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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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Book Review–Dirty Series by Jaine Diamond

Dirty Series, Book 1

Today I’m going to do something a little different. Rather than review a specific book, I’m going to talk about a series. In the last weeks of December, I somehow stumbled upon Dirty Like Me by Jane Diamond. I read it, and then devoured the rest of the series. I’m going to try to keep the review spoiler free, but I’ll have some general comments about each book.

The Dirty series centers around the insanely popular Canadian rock band, Dirty. There are five band members, a manager, and the head of security who get books. Brody, Zane, Jude, and Jesse have known each other since at least their teens, and there’s a lot of history there. The other members of the band are newer, with new being a relative term. But the band’s makeup was static until just after the first world tour. Seth’s drug addiction went so far that he needed to be kicked out of the band. When the series starts, we’re in the lead-up to the tenth anniversary of that first album. The books take place from that lead-up through the tenth anniversary tour–roughly just over a year.

Book 1 is Dirty Like Me. It centers around Jesse, Dirty’s lead guitarist, and Katie. Katie’s best friend works in the entertainment industry, and because Katie stumbles into a meeting, she’s asked to be the girl next door in Jesse’s first video as a solo act. When the video goes viral, everyone is hungry for Jesse and Katie. He asks her to come with him on a six week tour, posing as his girlfriend

I fucking love the fake relationship trope. LOVE. IT. It’s what caught my attention about book one, which is what led me down the rabbit hole of the whole world/series.

The next story–Dirty Like US–is technically 0.5 in the series, but Diamond recommends reading it second, I’m guessing to ensure that readers know and are a little invested in Maggie and Zane. This story is free when you sign up for Diamond’s mailing list. It’s a fast read, but very important to a secret that gets exposed in the real book 2. Can you live without it? Yes, but why would you want to?

Book 2 is Dirty Like Brody. This one takes place leading up to/during Jesse and Katie’s wedding. (Which, if you’re shocked by the news that the fake relationship turned real? Welcome to Romancelandia.) The couple is Brody, Dirty’s manager, and Jessa Mayes, Jesse’s little sister. She used to write music for the band, but ran away to model. She never really comes around anymore because dark secret. He’s been in love with her forever, and it’s always been mutual but things never worked out that way. Until now?

Book 2.5 is A Dirty Wedding Night. Diamond warns you that short stories/novellas aren’t necessarily HEA (Happily Ever After), and I’m going to second that warning. However, we see several important dynamics and connections at play in four different couples. Just know going in that not everyone is getting out with an intact heart, and read it. You’ll be happy you did, especially as those dynamics become really important in future books. Don’t skip it or go back to read it later–I strongly encourage you to read it in this order.

Book 3 is Dirty like Seth. The couple in this book are Elle, the bassist, and Seth, the disgraced former rhythm guitarist. This is my least favorite book because the pairing didn’t quite click for me in the same way that the others did. I also think Seth’s redemption is too easy. But the book has a five star rating on amazon with over 50 reviews, so what do I know?

Book 4 is Dirty like Dylan. It’s a threesome romance between Dylan, Dirty’s drummer, Ash, the lead singer of another band who usually tours with Dirty, and Amber, a photographer. While Seth’s book is my least favorite, Dirty like Dylan replaced Dirty Like Me as my favorite book. I read the series on Kindle Unlimited, but thus far have only bought this book. The sex is insanely hot. It totally changes the way you see a character who primarily shows up in A Dirty Wedding Night and Dirty Like Seth, and when his heart gets broken (again) it sort of destroyed me a little.

I find that triad sex is a tricky needle to thread. I say this as a writer who has largely avoided writing threesomes because I’m intimidated by the prospect of doing so. I also say it as a romance reader who has seen it go wrong…a lot. I was really happy right up until X’s heart gets broken. I generally prefer my triads to still be together by the end of the book, and Diamond goes the route of having the heroine “pick.” In this case there are a lot of reasons it happens and everything is very complicated and shades of gray. Ultimately, though, I have to cede the fact that Diamond gets it right given the characters involved. But it’s not 100% an HEA, as she hurts the character I want to hug/fuck the most. Thank god he’s getting his own book/series in 2019.

Book 5 is Dirty Like Jude. Up to this point, Jude is a bit of an enigma. He’s best friends with Jesse, is head of security for Dirty, and has known Jesse and some of the others since they were young. He’s involved with a Motorycycle Club (MC). Because of that, I walked into the book very interested in him. The thing that didn’t quite work for me, though, was the heroine. I don’t know if I just didn’t see enough of her to get invested in her, but I wasn’t. Not like the other couples–I wanted to know what happened with Jude. Roni is Jessa Maye’s (book 2) best friend since childhood. Roni has been in love with Jude since she was a teen, but she ruined it by boasting how much she wanted to fuck his brother when she didn’t know he could hear her. Her nickname is “Wildcard,” and while she has growth and an arc, I’m just more invested in Jude.

Book 6 is Dirty Like Zane. I know I speak for many fans when I say that I was D.Y.I.N.G. to read this fucking book by the time I got to it. I read fast, so it was within ten days of starting the first book, but it wasn’t fast enough. We learn a huge secret about Zane and Maggie in book 2 (or if you read book 0.5, you’ll learn it then) and since that moment, as a reader you will be so so so so ready to read their story. To avoid a spoiler, I will just say that they have a complicated history and I was salivating to see how it would play out.

Zane is the lead singer of Dirty, a brash womanizer and reformed alcoholic. Maggie is the co-manager of Dirty. They have so much chemistry together, and watching them come together is just so fucking great. It’s a fantastic end to the series.

I strongly recommend reading the whole thing, start to finish (and even if I didn’t love book 3, it still moves the plot forward in ways that are important in the following books).

The big pros of the series

  • The sex is outstanding. I’ve revisited some of the sex scenes a few times since I read the books initially. I am especially a fan of the threesomes in book five, Dirty like Dylan.
  • The characters and the world are compelling. Part of why I burned through the series without stopping was because of how invested I became in them. There are lots of breadcrumbs along the way that make you need to know what happens in the following books.
  • Diamond turned an archetype that I’d never been attracted to before–the rockstar–and made me hungry for more.
  • There are short stories and novellas in the series. They aren’t necessarily Happy Ever Afters (HEA’s), but they add color and richness to the world and the relationships within it.

The big cons of the series–I can’t do it spoiler free. Skip this if you want to avoid the spoilers.

  • At times, the books don’t seem as thought through in advance as I’d expected. In book two, Seth is made out to be a pretty serious threat to the heroine’s emotional safety and there is a lot of bad history. In book three, he gets a “redemption” that I just found hard to swallow or believe. But kudos for making me care so much that it actually bothers me weeks after I read the book.
  • I’ll to keep this bullet as vague as possible. There is a male bisexual character, and he hates that he has sex with men and is in love with another man. The self-loathing queer is a toxic stereotype, and I was disappointed to see it. Not so disappointed that I didn’t keep reading my favorite book in the series, but I did ding my Goodreads rating by a star because of it.

I definitely recommend the Dirty series as a whole. The world building is compelling, the characters are interesting, the sex is hot, and I now want to hear one of Dirty’s albums, so that makes me officially a fan.

There is a spin-off series coming in 2019 and I can’t wait to read it!

Nano progress and a snippet

With only eight days left, most of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is behind me. I’ve “won” in that I’ve written more than 50,000 words this month–an unprecedented level of success and productivity. I guess this is what I can do with basically no distractions like television (I genuinely forgot Outlander was back, and I’m a huge fan), keeping my book playlists on repeat so that the characters are constantly in my head, and dragging my laptop literally everywhere. It’s also what I can do when I dance on the edge and sometimes slightly into the manic side of my bipolar disorder, which is kind of exhausting, honestly.

I think it’s healthy to have a daily writing goal and it’s helping me quite a bit right now. But I’m also going to have to go into an editing phase and I’ll need to figure out how I can write and edit at the same time. Historically I’ve only focused on one and that means huge lags between my projects. It’s been two years since Capturing the Moment was published (three since it was accepted for publication) and while there have been huge changes in that time, like an international move, I have not always used my time well. I have some ideas for New Years Resolutions, but we shall see how things progress from here.

Thus far in Nano I have completed the book about love and espionage at a video game company  (which is either a long novella or a short novel), and am about 90% done with the second big project of November which is a long novella about what comes after the Were community is exposed on national television, and what will be the first in my first series of stories.

In the meantime, he’s the opening from that Shapeshifter book, which I’m currently calling Lab Rats

Everything went to hell in less time than it took to conduct a five minute interview on Wake Up LA!

Liz Green, the perky blonde co-host batted her eyelashes at Justin Carson. He was a deliciously hot up and coming actor. She wondered if he had a girlfriend, and if he might be amenable to a little extracurricular activity in her dressing room. She leaned forward, just enough to give Justin a glimpse down the front of her top.

“So what do you think of the new trend? Zombies are in, werewolves and vampires are out.”

“Zombies suck,” Justin said flatly.  “Werewolves are where it’s at.  You think dead humans are scary when they want to suck you blood or eat your face?  That’s not scary. You know what’s scary, Liz?  When you can’t tell the monsters from the humans. How can you?  Anyone here could be a werewolf. I could a werewolf.”

Liz, laughed nervously. “I had no idea you were so passionate about scary movies!”

She had never lost control of an interview before, and Justin wasn’t about to faze her. He was probably teasing a new project. She could picture him in a horror flick, and even more clearly, she could picture herself clinging to his arm, pressing her face against his broad shoulder, his arm coming around her to hold her close. Later that night, he’d tease her for being so scared of make believe creatures, and then he’d rock her world six ways from Sunday.

“But you know what, Liz?  No one thinks they’re real, so humans get cast to play werewolves.”

Liz laughed and played along. “Sounds like you’ve got a very meta project coming up. Actors playing werewolves who are actually werewolves. Give us another hint.”

Justin growled. Actually growled.

Nervously, Liz looked at her notecards. “So how did you connect with the character of Grant for After Dark?”

Justin stared at her, unblinking.

Liz glanced at the camera. The interview was D.O.A. and she still had three minutes to fill. Her foot jiggled, the heel bouncing against the floor. The idea of hot sex in her dressing room was starting to fade in the harsh light of a bad interview. She knew she’d be blamed for it—bad delivery of questions, not enough effort at chemistry, making him upset. She took a deep breath, then flashed a dazzling smile at Justin.

“I heard the producers are hoping to start a whole After Dark franchise.”

Maybe that would get this interview back on track. Most actors couldn’t wait to talk about how their franchise was going to be the biggest thing since the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of movies. Please let this get him out of whatever snit he was in. Please, please, please.

“Weres are scared of being outed, and this is the consequence.  Screw that.”

Justin’s hands clenched the armrests of his chair, and his knuckles turned white from the pressure. His nails scraped over the buttery leather, leaving marks in their wake.

“Um…” God help her, she was going to have to dump to commercial. Liz sat back, and squirmed, no longer thinking of sweaty trysts on the soft blue coverlet of the daybed she’d picked over having a couch in her dressing room. At this point, she’d be grateful just to climb into the daybed and pull that coverlet over her head until she could face the world again after this horrific goose egg of an interview.

Justin stood up. He kicked off his shoes, but his paws ripped through the socks. His jeans shredded as his legs contorted, becoming shorter and thicker. His face elongated, and suddenly long canines snapped at his shirt until it, too, ripped and fell away from his body. Within a minute, a large wolf had replaced the handsome man.

Liz screamed, and fell off her chair, out of view of the camera. She skittered backwards, away from the monster she’d actually fantasized about fucking. She could feel a wetness spreading under her as she peed herself in fear. She scrambled to her feet, kicked off her heels and ran as fast as she could toward the safety of her dressing room, which had a solid lock. She’d be safe there, or so she hoped.

As Liz was escaping, the audience had fallen into chaos. People were shoving each other, willing to trample the less vulnerable in an effort to get away as fast as possible. Screams mingled with sobbing as the reality that this wasn’t some strange special effect—this was a real honest-to-God werewolf. And if you believed him, he wasn’t the only one. They fled as if he were on their heels, about to take a big bite out of them.

A woman wearing a smart blue pantsuit with tasteful gold jewelry dashed into the frame.

“Justin, we need to go. Now!”

The large wolf snarled at her.

“I said now,” she snarled back.

The wolf turned its head to the camera, tilted its head back, and howled.

The video cut out.