Not quite a review of Maya Banks’ ENFORCER series

It’s always kind of bothered me when people say they’re tired of people talking about politics all the time. I happen to find politics super interesting (I studied it, after all), and it’s hard to remember that not everyone finds it so riveting, but also… Politics is everywhere, in everything, inescapable. And most often what people get tired of hearing people talking about all the time isn’t politics per se but rather political views or perspectives that differ from one’s own. And that’s a different sentiment altogether.

So when I see folks on Facebook asking with all politeness for a return to the time *before* politics got all tangled up with everything, I see them asking for a time when they didn’t have to think about anybody’s viewpoint besides their own, when their own politics could go innocently unexamined, even while people suffered, unseen.

I had the stomach flu last week, and I needed something to read that would keep me from dwelling on my misery but wouldn’t require a whole lot of my attention, so I browsed through my library app and decided to dip into a new(er) series by Maya Banks. I’ve read a bunch of her books in the past, and they range from not-altogether-bad to utterly bonkers. I was pretty sure this series would be on the bonkers end, so it seemed a perfect match for my flu-addled mind.

My God.

I’m going to focus on the first two books of the series, because the third one is (admittedly by comparison) pretty good, or at least not that bad, and rather entertaining.

I had the flu, so… I didn’t notice when I started the first book that these two are connected, two books telling a single story. Had I noticed, I wouldn’t have read them, because I HATE THAT. SO MUCH. All that to say, the end of the first book was a shock to me.

These books are real, real bad. So bad. Like… Banks’ books always come with a giant side dish of cray, but… with these books I got the sense that Banks had fallen in love with her own words, that she had maybe sent her manuscript off to her editor, and the editor said, Whoa girl. No. GIRL. This is… this is crazy. You gotta cut some of these scenes, because this shit is bonkers. You gotta have your characters talk to each other instead of making sweeping speeches in each other’s general direction. GIRL. This thing needs a rewrite. And it needs to be 80,000 words instead of 130,000. And Banks was like HOW COULD YOU NOT LOVE MY BOOK BABY, YOU’RE A HORRIBLE PERSON AND I’M A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR, I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU, NANANANANANA. And then she wrote a manuscript that was 260,000 words and got that shit published in two volumes. Because she’s New York Times Bestselling Author Maya Banks.

So. There’s a lot that’s crazy about the books. The writing is real bad. There are issues with basic grammar and homophone mixups (glaring stuff that ought to have been caught by a copyeditor). The dialogue is very strange, typically served in multiple-paragraph chunks that are jam-packed with exposition. The characters are surprisingly underdrawn, considering how many words Banks used for their story. It’s all those speeches! There’s a lot of repetition both in actual words and in craft. (The phrase “make/made me so very happy” appears several times, so that song’s been in my head for days.)

But the thing I want to talk about, the reason I decided to start writing a blog post after a year and a half away from blogging, is the politics underlying the book and its worldview.

The “hero” (though he isn’t particularly heroic), Drake, runs a business syndicate of dubious legality that functions an awful lot like a crime syndicate, a mob, though there are precious few details about his work. He’s a powerful man with powerful enemies, but the reader is supposed to code him as virtuous because he (1) had a hard upbringing, (2) worked hard for everything he got in life and (3) didn’t have anything handed to him. The reader is supposed to code his parents as villainous because they were (1) lazy, (2) relied on welfare, (3) and had Drake (rather than aborting him) only because he could get them more welfare.

So there’s that. Drake is surrounded by a cadre of men he calls his “brothers” who all came from similar situations — their families were awful, but they rose above their situation through the protestant work ethic and rugged individualism. They didn’t take any handouts — they had their pride, after all — and, therefore, they own their current success and are beholden to no one.

It’s like… Fox News porn. Like, take all the sex scenes out of these books, and you’re left with a spank bank for conservative punditry. It’s wacky.

And these books hate women, you guys. Like, so much. Until Drake meets Evangeline, the angelic, innocent, TSTL heroine, he assumes all women are money-grubbing bitches, only out for what they can get. Women as a monolithic entity are the foil for the hard-working individualism of Drake and the men. Women are interested only in a handout, in getting something from these men.

But Evangeline is different, because she’s a hard worker like Drake and his men. She has pride and, like the men, abhors the idea of accepting charity. She is interested in Drake the man, not Drake the sugar daddy. (There’s also a bunch of other bullshit thrown in to make sure readers know she’s good — she’s beautiful but has no idea, basically has no self esteem at all, she’s kind, self-effacing, honest; she takes care of her invalid parents, nurtures everyone around her, etc. etc. etc. She doesn’t have any negative qualities, and therefore she is worthy of regard. Meanwhile, every other female character in the book is bitchy, catty, jealous of Evangeline’s unselfconscious beauty, grasping, whorish, unworthy.)

Evangeline begins the book with three friends, but Drake promptly separates her from them, because he sees that they’re bitches. She ends up almost completely isolated, surrounded by men, but the reader is supposed to rejoice that in all these men Evangeline has finally found true friendship. She’s finally safe from all those awful women!

And… here’s the thing. The people who don’t want politics mixed up with their books probably wouldn’t notice how these books are just full to bursting with them.

It isn’t that they don’t want politics… they just don’t recognize their own, even when it’s dressed as a rags-to-riches ode to capitalism and The American Way.

What I’ve been reading lately — the books that surprised me edition

I’m back!  (Did you miss me?)  I’ve got some nifty things lined up for this month, but right now I want to talk about the books I’ve been reading lately. I’ve been reading some random stuff, and I’ve been really surprised by how much I liked some of it.

I’m starting with the one that surprised me the most.  Actually, it’s a trilogy, and I simply cannot believe that I liked these books: they’re by Maya Banks.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m not a fan of her books.  (I hated Rush, and I was alternately Whaa?? LOLZ!! and meh about books 1-3 of the Sweet Series. Then I finally stopped buying and reading her books — for a few months.  Then my buddy Kim emailed me and told me that In Bed with a Highlander was actually pretty good. So I bought all three books and hoped she was right.)

You know what?  Banks’ brand of crazy actually works set in medieval Scotland, and these books are a fun, wild ride.  They also involved some unexpected feminist elements (that women and men are not monolithic; that sometimes the assiduous desire to “protect” a woman places her in greater danger than allowing her to protect herself; that healthy relationships are based on a sense of partnership) that pleased me.  The basic plot of each of the three books is the love story between their respective heroes and heroines, but spanning over all three books is an intrigue plot involving revenge, treason and impending war. My favorite book is the second one, Seduction of a Highland Lass, because it was full of forbidden love and because Alaric, the hero of that book, was the least alphahole of the bunch.

I had to include that video, because I watched it before I read the books, so I thought of the video every time “trews” were mentioned in the books (every time the male characters undress).  Anyway, I just had to share the love.

So. Choose-your-own-adventure erotica exists.  I read Charlotte: Prowling for Enchantment, and I shocked the hell out of myself when I realized I liked it.  A lot.

You need the blurb.  Here’s the version from Goodreads:

Sail away on a moonlit adventure! It’s the readers who guide Charlotte’s romantic fate in the Dare to Decide series’ next interactive erotic ebook. From the mermaid beach to the fairy ball, you steer Charlotte’s passions with the click of a link.

Finally, it’s Charlotte’s time for a sexy single’s cruise, the kind of trip Gram would have loved. Umbrella drink in hand, she finds herself with a choice…a tawny Viking of a man beckons from across the bar, while a leather-clad rocker gets tossed at her feet. Neither man is as human as he seems…but then again, neither is Charlotte.

Before she knows it, Charlotte’s dodging curses and negotiating extraordinary pleasure. The elder tales warned us against trusting a pretty face…do you dare to decide where Charlotte goes next? Find your way through the eleven mysterious, magical endings.

I loved Choose Your Own Adventure stories when I was a kid.  There’s something so thrilling about being able to make choices for the characters and reading about the consequences.  About a month ago, I got an email from NetGalley highlighting the Dare to Decide series, and — despite my worry that CYOA erotica would focus on sexual rather than story choices (dare to decide: a tepid backrub or hawt anilingus?) — I rushed to request the series.  I’m glad I did, because my worries were unfounded.  There is so much story here, and there’s a huge amount of variation between the different story tracks.  And, you know what? This book is just damn fun to read (and very cleverly edited).  It provided exactly the experience that I so loved about CYOA stories 25 years ago but with more eroticism.  I can’t wait to read more.

Surprising, right?

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of Charlotte: Prowling for Enchantment from Pocket Star via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I purchased the other books mentioned in this post.*

Dueling Review – Kelly and Kim take on Maya Banks’ Sweet Series (1-3)

Joining me on the blog today is my super-bestest reading buddy Kim from Reflections of a Book Addict.  Our most recent dueling review about the first book in the new Breathless Trilogy by author Maya Banks left us a little conflicted.  On the one hand, we knew we didn’t want to continue reading the Breathless Trilogy; on the other, we weren’t positive that we wanted to write off Banks’ other books out of hand.  In the interest of fairness, then, we picked up and read the first three books in the Sweet series.  While we read, we sent text messages to each other.  Our husbands gave us a lot of side-eye at the giggling that ensued.

Cover image, Sweet Surrender by Maya Banks

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

Under Faith Malone’s deceptively soft exterior lies a woman who knows exactly what she wants: a strong man who’ll take without asking – because she’s willing to give him everything…

Dallas cop Gray Montgomery is on a mission: find the guy who killed his partner and bring him to justice. So far, he’s found a link between the killer and Faith – and if Gray has to get close to her to catch the killer, so be it.

Faith is sweet and feminine, everything Gray wants and desires in a woman, but he suspects she’s playing games. No way would she allow a man to call the shots in their relationship. Or would she?

Faith sees in Gray the strong, dominant man she needs, but he seems determined to keep her at a distance. So she takes matters into her own hands to prove to him it’s no game she’s playing. She’s willing to surrender to the right man. Gray would like to be that man. But catching his partner’s killer has to be his first priority – until Faith is threatened and Gray realizes he will do anything to protect her…

Kelly: This book felt a little confused to me, as if it had an identity crisis.  The setup and all the early scenes shown in Gray’s POV are about a man on the hunt for his partner’s killer; for the first fifty pages or so, I actually expected that the book would be mostly about Gray’s quest.  It isn’t.  The entire middle section of the book and all of the scenes shown in Faith’s POV are about a woman seeking a relationship in which she can be submissive, in and out of the sack.  The entire ‘man on a hunt for his partner’s killer’ storyline is really just a ploy to get Gray from Dallas to Houston and to give Gray some reason to feel conflicted about entering into a relationship with Faith.  In the absence of any kind of point to the story, then, the real purpose is to get two people to hook up so they can do the nasty in a whole bunch of precisely-described ways.

Kim: Too true! Even though the hunt for Gray’s partner’s story is there in the background, the “main” conflict of the book (at least in my opinion) felt like Gray’s reluctance to fall for Faith.  He’s constantly fighting his attraction to her, but we never really know why.  He’s all dark and brooding about his feelings for Faith without a reason.  So you’re attracted to a hot lady. What’s the issue? The fact that you’re investigating a murder at the same time? I don’t know what the problem is….you’re a cop.  You’re always “investigating” something.

Kelly: Without any real conflict to drive the story, it seemed a bit boring to me until Banks reached the point in her story where it was time for her characters to stop biting their nails in anticipation and just get it on and on and on (this point in the story occupies about 20% of the book).  Once I reached that point, I spent the next 70 pages hooting with inappropriate laughter and sending ridiculous text messages to Kim.  They boink, they talk a bit, they boink some more, he cooks a meal and insists on cleaning up — all part of the relationship fantasy as he takes care of Faith in every imaginable way — (least realistic part of the whole book, to be honest). Then they have dinner, she falls asleep, he takes her to bed, and, the next morning, ties her to the bed. Next thing you know, a friend has joined them, and they have all kinds of crazy morning sex.  Do you know what I was thinking and texting to Kim?  Who goes that long without peeing? Who wants to have sex with two people first thing in the morning without any access to a toothbrush?  Who ARE these people?!

Kim: Gray’s attitude towards the BDSM lifestyle also bothered me a lot.  He at one point tells Faith to completely disregard safe words, that there is no place for them in their relationship. Now I’m going to be honest. I don’t live a BDSM lifestyle. Never have, probably never will. It’s just not for me personally. HOWEVER I have a ton of respect for those that do live it and respect the “rules” of it.  From everything I’ve read, safe words are a huge deal. Like super huge. Like super size it, it’s important.  So his completely cavalier attitude towards accepted notions kind of bothered me.  His background in the lifestyle is never explained, so his feelings (or lack thereof) make no sense.  At one point he totally Doms out on Faith at “The House” and as a reader you’re left sitting there going “Huh?”  One doesn’t just wake up one day and know that lifestyle.

I will say though, that there are small nuggets of sanity (as Kelly says) thrown into the book.  Gray makes the following speech to Faith:

“Faith, I’m not an asshole. I’m not going to treat you like a piece of garbage. Ever. You don’t ever need permission to speak, for God’s sake. Kneeling is just dumb. There are lots of ways to show your submission and your respect and for me to return it as well. None of those include humiliation or ill treatment.”

Like this statement is AWESOME. I’ve never understood the aspect of submissive relationships that require kneeling, permission to speak, what to eat, or even what to wear.  I understand what the word submissive means, but I don’t understand what people get off on with treating their partner like that.  Like honestly – your partner chooses that they want to eat chicken instead of beef for dinner – that shows you disrespect or something?  What is SO appealing about making every decision for someone? Mint toothpaste instead of cinnamon! Black shirt instead of a red one! No peas for dinner! IDK. I found myself respecting Gray for his statement and it was truly the first time in the book I could say that I liked him.

Kelly: But that sympathy for Gray lasts only about a few pages, and then we were back to finding him vaguely distasteful.  With this kind of book, which honestly can’t have any real purpose in existing other than to be sensational (if you know what I mean), so much of one’s enjoyment as a reader is contingent upon whether one finds the sex scenes HOT.  I didn’t… I was too busy laughing (you know, that horrified laughter that happens when you watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) at the multiple instances of squirty ejaculate and the intensely-detailed descriptions of super-unsavory sexual congress.  Lots of people go nuts for that kind of thing, but I don’t think I’m the target audience. (I also laugh at funerals.)

Kim’s final thoughts: The only positive thing I can say is that the writing is remarkably better in Sweet Surrender than it was in Rush and it also introduced us to Damon (the hero of book two) and got us hooked and intrigued to learn the rest of his story.

Kelly’s final thoughts: This book is not really worth the read, but it was hilarious, so I actually had a blast reading it.  Other than that? not so much.

Cover image, Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

The man of her dreams would give the orders. For him, she had two words that satisfied them both…”Take me.”

For five years, Serena has run Fantasy Incorporated and has devoted her time to fulfilling her clients’ fantasies. Never her own. Until now…

Her most secret desire is to give ownership of her body to a man. Someone who will command her, pleasure her, and have complete authority over her. So she seeks out Damon Roche, owner of an exclusive sex club and a man strong enough to make her do anything he wants. Anything.

Together they’ll journey into a world she’s only dreamed of. She’s given the opportunity to immerse herself in a different life while her normal one waits for her to return whenever she wishes. Damon has no desire to let her go, however. Serena is the woman he’s long searched for, and it’s up to him to convince her to stay when the game is all over with. He wants their fantasy to become their reality and for Serena to remain his pampered, cherished submissive.

Kelly: I want to start out with the one thing that I genuinely liked about this book. About a quarter of the way through the story, Damon and Serena have a conversation about boundaries, and Damon has this gem of a line:

“‘I won’t use a word that encourages a man to disregard the word no coming from a woman’s lips. If you say no, if you’re even thinking no, then it ends for me. I won’t indulge in silly little no-means-yes games.  When that word crosses your lips? It’s over. If I ever ask of you something that you won’t give unreservedly, then all you need to say is no.’

She wasn’t even sure how to respond to that because he was absolutely, one hundred percent right. How moronic to ever discount the notion of a woman saying no.”

I am completely OK with having paid $13 for a book I otherwise disliked just to read that exchange in print, to get that concept out into the world, into our culture.  Whatever else I’ll end up saying about this book, I’m glad I read it for those two paragraphs.

Kim: I 100% agree with you.  Kelly and I texted each other back and forth the entire time we read this series and we both like freaked when we read that passage.  I think it’s sad that we got so excited about a character understanding what should be common sense. No means no. Why is this such a difficult notion to grasp in our culture?

Kelly and I were both intrigued by Damon in the first book and opted to read his story to find out more about him.  Sadly, the respect I felt for him for the above passage was possibly one of the only positive things I can say about him.  He lost a lot of points with me for being OBSESSED with feeding Serena.  Kelly knows I can’t handle books that have men obsessed with feeding their partners. Damon definitely rates higher on my list than Gray did, and him losing his heart to Serena was pleasing to read, but I never found myself attracted to him, wishing he was mine. (Aren’t you supposed to want the hero when reading a romance novel?)

Serena on the other hand…..I never connected with her because I just couldn’t relate to her.  Her needs and desires are so far from my own that there was just nothing there for me to connect with.

Kelly:  (I’m answering Kim’s earlier parenthetical question here: You pretty much have to (1) want the hero yourself or (2) at least be able to understand why the heroine does.)  I also had difficulties connecting with Serena, and I think it’s because she didn’t actually own her needs and desires until the end (the very abrupt end).  The rest of the time, the ridiculous plot device that moves this story is that Serena is only interested in a fantasy — because what modern woman would actually dream of being a submissive? — while Damon wants something deeper and more permanent.  Will these two crazy kids ever get their shit worked out?  Well, read the whole thing to find out.

OK… one of the more memorable aspects of this book is a fairly outrageous scene that occurs at a dinner party hosted by Damon.

Kim: We both agree. Our dinner parties just can’t compare to Damon’s. Also, our houses seem to be lacking some really important dungeon equipment.  We’re asking you, our readers, to please please please tell us if you’re hosting dinner parties like the ones that occur in these books. If you are can we please come and be flies on the wall? Because we don’t believe shit like this really happens.

Kelly: I’m not sure I want to know… as it is, I’m looking at all the people I work with and wondering… What do you do when you go home? Does a panel slide open in your ceiling from which a set of restraints descends into your living room? Do you have an armoire full of whips, paddles, and other necessary equipment? I mean, you definitely don’t want to start a dinner party and then find out you’re unprepared, right?  I’ve lost my innocence, thanks to this book.

Kim: I can honestly say I’ve never laughed SO HARD at a section of a book that was totally not meant for laughing.  I honestly couldn’t contain all the laughter that the dinner party scene caused.  And in Sweet Persuasion’s defense…it’s not the only book with a crazy dinner party.  It’s almost every erotica book I read! Everyone who is in this lifestyle seems surrounded by business partners or co-workers etc that are just like them.  Like how do you even broach the topic with co-workers and business partners? “Oh hey. So umm…I’m into BDSM. You? Yeah, ok let’s throw a party where we invite other kinky people and have like a gangbang. And we can totally talk business while 5 women blow us.” Like I just don’t get it.

Kelly: Exactly… I keep wondering if someone’s going to make a time capsule filled with all the crazy books that have been printed in the last five years.  In 100 years, someone will open the time capsule and be like, “Whoah…. those people from 2013… they were freaky.”  Pop culture reflects the trends and expectations of our society… so what the hell does the popularity of these books say about us?

Kim: I’m not sure i want to know the answer to that question – HA!

Kelly: Yeah, I know.  Anyway, as ridiculous as most of the book was, the ending was the real kicker to me.  I got to the last page and tried to figure out what had happened – was my Nook edition missing a chapter or something?  I’m not kidding… it goes like this.  She gets all freaked out, so she leaves, and goes completely off the deep end.  (I’m serious… it was like Bella in New Moon but just for a week…)  He worries, her friends worry. Finally, he goes to find her, and is like, “Hey… there you are.” And she’s like, “LOL… here I am… btw, I ummm… love you.” And he’s like, “Coo.” The End.  That’s it.  I was murderous.  After 250 pages of waffling about whether or not she can accept that lifestyle, and OMG, it’s just a fantasy, and OMG, I love her so much but she’ll never love me, and wah wah wah… the fucking end.  Ugh.


Kim’s final thoughts: We were both blind with rage when the end came. Just one more point of contention about this book. It literally feels unfinished.  So…summing up this book…bad characters, no ending, lots of ridiculous angst….DINNER PARTIES!

Kelly’s final thoughts: Now that we quoted the two paragraphs that are worth reading in this book, we’ve spared you the effort.  I know – we’re the best.

Cover image, Sweet Seduction by Maya Banks

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

He was the stuff erotic dreams are made of

Salon owner Julie Stanford wanted Nathan Tucker ever since she gave him his first massage. Getting paid to feel every inch of his body, stripped, oiled, and spread out in front of her. Stuff dreams are made of. But the sexy guy was oblivious to the signals she was sending; until she finished off his final rub-down with something extra. In fact, the best extra he ever had. Unfortunately, he came around too late. Now Julie’s moving on.

She was everything he’d dreamed of

The woman was driving him crazy.  She lit fire to his insides then ran like a scalded cat.  And now she’s going to someone else to have all her fantasies fulfilled? Over his dead body. He’s more than willing to give her what she wants, and as soon as he pins the little minx down, he’d show her his own brand of sweet seduction.

It’s all fun and games until someone falls in love.

Kim: I know what you must all be saying.  “What the hell is wrong with the two of them for continuing on to book three when they clearly disliked the first two books?”  I 100% take the blame for that.  The heroine of book three, Julie, is introduced to us in Sweet Persuasion.  She is literally what got me through that book.  Her no-nonsense attitude, spunk, and sarcasm sold me on reading just ONE more book in the Sweet series.  After many texts back and forth with Kelly she agreed, there was something about Julie that we just had to find out about.  I’m actually really glad I convinced her to read Julie’s story.  Hers wound up becoming my favorite of the three we read.

Kelly: I was very reluctant to read this book — hence all the texts required to get me to consent to read it —  Julie shows up quite a bit in book 2, but I found her kind of annoying, pushy, and a bit desperate.  In other words, she reminded me of myself a little bit, and I wasn’t sure I was up for that much reality.  But Kim convinced me, and I’m actually glad I read the book. It almost justified having read the first two. (Very nearly).  There’s a lot that I just don’t get about these books, but it’s the general tone that annoys me most.  These characters have so much drama in their lives, and it gets a little exhausting after a while.  The drama at the end of book 2 was at a fever pitch, and I knew I couldn’t sustain another book with that level of histrionics.  Lucky for the world in general, this book has a much lighter tone with plenty of humor thrown in to offset the occasional drama.

Kim: I completely agree about the insanely high level of drama in the characters lives.  Books 1 & 2 read something like this: Angst, angst, angst, sex, sex, sex, angst, sex, fights, angry make up sex, angst, brooding, angst, sex, sex, abrupt ending. Julie’s book at least had some feminine power going on and a storyline that wasn’t just about sex.  The friendship between the three women (Faith, Serena, and Julie) gets a chance to take center stage at certain parts of the book, helping give a little more depth to Banks’ book.

One thing that did bother me a lot about this book, though, was Nathan and all his “heifer” comments.  Kelly and I both discussed how we’ve heard women use this term to discuss other women (both in good and bad ways) but have never heard men use it.  We feel it’s one of those things that doesn’t cross sex lines.  Like men should never call women heifers.  Nathan uses it thinking he’s one of the girls, but he isn’t. It’s an indicator that the editing isn’t superb here.

Kelly:  Exactly, and that’s the real problem.  Nathan’s voice isn’t quite consistent throughout the book. Sometimes he’s a little bit broody and totally besotted with Julie, sometimes he’s a lighthearted funny guy, sometimes he seems like one of the girls (and those times are really weird and totally should have been smoothed out in editing).  It’s difficult to get a proper bead on his character if you’re just going by his dialogue.  As the reader, half the time you’re like, “OK, this makes sense… I could totally see why Julie’s a bit obsessed with this fellow,” and then he morphs into the Sassy Gay Friend, and you get a bit confused.

Kim: His up and down personality did get a bit confusing.  I think reflecting back on all the books, you can find all the characters have this wavering voice.  It’s a clear indicator that the $13 these eBooks cost wasn’t exactly well spent.  To be honest, the only one I’m glad I bought was this one.  It’s the most realistic (story-wise) of the three.  Kelly and I think about random things as we read. For example, in book two Damon keeps Serena tied to the bed every night so he can do her in the morning.  Some people might find that hot. Kelly and I? We wonder – man, don’t they have to pee in the morning?  All the marathon sex sessions? We think – I hope these women have been drinking a lot of cranberry juice cause they are totes going to get a UTI. In Rush the all-day butt plugs – our thoughts? Damn – hope that girl doesn’t have to go #2. That’ll be uncomfortable.  It’s difficult for us to see reality in a lot of the ways that sex is portrayed in this series.

Kelly: Exactly – and we read these scenes and try to imagine what we’d think if we experienced something like it in real life, and our response is general hilarity.  It seems to me that the main reason these books exist is to titillate, but they didn’t really work for me.  Not when the whole time I was laughing.  The sex scenes are just over the top, too much, a little ridiculous.  It’s like that time in college when I dated a dude who thought it would be a good idea to do a weird strip tease dance in tighty whities… My response: laughter.  It’s not hot.  And all the odd sex scenes in these books just reminded me of that awkward moment…

Kim: I get that for some people these books are fantasy.  They are escapes from their real lives.  Isn’t that what women kept saying about why they loved 50 Shades?  I guess for me, I’m happy and satisfied in my own life that the sex in these books doesn’t read like a fantasy.  They read like people who revolve their lives around sex only.  How many scenes do you read in these books where the couple can have a serious conversation together that has depth and meaning without it leading to someone being horny as shit? I personally find intimacy in being able to sit with your partner and read together, or watch a movie together cuddling on the couch.  Knowing that your partner finds pleasure in your presence not just because of your body, but because of your mind and soul, too means more to me than someone who can’t keep their hands off me.

Kelly: Preach it, sister!  While there was plenty of odd and slightly awkward sex in this book, it was much more pleasant to read than the last two books, and I think that’s because the entire approach was different with this book.  Let’s talk blow jobs.  In the first two books of this series (and in Rush, the other book we read by this author), there are quite a lot of blow jobs, and they’re all pretty similar — dude grabs a lady’s head and pretty much forces his junk in her mouth, and then all the mechanics are explained in far greater detail than is necessary.  Every gag, every bit of swallowing, you name it, it’s described. Sweet Seduction breaks the mold a little bit and allows Julie to take the lead when giving head.  She’s not just some receptacle for Nathan’s junk — she knows what she wants to do, and she does it, fully knowing that she’s giving him the best head of his life.  I’m never a big fan of BJ scenes in books — really, they’re where all the awkward hides — but I was very pleased to see that Banks could envision another style of sexual encounter and could present it as equally compelling (actually, I found it more compelling).

Kim’s final thoughts: Kelly’s going to share our final thoughts mutually via the texts we shared during the reading of Sweet Persuasion.  I think it’s seriously the best way to represent our feelings on the three Sweet books we read.

Kelly’s final thoughts:  So, the obvious takeaway is that we liked this book better than the first two, but we decided to stop reading this series.  However, our in-the-moment take away was this conversation, and I really think it shows the reality of these books:

Kim: So 100% done with book three. Definitely my favorite of the ones we read so far. I really don’t understand the fruit covers. WTF did grapes have to do with that story?

Kelly: I think we can blame the publisher and 50 Shades for the fruit covers… I’m almost done. She’s just gone raring off to Serena… but now I’m hosting a dinner party, so I’ll have to finish later. Amazingly, no one is naked or likely to be whipped at this dinner… I have all these unreasonable expectations now…

Kim: I hope it’s as exciting a dinner party as Serena and Damon threw! Cause really, if you aren’t whipping someone in the middle of it…How does one even begin to throw a party like that? Like would your invite say to Kelly and slave?

Kelly:  Kelly requests the pleasure of your company at a dinner party at six of the clock. Slaves welcome. Whipping will precede the dinner.

Dueling Review – Rush by Maya Banks

First, an update on the Lord of Darkness giveaway.  The winner (who has already been notified and whose books are already on the way) is…



Next up, Kim, over at Reflections of a Book Addict, and I have another dueling review, this time about Maya Banks’ loved-or-hated Rush, the first book in her new Breathless Trilogy.  While reading the book, we kept up a steady stream of tweets and emails, and it soon became clear that we both had issues with the monumentally unheroic Gabe (note: he’s not an anti-hero… he’s actually just a douche bag) and the weak, complacent Mia.  We worried that the recent spate of books that seem to encourage unhealthy relationships might have a negative effect on women in our culture, so we wrote an open letter to women who are thinking about entering into a relationship and who wonder if, perhaps, their relationship (or arrangement) is a trifle unhealthy.

Check out the full post, over at Kim’s blog.  I’ve copied our open letter below.

Dear Woman Who Deserves Better Than What She’s Signing Up For,

We really want to see you with a man who deserves you.  Therefore you should know that if any of the following statements ring true for your relationship, something’s wrong.

  • Did you have to sign a contract with your new “significant other?”
    • If part of the negotiations require you getting him to agree to fidelity to just you…..something’s wrong (especially when there is a whole paragraph already included in the contract about your fidelity to him!)
    • If you need your “significant other’s” permission to hang out with your friends, something’s wrong.
      • If you’re not allowed to speak to your friends about your relationship, something’s wrong.
      • If you get permission to hang out with your friends, and your “significant other” still gets upset because alcohol is involved, something’s wrong.  You’re in your twenties. Live it the fuck up.
    • If your contract stipulates that all your physical and financial needs will be met in return for your ceding all control over yourself and your functions, but said contract makes no mention at all of your emotional well-being, something’s wrong.
    • If your contract states that it’s totally OK for your “significant other” to share you, occasionally, with other people, and you’re not quite sure what that means, so you have to ask about it, something’s wrong.
      • If you might be on the positive side of ambivalent, once it’s explained, that’s cool. But if, when the sharing happens, you aren’t in possession of the full facts, and it’s awful, and it happens anyway, something’s wrong.
        • If your “significant other” shares you without your permission and you get upset, and his response is to just take you on a shopping spree….something’s wrong.
  • So, you’re having sex with your “significant other.”  If he’s constantly shouting at you to give him your eyes, something’s wrong. I mean really, those are your eyes! Why should you give them up?
  • While at the office, if your “significant other” says, “Hey, come over here. I’m going to put this butt plug in you, and you’re going to wear it all day,” something’s wrong. Seriously girl, that’s your butt. What if it’s Mexican lunch day in the office? You gotta say no to that chili because he wants those plugs in you all day? Hells no.
  • If your “significant other” says “I’m looking forward to f**king this sweet ass” more than once (and that once is permissible only if there’s a lot of alcohol involved), something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” starts hitting on his dad’s girlfriend, like right in front of you, and you’re like, “What?!” and you leave, and then your “significant other” gets all kinds of angry at you for leaving that shit, something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” basically rapes your mouth because he’s too impatient to let you go at your own pace, something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” constantly asks you, “Did you eat?” GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. Your fast metabolism won’t last forever and you’ll just end up obese with the amount of food he keeps plying you with.
  • If your “significant other” wants to pay you an outrageous sum of money so that you’ll be his beck and call girl (and butt-plug recipient), something’s wrong. You’re not a prostitute. You shouldn’t be treated as such.
  • If you have to pay the piper for all the stupid shit your “significant other’s” ex-wife did, something’s wrong.  That’s his baggage, girl, and it shouldn’t have anything to do with you.

As we said earlier, something’s wrong if these statements describe your relationship.  We’d be more than happy to help you get out and find someone much more worthy of you.

With sincere love,

Kelly & Kim