Tag Archives: 2 stars

Review: Mastered by Maya Banks

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Mastered by Maya BanksMastered by Maya Banks
Series: Enforcers #1
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on December 29th, 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Surrender Trilogy and the Breathless Trilogy knows what makes readers hot. Now she turns it up in Mastered, the explosive first book in a new series of a desire too dangerous to resist.   What he wants, he takes with no remorse or guilt.   She stood out in his club like a gem, unspoiled and untouched. A lamb among wolves, she clearly didn't belong. Drawn to her innocence he watched as she was surrounded by men who saw what he did--but no one but him could touch her. He summoned her to his private quarters. He sensed her fear. He also recognized the desire in her eyes. And he knew she wouldn't leave before he possessed her. She had no need to know his secrets. Not until he had her under his complete and utter control.   What he wants, she isn't sure she can give him.   The moment he told her want he wanted, she couldn't resist. Instinct told her to run, but her heart said stay and walk the fine line between pleasure and pain. Though she wasn't sure she could ever completely surrender, the primal part of her wanted to try, even knowing this man could break her in ways she never imagined. Because once he possessed her, he owned her and it would be too late to turn back. She can only pray that he doesn't destroy her in the end.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Mastered. The major one is in a spoiler space section, but if you don’t want to know any actual details about this book, stop reading now.

Some people on the Internet seem to think that we amateur book reviewers love to write nasty negative reviews about books just for the evil fun of it. The reality, however, is entirely the opposite. And when the book in question is by a beloved author, the feeling isn’t so much glee as it is intense sadness and disappointment.

It is with that feeling of great dismay that I am writing this review. Mastered is the first book in the new Enforcers series by Maya Banks, one of my all time favorite authors. I’ve read and enjoyed so many of her erotic romance series that I jumped at this review opportunity even though this blog is still technically on hiatus until next year. And yet Mastered is such a huge departure from what I have come to rely on in a Maya Banks erotic romance that I’m still reeling at how very wrong it went for me.

The premise of Mastered is simple and familiar:  innocent heroine crosses paths with dangerous dominant hero who must have her at all costs. Evangeline was seduced and abandoned by a no-good jerk and now she’s at Impulse, the hottest club in town, to prove she’s over him. But when the no-good jerk shows up to physically confront our heroine, the all-powerful club owner Drake Donovan comes to her rescue, only to capture her for himself until it all goes horribly wrong at the end of the book.

Wait, what? you say. Horribly wrong? Well, yes. Because Mastered ends on a wrenching cliffhanger and you’re going to have to wait until the next book is released to get the rest of Evangeline and Drake’s story. This information was posted on the author’s Facebook page earlier this year, but it isn’t anywhere in the book listing or promo materials. To her credit, she has included a lengthy explanation/apology at the end of the book, and I recommend you read it before deciding whether or not to continue with the story itself.

But honestly, for me the incomplete story wasn’t the main reason Mastered was such a disappointing read. There are two more compelling reasons, one of which appears in a spoiler tag further down. But the other one permeates the entire book so thoroughly that even if the story was complete, I’d still have problems recommending it.

For in Mastered, our heroine Evangeline is presented not as a normal human adult woman with both positive and negative attributes. Instead she is the perfect combination of Pollyanna, Marilyn Monroe, and Mother Teresa that no man (other than the no-good jerk who took her virginity for kicks) can resist. She projects a relentlessly positive attitude no matter how dire her situation, yet is constantly in denial about how every man (except that one guy) is drawn to her innate goodness and powerful (yet entirely innocent) sexual allure. She immediately agrees to give up her impoverished yet independent life to a man she’s known for about fifteen minutes, one whose first interaction with her is to engage in heated oral sex in his office after rescuing her from the no-good jerk. And as every man (other than the first guy) continues to fall at her feet throughout the story, every woman is compared to our heroine and found wanting.

This, in a nutshell, is the main problem I had with Mastered —  that Evangeline is constantly presented as the epitome of acceptable womanhood and every other woman in the book (other than her mother in a brief cameo) is presented as not worthy to kiss the heroine’s feet. Indeed, the first time we see our hero, he is forcibly removing a woman from his club who had bribed one of his workers to sneak her in so she could throw herself at the hero, calling her a skank for good measure. Then when the no-good jerk who deflowered and dumped our heroine appears at the club with his new squeeze in tow, she’s just as awful and unsavory as the woman tossed out by our hero only moments earlier.

This insidious attitude toward other women would annoy me in any romance novel, but in a Maya Banks book it was especially disappointing. In so many of her other erotic romance books, notably the Sweet series and Breathless series, the heroines all had great women friends who were just as worthy of being liked and admired, and who often ended up as heroines themselves. But here in Mastered, other women who are not blood relatives of the heroine are denigrated and tossed aside when they’re no longer needed. The worst example of this occurs just after one of Evangeline’s former “best friend” roommates warns her in no uncertain terms not to get mixed up with the hero. Instead of the hero sharing his own doubts about whether he’s capable of being a good person for the heroine (which we already know about from his internal monologues), he declares the former BFF to be a “jealous bitch.” Yet the heroine wouldn’t have even met the hero if that same “jealous bitch” hadn’t magically acquired a VIP pass to Impulse and given it to the heroine. This distinct lack of respect for any women who aren’t the heroine is simply not what I’ve come to expect and enjoy in a Maya Banks book, and I’m still distressed about how prevalent it was in this one.

There are a lot of other reasons why Mastered didn’t work for me, such as how every deadly henchmen on the hero’s staff instantly declares himself ready to save the heroine when (not if) the hero screws things up with her, or how both the hero and heroine spend more time in long internal monologues on how they feel about their situation than they do actually sharing those feelings with each other.

But all those pale to the other reason why I cannot recommend Mastered, and as the catalyst for the cliffhanger, it’s the biggest spoiler of the book.
























The hero has unsavory gangster types coming over to his apartment for a private meeting so he convinces the heroine to go out with her ex-roommates for the evening to keep her safe. But when her ex-roommates understandably don’t want anything to do with someone who had ditched them completely since she’d met the hero, the heroine decides to surprise the hero by cooking a full gourmet dinner for him and his associates. After all, he never told her they were too dangerous for her to meet, so why shouldn’t she? When they arrive to find her waiting, the hero decides the best way to keep her safe is to not only verbally assault her in the worst possible way, but also to force her to fellate him in front of the other men.

That’s right – the hero sexually assaults the heroine to protect her from additional sexual assault by others.

Then after they all depart to eat dinner elsewhere, the heroine leaves the hero to take a job at a hotel run by the sister of the doorman at the hero’s building, the doorman being yet another random man who has immediately fallen for the heroine.

















This was the last straw for me and Mastered. Your mileage may vary, but everybody has their hard limits on what is acceptable in a romance novel, and that crossed the line for me in no uncertain terms. If the rest of Evangeline and Drake’s story had been in this book instead of continued in a future one, I still wouldn’t have read past where this book ends. Thanks to the nature of this cliffhanger, I have absolutely no interest in how the hero and heroine recover from what has happened between them. I can only hope that future Maya Banks books will get back to what has always made them great for me before – a hero and heroine with a genuine loving relationship in a world where both men and women are valued equally.



Review: Twisted by Emma Chase

Twisted (Tangled, #2)Twisted by Emma Chase
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes For The Love Of Romance.

When I was approved to review TWISTED, I was so happy that I think I actually squealed. TANGLED was one of my favorite books of 2013 and this first sequel was near the top of my most anticipated reads for this year. But now that I’ve read TWISTED, and had some time to ponder my reactions to it, all I can do for that previous version of me is pat her on the hand and make vaguely sympathetic noises. To say I felt blindsided by TWISTED is an understatement. How about sucker-punched? Betrayed? Enough about me – let’s talk about the book.

The original conceit of TANGLED was its funny and touching 1st person POV of Drew Evans, an admitted manwhore who met his match in the only woman he’d wanted who had actually turned him down. Drew was a winning character in spite of all his shortcomings, and in their story told entirely from his side, we got to see the initial surface dislike he and Kate had shared slowly give way to a genuine romance, complete with a sweet and touching Happy For Now.

Fast forward two years, and here we are at the beginning of TWISTED, which is told entirely from the side of Kate Brooks, the woman who showed Drew that one true love is light years better than a million fleeting sexual conquests. (Or so we had been led to believe.) Just like TANGLED, TWISTED begins at what is actually close to the ending, with the bulk of the story being an extended flashback. So we know right away that something terrible is about to happen, and can only squirm helplessly as it lurches toward us like an especially gruesome slow moving train wreck. And for me, when that train went off the rails, so did the rest of TWISTED, and even more horribly than I could have ever predicted.

Because TWISTED’s entire plot relies on what I consider the worst execution of the infamous Big Misunderstanding I’ve read in any recently published romance novel, requiring the reader to suspend all critical judgment and believe in an increasingly implausible series of events. It expects you to believe that Drew would instantly jump to the most awful conclusion about something that could have easily been explained in a five minute conversation (“Who’s Bob?” “That’s my doctor. Her full name is Roberta.”) It expects you to believe that Drew would decide to react in the most offensive way imaginable after having jumped to this completely wrong conclusion mere hours before (again, without bothering to have the simple conversation that adults not in this book would have at least considered). And then it expects you to believe that although Kate first responded to Drew’s insane behavior in the same way pretty much anyone in her position would do, she would then assume she knew exactly why he had done this terrible thing and decide to leave him, her job, and her life as she knew it, without any explanation to anyone else.

Yet this was just the start of the madness. When Kate arrived in her hometown to recover and regroup, none of the people around her – not a one! – ever suggested that perhaps she might want to reach out to Drew to try and fix things. Later we discovered from Kate’s good friend Delores that everyone in Drew’s life also automatically believed his version of why they split up. Really? So even when Delores knew what Kate believed, and Matthew knew what Drew believed, Delores and Matthew never once compared notes or traded explicit accusations? I was especially surprised that not a single one of the lengthy cast of secondary characters in this story ever took it upon themselves to confront the supposed offender directly. For a brief moment, I hoped Kate’s mother would be the one to put an end to this tortured farce when she threatened to go to New York to yell at Drew herself. But that never happened. It was only pages and pages later that Kate finally relented and asked for Drew, but only after she nearly lost what she wasn’t quite sure she wanted. And it was only then that they finally had the conversation they should have had at the start. Sigh.

Although I understood the ending of TANGLED wasn’t a final Happily Ever After, I did believe I had come to know these two characters, and that perceived knowledge is what made the ill-conceived Big Misunderstanding driving the plot of TWISTED all the more hurtful for me. Because the Drew Evans *I* knew and loved would not have immediately believed the worst of the woman *he* knew and loved, and the Kate Brooks *I* knew and loved would have never given up the love of her life without a fight to the death. All I can do now is treat TWISTED as an aberrant deviation into the darkest timeline, and wait for the final resolution to Drew and Kate’s romance in TIED later this year. I can only hope that it’s more like TANGLED and less like this one. *fingers crossed*

Favorite Quote:

Anyway, now’s about the time I start spouting off some pearls of wisdom.
But given the events of the last year, it’s become increasingly obvious that I don’t know what the f*ck I’m talking about.

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Review: The Other Other Woman by Mallory Lockhart

The Other Other WomanTitle: The Other Other Woman
Author: Mallory Lockhart
Genre: contemporary women’s erotic fiction
Publisher: self-published
Format: ebook
Release Date: January 6, 2014

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

What was the worst that could happen with just one kiss?

Mallory was just a mom. An exhausted mother of two, teetering on the edge of a midlife crisis. She was especially tired of having a husband who acted more like a child than a partner. But she wasn’t looking for anyone else. She was done with men; they were all the same. She didn’t need another one.
Matt was just a friend. Located in another state, he was an older, wiser co-worker she could confide in. So what if he was gorgeous, charming, and perfect for her in every way? So what if he saw that, buried underneath her worn down exterior, she was one of the most witty, attractive, and intelligent women he had ever met? He had a wife. He didn’t need another one.

So what if, after meeting each other in person for the first time, there was an instant physical attraction between them? Would a little kiss between friends be so bad? It wouldn’t go any further; Mallory wasn’t interested in being anyone’s other woman. Who could have known that a fleeting pass across the lips would be the passionate taste test that would leave them both starving for more? That one kiss could ignite a raging fire of sex and desire that would burn them both and lead them to destroy each other’s lives.

This book is intended for mature audiences only (18 and over) due to language and sexual situations.

My Review:

UPDATE 3/10/2014: I received an email from the author tonight letting me know that she had unpublished this book “due to a job conflict” and that a review was not expected. However, since I’ve already spent the time reading it and writing the review, this post will remain as is.


Rarely do I have such mixed feelings about a book I’ve agreed to review as I had with The Other Other Woman. On the one hand, the plot and the dialogue and the heroine were so over the top that I felt compelled to read parts aloud to my husband until finally he begged me to stop. On the other hand, I did get hooked into it enough to read all the way to the bitter (and unsatisfying) end. But I can’t give extra credit for not being a DNF.

Our purported heroine, Mallory Lockhart (see what the author did there?), is drifting in an unhappy marriage to a man who never picked up a check in his life. When a work conference introduces her to a co-worker from another location, his fine features and flirty personality get her immediately interested in more. Sure she’s married, sure he’s married, but maybe just one kiss will get this Matt guy out of her system. But then there wouldn’t be a book, would there? And yet, after finishing The Other Other Woman, I can’t help thinking it would have been for the best if that had been the case.

Because this Matt guy is an A-Number-One make-no-mistake-about-it Player with a capital P. Even though Mallory’s brain knows this from the get-go, it’s her body and her heart which lead her all the way down to crazy town, where she becomes what she herself refers to as a Stage 5 Clinger. But we ladies know that the more you cling, the more he pulls back, and it’s only when you make weak attempts to recover your sanity by breaking away from him that he will suck you back in for another vicious cycle.

And that, in a nutshell, is the entire plot of The Other Other Woman: Mallory falls for Matt, Matt keeps her on a string until she says she’s out, then he pulls her back in, and so forth. Oh, and the texts. Lots and lots and lots of texts. If this story was based in reality, these two would have everyone else in their lives noticing how they both are always typing on their phones, because there weren’t enough hours in the day to cover the huge amount of texts between them.

I nearly gave up on this book more than once. But I wanted to see how it would end. And what happened is something I can’t ignore, but I can put it behind a spoiler tag.

View Spoiler »

If you’re just looking for a book that works primarily as a conveyance for some super smutty sex scenes (and there’s nothing wrong with that; I like my smut as much as anybody), then The Other Other Woman might be for you. But I needed more, and that’s why it didn’t work for me. 2 stars

Review: Passion Eternal by Jenn Sawyer

Passion Eternal (Passion Eternal, #1)Passion Eternal by Jenn Sawyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided to me by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

I’m still not sure what I just read, but I’m not going to be able to discuss it here without significant spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

Here is the blurb for Passion Eternal:

Tina Shawn was nine years old when she developed an uncontrollable crush on Brad Anderson, who was two years older than her.

Now, seven years later, the boy who has held the key to her heart is moving out of Cleveland, Ohio. It spells the end of her dream. But little does she realize that their paths will cross again. Except that finding her dream again only gradually throws her into a state of confusion as conflicting events unfold.

“Conflicting events” is a mild description for what occurred in this book after the opening scene when Brad’s family moved out of town. Tina attempted to forget Brad by agreeing to go out with an older rich kid who got her drunk and attempted to sexually assault her before she was rescued by another kid who knew her from high school. This part of the book went on for several chapters, albeit ones that weren’t more than one or two pages long. When the next chapter began with “Three years later,” I wondered what the point was for providing all that detail if there weren’t going to be any repercussions.

So it’s three years later, and Tina has moved to Teaneck, New Jersey, to attend college. Apparently by pure coincidence, she spots Brad and then lashes out when he doesn’t act happy to see her again. The remainder of the book consists of the two of them getting drunk and having sex and fighting and Brad’s father threatening them. There is also a weird side trip to visit Brad’s ailing mother in a strange medical facility where Tina provides blood for a transfusion (!) and then more sex and more fighting and more of Brad’s father threatening. The book ends with an anonymous phone call directing Tina to look in Brad’s closet for a box containing letters and videos showing him having sex with another woman, prompting Tina to leave him again, ostensibly for good this time.

So many things happened in Passion Eternal and yet nothing important was actually explained or resolved. We get elaborate introductions to transitional characters who only appear in a single scene, such as Collin Sheldon, the boy who rescues Tina from the rich kid who attacked her, and Audrey, the woman who brings up the room service food for Tina and Brad in the hotel where they’re staying. Yet we are never given any clues about more pressing questions, such as how is Brad paying for all the hotel visits and the new apartment, what is wrong with Brad’s mother, and why did Brad borrow $15,000 from his father in the first place?

Yet the most frustrating part of this book for me was Tina herself, and her propensity to start screaming and losing control whenever her bad choices put her in bad situations. I seriously wondered if she was going to be alive by the end of the book, what with all the times she got drunk and passed out after either being attacked or ending up in bed with Brad. By the time she had decided to leave Brad one last time after finding the evidence of his infidelity, I was just relieved that the book was finally over, and I didn’t have to try to figure out what the heck was going on anymore.

Somewhere in Passion Eternal is a story that is trying to come out, but I wasn’t able to find it. I sincerely hope that the author will work with a copy editor and some unbiased beta readers before releasing her follow-up book.

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