Anzac Day Reads: Karina Bliss

A Prior Engagement by Karina Bliss

With Anzac Day coming up on the 25th, I’m recommending some Australian and New Zealand authors who have written about war veterans.

Anzac (“Australian and New Zealand Army Corps“) Day is our main day to commemorate those who served in the military.

Today I’m recommending Kiwi author Karina Bliss, who has written some great stories about New Zealand war veterans. In particular, check out her Special Forces series. I reviewed one of the books HERE.

The Mister by E.L. James. Just… no.

The Mister by E.L. James. Just... no.

I wrote a full thousand words about E.L. Fifty Shades James’ new book (which came out this week), a book that turns the sex trafficking of Southern and Eastern European women – and the women themselves – into a fetish, but I’m thinking it’s something I’ll regret putting out there publicly.

So, instead I’ll simply say this: this book is racist. On so many levels. I’m offended on behalf of my Ukrainian family. And I’m sickened that the publisher only saw dollar signs and couldn’t care less about decency.

And now I will direct you to this review:

E.L. James’ The Mister is so much worse than Fifty Shades: EW review

Alessia Demachi is an Albanian immigrant, working illegally in England after escaping from would-be sex traffickers. Here are Alessia’s defining characteristics: She is a piano prodigy, chess master, and although she attended university in Albania to become an English teacher, she’s still befuddled by new words and speaks in the “charming” broken English of a helpless nubile sex-doll to be.

This contradictory depiction of Alessia is unbalanced and fundamentally inaccurate, reinforcing infantilising clichés about Eastern European women. As for the Albanian men in the novel: They’re all Neanderthalic thugs who are either kidnapping Alessia (something that happens multiple times) or selling her off in marriage to another kidnapper.

And this one:

‘The Mister’ by E.L. James is Bad, But You Knew That Already

Some people are not equipped to write stories of social realism that delve into topics like domestic abuse and sex trafficking. E.L. James is to these topics what Hannibal Lecter is to vegan cookery. The Mister features a heroine who was smuggled by traffickers from Albania to London to escape her abusive fiancé but escaped before she could be sold into sex slavery, and these matters are treated with the same care and focus by James as she affords to scenes where Maxim details his favourite music or the lavish meals they eat together.

The Week: 1st – 7th April

Happy Canberra Wine Week! The – erm – week goes from the 5th to the 14th, which isn’t exactly a week as much as it is an excuse to have two weekends of drinking wine!

I have a big announcement to make in a few days…

My review of Need Me, Cowboy (Copper Ridge #6) by Maisey Yates

need me, cowboy (copper ridge #6) by maisey yates

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Need Me, Cowboy (Copper Ridge #6) by Maisey Yates

need me, cowboy (copper ridge #6) by maisey yates

He’s not a man to be played with.

Not without consequences.

For five years, Levi Tucker had no control over his life, locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. Never again would any woman—any desire—overtake this cowboy’s common sense. Now Faith Grayson, the sexy, brilliant architect he’s hired to design his grand new house, is sorely testing his resolve. Faith is too young. Too innocent. Maybe just too tempting.

Need Me, Cowboy (Copper Ridge #6) by Maisey Yates

If you’re looking for a solid, well-written contemporary romance, Maisey Yates is a good bet. I was a bit alarmed that after I downloaded this review book I discovered it was number six in a series, but – apart from some obvious “past couples” factoring into the plot – it works as a standalone read just fine.

For me, and I assume many other readers, the reason Need Me, Cowboy appealed was because it has a hero who is fresh out of prison (he was wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder). I know themes like this fascinate many readers.

(Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare, A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews, and young adult book Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles come to mind, if you want books with similar themes.)

In truth, the cowboy aspect of the story is minimal, which was fine with me. I was more interested in the characters dealing with the “hero out of prison” conflict. He has a lot of anger to deal with, and no idea what to do about it.

I haven’t read a book in this Harlequin line for ages, and had forgotten the heat level – it’s fairly steamy, but doesn’t rule the story.

The hardened, jaded hero-meets-innocent, hardworking heroine trope is popular, and can be done really badly or be really well. In this case, I think it worked. Yates is good enough at her characterisation that she gives everyone unique personalities and quirks.

I especially loved that the heroine was very inexperienced in some aspects of life, but that it worked in a modern context. I didn’t, however, like the stereotyped promiscuous blonde woman named Mindy (of course) who was with the hero at the bar. On the other hand, I did appreciate that she wasn’t made out to be nasty.

These books are quick reads, which means a tight focus on the main two characters and a relationship that has to move rather fast. In this case, I was convinced by the pairing.

Recommended for anyone who finds these tropes appealing in their romance reads.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Remember “Romantica”?

Wild Card (Elite Ops #1) by Lora Leigh

Around a decade ago, everyone in the romance community was talking about a new subgenre: “Romantica”. It was when romances started getting super-steamy, but they also had the classic romance-genre Happy Ever After. They weren’t erotica, but nobody had a better term for them.

Remember that? Because it was a term I used to use fairly often, and until a few weeks ago I’d totally forgotten about it. There’s not a great deal of purpose to this post other than to observe how quickly things in publishing change.

I was reminded of “Romantica” because I was rereading Smart Bitches’ hilarious 2009 review of Pregnesia, which was connected to a discussion about Lora Leigh’s Elite Ops series, which led me to read some old reviews of some of those books. I don’t remember much about them other than that the first one used the misogynistic term “dumb blonde” a lot, and ended with a scene involving surprise anal sex, where the hero commented that he’d finally “touched his wife’s soul”.

Things change so fast in Romancelandia that I doubt these any of these erotic romance books would be written the same way now, only a decade after they were first published.

In the years since, a certain Twilight fan by the name of E.L. James wrote some fan fiction about another blonde-hating brunette who got spanked by a billionaire, and suddenly “erotic romance” was in the mainstream everywhere.

Not all change is good. I’m growing increasingly annoyed with readers who one-star books – particularly historical romances – because the characters don’t perform like porn stars on the page, or because the heroine is a virgin (unmarried pregnant girls in the 19th century often ended up on the streets – or dead. There’s a reason there were so many premarital virgins). Amazing authors like Mimi Matthews have to self-publish because her books aren’t filled with the steamier stuff so many publishers demand.

I wonder what – another ten years on – we write, read, and talk about now will seem spectacularly outdated then.

The New Cover Trend

British “chick lit” meets the American romance publishing industry this year to give us a cover design trend I honestly never thought I’d see in the US. As someone who is – erm – not into fads of any sort, I don’t really know what to think about this one, but it’s certainly going to make reading paperbacks in public a lot easier!

Book sites are declaring the cartoony cover the hottest new thing (though, Australians and Brits have seen books like these for years). What do you think?

Bridal Boot Camp (Little Bridge Island 0.5) by Meg Cabot

99 Perecnt Mine by Sally Thorne

The Right Swipe (Modern Love #1) by Alisha Rai

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

Ten Years

It is the tenth anniversary of the publication of one of the romance genre’s most infamous books:

The Playboy Sheikh’s Virgin Stable Girl

If you’d like to have a good laugh, you can read the wonderful review/summary over at Smart Bitches.

The Playboy Sheikh_s Virgin Stable Girl by Sharon Kendrick

Polo-playing sheikh Prince Kaliq Al’Farisi loves his women as much as his horses. They’re wild, willing, and he’s their master!Stable girl Eleni is a local Calistan. Raised by her brutal father on the horse-racing circuit, she feels unlovable. When her precious horses are given to Sheikh Kaliq, she refuses to be parted from them.The playboy sheikh is determined to bed Eleni–and when Kaliq realises she’s a virgin, the challenge only becomes more interesting….