Sunday, 29 April 2007

Disturbing Stranger by Charlotte Lamb

This novel was published in 1978. During Ms Lamb’s quality period and it’s a pretty good effort.

I enjoyed reading through the courtship of 20 year old Laura and 36 year old business tycoon Randal. Even though she’s a virginal skank bitch and he’s a cunt.

But the real awful couple in this novel were Laura’s parents. Her mother was an emotional blackmailer who had basically turned her daughter into her carer and her father was an embezzler who asked his daughter to prostitute herself so he could avoid jail. I so wanted them both to DIE before Laura’s wedding to Randal.

Why do Laura and Randal fall in love? Well. She’s a beautiful natural platinum blonde. And he can arouse her desires. Fair enough. There’s the basis for a good 5-years of HEA. They met by chance when Laura was accompanying the tame boyfriend's friend around London and Randal was with a group of medical students doing crazy stunts like going up to two women and asking for a kiss.

And of course Laura’s trailing along a tame boyfriend, Tom. Who is the unofficial doctor to her mother. Laura has no friends (and not much education) what with always being at the beck and call of her ailing parent so at least she’s got some excuse for the way she treats Randal.

Laura always says no to Randal which he ignores. And she responds like a slut to his kisses and gropes. At one point Randal tells Laura he’d like to rape her and almost the very next paragraph he’s taking her to meet his own bed-ridden mother. ‘Will you marry me’ he asks Laura after a couple of months of respectable courtship. ‘I love Tom’ she tells him.

The problem is Laura’s father works for Randal’s company. And he’s been stealing lots of money. So he tells Laura to accept Randal’s proposal. ‘Otherwise I’ll go to jail’ he whines. Not for one minute does Laura find a single fault with this asshole of a parent. That annoyed the hell out of me. But she has no trouble in despising Randal.

So what happens is that Laura fixates on the purity of her love for Tom. To give the author her due there is never so much as a hint that Tom is in any way a sexual being. Only once does Laura try to kiss Tom but he freezes her off. Tom later says that he believed Randal would cherish and keep Laura safe. Stupid self-righteous martyr.

There’s a great tit for tat in Laura and Randal’s relationship. She contemplates her sexual power over him, he slaps her face, she wears a locket with Tom’s photo inside on her wedding day. Laura also wrings a couple of admissions of infatuation from Randal. So overall I’d say she wins in the bitch stakes.

Poor Laura’s so miserable on her wedding day. I laughed. All she had to do to avoid it was to tell her father ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ But of course she doesn’t. Laura is one of those romance women whose body is a separate entity from her mind…or so the author would have us believe. So the wedding night passes amazingly smoothly. But that’s the heroine all over. She tells herself she loathes her husband but gives him no trouble in bed.

It’s a 200 page novel and by page 120 Laura and Randal are well and truly man and wife. So where does the story go from here? We work towards the mutual declaration of love.

Well on their honeymoon in Venice she meets one of his ex-girlfriends, a rich widow and Laura admits to herself that she is jealous. Next minute she realizes she loves her husband. I didn’t get the reason why. No reason really other than sex and possessiveness. Two weeks honeymoon and then they’re back in London where it all goes wrong.

I think by now the author had run out of ideas. And the story ends weakly with the hero and heroine behaving in highly stereotyped ways.

For some reason Laura says no to her husband but as always he ignores her. So afterwards he feels guilt and stops sleeping with her. He’s also highly jealous of the former boyfriend Tom. Laura is by now pregnant and asks Tom to be her doctor. He refuses and tells her that he always loved her but doubted that she would be able to cope with his lifestyle once he achieved his ambition of working as a doctor in developing countries.

I actually thought this was a seriously deep insult to the heroine. She coped with running a household for an invalid mother, she coped with organising her own wedding, she coped with marriage to a demanding difficult man. Believe me she could cope with the four-star lifestyle that WHO personnel demand and get in recipient countries.

Tom would have been a much worse husband than Randal for Laura anyway. In the end his continual disapproval would have ground down her self-esteem. I hope one day she realises that fact. On the other hand Laura really will have to teach Randal to accept that ‘N.O’ means ‘NO.’

Anyway. Tom drives Laura to her home. She faints due to the pregnancy, the state of her marriage and the shock of Tom’s rejection. The husband returns just as the boyfriend is placing a weak Laura on her bed. (All the servants conveniently being out) Randal socks Tom who leaves. Randal agrees to give Laura a divorce (after about 2 months of marriage) so she can be happy in marrying Tom. She actually does tell him that Tom doesn’t want her. Then they tell each other they love one another. End of. Except that poor ol’ Randal will always be aware of his wife’s shirt-tail platonic love for Tom forever. That’s life. But not a HEA which is why a good HEA is very important. All in all. Three quite interesting interdependent people.

Finally. imo Laura can’t win. She attracts men who do not value her and was born into a dysfunctional family. She’ll just have to make the best she can of what fate has given her.

There are no explicit sex scenes in this novel but all the conflict made the relationship quite hot imo. But I so hated both sets of in-laws.

Genre; contemporary romance. Movie rating 15, blackmail, marital rape, criminality, relationship violence, grown-up themes.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Green Lightning by Anne Mather

For some reason this book just popped into my consciousness after reading through the tiresome shenanigans between Butch and Marissa in Lover Revealed. I wish the author had been aware of Green Lightnings heroine's attitude to deflowering because then she might have cut down on the padding and let the readers enjoy the vampire adventure a bit more.

I miss May/December romances.

This novel is completely un-pc and independently awful. It's over 25 years old but then again Jane Eyre was written 200 years ago so no modern author can really complain if their early work is dissed.

The 17-year old heroine falls in love with her 39-year old playwright guardian. That's right. They live in the same house (some of the time) and she falls in love with him. They are not related however.

This story has one truely shameful scene. For some reason the guardian decides to spank the naked bottom of his ward. Amazing even for 1983. I couldn't believe my eyes as I read it. But the author was too decent to take it further. However this is one of the few romances that I have ever read where the virginal heroine doesn't feel pain on her first night. In fact she tells the hero 'It was the most marvellous experience.' How sweet. I just wonder why 99.9% of romance authors didn't pick up on the fact that sex for the first time doesn't have to be painful.

Unfortunately once the hero has done the deed he sends the heroine away to live with a shirt-tail relative. Out of guilt I think. A bit late. The 17-yo heroine also likes to light up a cigarette or two. How times change.

Generally speaking I don't like romances set in show-biz land. It's a setting more appropriate for cynics like Philip Marlowe to explore. But ultimately the characterisations were poor in this story. The heroine suddenly became irrationally jealous of her guardian's older girlfriend. And the hero was a grouch too. Something like that.

I am actually too scared to post this review over on Amazon. pc-ness is also a tyranny.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Lover Revealed by J R Ward

It's not that I don't like the character of Butch. It's just that he's a minor, a groupie, a hanger on, a gofor, and actually police brutality is no longer as fashionable as it once was for anti-heroes. Which of course is why Butch got slung off the CPD. Having the real name Brian doesn't help either. And Butch gets his own novel before Phury or Vishous?! It's like trying to turn Scooter Libby into a hero. It is so not going to occur. And most gross of all. Butch calls Marissa 'Baby' as in 'Hi Baby,' or 'How's it going Baby?' Ugh. See what I mean about being an alkie slob. No way is he hero material.

Most of what happened to Butch could easily have been written for for the tragic one-legged Phury. Including the romance with Marissa.

I was quite happy with the world of the BDB brothers. Reading about them doing their useless Lesser slaying business. But now in this novel we’re stuck with Butch’s backstory and his relationship with his relatives. Boring. That device that he really really has vampire blood in him. So pathetic. Plus it's time for that nerd John Matthew to be accidentally torched. All these new people being introduced…purely for the sake of setting up the next novel in the series. I don’t never want to read any criticisms of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter books ever again. Her plot details may be minimal but Lover Revealed is the other extreme. You can't appreciate the plot because the wordage gets in the way. Something like that.

I read it and felt like someone was treating me like a fool. Showing me disrespectfulness. tbh I think these novels are evolving away from my type of romance. There is much too much going on. And most of it doesn’t hold my interest. I mean this is a story about vampires, right. Both Butch’s issues and Marissa’s are minor minor compared with either Mary or Zsadist.

Somewhere in this novel is an excellent vampire adventure trying to fight it's way through too many words into the light. I quite liked how V and Wrath converted Butch into a vamp. The prophecy sub-plot was good. But I didn't understand the little poem. In this novel the brothers gain their first big victory over their enemies, the Lessers. And it was done not through hard work or detection but through blood-lines and destiny. That is supremely appropriate for a vampire novel. And now those fun-filled mini-Hannibal Lectors, the Lessers, have no temporal leader or hierarchy. I quite liked them too. Although I'm glad the torture scenes were few and far between in this novel.

This story also recycles the notion of 'the good dealer' who sells safe product versus 'the bad dealer' who sells contaminated product. Like that makes a difference to the poor stooges who grow the stuff. Believe me, all dealers will rot in hell.

I must be the only reader who doesn't mind that the wives have no jobs. (Another tyranny) Having seen the awe-inspiring portrayal of Dracs wives in the film van Helsing I appreciate that the function of vampire wives is entirely to support and build a community around their men. And to look stunningly beautiful. (even Mary) One of the posters on Amazon suggested the author should write 4 more books about Zsadist and I agree with that. (Plus a big dose of Vishous)

Also I don't like the influence the fans are having on the outcome of the stories. This is exactly what happened with LoTR. The fans prevented Arwen from being more active in the films which is what the director seems to have originally intended. I much prefered Arwen when she advised and guided Strider.

The words, Jump. The. Shark. come to mind. Well for me anyhow. Signing off in sorrow.

Genre; vampire romance; movie rating 18; use of knives, murder, explicit sex, voyeurism, profanities, mysticism, lots and lots of dripping blood.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Enchanted by Elizabeth Lowell

My favourite historical romance. Set in northern England in the years following the Norman invasion (or was it just after the first crusade). Ariane and Simon have to marry for political reasons and this is the story of how they make their marriage work.

I actually think this novel is perfect but here are some issues for other readers to be aware of;

the hero calls the heroine by a nick-name throughout most of the story; there is a lot of flowery clap-trap mysticism; the heroine has been raped repeatedly by a knight at her father’s court before the story starts and she uses the knowledge gained to seduce her husband; the hero performs oral on the heroine when she is unconscious; the heroine plays a harp to convey her emotions; the hero and his brother discuss each other’s marital relations; the hero is not fussed about his wife’s rape; the heroine relates her rape scene in public in front of an audience of mainly males; there is a high smut factor throughout the novel.

This is a novel where the (pretend) politics of the time are a major factor in the romance. Simon has no issues that affect the plot other than his rock-solid loyalty to his Lord who is in fact his older brother Dominic. Dominic is determined that none of the neighbouring nobility, the Norman king or Ariane’s noble father will have a reason to start a local war. And all the major characters behaviour in this story is constrained by that important fact. In order that another couple (from a previous novel) who are in love may marry, Ariane agrees to wed Simon. Despite her past experiences she agrees to fulfil her conjugal duty with Simon but he’s too nice to do that with an unwilling woman. So basically it’s story about how their relationship builds. I can’t remember all the details but first Ariane saves Simon from being killed by raiders but is seriously injured. And Simon is essentially her carer while she recovers. So Ariane falls in love. Simon is happy once Ariane makes love to him but he cannot commit to love because last time he became besotted by a woman his brother Dominic almost lost his life when the woman’s husband found out about the affair. And Simon’s bond with his brother goes deep.

And then the rapist turns up to taunt the happy couple. The trouble was Ariane’s noble baron father did not believe her rape claim. Who gets raped for a whole night he presumably thought. So Simon has 2 versions of an event that occurred before he met his wife. He thinks that maybe Ariane loved this knight (who behaves like a pussy) before she knew she would be sent to England to be married to a stranger. Also he is reluctant to make a fuss because if he killed the rapist knight who arrived as the emissary of Ariane’s father then that would be a reason to start a war and he would be breaking his oath of loyalty to his brother. Simon cares for Ariane as she is now, to him the rape is irrelevent. Unfortunately men are from Mars and women are from Venus. And Ariane is not having it that the rapist actually boasts about her night of pain (he drugged her btw) So Ariane asks a trusted local mystic to essentially put her under hypnosis because she wants Simon to know the truth of what happened. This happens in the big hall of Simon’s castle while loads of knights are feasting. Well, when a hypnotised Ariane recounts in detail her ordeal of that night, the rapist gets hysterical (presumably because he’s embarrassed) and lunges for Ariane with his dagger. Simon gets to him first and the rapist is history. Oops. Because the public shaming of his wife impugnes his own honour presumably.

And then Ariane’s dowry disappears. And her noble father turns up expecting to see his daughter married to someone else other than Simon and surrounded by riches. And his esteemed emissary is dead too. He’s got a good reason to start a war now!

The resolution of where the dowry is and who finds it and what happens is all wonderfully tied up in the mysticism of the story which totally works because it has always been an integral part of the novel. Basically Ariane becomes trapped in a magic kingdom when she goes to fetch the dowry and the only way Simon can save Ariane is to declare his love for her. Something like that. Of course Ariane’s noble father goes back to France a disappointed man. I had no trouble in believing in the couple’s HEA.

There is no comparison of this novel with Lover Awakened. Enchanted is more tightly constructed, has coherent continuous plot-lines, minimal padding and the hero and heroine spend loads of time together. It also has subtle layers to the plot. Although the pacing is somewhat uneven. But who am I to criticise the supremely talented author. And in the end Simon and Ariane even get their own castle and home. They do not live in a commune like the dumbass BDB. Unfortunately even the author of Enchanted has given up writing this kind of romance. Such a shame.

I actually like this novel better than All Through The Night by Connie Brockway (my other favourite historical). Mainly because the heroine Ariane isn’t as manic as Anne. (nor is she ‘sassy’ or fuckin’ ‘kick-ass’) nor do Ariane and Simon have to endure poverty in order to gain their HEA. Although Jack Seward is a better hero than Simon.(They’re both blond by the way)

Genre; historical romance; movie rating 15; explicit sex, female gets knifed, use of swords, mysticism, female rape, hypnotism.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Night Music by Charlotte Lamb

Fantastic little romance written over 20 years ago. Night Music details how Lisa and Steve mend their broken marriage. The hero and heroine are two beautiful people with a range of complex emotions. My sympathies were entirely with Steve and Lisa was a very strong tough cookie indeed. The great thing was that there was absolutely no doubt that they loved each other throughout the story.

Lots of anger. Lots of tasteful sex. Great ending.

One of 3 stupendous Lamb novels written in the late 70s. Hard to believe the years of pc dross that followed.

Genre; contemporary romance; movie rating PG13, grown-up themes.

Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

Someone with talent spent money on the cover of this novel. For a paranormal it looks classy.

In the prologue the hero mutilates himself (he bites his leg off) and so spends the whole of the rest of the novel hobbling about with one leg shorter than the other. This wouldn’t matter if he had an intellectual role but seeing how one of his main life’s ambitions is to kill his mortal enemy this gimp places him at a big disadvantage.

Well, I found the prologue bloodcurlingly gory and dreaded the rest of the novel carrying on in the same vein. (I do not read horror novels nor do I watch horror films) No worries about that. Essentially this story is about the hero’s efforts to bed an easy-going golden-haired (virginal)bimbo.

If I were a 16-year old I probably would have loved this novel. But I am not and in the end I hated the story for exactly the same reasons that I would have liked it all those years ago.

The werewolf hero is being held in chains in the catacombs under Paris where he’s been seriously tortured for over a hundred years. He senses the approach of his ‘mate, who is the woman he is destined to spend the rest of his life with, frees himself and goes to meet her. The half-vampire heroine is that ‘mate.’ At no time during the course of this story does the heroine express any feelings of love towards the hero. In fact she spends a lot of her time trying to justify to herself the fact that she’s allows a complete stranger to violently woo her. Let’s put it like this. She does not not like him. And that’s the strongest she feels for him as far as I could tell.

The hero’s home is in Scotland so he decides to take his beloved there…by car. So most of the first half of the novel is essentially a travelogue from Paris to Scotland via Shrewsbury of all places. Well you’d think the journey would be an opportunity for some character development or the couple getting to know each other better. Not a bit of it. The heroine spends most of the journey with her MP3 phones attached firmly to her ears.

And we get the same graphically hot romance scene replayed over and over again. He jumps on her for sex. She tolerates it for a while then says a big ‘NO.’ He stops. We travel a little and the same thing happens again. By page 100 I felt like I had been the victim of that notorious Nigerian scam. I am telling you. Nothing happens. They get to Scotland, she meets his extended werewolf family, she does internet shopping because she’s homesick and he takes every opportunity to jump her bones. I was B.O.R.E.D.

And what’s more it looked like the heroine was never going to say yes mainly because the author had given her no reason to do so. It’s not that the heroine hated the hero because she didn’t. In true bimbo style she just couldn’t be bothered.

Well thank god for editors. Around page 250 at last the couple get it together. The hero becomes a little more assertive because it’s a full moon and for the same reason the heroine takes on the characteristics of a werewolf and turns into a bitch in heat. (It made no sense because she wasn’t even vaguely a werewolf) Admittedly it’s a very hot chapter. But after that THERE IS HARDLY ANY MORE ROMANTIC SCENES BETWEEN THE MAIN COUPLE. As far as I am concerned that shows up the author as totally useless. That’s what romance writers used to do in the 70s.

What happens next is a load of unbelievable tosh. The heroine was in Paris because she was looking for her vampire father who she had never known. The father turns out to be the same vampire that originally imprisoned and tortured the hero and who the hero has sworn to kill. This father is supposed to be ‘the most evil and strongest’ vampire on the earth. After having mated with the hero, the heroine decides the hero is too much of a weak pussy to come out alive from any encounter with her vampire father. So she goes off to kill the vampire father in his stead. That’s right. For no reason other than she’s had sex with the hero our bimbo decides to kill the ‘strongest and most evil’ vampire around. And the most ridiculous thing of all is that the vampire dad, after a token wounding of the heroine, essentially gives up the fight and allows himself to be killed.

There are some good bits to the novel. For instance, both the hero and the heroine have claws. I liked that. And the hero does what vampires in other novels do…he bites off the heroine’s clothes. There’s this quite funny scene where the hero tries to get the heroine drunk so he can have sex with her. But he does it very sneakily. HE drinks alcohol so that when she drinks his blood she gets drunk. It doesn’t work and in revenge when she (the virgin) is giving him some oral, she bites his dick so that he passes out while she tries to escape. I’ve never come across that before. And tbh both the hero and heroine are very likeable people.

The bad bits. Sorry. His Scottish burr made him sound like a hick. Accents and dialects are perfectly acceptable when you can hear them but to see them written on the page is painful. The hero does a lot of talk. About how he’s protected his castle with strong magic spells and then both the heroine’s foster aunts and evil vampires break in successfully. About how his big vengeance mission in life is to kill the evil vampire King and then he lets his bimbo gf do it. But even the vampire King turned out to be not a king but a clan leader.Terrible consistency error. Swords are used in this novel…not guns. I found that pussy. A total waste of time. And basically it was a mistake to make the hero into a werewolf because as the author clearly demonstrates, in the paranormal world the werewolves are near the bottom of the social and magical skills scale.

A lot of the novel is used to set up characters for sequels but tbh that’s par for the course for the genre. I read this book once only and basically regretted spending my money on it.

Genre; paranormal romance; movie rating 18; explicit sex, violence, use of knives, profanities, murder.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Where Fires Once Burned by Zelma Orr

Another deeply unfashionable but beautifully written 250 page romance.

April had loved Russ like forever. They married when she was 18. They both worked part-time as well as attending college. Then 3 years into the marriage Russ tell April he feels she’s smothering him with her immature love and that he’s missing out on knowing more experienced women, literally walks out and divorces her 3 months later. April is devastated, has a break-down then quits college and finds a new job driving vans and then big rigs.

Six years later, there has been no-one else for April. She lives a very spartan but generally happy life with her dog Brush, still driving trucks for a living. Russ also still unmarried, has been kidnapped, beaten and held for ransom in Egypt. After 12 days the company pays the ransom and Russ is freed. During his captivity he thought about his life with April and realised he still loved her. So on his release he returns to the apartment he and April shared when they were married, sees a little boy who looks vaguely like April playing on the stairs and assumes April has found happiness with someone else.

Meanwhile April had an accident in her rig when a man driving a stolen vehicle crashed into her. She suffered concussion and sectional amnesia. April cannot remember anything about her life experiences but does remember enough to still work day to day. The accident was reported on the local news station which is how Russ comes back into her life.

So Russ starts dating April all over again. And of course April, even though she doesn’t remember Russ, is receptive to him because he’s the only man she ever loved.
To give April credit she does initially tell Russ to get lost when her memory returns but she soon changes her mind. And Russ’s motives for seeking out April are far from perfect. Ok, he remembered her love whilst he was in captivity, and no other woman has ever cried when he moved on but, I ask myself, will his feelings last any longer than 3 years this time around. In a way, though, it doesn’t matter. Let them find happiness together for as long as it lasts. They’ve both suffered enough.

The story is written in a fantastic natural style. There are no sub-plots or superfluous characters so the reader spends all their time with the main couple. Something else that is unfashionable nowadays. And the bedroom scenes, while not hot, are very sensuous.

The only thing strange about this romance is that despite the cover I gained the impression that it was written by a person of colour about a non-white couple. But that’s the sort of crap Harlequin used to impose on some of its authors.

Lovely, lovely working class american romance which I’ve read many, many times.

Genre; contemporary romance. Movie rating PG13; pre-marital sex; deception.

Try To Remember by Vanessa James

This story is almost a carbon copy of but at the same time completely different from The Devils Advocate written by the same author. This is what happened in the days before sequels became de rigeur. Personally I could read versions of the basic outline forever and a day. Which is two people mending a broken marriage where no adultery is involved.

Ms James utilises her two most effective devices here. The heroine with (selective) amnesia. And the thoroughly evil manipulative relatives. In my opinion American romance writers cannot do evil relatives. I mean. The heroine forgets about the man she loved, the fact that he married her and the baby she lost. For what? To live as a moonling companion to a malicious step-father. The entire plot hinges on the serendipitous death of the step-father. And if that hadn't happened neither Isobel nor Eliot would have found happiness together again. I just wanted to shake the pair of them.

Strictly speaking this story involves TWO doormats. Isobel and Eliot are abominably abused and lead by the nose by their jealous relatives. Both of them are supposed to be intelligent people. Eliot was a lawyer. Pardon me. But when a man marries, he becomes the legal guardian of his wife doesnt he? So why does Eliot allow the step-father to refuse him access to Isobel when she is injured in the car accident? Why does he get himself banged-up on a trumped up charge? Because he's a masochist who loves being a martyr. Thats why.

That Bobbi. What a bitch. That Edmund. What a perv. And let me just explain the 2 sets of parents relationships to each other. Hang on, I don't think I can.

Some readers may ask 'Is Isobel TSTL?' And 'Is Eliot a complete nutcase?' Personally I do not care. Their faults humanise them.

Brilliant story. Beautiful ending.

Genre; contemporary romance. movie rating PG 13; substantial blurring of sexual boundaries with families, porn photos.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Seize the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

This is the story where we get to find out the act of vengeance Zarek carried out when he became a Dark-Hunter. And we see that now that he's a god, Zarek is having a great time sending thunderbolts to strike Valerius every once in a while. (Valerius was forced to whip Zarek when they were both human and basically blinded poor ol' Zarek)

Anyway. Valerius and Tabby plus a cast of thousands. I liked excellent heroine. I especially liked the fact that she makes the first moves towards Valerius. So much so that he asks her 'How many Dark-Hunters have you slept with?' I laughed at that. And Tabby handled it very well considering.

Valerius is the usual DH with issues that are incredibly trivial considering he's had a generally good life as a human. They have a nice enough hot romance. Basically Valerius is kinda grateful Tabby treats him with respect because all the other Greek DHs don't and he's lonely. And yes, Valerius is very aware that he was a member of the Roman ruling classes. What I didn't understand is why the author paints Valerius as having some kind of jinx and then goes nowhere with this idea??? And what was all that business in Valerius being Marla the transvestites escort in the beauty contest. Was it really just for colour? But in a way I know I'm wasting my time looking for coherent plot-lines in a DH novel. That's just not the author's style. In actual fact the padding in this novel is better than the plot. Go figure.

We meet a lot of old friends in this story; Ash, Simi, the 2000-year old greek Kyrian who seems to have metaphorphosed into your typical working-class american bozo somehow. There's a lovely little digression that shows Kyrian struggling with some very human problems after all those years of immortality. I was amazed (and disappointed) at how much Simi's voice had changed from Dance With the Devil. In that novel the 300-year old charonnte demon spoke and behaved like a babbling intuitive 3/4 year old child. In this novel she's a teen demon slut. So god knows why Ash gets so upset when she gets consensually laid. And did the editors put in the African-American Dark-Hunters? All Janice and Kasim did was say hello and goodbye. Pointless really.

And I cannot emphasize enough how ditzy the story veers from comic to traumatic within a few chapters. I could never figure out the conclusion of the gods part of the plot...the Stryker character just fizzles out. But its all very interesting for a while. It's something like this. Stryer and Desiderius, the daimon from Kyrian's story who reincarnates himself to steal Kyrian's baby daughter who is also Tabby's neice. Something to do with giving the baby to the Atlantean goddess Apollymi so that they can become very powerful. But first they have to immobilize Ash which they do.

And we find out what happened to poor Nick. Strangely this is the first DH story that I've read that features some real tragedy. But then the author ties up nearly all the loose ends very nicely in her usual fashion. The second best DH in my opinion...Dance with the Devil is better.

Genre; vampire romance. movie rating 15; pre-marital and oral sex, child sees parents bodies, bloody violence, extensive use of knives, distressed child, female murder, suicide.

The Long Surrender by Charlotte Lamb

Beautiful, frigid tease Selina and obsessive, violent Ashley try to make their marriage work the second time around.

Ms Lamb used the 3 plot devices present in Long Surrender over and over again in many of her books over the following years but never to such great effect. The story works because the first time Selina and Ashley got married it was because they loved one another. So the pimping brother, the violence and the frigidity are all necessary for their second attempt at happiness to work out. And how many romances feature 2 suicide attempts? The ending is fantastic. The heroine risks her self-respect in order to prove her love for her husband. Believe me, Selina is more than a match for Ashley's anger. I read this in the 1970s and I read it again in the 21st century. The story remains engrossing. Apparently Ms Lamb (RIP) wrote this novel in one weekend.

What this story really needed was for the sex scenes to be more graphic.

Genre; contemporary romance. Movie rating 15; female sells herself for money, a scene of marital rape, suicide attempt.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I was quite surprised by how teary I became whilst reading some of the end chapters. Sniff. The problem with Zarek is that, in this novel, he actually does nothing to deserve his stone reputation or how bad the other Death-Hunters treat him. People will say, `Oh, you need to read some of the other novels in the series to find out.' Well, no I shouldn't have to. That information should be in THIS book.

Zarek's supposed to be a mean nasty killer but he saves the mink mommy and gives carvings to orphanages. How come those all-seeing b.o.z.o.s on Olympus don't know these facts? For whatever reason, Zarek seems to love to victimise himself. Although, to quote someone, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh out loud at some of the scenes of his suffering. We weren't even told about the act of vengeance he committed when he became a DH. Sadly without an occupation, he'll most likely get bored stiff living with those gods. I got heartily sick of all those black pants and motorvehicle images too. Nice to see a couple in a paranormal treat each other with respect though.

Poor Simi. She learned a hard lesson from Thanatos.

This was my first Death-Hunter novel. It came up on my Amazon recommendations for some reason. I have read quite a few of the series now. What I enjoy about all of them is that there is quite a lot of humour in the stories so I usually end up laughing or smiling as I read through the books. Which makes a nice change for me. I also like the fact that in Dance With the Devil, the hero Zarek actually ends up with a beautiful heroine, Astrid. In many of the other novels the author, for some reason, seems determined to pair the very handsome DHs with absolute dogs.

Genre; vampire romance; movie rating 15; murder, violence, violence to children, sex, profanities, use of knives.

My Only Love My Only Hate by Lucy Gordon

A riches to rags to riches romance with a basketful of little side issues. Marketed as a revenge novel but that's all over and done with in the early chapters. The cover says it all. The heroine Tanis is a ray of giving warmth and optimism in the somewhat bleak life of Giles, a divorced QC in danger of losing access to his young children. Tanis's rather notorious past history also means that Giles must make a tough decision about his future ambitions.(Which could be interpreted as Tanis getting her revenge after all...but that's really going too deep) Unashamedly both Giles and Tanis gain a lot from being together and it is poignant as they drift apart. Thank goodness the parameters of the genre mean that a HEA is compulsory. Quite enthralling at times.

Genre; contemporary romance; movie rating PG13; pre-marital sex.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Lover Awakened by J R Ward

This novel was built up as the story of Zsadist, the scary vampire of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And Bella the beautiful vampire aristocrat. Bella actually first met Z in Lover Eternal. As far as I could tell, Bella is attracted to Z because of his scarred face, his scary aura and the fact that he seems to be the ideal candidate to give her a bit of rough sex. Because Bella is essentially a bored vampire PAP. At the end of LE, Bella is kidnapped by the Lessers (vampire enemy).

Towards the beginning of Lover Awakened Bella is basically being regularly humiliated by her captor. Poor girl. She has to play along with his sick twisted games of verbal abuse and domination. Because she looks somewhat similar to his dead wife. btw Mr O and all the Lessers are impotent so there is no danger of Bella getting raped. Well her captor, Mr O, is enjoying himself so much he kindly brings along another vampire captive for Bella to drink from. And then O is interrupted by an associate who is outraged that O is keeping a female vampire to himself. So O has to kill this associate and while he is doing that, Bella frees the other vampire. Does O then move Bella to another safe house? No, he prefers to physically torture her. He carves his name on her stomach and sews her eyelids together. Well, the escaped vampire of course immediately notifies the BDB of Bella's whereabouts and they rescue her. The BDB could have searched forever and a day and they wouldn't have found Bella. Because tbh they don't have a lot of brains between them.

In order for Bella to recover she wants to be with Z. But Z is, to put it politely, a almost complete fuck-up when it comes to sexual relations. For the readers 'entertainment' the author provides flashbacks of Z's time as a blood-and-sex slave to a female vampire. It seems he was raped by men and women. Part of the reason Z was abused was because he was a very handsome vampire with large genitals. (according to the author) He received most of his scars during his rather messy escape from his escape engineered by his twin brother Phury. So now Z avoids drinking from other vampires, basically dislikes sex and generally hates the world. Oh, and he has scary black eyes.

Although Z generally tries to offload Bella, particularly onto his twin brother Phury, she rather persists in trying to get him to make love to her. And eventually she succeeds. There are some incredible cringemaking scenes written into this romance. For instance. Z needs to feel pain in order to ejaculate, so Bella has to twist his gonads for him. Later when Bella is initially in her 'needing' (which the author says means that for about 24 hours a female vampire has to have lots and lots of sex) Z fetches a washcloth to wipe his ejaculate off Bella's body because he believes it makes her dirty. (And did I mention that when Bella is rescued by the BDB she is taken, not to her family home nor to the local vampire clinic, but to Z's room at the mansion where she is given a gynecological exam in the presence of at least 3 of the BDB). So anyway. By the end of Bella's 'needing' Z is much more at ease with his sexuality. (He even manages to masturbate himself to come with Bella's encouragement and under her watchful eye)

I'll say this for Z. He never loses his manners with Bella. He is immensely grateful to her and always gentle. But although she's also thoroughly satisfied she still hasn't got what she originally wanted. Which is rough sex with Z. All the sex between Z and Bella in this novel is genuinely 100% consensual as far as I could tell.

Aroundabout here the author inserts a chapter where Bella returns to her own house where she was originally kidnapped by Mr O. Ostensibly Bella wants to collect a few of her things and say goodbye to her former life but the real purpose of this chapter is for Z to give Bella a small gun to use for protection.

So the reader is thinking. Well. Now we can build on a good beginning. But no. Almost the very next chapter Bella says something insulting to Z in the presence of the other brothers and he rejects her again. I have to say that came as a genuine surprise. Mainly because its such a old-fashioned romance writers device. And quite rightly despised by many readers. Normally I wouldn’t dream of reading a romance with a BIG SEPARATION in the middle. But none of the reviews gave even a hint of its appearance. Which is one of the reasons I am writing this complete spoiler of the novel.

A big issue in this novel about vampires is who drinks blood from whom. Bella, after 6 weeks captivity, needs someone to drink from and she wants it to be Z. Z thinks he’s too dirty for a vampire princess to drink from so he pushes her onto his twin brother Phury who is more than willing because he would really prefer it if Bella was in love with him. But Bella insists on using Z. That’s one of the first ways their relationship grows. However Z still refuses to drink from female vampires. (Because his abusive mistress forced him to drink her blood through pain.) But because he only drinks from humans Z has become emaciated. Which is how Bella accidentally insulted him. She said he would be too weak to fight the enemy without drinking her blood. But she said it in company and that made Z look pussy in his eyes. Anyway to underline the fact that he thinks Bella is too good for him Z drinks from a hooker in front of Bella. So that’s one rejection too many for Bella and off she goes to stay with a friendly vampire called Marissa for a while. For some reason I can’t remember later on Bella allows Z to persuade her to let Phury drink from her. This has very important repercussions but at the time Bella just feels humiliated.

While Bella’s been fornicating with Z at the BDB mansion, her former captor, Mr O has been searching for her. High and low. But unlike the brothers he uses some brains. He kidnaps a vampire from the street and tortures him about a missing female vampire and where she lived. Then Mr O goes to Bella’s home to stalk around for a while. His image is caught on the CCTV Bella’s brother has installed and he is recognised as a vampire enemy. Bella’s brother evacuates his home and calls Bella to warn her to stay away. By an incredible coincidence who should come visiting to Bella’s mother at that moment but Wellsie the pregnant wife of Tohr (accompanied by a young female friend). Mr O shoots Wellsie dead and captures young Sarelle.

Another dumb fuck device. Ok, Wellsie was a goody-two-shoes. But she cared about John Matthew, she was a good wife to Tohr, and was organising within the local vampire community to restore some traditions. So why kill her? It’s just a means to an end so that Mr O can torture Sarelle to death to get the e-mail address of the brotherhood. Tohr is of course devastated and disappears in grief for the rest of the novel. But he isn’t liked by the author anyway. In previous books a couple of the brothers have been complaining that Tohr was imposing too much discipline on the brothers. So this is a way of getting rid of him. But Bella, who is actually a drug-dealers sister living off the money he makes from selling H, who has never done a days work in her life, remains the heroine. As for her father-killing, dealer brother, Rehvenge, I do not give a shit about him. And I won’t be reading his pussy story when it is published.

So. Mr O contacts the scarred brother who stole Bella away from him. (Towards the beginning of the novel, O saw Z driving away from O’s little prison towards the mansion but didn’t realise at the time that Bella was in the back of the vehicle) O tells Z to come alone to a rendevous if he wants to save Sarelle. Z agrees. But before he goes he obliquely says goodbye to all his BDB brothers because he strongly suspects he won’t be coming back. But his twin Phury aint so dumb and realises what’s happening. He can’t have it that Z will die after his terrible life as a slave. So Phury sneakily injects Z with a drug that puts him out like a light and goes in his place. Phury also shaves his head and cuts himself in the face so that he looks like Z.

After a couple of hours Z comes round. He asks the other brothers to help him find Phury. But the enemy is surrounding a house of vamps and the brothers go off to help them. So this is what Z does. He goes to where Bella is staying. Z asks for her help. Because Phury drank from Bella she can psychically locate him. Which she does and tells Z of the location. Z goes to rescue Phury. He agrees Bella can come so long as she stays well away from danger.

Meanwhile poor Phury’s been beaten to a pulp by Mr O and poor Sarelle is long dead. Z bursts into Mr O’s secret cabin prison and fights him hand to hand. The trouble is because Z is emaciated from drinking only from humans he is slowly losing this fight and Mr O is just about to stab him to death (somehow) when Bella walks into the cabin. ‘Come here’ she orders Mr O. And he does because he’s obsessed with Bella. Then Bella shoots Mr O with the gun that Z gave her at the beginning of the story and then takes Z’s knife and stabs Mr O through the heart which makes him go poof just like all the daimons in the Dark-Hunter books. So basically Bella has saved Z’s and Phury’s lives. She then guides the two heavily injured men to a nearby truck and drives them to the local vampire hospital. Vampires always recover from most wounds if given time and rest.

It takes Z only a couple of days to recover. He goes back to the mansion and finds that Bella is collecting her stuff to leave permanently. She would like Z to ask her to stay with him but he doesn’t. But she does get her original wish because they have ‘angry desperate’ sex with most of their clothes on. Afterwards Z says thank you to her. And she says she regrets being with him. (because he’s made her so sad) Then Bella leaves.

Two months later Bella returns to the mansion with some important news for Z. To her astonishment he’s put on a lot of bulk, smartened himself up and is learning to read and write. (Having missed out on an education when he was a blood-and-sex slave) And suddenly he’s got articulate too. And generally turned into a limp pussy. This chapter is quite emotional. Z tells Bella maybe they could date and start over again. He writes some words for her to read. He’s written ‘I love you.’ So Bella gives him a big hug and tells him she loves him back. Then she tells him she’s expecting his child. At which point Z COMPLETELY WIMPS OUT. He faints and starts crying. Because for the first time in his life he feels happy. Something like that.

Then Z takes Bella to her home so that he can ask her brother for permission to marry her. That’s when the reader and Z discover that Bella’s brother is a drug-dealer. Bella however remains ignorant of this fact which as far as I'm concerned is the only flaw in her character. (That is apart from her obnoxious forelock tugging to Rhage in the previous novel Lover Eternal) And that’s the main romance.

There are a lot of other story lines in this novel. Not all of them are relevent. And sometimes it was hard to keep track of all the little snippets of information that make up the main romance.

A relevent part of the story is the relationship between Zsadist and his twin brother Phury. Phury is good-looking and elegant. He is what Z would have been if he hadn’t been enslaved. The reader is meant to believe that Phury feels irrationally guilty that Z was kidnapped as a baby and sold into slavery. (Z only became a blood-and-sex slave after puberty though. I really do not know why the author had to give him an unnaturally big dick) Phury spent many years searching for Z. He eventually found him chained up in a dungeon because slavery was illegal even for vampires apparently. But it was a messy rescue resulting in Z receiving his disfiguring facial scar and Phury having to shoot his own leg off because it got caught in some rocks when Phury jumped over a cliff holding his whipped unconscious brother in his arms. When Phury shot his leg off the brothers fell into salt sea-water which is why Z’s scars didn’t fade and why Phury wears a prosthesis on his leg. So now the brothers are both free but there is still something unhealthy about their relationship. For some reason Phury is fixated on Z. Phury feeds Z’s neuroses making him more of a fuck-up than he already was. And towards the end chapters Z recognises this and tells Phury to stop doing this. The author tells us that Phury is celibate and Z doesn’t like sex. But actually Phury sounded jealous of Z a lot of the time and was all too happy to see other people be wary of him. There’s this really weird scene in the book where Bella screams at Z as he comes near her. But Bella cannot see Z because she has lotion over her eyes where the doctor took the stitches out. She screamed because she was in a nightmare and thought that her captor was approaching her. But Phury immediately assumes Z is about to sexually assault Bella. While we the readers know Z wouldn’t dream of doing that because Z is basically in total awe of Bella. Not very supportive is Phury. Phury is also a borderline junkie who hates his life. Even Z wasn’t that negative. But the story needs Phury to sacrifice himself in place of Z.

Other things that happen. Bella’s brother Rehvenge is introduced. He is an empath who hypnotises Phury and supplies his drugs. Rehvenge keeps his special abilities at bay by injecting himself with some drug. There is a completely irrelevant digression in the book where Rehv goes to wait for Mr O at his house. And then changes his mind and drives away. Why does this guy have an ‘h’ in his name when he is not in the brotherhood? Also Rehv drinks blood from Marissa. Vischous scams Butch into drinking some of his blood. John Matthew prevents Phury from moving from skunk to H. But generally there is too much about John in this book. So what that he is Darius reincarnated. Was Darius someone special? No. Mr O dies but Mr X still lives. Z volunteers to help with the trainees now that Tohr has disappeared. I don’t think there is any point to Butch being in this novel but I could be wrong.

One of the nice emotional moments was when Z’s black eyes change back to their natural yellow colour after his marathon sex session with Bella. The other very short scene I liked was when Bella asked Z if he had had any loving relationships and he snarled back "What the fuck do you think?" Z does give Bella some idea of the reason why he's so fucked up but he doesn't go into the gory details. Generally though there is not much intentional laughter in this book.

I quite like the hip speak the brothers use. Nor do I have a problem with the product name dropping. What I don't understand is why these modern guys call their trainees 'son.' It immediately ages them about 20 years and doesn't even sound like its the voice of the female author writing the story. Very strange.

I read this book about 2/3 times in the course of a couple of days. At times I wished I’d never read it at all. Mainly because Z was such a pitiful miserable mess that I felt I intruded on his privacy!

But in the end what I resent is how little there is of Zsadist and Bella in this novel. Out of 40 chapters only about 5 involve the main couple. And to be brutally frank it was difficult to see where the romance, as opposed to the gyno, was. Essentially this was a 'hero marries pregnant heroine' romance. You know, like all the crappy series romances back in the 1980s. That's a bit old-fashioned for me to appreciate. I like a bit more common ground between the main couple for their HEA. I also do not like the story telling techniques on display. There are so many parallel stories. Some of them are dropped between the books. Some of them are dropped within one book. There is even some discontinuities in a character between books. Its laziness or a sign of a novel planned or written by a group imo. Suddenly the BDB is beginning to look even worse than the Kenyon saga and looks to have the potential to turn into another Anita Blake debacle. I don't think this type of thing occurs in Nora Roberts books ie the Eve and Roarke saga.

Genre; paranormal erotic; movie rating 18; murder, male and female torture and mutilation, extreme violence, profanities, male rape, pre-marital and oral sex, use of hookers, profound psycho-sexual issues, substance abuse, use of knives.

The Devil's Advocate by Vanessa James

Oh brother. What a doormat. Luisa is her name. Not only is she a doormat to Julius but (can you believe this) she allows her ghastly younger sister to pimp her out. Truely revolting. Plus. I ask you. What kind of bloke sees the woman he loves almost raped by his brother TWICE and jumps to all the wrong conclusions both times. A total blockhead called Julius. That's why I had trouble believing in the HEA. It would have been nice if Claudia, Daddy and Kit had all died in some maniac car-crash - a favourite plot device of romantic authors. You just know that sometime in the future the malicious brother will drop some poison into the lives of Luisa and Julius...or the poet father will ask for another handout or...the sister...or ... I definitely fear for their children. But I wish them the best anyhow.

It's a great great story though. Vanessa James always had the most blindingly beautiful males as her heroes. And its thoroughly erotic how she uses the word 'womb' to convey sexual excitement. Quite unusual that. As is the fact that there is no pre-marital sex. A compact 188 pages written in 1983 that is set in contemporary times but has many of the sensibilities of a mannered regency novel.

Vanessa James unfortunately went on to write much more lucrative novels using a different name. I never read even one of them. A terrible loss to the romance community.

Genre: contemporary romance; movie rating 15; sexualised inter-family relationships; the hero originally falls in love with the heroine when she was 15 yo; an arranged marriage.