Sunday, 13 June 2010

Branded As Trouble by Lorelei James

First. Who is Buck McKay? In AJ's novel, Cowgirl Up, Kade's twin is named Kane. But in this story Kade's twin is named Buck. Or am I wrong?

This is one of the longer Rough Rider novels. And it is all all all Colt and India. Bickering, making up and humping, on and on for twenty-six chapters. The ending is good though.

Colt is a recovering alcholic and India is his sponsor in the program. So what the reader gets is a blow by blow account about how they change that relationship to a lasting romantic partnership. For the first 2 weeks they agree to just date platonically. That's very nice. But does a reader buy an erotic to read about the main couple watching movies together. tbh Not enough temptation to fall off the wagon was placed before either Colt or India to make the story gripping.

What exactly was his problem? He's probably the richest of the McKay brothers and completely independent of the family ranch if he wants to be. Yet for some reason he was resentful of the fact his birth family didn't show him enough love and appreciation...or so he thought. How come in the end his brothers and his Dad came around to say they had misjudged him but poor ol' Cam had to grovel in the grass in his novel?

I also struggled with India's back story. All her memories of her younger years were tied up in drugs and drug-guys and exchanging sex for drugs or to pay the rent. But compared to the difficulties Domini faced or even AJ it seemed India just made some bad life-style choices. I didn't really understand why she seemed ashamed of her tatts and piercings at various community events. At times her anxieties about her relationship with Colt made her read like doormat material. In fact choice of guys seemed more her problem than drink or drugs. The tattoing business was sometimes poor and it might have been more interesting to see what India would do if she couldn't pay the rent on her shop nowadays.

22-year old Macie wouldn't have dreamt of humping Carter without a condom. Sometimes she had to peel him off her body and order him to put one on. But the much more experienced India gets herself knocked up by Colt. She was such a chaotic personality. No wonder she couldn't handle her 3 adorable nieces.

For me this novel was just too middle class to be as enjoyable as some of the other Rough Rider stories.

btw I didn't read Colt offering to help Cam get that technologically advanced prosthetic. With all his gas money. So what's he got to bellyache about?

A Kiss to Kill by Nina Bruhns

Thoroughly awful. Total rubbish.

The back blurb says the story is about Gina and Gregg. However equal, if not more space is given to Rebel and Alex. And there's yet another couple Sarah and Wade.

This guy Wade deserves a special mention. All the female leads have either slept with him or want to sleep with him. Yes they all work together. And I thought. Eww. So Gina and Gregg, and Rebel and Alex is not about romance. It's about just moving onto the next guy. What's more all the characters work for agencies dedicated to keeping the US safe from tangos. But how can they be doing that effectively when they seem to be on some kind of carnal merry-go-round.

So now we come to the main flaw. The character of Gina. She was kidnapped, tortured and rescued. She blames her more current lover Gregg because he handed her over to the bad guys, in ignorance. So now she hates him and is dedicating her life to drawing him out of hiding so she can kill him. But what does she do when she meets him. She doesn't make any effort to harm him. She listens to him deny any part in her abuse...and then she totally believes him...because he was her lover and wouldn't betray her. Ok. Not particuarly smart but understandable. Never mind that she has trained for months to knife him dead. Gregg says he's innocent so it must be true. No other evidence required.

Of course the agency Gregg used to work for isn't quite so gullible, so he's still in hiding. Gregg stashes Gina in a hotel and advises her not to leave because the bad guys are probably looking to harm her still. So what does she do? She leaves the hotel room to get some ice for her freakin' house champagne. From that moment on I hated the stupid woman. Who by the way is supposed to have a doctorate. But there's more to come...and worse.

There's a traitor in the agencies that all the characters work for. A traitor who's feeding intel to the tango cell. At some point suspicion falls on Wade. And in an official briefing Gregg, Alex, Rebel, Alex's boss and Gina all discuss the evidence against Wade. So what happens. Wade calls on Gina. Who instead of behaving normally. This stupid woman blabs to Wade all about how the others suspect him of treason. Why? Why? Because he was her lover and can't possibly be guilty. Although there is a lot of circumstantial evidence against him. Praise be that the nation's security doesn't depend on half-wits like her. The thing is. As far as I could tell. Gina wasn't part of any black-ops team during the course of this book. So why was she there during the briefing? Because she used to be attached to the team before she was kidnapped, because Gregg was her lover, because Rebel is her good friend. See. There was no reason for Gina to be present at all.

In the end the author wants the reader to believe that Wade isn't a traitor. Except that he's being blackmailed to give out classified information. But he's giving it to another american so that makes it right. Wade is actually a case study of a traitor. It could be argued that the reason the prez was in any danger at all was because of Wade passing on info...about Gina...about STORM. Of course Gina forgives him. (Save me from this eejut.) Another thing about Gina is that she is so needy in the novel. Always on the verge of tears despite talking tough. I could completely understand why given what she suffered. But then she should have been in therapy. Not back with her old team getting stressed out on a daily basis.

Rebel and Alex have more pages in the first half of the story. Unfortunatley Alex is an agent with a tendency to get PTSD flashbacks in tight situations. I know it's supposed to make him loveable...but as a reader I thought he was one liability too many for an ongoing operation. There is a briefing that takes place between Rebel, Alex and their boss, Quinn. And without asking, the two guys expect Rebel, a perfectly competent agent, to make them coffee and sandwiches. Rebel actually fetches a ziploc bag for Quinn to put his sandwiches in. Yup. That's what happens when guys in the workplace start serially sharing the women around. Gross.

I hardly read any of the pages involving Sarah and Wade. He came across as just too slimey.

I did read the book to the end. If only in the hope of seeing Wade charged and jailed. Or even fired. No such luck. The final wtf moment involved the identity of the traitor. Where did this guy Tommy come from?? Was he mentioned at the start of the story? No way am I reading the book again.But in a way it doesn't matter. Because for the reader, Wade is the person who gave up classified info. He is the bad guy. It is a serious mistake to expect the reader not to hate his guts and not get angry that he faces absolutely no consequences for his actions.

On a minor note. Poor little me struggled for a while with all the obscure abbreviations in the novel. I can handle CIA, FBI and NSA. I'm ok on POTUS, CONUS, CSI. Trouble was. This novel had all those plus PMC, STORM, AFIS, NCVIC, SAC, ZU-NE, TOD, LT, BCD,...and still more. Mainly in the first half of the book. It just seemed like technical overload.

The love scenes were few and far between and seemed out of place generally. In fact the story worked better as a spy adventure than rom-sus. The relationships on view were just so icky.

btw. The first clue to the general stupidity of this novel comes early on. The tango cell are based on a yacht moored in Chesapeake Bay. The name of the yacht? Allah's Paradise. As if. Why not just put up a sign that reads 'Raid Me.' Just such a freaking stupid (and embarrassing) story. Don't even think of reading it if you are even the slightest bit patriotic.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Rode Hard and Put Up Wet by Lorelei James

Basically quite a sweet erotic romance featuring an older couple, Cash and Gemma, and a younger couple, Macie and Carter. All four live on Gemma's ranch; Cash and Gemma in the big house, Carter in a trailer and Macie in a camper. The boundaries between the two couples are strictly observed.

The best relationship in the novel is between Cash and his daughter Macie. These two are making an effort to get to know each other because Cash just wasn't around for any of Macie's growing up years. Actually Macie is a wonderful person. Beautiful, hard-working, completely unresentful about Cash's absence during her childhood, but somewhat conflicted about what she wants from life. She's probably too good for moody, self-centred, callous, exploitative Carter. Jack Donohue (the guy who will be Keely's husband) makes an appearance because he is basically Carter's best friend. He tells Macie that Carter is capably of causing Macie unintentional emotional pain...and that is exactly what he does when he shows Macie his portraits of her naked body. Carter offers Macie a threesome (with Jack) because she told him she had a fantasy about it (a gay fantasy). But she refuses because she says it was just a fantasy and she didn't want to make it real. A couple of times Carter really shows that he doesn't understand Macie at all. She's wasted on him. Macie had an irrational fear of thunderstorms which was somewhat trying at times. She and Carter have a huge amount of energy and go at it all over everywhere, in the open, in the car...repeatedly.

Gemma is quite happy when Cash provides her with another guy for a threesome. I loved it when Gemma actually asked Cash about his relationship with Macie's mom. And she did it to show that she cared about the relationship Cash was trying to build with Macie. Gemma could be an assertive lover with Cash.

I want to mention that both Cash and Macie have a Native-American heritage. In addition Cash is an ageing rodeo-rider who never quite made it to the big time. With all that implies. Cash, in particular, seems not to have had much luck in life before Gemma came along. Both Cash and Macie are portrayed very sympathetically. And if any reader takes offense I'd love to know the reason. For me it was exactly that background that made the story so poignant at times.

By the time Keely's story takes place both 48-year old Gemma and 22-year old Macie have a couple of kids with their guys.

Like I said. Very nice.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Cowgirl Up and Ride by Lorelei James

The story of 22-year old AJ and the oldest McKay son, 35-year old Cord.

AJ must be the only McKay wife who's had only one lover, Cord. And don't tell me former crack ho India, and Keely, who's had half the county don't gossip about that fact. Yes. It so much is that kind of town.

Cord and AJ's story is pretty straightforward. She propositions him. He accepts. They have 7 weeks to discover they love each other too. Before the return of Cord's little boy Ky who's staying with his mom. Somewhere. Cord's special nookie treat is that AJ is a massage therapy student, and he gets given the kind of 'therapy with extras' that most guys can only fantasize about. Hot hot hot.

Almost immediately alongside the main romance runs a side-story that charts another McKay brother, Colt's, descent into a sordid drink and carnal hell. With a gay orgy scene thrown in the mix. For Dag, the cousin. Who winds up dead. Imagine! And it is a very bleak picture of 3 macho guys sharing a house and just being so nihilistic. It turns out Cord had some Daddy issues that needed airing...

But the person I felt the most sympathy for was AJ. She turns out to be one of those heroines whose family use her like a servant. From the time she was about 13 to 22 years old, she basically did all the work on the family ranch. When her mom hurts her leg AJ postpones college to become a full-time carer. When her sister's marriage breaks up AJ is expected to share baby-sitting duties. And suddenly her mom is going to sell the ranch.

The reader really gets a feel for the saddness and insecurity AJ feels about losing her home. If anyone deserved a carefree fling with a guy her own age it was AJ. But what happens? She fixates on divorced 35 year old rancher and lone parent, Cord. Yes. In the end he gives her the wedding ring she thinks she wants. And how he wooed her was really sweet and all that. But. It might have been better for AJ if she got away from Sundance for a few years. Having kids straight aways and being stuck forever in a teeny-tiny 2-horse town is not easy for a lively young girl. In fact. AJ had more reason to become addicted to drink and drugs than Colt. But of course that doesn't happen.

Notwithstanding the fact that AJ and Cord get happily married. And Colt gets himself checked into rehab by the end of the novel. This is a much bleaker story than that of Cam and Domini. Still spellbinding though.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Shoulda Been a Cowboy by Lorelei James

I obsessed about this story from the moment I started reading it until about a week afterwards.

The heroine is Domini. A Ukranian immigrant who works as a short order cook in the local diner. (Think Carmen Kass.) Domini comes with some baggage. She had her uterus removed when she was a teenager. And that was after being attacked by a dog which resulted in some scarring when she was about 5 years old. And I thought, 'Why? Why does she have to have scars as well?' And the answer is of course to make her a believable love interest for maimed veteran Cam. It also gives her a reason for saying she's quite shy. Well maybe she is but when once she gets going with Cam, she ain't timid that's for sure.

The first 100 pages or so of the e-novel is about Cam and Domini overcoming some relationship difficulties whilst doing lots of smokin' hotness. And no. I did not skim read the hotness. (Unlike some weenies...who actually dare confess in public they read an erotic for the plot!!) There's even an experimental threesome that doesn't quite work out. But each of the Rough Rider stories features edgy nookie of some sort.

And then about half way through the novel the fostering side-plot is introduced. And Cam and Domini get married to give little Anton a home. The reader already knows they're in love but they just haven't spoken their feelings out loud to each other. This is where Domini shows the iron in her character because there is no doubt that she would have run with Anton if social services tried to place him with another couple.

Anyway. For a little while it did look as though the main couple would split up because Cam wasn't really committed and struggled to cope with a not very likeable Anton making kiddy messes and noises around his previously quiet and tidy home. Then comes this extraordinary scene where 7 year old Anton tries to attack Cam because he thinks he sees Cam hurting Domini when all he's doing is having a full body back cuddle with her. I thought. This is it. No way back for Cam and Anton. But the scene was handled so beautifully. None of the adults got angry or argued or had hysterics. Domini totally let Cam handle the situation so sensibly. It showed that neither Cam nor Dom had any trust issues between themselves. After that scene the reader knew everything was going to be ok for this little family. In fact by the end of Keely's story, All Jacked Up, Cam and Domini have 5 more young children all adopted from Romanian orphanages including lovely Liesl who has a physical impairment just like Cam's and for the same reason. Imagine!

However. I didn't really appreciate the fact that Cam had to eat all that humble pie at the family picnic. I mean. He's lost a limb, got other scarring. Wouldn't that make anyone a little withdrawn from his family and friends. He doesn't have PTSD. Instead of him apologising for being nervous and insecure about their reaction to his limb-loss they should be thanking the Good Lord that Cam came back ready to love. After all he'd been subtley eyeing Domini for over 2 years at the diner. The scene where Cam made it up with his family just went on too long. And was just too sentimental.

But again. That's the Rough Rider series. Dark, light and gooey. Absolutely fantastic.

I wikied Sundance, Wyoming. It really exists. With a population of around 800. You think if I go there for a vacation I might get to meet Cam and Dom and the kids? ;)