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Michelle Reviews: Happily Even After Lena Matthews

happily even after


Sensuality Level: Steamy

Multicultural Contemporary: BW/WM

I must confess, this book has been in my TBR pile FOREVER. I like Matthews, but I had no idea how in the living hell she was going to pull this one off. The H/h are divorced, but they get back together WHILE she’s pregnant by somebody else. Despite my misgivings, she manages to pull it off, with some caveats. Dean is a fabulous hero. I love Matthew’s blue-collar heroes and Dean typifies them. In a Romancelandia awash in billionaires Dean is just a regular guy who works in a factory, and I love him for that. Creigh is more problematic. The motives for some of her behavior is questionable. And that’s my main problem with the book, why on earth did she divorce this guy in the first place? Dean didn’t want the divorce. He’s still in love with Creigh and wants his wife and kids back. Creigh wanted to leave Dean, but we really never understand why. There are some vague reflections on neglect, but nothing really concrete. And I understand that, the biggies, adultery or battery are definite no-nos in a romance, but I wish I’d had a firmer foundation. Either way, it’s still a very good story. I enjoyed it tremendously. It would be an A book despite the ambiguity about the divorce, but Creigh does something else that is so incredibly baffling that the book loses an entire grade for me. So now it’s a solid B.

Published by Loose Id

Purchased by me. 


Michelle Reviews: Wheels of Steel by Pepper Pace

Wheels of Steel 1-3 by Pepper Pace

Heat Level: Torrid

Multicultural: Black Woman, White Man

This author is one of several I discovered on Literotica, and like many of them, she’s a very talented storyteller, but she drives me batshit crazy and here’s why. She needs an editor, BADLY. Not just for typos, which are legion, but she desperately needs someone to go back and cut the living hell out of this series. At nearly 250k, it’s too damned long. There are actually three books, and you have to read all three to get the whole story. The first book is significantly better than the other two. In addition to the issues mentioned, there’s head-hopping galore, and I lost count of the POVs. In my opinion, given the age of the characters and the fact that many of their struggles are parent related, I think Pace should’ve cut out the erotic aspect and made this a YA book. Despite all these flaws and many more, I.Couldn’t.Put.It.Down. Pace has created some of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a long time.

I bought this book because someone (Ridley?) mentioned on another blog that they’d never read a romance featuring a handicapped person that didn’t read like an After School Special. Even worse, most of them have a miraculous cure at the end. I realized that I hadn’t either, and given the number of years I’ve been reading the genre, that’s a shame. In this story, the hero does get better, but it’s at great risk to his health, and it’s certainly no miracle cure. I also like books that feature music, and in this one I learned probably far too much about making hip hop mixes.

This story details the rather convoluted romance between Jason, a 19-year- old college student/DJ who has cerebral palsy. Robin who is 21 starts out as his aide and eventually becomes his girlfriend. Jason has seizures and sometimes chokes when he eats. In addition he occasionally needs assistance with toileting. Despite this, he is an absolutely awesome hero. Jason is loving and protective, and very frustrated with the limits his disorder places on his body. You can all but feel his passion, both for Robin, and for music, leaping off the page. He’s strong and resourceful and uses his ingenuity to protect Robin. Believe it or not, Robin, the heroine is far more messed up in the head than Jason is, though neither would win any medals in that regard. They both have overbearing mothers, and Robin is struggling with some residual grief/guilt from the death of her father. She is almost pathologically shy, suffers from anxiety and recurrent episodes of IBS. Yes, both the cerebral palsy and her gastrointestinal difficulties are discussed in fairly graphic detail.

Robin’s father recently died, and she’s decided not to go to college because she struggles with her shyness and seems to have some type of learning disability. Because of this, her mother threatens to take back the car she received for high school graduation. Desperately wanting to keep the car she gets a job at a fast food restaurant so she can pay the note herself, then takes on a second job as a home health aide when she was still coming up short financially. After a couple of miscues with the home health agency she is hired to assist Jason who initially is an absolute jerk. Gradually she is pulled into his entire life, including his friends who are members, of his band, Wheels of Steel.

The band consists of three other characters, Peter, who is also wheelchair bound, Amberly, who also has cerebral palsy, but can walk, and Belinda, who, as far as I can tell doesn’t have any disabilities, though she certainly has issues. All these characters have stories of their own, especially Amberly, who is in love with Jason. Robin has a hard time even making eye contact with others, and has never really made any friends before, so it takes her while to warm up to all these new experiences. She is an incredibly giving person, and it’s easy to see why Jason falls so passionately in love with her.

Jason has moved out into his own apartment to get away from his overbearing mother. He was once able to walk, but lost that ability due an aide neglecting him when he was a child. He can take medication that will help him, but it’s dangerous and his mother refuses to give him the money for the treatment. Pace does an excellent job showing us the two of them falling in love, and the forces that threaten to pull them apart. The only sour note in their relationship to me is what I see as Robin’s overreaction to a mistake Jason makes at the end of the story. But I am incredibly biased because I’m half in love with the guy myself, so you can take that with a grain of salt. So here is my quandary; how can I recommend what is by all measures a poorly written book? The only thing I can say is, if you can get past all the issues I mentioned that the beginning of this review, you will definitely enjoy this story.

Pepper Pace is one of the Young Turks in the multicultural niche. She deliberately chooses unconventional characters, and it usually works. In one of my favorites the hero is a homeless man who is mentally ill. The younger writers seem to come at the genre from a different angle. For one thing I think many of them are fans are soap operas, as their stories have a great deal of drama in them. This type of storytelling is probably very popular with a generation that was raised on reality TV and the likes of Jerry Springer. It’s a different outlook, but I think I like it. Certainly it makes for great story-telling.

You can buy Wheels of Steel 1 here. (I’m too lazy to link all three.)

Michelle Reviews: Brush Strokes by Dee Carney

Sensuality Level: Torrid

Multicultural Contemporary Black Female, White Male

I always enjoy reading about artists so when Dee Carney offered this book to me for review I agreed. In compliance with whatever the hell that blogger law is, please note, this book was given to me for free by this author.

The set-up for this story is interesting. The heroine, Tanya is a painter. Joe is her model. Her really smoking hot nude model. When the story opens she’s already been painting him for several months, or at least trying to. However, she is hopelessly blocked and unable to complete a painting. He suggests that she learn his body through touch. His rather unique solution to her problem leads to some of the most well-written sensual scenes I’ve come across in a while. Joe is an absolute sweetheart, and I like Tanya as well. The descriptions of the creative process are well-done and I could all but feel Tanya’s frustration and anxiety as she has a patron waiting for her paintings. Her passion for her work comes through in nearly every scene. You can understand why Joe would fall in love with her and be inspired by her as both a woman and an artist. On that level I really liked this story.

I think your ability to enjoy this book depends on your ability to suspend disbelief in a story. As a sweet, but hot novella it is very well-done. However, there were some issues that I found it difficult to get past. First, Tanya paints in a home studio. I found it hard to believe that a single woman would hire a male model from an ad to pose nude in her home. And when you factor in his remedy for her painter’s block, it sounds dangerous to the point of craziness. I also find it hard to believe that a professional painter would agree to engage in this kind of behavior with one of her models. We aren’t told whether this is her first time painting a male nude or not, but I would think a female artist would be leery of getting that type of reputation.

Then there’s the issue of racial dynamics. Tanya’s wealthy patron is a black man. I’m no expert on the New York art scene but the notion of a black man paying a black woman to paint naked pictures of a white man just seemed, well less than likely. I could be wrong, but it seemed odd to me. I was also amused by Joe’s pondering as to whether Tanya would date a white man. Dude, she’s been painting your freaking pubic hair for months! Somehow I don’t think THAT’S gonna be a problem!

I think if this story had been longer with more scenes of the beginning of their relationship I might have found it more believable. I especially needed to see the scene where he actually suggests his remedy and hear from him what inspired it. As it is, we meet this couple two months into their working relationship and it’s kind of jarring for him them to already be in the midst of a very intimate sensual encounter before we really know anything about them.

If you’re in the mood for a hot little story, this is great and I did like it on that level. But those other issues kept taking me out of the story and definitely brought it down a couple of notches.

Available for purchase here.


Michelle Reviews: I'll Catch You by Farrah Rochon

Heat Level: Steamy

African American female; African American male

Like pretty much everyone in the known universe I read and enjoyed Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars series. However, as a lifelong fan of the game of American football I was all too conscious that her football team looked nothing like any football team in existence since the 1970s. The lack of diversity was glaring, and the scenes where she did include minorities were so painfully self-conscious, I always skipped them. However, I dearly love football, and when this book came across my desk,  I jumped on it.

Note, this is the second book in what is a four-book series. I started with this one because I found the title of the first one, Huddle With Me Tonight, just unbearable. I don’t think I missed anything by starting the way I did, this book can definitely stand alone.

The book starts with the heroine, Payton (named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton), essentially stalking Cedric, a “bad boy” professional football player. Cedric has had a run of bad luck. His behavior off the field has resulted in his agent dropping him and no other agent will touch him. He also fears that his team won’t sign him to a new contract. He is particularly concerned about changing teams as he doesn’t want to leave New York. This is a weak area of the book. I’ve followed football forever, and the so-called bad behavior mentioned wouldn’t even get a rise out of the most stringent agent. Certainly it wouldn’t result in a franchise dropping a running back with the kind of stats this guy has. That failing aside, I found the rest of the football-related aspects of this story to be believable and in line with what I know of the game and its players.

Payton is a major football fan and more than anything she wants to be a sports agent. To that end she has quit her job at a law firm in Texas and relocated to New York City in an effort to fulfill her dream. Unfortunately, none of the players are willing to take a risk with an unknown quantity, especially a female one. So she has gone all out in an effort to get Cedric as a client. Given her dogged determination and the fact that he literally has no one else, he decides to take her on.

Payton quickly shows that she has what it takes and negotiates endorsement deals for him while also working to clean up his image. Their professional relationship sets up the central conflict of the story; Payton doesn’t want to give in to the strong physical attraction between them because she fears the damage it could do to her reputation as a sports agent. This conflict read as very realistic to me and I enjoyed watching these two characters navigate the treacherous waters of professional sports.

Another strong area of the book is the relationship between Cedric and his friends, who are his fellow teammates. They are, of course, the heroes of books of their own but their presence in this book isn’t overpowering.

I really like Rochon’s narrative style and occasional touches of humor. The character development was stellar and I loved the way she delved into the source of Payton’s passion for football. I found it very relatable because my own love of the game comes from very similar origins. It would’ve been very easy make these people into caricatures, but she takes us past that. We see that Payton really is starting out in a business in the way you would expect. One of her meetings with Cedric occurs in a laundromat, and yes, she’s folding clothes. Lacking an office of her own, she also meets clients in a coffee shop. Payton is really a great heroine. I love her grit and determination and Cedric was a great match for her. This was a solid four-star read and I intend to go back and read …ugh…Huddle With Me Tonight.

I’ll Catch You can be purchased here.


Michelle Review: Buttercup by Sienna Mynx

Buttercup by Sienna Mynx. Self-published, 2010. Erotic Romance very steamy.

Let me start by saying that I was immediately drawn to this book because the cover is absolutely gorgeous. The 1930s setting makes it unusual for a romance, and it’s a time period I really like. Gangsters, bank robbers, and carnival hooch dancers definitely are the ingredients for my kind of book. Back in the day carnivals were definitely not entertainment for the kids. Men paid money to come in, drink liquor, or “hooch” and watch women get naked. For a little extra money sometimes the dancer would grant sexual favors. This is the line of work in which Buttercup is employed when she meets Silvio the leader of a band of bank robbers. Their first encounter results in him being wrongfully incarcerated for rape. So when he returns everyone, including Buttercup, believe he wants revenge, what he’s actually come for leaves the entire carnival in an uproar.

The author does an excellent job of capturing the time period and her descriptions of the carnival lifestyle are vivid and engaging. I could all but smell the aromas and see the cheap, tawdry costumes. The sense of urgency and hard lives lived fast and furiously leap from the page.

 The warm fragrance of sweet kettle corn and roasted apples blew in from the midway through the loosened flap at the front of the tent. Carnies taunted townies to test their luck, get their fortunes read, or become one of the chosen few to bear witness to the never seen before oddities of man. However, here under the cover of a patchwork carnival tent, it was just Buttercup and him–alone. Silvio swallowed. His nerves, a ball of conflicting emotions had lodged in his throat as he stared on, riveted. He had found her. Beyond a stage curtain made from tattered wash-worn sheets strung up by fishing wire, she called for him, seduced him, damned him.

These characters are true-to-life, rough edges and all. Buttercup has had sex for money. Silvio is a bank robber and gangster. People have died as a result of his actions. The author doesn’t make the mistake of trying to soften the rough edges for us. These were tough times and she shows them for what they were. This is 1930s America, so racism is definitely an issue, but it’s not the central focus of the book. It’s simply shown as a fact of life that doesn’t slow them down one bit. The gritty realism of the characters make their love story all the more believable.

For me there were only two flaws to this story; it was two short, and the villain’s motivations were a bit confusing.  By my account, Buttercup and Silvio only had two days together. They were two action-packed days, and the author does such a good job of drawing the reader in that I didn’t realize that they were together so briefly until after I sat down to write the review. But I think the story would have been well-served by more scenes of the two of them together. At one point I thought the villain wanted Buttercup for himself, but by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what his deal was. That could’ve been fleshed out more. All in all, I absolutely loved this book.

You can download Buttercup for Kindle at Amazon.com here.

I recently read her newest  Harmony, which is another interracial story set in the same time period, but with the Cotton Club and Italian mafioso. I’ll review it later.