Tag Archives: review

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

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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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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.

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: Kit Rocha’s Beyond Surrender

5 Dec

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

This is it. Beyond Surrender is the ninth and final installment in the erotic romance, dystopian Beyond series from Kit Rocha. The end of the world as they know it.

And everyone does not feel fine.

(For all of the Lady Smut reviews on Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, click here.)

Look! A blurb!

The final book in the bestselling, award-winning series…

She’s the heart of O’Kane liquor.

He’s the brains of the revolution.

They’re facing a war that could end their world. Again.

On December 13th, the Beyond series comes to its climactic conclusion with Nessa and Ryder’s story–and the final battle between the sectors and Eden.

Well, that didn’t say much, did it?

Beyond Surrender is structured around the final romantic match up of Ryder and Nessa. Nessa is the O’Kane princess, the one who brews the liquor that the O’Kanes bootleg out to other sectors and Eden–the booze that keeps the money coming in. Since he was a young man, Ryder has been raised by Jim Jernigan, the once-mighty, now dead leader of Sector Eight, with the sole purpose of someday being the blunt instrument of the inevitable revolution.

That day has come.

beyond-surrender

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After the rash of assassinations in game-changing Beyond Ruin (Book #7) that wiped out whole sectors and their leaders, Ryder is the heir to Sector Eight and the leader of Sector Five after years spent undercover for Jernigan as a lieutenant to the execrable Mac Fleming. Now that war has come to the sectors, he’s teaming up with Dallas O’Kane, leader of the revolution, to marry years of Jernigan’s precise preparation with Dallas’ ruthless ambition for freedom. Ryder has spent his entire life in the service of someone else’s ambition. As the conclusion to his life’s work finally plays out, he realizes he has no idea what life to lead when it’s over–providing he survives.

Nessa has known Dallas O’Kane her entire life. She arrived in Sector Four barely a girl and has been the kid sister of the O’Kane gang ever since. She’s been sheltered in Sector Four; though not ignorant, she’s spends most of her time with her casks, brewing and stewing about the next batch. She’s removed from the day-to-day struggles of life in Sector Four, removed and protected, rarely even needing to leave the safety of the compound, especially when the apocalypse is knocking. Although, when you have a gang full of growling, grouchy older brothers and murderously protective older sisters, getting laid becomes can be more than problematic, but finding a real relationship in the slums of paradise is near impossible. Nessa’s watched from the sidelines as members of her extended family have found their mates of the soul and body, sure she’ll never find a man with whom to share that deep connection. Enter Ryder, who never looks at her or treats her as anything less than who she is–a complicated, intriguing, sexy woman.

But this is Sector Four, so of course, it’s not that easy. Nessa keenly feels the responsibility that’s been on her shoulders all her life, that of keeping the O’Kanes in business and money. One mistake could wipe out their livelihood and plunge them back into the madness and need that heralded the early years after the solar flares. To make matters worse, everyone she’s ever known and loved is now in acute danger. She fears seeing who will and who won’t survive The War now that it is upon them. Drawn to Ryder for a number of complex reasons, she decides to cling to the pleasure and comfort he offers for as long as they have it–and the time in which to enjoy it. If it’s the end of the world as they know it, best go out with a spectacular bang. It’s the O’Kane way.

Ryder’s entire life has been planned for him, by his mother and by Jim Jernigan who made Ryder the tip of the paranoia sword for the war Jernigan saw coming decades ago. He aligns himself with Sector Four and the notorious Dallas O’Kane to keep on the front lines of the war; leading a sector was never his goal nor his training. Nessa is an unexpected if welcomed surprise, but as they cling together in the days before the final battle, living whatever moments they have left to the fullest, Ryder finds himself worrying what happens next. Any future he sees after the war is hazy: a cabin in the woods far from the complications of whatever is left over when the battle haze clears. Slowly he begins to realize this too was never his dream, merely a fixation to honor his dead father’s dreams. But when all his lifelong plans and strategies are no longer required, when the world he knows is no longer the world he lives in, how will he live in a future he never expected to see–and where might Nessa fit there?

For a while now, for me, the Beyond books have been less about the romantic relationships and more about the exceptionally drawn and deeply believable world in which they’re taking place. Rocha’s Eden and sectors with its complicated loyalties, interwoven alliances, and fierce allegiances has offered more layered and complex intrigue for me than who’s banging whom. Interestingly, in a series that’s featured enthusiastic orgies and polyamorous relationships, this final couple seems to be the sweetest–the most innocent of the O’Kanes (not an easy thing to find in Sector Four) falling for the most noble of spies. Ryder’s shown up in a number of previous books, most notably in Beyond Addiction (one of my faves) and the question of his true purpose and loyalties has been teased for a while. Nessa has floated on the fringes since the beginning, with her wild nail polish and multi-colored hair, and it’s fitting that this last book should be hers.

Beyond Surrender is a deeply satisfying conclusion to this series. I have great respect for an author who can put an end date on a popular series rather than drawing it out ad infinitum to keep the credits rolling. It’s hard to let go of something this all-encompassing and, even though there is more on the horizon for this world, leaving Sector Four and all its denizens can be no easy task and no easy decision to make. Which is why it’s extra sweet to see all the favorites return, some more briefly than others, in Beyond Surrender to take their curtain calls while two people, whose lives were planned for them one way or another, decide to fall for one another literally as the end of their world approaches, and it’s that hope, that gentle push of burgeoning love, that gives them the courage to plan for a future.

I *highly* recommend re-reading the Beyond books and novellas from the beginning as a refresher course in who’s who, who’s where, and who’s doing what to whom. It’d do a body good to refresh yourself before diving into Beyond Surrender. This series has a lot of players and they all show up for the final reckoning. And there is loss; seems like an apocalyptic requirement. Plus, Gideon’s Riders, the heroes of the upcoming eponymous series, make an appearance, including the couple of the first book of that series as Ashwin, that twisted, superior killing machine takes another step toward possessing or destroying Doctor Kora.

With Beyond Surrender, Kit Rocha ends this best-selling series with all the fucked up madness and fun and sexy times that define the world of the O’Kanes. It may be the end of the series as we know it, but you’ll feel more than fine.

O’Kane for life.

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

Dark Romance. Irish Mob. A Look at The O’Malleys by Katee Robert

13 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I won’t lie, I hear “Irish Boston Mob series” and I’m in, no questions asked, despite my love/hate relationship with Boston. So soon as I heard Katee Robert’s new series, “The O’Malleys,” was about three Boston Irish mob families, I requested that sucker so fast, NetGalley spun on its axis for about an hour.

The O’Malleys, the Sheridans, and the Hallorans of The Marriage Contract and The Wedding Pact are the unholy trifecta of the Irish mob in Boston. An alliance between two of these families is about to be formed when one of the younger generation kills another. Suddenly, allegiances must shift before more blood is spilled…and the war that has been brimming between these three factions for so long boils over.

The Marriage Contract

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Look, a blurb!

Teague O’Malley hates pretty much everything associated with his family’s name. And when his father orders him to marry Callista Sheridan to create a “business” alliance, Teague’s ready to tell his dad exactly where he can stuff his millions. But then Teague actually meets his new fiancée, sees the bruises on her neck and the fight still left in her big blue eyes, and vows he will do everything in his power to protect her.

Everyone knows the O’Malleys have a dangerous reputation. But Callie wasn’t aware just what that meant until she saw Teague, the embodiment of lethal grace and coiled power. His slightest touch sizzles through her. But the closer they get, the more trouble they’re in. Because Callie’s keeping a dark secret-and what Teague doesn’t know could get him killed.

Look, another blurb!

The Wedding Pact

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Carrigan O’Malley has always known her arranged marriage would be more about power and prestige than passion. But after one taste of the hard-bodied, whiskey-voiced James Halloran, she’s ruined for anyone else. Too bad James and his family are enemy number 1.

Hallorans vs. O’Malleys-that’s how it’s always been. James should be thinking more about how to expand his family’s empire instead of how silky Carrigan’s skin is against his and how he can next get her into his bed. Those are dangerous thoughts. But not nearly as dangerous as he’ll be if he can’t get what he wants: Carrigan by his side for the rest of their lives.

When I first read The Marriage Contract, I immediately tweeted Katee Roberts and demanded to know when The Wedding Pact would be available and then raged that I had to wait nine months to get it. Yes, this series is that good. I re-read them both for this review only to be reminded of the intriguing and edgy concept they embody. And just look at those covers. Boy. Howdy.

The O’Malleys, the Sheridans, and the Hallorans are not good people by the standard terms. These are people trying to make good decisions in bad situations–seriously bad situations. These are people constrained by the rigid natures of their families’ demands and expectations and torn by a familial loyalty that often has little to do with love and too much to do with duty. These are people who sometimes are forced to do unthinkable things, things that make them wonder about the states of their own souls, and yet who love fiercely, be it their parents, siblings, or lovers, and, often, blindly. These are people for whom doing what makes them happy and doing what is in their family’s best interests may be diametrically opposed–and fraught with danger. The stakes are high in The O’Malleys series, as high as can be imagined.

These are not safe people–not to themselves, not to others, and not in the general sense of “being safe”. Their lives are in jeopardy so that every decision they make could be ones that bear serious life and death consequences either for them or those they love–or for those with whom they are falling in love. And Things Happen. But they want to do better, they long to deserve better, and they find that better in the ones who come to love them.

They are loyal. They are fierce. They are determined. They feel conflicted about many things and navigate a treacherous world most people don’t even know exists. They feel deep and they risk much. They are striving, each of them, to carve a life they can live with out of the ones they’ve been born into and they are falling in love along the way–with the most inconvenient and inappropriate of people.

An Indecent Proposal

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The Marriage Contract and The Wedding Pact are available to buy now, while the third and final title in the series, An Indecent Proposal, will be available on August 30th (and is currently up for preorder). It brings the Russian mob in to treacherously tangle with the Irish families–and has what I think is the best cover of them all. The scruff. That nose. The furrowed brow. The opened collar under the vest.The wide leather bracelet. The tattoo peeking out from under the rolled-up sleeve. The striped pants. The arm porn. Irish bad boy trouble in a suit. Liiiiiiick.

What, did you think I’d leave you without a blurb? Perish the thought!

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

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

The O’Malleys series are as if The Godfather was populated by the Fitzpatricks (that’s a Veronica Mars reference for all of you playing along at home) with a dollop of The Town and a soupçon of Mystic River–and a whole lotta sexy romance. They’re dark, sexy stories about dodgy folks who embark on daring and sensuous journeys that pack an emotional wallop. Clear your calendar to dive down the rabbit hole and don’t be surprised if you come out more than a little green.

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Edited to add: An Indecent Proposal actually will not be the final book in the series. There’s two more scheduled to come after that for more O’Malley siblings. PHEW!

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.

 

 

Beyond Ecstasy by Kit Rocha: A Review

23 May
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by Kiersten Hallie Krum

We’re coming to the end of Kit Rocha’s bestselling “Beyond” series, a series I’ve been an avid fan of for some time now. Beyond Ecstasy is the penultimate installment in the series and the first book after the game-changing events of Beyond Ruin.

Look! A blurb!

The O’Kanes have a reputation for working hard and playing harder—except for Hawk. He joined the gang with one goal: to ensure his family’s survival through the impending war with Eden. It’s been years since he had the luxury of wanting anything for himself. Now, he wants Jeni. From the first moment he saw her, he’s been obsessed with making her his. Not for a night—forever.

Jeni’s been lusting after the former smuggler for months, but he keeps shutting her down. She’s almost given up on getting him in her bed when he offers her the last thing she ever expected—a collar. Accepting it means belonging to him, body and soul. It’s a reckless gamble, but Jeni can’t resist the chance to slip under Hawk’s armor.

The only thing more shocking than the dark, dangerous pleasure they discover is how right it feels. But falling in love is even more reckless when forever is far from guaranteed. Because they aren’t just at war, they’re out of time—and every breath could be their last.

Now that Eden has bombed the holy hell out of Sector Two, attempt to assassinate one sector leader and successful assassinated another, the O’Kane’s and their allies are shoring up their defenses and preparing for the inevitable worst: an invasion of the sections by the forces of Eden. Tensions are high, crime is up, and people are starting to despair, even those who are loyal to Dallas O’Kane. For the last several books, Hawk and Jeni have been circling around one another. Hawk hails from Sector Six, where massive farms produce the majority of the food that feeds Eden. Where other sections get birth control piped into their water, in Sector Six, fertility drugs are pushed so that the multiple wives of the farm owner’s can produce more workers on a regular basis. So Hawk comes with a host of stepmothers and half sisters and brothers, all of whom he left behind when he helped Finn and Trixie escape the tyranny of Sector Five back in Beyond Addiction, cinching his entrée into the O’Kanes.

Jeni is a dancer at the Broken Circle and one of the elite prostitutes of Gia’s famed house, the same house where Ace and Jasper both once plied their former trade. She has a picture perfect memory, so Dallas sets her to work unraveling and vetting coded messages to find out who in their sector might be betraying them to Eden. Sexually, she’s been playing with Dallas and Lex for a while as their submissive, but as she’s seen other O’Kane’s pair up to find happiness, with a front-row seat to Dallas and Lex’s own perfectly balanced union, she’s realized this is the kind of love and partnership she wants for herself, not to always remain an accessory of another’s pairing. She thinks she might find this with Hawk, who snagged her attention and interested from the moment he arrived, but she can’t seem to make it past his taciturn shields.

Hawk’s been holding out on Jeni for several reasons. While he holds no judgment, the free-wheeling sex fun of the O’Kane’s isn’t really his bag. He wants the real thing, and when Jeni finally gets him to admit how he feels about her, he warns that he’s not into her for a hook up, he wants her to wear his mark from the get go, a collar he’s already had made, because it’s the end of the world so why waste time, ya know? Since he has a point, and she’s been wanting him for a long time, Jeni signs on for a trial run.

Except this is Sector Four, so naturally, it’s not as easy as that. Hawk returns to his home sector as Dallas’s envoy–and takes Jeni with him to meet the extended fam–so he can advise them how to prepare for the coming invasion. It’s while they’re there that Hawk and Jeni begin their relationship, getting to know each other while exploring limitless lines of pleasure and pain together.

Jeni and Hawk are basically trying for one last chance at love and happiness before the world ends. Hawk needs to believe there’s a future to fight for while Jeni is looking to enjoy what time they have left, two philosophies that may not be able to coast along together no matter how much love they may feel for one another. And when Eden makes its forceful hand known, Hawk and Jeni get caught up in the aftermath, leading them to a heart-breaking, all or nothing situation from which only one of them will survive.

Beyond Ecstasy isn’t the calm before the storm, it’s smack in the eye of it. Each Beyond book widens the depth and breath of this world and this time around, we’re back to get more of Sector Six while there’s also a sprinkling of hints of what’s to come in the final clash between the O’Kane’s/the Sectors and the might of Eden. After the bedroom gymnastics to accommodate a union of four in Beyond Ruin, focusing on only two people in Beyond Ecstasy was a relief. Maybe this is why Beyond Ecstasy feels somewhat sweeter and less complicated. Or it might be because Hawk’s family farm in Sector Six is a more traditional venue with green grass and barns and extended family who are actually related to one another, as though the gritty, urban series was transported to the Heartland before it’s destroyed (or is it?). The world-building has all its usual sublime intricacy and all of the favorite suspects make appearances to check us into their statuses. All around, Beyond Ecstasy is another sexy and satisfying romp with the O’Kanes, chock full of heart-stopping action and shocking revelations, centered around a couple trying to hold off the end of the world by holding on to each other for just a little while longer…if they can.

Check out all our Lady Smut Kit Rocha coverage here

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

Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha: A Review

21 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Hello Lady Smutters!! I have met my (first) deadline (admittedly late, but there’s a certain greatness to my lateness.) To add some shine to the luster of my euphoric return, I have, for you, today, a review of the newest Kit Rocha Sector Four, O’Kane wonderbeast Beyond Ruin–and a giveaway!!!

Beyond Ruin

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Unfortunately, the giveaway isn’t Mad from Sector Four, because in Beyond Ruin he gets not one, not two, but three lovers hooked up with him for good in a web only Kit Rocha could weave this tight.

Look! A blurb!

The explosive 7th book in the bestselling BEYOND series. The sectors will never be the same.

Adrian Maddox fled his royal life–and tragic past–in Sector One, choosing instead to join up with the O’Kanes. For years, he’s lived by one rule: love fast, love hard, and always be willing to walk away. He’s managed to guard his heart, keep it whole and untouched–until now.

They couldn’t be more different–Dylan, the brilliant, burned-out doctor from Eden who drowns his pain with drugs and self-destruction. Scarlet, the sensuous, sexy rocker from Three, a woman unafraid to embrace the world. And Jade, the whore turned spy from Sector Two, who battled addiction and came out stronger than anyone he’s ever met.

Separately, they make Mad long to open his heart, to tumble head-first into a sea of possibilities and wild love. Together, they make him burn, inside and out, with lust and unbearable, unimaginable pleasure.

Then one fateful moment shakes their world to its foundations–and leaves the sectors on the verge of all-out war with Eden. It’s the biggest fight the O’Kanes have ever faced, and Mad and his lovers are at the dead center of it. They could end up with everything they never knew they wanted–or lose it all. Including their lives.

So, this is Mad’s book and, I won’t lie, I’ve been waiting for his book for a loooooong time. Bits and pieces of his story and his connections to Sector One and his angst over being the grandson of the Great Prophet, treated like a god on earth whenever he’s in his home district and how the hell he got from Sector One to become an O’Kane of Sector Four have been teased through nearly all of the past six Beyond books. Me, I don’t like to be teased (mostly…) but I do like the fulfillment part, and that’s what Beyond Ruin aims to do with Mad’s story…and succeeds. Boy. Howdy.

This is a polyamory story with Mad finally addressing his feelings for Doc, Scarlet, and Jade individually and as a whole. Mad and Doc have been in a relationship with each other for some time. Ditto Scarlet and Jade, but each knows they are all tied to one another in unique ways and they’ve been discussing that for some time with their partners. They finally chuck it all out front and center and dive into having sex together as they cautiously poke at the emotional lengths to which they’re all willing to go to make their unit as a commitment foursome work…or not as the case may be.

As usual in Sector Four, the sex scenes are hot and highly emotional. There’s a lot to juggle in their big bed and pains are taken by characters and author to make sure everyone is being cared for on both levels. True, I had a few moments when I kinda wished I had a flow chart, or maybe Elizabeth SaFleur’s Sex Position Gumby for clarity about how one…part went where. But, once I let go of focusing on the “how does that work again?” component and let the emotions take center stage, any lingering muddled edges quickly smoothed out. Still, flow chart. Just sayin’.

Outside of the polyamory emo angst–on which, Kit Rocha delivers big time as per usual–what really pumps me up about Beyond Ruin is this book is a BFD game changer for the Sectors. As is huge.

big huge

That line of the tagline above–“The sectors will never be the same”–is not fucking around. The playing board of sectors and their leaders is not shaken up, it is tossed in the air, flung around the room. doused liberally in tequila, and set on fire. By the end of Beyond Ruin, Dallas O’Kane is facing the biggest fight of his life and it is all or nothing for everyone in the sectors…and beyond.

As a part of this game-changing action, Beyond Ruin takes us finally into Sector One, where the rulers are viewed as gods on earth thanks to the dubious inspiration of the Great Prophet, Mad’s grandfather who abused his power as religious and civil leader to disastrous results. As a direct descendant, Mad is next in line to assume the leadership of Sector One, now ruled by his cousin, a man Mad respects and loves a great deal. But Mad isn’t interested in ruling; he’s torn between the love he has for his family and the resentment he feels for being expected to live in lavish wealth and worship he feels none of them deserve while their people struggle in a post-apocalyptic world. Mad’s conflict over where he came from and how the sycophantic mindset of his family’s worshipers lead to his parent’s deaths over which he stills bears guilt strongly influence his angst over Jade, Doc, and Scarlet. It also becomes genuinely life-threatening a few times over.

Our entry in Sector One also introduces the bad ass, super devoted Gideon’s Riders, the elite secret police force intensely loyal to Mad’s cousin, Gideon, who rules Sector One and equally reverent of all members of the royal family, like Mad. If the Riders feel like delicious sequel bait, well you’re not wrong. They will be the focus of the next new Kit Rocha series…coming soon.

Jade does some unhappy walking down memory lane too as the BFD game-changing action erodes the power structure of Sector Two. Jade is called upon to fill the vacuum and come to terms with her own history involving Sector Two and her past as a famous and powerful mistress during which she was a skilled spy for her sector leader along with the addiction that was eventually forced upon her and what she did to defeat it. Doc, Scarlet and Mad must come to terms with the way this changes Jade status (and location) if they’re to make their foursome unit strong enough to survive the perils of the Sectors.

Clearly there is a LOT going on in the Sectors in Beyond Ruin and while this may be the titular “Mad’s book” in fact, a whole lot of dangling threads are being yanked the hell out and snared up together in new complicated knots. Which makes me all…

cant-wait

I’m a back story whore–gimme, gimme more–so I dig hard all the delving Beyond Ruin does in fleshing out what makes these characters who have influenced events sometimes dramatically in books before, but have not had their own real chance to shine, finally take center stage. I also deeply enjoyed seeing the inner workings of the Sector world shatter and reform. I can’t wait to see what happens next–and I admit to being a tad scared some favorite characters are heading toward bloody ends. Beyond Ruin takes serious narrative risks, which expertly set the stage for the upcoming last two books of the series. For any O’Kane fan, it’s a must read.

Are you new to Sector Four? Want to see what all the hubbub is about the O’Kanes? Well, how about a handy book bundle of the first three Beyond books to get you started? Thanks to the generosity of Kit Rocha, I have a book bundle of Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, and Beyond Pain to give to one lucky Lady Smutter. Simply click the button to follow Lady Smut and then leave a comment and let me know what you love most about the world of Sector Four or, if you’re a newbie to the Beyond series, what tempts you most to start reading? I’ll pick one lucky winner and announce the name on my post next week.

Be sure to check out all the Lady Smut love for Kit Rocha

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll ruin you but good.

Singer, writer, 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 and her first book will be available to buy on April 14th. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

But wait, there’s more! Enjoy these blurbs about the bundle giveaway to whet your appetite. And remember to leave a comment to win!

Blurb for Beyond Volume One

BEYOND SHAME

All Noelle Cunningham has ever wanted is a life beyond the walls of Eden, where only the righteous are allowed to remain. But ruins lie outside the City, remnants of a society destroyed by solar storms.

Those ruins house the corrupt and the criminal–men like Jasper McCray, bootlegger and cage fighter. He’ll defend the O’Kane gang with his life, but no fight prepared him for the exiled City girl who falls at his feet.

Her innocence is undeniable, and so is their attraction. But if she wants to belong to Jas, she’ll have to open herself to a world where passion is power, and freedom is found in submission.

BEYOND CONTROL 

Alexa Parrino escaped a life of servitude to become one of the most influential people in Sector Four, where the O’Kanes rule with a hedonistic but iron fist. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for the gang–and for its leader. But she bows to no one, not even Dallas O’Kane.

Dallas fought to carve order out of the chaos of the sectors. Danger threatens his people, but his liquor business is flourishing, and new opportunities fuel his ambition. Lex could help him expand his empire–and no one says no to the king of Sector Four.

Falling into bed is easy, but their sexual games are anything but casual. Attraction quickly turns to obsession, and their careful dance of heady dominance and sweet submission uncovers a need so deep, so strong, it could crush them both.

BEYOND PAIN

Live fast, die young–anything else is a fantasy for Six. She’s endured the worst the sectors had to throw at her, but falling in with Dallas O’Kane’s Sector Four gang lands her in a whole new world of danger. They’re completely open about everything, including their sexuality–but she hasn’t survived this long by making herself vulnerable. Especially not to men as dominant as Brendan Donnelly.

Bren is a killer, trained in Eden and thrown to the sectors. His one outlet is pain, in the cage and in the bedroom, and emotion is a luxury he can’t afford–until he meets Six. Protecting her soothes him, but it isn’t enough. Her hunger for touch sparks a journey of erotic discovery where anything goes–voyeurism, flogging, rough sex. He has only one rule: he won’t share her.

In Bren’s arms, Six is finally free to let go. But his obsession with the man who made him a monster could destroy the fragile connection they’ve forged, and cost him the one thing that makes him feel human–her.

Doing It Justice

1 Feb

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

It’s 11:04 on Sunday night and I’m stuck. Stuck, I say!

I’ve been working on a review for Kristen Ashley’s Sebring for most of the evening and lemme tell ya, it is not happening. This is not the book’s fault: it’s a great book. A proper end to Ashley’s Unfinished Heroes series (despite my tendency to picture a convertible every time I see the title) and an emotional, at times painful-in-a-good-way story. Ashley’s a master at crafting a tale whose characters wrap around your heart in seconds and whose journeys suck you into a new reality. But, for whatever reasons, I’m finding it more difficult than usual to articulate why I liked this book so much that I literally inhaled it the day it was released.

I want to do it justice. And right now, I’m not.

I review what I like–I see no purpose in writing a “bad book” review (though I’ve been known to go on a book rant when properly motivated)–so when I do a review, I want to be sure to give that book the best shake I can. And tonight, I can’t.

Instead, I’m gonna go back to the page and read through Sebring again to make sure I’m doing the book and its author justice when I post my review next week. I can only hope it’ll be worth the wait. I know Sebring definitely was.

Finally, because I hate to leave you empty-handed–especially on a Monday morning–have some candy to sweeten your day.

gandy book lovers

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Back in Business. Ain’t it Grand?

16 Nov

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Hello Lady Smuters! I have returned and am again all up in your bidness.

Didja miss me?

Getting back into “real life” after a month’s recovery from surgery is…well, it’s weird, I won’t lie. Mostly because nothing’s changed and everything you’ve step (briefly) away from has pretty much carried on without you. No harm. No foul. After a lot of sleeping (and, let’s face it, a lot of reading and re-reading Kristen Ashley novels because my glom is strong and cannot, WILL NOT, be denied) life basically went, “oh, you’re back” and flowed on accordingly.

Sux when that happens, amirite?

One of the books I read either before or after (dem drugs, dey make da days blend) was Cara McKenna’s Crosstown Crush, which our own Madeline Iva touched on a bit last week in her post Bring Horns: Watching, Cuckolding, & Other Things Couples Do on Dirty Dates. Here at Lady Smut, we’re big fans of Cara McKenna–like, HUGE–which you can see in my review of her book Hard Time along with Liz Everly’s look at After Hours (another great), and Madam Iva’s interview with Ms. McKenna.

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Click on image to buy!

 

I won’t go over the plot of Crosstown Crush as Madam Iva has that well covered. (Yes, that’s a ploy to click on her link above. Go with it.) Outside of the author being pretty much an auto read, I picked up Crosstown Crush due of the advertised MFM threesome, which, believe it or not, is a hard trope to find (*rim shot*).

I choose my erotic romance reads carefully because not all kinks pleasure all readers and frankly, there’s a lot out there that doesn’t ring my reading happy place. That’s okay–to each their own and all that–but it means I read between the cover copy lines before hitting my (1-click) button.

So I went carefully in to Crosstown Crush, because I love Cara McKenna’s books…but I do not do cheaters. Cheating, to me, is the ultimate betrayal of intimacy with and respect for one’s partner. It’s an automatic DNF when a hero cheats (within the relationship) and it’s one of the few real-life scenarios I will not abide in my reading choices. (The exception is historical romance due to the prevalent trope of the heroes being more sexually experienced than the [usually virginal] heroines and often having a mistress up until they’ve realized their love for the heroine.) Several excellent writers have made a number of successful novels wherein the hero (or, though more rarely, the heroine) cheats, that carefully explore the parameters of relationships and the concept of forgiveness as the characters work to move cautiously forward into a new place together. Or so I’ve been told. I haven’t read them myself because, no. No cheating. Full stop. Hard line.

The consensual cuckolding in Crosstown Crush begins as mere role-play between Mike and Samira. They both get off on it and McKenna takes some pains to illustrate how this works for them both. Without question, they are deeply in love with one another and Samira has no problem giving Mike the kink he needs to address his uber-alpha issues, whether it’s creating ever more lurid and elaborate scenarios of her fictional dates or being the one to suggest the “let’s bring this cuckold thing into real life” option in the first place, an elevation of his kink Mike desires but was not going to ask of his wife.

“The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write ‘Here is good horse to hire’ let them signify under my sign ‘Here you may see Benedick, the married man.’”
(Much Ado About Nothing, I.i.215–219)

Here’s the thing–the cuckolding deal is not for me. This seems obvious given my hard line on cheating, but it’s not really that which makes me uncomfortable about this book. It’s the humiliation. I don’t find it sexy or titillating for one partner to humiliate the other, regardless of the consensual aspect. And that’s what cranks Mike’s pump–he needs to be humiliated by another man “claiming” his woman and then “reclaim” her at the end of the scenario in order to assert his manhood. Now again, McKenna takes pains to detail how Mike and Samira both enjoy their roles in this kink and how Samira, in particular, willingly plays her role out of love and desire. But there’s so much explanation–first to the reader and then to Bern–that it begins to feel less informative and more like justification.

Bern enjoys being watched, a somewhat more common kink, and after meeting Samira and a lot of careful communication, he becomes the horns of the cuckold. Not for nothing, but I much prefer Bern to Mike. He’s hot, charming, affable, self-aware, a phenomenal lover, and terribly sexy. His first “date” with Samira is nearly perfect and made me wonder why she wouldn’t just keep on keeping on with Bern. Samira and Bern have great chemistry, in person and in bed, and it’s not a surprise that their physical intimacy within the bounds of the agreed upon scenarios deepens their emotional intimacy. They like each other on top of being attracted to each other and Samira is upfront about that with Mike (it helps to be sexually attracted to the man who’s going to play in your kink with you and your husband. I guess.)

While the sex is outstanding for everyone, the emotional conflicts build as intimacy between Samira and Bern grows. Samira has more involvement with him than Mike as her and Bern’s emails are the communication chain by which their engagements are arranged, which serves to preserve the parameters of Mike’s kink, keeping Bern an approved near stranger who Mike’s allowing to have sex with his wife. Samira and Bern are left alone together to set up the cuckold scenes in which Mike “discovers” them at which point Samira and Bern proceed to make him watch as they play on through and verbally humiliate Mike. Once Bern finishes and leaves, Mike almost violently “reclaims” Samira. But soon Samira and Bern are filming their assignations for Mike when he travels for business. Alone, their intimacy begins to break past the agreed upon kink play and become something very real.

It’s here that Samira finally claims her own. Up till now she’s been engaging and enjoying Mike’s kink–seeing to his needs out of her deep love for him and happily getting her own back in the process. In excess. But as her relationship with Bern grows beyond the boundaries of Mike’s kink, she realizes her own “kink”–her ability to love two men very differently at the same time. Her love for her husband is unchanged; it’s even become stronger by their open discussion of trust as they’ve invited Bern into their bed. Now she knows any forward movement of her relationship with Mike will need to address the desires she’s discovered thanks to their/her relationship with Bern. In the skilled hands of Cara McKenna’s emotional writing of vulnerable characters, Crosstown Crush goes beyond the humiliation of Mike’s kink and into an exploration of the many wrinkles and layers of love and trust and need, which exist in every relationship, regardless of kink.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll give you the bull’s horns, but only if you ask nicely.

 

Housekeeping and More Bikers With A Review of Shooting Dirty. Yes, MOAR

28 Sep

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

First a little housekeeping: starting Monday, October 5th, I’ll be taking a month’s hiatus from Lady Smut due to a personal situation that’s going to require significant focus and attention, which means I won’t have either to aim at writing reviews and posts for all you lovely bitches who hang with us here at Lady Smut. The loss is mine, but I’ll be back post spooks and ghouls of Halloween.

Shooting Dirty

Click image to buy!

Meanwhile, some stellar ladies will have my back and fill in my Monday slot with guest posts sure to entertain so much that you’ll hardly miss me. Like, not at all. (OK, please miss me, because like most writers, my ego is fragile and fleeting and thus requires the constant injection of pointless adulation. That’s normal, right?)

Before I go, one more biker erotic romance review. Yes, MOAR.

Last week, Jill Sorenson favored Lady Smut with a fantastic guest post about sex-worker heroines. A fascinating discussion followed in the comments (there’s something you don’t hear too often). Her MC series, Dirty Eleven MC, has a new release, Shooting Dirty, and lemme tell you, it does not shoot blanks.

Look! A blurb!

She’s his only salvation

Ace Clemmons has wanted Janelle from the moment he first saw her. Taking her captive while he carried out his last hit as a member of Dirty Eleven nearly broke him. Now that he’s gone straight, he’s back in her life, looking to stake his claim. He can’t erase the past but he’ll do anything to make it up to her.

Janelle Parker needs a new start, far away from the trailer park and the strip club. A down and dirty affair with a tattooed criminal is a step in the wrong direction, but she can’t resist Ace’s deliciously commanding touch, which has haunted her dreams for months. Soon they’re both in too deep, falling hard and fast—until an old feud with a rival motorcycle club explodes into an all-out war. Dirty Eleven’s enemies won’t hesitate to hurt Janelle to get to Ace. She has to fight to survive…and for the fiercest love she’s ever known.

As Dirty Eleven‘s lethal enforcer, Ace has been a major player in some bad shit. Now he’s gone straight and been exiled from the club, but the past has left deep scars on his soul, wounds that are marginally balanced by the pure love he has for his toddler daughter, Skye. All he wants now is to live a conflict-free life so he can regain custody of Skye from her maternal grandfather, Wild Bill Shepherd, the shifty leader of the Dirty Eleven Motorcycle Club.

Ace’s final assignment as a member of Dirty Eleven involved Janelle Parker and her scumbag ex-husband, a bad scene that lead to Ace taking Janelle captive, sparking a sizzling connection between them that hasn’t eased in the months since. His obsession with Janelle stems from a need to make amends for that bad scene coupled with a compulsion to protect her from men like him. Plus, he’s totally hot for her, not only because she’s beautiful, but because her survivor’s spirit calls to something deep within him. Ace is a man who lives without hope, but Janelle makes him want to believe there could be something more. But despite no longer being in the club, Ace is stuck in service to Wild Bill and his machinations, manipulations that expose Ace and anyone connected to him to a bullet in the back at any time either from an old enemy or men he used to call his brothers.

Janelle is trying to hold herself–and her teenage son–together after far too much trauma. She strips because she loves to dance–and she’s good at it. Despite a life of too many hard knocks, Janelle strives forward to create something new and better for her and her son. She has plans to take classes and someday get off the pole. While not ashamed of her stripper status, she’s not immune to how her son is beginning to suffer socially because of her job. And then there’s Ace, the scary, silent biker who lurks in the shadows of her life and symbolizes some of the worst and yet most electrifying moments of her life. Despite how they met, she can’t stop thinking about him in both bad and sexy ways.

As the weeks past, he encroaches more on her day-to-day, fixing her broken car window, lurking outside the club to make sure she gets home safe, leaving cash by her door. Janelle doesn’t want his help but she does want him. As he keeps coming back, as unable to stay away from her as she is to kick him to the curb for good, Janelle realizes Ace can give her something new. He’s a man like no other has been in her life, ready to please and protect her, eager to feed and fulfill her darkest desires even as he warns he has nothing more than that to give.

Both Janelle and Ace are wounded and damaged characters who, almost in spite of themselves, are still hanging on. Janelle is fixed and focused on creating a different life for her son than the one she had and that goal keeps her pushing no matter what life flings on her. But her demons need to be dealt with and she correctly figures Ace is the man to do some sexy exorcising. Ace has lived in filth and done terrible things, but at his core is a good man beaten down by too many bad things, a man who comes to light whenever he’s with his daughter and soon whenever he’s with Janelle. He’s sure that man is long gone, or at least is not long for this world, but from the moment he meets Janelle, her love for her son, innate resourcefulness, and indefatigable survivor’s spirit hooks him hard. He wants to cherish her at the same time as he wants to bend her to his mercy. She wants to stand strong at the same time as she needs to submit to him. But neither of them can get all they really want and need from each other so long as Dirty Eleven’s dirty business rules and risk both of their lives.

I like Shooting Dirty and the Dirty Eleven universe a lot because Ace and Janelle don’t live in a gentle world or even an MC bound by a brotherhood and devotion that’s remnant of a band of brothers or the fealty of knights as other MC books have created. There’s deep conflict in this MC between members. The “heroes” of these stories have served time and done criminal deeds worthy of those sentences and the king of the club is more about maintaining and expanding his power than he is about the club itself. Which means one wrong move could get a member killed and jeopardize the people he cares about. Characters in this series struggle moment by moment to find any kind of happiness and their day-to-day issues are not magically solved by a billionaire boyfriend or an MC making good money legally or otherwise. This makes the relationships and, in Shooting Dirty, the love story, more intense and sexy and emotional because the stakes are seriously high and at the same time seriously relatable (outside of the crime and killing, etc., natch). Ace and Janelle start out taking solace and sex from each other because it gives them slivers of comfort and happy in the darkness of their individual struggles, but they build to something more as they find that ultimate happy in each other and then have to fight internally and externally to keep it.

Shooting Dirty is available now. For more of the Dirty Eleven MC, check out the first book in the series, Riding Dirty.

Have a great October! See you in a month!

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Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai

15 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Several years ago, I read Alisha Rai’s first novel, Glutton for Pleasure, which was, I believe, my first menage erotic romance. It is a sexy, sweet morsel featuring a delightfully plump chef heroine named Devi with a lovely theme of learning to appreciate her own value sexually and claim some agency within her overwhelming family as she falls in love with two men.

It’s long-awaited sequel, Serving Pleasure, is in a whole ‘nother weight class.

First, a blurb:

Rana Malik is over being her family’s resident black sheep. She’s on a mission: ditch the casual hook-ups, revamp her bad-girl image, and fall in love with a proper Mr. Right even her conservative mama can’t find fault with. Not on the menu? The beautiful, brooding Mr. Right Now who lives next door, and all the ways he whets her appetite.

Artist Micah Hale had it all—women, success, friends and family—until his world changed in a single act of senseless violence. Now struggling to conceal his scars and get his life and career back on track, he knows he has nothing to offer a woman except his body. He’s not looking for love… but he can’t control his craving for the sexy bombshell voyeur he’s caught looking at him.

Their attraction boils over and their defenses are stripped off along with their clothes. They promise they’ll walk away if it gets too hot. But it’s hard to the right thing…when being wrong feels so good.

When Rana saw her youngest sister, Devi, find love and happiness with her pair of lovers, she decided to put aside her black sheep status and become New Rana by reining in her wild impulsive nature and actively searching for her own Mister Right. She’s been no-sex for a year while using a dating site to go on sensible dates with “appropriate” men (scenes enlivened by the knowledge that Ms. Rai herself signed up and dated off of a match-making site as research for this story.) That’s until Rana starts to spy on her new neighbor, brooding artist Micah Hale, while he paints with furious abandon, then destroys the unsatisfying canvas with an Exacto knife, and finally decides to relieve his frustration with some hawt, if ultimately unsatisfying, self-love.

Now *that’s*a meet cute.

Serving Pleasure Cover

Click on the image to buy!

Ex-pat Brit, Micah, is nursing his own wounds from a brutal attack two years ago that nearly killed him. Overall, he feels less. Less of a man. Less of an artist. Often, less than a man. Once a first-class player, now he can barely stand the socialization required for his first U.S. showing. He notices Rana’s late-night peeping right away and has a visceral response to her that is stronger than anything he’s felt since his attack. She also ignites his creativity and leaves him itching to paint. He deliberately puts on a show for her and later, when he catches her stalking him, taunts her into having an affair, no strings attached, with a shared agreement not to fall in love with each other.

Oh and he gets to paint her. Naked.

This was all his fault. All of it. Rana might have pined over him a bit, but she’d been moving on. The memories of their night together would have faded eventually. Then this beautiful asshole had come waltzing back into her life, offering her the sweetest of things, the things she craved. Lust. Excitement. Desire. Attention. She could have them. Extend their affair. Get everything she needed from him. Because, God, she needed. And then she would walk away. There was no other choice.

Rana’s trying to bridle her passions and be more worthy of a love for which she doesn’t entirely believe herself to be worthy, especially given some of the questionable things she’s done in her past. She also struggles to feel valued by her sisters as a professional equal as they expand their shared business. She tired of being valued only for her good looks, using them and her considerable charm to wait tables and manage staff while Devi spins genius cuisine in the kitchen and middle sister Leena bends her sharp mind to their restaurant’s financial needs. But Rana can’t get her sisters to see past their established molds. And though she’s secure in her sexuality, for years she’s taken verbal abuse and constant shaming from her mother that has torn away at her self-worth.

Micah changes all that.

Confidence made her shoulders straighten. Prettiness might be all she had going for her, but Micah didn’t make her feel pretty . He made her feel like a goddess. Like he was starving in a desert and she was the only thing that could save him.

Following his attack, Micah is practically a recluse. Everything about him is different; even the way he paints and the pictures he creates are something new and not, to his mind, better. Rana is the first risk he’s taken, the first woman he’s itched to paint, the first woman to drive him rabid with desire. After two years of celibacy, his physical need is fierce and exciting because his emotional need is wildly out-of-control and deeply unfulfilled until he meets Rana.

His fingers curled against the glass. He wanted to march over to her home right now and kidnap her, bring her back to his lair. Not so he could torture both of them for a couple of hours while he sketched her, but so he could get right to what he needed from her. It wasn’t sex, though he worshiped her for giving it to him. He wanted to hold her close while the afternoon sun rolled over their bodies. He wanted to nuzzle his face against her neck in the hope he might actually sleep a whole night through. When they climaxed, it was the only time in recent memory he could remember feeling at peace.

Alisha Rai writes some of the best diverse, feminist, erotic romance out there today, a fact also on display in her novel A Gentleman in the Street. Her heroines ooze agency and revel in their sexuality; her heroes are complex and often surprisingly against stereotype. Her books are gutsy and original with sizzling, emotion-filled sex that will leave you buzzing for days.

With every stroke that conjures Rana and Micah’s depths and their significant emotional stakes, Ms. Rai brings these fully-fleshed, complicated people to life through words that are polished and witty, engrossing and poignant. At times funny with a touch of screwball comedy, Serving Pleasure explores the themes of family expectations and failures and the struggle of trauma recovery with grace and care through pages of sensual pleasure threaded with tender scenes of self discovery and forgiveness.

Be sure to come back next Monday when we’ll chat with Alisha Rai about Serving Pleasure, writing purpose-filled sex, and the enticement of a man’s well-sculpted forearms.

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