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The Kama Sutra: More Than Tab A and Slot B

7 Feb
Need a roadmap? Look elsewhere. Want to think? This might be the book for you.

Need a roadmap? Look elsewhere. Want to think? This might be the book for you.

By Alexa Day

Want to hear a secret? Sure you do.

Pretty soon, we’re going to announce a giveaway. Aren’t you excited? Nothing like a little random chance to make the day go by faster, I find.

But while you’re waiting to hear more about the giveaway, I thought we’d spend a few minutes with one of the classics.

Do you have a copy of the Kama Sutra?

I do. It’s not a new copy; I’ve had it for years. Mine is the Danielou translation. It’s complete, unlike the Burton translation. Burton was known to skip over the parts that made him uncomfortable and then use euphemism to render the rest of the book incomprehensible. Not so with Danielou. It’s still not the easiest thing in the world to read, but at least it’s all here.

My copy isn’t illustrated. There’s a large contingent of readers who question the utility of a Kama Sutra without illustrations. I’m not sure I’m convinced, either. Reading about the sex positions without the illustrations is a bit like reading assembly instructions without diagrams. Sure, you’ll probably get the project finished eventually, but you will wish for a picture many times before you’re done, even if the picture isn’t especially helpful.

Truth be told, though, the positions aren’t the most interesting part of the Kama Sutra. Not even close. So if you have a copy with no illustrations, have no fear.

The best part of the Kama Sutra, to my mind, is that it will make you think.

There’s a chapter entitled Virile Behavior in Women, which describes the alternatives available to women who had not been satisfied by their lovers. Scratching and biting each get their own chapter. I never imagined there was so much to know about scratching. Apparently, there are eight kinds of scratch marks, where I would only have counted one.

There are six chapters on courtesans, and a great deal of attention is devoted to the emotional difference between a relationship with a lover and commerce with a courtesan. And of course, there’s the challenge of reading the positions without illustrations, if you want to put your visual imagination through its paces.

The Kama Sutra isn’t a how-to, despite its format. It’s more of a cultural study. But it’s interesting to examine what life the Kama Sutra brings to today’s sexual culture.

And it lends a bit of weight to one’s shelves. Right?

Follow Lady Smut. You won’t need a map.

Walk the Walk by Turning the Page

31 Jan

2017-ls-reading-challenge

By Alexa Day

Black History Month starts tomorrow, and this year, I’m mindful of our #ReadHotter challenge. You saw that, right? We threw down the gauntlet about a month ago with ten reading challenges, which I’ve placed here again for your reference.

This year, we again challenge you to read “a book with main characters of a different race or culture than you.” We had the same challenge last year. I’ve always felt some sort of way about it, to be honest. See, for a great many readers for a great many years, the mere act of reading romance was reading books with main characters of a different race or culture. Hell, for me, writing romance is writing characters of a different race or culture.

But today we live in a climate of frankness and openness. We’re called upon to be allies, to protect and understand each other. We can’t fall back on the same old stand-bys of black history.

We all have to do better. We have to teach better, and we have to do a better job of learning. That’s going to be hard for everybody.

(We do all need to be allies for each other — for everyone. You’re hearing mostly about black people today because I’m a black author and next month is Black History Month, but be ready to hear something similar from other sources.)

For our purposes today, I’m presuming that you all have at least bought a book with main characters of a different race. I want to push you a little harder, though. I want to ask you about the book you bought with an author of a different race or culture than you. Because I presume you have at least one of those, too. Seriously, if you don’t have at least one Beverly Jenkins book by now, you’ve earned the side-eye I’m giving you. It might also be any one of the other books I’ve recommended on Lady Smut over the years.

Go put your hand on that book. If it’s on your Kindle, go pull it up. I’ll wait.

Got it? Okay. I’m going to ask some in-your-face questions.

Have you read that book? Have you actually read that book written by a black author?

Did you read all of it?

Did you talk to anyone about it? Did you recommend it? Review it?

Did you ask any questions it raised for you? Did you examine the ways it challenged you?

I’m not just asking because our #ReadHotter challenge requires you to actually read the book. I’m not asking because I want to make sure you check off the little box on your Good Reader list.

I’m asking because actually reading that book you bought is more important than it’s ever been.

Buying the book — whenever you bought it — is a fantastic gesture. It’s an effective way to support diverse authors and the call for diversity in publishing, and I will never tell you that isn’t important.

You’re not going to get any answers that way, though. You’re only going to move forward if you read the book and act on it by leaving a review, asking questions, and going deeper.

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

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

(Just as a start, go check out Alyssa Cole’s blog and her books — you will not be disappointed there. I promise.)

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

So … what are you reading this month?

Follow Lady Smut.

Yes! Yes! 365 Times, Yes!

13 Dec
Click here and get to yes.

Click here and get to yes.

By Alexa Day

Shonda Rhimes’s book, Year of Yes, came out a little over a year ago, and I jumped on it as soon as it was released. I picked it up again a few days ago, now that I’m deciding what the next year is going to look like. I’ve tried to say yes more often that I’ve said no this past year, and 2016 has been pretty exciting as a result. As I start looking into 2017, I thought I’d share with you all some of the high points from Shonda’s Year of Yes — and one high point from my own journey.

(In my head, Shonda and I are on a first-name basis. Someday she’ll challenge me on that, I’m sure, but I doubt today will be that day.)

The Year of Yes began shortly after Shonda’s sister observed that her famous sibling never said yes to anything. After some reflection, Shonda pledged to say yes to everything that scared her. One week later, the president of Dartmouth College asked her to deliver the commencement address.

She said yes.

After dropping the f-bomb at a back-to-school meeting in response to the suggestion that contributions to the bake sale must be homemade, she said yes to storebought baked goods and to a nanny. Enlisting help and support when necessary does not equate to failure in parenthood, she writes. Finding help and support makes the well rounded life — or even moderate levels of sanity — possible.

She said yes to her body, to the physical vehicle she depended on as she created a body of work and raised her children. During the Year of Yes, she lost 100 pounds, and she did that without making any one food off-limits. Shonda lost 100 pounds during the Year of Yes without saying no to food.

She said yes to herself by saying no to others. She did not respond to work communications after 7 p.m. during the week or at any time on the weekend. She said no to poor casting decisions. She left a long-term relationship because she didn’t want to be married.

I tend to think of myself as being comfortable with yes. I’m even better with why not? But I saw myself in Shonda’s journey to saying yes to praise, compliments, and recognition. Like Shonda, I used to be the sort of person who deflected compliments with explanations and reductions. I think I’ve made my way out of that phase — it’s a lot less stressful just to say thank you and keep it moving. I also know that recognizing that one’s own talents does not diminish anyone else or their talents.

And yet …

I made the USA Today Bestseller List this past July. It’s been about five months now. I still have trouble telling people that.

Oh, sure. It’s one thing to type it here, there and everywhere. If I could put it on a nametag and be done with it for good, I wouldn’t have any problems at all. But I’ve only told a handful of people, and very few of them are other authors. When it comes to telling other authors, I’m all deflections and explanations. It was a box set, I said. I was with a lot of very talented people, I said. I didn’t expect that from myself; I’m a firm believer in tooting one’s own horn. And yet here I was.

Finally, I confessed to someone the other day that I didn’t actually feel like I had done it.

“Okay,” she said. “Well, you did do it. So you may as well tell people you did it.”

And she’s right. This is how Shonda had to take on the Year of Yes, by taking hold of these uncomfortable acts and following through anyway.

It’s good to have an example to follow. And a whole year to get better at saying yes. And also The Year of Yes Journal, while we’re appreciating things.

What do you need to say yes to? Find your people in the comments.

And follow Lady Smut. We know all about saying yes.

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.

I’ve Got a Plan & It’s Just Not That Complicated

17 Nov

by Madeline Iva

Sometimes you need to retreat, huddle up, hunker down, and regroup.  For introverts like me, this is actually our natural state of being.  The thing is–you gotta have a plan.

I love the part in BOURNE LEGACY, where Jeremy Renner (yum!) needs some information from Rachel Weisz who is sputtering over her suddenly-everyone-wants-to-kill-me reality.  Jeremy Renner cuts through her confusion and says, “Now I’ve got a plan, and it’s just not that complicated.  What I’m going to do is wait for the next person to come and kill you.  Maybe they can help me.”  Well, I’ve got a plan, Lady Smut readers, and it’s just not that complicated.

  1. There’s a romance plot spinning in my brain.
  2. I’m going to binge write all weekend long and get as much of it out of my head and splatted onto the page as I can.

That’s the good kind of binge, of course.

westworld

I’m going to try HBO NOW to watch Westworld. This is their new streaming subscription. (Like Netflix only all HBO.) First month is free…

Then there are the other kinds of binging.  Hey, let’s face it, I’m a binge-y kind of woman.  If a little is good, a lot is better.  My favorite types of binges: TV, movies, food, and romance novels.  But first, I will be productive.  I will lay down five thousand words a day (eek!)  and only then will I reach out to find other forms of comfort.

TV Series to Binge:

  • Westworld
  • The Crown
  • Luke Cage

    Dr. Who? Who knew Matt Smith could play the perfect consort?

    Dr. Who? Who knew Matt Smith could play the perfect consort?

At the movie theatre:

  • DR. STRANGE
  • ARRIVAL
  • FANTASTIC BEASTS
  • MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

    Hey look--it's Jeremy Renner again!

    Hey look–it’s Jeremy Renner again!

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving is next week.  We’re making two pies: cherry and sour-cream apple pie. Well, it’s vegan sour cream apple pie, but it’s still completely awesome.

Along with the usual suspects: garlic green beans with toasted almonds, mashed potatoes, and homemade stuffing, (though my grandmother always called it ‘dressing’) we’re in the midst of deciding what the main dish will be.  You might think as vegans we’d be terribly limited for options.  Not so, my friends.  Here are the candidates:

  • chickpea crepes with cauliflower & shiitake mushroom filling
  • panko crusted sweet potato cakes with mushroom ragout
  • black bean & acorn squash empanadas
  • pumpkin gnocchi
  • three-sisters savory pie–with corn, beans, and pumpkin
Add yummy mushroom sauce and devour! I have it out for T-day dinners that are only shades of tan. Get some color on that plate, people!

Add yummy mushroom sauce and devour! I have a grudge against T-day feasts that are only shades of tan. Get some color on that plate, people!

Finally, I’ve been reading Patrick Rothfuss’s NAME OF THE WIND, (so good!) but I’m almost done.  There’s a whole world of  fantasy goodness by new authors on my kindle just waiting for me to dive on in and check them out.

I ***LOVE*** this cover!

I ***LOVE*** this cover!

And an advanced copy of Cara McKenna’s BRUTAL GAME is in there as well — Think of it as a kind of sexy, contemporary palate cleanser for all the fantasy.

Click to buy

Click to buy–.99 cents!

So that’s the plan.  This afternoon, I’m piling on the sweaters and slippers over the pj’s and sinking into the primordial stew of my creative subconscious.

When I emerge after the holiday, the anxious stew in my brain will be quiet.  I will be ready to be fed–both literally and metaphorically.  At that point, I think I’ll be fit to rejoin the world again.

See you on the other side.

–Madeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wicked Winter Wonderland: Kristen Ashley’s MIDNIGHT SOUL

2 Nov
midnightsoul

Click to buy! 🙂

by Madeline Iva

Kristen Ashley’s Fantasyland series has come to an end. Since I prefer my heroines with a little streak of edgy kick-ass, I was beyond thrilled see that Franka Drakkar, b*tch-cousin of leader Frey, is the heroine of MIDNIGHT SOUL, the fifth book in the series.

In the first book, Frey gets together with Finnie.  I seriously loved this book.  It inspired me. It’s set in a winter wonderland, and Frey is this hot, alpha, warrior dude–see Jason Momoa.  While the heroine, Finnie, is as cute as a basket full of kittens.  From the git go, Franka was pretty much the wicked villainess of the piece. Someone you loved to hate.

Yes Franka is back! She may be on everyone’s sh** list, but she helped to save their asses and save their world–so there. However, she lost her lover in the fight. He is gone, but he’s definitely not forgotten by Franka.

And who do we love more than a character we-love-to-hate? That same character crushed by love of course! Franka’s big, sad, wary eyes attract the notice of Noc–the latest in the Kristen Ashley collection of tall, dark, Alpha heroes.

Someone suggested David Gandy in the role of Noc–why thank you, don’t mind if I do!

Um. *Yeah.*

Um. *Yeah.*

[If you haven’t read the series–the premise is awesome! There is a parallel world to ours, and we all have a twin in this other world.  Sometimes individuals from our world trade places with the twin of that world.  Also, sometimes the doppleganger is kinda evil. Cue the sound of thunder and horses screaming.]

That Kristen Ashley picked a bad girl for her latest heroine had me all like:

post-32794-tina-fey-thumbs-up-gif-liz-lem-8qbe

Okay, but first I have to say it’s REALLY unusual for a Kristen Ashley heroine to be kinda wicked. The Rock Chick girls definitely have some serious mojo, but every Ashley heroine is like a really good chocolate Easter bunny.  Never bitter and never hollow.

Some readers might saying, “But you’ve seen things Franka’s done. How are we supposed to like her? How? How? How?” Good question. How do you make people like a wicked character?

A) You have a character we like fall in love with her.  Enter Noc, stage right.

B) You torture your bad girl character.  That’s how.

And indeed as we open our story, everyone is hating on Franka and she’s giving back as good as she gets, until she’s offered a mountain of wealth as payment for helping, you know, save the world.

The caveat is that after she takes the loot, she’s supposed to scram.  They want her gone, outta town, and like right now.  There’s a moment where Noc thinks she’s won’t take all the furs, jewels, diamonds, and gold coin. He even tells ‘the gang’ she won’t take it.  After all, Franka helped to save the world and sacrificed her lover in doing so.  Surely she has strictly honorable intentions just like the rest of them and will turn it down?

Ha! She’s gonna take the loot.  But Noc’s reaction really gets to her.  Why at this point in her life, is anyone trying to think she’s a nice woman? She’s been fighting and clawing away for survival since she was tiny, which makes it very difficult for her to face two sets of eyes–the condemnation in everyone else’s eyes and the hope in his. Ashley lets us inside her heroine’s head and we find out that people really know nothing about her.  She has her own  hidden agenda.

While it’s a common trope in romance for the heroine to like a bad man we don’t see the reverse played out as often as I’d like.  The men are not really bad, you know, they’re just misunderstood.  Mmmhmmm.

Kristen Ashley has flipped the trope and flipped it good.  I like the bad woman who is withdrawn and guarded with her emotions.  It reminds me of my horrible youth and how hard it was to let anyone get beyond my blazing torch of bitchy to the soft creamy center of my core goody-two-shoes inside.

I like the guy who is interested in peeling back her exterior and who’s gut is saying People, you don’t get it.  You don’t really see her.  Only *I* really see her.

I appreciate that for Franka, who’s had her motives twisted and judged for as long as she can remember, it’s a very powerful thing to have someone see you in a nice way.  It hurts–probably more than being hated.

Which is not to say it’s fun being despised.  I highly related to Franka when she experiences the wretched moment where she just knows everyone–every single person wants her gone and gone now.

Franka's like a kitty with it's head under the faucet. Yeah, you get a drink, but sheesh people.

Not fun, not fun at all.

And when thanks to events, people finally do begin to understand her and are like Ooooh, poor Franka, it doesn’t matter to her.  She’s still just as badass as she ever was.  High five, Kristen Ashley.

When Franka faces down her personal enemy and even though everyone (probably feeling really guilty) rushes in to help and support her, she’s like – people, I got this. Her hurts may be exposed, but she is still powerful. She’s not gonna turn into a runny pile of soggy because at last people understand.

SO GOOD IT HURTS.  Other complications ensue.  Because this is a Kristen Ashley story there’s tons more of the book—I won’t spoil it for you. Not only does Ashley flip things around for once by having the girl be from Lunwyn and the hero from our world, but Franka also comes to our world instead of the reverse.

About one third of my joy in the first book of the series is being in the snowy, snowy Lunwyn–b97ef46859e8ae50ea15cd63ce4c5aac

with winter palaces, sleds, warm wraps, luxurious clothes, crackling fires, and a general overall sumptuousness.

In this book we do the opposite. We get a vice-cop, pizza, tacos & reality TV. (Can we go back to Lunwyn now?)

It’s a great encore to a great series.  In letting her wicked aristo Franka and even poor Circe have a happy ending, Kristen Ashley is showing her own relentless need for an HEA. Cause Everybody deserves a happy ending! I was so overjoyed that finally even poor put-upon Circe finds Dax–who is a hunka hunka burning love.

I’ll leave you with that.

If you love Kristen Ashley the way we love Kristen Ashley but by some twist of fate you didn’t get this book, then my friends, you are in luck.

Oh look! ****A Giveaway****

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All you have to do is like my fb page.  But wait!!! What if you haven’t read WILDEST DREAMS–the first book in the series? Not to worry, my friend.  I’ll toss it in with the other two books and you can settle in for some fun times.

You can also follow us at Lady Smut where we do our very best to explore the side of you that wants to be bad.

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.  

Lady Smutters Out and About…and Causing Trouble

17 Oct

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Okay, the causing trouble aspect might be a wee bit subjective, but Madeline Iva came home from the Washington Romance Writers Blogger and Reader Luncheon with a bag of (very cool) skull jewelry, so really, anything goes.

But you, lovely Lady Smutters, already knew that.

Last week, I posted about how our Lady Smut bloggers were out and about in the real world. This past weekend, I was bouncing around the New Jersey Romance Writers annual Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. Two days talking about books and publishing and romance. Oh my!

Lady Smut blogger Elizabeth Shore was also there, but she’s wily and slick, so though we caught glimpses of one another and even one side-arm hug, unfortunately there’s no evidence (i.e. a photo) of us in the same place. Bestselling authors HelenKay Dimon, Tessa Dare, and Terri Brisbin graced us with their publishing and writing experience and wisdom. I unfortunately missed Tessa Dare’s special presentation (in my defense, it was very early in the morning), but greatly enjoyed both HelenKay and Terri’s wit and insight.

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With HelenKay Dimon at the conference

Conference keynote speaker, HelenKay Dimon, spoke passionately about why reading matters, why it is so important. We don’t read only to escape or for stress relief or to indulge in fantasy. We read to survive. To escape bullying. To escape family illness or tragedy. To believe and feel better and to figure out how to defeat the monsters in our lives. In books, the bad guys are defeated, and that gives us hope that the bad guys in life can be defeated too.

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Worst margarita ever. No, REALLY.

“I have never felt guilty for reading a book,” HelenKay said. “Love is empowering. It has the ability to take us to a different place, to make us feel great.” In romance novels, she said, women are the heroines of their own stories (sound familiar?). To the hero, no matter how plain or regular or normal or whatever, to the hero, she is the most beautiful woman in the world. “In romances, there are women who are comfortable in their sexuality and men who celebrate it. Romance is about hope that you can overcome, no matter how many mistakes you’ve made or how flawed your past is, that someone will love you for you. When someone writes that romance doesn’t matter, my answer is ‘kiss my ass!’.”

Preach it, HelenKay.

Luncheon speaker, Terri Brisbin, spoke about the rules of writing–write what you know, make sure hero and heroine meet within first 10 pages, write the breakout book, blah blah blah. According to Terri, none of them really matter. Terri counseled that only three rules were important: If you want to be a writer, you have to write, and you have to find the time in your life to do it whatever your challenges. Tied in with that advice is that you have to read, you have to keep reading to refresh the well that hydrates your writing. She also advises to gather good people around you and hold on to them. “Trying to be a creative person in a business world is hell, unless you have good people around you,” she said. “Sometimes, they’re right there with you and you don’t even know it.” Finally, as a dental hygienist, Terri emphasized the only one true thing in life that everyone must do: “brush and floss two times a day.”

 

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First-line bingo fun

On Sunday, after the conference, we had the inaugural NJRW Hearts & Sparks Reader and Blogger Brunch. Here writers mixed and mingles with readers and bloggers with a delicious full brunch. First-line bingo sheets were employed as a fun, interactive ice-breaker where guests had to find out which first line on the bingo sheet came from what author’s book. Given my book WILD ON THE ROCKS starts with the line “Check the stalls.” I got a lot of people wondering just what kind of stall was being employed–and exactly what they were doing in the stall! Naturally, I told them to read the book and find out! Okay, I gave in and told ’em because I hate waiting. But still!

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First-line bingo fun

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Swag tables at the brunch

It was so wonderful to meet so many enthusiastic readers and bloggers–people who love passionately love romance novels. As bestselling historical romance novelist Tessa Dare noted, we sit behind our computers and laptops all day, in our PJs or our yoga pants or whatever (I’m writing this wearing a new nightie, FTR. TMI? Oh well.) and we so rarely get to meet in person the people for whom we’re writing (after ourselves, naturally). And that’s you, lovely readers and Lady Smutters, and that’s why we have our MEET page here on Lady Smut, so that you can come on out and meet us and, even better, we can meet *you*.

Plus, ya know, free stuff.

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Giveaway!

That’s right! I have goodies for you–free, author signed books, including the super sexy MINE by HelenKay Dimon,  one of three Scottish medieval adventures from Terri Brisbin, and Tessa Dare’s new historical regency romance A WEEK TO BE WICKED. Subscribe to our Lady Smut newsletter and/or click the FOLLOW button, and then leave us a shot of the confirmation in the comments along with your choice of the above pictured books. I’ll do a random selection and post the winners on next Monday’s post.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll give you lots of reasons to keep reading to survive.

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

The Magicians: A Novel That Stabs Itself in the Heart

6 Oct
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Go ahead and click here to buy, but don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

By Madeline Iva

How do you destroy the genre of your own book? Lev Grossman managed this nifty little trick in his breakout novel THE MAGICIANS–a book that SFF people love to hate.  Meanwhile, everyone else is raving about it.  This fantasy book was clearly a huge best seller, but when checking out the reviews I noticed among the glowing accolades, a few ominous warnings: the book was derivative–HIGHLY derivative, and critics questioned the experience of reading the book, saying “What did I ultimately get out of it?” Nothing positive, I’ll tell you that.

By ‘breakout novel’, technically we’re talking about a novel that sells so well it changes an author’s life forever.  Harry Potter is an excellent example of this.  However, if you look at many other breakout novels, you’ll see that they often conform to a similar structure. While they have a genre framework, the story inside that frame is not really genre at all.  Such is the case with THE MAGICIANS.

Often a breakout novel disappoints readers of that genre.  Why? To hear Donald Maas tell it in his book HOW TO WRITE A BREAKOUT NOVEL, many breakout novels don’t fulfill the conventions that die-hard genre readers expect.  Instead the author explores a literary theme, talking about WWII or about the breakdown of entitled-yet-morally-corrupt-youths, or societal reform almost as if it were as important–if not more–than solving the murder.  These books also don’t end with the bad guys punished, order restored and chaos vanquished, or even with happily ever afters–which is why we read genre, isn’t it?

Here are some examples of break out novels: SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOW, THE SECRET HISTORY, THE DA VINCI CODE, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. These books may start off being mysteries, thrillers, or horror novels, but they have literary themes and are written in a literary style.  The genre shell is merely a spoonful of sugar that makes the literary medicine go down.

Case in point: THE MAGICIANS.  When I started reading it – I loved it! I thought: This is my kinda book. Really well written, I lurv the main character and all the other characters, yes! Quentin is a tall, mopey, unhappy brilliant teen.  I was all over that.  He gets invited to a college where he can learn magic. Fabulous!

And then it’s Harry Potter in college–but with a lot of drinking, drugs, n sex.  In fact it was a LOT like another crazy brilliant break out book that I highly recommend: THE SECRET HISTORY. Really, it’s THE SECRET HISTORY meets Harry Potter.  I said to myself—Okay, I’m seeing the derivative stuff they mentioned, but it’s SO GOOD that I don’t CARE.

Even up to the middle of the book, I was like, Where is this going? Not sure and I. Don’t. Care. At page 274 I said to myself FINALLY!! Now we have a direction once again–Here we go! Wheeeeeee!

And then the author ruined it for me. How? Why? What went wrong?

First I have to ask myself: what do I get out of Fantasy? Why do I like it as a genre? I like it because it’s anti-high school irony.  There is an earnestness to fantasy. Enthusiasm and triumphing over difficulties is at the core of many a fantasy novel.  Also there are deeply held values of the characters often in play.  Even GAME OF THRONES has these aspects–(What is GAME OF THRONES, meanwhile, but a breakout novel about a fantasy world that–aside from a few dragons–explores the bloody brutality of what it took to survive in the middle ages?)

The point is, I savor these fantasy qualities because when I’m operating in the real world I feel out of step. I feel the world is too harsh or complicated, or sophisticated. I am looking to retreat into my sensitive shell, to enjoy something simple, and sincere.

Certainly Harry Potter is sincere. Even Game of Thrones is sincere—as my Sweetie said: the bad guys are sincerely bad. And one token of their sincerity (some of them) is that when they realize they’re being bad, they change. (I’m looking at you Jamie Lannister.) This is what I want out of a fantasy book.

THE MAGICIANS is not such a book. When Quentin realizes he’s being weak–he  keeps on being weak. There is no character change. There is no fundamental growth and development. It’s as if the author believes character growth and change are impossible.  All there is is time. Time for one to grow older and see over the scrim of youth to the backstage area, where nothing is as wondrous and captivating as you hoped it would be.

What a jaded attitude — especially for characters who learn magic, and travel to new fantastical worlds.  To embed a theme of chronic dissatisfaction in the face of such glorious adventure and then turn around and claim, it’s not really adventurous, we don’t know what we’re doing, and it’s all going to shit–it’s disgusting, really.  Yes, disgusting.

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This is the one. Click to buy this book.

Now, Donna Tartt does something similar in her book (which came out long before Grossmans, and I highly recommend it,) but there was a point to it.  We know the students in THE SECRET HISTORY killed their good friend.  We’re told that on page one.  The book explores why and how they tried to get away with it.  Relationships are destroyed.  They suffer–and this makes sense to us.  It’s satisfying because THEY COMMITTED MURDER.

I think Grossman is reflecting back some kind of commentary about the lives of the privileged elite – and yeah, I’m calling him that. If you went to both Harvard AND Yale, and you mention that on your freakishly successful book cover jacket, what else could you be?

So what’s he saying? His characters are living lives of fantastical proportions, but it never seems quite real to them.  They are always waiting for their “real” life to start.  It’s like being in a house where all the doors open onto each other. You keep going through doors, but you only end up going in circles.

Which makes the novel rather nihilistic at its core.  This is the antithesis of what fantasy novels and the fantasy genre are about.  Lev Grossman stabs his own novel in the heart until it’s dead and the reader is appalled.

Unless, of course, the reader doesn’t particularly care for the fantasy genre and is as jaded as Grossman.  Then they might love the book.

Another crime this book commits is that it starts out a leetle derivative, and swiftly towards the last third becomes crazily derivative. The former magic students enter a world called Fillory where we have trees like Tolkien’s Ents, we had Rams like the lion in Narnia, we had bears similar to The Golden Compass. We had a school for magic, like in Harry Potter.  I suspect Grossman intends to be derivative.  The more derivative the book, the more meta comments the characters make.  The meta elements, like the derivative  elements spread through the end of the book like a virus, snuffing out a fantasy reader’s pleasure. In the end, the amoral laxity that Grossman injects into his book kills the flourishing novel he’s created.

It’s like watching someone kill a unicorn. What’s the point?

All of this is done with maximal writing skill. I hate him. AND I envy him his writing chops. They’re making the book into a series–I wonder if they’re going to change it at all to accommodate fantasy TV viewer expectations?

CAVEAT: I know someone who is ready to defend the novel to the death (and does so frequently). She is willing to take on all comers. So she must have cared by the end of the book. Or loved NOT caring.

Follow us at Lady Smut.  We promise never to kill unicorns.

And come back tomorrow, folks–I’m having cover reveal for my fantasy novel WICKED APPRENTICE, including an excerpt and other fun stuff.  You can already pre-order the book on Amazon.

41tek67q8lMadeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek, is available for pre-order and releases November 1st.

 

 

 

 

Would You Like Me To Ravage You?

23 Sep
Click to buy.

Click to buy.

by Madeline Iva

She’s baaaaaaack! You liked her Madame X post so much that we’ve asked Thien-Kim Lam to come back for another guest post.  Happy Friday!

A couple of months ago, my husband interrupted my animated retelling of the sex scenes in Tessa Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do. (The scenes are quite creative, and the power dynamics between the main characters heighten every movement.)

“It sounds like a fun book. Can we read it together?”

I was shocked. He had never expressed interest in reading any of my romance books.

We’ve read books together before, in audiobook form. Most of the books we’ve listened to have been thrillers: Girl on the Train, The Girl with All the Gifts, and The 500. Books with action and adventure that move quickly. Books that mirror his favorite kind of movies. Coincidentally, those three books are being made into movies.

For the past year or so, we’ve been listening to the same audiobook in tandem. Even though I listen at faster speeds, we try to stay within a chapter of each other. He has more time during his commute and work day to listen so I’m usually the one playing catch-up. After the kids go to bed, we talk about what’s happened so far in the book. It’s become our couples book club.

Reading together has given us something to talk about that isn’t related to work or our children. Our television habits are different, save for handful of shows. We didn’t use to read the same books. I read widely across genres, while he gravitated towards graphic novels, his magazines, and Neil Labute plays.

After my shock wore off, we agreed to read Dare’s first Spindle Cove book A Night to Surrender since I was almost done listening to Any Duchess Will Do. I still couldn’t believe he wanted to read a historical romance book with me!

Click to buy.

Click to buy.

I was nervous the first day we started A Night to Surrender. Outside of the a couple of scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey that I read aloud to him, he’s a newbie to romance and erotica. Would he like it or hate it? What would I do if he hated one of my favorite sub genres?

Earbuds in hand, he kissed me goodbye and left for work. Time to queue up the audiobook. As I listened to the first chapters, I analyzed each scene. Would my husband think the main characters’ meet cute too contrived? Would he understand the nuances of clothing in this period? How could he react to the arrogant alpha male hero?

As soon as my husband stepped through the door that evening, I attacked him. No, not that way. I asked him what he thought about Tessa Dare’s book. “It’s cute. I like it.” He was actually grinning! I was relieved.

Over dinner we discussed the attraction between feisty, independent Susanna and arrogant but adorably clueless Lord Rycliff. He compared the novel to the romantic comedy movies we love to watch. Over the next several nights we discussed the comedy of errors of the couple’s first kiss and the first time super sexytimes. He even quoted seductive lines from the book–partly in jest, but partly to try get in my pants. Try keeping a straight face when your husband gives you a seductive look and says in a British accent, “Would you like me to ravage you?”

Ladies, my husband has still got it. And he’s all mine.

Click to buy.

Click to buy.

Since then, we’ve listened to other romance books, most recently Maya Banks’ Forged in Steele. Her KGI series contains everything we like: suspense, action, explosions with plenty of romance and sex. Forged in Steele’s high drama and cheesy dirty talk has elicited a flurry of texts between us throughout the day. Mostly us cracking up over the dirty talk.

After fourteen years of marriage, I’m glad that we can find new mutual interests. I should not have assumed that he wouldn’t be interested in reading romances. The past year I’ve forced him to listen to me as I debate on which sex toy I should pair with certain erotic romances when I curate my Bawdy Bookworm Boxes. I guess I finally made him curious enough to jump into the romance world.

Now we need to pick our next romance audiobooks. Please share your recommendations!

Do you read romances with your partner?

Thien-Kim Lam cut her teeth on historical romances and they will always have a special place in her heart. She is the founder of Bawdy Bookworms, a subscription box that pairs sexy reads with bedroom toys and sensual products. Batteries included. Check 5 Steamy Book & Sex Toy Pairings for Your Pleasure Chest for buzzy recommendations.

 

 

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