Let Down Your Hair by Fiona Price

23590855
Grade: C
Hotness Level: Ember
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, Fairytale Retelling
Published: 12/11/14
Reviewed by Anne
281 ebook pages

Sage is a modern day Rapunzel.  She’s was raised by her grandmother in a very unorthodox and extreme feminist manner.  It’s left her very sheltered and naïve about a lot of things and very suspicious and judgmental about others.  She even got her college degrees through online studies.  It’s not until she’s starting her PhD that she has many interactions with the outside world at all.  So she’s very, very surprised when she looks out her office window and into a classroom window and sees a nude man.  She’s also curious, and scared that her grandmother will get the man in trouble, so she dashes down and into the classroom.  That’s where she meets her prince, Ryan Prince, nude model for drawing classes.

As a contemporary set fairytale retelling, this story does an incredible job.  As a romance it really isn’t very good at all.  I think if I’d gone into it just looking for a fairytale, I’d have enjoyed it more.  However, it was listed as a romance, and that brings certain expectations with it, and unfortunately it didn’t meet those expectations.

For me, reading a romance means reading a story that is centered on a romantic relationship between the main characters.  In this story there is a romantic relationship, but the focus of the story is on Sage’s personal journey, and Ryan is just one of many characters in that journey, and he’s actually not even in the majority of the story.  Additionally, Sage’s journey ended up reminding me of a Danielle Steel novel – the kind where you walk with the main character through the darkest times in their life.  I avoid stories like this if I can.  While this one wasn’t as extreme as some examples I’ve read, I just don’t appreciate watching the heroine struggle and be taken advantage of.  It doesn’t make the resolution and happy ending sweeter for me, it just brings me down.

Another strike against the story is that its main subject is feminism as much as it is the fairytale and much more than it is the romance.   I consider myself a feminist, so I bring that bias in with me when I read the story.  I don’t mind a story that features feminism, and I don’t even mind about reading the costs and benefits of a life with and without feminism.  I did get tired of it being so much of what the story was about.

On the positive side, it was an extremely creative retelling of the Rapunzel story!  The tower that Rapunzel was in wasn’t quite literal, but it was the way her grandmother raised her.  There was even a cool look at two different types of towers Sage was kept in.  I really liked this version of Rapunzel.

For all of these reasons, the story was difficult for me to grade.  As a fairytale, it gets and A+.  As a romance it’s a D or an F.  So I’ll settle for a C+.  I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy a great fairytale retelling, but don’t expect too much romance.  Can you recommend a fairytale retelling that does have a great romance, too?

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A Touch of Mistletoe

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Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Mild Kink
Genre: Contemporary , paranormal, m/m
Published: 12/17/14
Reviewed by Anne
141 ebook pages

Overall this was a great anthology!  The standout stories for me were those by Talya Andor and Megan Derr.  Andor’s The Christmas Spirit is set in Japan and makes the most of the setting in a way that is fascinating to read about without begin overwhelming.  The romance between Ash and Yuki was sweet, too!  Two Parts Mistletoe by Megan Derr also had a great world with potions and and generic old-fashioned setting.  It was interesting to read a story set in a world where a m/m relationship is a normal thing.  The chemistry (ha!) between the main characters was great, too.

Also very good were the stories by Pendragon and Ottoman.  Pendragon’s was the only contemporary and I thought Warren’s blindness was well handled.  Ottoman’s sex scene was super-hot and it dealt with some things I hadn’t read before.  One of the characters, M.C. is transgender and in the process of adjusting her social identity to match her internal identity.  I thought it was well done and had good world building, too.

Here for You by J.K Pendragon(m/m, contemporary)
Warren is blind and recovering from his wife’s death.  At a holiday party he finds himself under the mistletoe with a mutual and male friend.  He’s always considered himself heterosexual, but now his new friend has him wondering.

The relationship between Warren and Kyung moved pretty quickly, I thought.  They each have their own issues to deal with besides, Warren’s surprise bisexuality, which turns out not to be a big deal.  It was just the right amount to put in a short story, though.  Once in a while I felt like the story was a bit jumpy, but overall it worked well.
Grade: B

The Christmas Spirit by Talya Andor (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
Ash is a black Southern American man living and working in Japan.  He specializes in paranormal investigations.  When he’s asked to look into a disturbance involving a figure skating star he’s immediately attracted, but thinks it could never work out.

There was so much I enjoyed about this story!  I wasn’t very familiar with Japanese culture, but I felt like I learned some by reading this story, and I never felt like I was wading through a travel guide to get that understanding.  The world building was good, too.  The reality of what it was like to be a friend of a psychic was interesting!  One of those “I’ve never thought about this before, but I bet that’s exactly what it’s like” moments.  I also appreciated how their relationship progressed slowly.  I’ll definitely be looking for more by Talya Andor!
Grade: A

A Beautiful Thing by A.F. Henley (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
This one had a promising start, but then a little fairy guy showed up and I was just done.  I have a thing again romance where there’s a guardian angel type character.  I know better than to read them.  I may have missed out on something good, but the odds of it working for me are very low, so I moved on to the next story.
Grade: DNF

Ad Meliora by E.E. Ottoman (f/trans, sci-fi/fantasy)
An-An and M.C. are out on a job Christmas eve.  M.C. needs to investigate and possibly exorcize something that’s murdered multiple people.  At they same time they’re dealing with some relationship issues, including how M.C. is transitioning away from a female identity.

The storyline about a transitioning person was about as foreign to me as the fantasy world building in this story.  It was very well done, but very new to me.  M.C. wants to be referred to as “they and their” instead of “she and hers” or “he and his.”  This was so new for me to read, and it really kept pulling me out of the story.  I think that’s just because I wasn’t used to it.  It was an interesting story, though, both for the paranormal side of things and the sexual side of things.
Grade: B+

Two Parts Mistletoe by Megan Derr (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
Kingston is a potionmaker.  He’s surprised to see Hux, his routine and anonymous hookup come into his shop.  The timing is right – he’d been working up the nerve to ask Hux if he wanted a relationship, but first they need to deal with the problem that brought Hux to his shop.

I enjoyed this story from start to finish.  It had a historical London feel to it, if historical London had men looking for husbands and magical potions.  It was probably a bit simplistic when it came to handling the crime that was committed, but I was excited enough about Kingston and Hux that it didn’t bother me.  I’ll definitely be looking for more from Megan Derr, too!
Grade: A

Bad Behavior by K.A. Mitchell

22852010

Grade: B-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Moderate Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m, BDSM
Series: Bad in Baltimore #5
Published: 12/16/14
Reviewed by Anne
294 pages

Beach (David Beauchamp) is on probation awaiting trial for a series of bad decisions he’s made.  Despite the “no alcohol” rule that goes with his probation, he goes to a bar and looks for a hook up.  Fortunately for him he finds one with a sexy and bossy man who leaves him with wishing he could see him again.  Unfortunately, he does see the man again – he’s Officer Tai Fonoti, Beach’s parole officer.

The connection between them is still electric, but Tai knows it would be unprofessional to see Beach again.  He even arranges to have Beach’s case transferred to another probation officer.  He doesn’t plan on the temptation that comes when Beach reaches out to him for another taste of the dominance he got in the bar.  Beach knows nothing about a D/s relationship, but he knows he wants more of what Tai has.

I enjoyed this story.  It made me majorly book cranky – I didn’t want to put it down.  It also puzzled me, and put me in a bit of a dark mood.  Beach has a pretty messed up life, and it’s amazing that he’s still around after all the self-destructive choices he’s made.  He seems to roll through life with a cute smile and lot of money and not many friendships.  He comes off as pretty naïve, bordering on stupid at some points.  He does change and mature throughout the story, but it came off as motivated by Tai and wanting to please Tai more than it was about him really maturing.  Whereas Beach seemed self-destructive and oblivious at the beginning of the book, by the end he was reliant on Tai and seemed nearly unable to function without him around.  There were times that it felt like Tai had a parental role over Beach, and I didn’t like that.

Tai was comfortable as a dominant.  Comfortable enough to seek advice from a mentor and to question himself and his choices.  I really appreciated that – I’ve read too many omniscient doms that just didn’t seem realistic.  At the same time, I felt like he and Beach didn’t do enough talking.  They seemed to be moving toward a 24/7 D/s relationship, but the two of them never talked about what they wanted.

However, their relationship was well written.  Even though I didn’t necessarily like where it was headed (without them discussing it) it was understandable and believable that these two characters would handles things in the way they did.  The sex scenes – and there were many! – were very hot and very well written.  There was some D/s that was not sexual, and that was a new thing for me.  I thought it was well written, because I understood what they each got out of the relationship and why they’d want such a relationship.

There are some snarky comments to lighten up the story – I especially enjoyed Tai’s struggle to find commands for Beach that wouldn’t confuse his dog.  Snarky characters from other books were also enjoyable.

This is the fifth book in the Bad in Baltimore series.  I read the first and second books several months ago (and enjoyed them!) but then skipped ahead to this one.  I could tell that I’d missed some character backstories, but it was easy to read this one on its own.

I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy some intense BDSM.  It was a little past what I’m comfortable with, but still a good read.