “I like the cadence.”
His hands spread wide on the wood. She half expected him to vault right over the bar. “You like the
cadence?” he hollered back, practically in her face.
She huffed out a breath. “It’s not like I expected you to find out about it! What are you doing here
anyway?”
He tossed an incredulous glance at McBain as though the answer were obvious. And to be fair, it kinda
was. “Searching for buried treasure.”
Despite his dry tone, Quinn’s eyes went wide at the thought of such an adventure. “Really?” she breathed.
“Jesus, no. I’m working security for the wedding.” He shook his head with familiar exasperation. “Christ,
you look ready to abandon everything to go buy shovels and rent a trawler.”
“Ah, is this gonna be a problem?” McBain asked.
Slowly, Jasper eased back from the bar. “That remains to be seen.” Quinn could see he was already
locking himself down, pulling those pesky emotions back under his control. He’d always been able to get over
her so easily when she’d barely been able to let him walk out of a room without her.
Guess nothing had changed on that front.
“What are you doing here, Quinn?”
Irritation quickly replaced her shock, and Quinn reclaimed her attitude along with it. “Uh, working.
Obviously.”
“And I’ve no doubt my wife would appreciate it if your impending domestic didn’t upset her high-society
wedding,” McBain warned without heat.
Quinn zoned back in on the unfinished tab before her. “Shit. Nettie, I’m sorry. Let me get you sorted.”
The waitress eyed her with rampant speculation. Quinn expected she and Jasper would be tasty fresh meat
for the locals when this got out. Say in five minutes. Or however long it took Nettie to speed dial the whole
world as she knew it.
Charity would have a cow not to have had first dibs.
“Don’t worry about it, hon,” Nettie reassured her, but Quinn was already dumping the trio of cocktails.
“These margaritas have settled. Take the wine out while I whip up a fresh batch.” Running the blender
would hold off Jasper’s impending interrogation, too, maybe long enough for her to come up with an explanation
that didn’t involve the words “Russian mob” and “murder.”
Because there was no way he was letting it go that easily. Jasper McQueen did not quit until he got what
he wanted, be it answers or his ring on her finger or her ass in his San Diego condo.
“Queen, you and Twist stay here for the duration of the dinner. Rotate out with one of the boys in the
dining room on the hour,” McBain ordered. “Time for me to walk the perimeter.”
She threw a look at him over her shoulder in time to see him give Jasper a shoulder clasp of male
solidarity.
Great. He had reinforcements.
“More bartenders are coming tomorrow with the catering staff for the wedding,” she explained needlessly
after McBain exited and Nettie toddled off. “But I’m it for tonight’s dinner, so I don’t have time for a chat.”
“I’ll wait,” Jasper promised.
Of course he would. “Ho-kay then.”
Since she couldn’t budge him and had zero hope of ignoring him, Quinn focused on the work. She finished
the margaritas as Nettie returned with a new order, all the while feeling Jasper’s accusing gaze locked on her,
his eyes tracking her every move as though she’d disappear if he blinked.
God, he looked good enough to eat.
Down girl. He wasn’t hers anymore, and while she might still look, not being able to touch would
probably kill her before the Russian mob did.
* * *
“So!” Twist broke into the charged silence with his usual delicacy. “How’d you crazy kids meet?”
“Vegas,” Jasper growled. “The last time you forced me on vacation. And no, it did not ‘stay there’.”
Twist’s disbelieving gaze switched back and forth between Jasper and Quinn. “That was only a long
weekend. You’re telling me you met and got married in four days?!”
Said like that, it sounded as nutso as it was. But Jasper had taken one look at Quinn in the bar of the
Bellagio that first night and knew there was no one else for him.
Shockingly, she’d felt the same.
For a little while.
Betrayal battled with rage for dominance and beat down the fuckin’ thrill that’d ripped through his chest
when he’d first realized Quinn was within reach again. He barely stifled the urge to drag her over the bar and
handcuff them together before she could leave him again.
He reached for his frayed control and found it in tatters. That had been the case with Quinn from the start.
The moment he laid eyes on all that was her—tits and ass and so much infectious attitude, she nearly vibrated
with it—he’d been wild for her.
Christ, two minutes around her and already she was driving him mad.
And he didn’t need an audience for that madness.
“You’re not being paid to guard that bar stool,” Jasper pointedly reminded his friend.
“Jeez, bring a guy to paradise for a vacation, and all he wants to do is work.”
“Vacation starts after we’re done with this job. A job that has to pay for that vacation given we’re on
enforced leave without pay.”
“You’re on what?!” Quinn said, pausing in her drink mixing to gape at him and Twist.
Jasper stifled a wince. Quinn had a rabid curiosity streak and tended to dig in exactly where he didn’t
want her. “Leave it.”
“Whoops,” Twist taunted. “Cat’s outta the bag.”
“You can cut that shit out at any time.”
“It’s hardly top secret intel. Unlike your marriage, apparently.”
Quinn grabbed a bottle of triple sec and shot him a look. “I know, right?!”
Jasper’s head tipped back so he investigated the ceiling. “And now you’re bonding. Spectacular.”
“Hey, pal, you’re the one who went to Vegas, married a superhot chick, and hid it from everyone you
know, including me. Inquiring minds wanna know.”
“I wanna know.” Jasper heard the anonymous mutter in his ear piece and realized with embarrassed shock
that he and Twist were still on coms. Christ, they were all a bunch of gossiping women.
He ripped the mechanism out of his ear and threw it across the room where it shattered a vase so
violently, Twist jumped. “Maybe you could do me a solid and hold off until after I find out how the wife I
haven’t seen or heard from since she ran out on me a year ago winds up in Barefuck Bay the exact day we do!”
That brought Quinn’s chin up. “Ex-wife,” she reminded him, unruffled by his uncharacteristic display of
temper. “And you left me first.”
Jasper’s hands curled into fists. The gall of the woman! “I was on a mission,” he gritted out between
clenched teeth, blood on a fast boil. “For my country.”
“Yeah, well, next time have the courtesy to let your wife know you’re leaving before you disappear for six
weeks!”
He set his feet and crossed his arms and practically read her mind when she swept him up in a glance and
smirked. The Patented Jasper McQueen Stubborn Stance. “Terrorists aren’t known for giving advanced notice,
babe. We go where we’re commanded to go, and when the intel comes in or the embassy is attacked or the
hostages are taken, we go fast. And it was eight weeks, which you would know if you had bothered to stick
around!”
Her eyes narrowed. “Maybe I would have, sweetheart, if I hadn’t found out from some reluctant secretary
at the yard when I called trying to find you that you didn’t even bother to tell the Navy you got married!”
Jasper’s retort was stymied by the beep of his watch alarm marking the hour. He hit the off button and
ordered Twist, “Go relieve Rocco.”
“We don’t switch out for another thirty.”
“Find something to do,” Jasper snarled. “Somewhere else.”
Twist made a show of getting up. “Sure I shouldn’t stick around in case you suddenly need an alibi?”
“Don’t need an alibi, ’cause when I kill you, it’ll be justified.”
“You love me. You know it.” He winked at Quinn, and then scuttled back as Jasper took two menacing
steps in Twist’s direction. “Calm down, Queen, I’m going. Gotta line up a bridesmaid anyway now the hot
bartender is off the market.”
“You should go with him,” Quinn advised after Twist had cleared the doorway, shutting the wooden
panels behind him to close them off from the party.
But Jasper had just realized this was the perfect chance for him to find out what the fuck went so wrong in
their marriage that she scuttled away like a fugitive without so much as talking to him. Had he pushed too fast for
too much? Had he frightened her? Or was it merely that he’d been her next wild ride and she’d never loved him
in the first place? It’d torn him up for months, wondering what he had done that was so wrong he chased away
the love of his life.
But now she was here. Now, he would know.
He planted his feet again, hands on hips. “Not going anywhere till I get some answers.”
It helped that the rehearsal schedule worked in his favor. The rehearsal guests had finally tucked into their
entrees making a break from cocktail orders. The wait staff made similar use of the lull and efficiently prepped
tables for the next course in the other room, which meant he and Quinn would be effectively alone in the bar
until the dinner ended.
He saw the moment Quinn realized he had her trapped.
She took a step back, grabbed the ledge behind her, and leaned back against her hands. The position thrust
her chest forward and lifted the edge of her blouse even further away from her low-slung trousers.
Rock, meet hard place.
Jasper knew she was too pissed at him to be deliberately trying to arouse him, but that didn’t reduce the
size of his reaction.
“Oh yeah?” she replied and fuck him, her sneer was such priceless Quinn attitude that, in spite of himself,
he had to fight off a grin and get a tighter rein on his hard on. “Like what?”
“Like why you’re using my name again when you told me—through the lawyers, because God forbid you
should talk to me—how eager you were to shed every trapping of being married, including my name.”
She shrugged. “I changed my mind.”
That ratcheted up his simmering rage so fast, he almost put his fist into the bar.
His narrowed gaze swept her from top to bottom. Her cheeks were flushed, enough that he could see the
heated flesh even in the dim light of the bar. She dodged his eyes too, which was a very un-Quinn thing to do…
unless she was trying to hide something from him. “Cut the crap, Quinn. You in trouble?”
His jaw clenched when her face went blank. That quick, she’d shut him out. If not for her body’s reactions
—reactions he suspected she had no clue she was giving him—he’d have thought her unmoved by his return.
“It’s really none of your business.”
“Bullshit.”
That cracked her mask. Irritated, her shoulders squared off. “Where the hell do you get off?”
“Where do I get off? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“No, Jasper, I am not fucking kidding you,” she said with an exaggerated patience that ramped him up
even more. “We are divorced. Dee-vorced. Who and what I am is no longer your concern.”
That did it. Jasper could practically hear the tether of his control snap as he vaulted over the bar, locked
his hands on her hips, and yanked her against him.
Her hands flew up on a gasp, but he was too fast for her to push him away, and they got caught instead
against his chest. Jasper took advantage of her open mouth and swooped in.
Her taste was narcotic. His mind fogged over and the burn in his chest exploded as he drank deep.
Somewhere along the way that day, she’d indulged in a shot of rum. He licked the spicy flavor from her lips and
dived deeper.

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Caught by surprise, Quinn had no time to put up her shields, shields she’d held fast even when he’d been
deep inside her, so he owned her mouth from the start and rubbed his tongue against hers in a slow rhythm that
belied his raging lust. She always wanted to rush to the finish and never more than when they were having sex,
laser focused on her orgasm and ready to get on with it. So he would bridle that instinct and instead prime her
with slow teases of what she’d get when he had her naked and spread for him. Blissful torture that only his
brutal training to become a SEAL had allowed him to endure, but she’d always, always, made it more than
worth it.
This time, slow was going to have to wait for round two.
Or three.
He lifted his mouth to give them half a second to catch a breath, nipping once at her bottom lip because he
couldn’t stand to lose her taste even for that long. She exhaled loudly through her nose and then took the
offensive, and it was her tongue in his mouth staking claim and filling Jasper with exultant satisfaction.
My wild lady.
One of her hands slid under his pit to grab his lat while the other plunged up into his hair to hold him to
her. The movement put them chest to chest and Jasper groaned as the hard points of her nipples poked him
through their shirts. She lifted her lips, tilted her head, and kissed him again, the new angle deeper and
astoundingly more intimate.
Crushed between them, her necklace rattled against his chest until it gave up the battle and split apart,
crashing pearls to the ground like scattered hail. He felt her back-of-the-throat whimper in his dick and squeezed
the bounty of her hips. She followed his silent direction by boosting her ass up onto the ledge so he could bump
her knees wide and finally, finally, shove his hard cock into the cradle of her covered pussy after being denied it
for twelve…fucking…months.
His arms crisscrossed the small of her back, brushing the edge of those low-slung pants so that his thumbs
skirted the top of her ass. He held her tight enough to make breathing a chore, and he didn’t care, he didn’t care
one damn bit, they could suffocate from kissing and that’d be fine by him, because he knew the second he set her
free, she’d be gone.
And he would not lose her again.
And then, as suddenly as it began, the kiss was over. They stood there, clutching each other, mouths as
close as possible without connecting, breathing heavily in shared astonishment, each unwilling to be the first to
shatter the moment and bring hard reality back to crash around them.
I missed you. The words ripped through Jasper’s soul. He’d missed her mouth, her tits, her pussy, her
deep brown eyes, the scar on her chin, her sharp tongue, and her ridiculous sense of humor. He missed how she
held him and how she took him and how she got him better than anyone, even Twist. He’d hear a pun and think to
text it to her knowing she’d never met one she didn’t like, only to painfully remember he’d blocked her number.
He’d go to a bar and expect to see Quinn behind it, so he stopped going out except when called to untangled a
teammate, and that immediately put Maverick back in his mind, and fucking hell, he did not need that right now.
She’d turned his world effervescent so that it fizzed with joy and laughter, like one of her drinks,
showered him with wild beauty and then wrenched it all away to leave him feeling utterly abandoned, something
he hadn’t experienced since his adoptive parents returned him to foster care only to keep his two younger
brothers as their own.
I missed you.
But Jasper knew better than to say that to Quinn. And that hole she’d left behind that had ached in his chest
for twelve long months rang hollow with renewed loss.
“You still kiss like a wet dream,” he muttered instead.
It was a mistake. Quinn immediately went stiff with insult and tried to yank free of him, but she’d never
been a match for his strength—though always more than a match with her tongue—and he braced to get the edge
of it and not in the way he wanted.
Instead, when his arms locked her in place, a deeply wounded look seeped into her dark brown eyes, eyes
that yet shimmered from their kiss. It pierced past betrayal and abandonment to stab Jasper right in his aching
heart. “You’re a son of a bitch, you know,” she whispered.
That was truer than she could realize. His hands cupped her jaw. I missed you. “What trouble are you in,
Quinn?” he asked again. His thumbs brushed her racing pulse, coaxing her to capitulation.
Not that it made a dent in his determined wife. She blinked, erasing any hint of that rare vulnerability, and
said, “Honestly, it’s none of your business,” and Jasper was done.
Enough fucking around. His fingers dug a bit deeper into her skin, enough that her mouth popped open
with an invitation he’d bet she didn’t realize was on offer. “Everything about you is my business, and you’re
gonna stay my business until one of us stops breathing no matter what goddamn name you’re wearing when we
do.”

Something Wild This Way Comes

15 May

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

It’s Wild Week here at Lady Smut! We’re celebrating the nomination of my novel, Wild on the Rocks, by InD’Tale Magazine for their prestigious RONE (Reward of Novel Excellence) Award in the category Best Suspense/Thriller: Short.

Click on image to vote!

The first step of the RONE nomination process is the public voting stage. I ask you, Lady Smutters, to kindly support my book for this award. Please go to http://indtale.com/rone-awards-week-five now to cast your vote for Wild on the Rocks in the Best Suspense/Thriller: Short category.

But wait, there’s more!

Welcome to the Lady Smut Wild Scavenger Hunt!

All week long, the Lady Smut bloggers will be sharing one wild thing they’ve done and one wild thing they’d like to do but haven’t yet. Then, you, lovely Lady Smutters, post in the comments of this post all the “wild” things you hunt down on the Lady Smut blog posts this week. All who comment will then be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card giveaway along with a copy of Wild on the Rocks! You can also be entered for the raffle by posting a screen cap confirmation of your vote for Wild on the Rocks.

And be sure to check in with Lady Smut on Thursday when I’ll be posting a brand new excerpt from Wild on the Rocks!

Something Wild This Way Comes…

In my family and with most of my friends, I’m known as the wild one. I am usually the first one to climb out on the cliff, the first one to ask the question, the one willing to try anything–within reason. The first guy I brought home when I was fourteen wore a leather jacket. My mother took one look at him and said to my father, “we are in trouble”. (BTW the guy turned out to be a total tool and my mother never stop needling me about him.)

Being the designated wild one always amused me because I’ve actually always been the good girl, endeavoring to get it right, follow the rules–and I am always, always afraid. Afraid of doing it wrong, afraid of disapproval, afraid of a conclusion I can’t anticipate or control, afraid of being punished for breaking the rules, however wrong those rules may be, ultimately afraid of “getting in trouble”. My best friend once said “Kiersten wants to be a rebel, but she keeps getting tripped up by the rules,” an eerily accurate description for the dichotomy of my personality: the Wild Good Girl.

Age has helped me get over the idea that being good and following the rules is some kind referendum on my character. A decent part of my adult life has been allowing myself to be free of those rules, or, more specifically, not to allow those rules to keep me from taking risks with long-term benefits for myself simply because they may not be looked upon as the right thing to do and/or may benefit the one over the many. Men make such decisions all the time; it’s expected of them, but when a woman breaks out in such a way, when a woman behaves in a manner traditional ascribe to the man’s role, it’s received with decidedly less favor. Socially, we’re expected to be self-effacing and modest, inclusive and without ambition, nurturing and unselfish. Standing up for ourselves and doing things that ensure our own happiness regardless of the opinions or judgments of those around us takes courage and verve and the ability to live with any potential fallout. It is, in effect, a wild move.

One of the wildest things I’ve done in my life is to travel abroad alone. I’ve done this twice–to Ireland in 1999 and to Italy in 2001 (a few months prior to 9/11)–long before women travelling by themselves became a regular topic in the The New York Times’ Travel Section. I love to travel and wanted particularly to visit both these countries, had longed to do so for many years. But I was never able to find a friend or partner equally ready and/or able to take the trip. So I finally decided, the hell with it. I’ll go on my own then. I was no longer willing not to do something, not to achieve a dream, simply because there was no one to do it with me.

It doesn’t sound very wild, does it? Not in today’s global climate where we’re all interconnect and the world is Twitterfied. But remember, there were no smart phones back then (I left my flip phone at home–both times). I had a digital camera with panoramic capabilities and that was considered pretty damn special. When the loneliness broke me halfway through my first trip, I called my mother from a cell phone booth on the west coast of Ireland–on her AT&T long distance card. Social media did not exist. By the time I got to Italy, Internet cafes were prominent because email was commonplace, but the full might of the Web had yet to become the lifeblood of every home. So stepping off a plane into a country you never before been in where you know no one and, in the one case, don’t speak the language, and you aren’t sure exactly where you’re going or staying from night to night, trust me, it felt pretty wild at the time. These are the things on which episodes for Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders are based.

For the past two years, I’ve been on a journey of physical self-improvement. I didn’t like my life–specifically, the limitations put on it by my physical restrictions–so I decided to change it. It’s an ongoing journey that I often get wrong, but as I walked around downtown Toronto last weekend in the rain, without having to stop and catch my breath, without having to rest every 30 or so feet, without each step being filled with pain and effort, without sweat dripping down my face from the immense effort of walking a straight line, I reveled in getting it right this time. Enough now that I can go back to being more than a bit wild.

So what’s something wild I *want* to do. Well, that list has been getting longer and longer, but top line are two things: sky diving and learning to drive a motorcycle.

I’ve been parasailing and loved it, so sky diving seems my next natural progression. And, I love to fly in planes; how much more awesome to fly in the sky (with a parachute for landing, natch)? As for the motorcycle, remember that first leather-jacket clad boyfriend? Not like this hasn’t been coming for a long time. My love for MC romances is well documented here at Lady Smut, so it’s hardly a surprise. And why ride pinion when you can drive (outside of being able to hold tight to a hot biker, of course)?

With any luck, there’s all sorts of wild out there yet to come for my future.

Click on image to vote!

Tell me something wild about yourself, some crazy thing you’ve done or have always wanted to do. Be sure to keep track of all the wild goings-on here this week at Lady Smut. And remember to get out the vote by going to http://indtale.com/rone-awards-week-five and voting for Wild on the Rocks!

Follow Lady Smut. We bring a bit of wild to everything we do.

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, has been nominated for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! 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!

 

 

 

It’s RT Week and the Sexy Is High

1 May

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

The RT Booklovers convention burns through Atlanta this week, a hot time in the old town tonight. This is an inauguration year at RT for Lady Smut, and, in true Lady Smut style, we’re kicking it off with the “Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever” special reader event filled with crowns and swag…and sexy confessions. Later in the week, those of us here at Lady Smut who are not blessed enough to be attending with share a few naughty confessions of our own with you lovely readers. So be sure to keep checking in with Lady Smut as we work to bring the sexy all week long…in Atlanta and beyond.

While our intrepid bloggers are winging their way southward to the RT convention, I’ll be headed to the Great White North for a long weekend in Toronto. Speaking of Toronto, how in the WORLD did I miss these hilarious ads from Harlequin? What ads, you say? I’m glad you asked…

They may not be Ellora’s Cavemen, but a  Toronto-based advertising company has put together these fantastic ad campaigns for Harlequin Books featuring every woman’s current favorite hero: the viking and the cowboy. Have you ever wanted to go bowling with a six foot six viking? Or have a romantic mid-day lunch with a hot cowboy–horse and all? Well, these ladies are living the dream.

The ladies are professional actors who are in on the joke–and comfortable with improvising–but it’s the expressions on people’s faces as they watch the date unfold that kill me, especially when the viking lifts the woman’s leg up to put on the bowling shoe. And the looks they get when they start making out after Viking man bowls a spare? I giggled, I won’t lie.

Or maybe your dream has been to ride down the middle of a major metropolitan city on the back of a horse, arms wrapped around you cow-poking honey, who comes complete with chaps and a lasso? Rope ’em, cowgirl. When he flips the coat check girl at the swanky urban restaurant a quarter to stable his horse, I cracked up. Most of the lunchers in this one are women, so the looks our romantic couple garner here are much more of the envious variety. And really, who can blame them?

Want more Make A Date with Harlequin action? Head over to the “Make a Date with Harlequin” event at RT this week on Thursday morning from 8:30 to 9:45 AM. This is a chance for readers to meet their favorite Harlequin authors, but who know? Maybe there’ll be a viking or cowboy making a romantic appearance! Come back here to Lady Smut and tell me/us who showed up to make your morning!

This isn’t this ad agency’s first foray into the fields of romantic tropes on behalf of the romance novel publisher behemoth. Last year’s campaign was about how you could carry a myriad of romantic heroes in your moderately sized purse, helpfully sprucing up the hours of your humdrum life. What will they come up with next year? Paranormal in the boardroom?

The marketer in me is tickled purple by the campaign. The feminist in me has issues, and not only because these women think girly giggles are the way to go here. I’m not thrilled with the stereotype that women who read romance are on the plump and/or homey side of attractiveness, nor do I adore that the idea is that this romance is fantasy and not that romance is feminist fiction (because, it is). But I’m amused and entertained enough to let my feminist pique take a Diet Coke break.

Whatever direction you’re headed in this week–north or south–be sure to stick with Lady Smut all the way. If you’re at the RT conference, check out our Never Have You Ever, Ever party…and bring along your naughtiest confessions.Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more! Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30.

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.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, has been nominated for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

This is Not Why We Need Diverse Romance–but it Sure Helps

24 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

There are a lot of reasons why #WeNeedDiverseRomance. We here at Lady Smut have discussed aspects of diverse romance regularly, whether it’s Alexa Day discussing the racial- and feminist-line blurring TV show Pitch or her examination of interracial romance through history or Thien-Kim Lam’s talking about #OwnVoices during #ReadHotter month, or my own look at the women who make America great, including the former first lady and the first Latina senator elected to office. Then there was Elizabeth Shore’s interview with Vikkas Bhardwaj who’s burning up romance covers and not only those covers with Indian or dark-skinned heroes. He’s challenging the need for white-washed heroes on romance covers regardless of the hero’s description on the pages inside. And we thank him for that. Oh do we ever.

We work to be a fuller, more rounded representative community here and not only when it comes to sexuality. I thought of that earlier today while trolling through Facebook (as one does on a Sunday afternoon) when I caught romance writer Zoe York’s post of a link to this delicious feature:

Gorgeous Asian Hunks Wearing Only Iconic Costumes Will Make You Thirsty AF

Well now, thought I, here’s my Lady Smut post for tomorrow.

Why yes, please do tell me more.

Whether they’re shirtless food vendors from Malaysia or smoking hot firefighters in Taiwan hosing themselves down with water, we here at NextShark can appreciate a hunky Asian man.

Thai portfolio service SKiiNMODE takes sexy snapshots that combine Asian culture with some of the continent’s most attractive guys, RocketNews24 noted.

Um, gulp.

Now, I myself, personally, am not a huge fangrrl of Asian cultural. I don’t like Asian food, or more accurately, my body doesn’t like it, and I seriously dislike anime. My cultural jones is firmly Celt and  British situated, for the most part. Thankfully, food and anime are only two minor aspects of Asian culture. There’s a ton of things to explore as with any culture, and I readily admit that samuri and geisha history fascinate me. I’m also fond of a great deal of Asian artwork and architecture.

Click on image to buy!

My romantic suspense addiction is likewise intrigued by the whole mafia/Yakuza genre. Criminal clubs/gangs/societies trip my trigger, I won’t lie, which helps explain my MC romance addiction. One of the things I loved about Anne Stuart’s fantastic dark romance, ICE series (which, if you haven’t yet, you must read–in fact, I just interrupted writing this post to one-click the hell outta the series and I already have every single book on my bookshelf in paperback) is her Asian bad ass heroes. Fire and Ice, book five of the series, has a defrocked Yakuza hero and takes place entirely in Japan, a culture of which the author is an admitted devotee. Stuart doesn’t take the tourist angle here either. Pursued by the bad guys, the hero and heroine go outside Tokoyo into the nitty-gritty aspects of Japanese society you can’t find on the NatGeo channel or with hours of devotion to Mortal Combat or Bruce Lee movies. I was just as intrigued by the Japanese culture Stuart utilized as I was by the story.

But holy hotness, SKiiNMODE. I think you just broke me.

Any of these chiseled examples of male perfection could easily storm the heart and attitude of the sassiest romance heroine regardless of cultural association on either person’s part. SKiNMODE also features gender-bending ideas for Ghost in the Shell geisha assassins and a male Elektra that would revive that sad franchise with one steely look. And who knew Power Rangers could exude so much sizzling sexuality. Morph me.

You can follow SKiNMODE on Instagram and Facebook and, bless them, there’s even a Tumblr page that gives a whole new meaning to NSFW.

You can thank me later.

Don’t forget that we’re going to be at RT this year.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll happily morph all your cultural jones.

It’s coming fast. No, not the virgin heroine’s first orgasm. Rather, the Lady Smut big RT event is less than two weeks away! Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more! Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30.

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

Exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Monday Morning Meeps

17 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

That’s “meeps” lovely Lady Smutters, not “Peeps”.

I get the confusion, especially on this Easter Monday when, if you’re a person who celebrates the Easter holiday (which I am) you have church and family (and wine because of the same) hangover like nobody’s bidness. This is also the day Easter candy is half off everywhere, praise Jesus, so Peeps are definitely more front and center of one’s mind, those lovely sugar confections that look so adorable right before you bite off their heads.

Perhaps, that’s just me.

My standard post-Easter, half-priced stash is usually chock full of Cadbury eggs (mini and regular sized) and Starburst jelly beans because YUM.

Alas, this year my Easter Monday hangover is more melancholy tinged than Moscato flavored. This was my first Easter without my mom who passed away quite suddenly in January. Easter was her most treasured holiday and she raised us to infuse it with the same importance and fervor. We always come home for Easter–even when I was student at Oxford, I came home for Easter. As her care-giver for the last nine years, I found myself particularly at a loss the need to logisticate the trappings of the holiday for us. (Yes, that’s a made-up word; No, I don’t care.) For the first time in memory, I only had…well, me.

Meep.

This loss has not only infected my holy day, it’s also been a drag on my motivation and general impetus to do or accomplish anything. My day job keeps me busy, but downtime is peppered with a lot of boredom, Facebook haunting, and general staring at the walls. A lot of this is absolutely normal, and I get this, I know this, but finding ways to function and move forward when the structure of my world has forever been altered is–look, it’s fucking hard, okay? Not exactly a revelation, right?

Maybe I should’ve called this post “navel-gazing Monday”.

Life keeps moving on, trite but true. It boggles my mind. Surely, the world should be different. This cataclysmic thing has happened to my family, to me. The sky should be a different color, right? The earth should missed a shift in its rotation, yeah? Lord knows, my world certainly has shifted irrevocably. How can everything just keep…moving on? I still have deadlines. I still have blog posts to write (even if this one is late today–sorry, gang). I still had Easter and soon Mother’s Day (save me from Hallmark holidays) and ultimately my birthday and further on Christmas. I still have dreams and wants and needs to do and go and be.

I still have a story of which I am yet its heroine. One that is far from finished no matter my lack of motivation.

Despite efforts to the contrary, I spent Easter Sunday morning with my proverbial cotton-tailed butt in bed with breakfast and my kitties watching STAR WARS: Rogue One. It had its own kind of holiness and in hindsight, was exactly what I needed, a wee bit of wallowing with some comfort crutches. We all cope in our own unique ways. Mine, apparently, requires space ships and heroes. That, too, is hardly a revelation.

Follow Lady Smut. We’re happy to be your comfort crutch whenever you need us.

 

Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30.

 

 

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!

Motor City Romance

10 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

In February, I had surgery and spent six weeks on short-term disability from the day job. Mostly, this time was spent staring lifelessly at the T.V. screen or buying needless crap online to off-set my ennui. I also did a helluva lot of reading, some of which was spurred by .99 offers here and there. So writers, if you’re wondering if those discount sales do you any good, as a reader, I’m here to tell you they do.

A couple of these offers led me to new-to-me series by authors not new to me but not on my auto buy list either. One is the Motor City Royals series by Jackie Ashenden.

Look! Three Blurbs!

Dirty for Me

Click image to buy!

Ezekiel “Zee” Chase has a complicated past. Born into a family whose wealth grew from the seedy world of big-time crime, he ran away as a teenager and made a home for himself on the streets of Detroit. By day, the mechanic works at a local garage. But by night, he throws down with the best of them in Detroit’s gritty underground fighting scene. With all those muscles, he’s never had trouble with women–until he meets one who challenges him to the greatest fight of his life. . .

Tamara Eliot is a hardworking corporate high-flyer who appreciates the finer things in life, from her expensive perfume to her designer handbags. More than anything, though, she likes to be in control–and when Zee explodes into her life, she feels anything but. He’s the definition of a bad boy: brash, fiery, and of course, irresistibly hot. And there’s a darkness about him that keeps her coming back for more. As Zee takes Tamara deeper into a world she never knew existed, she just might prove to be the one opponent he won’t be able to dominate–at least not without some pleasurable convincing . . .

Wrong for Me

Click image to buy!

After eight years in prison, Levi Rush is finally out and back on the gritty streets of Detroit to claim the future he was owed. A future that includes the one woman he’s wanted for years—his former best friend Rachel. She’s the reason he went inside and if getting her to do what he wants means buying the building that houses her tattoo studio and using it as leverage, then that’s what he’ll do. Because if there’s one thing he’s learned inside it’s that if you want to win, you have to play dirty.

Rachel Hamilton is a tattoo artist and one hell of a tough girl. Detroit is her home, and she’s determined to make it a better place. But her plans are threatened when her old friend Levi reappears and gives her an ultimatum: she gives herself to him body and soul, or else she and her business are out on the street. Levi’s got no room in his heart for anything but anger and the lust he’s been carrying around for so long. But the only thing stronger than the secrets of their shared past is their fiery attraction to each other . . .

Sin for Me

Click image to buy!

It was anything but easy, but Gideon Black has finally managed to create a safe haven for himself on the gritty streets of Detroit. He worked hard to get on the straight and narrow, pulling himself up from an underground crime syndicate before it consumed him completely. But the past isn’t staying put, and now that it’s come calling, it’s not after him, but the woman he considers the closest thing he has to family . . .

Zoe James has always loved Gideon more than anything in the world. She knows he only wants to keep her safe, but his overprotectiveness has taken over her life and it’s got to stop. She’s sick of him treating her like a little girl, but is she woman enough to handle the truth when it finally comes out? As old enemies close in, a complicated but undeniable passion is growing between them. Gideon tries to hold on to Zoe and keep her safe, but he may have to let her go in order to save them both . . .

Okay, so there’s a lot going on in this series, that’s clear. And yeah, I inhaled the first two in as many days and paid full price for the third the day it was released (which, at agency pricing, is a BFD for me, but that’s a different post) and slurped it right up. This series has a couple of tropes that are serious catnip for me, but also a couple just slightly off the main path choices that intrigued me.

Here are the Top 5 things I dig about Motor City Royals:

#5 Those Covers:

Let’s talk about those covers for a minute. Ya know what? Let’s let ’em speak for themselves, because, holy hotness, are they saying a lot. Admittedly, in real life, they’re a little too young and a little too lean for my tastes, but as book covers, ya huh. Particularly digging that ink. Hard.

#4 Detroit

Perhaps given away by the series title, these books are set on the wrong side of Detroit. Now, pretty much the only thing I know about Detroit is from attending a wedding in the Detroit suburbs a gazillion years ago, Motown music, and news reports in recent years about the city’s dramatic decline. So my expertise is zilch. It’s definitely not a place I think of as a natural fit for a romance series, which is my bad, obviously. Ostensibly, there’s not a lot of flash and draw to that setting, but going by Ashenden’s series, that’s our loss for missing out. Ashenden stays away from easy Detroit stereotypes and shows the city through the love of its inhabitants, her characters, who are loyal to and incredibly protective of their turf.

#3 Super sexy times

Leading with those covers, it’s clear this is not a tame series when it comes to sexy times. But while those times are hot and drrrrty, there’s a whole lotta sweetness and charm deep down

#2 Family is what you make it

This series is rooted in the mechanics shop run by Gideon Black, the defacto Big Brother of the lot. Throughout all three books, everyone is rooted back to the garage, back to Gideon. For Gideon, for all six of them, each with a murky past and murkier blood families, this is the family that they’ve made together, and how their actions and decisions may or may not affect that family is a strong thread through all three books.

#1 Rich Girl/Boy from Wrong-Side, Reunited Lovers With a Grudge, and Friends to Lovers…this series has three of my absolute favorite Romancelandia tropes. Ashenden hits my trifecta and does it hard and dirty. This series runs with high emotional stakes coasting alongside life-changing decisions and rife with secrets and lies that could wreck any family, even one that chose each other.

Do yourself a favor. Rev up your engines and get your groove on by checking out the Motor City Royals

Follow Lady Smut. We know how to rev all your engines.

Let the Confessional Games Begin!

Have you ever had mad monkey love on a motorcycle? A three-way in an alley? Been tied to a tree and made someone’s sex slave? Have you never, ever, never done any of this? Be rewarded for your naughty or sweet past and win crowns, fetish toys, books and more at the Ladysmut.com special reader event, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. at the RT Booklovers Convention. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

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 Uncomforatble Intimacy of Audio Books

3 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Last week, Lady Smut blogger Madeline Iva titillated us with tales from the Virginia Love Fest panel with the men who read romance…or perhaps that was just me. Had I been there, hearing the one guy say most of the time, “it’s like: ‘Up on the hog babe, let’s go for a ride.'” would have generated a mini-orgasm on the spot. I won’t lie. But I haven’t entirely made it through the accompanying video of the panel and here’s why: it all kinda makes me squishy and not in a good way. I too dig the deep and sexy man reading voice. Hoo. Shah. Maybe that’s the whole problem.

This is the thing about audio books, something I wholeheartedly support and appreciate. I don’t listen to audio books. Like, at all. I like music when I drive, mostly because I get into a zone and let my brain works on its own pathway, especially on long trips. When I have listened to books while I drive, I do a lot of rewinding because I miss things due to zoning out. Then, if I’m listening while commuting to the day job, I don’t want to stop once I get there (providing it’s a good book, and it almost always is).

A few years ago, I went through an audio book stage. I got all the Outlander and all the Harry Potter books on CD from the library and, one by one, loaded them first onto my compute and then onto my iPod. (Then, shortly after, my brand new iPod crashed and I vowed never to buy an Apple product again, but that’s another story.) I listened to each and every one of them and I loved them. How had I not been listening to audiobooks all this time? This was the BEST THING EVAH.

Mind you, this was before Wispersync and Kindle Fire and the Kindle app–I don’t even think smartphones were all that common at the time either. It was big, expensive CDs that you were better off getting from the library. As  I did.

So I was hooked. I got some murder mysteries out and continued “reading” in this way.

Then I tried a romance.

Big mistake. Huge.

I got Linda Howard’s Cry No More from the library and plugged it in. Here, for the first time, I had an audio book with two narrators, a man and a woman, each reading the POV chapters for their respective hero and heroine of the story.

I was a huge Linda Howard fan in the 80s and 90s but hadn’t read her in a long while, so I thought I give this a chance. I didn’t like the book at all, it’s slow and boring, and maybe that’s because I was listening to it and not reading it in my own mental voice. The narrators were competent, the story just dragged.

And then came the sex scenes, read in both the male and female narrators voices. Together.

It majorly squicked me out.

Romancelandia deals with a lot of crap accusations of being porn for women, an accusation to which a vehemently object. Listening to the audio version of Cry No More, I had to check myself. Because I felt like I was listening to porn. Transferring the sex and romance scenes from the page to real men and women reading the words for me, out loud, transformed the entire “reader” experience for me and not in a good way. I was disturbingly turned and seriously uncomfortable, but not in a “damn, that was a good scene” way, rather in a “I should not be listening to these two people bang” way.

This, I think, is the uncomfortable intimacy of an audio book. When we read, it’s private. We’re in our own heads imagining our own versions of what were reading, what the author has crafted for us to sink into. When it’s suddenly read aloud, it’s completely different (duh, right?), and I wonder now if that difference transforms the material and/or the experience into something else. Especially having a man read the hero parts, like boy! howdy! does it make the goings-on super intimate. Like I was right there and not as a participant. Welcome to Voyeursville via audio books.

Now, I’ve changed a lot in the years since I listened to Cry No More, and I can’t say that I’d have the same reaction I did back then, but that reaction was strong enough that I haven’t had the desire to listen to a romance or any other sort of book since.

Back in April of 2013, Lady Smut blogger Elizabeth Shore wrote about her uninspired experience with audio books. She had a much less satisfying experience.

“Taking the first point, about the performance, leads me to think that the romance audiobook clip I listened to made me feel squishy because the performance was as enthralling as watching paint dry. Or perhaps, in this case, listening to paint dry, meaning there was no performance whatsoever. The reader made the decision to be dry and unemotional. It may work for some, but for me it was a complete snooze with a dash of discomfort. If the hero is baring his soul and revealing his issues and declaring his love well, damn it, I want emotion.”

For her there wasn’t enough intimacy offered by the reader/performer. For me, too much.

Thinking about this post this week made me realize how readings of our own books aren’t that much different. I did my first reading last summer at The Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, CA for the Orange County Lady Jane’s Salon. I was beyond thrilled to burst my live reading cherry at the only romance bookstore in America. I had an absolute blast. One man even said that even though it wasn’t his kind of book, I was the best reader and had the best content of the four of us authors who read (but he’s my sister’s partner, so he has to say that).

But I also chose a scene to read that would make my story seem enticing (and had swear words and naughty talk, because, it’s me) but it was not a super sexual scene that would squick people out to hear read live and in person by the creator (aka, moi) and/or make my face turn red against my own internal wishes. Dang physical reactions!

Our own Rachel Kramer Brussel wrote last year about why she reads her erotic romances to live audiences.

“I’ve found that audiences are incredibly hungry to hear people talk about sex in public in an honest, open, unashamed way. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction, or what the exact details are: if you stand up in front of a crowd of people and are talking about getting naked, people will listen.”

Well, yeah. Duh again. But people who attend erotic readings are indeed prepared for what they get and are going for those reasons. Of course, if you’re listening to a romance novel as an audio book, you should know that you’re going to get the same heat in your ears that you once consumed through your eyes. And having the many, many intimate and sexual scenes in the Outlander novels read to me didn’t bother me one iota. It was adding in the male narrator and having the narration become a two-pronged, back and forth exchange complete with inflections and emotional heft–I need a cold shower stat.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all in any way shape or form against audio books or suggesting they’re porn or inferring that we shouldn’t have romance novels on audio. Surely, you know me better than that by now. Only that I, for one, was shocked but the unexpected intimacy that came from listening to a romance novel and it made me so uncomfortable, years later it’s made me have zero desire to listen to another.

I guess I like reading and talking about my romance…I just don’t want to listen to it. Which, judging from those male book readers, is my very big loss.

Coming to the RT Booklovers Convention? Join the Ladysmut.com bloggers for a very special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/ event/never-have-you-ever- ever-ever

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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, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

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.

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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!

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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, 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.

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