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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.

The impossible choice

Today’s MFRW 52 week challenge asks us to pick between reading, writing, and living.

Reading allows you to immerse yourself in a world. The “real” world falls away and you are sucked into a brand new world. If the book is written in the first person, all you read is I, I, I and it’s impossible not to feel like it’s about you. But even in the third person, you feel like the spy, sneaking into other people’s lives. Seeing their thoughts, knowing their dreams, and in the case of the romance reader–seeing the couple come together despite challenges and obstacles.

Writing allows you to play God. You decide what each character is like, you give them dreams and obstacles, and you create the world in which they live. Sometimes characters hijack your plans, but that doesn’t make it less fun. In fact, some of the most interesting content is generated when characters take over. It can be emotionally taxing though because, even more than when you read, you feel what the characters are feeling. Delilah broke down sobbing when she wrote the fight between Meg and RJ in Capturing the Moment.

And then there is real life. Let’s be real for a moment–real life can be fucking hard. Sometimes it’s awful. Sometimes we just need an escape.

But real life can be just as beautiful as the worlds you escape to. Doing Snapchat at a restaurant to keep a child happy is silly, but it’s a memory. Seeing a movie. Hugging a loved one. There are simple joys like your favorite song on the radio. Real life is hard, but it’s also beautiful as well.

All three share a common thing–they introduce you to new things. Why choose?

ARC Review–The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey


The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey

4/5*

Pub Nov 1, 201

I received The Gem Thief from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Gem Thief is a sweet, clean romance (no sex, only a few chaste kisses) between Gracie, a jewelry designer, and Quinn, the nephew of Dorcas. Dorcas is the widow of a Greek Cruise Line magnate, who enjoys treating herself to jewelry every so often. The story begins when one of Dorcas’s rings is found to be a fake, which leads to the discovery that other pieces are also fakes.

Quinn and his friend Steve at the FBI hatch a plan. Dorcas will go to the Venetian Jewelry Show as she always does, and go on the cruise that she always does–this time accompanied by her nephew and his fake fiancee, Gracie.

The characters are likeable, especially Dorcas. The romance between Quinn and Gracie proceeds slowly—a bit too slowly for me, as I’m someone who likes racier books—but in a way that is believable for the reader. With one exception–Gracie believes that Quinn is in a relationship and, at several points, makes the decision to ignore that knowledge. That was a little hard to buy given what the author tells us about her character.

That said, none of the characters is particularly well fleshed out. We only know a few details about Gracie’s personal life, and what motivates her. Same for Quinn. Ultimately, I think Dorcas is the most well-developed character in the book, which is perhaps why I was drawn to her so much.

The settings are well done. The book goes from New York to Italy to Greece and I felt like there was enough description that I was transported and added my own vision of what those places would be like.

The plot was satisfying, if very predictable. I knew who the villains were long before the main characters did, not because of breadcrumbs, but because given everything about the genre and the beats the author was hitting told me so. But it was enjoyable to watch the characters get there, too.

I probably won’t read any other books by the author, not because this wasn’t well written–it is–but because sweet romance just isn’t my thing.

Playlist for Lab Rats

For me, music is essential to the creation of my story. Once I have an idea of who my characters are and the tentpoles of a new story, I’ll create a playlist for the book. Over the course of the writing, the list gets pared down to songs that are meaningful to me.

Here’s a list of five random songs from the Lab Rats playlist. I’ll try to give a spoiler free reason for them.

1-Lonely by Demi Lovato–There are many points where this song fits either of my leads. Ben grew up in an emotionally stunted borderline abusive family, and he keeps everyone at arm’s length and avoids personal connections. Diana is in the doghouse because her twin is the one who exposed the community, and as a result, she has to den by herself when she’s never lived apart from a pack.

2-It was Always You by Maroon Five–They’re fated mates. That’s pretty much it.

3-S&M by Rihanna–They don’t like each other very much and there’s definitely some semi-hate fucking as they first come together. While there’s not actually any BDSM, the song still spoke to me.

4-The Kiss from the soundtrack to The Last of the Mohicans movies–I was relatively young when I saw this movie, and the scene this music is from hit me hard. Since then, when I have an hungry, urgent kiss in a book, this song usually ends up in that list.

5-I Hate Myself for Loving You by Joan Jett–again, they don’t like each other, but are attracted to each other from the very first day.

Living in Waldenbooks

Today’s prompt from #MFRW is Childhood Memories.

There used to be a chain of bookstores in the US called Waldenbooks. A very young Delilah practically lived at hers. Every month, like clockwork, there was a new Baby-Sitter’s Club book to buy. Every week there were what, at the time, felt like an endless source of opportunities. This particular Waldenbooks was next to a toy store, but little Delilah never spent her allowance there–or only rarely, for there were books to buy!

When you spend as much time in a small bookstore as young Delilah did, you get to know the staff, and vice versa. It was amazing when they started giving her personalized recommendations based on what she’d previously bought–sort of like how websites like Amazon do now. They were the ones to introduce her to the worlds of Xanth (Piers Anothony) and Valdemar (Mercedes Lackey) in the adult section, even though they’re more YA than anything else.

The other place young Delilah loved above all else was the library. Thousands of books to read–for free! The best gift her mother ever gave her was when she signed the form that let an eleven year old Delilah read books from any section of the library, not just the children’s section. Of course she immediately abused by reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Other books read too young include Gone With the Wind and Clan of the Cave Bear, among many others.

Obviously the common thread is books. Something about being surrounded by books is like feeling endless possibilities. Each book gives you a peek into a new world, or lets you return to a world you’ve enjoyed in the past. Books didn’t care that she didn’t have a lot of money, or that she only had one parent, or that she struggled to make friends. Books were friends, and better ones than the kids who she just didn’t get. (Young Delilah was a little weird, and didn’t find her community until college.)

Books inspired her imaginative play. Dolls acted out Baby-Sitter’s Club scenes. Delilah adopted a nickname shared by a BSC member and used it for nearly eight years after it became habit. A trailer that she lived in had a small copse of fir trees, and every time she passed through it, she hoped that she’d end up in Narnia (Not today–not getting raptured up because you like lipstick? Fuck that noise.) Even today, Delilah will play around with the worlds that she finds particularly interesting–writing fanfic in her head for the fun of it.

True then, true now–surround Delilah with books, and she’s a happy woman.

ARC review–The Fearless King by Katee Robert

The Fearless King by Katee Robert

4.5/5*

Publication date–Feb 5, 2019

I received The Fearless King from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to start my new year’s reading off with a bang, and after two sweet romances without any sex, I was ready for some scorching romance. The Fearless King did not disappoint.

The Fearless King is the second book in the King series by Robert. I had not read book one prior to reading this book, but The Fearless King works as a stand-alone. Having finished it, I did go back and buy book one because I want to read the story that informed this one.

Journey King is the COO of Kingdom Corp, a family business. Her mother was forced out of town (this is the story in book 1) but she and her older brother have taken over the company. Things are going along well…until her father returns to town, hell bent on taking over the company. As it turns out, their father’s family had given their mother the cash to start Kingdom Corp and are now the main shareholders.

But it’s so much worse than her father coming back into her life at work. He abused her and her siblings as children, and he’s playing the same psychological games, and Journey feels like everything is slipping away. So she turns to the only person who might be able help.

Frank Evans is not Journey’s friend. He helped run her mother out of town. He won’t sell her real estate she wants. He’s ruthless, and trusting him with her secrets and asking him to help her oust her father is possibly a step too far, but he’s her last resort.

Frank knows that he shouldn’t care about Journey. Shouldn’t want her. But, against his better judgment, he does. When he agrees to help her, his condition is that they pretend to have a relationship so he can get closer to her family and her company. Things turn real very quickly when her father makes it clear that he’ll take the company–at any price.

I read the first two chapters, turned to my spouse, and said “now that’s how you start a book!” I was sucked in until the next thing I knew, it was four a.m.!

Journey is well written, both in her moments of strength and her moments of terror. She is vulnerable, sassy, strong, and even when her demons are riding her, she is compelling. Frank is more of an enigma, but his jagged pieces fit Journey’s. You see the struggle within him to From the moment he summons her to his office in the nightclub to the first bout of oral sex to the incredibly suspenseful ending, you don’t just want them to be together, you need it.

The sex is scorching. Incredibly satisfying, captures the mood and tone perfectly, as well as capturing the personalities involved.

I liked that it is an interracial romance, and that race was actually discussed. People harass Journey over her relationship with Frank on a number of levels, but race is absolutely one of them. For his part, Frank is also pragmatic and realistic about his skin color and the impact that has on him being one of the richest developers in Houston. The racial dynamics were also well done–there’s no fetishizing skin tone, but you don’t forget it either.

My only real complaint is that the fake relationship (one of my top three favorite tropes) doesn’t really go anywhere. It never really gains enough steam, or has enough emphasis on it in the way I usually see the trope done. I would call this erotic romance, or maybe suspenseful romance, but I wouldn’t immediately think of it and go “oh, yeah, a fake relationship book.” But this is a minor complaint–for all that it was a big part of why I chose it on Netgalley, I was happy enough with the story that I don’t care that the fake relationship was such a minor component.

4.5 stars, which I’ll round to 5 when reviewing. Pre-order it here.