Dreams Made Flesh

When I got home there was a box outside my door — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister!

I got home exceptionally late today. Or exceptionally early, depending on your point of view. I was supposed to arrive home on the 1st, and ended getting back at 5am on the 2nd. Not having slept, it’s technically still the 1st for me.

Anyway. When I got home there was a box outside my door. A box covered in Amazon Prime stickers.

That’s funny, I thought. I’m not a Prime member. Also I don’t remember ordering anything.

Then it clicked — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister! I knew she was getting me something via Amazon, and I’d totally forgotten about it during the week+ vacation/down time during the cold from hell at the Ogre’s place.

(By the way, that cold? Still sticking around. I am more than ready to be well, thanks, Universe.)

I hustled inside and put down all my things (I had a lot of things) and excitedly grabbed the box. It was addressed to “Babby van Loon” — definitely from my sister; that’s her special nickname for me.

As I brewed some coffee in my Keurig (mainly to test out if the cups I’d been given for Christmas would work in it — they’re the “we work in most coffee systems” kind, not Keurig-specific ones — and they do) I grabbed a knife and carefully cut the tape on the box. It was difficult, because I was as excited as a…um. Kid on Christmas. (There has to be a better analogy out there somewhere.)

When I pulled away the plastic packaging, what did I find?

Christmas gift from my bff/soul-sister arrived! She knows me so well. <3Only an omnibus edition of one of my most beloved book series — The Black Jewels Trilogy.

I’ve read this trilogy several times. I adored it so much in high school and college that I would constantly lend my copies out to people, just so they could see how amazing it was — then I’d buy a new copy, and the cycle would begin again. Hence why I didn’t have a copy till now, and it was on my wishlist on Amazon.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. When I read The Black Jewels Trilogy, I learned that it was possible to write a matriarchal society in fantasy that wasn’t some anti-feminist screed. (I know there are probably other writers who have done this, and likely before Anne Bishop did. That doesn’t matter, here — what matters is The Black Jewels Trilogy was the first series I read where that was a thing.)

I’ve heard people call The Black Jewels Trilogy “fluffy”, and I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. There’s romance, and some characters do get to live happily ever after — but this series is dark. There is sacrifice. There is loss. There is some seriously messed up crap going on. There are big stakes. The Black Jewels Trilogy is anything but fluffy.

If I read it again today would I love it as much as I did in high school? I don’t honestly know. I’ve changed a lot as a reader and a writer since the last time I read the books. I’m more critical now, especially of things I love. I’m sure there are lots of problems in The Black Jewels Trilogy.

But honestly, I’m just not interested in deconstructing it and picking it apart. I may do that with other things I’m a fan of, because it’s good to pick apart the things you love — to admit that nothing is perfect, that everything has its problems. That way when you trash the stuff you hate, no one can get on your back for only picking on things you have a loathe-on for. (Or, well, they can — they just won’t have much of a solid foundation on which to base their arguments.)

The Black Jewels Trilogy, however, remains one of my first fandom obsessions, and still one of my favourite book series ever. I read the continuation books as they came out, most recently The Shadow Queen, Shalador’s Lady, and Twilight’s Dawn. I loved them all as much as I remember loving The Black Jewels Trilogy — so perhaps, if I reread the Trilogy today, I would adore it as much as I always did.

I refuse to pick it apart. It’s a solace for me; it’s a comfy blanket. It reminds me that sometimes the broken and the beat down can repair themselves, can win against the forces that try to tear them apart. It reminds me that love prevails.

I’m not pulling at those threads. I’m not pulling that blanket apart.

I’m putting the book in a place of honor on my shelf, and when I have some time to read some fiction this year — I’m pulling it down and reading it again.

Thank you, sister. You knew exactly what I wanted, but more — you knew exactly what I needed. A reminder that the stories I write — the stories inspired so much by The Black Jewelsare important to other people, just as The Black Jewels are important to me.

[Friday reads | fiction] The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette

The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette (ie, Jenny Trout, my idol), is the sequel to the much-loved The Boss. I was lucky enough to win a copy in the giveaway she held in August. I read the first five chapters before Pirates and Faeries, and now I’m trying to ration myself on the rest of them. When I finished The Boss, I ended up scrolling to the left so hard it excited the ebook-reading app. Then I screamed JENNNNYYYYYYYYYYYYY as if I were Kirk and she Khan.

Want to know a bit more about The Boss? Well, it’s free through Saturday on Kindle, so she’s done a post about it at her site. Here’s a pretty good assessment:

It’s an erotic romance with a kinky Dom billionaire and a twenty-something sub, written specifically to counter all the abusive, non-con stuff in 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve heard it described as The Devil Wears Prada meets The Secretary. I think that’s apt.

It’s erotica, and it’s definitely on my list of favourite sexytimes books. The Girlfriend is just as good, so far, and really really hot. UNF. Also sweet! And funny. Several times while reading it I’ve laughed out loud and the Ogre has been all “What’s so funny?” and I’ll tell him and he’ll just shake his head like he doesn’t understand me and I’m like THAT’S RIGHT YOU DON’T.

Jenny understands me though. And so does Sophie Scaife.

Here’s the official synopsis of The Girlfriend:

Unemployed, blacklisted, and pregnant, Sophie Scaife’s life is totally upside down. Her relationship with publishing magnate Neil Elwood is on the rocks. Her best friend’s career is igniting. And Sophie is afraid she’ll make one of the toughest decisions of her life alone…

When a devastating diagnosis forces Neil to return to London, Sophie throws caution to the wind to follow her heart across the Atlantic. Keeping a scorching D/s affair as red-hot in sickness as it was in health is a challenge, even for two lovers as inventive as Sophie and Neil. But Sophie is more than willing to try anything her Sir commands, and their fantasies of control become a welcome refuge from the daily stress of illness.

While Neil’s wealth and privilege make adjusting to her new situation easier, Sophie finds herself rebuilding her life around an uncertain future. And while both of them face the changes between them head-on, they’re all too aware that their happiness could be fleeting—and Sophie could lose Neil forever.

So I guess you kind of have to read The Boss now, huh?

If you’re looking to pick up some new BDSM erotica to wash the horrible taste of Fifty Shades’ popularity out of your brain, I highly recommend Abigail Barnette’s feminist response to it. (Yes, a BDSM erotic romance where the heroine is a feminist AND a sub. That right there should convince you to pick it up. I mean, if you like erotic romance.)


Book Review: The Boss by Abigail Barnette

Full disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book on the condition I would review it.

The Boss is one of those books that I didn’t think I’d get into all that much.

Not because I don’t love Jenny Trout/Abigail Barnette. I do love her. I sort of hero worship her from afar and wish that I could be like her. I love her writing, especially on her blog. (Fun fact: every time I press “j” in the URL bar the first site that autocompletes is her blog.)

Honestly, I’m just not that big a fan of erotic romance. Generally speaking. I’ve enjoyed reading it in the past and I’m sure I’ll enjoy more in the future, but it’s not a genre I really actively seek out, and often it leaves me wanting (or rolling my eyes). Furthermore, I’m not a huge fan of BDSM/kinky erotic romance — not because I’m not kinky. Because I am, and so few BDSM erotica stories are actually hot to me (without being triggering — long story there; not worth getting into).

I was worried because I knew The Boss was a male-dom/fem-sub erotic romance, and — even though I totally trust Barnette’s ability to write an erotic romance that I find hot, as I’d already read Bride of the Wolf a while ago — I’ve been burned before. (Not literally. Few of my partners have gone in for the candle wax thing.)  So I was quite cautious.

I was pleasantly surprised. The Boss was the hottest BDSM erotic romance I’ve ever read. I could not put it down, and not just because the sex was so fucking hot. The plot was compelling and intriguing, and I found myself trying to guess what would happen next (and only being right some of the time). The characters were well-developed and dynamic and they came across very clearly. When the book ended, I scrolled on my iPad so hard that I ended up loading another app. I then screamed out “JENNNNNNNNNYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!like this. I wanted more.

I could hear Neil and Sophie’s voices clearly in my head. I could picture them easily. (Neil was basically Anthony Head, because I find him rawr.) I loved their interactions; they were real and cute and funny and heartbreaking (in a totally good way). Often their relationship reminded me of mine, which made me smile and get all tingly.

While I read The Boss I was completely wrapped up in what happened to the characters. I desperately wanted them all to succeed. (Except the antagonists. I wanted them to be set on fire.) When Neil had a headache, I felt concerned about his health. When Sophie died of mortification, I did too.

The sex scenes were…steamy. And there were a lot of them, but not so much that they superseded the plot — in other words, just the perfect amount for an erotic romance. The amount of BDSM was perfect for me, too — obviously, your mileage will vary, but I personally don’t like the really hardcore ones. I prefer my sex (and scenes thereof) to be more Neapolitan than…um…Rocky Road? Whatever the ice cream equivalent of hardcore BDSM is. Anyway, people often forget that vanilla is a flavour. It is not the absence of flavour.

But that’s a rant for another time.

Basically, if you’re not terribly BDSM inclined, you’ll probably find The Boss very hot, and if you are BDSM inclined and don’t mind less hardcore erotica, then you’ll probably find The Boss very hot.

And if you like romance, you’ll definitely love it.

Bonus? The book passes the Bechdel test. That’s pretty fucking rare for heterosexual erotica or romance. Oh, and Sophie IDs as a feminist. Win.

The Boss is the first in a trilogy. Books 2 and 3 aren’t out yet, but as soon as they are I’ll be grabbing them. I need to see what happens to these characters with whom I’ve fallen so in love.

If it sounds like this book is right up your alley, it’s being released a chapter per week at its own blog. Chapter 18 got released today! (Don’t worry — if you have trouble with a dark background, there are also PDFs of each chapter available.)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars/would bang.


30 in 30: Day 02 (in which I’m actually pretty serious about The Fifth Sacred Thing)

Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

I’ve been putting off writing this post, because I was playing World of Warcraft. (You thought I was going to say something thoughtful or poignant, didn’t you? Silly. You should know by now.)

Truth is, there are a lot of books that I wish more people were reading and talking about — they range from actual literature to my own to feminist theory. The one I settled on is a piece of fiction.

Continue reading “30 in 30: Day 02 (in which I’m actually pretty serious about The Fifth Sacred Thing)”