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Bad Ass Heroines In Space

13 Jul

by Madeline Iva

No more token female characters in sff novels. No more ‘space babes’ in skimpy costumes on the cover. You do not get to use your galaxy kitten for a minor romantic/sexual sub-plot then push her right back into plot obscurity again. Those times are over. Dead. Gone.

Here are two books that emerged from the SFF world fairly recently to provide a punch in the gut for male SFF patriarchy– now rolled up into a fetal position and slowly dying.

First I want to give a shout out to ASCENSION.  I love the cover. I’ve only read the first two chapters so far and saw much that romance readers would want to roll around in.  I’ll use three words to describe Jacqueline Koyanagi’s writing: heartfelt, soulful, longing.

At the same time, ASCENSION is described by others on Koyanagi’s website as “a fun, fast-paced space opera” with a diverse cast of characters. It examines disability and polyamory—“all while racing to save the universe from certain destruction.”

Sounds good to me!

Here’s the low down on the plot:

Our main character, Alana Quick, is maniacal about fixing spaceships. She’s an obsessive grease monkey–even her skin tastes like the metal from ships she repairs. She feels as much lust for a space ship as she does for its hot female captain.  Although Alana has an aunt with medical issues, and a dying business on a harsh planet, she jumps world to stow away on a ship called the Tangled Axon.  The ship’s crew are trying to find her sister Nova–but why? And do they mean Nova harm?

The captain of this ship is a sexy bad-ass woman, the engineer is more of the burly growly type of male. But our heroine definitely has an eye for the ladies. Alana describes her first impression of the Tangled Axon’s captain:

The woman sizzled in front of me, all blond hair, boots, and confidence. She tilted her head at an angle of self-important distain, hip cocked to match. Cargo pants hung below her waist and a white tank top bared her toned arms. […] We locked eyes. Her barbed expression pricked at me from beneath her bangs, as if I were a spot of rust on her ship that had the audacity to sprout up when she wasn’t looking. Muscles pulled at the corner of her mouth. 

The book definitely is going to have romance/sexual elements in it. I can just tell.

However, I haven’t read it yet, just the first few chapters. So check it out yourself! (It’s the start of a series.)

You should definitely buy Ancillary Justice.

ANCILLIARY JUSTICE was the book everyone was talking about last year at Wis Con. It’s the first book in a three book series by Ann Leckie, but it’s definitely a stand-alone kind of read.

The main character in ANCILLARY JUSTICE is an AI. Once a spaceship called Ancillary Justice, the A.I. started off with thousands of “nodes” –i.e. human bodies that the A.I. mentally occupied and controlled–now the A.I. is down to just one body and bent on revenge.

The book starts off with the A.I. rescuing a former crew mate on the final stage of her long cold quest for vengeance–and we’re off to the races.

The other kicker in this novel–the one that left all the readers I talked to pleasantly a-buzz–was that the A.I. comes from a culture that only uses the “she” pronoun. Everyone from her world is a “she”.

Now, that’s not to say everyone is actually biologically female. The A.I. is no longer in her own society and while talking to other characters from different worlds, we get plenty of clues as to who’s who in terms of man meat and va-jay-jays.

That may sound like a complicated read. It’s not at all – it’s actually easier to read than it is to describe in this blog post, and that’s because Leckie is just one f***ing masterful writer.

Overall the book is engaging. I whiffled right through it in a day and then actually wound up reading it over again because I just wanted to hang out with the characters in that world all over again.

A great read.

A fabulous summer read.

Buy it!

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

 

 

Rules? There *Are* No Rules–When It Comes To Love

29 Jun

by Madeline Iva

Airplane ride coming up? Click to buy.

Life is messy.  We know that.  I grab a romance to escape from all that chaos that whomps down on my head every so often.  Okay, frequently.  I call romances happiness machines. Though sometimes we love romances that it makes us ugly cry.  So…okay, catharsis machines.  And yet…sometimes I yearn for less romance tidiness.  Sometimes I just really like it when an author breaks all the rules.

If you know of any romances you LOVE that ‘break the rules’ –please let us know about them.  You can comment down below or post to our Lady Smut FB page. If you reallllly want to get into the nitty gritty about sex that breaks the rules in erotic romance books or erotica–about why you like it anyway (and believe me, I’m all ears) — then you’ll want to request that we add you to our Lady Smut Speakeasy –a private group on FB. Come talk to us there and tell us allll about it. ; >

I’ve talked before about Never Sweeter and Untamed.  Both are books that had my eyes widening and saying out loud “OH MY GOD!” But here are two books that break the rules quietly — and firmly.

REMINISCENT HEARTS by Rachel De Lune has that hot, “gotta have you, rip your clothes off right now” kind of sex that I always really love.  Ohhh, but Rachel De Lune makes you wait for it.

Here’s my blurb for Reminiscent Hearts:

Lily wants the bad boy Jake.  But Lily ends up doing what any sane, intelligent heroine would do. She gets together with someone equally wonderful, without all the twisted parts, and they live happily ever after.  Until they don’t.  When Jake runs into Lily again, things have changed.  She’s totally changed.  Now there are no rules. 

So shivery delicious.  The thing is this: I was told as a would-be romance author you CAN’T DO THAT.  You can’t show the heroine falling happily in love with someone else.  Noooooo.

Why not? This book shows that you can do it, and it’s a perfectly wonderful read.

Because readers don’t like heroines who are promiscuous is why.  But coming out of the sexual dark ages, let’s be real.  Most people in life that we know have had sex with more than one partner by the time they’re thirty.  And they’ve been in more than one happy relationship.  If you read the book, it’s quite clear that Lily is about as far from promiscuous as you can get without belonging to a religious cult or something.

But I have to say, that I quite like and cheer for someone who doesn’t succumb to the alpha male treatment, who doesn’t sign up for a relationship with a young ass-hat.  Jake needs to grow up some and gain some control–and he’s not ready for Lily until then…he doesn’t deserve her until then.

I whiffled right through it in one plane ride.  You will enjoy it too! Buy it here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MTBPL5O?tag=books2read02-20

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reminiscent-Hearts-Rachel-Lune/dp/194645415X

itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/reminiscent-hearts/id1198006612

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/reminiscent-hearts

$4.99. Click to buy.

THE ART OF THREE by Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese is a book I’ve just started, so I can’t say anything about where it goes or how it ends–or even what kind of sex is in it.  It’s described as “contemporary romance/queer romance”. I’m already getting the feeling this is definitely NOT erotic romance and that with two bi-sexual men, it’s not menage either.  It’s polyamory.

I’m finding it terrifically soothing.

So far, everyone is behaving well towards each other, even though the characters constantly find themselves in social situations that are tricky to navigate.  I’m just at the part where the hot movie star is not seducing his hot male co-star, because the co-star is too sleepy. Yes, it’s that kind of book.  If you’re looking for a romance that’s modern, that celebrates instead of clashes, you’ll want this book.  It’s as good as settling down on your couch with a throw and the best cup of tea ever.

Buy it here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Art-Three-Erin-McRae-ebook/dp/B01MZ4TY7Y

Oh, and check out their website: https://avian30.com/about/

And follow them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Erin.and.Racheline

Meanwhile, follow us on Lady Smut — we’ll soothe your sensitive soul.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Disclaimer: I met Rachel De Lune recently at a writing retreat and we instantly bonded, I now consider her a friend.  I know Rachel Maltese via a facebook group we both joined.  

Wonder Woman: Worth the 40 Year Wait

12 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I was five years old in 1977 when I jumped off my older sister’s canopy bed and sprained my arm. Hers was a tall bed, tall enough to house a trundle bed underneath, and was as high as I could get at just past 9 PM on a Friday evening. You see, I’d just seen another episode of Wonder Woman. And I knew, even then, that was who I wanted to be in life.

After that stunt, my parents tried to forbid me from watching the show. You can imagine how well that went over. But I did have to promise no more leaps from high places. When my mother tried to curb our Saturday morning cartoon watching, I wheedled my way into her acquiescing to only the SuperFriends and the Smurfs. The SuperFriends are probably the only reason I was ever willingly awake at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. That year or the next, a girl in my class (who I went to nursery school with and, as it turned out, every other school through to high school graduation) got a full Wonder Woman kit for her fifth or sixth birthday. I was insanely jealous and, at that age, completely incapable of hiding it. Somewhere, there’s a picture of me at her party dressed in her birthday present (sorry about that, Kimmie).

You see, from as far back as I can conjugate, I knew I was destined to be Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was strong. She was never, ever bullied. Not for her looks, not for her size, not for anything. She rescued the underdog, the helpless and needy. She was respected by men–or at least by men worth of the title. She was honorable and righteous. She was kind and generous. She smiled big and knew how to have fun, but she never put herself above others, despite her power and strength and position. She could not only play with the boys, not only hold her own with them, but she could (and would) easily outpace their best efforts. She took care of those who depended on her and made sure they had what they needed, even at her own expense. She was a princess and a warrior. She was loved and lovable.

From a very early age, I longed to be all these things.

Wonder Woman didn’t get teased for her weight or her clothes. Wonder Woman didn’t get mocked for reading as she walked to and from grade school. Wonder Woman didn’t cry as she walked to junior high. Wonder Woman didn’t get ridiculed for reading romance novels because she needed to believe not only in romance and love, but that she herself was worthy of being loved. Wonder Woman didn’t worry about any of that shit. No one would dare.

So you can imagine my feelings to learn there was finally going to be a live-action Wonder Woman film. Or maybe not, because I’ve been trying for nearly ten days to figure them out, and I’m not all that much closer than when I walked out of the movie theatre.

For once, I did not learn every microcosm of information about the movie. I didn’t scan blogs or media sites, I didn’t haunt youtube videos of premieres around the world, I didn’t read or watch media blitzes and morning show spots and red carpet interviews.

I didn’t want the real world interfering with my life-long dream. A real, live Wonder Woman.

Some girls wanted a sparkly tiara. I always went a different route…

It’s been nearly 40 years since I was that young girl jumping off the bed. (Newsflash: that wasn’t my last jump.) Over time, my love for the Amazon princess has not abated. I have a Wonder Woman license plate frame. My best friend bought me Wonder Woman drinking glasses for Christmas. The Mother bought me Wonder Woman stud earrings (which I wore to the movie, natch). I had the Wonder Woman Underroos; as an adult, I have knickers and sleep shirts. I have Wonder Woman workout gear. I wore a different Wonder Woman shirt to the day job every day of the week the movie was released and still had another to wear Saturday when I went to see the film.

To say my expectations were high for this movie is to understate the emotional importance the film carried for me and that five and six and seven and fourteen and so on through the teenage years girl.

I’m here to say, it was absolutely, 100% worth the wait. It’s powerful, emotional, sweet, funny, sexy, emotional, and empowering.

“What one does when faced with the truth is harder than you think.” — Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Wonder Woman 2017

I’m not going to rehash every moment of the film or break down all the feminist principles or the (very few) places they went wrong. There are plenty of other places out there to read all of that. The nay sayers and trolls are making a lot of hay over the movie’s assertion that “love is the answer” as though the moral and theme of Wonder Woman can be summed up with a Beatles’ song. But it’s so much more than that.

“Be careful in the world of men, Diana, they do not deserve you.” Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman 2017

Diana’s strength isn’t in her weapons or her power. It’s in her heart where her true power lies. This is something our male superheroes struggle to convey and/or to capitalize on. They have honor and strength and commitment and sacrifice, but few have the courage to act solely from their hearts–from a place of love. Diana has so much love to give, her heart is so large, it can’t remain on an island sequestered from a world that needs her, however violent and cursed and male that world may be. She gives up the right to ever return to her home in order to go where she’s needed. Her mother, Hippolyta, reminds Diana that if she chooses to leave, she can never return. “How will I be if I stay?” Diana replies, to which Hippolyta has no reply.

Steve Trevor: I can’t let you do this…

Diana Prince: What I do is not up to you.

Wonder Woman 2017

That doesn’t mean she’s a pushover. She enters the outside world at a time when women’s suffrage had yet to happen and women were struggling for that very recognition. But Diana knows no world where she is not an equal. It doesn’t ever occur to her that she is less for any reason, but especially not because of her gender. Diana goes where she wants and does what she thinks is necessary and just no matter that all the men around her are telling her “no”. She is constantly being told “no” in this movie, and she just keeps on going. When Steve Trevor brings Diana with him to Parliament so he can update his boss, he tells her not to enter. He actually says “stay”. Diana ignores him and walks on in, bringing the entire room to a standstill because, good Lord, there’s a woman in the chambers of Parliament!

But to Diana, it is just another room and she rightly sees no reason why she shouldn’t be able to enter it. Later, she does the same thing with the war room. Why should she stay outside when the information she needs in in that room? Therefore, she must be in that room. She challenges the men because she doesn’t recognize their “superiority”. It never occurs to her that she’s anything but equal, or at the least, their superior. Not because she has a vagina, but because these worldly people, these men, have been corrupted by ambition or greed or war (there are a number of options offered in the movie) while Diana’s gaze remains clear and fixed. She knows the enemy and knows how to defeat him. She doesn’t accept “we can’t do that because of X or Y.” She knows what must be done and if the men aren’t going to step up and do it, then she is going to do it without them.

And here’s the thing: the men follow her.

Because Steve respects her and he is absolutely not at any moment ever made to feel less of a man by her or because of her. He also doesn’t hesitate to follow her, to have her back while acknowledging her leadership. Nor does he think she’s less due to her gender. He doesn’t have to make her little to feel big. There’s no proving to be done by either one of them. She has her part and he has his and they both go to do them, no matter the personal cost. They are fully partners. When Steve fights with the Amazons on the beach, he doesn’t try to protect them or underestimate them. He immediately assesses their skill and fights side by side with them. More, he learns from them and proves this later in the movie when he copies an Amazon move in order to help Diana during another battle, sure she’ll instantly know what he means because he’s aware of her skill and training and more, confident she can carry it out to fruition. And he loves her, fast and sure as happens in such movies, but he doesn’t love her expecting her to change or become someone else or to set aside what she believes in or must do because of that love. He loves her for who she is, and makes him better, makes him want to be better.

(For more on how great Steve Trevor is as a beta male who doesn’t lose his masculinity because he follows Diana, read this great post on Mary Sue, The Steve Trevor Factor: Wonder Woman Gives Us a Template for What Gender Equality Can Look Like. I could not say it better if I tried.)

Steve Trevor: “We can’t save everyone.”

Diana: “Maybe you can’t. But I’m going to.”

Wonder Woman 2017

Watching Wonder Woman, I thought of all the young girls experiencing Diana, Princess of Themyscira for the first time via this film, seeing and learning not that no matter what or who they want to be, they’ll always hear “no” and “don’t” and “no” again and “you can’t do that” or “women can’t do that,” but that they will be able to reply “maybe you can’t, but I’m going to.” That they too can be a wonder of a woman: Courageous. Kind. Wise. Loving. Beautiful. Strong. Undefeatable. That there’s not one of these elements they need to sacrifice to be any and all of the others.

Because Diana’s great capacity for love doesn’t make her a weakling. Oh no. She comes from far too heartier stock for that. The Amazons in Wonder Woman are feats to behold, fierce and fearsome, and more than one warrior’s cry brought chills to my spine–and an elated smile to my face. These are the ancestors of all the Black Widows and Supergirls and Buffys and Jean Greys and so on and so on. Every kick ass, bad ass woman hero or antihero, superhero or chosen one. They owe it all to the Amazons. And these are the women who raised and trained Diana to be all that is Wonder Woman, and to have Robin Wright, the Princess Bride herself, leading the charge, well, there are few greater ways to make the circle complete.

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I’ve written before about how romance novels taught me to be the heroine of my own story, how they continue to embolden women to reach for what makes them happy, to be that heroine. With the arrival of Wonder Woman, I’ve realized she started me on that journey. She’s the first to make me believe I could be more–that I was worth more

I’ve been trying to be Wonder Woman for 40 years. Strong. Giving. Honorable. Righteous. Kind. Compassionate. Forgiving. Sacrificial. Loving. Undefeatable Striving to achieve that destiny, to be that woman in a mortal, real-life existence. And I’ve failed, epically, far more than I’ve succeeded.

There’s been no magic bracelets despite my propensity for silver cuffs (gee, wonder where *that* came from?). No lasso of truth to discern who is lying to me and guide me to the truths of peoples hearts. No invisible jet to get to places quickly (though that bit I never got–what good is an invisible jet when everyone can see you through it anyway?). No superior strength or effervescent beauty. Just me being, well, me.

As it turns out, that’s been more than enough.

I am, as I’ve always been, a wonder of a woman. We all are. Heroines of our own wondrous stories.

Looks like that was my destiny after all.

Click on image to buy!

It’s theme week here at Lady Smut as we celebrate the release of our own Elizabeth Sa Fleur’s newest installment in the Elite Doms of Washington series, Lucky.

Be sure to stay up to date with all the Lady Smut sexy shenanigans by following us and signing up for our newsletter.

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 a finalist for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

KFC Colonel Sanders romance novel Tender Wings of Desire is a real love story

8 May

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

What does mom want for Mother’s Day (and dinner)? If you guessed fried chicken and romance, then KFC has just the thing for you: a free novella on Amazon called Tender Wings of Desire, starring (and written by) Colonel Sanders (aka Harland) as the hero (which they’re calling their “first romance novella”). They even made an ad for it, which you can watch to get a sense of the hilarity:

According to a press release, the fast food chain was inspired by the fact that Mother’s Day is their bestselling day of the year. “The only thing better than being swept away by the deliciousness of our Extra Crispy Chicken is being swept away by Harland Sanders himself. So this Mother’s Day, the bucket of chicken I get for my wife will come with a side of steamy romance novella. Dinner is taken care of and she’ll have the time to escape her busy schedule,” George Felix, director of advertising for KFC U.S, said.

While the ad is totally over the top, I wanted to read Tender Wings of Desire, described by The Daily Mail as a “steamy, greasy fantasy,” for myself to see whether it was super cheesy, full of product placement or whether it actually worked as a romance. The work is described in part in its official blurb like so: “When she finds herself swept into the arms of Harland, a handsome sailor with a mysterious past, Madeline realizes she must choose between a life of order and a man of passion.” Yes, it’s true: whoever actually wrote this novella has read a romance novel or two, because I was rooting for Lady Madeline, with her family part of the ton in Victorian England, bemoaning her fate of being married off to lackluster Reginald.

Madeline runs away on her horse, escaping a life of luxury that felt stifling to her. She reaches a tavern two hours away and quickly finds herself a job and friend, becoming immersed in a new way of life. Soon, she meets “the most handsome man she had ever seen,” Harland, a dashing sailor. The attraction is mutual, even though, of course, it takes them a little while to figure that out.

Soon she winds up giving in to her urges and kissing him. “This was the closest she had ever been to a man, and she would not want it any other way. She felt as if she were a woman on fire, feverish in the best way possible, and something seems dot take her over when he deepened the kiss.”

Though the book isn’t actually all that “steamy,” with more of a fade to black approach to sex, it does manage to get in some plugs for independence and against slut-shaming. “Kissing a man who wasn’t her betrothed was supposed to imply that she was tainted in some way, as though she had been spoiled for her future husband. Perhaps that might have been true, but as she drifted off to sleep, the only thing she could think was that she felt free. She felt in charge. She felt as though she were finally coming face to face with the wonder of her destiny.”

Now, is Tender Wings of Desire the best historical romance I’ve ever read? No. But I can’t dismiss it simply as a corporate stunt (even though I would strongly urge you to try a home-cooked meal for mom rather than fast food) because it completely conforms to the romance genre, with a happily ever after that never once mentions fried chicken. It manages to play on the character of Colonel Sanders (who Harland is revealed to be) in a way that actually made me smile at the end, rather than the slightly smarmy guy hawking deals in their recent commercials. In truth, the novella is as much about Madeline discovering who she really is when not under so many rules about what she can and can’t do as it is about her falling in love. When she falls fast and hard, Harland really is tender and patient and sweet with Madeline. She really does end the book far happier than she was when it started. And you don’t even have to be a mom to appreciate that!

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

The Erotic Thriller Everyone Hates

26 Apr

The Great Divider. Bestselling erotic thriller Maestra.

By Elizabeth Shore

Last Christmas I was in the Helsinki airport awaiting a return flight to New York when I realized I didn’t have enough to read. Panic ensued. Facing an 8+ hour flight without backup material wasn’t in my deck of cards. No siree. With only minutes to spare, I made a beeline for the English-language section of the airport bookstore. I scanned the thriller section faster than a Google search and landed on Maestra by L.S. Hilton. I’d not heard of either the author or the book, but “The International Phenomenon” and “Gripping Thriller” blurbs on the front were enough for me. Book in hand, I boarded my flight.

As it turns out, I never did start the book then. Who knows why. Maybe I had more left of my book in progress than I remembered. Or maybe I actually fell asleep on the flight. Whatever the case, I finally read Maestra a couple of weeks ago. And once I’d started, I was hooked.

To begin with, author L.S. Hilton is a heck of a good writer. “Sharp and extremely well written,” says The Daily Mail. “Hilton can both actually write and plot,” exclaims the BBC. But it was the story itself with its unpredictable heroine Judith Rashleigh that made Maestra un-put-downable. This book took me on a fun sexy wild ride, one I absolutely did not see coming. Heroine Judith did a 180 on me, turning out to be very different from how she first appears. And my oh my did the sex scenes ever sizzle. Huh, thought I. Why have I not heard of this book? And who’s this L.S. Hilton?

Turns out, Ms. Hilton comes with seriously respectable creds. She’s a historian and biographer, graduating from Oxford with a degree in English before studying art history in both France and Italy. She’s written gobs of books on royal monarchs, her latest being The Stolen Queen, set in medieval Europe. Scores of respected magazines have published articles by her, including The Daily Telegraph, The Evening Standard, Vogue, Elle, The Royal Academy Magazine, and a British cultural and political affairs magazine called Standpoint. So what’s up with the foray into the world of erotic thrillers? Hilton says blame it on her agent. He’s the one who planted the idea.

Apparently that agent gives good advice. Maestra is the first in a planned trilogy. Hilton has received tons of rave reviews from around the globe. She got a huge movie deal. The second book of the series, Domina, just came out this month (in the U.K., although Americans have to wait until July). But everything’s not all roses and sunshine. If you check out the reviews on Amazon they’re more mixed across the board than I’ve ever seen for a single book. Lots of people love it. Lots of people despise it. The way it has divided both critics and readers makes Trump look like a dilettante. As Lisa Hilton herself stated in a Guardian interview, “Everyone hated my book. My agent hated it, and my publisher hated it, and pretty much everyone I showed it to hated it. Even now that Maestra has been sold in 42 countries and garnered a film deal, it still seems to make a lot of readers furious.”

Author L.S. Hilton

Before her book became the bestselling erotic thriller everyone hates, it had to get published. Hilton shopped it to scores of publishers, all of whom passed. It was rejected so many times she started considering self-publishing. She applied for a teaching position. Then the magic happened. She finally got signed, not just for one book but three. One day in the morning, Hilton received a letter that she wasn’t even going to be granted an interview for the teaching position she’d applied for. That same afternoon, she received word that film rights for Maestra had sold for seven figures. Hilton say in an interview in The Telegraph that when she heard the news, “I was so stunned I thew up.”

The critical reviews are by and large nothing short of raving. Readers are less impressed. The Washington Post review may have said it best: “Maestra will be one of this year’s most talked-about novels.” People are talking, all right, though not in the way the Post envisioned. While Publishers’ Weekly gives it a starred review and Booklist raves that it’s “edgy, decadent, erotic, and irresistible,” the latest reader reviewer on Amazon calls Maestra “one of the biggest literary disappointments I have ever had.” Ouch.

Books are so much like music or food or art or anything else on the planet where subjectivity is the name of the game. I personally thought Maestra was a good-time romp in the world of erotic thrillers, and Domina is immediately added to my TBR pile. One can’t help but draw comparisons between this book and Fifty Shades. Both authors even use two initials for their first name! But for all the naysayers who scoff at this book, plenty of writers would be more than happy to take a bath in negative reviews in exchange for an L.S. Hilton moment in the sun.

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

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her newest book is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press. Other releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires

 

 

 

Motor City Romance

10 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

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

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

Look! Three Blurbs!

Dirty for Me

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

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

Wrong for Me

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

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

Sin for Me

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

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

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

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

#5 Those Covers:

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

#4 Detroit

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

#3 Super sexy times

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

#2 Family is what you make it

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

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

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

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

Let the Confessional Games Begin!

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

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

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

 

Edge of Power by Megan Crane: A Review

6 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

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

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

Look! A blurb!

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

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

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

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

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

Strewth!

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

Click on image to buy!

Click on image to buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Megan Crane

Author Megan Crane

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Was Enjoying DARK MATTER ‘Til They ****ing Killed My Favorite Character

23 Feb

by Madeline Iva

***Yeah, this post is chock full of spoilers.  You’ve been warned.*** Dark Matter is a successful comic book made into a Canadian television show that you can binge watch on Netflix–which is what I did.  The gloomy ship, the tough characters and the cloudy mystery about their identity sucked me right in until I was devouring episodes left and right.

One. He's the good guy on a ship of tough criminals. So how did he wind up with them?

One. He’s the good guy on a ship of tough criminals. So how did he wind up with them?

WHY I LOOOOOOOOVED DARK MATTER SO MUCH:

The premise is pretty brilliant.  Six people wake up in sleep pods on a dark ship in space.  Their memories have been wiped.  In addition to that, the android that sort of runs the ship wakes up and starts attacking them, so they knock her out and end up injuring her.  To get her back up requires a memory wipe, so she too doesn’t know what happened to them all.  It’s science-fiction, but it’s also mystery.  Who are they? Who did this to them? Why? 

darkmattertwo

Two. She’s hot.

They give themselves numbers and I knew that they’d eventually run into their pasts and get names, but it made me extraordinarily satisfied that they call each other by numbers.  It becomes an alternative identity.  Later on Three learns his name is Marcus–but if the others still call him Three, it’s like they’re disavowing his messed up Marcus past and saying that he can go back to being their three–i.e. annoying, but not a completely heartless dick.

I like One best.  He is a good looking guy–but I mean, they’re all good looking, so really, it isn’t only that. However, in a ship full of tough people, he’s the good guy.  Which is a little scary, because the rest (Five excepted) so obviously are not. I usually don’t like the super good guys.  I like the maybe-villains.  But One is played by a very talented actor, who via subtle expressions and delivery squeezes a three-dimensional performance out of a two dimensional character.

Three is all walking id, questioning every decision that isn’t based on pure selfishness–so of course, he is fun to watch and a bit of a wild card. Later on, we see Three has a real soft spot for women. At one point we think Two has been executed and Three’s face is really something to see in that moment.  Three, also, is one of the best actors on the show–at certain moments.

THREE

THREE. Also the show’s id character. Also kinda hot. Sometimes. Also a good actor.

Two is the toughest character in the beginning.  Played by an asian female with some extraordinary thighs, she takes command of the ship with her bad-ass attitude.  One is quickly drawn to her, but when she wants to scratch her bootie itch and have a little meaningless sex, it’s Three she calls upon, not One. Which makes One smart.  So there are tensions between One and Two because: love triangle!  Not to mention that One and Three are diametrically opposed in terms of morality.

Yet pretty soon, it turns out that One discovers he’s got a BIG secret to keep and Three is right there when this secret is revealed to One.  So the two are connected in that way for a while and it’s massively uncomfortable for One. Which is great! (Although I hope you can follow what I’m saying, because it’s starting to sound like weird SFF algebra.)

Probably the most handsome guy on the show. But....meh.

Four is probably the most handsome guy on the show. But….meh. He adds the most in ensemble moments.

The show delivers Big Secrets every so often and they are mostly yummy.  The show is at it’s best when it returns to its gloomy mystery origins: you just don’t know who you can trust.  Goodie!

It’s often young Five who circles us around to these gripping plot reversals. I think I liked her at first simply because I associated her with these moments. But I also delight in Five being a Young Adult character–a main character and a girl–in a sci-fi television show.  I’m trying to think of another major adult SFF show where that’s the case, and I can’t.

Five aka "The Kid."

Five aka “The Kid.”

I enjoyed watching the Android–though you and I know her as Lauren  from LOST GIRL.  She gets dinged up from the git go and starts to go “off program”. For instance, she starts seeking approval from the humans.  The “right” thing to do would be to wipe her system and reboot–a kind of android seppuku. At one point there’s the potential to “upgrade her system” to make her feel and seem more like a human and a ‘rouge android’ element is introduced.  The program upgrade makes the Android seem like a whole other character.  The actress performs this well, but…ugh! (more later below).

So there was something here for everyone–I thought a lot of the ideas in the show were fabulous.

WHAT WENT WRONG…

I’m not saying this show was perfect.  One problem I had with five is that she’s so obviously an older actress playing a younger character.  She and Two are equally short, and she has far larger breasts, so buying that she was a teen was a challenge (She’s was twenty-two when they filmed).  I had to keep squinting to suspend disbelief about her.  I mean, it’s not just that they all decide she’s a young teen when she looks anywhere from sixteen to twenty-three, it’s that they keep saying things like: “She’s just a KID!” like she’s only twelve or something…But that’s not saying anything against the actress, who is quite good. Another thing is that she keeps having new clothes to wear when a) she was a stowaway, presumably on the ship without luggage, and b) everyone else on the show seems to be in the same-o, same-old clothes.

Android fail. Every few episodes she's getting zapped and it's lights out.

Android fail. Every few episodes she’s getting zapped and it’s lights out.

I had problems with the android ‘upgrade program’, although it was more like an epiphany. The plot of this particular episode struck my robot-romance fixated nerve.  It made me realize that the ‘upgrade’ shortcut would never work for a successful robot/human romance.  What do we love about idea of a cyborg/AI/robot/android romance if it’s not that the android represents the most difficult challenge of all? Huge boundaries (impossible boundaries some would say) exist in terms of getting a cold and emotionless being to develop attraction, love, and passion. That’s a HUGE obstacle. A quick upgrade to the system???? That’s just cheating. )

I delighted in watching Six waiting in a doctor’s office for a very long time where they continuously ran ads about adventuring off world via clone proxies.  Your body and mind are scanned in a pod, and your look-a-like clone wakes up on some other world.  Your clone enjoys your vacay and then all the memories from your clone are downloaded back into your memory while you’re in the pod.  You wake up and come out of the scanner remembering the events and sensations of your vacation.  Meanwhile, the cyborg that looks like you and is walking around as you, is taken somewhere, has a memory wipe and is put into a vat for recycling…

Six

Six. Nobody trusts nobody–not even the android.

I thought the show was creating an ironic situation in which Six was ignoring a bit of information crucial (and funny) in terms of unravelling the core mystery.   My hope was that someone had wanted a bad guy dream team to go do bad deeds across the universe.  So they made clones of the original criminals and when those deeds were done, wiped the clone memories–but for some reason the clones weren’t put in the vat.  Instead they ended up in the sleep pods on the ship — To me this TOTALLY explained the mystery of how they wound up on the ship together and why they had no memories…

Six wakes up as a clone from the pod...

Six wakes up as a clone from the pod…

Alas, that was not the actual solution to the mystery.  This was the writer in me, weaving together my own plot soup based on ingredients provided by the show.

My sweetie hated the clone device.  He hated it because real clones (one day) are/will be real people. This show perpetuates the idea of clones as objects to purchase and discard.  The clone thing is used as a plot device later on in other ways, but the clones when badly hurt tend to simply disintegrate a la Buffy stabbing the vampires and making them go poof. Why would a clone do that, he asked? It’s stupid. A clone–because it’s an actual human body–would go splat, not poof. It would not disintegrate into a cloud of clumpy dust.

Yeah, so that was kind of a regrettable choice.  Meanwhile, I loved my idea of the crew being memory-wiped clones.  The show has them on the ship starting from square one in a state of distrust, but circumstances make them pull together.  We know they were probably very bad in their former lives, but rallied by the influence of Five, aka ‘The Kid’, they have a chance to become new, better people. (Insert here your own philosophical discussion with a friend over the role of memory in personhood and if one can change merely by starting over. This is the good kind of sci-fi.)  As they slowly pull together to become a unit they build loyalty to each other and we know that many of the forms their enemy will take are elements of their past coming to haunt them. Everyone knows karma is a bitch–but it’s very enjoyable to watch.

One finds out that there is indeed a very bad guy out there with One’s face. (See! One is a clone!) Unfortunately, however, for my pet theory, the bad guy Derek Moss says something like “I’d think you were a clone, but someone would have had to scan my body to do that, and no one did.”

Booooooooo!

dark-matter-season-2-coverHowever, I was still delighted that One had this evil Doppleganger out in the world that could cause him no end of trouble.

But here’s the big problem.  They f**king killed One.  Whyyyyyyy? It seemed gratuitous and unnecessary given that they never really followed the conspiracy plot path the killing seemed based upon.  You eventually find out where the crew’s memories are stored and I knew that Evil One aka Derek Moss was still out there.  So my FTL plotting muscles realized ‘the gang’ was going to kidnap Evil Derek and stick One’s memories into him.  But that didn’t happen either. 😦

But! When Derek reappeared, I was like: Yay! Evil Derek is better than no One at all.  Alas, in that very episode the show killed off Evil Derek.

Oh people.  I was so disgruntled.  One was the glue that kept my interest in the show at super-high levels. Yeah, I liked all these ideas about the others and sometimes their interactions were okaaaaaay, but for me, One was the secret sauce.  Yes, the whole prison break thing was good. Yes, finding out Two’s backstory was pretty cool.

Frankly, since One/Derek’s death, I’ve only made it through about four more episodes while mostly folding laundry and checking email.  I just don’t care anymore–Maybe other audience members, more familiar with the comic books than I am, are looking forward to what’s around the corner.  Maybe they know stuff that I don’t.  Apparently DARK MATTER  has a very loyal following.  But I, good people, am done.

If you know the Dark Matter comics, tell me — is there reason to hope? Should I give the show another chance?

Have you ever suffered torment from the character you were rooting for being killed off? (I’m looking at you SLEEPY HOLLOW fans.) Did you slog onward or just give up?  I’ve resorted to writing DARK MATTER fan fic as a way of detoxing.  Sigh.  It’s premised on my rogue clone idea…Maybe it’ll become its own thing one day.

Follow us at Lady Smut where we make the darkness matter.  And subscribe to our newsletter if you want fabulous free reads. ; >

Meanwhile, here’s something to pluck up your spirits — we ran a giveaway from Lux Aromatica last week, and to say thank you to our readers Lux made a coupon just for you.  2017-02-ladysmut-flash-sale

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

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!

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