Ellora’s Cave, Dear Author & Lawsuits – Oh My!

One upon a time, as a younger but still voracious reader, I stumbled upon Ellora’s Cave, an Indie publishing company, and so my love of both ebooks and erotica was born. Back then they only offered PDF, and I STILL have some of those. But over the past few years EC has become stranger and stranger. All I can say is I’m way past disappointed and right into appalled. EC actually has the temerity to SUE a blogger for posting things that by all accounts seem to be true. I don’t know what the goal is, but for me, all I can say is they’ve lost a reader.

The post that spawned the lawsuit can be found here.

But the problems within Ellora’s Cave are deep and broad and should be brought into the light of day, not only for those existing authors and creators but for future ones. In internal emails, the CEO admits that “the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for ECon almost every new book we publish, with the exception of a handful of the highest sellers.”
There is a set of authors who have not received royalty payments in over six months. EC has blamed this repeatedly on a new accounting system installed in December of 2013.
CEO Marks admits that “already submitted finished books” will be paid but that “payment may be delayed.”
For editors, any partial work would not be paid, only finished work and that by finishing the work, they must accept the terms of the late payment.
Partial work that is completed should be sent in to be finished by an in house editor and no partial work will be paid for.
Failure to turn in either partial work or finished work will result in a 25% deduction of overall payment for that project.
The author portal has been shut down where a select few authors could check their royalties.
Authors request for return of their rights have been rejected and some are told that their books will be published with or without their approval.
The total sum of unpaid royalties, editor fees, cover artist fees is in the several thousands, perhaps approaching six figures.
EC has held warehouse sales advertised via online forums and through eBay.

Authors are now asking readers to not buy EC books. See Avril Ashton and Cat Grant.”

(Formatting issues in this excerpt are my own and not the results of DA)

And here’s the link for Dear Author’s response about the lawsuit.

All I can say is that Dear Author has shown a lot of class, I wouldn’t have been as nice, and I think EC is behaving childishly and throwing a whining tantrum. I hate to wish ill on someone, and I’m sad for the authors, editors, cover artists et al who are being hurt by this, but Tina/Jaid needs to be stopped.

Sale – Nora Roberts: The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy

Nora Roberts: The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy is currently on sale at Amazon only for $4.99. Since that is the price of the current cheapest book in the trilogy, it is an excellent deal. Hopefully some of the other retailers will price match. But for now, if you haven’t read them already, or you only have paper and are looking to pick them up in digital, it is a steal.


Review – Frozen

by Meljean Brook

Meljean Brook had been teasing us with the idea of Frozen for quite some time, and eventually she gave into the shame and got herself to finish it by posting it in serial format on her blog until it was finished. Her blogs of shame were a very clever stick to beat herself with, and was an excellent reward for those who have been waiting. It is currently still $0.99 in digital formats (that I understand may be subject to change). It is billed as a novella, but frankly, at 163 or so pages, that is really almost a novel.

Frozen relies heavily on the snowbound trope to keep the word count down and still leave us with fleshed out characters and conflicts, since there aren’t really mother people or places to devote word count to. It has a really interesting mythology, which makes it one of the fresher stories I’ve read in quite a while. This is categorically NOT your standard vampire, werewolf, ghost, or Fae story. I really, really enjoyed it. My one issue, is I am not a huge fan of first person narratives, particularly when I am in the heroine’s head. I like to get a bit more insight into the hero’s thought processes, and while we got to know Olivia rather well, Erik remained largely opaque even at the HEA. Overall, 4 stars, and more than worth the dollar price tag.

3.5 star review

Review – Mine to Have

Mine to Have

Mine to Have
by Cynthia Eden

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is book 5 in Eden’s Mine Series. While I suppose most of these could be read as stand-alones, really, this is sort of a saga of the most villain-beleaguered group of friends and family I think I have ever read. These are insta-hots and insta-obsession type books and are rather predictable, but they are so filled with drama that they are really kind of fun to read too. So here is a general breakdown of how they connect (minus any spoilers).

Trace (hero of book 1 & 2) is friends with Noah (hero of book 3) and Drake Archer (hero of book 4). Archer falls in love with Jasmine, who brings to the group her brothers Saxon (hero of book 5) and Victor (hero of book 6?).

Mine to Have is no exception to the rule of danger, bullets, blood, and betrayal. Saxon has been undercover for so long he doesn’t know precisely who he is anymore, but he has a definitive plan for who he wants to be and an exit plan that he is on the cusp of obtaining. Elizabeth is the ubiquitous woman in danger, but she is pretty feisty so I liked her quite a bit. Book 4 seemed to be the conclusion of the original set of villains and book 5 seems to set up this next arc of villains, and while I enjoyed the book, Victor kind of stole the show to me (as he did in the previous book as well). And while this does seem to set up the next book, he wasn’t just sequel bait. I think the biggest difference in this book, from the rest of the series, is how isolated the main couple felt from the rest of the group. I can’t tell if that was just the on the run aspect, or the fact that we have branched away from the original group, but it should be interesting to see how the rest of the series shakes out.

Overall, Cynthia Eden is an auto-buy for me because of the non-stop action and over the top instant devotion. I am not here for intricate world building or deep characterization; these are kind of the romance novel equivalent of Bruce Willis action films.

3.5 stars

3.5 star review

Review – Festive in Death

Festive in Death

Festive in Death
by J.D. Robb

This is book 39 in the series, not counting the 10 novellas. For anyone who’s maybe not read, you know, books, in the past two decades, J.D. Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts, under which she writes futuristic police procedural romantic suspense featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas, her husband Roarke, and their friends and colleagues. While each book has a completed mystery, the series as a whole follows the lives, loves, tragedies, and mysteries of the main and recurring characters. The series is as much, if not more, a character study, as it is whodunit. So, while each story presents a discrete mystery, and could likely be read as a stand-alone, I really wouldn’t, because otherwise you probably won’t have any incentive to care about these characters.

That being said, Festive in Death is somewhat lighter and less fraught than previous books. Eve is heading into the Christmas holidays, and she still isn’t a terribly festive person. But, she’s definitely more relaxed about the holidays than she has been in years past. That actually seems to be the tone of the book, how Eve and Roarke have settled into this life they have made which is so different than either of them ever expected to make. It is sweet and a bit sappy, but seeing as I have followed this series for quite some time, it was nice to see some of my favorite imaginary people without the life and death struggles. The mystery was kind of interesting, and it is nice when the “victim” is someone you can despise, though there was a bit of a twist in the end that was kind of sad all the way around.

As an aside, I still don’t particularly care for DeWinters. I can tell she is going to become an increasingly visible character in the series, but really, she rather rubs me the wrong way.

Altogether, this isn’t the strongest book in the series, but it is a solid entry that long time readers will likely enjoy and it isn’t anything that is likely to throw those readers out of the series. Eve has grown and changed into a more complete person, she has moved through most of her issues, and as I have said, it is nice to see her happy. That being said, we have kind of reached the point where it may be time to for Eve, and this series, to take those final steps to the end. I don’t think adding new characters is going to be enough to freshen the series for much longer of a run.

3.5 stars

3 star review

Review- Dark Blood

Dark Blood

Dark Blood
by Christine Feehan

This is book 26 in the Carpathian/Dark series, and most of us have been reading it since 1999, so Ms. Feehan kind of pre-dates the whole vampire craze, and it kind of shows. This book is absolutely not a stand-alone and you cannot just jump into the series from here, nothing would make any sense. Also, there will be spoilers.

I am going to admit, I did something I rarely do, which is read the reviews before reading a book I know I am going to read anyway. I don’t typically do that because for a book I know that I am going to read, I don’t want other people’s opinions to color mine. With this book however, I have been toying with quitting the series. It has dragged on a really long time and we finally got Skylar’s story, which is what I had been waiting for since Dark Legend in 2002. So needless to say, I went into this book with expectations, and frankly, they were negative ones. Several reviewers complained about angry sex being used to punish the heroine. Ever since I started with this series, the heroes have felt kind of rapey, there have definitely been elements of non-consent in these books, and a major theme has been that the hero basically takes over the heroine’s life and is rather controlling in every aspect-not just the sex. But the flip side has always been that the heroines typically fight back and try to obtain and maintain a sense of independence and self-reliance. Maybe it is too much to expect from a romance novel series, but this series always felt kind of like a mirror of the feminist movement to me, and in many ways the series seemed to be reflecting a movement towards more independent females who actually fight and have tremendous powers and gifts of their own, ones who are more self-reliant etc. Except lately it felt like more steps were being taken backwards than forwards. So I was prepared to hate this and just rip into it so that I could give up on the series altogether. But it really wasn’t like that. Yes, there is grudge sex and aggressive sex, but the heroine is actually into that. Where it not just ok in my book, what makes it so much a step in the right direction for this series, is that the Zev actually tells Brannislava that if she isn’t okay with things she needs to tell him and he will stop, and he doesn’t say that just at the beginning, there is ongoing verification of consent throughout an event. That is such a change from the first books that it is just extraordinary in my opinion. Yes, we have had gentler, more considerate heroes (Razvan comes to mind), but this is the first time we have had an extremely dominant aggressive one who requests consent.

Of course, now we get to the actual issues with the series as a whole, in my opinion. The sex is kind of boring but overly plentiful and utilizes the type of flowery language and long drawn out scenes that I am learning to loathe. There is also the made up Carpathian language and spells and chants that Feehan is obviously very proud of, because they are literally everywhere. They add absolutely nothing to the story for me, so I tend to skip anything that is italicized just for my own sanity. Those things have been around for quite some time in these books and while I have been able to get through it, I can’t tell if I am just getting more irritated with it over time, or if it is just becoming more pervasive.

What I am having trouble forgiving with this particular story is how repetitive and clunky it is. How many times do we really need to be reminded just what and who our main characters are? I don’t know, but I can guarantee you that it is less than how many times it happened in this book. And, there has been an overriding arc  of villains in this series that included the Mage Xavier and the Malinov brothers. Xavier and three of the Malinov brothers have been killed, but that still left us with 2 Malinov brother, one of whom has actually has two slivers of Xavier in him. Then we added the issues with the Lycans and as far as I am concerned, those things could and should have more than fulfilled the villain quotient for the rest of this series. But NO! We add the deus ex machina of all villain plot lines. Xavier wasn’t actually alone. Oh, no, he was actually one of a group of identical triplets who all pretended to be the same person and the only ones who actually knew were Brannislava and Tatjiana, and they don’t bother to say anything to anyone because they thought Xavier killed them. So Xavier wasn’t actually the mastermind behind the downfalls of the Carpathians, Jaguars, and the Lycans. Nope, he was just behind the Carpathians troubles, Xaviero has apparently been dealing trouble to the Lycans, and Xayvion was behind the destruction of the Jaguar race. And for some reason, Xavier was the only one literally rotting and requiring a new body even before he was killed, and these other two are doing just fine. And guess what? They are trying to bring Xavier back from the dead. Why? I am just not sure, Xayvion is obviously the more successful of the three, and Xavier is obviously the eff up who managed to out himself and screw up many times and get caught and killed, but whatever, they must need him to complete this mysterious plan that has been rocking along for hundreds of years. I’m baffled by the direction this took and I can’t quite decide if this is a direction Feehan has been planning since we found out Xavier sired triplets on the stolen Carpathian (come to think, how do we even know they ARE Xavier’s), or if after the last book she just said, you know, I am never going to get another 20+ books with the villains I’ve got, I’d better amp things up a bit. I also find myself a bit frustrated by how many additional supernatural creatures she’s been throwing at the series. We’ve now got demons and hellhounds and whatever else, and for the past 25 books no one ever came across them or mentioned them more than briefly in the case of the demons, but all of the sudden they just show up and people just know how to handle them, like ho hum, didn’t I mention the hellhounds…no, well, there they are, by the way you got any hyssop oil? This story is just…clunky.

So, as much as I am complaining, I am giving this 3 stars because IMO, Feehan’s heroes have become much less rapey and FINALLY we have a hero that checks consent, because it kept me entertained, and actually entertained enough that I will likely still read the next book (I just can’t quit Feehan), and nostalgia-because I have now been in this series for 26 books and apparently I just can’t quit Feehan.

3.5 star review

Review- Dylan’s Redemption

Dylan’s Redemption
by Jennifer Ryan

This is the third book in the series. I’ve previously read and reviewed the first two. There may be spoilers about those books in this review, so reader beware.

Return of Brody McBride

Falling for Owen

This is soap opera in novel form, so if that isn’t what you are in the mood for, you probably won’t enjoy this story. There’s over the top plot lines, calamity after calamity, characters monaloguing at each other rather than actual dialogue, and an oblivious hero who can’t see that two plus two equals four. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, I did, but having read the previous two I knew what I was in for.

Dylan McBride (cousin to the previous two McBride boys) thinks that Jessie Thompson, the woman he loved in high school, is dead and that her father killed her and got away with it. When Mr. Thompson drops dead, Dylan and the whole town finally learned that Jessie is actually alive, has been living in the next town over, and actually DOES BUSINESS in her hometown. See, as I said, total soap opera. Much like in Return of Body McBride, we have a heroine who has practically been in stasis since he left, and a hero who wasn’t quite so pure. This isn’t thrown in our faces quite as much with Dylan, and frankly, Dylan wasn’t quite so bad (but then he also didn’t have that sort of history that would make me forgive him as much so it evens out), and Jessie kind of had more reason than most to shut herself away from men. What I really liked about this story was how much each of them, but particularly Jessie, had accomplished on their own. They had lives, and careers, and friends and families of sort of their own. Yes, they have secrets and mis-communications and Dylan has to have an anvil dropped on his head because delicate hints that are like two by fours across the head just were not helping him discover her secrets, this is soap opera land after all. Still, I enjoyed reading about them and how they got together and dealt with their pasts. And this book, being the closing of the trilogy also clears up a lot of why the McBride brothers’ pasts were the way they were. And while this particular book doesn’t have the same kind of dangerous villain the previous two did, the villains were satisfyingly over the top bad and the resolution was equally satisfying and I was pleased with the happily ever after, as even with all the soap opera-esque elements, that part felt real to me.

3.5 stars and I’d recommend this series to anyone with a yen for soap opera on paper.