Recommended Read, Review

Review: Diamond Ring by K.D. Casey (2023)

Unwritten Rules, Book #3

Reviews of Unwritten Rules Book #1 and Book #2

Heat Factor: If you’re looking for characters with ED due to medication with partners who are with them 100%, I have a book for you

Character Chemistry: Every time they were gutted, I was also completely gutted

Plot: Jake and Alex had a whirlwind rookie season, glued to each other, until it all crashed and burned. Ten years later, they’re forced back together on their old team for a last chance to win a championship ring.

Overall: I felt like Eeyore until the end, when I had all the warm fuzzies.

Continue reading “Review: Diamond Ring by K.D. Casey (2023)”
Hot Takes by Holly

Everybody Doesn’t Use a Protestant Cross!

This might seem like a weird hill to die on, but I honestly cannot with the little, gold, Protestant crosses in all the fan art of Ilya Rozanov of Heated Rivalry fame. 


Okay, Reid doesn’t specifically describe the appearance of the cross, but we’ve got some pretty clear indicators of what we’re dealing with here. In the first place, Reid specifically calls the item that Ilya wears a crucifix. 

A gold chain hung crookedly around Rozanov’s neck, the shiny crucifix resting on his left clavicle just above the famous (ridiculous) tattoo of a snarling grizzly bear (“For Russia! I had it before playing for Bears!”) on his chest. (P. 8)

I could add more citations, because “crucifix” is used a lot, but the first instance (within the first ten pages) is probably sufficient. 

By definition, a crucifix is “a representation of Christ on the cross” (thanks Merriam-Webster), so the plain Protestant cross is not it. 

A plain, Protestant cross. This is not a crucifix.

If you grew up in the West, you are probably familiar with the Catholic crucifix, which is typically not plain and simple. 

Catholic crucifix

Bare minimum, that’s what I would expect to see for Ilya. But no. Plain gold crosses all over the place.

If we’re really going to do our homework, though, we need to acknowledge that the Great Schism (a.k.a. The East-West Schism) occurred in 1054, less than two hundred years after the Christianization of Russia began, and only about a hundred years after the first ruler converted to Christianity. Russia was Christianized by eastern Christians, so Russian churches became Eastern Orthodox, not Roman Catholic. If you go to Russia in January, you will see Christmas trees because Christmas is celebrated on January 7, and the new year is celebrated the week after that. 

The present-day composition of Russian religion according to a relatively recent poll cited by the U.S. State Department indicates 63% of the population identifies as Orthodox Christian, 7% as Muslim, and 26% as unaffiliated (which the CIA factbook notes is a legacy of decades of Soviet promotion of atheism). The Russian government recognizes Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism as traditional religions. Ilya’s dad worked for the Minister of Internal Affairs, and knows the minister personally. He’s not some nobody, and the Russian government is still influenced by the Soviet government, in which success relied a lot on who you knew and how good a citizen you were. The probability of Mr. Rozanov marrying a woman who wasn’t a good Russian Orthodox woman is not high, both socially and just as a matter of basic statistical reasoning.

Ergo, Ilya wears a Russian crucifix.

The most noticeable elements of an Orthodox cross are the extra beams, one above the main crossbar and one nearer the base of the cross. So Ilya’s necklace should really look something like this:

Russian Orthodox crucifix

But if drawing a full-on crucified Jesus in the fan art is too much (which…okay), then can we at least get the more basic version right?

Orthodox cross

This hot take brought to you by Instagram.


Saturday Smutty Six: College Hockey

Next week is the Frozen Four college hockey tournament, which I only know about because of romance novels. So, to celebrate the educational nature of sports romance, we present these college hockey romances. They bring the drama of our early 20s and the drama of college sports championships. What could be better?

Continue reading “Saturday Smutty Six: College Hockey”

Review: Dino Stud by Lola Faust (2023)

Heat Factor: Only one vanilla scene? I was surprised.

Character Chemistry: If we know nothing else, we know Tallulah has the hots for Reid

Plot: PhD student Tallulah invites herself to a hidden, secret dinosaur ranch for a summer job

Overall: It’s more about the mystery of the dino ranch than about the dino stud (and please do take stud to mean its filthiest possible interpretation)

Continue reading “Review: Dino Stud by Lola Faust (2023)”
Hot Takes by Holly

That Terrible Green-Eyed Monster

I’m going to slide on into Holly’s Hot Takes for a moment to be yelly about jealousy in romance. That is to say, I’m going to be yelly about jealousy being a dealbreaker in romance.

Here’s why: jealousy is a human emotion. 

Refusing to allow characters this emotion is taking an entire work truck out of the romance garage. It is so useful for communicating by showing rather than telling, and it’s also useful for forcing protagonists to grapple with their feelings. 

Please consider: how do we understand that jealousy is happening? What POV are we in? 

If we’re in the head of the jealous character, how are they processing the emotion? How does it change their perception of the situation they find themself in? Is this character finally realizing that there are feelings or insecurities they were not previously aware of? 

If the POV is of the character subject to the jealousy, the question is not only how does that character experience and react to their love interest’s jealousy, but also: what is being communicated to the reader, and does the character understand the same thing as the reader or not? (This is especially helpful in single POV stories.)

Lick, which we just read and discussed on our podcast, is a single POV story. We have no idea what is happening in David’s head without reading what he’s saying and doing, and it’s all expressed through the lens of the narrator, Evie. Therefore, we have no way of understanding that he’s grappling with any emotions at all without him expressing those emotions. He’s jealous. Why is he jealous? Does he know why he’s jealous? Is he being honest with himself or anyone else? What needs to happen in order for him to overcome this jealousy and move forward?

When he’s mad at Evie for not remembering Las Vegas and wants a divorce, David still reacts jealously to his brother flirting with Evie, so we know that there’s something going on with him. Evie knows this and decides not to take it on since she’ll soon be divorced from him. But also we the reader get an inkling that David has his own insecurities and problems to overcome, we just don’t know what they are yet; it’s a hook. As the story continues, even though he’s promised to give Evie the benefit of the doubt, we see further instances when David is just not able to handle himself. It’s not until relatively late in the story that we finally get to learn some past history that adds context to his behavior…and that also reveals the internal problem that David needs to overcome in order to have his HEA. Is he on his best behavior? NO! But he’s having a growth arc just like Evie, even though Evie is the narrator. It’s a hallmark of romance!

I’m sure we can all agree that unchecked jealousy that is angry and controlling is not good. It’s red flag central when someone tries to isolate their partner because of feelings of mistrust and ownership. But we seem to have overcorrected from “actually, that jealous, dark romance hero behavior is NOT sexy” to “any kind of jealousy is a red flag so this is a bad hero,” and I’m not convinced that’s a better approach.

This hot take brought to you by other people’s reviews of Lick by Kylie Scott.