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Archive for April, 2011

As a follow-up to her popular Christmas story The Match Before Christmas which we reviewed HERE at Brief Encounter Reviews, Eden Winters has generously offered one of our readers a free copy of Fanning the Flames. It will be released on May 7, so please leave a comment before 7 PM EST May 6 for the chance to win. Good luck everyone and congratulations to Eden on her new release.

The man of Barry’s dreams has gone from a sugarplum fantasy to sweet reality, thanks to the GLBT dating site, GetaDate.com. Introducing a new boyfriend to the family and settling into coupledom isn’t the easiest thing in the world for a man with little dating experience, but the romance on demand of Valentine’s Day is beyond Barry’s imagination. His piteous cry for help brings all kinds of suggestions from family and friends.

Fully believing he’s found the perfect ways to charm his sweetheart, Barry isn’t prepared to hear “Achoo!” at every turn. Adam’s allergic to what?! And will sneezes and welts wreck Barry’s painstaking plans for fanning the flames?

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Title: Deck the Sub
Author: Sean Michael
Length: 5,200 words (21 pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m BDSM contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:

The Christmas holidays just around the corner, Marcus has plans for Jim and declares a week off. Jim, however, isn’t sure candles are the best idea. Can the boys from Bent come to an agreement?

Originally published in Toy Box: Candles

Review:

Once again we have a short featuring Jim and Marcus from Bent. It’s Christmas and Marcus has declared a week’s vacation. Usually time off for Jim means deep sub-space, but Marcus wants to just keep it light and fun. The morning spankings are still there, but in this story I felt that Jim was more of his own person. In other stories, I got the impression either Jim had no clue what he wanted sexually and was just prepared to go along with whatever Marcus said because he had no opinion, or he didn’t have enough confidence to acknowledge what he wanted. However in this story I got more a sense of Jim knowing what he wanted/needed and being more prepared to ask for it, in a typical Hammer subby way of course.

Marcus has bought some candles and decided to give wax play a try. Jim is nervous but trusts Marcus, and first must be prepared by having all his hair shaved in the pertinent areas, which I think is a good idea personally, ouch. The scenes are quite erotic and the candle play is sexy and hot, literally, with Jim, as I mentioned, seeming more open about what he needs during sex to make it good for him and Marcus willing to provide it. It’s quite obviously that despite my frustration with perennially smug dom Marcus, these two love each other madly and would do anything to make the other happy, and Jim trusts Marcus implicitly in all things.

Fans of the Hammer series and this couple in particular will find it a spicy little addition to their stories and to be honest it was one of my favourites of the couple, in most part because Jim came across as stronger, yet still completely the Jim we’ve come to know in other stories.

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Title: Waiting for the Sun
Author: Alyx Shaw
Length: 4,400 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: 
m/m Science Fiction
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Sebastian has never been happier than he is now, living on the warm, wet jungle planet Sferkkaa. As a naturalist his days are filled with new and wonderful creatures to study. However, when Tiff takes Sebastian to speak to his cousin Draephus about one of the local animals, Sebastian gets an unexpected surprise…

Review:
I’d enjoyed the first sip with these characters – Life out There – reviewed here, and was looking forward to reading more from these two unusual heroes. The story begins well with scientist Sebastian wanting to find out more about a breed of sentient creatures known as Faylans. Sebastian’s lover, Tiff, takes him to see his cousin who keeps Faylans and knows a lot about them and whilst there Sebastian gets and unexpected and very welcome surprise.

Whilst I still liked this story, I didn’t connect with it as much as I did the first book. The humourous parts didn’t work and seemed a little out of place in what otherwise is quite a peaceful story of relationships and a chance encounter which brightens Sebastian’s day. This was especially the case in Sebastian’s reaction to Raski, Draephus’ lover, which was just too over the top and a little silly and spoiled what could have been a poignant ending of the story for me.

Having said that, there were still parts which I liked a great deal. The Faylan’s were an interesting breed and it fit well with Sebastian’s inquisitive character that he should want to know more about them. The connection between Sebastian and Tiff was strong and the sex between them hot and romantic. The penultimate scene was beautifully done with vivid descriptions and I thought Sebastian’s emotions during that scene were well described, bringing a lump to my throat.

Overall, this story was a mixed bag, the descriptions of the setting and the relationship between the heroes were the highlights for me, but the humour didn’t work. However, humour is subjective, and so there may be many readers who will like that part and I urge you not to be too put off that it fell flat for me.

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Title: Acquired Taste
Author: Shayla Kersten
Length: 5,871 words (19 pdf pages)
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave*
Genre: m/m contemporary BDSM (lite)
Rating: C

Blurb:

Sequel to Icing on the Cake.

Jeff knows Ollie is the best thing to happen to him since the invention of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Too bad Jeff’s determined to screw things up. If the thought of walking away after three months hurts this much, Jeff knows he’d never survive when things eventually did end.

Ollie refuses to let Jeff go without mixing up a batch of hot sex—his way. While bondage might be an acquired taste, Jeff’s never given it a chance. Now Ollie plans to shake and bake Jeff’s world—before kicking him to the curb.

Review:

This is a follow-up to Icing on the Cake which introduced us to Jeff and Ollie who met over Jeff’s best friend’s wedding. Things have not been going well for the couple. Jeff refuses to even touch anything that smacks of BDSM which is Ollie’s thing, and lately he’s been standing Ollie up for dates and acting like an ass all around. Ollie has finally reached his breaking point. Jeff is late yet again and he’s decided that this is the last time, he’s breaking up with him. When Jeff arrives seemingly drunk, Ollie decides he’s got nothing to lose and decides to go full-on dom with him, surprisingly Jeff agrees to one last time, no holds barred.

It’s very obvious why Jeff is behaving as he is, he’s afraid of intimacy and is doing the ever popular (in real life and fiction) “make him break up with you first” thing, so that he doesn’t have to face his desire to submit, nor the need to be open and vulnerable with someone else. While I could understand why he did it, I didn’t quite understand why Ollie felt the need for one last role in the hay, when most people would have just kicked Jeff’s ass to the curb, no questions asked, having given him several chances already.

I loved Ollie and Jeff in the first book and I was a bit sad to see that things had not been going well for them. I wasn’t certain that just breaking down Jeff’s barriers one time with the aid of a sex sling, was really going to lead to a happy ever after for the two. I think experience tells me that the kind of issues Jeff was dealing with usually linger beyond one crack in the wall, but I wanted them to work, for Ollie’s sake, who just wanted a real relationship with someone he loved.

I think fans of the first book will enjoy seeing Ollie and Jeff again, and I salute the author for taking a sequel, which is too often just a light fluffy look at a couple from a previous book living happily ever after, and giving them a very difficult and painful situation to move through. I just had trouble connecting with Ollie’s decision for one more bout of sex before breaking up with Jeff. It just seemed like that would make it that much more painful than breaking it off cleanly. Although of course I understand they couldn’t have had the breakthrough and the make-up.

The story is well written though and typical of the author’s work so I think fans of the first book, and the author, will enjoy this short sequel.

* Free at All Romance e-Books

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Title: Coming Home
Author: L. Picaro
Length: 12 pages, 3k words.
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Genre: M/M, contemporary, erotica, romance
Rating: B

Blurb: Robert has lived with college quarterback Jerry Bronson for the better part of three years now.  During that time, Jerry has been a rock solid roommate. At his parents’ insistence, Robert is bringing Jerry home for a holiday visit.  But who is he bringing home? Roomate? Friend? or Lover?

Review:

This was a very short short! but the pleasant and competent writing style made me wish there was more.

I often read romance short stories that are really only erotica, but this one actually bucked the trend. The blurb says “erotica” but I’d say it has a clear romantic theme as well. It’s what I’d call a “blanket fic”, a story where the main characters are stranded by weather and forced to stay close, which in turn encourages even more intimacy. It was too short for anything other than setting that scene, then encouraging the sex, but it was nicely balanced between plot and hot :).

The author’s style is very enjoyable, and the dialogue is witty and realistic. The characters were quickly established, essential for a short story, and both are sympathetic and sexy. The story starts in Robert’s POV, then swaps to Jerry’s. The two voices didn’t feel substantially different and I had to re-read the changeover to realise what was happening, but then it worked well for the rest of the story. 

Robert’s secret longing was well described, and their established friendship evident from their plans together for the holiday. The cold and snowy weather was vividly described and engaged all the senses during their torturous journey. Jerry’s seduction was amusing as well as determined, when he chatted about a fictitious girlfriend to make Robert squirm because, after all, as he reckoned, sex talk usually led to sex!

There were occasional formatting errors and an extra word or two. Plus there seemed to be some inconsistency in the timing – Robert talked about Jerry being his roommate for three years, as per the blurb, whereas Jerry referred to two? But it wasn’t a problem and I may have misunderstood.

I suppose the one eye-roll issue for me was suspending disbelief about two men hot for each other and admittedly gay – even if they didn’t broadcast it publicly – sharing a room for years and never making a move! And when they finally ended up in a motel together, Jerry seemed to throw caution immediately and totally to the wind, deciding that Robert had to know, and never worrying about Robert’s response. Sitting atop Robert’s thighs, he couldn’t hide his own erection. Didn’t want to really. Robert should know he turned Jerry on. The sex scene was standard fare, but the pleasant characters made it very enjoyable.  

Both men protested they wanted more than the one-night stand, and at the end of the story were on their way to Robert’s family for the holiday. This devotion seemed to happen a bit too swiftly for me, even if they’d been secretly lusting after each other for all that time. But I found I could believe in a future for them, confirming the romantic theme. The story didn’t have a unique premise or telling, but was a very pleasant read. I rate it a good B.

by pettyprose…my opinion alone.

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Title: Manifest
Author: Julia Talbot
Length: 3,400 words (14 pdf pages)
Publisher:  Torquere Press
Genre:  m/m contemporary horror
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Craig is on a mission. He needs monsters for a movie, and he’s heard of a guy in New Orleans who makes the most original masks and statues out there. Etienne is way more than a weirdo who makes monsters, though, and Craig finds himself willing to face his own fears to get to know the hottest guy he’s ever met.

Review:

Craig has escaped his small-town Colorado home and is trying to make it as a movie maker. He’s in New Orleans and has heard about a man who makes amazing monster statues and he’s in need of just that for his latest horror flick. He finds Etienne who seems a bit cautious and stand-offish, however once he recognizes the name of the man who recommended him, he relents and lets him see the monster statues/models he keeps in the back of his shop. Craig is dazzled, not only by the model but by Etienne who is hot, sexy, and seems to be interested in him as well,. When Etienne asks Craig about his movie, he out of the blue comes up with a concept of someone who dreams about monsters and dreams then into real life. Etienne seems very offended and upset by this concept, but calms down when Craig explains it just came to him, and they head out for dinner.

Later, after some very hot lovemaking, Craig wakes in the night looking for a drink, and gets more than he bargained for in Etienne’s kitchen. Perhaps this premise for a horror movie is not so far off base, and truth is often stranger than fiction. There was very much a strong feel of New Orleans and the atmosphere of the Old Quarter and mention of restaurants and locations. It made me more eager to visit in October.

You only get glimpses into the characters. You know next to nothing about Etienne and his background, and only a bit more about Craig even though the story is told from his point of view. I think there was a lot of potential here to expand on Etienne’s life and his talents, even in further stories about the couple. The growing sense of creepiness and possible danger was very well done, but didn’t overshadow the attraction between the two men. For those who like something a bit spookier mixed in with their romance I would recommend it.

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Title: Surrender
Author: K Piet
Length: 8,900 words
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: 
m/m BDSM contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb: 

For over 250 years, the use of the tarot for divination has been a mainstay of mystical and occult practices. The themes and forces represented by the cards are said to govern our lives and our destinies. Whether you believe that or not, the story of the cards is nevertheless the story of our lives — the accomplishments and the pitfalls, the path from soaring joy to crushing defeat and back again.

Aaron is a dominant soul stuck in an ivory Tower. His inexperience with the submissive side of the Scene prompts a fellow top named Travis to offer Aaron a chance to see what he’s been missing. When Aaron agrees, the experience threatens to knock down Aaron’s entire house of cards. And he’s not entirely sure he minds.

Review:
Don’t let the blurb fool you, this story isn’t about the occult but rather a sexy sweet story of overworked PA Aaron who has been invited to a fetish club by an acquaintance. Whilst there he meets Dom Travis. Aaron is also a Dom but in the interests of finding out the effect a new toy has on a sub, he agrees to a try out with Travis and gets much more than he bargained for.

I really enjoyed this short story which manages to cram in a quite a lot of personal information about our narrator, Aaron, as well as a short BDSM scene and some romantic sex too. Aaron’s determination to stay in charge is a reflection of his job where he has to be on top of all the details, and I liked the way the story slowly changed things around for Aaron so that it was in the losing of control where he gained the most benefit. The story is very much about the balance of power and part of its appeal for me is in seeing the shifting power of the two men.

Another thing I liked was that Travis was a kind and compassionate man. He sees a need in Aaron and gives him the opportunity to try something new whilst always being respectful to Aaron’s feelings. He’s no smug Dom who thinks he knows everything, just a good, insightful Dom who knows when its time to stand back and relinquish control. This led to perhaps my only real niggle: The story ends with a HFN for the men, but I did worry whether it was going to be possible for them to wholly fulfil the needs of the other in the long term.

However, that was only a minor niggle in a well written BDSM story which managed to successfully combine a couple of realistic ‘scenes’ with the sexual and emotional tension which comes with the start of a new relationship. I’d really like more from these characters, especially if I’m going to be completely convinced that they’ll go the distance, but I’m not sure whether anything is planned for them. I’d still recommend this story for those who like BDSM and are looking for a short with a couple of well rounded and interesting characters.

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