Category: Blog

Review – Matched to Perfection Series

  • Publisher: Zebra Shout
  • Publication Dates: September 26, 2017, March 27, 2018, November 27, 2018
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English

Hispanic American Literature/Fiction; Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Latinx

I had long looked forward to reading a novel by Priscilla Oliveras, not only because I’d read so many positive things about her work, but also because she writes about our shared Puerto Rican culture, which I was sure I’d enjoy. When I stumbled on the Matched to Perfection series and noticed it was complete, it was like hitting the jackpot.

Each book is centered on one of the three Fernandez sisters. They are as different from each other as any set siblings can be. Yazmine (Yaz), the oldest, is a dancer who has performed on Broadway and currently run’s Mrs. Hanson’s Dance Academy in the Chicago suburb of Oakton. She possesses a powerful sense of personal and familial responsibility, a quality that makes it hard for her to understand what she really wants. Rosa, controlled and sometimes too well-behaved for her own good, is a librarian who is just finishing school and has a job already lined up at the local Catholic school, if one moment of abandon doesn’t derail all her plans. And Lilí is a party girl who settles into her work as a counselor for a domestic violence center and struggles to be taken seriously by her own family. Artist, bookworm, social justice warrior – I love that Oliveras diversifies the strengths, talents, and therefore, potential conflicts of each sister.

Yazmine’s conflict in book one has to do with reconciling her father’s desires for success with those of her own. This perception of what she thinks she should want for herself and her career informs her relationship with Tomas, a single father whose ex-wife chooses her professional ambition over her family. Maria, his daughter, is a truly enchanting creation, As one of Yaz’s dance students, she is the reason Yaz and Tomás enter each other’s sphere. Tomás is an ambitious advertising executive in his own right, struggling to play a meaningful role in his daughter’s life. The resolution of this disparity of ambitions on the part of both Yaz and Tomás forms the primary conflict which of the novel.

His Perfect Partner

Rosa’s book revolves around her unresolved crush for Jeremy Taylor, a close family friend. Little does she know, Jeremy pines for her also. This intense attraction leads to a moment of abandon, resulting in unintended consequences that force both of them to examine what they truly want out of a romantic relationship. Here, the backdrop of the family’s Catholicism plays an important role in augmenting the tension and stakes of the relationship. Much of the conflict is internal, with one obvious and enormous external conflict that nearly eclipses every other one. Neither Rosa nor Jeremy are quite sure of the other’s true intentions or feelings.

Her Perfect Affair

Finally, Lilí’s book features the very real conflict generated by the mutual attraction between her and Diego Reyes, a Chicago police officer. Diego at first thinks Lilí is a disconnected, rich social justice warrior, while Lilí is hesitant about entering into a relationship with a police officer, after having experienced a failed one in the past. For this couple, their greatest challenge is one of achieving emotional intimacy through honesty and admitting vulnerability, especially on the part of Diego, who hides so much of himself. His challenge is to break down the emotional walls he’s created to protect himself and others, while Lilí struggles to be understood.

Their Perfect Melody

I was absolutely thrilled that both books one and three features two latinx leads. A lot of romances I’ve read so far have featured interracial couples, which I actually love. There are many opportunities for conflict at the level of culture and language and make a novel interesting. However, there is something very refreshing about watching two latinx characters negotiate the pitfalls of their budding relationship without the added angst of cultural conflict.

Book two has an interracial pairing. However, the writer does not resort to the easy fallback of emphasizing Rosa and Jeremy’s differences. Jeremy has spent so many years in close proximity to the Fernandez clan as a close friend that he is a defacto part of the group. The othering of the latinx culture in this novel is sidestepped. This universe belongs to the Fernandez family and everyone operates in that status quo.

Olivera also doesn’t shy away from problems that are part of even the best possible life – the care of an elderly parent, the dangers of public service and the destruction caused by domestic violence. But the books don’t get carried away by these tough topics. Each one is confronted and overcome, making the HEA all the more sweeter in the end.

Olivera’s ouvre (I like the word!) appeals to me because, as a fellow Puerto Rican, I caught on quickly to the cultural shorthand she uses to describe the space in which the Fernandez sisters to live and fall in love. I understood the food, the mini-expressions in Spanish, the superstitions and cultural beliefs. There is a common refrain from book one, familiar primero or family first, that resonates throughout the novels and makes sense to me. When Lilí, in book three, prays to both her parents for guidance, it is a second-nature, authentic gesture I recognize from my own experience.

Music plays a major role in the novels, also. In book one, the beloved patriarch, Rey, has spent his life playing with a band and frequently jams in the makeshift studio in his basement. As in many Hispanic families, music forms the back drop of nearly every social gathering or important event. The motif of music comes full circle in the character of Diego, who plays the guitar and sings, becoming the music man Lilí has always been looking for.

Music and dancing are accompanied by descriptions of wonderful Puerto Rican cuisine. The three sisters cook together, reminding me of the comforts and pleasures of my family’s kitchen when my grandmother, mother, aunts descended en mass to make pasteles or other complicated dishes while the men roasted pork and played dominos in the backyard, the children always underfoot.

This series was a true pleasure to read. Oliveras is a master of emotional beats and pacing. Because these books are relatively low heat, the onus of the emotional payoff rests heavily on the relationship between the characters and the work they have to do to obtain a happy ending. That is not to say there isn’t sexual tension, and in fact, the books grow progressively steamier, but when it is resolved, it is done off the page.

Romantic, full of rich characters and cultural details, this series provides the joy of full immersion. Pair it with a warm blanket, a glass of wine and a bowl of asopao for the perfect book weekend.

His Perfect Partner – 5/5 Stars

Her Perfect Affair – 4.5/5 Stars

Their Perfect Melody – 5/5 Stars

Shamrocks, Shillelaghs and Shenanigan’s – Released Erotic Shorts

Sera Taíno

sss

I was fortunate enough to participate in EOT Publications’ Shamrocks, Shillelaghs and Shenanigans: A St. Patrick Day’s Sexy Shorts Collection. As happens with these collaborations, after a specific period of time, the rights revert back to the author. As for my story, Dream of the Fae, I’m collecting together my short and novelette length paranormal romances for publication next year in a collection.

Below, you will find four of the released shorts, including their buy links. If you are interested in a quick, erotic morsel, these sexy shorts might be just what you’re looking for, regardless of the holiday.

shamrock's fourthAmazon

Submissive Fiona Tay signed a contract with Mr. H. O’Brien. Little did she know there are three of them. She can handle one Dom or two. For three, she needs Luck. (m/f, m/f, m/f, mmm/f).

the night shiftAmazon

Devin McDiarmuid is on a mission. When a priceless family heirloom is…

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Shamrocks, Shillelaghs and Shenanigan’s – Released Erotic Shorts

sss

I was fortunate enough to participate in EOT Publications’ Shamrocks, Shillelaghs and Shenanigans: A St. Patrick Day’s Sexy Shorts Collection. As happens with these collaborations, after a specific period of time, the rights revert back to the author. As for my story, Dream of the Fae, I’m collecting together my short and novelette length paranormal romances for publication next year in a collection.

Below, you will find four of the released shorts, including their buy links. If you are interested in a quick, erotic morsel, these sexy shorts might be just what you’re looking for, regardless of the holiday.

shamrock's fourth

Amazon

Submissive Fiona Tay signed a contract with Mr. H. O’Brien. Little did she know there are three of them. She can handle one Dom or two. For three, she needs Luck. (m/f, m/f, m/f, mmm/f).

the night shift

Amazon

Devin McDiarmuid is on a mission. When a priceless family heirloom is accidentally donated to a famous library, she travels all the way to Dublin only to find it’s been lost. The library is like heaven, and she knows the book is somewhere inside. She is determined to find it herself, even if that means sneaking in after dark.

getting lucky

Amazon

A funny thing happens in Boston every March 17: everyone becomes Irish. The lasses shake their shamrocks. The lads party with their shillelaghs out. Liam, Jenna, and Max are up to some naughty shenanigans. Join them in Getting Lucky!

This book contains explicit sexual situations including male/male activities. If these things offend you, please do not download this book. All characters are of legal age and consent.

whiskey in a jar

Amazon

Jason is reluctant to catch up with his best friend, Luke, at a frat party of all places, especially with Luke’s annoying girlfriend, Sarah, tagging along. She was always coming on to him, even in front of Luke. But Sarah has plans that include both Luke and Jason, and this St. Patrick’s Day party is the perfect setting. She will just have to use all her charms to get Jason on board. (m/m/f)

SOCS – Waiting

SOC Saturday

3/23/19

I decided to participate in Linda G. Hill’s weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompts. The original link for this week’s prompt can be found here if you would like to participate.  Rules of engagement are at the end of this post.

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “the last piece of mail you received.” Talk about the subject of the last piece of physical mail you received, i.e. a gas bill – talk about gas, not the bill itself. Have fun!

University of Chicago.

Brown University.

California Institute of Technology.

I graduated from high school with the family expectation that I would become a secretary. I wouldn’t need a FAFSA. What use were those AP classes anyway, my grandfather (step-grandfather; it’s important to make the distinction) used to ask while I slaved away, happily, as it were, on my AP Lit essay. I mean, the world was going to end anyway. Best to save your energy preparing for the second coming of Christ.

But I graduated and Jesus never came.

I had my first boyfriend and Jesus never came.

I grew bored and disconsolate in my job as a medical billing clerk. Still, Jesus never came.

Finally, I figured out that Jesus was like my junior high school prom date, who never knocked on my bedroom window to pick me up. I made it to the dance anyway. I climbed out of the window, just as I had planned and hitched a ride with my neighbor’s son, who would do anything for a couple of bucks to buy a dime bag. He even shared a toke with me before I stumbled into the high school gym, all self-righteous and defiant in a purple dress the size of church bell and proceeded to have me a good time. (Turns out my poor date had had a car accident and, this being the time before cell phones and me being the kind of girl who couldn’t give her home phone away, I didn’t find out what happened until half way through YMCA).

Back to those letters. I eventually went to community college. Then I went to state college. Waiting for damnation to rain on my head. That never came, either.

Those college letters are for my daughter.

She isn’t waiting for Jesus. Or damnation. Or a jilted date.

She won’t have to climb out a window to have a good time.

 

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing (typos can be fixed), and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. I will post the prompt here on my blog every Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The,’” or will simply be a single word to get you started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read all of them! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later or go to the previous week by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!

Reinventing the Myths

This post represents the first in a series of writing exercises that I’ve used, either in a writing course or on my own. Each post includes this disclaimer, a description of the exercise, and an example from my own writing. If you would like to try out the exercises on your own blog, refer to the exercise in the title and ping back to this post (if you have a WordPress blog). Or you may simply leave a link in the comment section so I and others can check out your work. Please feel free to comment on mine, also.

persephone-1397228_1920

I took a flash fiction course some years ago with the venerable Barbara Henning (check out her bio over at the Poetry Foundation). One thing flash fiction teaches you is the importance of focus, something I confess to struggling with in my own work. If you know even a little about me, I tend to range far in wide in terms of subject and genre, both in my reading and writing. This is great in terms of providing multiple perspectives on subject matter and form, as well as learning the value of versatility.

But even in a long work of fiction, focusing on what a character is saying or doing, providing a strong sense of place, or slowing down action during a critical scene so the reader receives the full impact of that narrative moment is an important skill to develop.

In the interest of respecting the sanctity of Henning’s coursework, I offer a variation of the exercise, as well as the resulting flash fiction piece. If you are interested in using this prompt or would like me to read and share your work, please take a glance at the disclaimer above for instructions on how to bring your writing to my attention.

Exercise: Using an image, character, or plot from a myth (religious or otherwise), create or reinvent a story in a modern context. Write in any form you like (poetry, flash fiction, short story). Note: flash fiction word counts are traditionally anywhere from 50 words (microfiction) all the way up to 2000 words. I leave it to your muse to decide what you come up with.

The Fruit Stand

737 Words

The fruit stand on Market Street opens at seven o’clock every Wednesday and Saturday in springtime. Percy loves nothing more than her fresh fruit. Well, fresh fruit and rest. She doesn’t understand how these modern people get by on so little sleep. It keeps them busy in the Underworld – don’t mortals know how dangerous it is to go around on only five hours of sleep each night? Just watching them scurry about is downright exhausting. There’s no sense of beauty in all that hecticness. They wear their fatigue like medals of honor, their deprivations as things to be proud of.

An image bursts into her mind. Apples. Percy is in an epic mood and apples fit the bill. Apples are big in the modern world. In ancient times, the preferred fruit of minstrels and storytellers was the pomegranate, or at least, that was the fruit assigned to her legend. But here, where everything appears to function upside down and backwards, the unglamorous, common apple stands for all kinds of things – wisdom, sexual pleasure, forbidden desires. The apple is everywhere, in multiple iterations. She’s discovered during all the infinite years of her existence that when people repeat an idea enough times, it gains the substance of credibility. Like the monotheism. Say it enough times and soon, entire civilizations end up jumping on the same band wagon.

Percy shrugs to no one in particular, apples on her mind again. The air is heavy with the smell of fructose and an underlying fragrance of rot so typical of all things mortal. She picks up a medium-sized, brown paper bag and puts two of the swollen, red fruit inside. An old farmer with deep, wrinkled jowls approaches like a coil of frigid air from the depths of a crypt.

“$3.00 a pound,” he offers.

“$3.00? You sell them as if you created them! $1.98. They’re in season.”

“They’re always in season, ma’am. And they’re organic.”

“Hmph,” she says, peering at the man with knowing eyes. “There are trace pesticides in the skin of this apple. And anyway, if these were really organic, they wouldn’t be in season all year-round. Still, I have sympathy for your paltry existence. I’ll take them for $2.00.”

The fruit seller wrinkles his nose at her. “Sympathy? Look, lady, I’m just trying to make a living here. What do you know about fruit anyway?”

Percy leans in, giving him a glimpse of her true form, if only for an instant – a field of spring wilting and blossoming under a benighted sky that is continuously rent open like the stone doors of a mausoleum. She reveals her rapacious husband, her howling, over-bearing mother, the conniving innocence that won her a throne. How good it feels to be herself.

“I, more than anyone in all of existence, understand the importance of taking in fruit.” She straightens, satisfied at the look in the old man’s cataract-glazed eyes, terror burbling beneath like volcanoes ready to erupt. “There, there,” she says, the hard tone of her voice now soft and lilting. She pats the old man’s hand, the skin the color of dirty, grey marble. He jerks back at her touch, crossing himself as he steps away from her.

“H-How…b-b-bout…y-y-you take…them…th-there apples…?”

“Why, I think I just might.” She picks up the bag, pulling out one of the objects in question, and folds the lip down to keep the remaining contents from spilling out. “Everybody’s just crazy about apples, aren’t they? Apple pie, apple juice, apple fritters…apples, apples, apples.” She stuffs the bag in her giant purse. “But I can appreciate why people love them. That’s how my husband seduced me, you know. With fruit, I mean,” she says cheerily, taking a perverse pleasure in the way the man tries to shrink into invisibility behind the stall. “I was young and my mother was all wrath but I knew what I was doing.” She slings the bag over her shoulder. “Things aren’t ever the way people say they are.”

She stands solemnly before the old, trembling gentleman, as if ready to salute him. “If I like them, I’ll be sure to come back.”

She turns in the direction she came from and takes a greedy bite of the crisp fruit, ignoring the chemical tang, savoring its delectable sweetness, the binds to the wretched, dying earth tightening with each drop of sticky juice.

ST

Review – American Dreamer

 

 

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

  • Publisher: Carina Press; Original edition (March 4, 2019)
  • Publication Date: March 4, 2019
  • Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
  • Language: English

Amazon

Multicultural, Own Voices, M/M Romance, Latinx Lead

When I first saw the marketing push for American Dreamer, I was ecstatic. M/M Romance? Check. Interracial romance where the other half is a sexy librarian? Check.

Wait, Afro-Latino from the Dominican Republic? Are you kidding me? This is what I LIVE FOR! Throw all the check boxes away.

The level of personal anticipation that I experienced for the March 4th release of Adriana Herrera’s debut novel was nothing short of ridiculous.  I haven’t waited for a book in this way since, well, forever.

Nesto is wonderful. An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, you understand his priorities right from page one. He’s moving to Ithaca from NYC to launch his food truck, OuNYe Afro-Caribbean Food, with the help of his family and life-long friends (all of whom get their own novel). He has one goal – to become successful within six months or go home.  He enjoys the support of his people and possesses the willingness to put in the sweat and blood to make success happen. But Nesto’s x-ray focus wavers when Jude, an adorable librarian, arrives at his food truck to buy his scrumptious food.

The attraction between the two men is palpable. Nesto and Jude’s respective culture and sexuality are presented as a fact of life, something the author reinforces by making sure that the novel is populated by diverse characters as a matter of course, including several of Jude’s gay friend, and Carmen, his Dominican co-worker and best friend. Jude speaks Spanish and has lived in Central American, which lifts the onus on Nesto being solely responsible for teaching Jude the ins and outs of his culture.

Every aspect of this novel is respectful of the full humanity of each character. There is no stereotyping, no othering of anyone. The landscape of the novel is a reflection of a diverse world. The challenges Nesto and Jude confront are rooted in aspects of the character’s personality and the way they feel about intimate relationships. Nesto and Jude’s journey takes center stage, and it is such a refreshing take for a novel featuring an interracial couple.

As a daughter of Puerto Rican parents who relocated to the US with the same dreams as Nesto and his mother, I can identify with Nesto’s ambition and his mother’s pride as well as the pitfalls of being a brown person in a white world. As one who was also brought up in a fundamentalist faith that grew increasingly inconsistent with the way I viewed the world, I can also identify with the pain Jude experienced of not feeling fully accepted by those whose job it was to love him unconditionally. Herrera captures so many dynamics in this novel, which serves as equal parts romance, equal parts commentary on what it means to function, find love, and eventually flourish in a world that is not always willing to accommodate your existence.

Oh, and the food descriptions are divine! That absolutely has to be said.

This debut novel recieves an enthusiastic 5/5 stars.

 

 

Review – By the Currawong’s Call by Welton B. Marsland

by the currawongs call

By the Currawong’s Call by Welton B. Marsland

  • Publisher: Escape Publishing (November 1, 2017)
  • Publication Date: November 20, 2017
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English

Bisexual, Victorian Romance

Amazon

I was just coming off reading Holding the Man and missing the Australian setting when Marsland’s debut novel, By the Currawong’s Call came across my desk. Anglican priest, Matthew Ottenshaw, finds himself posted to the small town of Dinbratten, where he forms a deep friendship with Jonah Parks, the police sergeant in residence. This novel does something I love – it gives a chance for the relationship between the MCs to grow slowly before they give in to their romantic feelings, made doubly complicated by Matthew’s vocation and the historic period. It’s excellently written, just skirting the lyrical as the relationship between Matthew and Jonah escalates into something irrevocable.

copy of by the currawong's song

In addition, each character, even the minor characters, are distinctly drawn. The author takes advantage of the differences in dialect and vocabulary to mark each character. This is particularly effective between Matthew and Jonah, because Matthew is more formally educated than Jonah. Even without dialogue tags, there is no question who is speaking.

by the currawong's song 2 (1)

This novel commits only one forgivable misstep – it sometimes uses Jonah as a vehicle for promoting the modern attitudes towards what were then illegal, same-sex relationships. There is nothing wrong with this, but if I, as a reader, am consuming this genre, it had better be because I’ve sorted my feelings about queerness. On the strength of this assumption, it’s a bit like preaching to the choir. Oh, and that epilogue can go for the same reason.

Everything else in this novel is divine.

by the currawong's song (1)

Favorite quotes:

“You’d better decide quick-smart whether ya reckon I’m worth it, as well. Or else we should stop it all, right here.”

“The match flame illuminated the angles of his face. He was a god of myth, inhaling fire and sighing out incense.”

‘We are a wonder together,’ Matthew thought. ‘An absolute wonder.’

4.5/5 Stars. Great debut!

Note to writers:

  • Excellent example of using vocabulary and dialogue to sharpen characterization
  • Sex scenes escalate intimacy and are tied to the story and characters. Integral to the emotional arc.
  • Illustrates the pitfalls of using epilogues that do not enhance the story.
  • Powerful sense of place.

And the rating (drumroll)… A solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Great debut novel!