Tag Archives: Grade D

Guest Review(-ish): Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks

A guest review(-ish) by Kati Brown (aka @KatiD of Katidom fame! Totally excited she agreed to share/post her review here!) 
**SPOILERS AHOY**

Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks
Contemporary erotic romance released by Berkley on April 3, 2012

He awakened a need within her…

Cole is successful beyond his dreams. He can have any woman he wants, but there’s only one he can’t stop thinking about. His childhood sweetheart, Renita. He’s never forgotten his first taste of innocent love and the desire that consumed them—or the pain he brought upon her…

But now she belongs to another…

Her long ago brush with submission awakened a longing in Ren that drove her to walk the darker edge of desire. She’s become a beautiful woman at ease with her sexuality and unapologetic about her need for a dominant man. When Cole finds her again, he’s gutted that she belongs to another. Ren’s current master agrees to give her to Cole for a short time, but then she must return to his keeping. And though Cole agrees to this bargain, he knows he will never be able to let Ren go again…

I’ve been an avid reader of Maya Banks for quite some time. I followed the “Sweet” series and have liked most of the books. This is the final book in the series, and it’s Cole’s book. For the last five books, readers have been wondering about Cole. He’s dark, got a past, and not averse to serving up a little pain with his sexytimes — all things that draw me immediately as a reader.

It turns out that Cole’s “darkness” comes from his past with Renita, a woman that he loved as a young man. They met young, and immediately saw in each other a particular need: Cole’s need to dominate and Ren’s need to submit. Cole, knowing next to nothing about a D/s relationship, stumbled his way around, doing what felt good for both of them. But one night, after going too far, he realizes he’s caused Ren actual pain, and ends things. For her part, Ren loved the encounter and is devastated that Cole would end their love affair.

Years later, his handling of the ending of his relationship with Ren haunts Cole still. So he’s shocked when he hears her distinctive laugh in a restaurant. When he turns, he finds Ren with a very handsome man. They are definitely together, and she looks really happy.   Cole is immediately overcome with jealousy and coerces one of his friends who is acquainted with Ren’s man to arrange a meeting. Ren is beyond shocked to see Cole. All of the feelings she had come rushing back, and she’s immediately torn between her new love, Lucas, who provides everything she’s ever wanted, and Cole, the man who she has her most visceral connection to.

When Lucas witnesses Ren’s reaction to Cole, he decides to gift Ren with two weeks with Cole. His hope is that those two weeks will erase or mitigate whatever feelings she has for him. As Ren has agreed to submit control of her life to Lucas, it is his right to give her to Cole. Cole is not stupid and immediately agrees to what Lucas offers. He knows that once Ren is in his possession, he’s never letting her go.

This is a relatively hardcore D/s storyline. Ren is very much a beloved piece of property to both men. While it is her choice, and she willingly allows both of them to dictate to her, it is the men who make decisions for her. It is how she feels safest. She is, by her choice, a slave. While it’s clear in the story that both men have strong feelings for her, and are quite tender with her, she is also placed into situations that stretched my comfort levels beyond what I felt was appropriate.

In the scene where Lucas “gives” Ren to Cole, the three end up in a sexual encounter, and Lucas “marks” Ren by coming all over them while Cole is penetrating her anally. To say that my squick factor was exercised would not be an understatement. On top of that, in several scenes, Cole has other men have sex with Ren. At one point, allowing one to spank her with a wooden oar. This was in no way a turn on for me. It felt like debasement, in a way that made me deeply uncomfortable. I found many of these scenes to be gratuitous, adding nothing to Ren and Cole’s developing love story.

My second problem, and a more significant one at that, was that I never really understood the inclusion of Lucas in the threesome. In the end, the decision is made that Lucas and Cole would find a way to live together with Ren, sharing her. For me, this was never credible. While it was clear that Lucas loved Ren, he never struck me as hero material. As a reader of the series, I’d never heard of him, never encountered him, and had absolutely no investment in him. I didn’t understand why someone whose role in the book was minor became the third part of the threesome. If the author wanted me to become attached to him, she needed to make him more sympathetic, and a more integral part of the story. I never invested in him as a character, and therefore was dissatisfied with his part in the Ren/Cole Happily Ever After.

For me, Sweet Addiction fails because the romance between two of the characters (Lucas and Ren) was not credible, and also for several sexual encounters that did nothing to advance the connection or love story between the main characters and felt gratuitous and debasing. It disappoints me deeply to say that this story really adds nothing to a strong series from Ms. Banks. I walked away from the book with a bad taste in my mouth and a strong dissatisfaction that Cole didn’t get the Happily Ever After that he deserved.

Grade: D-

You can read an excerpt of the book here or buy it here.

Guest Review: Defiant by Kris Kennedy

Erin’s Review:

Defiant by Kris Kennedy
Medieval romance released by Pocket Books on April 26, 2011

England, 1215, the eve of Magna Carta
Jamie Lost is the king’s most renowned commander, an audacious knight ordered to kidnap an exiled priest before rebel forces close in. The mission is simple–until he comes up against a mysterious woman on a mission, a thief who will first steal his quarry and then his heart.

Eva is also seeking Father Peter, but she intends to protect him from a secret that endangers his life, even if it costs her own.  She is well aware danger lies everywhere, especially in the knight showing too much interest in her activities.  But deep inside, Eva knows the danger lies not in Jamie, but in her, in the desire he awakens in her body and her heart.

When a mysterious band of armed mercenaries upends both their plans and abducts the priest, Jamie and Eva must form an uneasy alliance, and as civil war unfolds around them, they embark on an epic journey that betrays the truth about their identities, their unexpected loyalties, and the dangerous attraction that could seal their fates forever.

Kris Kennedy is not only a new author for me but her book Defiant is set in a historical time frame in which I read very little (early 13th century) as my historical preference is Regency to Victorian. Usually when I read books set further back they are time travel or other type of paranormal romances.

The heroine of the story, Eva is a strong, feisty woman who has spent the last ten years of her life struggling to stay alive and protect her young friend, Roger. Not only is she resourceful, familiar with with a blade, and hiding in plain sight, but also witty, and quick thinking. She understands both her strengths and her weaknesses allowing her to use them to her advantage. She, with 15 year old Roger in tow, attempts to save Father Peter, an old friend, from the King, the Rebels and certain death.

Jamie is a hard, violent man known for his deadly sword and changing loyalties, who instantly sees through Eva’s deceptions and lies. He is cold and willing to do about anything to gain the information he needs to complete his task. Due to his past, Jamie falls to see his own worth. He is cold and calculating and exploits relationships, including the one with Eva, to gain the information he needs.

The book starts off with the detailed observations of Eva and Jamie, which bogs down the pace of the story. The relationship that grows between them is based on their observations of each other with short banter intermingled with their thoughts. Neither trusts the other and frequently remind the reader of their plans to betray. The observations of each are repetitive and droning, which makes it difficult to understand how a romance is developing between the two based on anything other than a mutual physical attraction. I was furthered bother by the repeating of the the same descriptions over and over. While some repetition, when it is spread out through out the story, can be effective, having the same line repeated (like knows like) three times within about thirty pages is ineffective. I was also distracted by Eva suddenly dropping into old English at the start of some conversations. It was inconsistent and instead of adding flavor and realism to the story it broke the flow of reading and seemed out of place.

As the story races to a conclusion, the pace of the book picks up and it is almost as if you’re reading a different story with different characters. The author stressed so much the distrust between Eva and Jamie that it is difficult to see how their relationship evolved, and it seems to be change that is contrived. Because Eva never acknowledges that she is starting to trust Jamie, her actions for the rest of the book are out of character. At times she feels betrayed by Jamie, but simply tosses those feelings aside so unlike the Eva at the beginning of the book. She no longer shows any anger or questions Jamie, just acceptance of whatever he throws at her. Instead it is almost like Stockholm syndrome, especially given the violence (choking her twice, physical intimidation, and tying her up until she agrees to behave) and captivity Eva endures from Jamie in the first half of the book. This Eva is a far cry from the bold as brass woman who, at the beginning of the novel, hoodwinked a ship’s captain, choked a man unconscious, and held a blade to a bishop’s throat.

The book and it’s plot had a lot of potential, but the author did not quite pull it off. The first half of the book would have been better served with less description and more focus in the second half on smoothing out the romance between them. It wouldn’t have taken much, a bit of anger from Eva at Jamie’s disloyalty, a few gentle touches in passing by Jamie, or some show of emotion between them that went beyond physical attraction. Otherwise, it is a decent read for the intrigue, but expect the romance to meander through the story.

Grade: D+

You can read an excerpt here, and buy it here. Ms. Kennedy also participated in a Teaser Tuesday as well, so there’s another exclusive excerpt here!