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NEVER SWEETER: The Sweet Darkness in Charlotte Stein’s Dark Obsessions Trilogy

9 Mar

This one is going into my “special” kindle folder. ; >

by Madeline Iva

We posted a fun excerpt from Charlotte Stein’s story NEVER BETTER last Sunday.  NEVER BETTER is the final book in her Dark Obsession trilogy, so of course, I read it first, and then worked my way backwards, cause I’m perverse like that. I gobbled down NEVER BETTER like a chocolate chip cookie and advise you to do the same.  Now I’d like to take you on a journey through the open-mouthed, kindle-clutching, eye-squeezing moments I had while reading NEVER SWEETER, the first book in the series.  How to do so without delivering any spoilers is gonna be hard, but here I go…

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE GOES TO THE DARK SIDE

What really keeps a man and a woman apart these days if they want to be together? Not much. After plundering the treasure chest of meet-cutes and other fabulously quirky ways to bring two people together and then keep them apart for two hundred odd pages, contemporary romance has gone to the dark side.

I personally blame paranormal romance.  Let’s face it–paranormal romance is just so much easier.  Look at the obstacles a heroine faces—Example: “He’s a vampire who’s killed THOUSANDS of people and he’s hundreds of years older than me.  How could we ever be together?” it’s a really messed up situation.

CRAZY-WRONG “I’D HAVE TO BE INSANE TO BE WITH SOMEONE AS EVIL AS YOU” SITUATION= STRONG ROMANTIC ROAD BLOCKS = LOTS OF ROMANCE FEELS & GREAT TENSION

After all, 50 Shades was based on a paranormal romance, wasn’t it?  E.L. James just fished around for a modern day ‘real’ equivalent for a evil-but-not-really, self-loathing, brooding hero.  She came up with a billionaire sadist, around the same time other authors were also plonking down flags into anti-hero territory. Do we want to blame 50 Shades for all the motorcycle clubs, hit-men, crime families, and other anti-hero-ish trappings that are so popular these days? No, but I think the E.L. James phenomenon illustrates a sweeping trend, and Charlotte Stein has taken some steps down the same path.

BUT CHARLOTTE STEIN ISN’T LIKE THAT! SHE’S SO SWEETLY DIRTY…

But maybe sometimes she isn’t. INTRUSION and some of her other works have strayed from abused heroines into more plum-colored territory. Which brings us to NEVER SWEETER.  Let’s look at the blurb:

Letty Carmichael can’t believe her eyes when she catches a glimpse of her high school tormenter, wrestling champ Tate Sullivan, on campus. College was supposed to be her escape from Tate’s constant ridicule. Now he’s in her classes again, just waiting for his chance to make her life hell.

skipping, skipping, skipping…

Loving him is impossible. Craving him is beyond all reason. So why can’t she stop?

Falling in love with your high school bully is messed up, peopleKids, don’t try this at home.

However, line by line Stein just sucks you in.  Great dialogue, great side-kick friend, very specific descriptions of torments she endured and then Tate — a classic Stein-i-an hero, just takes over.

What do we like about Tate? We like that he’s open, agreeable, and fast on his feet.  We like that he’s hotness plus, and can read people–especially the heroine–quickly.  We like that he’s a sexual beast wrapped up in a Nice Boy package–but is he really trustworthy?  It’s that last part that keeps readers furiously turning the pages and riding all the highs and shocking lows.

Why was he such a monumental dick? This is the big answer we need to know. Stein gives you answers, and then sweeps on by.  Do we believe these answers–ah! This is where she’s brilliant, because doubts may  linger, and she plays upon these same doubts later.

I just went through such a roller coaster of emotions with this book.  It really was so incredibly sweet at points–which is what I do look for from Stein–and so sweetly filthy at others–which is what I relish about Stein–and at other times it was kinda like a horror movie.  There’s a Carrie reference and it’s seriously well earned.

I think at one point I shouted “No!” in shock.  At another point I kinda cried, almost.  The whole time I felt as guilty as the heroine for being so sucked into a kind of situation that I would NEVER EVER EVER!!!! endorse in a million years in ‘real life’.

So go buy it already.

Meanwhile, I got the skinny from Charlotte Stein about RAW HEAT — her so good it hurts post-apocalyptic romance that’s out of print right now. Talk about bullying! It’s really unfair clobbering my friends and even total strangers over the head for not having read RAW HEAT if it’s not even in print. Stein has said she’s going to re-pub it in a collection with some of her other post-apocalyptic/paranormal stuff.  So happy about that. Soon none of you will have any excuse.

Okay, I’ve started going into Charlotte Stein withdrawal, so I’ll sign off for now.

Follow us at Lady Smut–if you want to.  It’s your own choice.  Really. We’d never bully you about it.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

Real Life Christian Grey Talks BDSM & Fifty Shades

15 Feb

Hello readers!  We have a guest post for you today from A.C. Rose–an interview republished TheThreeTomatoes.com. Find out more about A.C. Rose’s writing and her book about 50 Shades at her website. Check out her facebook group 50 Shades of Grey Fans.unnamed

Shades of Al Daltrey: Talking About BDSM with a Real Life Christian Grey

As “Fifty Shades Darker” plays in theaters around the world women are once again thinking of Christian Grey, BDSM and sexually dominant males. I felt it my journalistic duty to bring you an interview with a man who knows about it all, first hand.

Al Daltrey is a real life Dom who lives the lifestyle and also writes strong BDSM erotica. His books come with a warning label and are not traditional erotic romances, yet he has gained a following of female fans that appreciate his unapologetic peek into the world of BDSM. You might even say it brings some of them to their knees.

By day, Daltrey dons a suit and tie, and works in marketing. In 2014 he opened his laptop and somewhat accidentally launched a second career as an erotica author, penning his first book, Testing the Submissive. He admits it is “more extreme” than anything he would ever consider doing with a real life submissive, yet readers say the story makes them tingle in all the right places.

There is a line in that book that, to my mind, sums up why women love to read about powerful Alphas. “Experienced and mature dominants always have an understated confidence,” he writes. “There is no need to flaunt their power.” There is something very sexy about men, real and fictional, who own their power.

His second novel, A Condo With Two Views, is written from the point-of-view of both the Dom and the Sub. His most recent books are, Pain, Pleasure, and Purpose: Pleasure (Book One) Pleasure) and Pleasure, Pain or Purpose: Pain (Book Two).They tell the story of three best friends who help each other navigate life, loss and love…and lots of kinky sex. “I poured everything I had into this story,” says the author.

It’s not often you get to pull up a chair and talk to a real life, happily married, sexually dominant male, so we appreciate Al taking the time to answer some of our burning questions.

AC ROSE: What exactly is a male dominant?

AL DALTREY: First, let me say: definitions are not always universal.  Ask 25 people the difference between a liberal and a conservative and you will get 25 different answers. All my answers in this interview are my personal opinion based on my personal experiences. Others in the BDSM lifestyle may disagree, and that is fair.  For this question, I assume you mean a sexual dominant. The simple definition is: a person, male or female, who takes control during consensual sex. The submissive of course, relinquishes that control.

And what is exactly vanilla sex?

Vanilla sex is simply regular, normal, healthy non-BDSM sex.  Or, even more simply…non-kinky sex. It is a term that became popular within the BDSM lifestyle to describe sex between those who are not in the lifestyle.

So from your perspective, can a sexually dominant male enjoy both?

Absolutely.  Personally, I have always loved great vanilla sex. I may practice BDSM, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy vanilla sex too. BDSM became the icing on the cake.  In a good healthy sexual relationship, there are nights where a couple wants the lovemaking to be soft, tender and romantic.  Another night, for kinky fun, they might employ bondage and spanking.  The point is, it’s not all or none. There is room for both.

How did you find yourself on this path, personally? And are you currently in a power exchange relationship?

I was born with it. I know that for a fact. Growing up, the fantasies and inclinations were there. That said, for me, consent is key. I do not believe in force, and do not find force arousing in any way.  Today I am very happily married to my beautiful wife.

Female sexual submission is a controversial topic. Some see female submission as a weakness yet many women find role play satisfying and they obviously like reading about it too.

During my lifetime I’ve been lucky enough to meet my fair share of submissive women. And don’t for a minute think these women were weak. Outside the bedroom they were confident, opinionated, gregarious and self-assured. In fact, many of them were successful executives or professionals. At the workplace, they kicked butt. However, inside the bedroom (so to speak) they wanted to feel the strong firm hand of a dominant man taking complete control.

What got you started writing erotic books?

I started writing because of an interest in BDSM, not because of an interest in writing. One day, I flipped open my laptop and starting writing a kinky BDSM story, not really thinking about where it would lead. Soon I had 20 pages, then 40, then 60 and I knew I was on my way to my first novel.  I heard about self-publishing, so cleaned it up and uploaded it onto Amazon. The reaction seemed positive, and soon I had a Street Team on Facebook helping me promote the book.

Erotic romance is a huge now. Do you find as many readers who just want to read about kinky sex for arousal?

In my view, the market for erotic romance novels is far bigger than the “kinky sex for arousal” market.  The latter market scours the internet for sites such as Literotica to get their fix.  There are exceptions of course.  Some novels do well.  But generally, I believe the kinky sex market is remarkably small.

Since you are writing as a sexually dominant male, what do think women hope to learn from your books, and from you?

I worry about that. My books are not intended to “teach” anything about the BDSM lifestyle. They are intended simply as fiction. A story. I worry when people read my books hoping for a glimpse into the real BDSM lifestyle.  My books have a lot of stuff that I don’t condone.  Just like action movies are exaggerated, so are BDSM novels.  People should read my books for fun, not for education.

Is the sex in your novels rough because that is what your readers want?

It’s not that I’m trying to cater to what the reader wants but in storytelling almost everything is exaggerated for dramatic effect. In a cop story we see these wildly spectacular car chases where 10 Police cars chase a car through crowded streets at speeds of 200 mph. In a medical drama the Doctor heroically saves countless lives.  In a sports movie the athlete scores the winning goal with two seconds left.  Think of every single Hollywood movie you know. So, with a BDSM novel, the same applies. The tasks that the submissive must perform are exaggerated for dramatic effect. It’s fantasy. So, in my books, the sex scenes are intensified as is the case in every other genre.

Your reading audience is primarily women. Some would like to turn their vanilla mates into dominant males, or at least get them to experiment. Any advice on getting guys to try new things?

To answer a question like that would take pages, and even then, it varies by person/couple.  I’m not sure I can provide a succinct answer.  There is some information on my blog.  As I say in my blog: not all men are born with a dominant gene. With those men, I’m not sure that there’s any hope.  Those men who have the underlying qualities – at least there’s hope. Someone could probably write an entire book on this, lol.

Do people call you master?

As mentioned, I am happily married and have been for some time. My wife does not call me “Master” no. Nor do we discuss our personal lives in any kind of detail. I can tell you that I have been called “Master,” and it’s actually a lovely feeling. Obviously it is commonly used in a scene, but also it can be a nice endearment among two people who live the lifestyle.  He might say, “Sleep well my little pet,” and she might say, “Goodnight Master.”  Like anything, if terms of endearment are overused they become goofy.  We’ve all been around couples who make us gag because they are so lovey-dovey.  But used properly “Master” can be a great word. I’m not sure if your question was poking fun at the term…but I hold it in high regard.

Learn more about Al Daltrey.

Find Al Daltrey books.

Visit Al Daltrey’s Erotica BDSM virtual community.

A.C. Rose is a love, romance, and entertainment columnist and author of steamy romance books. Her Latest book is AROUSAL

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Only .99. Click to buy.

 

Allison Monroe just got kissed on an elevator.

But she has no time to be distracted by this gorgeous man, with his panty-melting glances and sexy accent. She’s headed to the most important event of her career—a launch party for the new “My Fantasy e-Reader” at Club Kismet, high atop a Manhattan Skyscraper.

She’s determined to forget about the amatory elevator ride.

But Nicolai Petre has other ideas. That kiss confirmed what his grandmother’s vision had already told him—that Allison is his destiny.

He’s determined win her love but has only six days to prove they are meant to be. So he must keep her in a state of… AROUSAL.

We Saw Fifty Shades Darker So You Don’t Have To

11 Feb

by Elizabeth SaFleur & Madeline Iva

Happy Weekend! We’re here to share with you all our thoughts after seeing FIFTY SHADES DARKER at the movie theatre last night. fifty-shades-darker

Madeline: I loved seeing that group of women who all came into the theatre wearing masks. In fact, my role here is to see the film with eyes of love.  To understand why women love it, why it’s so ridiculously successful.

Elizabeth: This blog post also could be titled, Fifty Scenes of Dakota’s Boobs. Or Fifty Shades of Mixed Messages.

Madeline: You’re in a mood this morning.  I can tell.

Elizabeth: I don’t hate the Fifty Shades franchise. I don’t love it either. I’m neutral, though I was really hoping Hollywood did a better job of portraying the lifestyle than they did previously. Of course, I recognized this story, from the get-go, isn’t a BDSM erotic romance at all.

Madeline: I mean, I agree.–But what is it then?

Elizabeth: It’s a story of a man with PTSD from his childhood who channels his angst by engaging in supposed sadism (I don’t think he’s really a sadist, by the way) with submissives. He meets an ordinary girl who sends this man mixed signals. But she would. She’s in her early twenties and still figuring herself out. But, Jesus, the back and forth!

All that chest--and no touching it. I would go mad.

All that chest–and no touching it. I would go mad.

Madeline: Yes, she’s still figuring it all out.  Jackie and I talked about that with the first movie. This is a strong message that’s getting out into the world these days and I applaud it.  You hear that men? Women are not playing games.  They’re not f**king with you.  They’re trying to figure it out, okay? And sometimes it’s not easy.

Elizabeth: I get why people love 50 Shades. Billionaires, mild kinky scenarios—

Madeline: Yay to mild-kink! Or, as I like to call it, Kinky-lite.  We need t-shirts.  I’ll get my people right on that.

Elizabeth: –especially if you’ve not been exposed before. People also love the luxurious settings, a man changed by the love of a woman. That trope is old as the hills.

Madeline Iva: As old as the hills–and yet there are real haters out there.  Haters who love romance, confoundingly.

Elizabeth: I get why people hate it. Bad BDSM benchmark set, a weak(er) story structure and did I mention the mixed signals from both characters?

Madeline: One thing about the mixed messages: I think that the movie makers had to do it the way that they did. They had to be true to the book and in the book, she’s walking away from kink.  On the other hand, what do we want? We want hot sex scenes in the movie! Like we had in the first movie, only different.  They delivered both.  Could they have delivered a movie that had a lot less sex? I don’t think so.

Elizabeth: The PR/Marketing person in me also thought they missed an opportunity to make the movie the best possible thing ever. No excuse! I mean, built-in audience, Hollywood! We had a row of women behind us who came as a group all wearing masks. You can’t buy this kind of loyalty.50-shades-darker-teaser-mask

Madeline: You think they should have really dug in and changed things, deepened the script, the plot, etc?

Elizabeth: Yes! So, sadly, this movie isn’t going to win any Oscars.

Madeline: So, here’s what I say — is this even really a movie? I mean, I thought of it as something in film form that was an homage to the book.  I think we’re in the early days of a whole new medium. We need to come up with a jazzy name for it.  I mean, that whole weird section with the helicopter crash? “Real” movies don’t actually work like that.  Which is okay–but comparing this to a movie is like comparing apples to…an apple flavored jolly roger candy.  You know?

Elizabeth: It will certainly please the 50 Shades crowd, but in equal measure that it will tick off the real-life BSDM enthusiasts. (I can’t help but think of how this mirrors our very-politically-divided country right now.)

Fifty pull ups. Cause you know *that* joke isn't getting old.

Fifty pull ups. Cause you know *that* joke isn’t getting old.

Madeline: Aren’t they already ticked off? I mean, by this point, I can’t imagine real-life BDSM enthusiasts going see this movie for sheer love.  Me, I was frankly relieved that it was so kinky-lite in the first movie.  FIFTY SHADES DARKER’s little play-time scenes were icing on the cake.  Besides, I brought my husband to see the movie, and was hoping to placate him with all the sexy biz.

Also, as Jezebel writers said: “What was good: basically nonstop puss eating.”

Elizabeth: !

Madeline: So sez Jezebel, so say we all. On the other hand, people kinda wanted to see Christian’s dick.  Not me, just…people.  #dickparity is a thing, I guess.

Elizabeth: What I liked about the movie: Dakota Johnson has got acting chops.

Madeline: I agree.

Elizabeth: She’d better than most people probably realize given she had to develop that character herself. Anastasia Steele’s clothes. I want that La Perla bustier garter set she’s wearing.

Madeline: We all want that La Perla bustier garter set.  And the body to go with it.

And it looks even better from the back...

And it looks even better from the back…

Elizabeth: –Ya know, for sitting around my home office so I can pretend I’m about to be whisked to a ball. Also, her lips. M and I agree – she had the best lipstick. And it stayed on no matter what they were doing like sucking face, which they did often.

Madeline: I liked the sucking face.  Jamie Dornan sucks face well.

Elizabeth: Christian Grey’s boat. Niiiice. Jamie Dornan’s buffness and scruffness – just the way I like it. Oh, and his neck! I just wanted to bury my face in it.

You want to grab him. Admit it.

You want to grab him. Admit it.

Madeline: I did not need him so buff.  But I am obsessed.  (Posting on that later.)

Elizabeth: The general eye candy was great. They live in a beautiful world.

Madeline: I was going through eye candy withdrawl. This movie definitely helped.

Elizabeth: But I can’t get over the mixed signals: “Christian, I can never, ever give you what you need.” Ten minutes later, “Christian, spank me.” “Take me to the red room.” Make up your mind, lady. You’re either into the kink or you’re not.

Madeline: Okay, here’s my take on that — at first in their relationship he wanted total control.  Even to the point of saying he didn’t “do relationships”.  Gah.  It’s like a dance, and he was always leading.

In FIFTY SHADES DARKER, she takes control.  It’s not about consistency.  It’s about her leading. In the past, with all his interactions the dominant dynamic was about them pleasing him.  Now he has to keep up with her, follow her lead, and prove to her that he can please her.  It’s all about her, people! (Which is catnip to us romance ladies.)

She's steering the ship now.

She’s steering the ship now.

Elizabeth: His admission that he’s not a Dominant, but a sadist really bothered me.

Madeline: It was certainly abrupt.

Elizabeth: And they acted like being a sadist must be a very, very, very bad thing. It’s not!!

Madeline: She’s getting on her BDSM soap box people.

Elizabeth: If you’re truly a responsible sadist, you play with consenting adults, and you never harm anyone.

Madeline: Which is different from causing them pain

Elizabeth: Right.  Pain is temporary, and some masochists get an endorphin rush off controlled pain, which registers as a kind of pleasure…so they like it.

Madeline: Yes, yes, yes!

Elizabeth: Harming someone is completely different.

Madeline: Noted.

Elizabeth: I had an issue with the symbolic kink. The movie brings out the usual kinky props, but clearly for symbolic reasons. There’s the blindfold and the cuffs but within one minute they’re having sex. They bring out the spreader bar and within one minute they’re having sex.  He gives her four spanks and then they’re having sex. I get it. They’re young, full of hormones and hot. But don’t expect any real BDSM. The movie had tons of sex and a little slap and tickle.

Madeline: I didn’t mind that at all. Huzzah to symbolic kinky sex!

Elizabeth: Speaking of the spreader bar. People…please DO NOT go to Amazon, buy the first spreader bar you see and do that flip move that Christian did to Ana without a lot of practice.

Do not try this at home...

Do not try this at home…

Madeline: It did look…quite…gymnastic.

Elizabeth: I’m not quite convinced that spreader bar exists in real life.

Madeline: A retractable spreader bar.  Yeah, that was a new one to me too.

Elizabeth: So don’t risk spraining an ankle or wrenching a back.

Madeline: Her breasts were like a third character in the movie.

Elizabeth: If there was an opportunity to show them off, the movie did.

Madeline: It’s actually in her contract–she must be topless or naked at least every fifteen minutes of the movie. (Joking.) But reading interviews, I think the actress has made this her thing.  And if an actor is a bit of an exhibitionist, who are we to complain? (I’m looking at you, Orlando Bloom.)

Elizabeth: Why couldn’t we get his glory to be the third character? Equal rights, man.

Madeline: #DickParity — starting that hashtag right now

Elizabeth: This movie was more sex positive than the last — and Ana wasn’t as big as a doormat as she was in the first movie.

Madeline: Amen to that!

Elizabeth: Oh, and for grins you really must check out this post from a Redbook writer, I Tried All the Sex From Fifty Shades Darker In One Weekend. Hilarious.

Madeline: I can’t believe Redbook did that…that is awesome.  Final comments?

Elizabeth: Bottom line: If you are a 50 Shades fan, you’ll love this movie.

Madeline: Durh.

Elizabeth: If you are a real-life BDSM lifestyler, you’ll probably stay away anyway. Christian is someone who needs to be “cured.” Yeah, right.  But what he needs (IMHO) is help with his PTSD, not his BDSM proclivities (though I’m not convinced BDSM even really is his thing).

Madeline: What is his thing?

Elizabeth: Okay–Growing up, Christian discovers how to use kink to channel his anger from his childhood trauma.  And so maybe when he gets together with her, and they bond, that anger starts to go away? And that’s why he walks away from it all.

Towards the end of the series, he says he doesn’t want to do it anymore.  In the third book he doesn’t want a red room in the new house.

A Dominant, meanwhile, that’s their main thing–being in control.  If he actually can be happy without being in control, yeah, he’s not a Dominant.  And a sadist — I’m sorry, but you don’t just actually decide not to be someone who gets off on pain.  It’s like trying to pray your way out of being gay.

Madeline: So if this was real life–which it’s not–Elena would be right.  Ana and Christian together as a couple would be a compromise for him.  A compromise most couples don’t survive.

Kim Basinger plays Elena in the movie--which makes it all very meta.

Kim Basinger plays Elena in the movie–which makes it all very meta.

Elizabeth: Right.  If it was real life.

Madeline: Which it’s not.

Elizabeth: I don’t care if this story is fiction, that idea should be sorted out. Okay, Hollywood, can you do that for us? So we’re ALL happy? See built-in audience above.50shadesshouldersleeping

And don’t forget out V-Day Giveaway.  Subscribe to Lady Smut — push the pink bottom at the top right of your screen and you’ll be entered to win. 

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

One Hot Zombie Husband, Please!–And Other Lustful Zombie Stuff

2 Feb
santaclaritadiet

Let that repressed manic side out, Timothy Olyphant.

by Madeline Iva

On Friday night I’m watching a new show called THE SANTA CLARITA DIET on Netflix. Why? Two words: Timothy Olyphant. The guy has a kind of restrained mayhem vibe that makes women purr. He’s good when he’s a bad boy, and I like it when he does the humor thing, but really underplays it. Let’s hope he gets to do both in this new TV show.

What’s unusual is for Olyphant to be part of a duo, for he often plays the lone wolf.  Yet he’s a supportive husband (awwww) as his wife’s body goes undead and her twisted feral id coming to life. (Peeps, this could be my own marriage we’re talking about—esp. when I’m on deadline.)

As for the rest of the show–we shall see.  I lurv Drew Barrymore and early reviews say the supporting cast is excellent.  The creator is Victor Fresco who did the short lived but great (!) show BETTER OFF TED, which walked the line of absurdism and also had a supportive, understanding, and munch-a-licious lead.

But hey, let me be your zombie pimp and recommend some other zombie joy you may have overlooked. My preference is for zombie comedy/satire. Take R in WARM BODIES.  So cute and so protective in his own teenage, shuffling, groan-y way.

Click to buy the DVD

Click to buy the DVD

 

There’s also a wonderful funny little book call BREATHERS.  Subversive and with a sexy element that I quite enjoyed.

Click to buy.

Click to buy.

Have you seen the movie SEAN OF THE DEAD? It’s a bit like The Office meets zombies. Quite surprisingly daffy and satiric all the way through.

Imagine The Office as a zombie flick. Click to buy the DVD...

Imagine The Office as a zombie flick. Click to buy the DVD…

Meanwhile, let us not forget some serious Zombie smut, like what you’ll find with our own Isabelle Drake’s SERVANT OF THE UNDEAD along with Daisy Harris’ mix of not-quite-human stuff.  I lurved Hariss’ “Steins” and sex bots.  In BUILT FOR IT Harris discovered M/M erotic romance and never looked back. (Can you even get these books anymore Daisy?)

 

557e4e368babb5e201b7f2d2b531d8cbOnce upon a time, Lexi waxed philosophical on the ethics of sex with an undead body. I, dear readers, completely understand.  Who really wants to kiss decaying flesh?  On the other hand, a zombie is nothing if not a metaphor.  Give me your metaphors–satiric, comedic or full of pathos and killed by societal excess and ennui.  Sometimes we all seem a little rotten to the core.  Zombies get to wear their decay on the outside where it’s all embarrassing and visible.  Ultimately, they’re monsters and I dearly love a monster-hero, even if his heart is dead and cold.

That’s not to say that one can’t enjoy zombie horror.  Lexi has traced the path of an end-of-the-world romance on the Walking Dead that I’ve followed probably with more enjoyment that I took in watching the actual show.  Check out her posts:

LIFE AMONG THE DEAD: IS MICHONNE READY TO LOVE AGAIN?

THE DEAD DELIVER: IS THIS THE SEASON FOR RICHONNE? 

DEAD ON! REJOICING FOR RICHONNE

If you do like your zombies with a lot of blood splatter, there’s a movie coming out called THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

You'll slurp it up if you like post-apocalyptic action/adventure. Click to buy.

You’ll slurp it up if you like post-apocalyptic action/adventure. Click to buy.

The book was gripping–I stayed up all night reading it.  I’m sure the movie will be excellent too, but check out the book first. It’s post apocalyptic, British, and I liked how the balance of characters in the book were female.  They seemed to have deliberately switched around the race of the characters in the movie.  Hmmmmmm.

There’s also World War Z — not your typical zombie genre book.  It’s totally different and only about a thousand times better than the movie. (Sorry Brad Pitt.)

Another book I've read in one sitting. Click to buy.

Another book I’ve read in one sitting. Click to buy.

Well, time for me to do some groaning and shuffling myself as I sign off to go jog, shower, and write. Follow us at Lady Smut.  We give you reasons to live.

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_high_res_1800x2700Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

Do You Dig It In The Dark?

12 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

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

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

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

But it’s not.

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

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

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

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

I very much am not.

dark-mafia-prince

Click on image to buy!

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

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

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

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

the-player

Click on image to buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll show you all our dark places.

 

Transgender Romance, Anyone?

8 Dec
Andreja Pejic--a globally successful trans model.

Andreja Pejic–a globally successful trans model.

by Madeline Iva

In a wonderfully reassuring moment on Facebook — yes, I *know* how strange that sounds — I was in the middle of a discussion about transgender romances.  They’re out there.  And if you’re looking for something new when it comes to contemporary romance–something a little m/m but not–transgender romance might just be the ticket.

How do you come out to your folks that you're trans? "Mom, Dad, there's this really funny TV show I'd like you both to watch," could be your conversation starter.

How do you come out to your folks that you’re trans? “Mom, Dad, there’s this really funny TV show I’d like you both to watch,” could be your conversation starter.

Meanwhile, I would consider the last year to be “Year of the Trans”.  From Laverne Cox to Transparent, to using bathrooms, we’ve had more exposure and acceptance of this tiny group of individuals than ever before.url

With that increase in recognition and acceptance, of course the romance community has swelled to include romances starring trans hero/heroines.  HERE’S A GOODREADS LINK TO SOME TRANS ROMANCES you can scroll through. The descriptions at first may not SOUND like the romances are typical m/f.  But read closely and follow the reviews–you’ll see they are a bit more wiggly and complicated–breathing fresh life into familiar romance tropes.

Trans models are rocking the fashion world--which seems totally open to anyone and everyone--as long as they're skinny. It's a twisted kind of radical acceptance.

Trans models are rocking the fashion world–which seems totally open to anyone and everyone–as long as they’re skinny. It’s a twisted kind of radical acceptance, I guess.

For my part, I’ve become fascinated with trans model Andreja Pejic and this interview with Madeira Darling got me all revved up imagining a trans-sexual hijinks vampire plot that my obsessive brain will not leave alone.

Also, G.G. Andrews has started this whole #ReadHotter challenge at Lady Smut.  Trans romance really fits the bill for stretching my reading boundaries–how about you?  ; >

Carry on my wayward kittens! And if you’re bored and looking for sparkly-bright distractions, follow us at Lady Smut where we purr and snarl over all things fascinating in the world.

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_high_res_1800x2700Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Good Behavior. The Dark Romance You Should Be Watching

21 Nov

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

That’s right, I said watching. Good Behavior is a television show, newly debuted on the TNT network last week and holy cats, is it a doozy. It’s like the best dark romance we’ve never before had on TV and didn’t realize we were missing, with an unlikable heroine you wanna root for despite the jail time and the drugs and the booze, and a villainous bad boy with potential alpha hole tendencies you want to climb like a tree despite, ya know, that whole pesky hit man thing.

good-behavior-5

Also, it’s *seriously* hot. They are seriously hot together, and they’re not even sure whether they like one another yet, but they’re stuck together and, holy hopping snot, do they spark.

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

I DVRd Good Behavior because TNT advertised the crap outta of it for the last two months and that usually annoys me enough to either tune in to see what all the hype is about or tune out completely (which is what I did with that Animal Kingdom show despite the fact that it features the great Ellen Barkin). It took me till midway through the second episode to realize I was basically watching a dark romance, and, this time, I was loving it.

Given the lack of a comparable “blurb”, here’s the gist of this show: con artist, meth head, alcoholic, Letty Raines (Michelle Dockery, late of Downton Abbey) has just been let out of jail early for good behavior. She’s trying to stick to the straight and narrow, as ugly as that often becomes, in order to get back her parental rights to her son. But she can’t keep from her thieving ways, ways that include robbing high-end hotels (and that also involve ever entertaining costume and wig changes). While she’s robbing one hotel room, the guest returns early. As she hides in the closet, Letty overhears a hit man planning a murder with the soon-to-be victim’s husband.

Eventually, Letty makes her escape, but she can’t stop thinking about the woman who is about to be killed. She goes back to the hotel in a different disguise and tracks the hit man to a nearby club. After manipulating their version of a meet cute, she and Javier (for such is his name) proceed to have the best date ever, during which Letty gets totally hammered. They totally lie to each other nonstop through the entire date, but they’re both also having an outstanding time, sparking off one another second by second on multiple levels. They are totally into each other.

good-behavior-3

Dinner leads to some smoking hot sex, as it so often does, thank sweet baby Jesus. In the morning, Letty manages to sneak a peek at the information for the hit. She tries to warn the woman who is to be killed, but Javier (Juan Diego Botto) is right behind her and, when she and the victim confront him over a shotgun, he tells the victim that she knows why she’s been targeted even if he doesn’t. It’s here that the victim grabs the shotgun from Letty and holds it on Javier. So clearly, she definitely does know why she’s been targeted. By now, sirens can be heard as they called the cops before confronting the hit man. Javier, mostly unruffled by this chain of events, orders Letty to take the car out front, along with the money in it, and go. Letty, still a work in progress, goes, leaving the other two to whatever will play out.

Shaken by what’s happened, Letty decides to do a swan dive off the wagon, buying up a bunch of meth and washing it down with vodka. First though she calls her parole officer and leaves him a broken message about how she’s giving up and giving in. In the middle of her bender, Javier finds her (making a wildly dramatic entrance). He flushes the rest of her meth down the toilet and tells her that, since she took his money, she now works for him.

That’s just episode one.

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In episode two, Javier forces Letty to play his wife at an exclusive hotel in the Smokey Mountains. He’s on a job and he needs her to play the role. Role-playing is what Letty does best–both on the job and in her life–and she can’t escape the siren song of all the wealthy trappings that surround her, waiting to be plucked. Plus, there’s the fact that Javier will kill her if she tries to run.

good-behavior-1

And he absolutely will do this. He might not want to and he might hate doing it, but make no mistake, Javier is more than capable of killing Letty. She knows this and believes this, but she’s also deeply attracted to him and not just sexually, though that continues to flare. It’s like once the light goes on and Javier realizes she’s a thief and a con artist, all the pieces click for him and he really likes the puzzle that falls into place. He doesn’t like the drugs and self-destructive behavior, but he does like the woman he sees is there once Letty gets over and past her own shit. She genuinely wants to be a better person, she just keeps giving up. Javier doesn’t pat her hand and placate by saying, “I know you’re trying,” he tells her “Try harder. You could do if you’d just stop screwing up.”

Javier gets her. He gets all of her. By the time he catches up with her, he knows her entire past, her rap sheet, her sentencing, what made her lose her parental rights, even how many abortions she’s had, for crying out loud. The guy’s information is damn thorough. And when he reads down the laundry list of her crimes, ticking off her life in one line item after another, the despair that engulfs Letty to hear her life encapsulated like that is palpable. When, seconds later, Javier points the gun at her forehead, Letty closes her eyes, waiting to die because, after that list, what really does she have to live for?

Initially, Javier does seem to plan to kill her, but in that moment, he sees something in her that stops him. I think he sees how broken she is and just can’t put her out of her misery. Because he also sees (as does her parole officer, ironically) that she has immense potential to live an extraordinary life if she’d just stop screwing it up. So instead, he kidnaps her and forces her compliance in his next hit.

Letty is drawn to him. She disgusted by and terrified of him, but she’s also keeps coming back to him. She could’ve seen him go to the club and, knowing he was out of the hotel, go back to his room and find the information on the hit. But she follows him instead and forces a meet, then goes to dinner with him and then to bed. She feels that pull too and despite ongoing attempts, can’t shake loose of him. Part of this is because Javier knows she’s a runner and is constantly in her path. He doesn’t want to kill her and more doesn’t want to lose her, and so he puts in considerable effort into keeping on top of her. But this is still a seriously scary dude.

Established as a couple on the 10th anniversary trip, Letty makes friends (as ordered by Javier) with the wife of his mark. She can’t keep herself from lifting a necklace from the woman’s friend, though, and later models it for Javier. They commiserate over the gullibility of the woman and sink more deeply into their role play, spinning out the fiction of how they met ten years prior and how he won her. This leads to some sexy times–like, uncomfortably sensual without being exploitative or extraneous–in the middle of which Javier whispers, “Happy Anniversary, baby,” with a wicked grin. And Letty laughs, full and unabashed, no calculation, because in that moment, they’re still role-playing their fiction, but yet there’s a level on which it’s deeply real, and they both know it. They get it. They get them. (This was also the moment when I was completely done and totally in.)

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Afterwards, he again orders her to return the necklace and he gets pretty damn scary about it too when she bucks, all while still inside her. Yeesh, it’s awful but still so sexy. It’s the dark romance!

good-behavior-4

This is Letty’s last straw and she finally bolts, but she’s waylaid out the back of the resort by the mark and his wife who are sneaking a joint. Forced by the role-play to smoke with her new friends, Letty’s still there a moment later when Javier comes around the bend. He immediately hauls Letty in and kisses her, a hard kiss of genuine relief, and tells her sincerely, “I’m so glad you didn’t leave,” which manages to bewilder Letty even more.

Look, I don’t know if or how the show is going to maintain and expand this initial premise going forward, but even if it winds up being Letty and Javier pulling of con jobs and arguing and struggling with each other and with themselves to be better people and what that might mean in the kind of lives they’re leading, I’d totally watch that. Their chemistry alone is compelling, but there’s also the complexity of their characters. We’ve already been given hints that Javier’s murderous business may have a noble patina (though murder for hire is bad! Bad, I say!) and while Letty is an adept thief and grifter (and Meth is bad. Bad, I say!), she often displays an emotional fragility and vulnerability at odds with her history and felonious bent. She wants good things, she wants to do good things, she wants to be a better person, she just has no idea what that means in real life. It’s possible, Javier could help her find out.

The romances–dark or otherwise–that compel me the most as a reader and are at the core of what I want to create as a writer, are ones where the heroine and hero “get” one another like no one else can, and where they love one another not in spite of what may be their worst traits, but almost because of them too. They’re the romances where they ultimately make one another better people (and that being better might have dark tints to it depending on the story) and that intimacy that grows between them enriches who they are and who they can be together. I see those things Letty and Javier in Good Behavior. I can’t wait to see more.

To sum up, here are some quotes from behind the scenes videos on Letty and Javier from their portrayers.

Juan Diego Botto on Javier: When Javier looks at Letty, he sees a beautiful, smart, intelligent, sensitive woman, and he’s absolutely fascinated by her. He’s fallen in love with her. We’re, all the time, fighting. I like you but I hate you. I want to be with you but I want to be alone, I’ve always been alone. That is happening all the time.

Michelle Dockery on Javier and Letty: Him being a hit man is in some ways irrelevant to Letty. She’s not attracted to him because he’s a cold-blooded murderer. It’s not about that, in fact she wants him to stop doing that. It’s more about this connection that they have from the get go that makes him want to be a better person.

Juan Diego Botto on Javier’s role in Letty’s sobriety: He’s very on top of her not to drink, but I think the main role that he plays in her being sober is confidence; I think I make her feel better about herself, and that’s, I think, the bigger role that I play in her recovery.

Good Behavior is on Tuesday night on the TNT channel. Check your local listings. Past episodes are available at TNT.com.

Follow Lady Smut. Dark, light, or in between, we got your romance right here.

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

Hot Picks for Fall

19 Sep

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Despite the 80 degree days here in New Jersey, Autumn is definitely beginning to creep its way in, thank sweet baby Jesus. I actually lowered the two kitchen windows yesterday because the nights have been too cold to keep them open. (Other windows will stay open till the first frost. What can I say? I like a cool house.)

Those of you with children have already been through the hell that is September back-to-school. I heard more whinges about school forms and activity sign ups from my parented friends in the last three weeks then I can ever remember hearing before. I gather email has made things worse, not better, on that front. Bless.

Being child-free, my September angst has taken the form of parenting my parents in various, fluctuating ways. Such is the course for this era of my life, as it often is for many people. In these times of angst and declining temps, we need something to heat up the home fires and keep us burning in the right ways. Can I get an amen?!

Fear not! I am here for you with a pair of hot reads for the fall.

DEVIL’S HONOR by Megan Crane

This is the first book in Crane’s new biker series for Loveswept, The Devil’s Keepers. Rooted deep in the Louisiana bayou, the Devil’s Keepers biker gang first had a cameo in Crane’s novel, Make You Burn, part of The Deacons of Bourbon Street series, and one of my top picks for 2015. I’ve personally been hot and heavy for this series ever since (this may have included some author nagging), mostly because I’m a sequel bait whore, but also because my biker book jones is motoring on hard and strong (much like those bikers), fueled by such excellent fare as DEVIL’S HONOR. It’s a reunion romance too, so I’m essentially in Romancelandia hog heaven on multiple fronts.

devils-honor

Available November 1, 2016. Click image to preorder!

Look! A blurb!

Merritt Broussard grew up knowing she had two choices if she stayed in Lagrange: run with the outlaws or get left in their dust. So she got the hell out, leaving behind a bad-boy biker and scorching memories of their summer fling. Now Merritt’s back, with trouble on her tail, and the sergeant-at-arms of the Devil’s Keepers is the one person she can still trust. But Greeley isn’t the boy she remembers. He’s harder now, more dangerous—and even more alluring.

Joseph “Greeley” Shaw loves two things: his bike and his club. At eighteen, he escaped a rough life, found the Devil’s Keepers on the wrong side of a bad weekend, and never looked back. Greeley swore to live and die by their code: Devil’s Keepers first, Devil’s Keepers forever. No one comes between him and his brothers—except for the tantalizing woman who touched his soul. Greeley’s the kind of man who honors his commitments . . . and Merritt is one promise he’s determined to keep.

Merritt returns to Lagrange after the death of her father, a man who’d spent most of her life as the back-door doctor for the Devil’s Keepers–and sheltering Merritt from the same. She still managed to fall in love with Greeley one hot summer after college ended and before leaving for an east coast law school and life far from home. Now that she’s back, she’s desperate to avoid Greeley, now sergeant-at-arms for the club, and the ex-lover who’d promised that if she returned to the parish after leaving him wounded and broken-hearted (that very much not being typical biker response) he’d either claim her or kill her.

Faced with a major crossroad in her life and pursued by a man who refuses to comprehend the meaning of “no”, Merritt has come home despite knowing what will happen should Greeley discover she’s there. It’s not long before he does just that. Cue the sexy hijinks and emotionally wrenching self-discovery, all of which makes DEVIL’S HONOR typical Crane fare. Once again, as in her EDGE series, her world-building is spot on. The sultry Louisiana environs may seem drawn with familiar strokes, but Crane makes them feel freshly painted with a tangible feel so that you’ll want to swim in all that sticky bayou heat.

One of the things I love that’s a staple in Crane’s books is how the hero softens without losing a hint of his badass-ness (I swear that’s a word). Greeley starts the book knowing full well how much Merritt means to him–and then she destroys him. He hates that he let himself be so vulnerable to anyone, much less to a woman, talking about a future together while she was planning her escape. He’s not about to let that happened to him again just because she’s run home with trouble on her bones and grief in her heart. Despite his deep resentment and simmering anger, faced with Merritt in the flesh, Greeley can’t resist that same pull she wrapped him up in the first time around–and this time, he’s not letting her go. The journey he takes to be what they both need so they can become the unit they were meant to be is one you shouldn’t miss. DEVIL’S HONOR is super sexy hot and emotionally wrenching with moments of humor sprinkled like sips of Jack D, and enough sequel bait to make you wish the calendar would hurry the eff up and so you can get to the next one. I mean, just look at the covers for the books yet coming our way!

Click on image to preorder!

Click on image to preorder!

Click on image to preorder!

Click on image to preorder!

 

 

 

 

Strewth. DEVIL’S HONOR will be released November 1, 2016, Devil’s Mark on January 3, 2017, and Devil’s Own on May 16, 2017 (*MAY?!*), but you can pre-order all three of them now.

INDECENT PROPOSAL by Katee Robert

Trading the heat of the bayou for the cool of New England brings us to Robert’s dark romance, Irish mob series, The O’Malleys. INDECENT PROPOSAL is the latest installment of the series, and, as usual, Robert delivers with a twisty, layered, story of what happens when the Irish and the Russian mobs butt up against one another–and when two of their children inconveniently fall in love.

Look! A blurb!

Greed. Ambition. Violence. Those are the “values” Olivia Rashidi learned from her Russian mob family-and the values she must leave behind for the sake of her daughter. When she meets Cillian O’Malley, she recognizes the red flag of his family name . . . yet she still can’t stop herself from seeing the smoldering, tortured man. To save her family, Olivia sets out to discover Cillian’s own secrets, but the real revelation is how fast-and how hard-she’s falling for him.

Plagued by a violent past, Cillian is more vulnerable than anyone realizes. Anyone except Olivia, whose beauty, compassion, and pride have him at “hello,” even if she’s more inclined to say good-bye to an O’Malley. While his proposal of sex with no strings seems simple, what he feels for her isn’t, especially after he learns that she belongs to a rival crime family. Cillian knows that there is no escape from the life, but Olivia may be worth trying-and dying-for . . .

 

Click on image to buy!

Click on image to buy!

First of all, THAT COVER. Cillian wears those tight vests in the story too, so this is definitely a case of the cover reflecting the goodness within. And, hel-lo goodness!

Olivia is the bastard child of the now dead head of the Russian mafia. Her scary half-brother wants her (and her daughter) back in the familial fold to fulfill his deathbed promise to his father while keeping them under his control–whether Olivia likes it or not. And she really doesn’t like it at all. The last thing she needs is to tangle with the brooding son of the Irish mob, with his sexy vests and rolled up sleeves out of which glimpses of his many tats can sometimes been seen. But Olivia is losing her battle to resist the charmer who makes dirty alley sex seem somehow pure and special. All this while she tries to keep her enforcer ex from laying claim to their daughter–and falls deeper and deeper into the lure of Irish eyes.

After the death of his younger brother, Cillian has done an about face in his life–not that his family has noticed. Gone from drunken, brawling lout to tortured, loner accountant, Cillian has slowly been taking up maintenance of his family’s legitimate enterprises–and those books less open to the light of day. His only solace are the hours he spends at the local pub sipping apple juice and sparring with Olivia. He’s seen her hard veneer crack, revealing the soft, welcoming woman who is the real draw to Cillian’s guilt-ridden soul. But the wrong marriage of mob families has already ripped The O’Malley’s apart and hooking his future with an enemy’s sister is a sure way for Cillian to find himself equally ejected from the family.

Like Crane, Robert uses her setting as it’s own character, wrapping Cillian and Olivia’s story in the dark alleys and mansions of Boston, it’s unforgiving streets offering both succor and jeopardy whether it’s the open lawns of the Boston Common or the opulence of Beacon Hill or the shadowy nooks of Southie.

Olivia and Cillian have been sparking since they first clashed in The Wedding PactOlivia knows all too well the dangers of being deep with a mob family and is not eager to jump feet first into another one, buy Cillian is unlike any man in her experience, treating her with gentleness and affection when she least expects it. Cillian’s demons haven’t let him rest since he watched his brother bleed out in the street. The only quiet in Olivia’s presence and that makes her worth any risk she might bring with her–be it from her family or his.

Click on image to preorder!

Click on image to preorder!

An Indecent Proposal is currently available and there’s more dark, twisty romance goodness coming in the new year as Forbidden Promises, The O’Malley’s Book Four, is scheduled to release next May (again with the May?!) sporting a cover that drove me to ask Robert where her Forever Romance publisher was finding these guys and, more importantly, are they single?!

Forbidden Promises will feature a runaway O’Malley as Sloan O’Malley flees her father’s machinations for her future to a cottage by the sea…never knowing her new, surly neighbor is a hit man (named Jude. How awesome is that name?!) with a vendetta against all things Sheridan, the competing Irish mob family whose queen is married to Sloan’s brother Teague (of The Marriage Contract).

So settle in, cozy up, and keep hot and bothered with these prime choices from a pair of authors burning up Romancelandia this fall.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll promise to keep your home fires burning.

 

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.

All titles reviewed in this post were provided to the reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

My Girl Crush on Gong Li & Why Miami Vice Is The Crime Film of the Future

8 Sep

miami-vice-008by Madeline Iva

I was thinking the other day, i.e. doing the dishes, and watching MIAMI VICE (the movie, not TV show) staring Gong-Li, Colin Farrell, and Jamie Foxx.  [SPOILERS abound below—you’ve been warned.]

FIRST LET US DISCUSS THE OUTRAGEOUS HOTNESS FACTOR OF THIS MOVIE: I mean really. Jamie Foxx. Damn. Colin Farrell–mullet, mustache and all, with those big brown eyes—damn. And Gong-Li. I’m a little gay for Gong-Li. If I had to sleep with one of them, I think Gong-Li would be my first pick, but I wouldn’t say no to a foursome.

The love story in the center of MIAMI VICE is like the rich gooey filling at the center of a chocolate bon-bon.  So good, and then it’s gone.  Whenever I finish watching the movie on DVD, I walk around afterwards a little dazed, still living in the movie, still clinging to that mood of desperate longing.

gong-liThe film has many wonderful aspects, yet MOSTLY I’M OBSESSED OVER GONG LI’S CHARACTER. Which is not to say it’s a perfect movie. Do I believe she’s Cuban-Chinese? Nah. Do I care? Not really, because while her accent isn’t so great, she is helping to eradicate the role of “the girl” in crime film movies.  Her role transcends decades of stereotypes.

SHE’S PART OF THE GANG – NOT JUST A TOY  So many of the small female roles in crime films are accessories—these women characters are there to lounge about on couches looking bored, sexy and rich. I cannot stand these women roles.  They are trophies, an equivalent to a car or designer piece of furniture and with about as much personality.

No, in this film, Gong Li is the number two in command. When the undercover cops meet face to face with the representative of the cartel, Jose Yero, and his instincts start to pick up on Colin Farrell—that something’s not quite right about him—It’s Gong Li’s character, lurking in the shadows who tells Jose to the cut the shit, stop wasting their time. She’s an integral part of the plot—the cartel’s white collar money manager, and she helps call the shots in collaboration with the king pin.

biz-womanHER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BAD GUY: It’s got some murky corners, admittedly. Michael Mann doesn’t take the time to spell things out from A-Z. She’s with the bad guy, yes as his business partner/employee, but not just that.   They’re involved.

montoya

Montoya, the drug king pin, has brown bedroom eyes, and there are little flourishes to this small role that are compelling.

However, she points out to Colin Farrell that they’re not married. She says doesn’t need a husband to support herself or to own a house. And we’re left to fill in the blanks however we want. Open relationship? It’s okay if it’s just physical? Later, she strait up tells king pin that she’s slept with Colin Farrell. Not to hurt the bad guy—she tells him to clarify her actions, and to avoid secrets as they discuss their path forward in doing business with the team.  Yet neither does she explain her reasons why to him.  He’s free to interpret it however he wants.

Me? I’m just thrilled to death that our bad-girl-good-girl is not drawn along that false dichotomy of worthy monogamous partner/slut.  And her actions are pivotal to the plot. Towards the end, it’s her emotional betrayal that determines everyone’s fate.

WILD CARD!  Jamie Foxx’s character Ricardo Tubbs, warns Colin Farrell’s character, Crockett at one point that “she’s may be many things…but in the end, she’s with them.”

And she is with them – until she and Colin have such hot chemistry that she’s with him too.miami-vice-movie15

They meet in a business setting. They trade just one long look that no one sees the second time they meet, and when the time comes he goes for it. He offers to talk to her about business, one on one. Instead of answering, she says she wants a ride on his boat. Then she asks him what he likes to drink. He’s a fiend for mojitos so off they to Havana Cuba (her home ground, not his) where they dance and dive deeply into one another until Sonny is not sure which way is up.

But in their short time together, whether it’s business or personal–and they go back and forth between the two with extreme fluidity—they are peers. They are collaborative. It’s written into the script with a bit of clunky-ness, but they play it out better that it’s written—and I LOVE IT!   Their doomed relationship—the hotness—the there’s-no-way-this-can-end-well desperation: I just wiffle that sh** up.

sad-endI am also left with another kind of longing. I want to write stuff as diverse as this movie. I want to show a couple (though perhaps a pair that’s a little less doomed) who lose nothing of their smexy twisty factor from the characters being on an even plane. Sigh.

OTHER REASONS WHY I LOVE THIS FILM: the characters—the multi-dimensional, multi-cultural, hot, and mostly very rational characters are what I totally fall for. Yes, visuals are lush and grand—Miami at it’s stormy, dramatic best. The soundtrack is full of moody feels that adds to it all. But it’s the characters—always the characters that I come back to.filmboatrace

CRIME FILMS OF THE FUTURE: Michael Mann provided a diverse cast in a setting that calls out for diversity: Miami. He made a crime film that’s a convincing mixed stew of race and gender. In painting his cast with a melting pot brush, he doled out a heaping portion of the power, the action, the leadership, and the romance to the POC’s and the women.

The result is that all of the characters have agency—not just the leads, not just the white people, not just the men.

Jamie Foxx may be a supporting role, (i.e. he gets a bit less screen time than Colin Farrell), but he’s not a side kick. He has a relationship as well—and if you think they’re all set from the beginning, you’d be wrong. His girlfriend plays a major role in the plot—and yes, her life is at stake at one point, but she is not in any way a victim. She’s part of the team, she has a job, and she is the one who determines the way forward in the face of threats they face.

"That's not what happens. What will happen is... what will happen is I will put a round at twenty-seven hundred feet per second into the medulla at the base of your brain. And you will be dead from the neck down before your body knows it. Your finger won't even twitch. Only you get dead. So tell me, sport, do you believe that?"

“That’s not what happens. What will happen is… what will happen is I will put a round at twenty-seven hundred feet per second into the medulla at the base of your brain. And you will be dead from the neck down before your body knows it. Your finger won’t even twitch. Only you get dead. So tell me, sport, do you believe that?”

THEN THERE’S THAT ONE SCENE — MY FAVORITE SCENE: It coulda been a guy doing the scene. It could have been Ricardo or Crockett rolling under the building, drilling a hole, inserting a camera, and going into the bad guy’s lair first. Instead Michael Mann gave this role to a woman on their team. The next moment is a tense stand off as Gina goes up against a guy with a bomb trigger ready to blow them all up. It’s such a bad-ass scene. It’s definitely on the level of the best Dirty Harry moment—but it’s underplayed, explosive and elegant all at once. In other words–it’s the BEST EVER!!!! My favorite moment in the movie, truly.

THE BAD GUYS HAVE DEPTH AND COMPLEXITY:

The bad guys are Hispanic, Chinese, and White supremacists. They work together as bad guys do when they’re focused on making mega amounts of cash. And while the white bad guys are completely repugnant, the POC bad guys are almost as hot and interestingly complex as the main characters are.

EVERY SINGLE MINOR ACTOR WAS SO CRAZY GOOD:

I feel like I could hold an Oscars award just for the category of best supporting actor in this one film. There are so many contenders: Gina, the team member whom I described above. The police commander, Martin Castillo, who gets some great lines. (My sweetie and I will occasionally quote his lines to each other from time to time.) There is no one in the entire cast who is not brilliant.

John Ortiz -- the most unsung brilliant actor in Hollywood today.

John Ortiz — the most unsung brilliant actor in Hollywood today.

However, the standout performance for me is John Ortiz who plays Jose Yero. This guy is a tremendous character actor with an enormous range. He is sadly unsung in Hollywood. You’ve probably seen him in the Silver Lining Playbook, and if you have, you’d have a hard time recognizing him in this movie. He takes a repugnant role and makes it so compelling, interesting, and charismatic. He brought a depth of emotion to a psychopathic pig. And!!! He did it with no words, just looks–just in the way he interacts with people.

So check out MIAMI VICE if you haven’t already.  It’s a movie you can revel in over and over again.

Meanwhile, if you want some desperate hotness in your life, follow us at Lady Smut.

Madeline Ivaimgres writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance.  Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be available for pre-order Oct 1st and out November 1st, 2016.

 

Madame X & My Book Hangover: Guest Post by Thien-Kim Lam

2 Sep
Click to buy.

Click to buy.

Hello Dear Readers! Madeline here.  I am exceptionally excited to have Thien-Kim Lam guest post on our blog today. 🙂  Alexa Day was bemoaning declawed alpha males earlier this week, but I think Thien-Kim has found a ringer here—check it out, Alexa!

When I first pick up a romance, it’s the heroine I fall in love with first.

It doesn’t matter who she is, I root for her. Sometimes she’s funny or ambitious (or both!). She doesn’t need a man in her life, but she’ll glad take him for a hard ride. (Maybe more than once.) I love her because she chooses her own path and expects to be treated equal to others. I adore that romance authors give my (our?) heroines agency in their lives.

Agency is what makes all romance heroines feminists.

Then I met X. That’s Madame X to you.

In opening pages of Jasinda Wilder’s Madame X, our heroine is calculating and demanding. Her confident tone would be heralded if she had a penis between her legs. Despite her expertise, the recipient of her reprimand refuses to accept her instructions. She’s unwavering in her demands and he eventually accepts his reality: Madame X won’t take shit from her man-child client.

I loved Madame X mere paragraphs into the novel.

Who is Madame X? It might be easier to define who she is not. She’s not a prostitute. Nor is she a dominatrix. She teaches spoiled, affluent clients how to exude confidence and control inside the boardroom and out. She uses great skill to force these young men into (psychological) submission. Madame X always succeeds. Thus, her services are in high demand.

She is one badass woman who’s not afraid to take control. I want a friend like X. Someone I could drink some 12-year-old single malt scotch with and talk about everything: men, work, sex, and definitely orgasms.

My heart stopped when Caleb entered X’s apartment. Suddenly her personality changed. Around him she spoke softly, acted demurely, and instantly responded to his command to strip. He takes what he needs from her: her mouth, her breasts, her sex. She feels she has no choice but to give Caleb what he demands. He saved her when she had no one else to take care of her. He’s given every material thing she touches and every memory she has. Even if her heart and mind tries to stand up to him,her body responds to his touch. 7e7bd95b7d149c15b55241f1f5d75dd3She never fails to reach her peak under his hands.

Madame X submits to Caleb’s dark eyes and roving hands while wishing for the freedom to choose what she wants. A freedom that Jasinda Wilder’s opening pages led me to believe that X had. A freedom that I wish for X as badly as she wishes for herself.

As a reader, I expect an emotional roller coaster ride, but Jasinda’s novel was more like Space Mountain than the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. I had no idea where she would take me but I blindly–and happily–hung on for dear life. She had me hooked. I was determined to keep my eyes open during the thrill ride, even if I could only see tiny little lights ahead.

It’s been almost a month since I finished Madame X and I cannot stop thinking about this book.

Did she fit into my idea of a feminist heroine? Her lack of freedom, the options available to her, and the choices she made said no. More confounding to me was the desire she had for Caleb. How could a strong woman like X need approval and affection from cold, calculating Caleb?

I relive X’s journey in my head over and over. Why did she make the choices she did? Caleb held the key to her gilded cage, but surely she could have stood up to him the way she stood up to her clients. Maybe he wouldn’t give her complete freedom. Maybe she could ask him to let her decide when and if she would submit to his sexual demands. Why didn’t she just ask?

Then it hit me. I’m projecting what *I* would do onto Madame X.

c666b4943fc8ee0ee370f1b4b6a93198X makes the best decision based on the information she has. Even though the novel is written in first-person, I–the reader–feel omniscient. I see how Caleb is gaslighting X. I see the cyclical signs of emotional and verbal abuse followed by remorse. X’s circumstances have not given her the knowledge bank to realize Caleb may not have her best interests at heart.My knowledge and background are different from hers so my choices are different from hers.

Madame X may not be the feminist heroine that I envisioned when I first met her, but I never got the impression that she was weak. I had to have faith that Madame X would choose what she felt was best for herself even if I didn’t like her decision.

I’m not a fan of cliffhangers, but it fits for this dark romance. Just like my personal journey, X’s intense emotional journey can’t be told in just one book. I’ve fallen in love with X, and I want her to be happy. I’m not ready to let her go. Madame X caught me tightly in its web. I’m ready to take deep breaths and buckle in for the next two books in the series.

If you haven’t read Madame X yet, be forewarned that you’ll have the biggest book hangover ever.

Just make sure you’re buckled in for the Jasinda Wilder roller coaster ride.

Thien-Kim Lam is a feminist who loves erotica and romance. She is the founder of Bawdy Bookworms, a subscription box that pairs sexy reads with bedroom toys and sensual products. Batteries are always included. Check 5 Steamy Book & Sex Toy Pairings for Your Pleasure Chest for buzzy recommendations.

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