Review: ‘Ribbons & Belle’

Oh, I’ve been around. Doing this and that, more related to life than to writing. But I am back in the saddle and recalibrating my release dates, so stay tuned!

One of the things that gets me back into that creative space is communing with other creatives and with their creations. This one, ‘Ribbons & Belle’ by Ey Wade is work I read a long while back. As I get back into my groove, I’ll be posting some shorts just for fun, and as the year draws to a close, releasing new work. But in the meantime, I hope you’ll check out some of the work from the writers I reviewed and enjoyed, like this one!

randbA review of ‘Ribbons & Belle’ by Ey Wade

I read this book now several months ago, and recently happened across it again, recalling that I hadn’t reviewed it. And then I recalled why. ‘Ribbons & Belle’ is one of those books you want to sit with for a while after you’ve read it, because it raises interesting questions under the guise of a ‘simple romance’. But having read this author’s work before, I was forewarned that it probably wouldn’t be quite as simple as it might initially appear. For starters, the female lead is named Annabelle Lee, whose namesake is a tragic figure from an Edgar Allan Poe poem about a man who mourns his lost love, a love so great that even the angels are envious. So I was fully prepared for this Annabelle to be a tragic figure.

And she was. Somewhat.

At the beginning of the novel we see Annabelle mourning a loss, and yearning for what was lost. And that writing—the opening scene—was some of the most beautiful I have read this year. It had some the same hallmarks of Ey Wade’s writing in another of her books I read, ‘When Clouds Touch’—there is a fairytale like aspect, an otherworldliness to it that makes it sound lyrical and feel almost magical. And, as in that book, even the physical characteristics of the main characters were uncommon. Both Tyson and Belle are showstoppers in their own way, but not in a romance novel way. They are unique. Again; like in a fairytale.

But Ey Wade’s fairytales are somewhat like ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ with a very … well, grim, underbelly. That element was definitely present in this story. The details of what and how Annabelle lost are enough to make you want to weep. She has had miscarriages and her marriage ended as a result. But one particular pregnancy loss was incredibly difficult, and forced her into making a choice that no woman would want to make.

But then there was the love story, the coming together of Annabelle and her interesting, somewhat quirky suitor Tyson Ribbons (see what I mean, ‘ribbons’ and ‘belle’ –very reminiscent of the names in children’s stories, right?) who is determined to be her Prince Charming despite the incredibly difficult dilemma she presents him with. Annabelle is trying to get pregnant, and she’s doing it through artificial insemination; a plan she has no intention of delaying or changing simply because a persistent and seductive new man enters her life. And to further complicate matters, despite the obvious conflict of interest, Tyson is to be her counselor through this process. The counseling sessions become subterfuge for him to learn more about the mysterious Annabelle and for the two to grow closer.

Their closeness, and developing relationship is tested when those close to Tyson and to Annabelle learn troubling new details about her last pregnancy, and question whether she deserves what she wants most—motherhood.

So here’s my take. I loved Tyson, and particularly loved that his affection for Annabelle grew from afar at first and then turned into something more. The choice he made—to pursue Annabelle despite her circumstances—was one I would have counseled a friend against, but somehow it seemed to make sense for the man he was. I believed him completely, and felt like I understood him. Annabelle, less so, probably because I think a culture that tells women that they are incomplete unless they are mothers is oppressive. And Annabelle seemed to have bought into that in ways that made me want to throttle her a times. She was so single-minded in her drive to be a mother, that I couldn’t relate. But of course, I have a kid, so what do I know about wanting and not being able to have one? So … when I stopped judging her, I liked her more, and just wanted her to get what she wanted.

But I have to admit, when The Big Issue with Annabelle’s pregnancy was revealed, I wanted to see the characters struggle with it some more. I wanted to see a little more push and pull over this incredibly difficult subject—most of the conflict about it was external, and where Annabelle had to school a couple people, I got it but was more curious about her own internal struggle, and perhaps even an internal struggle between the couple. All in all though, the writing was solid, and the ending satisfying. But most of all, I think the story, the characters and the conflict were uncommon and unexpected; all of which, for me, made ‘Ribbons & Belle’ well worth the read.

Happy Reading!

N.

 

‘2 Writers, 1 Book’ Review Site Launched!

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MANIC MONDAY: Nia Forrester and Tia Kelly have a new blog thoroughly reviewing books that we’ve read. Our site is a work in progress, but we’d love for you to follow us!

www.2writers1book.com

This month’s ‘Must Read’ – Walter Mosley’s ‘Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore’… check out our blog to find out why!

Completion, or Longing?

Longing, by Evelina Kremsdorf
Longing, by Evelina Kremsdorf

By far, the most common observation I get from people who read my work is: ‘why didn’t you tell us what happened “in the end”? or ‘I wanted to see what happened after that.’ For sometime I’ve puzzled over this, because where stories of peoples’ lives are concerned, for me “the end” occurs at their death (and maybe not even then) and “what happens after” may just be window-dressing. Pretty to look at with little function. So, for me, the wedding isn’t nearly as important as a couple’s struggle to decide that they should have one, the verbal ‘I love you’ not as significant as the myriad tiny ways that I can show two people as they journey toward experiencing that emotion.

And finally, where conclusions of my books are concerned, I think there may be a little misunderstanding. Here’s the thing: I never strive to give the reader a sense of completion. Instead, what I’m going for is longing.

long•ing

ˈlôNGiNG/

noun

  1. a yearning desire.

“Miranda felt a wistful longing for the old days”

synonyms:yearning, pining, craving, ache, burning, hunger, thirst, hankering;

Don’t get me wrong. There is something to be said for reading a book, leaning back in your chair and sighing as though you’ve just eaten a large (but not too large) but supremely satisfying meal. And when I want that feeling, I have some go-to-writers who can be counted on to give it to me. But for me, the books that stayed with me, the ones I never forget are the ones that end with some ambiguity and send my imagination soaring, or wandering through a dozen different potential scenarios. Those are the books that leave me in a heightened emotional state, sometimes euphoric and other times despondent, but always, always with a sense of wanting something; and that feeling for me is both maddening and strangely satisfying. For others, I realize, when I end a book that way, it’s simply frustrating but I can’t help it . . . it’s what works for me.

When I started writing, I used to try to give conclusive endings, but they felt wrong and contrived. I don’t like even the implication of an “ending”. I like the idea that we go on and on, learning more, making mistakes, hurting the ones we love, making amends and doing it all over again. So I end my books that way—with the promise of more to come, maybe, but never with a sense of utter completion.

I don’t mean this as a missive against those who call for me to write HEAs, but just as an explanation of where I’m coming from and where I want to go with what I write. Completion works for some writers, but not for me. I want to leave you aching, craving . . . longing.

Happy Reading!

N.

Don’t Tie Me Up – A Review of ‘Black Satin’ by The Black

Black SatinThis may be TMI, but here it is: I like vanilla sex. No, love. I love vanilla sex. I don’t need you to tie me up, attach clamps to my naughty bits or whip me with anything. With a partner to whom I feel connected in the head and (sometimes) heart, I’m apt to enjoy and enthusiastically participate, even with no accessories required.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m all for consenting adults doing whatever they want to get their rocks off.  And ever the adventurous one, I’ll try just about anything at least once given the right kind of persuasion. But having said that, I don’t get particularly hot and bothered at the idea of restraints, submitting to anything or anyone, or watching others get it on.

So when The Black told me about his new book, ‘Black Satin’ a compilation of BDSM shorts, I very politely expressed my interest but didn’t immediately put it on my TBR (“to be read”) list. Still, having become well-acquainted with his writing style even to the point of enjoying a novella he wrote called ‘The Axe’ (yeah, the thing you use to chop things . . . or people, with) I decided to see what he would do with this still somewhat taboo, though increasingly mainstreamed content.

The result? I read ‘Black Satin’ in one sitting.

To limit this book to the now trendy BDSM genre-fiction is to do it an injustice. For one thing, there’s not a whole lot of B,D, S or M, at least not in the way that purists and practitioners of that lifestyle would see it. Instead, The Black takes us on a journey with several couples experimenting with physical and emotional limits in their relationships.

My favorite story by far in the compilation is the very first one, ‘OPP’ (and if you don’t know what that means you better ask somebody). In ‘OPP’, we see Baron, a character who appears in ‘With Benefits’ and ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ engage in a sexy power-struggle with his neighbor that is a scarily accurate portrayal of how some women wield their sexuality as a weapon and how men may respond to that show of force. Someone reaches the point of submission for sure in this story, though not in the way you might expect given the BDSM label. In fact, if you’re not nearly as adventurous as some people, and believe that BDSM is code for cringe-worthy, risktaking bedroom behavior, there is nothing to fear in this book — almost all of the bondage, domination, submission, etc. is to be found in the psychological rather than the sexual elements of these stories.

My second favorite story in the compilation would be very difficult to pick, honestly, because they each had something that piqued and kept my interest. And for lovers of romance, there’s plenty for you to sink your teeth into as well.  But on the whole, here’s what I loved about this book. It was not a cobbled-together series of overblown sexual situations masquerading as fiction. As is always the case with The Black’s work, the characterization was thorough, the situations believable, the stories engaging, and most were vaguely reminiscent of some situation in our own life or those of people we know.

What I liked most about ‘Black Satin’ was that in almost every story, there was a full, detailed back-story that made the sexual situations make perfect sense. At no point while reading these shorts did I roll my eyes and say, ‘Yeah, like that would happen in real life.’ It was sexy, it was arousing but it was intelligent erotica. So if like me, you like realism with your fantasy and believe that the biggest aphrodisiac is what you have between your ears and not between your legs, ‘Black Satin’ is one you’re sure to enjoy.

Happy Reading!

-N-

Blog Stop: Madeline Hampton, author of ‘Mr. & Mrs. Love Jones’

UPDATE: Check out my review here!

Today I’m pleased to host Madeline Hampton, author of the romantic suspense novel, Mr. & Mrs. Love Jones. If you like your romance, with a little bit of action and intrigue thrown in, this is one to check out!

Here’s what goes down in Mr. & Mrs. Love Jones: Prosecuting attorney Matthew Love is a man on a mission. Heartbroken and angry after discovering his beautiful cousin’s lifeless body in a Miami park, he’s quick to take action. Hell bent on revenge, he’ll stop at nothing to see that his cousin’s death is avenged. Miami Mayor Cedric Turner is at the top of his list of suspects, and with good reason. His cousin Sherida was having an affair with the married mayor and carrying his unborn child. Following the evidence, he thinks it’s a slam dunk case, there’s only one problem. He’s falling for Mayor Turner’s goddaughter, defense attorney Sherron Jones, who’s representing the mayor.

Welcome Madeline! Before we talk about your book, I’d love to hear a little about you and your journey in the writing life, so far.

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When were you first sure writing was something you wanted to do? And what’s the first thing you ever wrote?

I was sure writing was what I wanted to do when I was working a private duty case and taking care of an elderly couple. When they slept, I just wrote and a beautiful story just developed. The first thing I ever wrote was a short story that I sold to my friends at school for $3.

Some writers say that they write because they have to, and don’t care if anyone ever reads it. What made you decide to share your writing with the world? 

I decided long ago that I wanted to share my writing with the public. I wanted to see my work in print.  I didn’t want to be focused on sales but on just getting the word out about my work.

What’s been the hardest part of the writing life for you? And what’s the one thing about the writing life you wish someone had told you?

The hardest part about writing to me is not having  total solitude. I love the writing process but would like to have a cabin in the woods where I could be locked away for a few months uninterrupted. I wish someone told me about the publishing side of writing. That aspect of  writing has not gone well for me.

‘Romance’ is a very broad genre, and certainly Mr & Mrs Love Jones was more than romance. How would you categorize the type of books you write?

Mr.& Mrs. Love Jones was a suspense/thriller. All of my novels are  romance but all have a little mystery in them. I would say I’m mainly a romance writer.

 As a writer, I have a very specific type of reader in mind that I’m targeting. How about you? Who’s your audience/readership?

I mainly target women but everyone  is invited to enjoy my work. I mainly try to appeal to 17 and older. I love it when I hear men tell me that they are a fan of my work.

What other genre do you see yourself writing if not this one?

I really want to delve into children’s books at some point. That has been a dream of mine.

Many writers draw heavily from personal experience or infuse personal causes into their work. Do you have any personal experiences or causes that you like to infuse in your books?

To date I haven’t infused any personal causes or experiences but I like to think people can find some type of kinship of their own personal experiences in relations to my work .

When you write, do you think of plot first, or characters first? Tell us about your process for crafting your stories.

When I write, I think of characters first. Once I build character make up, it’s easy for me to develop the plot. I try to implement some type of obstacle that either the hero or heroine must face/overcome. None of my main characters are without a friend or two so they  always have a buddy to run to in times of need.

What’s your comfort zone? Writing alone? Or writing with frequent feedback and collaboration?

I really do like writing alone but I’m currently working on a collaboration. It’s my first and it’s going well.  I enjoy the feedback/input from my colleague.

Mr.&amp_Mrs.Love Jones CoverTell us about Mr. & Mrs. Love Jones. I like relationship stories that take place under less-than-ideal circumstances. Tell us about Sherron and Matthew. What were you trying to say with their relationship?

When I was writing Mr. & Mrs. Love Jones, I was very excited. I did a lot of research with that novel and I hope it shows. Matthew and Sherron met under very stressful and yes, less-than-ideal circumstances. Matthew had just lost his cousin to a senseless murder and Sherron had just learned that the would be killer was her godfather and that he was having an affair with the young woman. Sherron wanted to hate Matthew from the very beginning but she couldn’t help herself and found herself more drawn to him than away from him. Matthew initially just wanted to seek justice for his cousin but as the days wore on to weeks, then months, he realized he wanted much more than a faithful justice system. He wanted the very woman closest to a man he swore to hate.

 What’s your ideal hero when you’re writing your books? What’s your ideal heroine?

I’m not sure if I have an ideal hero or heroine. That sounds crazy but my hero or heroine are neither so good or so bad or right or wrong. They are trying to make a life out of what was dealt to them. They will make some horrible choices down the line but they always feel that the choices  are for the better good. For that they feel justified, until someone makes them see the error of their ways. That person is usually a good friend or family member that they’ve leaned on in the past. They need that constant reminder that they can’t go at it alone.

 What are you working on now, and when might we expect another Madeline Hampton book?

I am currently working on Tainted Love with an author out of Maryland. The project should be finished by mid to late August. I will be releasing the third and final novel in my Skye’s the Limit series later this Summer. It is titled Skye’s the Limit 3 : Turbulent Waters. The sequel to my first novel Behind Closed Doors will be released later this Summer as well. The title is Behind Closed Closed Doors 2: Secrets Revealed.

Well, until these new works hit the shelves (real and virtual), check out Mr. & Mrs. Love Jones, available now. Look out for my review later today but , read it for yourself and remember to leave Madeline your review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads!

Happy Reading!

 
Here’s how you can find Madeline’s work:

Amazon

iTunes: Under construction
Other:
And here’s how you can get in touch with Madeline:
Twitter: @madeline_419

Unbridled Romance

Delaney CoverSome writers elevate the romance novel to a form that makes you eschew gritty reality in favor of something so much sweeter . . .

Now I’m not your romantic type. Honest, I’m not. I still stifle the urge to correct people when they refer to my work as romance novels. Not that I’ve got anything against romance novels (as this post is shortly about to explain) but I never set out to write something “romantic”, I just want to write something ‘real’. But some writers elevate the romance novel to a form that makes you eschew gritty reality in favor of something so much sweeter . . .

On Monday, I had the honor of being interviewed on Delaney Diamond’s blog; and because I anticipated the post, I went there to check it out. If you read my blog, you’re used to me spilling my guts, but if you want, you can read the interview here.  And when you get there, explore a little bit. I did. I read all of Delaney’s free reads and bought yet another one of her books. Having already read ‘Second Chances‘, ‘The Arrangement‘ and ‘The Ultimate Merger‘, but written reviews for only one of the three, I wasn’t planning to read or buy anything more for now.

But I couldn’t help it. I immediately left her site and bought ‘Here Comes Trouble‘ and when I got home, read the already-purchased ‘A Hard Man to Love‘. Now I can’t afford to be reading anything, being behind (again) on a writing deadline, but my appetite was whetted and had to be satisfied.

Delaney’s reads are quick, and in many ways the antithesis of mine. She writes briskly, in crisp, clever prose that tells you a great deal in very few words. There is an underpinning to each and every character, the hint of so much more than is told. But what she does tell is all you need to know to be intrigued.  And here’s another thing: Delaney Diamond writes pure romance. The sweep-you-off-your-feet, swooning, bite-your-knuckles kind where painfully handsome dark-haired men-of-means sweep women away to nights of untold pleasure. Her worlds are those where money is no object for the male protagonist and the women are often relatively ill-matched, at least financially. Her stories are those where money and power are their own aphrodisiacs. For the reader at least, but hardly ever for the female protagonist.

Rather, Delaney takes us through a maddening mating dance where men who have everything are befuddled by their desire for the one thing they cannot summon: the heart of a woman. In her books, women are driven to irrational behavior by love. This is the kind of stuff you tell yourself could be corny, but when Delaney writes it, for some reason, it just isn’t. You feel the mutual push and pull of lust and love, the angst, the longing, the ache of wanting someone so badly it would crush you to learn that they don’t want you.

As I sat down to write my reviews, I decided that a review of each book would not be enough. What readers need to get a sense of is the body of her work. This stuff is what you should read when you’ve had a crappy day at work, when your mate pissed you off so much you could scream, when your car got a flat tire as you drove home in the rain and the tow-truck took 45 minutes showing up while you sweated it out inside without air-conditioning. Delaney’s work is escapism of the most satisfying kind. And what’s best about it is that it has no pretensions whatsoever. Great writing, great books that are intensely, unapologetically, unbridled romance.

Happy Reading.

N.

Oh, and I’m not a Nookie, but if you are, it’s not your fault and you can still get Delaney’s books, here.

Review of ‘Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever’

Books are like movies. There’s rarely ever a new plot out there. In fact, every single book ever written is probably a variation of one of five basic plots, in my opinion. So it takes some skill to make what you write seem like something completely new. It takes even more skill to pull off and maintain reader interest when you write something that you explicitly want people to associate with something that’s been done before. L.V. Lewis managed to do that with ‘Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever’ and that’s why I wanted to dedicate my last post before I go into writing mode to her book.

Here’s my review. Please read it! And then buy her book here.

Happy Reading!
-Nia-

Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever (The Ghetto Girl Romance Quadrilogy, #1)Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever by L.V. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever is not at all what you might think.

For starters, I should say that I have a love-hate relationship with the Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James. I think the writing wasn’t . . . well, whatever, but let’s just say I wasn’t impressed by her craftsmanship. But (and this is a BIG but) she had something that many writers who are great craftspeople don’t have – she had a definite ear for what resonates emotionally. Despite my eye-rolling over some of her word choices, I had genuine emotional shifts while reading the story she crafted. But this is not about E.L. James. This is about L.V. Lewis (see what she did there? even her pen name is a play on the prior series – nice), a writer who has both emotional and verbal eloquence. And to top that all off, wit as well. Not just the ability to interject funny one-liners, but true intelligent wit that comes through loud and clear in her writing.

So if I had to say what I most enjoyed about this book, it would be that. She also paired an unlikely hero and heroine in virtually unbelievable circumstances and gave them such strong voices that you could see them and believe that they do in fact exist, or that they could.

No one is more surprised than I am that I loved this book. I hate – yes hate – the term “jungle fever” to refer to interracial relationships. (And I could go on forever about why, but I won’t.) And the only time I use the word “ghetto” is to refer to places not people. And come to think of it, not even then. So I was a little biased from the outset. But as has been the case with almost all my biases, I was proven wrong. The title is parody wrapped up in irony cloaked in social commentary with a healthy dollop of humor. So that takes care of the title. So don’t be afraid of it because of that . . . now about the plot.

I know, I know. The innocent-and-the-billionaire has been done to death. First up, Keisha is no innocent. She is a smart-mouth, streetwise, intelligent and driven woman who is not about to be led down anyone’s primrose path. But having said that, she has the wind knocked out of her by the force of her attraction to Tristan White (hah! the choice of surname, again demonstrating the author’s humor)and embarks on an unconventional relationship, being indoctrinated into the exciting and pleasurable world of BDSM. And, as was the case in that other Fifty Shades series, she is as surprised as anyone that she loves “all that kinky shit”.

L.V. Lewis walks us through her internal monologue and has Keisha thinking things that you could totally imagine you might think if presented with an extremely attractive new lover who just happens to want to tie you up and “punish” you a little bit. The exchanges between Tristan and Keisha were humorous, sexy, clever and oh-so-true-to-life, considering the utter unlikelihood of the situation. And I don’t mind telling you that the sex scenes increased my pulse, I mean, considerably. And hey, I write sex scenes, so I know how clinical the writing of it can be, but the reading of these . . . let’s just say, not clinical. At all.

Having read the other Fifty Shades series, I know what is likely to happen between Keisha and Tristan, but already it’s clear that L.V. Lewis is an artist in her own right, not someone doing a cheap knock-off, because the places where she chose to depart from the other series (not just the obvious – like the interracial relationship, girl-from-the-‘hood aspect) were smart choices. So now I’m curious to see in the remaining parts of the quadrilogy where she goes. My only complaint is that there will be three remaining parts (I hate series) but who the heck am I kidding? I’m going to buy them all.

View all my reviews