Kim’s Guest Review of Maya Banks’ Sweet Series (1-3) with Kelly

So when I tell you that I’ve written a dueling review with my bestest reading buddy Kelly, from Reading with Analysis, you should automatically know two things about the post:

1. It is going to be HILARIOUS

2. It is going to be epic in its length (that’s what she said)

Back in March Kelly and I read and duel reviewed Maya Banks’ Rush. We weren’t fans. Being the nice readers we are though, we didn’t write Banks and her books off completely.  We’d heard from several sources that her Sweet series was much better. So, on we went to read the first three books in the series: Sweet Surrender, Sweet Persuasion, and Sweet Seduction.  

To find out what we thought, head over to Kelly’s blog. Our post is here

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As an aside – if anyone can explain the significance of the fruit for each of the books I’ll love you forever.  Honestly….I really don’t understand the grapes and their significance in book three.

Kim and Kelly’s Review of Rush (Breathless #1) by Maya Banks

rmbJoining me on the blog today is my best reading buddy Kelly, of Reading With Analysis.  Our last dueling review, on Tessa Dare’s Stud Club Trilogy, showcased how romance novels could have depth (in case you didn’t read it, we love deep romance novels).  When we heard about a new erotica trilogy by author Maya Banks called The Breathless Trilogy we figured we had our next book to duel over.  We both read Rush (book one) and had similar feelings about the characters and story overall.  We decided that we wanted to write an open letter to women who are thinking of entering into a relationship similar to the one showcased in Rush.  First, the plot!

From Goodreads: Gabe, Jace, and Ash: three of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country. They’re accustomed to getting anything they want. Anything at all. For Gabe, it’s making one particular fantasy come true with a woman who was forbidden fruit. Now she’s ripe for the picking…

When Gabe Hamilton saw Mia Crestwell walk into the ballroom for his hotel’s grand opening, he knew he was going to hell for what he had planned. After all, Mia is his best friend’s little sister. Except she’s not so little anymore. And Gabe has waited a long time to act on his desires.

Gabe has starred in Mia’s fantasies more than once, ever since she was a teenager with a huge crush on her brother’s best friend. So what if Gabe’s fourteen years older? Mia knows he’s way out of her league, but her attraction has only grown stronger with time. She’s an adult now, and there’s no reason not to act on her most secret desires.

As Gabe pulls her into his provocative world, she realizes there’s a lot she doesn’t know about him or how exacting his demands can be. Their relationship is intense and obsessive, but as they cross the line from secret sexual odyssey to something deeper, their affair runs the risk of being exposed—and vulnerable to a betrayal far more intimate than either expected.

Dear Woman Who Deserves Better Than What She’s Signing Up For,

We really want to see you with a man who deserves you.  Therefore you should know that if any of the following statements ring true for your relationship, something’s wrong.

  • Did you have to sign a contract with your new “significant other?”
    • If part of the negotiations require you getting him to agree to fidelity to just you…..something’s wrong (especially when there is a whole paragraph about your fidelity to him!)
    • If you need your “significant other’s” permission to hang out with your friends, something’s wrong.
      • If you’re not allowed to speak to your friends about your relationship, something’s wrong.
      • If you get permission to hang out with your friends, and your “significant other” still gets upset because alcohol is involved, something’s wrong.  You’re in your twenties. Live it the fuck up.
    • If your contract stipulates that all your physical and financial needs will be met in return for your ceding all control over yourself and your functions, but said contract makes no mention at all of your emotional well-being, something’s wrong.
    • If your contract states that it’s totally OK for your “significant other” to share you, occasionally, with other people, and you’re not quite sure what that means, so you have to ask about it, something’s wrong.
      • If you might be on the positive side of ambivalent, once it’s explained, that’s cool. But if, when the sharing happens, you aren’t in possession of the full facts, and it’s awful, and it happens anyway, something’s wrong.
        • If your “significant other” shares you without your permission and you get upset, and his response is to just take you on a shopping spree….something’s wrong.
  • So, you’re having sex with your “significant other.”  If he’s constantly shouting at you to give him your eyes, something’s wrong. I mean really, those are your eyes! Why should you give them up?
  • While at the office, if your “significant other” says, “Hey, come over here. I’m going to put this butt plug in you, and you’re going to wear it all day,” something’s wrong. Seriously girl, that’s your butt. What if it’s Mexican lunch day in the office? You gotta say no to that chili because he wants those plugs in you all day? Hells no.
  • If your “significant other” says “I’m looking forward to f**king this sweet ass” more than once (and that once is only if there’s a lot of alcohol involved), something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” starts hitting on his dad’s girlfriend, like right in front of you, and you’re like, “What?!” and you leave, and then your “significant other” gets all kinds of angry at you for leaving that shit, something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” basically rapes your mouth because he’s too impatient to let you go at your own pace, something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” constantly asks you, “Did you eat?” GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. Your fast metabolism won’t last forever and you’ll just end up obese with the amount of food he keeps plying you with.
  • If your “significant other” wants to pay you an outrageous sum of money so that you’ll be his beck and call girl (and butt-plug recipient), something’s wrong. You’re not a prostitute. You shouldn’t be treated as such.
  • If you have to pay the piper for all the stupid shit your “significant other’s” ex-wife did, something’s wrong.  That’s his baggage, girl, and it shouldn’t have anything to do with you.

As we said earlier, something’s wrong if these statements describe your relationship.  We’d be more than happy to help you get out and find someone much more worthy of you.

With sincere love,

Kelly & Kim

Kim: Now Kelly and I aren’t here to tear the WHOLE book up.  We both thought that Banks’ writing wasn’t terrible. I personally felt that there was a lot of repetition in the story.  Many of the same character traits are repeated over and over and over. Gabe is divorced. Gabe had a divorce. Gabe felt bad that he was rough with Mia. Mia couldn’t believe Gabe was so unrestrained with her. Gabe thinks about how Mia’s brother would feel if he knew how rough he was with her. On and on the repetition went.

Kelly: It’s true.  Banks wrote in complete sentences at a mostly upper-grade reading level, but the sentences were stilted and awkward.  Mia had liked Gabe in the past.  She had spent a lot of time thinking about him.  He had been attracted to her for a long time.  That kind of phrasing is present throughout the entire book, and after awhile, it got a little exhausting to read it.  I longed for a simple, clear, direct, active sentence. Probably, what I most longed for was another round of editing to make the prose more pleasant to read.

Kim: Besides the stilted and repetitive prose, I had a really hard time connecting with the characters (both main and side ones).  First and foremost, Gabe is supposed to be this hot domineering character.  Instead he comes off as a HUGE ass. He’s cold, hard, unyielding, and does what’s in his best interest ALWAYS.  I won’t tell you what happened in Paris, but suffice it to say those events solidified my dislike of the novel more than anything else.

Kelly: Yeah, it was really hard to take Gabriel seriously as the hero in this one, because he’s not remotely heroic.  He doesn’t even do a great job of being all smoldery in his alpha maleness, because he’s too busy making sure that he comes across as an alpha male (when, in actuality, he’s too caught up being wounded about how his marriage didn’t work out).  For example: “‘So impatient,’ he said, amusement in his voice.  ‘We do this my way, Mia. You forget so easily. I want….you as badly as you want me there, but I’m enjoying every second of having you tied up and in my bed. As soon as I get….inside you, I’m not going to last long, so I’m going to savor every second.’”  Isn’t that romantic?  I’ve always fantasized about having a man who won’t last long in the sack.

Mia was also a bit difficult to connect with, mostly because Gabriel was such an asshole. It’s hard to feel admiration for anyone who’d put up with his shit.  She’s not nearly as spineless as some female characters in erotic novels (coughAnacough), but I certainly wouldn’t call her a strong character. I mean, honestly… she signs that damn contract and enters into a “something” with Gabe knowing that it’s not really a relationship, and there isn’t a satisfactory reason given for that.  I don’t know a lot of ladies who would put themselves in that kind of situation without any kind of security at all, and I just couldn’t comprehend Mia’s motivations.

Kim: Yes! I definitely don’t see Mia as a strong willed woman.  She seemed extremely spineless to me and was willing to let Gabe walk all over her just so she could be with him.  I’m sorry, but to me that’s pathetic and desperate.  You’ve been pining over this guy for a long time, get the chance to be with him, and he acts like a jerk! Are you really so obsessed with having a relationship with him that you’re willing to sacrifice any and all self-respect?

Kelly: I also had a few problems with the secondary characters.  I totally get that Banks had to set up the next few books in the series, but there were a lot of references (repetitive ones) to Jace’s and Ash’s backgrounds that were completely distracting in this story.  I was like, “Great, so Ash doesn’t like his family. Fantastic. What does that have to do with whether or not Mia gets fucked in her sweet ass during this encounter with Gabe?”

Kim: TRUE STORY. I too understand about setting up a series, but even the storylines with Mia’s stalker and Gabe’s ex-wife went absolutely nowhere.  They created conflict where none was needed.  I truly felt that with a bit more editing and some cuts to the storyline here and there, the book would have appealed to me more. I can’t say that I would have loved it, because I can’t love a book if I don’t love its characters. And I definitely didn’t love Gabe and Mia.

Kelly: I’d like to bring up one of the weirdest things about this book: the difference (sometimes huge) between what the reader knows (or is thinking) and what the characters know (or are feeling).  For example, there’s a scene in the second half of the book where the reader is privy to Gabe’s thoughts and motivations (both pretty awful), but Mia isn’t.  When the situation blows up all over everything, Mia’s rather quick to forgive Gabe, because she doesn’t actually know how awful it really was, but the reader does.  And the reader is like, dude… that guy is SUCH an asshole… (and he never tells Mia, so the reader goes into the super sappy happy ending knowing he’s a dick, but to Mia, he’s a great catch. Yuck.)  Also, during all the butt plug moments, the characters are both pretty caught up in how awesome and super sexy it is that Gabe keeps shoving things up Mia’s ass.  As a reader, though, I couldn’t get past this thought: “What if she has to poo?”  It completely pulled me out of the story.

Kim: YES TO ALL OF THIS. I think that’s the main reason I couldn’t cheer for this couple.  We know WAY more about Gabe than Mia does.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) we’ve both opted out of continuing with this series.  We have heard from several fans of Bank’s works that this isn’t her best.  Being the open-minded individuals that we are, we’ve decided to try her Sweet Series out.  We’ll be dueling book one in the series, Sweet Surrender, within the next few weeks, so keep an eye out. (Remember, it’s your eyes. You don’t have to give them up!)

Kim: 1 out of 5 Stars
Kelly: 2 out of 5 Stars

Rush by Maya Banks
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook 416 pages
ISBN: 9781101620366

The February Roundup!

February proved to be a month for catching up.  When January ended I was two books behind the pace I needed to meet my goal of 120 books for the year.  As of the end of February, I’m completely back on pace! Woo-hoo!! (I read 12 books in February, bringing my total to 19 for the year.)  Two things directly contributed to my ability to get back on pace:  1.) An INTENSE blizzard that wound up dumping 40″ of snow onto my town, making it the hardest hit in the tri-state area. 2.) The weeks I spent sick with a sinus infection and possible case of bronchitis.  Together, these two things equated out to a ton of time spent in the house and reading.

20130210_133339The blizzard was one of the most insane things I’ve ever witnessed.  Todd’s car (a VW Passat) was completely covered in snow, so much so that we couldn’t even see it! It was super difficult to dig out.  Regular plow trucks were no match for the record-breaking amount of snow we had and kept blowing transmissions due to the weight and amount of snow they had to push.  Commercial construction trucks and the National Guard had to come in and help plow streets enough for emergency vehicles to pass through.  Plows couldn’t get to the apartment building that Todd and I live in for almost three days.  Thankfully we didn’t lose power and had enough heat, books, and snacks to keep us occupied.  It’s been almost three weeks since the storm hit and we still have MOUNDS of snow everywhere. We’ll be lucky if it’s melted by April.

On the book front, February was a month filled with releases I was eagerly awaiting.  I was able to read the final book in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Sever, as well as Sarah MacLean’s newest addition to her Scoundrel’s series, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover.  Add to these Marie Force’s newest Gansett Island book, Waiting For Love, Rachel Van Dyken’s The Wolf’s Pursuit,  Nancy Kelley’s Loving Miss Darcyand Maya Banks’ Rush, and you can tell I did a lot of “new” reading.

Speaking of “new” reading… if you remember, last month I did a joint review of Beth Revis’ final book in the Across the Universe trilogy, Shades of Earth, with Sam.  Well, I found out that Beth was coming to Connecticut (WAHOO) with something called the “Breathless Reads” tour.  Penguin (her publisher) organized the tour for her and several other YA authors to come out to indie bookstores all across the US and speak about their books.  Luckily the bookstore that they came to in CT was R.J. Julia (my favorite)!  Todd and I jumped at the chance to attend and man are we happy we did.  Not only were we able to see Beth (and get our books signed), but we were able to listen to four other YA authors (Fiona Paul, Morgan Rhodes, Elizabeth Richards, and Jessica Spotswood) and get introduced to some new books we’re excited to tell you about.  Todd wrote more about the event here, as it was the first one he’d attended where he knew one of the authors.

Looking forward to March, I have lots of books to read (I’m asking myself why I’m even writing that sentence as it’s the story of my life each month.)  I’m hoping to get caught up on reviews over the next two weeks.  I have some GREAT reads to tell you about that you’ll hopefully find as interesting as I did!  Todd’s reading Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens, Adam’s reading Game of the Gods by E.J. Dabel, Sam’s reading Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason, and Christine’s reading A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan.  So, lots of new and unique stuff coming at you from across the genre spectrum.

Until next time….happy reading!