Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review- It Should Be a Crime by Carsen Taite

It Should Be a Crime
By Carsen Taite
Aug. 2009
Contemporary/ Crime/ Lesbian
240 pgs.
Pub: Bold Strokes Books

Forbidden romance coupled with high-stakes courtroom drama.

Two women meet in an alley and fulfill their mutual desire with a night of passion, neither expecting more than the few lusty hours they shared. Weeks later Morgan Bradley and Parker Casey meet again, but this time one is a law professor and the other her student. A series of events lands them in the middle of a high-profile murder trial, but the twists and turns of the case are no match for the spiral of increasing attraction as they work side by side in the defense of justice.

This is my first Carsen Taite book. I’ve been meaning to read one for quite a while since my first love is mystery/crime/suspense and her books seem like good crime stories. I wasn’t disappointed; it was a great read all around.

Both Morgan and Parker are interesting characters in their own right. What I liked was that they were equally matched, both having some strengths and weaknesses that got balanced as their romance develops. Sometimes their reactions and actions contradicted their general personalities, which meant that both of them weren’t stuck in fixed ways of being, making them more fun as characters. Also, the power difference dynamic brought out some interesting qualities in both women, and not in expected ways.

Morgan is a famous and well known criminal lawyer. She’s pretty much at the top of her game and has become an expert at what she does. After seeing her long term (romantic) partner with someone else, she decides that a one night hook-up is just the ticket, something that’s totally out of character for her. Later on, she does say that she feels love is more about the practicalities of relationships: paying bills, mortgages, bank accounts, shared responsibilities and this is who I felt Morgan thinks she is, and who she’s probably been until now. But Parker brings out the more passionate, unpredictable and wild side of Morgan, which keeps Morgan on her toes, trying to keep her normally unflappable self, unflappable. It’s not easy though since Parker occupies her mind regularly, in ways she’s never known before.

Parker is also a complex and fun character. On the one hand, her only long term relationship ended in disaster due to differences in opinion about ethics and a definite betrayal, but on the other hand, she basically only has one night stands, never really going past the first time with someone. She’s a bit of a player and blows off those one night people, even if she does try to do it nicely. A former cop, she got disillusioned by the Blue code of Silence over unethical cop behavior and is now channeling her do the right thing standard into being a criminal lawyer. She’s more passionate though and less clinical in her way of thinking than Morgan is as well as being just a bit more soft and heartful in her approach. She’s much more willing than Morgan to see what her feelings are about in this and to cross her personal line to explore with Morgan. 

Of course, outside of the excellently written crime drama of this story, which was perfectly paced to keep up some mystery, this is foremost a romance. And there are obstacles that both Morgan and Parker need to get over to eventually have their HEA. In this case, it’s a matter of ethics, a running theme throughout the book. Morgan is Parker’s professor as Parker is in her last semester of law school, and their feelings for each other are hard to keep separate from their personal rules about never getting involved with someone they work with or have a more business like relationship with.

This is a legitimate foil for them since they hooked up before they each knew they would have any kind of working relationship. And then there are a few other issues like Parker’s ex being the picture and a real estate agent helping Morgan find a house that seem derail their relationship even further. The blow hot/cold by Morgan, who is really uncertain about how to deal with this new development, did get drawn out a bit too much at times for me. But Carsen Taite managed to rein that element back in each time just when it would start to become too much.

I would have given this book five stars or an A+ because it’s a well written story that flows nicely. However, even though I liked the development of the romance between Morgan and Parker, it was missing some spice, or spark that I needed to feel that these two would die without each other. Other than that, I highly recommend this book. And for what it’s worth, I really got off on the lawyerly/crime technical part. As a crime drama it’s clear that Carsen Taite knows what she’s talking about.

Heat Level: 3- some sexual scenarios, nothing too graphically written.

Grade: A-

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Marriage for All

                                                           So Proud of you New York!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review- Deux: The French Kiss Chronicles Book 1

Deux: The French Kiss Chronicles Book 1
By Em Petrova
March 25, 2011
Contemporary/ Bi / Erotica
7.7K words
Published by Breathless Press

Buy it Breathless Press, ARe, Amazon

Jane is a wife and mother who's stuck in a rut. Spending too much time at the gym perfecting her physique, she learns that what she really wants is someone new to share her body with.

After Margot's divorce, she's feeling frumpy and unloved. Until one day, Jane corners her in the dressing room and makes it perfectly clear that she finds her ripe curves desirable.
Together, the couple shares the passion they thought long dead, and in doing so, discover they harbor a deeper need—to find love.

I was attracted to Deux from the blurb. The wife and mother “stuck in a rut” had me curious; I’m always wondering what  “stuck in a rut” means and if it’s a good excuse to go with a long unfulfilled sexual desire for someone who’s not the partner. If it’s a lame excuse, it could be a negative factor for me.

I was also attracted to the “she’s feeling frumpy and unloved” part of Margot’s description. There’s just something nice about someone who’s feeling undesirable getting some juice, being wanted by someone. So this story looked promising to me.

Since this is such a short story, and it was pretty much all sex, there’s not much to really talk about. There’s no character development really, nor any past history to get a feel for these characters other than what’s in the blurb. However, for what it is, it’s a hot little read if you’re jonesing for a nicely written erotic f/f that will give you hotflashes.

At first I was a bit uneasy about Jane’s nonchalant attitude about what her husband will feel when he finds out about this little escapade. In the blurb, as I pointed out, Jane's bored. However, from her inner dialogue, she’s absolutely in love with her husband and they have a great and satisfying sex life. So her “rut” is more about having strong fantasies that she feels she needs to actually experience. Although she has shared these with her husband, she’s not discussed actually doing anything. So he doesn’t know.

This would have put a bad taste in my mouth if it weren’t for how the husband reacts.

Not only does it turn him on, he’s all over her and the sex they have is hotter than ever. I have admit that did mitigate for me the fact that Jane treated the whole thing as if she bought an expensive pair of shoes that they couldn’t afford and not that she had sex with someone she’s been attracted to for a while without discussing it with her husband first.

The downside for me was that I felt it would have been nice if this story was a bit more drawn out. Jane is the aggressor in the initial sex between her and Margot, but I felt that Margot just went along a little too easily for someone who’s never thought about being with a woman. There was no shock, or hesitation really. Nor much of what she was feeling in the whole thing. They sort of go from being acquaintances to naked, 0-50 without much dancing around each other. Had this whole thing been more fleshed it, this book would have really popped for me.

I also felt that the author took one of the usual short cuts in a short erotic story in that she told more than expressed feelings of love. Jane muses to herself how she has strong feelings for Margot over and above the sexual attraction, but there’s nothing there to show how that developed. So we know she has more than sexual feelings for Margot because she said it, which to me is a bit lazy in writing.

Ultimately though, I liked how this book was written even if it’s not too involved. The sex between the women is very erotic and nicely written. I could see that this is more than just one time thing to scratch and itch. The same goes for the sex between Jane and her husband. It’s clear they really enjoy each other. The husband wants in the action, but is willing to wait and let Jane have her time with Margot to let things develop first. This is one of my favorite types of reads in that way. And there is the set up for the next book in the series where the three of them do come together, which I’m going to read.

Heat level: 5- pretty much non-stop sex—f/f, f/m.

Grade B

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review- The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer

The Dark Wife
Sarah Diemer
May 11, 2011
YA/ Fantasy/ Lesbian

Buy it
Amazon, B&N, Smashwords

Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth.

Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.

Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.

But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.

The Dark Wife is a YA novel, a lesbian revisionist retelling of the Persephone and Hades myth.

First I’ll start off with a disclaimer that I know nothing of Greek mythology other than the most basic of stories. I do know some of the gods and what they represent, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. So I read this book basically at face value as a sort of epic fantasy set in the world of Greek mythology. However, I think this story might be really fun and interesting to someone who does know a lot about Greek mythology. I understand it’s a different twist on the Persephone/Hades original story.

This is a debut, indie published novel by author Sarah Diemer and it’s quite impressive. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, lyrical and clean, like writing is her second skin.

I’ve never read any YA books. I’m an older woman and essentially they don’t appeal to me. But this book brought up that inner awe and wonder I felt when I read Marion Zimmer Bradley back when I was a young woman. Those stories that sparked my imagination. There’s a similar feeling about this book and those books. Like those books, the world building is lush, layered and colorful and exquisitely executed in The Dark Wife.

Persephone is young goddess who’s been brought up by her mother Demeter. She fell in love with Charis, a wood nymph from her mother’s forest, and they were having beautiful love affair when Zeus raped Charis and turned her into a rose bush. This shattered Persephone’s heart into a thousand pieces. Even more devastating, Persephone finds out that Zeus is her father and that her mother is helpless to save her when Zeus decides it’s time for her to live on Mount Olympus with him and the other Immortals.

Hating him with a passion, Persephone feels this is a fate worse than death and escapes to the only place she knows Zeus has no influence, the underworld, which is ruled by Hades. She has met Hades before and something about Hades intrigued her and grabbed her heart, so she felt that she would be accepted by Hades and given safe harbor.

While in the underworld, Persephone learns many things and finds out that she has a special destiny, one that has been prophesied. But can she muster the courage to go through the hell she might have to endure to fulfill that?

Persephone is a great character. She’s so innocent and loving and pure, but has tremendous courage to fight for what she believes in. She's willing to risk things to have her life. The Dark Wife is written in first person POV and usually I find that POV to be limiting or the story is told in linear fashion by the character. In this story, Persephone is that rare self-aware character who has deep insight to her being, the subtle layers of her emotion getting recognized and expressed, which turned her more into a multi-dimensional and rich character than is usual.

If there is any gripe I have with this story it’s that it would have been nice to get more into Hades’ head. She’s the least developed character in my opinion. I got a better feel for Pallas even, a dead person living in the underworld and friend to Hades. Hades is the main love interest for Persephone and while I felt it to be a sweet love story, due to the lack of depth in her character, some build up and tension was lacking in that area.

That said, where the story lacked in a romantic build up for me, it shined in the intensity of the drama and growth of Persephone as a character. So it’s just a minor complaint for me.

The Dark Wife moves at a fast pace and there’s really never a dull moment in Persephone’s life. There’s a perfect balance of action with reflection so it doesn’t slip into a too much of either area at the expense of the other. The plot is rather typical to fairy tales or fantasy with many of the same elements of good vs. evil with a sort of moral/spiritual aspect to it, however, it felt fresh to me, like I’ve read something new and unique.

I will absolutely be buying Sarah Diemer’s other books. I love her writing style. Much heart and passion comes through and her ability to spin a fantastic and original tale is above par.

Heat rating: 0- this is not an erotic romance. There are beautifully written, and not in the typical purple prose, sexual scenarios that are not graphic in nature, but express clearly what the characters are feeling. That in itself is an art. This is a YA after all.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review- My Summer of Love (DVD)

My Summer of Love (DVD)
Contemporary/ f/f/ Drama

In the Yorkshire countryside, working-class tomboy Mona (Press) meets the exotic, pampered Tamsin (Blunt). Over the summer season, the two young women discover they have much to teach one another, and much to explore together.

Life is so cosmic sometimes. Last Dec. during my school break, I ordered some DVDs from the library and thought I had gotten them all. Well, I just finished my last quarter of school and there was an email in my box that a film I had on hold came in. What? But just in time for me to have something to watch as I take a few days before I start booking it on job hunting.

Anyway… this was a strange and intriguing film. Certainly not the usual fare in coming of age stories. Set in a quiet and small village in Yorksire, there’s a quiet, stark, intensity to this film including the acting that added a lot of dimension to what was not much dialogue or action.

This is basically the story of what seems to be two girls who come together out of both boredom and a need to have an ally. They’re both a bit rebellious, different and seem to be lost. However, there is a shocking twist to the end that turned this movie into more of a psychological portrayal of sociopathic behavior, which made this film for me.

Mona is a young woman who’s basically lost her whole family. She never knew her father, and her mother died of cancer. All who’s left is her brother. He was a bit of a rebel-rouser, always getting into fights and getting arrested, but while doing time in jail, he found Jesus. To the dismay of Mona, he turns their little family pub into a meeting place for the local born again Christians, living solely for Christ and preaching non-stop.

This drives Mona insane who feels she’s lost her only family and that he’s a phony. Just floating through life, she surreptitiously meets Tamsin, a local rich girl who’s family lives on a huge estate on the hill overlooking town.

Tamsin is home from boarding school for the summer and the girls hook up and start hanging out. Tamsin is just the diversion and friend that Mona needs since she pays attention to her and they seem to have a lot in common despite their different economic and social backgrounds. Mona can relate to Tamsin with her tales of woe that her sister has died of anorexia, sobbing as she recounts that story and the fact that her parents ignore her. Tamsin is also kind of intense and unique, not the usual fair in a young girl, which intrigues Mona.

Their relationship turns sexual and they egg each other on to destructive behavior. Seemingly in a world of their own, they promise to love each other forever. That is until…

All I can say is that I loved this film. It’s so offbeat and odd. The sexual relationship between the girls develops quite naturally, although this part of the film was presented more as a side bar than used as a titillation factor. It’s more about creating an insular, private world in which both girls feel they are safe and have someone who gets them.

Emily Blunt’s acting made this film. Often she just looks or stares, saying nothing, which keeps you wondering what Tamsin is about. And her acting, Tamsin acting is done really well.

If you’re in the mood for something unique, psychologically intriguing with a girl/girl theme, this movie is perfect.

Heat Level: 2- some sex scenes, but no nudity or graphic portrayals.

Grade: A-

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review- Soft Swap by Paisley Smith

Soft Swap
by Paisley Smith
Contemporary/ f/f/m/ Erotica
May 25, 2011

Jess has always been curious about being with another woman. Soon after her husband Ben gives her the go-ahead to join a swingers’ website, Jess meets another couple interested in a little girl-on-girl swap.

Tina is drop-dead gorgeous and her husband Bradley is equally hot. With Ben’s blessing, Jess is soon experiencing wholly new pleasures at the hands of another woman; pleasures wrought by soft fingers, a feminine tongue…a sexy strap-on. But sex is rarely just physical. As Jess delves deeper into this taboo lifestyle, she wonders how newfound feelings for Tina will affect her relationship with her husband.

Jess quickly discovers she’s not as prepared as she thought for some aspects of her newly defined sexuality—including the fact her darkest, most secret fantasy might finally be fulfilled.

Anyone who’s read my reviews here knows that I’m a fan of Paisley Smith. She writes about bisexual characters, which are pretty rare in the romance world and I enjoy her writing style quite a lot. Fortunately, Soft Swap was another hit for me.

Let’s start with the characters. They are all easy going types who don’t angst too much about what’s going on with their partner’s needs or desires to experiment. This was a plus for me. Of course, since this story is told in 1st person by Jess, we get into her head for most of this story. And really, it’s anyway all about her in that the other characters are there to support her fantasy and desire.

Jess and Ben decide to get with another couple to amp up their sex life and to explore some of Jess’ fantasies. Jess has always dreamed about being with a woman and Ben finds this kind of hot. Before I go further here because I know many readers of f/f dislike the whole chick being with a chick to turn the guy on scenario, I can tell you, this isn’t it. While Ben does love the idea and finds it a turn on to watch Jess get it on with Tina, he never goes into that territory of it being about him. It was just a nice side effect of Jess’ fantasy for him and he stayed very respectful to her in that.

Tina and Bradley have been swapping with other couples for a while, and while Tina has been with and enjoys women, it seems to be more of a fun thing to do for her than a need.

They all readily jump in when it comes time to get it on, but there were ground rules. I liked this. This becomes important because certain boundaries get explored, including Jess’ desire to be with Tina without the men, and it kept the story more about Jess’ desire to explore with Tina, but with Ben’s and Bradley's blessings.

One of the downsides for me in this story was that Jess’ character sort of mind fucks about who or what she is, a common thing in first experience bisexual stories. Is she gay, is she bi, does she just want to have sex only with a woman sometimes, does she want a full on romantic/sexual relationship with a woman, does this mean that she doesn’t love her husband anymore, etc.

For me this sometimes goes too much into realistic territory, like I’m reading someone’s real diary or hearing about a real experience in which a person is working out very real issues that I imagine do come up for someone who wants to a.) explore sex with someone other than their partner and b.) explore with someone of their own sex for the first time.

On the one hand I respect that this aspect is brought into this kind of story, on the other, I tend to enjoy stories of this kind when the characters just enjoy their fantasies and go for it without too much angst-ing. Fortunately, there is enough fantasy around this whole thing that I didn’t get too wrapped up in her inner dialogue. And Jess does recognize that she's over-thinking things, which did mitigate some of me neg feeling around it.

For those who are wondering, while Jess has a really good time with Tina and finds that she has some feelings for her, she’s very clear that she loves Ben and there’s no way that this whole turn of events means that she has to choose Ben or Tina. She comes to love Ben even more that he allowed her to go with her fantasy and this solidifies their relationship even more.

The sex. Wow, yes, there’s lots of sex in this short story. And it’s hot sex. Spicy, hot, juicy sex. It’s why I will label it erotica. However, it’s not written as a bunch of bodies just getting it on. Paisley Smith managed to infuse a lot of warmth, some tenderness, and a dose of respectfulness into the sex scenes. This is what made this story a bit more than the usual erotica for me. There’s also a slight amount of D/s dynamic in those scenes which kept them from getting too sugary sweet or vanilla.

I highly recommend Soft Swap if you’re looking for an erotic story that feature f/f/m, with a good feeling. It’s well a written and fun fantasy.

Heat Level: 5 – F/f, f/f/m, anal play, strap-on, spanking.

Grade: B+

MA's Review of Soft Swap on Goodreads