Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

Kiss of the Highlander (Highlander, #4)

This was a delightful book. Heartwarming and hilarious in turns, it kept my interest. I reall enjoy the fact that KMM's heroines tend to be very intelligent and capable. It's nice to see that in romances. I don't see why a heroine can't be smarter than the hero or more accomplished. I'm glad that KMM doesn't adhere to that formula in her novels. Her heroines tend to be on the physically perfect side, but they are so nice, it doesn't annoy me. Drustan was delicious and he was a nice guy too. He was yearning for a woman to love and accept him. Aww! The scene where Gwen says she loves him just melted my heart because it meant so much to Drustan. I love elements of Scotland and the historical aspects. The druid lore is interesting, and the physics aspect, mind-boggling.

This book is steamy and sexy, but the love relationship is always at the forefront. I really loved the tender moments between Drustan and Gwen, and also between his father Silvan and his housekeeper, Nell.

I have never been much of a time travel fan, but I really do like what KMM does with the genre. I like that she has plausible science and mixes the Druid lore with physics and mathematics so that you read this book and can definitely believe that Druid magic is just science in a different framework of understanding.

The part that annoyed me was the priest's mother, Besseta. She was totally clueless about faith and fate. If only she had listened to her son and trusted that God would take care of him. But if she had done that, would Gwen and Drustan ever have met? Too much to ponder.

At any rate, I'm glad I got to read this novel, for the hours of entertainment it gave me. It also gave me some things to think about, such as meddling with fate and how the search for knowledge should never overstep the boundaries of ethics.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ruthless Billionaire, Inexperienced Mistress by Robyn Donald

I like to wind down from a hard week with a Harlequin Presents. I saw this one lurking beneath the bedside table and thought I'd give it a read. I ended up getting enthralled in this book. Despite the blurb, and despite the seemingly arrogant hero who doesn't have the best opinion of the heroine initially, this book had some layers I wasn't expecting. I don't know why I was so surprised. Donald is a very capable writer who does manage to write books that draw you in pretty much most of the time. She takes the story in ways I didn't expect, particularly with the history of Alli's mother. I was very suprised at why the woman Alli thinks is her mother didn't want to meet Alli at first. I won't give it away because part of the enjoyment was having the truth unwind slowly. Another way that this book pleasantly surprised me is the intense way that the hero Slade falls for Alli. He falls hard and fast, although he is not very good at articulating his feelings. I just love a hero who is stone cold in love with the heroine. A quick read, I did enjoy this book and found myself taken by surprise in a good way beyond what I was expecting reading the blurb. Also if you like vivid descriptions of island paradises, this book is for you.

Why Some Erotic Elements Thrown Into Romance Can Never Be My Cup of Tea

Okay when it boils down to it, it really doesn't matter what I think compared to others likes and dislikes, at least to other people. But sometimes I feel the need to get stuff off my chest. That's why I'm glad I have a blog, which may or may not be read by others. I was reading a review that someone posted by a prominent and very well liked author of (erotic) romance. I found the subject matter in the book rather disgusting and disturbing.

From what I could discern, the plot centers on a man who insists that the woman in love with him accept a menage relationship with him and his brothers. He claims he loves her, but basically forces sex with him and his brothers on her. She is a virgin and goes from being a virgin to being involved sexually with more than one man at a time (oral, anal, you name it). How is that love?

Maybe I am just not open-minded enough, but I do believe in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, love is kind, it does not boast of itself, it is not selfish, it's patient, kind, it protects. How is this so-called hero protecting and loving this woman who has given him her heart? I don't think that this book is a romance, and I don't think this should be offered up as a loving relationship. Okay, let me first say I am not trying to judge other people's lifestyles. Do what you want. If you're a consenting adult and you have another consenting adult in this relationship with you, go for. It has nothing to do with me. Additionally, I am not telling anyone what they should read, and if I go to a seller of erotic romance, read this blurb, and buy this book, I deserve what I get. But on a fundamental level, I feel offense that this is included with books that are about romantic, loving relationships between a man and a woman. This man sounds like a selfish jerk who found a young, accepting heroine who loved him enough to put up with this treatment. He didn't find a mature, sexually-experienced and explorative woman to get involved in this relationship with. So going in, I think that this couple is unequally yoked.

It's funny. Some readers won't read books that have a hero who is a so-called rapist. To each their own. That line is very thin at times. I would never condone rape, but I have read book where the hero has 'raped' the heroine. It's no right, but it's there. Maybe I sound judgemental to make a distinction here. Maybe it's the anal and the more than one guy thing that makes this too hard to swallow. I can only take so much in a so-called romance novel before I have to redesignate this is fiction and not romance. Again, I haven't read this book, but from the description in a person's very enlightening review, I would classify this hero as a rapist. He has taken this woman's choice away with emotional blackmail. And because she has orgasms during these sex acts, I surmise we're supposed to be okay with this. My question is how does she feel in the aftermath? What is the emotional state of this young woman after years of this? Will she convince herself she enjoys this lifestyle to have a man she loves deeply but clearly doesn't love her the way she deserves to be loved. (Again, my definition of love is affecting how I see this scenario). I don't even know if the author goes into this. I made a choice not to read this author a while ago, and this review really fortified me in this choice. She is clearly working out some issues that she has or maybe she just wants to push the envelope. Either way, not my cup of tea. I am glad that those who like to explore boundaries can read this type of material, but all I feel is disgusted and yucked out. I feel very sorry for this heroine, and I can't say I would go away from reading this book with the positive, almost euphoric feeling that a good romance novel gives me.

I realize that some romance readers want reality, and I mean stone-cold reality. To each their own. I like to see angst and conflict in romances, but some conflict is a bit much for a romance novel. When I read a romance novel, I want to know I'm reading a romance novel, not a fiction book that happens to have romance in it. Not erotica with a monogamous happy romantic ending. I don't want to read about adultery, children dying, menage, anal sex or any sex act involving that area, or other activites having anything that has to do with bodily functions no associated with the sex organs in a romance novel. I can't handle much bondage or any of that either, and call me a prude, but keep the sex toys to a minimum. It's just yuck to me. Again, to each their own.

The great thing is that some of these types of books are kept safe far away from mainstream romance. However they can bleed over into the mainstream. This same author that I won't name can be bought at Walmart, on the shelves next to authors that write very tame romances that the most prudish family member of your choice can read. There is no warning on the cover that says, this book has anal sex in it. Nope, the poor reader buys this book because it has a hot Navy SEAL hero, and next thing they know, they are reading about backdoor sex. Sorry, but to me that's wrong. It's like buying a movie, thinking it's a fairly tame action movie, and seeing people's heads explode and having their guts ripped out. Except movies come with a content warning.

If you are reading this blog and are thinking I need to open my mind, I can't change your opinion. I like to read romance that can be anywhere from no sex to strongly sexual but vanilla sex. Two people relationships. I will even occasionally read m/m romance stories (if the anal stuff is not a heavy part of it). But I don't read romance to explore my sexual boundaries.There is an open mind, and there is self-abuse. Reading something that involves subject matter that is offensive to me is self-abuse in my opinion. Going back to why I read romance, escapism and enjoyment, this violates my first commandment of escapist pleasure reading. I am not enjoying the experience if I read something along those lines. Anyway, I feel a little better but at the same time pretty icked out right now. But, oh well.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Desert Bride of Al Zayed by Tessa Radley

I quite enjoyed this novel about a couple who were pulled apart by the lies of someone who was thought to be beyond reproach. I loved the descriptions of Zayed and the desert. I felt as though I was in this beautiful, exotic place, feeling the hot desert wind blowing on my face, seeing Tariq's majestic falcon on the hunt, feeling the deluge of a sudden, violent rainstorm, the smells of spices, and experiencing the customs so different from my own but much appreciated by me all the same. This book evokes most of those feelings that make sheikh romances so enjoyable for me. I feel that the author did try to do research and not just stereotype the Arab and Bedouin peoples, which is very important to me. And better yet, I liked both the heroine and the hero. They were both good people, although they had allowed the lies of the Emir to tear them apart. Finally a hero who remains faithful although he is separated from his wife. Tariq really was a good man. He was proud, but not so proud he was obnoxious. He really cared about doing the right thing, which made it so sad that he believed his father would never lie about something like telling him his wife Jayne had cheated on him. Jayne was also a good person, although she did something that I struggle with. I believe she did it because she felt it was the right thing to do, but my heart aches at the choice she made, which will affect Tariq and her lives for always. Sadly this couple will count the cost of the Emir's lies for the rest of their life, but for Jayne's sister, it was a wonderful blessing at the same time. This is my second read by Tessa Radley, and I must say she is a really good writer who knows how to involve a reader in the romance tale she weaves so skillfuly with words. I hope to read about Tariq's Greek cousins soon.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

It seems silly to say that a book can affect you on a profound level. Well I definitely believe in this power that a good book has. Jane Eyre is one of them. I cannot say that this was an easy book to read. But it was a book that I was very enriched by reading. Romance is a genre that is looked down on by many "sophisticated readers." Perhaps they would look down on Jane Eyre, but would probably get some eyebrows raised at them. Well Jane Eyre is the archetype for the romance novel. After having read thousands of them, I know a romance novel when I see it, and Jane Eyre does qualify. But it is much more than this. It's a story for the person who wonders why the keep trying to do the right thing, and persevering in life, instead of just taking what they want when they want it. If Jane Eyre had been that sort of person, she would not have gotten her happy ending. Instead, Jane walked away from the thing she wanted most in the world. She almost died doing what she felt in her heart was right. Had the story ended there, I probably would have detested this book. But it doesn't. We see Jane continue to grow and act as the phenomenal person that she was. Although often downtrodden, she is no meek mouse. She has a fighting spirit that keeps her going when others would have laid down and died. But despite being a fighter, she is not a user and abuser. It's hard at times for the difference to be clearly delineated. Well there is no question about Jane's level of strength and intregrity. Although it is made clear several times in this novel, that Jane is no beauty, her soul makes her a beautiful character. Beautiful in a more profound way.
There are moments when you feel, how can one person suffer so? But taking the journey, you realize that all Jane's suffering had a purpose. It refined her into a woman who could look beneath and love what others could never love or understand. It made her the woman who could love and heal Rochester.
At the same time, Rochester was made for Jane Eyre. He had searched his life for a woman like her, and made quite a few mistakes along the way. And out of love, he was able to let her go when he wanted to keep her. But she came back to him, when he needed her most.
Rochester is the hero that formed the archetype for many of my favorites: tortured, scarred, dark, enigmatic, all of those things. Best of all, loving little, plain, ordinary Jane with a fundamental intensity that pours out of the pages of this book into my heart as a reader. Despite his lack of perfection, I could not love him more.
Ah, how maudlin I sound. I can't help it. This book moved me to tears. Yet I smiled at the same time. I enjoyed the conversations between Rochester and Jane. There was a heat there, a passion. Yet this book is clean enough to read in Sunday school. That is grand romance. The journey so well expressed, that no sex scenes are needed. It's all there.
This novel is also inspirational. Not preachy, in my opinion, but for a believer, one can definitely find spiritual messages in this book. About perseverance, about not wearying about doing good. About the profoundness of God's love. It's all there, but in a narrative that expertly showcases it, not preaching it.
I feel I am failing to write the review I want to write for this book. The words do fail me. All I can say is that this book will always be a favorite of mine because of the way it touched my heart and challenged me.