Book Review: Alice Close Your Eyes

Full Disclosure:  I’ve never met Averil Dean face-to-face, but I consider her a good friend—it’s a Betsy Lerner thing, a bloggerbuddy thing, an e-mailing, occasional care-packaging, shared parenting-woeing, mutual why-do-I-want-to-do-this-writing-thing-again-oh-right-thanks thing.

And the woman can writeas anyone who’s visited her blog will agree.  She classifies her posts as Poetry, Porn, and Petulance, but there’s far more to them than that.  She’s savvy, insightful, earthy, brave, and has paid her damn dues, thank you.

So when she offered me an ARC of her new book, Alice Close Your Eyeswith several disclaimers about not being sure it was my usual cup of tea and that she would understand if I was too busy—my reply, verbatim, was, “OH MY GOD, GIMME!”

I tried to summarize the story myself, but kept dropping spoilers, so here’s the official blurb, instead:

Alice Close Your EyesTen years ago, someone ruined Alice Croft’s life. Now, she has a chance to right that wrong—and she thinks she’s found the perfect man to carry out her plan.

After watching him for weeks, she breaks into Jack Calabrese’s house to collect the evidence that will confirm her hopes. When Jack comes home unexpectedly, Alice hides in the closet, fearing for her life. But upon finding her, Jack is strangely calm, solicitous…and intrigued.

That night is the start of a dark and intense attraction, and soon Alice finds herself drawn into a labyrinth of terrifying surrender to a man who is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. As their relationship spirals toward a breaking point, Alice begins to see just how deep Jack’s secrets run—and how deadly they could be.

Like all blurbs, this is only a surface description—and like Averil’s posts, this book is far more than advertised.

It’s an exploration of changing points-of-view, mistakes, and motivations, of loss and missed opportunities, broken pieces and unfilled needs, and the many, many different kinds of devotion and desire.

It’s also an exercise in symbolism both subtle and shouted so loudly that even the characters can’t help but notice.  And so precisely written that every single plot point and flashback and spiraling erotic moment slots into place with a click.

The characters all hold their own, even though they’re  filtered through Alice’s memory,  mindset . . and misinterpretations.  Jack, who knows he’s being played, but can’t back down.  Molly, who broke my heart more than once.  Alice’s grandmother, who, with the best intentions, may have taught Alice the worst interpretation of vengeance.  And Alice herself—writer, orphan, semi-recluse, lost girl interrupted—who thinks her eyes are wide open and her vision is true . . .  and who is very, very wrong.

About those erotic moments:  they may be dark, they may be frequent, but not a single one is gratuitous.  Each is a payment offered or extracted, a manipulation, a binding, a powerplay, a promise, a punishment—or any combination.*  Averil’s talent for infusing a scene, an act, a single touch, with the emotional tensiondark or light—that defines true erotica, is undeniable: there’s a scene in a craft fair booth, a fully-clothed moment of supercharged choice, that rivals, at least for me, any other scene in the book.

This isn’t a mystery with sex scenes tacked on—it’s a symbiosis.  And a damned good story .

Someone, can’t remember who, described this book as erotic noir.  So I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a light read.  And it isn’t—there are some tough, true things in here, things that happen and shouldn’t and do anyway.  The world of these characters was broken when they got here,  and that they have trouble coping with the unfairness isn’t surprising.

The level of involvement I had with these characters would have been, except I know Averil Dean and what she can do.

You should find out for yourselves.


* And, if I may, the dom/sub dynamics between Alice and Jack are fascinating on several levels. In both their intimate relationship and the plot, Alice has the power and Jack has the strength.  They each have the need, even the craving, for aftercare, even if they’re unable to express it, or even accept it.  They could be the saving of each other—but their inability to trust each other, or themselves, upsets the necessary balance.


Weekend Writing Warriors: The Anti-Cupids (No . . . )

We WriWa bannerHave a WIP, an EIP, an MS, or a published work you want to share on your blog, eight sentences at a time?

Want to sample other people’s WIPs, EIPs, MSs, or published works, eight sentences at a time?

Be a Weekend Writing Warrior!

Rules are here!

List of participants is here!


Starting a few paragraphs down from last week, Viv gets an unexpected phone call from her mother:

Cookie Crisp cereal from the side

Vivian Leigh Mitchell, you are on your way to The Elegant Crumb, right?”

Viv swallowed. “No, I’m in my kitchen having Honey Fros—having breakf—having an early lunch.”

“No, you’re meeting Kirsten and David for their wedding cake tasting.”

She set down her spoon.  “The tasting is next week.”

It’s today.”

“It can’t be today.“  


Poor Viv isn’t having the best morning . . .

It was difficult to choose eight sentences this week.  I’d chose a snippet, decide to edit it a little and end up adding new stuff that improved it, but also made the potential passage just a little too long.

I know, I know—rough problem to have.  But I really wanted to share the bit about Uncle Josh’s food allergies to see if it was funny, or just morbid.  Then again, if I have to ask . . .

And no, I have no idea why most of my snippets have centered around food lately.  Weird.

Random Thursday: Random Ways to Avoid Writing

It’s Thursday!  It’s Random!  It’s Random Thursday.

C’mon people—that time won’t waste itself!


Watch this again


And maybe again.

Frame by frame. Line by quotable line.

Just to see if it’s possible to pick up any clues about Coulson’s mysterious revival,
other than its obvious lack of Tahiti.

Or what exactly Fitz and Simmons  are actually saying.

Or where and when J. August Richards got those shoulders?

Or to invent a new drinking game involving the SHIELD symbol, which is on a surprising number of items,
considering it belongs to a top secret organization.

Discuss.  At length.


Get a New Tattoo

This is sort of writing,
’cause I tried it with a Sharpie yesterday.

Hand Trampoline

Works in boring staff meetings, too—or so I imagine.



Get Your MARVELous Nails Done

Hard to write with wet nails . . .  Or  while holding your hands together like that . . .


Or watching the how-to video . . .

Or deploring/defending/contemplating one’s levels of sheer geekiness . . .


Take a Nap


Or as we like to call it, “refilling the well.”


Do a Little Housewo—Clean the—Pick up the—

No, no, sorry . . . can’t even type it with a straight face.

Never mind.


Search for ‘braaaanes

Or at least the ones in which you’ve already written your book.

And it’s good.

Poetry Wednesday: Algernon’s Amphigouri

“Nephelidia” is the single most purposeful purple poem I’ve ever personally perused, and I adore it.

I also haven’t a clue what it means, but that’s okay, because it’s an amphigouri,* and amphigouris only seem like they should have meaning, when, really, they’re utter nonsense.

You have to respect someone who can pull that off with intent, when so many of us do it accidentally and with far less panache.


I suspect, though, that one person too many mentioned that Algernon Charles Swinburne needed to pull back a little on the adjectives, adverbs, and high-falutin’ polysyllabic verbosity, so Mr. Swinburne nodded thoughtfully, sat down at his desk, and wrote this out with the middle finger on his free hand gliding down the pages of his favorite thesaurus.

Or maybe that’s nonsense, too.  Hard to tell, sometimes.


Nonsense or not, there are some fine lines in here, no?


* Isn’t that a fantastic word?  It ought to be a genii in a test tube, or the spirit of a magical squash, or something written under the influence of something herbal that makes one’s imagination into a Kaleidoscope made of fruit jello.  Good word, amphigouri . . .

Totally SHIELDed


There will be no post today because the blogger is too busy fangirling—fanwomaning?—and counting the seconds until seven p.m. CST.


Are you joking?

Agents of SHIELD

For those of you who haven’t paid much attention to any of my casual references to the show for the past several months, here’s a trailer:

And another example of the advertising power ABC and Marvel Studios are putting behind this show:

Agent of the Year

And at least one member of  Joss Whedon’s Star Power Stable™ who’s making a cameo:

Ron Glass- AoS!


From  Firefly! And Serenity!  And Barney Miller!

And now I’m dating myself.

But I don’t care!  Because it’s RON GLASS!!

Not convinced?  Really?

Try a different trailer:

And an interview that would have made me want to try the first episode, even if I’d never heard of Marvel, simply because of the comfort levels and chemistry of the actors:

Am I being just a tad . . . intense about a television program?

Could be.

But the only programs that have played on our television in the ten months since Leverage ended
have been for kids or sports fans.

And while I haven’t really missed it, this show seems like an excellent reason to tune into something  a little closer to my demographic.

And just a bit closer to my heart.

Coulson Lives!

Join me?