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Gnarly (World of Love) Mickie B. Ashling
Bisexual - Erotic Romance
File Size: 3047 KB
Print Length: 192 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press; 1 edition (June 21, 2017)
Publication Date: June 21, 2017
Amazon: Gnarly (World of Love) Mickie B. Ashling

Dr. Ed Hollingsworth, widowed for five years, returns to San Sebastián, Spain, after a thirty-year absence. He seeks out his first and only male lover, pro surfer Javi Elizalde.

After surviving a near-fatal shark attack, Javi turned his back on the sport he loves and became a recluse.

Iker Lizaso, professional jai alai player, finds himself at loose ends now that his contract has expired. Forced to retire at thirty-eight, he returned to his home in the Basque Country to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

Three different men, encumbered by their past, converge in a city famous for its food, summer festivals, and romantic promenades. Can they find happiness together? It’ll be difficult, maybe even improbable, considering their backgrounds, but Cupid’s arrow usually hits the mark, and this particular strike might be epic.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.
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Open Seating Mickie B. Ashling
Gay - Romantic Suspence
Paperback: 204 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (June 10, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1634772377
ISBN-13: 978-1634772372
Amazon: Open Seating Mickie B. Ashling

Seth Wilder lost his partner of twenty years to suicide two weeks before a long-anticipated cruise. Cancellation insurance was never purchased, and Seth can’t get a refund. Bryce McFarland, his late partner’s gym buddy, appreciates his predicament, and when asked, agrees to accompany him on the trip. This way, Seth recoups the money and doesn’t have to cancel his plans. The gesture is unexpected but accepted gratefully.

The two men have nothing in common. Seth is a reclusive romance writer, and Bryce is a hard-core Grindr user with major commitment issues. Out of necessity and despite the seemingly insurmountable differences in personality, they develop a tentative rapport. As they begin their journey through the UK, Bryce helps Seth come to terms with his partner’s sudden death while Seth, in turn, discovers the root cause of Bryce’s phobia.

Shipboard romances rarely work. Sensible men resist, sexual tension notwithstanding. But a full moon and late summer breezes lend themselves to the impossible situation, barriers are crossed, and a love affair is kindled.

Open House Mickie B. Ashling
Gay - Romantic Suspence
Series: The Open Series (Book 2)
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 24, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1634776925
ISBN-13: 978-1634776929
Amazon: Open House Mickie B. Ashling

Sequel to Open Seating
The Open Series: Book Two

By the time Seth Wilder and Bryce McFarland return to Chicago after their UK cruise, they’re halfway in love. They decide to move in together to see if their feelings can survive in the real world.

Seth receives word that a mandatory autopsy was performed on his late partner because his death was a suicide. The medical examiner’s findings are disturbing and leave some doubt as to the underlying cause of death.

Because of the suicide clause, life insurance benefits had been denied, but in light of these new findings, Seth’s lawyer advises him to appeal. The insurance investigator turns out to be the man who broke Bryce’s heart twenty-five years ago. The guy has fallen on hard times, and when he sees how successful Bryce has become—and how large Seth’s potential payout might be—he decides he wants a piece of the pie. Bryce and Seth’s new relationship is severely tested in this second novel in the Open Series.

Open Case Mickie B. Ashling
Gay - Romantic Suspence
Series: The Open Series (Book 3)
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (February 3, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1635332931
ISBN-13: 978-1635332933
Amazon: Open Case Mickie B. Ashling

Sequel to Open House
The Open Series: Book Three

Seth Wilder and Bryce McFarland deal with the aftermath of Owen Lightfoot’s destructive rampage. Once again, the insurance company denies the life insurance benefit despite the compelling evidence regarding the underlying cause of Mark’s death. However, they acknowledge their former employee’s complicity in the multiple crimes that have blindsided Seth and Bryce. They settle to keep their name out of the news, offering the couple a million dollars apiece, which they accept.

Owen learns of the big payoff and is determined to get his cut. Just when Bryce and Seth think it is all over, Owen reappears, and what follows tests the very limits of their endurance. Through the help of friends and relatives, Seth and Bryce find the strength to keep their relationship intact while seeking out the best way to stop Owen once and for all.

Cowboys, Erotica, & Dragons!

Aug. 21st, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

His Majesty’s Dragon

RECOMMENDEDHis Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is $2.99! Carrie mentioned she started reading this in a previous Whatcha Reading and there were many comments about how great this book is. We also have an early review of this book by Candy, who says it’s “utterly goddamn awesome.”

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.

Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

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The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

RECOMMENDEDThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick is $2.99! This is a price-matched Kindle Daily Deal and the rest of today’s deals are also pretty good, including a Susanna Kearsley book. Sarah enjoyed the emotional journey of this book and gave it a B in a Lightning Review:

In the end, his realization that his life mattered, that he was loved, and that he had more to give the world before he died, too, was terribly poignant and made me sniffle for quite awhile after I closed the book.

Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.

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Wild Card

Wild Card by Karina Halle is $2.99! This is the first book in the North Ridge series and I’m really excited about this one. I like Halle’s writing and I really like the cover too. This is a second chance, former friends to lovers romance, which was a huge selling point for many readers. But huge trigger warnings as there’s a backstory of abuse and suicide.

What would you give up to have a second-chance at a once-in-a-lifetime love?
Wild Card is a STANDALONE SECOND-CHANCE ROMANCE from the NYT bestselling author of The Pact and Before I Ever Met You. 
Rough, raw & rugged.
As the man in charge at Ravenswood Ranch, Shane Nelson has never been afraid to get his hands dirty. His sculpted physique isn’t the product of a gym, but of years of hard labor under a relentless sun. His straightforward, alpha tendencies come from a man who knows what he wants and goes after it.
And what he wants is Rachel Waters.
He’s never stopped wanting her.
They were childhood best friends, then teenage lovers who evolved into soulmates. But on one fateful night, Shane made a grave mistake, breaking both their hearts in the process.
Now, after six years, Rachel is back in the small, wild mountain town of North Ridge, BC.
Ready to face her past.
Ready to face Shane.
Ready to face his dark secret.
But is a second-chance at a one true love in the cards? Or will their wild hearts be broken once again?
WILD CARD IS A COMPLETE STANDALONE NOVEL and the first book about the Nelson Brothers of North Ridge

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Black Sheep

Black Sheep by Zara Cox is $1.99! This is a dark erotic romance and count me interested! This is the second book in the Dark Desires series. It can be read as a standalone and there’s no cliffhanger. Readers say this is a rather intense romance and is not for those looking for a more lighthearted book.

In a family of cold-hearted black sheep,
I, Axel Rutherford, am the blackest.

My father has hated me since the day I was born. The feeling was mutual. In the shady underworld that was my legacy, Cleo McCarthy became my light. She was beautiful, passionate, and my whole world. So naturally my father had to destroy us. First he sent me away. Next he claimed Cleo as his own. But now I’ve returned, and nothing will stop me from taking back everything that is rightfully mine.

He was the love of my life – when my life was still my own.
We were young enough to believe we would last forever, Axel and I. But neither of us realized how cruel life – and our families – could be. Now I’m trapped in a gilded cage: desired by Axel, who must never know the full truth, and controlled by his father, who would sooner see me dead than free. And I wouldn’t even care, except that it’s no longer only my life at stake.

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P.S. I Spook You S.E. Hamron
Gay - Paranormal Romance
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (June 12, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1635336902
ISBN-13: 978-1635336900
Amazon: P.S. I Spook You S.E. Hamron

SSA Rain Christiansen used to be the agency’s golden boy. It just takes one moment of weakness, one slight, tiny, itty-bitty paranormal sighting, and all of a sudden he’s the agency’s embarrassment. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself—go down to Brickell Bay, play nice with the local police, and leave the ghost sightings behind. Rain is determined to do exactly that, even if it kills him.

Cold-case detective Daniel McKenna’s latest investigation is going nowhere fast. Five years earlier, high school student Amy Greene went missing after leaving her part-time job and was never seen again. Daniel is glad to finally have the FBI help that his department requested, even if it does come in the form of his ex.

It doesn’t help that Rain is pretty sure he’s falling in love with Danny all over again—if he ever stopped. Add to that the frustration of seeing ghosts at every turn while he works a case that’s stalled in its tracks, and Rain is starting to wonder if second chances and happy endings are just for fairy tales.
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The Druid Next Door (Fae Out of Water #2) E.J. Russell
Gay - Fantasy Romance
Series: Fae Out of Water (Book 2)
Paperback: 314 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (August 7, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1626496226
ISBN-13: 978-1626496224
Amazon: The Druid Next Door (Fae Out of Water #2) E.J. Russell

Professor Bryce MacLeod has devoted his entire life to environmentalism. But how effective can he be in saving the planet when he can’t even get his surly neighbor to separate his recycling?

Former Queen’s Enforcer Mal Kendrick doesn’t think his life could get any worse: he’s been exiled from Faerie with a cursed and useless right hand. When he’s not dodging random fae assassins in the Outer World, he’s going toe-to-toe with his tree-hugging neighbor. And when he discovers that the tree hugger is really a druid, he’s certain the gods have it in for him—after all, there’s always a catch with druids. Then he’s magically shackled to the man and expected to instruct him in Supernatural 101.

All right, now things couldn’t possibly get worse.

Until a mysterious stranger offers a drunken Mal the chance to gain back all he’s lost—for a price. After Mal accepts, he discovers the real catch: an ancient secret that will change his and Bryce’s life forever.

Ah, what the hells. Odds are they won’t survive the week anyway.
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Spun! (Shamwell Tales #4) J.L. Merrow
Bisexual - Romantic Comedy
Series: The Shamwell Tales (Book 4)
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (March 6, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1626495890
ISBN-13: 978-1626495890
Amazon: Spun! (Shamwell Tales #4) J.L. Merrow

With friends like these . . .

An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.
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Wake Up Call (Porthkennack #1) J.L. Merrow
Gay - Contemporary Romance
Series: Porthkennack
Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (January 9, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1626495416
ISBN-13: 978-1626495418
Amazon: Wake Up Call (Porthkennack #1) J.L. Merrow

South London mechanic Devan Thompson has gone to Porthkennack to track down someone he’s been waiting all his life to know. But Dev’s distracted from his quest by Kyle, a broodingly handsome local of only a few months, who’s already got a reputation as an alcoholic because of his strange behaviour—including a habit of collapsing in the street.

Kyle Anthony fled to Porthkennack to escape from the ruins of his life. Still raging against his diagnosis of narcolepsy—a condition that’s cost him his job as a barrister, his lover, and all chance of normality—the last thing he wants is another relationship that’s doomed to fail. But Dev’s easygoing acceptance and adaptability, not to mention his good looks, have Kyle breaking all his self-imposed rules.

When disaster strikes Dev’s adored little sister, Kyle steps up to the plate, and Dev sees a side of his lover he wasn’t prepared for: competent, professional—and way out of Dev’s league. With one man determined that they don’t have a future and the other fearing it, life after Porthkennack is starting to look bleak for both of them.
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August 21st, 2017next

August 21st, 2017: This week I have been at a delightful cottage and it has been delightful! I recommend: delightful cottages. Thank you for your time and attention.

– Ryan

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Posted by Guest Reviewer


The Velvet Promise

by Jude Deveraux
RomanceHistorical: European

Squee from the Keeper Shelf is a feature wherein we share why we love the books we love, specifically the stories which are permanent residents of our Keeper shelves. Despite flaws, despite changes in age and perspective, despite the passage of time, we love particular books beyond reason, and the only thing better than re-reading them is telling other people about them. At length.

If you’d like to submit your reasons for loving and keeping a particular book for Squee from the Keeper Shelf, please email Sarah!

My favourite romance novels of all time are the four books of Jude Deveraux’s Velvet series: Velvet Promise, Highland Velvet, Velvet Song and Velvet Angel. I first read them when I was about fourteen, and the impact of these books on my reading, my writing, and probably my love life cannot be overstated. My friends and I sat in our boarding school dorm and devoured—lived, breathed, slept, dreamed, ate up—these books and their one-for-each-of-us heroes: Gavin, Stephen, Raine, and Miles. The names still dredge up a sigh of contentment, of nostalgia for a simpler life when we could dream of meeting boys who would miraculously be just like them (spoiler alert: I married Raine).

All these years later, I have found that every hero of every romance novel fits one or a blend of two of these brothers. The hero of my first manuscript is Gavin mixed with Miles; book 2’s guy is Raine. Book 4’s is Stephen. Not because I’m copying these books, but because Ms. Deveraux gave us heroes with different strengths and flaws which make for good stories no matter what era you set them in. It’s like getting a lesson in character arcs and having a rollicking good time while you’re at it.

That’s not to say that, like 99% of Eighties romances, there aren’t serious issues with the plots these four gents and their feisty, abundantly-haired heroines get into. I’ll get to that. But Ms. Deveraux gave me a blueprint not only for how a woman should be treated (yeah, like I said, I’ll get to that), but the emotions that a good romance should evoke in a reader. I’ll be applying those rules for the rest of my life. The heroines in these books are strong-willed women who wield power in their own way. While they sometimes have to submit to the mores of the time, they figure out ways to turn them to their advantage, and generally take very little shit from the heroes. The heroes are… well, let’s get to that.

In Velvet Promise, Judith, who has been brought up to become a prioress, is forced to marry Gavin Montgomery instead. Gavin is your basic alpha male. You’d be forgiven for thinking his name is Hawk because that’s what she describes him as most often. Gavin runs the family property (and this is the best bit) badly, although he runs around like a headless chicken (hawk?) trying his best, poor lamb. Judith is used to running her awful father’s lands and so comes in and instantly makes Gavin’s life better. But first he hits her and then he rapes her. Sigh. I know. Eighties, right? He’s all kinds of sorry in a macho ‘I could have done better than that her first time’ way the next morning, but there’s no getting away from the fact that he’s a total asshole at this point in the story.

BUT. (Okay, there’s never a ‘but’ where rape is concerned, but I’m going to ask you to go with it for now.) We are given so much of Gavin’s background that all his missteps, and there are many, are kinda sorta understandable (okay, not the rape part, but stay with me). He’s been left with almost no female company his whole life, except for the manipulative and godawful Alice, who has become his version of what the perfect woman is. We know Alice is a money-grubbing harpy who’ll have people killed to get her way, but to Gavin she’s a simpering miss who wells up in big pretty tears whenever he gets close to figuring out who she really is. She didn’t even show any signs of pain the first time they had sex. She swore it was her first time. It thoroughly wasn’t. Alice likes rough, violent sex and the power she can wield through it. She is the benchmark of comparison by which the intelligent, upstanding, red-haired Judith is judged and found wanting. Even when Gavin acknowledges that Judith kicks butt, he’s all confused because he thinks he’s in love with Alice.

Highland Velvet
A | BN | K | iB
All kinds of dreadful medieval things happen here, including, as someone on Amazon pointed out, a lot more rape (but not by Gavin again). I honestly don’t think it’s put there to titillate, or to imply that it’s a good basis for a relationship and the woman will always forgive you. I read these books at a very tender age, and the lesson I learned is, Gavin deserves a kick in the nuts, and this is never an acceptable way to treat a woman.

Eventually, Judith loses a baby because of Alice and Gavin learns what real love, and real grief, is. He realizes his mistake and is genuinely lovely to Judith. Alice can’t stand it, goes nuts and nearly kills Judith, scarring herself in the process. It’s a great book about redemption, though Gavin is remarkably stupid at first.

Highland Velvet is about Stephen, the blond one. He is sent by the king to marry Bronwyn MacArran, who unusually has been made laird of her clan. This is the Hot Scot plot with a twist—she’s the hot scot and she schools him in so many ways it’s just… delightful. Stephen goes from being the arrogant Englishman, off to teach the heathen Scots the correct way to go about their business, to being a man proud of his wife’s power, and ready to be her helpmate in any way she needs. He embraces her clan, and her culture, body and soul. Plus he’s got awesome legs in that plaid.

But more awful things happen to people in their families, partly coordinated by Alice, who is still scarred and still nuts. She married into the Chatworth family and because of her actions, and those of her brother-in-law, the families become deadly enemies. Raine, the third brother, retaliates against the Chatworths and is declared an outlaw (because you would be, wouldn’t you).

Velvet Song
A | BN | K | iB
In Velvet Song, we meet Alyx, a wonderfully ordinary heroine, except that she has incredible hair and a remarkable singing voice. But she is forced to pretend to be a boy and goes into Raine’s outlaw camp to seek shelter as his squire. You can imagine the hilarity that ensues. Alyx is an inveterate snob and thinks herself above the people Raine is helping in the camp (though she is merchant class and also yells at Raine for the extravagance of the rich). Raine—built like a brick privy, think sexy Hagrid without the beard—is a voice for the poor and teaches Alyx their value. They make love when he’s in a fever and all that his-huge-sweaty-body-on-her-slim-boyish-but-not-too-boyish-one is great stuff. Then when he wakes up he pretends he doesn’t remember and orders her around for another few minutes before she figures it out. It’s fantastic.

A woman who has lusted after Raine for ever, and caught him once, is jealous of Alyx and contrives to have her thrown out of the camp for stealing. No one defends Alyx because they know she looks down on them. Raine is about to leave with her, which would leave him open to arrest as soon as he leaves the forest (oh, yeah, Robin Hood anyone? You UK peeps will remember Robin of Sherwood was on TV at about this time and, I’m just sayin’, Michael Praed. Le Sigh.) So Alyx kisses another guy (her only friend) in front of Raine and pretends she never loved him so he won’t leave with her. “‘Have I been a fool?’” he says, and we all weep.

She and her friend leave and end up as minstrels at the house of the Chatworths. Alyx is heavily pregnant and has been helping out the poor people she meets on the road. See? Satisfying character arc! At the Chatworths a bad guy recognizes Alyx and kidnaps her to get Raine out in the open; at the same time they kidnap Elizabeth Chatworth, beautiful sister-in-law of crazy Alice, and decide it would be a great lark to deliver her to Miles, the last brother, whom I used to wish REALLY HARD was real.

Alyx is nearly burned at the stake, Raine’s gang rescue her, but oh noes, he hates her because she tricked him. Eventually she sends their daughter to him and that breaks the ice, and it’s all good, but let’s move on because Miles.

The Velvet Angel in question is Elizabeth, who is delivered to Miles naked in a rug. Elizabeth is pathologically afraid of men, and with good reason. Her psychotic brother, whom Alice married, would place bets with his friends on which of them could take her virginity, so she learned long ago how to fight them off, literally.

Velvet Angel
A | BN | K | iB
Miles, to make it all interesting, is the Pied Piper for women. As the story points out several times, no woman has ever said no to him: “Even newborn girls clung to him.” Okay, so get it? He’s a chick magnet. And Elizabeth is his polar opposite. His reputation has also exaggerated his prowess, so she believes he has an army of bastard children, and since she loves children, she hates him even more. In fact, he has four, whose backgrounds we are told so we don’t believe he’s an asshole. Also, medieval, so, no birth control! What’s a man to do??!

Miles sets out to break through Elizabeth’s fear and it’s a splendid third of the book where his actions and those of his men, who aren’t assholes either, teach her that some men can be trusted. Of course, he’s hot as molasses in July and when Elizabeth gets drunk one day, off they go. Now, you could, and perhaps should, have a problem with all the times Miles was touching her, holding her on his horse, kissing her (she wipes it away each time) and generally getting in her personal space without permission. But… if he’d sat on the other side of the room and made his points with flowcharts it wouldn’t have been quite the same story. When they do come together (*snigger*) her release of all that fear and pain is superb.

But of course that can’t be the end of the story. Elizabeth’s slightly-less-awful brother (although whether you forgive him for what he did in Book 2 is up for discussion) comes for her and she leaves with him so he won’t kill Miles. Miles thinks this is a bad idea, to put it mildly.

One of the things that makes this more than a run-of-the-mill romance is that Elizabeth’s choices are not clearcut. She has Miles, yes, but her brother has a whole other side to the story, and she doesn’t know who to believe for a while. The plot jumps the shark here a little, but the misunderstandings and reconciliations are well laid out. In the end, the women band together and save Miles from Alice’s last and most trumped-up scheme. It’s all wrapped up with a lovely bow and the promise of future books. Which I didn’t read because after Miles, there was nowhere else for me to go.

And there you have it. Four men, four women, four stories, infinite permutations. Gavin is the alpha male who needs to be schooled. Stephen, the thoughtful beta who will fight to the death for those he considers his people. Raine is the educated mountain man looking for beauty in art. And Miles is the strong, silent type whom you just can’t resist once he turns his eyes on you. I give you the Montgomery brothers. You are welcome.

The Velvet Montgomery series comes from Kimberly Ash’s Keeper Shelf! Kimberley Ash is a writer, mom, and British ex-pat, who has lived in and loved New Jersey for twenty years. When not cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs, she writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and contemplates ​ex-pat life. You can find her on her website, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

The Velvet Montgomery series are on her keeper shelf because they are the benchmark for emotional trauma and hotness factor against which all other romances are compared. Also, if she hasn’t mentioned it yet, Miles.

The Wild Storm #6

Aug. 21st, 2017 04:21 pm
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I mean, there were a lot of Wildstorm books. And remember I said it was a pirate ship? The world-building was all over the place. I had to sit down and write a fucking cosmology for this project. Jim Lee made me invent 12,000 years of intergalactic history and I will never forgive him. -- Warren Ellis

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Posted by SB Sarah


Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

by Anne Helen Petersen
June 20, 2017 · Plume
RomanceHistorical: European

Anne Helen Petersen’s byline on any collection of words means that I’m going to drop what I’m doing immediately to read it. I don’t read a lot of celebrity gossip and culture, but her analyses are fascinating on multiple levels. Not only are they thorough and drawn from a variety of sources, but they attempt to frame one or several layers of meaning around a celebrity’s brand or image, often locating that meaning in a complicated larger context. Because Petersen has studied the gossip industry in its past and present iterations, the context is very often, “We’ve been here before, and here’s another example.”

I was very excited to read Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud – so excited that when I received the email alerting me that my turn on the hold list at the library had arrived, I got to the library branch before they’d put the book out on the hold shelves for me to pick up. (No, I promise I didn’t drive Too Fast to pick up this book. There are speed cameras everywhere and I learned my lesson long ago.)

If you like Petersen’s long form celebrity analyses, you’ll like this book. Each chapter focuses on a different person, and each is a chronological examination of how their brand or public image has shifted, and how coverage of that person personally and professional has evolved. Each chapter also spends some time identifying and then dismantling the overarching perception that follows each individual. The chapters in order are:

  • Too Strong: Serena Williams
  • Too Fat: Melissa McCarthy
  • Too Gross: Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer
  • Too Slutty: Nikki Minaj
  • Too Old: Madonna
  • Too Pregnant: Kim Kardashian
  • Too Shrill: Hillary Clinton
  • Too Queer: Caitlyn Jenner
  • Too Loud: Jennifer Weiner
  • Too Naked: Lena Dunham

The book as a whole was a very quick read for me, and I found myself taking pictures and sharing images of particular paragraphs that resonated. I wanted to tell everyone I knew about each chapter as soon as I read it.

Unruliness is defined in the introduction as possessing of attributes that are antithetical to expectations to traditional femininity. Unruly women:

…question, interrogate, or otherwise challenge the status quo. Of course, there have been unruly women for as long as there have been boundaries of what constitutes acceptable “feminine” behavior: women who, in some way, step outside the boundaries of good womanhood, who end up being labeled too fat, too loud, too slutty, too whatever characteristic women are supposed to keep under control.

So, yeah. Here for this, 3000%.

Each example starts with one element of “unruliness,” but no criticism of women is ever singular; there are many other systems of oppression involved. The chapter on Serena Williams traced how descriptions of her body have not changed all that much over time, locating those descriptions and the attitudes toward her skill and dominance in the larger context of the overwhelming whiteness and racism of tennis as a sport and performance, with a side order of sexism and classism.

I thought the chapter was fantastic, and since my husband likes tennis (and most sports on tv, come to think of it), I passed the book to him so he could read it when I finished. He did the same thing I did: nodded at the page and kept reading. His review: “I knew all of these things already, and I read most of the articles about Serena that are cited, but I hadn’t seen them organized in that way before.”

That’s a pretty apt summary of each chapter: the organization of the story tells another story. The coverage of a celebrity – the narrative that is manufactured by them, or about them, or both – is organized and examined in a way that reveals larger themes and the often massive obstacles that person deals with. In other words, there is a story about the person being profiled, and that story, the way it is told, the words that are used, and the source of the story and who tells and repeats it, reveals a LOT.

Each “too” example is often the reason pointed to by many who criticize or dislike that celebrity or their work. Each chapter pokes at the descriptor to highlight the sexism, misogyny, racism, and prejudice working against that person. Some work steadfastly against their label, and some engage with it deliberately, consciously undermining it or highlighting it to point out how ridiculously limiting and reductive it is.

To say this book gave me brain popcorn is an understatement.

Here are some of my favorite parts, which I had to mark with sticky notes because this is a library book and I am not a total monster. From the chapter on Serena:

“Imagine, too, a woman whose dominance on the court leads to discussions of her skill, not her body. Imagine a scenario in which strength, manifest in physical and mental form, is figured as a pure testament to skill, not as a means of distracting from it. Imagine a world in which female athletes do not provoke anxiety; in which black ones are not automatically perceived as a threat; in which unruliness doesn’t need to be blunted….

A woman who responds to the cries that “she’s too strong,” then “she’s too sexy,” then again “she’s too strong” with “Well, can you choose one? But either way, I don’t care which one they choose. I’m me and I’ve never changed who I am.”

From the chapter on Hillary Clinton (which was a little painful to read):

“Shrillness” is just a word to describe what happens when a woman, with her higher-toned voice, attempts to speak loudly. A pejorative, in other words, developed specifically to shame half the population when they attempt to command attention in the same manner as men.

And in the chapter on Jennifer Weiner, which also addresses a lot of the sexism surrounding the term ‘chick lit,’ an examination I found deeply deliciously satisfying, there’s a discussion of the imbalanced hierarchy within the publishing and the marketing of books:

Women make up around 80 percent of the fiction -buying public, making them an incredibly powerful market force. They’re just not buying the right books – at least according to a pervasive and problematic cultural assumption. The right books are “difficult”: experimental, impenetrable, male. They get written up in prestigious book reviews; they win awards that place a tasteful gold stamp in their corner. Their authors don’t blog or tweet about them because they don’t blog or tweet…. They occupy the rarefied air of high art. And the majority, but certainly not all, of the authors of these books are men.

On the other end of this hierarchy, there’s the feminized, the commercially popular, the books reliant on tacky self-promotion.

I finished the chapter on Nikki Minaj wishing there had been more focus more on the ways she questions the treatment she receives as a female artist and businessperson, and while there was some, I wanted more. (Also: “When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. When a woman is assertive, she’s a bitch. No negative connotations to being a boss.”)

I appreciated that the analysis of each person didn’t assume my sympathy for the person, or my support, and I appreciated that the tone wasn’t one of, “You should support this person and here is why.” From the conclusion:

Questions of representation – who controls it, and who says where and at what point it becomes “too much” in any capacity – have served as the foundation of this book, whose premise is predicated on the small yet significant ways that women have either resisted or wrested control of the way that men have represented them.

Which isn’t to say that they always succeed: the imperative against unruliness might be largely created by men, but as these chapters have shown, it’s often enforced by women.

That was the part I found most interesting, asking myself how I contribute to the castigation of unruly women, and how I manage the accusations of the same when I receive them. I mean, it’s a site called “Smart Bitches,” so I hear opprobrium about our unruliness collectively or individually on a weekly basis. But I had to ask myself about the chapters regarding women I wasn’t as curious about, why was I harboring dislike for that person? Why do I think that way?

Which is the point of the book itself, I think: to challenge readers to measure and examine their dislike or conceptions of individual celebrities in different spheres, and to potentially nudge readers to challenging the way they absorb and examine the presented stories about other people. In other words, don’t believe everything you think. Why do you think that, anyway? How we view other women and how we view ourselves are crucial examinations, and the world of celebrity gossip and public performance make for an accessible on-ramp to the difficult questioning.

I found this book to be fascinating and very edifying, almost comforting at times. I imagine many of us have been told we were both “too much” and “not enough” through our lives. Seeing how that narrative takes shape on a larger scale helps me examine how I absorb and deploy that same contradiction. If you’re at all interested in celebrity culture and how it intersects with cultural expectations and narratives, or you want to celebrate nonconformity and being “too much,” this book will be a treat.

Land of the Lustrous

Aug. 20th, 2017 09:01 pm
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According to Kodansha Comics, this is a series for those who are fans of Steven Universe, so there you go.
Frankly, I say you'll probably like this if you like some abstract stuff.

The first chapter is available to read for free, thus the amount of pages below. Feel free to check them out on the site here though.

Read More... )
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Once upon a time, DC comics understood that comics don't have to be always serious grimdark heavy drama involving lots of gratuitous violence and rape. That was a good thing, but the less serious comics that DC put out weren't always worthwhile. Today it seemed appropriate to post 8/23 pages from issue 117 of the mercifully forgotten "The Adventures of Jerry Lewis" comic, an issue worthy of note today only because it guest starred Wonder Woman in her "mod" phase.


gratuitous sexism and unfunny jokes ahoy )

The past was a different country, one in which it was possible for there to be over 100 issues of a Jerry Lewis comic.

ETA: the last page includes a statement of management and circulation. in 1970, "The Adventures of Jerry Lewis" was selling 175,000 copies every month. Do you think maybe, just maybe, going after ever more grimdark crossover events might have been a mistake on DC's part?

Giving this the crack tag, I guess? And the misogyny tag, because Jerry Lewis.

Rugby Players, Magic, & More!

Aug. 20th, 2017 03:30 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

Scrappy Little Nobody

RECOMMENDEDScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick is $2.99! It’s a part of today’s Kindle Daily Deals (I highly recommend you check out the rest) and is being price-matched. I listened to this on audio narrated by Kendrick herself and I really liked it. The stories/chapters are short enough to where you don’t lose interest and it has a great balance of being touching, genuine, and really funny.

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

“I’m excited to publish my first book, and because I get uncomfortable when people have high expectations, I’d like to use this opportunity to showcase my ineptitude, pettiness, and the frequency with which I embarrass myself. And while many of my female inspirations who have become authors are incredibly well-educated and accomplished comedy writers, I’m very, very funny on Twitter, according to Buzzfeed and my mom, so I feel like this is a great idea. Quick question: are run-on sentences still frowned upon? Wait, is ending a sentence with a preposition still frowned upon? I mean, upon frowned? Dammit!” —Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick’s autobiographical collection of essays amusingly recounts memorable moments throughout her life, from her middle class upbringing in New England to the blockbuster movies that have made her one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses today. Expanding upon the witty and ironic dispatches for which she is known, Anna Kendrick’s essays offer her one-of-a-kind commentary on the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture.

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Winter Garden

Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth is 99c! This is a historical romance with spies! However, readers seemed to be divided on the actual spying assignment. Some found it added a great element of action, while others felt it made little sense to them. This is the second book in the Winter Garden series and the first book is also on sale.

Though a celebrated French beauty in 1849, Madeleine DuMais’s cleverness is her greatest asset — and one she puts to good use as a spy for the British. When her expertise is needed in the south of England to break up a smuggling ring, Madeleine willingly puts her life on hold to help the crown …

Arriving in the quaint resort town of Winter Garden, Madeleine meets her partner in subterfuge. Thomas Blackwood is unlike any man she has ever met. His quiet confidence and mysterious intensity send shivers of pleasure coursing through her … shivers that slowly melt into a desperate passion. As duty gives way to desire, surrender holds its reward. And Madeleine will never recover from the touch of Thomas’s hands on her body — and the touch of his heart on her soul …

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Knowing the Score

Knowing the Score by Kat Latham is $2.99! This is a contemporary sports romance – set in the world of rugby. I mentioned this book on a previous podcast episode. It has a 3.7 average, and readers at GR liked the humor and the dialogue between the hero and heroine (though some reviews warn of a slow start to the story).

Rugby player Spencer Bailey is determined to win a spot on England’s World Cup team. But with a month break before the selectors start watching him, he’s eager to have fun with a woman who knows the score: the relationship will end when rugby season begins. The lovely American Caitlyn Sweeney seems perfect for the role of temporary lover, since her visa will run out soon anyway.

Caitlyn works for an international disaster relief organization and can handle the world’s worst crises, but she flinches from her own. Her past has left her with a fear of intimacy so deep that she has trouble getting close to anyone—until she meets sexy Spencer. His hot body and easygoing nature are too much for even her to resist.

Neither Caitlyn nor Spencer expects to fall hard for each other. But with their relationship deadline approaching, the old rules of the game seem less important than before…until past secrets surface, challenging everything they thought they knew about each other.

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Tarnished by Karina Cooper is 99c! This is a gritty steampunk novel with paranormal and romantic elements. Readers are divided on the heroine, who is an opium addict. Some found that the heroine was too unlikable, while others enjoyed a flawed protagonist. Have you read this one?

My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.

Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his – for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.

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Rare and Beautiful Things Giselle Fox
Lesbian - Contemporary Romance
File Size: 1585 KB
Print Length: 197 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Amazon: Rare and Beautiful Things Giselle Fox

The rarest prize might be buried deep … or hiding in plain sight.

Amber Greyell knows a lot about jaguars. A virgin at 32, the willowy, redheaded PhD finds romance far more baffling. So when she meets gorgeous, athletic shipwreck diver Nikki Sharpe off the coast of Belize, her curiosity is mixed with a strong dose of caution.

Nikki can’t help being intrigued by Amber’s innocence and intellect. When the pair discover a long-lost journal preserved in a sunken ship, the unexpected story in its pages sets them on their own journey toward intimacy.

But Amber doesn’t want to get her heart broken by a woman who won’t be around for long. Can Nikki overcome Amber’s doubts and show her there’s more than one kind of hidden treasure?
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All the Way to Shore CJane Elliott
Bisexual - Contemporary Romance
File Size: 2538 KB
Print Length: 204 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press; 1 edition (November 23, 2016)
Publication Date: November 23, 2016
Amazon: All the Way to Shore CJane Elliott

Jonathan Vallen has never felt good enough. A gentle musician who loves to garden, he’s woefully unsuited to running Vallen Industries, the family business. When his father hires a hotshot executive, Marco Pellegrini, to save the company, Jonathan moves away and leaves his humiliation behind. A year later and forty pounds lighter, Jonathan runs into Marco on an LGBT cruise. Marco doesn’t recognize him, the sparks fly, and Jonathan pretends to be someone else for the week—Jonah Rutledge—someone good enough to be loved.

Marco Pellegrini has always been driven. He rose from poverty to the pinnacle of business success, and he’ll do anything to protect his reputation—including hiding his bisexuality. Having saved Vallen Industries, he’s weary of the rat race and ready for a more meaningful life. When Marco meets his soul mate for that new life—Jonah Rutledge—on an LGBT cruise, he prepares to stop hiding and start living.

Back on land, the romance crashes when Marco discovers his perfect man is not only a lie but the son of his boss, Frederick Vallen. Jonathan resolves to win Marco back, but Frederick takes vengeful action. Jonathan and Marco must battle their own fears as well as Frederick’s challenge to get to the future that awaits them on the horizon.
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One-Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin Michael Schreiber
Gay - Biography / Memoir
Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 21, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 197371888X
ISBN-13: 978-1973718888
Amazon: One-Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin Michael Schreiber


Bernard Perlin (1918-2014) was an extraordinary figure in twentieth century American art and gay cultural history, an acclaimed artist and sexual renegade who reveled in pushing social, political, and artistic boundaries. His work regularly appeared in popular magazines of the 1940s, fifties, and sixties; was collected by Rockefellers, Whitneys, and Astors; and was acquired by major museums, including the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern. His portrait clients included well-known literary, artistic, theatrical, political, and high society figures. As a government propaganda artist and war artist-correspondent, he produced many now-iconic images of World War II. From the 1930s on, he also daringly committed to canvas and paper scenes of underground gay bars and nude studies of street hustlers, among other aspects of his active and dedicated gay life.
Socially, he moved in the upper echelons of New York gay society, a glittering "cufflink crowd" that included George Platt Lynes, Lincoln Kirstein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler, Paul Cadmus, Jared French, George Tooker, Pavel Tchelitchew, Truman Capote, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Jerome Robbins. He also counted among his most intimate companions such luminaries in the arts as Vincent Price, Clifton Webb, Ben Shahn, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, Aaron Copland, Christopher Isherwood, Don Bachardy, Martha Gellhorn, Betsy Drake, Muriel Rukeyser, Carson McCullers, Philip Johnson, and E.M. Forster. Yet he was equally at home in the gay underworlds of New York and Rome, where his unbridled sexual escapades put him in competition with the likes of Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams.

In One-Man Show, Michael Schreiber chronicles the storied life, illustrious friends and lovers, and astounding adventures of Bernard Perlin through no-holds-barred interviews with the artist, candid excerpts from Perlin's unpublished memoirs, never-before-seen photos, and an extensive selection of Bernard Perlin's incredible public and private art.
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How We Love Michael Ryan Webb
Gay - Contemporary General Fiction
Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 21, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 197371888X
ISBN-13: 978-1973718888
Amazon: How We Love Michael Ryan Webb

Mark and Adam had been happily married for five years and together for over 15. Things were going well for them. But when Mark spiraled into mental illness after his father died, their marriage was strained in a way that Adam can no longer bear. Now separated, they have to learn to live life alone for the first time. Faced with uncertain futures, can they overcome their differences and learn how to love each other again? Or has their tie to each other been severed forever? From alternating perspectives, join them on their journey of love, loss, heartache, and healing.


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