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ARC review–If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker

4/5* for fans of Emma by Jane Austen

3/5* for those who are not familiar with Emma

If I Loved You Less is a modern retelling of Emma, by Jane Austen. I have never read the Austen novel, but of course I’m familiar with the most famous modern take on it–Clueless. This review contains SPOILERS because I couldn’t figure how to *not* make it contain spoilers. I won’t reveal anything that the flap copy doesn’t. Plus the original Austen has been around for more than a hundred years, and Clueless has been out for more than twenty.

I looked Emma up on Wikipedia to see how the plots compare. Parker has written a faithful adaptation set in a small town in Hawaii.

Theodosia, Theo to everyone, believes she deserves credit for the wedding between her former nanny, Charlotte, and her new husband at the start of the book. She decides this makes her a successful matchmaker. So when newcomer Laurel moves to Hanalei, Theo decides that she’s just the right person to connect Laurel to her inevitable Mr. Right. Laurel’s choice is a cashier at the local bakery, and Theo thinks she should set her expectations higher, which of course is an unmitigated disaster. Theo is charming, but human to the point of making you actively dislike her a few times.

I like that the setting has been changed to Hawaii and that Theo is a surf instructor. I like that with only a few exceptions, it is a majority minority cast of characters. Touches of authentic Hawaii are found throughout the book from food (and wow does most of what Kini cooks sounds delicious) to the culture. I also like that Theo identifies as queer–she’s never been with or wanted to be with a man, but she’s not a fan of closing doors.

However, the biggest weakness is Kini, Theo’s eventual love interest. Kini is 39 to Theo’s 25, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that Kini was Theo’s more or less maternal figure. Or at least like a beloved aunt. So when Theo realizes she’s in love with Kini, it’s rushed and I didn’t buy it. Moreover I didn’t buy that Kini would be attracted in return. Not because I think a May/December romance is unrealistic–I’ve written several. Rather, my problem is that Parker develops the maternal/aunt vibe to the point where them falling in love actually squicked me a bit. However, it’s true to Emma, sort of, except in Emma it’s her sister’s brother in law, which implies an age gap but not that deep familiarity. (Fan of Emma, set me straight on this.) I do think that anyone not familiar with Emma’s story may also stumble over this.

Perhaps if we’d also seen inside of Kini’s head, the story would work more? I’m not sure. But I didn’t feel like there was a romantic build…just boom out of nowhere.

Personally, I’d give it the 3/5 stars from me, but when I post reviews, I’ll go with the 4/5 stars because I think that fans of Emma will genuinely like this.

Currently If I Loved You Less is scheduled for release on September 20th, but there are currently no pre-order links.

 

Why Did My Story Get Rejected? — Stephanie Andrea Allen

I’m sharing this post by Stephanie Andrea Allen, who is an excellent editor. Why did your story get rejected?

My short piece, “Why Did My Story Get Rejected?,” was originally published on the BLLC Review. Rejection is hard, and let’s face it, as writers, we’ve all been there. We’ve worked tirelessly on a new story, only to be rejected from what we thought was a the perfect medium for the piece. Why? Well, no […]

via Why Did My Story Get Rejected? — Stephanie Andrea Allen

 

Review: Sexxy (Las Vegas)

I’ve talked about strip clubs in Vegas, and the Magic Mike Live show. Our final bit of adult fun was to go see the Sexxy cabaret show. We also saw O at the Bellagio (such a unique show, even from the other Cirque du Soleil shows), went out to some truly amazing food (Bazaar Meat at SLS, can’t recommend highly enough), and went to a drag brunch at Señor Frog’s at Treasure Island (the VIP tickets come with an open bar).

Sexxy is at the Westgate Resort, a short cab ride from the Strip. It’s won a ton of awards, and best of all, it’s so affordable (by comparison). The room is small so it doesn’t really matter if you go general admission ($40) or VIP ($60).

Choreographed by Jennifer Romas, the numbers take you through a sensual set of burlesque numbers. Some of the more memorable included a cowgirl number choreographed to Pony by Ginuwine. (Damn you for getting that song stuck in my head again!), a pole number, and a water number with a tub.

It’s a topless show, so the girls strip down to just thongs. I found this far more sensual and sexual than Magic Mike, which overpromises and underdelivered–seriously, butt cheeks–you couldn’t even give us butt cheeks? Or maybe it’s just because I’m queer and women are really beautiful to look at, and burlesque numbers even more so, so there’s carnal appeal. Although I like dudes, too, and Magic Mike didn’t rev my motor in the same way.

I have to compare it to Magic Mike because the two shows were very similar in their marketing, and I saw them one night apart from each other. I think that there’s some amount of puritanism in creating a show of men for women–there’s still the assumption that we aren’t as visual or whatever, or that a six pack is enough. I think we women feed into that because there was LOTS of screaming women losing their minds over the men of Magic Mike (I think I’m probably an outlier). By comparison, it’s okay to sexualize women and to say that men are very visual and we should accept that as gospel. Both of these are cultural–we are taught to sexualize breasts in a very different way than we look at men’s chests. I certainly am the result of growing up in this culture–seeing breasts feels naughtier and sexier than seeing some dude’s chest.

The women are all accomplished dancers, and the choreography is tight. The only moments the show slows down are when a singer comes out and does some numbers, which I assume has more to do with the way things work in Vegas (there was one at the show we went to years ago, and one at Magic Mike, and this is a thing per my guidebook) and to provide a few moments for the dancers to change and grab a drink of water or what have you.

After the show the women will pose for (free) photos with the audience. This isn’t the best picture of me, but it’s my selfie with a few of the ladies.

I highly recommend Sexxy if you’re looking for a topless review. I know that Fantasy is the most booked on, and I can’t compare this to that show as I haven’t seen it, but I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by seeing Sexxy instead of Fantasy. The space is intimate, the dancers are talented and it was a fun evening. If you don’t mind the taxi ride (I think it was like 15 dollars each way from Bellagio?) you’ll appreciate this show.

Strip Clubs in Las Vegas

I’m still readjusting to real life after my week in Vegas alone with my husband. I wanted to write about some of the adult fun we got up to, and it made sense to start with the strip clubs. This post is based on my experiences, and is not sponsored in any way. Obviously I don’t have personal photos to use.

First a bit of advice

1-Take the free limo from the club. Taxis and hotels get kickbacks for taking you and you have to pay whatever the full admission price is. If you take the club’s taxi, you will likely get reduced admission/drink tickets. However, getting home is your problem. Popular strip clubs like the two we went to had lines of cabs outside, but the small club near the Erotic Heritage Museum that we didn’t enter didn’t so we had to call an uber to get back to the hotel.

2-Read the Yelp Reviews before you go to the club. Had we read them in advance we wouldn’t have had the bad/ugly experiences. We went by the recommendation of the travel guide and their #1 pick sucked.

3-Do not go in expecting the sort of full strip down that you might get in your home state. Vegas has topless dancing, and dancers just usually get on stage in a bikini or equivalent and bare their breasts. In Rhode Island (the nearest state with good strip clubs to Boston) dancers would come on in a costume, like a schoolgirl outfit and strip progressively down to either just a thong or nothing at all–something more burlesque by comparison. Vegas does have a few fully nude clubs, but they were either grandfathered in and can serve alcohol (Palomino Club) or don’t serve alcohol (Little Darlings or the equivalent).

The Good—Spearmint Rhino

Our first club night out, we went to Spearmint Rhino, which had the best reviews from women based on my skimming Yelp and comparing it to Sapphire, one of the other big clubs. (Sapphire’s reviews were fine, but in my opinion, Spearmint Rhino’s were better). We took a cab there and had to pay full entry (they told us it would’ve been better if we’d taken the limo).

I have gotten used to what I call the “enthusiastic woman at a strip club effect.” Dancers LOVE when a woman is there and is enthusiastic. My experience at Spearmint Rhino was no exception.

Lap dances–the girls at Spearmint Rhino know how to give a lap dance to either a man or a woman. There’s a subtle art to giving a woman a lap dance as we don’t have a penis to grind on. I got lap dances from like four or five different girls (extra shoutout to Annamaria and Tyler Rain), and my husband and I shared a half hour booth dance from Tyler Rain. They weren’t cheap, but they were worth it.

Stage dances–We sat at the main stage right as you walk in. Like I noted above, there was nothing burlesque about the dancing, but some of the women did pole tricks, and the rest danced with varying degrees of flirtiness and interest.

Being approached–I was approached and not just my husband, which is refreshing.

Drink service was prompt. The drinks were a little weak, but I found that to be true in Vegas for the most part.

Overall it was a fun night out at a strip club, and we happily stayed there until something like three or four in the morning.

The Bad: The Hustler Club

(Sorry the pics won’t upload)

Let’s just say that the women at The Hustler Club are immune to the enthusiastic woman at a strip club effect. If anything I seemed to be an inconvenience or invisible to the women who came over to chat up my husband (I have no problem with him getting chatted up, but I don’t like being ignored or seen as an obstacle to his wallet). We’d taken the (battered) free limo to the club, and received drink coupons to be used either downstairs at The Hustler Club or upstairs at Hunk Mansion (we’ll get there in a second), but I couldn’t get any attention (in a club that was pretty dead) to use them. There were plenty of dancers, but they were clustered together by the bar.

I can only toss money at disinterested dancers for so long before giving up. There was one dancer who flirted a bit with me, but was uninterested in giving a lap dance to a woman, I guess–it was disappointing.

This is the top rated strip club in Vegas. I expected more. At minimum I expected to be able to get lap dances and have some fun flirting. But sometimes things just don’t work out as we’d hoped for.

That said, this is the third Hustler Club I’ve been to (the others are New Orleans and San Francisco), and I have never had fun at a Hustler Club. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing (in that they are disinterested in female clientele or assume I must be hostile) or if I have phenomenally bad luck or if it’s just some spiritual disconnect. Regardless, in my limited opinion–give it/all Hustler Clubs a pass and just go somewhere else.

The Ugly: Hunk Mansion

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On the roof of the Hustler Club on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays there is another club in operation–Hunk Mansion with male dancers.

My partner and I have done female strip clubs for over a decade, so the opportunity to check out the men was irresistible. I wish we’d resisted.

It’s kind of obvious that the space isn’t used or used frequently outside of hunk mansion. The stage is pretty much what my kid’s preschool used to set up–something temporary, almost rickety. The chairs and tables are much more fragile looking and battered compared to what’s downstairs. Just as downstairs, it was pretty dead.

The thing about male strippers is, apparently, that they leave me cold. “Stripping” seems to be comprised of impressive dance moves, but dance moves I have seen done equally well in the subways of New York City. They take off their shirts and pants, but there’s no burlesque or performative element to it. That can still work (see Spearmint Rhino) but there’s nothing to write home about seeing guys in manties that cover more than most European male swim bottoms that would pass muster with PG13 censors.

The above would have taken it to meh territory but there were a few elements that ruined it.

The first was, again, being ignored including by wait staff. I never used my drink tickets because no one was interested in selling me a drink, and I wasn’t waving the tickets around so there was no reason for them to think I wasn’t going to be paying for said drinks. There were one, maybe two dancers besides the one on stage and at least one of them seemed to be actively trying to avoid attention.

The crowd was a mix of apathy and from the bachelorette and several older women overt aggressiveness which made for a weird vibe. (I’d see this at Magic Mike as well).

It was, in a strange way, too well lit, unlike most strip clubs which tend towards low lighting. Which meant it felt like I was attending a PG13 talent show in a school cafeteria where some of the parents are bored and waiting for it to be over.

But the thing that truly raised my ire was discovering that men don’t get lap dances at Hunk Mansion. If you’re willing to pay 3x the cost you can get a short private lap dance, but the establishment is pretty anti-gay. The policy of charging men more and making it shameful for a gay/bi/curious man to even ask in the first place is ethically repugnant to me. If you don’t believe me, just read the yelp reviews. Most of the one star reviews talk about how anti-gay this place is.

So like anywhere, your strip club experience is hit or miss. But hopefully you’ll end up with the kind of experience I had at Spearmint Rhino. In fact, just go to Spearmint Rhino. I wish I’d gone back there instead of wasting a night, and ending it in a fairly irritated mood, at Hustler Club.

Guest Post–An Interview with Tanith Lee

Today I welcome fellow Totally Bound author, Tanith Lee to my blog. Her new book Wish I’d Never Met You looks like such a great coming of age story. I can’t wait to read it.

 

tanith1

1–Hi Tanith! Tell us a little about you.

I’ve been writing erotic romance for about nine years, published for six, and I live in Yorkshire with my husband and two cats Dash and Spot. I’ve been published by Totally Bound, Naughty Nights Press and House of Erotica, and there’s nothing I love more than watching a horror film with a Mojito by my side.

2–Tell us about your journey from aspiring writer to published author.

I began my debut novel when I was 27 but was spurred on by the onset of my 30th birthday to get it finished. At the same time I was taking the Writers News course in fiction writing and had been connected to the RNA via my tutor, so I submitted my novel under the NWS. After receiving feedback and reworking it I submitted to several e-publishers and was accepted by Totally Bound, who I’ve been very happy with ever since!

3–Who has influenced you

I’ve been influenced by a number of people as my writing has progressed – Victoria Blisse (who introduced me to Smut By The Sea) and Gina Kincade (who invited me to submit to Naughty Nights Press) have been particularly influential and have broadened my horizons considerably. I also learned how to blog by working with Kallypso Masters on Red Lipstick Diaries. I would also have to give credit to my tutor Valerie Holmes and the Book Doctor Debi Alper who first advised me to re-brand my writing.

DashandSpot

4–Where do you usually write, and what’s your ideal writing space?

I do most of my prep work curled up on the sofa surrounded by cats, which is perfect for me as I can either glance up at the TV or stroke one of them whenever I get stuck. They also like to lie behind me when I’m on the computer in case I need a two-minute snuggle break.

5–Tell us about your current book.

Flick Lindenwood, fresh from college, has returned home to the suburban haven of Green Valley, back to society…and the source of her heartbreak. Four years ago Elodie Hamilton savagely broke her heart, and Flick has no intention of letting her pretty ex get back under her skin. As far as she’s concerned, she and Elodie never happened.

But Elodie has other ideas.

Afraid to come out, Elodie chose to destroy her relationship with Flick rather than let her family know who she was. But now she wants to right the wrong she did—if she can only find the nerve, and if she can convince Flick to see past the pain she caused.

6–What’s your next writing project(s)?

I’m working on a paranormal novella for Totally Bound and planning out a possible entry for a Sex in Space anthology.

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Excerpt

‘You know what I love about you? You always drink your coffee too hot.’

It had been their final year of school when Flick and Elodie had really noticed each other.

Both avoiding gym class—Flick with a wrenched ankle, Elodie with a broken finger—they had sat together behind a hedge on the school grounds, sunlight warming the grass, comparing notes on that hideous essay their literature teacher had set. Flick had glanced across at Elodie and desire had flushed through her, igniting her nerves. She had longed just to reach over and brush that blonde forelock out of Elodie’s blue eyes.

She had known for some months that she had no interest in boys, but had told no one, nor had she planned to.

It had all happened so suddenly. As she’d leaned closer, Elodie’s hand had landed on top of hers, and when Flick had turned to look at her, their faces had been too close to resist. She would have pulled away and apologized, except that Elodie had been kissing her back with such force that she had fallen back on the grass, feeling Elodie’s soft weight roll on top of her.

‘You know what I love about you? You always play your music too loud.’

Elodie had been cute, pixieish, her short blonde hair in a messy cap pushed back from her clear-skinned face. She’d had a way of tilting her head to one side that came over as thoughtful and curious at the same time. And she had been fascinated with psychology, always analyzing what people were thinking, reading their body language.

‘You know what I love about you? You always pick the weirdest meal in a restaurant.’

“Why do you love that about me?” Flick had asked.

Elodie had given her a sweet smile. “Because you do everything like it’s the last day of your life. You take chances, you take risks. You enjoy everything to the max.”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

“No.” Elodie had looked down into her cappuccino, mouth turning down. “I don’t. My mom would disown me if I did anything she didn’t like.”

You mean like coming out? Flick hadn’t asked the question—she’d known the answer already. Rightly or wrongly, Elodie had been terrified of coming out. Hell, Flick had been nervous about the idea of coming out herself. It was much simpler to play at being friends, friends who read poetry together and practiced their music and hung out, snatching moments under the bleachers and under the bedclothes when no one was around.

Oh, Elodie. So sweet, so adorable, so good with her hands. So able with her fingertips—able to torment every spot, dipping her moist fingers between Flick’s folds until Flick was biting down on her wrist to hold back her cries. So pretty when she came, gasping and moaning as she’d writhed on Flick’s tongue.

So easy to love.

Right up until the end of summer, the day before Flick left for college.

The day that text had broken Flick’s heart.

 Buy Links

Submissions Call–Hope for Pulse Hate Will Never Win

Hope for Pulse – Hate Will Never Win

From the ashes of tragedy, hope will survive. When faced with hate, love
will survive. The constant balance of positive and negative is something
that lives in all of us. Help us focus on the positive and not the
negative; put aside politics and focus on the people; give strength and
hope to those that remain.

Submissions:

– All stories should all have hope and love as the focus of the story;
stories should be GLBT pairings

– Should be a minimum of 5k, maximum of 10k – stories will be combined into a one
volume anthology

– Any subgenre is welcome and all prohibitive guidelines are observed

– Submissions should be sent to special_submissions@mlrpress.com

SUBMISSION DEADLINE:
June 25, 2016, anthology will release July 22, 2016

All proceeds will be donated to Equality Florida’s fund for the victims
and families of the Pulse Shooting

Any questions can be sent to Kris Jacen at KrisJacen@mlrpress.com

Pinky Elizabeth Buster

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Because I was too sick to attend PinkDot 2016, my daughters bought me a stuffed Pink Dot to keep me company in my hospital room. (Until they got into a fight over it and somehow took it home with them so they could take turns sleeping with it).

I suggested they name it for me.

Everyone–this is Pinky Elizabeth Buster.

**apologies if yesterday’s post was garbled. I originally was just going to leave that post on fb, but when the shooting occurred, I felt like I should share them here as well. Unfortunately, I’m so blur (to use the Singlish) that I’m just not capable of making sense about much of anything right now.***