In Which I Express My Frustration Via GIFs: A Review of In A Gilded Cage by Mia Kerick

In A Gilded Cage Book Cover In A Gilded Cage
Mia Kerick

Lucci Grimley is indeed alluring—crowned with a mane of long blond hair, and blessed with an enchanting musical talent that draws a brave rescuer to a high tower hidden in the forest.

However, this modern-day Rapunzel is a young man, sold as a child to the wealthy and childless Damien Gotham for the price of a fast car and a pile of cash. And Lucci’s heroic prince is William “Prin” Prinzing, a handsome college student and star soccer player, hired to care for the grounds of the lavish Tower Estate. Prin climbs an extension ladder rather than a long golden braid to gain access to Lucci’s second floor bedroom window, ultimately penetrating the secrecy surrounding the cloistered young man.

Friendship, and soon romance, blooms. The tower captive eagerly gives his loving innocence to his brave rescuer, which sends the strict and reclusive Gotham into a frenzy of jealous rage. With Prin, Lucci gets a taste of real life, and he wants more. Together, the young men must face Gotham’s ruthlessness and pay the price of liberating Lucci.

 

Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Fair warning: this is going to be a rant.

I went into In A Gilded Cage fully expecting to love it, as the description makes it sound like exactly my type of book. Not only is it a modern-day retelling of Rapunzel, it’s also a male/male romance. What more could I possibly ask for, right?

Well, for starters, I’m not sure “romance” is the right word for the relationship between the book’s two protagonists, Prin and Lucci. To me it’s less a love story and more the story of one person taking complete advantage of another person’s vulnerability and innocence. Allow me to explain.

Lucci is the adopted son of a ridiculously wealthy – and hideously controlling – business mogul by the name of Damien Gotham. Gotham is a total creep and actually bought Lucci from his parents when he was a young boy so he could “lift [Lucci] out of squalor and place (him) in surroundings befitting [his] beautify and potential.” To Gotham, lifting Lucci from squalor essentially means imprisoning Lucci in Gotham’s mansion and controlling every single move he makes for the rest of his life.

Gotham isn’t just your run-of-the-mill, over-protective helicopter parent – he’s legitimately crazy and abusive. Lucci is isolated from the world, with only Gotham for company. Gotham dictates how Lucci spends every minute of his day, how he talks, what he eats, even how much water he may drink. His standards for “appropriate” behavior are unattainably high, and the punishments he doles out when Lucci can’t measure up are imaginative and horrible. And don’t even get me started on how far over the line his physical relationship with Lucci is. Yick.

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I hoped things would look up for poor, victimized Lucci when his “prince charming” showed up…but nope. The relationship that develops between William “Prin” Prinzing and Lucci makes me cringe just thinking about it. Even though Lucci’s almost 21 during the main events of the book, his isolated upbringing has left him so innocent and naïve that the relationship between him and Prin feels like the relationship between an adult and a child.

Lucci doesn’t understand what friendships are, let alone sexual encounters. At one point when Prin is sticking his tongue in Lucci’s mouth, Lucci pulls back and innocently asks, “Is this the way of friendship, Prin?” He honestly has no idea what’s going on. Lucci doesn’t even know the names for his various pieces of anatomy – he calls them his “man parts,” for crying out loud. It’s such an unequal relationship, where Prin has all the knowledge and power and Lucci is just trustingly going along with whatever Prin tells him.

Prin knows something’s not right with Lucci’s home life, but is rescuing Lucci his first priority? No, of course not. He’s more concerned with how far he’s able to get with Lucci sexually. He’s basically like, “Hey, I know you’re being abused, and you have zero concept of the world beyond your creepy dad’s house and his carefully-selected servants, but rather than doing anything REAL to help you, I’m going to feel you up in my truck instead. ‘Kay?”

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The sexual scenes are intensely uncomfortable because they almost feel like instances of statutory rape. It doesn’t help that every time Prin and Lucci have a sexual encounter, Lucci compares the experience to his interactions with his adopted father. For example, there’s a scene where Lucci runs his hands over Prin’s bare chest while envisioning his father’s chest hair. And then there’s this gem from one of Lucci’s POV chapters:

“‘I notice that [Prin’s] hands are trembling as Father’s often do when he gives in to his need to touch me.’”

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I felt like screaming at Prin for so much of this book. It’s like, dude – can we remember that Lucci’s father makes him cuddle with him in bed at night, naked? And that he withdraws food and water from Lucci if he feels Lucci is not appropriately affectionate during those cuddle sessions? And forces Lucci to kneel on a grate for hours as punishment for other minor “infractions”? With all this in mind, do you really think sexing him up is your best course of action? As opposed to, oh, I don’t know – HELPING HIM ESCAPE?!

Even if Lucci and Prin were both happy, healthy, well-adjusted people, I’d still wince at their love scenes, which are mega-awkward and not sexy or sensual in any way. Please, share in my horror and discomfort with this quote about Lucci’s second-ever erection:

“‘It is happening to me again, Prin.’ I take his hand in mine and press it to the stiffness of my private part.”

And how about this:

“I pull him down so his privates dangle before my face, and I open my mouth more eagerly than does a baby bird to his mother.”

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The scene that really pushes me over the edge, though, is the one where Prin takes his sock off and wipes Lucci’s mouth with it after fellatio. Yes, you read that right – he uses his dirty sock, which was just on his sweaty-ass foot while he was doing yard work, and uses it to WIPE LUCCI’S MOUTH. *Gags*

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If there’s one saving grace in In A Gilded Cage, it’s the presence of Prin’s awesome parents. They don’t have a huge role in the book, but the few scenes they’re in are pretty great. What I appreciate about Prin’s mom and dad is that they’re fantastically supportive of Prin and very much in love with each other. Their lives aren’t easy – they got pregnant and married at 17, live in a trailer and work long hours as custodians – and yet they’re blissfully happy and still full of love for one another after so many years and hardships.

Still, my fondness for Prin’s parents isn’t nearly enough to redeem the rest of the book in my eyes. The serious issues with the supposed “romance,” as well as the amount of cringing I did while reading, make In A Gilded Cage an absolute “no” for me.

Giveaway and Book Blitz: This Is Me by C.E. Wilson

This Is Me by C.E. Wilson

A-SIST

Anthropomorphic Sentient Individualized Servile uniT

Rogan is a robot. More specifically, he is an Asist – a personalized humanoid servant that provides protection, assistance, and companionship for a lonely young woman living on her own in the city. Chloe is trying to get her big break, singing at bars and clubs all over the city at night while she pays the bills as a substitute teacher during the day. Ever since she activated him many months ago, Rogan has been her beautiful, dependable, obedient, dead-eyed security blanket.

One morning she is shocked when he disobeys a direct command in an attempt to please her and his dull artificial eyes flash a hint of something new. Is this the result of the adaptive Asist servility programming or is Rogan actually thinking? Can a robot think? Can a robot feel?

As Chloe struggles with these thoughts she is blindsided by the singular Niven Adams, a handsome, confident man with the voice of an angel who is everything she’s ever wanted in a boyfriend. He’s the perfect guy for her, except for one problem. Niven doesn’t approve of Asists and takes an immediate dislike to Rogan. As Niven charms his way deeper and deeper into Chloe’s heart, Rogan tries to convince her that he is more than a mass-produced disposable servant.

With Rogan doing everything in his power to prove that his thoughts and feelings are real and Niven trying to persuade her to abandon her robot and have a normal human relationship, Chloe is trapped between the two things that mean the most to her. Does she embrace her relationship with the blond newcomer, or face that her Asist’s feelings may be more than features of his programming?

What really makes a person a person?

Is it a ticking muscle inside their chest, or is it something more?

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This is Me teaser 9

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Author Bio

C.E. Wilson is 32 years old, grew up in Millersville, Pennsylvania, and has been living in Pittsburgh since 2009. For the first few years living in Pittsburgh, she was an English teacher. Her first book, Oath of Servitude, was published in 2012. In 2013, she quit teaching to be a full-time author and hasn’t looked back since. She loves spending time with her daughter and husband.

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Review: Without A Doubt by Lindsay Paige

Without A Doubt Book Cover Without A Doubt
Lindsay Paige

Emerson Montgomery loves his high school sweetheart, Kelly Price. He’d do anything for her, including agreeing to a break where they’ll see other people as he heads off to college. Struggling with the break and guilt over dating other people, Emerson meets Eva, a beautiful, funny, easygoing, and nosey junior.

Eva Harvey chose this particular college with the hopes of fulfilling her own fairytale and falling in love at the same college where her parents met. She does her best to go with the flow and simply see what happens, but Emerson simultaneously causes her to fall in love while making her second guess everything along the way.

There’s some things you know without a doubt. However, Eva causes Emerson to doubt everything he believes about his future while he causes her to doubt what’s right in front of her. Can they find a way to erase all doubts or will it tear them apart in the process?

Review:

(Actual rating: 2.5 stars)

I received a free copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

In many ways, Without A Doubt was a pleasant surprise. So far, my experience with New Adult fiction hasn’t been quite as positive as I would like, so I went into the story cautiously optimistic yet bracing myself for the usual pitfalls I run into with the genre. Happily, Without A Doubt ended up side-stepping those pitfalls and standing out as an example of New Adult done well.

Emerson and Eva make an adorable couple. Emerson’s not your cocky, swaggering, impossibly chiseled love interest – he’s just a regular guy, cute and sweet and chill. Eva, too, is likable and pleasant. They’re both good people, practical, hard-working, and down to earth. They do normal things together like baking brownies, hanging out with mutual friends, and watching movies. In short, they’re refreshingly authentic.

There’s no pointless drama in their relationship, which is a pleasant change. They have their disagreements, but they’re mature enough and respect each other enough to open a dialogue and air any potential issues before they burgeon into real problems. As compelling as I find dysfunctional relationships in fiction, it is occasionally nice to see a happy, healthy romance represented. Emerson and Eva are playful and cute and fit together so well. When Emerson says something sweet, it doesn’t seem like a line – it just seems like Emerson:

“Emerson wraps around me and I cuddle closer. ‘How was your day?’
‘Similar to yours.’ His blinks are coming in longer intervals and I know he’s getting closer to falling asleep.
‘How come you never have bad days?’ I ask […].
‘I do,’ he reassures me, never opening his eyes. ‘But then I see you and it all goes away.’”

Another huge win for this book is its approach to sex. Eva and Emerson treat sex as important and meaningful, something to be valued but not rushed into. When they do get physical, the scenes are tasteful and avoid graphic play-by-plays. The sex doesn’t overshadow characterization or plot, and it’s not a constant in the book. Emerson and Eva are flirtatious and sensual, but their relationship isn’t all sex, all the time. There are moments when Eva and Emerson pass up an opportunity to be intimate because they have stuff to do, or are sad, or have somewhere to be. Hooray for realism in books!

Something else that impressed me about Without A Doubt is that school is actually a significant part of the characters’ lives. Several of the New Adult books I’ve read have been set at universities, but you’d never know the characters are students other than a passing reference to a homework assignment or the occasional use of the words “after class.” In Without A Doubt, though, Emerson and Eva are students first and foremost. They spend lots of their time working on assignments, writing papers, and studying for tests, and the events of their personal lives have to be scheduled around their school obligations.

With all these positives I’ve listed, you’re probably wondering why I only gave Without A Doubt 2.5 stars. The problem was that it was just missing that “wow” factor for me. It was a cute, light read…and that’s about it. There’s a fine line between excluding unnecessary drama and still having some level of conflict and tension to keep things interesting. The plot and writing style are very simplistic, and Emerson and Eva’s relationship is just too…easy, I guess? Most of their arguments are over little things that are quickly resolved. The few major conflicts seem kind of far-fetched and are over almost as soon as they’ve begun. The main challenge the couple faces – Emerson’s lingering ties with his ex-girlfriend – doesn’t cause nearly as much trouble as I expected, resulting in a very laid-back, chill kind of book. While that may work for many readers, it wasn’t enough to really draw me in and keep me engaged.

That being said, I’m still very pleased by how authentic and fresh Without A Doubt felt and am hopeful that it signifies a positive direction for a genre I haven’t been too crazy about up to this point. Between Without A Doubt and my recent success with Informant by Ava Archer Payne, I’m starting to think there may be a future for New Adult fiction and me after all!

Review: Informant by Ava Archer Payne

The Informant Book Cover The Informant
Ava Archer Payne

MONEY I’m Kylie Porter, a nineteen-year-old biology major at San Francisco State. I’m a part-time waitress and a straight A student. I’m also an informant the DEA hired to infiltrate the Cuban mob.

DRUGS Specifically, I’m being paid to seduce Ricco Diaz, the sexy son of a sociopathic drug lord.

SEX And Beckett—the smoldering hot undercover DEA agent who lured me into helping him trap Diaz? I never meant to fall in love with him.

BETRAYAL And I definitely didn't mean to hurt him... I just didn't have a choice.

Review:

I received a free copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Kylie Porter is your average 19-year-old, broke and ambitious, attending college by day, waiting tables by night. Average, that is, until she’s approached by Thomas “Beckett” Smith, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent on an undercover assignment at Kylie’s college.

Beckett comes to Kylie with a proposition. In exchange for a full ride to college and $5,000 a month, Kylie must cozy up to her lab partner Ricco, estranged son of a Cuban drug lord. The goal is for Kylie to get close enough with Ricco to learn his secrets and pass them on to the DEA, in hopes that this will be help them catch Ricco’s father, the infamous Miguel Diaz.

Kylie isn’t not crazy about the idea of betraying Rico, but she can’t turn down the money and the chance to give herself and her family a better future. She grudgingly accepts Beckett’s offer, thinking there’s no harm in having a few casual dates with Ricco. After all, he hasn’t seen his father in years. No harm, no foul, right?

She never expected her mission to take her into actual contact with Miguel, newly arrived in the United States and looking for his son. And she certainly didn’t expect to fall for Beckett while she’s supposed to be romancing Ricco.

Informant has the distinction of being one of the first New Adult novels I’ve ever enjoyed. For one thing, the plot is actually engaging. Infiltrating the Cuban mob is a dangerous game, and a single mistake could mean gruesome deaths for Kylie and her loved ones. Can she keep Ricco at arm’s length without him losing interest? Can she withstand Miguel Diaz’s shrewd scrutiny? Can she trust Beckett to keep her safe even though he clearly has his own reasons for wanting Miguel behind bars, reasons that go way beyond his commitment to the DEA?

Another pleasing difference between Informant and most of the other New Adult fiction I’ve read to date is that Kylie is actually likable and smart. It’s sad that this should come as a surprise, but so many NA books seem to have insipid characters lacking in common sense. Kylie’s intelligent and actually USES HER BRAIN! She thinks things through before making decisions, does her research, and has specific tactics for going into dangerous situations. In the beginning of the book, for instance, before she knows that Beckett’s DEA, she agrees to go on a date with him. Because he’s basically a stranger, she makes her sister and brother-in-law wait outside the restaurant in their car. That way, if Beckett turns out to be a whack job, Kylie has an exit plan. Finally, a heroine making smart choices!

What’s more, even when Kylie does happen to have a lapse in judgment, I never have to suppress an urge to smack sense into her – she does it herself!

“I have to get my head together. Think. What I need now is perspective. I’m smart, and it’s about time I started acting like it. I’ve allowed myself to be used, but that’s my fault as much as his.”

Kylie’s funny, too, and she’s got spunk. There’s a boatload of amusing quotes that had me laughing as I read:

“‘She thinks I don’t like her husband.”
‘Why does she think this?’
‘Because he’s a total low-life shit head and I can’t stand him.’”

And:

“So yes, as humiliating as it is, my whole family is now involved. Kylie has a date. Repeat three times in a tone of increasing wonder and disbelief. Apparently the news is so staggering I’m surprised the media hasn’t picked up the story yet.”

And:

“How perfect that I finally go out, only to find myself caught between a DEA agent and the son of a Cuban crime boss. God, my life.”

As much as I liked Kylie, I can’t say much for her taste in men. Other than his hot physique, I have no idea what Kylie saw in Beckett. I didn’t find him appealing in any way and was bored whenever he had page time.

Ricco, however, is another story. He drew me in from the start with his gallantry, sweetness, and good-natured teasing. I never knew what to expect from him, which kept me on my toes, especially after his dad showed up and Kylie found herself getting more involved with Ricco and placed in increasingly dangerous situations.

“‘Sorry. School night.’
It’s clear that he’s never heard this expression. ‘School night?’
‘Yes. That means we have class tomorrow. All the good little boys and girls go home and do their homework.’
A mischievous grin curves his lips. The light of challenge sparks in his eyes. He rests his hands lightly on my hips, leans down, and whispers in my ear, ‘What makes you think I’m good?’
I raise myself up on my tiptoes to whisper back, ‘What makes you think I’m not?’
He smiles at that. ‘I like you, Kylie Porter.’”

The only thing that kept me from being completely delighted by Informant is that it fell prey to a typical weakness of the New Adult novel: trite and unrealistic sex scenes. I am ALL for steamy lovin’ in my books, but graphic sex just doesn’t impress me if it’s cliché and uninspired. If your lovemaking reads like a catalogue of sexual acts (“He did this. Then I did that. Then we did this.”) I’m going to start skipping ahead to the next actual plot point.

I’m hoping that Informant will mark a turning point for my relationship with New Adult fiction. I haven’t been a fan of the genre up until this point, but if there are more books like Informant out there, there may be hope for an Angela/New Adult love affair yet!

Blog Tour, Excerpt, and Giveaway: This Much Is True by Katherine Owen

Blog tour banner for This Much Is True by Katherine Owen

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for This Much Is True by Katherine Owen! This Much Is True is the first book in the Truth in Lies series, and as part of my stop today I’ve got an excerpt from the book as well as two giveaways courtesy of the author. Happy reading!

About This Much Is True

Book cover for This Much Is True by Katherine Owen

Both on the verge of fame. A ballerina who lies. A baseball player who believes her. Well, the truth changes everything.

Tally Landon is just trying to survive the death of her twin sister, graduate from high school, and escape her tragic story by pursuing her ballet career in New York. She doesn’t count on Lincoln Presley, Stanford’s baseball wonder, to affect her at all. Adding him to a long list of one-night stands is the plan. Lying to him about her age and name is her standard method of operandi. She doesn’t count on being found out, on seeing him again, or falling in love.

Lincoln Presley’s life is all mapped out for him. There is only baseball. With Major League Baseball circling their favorite prospect with a lucrative offer, he cannot afford to mess up. And, he doesn’t; until he meets up with the girl he saved in that burning wreckage on the 101 on Valentine’s Day months before. By the time he learns her real name and of all the lies she’s told, he’s in far too deep to ever really let her go.

Fate has a different set of plans, but when fame and lies tear them apart, one truth remains.

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Excerpt from Chapter 30 of This Much Is True

Tally’s POV:

Marla announces she wants babies. Three babies in five years. She looks at me. I start to feel nauseous and must turn a little white. I look away from her and allow myself to think all these nasty thoughts. Three babies in five years with Charlie? Are you fucking kidding me? That doesn’t add up on any girl’s wish list. Charlie Masterson. A father? Say it isn’t so.

Yet she lays out this family plan the way you’d say, “After yoga, I’ll go to Lia’s for the mani-special and then wax on about hairstyles and hemlines until dinner.”

If I were gifted at making long-term plans, which by now we all know I’m not, and if I was at all hopeful, which we all know that I can never be, although it crosses my mind that it’s entirely possible these are all just huge, fucking, temporary setbacks and nothing more, even though it’s been going on for over three years now, since Holly died, and I met Lincoln Presley. Events that could be construed as somehow inevitably related. Yes, perhaps there’s an expiration date on the said pursuit of unhappiness. Perhaps, things will eventually go my way after I actually discover what that way is supposed to be.

About Katherine Owen

Author photo for Katherine OwenKatherine Owen writes contemporary edgy fiction, which translates to: she writes love stories that are contemporary in setting and both edgy and dark. Some readers term her books emotional roller coasters. With her writing, Owen admits she has a fondness for angst, likes to play with a little drama, and essentially toys around with the unintentional complications of love. She contends this began early on when she won a poetry contest at the age of fourteen and appears to be without end. Owen has an avid love of coffee, books, and writing, but not necessarily in that order. She writes both Contemporary Romance and New Adult fiction which includes her bestselling TRUTH IN LIES Series (a series despite despising ‘series’) beginning with This Much Is True and her latest release, The Truth About Air & Water. The TRUTH IN LIES series is fan-driven. So. There will be a third book about Linc and Tally released in 2015 titled Tell Me Something True.

About Owen’s fiction…This is NOT the light trope stuff. She travels a unique, writerly path and enjoys writing dark and angsty (a “non-word” she is fond of) emotional love stories. She often warns readers to be prepared with: time, tissues, wine, Advil or your drug of choice. And, as her most favored character, Lincoln Presley, would say, “do what you must, Princess.”

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Giveaways

Katherine is generously giving away copies of This Much Is True and its sequel The Truth About Air & Water. For a chance to win, please fill out the Rafflecopter forms below. Good luck!

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