Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review- Champagne by Inara Lavey

Inara Lavey
Contemporary/ m/f, f/f/m- ménage
50K- $4.99-6.99
Ebook- Ravenous Romance

Buy it ARe, Ravenous Romance

Jeanette Wilson is an American girl on the trip of a lifetime to the wine regions of France. Unfortunately, she's trapped with her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Daryl, a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, self-styled wine expert bent on swirling, sniffing, sipping, swishing, chewing, swallowing and occasionally spitting his way through the wineries. Between his endless lectures and insufferable putdowns, her insignificant other is quickly turning her dream vacation into a nightmare.

But things change for Jeanette once they come to the zenith of their French road trip, the Champagne house of Chateau Roux-Dubois. Their hosts, Amaury and Marie-Elise Roux-Dubois, turn out to be both charming and attractive, and go out of their way to extend a warm welcome to her. And they make it very clear that it is she, not Daryl, who is their special guest, particularly when the striking Marie-Elise takes Jeanette down to the wine cellar for a very personal tour, followed by an unusual French lesson from Amaury.

When she and Daryl are invited to stay and participate in the harvest festival, Jeanette finds herself caught up in a ménage a trois with the Roux-Dubois, both intent on teaching her many things...and not just about wine.

Champagne is a fun, light ménage story, with an interesting backdrop for a contemporary and an eclectic group of characters. I really enjoyed reading it.

Jeanette, the main character whose POV this story takes place through, is one of those heroines you feel immediately at home with. She’s playful and easy going, while at the same time coming across as self depreciating and completely normal.

What really made me all hot and bothered about this story was the lack of angsting. Jeanette goes along with being seduced by Marie-Elise and her husband Amaury and actually falls in love with them. She doesn’t bother about that she’s with a woman or in a ménage internally even though it’s a first for her. All she knows is that she feels good with them and wants to be with them, especially Marie, and I liked that.

Marie-Elise seduces Jeanette first. How that happened was very yummy and I wished for more actually. Marie has a warmth about her that was very appealing; she was always treating Jeanette in a loving way even when she's being a bit predatory…in the beginning. Then Amaury seduces her but in a totally different way. He’s definitely a dom in that, spanking her and telling her to behave (only during sex), but Jeanette has fun and goes right along with it not taking it too seriously.

Marie-Elise and Amaury are two people who I feel are very mature and loving. And the fact that they knew they wanted Jeanette and seduced her was kind of hot. Another thing was that I found it refreshing to have characters who act in unclear and somewhat cold ways take responsibility for it and really apologize, which is what Marie and Amaury did in the end after realizing that they acted in a way that left Jeanette unclear about their intentions.

The backdrop to this story occurring in Champagne, France and the world of wine making was written in colorful detail that felt very authentic. The setting, landscape descriptions, food and wine descriptions kept this contemporary more compelling than the usual fare. It gave me the feeling of being on a fun trip with all the expectations of doing something new and exciting.

There were a few things that bothered me though about this story.

I almost got pissed off at one point by the direction the story was going. One of my most hated tropes was involved, the big misunderstanding. There was a set up by the author that introduced another character to the mix after Jeanette gets with the Marie and Amaury that had me thinking, no, no, no and why? Plus, I couldn’t stand that character. But this character is a friend of Marie and Amaury’s and they practically push him on Jeanette. This left me a bit confused as to why they would do that. Do they want Jeanette and him to get together? Do they usually include him in their little manage trysts and want this become a foursome of sexual games? I was confused because Marie and Amaury don’t come across as this type in the beginning.

The other thing that bothered me in this story was the lack of build up and follow through with the relationship between Jeanette, Marie-Elise and Amaury in the beginning. I felt teased by a delicious seduction that had me wanting more. But then the story shifts to Jeanette and Marie and Amaury’s friend. The author makes it very clear that Jeanette really wants to be with Marie and Amaury so I was disappointed that there wasn’t more interaction or tension created between those three before the end. But it was still an engaging read with a very satisfying ending.

Champagne is a definite recommend for a sweet f/f/m ménage. One in which all the characters really want each other and it’s clear they will work it out.

Heat level: 4 – some graphic sex scenes with some minor D/s play. M/F, F/F, F/F/M

Grade: B+


M. A. said...


You and the excerpt "sold" me. I swore I would not purchase another book until my TBR pile shrank a bit, but this sounds too good to pass up.

I almost did pass when I realized the intro to the book began with an erotic dream. I can't stand dream descriptions as a prologue or intro. Fortunately, the excerpt was long enough I could see the writer's good and the story has my interest.

LVLM said...

I almost did pass when I realized the intro to the book began with an erotic dream. I can't stand dream descriptions as a prologue or intro

Eh? I don't remember an erotic dream prologue. It's my heimers I guess. LOL...I'll have to go look again. I'm not too hot on stories being a dream. This one isn't, though. I think Jeanette did have a dream, but it was within the story and just a dream.

I enjoyed this because it wasn't all heavy or too much to think about. Just some light, entertaining reading. But YMMV.

If you buy it at Ravenous it's cheaper.

M. A. said...

Eh? I don't remember an erotic dream prologue. It's my heimers I guess. LOL...

LOL, I'm referring to the opening paragraph of the excerpt. The heroine is either fantasizing or dreaming about sex. Like I said, it was very brief, and I liked the heroine enough to keep reading anyway.

I've seen that technique used often, both with experienced and inexperienced authors of erotic fiction. I don't really like it because (personal preference) I want to get to know the characters and be more emotionally engaged before sex/lovemaking happens.

Thanks for the tip. My copy's loaded, I'll check it out later next week.

Jill Sorenson said...

Nice review! I read the excerpt and...I don't have much patience for heroines who stay with the wrong guy. But the writing is OK and the voice is good. Maybe I'll pick this up and skim the first part. Thanks!!

LVLM said...

Jill, the heroine doesn't stay with the wrong guy. In fact, she's all about the couple. She dumps the first guy really quickly. But second guy is more problematic because she doesn't really like him, but she gets ignored by the couple and it seems the second guy is kind of pushed on her.

But from her standpoint, she's totally on board with being with the couple, which is why I wanted more interaction between them.

M. A. said...

I read "Champagne" this week. For the most part, I really liked it. The author did a great job of bringing the region and the culture to life. I enjoyed the M/F/F menage -- the characters had wonderful "chemistry" together.

I wasn't so crazy about the secondary characters. Konan read like one long caricature to demonstrate the regional uniqueness of Bretagne. I also had some quibbles about Jeanette's characterization because she struck me as inconsistent in places.

Overall, I was swept away by this story, it's a fun, light read. : )

LVLM said...

Yeah, Konan was a bit off. Although I've met many like him. Ugh. I kept thinking, why does Jeanette even bother with him? But that was my confusion because it did seem that Marie and Amaury were trying to push them together.

And yeah, I know what you mean about Jeanette's characterization. I didn't get her a few times; why she did what she did.

But all in all, it was a light, fun read. Just a good book to fill a few hours with some entertainment and not have to think too much.

M. A. said...

Yeah, Konan was a bit off. Although I've met many like him. Ugh. I kept thinking, why does Jeanette even bother with him?

I agree. At times Jeanette is a very conflicted character, and I mostly felt her conflict makes sense, but at times she was a bit self-contradictory. In some ways it "worked" for the story and made sense. People do tend to behave differently -- let their barriers down, so to speak -- during vacations, and given the quantities of alcohol consumed ... : )

Even as Jeanette became more involved with Konan, I didn't get the impression Jeanette was all that "into" him and that she recognized Eurotrash when she saw it. So when he lived up to the Eurotrash stereotype, I'm not sure why she was so hurt and offended.

But that was my confusion because it did seem that Marie and Amaury were trying to push them together.

I think the "issue" that kept me from loving this book -- I really liked it, but did not love it -- was this point you mentionned. Bottom line: it just didn't make sense. Neither Amaury nor Marie-Elise make any overtures I interpreted as their indicating they were interested in more than a pleasant interlude with Jeanette. There weren't any demonstrations of romantic build-up or attraction to justify it. The menage was VERY sexy and erotic, but not particularly romantic. So the couple's "jealousy" did seem a bit misplaced, as did Jeanette's indignation.

With that said, this story has lots to like. The erotica is scintillating and the depth to which LaVey goes to immerse the reader into the culture, the luxurious lifestyle, and the wine production/tasting factoids "pulled me into" Jeanette's story. Even when it faltered in places, I still felt immersed and interested enough to continue reading.

LVLM said...

I think the "issue" that kept me from loving this book -- I really liked it, but did not love it -- was this point you mentionned. Bottom line: it just didn't make sense

I think this is what kept this from being a full on good book for me as well. The one thing that did save that for me was how apologetic Amaury and Marie are. They get that they screwed up and didn't really show Jeanette what they were feeling. It's rare for characters to really own up to acting like jerks when it's used as a plot device for tension.

But still, that part is what would have been nice to slowly build up. Keep the tension with lack of chance to see each other during the harvest, but keep the eye contact, subtle body touching, sneaking glances and so on to keep that nice energy that was started between all three in the beginning. At least until they could finally really be together.

M. A. said...

I really loved the ending as well. I would have liked the author to show us more evident build-up of tension and attraction beyond sex. "Champagne" is a really good erotic novel featuring a romantic ending, not a bona fide erotic romance. I think that may be why we both have some lingering disappointment.

I will say Jeanette's sexual adventures are very well-written and sensual. It lacked as far as building deeper relationships among the menage, though. The "detour" into the Konan subplot sort of took that away.

Also, this is just me, but I sort of viewed it as not in character for the couple to reproach/scold Jeanette for the Konan dalliance. They are drawn as very worldly, sophisticated people -- heck,they're seducing their guest's girlfriend! It seemed weird they'd resent her dallying elsewhere.

That's sort of one of the contradictions in the book. One minute everyone is very casual, flirtatious, and noncomittal. A day later people are unreasonably jealous and resentful.