Smut Matters

Sophisticated Smuttery for Discerning Readers

Holding Strong by Lori Foster

Holding Strong - Lori Foster

I really do like this series. This is only the second book in the series. 2.5, I guess, if you include the novella. I’m really excited to read the next two, but I think this one will end up being my least favorite of the series. Denver and Cherry just didn’t click for me, although it was going to be difficult for anyone to follow Cannon and Yvette in No Limits.

The physical connection between Denver and Cherry was apparent from the very beginning. Actually, it was apparent any time they showed up in No Limits, but even so, I thought they fell into bed pretty quickly here. They’re both at a bar with their group of mutual friends, and Denver is watching Cherry, simultaneously wanting her and being upset that she’s being such a flirt. This was one of the things that bugged me about Denver. I get that he’s an MMA fighter, and he’s alpha, but as far as I could tell, Cherry’s flirting consisted of little more than talking to the men at her table. Maybe laughing at their jokes. But it comes up a lot throughout the book when we’re in his POV. It’s a big problem for him. At one point, he even asks some of the other fighters if they would even date her because she’s such a flirt. I just wanted to shake some sense into him. She’s literally standing there talking to people. Most of them are his friends. The one time a stranger hits on her, he’s very quickly sent packing. This is the huge deterrent for Denver. He gets over it and walks her back to her hotel room, and that’s pretty much it. They fall into bed together, and they’re together from that point on.

For me, alpha does not mean the same thing as possessive and controlling. In one sentence, Denver is thinking his friend Armie treats Cherry exactly the same as he does any other woman he has zero interest in, and the next he’s yelling at Cherry for daring to get caught in a rainstorm around Armie and being in clothing that’s stuck to her body by the rain. Actually yelling at her in front of all of their friends. Cherry rightly called him out on his crap that time, after he told her he knew Armie wasn’t interested in her and wouldn’t try anything with her, and Cherry correctly said that since he trusted Armie so completely, it must be her he didn’t trust. For crying out loud. She was trying to look nice for Denver and got caught in the rain. The only reason Armie is even there is because he went to pick Cherry up and bring her to Denver when her car wasn’t running.  Denver was a very confusing mix of loving and possessive that left me somewhat unsettled. The only way he would believe Cherry truly loved him and trusted him and was willing to share their lives was for her to allow him to completely control a situation from her past she was dealing with. Not to accept his help, not to ask him or take his advice, but to allow him to completely take it over. He hides things about his own past and family situation from her, but insists that when she does the same, it means she doesn’t trust him or love him enough. It did not give me the warm fuzzies. I was glad to see Cherry occasionally call him out on his crap, but she didn’t do it often enough for me.

But in true Lori Foster fashion, the sex scenes were great, and I had no problem believing Denver and Cherry were well-suited there. I just struggled to see where else they were suited. Armie and Stack get better with each book, and I’m really looking forward to the next in these series. She’s hosting a convention in Ohio this weekend, and I’m going to do everything I can to get my hands on Stack’s book, which is next in the series.

Knowing the Score by Kat Latham

Knowing the Score - Kat Latham

Spencer Bailey is a star rugby player for the London Legends, hoping to win a spot on England’s World Cup team. After a scandal when he was younger, he keeps himself celibate during the rugby season, only allowing himself to indulge in his second favorite pastime during the off-season. Caitlyn Sweeney is an American working in London. She’s pretty typically American in her knowledge of rugby; mainly, she has heard of rugby, she knows it exists, but that’s about it. What Spencer needs for the next two weeks is someone who’s not looking for a permanent relationship. Someone who’s ok with a no-strings attached fling he can indulge in until training starts again. Caitlyn, whose visa is going to expire not long after the season starts, seems perfect.

There were parts of this book that worked for me and parts that didn’t. I liked Caitlyn’s job a lot. She works for an international disaster relief organization and goes all over the world helping people, specifically women, recover from natural disasters. There was a speech she gave to Spencer about it that opened his eyes, and mine, too. Frankly, living in the midwest of America, I had never considered how difficult it would be for women to deal with their most basic needs after an earthquake or hurricane. Where do you safely go to the bathroom? What if you have your period; what will you use? How will you wash your hands after? There’s no toilet paper to be had, how will you keep yourself clean? Spencer had clearly never thought of these things, and I’m ashamed to say, I hadn’t, either. Kat Latham’s history working in humanitarian aid shone through for me, and in a lot of ways it was the best part of the book.

I thought Caitlyn and Spencer had really good chemistry eventually. I didn’t buy it as much in the beginning. It came across more as Spencer thinking to himself “I need someone to have sex with for two weeks, and this woman in front of me is relatively pretty. I’ll ask her.” It just didn’t seem like there was any reason for him to decide to do this with her other than her proximity. Caitlyn’s reasoning made a little more sense to me. Spencer is gorgeous. And with the automatic expiration date on their fling, no one has to worry about getting hurt. Which is something that Caitlyn is very, very worried about. Plus, Spencer could help her with the pesky task of losing her virginity. And when I say Grace is still a virgin at 27, I mean she is the virginiest virgin I’ve ever read in a contemporary romance. She’s never had sex (obviously). She’s never had an orgasm, or even attempted to give herself one. The first time Spencer kisses her, she bites his tongue because she’s only kissed one other guy one time before, and she accidentally head-butted that dude and has no idea what to do. She’s completely virginal in every way. Which bothered me a little. If she had made a decision to save sex for marriage, or for some other reason that would be one thing.(See Jane the Virgin. No, seriously, go watch Jane the Virgin. I’ll wait.) But that’s not the case. She comes across as naive about the world around her. Has she never watched TV or a movie? Never read any books? She can’t possibly think tongue-biting is a natural part of kissing. Even Jane the Virgin manages to save herself for marriage while still recognizing and accepting that she’s a woman with a strong sex drive. It’s important to Jane that she remain a virgin until she’s married for a lot of reasons all of which are handled deftly and make a lot of sense, but she doesn’t pretend to be sexless. Caitlyn’s reasoning for still being a virgin just never rang true to me, because it wasn’t a decision she made for herself. She didn’t want to be a virgin. Ok, her dad was an abusive asshole and her college boyfriend was a nightmare. I understand that. (Question – she dated this college nightmare for two years and they never kissed or had sex??? In college??) I’m not saying that would have zero effect on a person. But she’s twenty-seven years old, doesn’t want to be a virgin, and hasn’t wanted to for a long time. It’s not that difficult to find someone to have sex with. It basically came down to her thinking she wouldn’t be good enough at it because of the way those two men in her past had treated her. But now that Spencer has presented her with this option, she’s ready. Again, that piece of it came across as her accepting the arrangement more because she wanted to have sex and Spencer was offering than because there was any real connection between them. She’s just very passive about the whole thing, which didn’t really mesh well with the woman we saw in other aspects of her life. She’s very strong and decisive in her work, she has to be. And when Spencer presents this arrangement, there’s no hesitation. She wants this, so she’s going to do it. So I didn’t really understand the hesitation before this. It came across as “I really, really want to have sex, so I’ll sit at home every night and wait until someone offers it to me.”

The chemistry between Spencer and Caitlyn did become more pronounced over the course of the book. There were a few tropey big misunderstandings that could have been cleared up with a conversation between them, or at least one of the characters being willing to listen to what the other has to say. But by the end of it, I could buy them being together. It did involve one of my least favorite tropes – virginal heroine scared to have sex because she thinks she’ll do it wrong or be bad at it having multiple orgasms the first time out of the gate. That does not happen. It hardly happens to any woman her first time out, much less one who’s gone her entire life being told and believing that she’s terrible at every part of intimacy, and who is also recovering from some horrible mystery illness she picked up in Afghanistan. She would have been so wrapped up inside her own head she couldn’t relax at all, much less enough for multiple orgasms.

The issue with Caitlyn’s virginity was the biggest problem I had with this book. It’s just not that difficult for a woman to get rid of her virginity if she wants to. Just leave the house. Guys aren’t that difficult to convince. And if you just go for a one-night stand, then any hang ups about being terrible won’t matter, because you’re never going to see him again. That goes double for a woman working in a foreign country. You’re not going to run into the guy at the grocery store. Just do it. Again, this is predicated on the fact that Caitlyn feels like her virginity is a problem. She wants to get rid of it. If she was saving it for any reason, that would be a whole different story. She’s clearly ok with losing her virginity to anyone, because she went into this relationship with Spencer expecting it to be a brief fling. But I liked Latham’s writing, and I liked a lot of the side characters, so I’ll read at least the next one in the series.

Falling For His Best Friend - Katee Robert

Falling for His Best Friend - Katee Robert

Avery Yeung’s mother and sister were both twenty-eight when they were diagnosed with cancer. The actual cancer isn’t specified, but I assume it was cervical or ovarian. Her mother eventually died from the disease, while her sister, Alexis, had a complete hysterectomy and eventually recovered. Avery had a genetic test done and discovered she has the same gene that caused the cancer in both of them, so she’s decided that she’ll have a preventative hysterectomy herself when she’s twenty-eight or soon after. But before she does that, she wants to have a baby. Already twenty-seven, she doesn’t have much time, and there’s no man in her life. After considering all her options and talking to her doctors, she’s decided to go with an anonymous sperm donor. She’s going to adopt any babies/children she wants later in life, but she wants to have at least one while she can.

Her best friend Drew Flannery is not on board with this plan. At all. He’s been half in love with Avery for years, and the thought of her doing this with another man makes him realize that he needs to step up and tell her how he feels. To be fair, it’s not a he-man “My woman” impulse that makes him not want to go the anonymous donor route. Well, not completely, anyway. He also knows that being a single parent is tough. And he knows that with the way the anonymous donor system works, Avery will be on her own. That’s sort of the point of the anonymous donor. And if she needs financial help, or babysitting help, or just to sit down and cry for a minute, or five minutes to herself to take a shower, she won’t have anyone there to help her. She has family, but outside of her sister, they’re not close. And her sister is still reeling from her own hysterectomy and coming to terms with never being able to have her own babies, and her fiancee leaving her practically at the altar because of it, and isn’t in a position to help Avery out right now. Avery has friends, too. Really good friends, Drew included. But as important as that support system is, and as helpful as they would be, at the end of the day, Avery will be on her own. Drew had a really shitty childhood, and Avery was there for him without reservation from the moment they met as children. He wants to be there for her in this.

“Avery, shut up and listen to me. If we’re going to do this – and we are – we’re going to do this right.” And then he kissed her.

Avery takes a little convincing, but only a little. Their miscommunication of the process was really cute. Drew assumes they’re doing it the old-fashioned way, while Avery thinks he’s just volunteered to be the donor. They each realize their mistake when they’re already at the sperm bank. Most of the interaction between Drew and Avery was like that. Cute, easy, and not a lot of angst. Their sex, however, was not cute. Their sex was really hot. I’m not sure they ever did make it into a bed like Drew kept wanting to do. One scene involving her Jeep, his handcuffs, and the side of a deserted road stands out as one of the best I’ve read recently.

This book mostly plays out as a pretty typical, though fun and breezy, friends-to-lovers story. One thing that really stood out to me, though, was the cultural conflict between Avery, born and raised in the United States, half Chinese and half Caucasian, and her extremely conservative Chinese grandparents. Avery’s mother was white, and her grandparents have never forgiven her father for that, even after all these years, even after the woman’s death. Avery knows that they will absolutely not accept her decision. They, the grandfather specifically, are very open in their feelings that her sister Alexis is defective now that she can’t have children. They’re firmly on the side of her ex-fiance who left her because of it. And Avery knows that they will especially hate it when she tells them that the donor is not Chinese. And they certainly do.

Avery and Drew deal with their respective upcoming parental-role freakouts differently. Avery has a few moments here and there when she’s convinced she won’t be a good mom. She has a cry, leans on Drew’s shoulder, and moves on. Drew’s concerns are a little different. His mother died when he was very young, and his father fell apart. He became an alcoholic, was never again nice or attentive to Drew or his brother and died without ever getting over his wife’s death. Drew has a sudden realization that if anything were to happen to Avery, he would react the same way, and he can’t do that to his kid. View Spoiler ».

This book was a light, fun read, involving one of my favorite tropes. (the friends-to-lovers) I realized once I was in it that it was at least the second in a series, and I’ll probably go back and read the first one. I liked the couple in it, Drew’s brother and Avery’s best friend, and I’d like to see their story. If the rest of Katee Roberts are like this one, sweet, and easy to read, and super-hot, I can’t wait to read them.


Changes - Jim Butcher

Changes: The Dresden Files, Book 12 - Jim Butcher

I love this book so much. I love this whole series, and this is easily my favorite so far. Changes, indeed.By the end of this book, View Spoiler » Except probably not. Seriously. Everything about this book is great. This is the twelfth book in the series, and I really don’t recommend starting here. Do yourself a favor and read it from the beginning. Or at least from 3 on.

It’s really hard to talk about the individual elements of this book without spoiling things, so this will be a short review. Harry having a daughter isn’t really a spoiler since it’s literally the first line of the book. (“I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said ‘They’ve taken our daughter.’ I sat there for a long five count, swallowed, and said ‘Um. What?'”) If you’ve been following this story from the beginning, you know how important family is to Harry Dresden. He’s not happy to find out that not only does he have an eight-year-old daughter that he never knew about, but for safety reasons, Susan has placed her with another family to be raised as an orphan. And, clearly, the cover has been blown. For the first time since we met Harry, he’s trying to save the world for more than just altruistic reasons or to save his own ass. This time he’s trying to save his daughter.

I know I’m repeating myself, but this book is so good. Every time Harry thinks he’s figured out what’s happening, he’s thrown for another loop. Every time the reader thinks we’ve figured something out, we find we’re completely wrong. And that twist with Karin at the end! Wow.

I can’t talk about this book without talking about the narrator. I’ve only read a few of these books; I usually listen to them on audio because James Marsters is so freaking good! I haven’t listened to any of the other books he’s narrated, but he’s so good as Harry. In fact, the next book, Ghost Story, is the only book of the 15 that he was unable to narrate due to other commitments and time constraints, so I’ve never listened to it. But recently, four years after the fact, James Marsters and Jim Butcher were finally able to give the fans what they’ve been clamoring for, and James went into the studio to record it. I’m so excited to move on to that one. It’ll be like a whole new book for me!