Yet more reviews!

I had a nice surprise when I opened up my Amazon reviews page and saw that Midwest Book Review had given me 5 stars. On their own site, I got a “Reviewer’s Choice” listing for March. They’re fairly important in bookland, from what I can gather, so I wasn’t even sure they’d review it. You can imagine my delight when I found out that not only had they reviewed it… I need to contact them to change my pub’s name, though.

Then Th. gave me what I think is an awesome review. Heck, I’m just grateful he read it at all, since as far as I know, he’s the only Mormon who has. He hated Knox. To me, that was incredibly instructive and has had me thinking about a similar reaction I had to the characters in another book, on which I will expound further once I gather my thoughts.

I’m in the process of gathering the vignettes and outtakes from The Proviso (which you can read online here) and compiling them into a nice e-book format for download. This one has a different cover. The photography was supplied by Eric Bowers of Madness Matrix Photography whose work I love and especially because he loves Kansas City, too.

Pimping…me! More reviews.

More reviews! You readers are rackin’ ’em up and I appreciate every single one, believe me. Lessee, from the latest three, at Amazon:


Oddly enough, I see a lot of talk of it being specifically Mormon, and though I found that lent an interesting thread of morality you don’t see every day, it’s also ALL about the sex. Surely, this didn’t come from the same ideology as those fanatics who spent a fortune trying to manhandle CA politics or force feed us the Osmonds as paragons of virtue. . . The religious undertones didn’t even strike me as odd until I stepped away from the story and realized how much the rest of it doesn’t fit with the stereotype. I’m still not sure how to integrate the two…

[…] What most of us identify as “Mormon” just doesn’t really factor into the story. It’s more of an interesting little sidebar and to focus on that aspect ignores the fact that in general, it’s just a damned good story.


…it is one of few books I’ve read where religion and politics mingle, and it was quite a ride. Like a previous reviewer mentioned, I did have stereotypes in mind when I opened this book, and it made the characters all the more human to me, because even though I am not a fan of politics, nor a member of the Morman church, I could still relate.

Moriah Jovan has a gift with words, and a wonderful ability to make her characters so vivid. The heroes, the heroines, and everyone else that crossed their paths throughout the course of the story.


The quixotic mixture of murder, revenge, sex, and religion is really what caught my attention about this book in the first place, especially in the context of the Mormon religion. Wallace Stegner once wrote that “it is almost impossible to write fiction about the Mormons, for the reasons that Mormon institutions and Mormon society are so peculiar that they call for constant explanation.”

Jovan has achieved a remarkable degree of success in this regard, allowing non-Mormons fascinating glimpses in a natural manner without bombarding us with definitions and explanations. There is a refreshing honesty and lack of rationalization when it comes to questions of morality and faith in a modern world.

[…] The characters are strongly delineated and fascinating. They are the most vivid and striking people I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting” via the printed page in a long time. They may be a bit larger than life, so to speak, but never over the top. I don’t always agree with them or like them, but I will always remember them.

Bold is mine. ’Cause it’s my favorite part of the whole review.

Overall, 4.25/5 stars for 8 reviews on Amazon.

Book Review: The Duchess et al

The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom & Their Lover: An Erotic Novel
by Victoria Janssen
Published by Spice

The Duchess et alPlease note the title and study the cover a bit. Does that say “romance novel” to you? Me, neither.

And yet, despite the absence of the word “Harlequin” anywhere on the cover, on the copyright page, on the “coming attractions” back matter, apparently, Romancelandia thought this was a romance. I don’t know why, unless Romancelandia simply has no history with pure erotica.

There is a difference between romantic erotica and pure erotica (aka could-be-porn-if-that’s-your-definition) and perhaps Ellora’s Cave has just trained Romancelandia to read “romance” or “romantic erotica” where they see “erotic novel” or “erotica.”

I don’t know how this could have been mistaken for a romance.

Moving along. Jessica, over at Racy Romance Reviews, reviewed this and while her review wasn’t necessarily favorable, it was academic (’cause she R 1) and in no way (I thought) insulting. She also admitted that she didn’t have much experience with whatever “pure” erotica really is.

I wanted to read this book, but balked at paying $11.30 for the ELECTRONIC book, so someone took pity on me and sent it to me, requesting that, if possible, I review it because that person was interested in my opinion (though heaven only knows WHY!).

My opinion is that I can’t finish this book.


The nastiness that went on concerning a liveblogging “review” incident between Dear Author and Smart Bitches (NOT linking). I didn’t read the transcript, so I am not speaking to whether the liveblogging was nasty or not, but the comments on the thread really, really disheartened me. It destroyed any enjoyment I might have gotten out of it and made me want to pick nits where there were no nits to pick.

I read 40% of the book before I simply had to put it down, so I feel very cheated and I’m going to address others’ complaints of the book that apply to what I read and comment on those, then I’ll pick the two very big nits I actually did have.


1. Nobody could figure out the setting, but thought it might be somewhere in 17th-18th Century France.

Okay, first, it’s erotica. Have we established this fact? It doesn’t need a setting. It’s a fairy tale and the descriptions were such that I envisioned a Neuschwanstein-type castle.

As long as the descriptions of the castle let you know these characters were amongst lush, and candles were the major source of light, and the clothes were voluminous and bulky, the exact place and time weren’t important.

2. That the sexual situations were totally ridiculous.

Yeah, they sure were. It’s erotica. Have I mentioned that? The “plot” of escaping the abusive-cum-murderous husband is a lot stronger than in most erotica I’ve read, but still more flimsy than that of a romance novel. I suppose if one were reading it as if the plot were the strongest element, I could see how one would be tempted to want to call it “romantic erotica” and be disappointed in the result, but let’s get real: erotica doesn’t need an actual, fleshed-out (heh) plot.

3. That Camille’s reasoning for escaping her abusive-cum-murderous husband RIGHT THEN was flimsy.

Actually, I thought that part was very well set up and the strongest point of the plot. Camille was on the last upswing of the abusive-husband cycle and she knew it. I’ve volunteered at battered women’s shelters. There comes a do-or-die point (literally) for the woman to run and she usually knows when that is. Whether she runs or not…well, that’s up to her.

4. That there just happened to be brothels everywhere along the path they took on their escape route, doubling as inns.

Yeah, there sure were. It’s erotica. Have I mentioned that?

5. There are eunuchs! In a place we think might be 17th-18th Century France. Eunuchs! What the fuck?

Fuck, indeed and precisely. It’s erotica. Have I mentioned that?


I think Jessica summed it up best when she said this:

In some ways, despite the sexual sadism of the Duke, this book offers a very positive view of sex. Sex is the go-to coping strategy for most of life’s problems: Need an heir? Feeling stressed? Husband trying to kill you? Lonely? Bored? Want to show someone you have power over them? Need a place to stay for free? Want to escape those thugs? Need a favor? Want to convince someone to ally with you? Want to thank someone? The answer is sex, sex, sex, sex, and more sex.

That was its strength and its purpose. Why? Because it’s erotica. Have I mentioned that?

Okay, so now that we’ve got all that out of the way, here was my problem with what I read:


The cover. Come on. It’s gorgeous, absolutely breathtaking all textured and ripe with hot redhead right there in the center of groping hands and a pearl necklace around her neck (make of that what you will).

Except…Camille is described as having black hair with gray streaks.


NIT TWO, which is the genuine weakness of the book:

The sexual logical inconsistencies. “What?!?!” you cry. “You just finished telling us it was erotica and don’t get hung up on the ridiculousness of it. What could you possibly mean?” Not that way, you silly goose.

1. Camille needs an heir or her husband will kill her. Her husband is shooting blanks. She summons the groom to attempt to impregnate her because any child of his could pass for her husband’s. Okay, so far so good. Sounds like a plan. But immediately after finishing with the groom, she is summoned to her husband’s wannabe de Sade dungeon.

[Her husband] had to fuck her at least once, in case she had managed to become pregnant that afternoon.

Okay. We know she doesn’t want to, but we get the timing issue. But then he doesn’t. And not only does she not worry about this, it doesn’t even occur to her that she missed her chance to cover up her possible switcheroo.

2. Camille’s been married to this dude for 20 years and has been exposed (as a spectator and submissive) to every sexual deviance possible because he’s sick and twisted that way. And yet, this night, the relatively mild antics are…different? And now she’s aroused by them? After 20 years of debauchery? Really? Just now? No, I don’t believe it.

a. She has eunuchs who are her bodyguards and, ostensibly, sexual servants. She has an ivory carving (dildo). In 20 years of exposure and being aroused (for the first time!) that night, she finally—FINALLY!—asks her eunuchs to pleasure her? No, I don’t believe it.

b. In 20 years of exposure and forced sexual obeisance, she’s never given head until this night? (That’s the way I read it, anyway.) No, I don’t believe it.

In other circumstances, she might have enjoyed tasting so large a cock, but not in front of the duke.

So…has she or has she not experienced pleasure before? Has she or has she not given head? The implication before this passage is that she had (by force), but at this moment thinks about how delicious it might be if her husband wasn’t watching? Say what? No, I don’t believe it.

c. It’s discussed that she was never unfaithful to her husband—in 20 years!—and just that day with the groom was the first time for seeking her pleasure elsewhere and the first time, in fact, that she’d known pleasure at all. No, I don’t believe it.

d. Once the entourage takes to the road, it’s as if everything is a new experience for her, as in, she never knew X activity existed. She becomes lovers with her maid and the author makes a point of letting us know that she hasn’t had a woman. Really? In 20 years of Duke Debauchery and forced sexual obeisance and his own propensity toward voyeurism and she’s never done a woman? No, I don’t believe it.

I think I would have had a problem with Camille’s contradictory sexual history anyway, but I don’t think it would have made me simply put the book down and not want to pick it up again. The unpleasantness surrounding it combined with that simply destroyed any enjoyment I might have had.

Quite simply, it was a chore to read, which frustrated and disappointed me to no end because it was a book I wanted to read and expected to enjoy.

Since this was given to me, I’d like to pass it along. First person to email me gets it.

Book Review: Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring
by RJ Keller

It’s been a long time since I threw common sense to the wind and stayed up to finish a book knowing how much I had to do the next day, but not resenting it the next day because it was totally worth it.

This book has no spiffy genre classification. After some thought, I think I’d call it “literary romance.” I don’t know what “women’s fiction” is and I’m not sure I really even know what “chick lit” is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not either of those. And you know, lately, I’ve been very happy with the books that haven’t been easily classified.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s not the kind of pain she can see and smell and wrap with an ace bandage. It’s the kind she tries to numb with sex and work and cleaning-cleaning-cleaning the house. The kind that comes from enduring a lifetime of rejection. First from her mother–whom Tess knows would have aborted her had the law allowed it–then from a string of men whose names she can never remember. And finally, at age thirty-four, from her husband of ten years; the man who once promised to love her forever.

You want angst? I gotcher angst right here, pal. And this is the good stuff, the kind that jerks you around and bashes you over the head and makes you come back for more to see how it all ends. In my experience with literary fiction (one of which was an Oprah pick—sue me), there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule about writing angst, which is to understate it, to let the subtleties of the angst dawn on the reader like a sunrise behind storm clouds.

Problem with that approach is that A) I don’t ever get to know or care about the characters enough to care about their angst and B) their angst isn’t that big of a deal anyway; if the characters clearly don’t care about their angst, why should I? So I’ll read literary fiction, don’t get me wrong, but later, I’ll scratch my head and say (if asked), “Yeah, I think I read that book, but I don’t remember the name or the author.” I just remember dipping my toe in the wading pool of that world once upon a time.

The main character, Tess, has angst and she doesn’t seem to care about her angst, either. But I cared about her angst from the very first paragraph:

They say actions speak louder than words. Maybe. But words do a hell of a lot more damage. Even well-meaning words spoken by well-meaning people.

People like Sister Patricia Mary Theriault. She was my catechism teacher when I was seven years old. Until she ruined my life. […]

Then she told us about the bad soil. […] But the only bad soil I heard about was this:

“As the Sower was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on and–”

Path. Trampled. Bad soil. […]

“Don’t let your hearts become trampled down, children. Keep them soft and fertile so you can feel God’s love inside of you.”

Seven years old. And already I knew I was in some deep shit. The kind that even Sister Patricia couldn’t do anything about.

The twin hyperbolic allegories of “until she ruined my life” and “Seven years old. And already I knew I was in some deep shit” are not, actually, hyperbolic or allegorical, but the reader doesn’t find out why or how until far, far into the book.

You might be tempted to point out that this is simply excellent fiction infrastructure, to which I would say…yeah, I know. But I don’t see that a whole lot anymore. As far as I can tell, the current writing fad is to make me, Random Reader, ask the question and then never let it linger like a good combination of spices on my tongue or let me savor the moment of enlightenment when/if it happens.

Instead, it will ask the question and proceed to answer it for me 2 pages later and sometimes, even worse, will over-explain it in case I didn’t get it fast enough or thoroughly digest all the layers of subtext. I’m very tired of being treated like an idiot in my fiction and, further, I hate that I actually have to call attention to this amazingly annoying trend.

There are quite a few laugh-out-loud lines, sharp. Wry.

When Tess, age 34, takes Brian, age 25, as a lover, they finish, talk, then begin again not long after. Tess observes,

Ready again. Twenty-five. Gotta love that.

Keller also gives the reader glimpses of the spirituality that’s woven all through the tale; they glimmer, like the gold threads in shot fabric:

The stars, he said, were actually souls; all the souls that were too restless to be locked up in heaven. They were so restless that God let them stay outside at night to play.

And when an 8-year-old girl about to take her first communion asks Tess if she believes in God, Tess says:

“Yes, I believe in God. I just…I don’t feel close to him in church.”

“Really? Why’s that?”

I shrugged, even though I knew exactly why. I knew because I’d felt that way since I was a little girl, sitting in my church clothes, listening to the Mass. Trying to feel His presence. Struggling to feel His love. But there was nothing there. Nothing but words I didn’t completely understand and scary status. And then, one beautiful Sunday Spring morning when I was nine years old, something occurred to me. Something I never told anyone else.

He’s not really in here. God doesn’t live inside a building, and that’s all a church is; just a building filled with lots of words. […]

Because Anne [of Green Gables] said that if she really wanted to talk to God, a real true prayer, then she’d have to go outside to do it. She’s need to surround herself with God’s creation, with His beauty; drink it in and let it fill her up. And then she could look heavenward and just feel a prayer.

The narrative itself is choppy, with sentences and paragraphs written in fits and starts, which perfectly mirrors Tess’s personality and her coping mechanisms (particularly her “personality disorder”). In fact, a good portion of Tess’s internal dialog and her observations are written as wry asides to herself and she is inviting you, Random Reader, to chuckle along with her.

And I did. Even while I had tears running down my cheeks.

Judge. Book. Cover.

Th., give thanks and be glad! You are no longer alone in your opinion on my cover. 😉

LDS Fiction has very kindly listed my book amongst the LDS fiction released in the last little while. You have to request this, along with sending its information and the cover (because the poor blog owner can’t be expected to keep track of all the LDS authors and fiction out there). If I recall correctly, I didn’t send a pic of the cover with it because, well, it has bewbies on it. It’s entirely apropos to the story thematically (on about three different levels), but unless you read the book, you aren’t going to get that. On the other hand, I know the audience there and while I didn’t think it would appreciate the cover, obviously the blog owner did what she thought consistent with her blog.

So I’ve garnered a one-star review. Oh, wait, did I say REVIEW? I meant to say, a one-star disapproval rating, based on the cover.

That’s an awful cover. I don’t think I would pick up based on the cover. I couldn’t have it in my home.

To be fair, it does say “rate this book,” not REVIEW this book, but in my world, you kinda have to read a book to rate it, so I think I can be cut some slack for assuming that a rating = review.

This kinda reminds me of the “reviews” Eugene’s book got wherein some folks flew up into the rafters over the fact that there was a bishop’s wife and a vampire together. (Or, better, when the back blurb SAID there was a bishop’s wife and a vampire together, and the reviewers didn’t get it might not be something you’d buy from Deseret Book until they got to the sex scenes.)

I can so appreciate that someone wouldn’t want the print version in the house, so the Lord has provided you with a SOLUTION!


Give thanks and be glad.