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Review: Magic Mike Las Vegas

There are many male reviews in Las Vegas–Thunder from Down Under, Chippendales, and Magic Mike among them. It looks like Magic Mike has some of the best reviews, so I bought a ticket. Ticket, singular, not tickets, plural, because the website said it was for women only. However, there were men at the show, so I could’ve brought my partner. I don’t know how strictly other shows police the “women only” policy, but next time I’d probably buy two tickets and assume I can bring him.

Magic Mike Las Vegas is, of course, capitalizing on the Magic Mike movie franchise. It brings together a diverse cast of male dancers (and two women) to perform twice a night (8 and 10:30) every Wednesday-Sunday. I want to take a moment and highlight that the cast is genuinely racially diverse, something that is extremely rare, which gives it bonus points in my book.

“Club Domina” is set up as a 360° stage with seats ringing it, and some balcony seating as well. There’s variation in what the seats actually look like–I was on a couch, others were at a traditional table and chairs, there were arm chairs–I just looked at Ticketmaster’s site and it looks like it’s hard to tell what sort of seat you’re signing up for, but I don’t think there are really “bad” seats.

In terms of dress, there were a lot of low cut tops and dressy clothes, but lots of jeans, too. I went for a little of both. Not shown–once I got to the show and saw the girls near me, I discreetly pulled my shirt down a bit more to display my cleavage better. Shown–I have resting bitch face.

I think I look damn cute
Prior to the start of the show waiters (mine was super hot–I was kind of hoping he was also a dancer) come around to take your order. Two small drinks cost more than one large drink, so they encourage you to buy the XXL drink for (assuming my somewhat fuzzy memory is correct) 28/30 USD (drinks are expensive in Vegas). I ordered an XXL amaretto sour (my drink of choice) and it was as big as my head.

Big as my head
The show starts with the dancers in costumes like Fireman, Cowboy, etc. I was kind of sad these didn’t make much of a re-appearance (one dance number at the end), but they were sexy. The frame of the show is that Mike (get it? get it?) needs to learn how to be a dancer, interspersed with other numbers. At various points, the guys came into the audience in various ways (entering via the big staircase, coming off the stage) and interacted with us. Worth noting, though, that unless you’re a twig, you won’t end up on stage. The guys do various moves with the women, and carrying them etc means really skinny (like REALLY skinny) women are the ones usually chosen. However, when they’re dancing in audience, they’ll interact with anyone. There was a slowdance number where a guy was pointing at either me or the girl next to me to come and dance–we both pointed to ourselves quizzically and then she got up first (neither of us were/are skinny).

Rocking number
For me the highlight of the show was a water number that begins with an “audience member” is brought on stage and ends the way shown below. Not to complain, but if you watch, you see what the guys usually end up in. It’s not the manties of Hunk Mansion, but I’m not seeing as much skin as you get at the female reviews. Equal opportunity nudity people–I want to see butt cheeks! That said, this number is very hot and most of the numbers have a burlesque element, which elevates the quality of the show.

My one real complaint is that there is a VIP meet and greet you can add onto the cost of the ticket. However, although I bought the upgrade, this never happened. There were no special instructions, no one hung back–the audience just exited back into the hotel. I stuck around a little to see if I was just supposed to wait or what. So I paid extra for nothing. Don’t buy it. Below is the closest I got to a meet and greet, when a dancer posed for a selfie with me and other girl I was sitting next to.

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 with the added bonus of dancers inviting me to touch their breasts when they wouldn’t let a man during lap dances.

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

(pic unavailable)

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.

Review: On Pointe by Shelly Ellis

This contemporary novella, set in DC sets up the MacLaine Girls series.

Bina MacClaine is the daughter of the founder who can’t convince her mother that the business is in trouble. She teaches lessons and acts as the business manager. The book opens with her meeting up with her ex, his offering to buy her mother’s dance studio on behalf of a client, and her dumping her coffee over his fuckboy head. (More of this, please. Can this be a romance trope?) She is furious when she returns to work that day only to find out her mother has hired another teacher, when they can barely afford the teachers they have (and not for much longer).

Maurice is a back up dancer and choreographer from Atlanta who grew up in DC taking lessons at MacLaine. He came back to get away from some things and a specific someone. Mo always had a crush on Bee when he was a teen but she didn’t know he existed beyond as a student. He’s all grown up, and still crushing on the older woman. Can he convince her to see that he’s not a kid anymore? Will his past threaten his new life?

Bina’s mother Yvonne,who discovers that she had stage 3 cervical cancer and keeps it a secret, is the third “main” character in that there are sections written from her point of view. Her illness serves to flesh her out, as does her burning desire to keep the academy afloat no matter what. She’s had the chance to sell in the past and refuses to do so. However, there’s a lot of room for expansion, and I wonder if we’ll continue to get her point of view in future books, or if her inclusion was largely to help set up the future books.

I like that the age difference between Bina and Maurice and more to the point their former student /teacher dynamic is a big obstacle. It is made very clear that there was never any attraction on Bee’s side. Their slow burn of their sexual tension is well crafted and hot. They are an easy couple to root for.

There’s not a lot of time spent getting to know more about the academy and the other teachers/dancers there or their dynamic with Bee/Mo/Yvonne, and I would’ve liked to see more (I’m guessing that will play a larger part of future books). Gentrification and the consequences of that play out as part of the book, and the pressure on the business is really well done. We don’t see that addressed very often in romance, and I liked seeing it, perhaps in part because I live in Silicon Valley where gentrification and displacement because of it are a reality of my community. We see the role that the school has played in the community and that it has produced several powerhouse performers. If it shutters, it will have real consequences for the community.

Buy On Pointe at Amazon

Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A Princess in Theory kicks off Alyssa Cole’s new series, Reluctant Royals.

I couldn’t put this book down. Ledi and Thabiso’s story is part modern fairy-tale (a prince in disguise) part secret identity exposed (prince? Or fuckboy?) and a hell of a lot of fun.

Ledi is a broke grad student working two jobs (in a lab and at a restaurant). She keeps getting these emails telling her she’s the betrothed of an African prince. Finally sick of deleting them, she finally responds FUCK OFF. Thabiso is the heir to the throne of Thesolo. His betrothed’s family disappeared when she was a little girl. When his assistant tracks Ledi down, he goes to the restaurant where she works to demand to know where she’s been, why her family left, and to see this woman who would dare tell him to FUCK OFF. When he arrives, she mistakes him for the new server she’s supposed to be training that night. So Thabiso becomes Jamal, and predictably fucks up, including accidentally starting a literal fire, which Naledi ends up putting out.

As Jamal, Thabiso rents the apartment opposite Ledi’s for the week that he’s in New York. She’s mistrustful at first, but things heat up between them. Thabiso knows he should tell Ledi the truth, but keeps putting it off. Ledi’s friend takes her to a fundraiser where the guest of honor is some prince from an African country–and Ledi is shocked and betrayed when she learns of “Jamal’s” deception.

That would be the end of the story, but a mysterious illness is affecting people in Thesolo, including Ledi’s grandparents. As a epidemiologist, Ledi has the qualifications to help diagnose and understand the illness. She agrees to pose as the future princess in order to help with the illness.

Will Ledi leave Thabiso? Can he persuade her to stay?

This is a great book. I love that the heroine is a scientist and completely dismissive of Thabiso, who has never been treated that way before. Thabiso is three dimensional, and his feelings and guilt evolve in a sympathetic way. The illness, and the lingering questions of why her family left Thesolo create great background for Ledi and Thabiso’s story.

Ledi’s best friend Portia is a hot mess. She has issues with alcoholism, and Ledi struggles to draw a line with her. She’s the star of the follow up book, A Duke by Default (out in 2018), having sworn to turn the page. She also has a twin (in a wheelchair–yay for inclusion) with whom there are as yet unexplored simmering tensions. She’s fleshed out enough to be intriguing, and I look forward to seeing more of her.

Thabiso’s assistant Likoti is great. She’s his one real close friend who gives no fucks that he’s her prince (and boss) and calls him on his shit. She has her own off-screen adventures in NYC that are alluded to, and her dynamic with Thabiso gives Thabiso depth. I wish we saw more of her.

The sex scenes are H-O-T. I definitely squirmed in the good way more than once.

The only real weaknesses is that the illness and the mystery of why Ledi’s parents left is dealt with a bit more quickly than I would’ve liked. Ledi’s mom was the queen’s best friend and her disappearance (and Ledi’s reappearance) are a big part of why the queen interacts with Ledi the way she does. But given that Ledi’s parents are dead (she grew up in foster care) without a flashback scene or more exposition I’m not sure how Cole could’ve given us more there.

I love Alyssa Cole’s style, and am looking forward to the second book. If you’re looking for fluffy romance with great sex scenes, you should read A Princess in Theory.

Buy A Princess in Theory on Amazon

Review: Game of Hearts by Cathy Yardley

I’m a huge nerd, and it’s rare for me to find a romance with a nerdy girl/guy at the heart of the romance. Enter the Fandom Hearts series by Cathy Yardley–I’d previously read and reviewed Level Up, the first novella in the series.

Although I somehow missed book two in Fandom Hearts, this third installment still worked as a stand-alone as well as part of a series.

Kyla and her brother own a mechanic’s shop. But when Billy breaks his arm and expects Kyla not only to take up the slack but to defer her dream of staying a costuming business, she finds another solution. Jericho left town nine years ago, and has been drifting around the country doing custom motorcycle builds and mechanic work. But when Kyla asks him for help, he’s willing to go back to Snoqualmie for a short break. But the Machinists, the motorcycle club he’s been with since he left, need him too.

I loved the chemistry between Kyla and Jericho. They were both great characters, but they made each other better. The sex is well written and steamy.

The dialog is snappy, and peppered with pop culture references. As a geek, I love this series because the women are just like me and I can relate to them so well. And what good is a romance if you don’t find a way to connect with the leads?

The side characters are also well fleshed out, and even having missed a book, I was able to see the connections and get a glimpse into their backstories. I appreciate, even as a side character, that there is someone with severe agoraphobia who isn’t pitied or seen as someone to fix. There’s also a gender fluid character who is similarly just accepted as they are.

Whether as part of the series or a standalone, I recommend this book.

Buy it on Amazon

Plunder Update

In my 2017 Year in Review post I noted that I was about halfway through the Plunder rewrite. It is not only finished but my betas are gleefully ripping the second draft (which ended at 76+k words) and I’m doing rewrites to prepare to send it to my final beta, a really talented editor/IRL friend, Jessica Augustsson after which I’ll send it to publishers. This year. I’m committing to it.

Since I’ve been hyping this book for what feels like damn near forever, here’s another sneak peek.

William took a long, slow inventory of her body. She had raven hair cut in a sassy short cap, and bright green eyes. What did her father think of that? The man hadn’t struck William as progressive. A sharp chin, raised in defiance. The shirt and breeches looked borrowed, and the dingy bit of rope holding up her pants taunted him, daring him to give it a tug and sink to his knees to worship her. Bree’s cheek’s flushed, and she bit her lip. Her arms came up and crossed over her breasts—delicate, gentle mounds he looked forward to tasting. His breeches suddenly felt suddenly tight.

“Your father owns the Maya.” He played dumb.

“Is he alive?” she asked.

He nodded. “There’s no need to shed his blood. But there was also no need to keep those in charge above decks. Makes the lads more afraid.” He glanced down at the gash in her shirt. “Seems to rile up lasses, though.”

The sound that came from her was almost a growl, and he grinned.

“You’re unmarried?”

“Yes. What of it?”

“I find it hard to believe no man has tried to marry you.” He really did. She was fire and passion, and he felt drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Were the men near her school complete milksops that they felt threated by her?

“I find proposals tedious.”

Surprised, William burst out laughing. He closed the distance between them and traced a path from her collarbone to the dirty rope holding up her breeches. “Virgin?”

She paled. Then she lifted her chin in arrogance. “Not after tonight.”

He laughed. “What am I to call you, minx?”

“Brianna. Bree. And you? What shall I call you? Blackguard? Criminal?”

Her brashness was an aphrodisiac. He answered her with a kiss. His mouth was gentle and her lips opened for him. Her arms trembled as she slid them around his neck, instinctively pulling him closer. His hands stroked down her back, cupping her bottom, pressing himself against her.

“William,” he murmured. He nuzzled her neck and he felt a shiver run down her back. “My name is William.”

She shoved him away. “What game is this? You proposition me, hold me hostage in your quarters and then kiss me like a love-struck cabin boy?”

It was a direct hit to his ego. He flinched, as love-struck cabin boy hit a little too close to home. He was sliding down a slope with no handholds.

His voice was rough with desire when he spoke. “Any wench can open her legs and ignore a man pumping above her. That’s a hollow victory. I want your complete surrender. When I take you, you’ll know who it is inside you.” He stepped close to her once more, bent to her ear and whispered, “You’ll want me there.”

Petticoats and Push Up Bras

 

When I was in college, one of my jobs was to work as a costumed tour guide at The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum as it was known in those days. I led a “re-enactment” of the Tea Party on a rotating basis with the other tour guides. We’d start off in a town hall set up, and then I’d lead them down a gangplank to a reproduction ship called The Beaver (yes, really) to a crescendo of throwing (Styrofoam, attached to the ship via a thick, long rope) chests of “tea” off the deck of the ship.

I also happened to be dating my boss.

No, I never had sex on the ship, but rumor had it that employees had gotten it on below decks.

Which led to the idea of a story set at my old workplace…Petticoats and Push Up Bras.

Here’s a snippet

My lips met Jeff’s hungrily as my back collided with the hull. I pushed Jeff’s tri-corn hat from his head so I could fist my hands in his thick brown hair. He parted his lips to let me explore uncharted territory, and his tongue teased mine as his hands traveled over my cotton shift.

Jeff broke the kiss. He gently pulled at the shift’s neckline. Peering down, he shook his head. “I don’t think they had blue lace bras in the Colonies,” he tsked. “No Ye Olde Felicity’s Secret for the maidens to shop at. I think I’ll need to check under your skirts as well.”

My breathing was shallow, as if I were still corseted. It was one thing to flirt and make out with Jeff, but entirely another to take it that far. I wavered, tempted by the pulsing between my legs. My relationship was on the rocks…

Footsteps on the deck above reverberated above us.

“Zombies!” I squeaked.

Jeff did a double-take, not quite stifling a snicker, “Did you just say zombies?”

Andrew’s voice echoed through the hull. “I think you’ll find this is a great location for your company party. We’ll do the full show, and then some of my actors can circulate while others serve hors d’oeuvres. This way.”

Jeff and I peered around the tea crates. Red high heels slowly descended the steps.

Jeff pulled me backwards, covering my mouth. “Shhh! There’s no reason for them to look back here. The interesting displays are out there.”

“What’s the big deal? We can just tell them we were closing up the ship,” I hissed, about to stand up.

He tugged me back down. “It’s not the first time I’ve gotten caught closing up the ship. Drew won’t believe you. C’mon, Hannah, please?”