Ten Nights of Love: Shelly Laurenston

Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston
Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston, October 2006, contemporary, romance, paranormal, Magnus Pack, shifter, werewolf, kick-ass heroines, explicit sex, graphic language, and strong violence

For most of the previous entries in this Ten Nights of Love series, I automatically knew who the various authors were going to be and all I had to do was make sure I arranged them in chronological order to tell the story. For this last post, though, I knew what the content was supposed to be about but had three author under consideration and three different reasons for selecting them, which for some odd reason totally and completely confused me, but more on that in a moment.  

You see, a couple of years ago, I actively started dipping my toe, heck, my entire foot, into the so-called erotic romance sub-genre. I call it “so-called” because I’m still not entirely convinced that all the books with that tag are labeled correctly. So, while I knew that I wanted this post to be representative of that most recent shift in my reading choices, I first had to figure out what that meant – for me personally as a reader – so that I could then in turn figure out the best author to represent that change in my focus. Not necessarily the best writer, mind you, but the one that makes me grin the most over this entire development, if you get my drift.

The whole thing is complicated by the fact that I don’t think most people do agree on what erotic romance means, at least not from the romance perspective. There are no boundaries. There are too many boundaries. It’s all over the place. What one person tells you it is, another individual says that’s not it. What one publisher labels as erotic romance, another simply labels as hot or spicy, which is no help at all for the average reader. So, before I even attempted to tackle this one, I went back and reread an article from Teach Me Tonight called Classifying Works Containing Sexual Content” that always helps me clarify my own thinking about erotica and erotic romance as well as a couple of other terms that get tossed romance novels way. It doesn’t necessarily help me define erotic romance, mind you, but it does help me understand what I’m looking for personally here. Or not looking for, as the case may be.

Then I looked at the three authors I was dithering over for this post again and I realized something very important. They are all authors that have at one point or another written books that have been labeled as erotic romance – originally with e-books publishers. They’re also all authors that are slowly moving into the mainstream, i.e. getting contracts with New York print publishers. Each one of them in their own style employs various elements that I believe sometimes get mistaken for erotic content. What I can’t help wondering is whether these things are truly erotic content or simply not the norm for traditional romance.

Here Kitty, Kitty
Here Kitty, Kitty by Shelly Laurenston, July 2007 - my personal favorite of the Magnus Pack stories. I think it was the baseball bat that won me over. Don't ask unless you really want to know.

That, however, is not my problem. 😉

It does bring up some interesting points about why I had so much difficulty deciding, though.  

The first author I seriously considered was Bianca D’Arc, partly because she’s a definite favorite of mine that I’ve talked about quite a bit in the past. In truth, if the primarily consideration I’d been looking at was alternative lifestyles then this post would’ve been about her. By alternative, I mean anything other than simply male/female, but specifically multi-partner. Because, to be quite honest, she’s the only author that I’ve been able to find a comfort zone with that theme. However, that was not the only thing I was looking at.

The next thing that came to mind that gets brought up a lot in discussions about erotic romance is animalistic behavior, to put it nicely. Had that been my top criteria then without a doubt my choice would’ve been Lora Leigh and not solely based upon the rather unique quirks in her Breed books. One of the first things I noticed in reading her books is that she gets alpha-ness, meaning that in the animal kingdom it’s both a male and female thing. Her females are just as strong and important as her heroes.

All of which brings me finally to Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken and the reason I ultimately chose her – the power her female characters weild and I do not mean in a supernatural way. Or really even in an erotic way, although, I suppose that enters into it in some respects. It’s just not the first aspect that comes to mind when I think of her books, which is what’s so confusing about the erotic romance label being tossed around so much.

In a word, her heroines are simply downright–

Mean.

And I don’t say that as an insult, at least not from my standpoint, just that there’s no other way to describe them. It radiates off them in waves. Shrinking, fainting, wilting violet heroines of the past, they ain’t. Put it this way, to call them alpha would almost be a step down and totally irrelevant in many ways. Ever heard the phrase about “the hero as villain” used to describe the typical romance hero of the past? Well, these gals would eat those poor guys for lunch and then ask for desert.

Literally, in some cases.

Dragon Actually by G. A. Aiken
Dragon Actually by G. A. Aiken, November 2008 - Yeah, this is the "romance" that, ahem, freaked my son out. Who'd have thought he'd have a problem with a heroine name Annwyl the Bloody or a hero called Fearghus the Destroyer. 😉

Think I’m joking? My son read one of her books  and was appalled, absolutely, totally appalled, by the fact that the heroine was basically a psychopathic (my son’s word) barbarian conqueror intent on winning back her kingdom from her brother. Granted her brother was worse. I think. But the comment my son made that caught my attention was when he wondered whether her people – who wanted her help to dethrone her brother – would be any better off with her, particularly since she was now going to have a clan of dragon shifters, i.e. her “hero’s” family, at her beck and call to do her bidding and massacre her enemies. Dragon shifters who make no secret of the fact that they indulge in the occasional human snack when the mood or situation warrants it, I might add. So, I can’t really argue with my son’s outrage – to a point, anyway.

And it probably wouldn’t stop me from arguing with him but that’s another matter entirely. 😉

Seriously, though, I couldn’t help wondering if she was supposed to be nicer because she was female or if it was the whole conqueror bit that made her seem so, er, psychotic. And if you’re curious but haven’t read the book I found two reviews of Dragon Actually, one from Mrs. Giggles and one from Dear Author.

See, I get it. Heroes, and heroines, are supposed to be, well, heroic. It’s just that we’ve been debating about heroes acting like idiots and jerks for decades. We’ve also been whining about those poor, put upon, wimpy heroines too. So, don’t mind me if I sometimes, not all the time, but definitely sometimes, thoroughly enjoy a heroine who can give as good as she gets – in all ways.

Just the thought that this kind of almost villain romance heroine could actually be published in a mainstream print romance line makes me smile because, frankly, you have to admit, that’s a long way from where we started.

God, I love romances. All of them. 😀

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There be dragons here

Recently while looking for something to read that had dragons in it, I was digging through my ebook shelves and realized that I’d collected quite a few favorite dragon shifter stories. How that came to be, I’m not quite sure since dogs and cats are what usually pass for the norm in shifters. 😉

Anyway, I thought I’d share my list of top author & series that I tend to reread the most. And, yeah, quite a few of them are labeled erotic romances, but not all.

D’Arc, BiancaDragon Knights

  1. Maiden Flight (erotic romance)
  2. Border Lair (erotic romance)
  3. Ice Dragon (romance)
  4. Prince of Spies (erotic romance)
  5. Wings of Change (erotic romance)
  6. Fire Drake (erotic romance)
  7. Dragon Storm (erotic romance) due out Nov 17, 2009

Aiken, G. A.Dragon Kin

  1. Dragon Actually (romance/paranormal)
  2. About A Dragon (romance/paranormal)

Mumford, Debbie

  • Sorchas’ Heart (romance/fantasy)
  • Dragons Choice (Sorchas’ Children #1) (erotica/erotic fantasy/fantasy)

Andrus, Jennie

  • Dragon’s Birth (romance/fantasy)

Weaver, Brenda

  • Dragon Lord of Kells (romance/fantasy)

Know of any like them I might’ve missed out on?

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A Sexy Shifter collection

Okay, so this week I found out my several year shapeshifter binge wasn’t over when I splurged on several titles as Samhain that have that theme. Do you see me worried? No, you do not. 😉

One set of stories I picked up is introduced thusly, according to a post entitled Dreamy Steamy Shape-shifters:

What if you had a shot at just one wild night with the man of your dreams, the one you always thought was out of reach? What would happen if a dream lover you thought was nothing more than a nocturnal fantasy showed up in real life? What if you found out the guy you’d been dreaming about since you were sixteen had been dreaming about you all along?

As to the individual stories, I’m still working my way through them. Yeah, they’re short but I’ve been busy. Staying out of trouble online. Keeping up with the daily news. Whatever. Anyway.

  • Serengeti Heat – I liked this one. The “ugly duckling” lioness heroine discovering the strengths she already had played very well for me.
  • Kiss and Kin – While I generally like “old friends become lovers” stories, I’m not sure that’s what this one was. I enjoyed it but not as much as SH.
  • The Man of Her Dreams – This is the one I’m just getting ready to read. It features a horse shifter. I think. I’ve only run across one of those so this should be interesting.

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Da Twilight Zone

So, I’m reading a new ebook called Dragon Actually over the weekend and really enjoying it. I mean laughing and giggling my way through it and not in a bad way. Then it occurs to me that I know these characters.

I’m sitting there happily reading along and suddenly absolutely sure I do know this wacky family of dragon shifters. Only I’m scratching my head trying to figure out whether I’ve read this specific story before or not. I mean it was just weird. Because I knew I hadn’t read the author before.

Or so I thought.

Anyway I kept reading. And then it hit me. I really did know the characters. Those exact characters. Just not the story. I went straight to my eBookwise Librarian and pulled out the other book that they’d appeared in by another author The Distressing Damsel by Shelly Laurenston, which I might add I also giggled my way through.

At least I thought it was another author, until I checked Laurenston’s site and whatdaya know? Apparenly, she’s rewriting/rereleasing these old dragon stories under this new name at a new publishing house. The rerelease of the second book as About A Dragon comes out in December ’08. And with print and ebook versions, no less. Joy. 😀

Guess what’s going on my calendar?

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Never say never, maybe

Not sure if this is solid proof of that old maxim or just more evidence of it but since I’ve been dipping my toe into the, shall we say, erotic side of storytelling, I’ve probably run into several stories that made me think I’d never like certain things. No, I’m not listing them here for you. Suffice it to say that one of them, though, was menages and that goes for larger group situations too.

So, imagine my surprise when I checked out a set of stories this weekend, starting with the one that didn’t have “that stuff” and then branching out to the rest and found I actually enjoyed the stories. Okay, some of the funny business in at least one of the stories I could’ve done without but for the most part, I thought most of it fit the stories and the characters amazingly well.

The group is Bianca D’Arc’s Dragon Knights and I absolutely loved all four stories, more or less equally. The books are in order:

  1. Maiden Flight
  2. Border Lair
  3. The Ice Dragon
  4. Prince of Spies

The set-up for the menages in the first two books in this group is the dragon knights typically form a three-way mating bond with a woman because of their already existing bond with their male and female dragons who then mate. Sounds complicated but keeps things much simplier than they could become, trust me. And the dragons are great equalizers, too. Not to mention meddlers.

Yes, shades of Dragonriders of Pern but with a heck of a lot more humor. This is a world I could enjoy.

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Vampire, werewolves & superheroes, oh my!

Dithering on the Susan Sizemore book (see yesterday’s blog entry) made me realize that I think I may be vampired-out, which is weird, because I don’t even read vampire romances, not counting Feehan’s Carpathians and Sands’ pseudo-vamps, that is. And I haven’t read that many werewolf books either. Uh, actually come to think of it, the only one I can even remember at the moment was Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I think that’s the right one. (Vane’s book?) And I started to say alien for the last but decided I really hadn’t read enough of those to count anyway so I changed it to something close but dearer to my hear. Superheroes. Yeah! I’ve read every one of those I can find and for the most part enjoy them. Think Julia Kenner and Dara Joy – okay, Joy’s are more in the alien category but you get my meaning. Right?

So, why or rather how, I ask myself, can I be over the limit?

Here’s a theory. I don’t think it’s quantity but quality that’s bothering me. Not quality of storytelling and writing but the types of stories and characters that leave me wanting and waiting for something else. See, I prefer well-adjusted heroes, to tortured, brooding ones any day and, let’s face it, most vampires, werewolves and heck even quite a few of those superhero dudes don’t tend to be a cheerful bunch . . . unless the author sets their “universe” up where they can be. A la Feehan, Sands and for the most part Kenyon. Not to mention Kenner.

And Joy. Oh, I miss Joy’s books.

So, any suggestions?

Yeah, I know, just ignore the fact that first I say I’m over the limit and then ask for suggestions and accept it as a reader’s quirk. You know you have them too.

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