Thursday, June 5, 2008

What Happens in Vegas...

At long review of this anthology. First of all, let's talk about the cover. Phew, that's hot stuff. Definitely a book that would be fun to take out in public to read and watch people's reactions. heh.

Now I have found that anthologies tend to be a mixed bag. It's pretty rare that I find each entry to really 'work' for me and this book was no exception. Some of the stories were stronger than others. One of them really didn't work at all. I'm gonna give the little blurb from the back jacket and then try to quickly cover a thumbnail sketch of each plot and my take on each vignette.

First up...

Hot for You - Jodi Lynn Copeland
Cocktail waitress Carinna wants a man to tie her up, not tie her down. Little does she know that her most willing partner yet has something else planned for this fiery Latina bombshell.

Jack and Carinna have known each other forever. They were childhood friends and have remained friends into adulthood. Carinna has serious emotional baggage regarding getting serious about anyone and prefers to love 'em and leave 'em. Or at least to just have sex with no strings attached. When the story begins, we're told that she and Jack indulged in one night of hot sex a few months back and that they both got spooked by how vulnerable they felt one to another. After a high stakes game of poker, they begin to explore a sexual relationship that just might turn serious.

I think this was my favorite entry in the book. The author uses a device I haven't seen often which is alternating first person POV. The story is told in Carinna's voice for half a chapter or so, then we switch into Jack's head and get his take on what just happened as well as the next few moves of the plot. It sounds clunky, but oddly enough works very well here. Particularly because the conflict of the story lies in Carinna and Jack's differing take on "what it all means". Carinna is terrified of being tied down to any man. Jack realizes that she is the love of his life but that he has to convince her to get over her fears of commitment. I like the gender role reversal and the sexxoring is hot stuff. Overall, a satisfying little read and I'm going to keep my eyes open for more by this author.

Stripped - Lauren Dane
Dahlia is a burlesque dancer with a brain for business and a bod for sin. Her latest admirer may be a sweet-talking Casanova, but despite what he thinks she's not giving anything away for free.

Stripper by night, MBA student by day, Dahlia just wants to be respected for her brains and not her hot hot body! How dare our hero Nash hit on her after he sees her stripping, oh no, I'm sorry "burlesque dancing" (cuz apparently, there is a big difference). It's so unfair! *pout* Um, yeah. Clearly, I didn't buy into the setup of this one. Maybe I'm being too snarky, but the "I'm a stripper to pay for my MBA and I just don't understand why people don't take me seriously" schtick did not work for me. Probably because I myself am in the middle of an MBA program (and have not yet resorted to exotic dancing. lol).

Rich playboy Nash sees Dahlia dancing onstage at the club that his brother owns. We're told he's rich and a bit of a player so when he propositions Dahlia it's not surprising but a little disappointing. In general, I want my heros to be a little more heroic. Dahlia goes OFF on him (how dare you assume that just because I do burlesque dancing I am a slut...I'll have you know I am an MBA student, etc.) and he apologizes and tries to remedy the situation by being very polite and gentlemanly. He tries to get to know Dahlia as a person and spends the next few encounters wooing her gently. Interestingly enough, it doesn't take them all that long to embark on a relationship. The conflict in the story has more to do with Dahlia feeling like she's out of her league by being with a guy in a higher social class. For his part, Nash actually grows on me. For being a playboy, he reforms pretty quickly and seems genuinely attracted and devoted to Dahlia. I guess he's not a bad hero after all. And Dahlia is a nice person. So why don't I CARE more?

I'm not sure how to evaluate this story. It didn't really engage my emotions, so I never felt all that invested in the outcome. Not bad, not great. Average?

Red-Handed - Kit Tunstall
Meanwhile, Amy has the perfect plan to rob the Liege Casino blind...until the intimidating owner catches her red-handed. Now she knows she's going to pay...with both pleasure and pain.

Ah, the sexual blackmail plot. How do we love thee? Let me count the ways...

As the blurb indicates Amy is in the middle of robbing the Liege Casino with her no-account cousin who has convinced her that their family has to have this money or lose the farm (or something). She thinks she's a real tricky trickster but alas, Roan, the owner of said casino, is trickier and she gets caught. Uhoh! He hauls her away and threatens to hand her over to the cops, UNLESS.... Well, let's just say that somehow Amy ends up proposing that she play sub to Roan's very controlling dom side for the next month in exchange for him not turning her over to the law. Wow. Alrighty then. Before you call me a prude, let me just say that I can dig a little captive seduction/BDSM fantasy as much as the next gal as long as it's believable. But unfortunately, this one was not. I'm supposed to believe that through all of the wannabe BDSM stuff (and honestly, it didn't actually come across as genuinely kinky) these two are forging some kind of deep emotional bond. I just did not see it. We are treated to lots of internal angst in both Amy and Roan's thoughts, and I felt like smacking them both upside the head and telling them to quit being silly and just TALK to one another. And by the time Amy has had not one but TWO scary encounters with other dudes thinking that because she was Roan's sex slave she was fair game, I was SO over it.

The Deal - Anya Bast
Professional shill Cassidy is ready to experience a breathless rendezvous with her "friend with benefits." But when he proposes five delicious nights of sexy blackjack, the stakes have never been so high.

One can always rely on Anya Bast for a super hot story that hits all the right notes and entertains. This is a friends to lovers plot and I am a sucker for those. Cassidy was left at the altar by her fiance and has never recovered enough emotionally to trust another guy (not surprisingly). The best man at the cancelled wedding was James, and she's remained close friends with him. James has always been attracted to Cassidy but could never act on that connection because she was his friend's fiance. He's kept his distance for a year since the break-up to give her space, but now he wants to make his move. Five nights of blackjack with sexual prizes at stake? Oh yeah, this is the Vegas I'm talking about, baby!

This is a fun little tale. James and Cassidy are a great couple and they already know each other's quirks and foibles. This is part of why I dig the friends/lovers thing, especially in a short story that by its nature doesn't give one a lot of time to develop a relationship. We can get right down to the sexxoring, and hoo boy, it's hot. James is an adventurous sort, and it's fun to see him seduce Cassidy into letting go of her inhibitions. Cassidy regains a lot of the self-confidence she lost when she was jilted and she gets a sweet, hot sexy guy in the bargain. A definite win-win. I thoroughly enjoyed this entry and ended the book on a positive note.

Overall, I would give this anthology a B-. The best stories bookended the collection (first and last) and I'm going to keep Anya Bast on my list of go-to authors and add Jodi Lynn Copeland as a new author to watch. Oh, and I'm going to keep this book on my bedside table because it's fun to watch DBF double-take at the cover. lol.

A big thank you to Ann Aguirre for holding the contest and sending me the book. Mwah!


lisabea said...

That was a most excellent recap of the antho, Sula...and this is often why I don't choose anthos. SO hot and cold (except for the tree book, of course, cuz that was like fun, funnest, sweet,OMGWTFBBQ!!! I've always wanted to say that.) Let me tell you I'm bummed about the little, uh, capture/bdsm disappointment...cuz that can be reaaaaallllyyyy naughty when it works.

You know, Sul, if you stripped at night and on the weekends instead of, idk, doing your homework, you could buy more BOOKS! Yes? Yes?


lisabea said...


forgot to check the box....

Christine said...

Fantastic Review, Sula!!!

I think we are in total sync with this anthology. Hot For You was definitely my favorite story in this anthology as well (Copeland did an amazing job of the alternating first person POVs between Carinna and Jack-I quickly became emotionally vested in both characters), followed by The Deal.

Red Handed was the one that did not work for me either.

Regarding Stripped, I get your point about not buying into the whole "I'm a stripper to pay for my MBA and I just don't understand why people don't take me seriously" plight of Dahlia. I found it a bit cliche, too, but loved the way she told off Nash that first time he propositioned her and the way she held him off for so long. That helped make Dahlia's character- and the development of their relationship-more realistic for me. I don't know if I could have resisted as much as she did. ;)

azteclady said...

Sula, how funny... we only agreed on our takes of Anya Bast's and Kit Tunstall's stories.

I liked "Stripped" much more than you did, and I gotta say that there was the one scene at the firehouse that completely, utterly, and in all other ways squicked the hell out of me.


In that scene, two things happen that are sprung on the reader without any warning or foreshadowing: suddenly Carinna is an exhibitionist and into pain. Getting off because someone is penetrating you anally without any lubricant, in front of a bunch of people, many of whom you've known for years, and know you'll have to face again? And second, Jack uses sexual violence to vent his anger and frustration at Carinna's behaviour.

One of those things would have been enough to yank me out of the story, both of them just... *shudder*


I'm so very glad you are back! :grin:

Tracy said...

Thanks for the reviews Sula! I think I'm definitely going to have to read this (sooner or later). After reading both yours and Christine's reviews I'm more than interested.

I think the alternating POV's would be great since I'm not normally a fan of 1st person. I want to know what's going on in EVERYONE's head so this might just do it for me!

Katie(babs) said...

Great review. We missed you BS. I MISSED MY BS!! :D

Mary M. said...

Thanks for the review! I'm getting more and more recitent to buy anthologies since most of the time I only like one or two stories in each, yet because of that one or those two stories I have to keep the book. So I have probably at least 20 anthologies that I keep for perhaps 25 good stories and they take a lot of room. Pffff. Smetimes I wish I could just remove the good pages, staple them together, stack them in a box and get rid of the remnants of the books.

azteclady said...

mary m, exactly!

But my mother was a librarian for over thirty years--I cannot bring myself to deface a book :-( just can't.


Have a good weekend, everyone!

Mary M. said...


Azteclady, I wish I could, but I'd never be able to do that either. It would, sacrilegious or something. I can't tear off a page from a book any more than I can put one in garbage or even send it to recycling. It feels criminal. Which is why I should stop buying the damn anthologies in the first place, but do I listen to myself? (you can guess the answer to that one :-D)