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Archive for August, 2011

Title: Better Than Friends
Author: Sean Michael
Length: 11,100 words (45 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary BDSM
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Hank and Jason have been best friends since before Hank even came out of the closet. They’re both busy, but they’re each other’s go-to guy when they need to unwind, and relax. At least, that’s what they think.

When Hank finally fulfills a secret dream and rounds up the money to join the Hammer Club, the first person he meets is a sexy, slinky, bratty bottom named… Jason? They spend dinner together, trying to get a handle on this new view they now have of each other.

Will their friendship be able to handle this sudden shift in their realities, or, even better, can these two best friends find a way to be better than friends?

Review:

The blurb pretty much sets up the premise of this story. Hank is thrilled to be a member of the Hammer Club and is ready to enjoy his first evening when he hears a bratty potty mouth sub approach. He recognizes the voice, and when he turns, they are both stunned. He’s faced with his best friend in the world, a sub at a BDSM club. He was clueless that Jason was into the lifestyle, as was Jason. Jason tries to make a run for it, but Hank stops him and insists they have dinner.

Jason is in full-on bratty sub-mode and Hank takes advantage of this, getting a bit of information from Jason and then making a dive for one of the private rooms to discipline him. There’s not much original here, but the author does write an appealing bratty sub character. The difference here is that Jason by day is an alpha-male businessman. He makes his demands and gets what he wants. He’s very clear that his life outside of the Hammer Club is very separate. However now that his best friend, who fell in that outside life knows about the submission, what will happen?  When Jason refuses to take Hank’s calls after their night together, Hank decides to take matters into his own hands and Jason’s two worlds are about to collide.

The BDSM is sexy but fairly light, confined to spanking and talk of more. Having them both struggling to see their friend in a different light, and their fear that the new side of their relationship would ruin the best friends part was done fairly well. This can be read as a stand-alone. There are only a couple of references to other characters from previous books so it can be read by anyone, especially those who enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope and fans of the Hammer universe as it is typical of the stories you find in the series.

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Title: The Man Who Liked Wintergreen
Author: Lucius Parhelion
Length: 56 pages
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m historical
Rating: B

Blurb:
It’s 1935 in a Los Angeles that’s both booming and sleazy. Mike Warren is a slick shyster, a queer man who makes a good living selling legal services to those no one else will defend. The Reverend Johnny Breuer is a clergyman who reconciled with his own homosexuality by giving up his congregation to serve others through charity and political reform.

After Johnny saves Mike from a murderous thug, he collects his payment by making Mike help him rescue a settlement house from the prominent attorney Johnny suspects is robbing the charitable trust blind. As the two men untangle this web of corruption, they grow increasingly close, finding that good-natured worldliness and worldly good-heartedness are not as opposed as they once both believed. Now they only have to survive a late-night visitor to Mike’s beach house, and the shady trouble following in his wake, to learn if their lust is actually as clean and strong as wintergreen.

Review:
I’m a huge fan of Parhelion’s historicals, mainly because the sense of time and place is so absolute that you really feel that you are there, living in that time period. This story is set in Los Angeles during the 1930’s and tells of lawyer Mike who uses his silver tongue to help those in the dregs of society. He’s rescued from the abusive husband of a woman he helped through divorce, who tries to shoot Mike, by Rev Johnny Bauer a minister who uses his good name to serve on several charitable boards. Johnny’s an intelligent guy who knows that Mike can be a good ally. This proves to be true when it seems that one of the charitable foundations is being scammed by two of its members and Mike has the ability to find out how.

Like many Parhelion books this story is spot on with the atmosphere of a sleazy Los Angeles. Both Mike and Johnny are honourable men, but still very flawed and willing to work the system to get things to happen to their advantage. Mike’s the narrator and I liked his down to Earth style and his world weariness which makes him cautious about everything – probably for good reason. Johnny’s openness about his homosexuality sits a little uneasily with his occupation and Mike is quick to point out his hypocrisy. In fact the weakest part of the book was in the romantic relationship between the men. It’s not that it didn’t work because it did, just that the furtive way they have to go about everything stifled the romance a little. Mind you, this was probably a true depiction of how homosexual men had to go about their lives in the 1930’s so was in keeping with the time period.

In the end the fantastic sense of time and place – from the streets and bars of central LA to the hustle of tourism at the beach – were the real winners for me in the story, along with a nicely paced story which ended in a few surprises. This may not be my favourite Parhelion story but it’s still a very engaging read and I would recommend it.

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New Linen coverTitle: New Linen
Author: Jaime Samms
Length:  27 pdf pages,  5800 words.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m BDSM erotic romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Until now, Drew and Garrett have been playing at dominance, but things have to change. Drew is already losing himself to the implacable will of his new Master and they have yet to make anything official. That’s what this weekend is supposed to be about – Garrett making Drew his – unless the memories from Garrett’s past are too strong to let him meet Drew’s ultimatum of the real thing or nothing at all.

Review:
I’ve had a really tough time trying to get my thoughts together on this one. On the face of it, I should love this story as it pushes a lot of my hot buttons: kinky sex, exhibitionism, power play, and an imperfect Dom, haunted by his past – all set over a couple of hours in a beautiful seaside location. Yet for some reason I had no particular interest in seeing the two heroes get their HEA. Why was this? It certainly wasn’t the quality of the writing. I found much to admire in Jaime Samms’ prose – it flowed well and she certainly knows how to write a hot sex scene:

Garrett smiled a slow, seductive smile. “Good boy.”

God, those two words tied Drew up in knots tighter than the silk around his wrists, sending a wintry thrill through him that clashed deliciously with molten need.

This sensuous attention to detail and focus on visceral sensations is typical of the story, and was one aspect I certainly did enjoy. However, it wasn’t enough for me.

After a second read I realised I’d had a complete failure to empathise with Drew, who is our point of view character. Samms may have avoided the trap of the perfect Dom who populates so many BDSM stories, but we have instead the perfect, self-effacing sub. Drew’s personality is pretty much non-existent. All he wants is to please Garrett and to be owned. This is all well and good in a sub, I suppose, but without any prior knowledge of him and precious few background details, I found I didn’t much care for whether he succeeded in his mission.

Garrett, on the other hand, is domineering and mysterious – again, all well and good in a Dom – but he makes some rather reckless decisions which threw me out of the story. He embarks on a scene with Drew, involving bondage, in a room he hasn’t entered since his wife died. It could be that I’m demanding too much reality from a story that is only meant to be a sexy little interlude, but every good Dom should know better than to start a scene when they are feeling over-emotional. It was Garrett’s responsibility to stay focused and look out for Drew while he was tied up, but instead he has a meltdown while Drew is still bound. I found it impossible to forgive him for this.

I suspect that other readers probably won’t have the same reaction I did to this event, and I can imagine many finding it touching that Garrett breaks down. Perhaps I just needed to accept that this was fiction and just enjoy the ride. However, I had already been unsettled by Garrett asking Drew if he could “do anything” and Drew, obedient sub that he is, saying yes: “no more protests”. At that point I had wanted to scream at Drew that he still had the right to stop or slow things down if he needed – although perhaps he didn’t. Samms made no mention of safewords or previous contracts, preferring to focus on the here and now of the sex scene.

In short, New Linen is a well written, sexy and emotional little tale that seemed to have all the right ingredients, but which ultimately I couldn’t connect to because of the characters. I don’t want to put readers off, though, because I’m sure that many will adore it just the way it is. The kink level isn’t too high, and it certainly packs an emotional wallop.

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Title: Dragon Traders
Author: JB McDonald
Length: 56 pages
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m fantasy
Rating: A-

Blurb:
Getting abducted by slavers wasn’t part of the plan. Not that there was much of a plan to begin with, but it definitely involved more payment and fewer chains. Ashe can’t help but feel a bit of panic when the meeting to sell dragon eggs, which were hunted down weeks earlier, turns sour, and he ends up drugged, caged, and on his way to a land where elves are pets.

To make matters worse, the only person who has a chance of saving him is Katsu. Katsu, who after two weeks of sex is still an enigma. Katsu, who isn’t exactly the best combatant on the team. Ashe can only hope that this enigma might still have a few tricks up his sleeve, or Ashe’s fate is sealed.

Review:
Dragon Traders is the sequel to Dragon Hunted which I reviewed here. It follows on from the previous book and tells of human Katsu and elf Ashe as Ashe struggles to understand where their relationship is going. He has feelings for Katsu, but Katsu is so closed off and unwilling to talk about himself that Ashe fears that Katsu is just using him for sex. When a trade on the dragon eggs they collected in the previous books goes wrong, Ashe is destined for slavery, unless Katsu can save him.

This story has a slightly different tone to the previous book which, whilst having a few nicely tense scenes was on the whole quite lighthearted. This book is more sombre in tone. In my opinion this made it the better story as I found myself sympathising more with Ashe as he tries to understand Katsu and deals with what he thinks is rejection. It made Ashe a much more rounded character than the happy-go-lucky elf we meet in the previous book. Katsu too develops as a character as we see him fighting his natural wariness in order to save his relationship with Ashe. We find out some surprising things about Katsu in this story, and this insight shows how much he’s prepared to do to save Ashe. The story was strongest when the two heroes are together, with Ashe struggling to communicate and get through to Katsu. It was emotional stuff.

This doesn’t mean that the book is bleak. In fact there are some scenes, such as Ashe’s attempts at trade which made me smile, but the focus is more on the difficulties that Ashe faces when captured and make quite a lot of the book a ‘heart in the throat’ type of read.

There’s still some mileage in these characters and their relationship and I wonder whether more books are due. I hope so because I’m really enjoying seeing, Ashe especially, developing and changing his personality and I’d like to see more of that. Plus I’d like to know the significance of the green egg! Those of you who enjoyed Dragon Hunted are going to love this story too. You don’t have to read the first story to enjoy this one, but it gives you just a bit more background on the situation.

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Title: Dorian’s Story
Author: Stephanie Vaughan
Length: 57 pages, 14,000 words.
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: M/M, fantasy, erotica
Rating: B+

Blurb: 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.

Review: This was very entertaining, with plenty of depth for a short story and some rewarding characters.

Dorian is a sympathetic and attractive hero. He’s committed to his job and his soldiers, but his ambitions have changed over the years, especially since he was gifted with Tasim as companion and slave. From the very beginning, he starts to question both his present and future. Fortune and glory be damned. Now he wanted only to go home — to see the last of this gods forsaken land of night eternal and rain that never ceased. The story is truly “Dorian’s”, about his change of heart both for his life with Tasim and against his current situation.

The secondary characters are also well fleshed-out, especially the bluff Haakon, whose humour is as witty as it is rough: “I’ll enjoy knocking you sideways so hard you’ll have to doff your cap to lace your boots.”  The king is the kind of autocratic despot that’s often found in a fantasy feudal romance, but he has a distinctive personality, and I found his arrogant behaviour chillingly effective: I gave him to you, true. But it’s all mine when all’s said and done, anyway, so what’s the difference?

Tasim didn’t appeal as much: maybe I’d have been more sympathetic to him if I’d read the first story. In his defence, he’s true to his role as a body slave, and he isn’t expected to have the bold personality of a confident soldier like Dorian. It was at times like these that Tasim’s youth was most evident. He hadn’t yet built the hardened outer shell one inevitably acquired at court, regardless of status or intent. Part of Dorian hoped he never would. However, his passive childishness irritated me a little. I was pleased when he showed a spark of spirit later in the story when he challenged Dorian about what his future would be.

The final escape from the king’s influence was cleverly done. There may have been foreshadowing in the previous story, but I was delighted to see Dorian put his plan into action, including the well executed and amusing twist in roles between Dorian and his protégé Theron.

The author’s style is entertaining and well crafted, balancing the fantasy setting with characters and dialogue the modern reader can identify with. The pace is dramatic but well balanced, and the scene breaks are nicely placed to maintain the suspense. The writing is very sensual, setting the scene from the very beginning of the story when they’ve been searching for their enemies in cold, relentless rain for a week. Some of the analogies are very vivid: By the time they’d finished, what little light was left was fleeing faster than a discovered thief. Occasionally the prose feels a bit purple, especially in the sex scenes, but the characters’ emotion comes across as genuine.

I enjoyed the read a lot and will be looking up the previous story(ies) for more about Dorian. I rate it B+.


by pettyprose…my opinion alone.

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Title: On the Job
Author: JM Snyder
Length: 5,944 words (16 pdf pages)
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary erotica
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Charles is a service technician with the cable company who doesn’t usually do new installs. His day is limited to trouble calls and reconnects.

But an irate customer has called into the office — he missed the installer and now demands the cable company send someone out to hook up his service. Charles is already in the neighborhood when he gets the call.

New installs aren’t usually in Charles’s job description. But when he meets the sexy Billy Jackson, he’s more than willing to hook the guy up.

Review:

This is a cute little story about poor cable guy Charles, who is forced to take a new installation job, even though that’s not his area of expertise. It was quite amusing to see the behind the scenes working of a company when they get a caller who is demanding and won’t take no for an answer. Charles is expecting the worst, but accepts the job anyway. He’s in for quite a surprise when he arrives, the customer is anything but annoying and angry, he’s hot, young and mostly naked having just got out of the shower.

The rest of the story consists of Charles trying as best he can to control his own libido, while Billy, the customer, does everything he can to set him off his game. At first he thinks it’s either unintentional or a game, and he tries his best to ignore it, but his forgetfulness and clumsiness under the circumstances is rather amusing. He knows it’s unprofessional and spends much of his time berating himself and giving himself pep talks to calm down.

Billy appears at the doorway. That damn smile. Shit. All he has to do is smile that way and I’d do anything he wanted. Anything at all. Cable free for a month? Sure, why not. Ten outlets? Hell, yeah. Fuck, I’ll even hook up the bathroom for you; you can watch TV when you take a bubble bath.

Don’t go there, Charles. You do not want to picture him in the bathtub. Naked, soapy, slippery and wet…

In the end, Billy isn’t about to let him get away with just hooking up the cable. This is a sweet little story that uses touch of humour to alleviate which could have been a rather stereotypical porn plot. There is also the indication that Billy and Charles will be seeing a lot more of each other in the future. The writing is light and fast and it’s a good choice when you are looking for something low-angst with some humour.

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Stay Safe

No, this is not a pro-condom post, although that should go without saying. To all our friends and readers on the east coast of the US this weekend, stay safe and dry as Hurricane Irene is set to make landfall.  Be wise, don’t take chances, and we will keep you all in our thoughts and hope that it is not as fierce as they are predicting.

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