Review: Paper Valentine by AJ Llewellyn

London, 1840. At the height of Victorian hypocrisy, two men meet and fall in love. Their romance is forbidden, punishable even by death, but their passion blossoms thanks to a paper Valentine.

Saint Valentine’s Day has become a new and very popular day for lovers. Thousands of Londonites are clamouring for the ideal romantic gift. While men buy chocolate and posies, they yearn for something more unusual, more personal. Enterprising brothers Aldon and Samuel Barnaby hit upon the idea of paper Valentines, creating lavish presentations decorated with silk, lace, and paper flowers.

Aldon is fortunate to have his perfect valentine going to his expectant wife, Geneve, but Samuel still longs for his own true love, pouring his heart and soul into his beautiful creations. Samuel’s romantic verses inside his paper Valentines are in huge demand, yet not a single local girl can lay claim to his heart…because his passion lies not in a woman, but another man—Jude, a handsome but shy widower.

Jude’s heart, haunted by grief, hasn’t been ready to consider marriage again. But slowly, through his inclusion in the Barnaby family’s lives…and his frequent excursions to stop and stare at the Barnabys’ shop window…he begins to wonder in what direction his future lies.

Can Samuel possibly allow his heart to explore love with another man? Could Jude ever love him in return? He sends Jude an exquisite, anonymous paper Valentine, not suspecting that his entire world is about to be turned upside down…

Review by Erastes

Dear Cover Artists. Please take note of the dates of the iconic structures, particularly in London. I’ve seen the Houses of Parliament used in Regency fiction and now we have Tower Bridge on this one, which is a quite nice cover, except the bridge wasn’t even begun until 1886, 46 years after this book takes place.I’m surprised, seeing as how the publisher is British.

However, this anachronistic tone, (after all I wouldn’t mark the book down merely for an incongruous cover), continues throughout the whole of the book, and although I’ll mention some later, there are egregious errors on just about every page, which layered with the other problems with the book made this a really hard read for me. The editing isn’t too bad, apart from Jude’s coachman changing names half way through, but what this needed was a damn good historical edit and a Brit pick. I understand that a small publisher cannot afford specialist editors for every genre, but I think that they should be prepared to check the author’s facts and not take on trust the author has it right. One or two checks with this book would have revealed the fact that just about everything was wrong,and as such it reflects badly on the publisher, not just the author.

Aside from the appalling anachronisms, the book just didn’t work for me because there is actually no plot. One could say that I’m asking a bit much expecting much more than a Plot-What-Plot in a story of sixty pages, but I certainly do. Other writers such as Ava March are capable of doing characterisation, plot, complications, BDSM and sex in as many pages, so we all know it can be done. Here however, I’m not sure what exactly the author was trying to achieve, or what message might be being transmitted.

Half of the book deals with the aforementioned dinner party, and at least half of that wastes time and plot-time while Samuel goes to his brother’s house, helps cook(!) and rants on for pages about how beautiful, how clever, how good, how shiny his sister-in-law is. So much so that I assumed that there was some plot point to this, but no. Eventually the dinner party is gathered and we finally meet the other hero of the story, Jude Curtis. They get together with no discernible difficulties and engage in perfect insta-recovery sex whilst weeping a lot and calling each other “baby” and asking if each other are “OK.” As you can tell by this, the dialogue is pretty awful–in fact in the throes of passion Samuel actually says to Jude “You’re so clean.” which made me giggle. It’s not exactly love-talk.

The food in a book is important–espeically when the author has made such a big deal of it–literally the first 30 or so pages (half the book) concentrates on entertaining, so when all the details are wrong it’s such a waste of time and effort. Strawberries, cranberries and bilberries, all available in February. Gas stoves, the lady of the house whipping up a quick meal for twelve without hardly turning a hair after the servants have left, no-one except the lady of the house changing for dinner, despite it being an important dinner which she is holding to get her husband admitted to the Atheneum Club.

I’m not going to list all the anachronisms, it would take too long and would be unfair, but a few include making artists a major plot point. This is fine except the ones mentioned were hilariously Whistler (who would have been six at the time), Rosseti (13) and Holman-Hunt who was about 12. Then there’s mention of the Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphelites (which didn’t exist), gas stoves, mentions of “hotwired.” The thing is that the author goes into Dan Brown mode at times, describing in detail something historical that they think we’ll be interested in, such as a meticulous description of the first commercial stamp–the Penny Black–but the author didn’t take the two minutes it takes to do the research to find out that the stamp wasn’t issued until JUNE 1840, not February.

The sex (apart from the silly dialogue and much weeping) is all right, but for me it’s not enough to make the cover price worth while.

So, putting together the missing plot, the buildup of things that never became plot–the brother’s entry to the club, the making of the Valentines, the servant troubles–with the anachronisms on every page, I simply can’t recommend this as a historical. If you are only looking for some gay sex in costume, then you might enjoy it.

Buy from Total-ebound

56 Responses

  1. 60 pages is considered a book now? Personally I would not waste my time reading or certainly Reviewing a short story. Other than that, I believe your historical nitpicking is ridiculous for a fictional story. This type of writing is fantasy/fiction, never intended to be based in historical FACTS of any type. (unless of course they deal with actual people/events in history) None of us who read it expect a history book. We do however expect some historical validity in dress, setting and speech mannerisms. So you are on the mark there. You constantly poo-poo any sort of “crying or weeping” in your reviews…why is that? I personally do not mind a gentle, weepy character if he develops over the story, especially if the high emotion catches my heart. (In this story it definitely did not)
    You should be able to review a story without so much personal bias. It demeans both the author and yourself.

    • I never noticed “fantasy” in the genre description. It is listed as an historical, and is judged as such. If I wrote a story set in America I wouldn’t hide behind my non-yankness if I got a dozen things wrong. If you write something called a historical, then you demean yourself, your publisher – and you insult your reader if you can’t be arsed to look up facts which are two seconds away via mouse. OF COURSE it’s based on historical facts – especially if the author has gone to great lengths to describe historical facts. The fact that they are all wrong is irrelevant in this response.

      I don’t mind crying characters–I’ve written them myself. But when they are crying all of the time and calling each other baby in 1840, i will point it out.

      I don’t know if you are aware of it, but reviews are subjective. That’s the point of them. If you don’t know what that means, I suggest you look it up.

      • I have not noticed this one being listed as historical though, I clicked on publisher’s website and the genre is being listed as victorian era/ gay MM. Have I missed it? When I see the word Regency, I most certainly do not expect historical accuracy just because it says Regency, and same thing when I see the word Victorian in romance, unless it is indeed listed as historical. Otherwise I expect costume romance (maybe after reading so many m/f romances in a distant past which claimed to be in those eras?) and nothing more and if author manages to surprise me with realistic setting, all the better. I have not read a single book by this author, and I doubt I would care much for this one, I actually prefer historicals with more realistic settings. But when I am in the mood for costume romance, I definitely do not care about anachronisms, all that I care for are characters, their chemistry and plot. Unfortunately I cannot figure out whether the characters are interesting to me or not, after reading your review. I wish you would have told me more about them. I am also confused about no plot part, do they have sex all the time is that why you said there is no plot? Or nothing at all happens?

      • Okay I got curious, clicked on author’s blog and he himself listed it as historical, my BAD, fair game then.

    • Rachel, I could not disagree more with your first point. When an author writes historical fiction – even a short story – the history should be as accurate as possible. That’s the whole point. It’s perfectly acceptable to write an alternate universe without relying on historical facts, but then it’s a different genre. Almost every work of fiction requires some sort of research by the author, whether it’s history, geography, or other fields. This background knowledge makes the settings, character and story so much richer. As a reader, I’m disappointed by obvious inaccuracies – it detracts from plausibility and makes a book less enjoyable.

  2. I’m looking askance at the word ‘Londonite’ in the blurb. What is a Londonite? A Londoner, perhaps? And considering it’s from a British publisher…!

    Thanks, Erastes. Definitely avoiding this one.

  3. What a terrible review! I Googled the history of gas stoves and you are quite wrong. The first one appeared in London as early as 1826. So in your zeal to tear this author apart you could have been arsed (to use your parlance) to take the two minutes to find this:
    British inventor, James Sharp patented a gas oven in 1826, the first semi-successful gas oven to appear on the market.

    • If you had checked properly you would have seen that they weren’t available commercially for quite a while–and as this family is NOT wealthy, they live in a little terraced house in London and own a print shop, there’s no way they would have afforded them. Even big houses still relied on wood and coal burning stoves up to the next century.

      However, that is a grey area and I could have given the book the benefit of the doubt–but with the dozens of other anachronistic matters, and just basic mistakes I doubt that fact was checked when all of the others weren’t. I could post a a4 page of the things that were entirely wrong with no “grey” area as to whether the family would have had one or not. This is a review site for 2. historical 3. fiction and I judge all points as equally as each other.

  4. You can say what you like, it was a disgusting review and the insults continue in your response here. You really are jealous of this author for some reason. You insult people who respond to your post and you attack them. Here you go again insinuating the author did no research and you “claim” this is not a rich family. How do you know?
    I read the book and understood the new wife brought many riches to the marriage. You can’t stand to be challenged in any shape or form but go on a complete homicidal mission against an author and that is apparently okay?

    • Homocidal mission?

      As to how I KNOW – I read the book. I suggest you do the same. I haven’t insulted anyone, so I really don’t know what you mean by that. I am responding to points made. If facts are wrong in a historical book–the regular readers here deserve to know about it in advance–so they can decide whether they wish to buy it. I’m sorry that this post has caused fans to attack, because I think of lot of AJ actually, and I’ve read many of his books. He deserved better with this one, and the publisher should have caught the errors before publication.

      • I did read the book and loved it. And you think a lot of AJ? Wow…you said not ONE SINGLE NICE thing here in this vicious diatribe so I find that so hard to believe. And yes your review if you can call it that was designed to hurt an author whose work I thoroughly enjoy…he tells a great story and has been a huge inspiration to me.
        If this is what you do to someone you like, heaven help those you hate. I actually think you really think you were alive in Victorian times and every other point in history and nobody knows more that you do…I am just glad I don’t write historical fiction. I couldn’t handle the crap you dish out to everyone except you sycophantic little chums.

    • The review was not “disgusting”; it was fair. Just because Erastes disliked the book is no reason to attack her motives for writing what she did. She explained quite plainly why the book did not appeal to her: historical inaccuracies and light on plot.
      If historical accuracy matters to a reader, he/she will know to steer clear of this one. If it doesn’t matter to a reader, he/she might read it. But as a reviewer, Erastes would be remiss if she didn’t point it out.
      As to your statement that Erastes couldn’t possibly know whether or not the family was rich or middle class, I must agree that the way the family is described in the book, they are most definitely NOT rich. Erastes is correct in deducing they would not have had cutting-edge, non-commercially available technology in their home.
      As since when is giving a negative review of book one dislikes equivalent to commiting murder? Get a sense of proportion, please.

  5. That said, I usually don’t bother commenting on reviews. I’ve done many reviews myself. I was informed about this review last night. This person said, and I quote…”I’ve never seen a reviewer take a book so personally and set out to basically rip an author apart like that.” He told me this because he is a top selling author and I guess he thought…this could happen to me.
    So here is a review of your review, nothing personal of course. As you say, it’s subjective.
    I wanted to point out that your uses of big words like anachronisms and egregious does not enhance your review. It would be better if you spell checked your document first because I noticed a few typographical errors.
    There are many grand statements about the book in your review like “just about everything” was wrong and “there is no plot.” I don’t find those kinds of fleeting statements very informative to the reader. How can just about everything be wrong? How can a book have no plot? I can only assume that the reviewer was so busy trying to find every error that she missed the plot. You could say the plot was weak…but no plot at all???
    A.J. Llewellyn has written a great many books apparently. You can “look it up” as you told the person who commented before me. For a writer that has written that many books, is it even possible that this author doesn’t know what a plot is? I find that hard to believe. Also to compare this author with another and to name the author in the review is totally unprofessional. At one point Ava March is mentioned then Dan Brown. I don’t believe Llewellyn was intending to compete with either writer in this book.
    A good reviewer points out the things they don’t like and points out the positive as well. A good reviewer with class doesn’t tear an author limb from limb. There had to be ONE thing in the book that was redeemable and as a reviewer you might have mentioned it.
    Obviously you have some personal bias here. It comes through glaringly. I’m sure this book is not to everyone’s taste and as you say…reviews are subjective but I have to say…this review was by far more subjective than most!
    It lacked class and that to me was egregious!

  6. Having read the book, I can attest to the fact that there really isn’t any plot. Samuel alternates between thinking about the handsome Jude Curtis and telling us how gorgeous and wonderful his pregnant sister-in-law is. Then–fairly early on–he gets together with Jude. And…that’s it. They don’t have any problems to overcome or obstacles to deal with. it’s not so much a short story as a series of connected anecdotes.

    I don’t expect everyone to be bothered by this, though. I like stories and novels to have strong plots and to be well-researched. A lack of either or both is, for me, a deal-breaker. Other people–many, many others–are satisfied if the characters are happy and having good sex. Tastes differ.

  7. Uh, people, this is a review site dedicated to reviewing historical m/m romances. What on earth makes you think historical accuracy wouldn’t be an important issue here? You don’t have to like the review, but it would behoove you to recognize that Speak Its Name has a really specific audience, and that that audience tends to be interested in things like historical accuracy.

    I’m baffled by the vitriol with which most of you commenters (who clearly don’t seem to actually follow this site) have responded to this review. Erastes is speaking to her target audience with this review, and I for one, appreciate the eye toward historical detail with which she has approached this story.

    Furthermore, if you take a step back you might also consider that criticizing the story and the amount of work, or lack thereof, that went into researching it, is not the same as criticizing the author as a person.

    This is one review out of who knows how many this book will receive. Any author worth their salt gets bad reviews and weathers the storm. I’m sure Mr. Llwellyn has gotten bad reviews before, but somehow, he manages to keep publishing all the same. I doubt this review will do him in.

    And yes, Matt– I’m using big words in this little comment of mine. Feel free to level an ad hominem attack against me. I assure you I have better things to do than worry about your weak attempts to deflect honest criticism.

  8. I haven`t read the book, being not a fan of this particular author so I can`t say anything about the story and the historical accuratenes. But I am really surprised about the tone of this discussion. I find Erastes review quite knowledgeable and not in the least vitriolic. She obviously has read the book really well and if she sees some historical inaccurate statements: I don`t like them either and even if it is just a short story, it should be researched. Every reviewer has the right to his view of the story and if you don`t shere them that is your concern. You should at least try to be civil.
    I won`t read this book, but then I tried other books by A.J. Llewellyn and even if they weren`t bad, they just do it for me. There are a lot of people who love his books. Thanksfully everyone has the right to choose for himself.
    I rather read the books by Erastes again

  9. I for one don’t care if a reviewer dislikes a book. I don’t care for this reviewer’s pompous tone. I would rather read the telephone book than ANYTHING Erastes writes. I think you will find that the criticisim she is receiving for her attack is because of her tone – not the fact that she doesn’t like a book. She needs to quit typing with her nose stuck in the air. Every review of hers is a pathetic attempt to come across better than everyone else.

  10. “Every review of hers is a pathetic attempt to come across better than everyone else.”

    I must say in your case that shoe is a absolutely perfect fit on you.

  11. JC, your earlier comments belie your current claim. The only one with a problematic tone here is you. Your reaction is seriously out of proportion to the situation. It’s a review– not a crime against humanity.

    Seriously, give it rest!

  12. Personally, I am very displeased with Erastes’ superior attitude. I for one understand that she did not like this book. Fair enough. That is her perogative. However, By reading her replies I have now come to the conclusion that Erastes appears to be an elitist who has perhaps lost her way in dealing with fellow writers, and avid readers like myself. I find this review mean spirited with a hidden agenda against the author.
    Let’s be serious people there is no such thing as a book without a plot. This is just plain stupid. If this statement were accurate this book would be a jumble of unconnected words and sentences .Perhaps the plot was weak but it would be a miracle if any writer could produce such a book without a plot. Even the bible has a plot alebit a very weak one.
    Moreover, anyone on this blog who attempts to question the validity or content of this review are disrespected. As such,with great disappointment I for one will no longer purchase this authors work.That is my perogative.
    Thankfully this blog has a very minor impact in the writing industry so the damage Earastes can inflict on authors is minimal.

  13. JC,

    you seem to be having an ‘author moment’ on a bad review that isn’t for your book. Well, now that it has been mentioned, you do have a tendency to come across like your alter-ego who has sworn off commenting on negative reviews.

    What is coming across here is that the true person behind these names is a non-stable person. If that is not the perception that you wish for people to have, then I suggest…well, counseling, but before that…some form of the counting to ten idea so that you can remove yourself from a volatile situation and preserve some dignity.

    This is said with much well wishes and tender concern for your welfare.

  14. Sounds like a case of “When fans attack!” If you think Erastes singled Llewellyn’s story out for the historical accuracy criticism I suggest you scroll through the hundreds of reviews on this site and see the exact same approach, the same explanations, and the same criteria applied to every single one of them. Erastes did a review of a novel of mine a few years ago and she was able to note that I did my research, because I did. Historical fiction, as mentioned in so many essays and other features on this site, is a very demanding, research-heavy literary form and it is NOT fantasy fiction. Making it M/M does not make it fantasy – that designates it as romance, and no, romance is not fantasy either. I have seen fans and authors get an electric-shock reaction when they find a reviewer holding them to the demands of historical fiction in M/M romances, but guess what? That’s the genre they have stumbled into, and this is one site where the historical part of the genre gets reviewed. And yes, my protagonist, a mild mannered, cowardly sort, was very weepy and I didn’t get dinged for having a weepy protagonist because he did a whole lot more than weep. And THAT is the point. Erastes didn’t write a thing here that was personal, unusual, vindictive or mean – as you would see if you ever read any other reviews by her – she is one reviewer who pulls no punches and actually knows her stuff. You want vindictive reviews? Go compare with Mrs. Giggles – even Erastes is scared of Mrs. Giggles!

  15. Thank you for the invitation to launch an ‘ad hominem attack’ but trust me, I too have better things to do with my time. Usually, I wouldn’t take the slightest interest in this kind of a review site but I made a promise to comment since you have created quite a negative stir.
    When your ‘review,’ first appeared, I received an onslaught of email from readers and authors alike asking me what I thought of it. At the risk of sounding pompous, since that seems to be going around, I think it’s fair to tell you that I have some pretty impressive contacts in the area of literary critique. When I saw this so called review, I was appalled at the tone and the arrogance. I know elitism. I worked in the ivory tower of academia for many years. It is not pretty or impressive. It’s just sad. Anyway, I wondered if maybe I was overreacting so I decided to email a copy of it to my friend in New York City. He is a book reviewer for a major magazine. After he read it, he called me on the phone. He told me that this review was an insult to reviewers everywhere and suggested the reviewer issue a formal apology to the author as well as to the publisher.
    I allowed this concept of ‘subjectivity’ to be thrown around without comment but it should be qualified. This idea of a review being ‘subjective’ applies only to one’s perspective of the book not in the review itself. A good review should strive for objectivity in its analysis. In fairness, you tried to do that when you pointed out various historical inaccuracies but then got away from that and went on a personal attack. When the reviewer gets personal, the objectivity is lost and the things that were legitimately critiqued, loses its power.
    Let me clarify what I mean as it pertains to this review. You say, “Other writers such as Ava March are capable of doing characterization, plot, complications, BDSM and sex in as many pages, so we all know it can be done.” Is this objective? First, you mention a writer out of context. Ava March has nothing to do with this particular book. And the statement is redundant here. I could say that many authors have this capacity but why just Ava March? This is not acceptable in a review that one wants to take seriously. What is the point in comparing A.J. Llewellyn to Ava March? Is the review about Ava March or A.J. Llewellyn?
    The reviewer goes on to say, “The thing is that the author goes into Dan Brown mode at times, describing in detail something historical that they think we’ll be interested in.” Who are we? How can the reviewer hope to speak for the collective reader? Who is writing this review and what does Dan Brown have to do with it?
    I come back to this idea of the book having no plot. I’m sorry but I can’t accept such a fleeting statement. This is next to impossible. The plot, weak or strong, is implied in the synopsis. A basic plot in this type of writing I assume, correct me if I’m wrong, is boy meets boy, boy and boy have some obstacle to overcome, doesn’t matter how small or large, and boy gets boy. That’s a plot. You may critique it, say the plot was weak, confused, muddled, didn’t make sense to you, but it is not very informative to your readers, who are your target audience, to tell them, there is no plot in this book.
    Let’s list the other colorful, statements in your review: “If you are only looking for some gay sex in costume, then you might enjoy it.” Wow! Or, “As you can tell by this, the dialogue is pretty awful–in fact in the throes of passion Samuel actually says to Jude “You’re so clean.” which made me giggle. It’s not exactly love-talk.” Not exactly love-talk to whom? And finally, “One or two checks with this book would have revealed the fact that just about everything was wrong, and as such it reflects badly on the publisher, not just the author.” Everything? And in italics, no less. A good reviewer should at least have one positive thing to say about a book. This is just good manners.
    You are free to write any dribble that you please, just like authors are. When you write, be it fiction or reviews, you can expect to be put under the microscope. You can expect to be taken to task for the words you write. As you know, words are powerful. If you choose not to have any compassion for the writers you review, that’s one thing, but when you defile the basic rules of review writing, and use such an objectionable tone, don’t be surprised when readers and writers attack you. A good reviewer will give the reader the tools to decide for themselves if the book– despite any shortcomings– may be worth the time, energy, and money. You didn’t like it. We get that in spades. I don’t think that’s what the reader should come away with, (or regular reader as you called them.” I glean nothing at all from your review of this book except that the reviewer appears to be pompous and arrogant. That is unfortunate.

  16. I do apologise. When I read the following…”And yes, Matt– I’m using big words in this little comment of mine. Feel free to level an ad hominem attack against me. I assure you I have better things to do than worry about your weak attempts to deflect honest criticism,” I assumed it was you who commented on my former post. Now that I go back, I realise that someone else spoke on your behalf and answered to the comments I made about you. A little bizarre.
    My apologies for inviting myself. 🙂 However I think we understand one another Erastes and I wish you luck in the future!


  17. What I find always interesting about sock puppets is even when they try to hide behind a made up new name they always keep repeating over and over again the same basic demands as they creatively elaborate on their back story.


    A huge waste of time but a fun way to waste it.

  18. Authors who argue about how bad a review is or that the reviewer has some personal mission to bring down the author looks bad all around and is not true. And even if it is, it’s just a review!

    NEVER EVER comment on a review and argue with a reviewer. I should know as a book reviewer and an author of 6 books under my belt and 4 more to come this year. This behavior is petty and childish.

  19. I rather imagine AJ’s chuckling all the way to the bank.

    Recently, a NY published author told me she felt devastated by a NY Times review shredding her latest book…until she saw her book had hit #18 on the NY Times best seller list.

    Let’s hope the tone of the review on this site prompts sales for AJ.

  20. There are many cases of “bad reviews” boosting sales. A good head-ripping on Dear Author or Mrs Giggles boosts sales.

    Regarding the ad hominem attacks – it seems that “Matt” is somewhat cofused about personas. No wonder. 🙂

    • Yes indeed. I follow this site on pretty regular basis, and am planning on continue to do so, since I found many many MANY books here which I have never would have heard about otherwise, so for that I most definitely thankful to site owner and site reviewers. Having said that, this site is also the site where I personally do not agree quite often with the tastes of the reviewers here. So what I am trying to say to all the authors who get so freaked out about bad reviews, believe me, often enough I go for the books which this site grades low, GRANTED I still have my tastes and if reviewer notes something that I feel I will hate I will not buy it, but it does not always coincide with reviewer’s tastes. I care for historical research if I am looking for real historical for example, but anachronistic language really does not bother me, American spelling in the book about Britain does not bother me (in fact I usually welcome it), etc, etc.

      So anyway, my tastes and tastes of many reviewers differ here, but I am looking for factual information in their reviews more than anything else and when I see the facts that may interest me, I will go for a book, so please authors who get bad reviews here, PLEASE calm down. It is not the end of the world. I may check out your books, knowing that I may love something that reviewer hated. Some of the books that this site praised to high haven I found boring as heck even if well researched treatises. I am aware at least of one writer that I discovered thanks to this site, who had gotten a horrible review and whom I now consider one of the best ones, somebody who can write sex scenes and love story as very few people do as far as I am concerned.

      Of course there were instances where I bought a book that I found just as good as reviewer did and once I was wondering if one star book could be as bad as reviewer described, and it was worse lol. In other words I experienced variety of reactions after getting books on the recommendations of the reviewers from this site, but I most definitely do not just go for the books that get good reviews here and I think it is quite possible that I am not the only reader who chooses the books to buy this way.

      Oh and I am still wondering about what the heck was so personal in this review, I have not seen one personal attack on the author, only critique of the book. Did the reviewer call author names? Did she imply anything bad about him as a real person? No, she did not, this is what personal attack is in my book.

      Oh and since when the reviewer is obligated to mention one nice thing in the book??? Whose rule is that?

      I have read the books when in good faith I could not find one good thing to point out, really I did. Would it make my review a personal attack, really?

  21. It’s funny how you can’t dislike a book in this genre, even if you show people what you dislike it for, without coming under attack from people who think you have some kind of personal vendetta with the author.

    Speak Its Name is a review site that applies exactly the same criteria to all books that are reviewed here: Is it historically accurate? Is the plot strong? Are the characters interesting/believable in the context of their time? etc This review marks the book down for being historically inaccurate, having a weak plot, and characters who are not historically accurate. In other words, this review scrutinizes this book in the way the review site does all books. That cannot in any way be a personal attack.

    Is the site elitist? Well, in the sense that it believes that some books are better than others, and it’s possible to tell which ones, then yes, it’s elitist. But if we’re not supposed to judge books on their quality, what’s the point of reviewing at all?

  22. In response to Alex, I believe he has missed the the stinging quality of the language in the review.

    One other point I’d like to comment on: Authors have little or no control over cover designs, and designers don’t read reviews. So what’s the point in pointing out cover design flaws? Apparently this reviewer has no clue as to the complaints NY authors often make about their covers. J.A. Jance, for example, had a book cover featuring the wrong part of the Arizona desert her story was set in.

    • I had the impression that Erastes merely pointed out the historical inaccuracy of the cover as it dovetailed so nicely with the historical inaccuracy of the book itself. As such, the cover was ‘perfect” for the book.

      As for the ‘stinging quality” of the review, I didn’t find it objectionable. She critiqued the quality of the writing, which is what a reviewer is supposed to do.

  23. Hm. The link to “JC” goes nowhere. Now, let me thing.. who’s the person who assumes that any male author can do no wrong and any reviewer who dares to criticize is some kind of demi-demon?

    I’d rather get a negative review that explains clearly and honestly what was wrong than a gush over something that didn’t deserve it. As the review points out, much of the trouble with this story could have been fixed with critical editing — and if a publisher is not willing to work with a writer to correct anachronisms, that’s not the reviewer’s fault.

    “I know a reviewer and he thinks you stink…” Oh, dear. The truth is, a review is a SUBJECTIVE evaluation of a piece of work. And a review of a review is an opinion from a competitor, so I’d take it with a large grain of salt — the sort of thing left out for cattle.

    This is a good review site for people who understand that historical / = “fantasy” and that if a reviewer does not think a writer hit the mark with a particular book, it is NOT a personal attack on the writer.

    There are lots of sites that do “How Much I LOVED This Story” reviews. Romance Junkies Readers is like that (I edit reviews for RJR, I’m too critical to actually write such reviews). It’s a different style, it’s aimed at people who don’t read critically and don’t want critical reviews. Some like milk chocolate, some like semi-sweet. It’s a matter of taste.

    The thing that has absolutely frosted my cupcake was that people are excoriating a reviewer who is also a writer for using big words. I could shake my head til my glasses flew off and I’d still be thunderstruck at the absurdity of this “accusation.”

    Darlings, the English language is a vast and wealthy storehouse of words, calibrated to precise shades of meaning. Someone can be warmed by a fire, or singed, or charred, or burnt to a crisp… or immolated. But to flame a reviewer for using language that demonstrates that she does indeed have th command of a writer’s tools sufficient to understand the task at hand is just a tiny bit ironic, don’t you think?

    And sorry, Erastes, I know you don’t need your battles fought for you, but I have a hard time keeping quiet when grownups throw tantrums.

  24. Don’t know why the link doesn’t go anywhere. I am a published author – JC Raefael – not anybody else.
    Thanks “Jason” for insinuating that I need MY head examined. Anyone who says “everything is wrong” in a book needs THEIR head examined.

  25. Here’s JC Raefael’s blog

    (Just for all those that clicked on the link and it didn’t go anywhere)

  26. Well go figure! click on J.C. Raefael’s blog link and see J.C. Raefael excoriate (dang, I use big words too!) a reader for criticizing his setting a gay romance in Jamaica in a fictional gay resort. So is Xstasy books the place to go for the thinnest-skinned authors imaginable?

    • A gay resort in JAMAICA?

      …ya, mon…

      I don’t know about authorial epidermis, but it doesn’t sound like the editors are required to do anything in the way of fact-checking.

  27. Yeah, he came over here after making a stink on Goodreads.

  28. I think I might get my name changed to “Jason”

  29. oops…call me “Stephani”. While I wasn’t looking Stephani Hecht copyrighted my name but gave me hers as a consolation. hmph…

  30. LOL Jase. I would give it back, but I already ordered a t-shirt that read, “I am Jason!”

  31. J.C.
    I just came from this website..

    Now please let’s be clear here… You say you are not J.C. / Matt/ A.J./etc.?


  32. Actually, this was very informative (and polite) review of what must have been a challenging read for someone who loves historicals. There’s nothing personal, loads of specifics, and certainly nothing “stinging” or pointed in its language… Exactly what I’d want to have on hand when making a book-buying decision. I’ll also disagree that an impartial reviewer needs to have” one good thing” to say. Why aren’t critics allowed to dislike a book? The word impartial actually means something, and kneejerk praise is not part of the definition.

    As for March or Brown or similar mentions, critique is inevitably an act of comparison. Whatever Ednamarsh may suppose, throwing words like “stupid” around in this context is exactly that. There are literally thousands of crappy books in print that don’t feature the ghost of a plot. Observing that doesn’t make anyone an elitist, but astute. Ava March DOES plot in limited space, but then a plot can be done in a sentence. As Forster pointed out, “‘The king died and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” It sounds like Llewellyn got caught up in the appurtenances and forgot about the actual storytelling. He’s done it before in other books, but here the effect was amplified by shaky research in a subgenre that demands some precision.

    Bottom line, I already own this novella and will read it (so no one “lost” money on me reading Erastes’ opinion), but now I have a sense of what to expect. That means that this review was helpful and informative. I’ll admit I was curious how Llewellyn’s chatty, idiomatic style would translate into historical, and it sounds like it was a struggle.

    Harsh as it may seem, I think this review was given in kindness and honesty. It would be a great checklist for anyone tackling historical M/M writing.

    The convo which followed was equally interesting for other reasons related to socks and such. Jeepers.

  33. Firstly, sorry for my language and if my thoughts here offended you. I am only a reader, so I am not sure if my opinion counts.

    I am really frustrated.

    Thanks to reviewers/fans who insists of putting GOOD REVIEWS and EXTRA HIGH RATINGS on GOODREADS, I had been suckered punch in grabbing these “good” ebooks.

    And..guess what?! I bought a big number of ebooks based on reviews and ratings in goodreads, almost half didnt even qualify in being in that ratings.

    Honestly, what is wrong with having an honest opinion these days?! At the end of the day, everyone leaves with something regardless good or bad.

    Writers/Editors, historical factual is better to be corrected or you will might end up where the future generations in my country no longer remember the real heros/scenerios thanks to the overzealous government who insist of taking out the facts from the history book.

    Reviewers, please I want a fair opinion whether the story is good or bad. No more sugar-coated reviews.

    I thank Ms Erastes for her review, and someone who lives in Asia, this is indeed an eye opener.

    I bought a big number of ebooks from this author and half of the times, I have been disappointed even though ratings are good. That’s why I decided to forgo this title.

    To everyone here, my monies are hard earned……so are your stories.if I could I wish I could support every writers in the world but unfortunately I can’t. I could only buy what is the best out there.

  34. It’s sad to see authors and/or their cronies act like spoiled children and start stomping their feet at a bad critique. When they do that they automatically go on my “will never read” list.

  35. Dear God, what’s all this paranoid attitude about her having a ‘secret agenda against the writer’?

    One can think a book sucked without having ‘secret agendas’. Just suck it up and move on.

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