Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Up in the Air Trilogy by R.K. Lilley

Title: In Flight
Series: Up in the Air Trilogy #1
Author: R.K. Lilley
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Published: 10/20/2012
Publisher: Self-published
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance

DESCRIPTION

"When reserved flight attendant Bianca gets one look at billionaire hotel owner James Cavendish, she loses all of her hard-won composure. For a girl who can easily juggle a tray of champagne flutes at 35,000 feet in three inch heels, she finds herself shockingly weak-kneed from their first encounter. The normally unruffled Bianca can't seem to look away from his electrifying turquoise gaze. They hold a challenge, and a promise, that she finds impossible to resist, and she is a girl who is used to saying no and meaning it.

Bianca is accustomed to dealing with supermodels and movie stars in her job as a first class flight attendant, but James Cavendish puts them all to shame in the looks department. If only it were just his looks that she found so irresistible about the intimidating man, Bianca could have ignored his attentions. But what tempts her like never before is the dominant pull he seems to have over her from the moment they meet, and the promise of pleasure, and pain, that she reads in his eyes.

This book is intended for ages 18 and up."


Title: Mile High
Series: Up in the Air Trilogy #2
Author: R.K. Lilley
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Published: 11/02/2012
Publisher: Self-published
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance

DESCRIPTION

"James and Bianca’s tumultuous story continues in the sequel to In Flight.
James has initiated Bianca into a dark and drugging world of passion and pain. He taught her about her own submissive, masochistic nature, and she fell swiftly and deeply in love with the undeniably charming and impossibly beautiful Mr. Cavendish, but a painful misunderstanding and the return of the brutally violent demons of her past have combined to overwhelm Bianca, and, confused and hurt, she pushes him away.

It’s been over a month since the shocking attack that hospitalized her, and since she told a distraught James that she needed space, but her feelings haven’t gone away. Even she knew that it was only a matter of time before he would cast his spell on her again…

This book is intended for ages 18 and up."


Title: Grounded
Series: Up in the Air Trilogy #3
Author: R.K. Lilley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 02/10/2013
Publisher: Self-published
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance

DESCRIPTION

"James and Bianca’s story draws to a close in the explosive conclusion to the Up In The Air Trilogy.

After a short but earnest courtship, Bianca can no longer deny her feelings for James, and though she’s tried her hardest, she can’t help but see that he cares deeply for her, as well. In a completely uncharacteristic move, she has put aside her misgivings and agreed to live with the enigmatic billionaire. Is her leap of faith the beginning of something wonderful, or is it too much, too fast?

As James and Bianca feel a growing need for each other that neither can deny, circumstances beyond their control intervene, trying to tear them apart. Amidst the ever mounting threat of a monster who wants Bianca dead, and the constant pitfalls of an indiscreet past that James can’t seem to escape, can these two passionate lovers manage to find their happily ever after?

This book is intended for ages 18 and up."


MY THOUGHTS
 
 *minor spoilers contained herein*

First, a proclamation of sorts. In the left sidebar of this blog is the following: "I neither read nor write scathing reviews. If I really don't care for the book I'm reading I simply stop reading it. I feel hesitant even offering up criticism of a book being that I am merely a reader and not a writer." Now that that is out of the way, I will do my best not to be scathing and to hold my tongue. I will admit to being way outside my comfort zone with the (more hardcore) BDSM elements of the books and also admit that in not reading any negative reviews on Goodreads or Amazon I may be doing a disservice to the author and avid fans (not that any of them will ever read this). I further admit to being someone who feels a peculiar sense of loyalty to things (like authors and books) I favor and that I get defensive when they are bad-mouthed.  So, with all that in mind I will, giving paraphrased credit to John Mayer's Song, Say What I Need to Say...

One of the reasons I began reading self-published (digital) books last year was because of their advantageous pricing structure. I subscribe to newsletters, follow blogs, and "Like" author Pages on Facebook to keep up with all the latest news—paying particularly close attention to bargain pricing and "freebies." This is critical for someone like me, who begins a new read every day or so. (Example: some books I have rated five stars were free, whereas, the new mainstream digital release by my favorite author will be $14.99.) In reading indie books I know not to expect perfection when it comes to editing, in particular, grammar and spelling. I know the formatting may be inconsistent. I know there may not be an ISBN or page numbers. I know there will be other issues like the cover not representing the story well enough (or, at all). However, even knowing all these things before I began reading this trilogy I found myself flinching and cringing a lot, especially while reading Mile High. Although my first real cringe came with the following passage said by the character James Cavendish (excellent name, BTW) to Bianca Karlsson, just 16% into the first book, In Flight:

"'I'm going to ruin you,' he breathed. 'I'll be your first, and I'll f**k you so thoroughly that I'll be your last, too. You won't want any other man after I've gotten my hands on you. Every last inch of you.'"

According to the number of other Kindle readers who highlighted that passage and the number who liked the first part of it, as a quote, on Goodreads my thinking that Mr. Cavendish (the Dom) saying this to a stranger (who is obviously young and inexperienced, who he already knows is a virgin, and who is AT WORK) SOUNDS LIKE A RAGING PSYCHOPATH! To be fair(?) another outrageously sexy fictional billionaire said something slightly similar to an inexperienced young woman in my favorite kinky trilogy, but, and this is a BIG but, she was not at work, and she had already been gently propositioned before he got to the more vulgar language. I don't want to "condemn" something in one book that I "accepted" in another. Okay, so onward...

I made note of six misspellings, typos, and obviously improper grammar usage ("shinning" instead of shining, "your'e" instead of you're, "lilly" instead of lily, "HIs" instead of His, and two instances of "I" being used instead of "me")  in book one—not bad, not bad at all.  Of course, I am aware of my own severely restricted grammar skills, and that is why I ask for proofreading assistance. I don't consider myself a "grammar nazi." How can I? However, I do think we all need to check ourselves when we are publishing something anyone can see!!! Especially when the reader is required to shell out money for those words.

The main reason in reading books like these has to be for the fantasy they represent. No, the books are fiction, but one has to admit that these fictional rich-as-Croesus, over-the-top, "smexy", controlling, sex gods are all fantasy, right?  Reading (especially romance of any type) is a readily obtainable form of escapism, is it not? While some over-the-top stuff can be entertaining I think sometimes it can just be too much. I found that Mr. Cavendish was too exaggerated in his negative qualities and too cold-hearted with Bianca. I cringed all too often with the things he said and did to her throughout the series, but especially in book three where there were several acts that literally made me feel ILL! Originally I listed them, but reconsidered after reading them aloud.*shudder* Although, as James he could be thoughtful, caring, tender, and even "sweet." Leave it to me to prefer the apparently much less popular version of the man. ;)

James (the lover) pondered these words aloud to Bianca 22% into Grounded:

"It makes me wonder if everything I do to you is a sort of rape—if I'm taking advantage of that beautiful submission that you give to me."

I think that self-assessment was very accurate! Several times I wondered what happened to the safeword. Why didn't Mr. Cavendish remind Bianca before each potentially harmful scene? He's supposedly an experienced Dom and she was anything but experienced! Why didn't she ever use it?  Especially when her narration made it obvious that the pain was well beyond her threshold! It made me furious that Mr. Cavendish's character didn't remind Bianca's of the safeword more often. It's not that novels should ever be used as guides for this lifestyle, but still I get the feeling some people may get carried away. This is scary stuff! Of course, I do not and will never understand how someone who professes to love, cherish, or treasure someone could ever "get off" by physically and emotionally abusing them—enough to leave scars on their beautiful skin or cause them to retreat emotionally to a dark place. *more shuddering*

I'm sure Bianca's being a masochist contributed to my inability to develop a deep fictional fondness for her character, like I have with so many other romantic heroines. It's not that I disliked her character or any of the other main characters. Even with her, James', and Stephan's traumatic back-stories explained in increments throughout the trilogy, I still had trouble empathizing with them and that is rarely a problem for me. I tend to get caught up in the character's lives and, at times, feel an unreasonable attachment. The relationship I felt was the healthiest was that of Bianca and Stephan. Wow! I really did love how their mutual friendship was depicted—they continually exhibited empathy, trust, respect, support, compassion, and encouragement to the other. Their need for each other seemed a beneficial thing in just about every way.

Bianca says the following to James 64% into In Flight, which helped me a little to understand how she feels.

"'Even masochists need lovers', I told him, my tone gentle. 'What would a girl like me do without someone like you? Perhaps everyone is good for someone.'"

Moving on to the overall tone the books, I thought it was rather...monotonous. Oh, there were plenty of highly charged sexual encounters and times where Mr. Cavendish emoted like crazy ("crazy" being a word Bianca herself used to describe him several times), but Bianca's narration was surprisingly lacking in color, and she is an artist—a painter. I was looking for some vivid descriptions and colorful metaphors; some dramatic prose to express her totally and ridiculously excessive life with James. She made mention, sure, but I wanted "awe" and "wow" and "oh my", and, can you believe this?! I can't recall even a single exclamation mark in any of the books. How strange is that?! I mean, really?! I, just now, skimmed through page after page of all three books and didn't come across a single one! It's not like I want excessive exclamation marks, but to not use any?! Apparently, the Kindle Search feature doesn't allow for returns on punctuation because I even tried that! (Going forth I shall probably be on the lookout for exclamation marks in books to see if it is usual.)

So, onto book two, which was almost painful for me to finish and believe me, I am NO masochist! My reasons for continuing to read it were: 1) I really wanted to get to a happily-ever-after ending for James and Bianca 2) I wanted Mr. Cavendish, the sadist, and Bianca, the masochist, to discover the pleasure in being together and ditch their need for the extreme pain and degradation sh*t 3) I liked the first book enough to hope the third would be the best and 4) I paid freaking $6.99 for it!!!

I did two status updates (on my iPod, which meant typing difficulties for me) while reading Mile High. I apologize for the snark now, but at the time I allowed myself to become highly exasperated!!!

The first status update at 34% -

"Horse terminology gripe time!!! They are spelled "reins" NOT "reigns". And over twenty-five years in the horse industry and I can't recall ONE knowledgeable person using the word "thoroughbred" to describe a well-bred horse, only "Thoroughbred" referring to the breed. It's always "chaps" not "chap". Okay, I feel a *little* better now."

Regarding research (or the lack thereof) when writing about subjects we're unfamiliar with, I'm of the mind if you're going to include the details, you should know the details. If you don't, research it! I have absolutely no idea about proper flight attendant protocol, hotel management/ownership, how to put on an art gallery show, "proper" BDSM techniques, or how to put designer duds together for the "perfect" look, BUT I do know about horses, and instead of being excited about the fact that James had horses on his amazing ranch in Wyoming, I found myself flinching throughout the entire "horsey" part of the book. There were EIGHT instances of reins being misspelled...flinch, flinch, flinch, flinch, flinch, flinch, flinch, flinch. Yeah, that many! Again, sorry for the snark. It's extremely rare that I feel like this. If all the inexpert things written could have been attributed to Bianca's being a complete novice, I would have been accepting, but James and his trainer, Pete, were supposed to be "experts." Hence, my being disgruntled about the entire ordeal!

The second update at 50% -

"It's a 'fun' read, but this is another thing that is DRIVING ME CRAZY - I'll 'blame' Bianca since she is narrating! :)
The 'I' and 'ME' Rule: http://homeworktips.about.com/od/homeworkhelp/a/iandme.htm"

Like I said above, I have my own grammar deficiencies. The "I and Me rule" even messes me up, but that's where proofreading and editing comes in. I can understand not wanting or being unable to pay for editing, but what about asking one person who is qualified to offer assistance? Again, this is something that people are paying to read. There has to be a sense of worth and pride in doing it right, right?

James was a self-professed slut before meeting Bianca. His childhood took a horrific turn after the death of his loving parents, and the abuse he suffered was what he attributed his "downfall" to.  He told her about his sordid past incrementally, and she was subjected to some of his toxic "exes" several times. We're talking evil bitches here. Yikes! Fortunately, Bianca toughened up and actually fought back: both verbally and physically. That was certainly a relief! There seemed to be only two things James wasn't "comfortable" (for lack of a better word) doing to/with Bianca. I don't feel particularly comfortable writing about them in detail here, but one had to do with exhibitionism and the other with a particular sex act. I was really relieved to find out that he could set some boundaries with her and felt he needed to learn to control his demons with this woman he claimed to love.

I did a little "aww" over this line James says to Bianca in Mile High:

"I was a slut once with my body, but I've never been a slut with my heart."

He earned some points acknowledging the positive effect Bianca had on his life with the following:

"You're my angel, Bianca. You've exorcised my demons. I don't have nightmares when I'm with you. I don't have to work seventy hour work weeks to keep my mind distracted. My life has become more than work and emotionless affairs. You make me a better man."

A couple other oft repeated grammar lapses I let get to me were the casual spelling of the term "you know" that the author used, and the absence of the correct suffix to make words adverbs. The most commonly used casual example is spelled "ya know." Her version was "yanno", which I consistently read in my head as it's written and not how she intended it be read. "Yanno" is in the Urban Dictionary, but I have never seen it used prior to these books and it threw me off. The other was the consistent use of an adjective in place of an adverb. Some examples:

"Me and Marnie are official [instead of officially] losing it, guys."
"Don't take it personal [instead of personally], girls, he's hopelessly in love with Bianca."
"...so that you would take him serious [instead of seriously] when he asked you out again."
"It grew real [instead of really] quiet after that..."

There were also times when an apostrophe was used to make what should have been a plural a possessive. Also, the capitalizing of the word "god" and not capitalizing the name "God" occurred a couple of times.

As evidenced by my two star rating and list of complaints, Mile High brought out the worst in me. I thought of several possible scenarios for this: 1) The author rushed the writing because of some sort of deadline 2) She didn't have time for proofreading, re-writes, or editing and 3) She may not have had someone offering feedback before publishing that she may have had with the other books. This was just my mind speculating on the possible reasons I found this book to be so vastly different from the other two.

So, finally, my overall favorite of the three—Grounded. With the good there was the bad; the bad mostly being Mr. Cavendish's sadistic treatment of Bianca. Several instances that I found unacceptable, others may not so I'll not dwell on those here. Grounded was where James and Bianca confessed their love to one another. It was where James told Bianca the details of the abuse he suffered as a teenager. It was where Bianca had a change of occupation and her first art gallery showing. I thought it was also the most suspenseful of the three books. Bianca's walking, talking nightmare made his second violent (and deadly) appearance and the entire episode gave me chills! That was some effective storytelling!!!  It was also where they take an idyllic trip in which something really romantic occurs. There were numerous "happy" things that happened in this book and also, finally, I noticed some humor. Not out of context, just subtle humor, which fits with these characters. The sunshine-y bits really brightened my feelings about the trilogy as a whole. Here are some passages I found particularly...pleasant:

"Have I told you today how happy you make me? I can never go back from this, Bianca. It would break me to let you go. You know that, right?"
~ James

"'The thought of losing you makes me desperate,' I said, shifting our faces closer. My eyes steady on his when I took the leap. 'I love you, James,' I said, my voice just a whisper. 'So much.'"
~ Bianca

"I fell in love with your eyes first because I looked into their depths and saw the other half of my soul."
~ James

I don't recall if there was a total absence of Sadistic Mr. Cavendish and Masochistic Bianca towards the end, but with no specific unpleasant appearances of either that I can recall I was able to concentrate entirely on the rather lovely conclusion! It was...the saving grace, the light at the end of the tunnel, the happily-ever-after ending everyone deserved—characters and readers alike! *swoon*

As an afterthought...Sheesh, I hope I don't feel compelled to write another book-length (and chiefly unpleasant) review of this nature, because, really, I could have read a book for how long this took to write. :)


*Special thanks to my daughter who graciously helped me with, um, editing, and my roommate for his suggestions. :)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These books are some of my favorites but i did also cringe with some of the stuff. pieta