Showing posts with label Lauren Dane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lauren Dane. Show all posts

Sunday, November 18, 2012

(Cont'd) ...on Tart, Triads and the all elusive balance

In Part I of ... on Tart, Triads and that all elusive balance, I reviewed Tart by Lauren Dane. While reading that book, I found that the romance, the emotional connection between the males in the triad involving Jules, Cal and Gideon, was lacking. Yes, Dane establishes a physical sexual connection and the two men are "buddies," but a romance between Cal and Gideon is not even entertained.

My personal view of a true "triad" might have something to do with my opinion. I think it must include three romances:  romances between each individual male and the female, plus a romance between the two males (not just sex). For me, if those romantic connections are not well established, then the relationship falls under the "threesome" category.  Two men who love one woman and whose only connection is affection for each and that mutual love for her.

I decided to read a few other books to find out if there are any new reads that come close to my expectations. I dug deep into my TBR for some of the reads, purchased a couple, and except for Lauren Dane, all the authors are new-to-me.

Destiny Calls
I began by digging into my TBR pile and chose Destiny Calls by Samantha Wayland and got lucky on the first try. This book worked for me. First, it is a friends-to-triad romance where all three people involved are emotionally connected, in love, as well as sexually hot and bothered for each other. Not one person is more important than the other in this group, and that really hit the spot for me. The fact that the story is sizzling, smoking hot? Yeah... that also has a lot to do with my enjoyment of this book. Wayland gets a big plus for excellent sexual tension, as well as hot bedroom scenes between the men (I was surprised), and her male/female and male/male/female scenes are just as good and enjoyable to read. The story has a bit of angst, a lot of love, scorching bedroom scenes, and a police investigation in the middle of it all. This is more my idea of a triad with a few rough patches.

Patrick, Brandon, and Destiny were practically raised together by Patrick's aunt since they were children. They have always been best friends and understand each others' baggage. Patrick and Brandon are cops working together, and although Patrick is straight, Brandon is bisexual and has loved Patrick for years. Destiny carries some heavy personal baggage, and she and Patrick have been having an on and off sexual relationship through the years. They are about to get back together when as a gag Patrick kisses Brandon as a way to keep away a man harassing him at a gay bar. The kiss is a scorcher and Patrick goes on an emotional, crazed tailspin. Wayland doesn't just have Patrick come to a quick and easy realization that he wants Brandon, there is a real emotional and conflicting battle for him. I like that. It shouldn't be easy particularly when there is friendship and love already involved. Wayland balances the relationship between Brandon and Destiny well too, both the emotional connection and sexual attraction. She also confronts the outside world and how that will affect this type of relationship for all three. What is my niggle with this story then? Well, Destiny's internal conflict about the relationship comes to light late into the relationship so that her emotional angst seems neglected until then, and while the police investigation comes to a great conclusion, the mafia storyline seems superfluous . But overall Destiny Calls by Samantha Wayland was quite the great surprise. Grade: B/B+

Compared to Tart, this story conveys the emotional connection between the three people involved much better, it has more depth of character and works on the depth of the relationship, and the bedroom scenes between all three people (including MM scenes) are better detailed. Tart, however, begins with the three people wanting a committed long-term relationship, whereas Destiny Calls begins with the tired plot device of "let's have fun" first, and then works itself into a true relationship.

With Grace
Since I enjoyed Wayland, I followed by purchasing and reading another triad story by Samantha Wayland, With Grace. It turns out that this story is linked to Destiny's Calls and it precedes that story. The mafia storyline that I mention above makes much more sense if this book is read first. This erotic triad is okay, but not engaging as is Destiny Calls. Wayland establishes an emotional connection between the three parties involved, however I think the timeline for developing this relationship is the problem for me here. One week seems too short a time for a serious relationship like this one to really take root or to be about more than just for sexual pleasure. There are some excellent, sexy MM scenes in this book, as well as MMF and MF, nobody gets left behind. And, although the emotions are there between the three people involved, I wish that this had been left open as in "a relationship in the making," instead of a happily ever after type of read.  Grade: C-

Compared to Tart, these three people are better suited emotionally and the connection is well conveyed, however the timeline hinders development, and the three people involved jump into the relationship with equal alacrity.

of Fire
Next during my triad marathon reading week, I picked up Brotherhood of Fire by Elizabeth Moore from my TBR. This novella turned out to be a threesome instead of a triad -- the two males are not involved sexually or romantically. Unfortunately, this book just did not work for me -- and it is not necessarily because the men are not involved. The central characters are married and the husband basically pushes his wife and best friend into a three-way situation to fulfill a personal sexual fantasy. He manipulates his wife until she agrees to it knowing that his best friend and colleague has feelings for his wife. Then the husband refuses to talk about the details or emotional fallout of the sexual relationship, he just wants the sex and damn the consequences! When both his wife and best friend fall in love and want a permanent, long term relationship involving the three of them, this man becomes possessive, jealous, and freaks out! This guy is a jerk, and even after things were worked out between all three, and as much as I liked the best friend, I'm afraid that I just could not like this man. My enjoyment was minimal even for a threesome. Grade: D
This story doesn't compare well to Tart because it is not a triad. However, they do share the alacrity with which the three people jump into the relationship and the lack of working out details beforehand or taking doubts and trust into consideration.

Rule of Three
And the final book on this trip through triad erotic lands was Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson. This book has one of the nicest, artsy covers of the bunch. Don't you think? But when it comes to the actual story, it was initially a mixed bag that ended up on the below average side. The sexual scenes are repetitive (this trio didn't have much imagination when it came to using the same positions over and over again), and another manipulative boyfriend with the "damn the emotional consequences" attitude is involved. There is angst and a bit of a soap opera feel to it, with denial on the boyfriend's part as to his feelings for his old time college buddy with whom he has been sharing women for years that ends up in a major jerkwad homophobic scene! And dramatic emotional outpouring and feelings of being used from the girlfriend once she finds out the college buddy loved her boyfriend before he loved her! Problem? The boyfriend Chris didn't give a damn about emotional consequences to either college buddy Dag or girlfriend Kassidy. He just wanted/needed the sexual pleasure and refused to talk about "feelings." They work things out including the lack of communication, but in the end I still think of Chris and Kassidy as a couple and Dag as a buddy with benefits, with that balance in the relationship on its way but not there yet. Grade: C-
Although as in Tart, the three people in this book similarly jump into the relationship quickly and both share the lack of balance between the three, this book compares negatively to Tart. There is always respect between the three people involved in the relationship between Jules, Cal and Gideon. That is not always the case here. And this is beside the point... but of all five, Tart and Rule of Three have my favorite covers!

Conclusion: So how do these books compare to Tart by Lauren Dane? Destiny Calls by Samantha Wayland is the one book in this bunch that worked for me, and I think that's because the three people involved really loved each other and shared a true, strong friendship before they began the relationship -- that makes a huge difference. It gets a B for the romantic relationship and a B+ for the erotic scenes. None of the books I read had the "fluffy, contemporary" chick lit atmosphere found in Tart and that makes it unique among the bunch. In my comparisons above you can see how often the couples quickly jumped into lust-based or sexual relationships before working out details, or while entertaining doubts, or thinking of the emotional fallout, a similarity they share with Tart. However, except for the one book, all the others rated lower for me.

Balance? Emotional connection between three people plus hotness in the bedroom -- as I said at the beginning of Part I of this post, it is a tricky combination and not easily found in an erotic romance featuring three people. I know there are books out there that have it all! However, if you read all these minis you will see a definite set pattern in the story lines, so that reading too many and finding THE one can become a tough endeavor. On the other hand, I do love reading a good erotic romance with the right touch involving a triad or threesome, so I'm not yet prepared to give up my search.

One of my favorite triad stories is still Rough, Raw and Ready by Lorelei James, (review here). What about you? Who is your favorite trio? Do you have a favorite title that you would like to recommend?  (I'm writing them down) ;P 

Friday, November 16, 2012

...on Tart, Triads & that all elusive balance (Part I)

This past week reading Tart by Lauren Dane started me on an erotic romance reading binge. The common denominator? Triads and threesomes with two males and one female as the central figures of these erotic-based romances.

Why did I go on such a binge? Well, for an erotic romance involving a triad or a threesome to really work great sex between all three partners, although a top requirement, is not the only aspect of the story that I take into consideration. For me, there has to be a balanced emotional connection between the three partners involved in the relationship. Conveying that balanced connection is tricky and I find that not all authors can get close to achieving it. It has been a while since I've read erotic romances involving threesomes and after reading Tart and finding it somewhat lacking in the balance department, I decided to search, compare and see if this is even a real possibility or just wishful thinking on my part. I chose new-to-me writers instead of my old favorites for my search.

Tart by Lauren Dane is good, but not great. Juliet is part of a group of friends who call themselves Delicious. She owns a successful baking business specializing in tarts. She's content although her family life is a real mess and her sex life is sadly lacking. Jules has been in love with her friend Cal for years, but he never made a move. In comes gorgeous Gideon, an old friend who knows both Cal and Jules from their teenage years. The hunky cowboy returns to town to take care of his elderly grandfather and takes over the family farm. Sparks fly and Jules and Gideon begin a sexual relationship that quickly turns into a true romance. But Cal is not a happy camper, and afraid of losing Jules after years of loving her finally makes his move complicating matters. Well, one thing leads to another and on Gideon's suggestion, pretty soon all three are involved in a relationship.

In this erotic triad romance Jules is the center with both Cal and Gideon playing her adoring men. That aspect of the book is well done, as is the initial romance between Gideon and Jules and later the development of the relationship between Cal and Jules. The men are both bisexual, a fact that initially becomes a problem for Jules, and in this threesome they do become sexually involved from the beginning. There are some good sexual moments between the men, as well as between all three, no question about it.

Here is where my problem begins, there is a lack of balance when it comes to the emotional connections. Even with the bisexuality introduced into the relationship, this romance is all about Jules. Cal and Gideon connect sexually, but did they love each other? They say they do a few times, but I didn't really feel the love between them. Both men repeatedly say that neither can live without Jules, but can they live without each other? That never comes up, so yes... I most sincerely think they can live without each other and to me that negates the idea of a true romance between three people. There is sex, but NO romance between Cal and Gideon. None.

My other niggle with this book is that I think one of its strengths is also a weakness. The dialog and atmosphere are fluffy, light, and very contemporary. On the one hand this works because it gives the book a fresh, young contemporary feel that I really like and enjoy. However, that same light, fluffy style doesn't work at all when the need for a mature decision arises. Example: When the three people involved make the decision to be together, Gideon's proposal comes off as superficial to say the least, and later Jules jumps into their first sexual ride while still having major trust issues about Cal's bisexuality. Additionally as to the dialog, a pet peeve that might not bug others: there are phrases such as the following one throughout the book, "[...}good looking one so he would be well versed in bullshit as they tended to be. But he wasn't phoning it in with her." (meaning he wasn't being a phony or insincere). Sorry if this phrase is supposed to be "kewll and all that," but I couldn't help but cringe.

Overall Tart ended up being a C+ read for me and that's because despite my reservations, both male/female relationships are well done, the characters extremely likable, the fun, fluffy moments enjoyable, and I like how Jules finally resolves her family situation.

During my quest, while searching for that balance, I read four other erotic romances involving triads. My initial idea was to do one post with all five reads as minis, while comparing them to each other, but in the end because I'm basing my comparisons to Tart I decided to post a longer review for this book. So, expect Part II of this post in the near future. :)

What do you look for when reading an erotic romance involving a triad or threesome? Do you prefer M/M/F or M/F/M? And, in this type of read, do you think that the emotional and romantic connection should be as important as the physical and sexual hotness?

Monday, December 26, 2011

End of Year Reading: Justin Torres and...

Day after Christmas... is everyone shopping? I'm on vacation and yes I'll be shopping later. *g* In the meantime, I've been reading! Yes, between Friday after work, the crazy and lovely Noche Buena and a lovely and lazy Christmas Day, I read. This year it wasn't my turn to cook, bake, or do the honors. That fell to one of my lovely sisters-in-law and one of my brothers. *g* So, I'm enjoying a relaxing holiday season.

What did I read? A couple of GREAT books from my "to be read" pile that I left as end-of-year reads. The first book I read Friday night, and the one that really impacted me the most?

We The Animals by Justin Torres

  • I would say, why oh why did I wait until the end of the year to read this little book? On the one hand I want to kick myself for waiting, but then... it was the perfect time to read it too. We the Animals is not a perfect book, but my goodness this debut novel by Justin Torres certainly makes an impact! I will probably review it or talk about it in January because I think I have to, but yes... a little gem. (2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Then of course I picked up some Christmas related romance novellas, and I went with these:

A Regency Christmas VII 

  • From this anthology, I read The Christmas Ghost by Sandra Heath, The Rake's Christmas by Edith Layton, and The Surprise Party by Mary Balogh. These short novellas were perfect. They got me into the holiday spirit as I readied myself for our lovely Christmas Eve celebration with family and friends. (1995 Signet)

Lone Star by Josh Lanyon & Winter Knights by Harper Fox

  • As part of the Men Under the Mistletoe anthology, both of these stories are second chance-at-love stories that take place during Christmas and both of them have that bit of the "miracle" about them. Josh Lanyon's Lone Star, is the story of two childhood friends, a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger, whose love ended a long time ago when they were young men. His story has a western flavor because of setting, although not necessarily a western theme. A Lanyon-style romance without a mystery to solve at the end. Harper Fox's White Knights is a contemporary Arthurian tale set in Northumberland. As always I enjoyed her characters' struggles and darkish writing style. There are second chances, and then there are second chances... and Fox's characters certainly find out what the term means in this Christmas story. (2011, Carina Press)

And I finished a couple of anthologies I began reading earlier:

Best Gay Stories 2011 edited by Peter Dubé

  • This is an anthology I began reading a couple of months ago and kept on reading slowly. There are some excellent novellas in here. One of my favorite stories by Sandra McDonald is included, and of course other writers whose works I've come to really enjoy as well. I actually became interested in reading the anthology after reading the "blurb" and Mr. Dubé's focus for this anthology. (2011 Lethe Press)
When we tell our own stories, it becomes clear that we’ve moved well past the sentimental coming out story, the boy-meets-boy romance, the dangers and pleasures of sexual adventure, and we’ve done it without having to abandon them--because those things still happen and are still important. But we’ve found new ways of thinking about them, and have more experience to share, a deeper understanding of them, and we’ve added an array of other stories, from other parts of our lives, and dreams, and troubles to them. We’ve moved past the “gay story” and towards “gay stories.”
The other anthology I finished is erotica!

Three to Tango with 
Emma Holly, Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Bethany Kane

  • This is another anthology I began reading a while back and just finished off! Now, I can tell you that I most definitely have favorites from this collection of novellas where threesomes (M/M/F) give it its name. For me those two stories are Dirty/Bad/Wrong by Lauren Dane and Flipping for Chelsea, the hot, hot story by Emma Holly. Of course, Megan Hart's Just One Night and Bethany Kane's On the Job fit the name of this anthology to the "t" and they are enjoyable as well. So you can pick and choose, but all are good erotic reads. (2011, Berkley Heat) 
So, that was my weekend/holiday reading! These were all short reads, but a good beginning to my vacation reading and a great way to end the year! I have one more week to go, let's see if I find any other little gems before then. :D

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April 2011 Reads & Minis

April! What a long month! I read and read and read... it felt wonderful to be able to read like that again. My schedule remains the same at work (busy), but I've basically slotted in time to read and blog into my calendar and things are working out for me. Reading time relaxes my mind and is very important to me personally, so I'm feeling quite relaxed this month. LOL!

This is going to be a long post, so without further ado here's my update for April:

Total Read: 24
LGBT: 7 (Mystery: 6 -- M/M Romance: 1)
Contemporary Romance: 5
Historical Romance: 4
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: 3 (Fantasy: 1 - SFR: 1 - UF: 1)
Paranormal Romance: 3
Mystery: 2

Favorite Books this Month:
  • Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh - KMont from Lurv a la Mode sent me her ARC copy and you know I whopped and hollered when I saw that envelope! I dropped everything else and read this book until it was done. I'll post my review later this month, but let's just say that Hawke and Sienna's story was worth the wait: A
  • The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser: B+ (Upcoming Review)
  • A Lot Like Love by Julie James: B+ (Upcoming Review)

Here come those B's:

  • In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon was a mystery/horror story that takes place in the New Jersey woods! This story deals with one of those urban legends that will make the hairs in the back of your neck stand up straight. The Jersey woods give me the creeps on the best of days, and this short story didn't help at all! Mr. Lanyon pairs up our writer, Tim with a cop. They go on their first date on a hiking trip up to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and let me tell you things go from bad to worst. I loved this short, short story, Tim's character with his deep personal problems and fears and the fantastic, horrific outcome of that trip. I wish this terrific short horror story had been longer and that there had been more page time to develop the characters further, Tim in particular. Grade: B
  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore #1) by Cherie Priest. This book was my 2011 Women of Fantasy Book Club April read. This is book one in Cherie Priest's Eden Moore urban fantasy series. I loved, loved the Gothic Southern atmosphere of this book, with it's old dysfunctional family history and crazy characters. The beginning of the book pulled me in and kept me reading, particularly when Eden was a little girl and she was just discovering things around her. However, things changed later on in the book when it comes to Eden and the plot became more... predictable and dare I say, less exciting. Eden is an angry girl who becomes an angry and at times glib woman, and makes one mistake after another. She has certain abilities, goes on an adventure to find out more about her past and in the process kicks butt, despite the fact that she doesn't really know what the heck she's doing or why. I liked her better when she was a little girl. However, I did love, love the Southern atmosphere and the history in this book as well as world building where Priest mixes ghosts with the African voodoo culture. The writing flows and it was a quick read, so in the end this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Grade: B-
  • A Vintage Affair by Josh Lanyon is one of those books I picked up last Saturday. This story takes place in a southern mansion in Georgia and it involves wine and a murder. Austin is a sommelier and he's down in Georgia to assess the value of a wine collection. Instead he finds murder and hot, but closeted, Jeff Brady. The two have one mind-blowing night together while the murder is investigated, but things won't go anywhere since "gay" is not done in Georgia. I enjoyed this story and again Mr. Lanyon excels at creating atmosphere and transporting the reader to place and time. Both Austin and Jeff as characters were well portrayed. There's an M/F/M scene in this book that might bother M/M only romance readers (and took me by surprise), but that I thought was quite appropriate when taking the plot into consideration. My only problem with this story was that I thought the crime investigation took a back seat to the rest of the story, and we were "told" how it all ended, not shown. Grade B-

And this Month's C's:
  • Giving Chase (Chase Brothers #1) by Lauren Dane was a cute contemporary romance with lots of erotic scenes thrown into the mix. I enjoyed the family atmosphere, the Chase family and friendships between the female protagonist and her closest friends. I also loved the close bond between the Chase brothers. However, the plot itself seemed to lack focus with a heroine that was insecure about her looks, problems with her family, a stalker, and the heroine dating a different brother before she settled for the main character, Kyle. The focus on the men's looks got old after a while and in a way it took away from my enjoyment of their yumminess. Grade: C
  • Kiss Across Swords by Teal Ceagh is a paranormal romance that uses a few different devices. It's a time travel, vampire tale that includes a menage (M/M/F). I enjoyed the time travel aspect of the story as it went back in time to the Crusades and the fall of Jerusalem. The story itself made sense in that way, however, I did not enjoy the menage aspect of the story. The erotic scenes were quite good, but although the sexual aspect was well done, there was a lack of emotional connection between the three main characters involved that I could not dismiss. The female was attached emotionally to one man more than the other and the one male seemed more attached to the other than to the female... the emotional connection didn't feel balanced, although we were told that it was. Grade C-
That's a LONG post for a long reading month! A happy one for me, although as you can see it was a mixed bag when it came down to grades. However, thinking about it... there wasn't one single book that I disliked terrible, and although there were quite a few average reads in the bunch there were more solids and some outstanding reads that I just loved!

ETA: The books are listed by grade, and then by how much I enjoyed each book compared to the rest. Tough decisions!