Book Reviews

Blue Saffire and the Fictional Universe

Catching up with Blue Saffire

So I was supposed to have written this one in August, but I got lazy and let September creep up on me. By the time I got back into the swing of things, it was October, but here I am in what is now the middle of November with a new and lengthy post.

It’s impossible to read BWWM Dark Romance and not run into Blue Saffire. According to her bio, Blue Saffire is just some bored housewife that loves to write, but she’s really out here writing. This post was originally titled, “Catching Up with Blue Saffire” because I wanted to do an in-depth multi-review post about the nine Blue Saffire books that I had just plowed through and where that had put us in the timeline of the series. However, I really love an overarching theme.

Recently, I wrote about S.K. Lessly, The Over-Traumatized Heroine, and The Alpha Male Lead. I don’t think I really did that post justice in the way that I should have, but it served the multi-review-post purpose that I needed it to. This time, though, I thought I would try to do a little better in examining what I consider the second phase of Blue Saffire’s fictional universe. 

So, first up, why do I call it a fictional universe and not a shared universe? According to Wikipedia, shared universes generally have more than one author or creator, whereas fictional universes just have to be slightly different from the real world. For the purposes of this post, Blue Saffire’s collection of interconnected works would be considered a fictional universe. 

I’m not trying to say that fictional universes are in any way new to the Romance genre – I was first introduced to it with Nora Roberts’ Bride quartet – however, the scope of which Blue Saffire goes about hers is a bit of an emerging trend. Most authors might do a series of books in one fictional universe and move on, but I’ve recently seen both Blue Saffire and Xyla Turner do several series in the same fictional universe and basically never leave it. 

I don’t like Xyla Turner’s three-quarter novel situation enough to do more than one more book with her, but I felt the need to return to Blue Saffire after finishing Wyatt The Heartbreaker. So, technically, the next book should have been Allegations of Love, but I felt like finishing the Hush series would have been the better idea. However, for the sake of chronology, we’ll try to go in order.

Legally Bound IV: Allegations of Love

In Allegations of Love, Jasper Briggs and Marie Mairettie have been crushing on each other since they were children, but never really got the chance to be together. Now that they are able, Jasper won’t let go of his one true love. Except, things are a bit more complicated than that. 

I think the most notable thing in this book to me is that Jasper is just as mixed as his cousins, but he passes for white so you almost want to question how this could be considered an interracial romance. However, Legally Bound II has a black couple, and at least two more heroines in this universe were forced to pass for white for the majority of their lives, so this is technically par for the course.

This is also the BDSM book in a series that regularly features people meeting their true loves at a sex club. Part of me feels like Blue Saffire could have done more with this setting, but I’m sure that there are still subjects to explore. 
In terms of the greater fictional universe, I believe that this book brought the Briggs’, Mairetties, Donatis, and Blacks all in house for a performance by the band from Perfect for Me (which I did not read, and still don’t plan to). It did nothing to stop this book from being the worst in the Legally Bound series.

Hush II: Slow Burn

In Hush II: Slow Burn we return to the Donati and Caprisi families as Luca and Shannon try to figure out how to find true love in an arranged marriage. Problem is, Luca’s not quite sure that he’s capable of being a good husband, and Shannon’s tired of being someone that she’s not after a lifetime of trying to please a mother that did not love her. But when Shannon’s life is threatened, Luca steps up to the plate. 

Writing this two months after the fact was a terrible idea on my part, but I generally remember what happened. At least enough to stay on topic. 

So Hush is a bit of a connector series. Family Secrets is a little confusing unless you take the time to read the first three Legally Bound books, and, whereas Slow Burn kind of forces you to go and read the remaining ones.

Slow Burn brings in not only the Mairettie and Briggs families from Legally Bound, but also the Blacks from Brothers Black. It essentially introduces a mob theme to the Legally Bound books that was barely hinted at in Hush and is not fully explored until you get to Legally Unbounded (Legally Bound 5.5). 

Slow Burn is also the “girl power” book. I say this because Saffire has this wild scene toward the end where the women sort of step up to help protect their families. It wasn’t a bad idea, but it played a bit cheesy. 
According to Blue Saffire’s website, you’re supposed to read the first Legally Bound V novella after finishing Hush 2, but I personally think that they all work best together. So, I instead read Ballers 2.

Ballers 2: His Final Play

Nico Donati has a hard time getting himself back together after his career-stopping injury. Reese Roman is just the therapist to do it, but she’s hesitant to become more. It takes a while, but when the two of them finally get down to it, they’re somehow able to make it work. 

If Blue Saffire wrote her books in phases, I would say that His Final Play is the clear end of phase one or atleast the end of the interim between phase one and two. I say this because nothing truly substantial in regards to this universe as a whole really happens in this book, but it fits into the leftover gaps of Hush series and the first Ballers book. It even helps to somewhat set up the last Legally Bound book/novellas. It’s also the first of two epilogues to take place in the far future. 

His Final Play, to me, may have been the most personal of Blue Saffire’s books because it dealt with an issue that is close to the author’s heart. I appreciated that Nico was so willing to work through Reese’s situation, but I completely understood why Reese was so afraid to try. 

Legally Bound 5.0-5.4: Legally Bound Special Edition

Blue Saffire should have called this Legally Bound V: The Novellas or something, because they really don’t work as well separately as they do together. I have to use my GoodReads summary for this one. 

“Something’s up with Ellen Marettie. Something her husband and best friend have both tried to figure out. But Ellen’s not saying anything, so things will just have to play out as they’re meant to.”

In Legally Bound Special Edition, Blue Saffire introduces the idea of Ellen being able to have premonitions. Saffire also drives home that this entire series is about the Mairettie children being in interracial relationships with black people, which, I feel, was a misstep specifically in this situation. 

So the farther along I get in this list, the more I remember these stories and my issues with them. Somewhere between Legally Bound 4 and Hush 2, Camille (who is Paige and Bobby from Legally Bound 1’s friend and secretary) moves in with Sam and Ellen Mairettie because Camille’s trash husband kicks her and her sons out of their house and freezes all of her assets. Camille and Ellen had been friends since Paige married Bobby in the first book, and Sam makes a joke about now having two wives because Camille moved in. This would have been a great time for Blue Saffire to move toward Camille, Ellen, and Sam being a triad, but Blue decides to go another way. 

That’s misstep #1. 

Misstep #2 was the decision to have Sam go by two names. We spend 4 books getting used to the Mairetties, and here comes Sam with 4 novellas and an extra novel to tell us that not only are they really a mob family, but their real last name is Locatelli. 

To be fair, this wasn’t a complete misstep, but it was a disservice to Sam and Ellen’s relationship to have them essentially be hiding whole parts of themselves from each other. Also, I couldn’t understand how Ellen could see Sam being with a whole other woman, but not figure out that her husband was a mob boss. 

Misstep #3 was the decision to kill off Ellen Mairettie. Homegirl could have disappeared into the ether with a portion of Sam’s money, but Blue Saffire felt that that wasn’t good enough. Bad enough that Saffire seeded this death from all the way in Legally Bound 4, but to find out it’s so that Saffire can make way for Mrs. LaSalle Locatelli instead? Ridiculous. There’s no good way to play that out. 

The three middle novellas about Tasha, Camille, and Misha are actually pretty good, although I will say that Misstep #4 was the decision to have Misha creep on Tasha, knock up her younger sister, and then date said younger sister’s twin. And they all look really similar. Like, yes, I’m still intrigued, but surely you could have done better.

Legally Bound 5.5: Legally Unbounded

In Legally Bound V.V: Legally Unbound (or Unbounded), In order to go forward, Sam has to move on. Move on from Ellen, move on from himself, and move on with Tasha. 

To be fair, Legally Unbound was not a bad book, but by this point my eyes would not stop rolling. Sam Mairettie deciding to be LaSalle Locatelli was probably one of the better plot points, but I have my reasons to hate it because of what it does to his relationship with Ellen. I liked Tasha best as a woman who helped children with special needs, but Tasha the mob wife was okay too. 

Blue Saffire threw epilogues into both His Final Play and Legally Unbound, but I can’t say at this point if she plans to follow through with any of it. I may not be at the very end of Blue Saffire’s list of works, but I get the feeling that neither Camille and Logan, nor Misha and Kurtrina have gotten to be fleshed out. 

By the time that I had gotten to Legally Unbound, I had noticed that Blue Saffire liked to bring in her couples from previous books to basically just have sex. Sometimes they would provide some insight – which is what mostly happened in this book – but there wasn’t much plot movement for quite a few of these couples.

Legally Unbound probably gets the farthest forward in the series after His Final Play, but I’m unsure because I don’t think this book makes any mention of Reese and Nico Donati to say if they had had their baby as yet.

Noah the Beast

In Noah the Beast, “Noah Black had known since they were children that Bean was his to protect. Rebecca “Bean” Lockhart had known that she’d be in love with Noah since they were children, but never thought that she was anywhere near his type. Now that Noah has the chance to tell Bean how he really feels, he won’t let her go.”

I originally didn’t want to read Noah The Beast, and chronologically it’s supposed to come before Legally Unbound because the timeline is almost parallel to Wyatt the Heartbreaker for about 75% of the book. I just didn’t feel like I needed to know Noah and Bean’s story. I still didn’t, but it wasn’t a terrible read and just about everyone you’ve ever met in this series at this point shows up to their wedding. 

By the time I got to this book, I was used to a lot of Blue Saffire’s lazier moves, but they didn’t detract too much from the story. Wyatt and his wife showed up to have sex, a few scenes were reused but thankfully from a different perspective, and we got a little bit more behind the scenes on some of the more overarching plots. We did not return to much of the Scottish cousins from the Legally Bound V novellas, but I believe one makes an appearance.

Yours: Losing My Innocence , Gaining Experience , Life Mastered

In the Yours series, “Nick Lincoln has been a godsend in Sephora Emilsson’s life, but she never thought that he would be in any way interested in her. When Nick does show his interest, Sephora’s decision to begin a relationship with him is the adventure of her lifetime.”

There’s no good way to talk about the first Yours book without talking about the whole series. Blue Saffire released the whole series in less than a month, and the storytelling breaks down midway through the second book. The reveals in book three are wasted because nothing is seeded well, except maybe the identity of the villain. 

In terms of this second phase of Saffire’s fictional universe, the Yours series has everybody if not the main players. The Briggs cousin that Jasper talks to in Allegations of Love is Nick’s chef, the aunt of the Black brother love interest who gets Noah and Bean to tell their story in the prologue of Noah the Beast is Nick’s secretary, and several of the Black brothers make appearances in books two and three because Nick hung out with them as kids. 

I don’t think I was handing out 2-star reviews willy nilly when I was making my way through this series, but I ended up giving Life Mastered two stars because everytime something happened Nick and Sephora would stop to have sex. There’s even a point where they’re supposed to have a meeting at their house, and they keep a room full of people waiting just so that they can have sex. It was beyond gratuitous. 

Again, the worst part of the series is really the villain reveal. I think that, in Saffire’s mind, she felt that all her seeds would bloom the way they should have, but it just did not play out that way. The idea that Nick was a triplet should have been introduced from at least the second book. I’m not going to say that the final villain was obvious, but it definitely wasn’t a surprise. The reconciliation between Nick and his good triplet was wasted because we spent no time really getting to know either of them. 

There’s also the issue of Sephora’s friend being put into a coma by Nick’s bad triplet, and that never being resolved.The best friend also has a girlfriend who then has her own best friend who is crazy for some reason that is never explained. A couple of these supporting characters in this series tend to get dropped in and then left out for no good reason. 

Another issue I had about the series was how much Sephora never really got to know herself as an adult before she ends up with Nick. We meet Sephora first as she’s graduating high school and accepting a scholarship for college, and then she’s immediately graduating from college and getting snatched up to be Nick’s girlfriend. I really appreciate Blue Saffire for even writing this because I like to see how other author’s handle the question of maturity in an age gap romance, and Sephora Emilsson definitely needed more time. However, Nick Lincoln was never going to give it to her.

And I’ll say this: the Nick Lincoln that was presented to us in the Yours series was not the same Nick Lincoln that we meet in the Legally Unbound series. Admittedly, The Legally Bound V novellas and Legally Unbound are at least a year after the Yours series, due to Sephora having already had children, but even the excuse of not wanting to upset his mob investors cannot fully compensate for the change. If we’re out here writing about alpha males in fictional universes, shouldn’t they stay alphas even outside of their own books?

It’s now mid-November as I try to finish up this post for publication. I had to set it aside for a bit because, by the time I got to writing about the Yours series, I was noticeably upset and ready to quit Blue Saffire entirely.  It’s not in my nature to bash any author – mostly because I’ve never published any of my own stories – so the break was much needed. 

Ultimately, I think that Blue Saffire’s decision to have all of her series connect in a fictional universe is great, and I even appreciate that she is able to incorporate different locations. However, the “pushing out a new novel every quarter” model really doesn’t work unless you have a good publishing team behind you. And Blue Saffire’s lack of a good publishing team shows in the breakdown of the Yours series.

Blue Saffire is not the only author to rely on her beta readers to catch the little mistakes and help clean up the grammatical errors, but beta readers are not trained editors and proofreaders. Most of us are so used to these novels having mistakes that we’ve learned to not be bothered by them, to the point of almost blocking it out. Some of the more established authors tend to try to help others by offering some publishing services, but it doesn’t really seem to be much better. 

I appreciate the wide variety of stories that we now have access to in this new age of Kindle Publishing, but I really wish Amazon did better by it’s author’s in offering editing and proofreading services before these books are posted. 

But that’s a rant for another day, and at least a paragraph of my personal statement. 

In any case, while I am burnt out on Blue Saffire and have no intention of returning to her before the year is out, I think that she should be commended for her multitude of works and the decision to connect them all into one fictional universe. Sapphire may not have been the first to do it – definitely not the last – but her ambition is inspiring. 

I look forward to seeing how her writing may grow.

If you would like to keep up with me and my adventures in appreciating the many different types of literature, please be sure to subscribe to this blog. If you just want to chat with me about these particular novels, make sure to hit me up in the comment section.

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