Posted in Reviews

Fantasy Lover Review: Chapter Four

Warning: One image in this review is NSFW.

So we left off last chapter with Grace basically telling us the premise of the whole book. One man did her wrong, so all guys suck.

But even more surprising than her words was the amount of bitterness he heard in Grace’s voice. She must have been badly used in the past. No wonder she was skittish of him.

Badly used? She lost her virginity to a douche. And she’s been so gun-shy about it ever since that she’s never given a man a fair chance. Spoiler alert, we learn in an upcoming chapter that Paul preyed upon Grace’s grief shortly after her parents death in order to get into her pants. It’s a scuzzy, low-down, rotten thing to do, and I’m not excusing it in the least. Paul can rot in hell for it. But here’s the thing. This happened in Grace’s college years, she was twenty-four when she lost her virginity to Paul and discovered his subsequent betrayal.  So she’s had five years to process this. And she’s still so hung up on it that she refuses to date or even get turned on?

Maybe it’s my naivete showing, but I think that five years is enough to put some distance between herself and a trauma. I’ve never had something truly horrible happen to me, like assault or domestic violence. I know those things are traumatic. I know that some scars go so deep they don’t ever completely go away. But Grace wasn’t raped. She was taken advantage of, certainly, but not coerced or taken against her will. Not the way that Julian has been for the last two millennium. She had one bad experience, and now refuses all men on the basis that one man did her wrong.

You know it reminds me of two different things, ironically both vampire series. One good and one bad. Let’s start with the good first.

Image result for buffy and parker

That douche up there? That’s Parker Abrams from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He caught Buffy on the rebound and pretended to be sweet, kind, and sensitive, just to get into Buffy’s pants. When he did, he left. He moved on to new girls, and this betrayal does affect Buffy. But it doesn’t destroy her. It is the starting point for new characterization. Buffy learns and grows from the experience. In the same season, she falls for the good, albeit bland, soldier-boy Riley Finn.

Buffy doesn’t stay there. You could argue that after having to send her first boyfriend to hell, it wasn’t as big a deal to Buffy, but we see otherwise in the show. It is heartbreaking to watch Buffy struggle through her feelings for Parker and what little they had. And it is satisfying to watch him get punched in the face when the time comes. But Buffy doesn’t even wait a year before moving on to something bigger and better. In my opinion, Grace should have been able to do the same.

Alright, on to the bad example.

Image result for Anita blake

Anita Blake from her eponymous series. In this example here? Anita is the douche I’m talking about. Anita acts as the emotional support system for the majority of the characters in the books she’s apart of. Why, I have no idea, because she has the emotional maturity of a teaspoon. But even if I assume she’s the wise-beyond-her-years, hardened cop that she’s supposed to be (instead of the raging megalomaniac and psychotic bitch that she is) she is completely and utterly selfish when it comes to her love life. She uses people at every turn, insisting on monogamy for the majority of the books while keeping her harem abstinent unless they are sleeping with her.

But the kicker? The thing I think that applies here? Every single one of the men/women in her life has a worse backstory than she does. Every. Damn. One. And yet? Anita plays it off like the worst thing she’s ever gone through–the death of her mother when she was eight–is the be-all-end-all of tragedy. Which I would get if her mother had been killed right in front of her, a la Supernatural, or raped and murdered right in front of her a la Hellsing. But no! Her mother had an accidental death, by car crash. And yet Anita insists that her pain is worse than ANYBODY else’s! A death is horrible, yes, but Anita has had fucking years to get over it and make peace with the fact her father remarried. But she never, ever does it!

Grace is supposed to remind me of Buffy. I think that all the heroines in the Dark Hunters series are supposed to be tough, smart girls who get the job done and save the man with the magical therapy vagina. But they’re not. A lot of them turn out like Anita. Their petty problems end up being the focus of the novel, and the man has to overcome them despite having massively worse emotional baggage himself. The only book I’ve read by Kenyon so far where this does not apply is, ironically Styxx. The love interest in that book is whole and is able to support him through the horrible shit he’s gone through. As she should.

Sorry to go off on a tangent at the very beginning of the chapter but good lord, I’m tired of the woman having to work through a relatively minor problem and that’s the focus of the book. Instead of the massive emotional hangups that the man has, that need serious therapy.

ILL LOGIC: 2

Closing his eyes, he forced those thoughts away. That was literally ancient history and this was the present. Grace was the present.

And he was here for her.

Now, he understood what Selena had meant when she’d spoken to him about Grace. That was why he was here. He was to show Grace that sex was enjoyable.

Never before had he encountered anything like this.

As he looked at Grace, a slow smile curved his lips. This would be the first time in his life he’d ever had to pursue a woman for his lover. No woman had ever turned his body down.

What with her wit and stubbornness he knew getting Grace into bed would prove to be every bit as challenging as outwitting the Roman army.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 10

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 14

The consent thing should be pretty obvious. Grace has said no, but he’s going to pursue anyway. Even though it is the case of the lady protesting too much, which also makes me distinctly uncomfortable as a trope, going off of what she’s said, she’s turned him down. End of story. Period. Take no for an answer asshole.

The did not do the research point has to do with what I’ve said in previous posts. Rome pretty much crushed Greece in the Punic Wars. Greece was not a united front, and routinely the city-states would stab each other in the back and fight with the enemies of one city-state to destroy another. It’s painted in this book that the loss of Julian and Kyrian of Thrace is the only reason that Greece lost the war. Not, you know, the fact that Rome was a united front and Greece was not, among other reasons. The only reason that we have so much of an idea about Ancient Greece is that Rome pretty much subsumed their beliefs and a lot of their culture. Romans were huge grecophiles.

But I know what it really is. The hyperbole is supposed to allude to how headstrong Grace is. But she really isn’t. She’s not resisting so strongly because she’s concerned about the moral quandary this situation presents. She doesn’t resist because of the issue of consent, or to keep him from suffering more trauma. Her reasons for abstaining are about seventy percent selfish. So it gets one of these.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 15

So after she’s fed him, she intends to go to bed. He tells her that he doesn’t want to go to sleep. He doesn’t want to be still and in darkness again. Understandable, I suppose. But he also doesn’t want to be alone, and it’s a contrived excuse to get them together in one bed. So she takes him upstairs and tells him he can watch the TV in her room.

While she goes to get him clothing, he muses about how much the world has changed since he was last summoned. Here’s another thing I don’t get. I understand that he’s learned English through listening to people outside the book, but how the hell does he know what certain things are? I know context clues can help somewhat, but without visual aids or any concept of what a new technology is, it would be impossible for him to know them off the bat.

ILL LOGIC: 3

His next concern is fairly reasonable. The shop keeper who kept his book comments that one day e-books will probably overtake regular books. And in a sense, it’s correct. Amazon and other companies offer e-books at reduced prices, making them cheaper to purchase than regular print books. Print books are harder to make, and take time. That’s why the indie book market is booming right now. It’s easier to consume and to produce. But I don’t share the view that print books will ever completely go away.

You have purists, like my husband and my mother who will always prefer to have a print copy in their hands when they can. And for some, it’s just easier. Devices wear out, break, or get expensive to replace, so having a print copy you can get from a library or at a book store might be preferable.

Julian is afraid he’ll never be summoned again, and will therefore never escape his prison. So, I’ll admit that’s reasonable.

He finds Grace in the other room crying over a pair of her father’s pajama pants. Yes. Yes it is awful she lost her parents. She deserves a cry. But it’s Julian’s reaction that annoys me.

Before he could reconsider his actions, he stepped into the room and drew her into a hug. Her arms encircled his waist and she held on to him like a lifeline as she buried her face into his bare chest and wept. Her entire body shook against his.

Something strange inside him unfurled. A deep longing for something he couldn’t name.

Never in his life had he comforted a weeping woman. He’d had sex more times than he could count, but never once had he just held a woman like this. Not even after sex. Once he wore out his partner, he would get up and clean himself off, then go find something to occupy himself with until he was called again.

Even before the curse, he’d never shown anyone tenderness. Not even his wife.

BULL. SHIT.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit! I refuse to believe this is the first time that Julian has displayed any platonic affection toward any woman. He had a wife. He had children. What? Did he tell her to lay back and think of Thebes while they consummated their marriage? Clearly there was love (at least on his side of things, because as we later learn, it’s more complicated than this.) I don’t know if this is also supposed to be going along with the “Spartan warrior thing” that Kenyon was trying to set up. But guess what? That doesn’t work either!

See this? See where Macedonia is? Way up top. Whereas Sparta…

Image result for ancient greek map

IS AT THE BOTTOM!

Julian of Macedon the “spartan” warrior is just ludicrous. What the hell? Did he get sent on an exchange program or something? The only way to make this distinctly plausible is if you say he was cast down from Olympus after his birth to Aphrodite and landed in Sparta and was raised there, but later rejoined his countrymen. But if you have to stretch that far, it’s not a good explanation. Also, if I may just nitpick, his name also doesn’t fit.

Julian, from the Roman name Iulianus, which was derived from Julius. So if we’re to follow what Kenyon’s laying down, Julian is a Spartan warrior from Macedonia, who has a Roman name. Gah.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 18

Four points. One for the complete misunderstanding of Greek attitudes towards sex and affection. Three more for the incongruity of his backstory.

As a soldier, he’d been trained from his first memory to be fierce, cold. Harsh.

“Return with your shield, or upon it.” That was what his stepmother had told him as she grabbed him by his hair and slung him out of her home to begin training for war at the tender age of seven.

His father had been even worse. A legendary Spartan commander, his father had tolerated no weakness. No emotion. The man had doled out Julian’s childhood at the end of a braided leather whip, teaching him to hide his pain. To let no one see him suffer.

To this day Julian could feel the bite of the whip against his bare back, hear the sound it made as it cut through the air toward his skin. See the mocking sneer of contempt on his father’s face. 

So his father isn’t even Macedonian. It makes even less sense. Also, what the hell is it with people mistreating demi-gods in this series? You don’t want their mommy or daddy to smite you, so you should probably be nice to them! In the myths where they’re put out or treated badly by mortals it never ends well.

ILL LOGIC: 5

One for the mistreatment of Julian at the hands of his step-parents, and two for making his parents Spartan in the first place. I think it was chosen because it was one of the more iconic Greek cultures besides Athens. But really, it would have made more sense for him to have remained Macedonian. This was after Alexander the Great, so Macedon wouldn’t have been considered the boonies anymore.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 19

So nothing more of note happens in that section except that Julian puts the moves on Grace, and she turns him down. She falls asleep and Julian just stares at her face. He was creeping on ladies before Edward Cullen made it cool.

He could tell when she finally fell asleep by the evenness of her breathing. It was only then that he finally dared to touch her. Dared to trace the gentle outline of her soft cheek with the pad of his forefinger.

His body reacted with such violence that he bit his lip to keep from cursing. Fire streamed through his blood.

He’d known stabbing desires all his life-first a hunger in his belly for food, then a burning thirst for love and respect, and finally the demanding one in his loins for the wet sleekness of a woman’s body. But never, never, had he experienced anything like this.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If something is burning, go get that checked out Julian.

And all he could think of was spreading her creamy, silken thighs and planting himself deep inside her. Of sliding in and out of her body over and over until they both screamed out their release in unison.

Only that would never happen.

Julian moved farther away from her. To a safe distance in the bed where he could no longer smell her sweet feminine scent, feel the heat of her body beneath the covers.

He could give her pleasure for days on end without stopping, but for him there would never be peace.

Days? Oh no, honey. There’s such a thing as sleep deprivation, refractory period, chafing, and other fun sexual woes. The record for longest sexual intercourse is currently 15 hours and change. That’s not a day. I would think that anything over an hour would chafe. Owwww.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 20

And is it just me, or is that sentiment just a little rapey considering he’s staring at her unconscious form and hasn’t backed off?

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 11

“Damn you, Priapus,” he snarled, speaking the name of the god who had cursed him to this fate. “I hope Hades is giving you your full due.”

Ah, so we finally get to Priapus! Fun, fun. At first I thought he was a made up god, the same way that the Atlantean Pantheon are in later books. But no, Priapus is an actual Greek deity. But that seems to be where the research ends.

Image result for priapus

As you can see from the picture, he was well known for his enormous schlong. He was a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens, and male genitalia. The condition priapism, where the penis remains erect without stimulation or long after intercourse is over, is named after him. Priapus had a permanently erect penis, except when it actually came time to perform.  He was cursed with ugliness and thrown from Olympus by the other gods.

He was also very rapey. He tried to rape the goddess Hestia while she slept, and was only stopped from doing so because of the braying of a donkey. Myths vary on who is parents are, but a popular idea is that he is the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite. So this book gets that right at least.

What it doesn’t get right is the fact that he was a minor, minor deity that would certainly not have had a major shrine in a big city, and probably would have been worshiped by farmers in rural areas, not priestesses. And certainly not virgin priestesses. A god whose main defining attribute is commonly described as “column”, “twelve-inch pole”, “cypress”, “spear” and “pyramid”, is not going to be demanding chastity. In later years, his worship was little more than pornography! After failing to rape a nymph (or Hestia depending on the myth) he beats the donkey to death with his giant penis! No joke!

His cult would probably have consisted of sexual acts as worship, not abstinence. And since the Greeks were fairly comfortable with sex, it isn’t as big a deal as it would be in modern society.

So I don’t think that Priapus should have had the power, sophistication, or means by which to curse Julian. So, counts.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 23

So when Grace wakes up, Julian is already getting handsy.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 12

So they make out for awhile and Grace is just passively wishing for something to interrupt him, so she doesn’t have to push him away. What about saying no and meaning it?

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 13

He encircled the tender, throbbing flesh with one finger, making her burn from the inside out before he finally plunged two fingers deep inside her.

What is it with burning in this series? If it’s burning down there, it’s not good! I’m gonna kick off another of my counts because I’m getting the feeling this is a stock phrase.

AUTHOR’S PET PHRASE: 4

For this time and the other times I’ve mentioned it in chapter reviews.

Thankfully, Selena calls just in time and Grace squirms out from beneath Julian. She tells Selena to come over and help her out. Then she gives herself a literal cold shower while she waits and talks to herself.

“Remember what happened after Paul? Remember what it felt like to wander around the dorm, sick to your stomach because you let someone use you? Remember how humiliating it was?”

Worse, she could still hear Paul’s mocking laughter as he bragged to his friends and collected his bet. How she wished she’d been a man long enough to kick open the door to his apartment, and beat him to smithereens.

No, she wouldn’t let herself be used.

It had taken her years to get over Paul and his cruelty, and she wasn’t about to undo all that on a whim. Not even a gorgeous whim!

Nope, nope, nope. The next time she gave herself to a man it would be to someone who was committed to her. Someone who cared for her.

Someone who wouldn’t disregard her pain and continue to use her body for his pleasure as if she didn’t matter, she thought, her repressed memories resurfacing with a vengeance. Paul had acted as if she weren’t even there. As if she were nothing more than an emotionless doll designed only to serve his pleasure.

I’m sorry, I’m still finding this hard to believe. I know we’re supposed to take this all at face value, but what sort of guy just shoves it in, deflowers her, doesn’t try to get her involved, and then leaves? I mean sex is better when both parties participate, and in all honesty, it can be hard to do the first time. If he didn’t spend any time on foreplay or whatnot, she’s going to be dry as the Sahara down there which is comfortable for no one. Also, as a virgin she’s going to be pretty tight down there, so there’s the question if he can even get in without serious effort on his and her part with no prep, no lube, no nothing.

ILL LOGIC: 6

Julian goes downstairs, drinks from the tap, and eats half of a melon before reflecting on his past, in which he was used at best, or raped at worst. And we’re supposed to think that Grace’s situation is worse. So Selena shows up with clothing and just stares at Julian for a bit, unable to be articulate.

“Holy green guacamole!” Selena gasped.

Grace folded her arms over her chest, her eyes twinkling in a cross between anger and amusement. “Julian, meet Selena.”

“Holy green guacamole!” her friend repeated.

“Selena?” Grace waved her hand in front of Selena’s face. Still Selena didn’t blink.

“Holy gre-“

“Would you stop?” Grace chided.

IT IS TO LAUGH: 6

Because this is clearly supposed to be humorous. Only, it’s not.

So she asks Selena to babysit him while she’s at work and we end the chapter on this particularly rapey note.

Well, sooner or later she’d be back.

Then she would be his.

And once she surrendered to him, he was going to show her just what kind of stamina and passion a Spartan-trained Macedonian soldier was capable of.

Image result for horrified

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 14

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 24

Ugh that last line makes me shudder. I think he’s supposed to be written as an aggressive alpha male type that’s common in romance. He’s supposed to be appealing because he’s dominant in the bedroom and he knows how to make a woman feel good. Only he doesn’t seem to care about what Grace says about it, so it’s just rapey, in my book.

Alright, we’ll be back next chapter with more of this, and we get to learn more about their backstories. Fun.

 

 

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Posted in Reviews

Fantasy Lover Review: Chapter 3

Warning: Some allusions to rape/dub-con in this chapter as well as some crude language and discussions of sex.

So Grace reacts reasonably to the appearance of a naked man in her living room and screams. She tries to run away and trips over the couch cushions she’d placed on the ground while she and Selena ate. She reaches for the wine bottle to defend herself and he immobilizes her. Now at this point she should be terrified, no matter how attractive he is. But instead we get a long detailed description about the man who has invaded her space and scared the daylights out of her.

Her senses dulled, Grace looked up and…

Well…

Quite honestly, there was only one thing she saw, and it made her face hotter than Cajun gumbo. After all, how could she miss it since it was just an arm’s reach away. And it was such a large it, too.

Yes, because a seasoned professional, sexually active twenty-nine year old, and therapist wouldn’t be comfortable using the word penis. I understand that sometimes authors are a bit squeamish when they have to write sex scenes. I know that I have a little bit of a problem writing about female genitalia when I am commissioned to write romance or erotica. Despite the fact that I am a sexually active female, I find it easier to write about male genitalia. Weird. However, I do have to take into account that the background and experiences that I’ve set up for a character and judge what language they would be comfortable using. For example, a character that is inexperienced or virginal might speak more euphemistically, whereas a seasoned woman would be comfortable using the clinical or slang terms for genitalia.

I know this is fairly early in Kenyon’s writing career, but she’s set Grace up as a sex therapist. It’s weird enough that she should have this many hangups about sex despite helping others with their sex lives. What happened to her sucked, sure, but you know–physician heal thyself. You’d think she’d have a hard time counseling anyone on their sexual woes when she hasn’t gotten over what has happened in her past. At the very least, she should be able to use the word “penis” or some other euphemism for the male genitalia.

According to Bestpsychologydegrees.com, a person wishing to obtain a degree in sex therapy has to put in quite a bit of work in their field before they are even certified.

He or she must study the history of sexology, medical problems that affect sexuality, consultation techniques, interpersonal relationship elements, how to conduct sexual research, and more. These courses will supply the individual with the information needed to assess, counsel, treat and advise a person who comes to him or her with a sexual problem.

This was an easy tidbit to find. I know this was early in the 2000s and computers were still expensive and search engines weren’t as good, but this should have been easy to discover. Grace should not have any problem saying the word “penis.”

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 5

Anyways, Grace pauses her entirely rational terror to give us this long laundry list of Julian’s “yummy” attributes.

He had the sleek, powerful build of a finely toned gymnast. His muscles were hard, lean, and gorgeous, and well defined in places she didn’t even know a man could get muscles. On top of his shoulders, his biceps and forearms. His chest and back. His neck to his legs.

You name it, it bulged with raw, masculine strength.

Even it had started to bulge.

His golden hair fell in haphazard waves around a clean shaven face that looked as if it really had been carved from stone. Unbelievably handsome and captivating, his face was neither pretty nor feminine. But it was definitely breathtaking.

Full, sensuous lips curved into a halfhearted smile, displaying a set of dimples that cut deep moons into his tanned cheeks.

And those eyes.

Gracious!

They were the clear celestial blue of a perfect cloudless sky with a tiny band of dark blue highlighting the outer edges of his irises. His eyes were searing in their intensity and shining with intellect. She had a feeling his looks, really could kill.

Or at the very least, devastate.

And she was certainly devastated at the moment. Captivated by a man too perfect to be real.

Sorry for the long quote, but I thought that had to be seen in its entirety. That’s got it all, doesn’t it? The impressive physique painted for us in loving detail. The pouty lips, the “celestial blue eyes”, and hollow cheeks. At least that’s what I think she’s trying to get at. “Dimples that cut deep moons into his tanned cheeks,” just makes me think that he’s got deep scars on his face.

A BOWL OF STU: 11

I added six for every single one of the things that stuck out to me. Number one, the bulging muscles, two the huge dick, three his chiseled good looks (described as stony in the text. Ugh. After Meyer I’m so done with anything being compared to stone. Can we stay away from masonry descriptors for awhile? Hard as a rock I can handle, but that is it!) Four, for the pouty lips and dimples, five for the “celestial” descriptor on the eyes. That one might have gotten a pass from me if she’d just said light, dark, or even piercing. And number six is the biggest one. The “he’s too perfect to be real” cliche.

So Grace stays on the ground staring at him and drooling.

Julian arched a puzzled brow. Never before had a woman run away from him. Nor discarded him after she’d spoken the summons’s chant.

All the others had waited in expectation for his incarnation, then fallen instantly into his arms, demanding he pleasure them.

But not this one…

She was different.

GAH. She’s different! Because of course she is! She’s our dark-haired and quirky protagonist! Julian describes her hair as “sable” in regards to its color. I honestly didn’t know this descriptor, and I’ve been writing for awhile. When I looked it up, it seems to flip-flop between black and dark brown. Any way you slice it, she’s a dark-haired woman who gets a thousand hipster points for being a dark-haired tragic female protagonist before it was cool.

His lips itched to smile as he swept his gaze over her. Her thick, sable hair fell to the middle of her back, and her light gray eyes looked like the sea just before a storm. Gray eyes flecked with tiny bits of silver and green that shone with intelligence and warmth.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 14

Seven total. The “she’s different” comment gets five points because of how hard it makes me cringe. The other two are for the loving description of her hair and eyes as unique and special.

You know, I generally find that less is more? This is something that I like about Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I actually had the pleasure to hear him speak at a con and he talks about how readers don’t actually need you to spoon feed as much detail to them as you’d think. Give them a general idea of what your protagonist looks like without going overboard and you’ll train your reader to associate certain traits with a certain character.

In my own writing I generally go by the rule of thumb that you need general age, physique, and hair color. It is awkward to try to get eyes in the first paragraph about a person, and it can wait until later. If I tell you that a character is “a middle-aged man, slightly paunchy, with hair that was more salt than pepper” you have an idea of what he looks like don’t you?

Anyways, moving on. Grace babbles incoherently for awhile and we get this exchange.

“You are naked!”

“We’ve established that.”

“You’re happy and naked.”

Confused, Julian frowned. “What?”

She looked down at his arousal. “You are happy,” she said with a pointed glance. “And you’re naked.”

So, that was what they were calling it in this century. He would have to remember that.

“And this makes you uncomfortable?” he asked, amazed by the fact that a woman would mind his nudity when no one ever had before.

“Bingo!”

“Well, I know a cure,” Julian said, his voice dropping an octave as he stared at her shirt, and the hardened nipples that jutted out from the thin white material. Nipples he couldn’t wait to see.

To taste.

He moved to touch her.

There’s a lot to unpack. Okay, so first, why the hell can’t Grace use the word penis or erection?

Secondly, I’m sorry I’m having trouble suspending my disbelief. Maybe I’m being naive, but I don’t generally think there are enough people in the world that are scuzzy enough to do this. I mean I know that values dissonance would make certain things more acceptable at some periods of time than others. But rape has never been a celebrated thing. It’s just really sad that most people don’t seem to take male rape as seriously as they should. There will be a point later in this chapter or the next where Julian says that he deserves what he’s getting because he did a lot of bad things as human man.

No one and I mean no one deserves to be violated. Julian has sex with the women who summon him whether he is attracted to them or not, because that’s what the spell compels him to do. One could even say its a form of coercion because he’s experienced complete sensory deprivation while he’s inside the book and just being out of that torture is good enough for him. One doesn’t have to reach too far to get to the idea that Julian might believe he owes these people sex. He doesn’t. He stopped fighting the spell a long time ago because he lost hope, not because its any less degrading.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 6

But that doesn’t excuse the way that he assumes he can have sex with Grace. I know that Julian is supposed to be from a different time, but why couldn’t he have also picked up sexual mores from inside the book? He learns what a light bulb, television, and car are from conversations outside the book. Grace has pretty much made it clear that she doesn’t want him that way, thus far. She screamed, she ran from him, and she has not given any sign that she wants it. And I’m not going to point to the hard nipples as an indicator for arousal. That’s almost certainly what the author meant, but there are several reasons why the nipples can harden other than arousal. It can even happen when you’re scared. It’s a reaction of your sympathetic nervous system to fear or excitement.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 7

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 6

Also, maybe it’s nitpicky of me, but I’m going to count Grace’s slang as well. She uses the word a lot.

TOTALLY TUBULAR DUDE: 2

So Julian kisses her and it’s supposed to be a swoon-worthy experience. Grace is completely swept away by his smexyness. I haven’t commented on it up to this point, but I’ll do it here. Kenyon has switched randomly between POV characters up to this point. There’s no page breaks, no indicator as to when it’s going to happen, and it can be a little jarring. It doesn’t bother me as much as it does my husband, because I drag him into reading these books with me, and he says it feels like whiplash every time it happens. It doesn’t even happen at logical points in the story, like when one character falls asleep, or someone is in a different spot than the other. In this scene we go from Grace’s POV to Julian’s POV without warning. Now I will say that from what I can tell, Kenyon got better about this in later books, but it is distracting.

His body was white-hot with desire, and if this were anything but their first time, he’d devour her like a morsel of sweet chocolate. Lay her down and ravish her like a starving man at a banquet.

But that would have to wait until she was used to him.

He’d learned centuries ago that women always swooned from their first union. And he definitely didn’t want this one to faint.

Part of me wanted to gripe about the chocolate metaphor because it is both cliche and had the possibility to be historically inaccurate. Generally up to the 19th century chocolate candies were usually chocolate-covered nuts, creams, or caramels, and remained so into modern incarnations. The first solid candy bar as we know it came out in 1847, so it is possible that Julian has tasted chocolate. His last incarnation was in 1895, so his last mistress could have fed him chocolate. But considering the fact that all these people were supposedly so horrible that they didn’t let him eat all that often between sexing, I find it hard to believe.

Moving on to the more important part of that excerpt. No thought for Grace’s feelings on the matter whatsoever. Also, that word up there? Ravish? I know it’s common in romance, especially older romance like the stuff from the eighties which had a lot of rapey men and swooning damsels. But I don’t like it.

Ravish

In the context of this scenario, I assume it’s definition number one. To be seized, snatched, abducted, or carried away. This scenario might have been number two, you know, she’d had any idea what she was doing or consented to any of this!

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 8

And oh yes every single woman swooned when he takes them for the first time. I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean, but none of the options I come up with are good. 1) The sex is so good that they literally pass out from the strength of their orgasm, in which case I think they should get their heart checked out cause that’s not normal. I’ve had sex so good my legs wouldn’t respond immediately, but I’ve never passed out. 2) He keeps them up so long that they pass out from sheer exhaustion. In that case ouch! Who wants that kind of chaffing? Or 3) This is parroting the Victorian notion that women were so hysterical and overcome by emotion that they will faint if something out of the ordinary happens.

A BOWL OF STU: 12

For the notion that he’s such a stud muffin he’ll make a woman faint with his dick alone. Only if you bludgeon her over the head with it mister.

So he takes her up the stairs to have his way with her and she rightfully tells him to cut it out. At first he doesn’t seem like he’ll respond, but thankfully he puts her down when she asks him to. So Grace goes upstairs to get him a towel so he’s not totally naked.

He watched her hips sway with her steps, his body instantly growing hot and hard. Clenching his teeth in an effort to ignore the burning in his loins, he forced himself to look around. Distraction was definitely the key-at least until she gave in to him.

Which wouldn’t be long. No woman could ever withhold herself from him for any length of time.

If it’s burning down there Julian, maybe you should get that checked out. Also?

A BOWL OF STU: 13

For the “I am irresistible to all women” comment. Plenty of women exist that wouldn’t want Julian. Lesbian women. Asexual women. Reasonable women.

Moving to the opposite end of the couch, Grace eyed him warily. “So, how long are you here for?”

Oh, great question, Grace. Why not ask him for the weather or his sign while you’re at it? Jeez!

TOTALLY TUBULAR DUDE!: 3

For the “what’s your sign?” comment. I cringe when I hear that phrase. It was old and hackneyed when I was growing up.

He tells her he’ll be around for the next month, and she freaks out because she can’t understand what she’s going to do with him for that long. I don’t know? Let him watch your TV? Explore the outside world? Read your books? Get him a puppy to play with or a babysitter to watch him? There’s a lot you can do. It’s not like you have to chain him to your bed.

“Look,” she said. “Believe it or not, I have a life. One that doesn’t include you in it.”

She could tell by his face that he didn’t care for her words. Not at all. “If you think I’m thrilled by being here with you, you’re sadly mistaken. I assure you I’m not here by choice.”

His words stung her.

“Well, not all of you feels that way.” She gave a pointed glare to the part of him that was still ramrod-stiff.

Looking down at his lap and the lump bulging under the towel, he sighed. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any more control over that than I do being here.”

And here we have the canonical proof that his is dub-con at best, rape at worst. The curse placed on Julian means that he’s a slave to the desires of the summoner, and it makes both parties want to screw like bunny rabbits. It’s a supernatural roofie that makes him hard, whether he likes it or not. Whether she likes it or not.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 9

He asks if she’ll feed him, if they won’t be having sex right away. Grace gets in a snit when he says that chicken and pasta and a glass of wine is acceptable. She tells him she’s not a housewife, and I’m unsure of why he doesn’t get more bewildered at this point. When he was alive, and presumably since the last time he was summoned, women had fewer rights then men, and had rigid gender rolls. This could have been a segue into a discussion about something interesting like changing social mores, or whatnot, but she doesn’t explain herself. So far as he knows at this point, she just blew her top at him for no good reason.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 7

It doesn’t quite fit under the category but its something I needed to count. This is a prime example of how we judge the past by our own modern standards of morality. In Julian’s day, his wife would have had his children, cared for his house, and not owned property. He’s been trapped in a book for millennium, it’s the next best thing to being under a rock. It’s uncalled for, one because its a small thing to get mad over, and two because he has no idea why it provoked that anger.

“What year was it when you first got trapped?”

Rage flashed across his face with such high intensity that it startled her. “One forty-nine B.C. by your calendar.”

Her eyes widened. “One forty-nine B.C., as in one hundred forty-nine years before Christ? Holy guac. When I called Julian of Macedon, you really are of Macedon. Of the Macedon.”

So Julian was trapped in the book in 149 B.C. during the third Punic War, where Rome pretty much obliterated Carthage. According to my husband, it’s a little early for that, as there weren’t any major conflicts between Greece and Rome until after that date, so either Kenyon is getting her facts wrong, or implying that they lost so badly because they didn’t have Julian.

Because Greece pretty much got their asses handed to them by the Romans. In this book we learn that Julian and the man he trained, Kyrian of Thrace, were supposed to have cut swaths through the Roman lines. No, no. Greece was already way past its prime by this point, and they’d always been a disconnected collection of city states at the best of times, united only by a common language, religion, and geography.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 10

One for each of the points above.

So we learn that Julian was cursed into the book for deflowering a priestess in the temple of the god she worshiped. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there was no such thing in Greece. This is supposed to ape the Vestal Virgins which were a Roman thing, not a Greek one.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 11

Also, why is Grace feeding him a heavy meal like pasta after centuries of starvation? He’s going to puke. I can accept the curse won’t let him die, but it clearly lets his stomach shrink if he’s reacting so badly to food. She should have basic medial knowledge and know not to feed him anything but bland, light fare. While recovering from my eating disorder, I had to be careful how much and what I ate because my stomach wasn’t used to some things anymore. And that was through self-imposed (though mentally ill) starvation.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 12
Grace leaned against the counter as she watched him eat, slowly, almost mechanically. She couldn’t tell if he liked the food, but he kept eating it.

Yet what amazed her were the perfect European table manners he had. She’d never been able to successfully eat that way, and she wondered when he’d learned to use his knife to balance the pasta on the back of his fork and eat it.

“Did they have forks in ancient Macedonia?” she asked.

He paused. “Excuse me?”

“I was just wondering when the fork was invented. Did they have them in…”

You’re rambling! her mind shouted at her.

Well, who wouldn’t? Just look at the guy. How many times do you think someone has acted like an idiot and had a Greek statue come to life? Especially one who looks like that!

Not often.

“The fork was invented sometime in the fifteenth century, I believe.”

Wrong. Dead wrong. Big cooking forks could be found way back in Ancient Egypt, and the oldest known cases of personal forks were found in Roman societies as early as the 4th century B.C. There’s enough evidence to speculate that the Greeks could have had them even before then. It is entirely possible that Julian could have eaten with a fork during his lifetime.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 13

So Grace finds out that while in the book, Julian is essentially blind, sensory deprived, but for his hearing, and experiences eternal hunger and thirst which he can only slake in the real world. I’m cynical but not cynical enough to believe that no one in the history of time has had the gumption to free Julian from that prison. I refuse to believe that Grace is the only one who has ever considered it.

So she tells him that while he’s here she’ll show him anything he wants to see and do what he wants to do. He immediately turns in into innuendo and asks her to take off her shirt. I mean I expected it to take that turn, since the author is trying to do the will-they-won’t-they throughout the book.

“Whoa, big fellow, simmer down,” Grace said, her cheeks scalding, her body white-hot. “I think there should be a few ground rules while you’re here. Number one, there won’t be any of that.”

“And why not?”

Yeah, her body demanded in a half begging, half angry inner voice. Why not?

“Because I’m not some alley cat with her tail up in the air waiting for the nearest Tom to come over, stick it in, and leave.”

And that’s where the chapter ends. It’s a weird note to end on, if you ask me, and a good chunk of what happens in the next chapter could have been mushed into this one to make the ending more logical. But it’s over, so hooray. I’ll see you all next time in chapter four. As always, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Posted in Reviews

Fantasy Lover: Chapter Two Review

Warning: One image in this post is not safe for work. Just so you don’t get surprised by it.

Hours later, Grace sighed as she opened the door to her two-story bungalow and stepped into her polished foyer. 

Starting the chapter out with a nitpick. This sentence is incredibly awkward, and could have been fixed with some minor tweaks by her editor. The easiest fix would be “Grace sighed as she opened the door to her two-story bungalow and stepped into her polished foyer, hours later.” Or you could just do: “Grace sighed as she opened the door to her two-story bungalow and stepped into her polished foyer.” Carries the same sentiment without having to stumble over the time semantics. We get from the ending of the last chapter that she’s planning to meet with Selena for her birthday party. It just makes sense to cut from that to the evening plans, since nothing happens in the interim.

So Grace laments that her life follows the same dull pattern day after day, and that she’s tired of it. My bull-shit-o’meter rises a notch at that. I’m sorry but for most of us, that’s just adult life. Unless you get a spectacular job like Youtuber or a journalist for a travel magazine, your’e pretty much going to have a day-in-day-out grind just like everyone else. I mean hell, I’m a work-from-home freelance writer who pens a couple dozen novellas and novels in a year and even have a day to day grind. It goes like this: Get up, put on pants, eat your breakfast “clock in” as it were, and don’t you dare step away from the computer until your quota of words for the day is done, repeat ad nauseam. And I think I have a pretty damn cool job.

The only exceptions to this rule are if I get sick (because it’s hard to think when your head is full of snot) or if something tragic happens in my family. That’s it. I allow myself sick days and bereavement just like a regular job. But I do have a daily grind. And no offense to my husband, cause I love my sex life, I don’t think that a good healthy dose of the D is going to cure Grace of her job dissatisfaction. This just reads to me as the princess syndrome. “Oh, woe is me, when will my may-han come to rescue me from a humdrum life of boredom?”

She deigns to consider one of the aforementioned men she’d rejected, Jamie the nose-picker, for a night out. I don’t know why but it just rubs me the wrong way. It’s like she feels entitled to sex. It’s not good when men do it, but so often I don’t see people call women out when they do it. This is the age of equality people, objectifying people and expecting sex from them is bad whether is a man or a woman doing it. It’s just as insulting that Grace thinks that just because she has a vajay that every man will want it.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 5

And at twenty-nine, Grace was tired of it.

Grace is twenty-nine?? Then why was she getting all bent out of shape about the young waiter? She said he was “college-aged.” That could be anywhere from eighteen to twenty-four depending on how long it takes you to finish the degree. I was twenty-three before I finished mine. I took it slow because with Bipolar Disorder, it was hard to finish college at all, let alone where I was, which was just shy of graduating with honors. So I’d put the age gap between them between five to seven years, just from his mannerisms. That’s actually not all that much.

I know people have different standards for their dating pool, so I won’t harp on this too much. But my squick point has always been set at over ten years or so between a couple. Ten years is as high as I’ll go. And if a generation has passed between a couple, it really bothers me. No judgement if you’re dating someone twenty or more years older/younger than you, but it’s just my personal thing. I don’t think you should date people who were adults while you were coming out of your mother’s womb. But this? This is really not that big a difference. You would have been a child when he was a baby.

Now, I hold immortals to a different standard when they start getting into the dating pool. Maybe its hypocrisy on my part, but I feel like the rules of acceptable age restrictions sort of go out the window for a being that doesn’t really age. If time doesn’t constrain you and you’re pretty up to date with modern mores I don’t see any reason that you shouldn’t get in the dating pool with mortal men and women. I see so many people jumping on the “he’s a pedophile!” bandwagon with Edward Cullen and his contemporaries. There are plenty of other reasons to hate Edward Cullen as it is, let’s not add that one to it. If he’s stuck at seventeen mentally and physically the way Meyer claims, then he’s not actually guilty of that. He is attracted to a woman his own age, not to a pre-pubescent child.

I’d like to also note that if Grace is a psychologist (as her profile states she is, she didn’t get this job with a online course or from a trade school)  she is just now starting her job. She’s not a seasoned professional like the book wants us to believe. It can take anywhere from eight to twelve years to get a degree. Even longer to get established in a practice and have as many clients as she does. If we go by the theory that Grace started college at the standard age of eighteen and took the least amount of time to graduate (8 years) she got her start when she was twenty-six or twenty-seven. She’s only been doing this for a few years. I know that medical professionals can suffer burnout quickly, but she’s a sex therapist, not dealing with belligerent patients that refuse to take their meds and wonder why their life is shit. (Apologies to my doctor who is probably not reading this XD I was a stupid teen.)

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 3

The way she was carrying on, I thought that she was considering herself an old maid at thirty-five or so. Selena, her friend, is also supposed to have a PhD in Ancient history. According to my searches it takes the average student about eight and a half years to complete a PhD and most people don’t earn theirs until they are well into their thirties.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 4

Heck, even Jamie the nose-picker was starting to look good.

Well, maybe not Jamie, and most especially not Jamie’s nose, but surely there was someone out there somewhere who wasn’t a cretin.
Wasn’t there?

Nose picking makes him gross, not cretinous. We don’t meet any of the guys that Grace considers beneath her (okay, yeah getting together with the gambler would be bad) but her complaints run the gamut from reasonable to petty. One man was disqualified for having bad breath. You know what? Give him a breath mint. It happens to the best of us.

FUCK. YOU. : 2

So Grace changes and not long after Selena arrives.

Heading back downstairs, she went to let Selena in.

As soon as the door opened, Selena huffed, “You’re not wearing that tonight, are you?”

Grace looked down at the holes in her jeans and her oversized T-shirt. “Since when did you start caring about what I look like?”

Then she saw it in the huge wicker bag Selena used to carry her groceries. “Ugh, not that book again.”

Looking a bit peeved, Selena said, “You know what your problem is, Gracie?”

Grace looked up at the ceiling, seeking heavenly help. Unfortunately, none was forthcoming. “What? That I don’t go moon-crazy and toss my freckled, fat self at every guy I meet?”

“That you don’t know just how adorable you really are.”

Uuuugh. Yeah, what was hinted at last chapter is confirmed here. It is the “she doesn’t know she’s pretty” narrative.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 6

So Selena goes to pour them some wine while Grace once more ogles the book that Selena brought. When Selena returns she thinks its a good thing that Grace likes the way Julian looks because that will make it easy for them to get down and dirty when the time comes.

We also get a peek into Grace’s “tragic past.”

But then Paul had been an inconsiderate, self-centered pig. His callousness for Grace’s feelings had even made her cry the night he’d taken her virginity.

And no woman deserved to cry. Especially not while she was with someone who had told her he cared about her.

Julian would definitely be good for Grace. A month with him and Grace would forget all about Paul. And once Grace tasted what real, mutual sex was like, then she would be free of Paul’s cruelty forever.

So I’ll save you the chapters of angst and spoil you now. If you don’t want that, scroll down for your life. Still with me? Good. Paul was Grace’s first serious relationship. They dated for quite awhile and then they slept together. Only for Grace to find out he was doing it all on a bet and had gotten paid to do it.

Image result for why gif

ILL LOGIC: 1

What the fresh hell? If it’s happened to you, sorry, but it just reads like the premise of a romcom to me. It’s supposed to be the center of her resistance to Julian, and be all the more satisfying when they do end up having sex because now she understands what it’s like to make love instead of having a penis inconsiderately shoved into you. If Paul spent that time dating her, shouldn’t there have been a smidgen of affection for her by that point? Enough that he wouldn’t thrust so hard as to make her cry?

I don’t know how other people lost their virginity, but I only experienced mild discomfort, not pain. I also had a loving partner who went slowly. It sounds to me like Paul did the Christian Grey move of “tearing through her virginity” (actually described to be pleasant in 50 shades gah!) and making the mistake of thinking that it’s gotta tear so might as well get it in one go.

She_s_a_virgin_you_asshole

If he wanted to have sex with Grace, wouldn’t it make sense to be as loving and gentle as possible? But I’m ranting at the wall at this point, so I’ll move on.

A few minutes later Selena returned to the room. Grace let the wonderful aroma of a large pepperoni pizza drag her thoughts away from the book. And the man who seemed to have branded his image on her subconscious.

But it wasn’t easy.

In fact, it seemed to get harder by the minute.

What the heck was wrong with her? She was the Ice Queen. Not even Brad Pitt or Brendan Fraser made her lustful. And they were in full, living color.

What was it about that drawing?

About him?

Because he is your destined one true love for ever, sweetie. (And if he’s branded onto your subconscious you are not thinking about him consciously!)

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 7

A BOWL OF STU: 5

They both get a point, because this strikes both chords. She’s remaining (mostly) chaste for the one true love, and he’s the bestest thing ever that trumps even Brad Pitt in his prime. Now there’s nothing wrong with waiting for a serious relationship, but this to me reads as the overdone trope of “I can’t be with anyone but my true love.” There is no shame in enjoying sex with other partners, if you choose to have that sex. The only sex that Grace has had before Julian is awful, so it pretty much erases the legitimacy of that sex in the mind of the reader.

Image result for disney bad

And while I’m incredulous that no man past or present has made Grace jiggly in the nether regions, it doesn’t make her an ice queen, as she puts it. If she doesn’t feel sexual attraction to many people, that’s valid too.

They watch a movie and get tipsy while eating pizza and hostess cupcakes. Sounds like an excellent birthday to me. I generally like to do pizza, Cards Against Humanity, and Mountain Dew, because I’m not a big drinker. It doesn’t mix well with anti-depressants.

Selena plots to get Grace to summon Julian, asking her if she likes the way he looks.

“If I said I wouldn’t toss him out of my bed for eating crackers, would you leave me alone?”

“Maybe. What else wouldn’t you toss him out of bed for?”

She rolled her eyes and laid her head down on the pillow. “Eating greasy grimy gopher guts?”

“Now I think I’m going to yack.”

“Watch the movie.”

“Only if you’ll try this one itty-bitty chant.”

My first thought was “Did this book just quote Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends?” But I looked it up, and no, it’s a part of a public domain song that dates back to the mid-twentieth century, which is why it pops up so often in pop culture. Since Kenyon was born in 1965 and would have been writing this in her twenties or so, I’m guessing it’s from Caddyshack, which came out in the 1980s. And since we tend to write characters from our own perspectives and experiences, I’m guessing that’s about where this book is set too. So with that:

TOTALLY TUBULAR DUDE!: 1

I almost had to do a “did not do the research” count on myself.

So they do the summoning and it’s silly, and is played off as such. There’s an admittedly humorous portion where the writer plays with audience and character expectations by having the noise coming from the backyard be the neighbor’s tomcat, not Julian.

And of course, Selena is quickly called away so the lovin’ can commence. Selena’s husband broke his arm and she needs to go to him now. So she leaves and Grace decides to clean up after dinner. Then there’s a huge flash of light and a naked man appears on her couch. I guess the curse doesn’t allow him to manifest in the presence of happily monogamous women.

And I’ll go over this again, since I think it bears repeating. Grace doesn’t believe this stuff, but Selena does. Grace doesn’t know she’s actually summoning a love slave, but Selena does. And she wants that for her friend and this man. It’s not consent if he’s forced to do it!

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 5

FUCK. YOU. : 3

And that’s where the chapter ends. Next time I’m sure the attempted sexing will begin, and it will be fraught with more questionable consent. Lordy. As always, thanks for reading and feel free to comment below. Sorry this one wasn’t as funny as usual.

Posted in Reviews

Fantasy Lover Review: Chapter One

Okay, we’re back to Fantasy Lover with chapter one, in which we meet our intrepid heroine, Grace Alexander. Grace is a sex therapist, but despite listening to the sexual woes of her patients for the majority of her professional life, Grace gets flustered when her friend Selena mentions that she needs to get laid.

That’s pretty much the chapter. I’m not kidding. Almost nothing else happens. We spend most of the chapter discussing Grace’s sex life–or lack thereof–for the majority of the chapter. Personally, I just don’t understand it. We just met Grace and Selena in this chapter, and I’m supposed to find the details riveting. It just feels contrived so that she’s even more receptive when– I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here–she summons Julian.

So to set the scene we are in a restaurant where Grace and Selena are getting lunch. Grace is either celebrating a birthday or will be soon, it wasn’t super clear, and the subject is of course not on their age, their successes so far, or their plans for the day. No. They’re talking about sex.

 Unfortunately for her, Selena’s voice possessed a lovely octave that could carry plainly through a hurricane.

And it was followed by a sudden hush in the crowded room.

Glancing at the nearby tables, Grace noted the men had stopped talking, and turned to stare at them with a lot more interest than she cared for.

Okay, sorry I refuse to believe that Selena’s voice can cut through that much din. I’ve been at restaurants that are packed at lunch time and unless your hearing is supernaturally acute, you’re lucky if you can make out the conversation that your neighbor is having, let alone someone across the room.

Also, this smacks of several sueish traits right of the bat. I’m pretty sure that sudden interest in Grace is supposed to tell us the reader that she is that attractive and she just doesn’t know it. The ugly duckling that turns out to be a swan trope was already pretty tired by 2002, when this book was originally published. Now, when I’m writing this post in 2018, Twilight and it’s many knockoffs have beaten that dead horse so hard that it’s turned into glue. I admit I may have more sensitivity to this kind of thing because of all the schlock that was peddled as good literature when I was a teen.

I can’t seem to dig up too much on Kenyon besides what’s on her wiki and her website. She has dyslexia, which made it difficult for her in college and as an early writer. That’s not the reason I’m reviewing this series. I review series either for the lulz (I will in future do book reviews of bad self-published schlock), because I feel like their messages are innately harmful (Twilight, 50 shades of Grey, Anita Blake) or because I think the author has failed to live up to their potential for a book. Kenyon falls in the latter category. She has some genuinely good characters, world building, and concepts. I just wish more was done to develop them.

What I’ll touch on briefly is that I think that Fantasy Lover was a very early entry in Kenyon’s career. I know she penned some historical romances in her early career, but I’ve never taken a look at those. (Not really my genre. I mainly stick to urban fantasy if I dabble in the genre at all.) Of the first ten novels she wrote, I think about three of them were the start to her Dark Hunters Series. People almost always improve their craft as it goes along, so I can cut her some slack on this one in some areas.

As some of you may know from other blog posts, I am a ghostwriter. I generally have to turn in multiple novels or novellas in a month, giving me less than that to complete and hone a manuscript. That’s why I have so little tolerance for writers like Laurell K. Hamilton who have a year or more to finish a new book and still blow deadlines. The only times I’ve blown deadlines are when I got very sick, or was briefly pregnant (which amount to the same thing.) I know real life can interfere with writing. Jim Butcher has, of the date of this posting, yet to publish the most recent book in the Dresden Files because of things that happened in his life up to this point. I get that.

But I know some damn good ghostwriters who have to turn in a polished first draft within a month or two of working on a project. (I’ve turned in a project in eight days before, and I know ghostwriters who are even faster than that!) So if you have more time than that, I don’t think books should be riddled with amateurish mistakes. I know the romance industry is more focused on selling a product, and deadlines are tight for established authors, but this one she would have had time on.

Alright, I’m stepping off my soapbox. I’ll tally the count and move on.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 1

‘Ah jeez! Will Selena ever learn to keep her voice down?

Worse, what will she do next, strip naked, and dance on the tabletops?

Again.’

Oh boy we’re taking a page right out of M. Night Shyamallamma-ding-dong’s playbook. Let’s not give a character believable personalities or dialogue, let’s make them quirky! Selena is supposed to be devoid of shame and has no respect for people’s personal boundaries, hence why she’s speaking so obnoxiously loud in a restaurant. To give her friend attention she doesn’t want. It’s a classic suethor tactic where you surround the character with quirky friends to separate them from the normies of the universe.

In reality, people are never one thing. I am an author. I am also a review fanatic, love political channels, enjoy reading and writing things for the lulz, not the recognition, enjoy cosplay, loathe math with a vengeance, and consider my style hobo-chic. Seriously guys, since starting this job I haven’t worn jeans in months. I only put them on if I have to go out into the world and don’t want to be judged for wearing my unicorn pajamas.

In this case, it’s supposed to juxtapose Grace as the sensible, high-strung, work-a-holic, with her friend the exotic/eccentric/gypsy princess. Not kidding, Selena is a gypsy and she does tarot card readings and other such things as a day job.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 2

Also, don’t think I didn’t catch that attempt at a joke. It’s not funny.

IT IS TO LAUGH: 1

“Why don’t you speak a little louder, Lanie?” she whispered. “I don’t think the guys in Canada were able to hear you.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” the gorgeous brown-haired waiter said as he stopped by their table. “They’re probably headed south even as we speak.”

Heat stole up Grace’s cheeks as the obviously college-aged waiter gave her a devilish grin. “Is there anything else I can get you ladies?” he asked, then looked pointedly at Grace. “Or more precisely, is there anything I can do for you, ma’am?” 

Just a little quibble, but why is Lanie the nickname for Selena? I don’t know, it’s just a little odd to me. Lena is a perfectly serviceable diminutive of the name.

And ugh, the waiter. That’s so creepy, having a guy hear that you’re not having sex and instantly swoop in to see if he can get some action. He’s not even subtle about it. He’ll leave his name and number on the ticket he gives them, isn’t that enough of an indicator? It just smacks of more of the “she’s pretty but doesn’t know it” vibe.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 3

IT IS TO LAUGH: 2

So they pay for their meal and leave the restaurant, quibbling over whether she should call the guy. Grace pretty much shuts down the idea of being with anyone that Selena suggests, as is sensible since one of them has a massive gambling problem.

IT IS TO LAUGH: 3

We learn it’s been about four years since Grace has been with anyone and we also get the sense from the way she talks about men that she’s wounded. I totally understand that some women have a dark and checkered past with men who did them wrong, but that’s not the sort of thing we’re going to get here. This is the classic, one douchebag played me, so now I hate all men. And I’m sorry, even if you’re a smart, pretty woman, who has everything going right in her life, you can still fall for a charming douchebag. I did. My sister has in the past, and many other women I know have had to contend with douchebags in the past. Women are rarely so lucky as to meet their one true love the first time, and especially when they’re young and just starting out. Douchebags can come in nice, sensible-looking packaging.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 4

And really Selena? If she wants to remain celibate, that’s her choice. Pushing a woman toward a man just because she’s not having sex or using a vibrator to get herself off is rude. Women do not have to be paired off to be happy, and being single should not feel like being a leper.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 2

Mostly because I don’t have another place to put it, but I still think it should be counted.

Selena snorted. “Yeah, well, to hear you talk, most men should come with warning labels.” She lifted her hands up to frame her next statement. “Attention, please, Psycho Alert. Me, he-man, am prone to nasty mood swings, lengthy pouts, and possess the ability to tell a woman the truth about her weight without warning.”

Again, this is something that only douchebags do. Good men respect your boundaries, don’t get in a snit when things don’t go their way, and know better (for their own safety if nothing else) not to give women unsolicited (or even solicited) advice about their weight.

IT IS TO LAUGH: 4

The counts are really climbing, and we’re not even out of the first chapter yet.

We meet Selena’s assistant Sunshine briefly. She’s mostly here because she’ll be the main character in a few more books with her fated love Talon. I almost gave it an Aerith and Bob point, but held myself back. I find a lot of characters named Sunshine and Rayne in bad romances, but it’s just normal enough that it’s not going to get a count.

So skipping over some inane and pointless details, Selena says she thinks she has the cure for all of Grace’s sexual woes. She then produces Julian from her bag. Julian was cursed into a scroll which was later bound into a book. She hands it over to Grace so she can ogle the picture of Julian. And apparently just the sight of him is almost enough to get Grace off.

Never had she seen such a thing.

The man in the picture was riveting, and the picture absolutely shocking in its detail. If not for the deep impression marks on the page where it had been drawn, she would have sworn it was an actual photograph of some ancient Greek statue.

No, she corrected herself-a Greek god. Surely no mortal man could ever look that good.

Standing in full naked glory, the man oozed power, authority, and raw, animal sexuality. Even though his pose was a casual stance, he looked like some sleek predator ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

His very veins stood out on a body made perfect with the promise of a hard, lean strength designed purely for feminine pleasure.

Her mouth dry, Grace trailed her gaze over his muscles, which bulged in perfect proportion to his height and weight. She followed the lean, hard muscles over the deep indentation that divided his pectorals, down the washboard stomach that just begged for a woman’s touch.

To his navel.

And then to his…

Well, no one had bothered to put a fig leaf there. And why should they? Who in their right mind would want to cover up so nice a masculine package?

For that matter, who would need anything with batteries around with that in the house!

Licking her lips, Grace looked back at his face.

As she stared at the sharp, handsome features that held just a hint of a devilish smile, she had an image of a breeze tugging at sun-kissed, tawny locks that curled around a neck made for suckling. Of steely blue eyes piercing in their intensity as he raised an iron spear over his head and shouted.

Okay so according to my husband, I need to remark on Julian’s large dick here for a second. I’m gonna introduce a DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH count for when stuff like this crops up.

So I didn’t know this but in Ancient Greece, having an enormous phallus was an indicator that you were out of control sexually. That’s why satyrs are depicted with giant schlongs. Because they chased everything that moved. To be fair, so did Julian, but it’s a cultural thing that should have been noted. Greek men were usually depicted with smaller penises to indicate that they weren’t giant rapists (though clearly Zeus was.) The idea that a man’s dick has to be huge is a romance staple and influenced by modern interpretations of sexuality.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 1

Sorry for the long quote above, but I thought you should get a taste of what’s in store for us. The author builds Julian up as the hottest hottie to have ever lived, all while having a series based on exactly that same premise every single book. After awhile its like having a supernatural line of Ken Dolls. They’re all hot, fierce warrior men who just need the power of the vajay to heal their wounded souls.

A BOWL OF STU: 4

And according to my husband Julian would have been the iron age level of tech, so my nitpicker is pacified.

“What do you think of him?” Selena asked, finally meeting her gaze.

Grace shrugged in an effort to subdue the slow burn of her body. Still, her eyes lingered on his perfect form. “He looks like a client I signed up yesterday.”

Well, it wasn’t exactly true-the guy she’d seen had been fairly attractive, but nothing like the man in the drawing.

She’d never seen anything like him in her life!

“Really?” Selena’s eyes darkened in a way that warned her she was about to begin her long lecture on kismet and chance meetings.

“Yeah,” she said, cutting Selena off before she could start. “He told me he was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.”

IT IS TO LAUGH: 5

That’s not funny.

“Okay,” Grace said, giving in. “Quit stalling and tell me what that book and picture have to do with my sex life.”

Selena’s face became gravely earnest. “That guy I showed you… Julian… is a Greek love-slave who is completely controlled by, and devoted to, whoever summons him.”

Grace laughed out loud. She knew it was rude, but she couldn’t help it. How in the world could a Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in both ancient history and physics, even one with Selena’s idiosyncrasies, believe in something so ludicrous?

“Don’t laugh. I’m serious.”

“I know you are, that’s what makes this so funny.” Clearing her throat, Grace sobered. “Okay. What do I have to do? Strip off my clothes and dance by the Pontchartrain at midnight?” The corners of her mouth lifted even as Selena’s eyes darkened in warning. “You’re right, I’d get sex all right, but I don’t think it’d be from some gorgeous Greek love-slave.”

So anyway, Julian gets mad that Grace isn’t hot for his bod and has an epic flounce, throwing himself off the table in a fit of angst. Selena retrieves him from the ground and proceeds to hold him so he doesn’t do it again.

I want to touch on a few things here. Why the hell is Selena doing this? I mean if she knows that the scroll is a curse which affects both Julian and the user, why is she trying to get Grace to use it? If the tryst goes as planned, Grace is heartbroken by the end of the month and never able to have satisfying sex ever again! Is she so desperate to pair everybody off so nobody is single that she’s willing to condemn her friend to that?

FUCK. YOU. : 1

There’s being concerned about a friend, and then there’s condemning her to a life of loneliness and dissatisfaction because you think she doesn’t have enough sex. Also, this is supposed to be a sex-slave. Let me repeat: Slave. He has no choice in this matter. If Grace chooses to summon him, he will want her no matter what. It’s straying into dubious consent at best, and rape at worst.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 3

So she thanks Selena for coming over that night to celebrate her birthday (so I guess I got my answer there) and tells her to thank her husband for letting her come over. You know I’m all about respecting your partner and letting them know where you are so they don’t worry, but she shouldn’t have to ask for permission to visit a friend on her birthday.

Grace walks away and Selena has an exchange with Julian, pretty much informing us that he’s going to be the birthday present and that she intends for Grace to have some good ol’ fashioned loving whether she likes it or not.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 4

*Shudders* I know that the dub-con thing is pretty common in romance works. I know that I don’t always mind it, because I (TMI sorry) like things a little rougher and like a dominating male. But there’s a difference between domination and coercion. And this reads as the latter, for both parties.

Couldn’t you just get her a vibrator and a porno if you’re so concerned, Selena?

One last thing before we go.

Grace thought her crazy for her beliefs, but as the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and with the blood of Gypsies flowing thick through her veins, Selena knew that there were certain things in life that defied explanation. Certain arcane energies that ebbed and flowed unchecked, just waiting for someone to channel them.

Okay, so does the author know that they really don’t like being called gypsies? The preferred term is Romani, and the whole “mystical gypsy trope” has been tired for a long time. It’s also slightly racist in the same way that the “wise old black man” or “magical Native American” is.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 2

Anyway, that’s the end of the chapter and where I say goodbye for now. We continue in Grace’s POV until Julian is summoned. Because of course he will be. See you guys next time. As always comment below and let me know what you think.

 

Posted in Reviews

Fantasy Lover Review: Prologue

The prologue to Fantasy Lover is pretty short but hoo boy is it filled with a lot of horse hockey. Fasten your seat belts boys and girls, it’s gonna be a cringey ride.

The author doesn’t get around to naming our Gary Stu until the very end of the prologue, so I’ll spare you the slog. Our main historical hottie this book is named Julian of Macedon.

An Ancient Greek Legend

Possessed of supreme strength and of unrivaled courage, he was blessed by the gods, feared by mortals, and desired by all women who saw him. He was a man who knew no law, respected no quarter. 

These are the first lines of our story, folks. The author extols all the virtues about the man right off the bat rather than letting the story speak for itself. It’s a classic case of telling instead of showing. And I’ve only read the book twice, but as far as I can recall, the only one we do end up getting proof of in-text is that Julian is supposed to be the hottest hottie to ever have lived.

His skill in battle and his superior intellect rivaled the very names of Achilles, Odysseus, and Heracles, and ’twas written that not even the mighty Ares himself could ever defeat him in arms.

As if the gift of the mighty War God wasn’t enough, ’twas also said that on his birth, the goddess Aphrodite kissed his cheek, and secured his place forever in mortal memory.

I’m going to end up quoting most of the prologue, I’m afraid. There’s just so much wrong with it. First off? Hell no, he was not better than the God of War. He’s a demigod, so he’s not strictly mortal, but come on! The only mortal that has ever beaten Ares in battle was Diomedes, who was regarded as one of the best warriors Greece ever saw, just behind Achilles and Ajax in prowess.

The only reason that Diomedes managed to strike Ares with his spear is because the goddess Athena helped it land. Ares was fighting on the side of Troy at that point, and they were getting their asses kicked. So Athena asked Zeus for permission to help Diomedes, and he granted it. The spear struck Ares with her help and Ares was forced to flee, leading to the retreat of the Trojan army. Fun fact: When Ares tried to get back at Athena for the trick, she chucked a boulder at his face.

SADLY MYTHTAKEN: 1

Secondly, you’d think if he was better than the likes of Achilles, Odysseus, and Heracles you think that would be what cemented his place in mortal memory, not that Aphrodite gave him a smooch. The Greeks revered their heroes, and if he was as good as the legends say, he would have had a place in the mythos.

And Aphrodite’s blessing isn’t always the best thing that can happen to a person. In-universe, we have some examples as to why it’s not a good thing to be supernaturally sexy. But that is for a later review. The last time that Aphrodite showed her favor to a mortal, it started the Trojan War! So no, I wouldn’t say that the kiss is the be all end all for this character. It might be icing on top of an already stuish cake, but it shouldn’t be the reason people are supposed to remember this guy.

SADLY MYTHTAKEN: 2

Golden in skin and hair, and flashing the eyes of a warrior, ’twas said his presence alone was oft enough to satisfy women, and once touched by his hand they would become blinded by pleasure.

So just being in his presence gets you off? Good Lord. What? Does he have vibrators for hands? That’s just ridiculous. I understand that sometimes guys can be just that level of hot that it gets you riled to watch ’em. (I know I myself have a weakness for Chris Hemsworth. I miss the long hair on Thor, sigh.) But this is ridiculous. One handshake should not be enough to get you jiggly in the nether regions.

Also, as a side note, I’ve not read the whole series but the books I have read all feature hot blonde men from Greece. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible, but blonde hair wouldn’t have been especially common in the Mediterranean. I suppose you could argue that because he’s a demigod he could get odd-colored hair from his divine parent, but in a later book we have an entire royal family with blonde hair and blue eyes. Stretches my credulity a little bit. Methinks the author likes blond men.

It’s just a nitpick, but on some covers of this book, its hard to tell if he has blond hair. And in some, he doesn’t have blond hair at all.

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The top one is most common, and it could have blond hair. But it looks brown to me. The rest seem to have a brunette model playing Julian.

And so out of jealousy came a curse to endure. One that can never be broken.

Like poor Tantalus, ’tis his plight to forever seek his satisfaction, and never fulfill it. To yearn for his summoner’s touch and to bring about her complete and utter pleasure and satiation.

From full moon to full moon, he will lie with her, make love to her, until he is again forced from this world.

But beware, for once his touch is felt, it is branded into his lover’s memory. No other man shall ever satisfy her again. Because no mere mortal male can compare to a man of such beauty. Such heat. Such intrepid sensuality.

So I don’t really mind the premise. It’s a pretty creative way to keep your character immortal without making them a god, or putting them in some sort of stasis. And spoiler alert, it wasn’t just jealousy that caused Julian to be cursed. He screwed up royally and got himself punished by a god for his actions.

This prologue tries to make it seem like he was just that awesome that someone tried to curse him out of jealousy. So with that, I’m actually going to introduce a new count. A BOWL OF STU for moments like these, where the character is just so unrealistically perfect that it makes me facepalm. It will have a companion count for the female version named DON’T MAKE ME SUE.

A BOWL OF STU: 3

For the times above, as well as this one. And unfortunately the passage above also kicks off another count.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 1

Julian is cursed into a scroll, and forced to service anyone who summons him. We don’t know if he’d sleep with these people if he wasn’t cursed to do their bidding. So, for a month he’s supposed to be the sexual slave of the summoner. He considers himself used, but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to count this one as rape, so until I get to that in the point, it remains in dubious consent territory.

Also, I should point out the curse isn’t just for Julian. Once a woman has slept with Julian, she can never enjoy sex with another man again. Once summoned, he can’t come back to the same woman twice. So yeah, it does seem like whoever summons him also pays the price for doing it.

And that’s pretty much it. The prologue tells us all about this guy and gives us the basic premise of the book. We get to take a look at our intrepid heroine next chapter, and I’m not really all that enthused.

See you then, readers. As always, thanks for reading and feel free to comment below.

 

Posted in Reviews

Introduction and Counts

Alright, I’ve obtained a copy if the first book in the Dark Hunters Series by Sherrilyn Kenyon: Fantasy Lover. 

I’ll preface the reviews I do of Kenyon’s work by saying that I think she has some genuine talent and that I wish that these books lived up to their full potential. Unlike the Anita Blake series, which makes me growl and grind my teeth in frustration, I can sometimes see why people like this series. I was unfortunate enough to come into this series with what are, in my opinion, the two worst in the series. I’ll let you know if my opinion changes at any point while reading the rest of this series. There’s a lot of material to cover, and I don’t expect this list to be all encompassing. I’ll add counts to the final list if I need them. I just have a few basic counts that are going to apply to this book, as well as future books I review.

SADLY MYTHTAKEN 

This trope isn’t exactly original, as I’ve noted by adding the hyperlink. Some of my count names come directly from TV tropes. I’ll link them where I find them. Now when writing in a religion or culture that already has an existing canon, you’re bound to get some shades of this. I’m not going to be anal about it, because of course depicting Gods in modern day is going to require some adaptation, but I’ll point it out when I see it.

WHAT AN ACHOLE

This one is going to come up in Styxx a lot, but it may spring up here and there as Acheron is an author’s pet and a recurring character in the series as a whole.

IT’S OVER 9,000!

This is also one that I made for Styxx, because the use of rape as a plot device is simply appalling there. I said to my husband that if the answer to how many times has he/she been raped in this story could honestly be “Over 9,000!” something is terribly wrong. Is it in poor taste? Definitely. But so is the massive overuse of rape to further the plot.

FUCK. YOU.

This one is sort of a ripoff of Das Sporking, who use this to speak to a character or the author directly (usually they do Fuck. You. Whore.) when the character or writer have said something so blatantly insulting or otherwise horrible that there’s nothing else to say.

AERITH AND BOB

This one crops up when the author mixes in ridiculous or really uncommon names among the Janes, Sallys, and Harrys of their mundane world. Anita Blake is the worst offender I’ve ever seen for this, but Kenyon can slip into it as well.

IT IS TO LAUGH

When the humor falls flat on its face. Again, Anita Blake is a much worse offender for this, but it crops up sometimes in Kenyon’s work. Generally though, I find Kenyon funnier than Hamilton. Keep in mind this one is completely subjective as it relies on my sense of humor.

ILL LOGIC

Another from Das Sporking. Ill logic crops up when the characters actions are completely incomprehensible or don’t follow any line of reasoning a human could follow.

ANACHRONISM STEW 

This one will come into play when the characters use words or concepts that aren’t proper for the time frame. This is particularly egregious in the books that take place largely in the past.

TOTALLY TUBULAR DUDE!

This count will keep track of songs, fashions, sayings, or other things that really date a work. (i.e. if a character uses radical or epic as a descriptor.)

PUNY GOD

It can be hard to write Gods, but one of the worst things you can do is make your godlike beings weak or inconsistent depending on what the plot needs. If any of the Gods are particularly weaksauce, I’ll be pointing it out with this.

AUTHOR’S PET PHRASE

Every author has one, trust me. But many people figure it out and remove them to make the work more readable. If I spot a description, word, or phrase that is overused, it will go under this.

PROTAGONIST-CENTERED MORALITY

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT

Sadly, I also have to use this count for cases where consent is never given verbally or otherwise but it is not meant as an outright rape as far as I can tell. This one gets pretty squicky when it happens between the main leads.

BABIES EVER AFTER 

This is a fairly common romance trope, so I’m not as mad at this one, but it just gets my goat that every single couple has to have a baby to be happy in these books. I am looking forward to children myself, but that doesn’t mean all women do. It’s sort of implied that you need children to be happy in your life, which isn’t true for everyone.

And that’s all I have for now folks. If you have suggestions, please comment and let me know. I’m hoping to get the first chapter  review of Fantasy Lover out this week or next. Thanks for reading.

Posted in Ghostwriting Advice, Home

An Invitation to Indie Writers

I’m not really sure what this is, so I’m just going to put it out there. If there are any indie writers out there who would like me review their books, I’d be happy to do so. Now I’m not going to spend an outrageous amount of money for your book. I’ve got to keep the purse strings tight for now, but I will pay ten or less for a copy.

I will give honest reviews. If I liked it, I will say so. If I didn’t, I will say so. But I will give articulate reasons why and I will offer my opinions on how it can be improved. You can take these with a grain of salt because they are of course my opinion and not gospel. I don’t have an incredibly large audience, and I can’t say how many people will see it. However, I am in the industry. I am a ghostwriter for many indie writers who can market and need talent, or who cannot keep up with demand at the rate expected to make a living and hire me to pick up the slack. I think it gives me an interesting take on the whole thing.

I am going to pay for your book, so you win either way. I’m not asking for a free book in exchange for a flattering review. I’m asking for a chance to read your book, assess it on its own merits and feature it on my book blog.

So if anyone is interested they can use the details listed on my contact page to message me and ask for a review. If not, well at least I put it out there.