Bodice Rippers & Erotica Book Reviews: SC Stephens
For more information, check out SC Stephens' official fan website.
Collision Course by SC Stephens
Read by Natalie June 2012
Natalie recommends as an interesting YA romance from the male POV
Lucas had it all, a beautiful and loving girlfriend, a best friend and a mom who would do anything for him. Never much of a party animal, he was the designated driver one night taking his friends home from a party when their car hit a freak rain storm. Quickly loosing control and falling down an embankment, Lucas loses his girlfriend, his best friend and his best mate’s girlfriend in the blink of an eye. The sole survivor of the crash, Lucas must now not only deal with his grief and loss, but face a once friendly town that doesn’t believe he was sober or driving carefully. Withdrawing into himself, Lucas struggles to cope with everyday life and the situation only gets worse when he’s forced to return for his last semester of high school.
On his first day, things just go from bad to worse for Lucas. Taunted by his former friends and all but ignored by everyone else, including the teachers, he seeks solace in the men’s bathroom. However he quickly discovers he’s not alone, Sawyer, the new girl is also in there seeking refuge. As the two of them find a connection, fuelled by their isolation, their grief and their loneliness, Lucas starts to believe that maybe school won’t be so bad with Sawyer around. Although haunted by visions of his dead friends, his daily life is now made so much easier by the friendship he’s formed with Sawyer. His nightly dreams where he is visited by either his friends, or sometimes his dead girlfriend Lil, also have him believing he can still be with them again, even if it’s not in real life. But as Lucas continues to hide these dreams from everyone, Sawyer starts to fall in love with him. After a couple of accidental kisses, one fuelled by Lucas being drugged by his best mate’s younger brother and the other by his grief, Sawyer’s feelings continue to grow. Lucas however, keeps pushing her away, believing he is cheating on his dead girlfriend who he now sees almost nightly. As Sawyer continues to accept his friendship, despite both wanting more, and continuously suffering through Lucas’ hot and cold behaviour towards her, things start to fall apart when his dead friends tell him he needs to forget them and move on with his life, and the school tells him he needs to see a councillor. As time passes and Lucas refuses to let go, he sees suicide as his only salvation. Recreating the scene from the car accident, Lucas is determined to join his friends in death, until his is stopped by Sawyer. And she knows only to well what he is feeling, having suffered ridicule herself at her old school, which led to her own suicide attempt. Desperate to stop Lucas from wasting his life and instead show him that there are people who love and care for him, Sawyer stands in the car’s path, refusing to let him go through with it. Eventually, with the help of his mom, the local sheriff and the school councillor, they stop Lucas from dying and finally get him some help. As Lucas starts to heal and come to terms with both his grief and his role in the accident, he also finally admits to everyone what he remembers from that night – everything. And as the school prepares to graduate and he wants to remember his missing friends, he and Sawyer finally get together.
This was quite different to what I thought it would be. It was certainly interesting reading what was effectively a romance novel from a male’s POV, and although there were times it didn’t quite ring true (his descriptions of Sawyer – do guys really think like that?), overall, it was very good. While Lucas’ grief and despair were certainly palpable throughout, I did get a bit sick of his repetitive dreams and his inability to see what he was doing to himself and those around him. He was also very mean to Sawyer on several occasions and I was surprised to see her continuously put up with it all the time. However in the end, when everything finally got sorted out, I will admit, it was quite moving and also very sweet.
Read by Natalie May 2012
Natalie recommends as different, refreshing, sometimes annoyingly frustrating, but mostly realistic and surprisingly moving.
My second foray into the self-published eBook download and a much better experience than the first. Gone are the excessive and obvious spelling and grammar issues and although possibly bordering on a little too long and drawn out, overall a much better experience. So book 1 in the series, Thoughtless tells the story of Kiera and Denny, a young couple in love and about to embark on a new life in Seattle, Denny to start his dream job and Kiera to be with Denny. Transferring university and leaving behind her friends and family, Kiera only wants to be with the man who has been her whole life for the last 2 years. Arriving in Seattle, they move in with Denny’s old friend Kellan, a local rock star and a definite lady’s man about town. Despite acknowledging his attractiveness, his undeniable sex appeal and amazing voice, Kiera knows she is in love with Denny he is her whole world and the only man she wants. As the two of them settle in and try to start their new life in the city, things are thrown for a loop when Denny unexpectedly has to go out of town to work for several months. Consumed by loneliness, Kiera finds comfort in a new friendship with her roommate, a man who isn’t as he first appeared. As the two of them grow closer and everyone around them starts to wonder what’s going on, Kiera and Kellan try to fight the sizzling chemistry they know exists between them. Then, just when Kiera thinks Denny might be coming back, he rings with news of a job offer, one he has already accepted. Consumed with anger, grief and a solid dose of alcohol Kiera finds herself dumping the man who she thought was her whole world and alone in this new city with Kellan. And suddenly, a night neither of them ever expected to happen, changes everything.
Unsure of what to do the next morning, especially with Kellan nowhere in sight, Kiera wonders if she didn’t just become another notch in his bedpost. Still trying to sort out her feelings in walks Denny with news that he has quit his job and come back to be with her. As the two of them reconnect again, Kiera is torn by the feelings she knows she harbours for Kellan and the love she feels for Denny. Desperate to sort this out with Kellan instead she wakes to find him completely wasted and promising not to say anything to Denny. Desperate to try and rescue her friendship with him while at the same time keep her relationship with Denny, Kiera begins a frustrating and painful cycle of secrecy and hurt with the two men in her life. Despite Kellan being a complete arse to her, as he tries to bury his feelings, Kiera begs Kellan to stay when he tells her he must leave. As she fights to keep the man she knows is more than a friend, they once again find themselves in a compromising and very passionate position. Kellan now believing Kiera really does feel something for him decides to stick around, while Kiera trying to balance a friendship with feelings she knows she shouldn’t be having, starts her torturous and almost cruel friendship with Kellan again. Sneaking in hugs, touches and much more, the innocent side of their relationship starts to disappear as both of them cross boundaries they know they shouldn’t, all the while trying to keep it from Denny. When this eventually reaches fever point and Kellan pulls quite possibly one of the sexiest moves in the nightclub I have ever seen, Kiera snaps, demanding he stop, despite the fact that she has actually been the one leading him on all this time, and in a very big way. Kellan, heartbroken at losing her yet again, starts in on his former man whoring ways, a habit he gave up shortly after Kiera walked into his life. Shocked at the number of women Kellan goes through and the things she has to witness and hear, Kiera’s jealousy eventually rears its head and snapping one night she finally admits to Kellan how she feels about him. Opening up to her in a way he never has with anyone, Kellan not only confides in Kiera about his horrific childhood, which fuels much of his present behaviour, but also in his love for her. Kiera too admits her love for him and as Kellan grants her time to talk to Denny, the two of them grow even closer together. However, Kiera is torn, scared to give up the man who represents stability, comfort and familiar love for a man who is nothing but passion, unknown and feverish love. Torn between both of them, she struggles to make any decisions and hurts both of them in the process, but particularly Kellan and in unbelievable ways. Honestly there were times when I really wanted to bitch slap Kiera. She was such a bitch to both men but particularly Kellan, somehow failing to realise she was treating them so badly. She also had this amazing ability to spit out the most stupid things when she should really have kept her mouth shut, yet be unable to speak when she really needed too. I know both men were hurt by her, but the things she did to Kellan were really sad and really cruel, I felt extremely sorry for him. Culminating in a showdown where Denny finally learns the truth, Kiera is inevitably saved from making her decision when Denny dumps her and Kellan walks away. Lost and destroyed, Kiera finally realises her problem - that she wants Kellan but she is afraid to be with him, afraid of the intensity between them, afraid it will burn out and he will leave her. Kellan meanwhile has walked away, hurt at all the things she did to him and unable to share her and accept second place. When Kiera is finally dragged out to see him and witnesses first hand his pain at not having her in his life, she finally, finally admits to him how she feels, her fears about the two of them and how he was always her first choice. Kellan too admits his hurt and anger at what she did to him, but also his love and fear at the intensity between them. When Kiera sees the lengths he went too to keep her in his heart, she cannot resist and despite his fear, Kellan can't let her go either and with a little help from Anna, Kiera's sister, the two of them finally reconnect again. Deciding to try again, this time properly, they embark on a slow but real relationship that sees them reconnecting and learning to love and look after each other again. Culminating in an utterly fabulous ending (oh Kellan, you break my heart), you get the feeling that both Kiera and Kellan have learnt from their past mistakes and that their love is strong enough to survive.
Book 2, Effortless picks up not long after the first with Denny now back home in Australia and Kiera and Kellan in a serious and committed relationship. Watching Kellan and his band start to make waves in the music scene however, Kiera must now come to terms with his rock star status and the endless women who throw themselves at him. Knowing everything she does about his past, her insecurities plague her and she struggles to believe she is enough for him. Kellan meanwhile is done with his whoring days and only sees and wants Kiera. She is the first and only women he has ever loved and the only woman who has ever loved him and all Kellan wants is to be with her. But, at the same time, he knows how their relationship began and he remains scared that she will leave him, still afraid that he wasn’t her first choice after all. Despite these feelings however, the two of them remain committed to each other and do have a really beautiful and extremely passionate connection that they continue to enjoy.
But then Kellan’s band gets an opportunity that is impossible to turn down, a chance to tour and make a name for themselves. Faced with a 6 month separation due to Kiera’s school commitments, Kellan is initially reluctant to go knowing what Denny’s departure did to her and led her to do with him. But Kiera is changed and desperately wants to let Kellan live out his dream, promising that she loves him, that she is only his and won’t fall apart when he is away. Determined to never cause another man pain ever again and desperate to learn from her past behaviour, Kiera encourages him to go, despite her fears about what could happen when he is on the road. As the countdown to his departure begins, the two of them spend every minute they can together, promising to remain faithful to each other. One final night with the band and the after party allows them to really enjoy themselves (yeah wow, bathroom scene, smoking hot!) before the boys set off on the road and the girls remain behind. As Kiera succumbs to her grief at Kellan being gone, he has been busy making sure she doesn’t wallow in his absence. Instructing her friends to look after her and leaving her with a treasure hunt of notes to find, Kellan doesn’t want to make the mistake that Denny made, choosing instead to constantly remind Kiera through notes and phones calls that he is with her all the time. I should side track here and talk about these notes…oh boy. Alternating between unbelievably sweet and romantic and then just downright sexy and naughty, this is a man who clearly has no problem expressing himself! They are sooooo good – the note she receives at midnight on her first night without him…..oh wow!
As the time passes, Kiera and Kellan remain in daily contact with each other, believing in their love and connection and trying desperately to trust each other. When they are reunited at Christmas it is bittersweet – a romantic reunion where they reaffirm their love and commitment to each other, but also the start of secrets when Kellan receives a mysterious text. Shortly after this, Denny returns to Seattle and Kiera believing she is protecting Kellan from giving up his dream and rushing back to ensure nothing happens, stupidly elects to not tell him. This starts a terrible period of doubt between both of them, as neither wants to admit their secret to the other, despite the fact they both are aware of them. Even with a brief reconnection in Boise, both Kellan and Kiera continue hiding secrets with neither of them willing to admit the full truth and even though their daily phone calls and love for each other continues, the relationship starts to feel the strain. Things naturally explode when Kellan returns home for a surprise visit and misinterprets two incidents, one involving Denny and the other involving something Anna did. After a couple of huge arguments, an almost breakup, tears and finally confessions on both sides, both Kellan and Kiera admit what they have been keeping from each other and in doing so are able to reach a new and stronger stage in their relationship. Finally feeling that they can trust each other, the remaining tour progresses quickly, Kiera finishes schoool and moves back in with him and Kellan returns home for her graduation. Freed from her commitments in Seattle and only wanting to be together, Kellan begs Kiera to come to LA for his album recording and then join the band on their next tour. Kiera, feeling the exact same way agrees and the two of them make an extra little commitment to each other which is so very sweet. Ah Kellan, once again you break my heart. The book, sexier, more romantic and just better overall than its predecessor, ends with the happy couple committed and believing in the love and trust they now have for each other and about to embark on a new journey, together this time.
Although these books were at times a little to drawn out with the drama and Kiera was unbelievably frustrating and annoying with her stupid and selfish behaviour, they were nonetheless a great read that kept me flicking the pages long into the night. I have to say, Kellan has got to be one of the sexiest characters I have ever read and the chemistry and passion between him and Kiera is palpable. He is literally sex on legs and it’s easy to see how Kiera is so consumed by him. I mean there were times when I thought my iPad would explode things got so hot! The two books are also an interesting and somewhat refreshing look at the classic love triangle. Yes eventually Denny, Kellan and Kiera mend their friendship, which is slightly cheesy and conveniently aided by Denny’s guilt over his actions at the end of Thoughtless, but it isn’t pretty and it isn’t straight forward. The relationship beween Kellan and Kiera is also difficult, because despite having the incredible love for each other, they struggle with the trust knowing the mistakes they have made and the hurt they caused to each other in the past. While I thought at times some of the behaviour was a bit ridiculous and unrealistic (some of the conclusions they both so rapidly jumped to after everything they had gone through, especially Kellan and his father and Kiera with Denny were really frustrating), overall this did a good job showing what happens when you try and build a relationship from a betrayal. Knowing they finally got there in the end certainly left me with a big smile on my face. So naturally this also left me scared when I discovered that the author was part way through writing the third book! Honestly, I just don’t know how much more these two can go through and while it will definitely be interesting and fun to watch Kiera and Kellan as they travel on tour together, I just don’t want them to go through any shit anymore – they’ve been through enough! So please Ms Stephens, when you are writing the next instalment, be nice to them because they’ve had enough! For more, including teasers from the upcoming third book which is due out at the end of 2012.
Q and A with SC Stephens on the Thoughtless series.
We were lucky enough to secure an interview with SC Stephens, who kindly answered our questions on her Thoughtless series!
1. Thoughtless was the first full length novel you wrote, where did the inspiration for it come from?
Lots of daydreaming, lots of listening to music. I was obsessed with One Republic, and listened to the album Dreaming Out Loud nonstop. I started seeing a very clear image of Kellan singing on stage. His character blossomed from those early visions. I wrote the espresso scene first, and then started asking myself a bunch of why, when, where, how questions. Before I knew it, I had several scenes written, and several more questions to answer.
2. Are any of the characters drawn from real life family or friends – yourself maybe? Why did you decide to make Denny Australian and did you speak to any Australians for help with his sayings or mannerisms?
Haha, no, no real life family & friends inspirations, although, Kiera and I do share a lot of the same quirks. Denny is Australian because he’s based on an Australian actor that I had a crush on at the time (Craig Horner, such a cutie). I popped him into my fantasy with Kellan, and Thoughtless was the result. I didn’t know any Australians at the time, although, I do now! I just went more with his character than his nationality. I knew some sayings, then googled others. I hope I did him justice!
3. You changed the ending of Thoughtless from what you originally posted on FictionPress – firstly, thank god you did! I read through it and just couldn’t handle that much sadness, particularly for Kellan who had already suffered enough pain! Yeah if you haven’t realized it yet, am a bit of a Kellan fan, oh who am I kidding, a huge Kellan fan! So thank you so much for doing this and secondly, was the decision to do this driven by the online feedback you received or were you in two minds about it too?
I had a love/hate relationship with the original ending, so when the feedback came in for it, I really paid attention. Some brilliant observations were made to me, and I started revisiting the ending. Especially after a fan shared the song Run by Snow Patrol. That song inspired the “walk through the crowd” ending. I’m really happy with the way it ends now.
4. After you changed the ending, this allowed you to write a second book that looked at the after part of Kellan and Kiera. I thought this was really interesting particularly the dynamics of a relationship that started with a betrayal and was filled with hurt and lies. This is never really addressed in stories about the classic love triangle – most people think it’s all just hearts and roses. How hard was it to write both the ending of Thoughtless where Kellan and Kiera are suffering apart, their emotional reconnection and then all the struggles they face in Effortless?
I really loved writing the struggles with trust that they both had. It seemed so natural to me, considering what they had both done to a person they cared about. Kind of an, “If I can do it, anyone can do it,” feeling.
I love writing the heavy stuff. The more emotional a scene is, the easier it is to write—their reunion in Thoughtless, their goodbye in Effortless, their fights—all of that kind of stuff flows the easiest for me. It’s also very different to write a heavy scene than it is to read it. I get tangled up into knots when I read books, but I don’t have the same reaction when I’m writing them. Mainly because I know what everyone is thinking and feeling, and how things are eventually going to end up. It’s much easier to write a heartbreaking scene when you know the makeup scene is just around the corner.
5. Now that you are writing a series, any idea as to how many books it will be, will you be stopping at a trilogy? Can you give us any hints about the third book (on my knees begging)? Are we likely to see what their life on the road is like and what challenges are they going to face, are they going to make the same mistakes all over again (please no!)?
I think I’ll be stopping this series as a trilogy. There’s only so much I can put Kellan and Kiera through before they either firmly bond together or completely fall apart. The third book takes off almost immediately following Effortless, and follows Kellan’s skyrocket to fame, which does include life on the road—that’s actually the part I’m currently writing. There have been some really great scenes so far. To me, at least. Hopefully others will find it entertaining as well.
6. The notes in Effortless were such a fabulous addition to the story – were you determined to make Kellan and Denny’s absence from Kiera’s daily life different? Where did the notes idea come from cause that one she receives at midnight on the first night of Kellan’s departure, damn that is just so hot!
Haha, yeah, I like that one too. The notes were born from Kellan’s character. When I got to that point in the story, it just felt right. He’s so scared of losing the only person who has ever shown him an ounce of true love, that he panicked a bit, and went a little over the top. He wanted to make sure that Kiera missed him, and make sure that she knew he cared about her. And he’s so good with writing his feelings down on paper. The song Bleed by Hot Chelle Rae also helped to inspire Kellan’s notes. It matched his mood so well, that it sort of became the theme song for Effortless while I was writing it.
7. There is a lot of music and revealing of feelings through music in both books, all of which just makes the idea of Kellan the rock god even sexier. Are you musically inclined or do you just take inspiration from the music and lyrics of others?
I have no talent for music myself, but I emotionally connect with music—be it instrumental or traditional songs. I love everything, from sweeping movie scores, to hard rock, to show tunes, to today’s current hits. There’s not much about music that I don’t like…even country is growing on me. ;) And now, thanks to Kellan, I have an even deeper appreciation of music. It helps me see his beautiful face!
8. The side characters in both books play important roles in both Kiera and Kellan’s lives and they also add plenty of funny moments. Are you tempted to write any spin-off books from any other character’s POV?
I’m very tempted to work on something with Anna and Griffin. They’ve really grown on me, and Griffin is so much fun to write for. It all depends on where their characters end up going in book three, though.