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After two weeks, I’m finally putting down my impressions from the insanity that is a book signing involving more than a couple hundred authors, and ten times as many fans1. As I mentioned before, the energy in that ballroom (conference room? whatever it was) was extraordinary.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me backtrack a little.

ann-aguirre-rt-09-3Ann Aguirre picked me up early on Saturday, so that we would have some time for breakfast before she had to start setting up for the signing. We had met face to face, for the first time after over a year of emailing and chatting, only that Tuesday. Let me tell you that Ann is a very funny person, as well as very down to earth. Hell, she made us dinner and everything!

(Yes, epic failure of my hostess skills-don’t tell my mother, please)

Anyway, Ann had to be inside the… well, the ginormous room for quite a while before, first, the convention attendees, and then the general public could enter, so I waited in line for a while. What does one do when standing around without a book (really, it would have been a bit like bringing a lump of coal to a mine, you know), but people watch? And so I did. (more…)

What happens in Vegas, anthology by Jodi Lynn Copeland, Anya Bast, Lauren Dane and Kit Tunstall.

The universe seems to be determined to show me how wrong I’ve been in avoiding short stories, by shoving some really good ones in front of me. Mind you, no complaints from this corner. What happens in Vegas is the first erotic stories anthology from Spice Books.

Behind closed doors, the real games begin…
Winning it big. That’s the name of the game at Las Vegas’ Liege Hotel and Casino, where the hottest fantasies hinge on a roll of the dice… and the tantalizing knowledge that anything could happen before sunrise.

Each story is around a hundred pages long—well under my usual comfort zone—and while some missed the mark with me, a couple hit it dead center. Bear in mind, as always, that what bothered me may very well be what other readers like best about each story. So, without further ado, here are the reviews. (I included the short blurbs from the back cover for each story in its review.)

“Hot for you” by Jodi Lynn Copeland

Cocktail waitress Carinna wants a man to tie her up, not tie her down. Little does she know that her most willing partner yet has something else planned for this fiery Latina bombshell.

A quick summary: Carinna and Jake have been best friends since childhood, until one fateful night four months prior to the story, when they fall in bed. Jake panics and leaves, Carinna is more upset about it that she’d like to be, since she a) is commitment phobic, and b) only wants to have her close friendship with him back.

Ms Copeland uses a new-to-me technique for this story: first person voice from both protagonists, alternating the point of views from both hero and heroine while moving the plot along seemed very fresh and interesting to me. Furthermore, the underlying story felt rather sweet to me—he knows he wants forever with her, she only wants friendship (perhaps with some fringe *cough* benefits) and doesn’t want to hurt him.

I had three issues with this story, though. First, the word choices through most of the intimate scenes put me off as being a bit too crude. I don’t consider myself to be prudish and, with one marked exception, it’s not the (sexual) actions described that bothered me, but the words used to describe them. Second, the exception: there is one particular incident, near the end, that yanked me even further out of the story. For me, it crossed the line between consent and violence, and completely colored my take of the story as a whole. Third and last, much is made of Carinna’s issues with relationships and trust, yet it would seem that she overcomes them pretty much from one moment to the next in the ending.

All in all, this one missed me completely—without that one scene, the grade would have been considerable higher. This one is 4 out of 10 for me.

“Stripped” by Lauren Dane

Dahlia is a burlesque dancer with a brain for business and a bod for sin. Her latest admirer may be a sweet-talking Casanova, but despite what he thinks she’s not giving anything away free.

Dahlia is a working class, small town girl with ambition and the determination to go places. In business, she has confidence and a sense of self-worth. In her personal life, though, she is insecure, marked by experiences with men who have thought her nothing more than a trophy.

Nash comes from a wealthy family; both his brother and his mother are quite the snobs, fixated on social class and financial worth. He is the exception, working hard at earning his own money, instead of living off a trust fund. While his attraction to Dahlia seems very natural to him, it’s his feelings for her that surprise him—and his inner dialogue endeared him to me. At one point, he and Dahlia exchange presents:

“Good God, she’d made him a shirt. Made it with her own hands and creativity. Crap, his presents didn’t even compare to her thought and effort. He was a fortunate man.”

I really liked the fact that, despite the short page count (just over a hundred) this story covered several months in the protagonists’ relationship. Since the hero and heroine meet on the first couple of pages, it made it that much easier for me to believe that they would be able to work on their issues enough that, by the end of the story, a future together was not only possible, but very much likely. (more…)