Hollywood Dirt, by Alessandra Torre

hollywood dirt

Grade: B+

Doing it at:  50%

Catnip: Hate to Love You, Small Town Girl, Hollywood Hunk, Rags to Riches, Strong Female Lead, Down South, Dual Narrative

Shame Scale: This is basically a regular old book, you could read this in your lady’s wine and cheese book club.

Fantasy Cast:  Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

Book Description:

Cole Masten. Abandoned by his superstar wife, Hollywood’s Perfect Husband is now Hollywood’s Sexiest Bachelor: partying hard and screwing even harder. Watch out Los Angeles, there’s a new bad boy in town.

Summer Jenkins. That’s me, a small town girl stuck in Quincy, Georgia. I cook some mean chicken and dumplins, can bluff a grown man out of his savings in poker, and was voted Most Friendly my senior year.

We were from different worlds. Our lives shouldn’t have collided. But then Cole Masten read a book about my small town. And six months later, his jet landed on our dusty airstrip, and he brought Hollywood with him.

From the start, I knew he was trouble. For our town. And for me.

Sometimes, opposites just aren’t meant to attract.

I started seeing tons of buzz for Hollywood Dirt as soon as it released, and since I was still rolling in birthday gift-card riches, –and because I hate to tell myself no–  I one-clicked. I was also intrigued because the synopsis was kind of reminding me of an Elaine Kagan book I really like, and of my favorite Danielle Steel novel. YES, I have a favorite Danielle Steel novel, say what you will about her but the lady can write a story and I think she’s where a lot of romance readers cut their teeth. It turns out Hollywood Dirt didn’t have much in common plot-wise with either of those books, but it was a super absorbing, well-written read.

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Heaven, by V.C. Andrews. A Hillbilly Introduction

heaven 1 Heavencover2

Grade: A

Doing it at: No D in part one of our story

Catnip: Hardship Porn; V.C. Andrews; Rags to Riches; Evil Stepmother; This Shit is Bananas; Deep Dark Secrets; WTF

Shame Scale: It is impossible for me to be ashamed of my V.C., these books and all their nonsense are part of me.

Fantasy Cast: someone so 70’s and the blandest guy you can imagine for Logan Stonewall

Book Description:

Of all the folks in the mountain shacks, the Casteels were the lowest — the scum of the hills.
Heaven Leigh Casteel was the prettiest, smartest girl in the backwoods, despite her ragged clothes and dirty face…despite a father meaner than ten vipers…despite her weary stepmother, who worked her like a mule. For her brother Tom and the little ones, Heaven clung to her pride and her hopes. Someday they’d get away and show the world that they were decent, fine and talented — worthy of love and respect.
Then Heaven’s stepmother ran off, and her wicked, greedy father had a scheme — a vicious scheme that threatened to destroy the precious dream of Heaven and the children forever!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me some of the first really trashy stuff I read was V.C. Andrews. My friends and I discovered Flowers in the Attic (I wish I could remember who showed me the majesty so I could thank them!), passed it around and moved on to the other series. These books are what we spent our babysitting money on, the lift the flap surprise covers were doorways to insane plots and we LOVED them. I especially loved Heaven, which in my humble but completely correct opinion, has the craziest story. This shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Lets jump on in to Hill People drama and relive our formative shame reading years.

Our book is set in the Smoky Mountains, outside of a tiny town, in a little rickety shack much like the song Fancy by Reba McEntire. Only this family isn’t as classy as the family who had to pimp out their daughter to survive. The Casteel’s are hill scum, they’re eight people shoved into a wee bitty shack that may have seen better days, but probably not, it was likely always crappy and falling down. Heaven’s paternal grandparents live there, contributing nothing to their family because they aren’t aging well:

Granny was in her mid fifties. Chronic arthritis and various other undiagnosed aches and pains made life miserable for Granny, and the loss of most of her teeth made her seem twice her age.

but the older Grandpa grew the less he liked to fiddle and the more he liked to whittle

Heaven’s moody, shiftless, alcoholic, whoring dad hates her. I mean he isn’t particularly nice to anyone else in the family but he especially hates Heaven Leigh (we are just gonna roll with her name, it’s the least ludicrous thing going here). It hurts Heaven’s feelings to be hated by her daddy, until her Granny tells her the big deep dark secret of her life. Heaven doesn’t have the same mother as the other four Casteel kids! HER mama was a city gal, a not even old enough to drive pretty as a picture rich girl who abandoned her fancy life for Heaven’s handsome slick talking daddy. Angel. That’s right ANGEL mother of HEAVEN.Granny shows her a fancy city folk suitcase that’s been wrapped up and stored under the porch, in it are a bunch of fancy rich people clothes. AND a doll that looks just like Heaven, only with silver blonde hair. Heaven’s real mama came from a family who made fancy-ass expensive dolls, this is important to remember for later. How Heaven didn’t figure out that she had a different mother than the other kids, when her own brother is the same age as her and they aren’t twins, I do not know. Once Heaven knows that she isn’t pure hill trash (only 1/2, like me!), she hates her daddy even more.

To be fair her dad is kind of the worst human ever. When Heaven’s teen mom died, he brought home a new wife right away. A new wife who was conveniently already several months pregnant with his son. Pa doesn’t work, instead choosing to run moonshine across state lines for the distilleries. And the money he makes from that he spends on booze, and gambling and whores at Shirley’s Place down in town. Good old Pa also gives his second wife syphilis, causing her to birth an abomination

I could hardly accept what my eyes told me.

Shocking to see a baby with nothing between its legs.

But what did it matter that this child was neither girl nor boy when it was dead and the top of its head was missing?

If anything is appropriate reading for a gaggle of twelve-year-old girls with over active imaginations, it is surely V.C. Andrews!

This baby is the last straw for the much put upon Sarah, neglected wife of Pa. She leaves and never looks back. And the shock literally kills her granny. Leaving Heaven to mother her younger brothers and sisters with not much help from her invalid grandpa (who is in his SIXTIES but the years ain’t kind to the hill folk) or from daddy of the year. Her almost twin brother is steady and helpful, her next youngest sister Fanny is a twelve-year-old slut who is happily flashing her panties to boys in the cloakroom, the youngest sister is puking all the time for who knows why, and the smallest boy is fine but still another mouth to feed when they ain’t got no food in them there hills.

The school teacher in Winnerow, Miss Deale, tries to help the kids. When the school board refuses to let the Casteel kids take their school books home to do homework or extra studying (everybody knows those Casteel’s will just get the books filthy with their hill people dirt), she lets them take her personal copies. When she sees that they don’t have anything for lunch she tries to make sure they eat. And when she runs into them after church she takes them for a fancy pants restaurant lunch, where little Our Jane pukes everywhere. Little sisters ruining perfectly nice things with their messed up digestive tracts is one of V.C.’s tropes.

Pa starts coming home less and less and there isn’t money or food. And Heaven can’t get to town for school anymore as someone needs to run the house. She also can’t get down to see her town boy boyfriend, Logan, who is the human equivalent of Melba toast in a crew neck sweater. Heaven likes how clean, and sweet, and handsome he is. And Logan likes how pretty and PURE she is. They don’t know each other well, this is the romance of 14-year-old kids. In V.C. land the heroines always end up with their teenage loves eventually. So, if you plan to read this whole series (which I DO recommend) get used to spending time mooning over white bread. Logan’s parents would never approve of him seeing a Casteel because everybody in book land knows they’re the worst of the worst

In town and in school they called us hill scum, hill filth, and scumbags. Hillbillies was the nicest thing they ever called us.

Since they’re so universally loathed, and since there’s only so much one single, woman school teacher can do, no one steps up to see why the kids have stopped coming to school. And Tom’s attempts at stealing to feed his family end up with a burly man with a shot-gun outside their shack.

Pa’s run off, and Our Jane’s real sick, and they’re all going to starve to death. Things are bleak. The kids don’t have anything to eat but “lard scrapings and two dry biscuits”. In Flowers in the Attic when the kids start literally starving to death, Christopher Doll cuts his own arm and lets the others DRINK HIS BLOOD. Sadly, things don’t go so far in Heaven. Pa finally reappears and brings tons of food

two sacks of flour, salt, slab bacon, beans, dried peas, a huge tin of lard, bundles of tied spinach, apples, potatoes, orange yams, bags of rice, and lots more we’d never had before, such as boxes of crackers and cookies, and peanut butter and grape jelly.

I don’t know why I love a big long list of food, but I surely do. This is when Pa finds out that Sarah has left, and there’s much wailing about his plight before he tells the kids he’s going off to get cured of his bad disease — the syph — and that they should burn the bags the food came in and hope they never get the syph from sleeping with a bunch of town whores (I may be ad libbing that last bit). The cabin is cold, the wind blows right through all the cracks, and there’s quickly no more food to eat. The children are inadequately clothed and getting extra desperate when Pa shows up again.

On Christmas Day.

To sell off two of the kids to some rich people.

As one does; he sells the two youngest to a decent seeming wealthy couple. Then a few weeks later he sells Fanny (the slutty one) to the minister and his barren wife. Then he sells Tom to a man who needs help on his farm. And finally he comes for Heaven Leigh.

To Heaven he presents a choice: a staid older couple. Or a beautiful redhead and her handsome young husband. For his most hated child he’s found two buyers. Heaven picks that younger couple. Heaven picks So So wrong.

Read the rest of our review: Heaven: Living for the City

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The Professional, by Kresley Cole

The Professional

Grade: A

Doing it at: 54% – but this book gets seriously hot starting around 15%

Catnip: Russian Mobsters; Mafia; Virgin; Overprotective men; He’s basically a criminal; BDSM; Sex Club; Kidnapping; Rags to Riches; “Your first and your last”; Russian Pillow Talk; International Romance; Dick-Glamoured; #TeamAnal; Guffaw

Shame Scale: This is a WONDERFUL shame read. The cover is mildly shameful, the book is all the shame. The plot is absurd, and filled with sex. The swoon-worthy hero is literally a killer who wants to own the heroine. And yet it’s genuinely funny, and pretty hot.

Fantasy Casting: Jason Momoa and Emma Stone

Book Description:

“He makes the rules…

Mafiya enforcer Aleksei “The Siberian” Sevastyan’s loyalty to his boss knows no bounds, until he meets the boss’s long-lost daughter, a curvy, feisty redhead who haunts his mind and heats his blood like no other. Ordered to protect her, Aleksei will do anything to possess her as well—on his own wicked terms.

Rules are made to be broken…

Grad student Natalie Porter had barely recovered from her first sight of the dark and breathtaking Sevastyan before the professional enforcer whisks her away to Russia, thrusting her into a world of extreme wealth and wanton pleasures. Every day under his protection leads her deeper under his masterful spell.

Are you ready to play?

Yet all is not as it seems. To remove Natalie from an enemy’s reach, Sevastyan spirits her into hiding. From an opulent palace in Russia to the decadent playgrounds of the mega-wealthy in Paris, the two lovers will discover that even their darkest—and most forbidden—fantasies can come true…”

The Professional had the kind of plot one often finds in a good Shame Book: A ridiculous one involving kidnapping (to save her life!), the mafia, hit men, billionaires, international travel without a passport, high class BDSM sex clubs, a virgin, and tons of sex. I loved it. Kresley Cole managed to throw together all kinds of catnip and romance tropes and keep it fairly cohesive, and not too cliched. Also, our hero is constantly throwing out sexy phrases in Russian, and I learned that I find Russian pillow talk insanely hot.

Natalie is a poor, adopted college student who has been working two jobs to make enough money to search for her biological parents via DNA testing. Then one day a smoking hot Russian mafiya enforcer (because in Russia I guess it’s the mafiYa and not just the mafia) shows up and tells her she is the billionaire daughter of a big mafiya leader, and that she’s moving to Russia effective immediately because there’s a threat on her life. Natalie balks, as any smart modern woman would do when a strange man breaks into her house, watches her masturbate (aka “diddling the da, spelunking, dialing the pink telephone” lololol), and then tries to force her to move to Russia. So of course as they do in these kinds of books, Sevastyan kidnaps her, and puts her on a special plane to Russia where she apparently won’t need a passport. (Nope, sorry, I don’t believe that.) Natalie and Sevastyan find they have that instant inexplicable electric chemistry, which they explore on the plane with some 69’ing like one does. Sevastyan is shocked that she is a virgin, and vows that it won’t happen again, because she is not for him, he’s a bad guy and bla bla bla cliche.

They get to Russia, Natalie becomes Natalya – I love that name – and she meets her biological father who never knew she existed. He is a Mafiya don, but a kind one, who’s only doing it to protect his people, you guys. All he really wants to do is repair clocks. Her father and Sevastyan tell her that she’s going to have to stay at the compound till the threat on her life is eliminated, but that they hope she will consider moving there permanently and making Russia her new home. Natalya adjusts rather quickly and seems to love her new papa from the start. I don’t want to get any more into the plot because I’d just be getting spoiler-y, but it’s ridiculous, and fun, and blush inducing, and such a good shame-read.

I loved the romance between Natalie/Natalya and Sevastyan. He’s the brutish Russian killer alpha stereotype, but she is no blushing daisy – despite her virginal status. Sevastyan orders her around, and is overprotective and possessive like Cleone and I love (even though we know we shouldn’t), but Natalie actually manages to strike a good balance between giving it right back to him, and wilting when it would make for good sexy-time. And the sexy-time in this one is excellent. Well paced, descriptive but not cringe-inducing (no dripping, no loins, no fountains of love). And she loses her virginity in the shower, standing up. That pretty much never happens in these books, where virginity must be carefully and romantically claimed in a bed after copious “readying” oral.

My favorite character, however, was Jess, Natalie’s best friend, and I was terribly disappointed to learn that she is not the focus of the next book in the series, ‘The Master.’ She reminded me of my favorite friends, and had the best lines in the book by far — she refers to Natalie’s trip as a “gangster rumspringa,” and accuses Natalie of being “dick-glamoured.*” She had me guffawing at several points, for example:

“How the hell do you call Russia from Greece? It’s like trying to figure out real-fucking-tivity. And still, I gave it several shots. Of Ouzo. Seriously, you have no idea how much your situation is affecting me. I’ve been stress-eating my way across Greece.” I frowned. “You don’t stress-eat–” “Cock, Natalie. I was stress-eating cock. There, you made me say it, happy now?”

If anything, my big complaint was that there didn’t seem to be enough edge-of-my-seat conflict. The “danger” part of the plot wound down around the middle of the book, and the second half was pretty much all sex and relationship drama. Their big romantic challenge/conflict was that he didn’t share enough, and he was being too gentle with her. He refused to give her the anal she NEEDED, and she told him she might just have to go get it somewhere else. This was really hard for Sevastyan to overcome. Despite the absurdity of this entire book, it was really well written, and hilarious. I would have gone with an A-, but decided to bump it up to an A because I couldn’t stop laughing.

*Note: dick-glamouring is a real thing in Shame Books, and I’m definitely going to be using this phrase liberally from now on.

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