Saturday, December 4, 2010

Compromising Charis - An Erotic Romance

Okay, to start, as I mentioned in my last post, I don't normally read romance anymore (though I used to read a lot of it), and these days usually skim over the sexy bits whenever they show up in a novel I'm reading.  However, when I saw Compromising Charis on the NetGalley website, I decided to get a taste of what's on offer out there. For one thing, I was thinking of writing an erotic romance for NaNoWriMo and thought I should read one before trying my hand at writing one.  For another, I was curious. I had no idea what to expect, and to say I was a bit apprehensive is putting it mildly.
I needn't have worried. Compromising Charis by Sahara Kelly, published by Red Sage, was a surprisingly amusing novelette about a young aristocratic woman who decides to get herself ruined in order to avoid having to marry a man she's never met.  She's sure she doesn't want to marry him because she is sure he is a "chuckleheaded lackwit" to want to marry her, since she'd been ruined once already and is, in the eyes of most of society, unmarriageable. Charis decides to run away to the gypsies (I didn't say the story was free of melodramatic improbabilities). On the way to the gypsy encampment, she meets a very good-looking, obviously aristocratic young man who is driving down the road in a curricle.

Sinjun Randall offers to drive her to her destination. Ever a rebel, Charis accepts his offer, then, in sudden inspiration, asks if he'd be so kind as to ruin her some more. (Did I mention he was really handsome? And charming.) He, of course, being a red-blooded male, immediately agrees. (Did I mention that Charis is really beautiful?) Off they go to a secluded country manor belonging to a friend of his and, after giving the servant a holiday until the next morning, have their way with each other for the rest of the day and night.

I expected the sex scenes to be pretty much nonstop and, if not boring as hell, then totally cringeworthy, and that I'd have to skim over them to get to the expected HEA. I was wrong. Yes, they were pretty much nonstop, but they were far from awful. In fact, though there was the requisite breathlessness and moaning as well as some frank descriptions of the sexual act, in between these passages were also some delightful conversation (!) and moments of actual humor, and much of the action was more sensual than mechanical.

And the ending?  Expected, of course, but fun and satisfying. 

So, not only did I learn a lot about how to go about writing an erotic novel (for instance, there were a total of only FOUR characters in the entire story, and two were on for a mere two or three pages, never to return), I spent a couple of hours of reading enjoyment (I almost said "pleasure," but I didn't want to give the wrong impression. I was reading strictly for educational purposes, you will recall, not to be aroused, no matter how arousing some of the parts turned out to be. ;)

Bottom line: Compromising Charis is an appealing erotic romance, filled with humor, great characters, and a sweet and sexy love story, and I will definitely be reading more from Ms. Kelly and whatever else is on offer from Red Sage.

Being an eGalley, there were a few typos, and the formatting, as is usual with galleys, sucked. I shouldn't think those annoyances will be issues in the actual eBook.

DISCLAIMER: I received the eGalley free from NetGalley; however, that didn't influence me in the least, and all of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, November 26, 2010

When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer - A Review

When Harry Met Sally is a light romance, a fun and fluffy romp through Regency England.  I really enjoyed it, although I haven't been "into" romances for a year or so. 

Harry is the younger son of a duke, sent from home in disgrace and forced to join the army at the age of 18 after Molly, the second daughter of an earl whose estate neighbors the duke's, tattles on him for kissing her older sister who happens to be the fiance of Harry's older brother. Molly, who was 13 at the time, is also sent away in disgrace to a school in the north of England for her bad behavior. Harry and Molly meet again when she is around 20 and on the verge of spinsterhood, which is the reason she is at an inn on the way to Gretna Green with a vacuous but oh-so-handsome friend of her father's. Harry, named one of the Impossible Bachelors by the Prince Regent, is at the same inn with his mistress, an equally vacuous but oh-so-beautiful woman, on the way to his hunting box for a week's debauchery. Molly's reluctant suitor and Harry's petulant mistress elope together, leaving Molly stranded alone far from home and Harry in a lot of trouble. The Impossible Bachelors have been ordered by Prinny to engage in a competition, and if Harry doesn't show up at the hunting box with the Most Delectible Mistress in tow, he will be forced to marry a woman chosen by the other Impossible Bachelors.

You can see where this is going.

There was a problem or two, mostly with believability, and many of the scenes at the hunting box with the bachelors and the mistresses were plain silly, but overall it was funny, touching (it even brought tears to my eyes in one place), and multi-dimensional. Even the villain had a redeeming quality. At first I disliked Molly ~ she started out acting like a real twit ~ and Harry wasn't all that appealing either. But during the course of the adventure, as layers of guilt and wrong-headedness were peeled from them, they became completely loveable, and by the end I liked both a lot and was rooting for them.

The ending? Well, it was one of the improbable scenes I mentioned above, and a bit too facile in my opinion, but, once I managed to turn the "suspension of my disbelief" up a notch, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of how things worked out.

There was, as you can imagine, quite a bit of sex, but I found I wasn't skimming those scenes as I usually do; they actually had substance to them, as well as humor. And some of the scenes with Molly and the mistresses were as amusing as they were touching.

Recommended for fans of Regency romances.

DISCLAIMER: I got the paperback copy free from Pump Up Your Book in exchange for a review.  Neither my opinion nor my review were influenced thereby.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winners' Circle

And the names of the lucky winners of the autographed copies of the Aristide Ravel historical mysteries, courtesy of the author Susanne Alleyn, are:

1. Book Bird Dog
2. pennyt
3. Aik
4. Kari Wainwright
5. k-sunshine1977

Congratulations! I've contacted all the winners by email and have all their mailing addresses and I plan to get the books out in the mail by Monday morning 11/22. Thanks to all who entered!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Palace of Justice - A Review

I absolutely loved Palace of Justice, the latest in the Aristide Ravel historical mystery series by Susanne Alleyn. The action takes place in Paris during The Terror, a few years after the events in Cavalier of the Apocalypse, the novel in which Ravel reluctantly begins his career as a police agent. Though I loved loved loved Cavalier, and very much enjoyed Game of Patience and Treasury of Regrets, Palace of Justice is my hands-down favorite! Clearly, Ms. Alleyn's really hit her stride with this one!

Someone is leaving headless corpses from one end of Paris to the other, macabre reminders of the bloody work being done by Madame La Guillotine, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the killer's choice of victims, which range across the entire social spectrum. Ravel is brought into the case when the headless corpse of an unknown woman is found in an alley in Commissaire Brasseur's patch. When Ravel discovers that their victim is actually the fifth such corpse and that the Revolutionary Council is involved, things start to get dicey for the morose detective. Is it a true madman responsible, or could it be a royalist fanatic out to discredit the fledgling Republic by whatever means possible, even if it means murder?

The mystery is clever and twisty and seems to me to be a police procedural / judicial drama, coupled with a study of what fanaticism and madness does to a society as a whole and to individuals in particular, as much as a whodunnit. As usual, though, it is Ravel's story and the fascinating historical period details that sucked me in and kept me up late at night reading "just one more page...or two."  While immersed in the novel, I was there with Ravel in the gritty heart of Paris during The Terror, with all of its paranoia, hysteria, poverty, fear and bloody death. Even as he races about trying to solve the murders, resulting in some nail-biting moments for me, Ravel is personally touched by tragedy when Mathieu, his best friend from childhood, is brought up on charges of treason in front of the Revolutionary Tribunal, resulting in some of the most heartbreaking scenes in any novel I've ever read. I cried, which isn't something that usually happens when I read a mystery.

Palace of Justice is, quite simply, sublime, and I highly recommend it (and the entire series) to those who love good historical mysteries. For a taste of what Palace has to offer, you can read the first two chapters on Ms. Alleyn's website: www.susannealleyn.webs.com/palaceofjustice.htm. She is also having a giveaway of two copies of Palace ~ the link to the contest is in the right-hand column of this blog. So, do yourself a favor: check out the excerpt and then enter the giveaway. You'll be so glad you did!

In bookstores November 23, 2010 (just in time for the long Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.)!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Exciting Giveaway, courtesy of Susanne Alleyn

In anticipation of her latest Aristide Ravel mystery Palace of Justice going on sale later this month, and because she's just an all-around great gal, Susanne Alleyn has generously provided me with five autographed copies of her first three Ravel mysteries to give away to five lucky readers.  I've got two copies of Game of Patience, two of Treasury of Regrets, and one of Cavalier of the Apocalypse up for grabs!

How to Enter:

1 Entry: Leave a comment below.

1 Entry: Leave a comment on the Interview with Susanne Alleyn post.

3 Entries:  Go to Susanne's website and read the excerpt from Palace.  Then come back here and leave a comment, telling me your thoughts about it.  You can also let me know which of the novels you'd prefer if you win, and I'll do my best to accommodate your request.  Please be sure to leave me your email address. 

1 Entry:  Tweet about this giveaway.

1 Entry:  Mention this giveaway on Facebook.

1 Entry: Mention this giveaway on GoodReads.

1 Entry:  Mention this giveaway on your blog.

1 Entry:  If you are a follower of this blog (or become one).

Please remember to leave a link to your blog, social site mention, and/or your Twitter handle, and let me know if you are a follower of this blog. 

The drawing will be held on the 16th of November, so please be sure to leave your enter by midnight on November 15.  Good luck!

(So sorry, but this giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada, and you must have a street address; no post office boxes.)