The Complete Reading List by Author

Author Commentary & Tallies Shameful 2012 – 2015

On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

I buy everything these writers publish. Click on their name to be taken to a summary of their catalogue: Tessa Dare;  Laura Florand; Lisa Kleypas; Julie Anne Long; Sarah MacLean; Courtney Milan (Milan is The. Very. Best.)

Recommended books are in bold and reviewed books are linked below, but here is a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list: So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance…, and these are Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels.

Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess novella (Steven/Rose)
Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)

The list has gotten SO VERY LONG, please click on the jump.

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Author Commentary & Tallies Shameful

Shortcuts: A ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance; an ALPHABETICAL READING LIST SORTED BY AUTHOR; and these are Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels.

The Autobuy List (with Links That Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Sarah MacLean
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

2015 READING LISTS: Recommended books are in bold.

The (Shamefree) Tally 2015

  1. Gabaldon, Diana The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel  Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen

The (Shameful) Tally 2015

  1. Balogh, Mary Only Enchanting (Flavian/Agnes)
  2. Burrows, Grace Douglas, Lord of Heartache (Douglas/Guinevere)
  3. Darcy, Norma The Bluestocking and the Rake (Robert/Georgiana)
  4. Dune, Lyla Low Tide Bikini (Brock/Sam)
  5. Florand, Laure A Rose in Winter novella (Raoul/Allegra)
  6. Florand, Laura Once Upon a Rose (Matthieu/Layla)
  7. Florand, Laura All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate novella (Simon/Ellie)
  8. Florand, Laura All for You (Joss/Celie) read The Chocolate Touch first
  9. Grant, Cecilia A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong  novella (Andrew/Lucy)
  10. Guhrke, Laura Lee Catch a Falling Heiress (Jack/Linnet)
  11. James, Eloisa This Duchess of Mine (Elijah/Emma)
  12. James, Eloisa Duchess by Night (Jem/Harriet)
  13. James, Eloisa A Duke of Her Own ( Leopold/Eleanor)
  14. James, Eloisa The Ugly Duchess (James/Theo)
  15. James, Eloisa Three Weeks with Lady X (Thorn/India)
  16. Jaymes, River Brad’s Bachelor Party (Brad/Cole)
  17. Jaymes, River The Backup Boyfriend (Alec/Dylan)
  18. Jaymes, River The Boyfriend Mandate (Memphis/Tyler)
  19. Kelly, Carla With the Ring (Sam/Lydia)
  20. Kelly, Carla Marrying the Captain (Oliver/Nana)
  21. Kelly, Carla The Surgeon’s Lady (Philemon/Laura)
  22. Kelly, Carla Marrying the Royal Marine (Hugh/Polly)
  23. Kelly, Carla The Admiral’s Penniless Bride (Charles/Sophia)
  24. Kelly, Carla The Wedding Journey (Jesse/Nell)
  25. Lauren, Christina Beautiful Beloved novella (Max/Sara)
  26. Lauren, Christina Beautiful Secret (Niall/Ruby)
  27. Lerner, Rose Sweet Disorder (Nick/Phoebe)
  28. Linden, Caroline When I Met My Duchess novella (Gareth/Cleo)
  29. Linden, Caroline All’s Fair in Love and Scandal novella (Douglas/Madeline)
  30. Long, Julie Anne It Started with a Scandal (Phillipe/Elise)
  31. Lund, S.E. The Agreement (Drake/Kate)
  32. Merrow, J.L Muscling Through (Al/Larry)
  33. Milan, Courtney Trade Me (Blake/Tina)
  34. Quinn, Julia The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy Smythe-Smith Book 4 (Richard/Iris)
  35. Phillips, Susan Elizabeth Heroes Are My Weakness (Theo/Annie)
  36. Reid, Penny Friends Without Benefits (Nico/Elizabeth)
  37. Reid, Penny Beauty and the Mustache (Drew/Ashley)
  38. Reid, Penny Scenes from the City: A Knitting in the City Surprise
  39. Reid, Penny & L.H. Cosway The Hooker and the Hermit (Ronan/Annie)
  40. Simonson, Sheilia Bar Sinister (Richard/Emily)
  41. Ward, JR Dark Lover (Wrath/Beth) – WORST OF THE YEAR

Reviews of Pre-2015 Reads:

  1. Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
  2. Dare, Tessa How to Catch a Wild Viscount (Luke/Cecily)
  3. Dare, Tessa Say Yes to the Marquess (Rafe/Clio)
  4. Donati, Sara Into the Wilderness  (Nathaniel/Elizabeth)
  5. Florand, Laura Shadowed Heart (Luc/Summer)
  6. Milan, Courtney Talk Sweetly to Me (Stephen/Rose)
  7. Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Colin/Penelope)
  8. Quinn, Julia It’s in His Kiss (Gareth/Hyacinth)

To Be Read Pile/More Author Commentary…

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Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This right here is a contemporary comic Gothic romance novel.  Equal parts Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey, and likely other nineteenth century novels, mostly British, that I should have read while at university, Heroes Are My Weakness features a tortured hero, an innocent in over her head, schemes, machinations, a forbidding landscape, and a surprisingly unannoying plot moppet.

Unemployed, impoverished, sick, and freezing, Annie has arrived on an island off the coast of Maine in January to take up temporary residence in a small cottage. Owing to inheritance stipulations, Annie must occupy the small house for 90 days each year. Failure to do so will make possession of the cottage revert to the larger estate on which it sits. The main house is occupied by Theo, her childhood love and tormentor, as well as his beleaguered housekeeper. Theo is brooding, brusque, and the kind of person who, in the dead of winter, decides to ride his horse shirtless. (Note: Theo is shirtless, not the horse, the horse is wearing a frock coat.) Essentially, Theo is Mr. Rochester if there was a much less freaky explanation for his conduct.

Annie settles in and, as is the way of Susan Elizabeth Phillips books, forms a community around herself, an improvised family. Off-island, she is a ventriloquist who teaches lessons to school children using her puppets. On-island, the puppets are along for the ride and represent elements of her personality,   chiming in with opinions and unhelpful information. It is as twee as it sounds, but Phillips kinda, sorta pulls it off as she is very good at being simultaneously sincere and whimsical. Plagued by intrusions at her cottage, Annie and Theo draw closer as they sort out the threat to her safety, work through their issues, and untangle their pasts.

Heroes Are My Weakness was mostly enjoyable and, as expected from Phillips, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, but there was a lot going on. The sundry machinations of just about every character get pretty thick on the ground and it felt like everyone had a big secret and ulterior motives. On the whole it worked reasonably well, but Phillips has other books I would recommend more highly.

Also by Susan Elizabeth Phillips:

  1. It Had to Be You
  2. Heaven, Texas
  3. Nobody’s Baby But Mine
  4. Dream a Little Dream
  5. This Heart of Mine – only Kresley Cole has ever made me angrier
  6. Match Me If You Can
  7. Natural Born Charmer – This is the book I recommend more highly.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

Low Tide Bikini by Lyla Dune

Low Tide Bikini was free and yet somehow overpriced. I genuinely respect people who complete writing a book, and in this case a series, but the accomplishments of writing a book and writing a good book are two very different things. Lyla Dune’s writing is clichéd and facile, the plot and characters sophomoric. If it is the work of a teenaged writer, I commend the effort, if not, it’s unsuccessful escapism, a Lifetime movie of a novel.

From Amazon: Sam Carlisle is the double bass player in the all girl jazz ensemble, Bikini Quartet. When she breaks down on the drawbridge, a panty-melting-muscle-man, who she later discovers is her new landlord, comes to her rescue. Brock Knight is a retired rugby player from Wales. He’s eager to get away from the paparazzi that hound him day and night. When he moves into his new beach house on Pleasure Island, North Carolina before Sam has a chance to relocate, he learns the proper way to shag.

Rather than go into the story, characters, and their respective downfalls, I have decided to give you a look at just one scene as an example, specifically Sam and Brock’s relationship consummation. After some standard romance novel comeheregoaway, they are ready to take their love to the next level, which is good as Brock, despite being a grown-ass man, has trouble controlling his bodily reactions in Sam’s presence. They adjourn to her bedroom to get it on. Once there, Brock turns Sam away from the bed to face the dresser. Throughout the event, he is behind her and she always has, as I recall, either one or both knees up on said dresser. I have some queries I believe to relevant:

  1. How tall is the dresser?
  2. How wide is it? How deep?
  3. Is it part of a set?
  4. Is it a chifforobe?
  5. Is it well built? As well-built as Brock?
  6. What is the dresser made of? Is it wicker?
  7. If it is wicker, wouldn’t that hurt Sam’s knees, potentially pinch, and/or have those little pokey edges from broken reeds?
  8. Is the pinchy, pokey wicker dresser also creaky?
  9. Is the dresser made of wood? If so, are the edges squared or rounded? Sharp edges could really hurt, especially the corners.
  10. Did the wicker and/or wood dresser leave marks on Sam’s skin?
  11. Is there a mirror? Is her head bumping into it?
  12. Does Sam keep a lot of things on top of the dresser? Are they rattling?
  13. Is the top slippery?
  14. How does Sam keep her balance?

Like this love scene, the story elements in Low Tide Bikini masquerade as sexy fun, but are poorly thought out and thrown together. Spare your eyes the rolling and skip this series.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

Friends Without Benefits and Scenes from the City: A Knitting in the City Surprise by Penny Reid

These are books two and six from Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series:

  1. Neanderthal Seeks Human
  2. Friends Without Benefits – see below
  3. Neanderthal Marries Human (novella)
  4. Love Hacked
  5. Beauty and the Mustache
  6. Scenes from the City: A Knitting in the City Surprise (novella) – also below
  7. Happily Ever Ninja – 2015

Friends Without Benefits

I enjoy the unrequited love trope, especially as the romance genre always allows for the besotted character’s vindication, but having said that, Friends Without Benefits was just okay and not as good as the others in the Knitting in the City series, although I did welcome the visits with other characters from the novels. As with the other books, there was a subplot that took a turn into high drama even though Reid is so good with the relationships it was unnecessary.

Elizabeth is a doctor completing her residency and is winding up her pediatric rotation. She is paged to a consultation for a Cystic Fibrosis study and finds herself face-to-face with a man she is has known her whole life, but hasn’t seen for 11 years. Nico Moretti is the son of her mother’s best friend, the uncle to the sick child, and both the former bane of Elizabeth’s existence and the boy she summarily dumped right after losing her virginity to him.

Nico has made a life for himself as model and then successful stand-up comedian called The Face (an odd juxtaposition to be sure). He has a TV show in New York, but is visiting Chicago to help care for his niece. He takes one look at Elizabeth and realises this is his chance to win the woman he has always loved. Capitalizing on the CF study and his fame, he makes sure his niece gets the best possible care and that Elizabeth never leaves him again.

While Friends Without Benefits had Reid’s usual wry humour and smolder, it never really clicked for me. Despite strong chemistry, I just wasn’t invested in Elizabeth and Nico.

Scenes from the City: A Knitting in the City Surprise

Some readers must have complained about the lack of [insert funky  bass line here] in the novels as this addition to the series consists of follow-up chapters on the couples including some bedroom time and an extended excerpt from the upcoming book Happily Ever Ninja.

Neanderthal Seeks Human’s Janie and Quinn are on their honeymoon doing what honeymooners do. There is no new information, just Janie acting in her usual charming offbeat way and Quinn appreciating both her intellect and the way she looks in a bikini.

Love Hacked’s Alex and Sandra have been married for a year and are blissfully in love. For their anniversary, Alex arranges a special adventure for Sandra. This chapter had no smolder and benefited from it.

Nico and Elizabeth’s follow up to Friends Without Benefits addresses their wedding and its aftermath. As the books are told from the women’s perspectives – with the hero’s perspective in a final chapter – this episode was indirectly covered in both Neanderthal Marries Human and Friends Without Benefits.

The end of Beauty and the Mustache (which I really liked) had protagonists Ashley and Drew agreeing to be together in Tennessee, but she was still living in Chicago. Here, she waits in her empty apartment for Drew to come and pick her up for the drive to her new home. While impatiently waiting, she revisits the letters he wrote to her during their time apart. Drew arrives, they get busy, the end.

Ninja at First Sight excerpt from Happily Ever Ninja

Part of the delight of the Knitting in the City series is the group of female friends the stories are built around. Only one of them was married at the outset, Fiona, and she has been with her husband Greg for over a decade. This sneak peek takes the reader back to when they met at university. Fiona was a competitive gymnast who lost several of her teen years to fighting a brain tumor. Greg takes one look and is very interested, but he is also older and more worldly than she. Smitten, Fiona crushes on Greg and he on her while they both keep their distance. After a drunken confession and a sobering night’s sleep, they start to talk, and then kiss, and then the damn excerpt ends and leaves the reader hanging. I don’t normally like the married couple falling in love all over again stories, but I strongly suspect Happily Ever Ninja will make it onto my reading list when it is released.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

Beautiful Secret by Christina Lauren

I have reviewed the rest of the Beautiful series by writing duo Christina Lauren in an ongoing post, but since the tone of this latest entry was something different, I decided to review it by itself. To get caught up, this is the series thus far (8 books, 4 couples):

  1. Beautiful Bastard
  2. Beautiful Bitch
  3. Beautiful Stranger
  4. Beautiful Bombshell
  5. Beautiful Player
  6. Beautiful Beginning
  7. Beautiful Beloved
  8. Beautiful Secret  – Let’s begin shall we?

Ruby is an engineering intern at a London firm. An American living abroad, she is a very ambitious and capable young woman working to augment her experience before applying to a prestigious Masters program. Her boss is one of those quietly harassing, sexist douchelords so many of us have encountered; however, once a week, she attends a team meeting in which dreamy dreamboat Niall Stella will be present and that helps considerably. When the douchelord can’t participate in a month-long work project in New York, Ruby is nominated to attend with Niall.

The beautiful Series is on the erotica end of the romance continuum. Each of the previous books in the series featured characters who quickly got busy, or stayed busy in the case of the novellas. Beautiful Secret is a bit of a right turn in that the consummation is delayed, although Niall and Ruby still have fun. Niall is recently divorced and, while not particularly upset about it, he is a tightly wound guy with very little romantic experience. His closed-off demeanor alternately entices and creates problems for Ruby. They suffer from communication problems – both of the over and under-share varieties – and need to adjust their expectations and behavior to get themselves moving in the right direction.

Beautiful Secret was pleasant and occasionally sweet, but it would be disingenuous of me to be too critical because, for better or worse, I have purchased and read every book in the series and will likely continue to do so. I did find the juxtaposition of Lauren’s usual raunchiness with a more traditional approach to the relationship a bit jarring, but this indicates more about my romance tastes and the point at which they intersect with erotica than about the novel itself.

Having taken 3.7 seconds to ponder it, I generally do not find the “uptight in public/wild man between the sheets” type terribly attractive. Niall is a really great guy, sincere and patient, but he has a long way to go and a lot to learn before he is ready for a relationship with Ruby. To his credit, he realises he needs to grow and give her the space and she is, of course, able to help him with his buttoned-up demeanour. Also around are Niall’s brother, Max, and friends Bennett and Will who appear in previous books in the series. For some strange reason, only one of the women, Chloe, also has a guest starring role. This was a disappointment as I like the other female characters better than her.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.


All for You (Paris Hearts Book #1) by Laura Florand

Five years ago, Joss Castel* left Celie and everything he knew behind to join the French Foreign Legion. He wanted to be more for her, better, to lay the foundation of a life together outside the tenements they had grown up in. The only problem is that he did not tell Celie any of this. Joss held himself in a self-made friends-only space until they could start their a life in a new place. He was her closest friend and the person she adored. All Celie knew was that the man she loved abandoned her and didn’t come back for five years. In his quest to be more for Celie, Joss broke her heart. Now 28 years old to Celie’s 23, he’s back to lay his accomplishments at her feet. She still loves him, but that feeling is constantly at war with her need to brain Joss for his surprise departure and sudden return.

All for You showcases once again Laura Florand’s ability to write enjoyable, thoroughly escapist contemporary romance. While her books often feature down-to-earth billionaires, a trope I am not fond of (but which Florand manages to pull off), this outing has two people from the wrong side of the tracks who are determined to build better lives for themselves. Celie took a teenage apprenticeship with a local baker and through her hard work and desire to excel now works for one of Paris’s premiere chocolatiers. It’s into this shop that Joss bursts back into her life. Celie is overwhelmed and angry, but so happy to see him she doesn’t know what to do with herself.

Joss and Celie’s reunion and the timeline of the book is actually quite condensed. From beloved, to “Idiot”!,  back to beloved takes place over a short period, but includes enough flashbacks for context and some excellent, writhing, repressed smolder to keep things moving along. A might fortress is our Joss, so it’s a one-step-forward-two-steps-back romance until everyone comes to their senses and he learns that Celie wants the journey with him more than she wants the destination. Florand is generally very good with couples experiencing communication problems and, while it frustrated me and went on a bit, Joss really is a prisoner of his own reserve, Legion-trained stoicism, and good intentions. Despite this, while he may be a military man to his core now, he is free of the annoying romance writer’s crutch of PTSD.

Blissfully, my favourite couple from Florand’s L’Amour et Chocolat series novel, The Chocolate Touch, are on hand to provide guidance to the couple and doses of their own adorability. Still madly in love, Dom continues to be a giant lug and much fun is had teasing him for referring to Jaime as his “wife” despite lacking the official and legally binding piece of paper indicating this. Incorporating previous characters without letting them dominate is a challenge that many romance writers face and Florand does well with it. I wanted more of Dom and Jaime, of course, but then I always will.

All For You crosses over with the L’Amour et Chocolat series and will be crossing over with the La Vie en Roses series as well. A complete summary of Laura Florand’s catalogue, including recommendations, can be found here.

*Fun Aside: Josselin Castle

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen

“Experience Jamie’s Side of the Story!”, the cover cries and who am I to turn down any Outlander material? I suppose that this graphic novel might be a good starting place for people curious about the book series who also like this format; moreover, Outlander is entirely from the heroine’s perspective and The Exile mostly from the hero’s which is something lacking until much later in novels and a welcome change.

If you haven’t read Outlander , and you really should, it’s AWESOME, here is a bastardized summary from my review: In 1946, Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands. She visits a local henge and through the magic of fiction is able to walk between the two halves of a broken stone slab and end up in the same place, but in 1743.  As an outsider, Claire is regarded with suspicion and is thus pulled into a protective relationship with the chief’s nephew, Jamie Fraser… and thus an epic historical adventure and love story begins, spanning decades, leaping centuries, and continents, with eight novels and still going.

The Exile shares the beginning of the story from Jamie’s perspective both before and after becoming involved with Claire. It also includes some back story on other significant characters and adds one that is either new or I have forgotten. Even with pictures (and like the book and TV series) I had trouble keeping all the craggy men straight. Overall, it was a quick read that left me flat.

I’m no judge of the artwork, but it seemed competent in a simplified, shorthand way, i.e. the dress is long and she’s wearing a corset tied over it, so it must be historical. Really, this means that, in keeping with my perception of female depictions of women in graphic novels, all the ladies are running around in their underclothes or that which simulates same. There are a lot of boobs on display, such many boobs. Magically, heaving two-dimensional boobs in that distracting “my clothing can barely withstand the pressure” way of boobs in fiction. Squished and/or overflowing boobs, not only for Claire (apologies for the picture quality),

exile 1

exile 2but supporting characters as well,

exile 3

Clearly, The Exile is not made for what is considered the usual Outlander audience: women. If Claire had been given a frequently savoured comely backside, I could have understood it more as her arse is frequently appreciated in the books.

Graphic novels have simply never been part of my reading. I read some religious Archie comics that one time I spent 10 days at bible camp (never to return), but the whole world of comic books was not a part of my formative years and as such they leave me cold. The most interesting part of the book for me was the brief Afterward in which Gabaldon shares her correspondence with the illustrator about what Jamie and Claire look like. You can check out the book to see, but to get the idea just look up some combination of “Gabriel Aubry Jamie Fraser” and apparently you will be quite close. (Self-congratulatory aside: That’s pretty much what my Jamie looks like, too. My Claire is entirely different though.)

My reviews of the books in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Dark Lover by JR Ward

JR Ward, you made me miss Kresley Cole. Go stand in the corner and THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID!

Paranormal romance is the portion of the genre with the most primal stories. There are strong tribal elements and the tropes tend towards traditional roles. Men are warriors, god-like iron-thewed lords capable of both shocking violence and macho tenderness. The women are fertility goddesses, sensual and beautiful, but with a core of steel. The mythological elements dovetail perfectly with common  wish-fulfillment fantasies. These stories are generally not my cup of tea, although I admit that the genre’s writer I am most familiar with, Kresley Cole, is capable of sexy escapism when she isn’t regurgitating misogynistic folderol. Paranormal romances can be campy fun when securely centered in its own world and everyone’s tongue is placed firmly in their cheek, but that doesn’t mean you get to be a lousy writer, or maybe it does because JR Ward’s Dark Lover is very badly written and, this is the cardinal sin, not particularly sexy, yet her Black Dagger Brotherhood books are incredibly popular and successful.

Wrath, erstwhile vampyr king, and his Black Dagger Brotherhood, including Rhage, Vishous, Phury, Tohrment, and Zsadist are in a battle to the undeath with the Lessers, meaning humans converted to vampyrs, as opposed to pure-blooded or mixed race vampyrs. (Note my jejeune spelling homage to Ward’s maverick orthography.) Human Beth is about to make the transition to vampyr and needs assistance lest the transformation kill her. Owing a debt to her deceased vampyr father, Wrath takes on the task of assisting her through the process and out of her underpants. The factions fight, future heroes and heroines are introduced, and Ward lays the groundwork for the rest of the series.

In this world, men can only feed off women and female vampyrs offer the best nutrition, so they are often kept away from the outside world. This gives me pause because, one, what happens if a vampire is gay, and two, I don’t know about you, but I am leery of any culture in which women must be sequestered for their own “protection” and whose primary function appears to be to servicing the men’s needs. Vampyr Marissa has been meeting Wrath’s blood requirements for decades and knows when she finishes doing so she will be AND I QUOTE “considered used goods”. There’s more on this front: “He’s marked you…I can smell it…the warning’s all over you…That scent on your skin sends a powerful message to other males.” I was at a party with a man I was seeing who was acting so territorial that I finally asked him, “Wouldn’t it be easier just to pee in a circle around me?” This is that, that is what this is. The male vampyrs mark their territory/women with scent, like a dog or an ocelot, or whatever male animal that pees on things and seems the most manly.

Speaking of territoriality:

Zsadist: Not willing to share the female?
Wrath: You only like it if you pay for it.
Zsadist: So I’ll flip her a twenty. Assuming she lives through the sex.

Wrath clarifies Beth’s role and his relationship with her father, “and then (Zsadist) made a point to tuck in his shirt while looking her in the eye. As if he were apologizing.”… for planning to rape her so violently she died. [waiting for the full body shudders to pass]  Zsadist has his own book and that is going to have to [still shuddering] be one hell of a redemptive female.

Ward’s vampyrs have powers, as is the paranormal way of things, and they include the ability to materialize and dematerialize, super strength, and heightened senses, in particular strong scent associations.  The women are stunningly beautiful, and the men are huge, muscular, heavily tattooed and/or scarred, and wear a lot of leather. In other words, every bad boy fantasy rolled into one. At first, I took that to mean this:


or perhaps this,


but then my brain got smart and I went with this: momoa

Good job, my brain!

Note: Wrath is nearly blind and wears wraparound sunglasses almost constantly, such as after a shower when he holds a meeting while wearing only a towel around his waist.

As is true of all romance or any other genre writing based on such a consistent and repeatable pattern, Dark Lover’s quality comes down to the writing and, truly, JR Ward has a gift, nay, a curse for metaphor:

“Jose loosened his hold, and Butch went down like a piano.”  Pianos stand quietly where you put them.

“Panic ran like gasoline through her veins.”  Fu*k the what now?

“The smell of her sex on him was like a whip against his self control.”  Wouldn’t that have an encouraging effect, i.e. “Daily weigh-ins are like a whip against my self control around chocolate.”

“She arched again, feeling like a dam had broken between her legs.”  [insert beaver joke here]

It’s not just the metaphorical language that sets the writing and story apart. I also learned that discovering your absent father has had you secretly followed and photographed your entire life is sweet and not completely freaky, and that police brutality is totally cool as long as the victim deserves it.

Then there is this,

“There was an IV pumping fluids and painkillers into his arm and a catheter bag…”  I was grateful that Ward clarified as I was so distracted by my concerns about Wrath’s vampyr urine management, I could no longer concentrate on the story.

and this,

“He let out a bellow of ecstasy.” I tend to bray in ecstasy myself, or give a ladylike yawp.

and, lastly, this:

“Oatmeal raisin,” he said, taking three. “My favourite.”

It was then I understood the unholy nature of these creatures and the true malevolence of Dark Lover and JR Ward’s vampyr world. No good can come of a book series in which oatmeal raisin cookies are anyone’s preference.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.


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