Monday, January 31, 2011

Prey Time by Sue Brown

Two men are checking Jeff out before he even enters the club. They're a real pretty picture, Blue Eyes with his back pressed against Green Eyes' chest as they watch him get a drink. He waits to see what they do. If they want him, he'll play, but first they have to ask nicely. Jeff is the top, the one in control. Except Jeff soon finds out he isn't. The little man with the snapping blue eyes is definitely the puppet master here.


Third person present tense brings us readers along on a a hunt -- Jeff is looking for a night of hot sex, and the two dancers are hunting him equally hard. The power dynamics of a threesome waver all over -- who's in charge is the name of this game, and in the heat of the encounter - and damn is it hot - one of the dancers vry smoothly takes over running this show.

There's a nice twist at the end of sweaty, raw sex, and when one of the men says what's bubbling through my mind, I could only think I've been played just as hard as Jeff has, and I like it just as much. Which is a lot. The story is 95% PWP, really, but very fine PWP, and that 5% of back-loaded plot puts it on my re-read shelf.

Buy here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The thousand words today are about an historical novel (Madame Tussaud, review at Goodreads for those who are interested) so today you nice readers get the picture. I need more hours to read. Sigh.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hell is in the Details by Angela Benedetti

Hell Is in the DetailsBenioth, the Demon of Laziness, is behind on his memos and has just found out he needs to corrupt a soul by midnight to make quota. Luckily the Demon of Sodomy doesn't mind sharing the fun, and Benioth runs into Andy, who's still innocent but eager to have someone fix that for him. It sounds like a perfect situation, but somehow things never go right for poor Benioth.

I always suspected that corporate America got some of it's less attractive features from the Infernal regions -- Angela Benedetti makes that point very strongly, with memos and quotas, job reviews and last minute hustles to get it all right. Benioth needs to scurry -- corrupting someone beyond redemption using sloth takes a while and he -- really! -- doesn't have all night.

Now, in order for this all to work, you have to reserve judgment on one notion that had me going uhhhhhhhh but you know what? Hell really is in the details.

This was fun, and it gave the devil his don't.

Buy here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hammer and Air by Amy Lane

Hammer & Air

There will always be a Hammer and an Air...

 Graeme and Eirn have no words for what they are to each other. Children, clinging together in a crowded orphanage; friends, battling back to back in a school yard; and bedmates, finally bridging the gap between sleeping next to a body and allowing it to touch you in the night—all of these roles are summed up by just their names: Hammer and Air.

The innocent exploration of their newest roles is brutally marred when a violent, ill-tempered master threatens Eirn, and Eirn's "Hammer" kills the man in a fair fight. The two run off into the wide world with only each other for safety. It's difficult to forge a good life with only a blacksmith's hammer and a printer's cleverness, but together, Hammer and Eirn will learn to negotiate the dangers of magic and motion, of sex, obsession, and tenderness, and of the word that can make sense of it all—one word they must earn for themselves.


I didn't need to know exactly which fairy tale this story is based on to be sucked completely into the world. Starting from the very first scene, I knew I was going to be in a very "Brothers Grimm" situation, no Disney swans or anything floofy. This is the harsh, gritty, fairy tale world, where evil is real and not just marked with an unfortunate growth on a nose.

Eirn tells the story in a mild dialect, nothing intrusive, but it sets the tone for the story, which sometimes is very immediate -- this is happening now! -- and sometimes is a reflection on the long ago from the perspective of a much older man. This added to the fairy tale feeling, and I kept turning the pages for what happened next (I read this in one sitting and stayed up way too late.)

I loved the way the two boys grew up together and the way their relationship changed -- they were each other's protectors in a hard world, and when Hammer kills the abusive master and they go on the run, they almost don't know what to do when they find a safe haven -- they've never seen such a thing. It was both cute to watch them meet comfort and safety, and still desperate, as Hammer might well not have survived.

But be careful what you wish for -- it doesn't always take the form you expect -- and they encounter a bear with IDEAS. This worried me a bit at first, but the author handled this with skill and cleverness, and had I recalled the original story (turned out to be Snow White and Rose Red, and I need to find the original, version now) I might have worried less. Hammer's still worried, though, no matter what Eirn tells him, and here we come to one aspect of the story that bothered me.

At no time did Eirn wavered in his stated intentions, but Hammer can't seem to accept what he's told and shown, and from that comes a bit of dub-con, a situation I feel really uncomfortable with. It does at least get a couple of very important concepts through a couple of very thick skulls.

The story resolves in proper fairy tale style, although the resolution depends very much on a sudden illumination of thought, which happens really abruptly and has a certain element of personality transplant. (Normally this would send me into a frenzy but there's a reason for it.) Everyone is happy, including the reader.

The persistent feeling that Hammer's holding to his notions way past the point of reason, which directly led to the dub-con, and the initial encounter with the bear's ideas went way too smoothly, even after rereading and finding the death threat -- there's still this lingering thought of "ask first" or "Back off and wait to be invited." Maybe that's where Hammer got his death-grip on a wrong notion.

Disclaimer: I won this story on the Desert Island Keeper site, but I'm agreeing with them only cause they're right.

Buy here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pelota! by Sarah Black

Oliver is obsessed with all things Basque, and Jack is
Inuit in his heart. But even the ancient Basque and
Inuit managed to fall in love. In the abandoned Basque
whaling camp at Red Bay, off the coast of Labrador, the
two young researchers find their common ground in a
game of pelota.
This story honestly should begin, "Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Oliver, who yearned to be a Basque…" It will put you into the right frame of mind for this story, which is sweet, at times LOL funny, and not really erotica, although Jack and Oliver do come together.

I just looked at that sentence. And I'm going to leave it. It really does go with the story.

The two main characters each want desperately to be part of cultures they weren't born into, and a small overlap gives them some common ground, and a reason to argue. It's kind of cute, if you're in a fairy tale frame of mind, and some bits of modernity stick in, just to remind you it's not long ago and far away. It's just trying to be a lot of things at once, which is kind of jarring.

The description of Indian politics got a coffee-spew LOL, and an orgasm with Inuit culture descriptions got a face palm. It's so good/bad I won't quote it, you're keyboard won't survive it. Two words. Musk ox.

I don't read a lot of Changeling Press stuff, but the offbeat characters sucked me in. Not so in that I don't notice 8 pages of picture, copywrite, scoldings, and information out of a 29 page pdf file, which then had 7 chapter divisions to boot. Really? Seven chapters in what has to max out at 5000 words? Where's the editor?

The ending is a proto-HEA in proper fairy tale style, but the last line = wonderful.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dorian's Story by Stephanie Vaughan

The king's reward for a year's hard work. A little something for himself – that was all Tasim was supposed to be.

When the king distributed his largess, Dorian thought only to gain a bedmate to help ease the boredom of long winter nights. But Tasim quickly became so much more, disturbing the delicate balance between an unstable monarch and his favorite. Dorian must now walk the razor's edge between his king's pleasure and his heart's desire.
There were several things I liked about this story, which follows up an earlier piece, "Tasim's Tale." And several things I didn't.

Set in the land of Kundara, this story follows Dorian, the captain of soldiers who received Tasim as a prize of war, a pilorum, to be servant, bedmate, and if need be, a pass-around pack for his buddies. Dorian's feelings for his slave have grown far more complex than simple ownership, and he'd like nothing better than to leave the life at court and settle happily with the young man he's come to care for.

This is a complicated court (think Caligula) and the king's secrets are Dorian's secrets, too, in a way that was both simple and surprising. Dorian's interactions with the king are one of the best parts of this story, because he plays the king like a very cranky zither. The way Dorian plays politics here is beautifully manipulative, and he solves his problem in a far less direct way than was occurring to me by page 30. (I was wondering who was next in line for the throne.)

Dorian's homecoming scene early in the story was both illustrative of the king and Dorian's relationship with both the king and Tasim, and so disturbing that I put the book down for a couple of days. Call me squeamish. I also wasn't too happy with sex as therapy for what was essentially rape ('nuf said), and then we have a candle (valuable) left burning unattended (dangerous) for what could have been several hours (wasteful) just so there'd (conveniently) be light for sex.

The world-building was a little sloppy, mixing Viking, Greek, and Roman names into what was otherwise a fairly coherent society, which tended to pull me out of the story. This applied to the first story, too, but there were other issues in "Tasim's Tale" that far overwhelmed this one. "Dorian's Story" is a more coherent read and while it's a good companion piece, I think you could read it alone if you're willing to sink deeply into the world.

Buy here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Aisling: Guardian by Carole Cummings

Aisling (Book One: Guardian) Constable Dallin Brayden knows who he is, what he's about, and he doesn't believe in Fate. 'Wilfred Calder' has no idea who he is, what he's about, and has been running from Fate for as long as he can remember. When Wil is brought in for questioning as a witness to a brutal murder, and subsequently flees, Dallin is dragged by duty into the chaos of ancient myth, fanatical religion, and the delicate politics of a shaky truce between two perpetually warring countries, all of which seem to hinge on the slender shoulders of the man he knows is not Wilfred Calder.

The eventual capture of Dallin’s quarry only makes matters worse. Wil is prickly and full of rage, rebellious and lethal, and tells an unbelievable tale of magic and betrayal that threatens to rock the carefully cultivated foundations of Dallin's world. Leery and only half-believing, Dallin finds himself questioning not only his own conscience and his half-forgotten past, but the morality and motives of everyone around him, including those who hold the power of his own country’s fate in their hands.


This story pulled me in from the very first scenes – while it’s a long story for an ebook, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. This is book one of a trilogy, and that’s good news for me, because I am now a big fan!

Nothing quite goes as you think it will – who is the bad one here, what secrets are being hidden, what variety of awful thing will happen next (there are a lot of them) all veer just a little from expected, and I can really sympathize with Dallin, who has to sort it all out, and with Wil, who has to figure out who to trust. The biggest answer to that will be in future books, but there are a ton of immediate problems to fix, too. Not least of which is – how can you be a successful fugitive when your opponent can track you with supernatural means if you slip up, and when he’s willing to be completely ruthless?

I loved the world – it feels like England from before the industrial revolution – it’s what’s in people’s heads where the biggest differences are. And yet – not so different – honor and evil and how to figure out which is which before it kills you, that’s recognizable, and told very well.

In one way I was a little disappointed that the sexual interest between the two is so very downplayed (read, a couple sideways glances and NO Touching!), but Wil is so very broken in some ways that to approach him would be a terrible betrayal of trust, so I’m just going to have to adjust my expectations. I just read a really good fantasy novel where the main characters happen to be gay.

Buy here, in print or ebook, or at Amazon.