Archive for the ‘Erotica’ Category

Twin Version 2.0

January 14, 2009
I had a previous post in which I covered erotica and mentioned Lora Leigh’s Bound Hearts series, Wicked Pleasures. I had also mentioned that I was looking forward to the story of Chase Falladay, the twin brother of Cameron who was the hero in Wicked Pleasures.
But when I finished I was disappointed. However, I wonder if I did Chase’s book an injustice by rereading Cam’s first. I had originally picked up Wicked Pleasures the night before to get in the mood for that story line. But when I started reading Chase’s book, I found myself doing too much comparison of the two stories. Which, by the way, isn’t hard to do since they are twin brothers and pop in and out of each other’s stories. 
I will say that when I originally read Cam’s book, I wasn’t all that fond of it. I liked it, sure, but I wasn’t closing the book on the last page wishing that there was more. I originally felt that Cam’s story was fine. However, a year(ish) later, I came to pick up Cam again and enjoy him much more. So I wonder if this is the same case with Chase’s story. But I still have some critiques about his book, Only Pleasure.

The plot is thin in my opinion. The heroine, Kia, was mentioned in previous Bound Hearts books as being a minor threat in the exposure of The Club’s secrets. Kia’s ex-husband brought in a third into their relationship without telling or asking his wife and subsequently led to the attempted rape of Kia. Okay, I was pretty excited about how this would play out. I thought it would be interested in seeing how Chase would protect Kia from her ex-husband and steal her heart in the process.
I liked Chase from Cam’s book. I thought that the more easy going Falladay brother would be a fun read, his slightly lighter personality making for a different tone and feel than his brother Cam. But I didn’t find that was the case. 
Though it was obvious from the get-go of Cam’s book that the presence of Chase wouldn’t be permanent, I still thought Chase was a good character. He had been puzzled and hurt about the broken bond between him and his brother and he did provide for a few fun moments in which he teased Cam about falling in love. I expected that Chase would be dominant, protective, and possessive, but slightly lighter hearted than the dark Cam. It worked for their twin dynamic. One darker, one lighter.
But when it came for Chase’s book, it was like Cam all over again with one exception: There wasn’t much of a reasoning for Chase’s darkness. With Cam, it was understood that he kept the sharing lifestyle with Jaci because he was afraid of what loving his woman would mean to his heart. Cam kept his past sexual abuse a secret and the presence of his brother as the third in the relationship helped Cam keep his emotional distance from Jaci. 
But what bugged me about Chase’s book was that I felt the explanation for his darkness wasn’t all that plotted through. Even though there was a thin excuse that because he was the one who killed Moriah, the “villain” from the previous book, Chase made it sound that the darkness was always in him. And yes, those who read Cam’s book will see that the Brockheims feature in Chase’s book as well. Though I could see the logical progression plot-wise, as a reader, I thought it was too predictable and not original. I felt like Chase just got the leftovers of Cam’s story and that the plot just continued through one brother to the next. 
All in all, I just didn’t feel that there was sufficient explanation on why Chase had such demons in him. The details of Chase’s past was glossed over on and if his previous occupation was supposed to be a factor in his present personality, that wasn’t ever really fleshed out. I was disappointed because when I read the small glimpse into Chase’s past, I was intrigued but it never got explained.
I also found Kia to be lacking as a well rounded character. Yes, she suffered a traumatic experience with her ex and withdrew into herself to lick her wounds. But other than that, I didn’t see a lot of character development. She was a little flat to me. I didn’t feel too much for her even though I tried. I was able to relate more to Jaci’s longing and hurt in Cam’s rejection than I did for Kia. Kia was also almost like a Jaci version 2 like Chase is for Cam. Kia feels hurt that Chase doesn’t spend the night with her, hold her, etc…blah, blah, just like Jaci worried about Cameron. There was too much mirrored in the previous book in terms of how the characters were written for me to feel like Only Pleasure stood out on its own.
I think a big problem with me really loving this book was the timeline of Chase and Kia’s sexual relationship. In the beginning of the story, they meet (again) and suddenly Kia’s agreeing to a no strings pleasure session with Chase and Khalid. And then the story just took off like that. With both Kia and Chase refusing to accept what they have together and though Kia vows she won’t succumb again, Chase always coaxes her back into bed. It was boring, in all honesty. There wasn’t the spark there for me.
There was one big difference between Chase and Cam though. It was made obvious that for Chase and Kia, the addition of a third in their relationship would continue well after their happy ending, unlike Cam and Jaci’s monogamous relationship. I think that worked for the two characters. It was obvious that Cam needed the sharing for the distance while Chase enjoyed it for the pleasure. So, I did like that distinction between the brothers. 
What did I enjoy? The appearance of Cam and Jaci throughout the story. Chase and Cam still have their shared warehouse converted into a large apartment with Chase’s part sectioned off upstairs. And since Cam and Chase works for Ian Sinclair, there were appearances while they worked as well. It was really a great payoff to see Cam settle down, smile, and really enjoy his time with his now fiancee, Jaci. Those who read the previous book will be happy to see slight mentions of Cam and Jaci’s life that would otherwise be overlooked by the newcomer. For example, there are mentions of Cam having purchased a new bed and sofa and sweet moments such as the two of them decorating their Christmas tree. In addition, those who read Cam’s story will like seeing how Cam treasures Jaci and how he enjoys the little things in life now, such as cuddling with Jaci and sharing his bathroom space with her. 
What also made me really happy to read in Only Pleasure? Khalid. Those who have followed the Trojans since they were with Ellora’s Cave will love to see a strong presence of Khalid. As Chase’s third and a heavy secondary character, we see a new side the to the man who’s normally described as the bastard son of a Middle Eastern prince who is a playboy and lives for a good time. Here, as a set up for his own story, we are given a glimpse at what makes Khalid tick and what might bring in his future. Oh, and the connection of Kia and Khalid isn’t anything out of the blue, anyone reading the story can easily predict what had occurred between the characters in the past. 
For me, unfortunately, I was much more excited about the secondary characters and future stories than I was about Chase and Kia. I felt that their characters were not fleshed out. Basically, I thought the story was a skeleton plot told between pages upon pages of sex with under developed characters. Of course the sex is to be expected, but I just felt like the sex was the driving force of the book, not the characters. For a story like this to work for me, the sex needs to serve a purpose. And for Chase and Kia, I felt like the sex was steering the story and everything else took a backseat. Between Chase and Cam…my choice is still Cam.
I felt that the cover was sexy and I liked the bright orange color that really catches the eye. However, I have seen the identical cover art used in another book and that always makes me disappointed when covers are repeated. 
So, Only Pleasure…it’s an okay read for those who are used to the series and the characters but not for those who are new because there are a lot of connected facts that makes things easier to understand if one has read the previous book.
Last thing…Kia to me is a car, not a woman’s name. I can appreciate authors using different and unique names to make their characters stand out but I just didn’t like her name. And for me, unfortunately, if I don’t like the name of a character, I have a hard time getting past that. A name is really important for me, especially how the name looks on the page of the book. And while I love the name Chase, Kia is for something on four wheels, not a great heroine. 
2.5 out of 5: So-so read but plot was thin and characters under developed. Those who are fans to the series will enjoy the secondary characters and the hints of the next book.
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The Big E

October 28, 2008
Erotica.

Ah, the wild child of the Romance Family. The book that’s hidden under your pillow or in the bedside ‘goodie drawer.’ The niche within the genre that even the regular romance readers wouldn’t be dared caught with. So, is it really that big of a deal? Or has the E of the family garnered a much bigger rep than deserved?

Let’s take a look…

Okay, let’s face it, erotica is basically everything that non-romance readers (and therefore, ignorant) ridicule about the entire genre of romance. But is that deserved? I don’t think so.

Once a reader can get over that Jr. High giggly feel of “oh my god are they really doing that?”, erotica isn’t all that abnormal. I think some readers would be surprised to know that sometimes, erotica can cross very much into the regular mainstream romance field. In fact, sometimes I scratch my head when finished reading a book that was published under the heading of erotica and wondered why it wasn’t labeled as run-of-the-mill romance. And the reverse is true as well. I’ve been thoroughly surprised at some of the ‘regular’ romance and wondered why it wasn’t published as erotica.

Here are some of my thoughts and theories…

Erotica, as many can deduce, usually combines much more sex within the plot. And yes, well written erotica actually have plots. The good ones are not just a few hundred pages of straight up sex. Sometimes, yes. The ones that are published with those little e-publishers or specific sections of e-books such as Samhain or Ellora’s Cave where they have little novellas of a hundred pages can be pure sex. Sometimes good, but mostly bad without a plot. 
But even those e-publishers can churn out pretty good stuff and some of it isn’t even steamy. In fact, some very common romance names arise from those smaller e-publishers. Those who are fans of Lora Leigh know that the Breeds started as e-books and was later picked up by Berkley, as well as her Bound Heart series. Many authors that are a commonplace on today’s Borders shelves began as e-books. So don’t knock those e-publishers before you’ve tried.

Back to plot and erotica. Well written erotica have plots. But what makes it different from mainstream romance? The lines aren’t all that well defined, but here are some of my thoughts. Erotica usually explore some kind of female fantasy. BDSM, threesomes, various toys, etc. You get the idea. Why would those appeal to a wider generalized female audience that might not actually be open to doing those things in their real lives, you might ask?

Well, let’s remember that most, if not all, romance writers are women. So, there’s already that female slant apparent there from the get-go. But erotica writers take those things mentioned above and twist those fantasies with a side of female perspective. Let’s take the threesome fantasy. 

Threesomes. Yeah, every college guy’s dream to be sandwiched between two women, right? Well, erotica writers usually have two men instead of two women making up the threesome. Most mainstream erotica writers have two men because the base point of the threesome is giving the woman ultimate pleasure instead of the singular male taking pleasure from two women. And usually, the men don’t interact with each other, solely concentrating on the female. Yes, there are authors who break the rules with bisexual male characters are fool around with each other and the female in question, but as a rule, there is no male to male contact happening. Why is this a female fantasy? The men in these threesomes are always written as channeling all their focus to the female. They are dominant, possessive, and protective of that female. And the usual ending is that the female ends with only one of the guys with the happily ever after. Though threesomes might not generally appeal to everyone, those who like their alpha heroes protective and possessive can understand that one upmanship mentality of this plot line. 

As I have said, there are authors who break the rules. There’s an unspoken romance rule that once the hero meets the heroine, he or she doesn’t have sexual contact with anyone else. It’s hard for the reader to reconcile that image with what they know will eventually become a happy ending for the main couple. Even if the rule is broken, there’s usually a misguided attempt to protective themselves or the partner from what the character views as a necessity. In general, they just don’t fool around with anyone else once they’ve met their mate.

Who breaks the rules? Well, Emma Holly comes to mind. She breaks the sleeping with others rule and the bisexual rule as well. You might have noticed that mainstream romance don’t have bisexual characters. Emma Holly does. I’ve read a nice handful of her books and they’re just not my style. I had a hard time in her books where the hero or heroine not only has sex with others even though the main couple has been established, but that they play for both teams. Just not my style. 

Sometimes, I wonder just how erotica is labeled versus romance because just saying that erotica has more sex doesn’t seem to apply. (More research is needed as theses are just my thoughts and observations versus actual knowledge of publishing). Take Shannon McKenna or Lora Leigh. Have you read a McKenna and sometimes had to put her down because all that child abuse, organ harvesting, sex for forty pages get too much for you? Or have you read a Leigh book as a Breed newbie and been shocked at the roughness of the sex? How do they get shelved as normal romance? Perhaps it’s the amount of plot that balances the sex or maybe there’s just not enough of sexual fantasies that qualify them as erotica.

Think erotica might be for you? How do you find the right one for you? Erotica is definitely not written for the general public. Especially the ones that have sexual fantasies versus copious amounts of (unnecessary) sex. Read for yourself. That’s my advice. The ones that I’ve enjoyed more than once are ones that I would have never thought I would enjoy. And the ones that I thought might be my taste wore off their sheen much faster than anticipated. 

For me, a good plot is necessary for my erotica. And the sexual fantasies have to have a viable reason to exist. I think one of my firsts was Lacey Alexander’s Voyeur. Don’t let the title fool you, it isn’t just all voyeuristic stuff. It’s actually a surprise hodgepodge of fantasies. Everything from threesomes, usage of toys, (semi) public sex, to yes, voyeurism. The plot, however, is very weak. In fact, when I do pick it up from time to time, I skip it. It was a fair introduction to erotica but tended to lean towards unnecessary and somewhat unbelievable sex.

Choosing erotica is very personal. (Obviously). One that I have enjoyed is Shayla Black’s Decadent. Very surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, and still continue to enjoy it. I wasn’t all that into the first one in this loosely connected series with characters who know each other. Wicked Ties wasn’t the right fit for me. The dom/sub theme wasn’t quite right. I did, however, enjoy the steady plot that accompanied it. When I tried out Decadent I was shocked to find that the story of the threesome to appeal. It was written with all the right plot points that made it work for me. Two men made up the menage, but it was clear from the beginning that it was only Deke that Kimber had deeper feelings for and not the other male, Luc. But with two alphas that were strong, protective, and covering all a girl’s fantasy needs…well, Shayla Black is a go for my erotica.
For my mainstream need so-called erotica that sometimes crosses the line of romance into the big E is Lora Leigh. Her books definitely have a plot as a main function of the book instead of just seemingly random sex peppered throughout the book. However, a few of her books certainly have a harder edge to it. The new continuation of the Bound Heart series published through St. Martin’s Griffin have a more selective brand of sex. It tells the story of the Trojan men who are a part of a Club that was well established in the e-books. The first oversized paperback was Forbidden Pleasure which was enjoyable but ultimately not my kind of book. The idea of the two men ending up sharing one woman was definitely a fantasy for me but wasn’t my bag. 

However, the second one, Wicked Pleasure, was more to my tastes. The hero, Cam, is definitely in love with the heroine while his twin brother, Chase, just holds affection and lust for her. Cam was always in the light as the hero for the book and Jaci was his ultimate heroine. Cam was scarred from some mysterious childhood nightmare that haunted his present. Leigh just wrote an alpha male that was delicious. All hard angles and arrogance. Possessive and protective to a fault. There’s nothing better. Plus, Jaci took no crap from the men but was soft enough to provide the comfort that Cam needed and craved for his life. 
And come on…is that not a sexy cover for the book or what? I like how the graphic artist paid attention to the book, adding in that pop art yellow belt and the rain detail. Great to see a cover actually have a legitimate tie-in with a scene in the book.
I am looking forward to seeing Chase get his own happy ending in Only Pleasure, a novel that comes out in January of 2009. All in all, Leigh is my more mainstream brand of erotica that blurs the lines between run of the mill romance and the “harder stuff.” 
So, is erotica for you? Maybe not. But you never know until you try…