Sh*t, Babe! How SWEET DREAMS Bamboozled Two Intelligent Women: A Dialogue

Since I’m still buried under broken-down cardboard boxes and stacks of slightly wrinkled packing paper, two of my friends and colleagues from the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America have agreed to fill in for me today. I am pleased to welcome Penelope Watson and Bobbi Ruggiero.

Penelope is the author of the Klaus Brother series, whose first two books are Sweet Inspiration and Sweet Magik, and an obsessive reader of romantic fiction. She loves paranormal and historical romance novels, and also reads romantic suspense, time travel, and even a contemporary from time to time. Penny’s favorite things include plants, weenie dogs, and beards (not necessarily in that order). Find her on Twitter @pennyromance or visit her Web site at

Bobbi is an amateur wine aficionado, semi-professional groupie and vice president for the New England Chapter of the RWA. When she’s not chasing boys with guitars around the globe, she enjoys spending time with her very understanding husband and working on her award-winning manuscript about a dashing and swoony rock star who falls for the girl next door. Find her on Twitter @scorpiosister19 or visit her fledgling blog:

Please join Penny and Bobbi for a conversation in our comments section about fabulously imperfect books and other Magical Shit.

PENNY: Thanks to the ladies at Wonk-O-Mance for inviting me (Penelope) and Bobbi Baby (Bobbi Baby) to discuss an extremely wonky and disturbing topic. How two well-educated, well-grounded, and critical readers were completely bamboozled by the epic saga known as SWEET DREAMS, written by Kristen Ashley. We are going to attempt to dissect this topic in a scientific, rational and objective manner.

Bobbi Baby! *Penny sips martini* How ya doing?

BOBBI BABY: Oh, Penny, my Penny! Let me get settled… *Bobbi Baby takes out Screw Pull wine opener and grabs a bottle of Paraduxx*  Did you ever notice how dirty the name Screw Pull sounds?  But I digress….

If I look back at all the hours I’ve spent reading this book, talking about this book, recommending this book and laughing about this book, I could have likely finished my own epic novel. Maybe I could even have included a surprise child, serial killer, make-over theme, crazy ex-husband, near death experience and… WAIT, that all happens in Sweet Dreams.   Sweet Jesus, I can’t seem to stop yammering about this book.

First of all, I blame you and Ruthie Knox for all of this ridiculousness. When I stumbled upon your Twitter conversation about Sweet Dreams, way back when, I felt left out. And then you strong-armed me into downloading it. You are both evil bullies.

I think we wanted to touch upon the term “Magical Shit.”  (Can I swear in here? This is Wonk-O-Mance, for the love of all things sacred and holy! Surely I can cuss here and there?) Sweet Dreams is made out of all things magical. And just plain awful. All at the same time.

How does Kristen Ashley do this? How does she suck the reader in, keeping them hooked in spite of the endless sentences that begin with the same two words (chapter one, paragraphs two through seven: “I looked…” “I looked…” “I looked…”  “I looked…”  “I looked…” “I looked…” KA, we get it.  Our heroine, Lauren, is looking), paragraphs of nothing but jewelry, hair and clothing descriptions (Lauren has a thing for peachy-pink crystal jewelry, beads, crew neck shirts with little ruffles on the neck and up the sleeves….), and so many grammatical errors that I was apoplectic by the end of chapter three (Oh, did I fail to mention how you and Ruthie told me that to get through the first three chapters is nothing short of a miracle? Say, along the lines of someone who has never run a day in her life, but all of a sudden wakes up one day and runs a Tough Mudder race? And I still read it anyway? What is wrong with me?).

The hook comes in the form of our hero, Tate Jackson. He puts the magic in magical shit. He’s all kinds of excellent. Surly, broken, bounty-hunting, injured ex-football star Tate.  Swoon.  He had me swooning all over the place from the moment he appeared on the page. (And he says “shit” a lot. All the time.)   *Sips on glass #2 of Paraduxx*

PENNY: *sips mango martini*

I looked…..

Hee hee! Just kidding. OK. You’re right. Ruthie and I are evil. We knew the beginning of this book blew chunks, we knew there were POV problems, and huge grammatical errors, and piss-poor writing, and an overabundance of clothing descriptions, and we still coerced you into reading it.

My personal fave is how Tate’s dialogue at the end of the book uses the word “shit” as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and possibly pronouns. “Shit, it’s shittin’ shit that shit is shittin’ all over the shittin’ place. Shit.”

But I really like your term “Magical Shit” because there is something magic about this book. It’s addictive and entertaining and very engaging in spite of itself. In spite of the bad writing, rule-breaking, cussing, and confused and never-ending story lines.

And I find that fascinating.

I think you’re right that Tate has something to do with it. Creating a larger-than-life, romantic and rugged hero is a big bonus. But it’s more than that. There is something about the heroine’s journey that is appealing, too. Fat and dejected, she reinvents herself, falls in love, and helps others to heal. That’s pretty damned heroic. (And she does it all with a turquoise chunky necklace and wedge sandals).


BOBBI BABY: Babe! I’m back… *opens a bottle of Apothic Red and lets it breathe*

Yes, Lauren does save the entire town of Carnal, perfectly matched and accessorized, as all good heroines do!

Her makeover is the crowning makeover of all makeovers. She starts off as the slightly-overweight, cast-aside ex-wife with single-process color and becomes a totally bitchin’ biker babe with chunky highlights and a killer lingerie collection. It is a sight to behold.

But seriously, Lauren does rock. I realized that I was totally and utterly on her side the minute she decided not to take any shit from Tate. She handled his barbs and cutting remarks with grace and style. In fact, that initial exchange between her and Tate hooked me and kept me there, even throughout the plethora of plot twists, train wrecks and utterly ridiculous POV switches in the last few chapters.  Lauren and Tate’s romance is actually pretty great. He’s broken, angry and has lost his dream of being a football star. She’s a scorned, sad ex-trophy wife on the run from her past. And, somehow, through some pretty good storytelling, Ashley convinces us that more than anything, these two people deserve a happily ever after. And the reader is rooting for them the entire way. Through all 1,456,789 pages...

(It also helps that I pictured Tate as Joe Manganiello. Just sayin’.)

*Penny polishes off mango martini and starts mai tai……*

PENNY: Joe as Tate! Oh yeah!

I totally agree about liking how Lauren refused to take any crap from him, in spite of being smitten with him. The part that got me hooked (even as I was considering DNFing this baby. Babe. Hee heee!) was when Tate said (I’m paraphrasing)….“I know you heard the stuff I said about you—calling you fat and frumpy–just let it go. Move on.” For some reason, that whole interaction really intrigued me. I’d never seen that before in any romance novel. It was a cool way to start their relationship….as a reader, you were thinking, “Well how the heck is Kristen Ashley going to get these two together now?” But she did. In a really superb way.

So, in conclusion (*huge sip of mai tai*), in spite of suspect writing, overabundance of inane details, a length roughly equivalent to the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, cussing, too many storylines and POVs, and over-use of the term “babe,” I still totally loved this book.

So sue me.

BOBBI BABY: *Polishes off the Apothic…*  (I think maybe we have a teensy, tiny drinking problem?)

I agree wholeheartedly. I loved this book. Despite its plethora of mortal writing sins, I thought it was a pretty damn good story. I certainly won’t be re-reading it anytime soon, because I don’t think I can lose another month of my life, but I have to say, the story has definitely stayed with me.  For instance, when I’m getting dressed in the morning and looking at my jewelry, I think, “How would Lauren accessorize this outfit?”

But seriously, somehow, Kristen Ashley made this crazy book work! And when I’m working on my own stories and find myself tangled up in too many plot lines, or wishing I could just change the POV for the love of God,  I often think, if Kristen Ashley could do it, why can’t I?

P.S.  This needs to be made into a movie. Sure, it would have to be a five-part epic extravaganza, but if I could look at Joe Manganiello for that long, I’d be more than happy to suffer through.

PENNY: Mov-ie! Mov-ie! Mov-ie! Joe-y! Joe-y! Joe-y!

(Hey, if they can make a movie out of 50 Shades, then why not Sweet Dreams? Although I don’t think Lauren would EVER be caught dead in any shade of grey.)

…..And that concludes this totally professional, scientific analysis of SWEET DREAMS. Babe. I ain’t shittin’ you,

Most sincerely,

Penelope and Bobbi Baby

About Serena Bell

Serena Bell writes stories about how sex messes with your head, why smart people do stupid things sometimes, and how love can make it all better. Read more >
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18 Responses to Sh*t, Babe! How SWEET DREAMS Bamboozled Two Intelligent Women: A Dialogue

  1. Ruthie says:

    Thank you for the thoroughly professional overview! I agree with you guys — this book is magic. Yes, the beginning is a little slow and . . . okay, dull. But oh, man, once it gets going, it works! Kristen Ashley is a great storyteller, and I love her for the reminder that story and character is the core of everything.


    • Penelope says:

      Ruthie! Babe! It’s inexplicable. It’s undeniable. It’s shittin’ unbelievable. But for some wonky reason this book was a 5 star read for me.

      Thanks for helping me coerce Bobbi Baby into the vortex. ;^)

  2. Pam B says:


    I also was sucked in by the same twitter conversation and read this book (and a couple of others by Kristen since), babe, I understand. I am now hooked on her stories!

    Great post by the way

    • Penelope says:

      Pam….God bless you! You read another KA book?

      *bows down*

      I can’t work up the stamina. I’ve been reading quickie accidental pregnancy Harly books. I’ll have to work on a reading training program before I attempt another KA novel.

  3. Bobbi Baby says:

    This book really challenged everything I know about writing and opened my eyes to what really works in a story. Thanks, Ruthie and Penny, for dragging me into the “vortex.” The initial pain was worth it!!

  4. Bobbi Baby says:

    Also, I think we should all get shirts that say: Babe.

    That is all.

  5. Tom Stronach says:

    No idea what the hell you were talking about and I am afraid to look it up but thank you for making me laugh while waiting on dick to turn up, sorry, that should have been dickhead the boss from head office

    Maybe I should get my niece to join your club, I noticed this gem on her FB timeline earlier

    “One thing I will never understand is how male authors can write such believable women that we can all relate to – yet female authors tend only to be able to write lovesick pissy little bitches instead of real men Wtf?”

    Although that would appear not to apply in the work of genius you have been discussing!. but she appears to have the same general demeanour as you lot LoL

  6. Penelope says:

    Hi Tom! I think I would like your niece. The heroine in this book is not a pissy little bitch….but she is hilarious. She is obsessed with her appearance, and so we get to hear about every little detail of her clothing, shoes, make-up and accessories for every single outfit. It’s wonky!

    • Tom Stronach says:

      Hi Penny, you and Jules would love my nieces they do have a way with words and, I can relate to acessorising etc. Ishbel is always getting complemented on her range of clothing and bits and yet fails to tell them, Yeah, good I know, I’ve never bought anything in years, Tom picks and buys everything I wear… I should be a fashion designer. Problem is when I’m doing the ironing and muttering… all I get is ‘don’t moan at me you bought it, frills and pleats and nips and all’ … martyr that I am LoL

  7. Jessi Gage says:

    I blame Ruthie Knox, too. It was the review on her blog that made me click over to Amazon and buy Sweet Dreams before I’d even finished the darned review. 3 years later–just kidding, it was more like 10 days–I was done with it and found myself blinking over and over again and saying, “Wow. That was awful. And totally awesome.”

    I then enjoyed wasting hours on twitter and various blogs discussing Lauren and Tate and reliving the shittin’ madness that was Sweet Dreams.

    I haven’t been brave enough to pick up another Kristen Ashley yet, but the temptation is there. I’d be curious to hear from others who have read in her Rocker Chick series.

    • Penelope says:

      Hi Jessi! Awful and awesome. Well, there you go. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode.

      Everyone I know who has continued reading KA has been enjoying all of her books, but I was like a wrung-out sponge at the end of Sweet Dreams. I can’t start another one!

  8. Dearhearts, in particolare Penny. How is it you love this book and hate 50 Shades?

    • Penelope says:

      Hi Steph! The reason I read SWEET DREAMS was because someone emailed me to say Tate has a beard! I had never heard of the book before, to be honest. So that’s why I read SD. I had no idea what I was getting into!

      As to the Grey book, I read the blurb and it doesn’t interest me. Not my cuppa. ;^)

  9. This is the totally crazy book you went on and on about, huh? You said it broke every single writing rule and still worked. I may have to suck it up and read it.

    • Penelope says:

      Yes, Julia….I was reading it at your house and going crazy….first, because I couldn’t believe how long it was and that I hadn’t finished the damned thing on a 6 hour flight to Cali, and second, because it was nutso but I still liked it. I would only recommend it if (A) you have an enormous amount of time to kill, and (B) you are looking for pure entertainment and are willing to be extremely forgiving about writing problems. (Oh yeah. The hero also has a beard. That’s a big plus!)