Review: Game for Marriage by Karen Erickson

Game for Marriage book coverFormat read:ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Series: Game for It #1
Length: 170 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: January 11, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

He’s going in deep to make her his…

Struggling artist Sheridan Harper never imagined she’d spend a sizzling night with Jared Quinn, the smoking-hot star quarterback of her local professional football team, the San Jose Hawks. And she’s even more shocked when Jared’s publicist offers her a proposition: a fake marriage to keep Jared out of the gossip mags. Being that close to Jared would be too tempting, so to protect her heart, she insists on secretly including a clause forbidding sex between them.

Jared just wants to keep his starting QB job and keep it in San Jose. His reputation as a ladies’ man has landed him in the headlines one too many times, but there’s something about his kind, passionate new wife that tempts him beyond reason. Any sort of intimacy between them is completely forbidden, but as their bodies fall in deep, will their hearts follow suit?

My Review:

In order to be able to truly enjoy this story, you have to be willing to throw your willing suspension of disbelief a lot farther than one of star quarterback Jared Quinn’s game-winning passes. And Jared is a damn good quarterback.

The sexual chemistry and emotional tension between quarterback Jared and artist Sheridan is hot and sweet. They hook up for a one-night stand, and they’re never able to forget that they have something explosive, no matter how much craziness the plot or other people throw in their way.

Because they get stuck with each other for a protracted period of time, even with Jared’s frequent absences for practice and to travel for away games, they have a chance to get to know each other as people. They discover that they actually “like” each other and enjoy doing things together. For different reasons, neither of them has ever given a real relationship much of a chance. Their crazy situation forces them to.

It’s the crazy situation that doesn’t work.

The story is a “marriage of convenience” story. These are hard to do in contemporary romances. The premise for this one seemed like it should be sacked. Jared needs a “fake wife” to clean up his off-the-field reputation because he was photographed with a rival’s wife in his lap. Big deal. In real life, the star quarterback does not get traded for this.

To make this situation more insane, there’s Sheridan’s side. At first Sheridan seems like a woman in charge of her own life. She may be too busy to get involved with anyone, but she knows who she is and what she wants. She meets Jared and practically turns into “fangirl”. She might be a struggling artist, but agreeing to a “fake marriage” for a year to the man she just slept with? And insisting on a sexless marriage with the man she just had mind-blowing sex with?

I just couldn’t buy into the arrangement that made this whole story work.

Escape Rating C+: Jared and Sheridan do fall in love, and that part of the story was sweet. But the way they reached that point was contrived and unrealistic.

Also, Jared is a professional football player, but this didn’t feel like it was talking about football. Except for the game schedule, this could have been any sport.

The secondary characters involved with the team were unrealistic. No owner fires his star quarterback over one questionable picture in the tabloids. And the whole “fake marriage” contract was bound to be exposed and be worse than any picture. Not to mention that the PR guy who came up with it was such a hybrid of every sleazy PR character ever written as to be even more fake than the marriage.

I wanted to like Game for Marriage more, but the forward pass was intercepted by the unrealistic starting motion.


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Ebook Review Central, Carina Press, July 2012

The July 2012 Carina Press titles, at least when it comes to which ones got the most reviews, could definitely be said to owe something to the “Fifty Shades” effect.

The hottest books — in the erotic sense — were also definitely the hottest titles in the reviewing numbers.

Fifty shades of tie-ins!  Although the popularity of the book opened doors for more books that show a kinkier side of sex, it also spawned products in areas that the author couldn’t possibly have dreamed of. This one from Etsy may be the furthest after “Laters, baby” as later can get.

I’d much rather (make that much, much rather) get back to the Carina books.

First, I’d like to give a shout-out to Natasha Hoar’s urban fantasy title, The Ravenous Dead, which was one of the featured for Carina last month. Its date of publication seems to have changed, so now it’s on this month’s list. But I can’t feature it again, dagnabbit! Because it absolutely earned a featured slot this month, too. But each book only gets one bite at the apple, and The Ravenous Dead have already bitten.

So who are this month’s featured titles for Carina? I’m so glad you asked.

The number one featured title was so far out in first place that the sheer quantity of reviews is worth mentioning. The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden attracted over 40 reviews, all good or better. Those are pretty big numbers for an ebook-only title. What was it about The Theory of Attraction? Yes, it’s a BDSM story like Fifty Shades, with the virtue that it’s a heck of a lot shorter. Ms. Dryden’s story is also a geek love story, with two socially awkward scientists as the hero and heroine. Lots of readers identified with the couple and their geeky social circle. The geek dom made for a different twist on the trope: the hero was intelligent but not super-rich. RT Book Reviews described it as “erotic romance done right.”

In the second position we have another erotic romance, and another boundary-stretching and review-grabbing title as well. Sharing Hailey by Samantha Ann King pushed at the erotic romance envelope in a different direction. Hailey has always had a crush on her two best friends, Mark and Tony. But Mark and Tony are best buds, and don’t want to mess up their friendship by forcing Hailey to choose between them. Solution: the three of them get together! It’s perfect until Hailey’s abusive ex returns and tries to spoil everything. This story has 29 reviewers behind it, so far, all of them generally thinking it was pretty good or better. Again, 29 reviewers is a lot of positive feedback. This one looks worth checking out.

It was much more difficult to decide on the third spot. Two books were very close. But by a whisker, the featured slot goes to Rogue’s Pawn by Jeffe Kennedy. Rogue’s Pawn is the first book in her Covenant of Thorns series, and it’s a contemporary fantasy/urban fantasy with a touch of fantasy romance. Gwynn the bored academic in 21st century America crosses over to Fae at Devil’s Tower Wyoming and becomes a powerful but totally untrained sorceress–one who nearly gets killed as a danger to herself and others in her first day on the other side. Everyone wants a piece of her, and everyone wants her to be their pawn. Only one fae, a trickster named Rogue, might possibly have some of Gwynn’s better interests at heart. If Rogue has a heart. This is one twisted, dark and decadent fantasy world.

If I were giving honorable mentions, and I can, one would go to Karen Erickson this month for A Scandalous Affair.

Ebook Review Central will be back in two weeks (no issue next week because of the Labor Day Holiday!) with Dreamspinner Press.

Her Christmas Pleasure

Her Christmas Pleasure by Karen Erickson, is a short, yummy candy cane of a story. And yes, I did want you to think of that particular holiday treat for a reason!

Damien Morton promised his best friend, Lawrence Danver, that he would look after the man’s wife, just before Lawrence died. They were, after all, best friends, and it was the honorable thing to do.

What Damien hadn’t counted on was falling in love with Lady Celia Danver. Hopelessly, irrevocably in love. Or that Lawrence’s family would take him in, and come to rely on him in Lawrence’s place. But Damien knows he’s just a man with no family, an employee, however trusted. He can’t really take his friend’s place. His friend was the heir to Earl of Urswick. Damien is nobody.

A nobody who is in love with his friend’s widow. And has been for years. This Christmas, when he and Celia are caught under the mistletoe, Damien gives in to his one chance to kiss the woman of his dreams, before he has to tell her that he’ll be leaving England after New Year’s Day.

That one kiss awakens Celia to something that she hasn’t been willing to let herself see. Damien is more than a friend. And he’s more than the man her five-year-old son wants to be his father. A man she has allowed to act as his surrogate father for several years now.

Damien is a very handsome man she wants to take to her bed.

These two people, Celia and Damien, have to negotiate the rest of their lives during a family Christmas gathering. Damien has the mistaken belief that his origins mean he has nothing to bring to a possible marriage with Celia, that she can somehow do better than a man who not only loves her, but also loves her son. The boy, Theo, already thinks of Damien as his father–Damien is the only father Theo has ever known.

Celia needs to convince Damien that she really loves him, even through she hasn’t shown any sign of it until that mistletoe kiss. And she doesn’t have much time.  Will the course of true love, not to mention really hot lust, run smooth before the holidays are over?

Escape Rating B-: There was more sex than story in this holiday tale. And very hot and spicy sex it was, too. As far as the story goes, I found Damien’s perspective easier to understand than Celia’s. Her enlightenment came a little bit too suddenly for me to completely relate to, although once it was reached, it was understandable that she wouldn’t want to let him go. My question was why she was that blind for quite that long.

His point of view made more sense to me from the beginning. Damien was simply tired of torturing himself by watching someone he couldn’t have, so he decided to put himself out of temptation’s reach by finding a new position–elsewhere. He kept trying to do the honorable thing, but there were limits to his self-control. When those were reached, the author treated the readers to another sensual interlude.

This story can be nicely summed up as a lovely sensual interlude, as was Karen Erickson’s previous entry in her loosely connected Merry Widows series, Lessons in Indiscretion (review).


Cougars in romance

I received my first NetGalley egalley for review yesterday. I was excited even before I read the book, just to receive the notification. I had requested a romance from Carina Press and I will confess to a certain amount of curiosity just to see whether or not I would get the book. This is a book I requested on my own, not one I’m reviewing for Library Journal.

NetGalley is a service that allows publishers to make their electronic galleys available to librarians, reviewers and bloggers ahead of publications, so that folks who will review and hopefully say good things have a chance to get the word out before the book comes out. Making electronic galleys has to be the wave of the future, even for print books.

However, Carina Press is the electronic-only “imprint” of Harlequin. Harlequin has been very forward-thinking when it comes to ebooks. Everything they publish in print is available as an ebook, and always at a slightly lower price than the print version. Whether what they publish is to an individual person’s taste or not, well, that is what the acronym YMMV is all about. But the business model is definitely worthy of note. Harlequin also publishes some extremely good fantasy and urban fantasy under their Luna imprint. But I digress.

Carina Press has just celebrated their one year anniversary. I have purchased some of their books. They generally make wonderful “mind-candy”. They’re not deep, but they are fun.

So, on to Lessons in Indiscretion, by Karen Erickson. The story is set in the Regency period, but this is certainly not an old-fashioned Regency! Widowed Lady Julia has decided to take a lover, and has set her sights on a younger man, the Earl of Bedingfield, who has been a family friend since he was 14. Now he is 26, and her husband is dead and she is out of her widow’s weeds. While Lady Julia nearly scandalizes herself by her desire for the younger earl, she is surprised to discover that he is just as interested in a liaison with her!  She believes that, due to the difference in their ages and stations (he is very wealthy, she is not) that he will be tired of her in a short period of time. He, of course, being the hero, finds himself enchanted and surprised by his possessiveness. Their secret affair brings out the sparkle that she never had, and other men find her both interesting and desirable.

I wanted the story to be longer. There just wasn’t enough of it. Everything happened in less than 50 pages. One lunch and it was over <sniff>. I could have stood just a little more plot. But for something to while away an hour, it was good fun.

This is not the first older woman/younger man romance Carina Press has published or the first one I have read. Stroke of Midnight, by Bonnie Edwards, is a contemporary romance with the same theme, also published by Carina. For something that has more depth, Laura Leone’s Fallen from Grace has just been released as ebook. Fallen from Grace won the RITA award for Best Contemporary Romance the year it came out, and it has been on a number of “best romance” lists, but the print version has been very hard to find for years. It also deals with an older woman/younger man romance, but there are a lot of darker issues involved with the story. Laura Leone also writes Science Fiction and Urban Fantasy under the name Laura Resnick.

A post earlier this month on the Dear Author blog commented that “Older women-younger men must be the new vampires…” because the commenter was finding the theme so prevalent. Searching for recent titles, I don’t think it’s that common, but particularly since Demi Moore threw Bruce Willis over for Ashton, the Cougar story has become a recurring theme in romance fiction. And personally, I think Demi traded down.