All Shook Up by J.M. Snyder
Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
Genre: Historical, Interracial Romance, Erotica, GLBT, M/M
Length: 25,349 words
The year is 1883. Eduard van De Lier is a Dutchman overseeing a spice plantation on the island of Java, in the South Pacific. His obsessive attraction to dark-skinned men is just one of his many secrets. His wife Marien knows of his indiscretions, but as she's content with their Colonial lifestyle, she stays silent.
Until a former lover of Eduard's shows up in their parlor with thoughts of blackmail.
Reza was a crewman on the ship that brought the van De Liers to Java. During the passage, Eduard spent many a night in the younger man's arms. Two years have passed, and the last person Eduard expects to find in his drawing room is Reza, a letter in hand that could destroy the life he and Marien lead.
Seeing him again ignites Eduard's lust for his first dark lover. He hopes to retrieve the letter, either through seduction or subterfuge, and the longer Reza eludes him, the more his desire grows. But they're on shaky ground, and before things can heat up between them, their world explodes -- literally -- when the unstable island of Krakatoa erupts.
Volcanic eruptions tend to happen in bed in romances – JM Snyder has turned the tables slightly. All Shook Up has eruptions both in bed and out, because the greatest volcanic action of modern times blows Eduard and Reza around. Disaster brings out the best and worst in people, so Krakatoa would show what a man is really made of.
Unfortunately, Eduard van De Lier has a lot of reprehensible qualities even before the ground starts shaking. He's fine with lying, stealing, and laziness. Thoughts beyond keeping his comforts intact and his next seduction barely enter his head. He's managed to insinuate himself and his wife, Marien, into wealth and society, and while Marien works tirelessly to keep them in the good times, Eduard's more interested in finding a pliable servant. For one heart-stopping moment, the initial sex scene demonstrating this looked like it would turn into a rape.
When Reza turns up in the drawing room, Eduard at first doesn't recognize him, and then immediately assumes the worst, whether it's his greatest fear or because that's what he'd do in Reza's place is hard to say. Being completely led by his cock, Eduard decides that another seduction will clear all the troubles away, but wily Reza doesn't give in quickly a second time.
Formerly crew on the ship that brought the van De Liers to Java, Reza remains a mystery; he speaks little and withdraws strategically. Somehow he transforms from a handy bedmate on shipboard to the great love of Eduard's life, apparently for being dark-skinned, well hung, calm in a crisis, and liking the unlikeable. Equally mysterious is what he sees in Eduard, aside from a bottom who can accommodate his enormous cock. The line
"the thick cock whose base Eduard could barely encircle with both hands"
left me holding my coffee cup that way and staring in pained disbelief.
Disaster actually does bring out the best in Eduard: in his case, hiding in the one firm sanctuary available and failing to assist a frantic mother in finding her child is an improvement on his previous history of looting the bodies. It just doesn't make me like him any better.
The eruption of the volcano shone, watching Reza and Eduard fight their way through ashfall and survive a tsunami were the best parts of the story for me. If anything, Ms. Snyder downplayed the horror of what happened, and it was still tense, dangerous, and gripping. Eduard still managed to fall asleep for a while during it.
A seriously flawed character needs some kind of redemption. Eduard does do something honorable at the end regarding Marien, but it's very little and so late as to not make much difference. They've reached their accommodations as a couple, and now one more lie makes it all better. That Eduard is married but pursues other partners wasn't a problem for me, Marien was aware from the start that she was a beard, and had her own reasons for accepting Eduard. She was the most sympathetic person in the book.
Unfortunately, the wonderful backdrop of the Krakatoa eruption was wasted on characters whose survival I couldn't particularly care about; Reza remained unknowable and Eduard was only too exposed. All Shook Up did not move me much. 2.5 Marbles