Category: Discussions

Retro Post: Forced Seduction or Rape?

Posted March 15, 2017 by Casee in Discussions | 22 Comments

A lot has changed in publishing since 2008, but forced seduction and rape haven’t gone away. If anything, I think we’ve seen even more of this in contemporary novels.

This was originally posted February 25, 2008.
Casee: The other night, Holly and I started talking about the ever controversial topic–rape in romance novels.

The topic came up when I mentioned that I was going to start reading Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell. (I’ve since finished it and hope to have my review up in a few days.) Holly asked if CtC had the “forced seduction” in it, which yes, it does. There are several reviews on Amazon taking the author to task for daring to call her book a romance when the hero rapes the heroine. Whether it was rape is another story altogether. One reviewer told her that CtC was a throwback to the bodice-rippers of the 80’s.
Hello? Have these reviewers ever read Stormfire by Christine Monson? That is indisputably rape. That book is one that doesn’t neatly fit into the “romance” slot it’s supposed to. I’m sure that almost everything that has read Stormfire would agree that there is no question of forced seduction or rape. It was rape.

Then you have the books where it’s rather murky. It basically is left to the reader to decide for themselves b/c it’s far from cut and dried.

The few books that came to mind when Holly and I were talking were Once and Always and Whitney, My Love, both by Judith McNaught. Holly is insistent that Jason raped Tory in Once and Always. Me, not so much. As a matter of fact, I had to go back and read a few pages b/c I don’t remember ever thinking it was rape.

No means no. Right? It’s not so black and white when it comes to the written word (please remember that we’re talking about this topic in regard to reading). As far as Whitney, My Love goes, I think it was rape. Clayton raped Whitney. I don’t even have to think about it.

Then you have books like The Duke by Gaelen Foley. The rape of the heroine turned the plot. It changed who the heroine would have been if the rape wouldn’t have happened. Does that make it less a romance? No, that makes it life. It made the heroine change her life choices, sure, but it didn’t make it less of a romance. That doesn’t mean it’s any less tragic, it just showed the reader that something like that changes a person’s life.

Holly:

There’s definitely a fine line between what I consider “acceptable” forced seduction and just flat out rape. While I agree with Casee about Whitney, My Love, I disagree with her about Once and Always. In my opinion, Jason raped Tory, same as Clay raped Whitney, it was just written prettier in O&A.

You see, Tory said no. She said no at the beginning and continued to say no throughout. Even as her body responded, she told him no. No is no. I don’t care what your body says. If your mouth says no (and it’s clearly not what you want) that’s rape. Plain and simple.

Of course, there are a lot of gray areas there. Because if well written, a forced seduction can be a turning point in a novel. And if extremely well written, I – who considers the “forced seduction/rape” issue a major hot button – will love the hero anyway. That doesn’t happen often, but it has happened.

But back to Jason and Tory. The thing is, I liked Jason. A lot. He was a good hero, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure Tory deserved him. She wasn’t totally TSTL, but she did come close. Regardless of that, however, that one scene, the scene where he forces her to submit to him, wasn’t sexy, or hot, or something I’d ever want to experience. Maybe it’s because I’m fairly independent. Or because I’m a modern day woman. Or maybe it’s just I can’t imagine having all control taken away, but when Tory told Jason, “I’ll hate you if you do this” and he did it anyway..well, a part of me hated him, too.

I have to give Judith McNaught credit, however, because even though I hated that one scene in the book, I didn’t end up hating the book as a whole. Nor did I hate Jason or Tory. Honestly? I’m not even sure if I can explain exactly why that is. I imagine it has something to so with JM’s ability to make her characters 3 dimensional and real.

Of course, we’re still not talking about rape. We’re talking forced seduction. Rape, well, that’s something all together different. I don’t think there’s any coming back from rape.

What do you think? Do you think there’s a place for Forced Seduction in romance? What about Rape? I’m not talking about the heroine being raped by someone other than the hero, either. I’m talking about the hero forcing the heroine, against her will.

I think Forced Seduction has it’s place. There are times – though I’m loathe to admit it – when it really needs to happen for the story to progress, or the characters to develop. Rape? I don’t know. I have yet to read a novel labeled romance where the hero actually raped the heroine. There have been a couple close calls, but not an actual rape.

Casee:

I really believe that in the cases of the McNaught books or Claiming the Courtesan, it really is left up to reader interpretation. In books like Stormfire or Island Flame by Karen Robards (those come to mind first), it is clearly rape and those books are not for everyone. I agree with Holly that Forced Seduction does have it’s place.

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Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

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Retro Post: Does Size Really Matter?

Posted February 15, 2017 by Holly in Discussions | 15 Comments

This week I’m bringing it back around to the good stuff…because this is still a relevant question today.

This was originally posted May 4, 2007.
A few years ago I read a book by Susan Andersen called Hot & Bothered. The hero of H&B is none other than John “the Rocket” Miglionni. He’s a former Marine turned P.I. and his claim to fame is the size of his Johnson. No, I mean it. You see, The Rocket had a pretty hard childhood, and he kind of figured he wasn’t as good as all the other guys out there. Until the first time he had to take a shower in the locker room, that is. Then, much to his surprise (and mine, if I’m being honest here) the other men started going on about how well hung he was. Now, it’s been awhile, so I can’t remember for sure if SA actually told us just how big The Rocket was, but I do know his nickname stemmed from his rather..ehem…large size (If you know what I mean and I think you do).

Now, SA certainly isn’t the first romance author to talk about her darling hero’s size, and I know she most certainly won’t be the last. And if we’re being honest here, ladies, we can admit (if only to ourselves and each other) that size does matter. Now, now, don’t look at me like that. We all know it’s true. Men, if your lady is telling you it’s not an issue, she’s lying.

Side Note: Regardless of the size, however (whether it be large or small), knowing what to do with it does make a difference. Right ladies? :End Side Note

But I think it’s important for women everywhere to qualify the statement “Size Matters!”. Why? Well, while it’s true that size is important to us, there has to be a cut off point there. Because, I have to tell you, there have been times when reading about a particularly large member and my only thought is, “Ouch! That’s gotta hurt.”

That’s right, I think it’s time we draw the line. Sure, size matters, but that statement goes both ways. Because I have to tell you, the thought of a full foot of manroot anywhere near my love well just makes me queasy. Come on, that shit would hurt! As Jaine Bright from LH’s Mr. Perfect once said, “Anything over 8 inches is strictly for show and tell.”

Rowena here and I’ve got to totally agree with Holly there, and I’ll tell you why just as soon as I can stop laughing from her mention of man roots and love wells.

LMAO LMAO LMAO!

I’ve been reading romance novels for a few years now and I’ve read my fair share of descriptions on just how well endowed most of the heroes are and lately, it’s been making me roll my eyes down the street at how absurd it’s getting. And not even just in books that I’m reading but also in reviews of books that other people are reading.

Like Karen S for example. She just read a book called Ben’s Wildflower by Carol Lynne and the hero, Ben has an overgrown cock. His overgrown manroot is giving him problems and he’s ashamed of it because it’s the total bane of his existence.

Are you frickin’ kidding me?

Yeah the eff right. If you’ve got a 10 inch boinker, you’re not ashamed of it, you’re not being a whiny baby about it, you’re screaming from the rooftops like you’re Dirk Diggler.

You’re screaming, “I am a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a big bright shiny star. Yeah, thats right!”

Really.

But does the size of a man’s johnson really factor into how well we like our heroes? Say Derek Craven had a little willy, would we all still love him as much as we do? I mean, that’s not what we’re all gushing about when we discuss his book, right? It’s not what we most remember about Derek, so is it really necessary to go on and on about the size of the hero’s ding-a-ling? I’m not saying that Lisa Kleypas did that or anything I’m just well, saying…yeah we know the hero is a big mothereffer down there, we expect it…but would it matter what size the hero is in order for him to be macho and lovable?

I don’t think so. We love them for who they are, not what they have in their pants…don’t we?

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Bookish Thoughts: Reading Challenges, Rereads, Goodreads Romance Week, Silver Silence by Nalini Singh and Amazon Fresh

Posted February 9, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Features | 8 Comments


The last few years I signed up for a Goodreads Reading Challenge. I set my reading goal at 200 books per year. Last year I fell short of that, but I’ve managed to meet or surpass it every other year. I get really frustrated with Goodreads, because reads aren’t tracked for the challenge unless the “date read” info is entered. Since I use the app 98% of the time, and there’s no “date read” option on the app, 98% of the time the challenge isn’t tracked properly. Last year, for example, because I did a lot of re-reading, Goodreads said I only read 33 books, when I actually read 124. It’s really annoying. Thankfully I create my own “200 Books in {year}” shelf, so I have an accurate total. I wish they’d fix that, however, so I could keep an accurate accounting.


In better Goodreads news, we can now log rereads and have them count toward our Reading Challenge. I do a ton of rereading, so I’m really excited about this. Of course, this means I need to start using the “Currently Reading” feature, but I suppose it’s a small price to pay.

How Do I Start Using the Rereading Feature?
Next time you decide to reread a book that you’ve already marked as Read on Goodreads, simply mark it as Currently Reading. When you are done, just mark it as Read. You can do this from the Goodreads iOS and Android apps and on Goodreads.com, as well as in the About the Book feature on Kindle (if you have connected your Goodreads and Amazon accounts – click here to connect your accounts). We take care of marking it as a reread for you. Bonus, it will also automatically be included in your Reading Challenge.


Speaking of Reading Challenges, as an avid reader, I get pretty down on myself when it comes to how many books I read per month. Reading is life, right? So when I don’t read a lot of books in a month I feel like I haven’t accomplished much. But then I log on to Goodreads and see others have set their Yearly Reading Challenges at 10 or 20 – PER YEAR – and I realize I’m not doing so bad with my 12 per month. Not that I’m shaming anyone. Whether a person reads 1 book or 1000 per year, the fact that they’re reading is all that matters. I just tend to be hard on myself, when there’s no need.


It’s Romance Week on Goodreads. They have a list of the Top 100 Romance Novels on Goodreads (based on 4.0 ratings for adult romances on the site). I’ve read 44. I was really surprised at some of the titles listed, and even more surprised some weren’t listed. What do you think of the list? They’ve also broken down the top 10 Paranormal, Contemporary and Historical romances.

 

__________

Nalini Singh‘s most recent newsletter included a full chapter excerpt from Silver Silence, her upcoming Psy/Changeling Trinity book. It doesn’t release until June and she’s torturing us with an excerpt now? Ahhhh. I need this in my life. Even though I’m sort of anti-werebear. I’m willing to make an exception because I know and trust Singh. Plus, it’s Silver! And, Bonus! It probably means more Kaleb (rwar).

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh introduces a bold new chapter in her extraordinary paranormal romance saga with the Psy-Changeling Trinity series. Wild passion will encounter the darkest of betrayal…

Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that’s exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater Bears, brings with him.

Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence—her mind clear of all emotion—Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That’s what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious…and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.


In my quest to try more new authors, I’ve been randomly buying or downloading books from Kindle Unlimited and Prime reads. So far they’ve mostly been duds. Part of it is probably my reading taste, but it’s kind of solidified my choice not to subscribe to KU.


Not book related, but I recently tried Amazon Fresh, Amazon’s grocery delivery service. For Prime Members the service is $14.99/mo and includes free delivery, sometimes same day (though same day doesn’t seem to be available in my area yet). I used the 30-day trial to test it out and I don’t think I’ll continue my subscription. I can get most of the items for the same price or less at my local grocery. So really I’d end up paying $14.99 for the convenience of delivery. Some items, like meat, were really expensive. Bulk items, too, were more spendy than Costco. Since I would still have to visit the store, I don’t think it’s worth the money. I might consider subscribing if it were a bit less per month, but at $14.99 I just can’t justify it. I’m all for anything that allows me to shop from home, but my thrifty soul won’t let me do it.

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Bookish Thoughts: It’s Time to See Other People, Changes to NYTimes Bestseller Lists, Cliffhangers and Kindle Unlimited

Posted January 27, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Features | 7 Comments


​I’ve been struggling with contemporary romances that focus solely on the protagonists without any external conflicts. This has been on my mind since I finished Playing the Player by Amy Andrews, book three in the Sydney Smoke Rugby Series. The hero and heroine didn’t do much away from each other. They obviously didn’t live in each other’s pockets, but all their focus and attention was on the other. There were no breaks in the story where, say, the hero was at rugby practice, or out with his boys, that he wasn’t thinking or talking about the heroine, and vice versa. I enjoyed the story overall, but I would have liked to see them have a life away from each other.

This is something I’m seeing a lot more of lately. We’d come out of it there for awhile, but now even my favorite authors are sliding back into the habit of having them focus just on each other. Can we go back to the hero and heroine falling in love, but also doing things away from each other?


The New York Times had dropped their Bestseller lists for Manga and Graphic novels. They announced plans to revamp their lists, and indicated others may be done away with as well.  From the PW article:

“Our major lists will remain, including: Top 15 Hardcover Fiction, Top 15 Hardcover Nonfiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Fiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Nonfiction, Top 10 Children’s Hardcover Picture Books, Top 10 Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover Chapter Books, Top 10 Children’s Young Adult Hardcover Chapter Books, and Top 10 Children’s Series. Several more including Paperback Trade Fiction, Paperback Nonfiction, Business, Sports, Science, and Advice Miscellaneous will remain online. Readers will be notified that individual lists will no longer be compiled and updated by the New York Times on the relevant article pages.”

Among the lists that appear to have disappeared are the graphic novel/manga and the mass market paperback lists as well as the middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists.


This week I discovered a new UF series. Shadows of the Immortals by Marina Finlayson. Stolen Magic, book one, was an Amazon recommended read. It was $3.99 so I figured I’d give it a go. I really enjoyed it, but it ended on a cliffhanger. Though I grumbled a bit, I bought book two (also at $3.99.), Murdered Gods, and read it immediately. And it ended on a cliffhanger. No other books from the series are out yet. Each book is listed around 260 pages, though they felt much shorter, especially the second book. Assuming the series stops at 3 books (though I have no idea, since I can’t find any information about it on the author’s website), I’ll end up paying approximately $12 for what is, in essence, a single full-length novel. If the author stops with three parts. Otherwise, who knows when it’ll end.

Look, I don’t mind spending money on books. Especially when I’m really loving a series. But this new trend of breaking a novel into parts and releasing it as a serial, with each part costing $2.99-$5.99, is really starting to irk me. Especially when they aren’t marked as having cliffhangers or being “parts” of a book, rather than full-length titles. Or maybe I’m just being cheap?

To be fair, both parts are available for free on Kindle Unlimited. Since I don’t subscribe, I had to pay full price for them. Which brings me to…


Is Kindle Unlimited worth the money? I’ve avoided subscribing thus far because there weren’t a lot of books available that I wanted to read when it first launched. Now it seems like they have a greater, more varied selection. Thoughts?

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