I Only Have a Sign Because It Came With the Kitchen + Giveaway

only have a kitchen sign

Not really. I bought this sign years ago, and have moved it from place to place, and kitchen to kitchen, because it summed up how I felt. But it looks like I’m going to have to take it down.

I used to tell people that I cooked “in my last life”. This wasn’t a reference to reincarnation, more a statement about the different lives that people lead, and the different people that we become, as time goes by and our experiences shape us.

There is a lot of freighted baggage involved in cooking in my “first life”, meaning my first marriage. Cooking and planning meals was always a fraught experience. It was never the right thing, it was never quite good enough, and it was always undertaken after a long day at work and a one hour commute home. These were not good times.

I arranged my life after that so that either someone else did most of the cooking, or the microwave did the cooking, or, as the saying goes, we made my favorite thing for dinner, “Reservations”.

But that was all a long time ago, and my world is a bit different. When we moved back to Atlanta, I was mostly home. It seemed like a good time to take up cooking again. But there were a different set of issues. It is hard to plan dinner when you aren’t quite sure when the other party will be home to eat it. And after a while, the things that we could easily or quickly make simply got boring. Often to the point where we’d ditch whatever was in the fridge and go out.

We spoiled a lot of food that way.

A couple of months ago I latched onto what seemed like either a brilliant idea, or at least a valiant attempt at one. Why not sign up for one of the recipe delivery services, and see how we liked it? We signed up for 3 dinners a week from Blue Apron, and waited eagerly for our first box.

The first box arrived late on a Saturday afternoon, and we had a blast opening it and organizing all the ingredients. We had Cuban Sandwiches, Cod Kedgeree and something good but considerably less memorable. And it was probably chicken.

Everything in the box was fresh. It was also well labeled. As it turns out, kale, collard greens and swiss chard all kind of look alike when you have no experience with them fresh.

The recipes are reasonable for a pair of beginners to follow. And they feature ingredients we would never think of, producing food that we might not otherwise try but is usually anywhere from good to yummy. And occasionally we fill the kitchen with smoke, but when that happens it is no one’s fault but our own.

And we’ve discovered that the process of cooking together is a fun shared activity at the end of the day. We get to play with our food, and then we get to eat it. And we usually learn something along the way. Sometimes we learn a technique. Sometimes we learn that I actually like whole grain mustard, even though I still hate the yellow stuff. And we’ve learned that we both still dislike sweet potatoes, no matter how they’re cooked.

Whenever a recipe calls for sweet potatoes, we substitute red potatoes. The instructions all work perfectly, and we like the result a whole lot better. I may never eat those microwavable mashed potatoes in a cup again.

So, we’ve discovered a new activity. We’ve figured out that we both like cooking together. We’re having fun. That we also eliminated the decision paralysis was a side benefit, but one we liked so much that for a while we were actually getting two meals a week from Plated, just so we didn’t have to think about “what’s for dinner”.

We’ve accumulated enough recipes that we like that we’re starting to pick from previous favorites, We’ve repeated both those original Cuban Sandwiches and the Cod Kedgeree, as well as several other dishes. We’ve also bought cookbooks. And kitchen gadgets. We’re having too much fun to stop.

In fact, we’re having so much fun that I couldn’t resist writing about it. And I’d like to share. We’ve been doing this long enough that we get free meals to give away to friends. I’d like to give two of those free dinner kits away to lucky commenters on this post.

I hope whoever wins has a great time. I know they’ll get a good meal. And hopefully a lot of fun.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Note: This is not a sponsored post or a sponsored giveaway. I’m just having a good time with the service and I wanted to share. Every Blue Apron subscriber regularly receives free meals to give away. We’ve given some away to friends. But I just couldn’t resist writing about how much fun we’re having and giving away a chance to share in the fun.

ARC Review: The Saint Who Stole My Heart: by Stefanie Sloane

Format read: egalley from NetGalley
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Number of Pages: 304
Genre: regency romance, historical romance
Series: Regency Rogues #4
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Formats Available: paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon , Barnes & Noble,


Desire, danger, intrigue, and steamy seduction unite a sexy spymaster and an intrepid bluestocking as Stefanie Sloane’s luscious new series continues.

Possessed of a brilliant mind and a love for puzzles, Dashiell Matthews, Viscount Carrington, is a crucial member of the elite Young Corinthians spy league. Assuming the façade of an addle-brained Adonis, he hunts for a notorious London murderer known as the Bishop. When fate causes him to cross paths with Miss Elena Barnes, Dash discovers an enigma that will prove delightfully intoxicating to unravel: a voluptuous beauty as intelligent as she is fearless.

Only the lure of a collection of rare books bequeathed to her family by Dash’s late father could tempt Elena from her cozy rural life to the crush and vanity of London. But if Elena finds his lordship to be the most impossibly beautiful man she’s ever seen, he also seems to be the stupidest. Which made her body’s shameless response to his masterful seduction all the more unfathomable. Yet when she discovers Dash’s mission to track the dangerous Bishop, she willingly risks everything—her trust, her heart, her very life—to join him.

My thoughts:

I think Elena fell in love with Carrington’s library. And she was certainly consumed with lust for Carrington’s person.

Based on the descriptions of both the library and the Viscount, I’m not saying I blame her for either reaction.

Elena Barnes is a bluestocking. She had one season, and she didn’t, well, as one of Carrington’s friends put it, she didn’t take. Elena is also somewhat of a tomboy, and her widowed father gave up on governesses after she drove the fourth one away. With a frog.

Carrington’s late father willed his library to Elena’s father. He’s not quite well enough to see to the cataloging and packing himself. Carrington’s library is, of course, full of rare and wondrous volumes.

The new Viscount has the looks of an Adonis, one who pretends to have the brains of a cabbage. Of course, he’s not an idiot. He’s really a kind of spy, a member of the Young Corinthians.

Poor Elena can’t quite figure out why her body is sending her one signal, and her brain is sending quite another. After all, she’s certain she couldn’t possibly be interested in a man who isn’t actually, well, interesting.

But Carrington finds Elena much, much too interesting. And the longer she’s around the less he is able to keep up the pretense of being a total dim-wit.

I kept looking for a courtship, and there really isn’t one in the usual sense. It’s more of a reveal. The more he drops his mask of stupidity, the closer they get.

What makes Dash stop pretending he’s an idiot? Elena finds a puzzle box in his father’s library. Not just any puzzle, but the key to a mystery that Dash and his friends have been hunting for over a decade, the reason they all joined the Young Corinthians in the first place.

It’s his father’s notes on the murder of his best friend’s mother, Lady Alford. Notes that lead to the leader of a spy ring. Notes that make his enemies, Elena’s enemies. and put her directly into the line of fire.

Once this suspense line of the story got going, I couldn’t put the darn thing down. However, and it’s a big however, too many of the issues it raised were left unresolved. I smell a set up for the next books in the series. And I never did figure out who or what the “Saint” in the title referred to. Hearts definitely got stolen, but no saints were involved in their theft.

I give The Saint Who Stole My Heart 3 1/2 Stars.

ARC Review: The MineFields by Steven C. Eisner

Format read: hardcover from publicist
Release Date: January 25, 2012
Number of Pages: 311
Genre: business fiction, autobiographical fiction
Publisher: When Words Count Press, LLC
Formats Available: hardcover, ebook

Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon , Barnes & Noble,


From an early age, Sam Spiegel single-mindedly pursued an entrepreneurial path that prepared him to transform a small-time ad agency into a regional powerhouse with national ambitions. A couple decades later, Sam had achieved almost everything he ever dreamed possible as the ad agency’s rainmaker, fountainhead, and unflappable pursuer of success. One final goal remained: To consolidate his gains by attracting an international advertising conglomerate and cash out. That’s when the nation is hit with the most unthinkable tragedy, and Sam begins to take stock of his own life, finding that he is growing weary of the relentless hunt. Unsatisfied in his marriage and embroiled in a mind-boggling professional crisis, everything Sam had achieved is put at risk.

My thoughts:

There seemed to be a really thin line between the fiction and the autobiographical in this book. So thin that it was impossible to tell where the character of Sam Spiegel left off, and the author’s real life filled in the blanks.

Which made reading this book a lot like watching the proverbial train wreck; you know it’s going to be a bloody, gory mess, and you’re still fascinated. You can’t turn your eyes away. The author’s blurb is a spoiler for the big event in the book, the real, or is it the fictional, story is in the details.

The description teases that this is based on or similar to Mad Men. I haven’t had that pleasure. What it is definitely about, much more than advertising, is the rise and inevitable fall of a closely-held family business, and the stresses and strains of trying to patch together a none-too-solid marital partnership by substituting a business partnership that only works if everyone stays at the top of their game indefinitely.

Which doesn’t happen in real life, and wouldn’t make very good fiction either.

Family golden boy goes through meteoric rise (relatively) and catastrophic fall (absolutely) does make good fiction. What I kept wondering was how much of the author’s life was fictionalized to make the story?

It’s hard to get past the temptation to do a Google search and find out.

But as fiction, The MineFields reads like Sam Spiegel, the main character, is telling you his life story over drinks. It’s his perspective, first-person point-of-view, with all the strengths and weakness of first person POV.

Sam knows how to tell a good story, but it’s pretty clear that he’s the star of his own show. Always has been, always will be. Even when he’s hit rock-bottom.

And because Sam is an ad man after all, his story is reads like he’s trying to sell us his version. Or maybe he’s trying to sell himself.

He sold me enough that I couldn’t put the book down. But I can’t stop myself from wondering whether a few things at the end are true or wish-fulfillment on the author’s part.

I give The MineFields 3 and 1/2 stars.

Review: Haevyn: Humanotica, Book 2 by Darcy Abriel

Format read: ebook provided by the author

Release Date: 20 March 2012

Number of Pages: 285

Publisher: Samhain

Genre: science fiction romance, cyberpunk, erotica, BDSM

Series: Humanotica, Book 2

Formats Available: ebook

Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Samhain Publishing, Barnes & Noble


Duty and honor demand the ultimate sacrifice.

Humanotica, Book 2

Everyone has their poison. For Haevyn Briena, it’s her inability to resist a dare. This time it’s a challenge from her friend and lover, Grisha, to sneak into the popular, illegal cage fights that always end in all-male orgies. Eagerly she snaps up the gauntlet, unaware that she will end the night forever changed.

When expatriate humanotic warrior Entreus locks eyes with Haevyn at the sex-fueled event, he is instantly captivated. Despite a duty that binds him to an exiled malevolent sorcerer, he seeks her out in a shattering, illuminating encounter.

Grisha’s plan is in motion—to bring both his warrior lovers together and heal their scarred souls with a combined passion that he alone cannot provide. But Haevyn’s tormented past refuses to die. And Entreus will not rest until the Core that ruined his life is destroyed.

Amid ever-tangling emotions and a brutal plot to take over the city, the three lovers walk a tightrope that could be cut at any moment. Fighting for justice, bound by duty…and a love that could alter the foundations of their world.

Warning: Watch out for oiled-up, naked trinespined warriors battling for top position, feisty tracer females that fit oh-so-snugly in between, and sexy nights that segue into complex relationships. Beware of tebitcheckers wielding those nasty little contulators at illegal, testosterone-drenched cage confrontations.

My thoughts:

I liked Haevyn a whole lot better than I did Silver.

Come to think of it, that applies as much to the two characters as it does to the two books.

Silver was a character who got “done to” much more than she did. She wasn’t the prime mover of her story. She doesn’t have a lot of what’s often called “agency”; meaning that she doesn’t move events directly.

Haevyn Briena has a lot of agency. It’s part of her nature. Even though the society of Quentopolis limits the roles that women are supposed to play, Haevyn continually challenges those roles, often pushing the limits to the extreme. She’s even been diagnosed with a psychological profile that translates to “extreme risk-taker”. We’d call her an adrenaline junkie.

Haevyn has to take risks, to move events, to be an agent, in order to keep herself half-sane.

When we meet her, she is attending something called a Cockrage, in disguise because women of her class aren’t supposed to attend such events.

A Cockrage is essentially a cock-fight, between men. The winner mounts the victor, in public, in the fighting ring. That’s part of the point. Dominance and submission, in every way. The men fight nude, just to make it more obvious. The fighters are always humanotics.

Haevyn is fascinated, revolted and aroused at the same time. Her “introduction” to sex was to be raped by a humanotic supervisor in return for food on her family’s table. That’s the way life worked in the dock neighborhood she grew up in. She’s worked her way up from there, but the emotional scars linger.

This society has incredibly limited roles for women. And it seems to have refined sexual politics to a fine art, or that’s the way the author has drawn it. Haevyn is an “officer” of the branch of the military that assigns personal assistants, i.e. sex workers, to high-ranking military officers and monitors and records their sexual activities, no matter what they might be. Haevyn’s assigned officer can order her to service him in any way he sees fit, as long as he does her no permanent damage, or she must record his brain activity while he performs with someone who is paid to specialize in the kind of pain she cannot be required to take.

And on top of being a highly paid military-grade prostitute, she finds herself becoming an undercover operative. Haevyn has almost more to do than she can handle.

The science fiction aspects of the story, well, some worked and some didn’t. I still don’t know whether travel from other planets is by space ship, faster-than-light travel, or something else. Haevyn does get taken to one of the “Border Towns”. Her travel is by ship, but she doesn’t leave Quentopolis’ dimension. The people they meet, their travel is left vague. Haevyn dreams of ships to other places, but she doesn’t know.

Likewise, not enough is explained about the political backstory to understand completely who should end up in charge. The readers are absolutely positive who the bad guys are. That’s plenty clear. But the political shenanigans in general are murkier than the sexual positions, even in the threesomes.

Speaking of which, there are two triangles going in this story. One is a sex triangle, and the other is a love triangle. Both have to be resolved somehow not just to get to the happy ending, but also to keep Quentopolis in one piece.

Summing it up, Haevyn is a much better story than Silver, because Haevyn is the star of her own show. She never waits for someone else to act. She acts. Sometimes she jumps in where she shouldn’t, but that’s what made her story so intense.

I give Haevyn: Humanotica, Book 2 3.5 stars.

Review: Silver: Humanotica, Book 1 by Darcy Abriel

Format read: ebook provided by the author

Release Date: December 14, 2010

Number of Pages: 264

Publisher: Samhain

Formats Available: paperback, ebook

Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Samhain Publishing , Barnes & Noble


Born to freedom. Molded into submission. Pleasure is her only weapon.

Humanotica, Book 1

No matter what the law decrees, Entreus is no one’s chattel. And he’s determined that no other humanotic-part human, part robot-spends one more second under the stranglehold of the power-mad government machine. That means doing whatever it takes to advance the cause for freedom. Even seduce a government minister’s favorite toy, a newly minted trinex named Silver.

Silver was a free woman until she committed the ultimate sin-pretending to be male to gain entrance to an exclusive science academy. Her punishment: modification. Now she is equal parts female, male and machine. The property of the secretive, charismatic Lel Kesselbaum, whose appetites push her new sexual abilities to heights of pleasure that make her wonder who is master, who is slave.

Until Entreus bargains his body in exchange for a secret meeting that rekindles her longing for freedom. Yet helping the fiery revolutionary execute his plan isn’t so simple, especially when she discovers her master’s secret-a secret that leaves her heart torn between two men. And one step in the wrong direction could mean death for them all. Warning: Contains wickedly inventive sexual situations and language, including not-so-ordinary body modification and same-sex scenes with BDSM elements. And a most unusual application of decorative silver. Please step away if your taste doesn’t run toward the exotic.

My thoughts:

There’s no other way to say this; this book bothered me.

Before the story begins, the woman Silver used to be risked everything, including her freedom, in order to obtain entrance into her world’s premier scientific and engineering academy. Her desire for independence, for education, as well as her need to for risk-taking, was so great that she defied all the strictures of her society.

But the punishment for defying the rules so publicly was to submit to slavery. Her options were to be one man’s slave, or many. And here’s where things get strange.

Silver chooses to be one man’s plaything rather than be passed around someplace foul and get used up. That’s a choice I understand. it’s what happens after that that drove me a little crazy.

Slavery in this world is based on cybernetics, or humanotics, as it’s called. Many people get cybernetic replacements for missing limbs. But if the percentage of machine parts reaches 51%, it means automatic slavery.

When Silver is punished for her crime, Silver signs herself up for deliberate mechanization past the point of no-return. And the man she is sold to, Lel Kesselbaum, well, he has a fetish for humanotics, particularly males. So, since Silver was female, he fixes that. Silver becomes a trinex; female from the waist up, male from the waist down, and more than 51% machine, and rising with each trip to the Factorium.

Even though her new owner has deliberately not asked the Factorium to alter her brain in any way, Silver seems to have the worst case of Stockholm Syndrome I’ve ever seen. This once fiercely independent woman becomes more and more submissive to her dominant owner with each treatment at the Factorium.

From the blurb, I was expecting Silver’s “real” persona to reassert itself, for there to be some question about where her loyalties might lie. Silver finds she has a dominant streak with others, but she’s all submissive with her master. And her loyalties never come into question. Her heart belongs to her master. But everything he’s done to her is supposed to be okay because he has fallen in love with her, too.

The science fiction parts of this story were fascinating. I found the decadent, fallen-empire politics very reminiscent of the darker parts of Star Wars, and the Roman Empire during the excesses of some of really bad Emperors. The sexual politics and cybernetic control that Entreus is both using and fighting are really wild.

I was way sucked into the story. But I’m so glad Silver is not the main character of the next book. It’s Entreus, the leader of the rebellion. He’s a character with more agency, which makes him a better person to follow.

I give Silver: Humanotica, Book 1–2 and half stars.

Review: Past Tense by Nick Marsh

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Release Date: October 28, 2010
Number of Pages 238
Publisher Immanion Press
Formats Available: paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info:Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Immanion Press, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Book Blurb:

Alan Reece, an unassuming animal doctor from the West Country, was surprised to discover that he had become the link between reality and the strange world beyond. Unfortunately, ripples from his unwitting transformation have freed a dark and terrible creature from its improbable prison.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

Past Tense reminded me of the old “Doublemint Gum” commercial. Because it was two, two, two books in one.
And you might think that’s a terrible joke, but it fits with the snarky tone of the first part of the book. Fully realizing that everyone’s taste in both humor and snark varies widely. And wildly.

The beginning of the book takes off about a year after Marsh’s first book, Soul Purpose, left off. It’s not necessary to read Soul Purpose in order to enjoy Past Tense, but if you like British humor of the Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy school, you’ll enjoy Soul Purpose.
(If Ford Prefect had picked up Tristan Farnon from All Creatures Great and Small instead of Arthur Dent, he might have sounded something like Alan Reece, except that I remember Tristan as being lazier, but I digress)
The point is that Alan Reece hopes that he’s going crazy. Because the alternative is that he’s got to save the world again. He keeps slipping sideways into an alternate world where large purple tentacled creatures like something out of H.P. Lovecraft are running things. Alan’s already saved the world once, he thought he could go back to his normal, boring life as a small animal vet.

If Past Tense were only about Alan saving the world from the latest incarnation of the Cthulhu Mythos, it would have been an okay book. But that isn’t the heart of the story.
When Alan saved the world the first time, he stirred up something. And its bad. And it wants the Earth. Of course it does, or we wouldn’t have a story.
In order to save the day, Alan has to go back in time, to the frontier of Roman Britain at the end of the Empire. Actually around 177 A.D.
How does he do it? He gets some help. Alan is special. He’s a Conduit. He’s responsible for the Soul, capital S, of the Earth. Earth isn’t supposed to have one yet. It figures.
Conduits from two other Soul Plains have come to Earth to help him stop the big evil, by teaching him how to send his soul back into the past to stop that big evil. The mechanics really didn’t matter.
What made the story for me was life in Roman Britain. Oh did that part ever work! Alan got dropped into the body of a medicus, a surgeon, just as the poor bloke was about to perform surgery on someone. Alan got the language and the skills, and working on a human turned out to be not that much different from a large animal, without anethesia!
But wow! Figuring out what he needed to do to stop history from going wrong, while living a life he really enjoyed. This part was terrific.

Meanwhile, Alan’s friend Kate got sent back too. By accident. And got to see Roman life from the bottom. As a slave.
Alan and Kate have a mission to complete in the past. They have to make sure history stays on the right course. It takes them a while to figure out what they’re supposed to do. And when they do figure it out, they almost blow the whole thing.
The Emperor’s son is touring Britain. The young man in question is Commodus. Yes, that Commodus, from the movie Gladiator, which hasn’t happened yet. At this point, he’s still a vain young man who hasn’t become emperor. But he has to. He has to become emperor and dictator and general all-around asshat so that the Roman Empire falls when it’s supposed to.
But if he dies in Britain too soon, the result will be that the Empire lives and becomes a world-wide theocracy with the Cthulhu-type monsters in charge. Can’t let that happen.
Alan and Kate decide to trust Alan’s best friend, the Roman Centurion Lucius. Of course, Lucius isn’t Alan’s best friend, he’s the medicus Anicius’ best friend. Alan’s trust is almost misplaced. But after the evil creature masquerading as a Roman Praetor attempts to arrest this loyal Centurion, Lucius throws his lot in with them after all.

I wish I could give Past Tense two separate ratings. The second half of the book, from the second they get to the past, is 4 stars or better. The ending is a tear-jerker for Kate. The first third is 3 stars.

PhotobucketI give Past Tense 3.5 stars because the finish is so good.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

ARC Review: The Devil of Jedburgh by Claire Robyns

Format read: E-ARC provided courtesy of the author
Release Date: February 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 229 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Formats Available: ebooks
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Carina PressBarnes & Noble


Raised on rumours of The Devil of Jedburgh, Breghan McAllen doesn’t want an arranged marriage to the beast. The arrogant border laird is not the romantic, sophisticated husband Breghan dreams of—despite the heat he stirs within her.

In need of an heir, Arran has finally agreed to take a wife, but when he sees Breghan’s fragile beauty, he’s furious. He will not risk the life of another maiden by getting her with child. Lust prompts him to offer a compromise: necessary precautions, and handfasting for a year and a day, after which Breghan will be free. For a chance to control her own future, Breghan makes a deal with the Devil.

Passion quickly turns to love, but Arran still has no intention of keeping the lass, or making her a mother. He loves her too much to lose her. But when a treasonous plot threatens queen and country, Breghan has to prove only she is woman enough to stand by his side.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

I picked this up expecting a typical historic romance set in the Scottish borderlands. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy historic romances every so often, and Ms. Robyn’s previous book (Second-Guessing Fate)received a lot of great reviews, so “why not”?

Was I ever surprised! There’s a lot packed into this book. Yes, there is a romance. And it’s hot. But the neat thing about the romance is that both parties go in with eyes wide open. It’s an arrangement. A totally stupid arrangement between very bull-headed people, but the reader can see why it happens. They both think they can have a relationship for a year and then walk away. Like that’s going to work.

I did think the whole “Devil” think might be supernatural, but it’s not. It’s about superstition, and belief in curses, and how they might affect someone’s life. Arran believes he’s been cursed and sometimes he uses the fear of that to his advantage, and sometimes it works to his disadvantage. As Bree learns about the “real” Arran, the curse loses its effect on her. Making it lose its effect on him is what makes the story.

If this had just been about the romance, it would have been a darn good story. But what made it special for me was when Arran took Bree to Court with him. Court, in this case, was Edinburgh, to the court of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1565 or 1566. The Queen was pregnant with her heir, James VI, who later became James I of England. But more importantly, Arran brought Bree to Edinburgh just in time for them to be caught up in the plot to murder the Queen’s hated Secretary, David Rizzio. This was a brutal, messy time in Scottish Court politics, and Ms. Robyns wove her fiction beautifully into the historical narrative.

For me, that was the absolute icing on the four bookie cake.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.


ARC Review: Stainless: A Modern Romance by Todd Grimson

Format read: Uncorrected print proof provided by the publisher
Release Date: January 18, 2012
Number of Pages: 225 pages
Publisher: Schaffner Press
Formats Available: paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Schaffner Press, Barnes & Noble, Independent Publishers Group


Resurrecting a horrifying and romantic narrative that broke fresh ground for its genre, this soon to be re-released novel sets a vampire story in contemporary Los Angeles—the pleasure dome of late 1990s sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll culture. Unlike the vampires that came before her, Justine does not shun crosses, she watches horror movies on television, and she sets upon her prey in an almost apologetic way, never killing her victims but leaving them unconscious instead. She soon finds herself entwined in a very human sexual relationship with Keith, a down-on-his-luck rock guitarist whose hands have recently been mangled by a gang of drug dealers. Justine nurtures Keith out of his depression and drug addiction as he in turn becomes her lover and accomplice in her nocturnal predations. The relationship between the undead and the living is realistically and tragically portrayed as Keith acts both as Justine’s enabler and unwitting nemesis and, in this classic role reversal, ends up having to destroy the one he loves in order to save her.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

Although this story was subtitled “a modern romance” I didn’t see it that way. I read it as a story about co-dependency and obsessions. Which definitely made the “modern” part of the subtitle truer than true, but kind of nixed the romantic aspects. Not that a whole lot of romantic relationships don’t have their co-dependent aspects.

But it’s the obsessions that drove the story for me. And I kind of got compelled to finish it. So maybe I got sucked into the obsessions a little bit, too.

Keith starts out as a washed up guitar player, and a heroin addict. The vampire Justine picks him up off the streets and gets him addicted to her, instead. They start out as two people who basically don’t care if they live or die.

But Keith’s problems are human problems. His ex-girlfriend committed suicide, and her other boyfriend (yes, it’s complicated) blamed him. Said other boyfriend sent his goon squad to break Keith’s hands and plant drugs in his hotel room. The broken hands ended Keith’s career as lead guitar player for a major rock band. Ending his music ended the only life he cared about.

But by making Keith an addict to whatever her vampire serum was instead of smack made Keith a functional addict. It gave him time to heal the emotional damage. Time really does heal all wounds. As Keith heals, he comes out of his comatose state of depression and starts to connect to the world again. But he’s alone most of the time with a very beautiful woman and a very dangerous secret.

As Keith connects to the world, he comes to life. Not just physical life, but emotional life. He’s young, handsome, and he needs her. Justine falls in love with her “Renfield”. Love gives her world the life and color and meaning it hasn’t had for centuries. Justine and Keith become obsessed with each other, as new lovers often do. It makes them vulnerable.

But Justine has been a vampire for 400 years. She’s survived by forgetting a lot of the things she has done. One of the things she has forgotten is that she made another vampire in LA. One that she shouldn’t. Not because it’s forbidden or because there are any rules or because vampires are even organized, but because this guy was a monster when he was human, back in the 1920s at the dawn of Hollywood.

Becoming a vampire didn’t make him much more of a monster, just a more powerful one. His obsession is Justine, the vampire who made him. He wants, no he needs to be the most powerful vampire in LA. And he wants to be sure that no one can contradict all the stories he tells. The only way that can happen is if he takes Justine out of the picture.

So when a young doctor discovers Justine’s secret, Justine is open to the idea of finding a cure for Keith’s damaged hands. And it sets the scene for her old enemy to use that vulnerability to rain destruction on them all.

Although I felt compelled to finish Stainless, there were a few things that didn’t quite work for me. The changes of point of view between Justine and Keith, the doctor Tamara and her fiancée Patrick, and the second vampire, David, and his minions, can be confusing. And there are a lot of points-of-view to follow. It’s easy to get lost. The melodramatic aspects of David’s evil did reach “over the top” proportions for me, although that’s a matter of personal taste. I might have liked the story better if David had been less of a stereotype, because one of things that made Justine interesting was that she wasn’t a stereotypical vampire.

The ending is the only ending possible. It’s inevitable and it’s exactly right.

I give Stainless three stars.

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