Double Down: 7/31
Inside Bet: 8/28
Hold 'Em: 9/25
Reviewing: electronic ARCs directly from author
A Few Ground Rules
I normally don't review erotica here at Alpha Heroes. It's not that I might not read it occasionally; I just find that it's too hard for me to talk about what I like about the story without getting way over my comfort zone in the territory of "what I'm comfortable telling the internet about myself."
I'm making an exception here, in one way, but I'm not breaking my rule about my comfort zone, and here's why: Double Down is still a romance, and that's the context of my review.
What's the Difference?
...you might ask. Unsurprisingly, I have an opinion on that.
Some erotica is just a string of sex scenes with the absolute minimum of character or story--not that there's anything wrong with that. Some, especially those that have a bit of kink, often feature a character arc that have to do with one character or the other learning about their sexuality, where the partner is really just placeholder for that discovery. And that's ok too, but it's not necessarily a romance in my book.
Why Not Both?
Occasionally, you find a book that has it all -- a tender romance, a couple that falls in love, and a strong dose of hot, playful sex. This trilogy checked all the boxes for me, but the proportion of erotic scenes to character or plot will land it on the erotica side of the spectrum. The three books are centered around three comrades at an Air Force training base. Their bonds of friendship are strong, forged in combat and tempered through some years as trainers, flying training missions against rival squadrons.
Here's the blurb from the first book:
As part of the 64th Aggressor Squadron, Major Ryan “Fang” Haverty flies like the enemy to teach Allied pilots how not to die. The glittering excess of the Strip can’t compare to the glowing jet engines of his F-16. But a sexy, redheaded waitress in seamed stockings? Now she gets his blood pumping.This book and its partners in the trilogy easily qualify as romance as well as erotica. With a typical romance, we have sexual chemistry early on, and usually the author lets the tension sizzle and build while they fall in love. In the Vegas Top Gun books, each couple indulges in some extremely hot sex right at the beginning, and the tension comes from their emotional journeys, not from sexual anticipation. Each of the three books ventures a little bit afield of vanilla sex, but not terribly "out there." (Unfashionably, there is no menage, go figure.)
Cassandra Whitman’s good-girl ways haven’t earned any slack from her manager ex-boyfriend, or prevented a bad case of frazzle from holding down two and a half jobs. She sure wouldn’t mind letting the handsome Southern charmer shake up her routine.
Their wild weekend lives up to Sin City’s reputation. Especially when they discover a matched passion for roleplaying. For Cass, it’s an exciting departure from her normal, shy persona. But for Ryan, it triggers memories of a time when his fetish drove away the woman he loved—leaving him reluctant to risk a repeat performance.
Except Cass refuses to settle for ordinary ever again. She’s about to show the man with hair-trigger hands that she’s got a few surprise moves of her own.
A Lid for Every Pot
What the stories have in common though, touches on one of my favorite themes in romance - the idea of finding another person who is just right for you - for your hopes, dreams, lifestyle, and yes, desires. It almost doesn't matter what flavor of adventure the author scoops up - what matters is that these lovers take chances with each other, and that they discover their partners not only aren't repelled, but embrace, enjoy, and embellish on those secret desires.
I like the everyday quality of the first two heroines; I enjoyed reading about Cass's family and career challenges, Ryan's support of them, and I think, how her experiences with Ryan gave her the confidence she needed to make some good changes. I liked how well Heather's professional competence suited her personality and her fit with Jon.
Leah and Michael are perhaps the couple that I have the least in common with, and to be honest I've never enjoyed femdom erotica, but I liked this story anyway! When I want erotica I usually look for stories that embody my own fantasies, which this doesn't, BUT as a romance it works very well because it's a kink that sizzles between Michael and Leah. I've read romances that worked for me before where one or the other of couple isn't my cup of tea, but the author convinces me that the two are right for each other--which is far more important. That's what happens in this story. And Katie Porter writes a male sub story that doesn't feminize or emasculate the man, which is pretty rare, and I suspect, difficult to pull off, so I think they* get some pretty good kudos for that.
Hold the Angst
These are not tortured-hero (or heroine) stories. Although the fighter pilot thread adds some glam and adrenaline, these are for the most part, everyday folks with everyday problems. The various conflicts that the couples face are not going to tear your heart out, which makes for a fairly quick, light read. Just the thing for a warm summer evening, if you ask me.
Years ago when I went to my first "industry event" - a regional RWA meeting-- I first heard the terms "spicy" and "sweet" to differentiate between romances that had explicit sex and those that didn't (it was a talk by Virginia Henley, and yes, references to sausages occurred!). These days, we don't have to choose. This trilogy is spicy and sweet, making me think of something like this:
Around the Blogosphere
Looks like it's still a bit early for the blog reviews to get rolling but check out the GoodReads page; reviews are starting to accumulate there first.
As always, if you have reviewed this book, please feel free to leave a link in comments!
*Katie Porter is the writing team of Carrie Lofty and Lorelie Brown. The Vegas trilogy is their first collaboration.