Say My Name – A Review

This review includes spoilers

My 2018 reading project takes me to the library weekly for another handful of romance books. One of the four I grabbed last weekend was this novel by Allegra Huston. Please don’t read further if you haven’t yet read this book, because I’m going to talk about details.

Apparent in the first few pages was this book’s noncompliance with standard romance fare. As the story developed, that first impression solidified. For one thing, the author’s skill with language and flow set it apart from average fiction. Delightful reading full of luscious description and mysterious character development.

I don’t quite agree with the library’s decision to classify this a romance. Maybe that’s good because that category might gain it more readers than if was shelved as literary fiction. But that’s the feel of it—literary.

Yes, it’s erotic but only here and there. That was the main deviation from the romance norm. Even Regency romances with all their corset stays manage to convey intense physical desire and the ripping of clothes pretty much on a page-by-page basis. Say My Name? Not so much. Rather, this novel includes a lot of navel gazing by this woman who changes so much in the course of the story.

The premise is that a middle aged severely under-developed woman meets a man twenty years younger who manages to wake her up in all possible ways. The story doesn’t hang on that however, but rather on her discovery of an antique viola da gamba with a bashed-in back. Turns out the young man is a musician and their mutual interest in the instrument drives the plot alongside their mutual attraction.

Then there’s the largely absent husband of said woman, a tormented soul flailing around trying to discover himself while, in the process, continuing to walk all over her. There’s a point near the end where he gets what’s coming to him, a triumphant moment for any woman who ever wanted to take a two-by-four to a similar man. So thanks for that, Ms. Huston.

The novel is set in the present day. For me, the drawback in reading this was my disbelief that any woman of our times could possibly be this inexperienced, this utterly out of touch with herself. I suppose it’s possible—anything is. But that particular aspect of her personality, which happened to be a major factor in how the story unfolded, really kept coming back as I read.

Are there really housewives out there who silently cook, clean, do laundry, and put up with a completely disinterested aloof husband? For all those years? On what planet? I mean, there are television shows, movies, novels, wine, and girlfriends to help you out if that condition applies. Who simply curls up inside herself never questioning that life might be better? Are there people out there who never listened to rock ‘n’ roll? Never heard The Doors sing “Break on thru to the other side…”?

But okay, I’ll set that aside for a minute while I talk about the younger guy. Mmmm, he’s scrumptious. Tall, dark, and handsome with green eyes that never let her go. Bold, ready to take her the minute they meet. But wait—I never hear him say what exactly it is about her that draws him like a moth to flame. Why does this fabulous young male so sought after by an endless herd of young attractive women decide he has to have a woman twice his age?

He thinks she’s beautiful. He likes that she’s cloistered inside herself. Maybe it’s his heroic urge to free her from all that swaddling and help her breathe in the air of life as an independent strong adult female. If so, his prescience is kind of staggering.

There are several places that drifted off the page for me, one of them her dive into sculpting and then her crazy idea to create a dildo in the shape of a tulip. This makes NO SENSE! How such a shape could be inserted is one painful question, but then how could it possibly be pleasurable while riding along inside her is another. For me, the story also fell off a cliff in the last scene of their sexual intimacy when he convinced her to swallow a Quaalude and then she wakes up to the vicious actions of one of his former girlfriends. I mean, why? Non sequitur.

Throughout the book, which I lingered over just to savor the language, I kept thinking this had to be something of an allegory. But what? What possible metaphorical meaning could there be behind an older woman and younger man joining in a bizarre love affair?

I haven’t figured it out, so if you have a clue please let me know. My thoughts so far are that if the author had any such intent, maybe the characters represent different parts of ourselves, she the intellect with its obedience to rules and patterns and habits we all craft to give our lives structure, structures that become a prison of sorts keeping us locked in step with what we’ve been doing for too long. Maybe he’s the art, the muse, the music and poetry and wild uninhibited rush into the unknown that –if we allow it into our lives—can awaken us to the terrible awful joy of being alive. That’s sex for you, a mechanism that takes us out of the ho-hum daily grind and, at least potentially, pops us up on top of a cloud where light shines brilliantly all around us.

Maybe that’s just me. In my writing, my objective is to show how sex serves a transformative role for people caught in an unhappy life. Sex is a doorway, an opening to the inner self—if we let it. That’s why I remain so frustrated with people/society who continue to be uncomfortable with open sexuality in literature. That said, the author here doesn’t linger on nipples and clitorises and neither does she actually ever present the word ‘cock.’ That’s another clue that this isn’t ‘romance’ in its standard iteration.

I’m happy that Ms. Huston created this story. As I read, I kept getting the feeling that it’s based on a real life experience in more ways than one. It seems older than our present day, mostly because the woman is so repressed, almost Victorian. But then, the present day is when we might be most likely to find a young man like this, dissolute and unstructured and so determined to pursue his reality in unconventional ways. I won’t soon be able to forget it.

The Romance

gandyThat little spot in your heart that still believes in fairy tales, in the prince in shining armor who will swoop in and make everything right—that spot lives on in women no matter how life’s disappointments have crushed us down. That man who cheated on you, hurt you, left you with debt and children and heart-stopping pain? That man who never lived up to his promises, your expectations? Those men are out there. We know them.

But surely there’s one man, one perfect man, waiting just for you.

This is the lure of romance. This is the duty romance writers must fulfill. It’s a daunting task.

On one hand, the fictional hero must be suitably flawed—irascible, a little too proud, bullheaded. He’s impossibly unattainable, not our type, completely out of our league. Despite his supremely arrogant demeanor, deep inside he’s suffering. He needs our love even if he doesn’t yet know it.

We can’t turn our back on him even when we try.

On the other hand, our hero must be exquisitely capable of seeing through our defenses and, against his intent, is drawn to the task of making us happy. He’s ruggedly handsome, his body sculpted like a Greek god. He’s intelligent and sensitive, thoughtful and kind. Above all, his sexual prowess leaves us without recourse.

He is specially made just for us. The soul mate. The man who fits us inside and out.

Not all woman are alike. Thankfully neither are authors of romance. For every author who tends to write the strong silent type, there are others who create male leads with a talent for witty banter and intellectual pas de deux. There are heroes in hard hats and those who carry Viking swords. Rich men with tortured pasts, lost men clinging to the shambles of their lives.

For every story that follows a woman burdened by life’s tragedies and unable to continue, another story reveals a woman too hardened to give a man a chance. Stubborn women. Faltering women. Terrified women. We’re all in there.

The plot takes us through the journey, scenes of seduction that thrill us, scenes of rejection and conflict that remind us of what we’ve suffered. In these stories, we look for something to believe in, some revelation, some escape. The knight on the white horse may not be on our doorstep but maybe the heart and soul of such a man lingers inside the furnace repair man or the man staring at us across the McDonald’s parking lot.

It’s the possibility that tempts us, makes us believe enough to pick up yet another book and indulge in the fantasy. It’s a sacred task, this spinning of tales that revitalize us, inspire and comfort us. I for one am an author who cherishes the opportunity to participate in this world of magic.

Long live the dream!

Free — Limited Time Offer!

CaerII cover ebook
Free E-Books to THREE WINNERS!
 
For your chance to win an ebook copy of the newly released Caerwin & Marcellus PLUS an ebook copy of the first book in this two-book story, Caerwin and the Roman Dog, subscribe to Liz’s Hot News! This e-newsletter arrives in your inbox once a month full of sexy shorts, special offers, and much more. No obligation, no cost–this newsletter will quickly become one of your favorite hot spots.
 
To subscribe and enter to win, visit http://eepurl.com/bHOyS9

In one day’s time, Caerwin’s life changes forever. Everything she knows is lost in a vicious bloody battle—her family with its network of kinsmen, her home at the bustling hillfort of western Britannia, her ancient way of life as a Celt. Reeling in shock, her wrists and ankles bound, she faces the man responsible.

She spits at his greeting and vows to kill him.

Marcellus, commander of Rome’s Legion XIV Gemina, spares this fiery young beauty from the slave traders who take away survivors of her tribe. War hardened and even more inured by Imperial Rome’s dissolute ways, he’s drawn to her innocence.

He wants her. He’ll make her his no matter what it takes.

Contest ends at Midnight Saturday July 30. Adults only due to explicit and occasionally dark sexual content.

Jarrod Bancroft — his time is now

Jarrod the novel copyIt started innocently enough. A rich young man in search of adventure in sadistic humiliation. An older woman intent on her profession as dominatrix. Their crossed paths should have been six weeks of a purely business relationship.

But things never go as planned.

The story of Jarrod Bancroft becomes much more than scenes of extreme sexual kink. Hope rejected, regret and anguish, terror in captivity, and an awful truth about Jarrod’s family emerge in this richly-presented series. Told in stunning detail, Jarrod Bancroft’s adventure reveals old lies, ugly threats, and the raw human need for love.

Averaging 4.5 star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!

“…hotness, explosive sex scenes and most of all one of Lizzie Ashworth’s signature immersive plots, which keep me returning to her books.” Kirsty

I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of writing and soon lost myself in the story.” Tracy

“…surprising revelations, steamy sex and desperation…” Donna

Book I ebook FREE at the following retailers:

Smashwords           Barnes and Noble           Amazon

Book II and Book III ebooks only $2.99!

Paperback Jarrod Bancroft: The Novel includes all in Books I, II, and III

Buy it at Amazon for only $11.69

Another excerpt, Faint Heart

1780877_679810408732762_2039753660448518315_nPart of him wanted to run after the car, call for her to come back, the same way he’d felt that night so many years before. Throat tight, he opened the gate and walked into the back yard, where his dog had always stayed, where the toys of his childhood had been tossed around, where he parked his bike. All of it lay in his chest like a fresh bleeding cut.

Morgan Woods

~~

Great reviews stacking up for this sexy, contemporary romance!

 

Excerpt, Faint Heart

field creek 0001When Cara looked up, Morgan’s eyes lingered on her mouth and heat flared to her nipples. They talked about the natural flow of water and spreading it wider for better visual access, and when she caught his lazy glance, she was sure he was talking about something else entirely. Her eyes followed the stroke of his tongue across his lips after he sipped his scotch. She glimpsed the base of his throat where the movement of his swallowing shifted into the ‘v’ of his shirt. Her head spun with the wine and his laugh and the sheer pleasure of sitting with him.

She leapt up to stir the potatoes. A quietly stern voice lectured her from the back of her brain and pointed out that the real reason she invited him was that more than anything, she wanted to be carried away in his strong arms. Again. Only this time, straight to her bed. And now, it seemed things were headed in that direction.

Panicky alarm bells clanged in her head. How could she get out of this? Did she even want to get out? Wasn’t the real plan to go to bed and get all this drama settled?

Oh, shit, she was so confused.

She turned and ran smack against his chest. He took her shoulders in his hands and pulled her up toward him as his mouth lowered to hers. Blindly, she lifted her mouth and pressed it against his, sinking immediately into a blissful chorus of white noise. His lips brushed and teased, crushed and pushed, and then the tip of his tongue slid against her lips. Fire shot through her stomach.

Oh god in heaven, she wanted him. Her mouth opened against his lips as a quiet sigh formed in her chest. Her hands swept past his warm shoulders and splayed across his muscled back. His hands slid down her arms then released the tie in her hair. His fingers plunged deep into its thickness.

She felt him questioning, pausing. He pulled back, his intense blue eyes half closed.

“Cara,” he whispered, “I dream about you.”

Buy link: Amazon

Book 2 in Jarrod series…

One of the supreme joys of writing –for me at least–is stories that write themselves. Jarrod Bancroft and his stern Madam, Macie Fitzgerald, broke onto the printed page that way, and there seems no stopping them. Now, in Book 2 of the series, Valentine’s Day provokes a darker round of self-examination for them both. Snowy weather and blazing sex in this novella of 18,800 words.

cupid_love_heart_58059

Spice for the holidays

A new short fiction, A Gift for Jarrod: A Very Merry BDSM Christmas. Novella length and guaranteed to warm you up no matter how cold it is outside!

Amazing how sometimes stories almost write themselves. This was one of those thrilling experiences for me as an author, just letting go of the chatter in my mind to hear the characters tell me what they did next. Wow!

Check out the blurb in my book list. I’d love to hear what you think.

What she wants…

The profile of his wide shoulders was unmistakable, the way his neck turned. Shock tore through Tyler. She wheeled around to face the direction they’d just come and grabbed at Ronnie’s arm.

“Come on,” she hissed.

“What the…” Ronnie’s dark eyes flashed as she glanced around.

Crowds thronged the big parking lot and sidewalks, clustering in friendly mobs at each of the farmers’ market colorful canopies flapped in the breeze over booths where tables overran with bright yellow squash, deep red tomatoes, onions with long green tops, heaps of okra and green beans, baskets of apples, peaches, grapes. Fresh cut red and yellow zinnias, giant pink and white lilies, sprays of white baby’s breath and blue cornflower, daisies and sunflowers brimmed from tall cylinders. Bunches of aromatic herbs sent their fragrant scent into the warm sunshine—basil, sage, chives, many more that Tyler couldn’t name.

Children ran by laughing, and for a moment, Tyler felt suspended in time, like she no longer stood there frozen but had somehow floated into the air and hovered over the scene like a gliding bird. Ronnie squeezed her hand.

“Ty?”

“L-Lee,” she managed. “I’m sure it’s him. My god.” Tyler forced herself to take a breath. Her skin felt tingly, like her whole body had gone numb.

Ronnie peered around, and Tyler jerked on her hand. “Don’t look. He’ll see you.”

“Where the hell is he?”

“Back there, halfway down,” Tyler tilted her head briefly. “Don’t look, damn it. Let’s get out of here.”

“Hey, calm down. You’re acting like you’re in high school or something. What’s the big deal—I thought you were over him.”

A flush spread up Tyler’s neck and her cheeks were on fire. The big deal. She could hardly form words, let alone imagine trying to stand in front of Lee Hatfield with his blue-gray eyes staring down at her. She swallowed and stifled the impulse to run. Instead, she forced her feet to move, one step, then another, until she could put as much distance as possible between them. She shouldered through a crowd gathered around a pancake stand. The scent of maple syrup cloyed in her throat sending more unwanted memories racing through her mind.

Ronnie tugged on her arm as she walked beside her. “You’re not solving anything, you know. If he wants to see you or talk to you, he’ll find you no matter how many times you escape.”

“No,” Tyler shook her head, her jaw clenched. She stopped at the crosswalk, staring intently at the traffic signal willing it to change. “Anyway, he doesn’t want to see me. I just can’t have it look like I want to see him.”

“You do want to see him, silly. It’s written all over you.”

“See?!” Tyler stared again at the light. More people gathered, waiting to cross to where all their cars were parked. Another crowd had gathered on the opposite side. “He’ll know. I can’t do this. I should have known this was a stupid idea.”

“What, going out? Damn it, Tyler, you can’t hide forever.”

The light would never change. She was trapped here, and any minute he would be standing behind her, whispering in his low rumbling voice. His hands would grip her shoulders, her waist, and her body would soften, and his mouth would lower toward hers. She closed her eyes as tears welled in the corners. Her lip hurt, and she realized she’d bitten it so hard she tasted blood.

Like magic, the light finally did change, and they were swept across the wide boulevard with the rest of the crowd. Gravel crunched under her feet as they neared Ronnie’s white compact sedan. Ronnie stopped and rested against the back of the car, peering up over her sunglasses.

“You’re ridiculous, you know. There’s nothing in the world you want more than Lee Hatfield. You know it and I know it.” She waved her hand as Tyler started to protest. “Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re still being ridiculous. I wanted to spend the morning over there, buy some veggies, have some pancakes. Now I’m over here at my car way too soon.”

Tyler crossed her arms. “Fine. I’ll stay in the car. You go over there and do whatever.”

“No, hell no, you might stroke out if you thought I’d see him, maybe talk to him, tip him off about how you really feel.”

“No. You wouldn’t dare.” Tyler stood straight, pulling her long dark hair back from her face and twisting it over her shoulder. A faint breeze stirred over her neck. Insanely, it felt like Lee’s lips brushing her skin, and her nipples instantly puckered. Unbelievable.

“No,” she repeated inanely. No to the avalanche of emotion cascading through her body. Just the sight of him. She shook her head.

Ronnie swore darkly and flipped the car door locks before yanking open the driver’s side door. She rested her foot on the side rail and stared at Tyler across the top of the car. “Let’s go,” she said in a resentful tone.

“Maybe it wasn’t even him,” Tyler muttered, brushing a loose strand of hair back from her cheek. “Maybe it was just somebody with the same kind of body and hair color.”

“Right,” Ronnie said, her face contorted into an expression of disgruntled impatience. “Maybe it wasn’t. Why couldn’t you think of that while we were still over there? I could be eating pancakes right now. I’m starving to death.”

“I know.” Tyler sighed and looked up. A few white fluffy clouds drifted across the bright blue sky. “I’m sorry. It probably wasn’t him.” She scuffed her loafer in the gravel. “Look, seriously, I’ll hang out here at the car while you do whatever over there. I’ll watch people. Bring me some pancakes.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Ty, you’re starting to piss me off. Why can’t we both go back over there and do what everyone else is doing—you know, walk around, see friends, smile, buy stuff, eat? You think I’ll have any fun knowing you’re sitting over here in the damn car?”

“Can’t.” She shook her head, feeling the panic rising again in her throat. “I’ll be fine.”

With a few choice words, Ronnie slammed the car door and stalked off across the lot. Tyler sighed and remained leaning against the car watching Ronnie merge into the waiting throng at the street crossing. Stupid. Selfish. Coward. She couldn’t argue that she was all those things. But it had taken months to get over Lee. Okay, she wasn’t over him. But at least she was eating, although her clothes still hung loose around the waist. And sleeping, although some nights she sat up in bed holding her breath, his touch fresh from her dream, her heart pounding in her chest.

It was what she had to do to survive.

***

Tyler sat in the hot car with the front doors open to coax a slight breeze across her. Sweat pooled between her breasts and under her arms. This truly was one of her more absurd moments, she admitted to herself. First, she didn’t know for sure it was Lee. Second, even if it was, why couldn’t she just take the chance of seeing him, and if she did, have the composure and self-confidence to calmly say ‘hi’ and go on with her business? It wasn’t like he’d make a scene in public.

And if he did somehow say something pointed, she could always walk away.

But why go through it? Why risk standing close enough that his scent could swell in her nose and make her pulse flutter? Why struggle to keep her eyes from roaming over his gorgeous face with its stubborn jaw, his chest, those damn arms with their ropey muscles and bulging biceps? She licked her lips and realized the flesh between her legs had swollen.

“Damn it!” She flung the door open and heaved herself out of the car to pace in the gravel. Her hands clenched and unclenched, dangerously close to seizing the first thing she could find and throwing it hard against some large inanimate object. She wanted to cry so badly, but hadn’t she shed the last miserable tear already? Imaginary buckets of salty tears loomed in her mind.

“Ty.”

The low voice caught her completely by surprise. She jumped a foot and uttered a muffled shriek. Her breath came fast and blood pounded in her ears. No, this cannot be happening.

“Sorry,” he laughed, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Forcing herself to straighten, Tyler brought her gaze around to meet his eyes. Damn those eyes, blue or gray or somewhere in between, only today they were blue as the sky. His words barely penetrated the drumming of her pulse. She tried to form words, but her mouth felt like it was stuffed full of cotton.

“I thought it was you,” he continued. “Do you know how many times I’ve tried to find you?”

She shook her head, still unable to speak.

“Months, Ty, ever since…” He cleared his throat and looked around. “What the hell, anyway? What happened?”

He stepped closer. All the memories she had worked so hard to erase flooded back into her mind, Lee with his rough laugh, his teasing touch as he melted her into submission. Lee with his powerful body poised over her, waiting for her to beg. His mouth and hands in all her secret places, pleasing her and bringing her to the edge. Forcing her to fall into an oblivion of absolute perfect joy.

Then newer memories. She stiffened and stepped back.

“What happened? I wised up, Lee.” Her voice sounded far away. “I found out about Gloria and the rest of your hidden world. Did you really think you could keep all that a secret?”

His eyes searched her face. “Christ, Ty, is that why…? All this?” He shook his head. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“What’s to say? Once I knew, I couldn’t un-know.” She swallowed around her dry throat. “I did what I had to do.”

“If you had asked…”

She cut him off, growing more angry by the second. “Ask what? How you could tell me you loved me and still see other women on the side? What’s there to ask, Lee? Damn you, anyway.”

His stare burned into her. The sun baked the top of her head and for a moment, she wondered if she really would stroke out like Ronnie said. This had to be some kind of bad dream. Lee couldn’t really be standing here three feet away, pretending she was the one who’d done something wrong. The idea of it sent a new surge of fury through her.

“Look,” he said, leaning toward her. “Let’s go somewhere, let me explain. I need you to understand.”

“You need?! Get real. Why do I care what you need?”

“Okay, sure.” He dropped his head. “What do you need, Ty?”

Her jaw fell open. This really had to be a freaking dream. “Seriously? Do you really think I’m going to stand here and tell you what I need? Or that I’m going to stand here one second longer and tell you anything?” She whirled around and began walking away. She didn’t know where she was going, except away from this man and everything they had shared and everything inside her that still wanted him. To the end of the earth.

She heard him seconds before she felt his big hand grip her arm to spin her around. He loomed over her, shadowing her face with his tall form and the dense whirlwind of unruly blonde hair that caught in the breeze. His mouth crushed hers, and she inhaled in the shock of it, drawing his familiar musk into her nostrils. His lips tormented her, demanding a response as his tongue darted against her lips and probed for entry. Spears of pleasure shot through her, pleasure and pain, fear and need.

His hands found her waist and pulled her tight against his hard chest. The bulge at his groin thrust against her swollen mound, and there was nothing in the world she wanted more than to yield, to open herself for the divine pleasure of Lee’s body against hers.

“Ty, I dream about you,” he whispered, tracing a line of kisses along her cheek and down her neck. “We have to figure this out. Please.”

“No!” she said, her body suddenly rigid. This was what she couldn’t do, wouldn’t do. She tried to pull away as a fresh wave of tears burned her eyelids. “No no no.”

He gripped her arms. “I’m not letting you go. You’ll disappear again.”

“Let me disappear!” she cried. “I can’t be what you want.”

“You are what I want,” he insisted with a gruff voice. “I can explain Gloria, whatever else you think you know. Just give me a chance.”

For a moment, Tyler wavered. Maybe she had been too quick to decide. Maybe what she knew wasn’t the whole story. Still, she had seen them with her own eyes, Gloria’s luscious body spread out naked on the bed, Lee half dressed, his head between her legs. Later, the short sharp words that Gloria used to tell her, pointedly, about the multiple obligations in Lee’s life that Tyler had never known. How could she have been so dumb, so clueless? Why hadn’t he tried to explain?

It didn’t matter now. She pulled herself free from Lee’s grip and twisted her hair together behind her neck.

“Leave me alone,” she said slowly, putting a cold edge to her voice. “It’s over and you know it.”

He shook his head, his gaze lingering on her face with an expression of disbelief. Against her will, she saw pain in his eyes, regret. She hadn’t ever noticed the lines spreading from the corners of his eyes, or the creases along either side of his mouth. He looked like he’d aged, or maybe he’d always been this way. Neither of them were exactly young.

But to see his face, now, with his expression etched in the lines, caught her off guard, and she wanted to wail in grief. If not Lee, who? If not now, when? Was her life going to trail off into a gray future of solitary evenings and distant memories of happier times?

She shook her head and turned. More than she could consider. Not her problem. As she took the first few steps back toward Ronnie’s car, she wiped at the tears that somehow had drifted down her cheeks. He walked behind her. She heard his steps in the gravel.

She waited beside the car again, shading her eyes with her hand as she hoped feverishly for Ronnie to appear. He stood a few feet away, his jaw pulsing.

“It’s not over,” he said finally. “There’s too much you don’t understand. But I’ll leave you alone. For now.”

His stare burned into her, his eyes saying things that registered deep inside her, and as she watched him stride across the parking lot, as his form grew smaller in the distance, the cord that connected them tugged at her heart.