Ellora’s Cave, $5.99, ISBN 978-1419914560
Fantasy Erotica, 2008
The usual PSA first: I am reviewing the Torrid Tarot edition of Eve Vaughn’s Caleb’s Woman, and I have no idea whether the edition on sale out there at the moment has been revised in any way. Hence, don’t hold me to anything that is mentioned here but have been removed or revised in any subsequent edition, alright?
So, this one. You know how some romance stories are practically paint-by-numbers efforts? Well, this one is the textbook example of one, with a shopping list with all the items ticked thrown in for good measure. If this one sounds like every other “naughty”, “erotic”, “alpha”, “shifter” story that crash and devastate the lands back in those days like some tsunami of rabid lemmings, well, I can only wonder whether that is intentional on the author’s part. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have nothing against writing for money and chasing trends for the dough, but please, make the end result fun and interesting. This one, though, it’s basically like that overused meme. How much like Lora Leigh would you like this to be? Eve Vaughn says, “Yes!”
Stop me if you have read this one before. Sommer McGregor is celebrating with the obligatory more outgoing BFF because, finally, after years of being under the thumb of ridiculously overprotective folks, she finally has her first taste of independence when she opens her own catering business. Now, don’t be cynical—I know she’s a romance heroine and hence, there is a 99.999 999% that it will soon crash and burn, and she will have to sex-and-true-love her way into a hot rich man’s bank account to continue playing at being a businesswoman, but come on, let’s just be happy for her. She will soon be even happier, as every orifice of hers, and I do mean every orifice aside from her nostrils and the ear canals (those will be reserved for the Japanese special edition, I guess) will soon be ravaged by our hero Caleb Masters.
Of course his name is Caleb Masters. What are you expecting, Harold Martin?
Oh, and he’s an Alpha. Of course.
When I first try to read this thing, I have to stop and go read the summary on an online bookstore page instead. This is because the author throws so many characters at me—alphas, betas, hung-asses, metas, hottas, dongas…—that I am completely lost. The prologue is in fact an advertisement of the parade of penises that await the reader when they catch ’em all in the series, entirely disconnected from the rest of the story. Given that I have come across many such advertisements for so many interchangeable beefcakes in this genre by now, my reaction is a meh and an eye-roll. I also somewhat resent the fact that I have to make an effort to go somewhere else to figure out the plot. Reading this one is like turning on a YouTube video only to be bombarded by twenty ads even before the video starts, only these ads are passed off as an integral part of the video.
So, the plot. It’s the same thing. Sommer wants to take her newfound independence further by putting out to the guy she always has the hots for—the hardest thing to do, clearly, when you are a hot woman. Conveniently, enough, he has always wanted her too. They have sex, and then there is some plot, er, “plot” that is plonked in so that readers won’t experience some kind of post-purchase guilt for having read something that is pornographic. I mean, sure, the heroine has all kinds of sex here, described in detail, but thanks to the “plot”, our conscience remains clear. Every inch of that veiny plot plunging into the intellectual crevice of enlightenment only brings us to a higher place, so all bless Ellora’s Cave and their authors that worked so hard to put the cha-cha-cha into our chakras.
Seriously, I don’t know how to tell people to read this thing instead of any random shifter-sex-alpha thing that exists out there. It has all the same fundamental elements. In this one, Caleb actually goes the extra mile to act like a nice guy, such as telling Sommer that she really doesn’t have to give up the backside if she didn’t want to, he thinks she is hot, et cetera, but if I look at his behavior, it’s still the same old alpha-me, butts-up-you routine. Sure, he is willing to withdraw that thing if she says no, or so he claims, but he sure does his best to make sure that she can’t really say no. He still controls her actions and even her thought process, and he also makes sure that everyone knows that she is his possession. So yes, this is just the same old alpha type given a new coat of paint to hide the fact that he’s just the same old bloke in every other romance of this sort.
I suppose the author’s narrative is on the okay side, so it’s not like reading this thing will cause one to experience cramps or any other bothersome conditions, but then there is the unintentional tidal wave of cringe waiting to hit any reader.
Concern beat within his chest. The last thing he wanted was for her to change her mind when he was so fucking horny. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“They’re so small,” she sighed mournfully.
Bwahahaha… oh wait, she’s talking about her breasts.
Caleb palmed his massive member. “Wider.”
Spreading her legs as far as they’d go, she grasped the slick inner folds, pulling, yanking them apart.
“Wider,” he demanded with a growl.
Sommer gasped. “I can’t open myself anymore.”
“Yes, you can and you will, now do as I tell you.” His words were spoken softly, but his tone left no room for argument.
I don’t know about anyone else, but all these “Open wide!” scenes always feel more painful than sexy to me. Is he trying to shove a telephone book inside that thing?
“Why did you mark me? I’m not Wulfen. You didn’t have to.”
“You belong to me now, so why wouldn’t I?”
“Because I’m human. It isn’t necessary.”
“It’s very necessary. I don’t want anyone else sniffing around my woman as long as we’re together.”
Oh, for heaven’s sake. Is the author saying that our hero doesn’t trust our heroine from putting out to the nearest bloke, or that he thinks his own people are all rapists that will assault any “unmarked” woman?
She licked her lips, hesitating only a moment before giving him what he wanted. “Please fuck my ass! Fuck me now!”
I am pretty sure I have come across this particular moment in every Ellora’s Cave. I suspect this part must have been dutifully added in by the editor herself, as part of the efforts to meet the heroine-screeching-to-be-butt-stuffed quota of the month.
So, Caleb’s Woman. Should one bother with it? I’m leaning towards “Who cares?”, as it’s not like one can’t find a similar romance elsewhere. This one is really generic in a made-to-make-money way, with only the cringe being its standout trait from the rest of its kind.