Jaci Burton wrote an appealing novella about a Harley-riding FBI agent in the Nauti and Wild anthology (also featuring her friend Lora Leigh) and I intended to check out her related Wild Riders series. However, a book in her Play-by-Play series about professional athletes came my way first. Both the novella and the novel contained solid stories with well-drawn relationships. I’ll be curious to see if all these stories are of the vanilla variety.
Burton’s first novel in the series, The Perfect Play, is a Cinderella story between a single mom and the best quarterback in the NFL. If you like the fantasy of dating a super-fit, high-profile athlete, and especially if you like football, you’ll enjoy it. (Mick Riley made me think of pretty Patriots star, Tom Brady, who also used to be seen at movie premieres in a tux with starlets and models on his arm—then he married one).
The second novel features Mick’s brother Gavin, a professional baseball player. It has less story, but some hot sex, and confirms the “vanilla” label for this series. These are pretty standard romances, but with the entertaining sports angle.
The third book is about the Rileys’ football-playing cousin, Cole. The fourth book features Mick and Gavin’s sister, Jenna, who reluctantly dates a professional hockey player. Basketball anyone? Call me shallow, but I’d read them all just for the cover photographs.
My library carried another Jaci Burton book, an anthology of related novellas called Wild, Wicked, & Wanton, which I enjoyed, though the tie-up at the end seemed a bit slam-bam rushed. Menage, BDSM, and more. Bound, Branded, & Brazen is the second in the series.
Lauren Dane is another prolific writer of erotic romance, recommended by Jaci Burton, and has written three anthologies with Megan Hart. (I’m convinced they all have lunch together, if only virtually.) The first of Dane’s novels I’ve read is called Second Chances. It’s not the cleanest editing job I’ve ever seen, but the story has a new BDSM element, namely Shibari, the Japanese art of knot-tying as a form of bondage. I included a picture of Japanese Kinkaku (bondage) in “Alice in Chains” in Edward’s Diary, to illustrate Jasper’s skill. It’s considered beautiful and usually involves suspension, but can be dangerous due to loss of blood circulation. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian refers to a submissive he injured by tying her up too tightly.
Like Megan Hart, Lauren Dane can make you cry, is known for it. Some of the characters in Second Chances are so well drawn that you truly care, which is impressive in the erotic romance genre. Believe is a novella that continues the story where Second Chances leaves off…with the bondage and the…well…you know.
Recently, I received a copy of Lauren Dane’s Laid Bare, the first book in her Brown Siblings series. I love the characters, a dread-lock-wearing rocker chick cum coffee shop owner and her former-cop admirers. It feels like two books where the first half is about Erin and her man getting together, and the second half is about them adding a “plus one.” But both halves are enjoyable. (Includes man-on-man action and a haunting tragedy.)
Erin has two tattooed brothers, one of whom is the artist, and the series explores them and their circle. The last book, Laid Open, is a digital-only novella about the original triad.
Lauren Dane’s series, Delicious, overlaps the Brown Siblings series beginning with a novella called “Sway” published in a book with Maya Banks called Cherished. The second book in her series is called Tart, which will be followed by Lush.
Lisa Marie Rice’s novel, Dangerous Passions, though vanilla-ish, reminded me of Christian Grey‘s setup…a multi-billionaire, global player living in a highrise penthouse with bad people trying to kill his girl, a naive, sheltered artist. After going backward to read the first book of the series, Dangerous Lover (which I loved), I’ve decided that this is a suspense series with hot sex rather than an erotic romance series with suspense. In the two novels I’ve read, the first sex scene is postponed for about 80 pages, which is atypical for erotic romance. I’m enjoying the series, despite some disturbing violence. Rice has a way with complicated characters—the first book begins with a memorable Dickensian scene.
Rice’s novella “Hot Secrets” continues Dangerous Lover and, like the novel, is wonderful. The novella “Reckless Night” continues Dangerous Passion and tells what happens to Grace and Drake after their scary adventure in the novel. “Reckless Night” is satisfying and has one of the best closing lines I’ve ever read (spoken by Grace): “Your pickle? Best. Gift. Ever.” And as Christian Grey would say, “It’s not what you think.” (The two novellas have also been published as an anthology.)
One nice thing about Rice’s Dangerous series is that the books and novellas are between 99-cents and $3.99, though she has other series that cost a lot more.
Lorelei James has created a winner in her Blacktop Cowboys series! This is a case where listening enhances the experience. Narrator Scarlet Chase, with her whiskey voice and slight country twang, makes these bull riders and bull fighters come alive. With James’ perfect pitch for the language (colorful), humor (self-deprecating), and post-Brokeback sensibilities of cowboys (“You ain’t a-gittin’ me to suck yer dick!”), the writing is a delight—accurate too. Trust me…I grew up among these good folks.
For the first two-thirds of Corralled (which features a menage with two straight, reluctant cowboys), I constantly broke into laughter. For the last third, I went through a myriad of emotions…sadness, anger, and pleasure. That is the stuff of a good novel in any genre. Lorelei James surpasses the erotic romance genre with Corralled and I have no doubt the rest of the series is good too.
(click for more info.)
Turn and Burn, the fifth book, is available only on the Kindle for now.
Among her other series, Lorelei James has one called Rough Riders which also features cowboys. Most of the stories are vanilla, but there are a couple D/s and a couple more menage in the mix of over a dozen novels. One great thing about this series is its low cost—everything under $5.00.
Those who are following my recent work know that I’m writing a novel (Miss Martha Browne) which has several gay characters. To get inside their heads, I’ve been dipping into gay erotica where I discovered Sean Wolfe, author of ten or more erotic anthologies of the man-on-man variety. Frequently published in magazines, he’s a good writer and comparatively well-edited. The one book I read cover-to-cover, Hard and Fast, has real characters and varied plot lines and hot sex, though not much variation in “the act” itself. Perhaps that’s due to the title–a collection of a certain sort. I didn’t mind that much, because unlike many erotic “novellas,” his are worth reading for the stories.
Eight Inches is the next one of his I plan to read. Each “inch” represents a phase (chapter) of his life from youth to manhood and the people who have affected his life along the way. An interesting, well-considered premise (no doubt with hot sex). It’s interesting to read erotica by a male author.
Tricks of the Trade by Ben Tyler isn’t erotic romance so much as a tell-all tale of Hollywood’s underbelly with a (gay) romance and some hot man-on-man action. I found it entertaining, but was disappointed at how quickly and tritely the plot was tied up, as if the author were hitting his publisher’s page limit before he was ready.
Dave Benbow is a writer in the same genre of tell-all tales with explicit gay sex scenes. Male Model highlights the seamy side of the Los Angeles fashion world and it’s on my list—it looks like fun.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between erotic romance (the kind of books I’m reviewing here) and romantic literature, I’ll give you a beautiful example. Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin is a gay love story whose exquisite use of language raises it far above any of the erotic romance books I’ve mentioned previously. Maupin writes straight and lesbian love scenes in other of his books, so he’s versatile. Michael Tolliver Lives was written when Maupin was in his early 60s at the height of his writing abilities, though every one of his books is wonderful.
*green font indicates newest material