The Billionaire’s Wake-Up-Call Girl

Annika Martin can write. As Carolyn Crane, she has written romantic suspense and paranormal suspense. As Annika Martin, she has written dark romance, funny erotic romance, and romantic comedy. I enjoy reading it all, but her rom-com novels are especially delightful. She has a deft, light-hearted writing style. I read certain lines and laugh out loud. I am convinced that the author was chortling as she wrote those lines. Ms. Martin’s writing is joyful. In this contemporary romance, Lizzie desperately needs a hiring bonus at her new job. Her ex-boyfriend stole her money and left her in debt to loan sharks. Unfortunately, her position in creating a social media presence is hampered by the CEO, who doesn’t want the company to be sociable. Her immediate supervisor soon dumps an unpleasant task on her. Find a new wake up service for the CEO. Unfortunately, his reputation precedes him and even the last ditch effort to hire a Canadian company fails. So Lizzie becomes his wake up service. But the CEO is intrigued by her his wake-up call girl and wants to find her. This book is funny. It is also flaming hot. Martin takes some old tropes, some especially hated by me, and twist them into something new and fresh. I have been counting the days for this book to be published, and I finished reading it within hours of it arriving on my kindle. Now I am jonesing for more from Ms. Martin. Read this book. It will brighten your day. Below is a picture of Ms. Martin. Now that is a woman you want to spend the day drinking margaritas with.

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When Fiction Bares The Bones of Truth

Afterwar by Lilith Saintcrow is a powerful dystopian novel about the United States seventy years in the future. The nation has been torn apart by civil war.  Ruling from Washington D.C,  President McCoombs and the America First party rule with an iron fist. Immigrants are criminals and must be forcibly sterilized.   Free speech is repressed. Patriotic displays are mandatory. Failure to show sufficient patriotism will result in punishment. For the worst elements of society, there are the Reklamation Kamps.

Fighting against the government are the Federals and the Raiders, guerilla fighters of former citizens. Freeing one Reklamation Kamp, they find most of the captured Raiders had been sent to the killing jars. But one raider had been sent to the brothel. A former medic, Lara, rejoins the Raiders in the fight. But as the war end, it is necessary to search the officials, who committed war crimes. Traumatized by her experiences, Lara might be the key to finding the worst of the criminals, a doctor who performed inhumane experiments on prisoners and children.

This is a dystopian fantasy, but there is an underlying truth to it. The reader cannot ignore the similarities to the America First’s hatred for the immigrant, the homosexual, the non-Christian, and others to the rhetoric of the current resident of the White House. Moreover, anyone with any knowledge of US history must connect the darker aspects of our history to this bleak future.  This strong connection to the present and past of the United States makes this a compelling story.  Even the descriptions of places are uncannily accurate. The City of Boise plays a role in the story and Saintcrow captures the city and its attitude perfectly.

But ultimately, Saintcrow writes an excellent, exciting story about a group of survivors of war and their struggle to find a better tomorrow.

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RT Convention 2018 Day 2

Day two of the convention began with a lovely breakfast. During the buffet, Katherine Falk made a shocking disclosure. After 37 years of the Romantic Times Book Reviews, Katherine Falk was bringing the magazine and conventions to a close. The audience was stunned. Unknowingly, we were all attending the very last RT Convention.

The rest of the morning was spent at seminars on writing. In particular, I went to the presentations on historical romances and paranormals. At more than one workshop during the convention, authors were recommending the Aeon timeline software for maintaining their stories timelines. There is a free trial for Aeon Timeline.  https://www.aeontimeline.com/download/. Also, recommended was the Big Little Book of Filth. At another writing seminar,  a couple of authors admitted they looked at porn on Tumblr for inspiration for sex scenes. I  didn’t know there was porn on Tumblr. So obviously, I was getting my money’s worth of useful writing advice.

Then there was a stop at the goody room, which was full of free books for attendees. It was fun selecting my seven books from the wide selection. Then there was a stop at the Gift Basket Bazaar. Attendees could enter one time for a wide variety of baskets donated by authors and publishers. Then we could buy tickets for the raffle baskets for charity. The charity was the Mammogram Van of Nevada, which provides mammograms to geographically isolated and/or uninsured women. The baskets contained books and gorgeous designer purses. The charity is vital to so many rural women. Kudos to Cherry Adair and Tina DeSalvo who were behind this charitable raffle.

In the afternoon, there was the Romantic Suspense Genre Party. Romantic Suspense is a beloved genre of mine since my earliest days of romance reading of  Mary Stewart, who will always be the benchmark for romantic suspense for me. At the genre party, the stars and the future stars of the genre were present, including Cherry Adair, Karen Rose, Amy Jarecki, and Khloe Wren to name a few. The authors signed books and gave away swag. There was chocolate. Fortunately, there was a tote bag to carry my loot back to the hotel room.

The festivities began in the early evening with the Garters & Gold Dust Party. This party was another opportunity to meet fabulous historical writers. There was champagne to drink. Cover models came dressed in historical costumes. One of the most fabulous outfits featured books and was worn by a gorgeous crossdresser. Again, gift baskets were being raffled. As we entered the party, we were given a raffle ticket. This time the lucky winner was my good friend, Meredith Allen Conners. Her basket was amazing. It contained books, scarfs, ray ban sunglasses, and more.

The day finished with the Peace Love Romance Celebration, a 70s costume gala.  Both Meredith and I dressed up in our mini dresses. Meredith was gorgeous with her natural blonde afro, a vivid print mini dress, and bright yellow boots. The music was amazing. There was a dance floor. There were games. Authors were signing books. There were appetizers. For the thirsty, there was Tang and grape Koolaid. The hours passed quickly. Soon it was 11:30 and time to retire.

 

I need to add that my minidress created the optical illusion that I am four wide in the middle. I am not. Lastly, I should have taken more pictures at the convention.

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To Wilde to Wed by Eloisa James

Georgette Heyer was my introduction to romance novels, so I established a high standard for romance from the start. As a teen, my favorite Heyer was Devil’s Cub with the wicked Lord Vidal in his silks and wig shooting highwaymen. I loved the Georgian era with men in their wigs, frock coats, and high heels. A man dressed in silk maintaining his masculine confidence is enticing.

With her Georgian novel, To Wilde To Wed, Ms. James created a hero in Lord North just as captivating as Lord Vidal. Lord North was introduced in Wilde In Love, Lord North had been the stiffly formal gentleman dressed in the height of fashion. However, the cruel jilting by his fiance changed his priorities. Now two years later, he is returning home from army service in America. To find his former fiance and a child rumored to be his living in the family seat. But the messy, maladroit nanny is far different from the fashionable beauty to whom he had been engaged.

Miss Diana Belgrave had felt like a fraud during her engagement. She was not future duchess material.  Her mother was the driving force behind the picture perfect society beauty that captured the eye of Lord North.  The broken engagement saved both Lord North and herself much unhappiness, but she regretted the manner in which she ended the engagement.

Thus begins an enchanting romance. There are wit and humor. There is a delicious scene involving Lord North and his valet, which was reminiscent of a scene in The Devil’s Cub. However, Ms. James created a much more comical scene involving a pair of saffron pantaloons. Admittedly Ms. Heyer could generate a lot of sexual tension with a kiss, she did not write erotic scenes. Happily, Ms. James has provided with robustly sexual interactions between the hero and heroine. This book was a pleasure to read from beginning to end. Fortunately, Ms. James is not done with the Wilde family. There is a third book coming in July, and I already have it on pre-order.

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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Social media has been buzzing about this book for months. Indeed, the buzz has been so loud, it might have come from a locust swarm of biblical proportions. So, of course, it could not possibly live up to its promise?

Yes, it could. The Kiss Quotient lives up to its reputation. It is scorching hot erotic while telling a sweet love story. It features the hottest Beta hero ever in Michael Phan.  It honestly portrays the difficulties of the heroine and her Asperger’s.

The heroine, Stella, has difficulties with relationships. Her three sexual experiences had been ghastly. So she decides to find someone to teach her how to be good at sex. She finds Michael Phan, an escort to wealthy, older women. Michael is beautiful, and he is good at sex, very good at sex.

Michael is also kind and sensitive. Stella knows that Michael is the only person she want’s as her sex teacher. Despite his reluctance to develop a relationship with a client, Michael cannot turn Stella down. But both Michael and Stella have insecurities and secrets. Stella does not want Michael to know about her autism. Yet Michael’s insecurities might be the undoing of their relationship.

The author calls this novel a Pretty Woman reversal, but Pretty Woman didn’t have the depth and emotion of this novel.  Ms. Hoang sells herself short with the comparison. This story is much more romantic and sexier than Pretty Woman. kissquotient

RT Convention 2018 Reno, Nevada

Rosé, anyone?

For decades, I have wanted to attend an RT Convention. There were always reasons why I couldn’t go. When I saw the convention would be in Reno, Nevada, just a ten-hour drive from my home, I had to attend.  Happily, my friend, Meridith Allen Conners was willing to accompany me on the trip.

The convention was amazing. It was held at the Peppermill Resort. When we arrived Tuesday morning, our room wasn’t ready.  Of course, just as I got out of the car in Reno, I spilled tea all over my capris. But soon I was having too much fun to care. While waiting for our room, we registered and received our bag of books and fun items. There was a social gathering held by Brenda Novak. There were roulette table and other games. After receiving more free books (this will be a recurring theme), Meredith and I wondered over to the Frazzle table. Frazzle is a dice game. The lovely Patricia joined us and was able to educate us all on the rules. Soon we were groaning and cheering each other on. Apparently, we were having too much fun. Others gathered, including two handsome cover models (This will be a recurring theme, these two gentlemen were everywhere I went. They may have been stalking me.) As others gathered, we urged them to join the fun. Newbie, Cyndee Martin of Lehi, Utah won the game! I mean that literally, she won the physical game.

After this gathering, our room was ready. Meredith and I went to our palatial room.  The Peppermill Resort was an incredible bargain. We had a refrigerator in our room, which we stuffed with snacks. Our bathroom had a whirlpool tub, two sinks, a separate shower, and granite. We took time to change and then we were off to the Indie Soiree.

At the soiree, we met indie authors. The authors would give us raffle tickets to win various prizes. Meredith was insistent that we go up to a gorgeous man and ask about his book. Stuart Reardon is a beautiful man. He is a former Rugby player, who now works as a cover model and author. Since Meredith was rendered speechless by his masculine beauty, I did all the talking. Sadly, I understood only a little of his responses. It was noisy, and he has a delicious accent. Also, at the Soiree, I ran into a fellow member of the Old School Romance Book Club, Eva Moore. I also ran into soon to be a good friend, Cyndee Martin, also a member of the OSRBC. Eva invited me to her hotel room for a wine tasting later that night. The soiree ended with the winning raffle tickets being drawn. I won Kathern LeVegue’s basket. (Winning things will be a recurring theme.) It contained books, chocolates, bath bombs, wine glasses, wine, and a kindle. Oh yes, there was a tiara.

I had just enough time to stash my basket in the hotel room. It was time for Cinema Craptastique. Hosted by Cherry Adair and Damon Suede, Tere Michaels and Paige Tyler, it was a blast. Cherry Adair is a gorgeous, vivacious redhead, who should be the heroine in a romance novel. Damon is energetic and fun. He is so much fun. The movie was Wolves starring Jason Momoa and Lucas Till. The movie was wonderfully awful, and Damon kept us in stitches with his commentary. Then the worst happened. The film stopped and would not start again. No fear. Damon Suede came to the rescue. He acted out the rest of the movie. There is no doubt his version was far superior. Laughing out loud, the audience ate cracker jacks and movie candy. Meredith won her first prize during the movie. We are on a roll.

The evening ended with a wine tasting party in Eva Morgan’s hotel room. Eva is the hostess with the mostess. (Partying in Eva’s room will be a recurring theme.) We all sampled a variety of Rosé. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

I did not take enough pictures. Below are the beautiful Stuart Reardon and myself, the funny and talented Damon Suede, and Meridith Allen Conners and myself.

Bane by L.J. Shen

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Fans of L.J. Shen have been demanding this story about the surfer bad boy, who liked to ride the waves naked. He first appeared in Scandalous as the sometimes high school boyfriend of Edie.  He was sexy, wicked, and yet caring. He was protective of Edie, his former girlfriend. Bane is a beautiful, Russian American demi-god. What was there not to love about him?

Yet the title is almost a tease. Yes, the hero is Bane. Bane is still wicked, he runs several criminal and legitimate enterprises. He is a gigolo, who provides sex for money and favors. In exchange for a large sum of money, he is willing to befriend and take under his wing the damaged stepdaughter of a wealthy man.

However, it is the heroine, Jessica Carter, who dominates the story. After a horrific gang rape,  she has become a recluse. She only leaves her home to see her therapist and the elderly lady living next door. Haunted by nightmares, she tries to run from her demons.

As he earns the trust of the wary Jessica,  Bane is torn by conflicting emotions.  He feels guilt for his deception.  Bane is protective of Jessica. He feels strongly about Jessica and feelings are not a comfortable fit for Bane. Jessica is not torn. Despite the horrors of her past, Jessica’s friendship with Bane awakens her lust for life. As Jessica comes to life, she must face her nightmares.

Without giving away too much, Bane and Jessica are transfigured by the end of the story. While the prince is willing to slay dragons for her, the princess saves herself. Isn’t that the best story?