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Season’s Change

I should have posted this several months ago. I’m dealing with some really intense personal stuff this year, and when it isn’t kicking my ass emotionally, it’s lobbing grenades into my plans. I may or may not post again specifically to talk about what’s going on with me, but that’s for another day.

Anyways, I’m sorry I’m just sharing this now, but I’m in a new anthology! If you remember, I loved Chemical [se]X when I read it and reviewed it in December of 2014. After I reviewed it, I told the editor, Oleander, that if she ever did a volume two to please let me know. She did better than that, and asked me if I wanted to contribute!

I first heard the song Persephone years ago after a friend shared his Escape Key album with me. Michelle Dockrey wrote the song. The line “They all forget I had a choice, y’know/I could’ve chosen not to eat or drink” clicked for me. I knew that one day I would write my take on Persephone.

Hey, guess what I wrote for an anthology about aphrodisiac chocolates?

I changed the pomegranate into a chocolate with a pomegranate filling and I had a story where eating chocolate would be a key part of the larger story. I could’ve gone with other myths (my oldest daughter’s middle name is Athena), but it made sense to do Persephone/Hades.

Rape of Prosperina by Benini
Often also called Rape of Persephone

I’ve never liked how passive Persephone is often written. So I knew that my Persephone would be in the model of Michelle Dockrey’s. She would make a choice, rather than have choices made by other people about her life. When it came to Hades, I remembered that he didn’t only create Tartarus, but also the Elysian Fields.

Excerpt:

She’d gone willingly to Apollo’s bed.  Sun was vital in the growth of plants.   But the sex had been….pedestrian.  Boring.  Uninspiring.  Just as she’d always found it.

“What’s wrong with me?” she whispered.

As if in reply, the ground started to shake. Soil exploded upward as a team of black stallions spewed forth.  The god driving the chariot was clad in unrelieved black from head to toe.  Surely he was hunting some poor lost soul.

Persephone’s breath was knocked from her body when Hades’ powerful arm snatched her.

“What are you doing?” Persephone gasped.

She was shocked when no trees bent to block her abduction, nor did sylphs step forth to attempt a rescue. The only sounds were the pounding of the stallion’s hooves and her own ragged sobs. The iron band of his arm held her tightly against him as the horses dove back into the underworld. 

They raced along the River Styx. Persephone remembered the stories she’d been told as a child—always keep a coin in your shoe in case you must pay Charon’s fee. Hades had no need of coins for passage. The stallions leapt the water with no more trouble than she might have had stepping over a small stream.

The landscape passed too quickly for her to comprehend what she was seeing.  At times she had the impression of tremendous beauty and peace while music swirled around the chariot. At others, paralyzing fear nibbled at her and cries of agony assaulted her ears.  They raced deeper into the Underworld until Persephone knew she would never find her way back to the river.

A building in the distance grew larger.  Black as obsidian, with turrets stabbing upward, the castle seemed no more welcoming than the god beside her. The stallions slowed to a stop by the entrance.  Hades hefted her over a shoulder and carried Persephone into the castle. She trembled like a sheaf of grain in a wind, too frightened and angry to speak.

It seemed as though Hades walked for hours before she was tossed onto a bed.

“Why? Hades, what purpose?” she asked, tears running down her face.

“Zeus said you can’t bring forth the harvest. He seemed to think that since the ground is dead around you, and the people are dead around me that we would be a perfect match.  He gave you to me in marriage.” Hades’ voice was emotionless.

“M-marriage?”  Her teeth chattered as his words set in.

“Yes.”

“What are you going to do to me?” she whispered.

“Nothing! I’m not interested in sporting with a terrified girl. Stay out of my way, wife.  In time, let’s hope that we can tolerate one another.” Hades frowned, before adding, “Don’t eat or drink anything. Keep out of the kitchen.” He left, kicking the door shut behind him.

Persephone shivered at the finality of the slam of the door. Fear dug into her skin like a bramble. Underneath the fear, though, there was relief. She wouldn’t have to receive the offerings of grain and flowers accompanied by pleas to warm the land for their plows.

From an Amazon review- Delilah Night’s take on Persephone, which had me hooked from the opening lines: “they forget I had a choice, you know. I could’ve not eaten.” I loved how deftly consent was woven into that tale which could’ve gone so easily into Belle & Beast terrain.

Buy it on

ARC review–Please Send Help by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Please Send Help

4/5*

Published July 2019

Please Send Help is different from a lot of what I’ve read recently. Told via text and email, the post-college lives of Ava (the planner, interning at a tv show) and Gen (freewheeling, queer, and in hell in Florida at a newspaper job). Friends since high school, they struggle with adulthood and learn that you only get through life with the help of your friends.

I really like that the relationship the book is about is the two women. While each of them has romantic attachments at times in the books, it’s not the sole focus, nor is it the main one.

I’m curious to know how the authors divided up the work, because it feels incredibly authentic. The two voices are so distinct that the reader is pulled into the journey with them.

I think this book has pretty wide appeal–both for those who’ve yet to experience life post-college, and those who have.

Review-Day of the Dragon by Katie MacAlister

Day of the Dagon

3/5*

Published March 201

I received a copy of Day of the Dragon in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.

I used to read Katie MacAlister books all the time. She was one of the authors who got me back into the genre after a long absence. But I got to that point where I’d read her whole backlist, and her new books weren’t coming out soon enough that I got distracted–probably down a Nora Roberts hole–it’s been twenty odd years and I still haven’t read her whole bcklist! But I haven’t read anything by her in a decade.

Day of the Dragon reminds me why I enjoyed her books, although my tastes have changed somewhat since then (more on that later). They’re light and fluffy–the sort of books words like zany and romp were made for.

Thaisa starts off as a character who is mousy, unsure of herself, and blames her appearance for everything that’s gone wrong for her. Archer starts off as an arrogant man–and he grows, but not nearly as much.

The problem for me was that I wasn’t all that intrigued by the main story. The most interesting character was Bree, a spite turned something else who always seems to know more than the other players, but is absurdly funny. As is the demon Thaisa calls up, but forgets to bind properly.

The big crux of the story was that there was an ancient piece of text that needed to be translated to find the location of the two missing halves of the Raisa Medallion, which was supposed to turn Archer and his brother into the first dragon hunters (dragons who hunt demons, not humans who hunt dragons).

The book fits in well with the rest of the dragon books written by MacAllister, but works as a standalone.

Here is my issue with it–The stakes are so incredibly low. We know that Archer is accusing his brother of murdering his fellow dragons, but there’s a twist that it’s all confusing and makes those stakes non-existant really. While Thaisa and Archer both undergo some changes and growth, that’s all low stakes, too. There are also some secondary characters who are charicatures—Thaisa’s best friend, who literally shows up once, and was married to her current boss, and given the way he treats Thaisa, I kind of want to know what her deal was, and that boss is also more outline than character. The story didn’t hold my interest, which is the biggest issue of all. I had to push myself through it. Without Bree the sprite and the demon, it would be a 2/5 rating.

Love Grind by Shelly Ellis


Love Grind by Shelly Ellis

She’s used to baring it all . . . but baring her heart is a whole different story

Down on her luck and broke, Jennifer Dudley long ago traded dancing in the chorus line for swinging from a stripper pole to make ends meet. She’s hoping an offer to come back home and teach dance at her old performance academy will be the opportunity she needs to fix her life. When she moves in with and falls for a software developer with brains, a boyish smile, and muscles, she decides she might be well on her way to a second chance at success—and love. But her X-rated past may come back to haunt her, compromising her newfound happiness and hurting the ones she loves the most.

AVAILABLE ON:

AMAZON

ABOUT SHELLY ELLIS

Shelly Ellis is a NAACP Image Award-nominated women’s fiction/romance author and creator of the Gibbons Gold Digger and Chesterton Scandal series. Her fiction writing career began when she became one of four finalists in a First-Time Writers Contest when she was 19 years old. The prize was a publishing contract and having her first short-story romance appear in an anthology. She has since published ten novels and was a finalist for 2015 NAACP Image Award in the Literary Fiction Category, a three-time finalist for the African American Literary Award in the romance category (2012, 2016, and 2017), and a finalist for the 2015 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in Multicultural Romance category.

She is married and lives in Prince George’s County, Maryland with her husband and their daughter. Visit her at her web site http://www.shellyellisbooks.com.


CONNECT WITH SHELLY ELLIS

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Thalanian Dynasty Series by Katee Robert

Theirs for the Night (Thalanian Dynasty #1)

5/5*

Published 2018

A few weeks ago I reviewed an ARC of The Fearless King by Katee Robert, and absolutely loved it. While on Twitter, someone recommended this series as a hot MMF trilogy. Theirs for the Night was free (and still is at this second in time), so I dove in and ended up reading both the novella and the two full length novels in less than forty-eight hours.

The last triad book I reviewed was in the Dirty series by Jaine Diamond, and I mentioned that the triad had broken up into a couple and a single individual by the end. So I was thrilled to see the triad in this series stay intact.

Theo is the exiled prince of Thalania, and Galen is his former head of security. They’ve also been lovers for over a decade, and occasionally share women. After a stressful few weeks, they are up for a distraction when Meg enters the bar. For her part, it’s Meg’s birthday and she’s put the stress of not knowing where the money will come from for the next semester of college–so when two hot guys approach her for a threesome, what the hell, it’s her birthday, right?

That would be the end of the story, except Theo can’t stay away from Meg, and once he pulls her back into his orbit, Galen objects–not because he doesn’t want her (he does), but because he’s worried that someone could endanger her to get at Theo. When that happens, Meg is saved and has to go on the run with Theo and Galen in a hunt for the key to getting his crown back.

The two novels have a great deal of romantic suspense, which has been a running theme across the books I’ve read by Robert. The relationship building and maintenance for a triad is complex and Robert doesn’t skimp on that. Working things out takes effort.

This is a great series if you’re up for triad sex.

Unlimited Time and Money

Today’s MFRW prompt is What if you had unlimited time and money?

Without the constraints of time or money, so much would be possible. You wouldn’t have to balance things like work, time with family/friends, being a parent, taking time for your interests outside of writing, and writing.

Firstly, think of all the opportunities that unlimited time and money could provide for those in need. And while that might include you, it also includes anyone else who is struggling. Lifting others up is the right thing to do.

Think of traveling to wherever your book is set and doing some first hand research. When I wrote Capturing the Moment, I set it in Siem Reap, Cambodia and there are many places, people, food, and sights in the book that I experienced. Plunder is set in the Caribbean–and maybe I can’t visit 1700, but I could see what the water looks like and the weather feels like and so forth. For that matter, with unlimited funds, I could also probably pay someone to make a costume similar to the ones my characters wear and understand firsthand what it’s like to put on a period gown or sailors clothes.

For that matter, think about traveling anywhere you’ve ever wanted to. The pyramids? Done. Vegas? No problem. Greece? When do you want to leave?

Don’t own your own home? Buy one. Don’t like your current house? Buy a new one or renovate the hell out of your existing house. Need a writer’s shed (which is my dream)? Build it.

Don’t forget to help those who need homes. In Silicon Valley, many people have had to live in campers that are parked by the side of the road. Not just one or two here or there, but easily ten at a time along the park, along a major road, etc. Those families need homes, too. Look around, and help ensure that you’re not the only person with the home they need.

Unlimited time means you can spend that time with your loved ones, or get that extra time alone that you crave. The unlimited money means you don’t have to worry about it. And it will allow you to pass on that gift to others.

What would you do?

ARC review-Roll the Dice by Mimi Barbour

Roll the Dice by Mimi Barbour

2/5*

Pub Jan 2014

I received a copy of Roll the Dice from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Before I get into the meat of the review, I want to state up front that there needs to be a content warning for rape. Aurora’s partner is recovering from rape, and is unsure if the baby she’s carrying is her husband’s or her rapists–which is a big part of the plot. The rapist also assaults several other victims. The rape is all off screen, but I think this would a difficult read for a sexual assault survivor.

Having said that, I didn’t hate Roll the Dice, but I didn’t love it either.

Aurora is a detective with the LVPD, and Kai is her new partner, as her old partner, Debbie is on maternity leave. Aurora is after Earl Rhondo, the man who assaulted Debbie. Kai is after him because Rhondo raped his sister, who eventually suicided because of the rape trauma. The book is their hunt for him.

My biggest complaint is that this doesn’t really work as a romance. It’s a gritty crime thriller where the leads just happen to hook up once. There are some feelings, but the love story is not in the foreground of the book. If you are looking for a story that is primarily a romance, you might not be happy. If you like the In Death series, but wish there was less sex, you would probably enjoy this.

My second biggest complaint is that there are some lazy characterizations.

Ham, the ethnically Irish cop says “The skinny little eejit, he’s a bold one he is.” But unless I missed an immigration story in book 1, this feels like just an excuse to write an Irish cop.

A bar owner is referred to as a “Polack,” which even in 2014 was in poor taste.

Finally, the sex. As written, not my cup of tea.

Honestly, if it hadn’t been a Netgalley book, I would have DNF’d it. 2 stars instead of one because it wasn’t a painful read.