If you’re like me, in years passed you probably packed a suitcase filled with books to read on your summer vacation. That’s no longer necessary now that ebooks are so prevalent, so many backlists available, and so easily on so many devices.
Recently I’ve been reading a lot from my phone, and facilitating that is a $2.99 app called Calibre Companion (available through Google Play or Amazon). Calibre Companion allows me to wirelessly upload from the Calibre ebook organization program I wrote about last year directly to my phone, where I may read any number of formats (epub, mobi, html, etc.) on FBReader. FBReader is a free app that maintains all the changes I make to an ebook’s meta data—”Moon Called” becomes “Mercy Thompson 1 - Moon Called”—so that it’s easy to find books within a series.
That little tip aside, let’s talk about some of July’s ebook reissues. First up is a book that actually became available digitally at the end of June: Kat Martin’s Innocence Undone (1997), one of two backlist titles now readable on the device of your choice. (The other Martin title is Midnight Rider, first published in 1996.)
Another new e-book reissue is Exit to Eden, a 1985 erotica title from Anne Rice writing as Anne Rampling. You may recall the poorly received 1994 movie starring Dana Delaney and Rosie O’Donnell. FYI, long available for digital reading is Rice’s erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy, which she wrote under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure in 1983; I’ll talk about that a little later.
And if you read Keri Arthur (the Riley Jenson and/or Dark Angels series), her Nikki and Michael quartet, originally published between 2000 and 2004 by indie publisher ImaJinn, will be reissued between July and October digitally and in print by St. Martin’s Press. The first book, Dancing with the Devil, goes on sale at the end of July.
Kat Martin: Innocence Undone (First published in 1997, digital reissue June 25, 2013)
Innocence Undone is my favorite Kat Martin book. In it a delightful, interfering relative schemes and plots a marriage between his son, a naval captain, and his ward, the daughter of a whore he gave the Eliza Dolittle treatment at the finest finishing schools in England. Alas, Matthew Seaton sees Jessica Fox as a hoyden and troublemaker, and though he becomes more and more attracted to her, is determined to marry a certain elegantly genteel woman. Eventually, goaded by a close friend—who earns a strong secondary romance of his own with a friend of the heroine’s—Matthew drunkenly interrupts Jessie’s marriage to a perfectly nice duke, punching him out at the altar before absconding with her. That's when the story really gets good.
Though there’s a good bit of humor in Innocence Undone, it's also deeply emotional, in particular its two-hanky ending, involving the kind of self-sacrifice that those who have loved deeply will recognize as authentic. When I re-read it to write about it here, I cried all over again...and I remembered almost word for word what was coming.
Anne Rice: Exit to Eden (First published in 1985, digital reissue July 30, 2013)
To the uninitiated, Exit to Eden and the Sleeping Beauty trilogy almost defy description. The books have informed any number of erotic romance authors in recent years, which is why they’re important. They overwhelmed me when I first read them, and they still do, even though I’ve since read quite a lot of BDSM-themed romances.
In Exit to Eden, Elliott, a photojournalist and danger junkie, commits to becoming a sex slave at The Club for two years. He falls in love early in his stay with Lisa, one of The Club’s founders, at a time when she’s experiencing an existential crisis. Though the sexual content is luridly detailed, I’ve never found it particularly erotic, unlike my reaction to similar scenes in other books, particularly those by Cherise Sinclair. It’s only when the Mistress/slave stuff is left behind that I found the narrative at all compelling. What I like best of all is that portion of the book in which Lisa spirits Elliott off to New Orleans, in particular, Rice’s lush descriptions of the city.
In the Sleeping Beauty trilogy, long available digitally, the Princess Beauty is awakened after a century’s sleep not by the kiss of a prince, but by sexual congress. The Prince claims her as his pleasure slave to serve at his mother’s court as one sexual plaything among a myriad of other princes and princesses from across the land.
Throughout the series Beauty is introduced to every sort of kink and sexual punishment imaginable, and the vast majority of it did nothing for me. But she flourishes, and by the time she returns home, she fears she must make do with one of the Vanilla princes who present themselves to her. Luckily, Rice wraps it up with a very BDSM happily ever after.
Two more recent series, one by Cheyenne McCray/Jaymie Holland and the other by Lacey Alexander, owe a lot to Rice's trilogy.
McCray's Wonderland series (King of Hearts, King of Spades, King of Diamonds, and King of Clubs) was reissued as the Taken by Passion series by McCray writing as Jaymie Holland. In it, four women are claimed by shape-shifting kings of a fantasy world known as Tarok, a land of male dominance and female submission. The kink, aided by magic, is imaginative enough to keep the virtual pages turning. In my view McCray's series provides a more sensual punch than Rice's trilogy. A suspenseful sub-plot involving the kings’ sister gone bad runs through each of the initial books and becomes even more intense in the spin-off series written with Mackenzie McKade, Lord Kir of Oz and culminating in Kalina’s Discovery.
Alexander’s Brides of Caralon series shares the old world vibe of Rice's trilogy. Seductress of Caralon is a short prequel and quite sexy. Rituals of Passion takes the alpha lord and defiant maiden trope found in so many medieval romances and sexes it up significantly. Those who’ve read Rice's erotica will recognize the “pony play” in Master of Desire. Upon first read I didn’t care for MoD, but when I tried it again with more erotic romance reading under my belt, I came to appreciate it more. That said, you won't miss a thing by skipping the final book in the series, Carnal Sacrifice.
Keri Arthur: Dancing with the Devil (First published in 2000, digital and print reissue July 30, 2013)
Former street kid and tough as nails Nikki James now works as a P.I. in Australia. The man who saved her from the streets assigns her to keep tabs on a wealthy man’s daughter. Her psychic abilities help her on the job, but she’s too late; a crazed vampire takes control of the young woman one night, and rescuing her will involve fighting his zombie minions.
Michael Kelly will stop at nothing in his efforts to kill that crazed vamp. He saves Nikki that night, and though the two begin to search for the young woman and her master, they are not after the same thing. But Michael knows Nikki’s psychic skills make her a target, and assuring her safety becomes one of his primary goals. Michael’s keeping secrets, though, and once they are revealed, Nikki’s fear of connection, of allowing herself to become emotionally vulnerable, kick in.
The book ends with a relationship cliffhanger, but because it’s called the “Nikki and Michael” series, readers can relax. What’s nice is that the series is being released one month after another between July and October, and I’m looking forward to reading their reunion in book two.
Dancing with the Devil has problems, to be sure, but Arthur’s ability to spin a tale, build and maintain suspense, and create a believable if troubled romance is evident even though she didn’t hit the mainstream for several years after this book was first published. Those problems I mentioned mostly involve Nikki’s stubbornness, of the type that makes women in horror movies go into a dark basement without a light. If you know that going in, I think it’ll help.
Hearts in Darkness, book two in Arthur’s reissued series, goes on sale at the end of August. It’ll be one of the books I write about next month.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Keep up with her on her My Obsessions tumblr blog, Goodreads (where she spends much of her time as late), follow her on Pinterest, or on @laurie_gold, where she mostly tweets about publishing news and [probably too often] politics.