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Archive for September, 2012

Title: The Man Who Wouldn’t Wear Leather
Author: Aaron Michaels
Length: 3,900 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
For their ninth anniversary, Chuck scrimped and saved to buy Milton a sexy leather bomber jacket which Milton not only refused to wear, but which very nearly caused the break-up of their relationship. Imagine Chuck’s surprise when he comes home early one afternoon to find the jacket he thought Milton gave away draped over the back of a kitchen chair and Milton nowhere to be found.

Has the jacket come back to haunt him like a bad penny, or is something else going on with Milton that Chuck knows nothing about?

Review:
This story is one of those slice of life tales from an established relationship. Chuck and Milton have been together for a long time and are rather opposite in personality. Milton is a classic geek who wears a pocket protector (yes, I had to look up what that was. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone wear one in the UK) and Chuck loves him for it. Chuck arrives home to find a leather jacket on the chair and is surprised because he thought Milton had thrown it away. Chuck had bought it for him a while ago for their ninth anniversary but Milton had hated it for reasons unknown. When Milton’s Mum arrives at the flat, Chuck manages to weedle the mystery of the rejected coat out of her.

This is only a very short story and because of that I didn’t really feel there was enough time to explore the dynamics of Chuck and Milton’s relationship fully. Chuck even comes across as a little condescending of Milton’s geekiness, although I’m sure this was supposed to come across as fondness. The secret was a bit of an anti-climax, as was the end of the story which promised a frank discussion, but actually fizzled out into nothing.

Having said that, the writing was lively and I quite liked Chuck. When the pair are together on the page, which doesn’t happen until right at the end, their attraction to each other zings off the page, as does their banter. It’s obvious that they love each other a great deal as this shines through their interaction. I also liked Milton’s mother and her careful protection of her son. For a secondary character she shares more page space than Milton, but doesn’t overwhelm the romance of the story.

Overall, if you like this author then this is a good addition to your collection. For me it was a decent story and worth reading if you get a few spare minutes.

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Title: Slow Awakening
Author: M Raiya
Length: 5,300 words
Publisher: Torquere
Genre: m/m BDSM, Alternate World Historical
Rating: B

Blurb: In the hills above the castle are caves where, rumor has it, “things” are done to men that leave common soldiers glazed with pleasure. A good king should not even think about such things. If he was caught in the caves, he could lose his crown, if not his life. But to deny forever what he is could cost him his sanity. The night the king visits the caves will either be a night of ecstasy, or a night of doom. It might also be the night he finds the other half of his soul.

Review: I really like this author, but I’ve only ever read her work in the Notice series, so I’ve yet to read anything that isn’t fantasy. I first thought this was a fantasy short from reading the blurb, but though it does take place in an alternate universe in an assumed historical setting, there’s no fantasy involved at all. In fact, there is little more mentioned than the BDSM and the role of the main character who is King of the land.

A King is bound to stricter codes in his role than anyone. That role is complete and binding and at the same time strangling the life out of the main character in this story. Without a name he is simply King, and when he finds the courage to visit the caves that are rumored to hold men who practice in Master and submissive behavior, he is “little one”. The man there he calls Master takes charge of him and allows him, through physical binding, to let go of the roles of behavior he’s bound to, if only for a night. Only, the next day the King is in for a shock.

My one complaint with the vast majority of these charity sips I’ve read are that they try to do too much for the restrictive word limit. This story didn’t fall prey to that, the story is simple and doesn’t try to introduce a world, characters and a romance. In fact, it does little of any of them. Ultimately, we know little about the characters, next to nothing about the world and the setting, and though it could happen for these characters in the future, romance isn’t yet part of the picture. What it does do is meet its objective and deliver the story the blurb promises. I really appreciated that. Less is more, especially with a short story, and that is the reason this story works. Would I have loved to have more? Of course, but for only 5k words, what is presented here is really all there is room for, and the way it is presented really worked for me.

This story is all about labels and roles. They are what out main character is trying to escape from when he visits the caves to seek Domination — King, advisor, leader. At the same time, the man who strips him of those roles is also anonymous — Master, and later named by a role that defines who he is in the light of day. I liked the way that the secrets and roles are presented as light and dark, as distinct sides of the same coin, public and private. The rest of the characters who show up all have proper names.

My only question about the story is a brief interlude after the King wakes up the morning after his sojourn to the caves. He’s disoriented and believes that it was all a dream. There are two men mentioned who took him the previous night to drink in the town and apparently delivered him home to the castle. He also mentions, in a somewhat unclear way, that they’ve done this before. This passage was fairly muddled and I wasn’t quite sure what the objective was to bring up this information. Why does he need to be confused or not remember the night before at all? And what did he mean that this had happened before? Drinking in the town until he passed out? Or that he’d visited, or tried to visit, the caves previously? I’m not sure that it really mattered honestly.

This is a great short short and though it is pretty hot and the BDSM is fairly intense, it’s not overly explicit in the way that some BDSM is — the focus is mostly on the D/s. Recommended.

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Title: Unseen Touch (Paranormal Crime Unit #1)
Author: Arvel Amara
Length: 19,640 words
Publisher: Self Published (Smashwords, Amazon)
Genre: m/m paranormal mystery romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
For psychic, Henri Abbey, trouble is never far away. It has been nearly two years since Henri resigned from Orlando’s Paranormal Crime Unit, but he can’t manage to leave his detective days behind. When a witch comes into his shop asking for help finding her missing assistant, Henri is suddenly thrown into a case where the victims are found dead inside a locked room. The cause of death? Internal bleeding.

Things just get worse when Henri finds himself drawn to the main crime suspect, Micah James. Micah is the only person Henri has been able to touch in the last two years without being swamped with memories. When Micah shows that he wants Henri just as much as Henri want him, Henri has to figure out how to deal with his intense attraction. But that soon becomes only one of his worries when he discovers he’s the next target on the murderer’s list.

Review:
This is the first in series of paranormal novellas by a new-to-me author. It follows psychic, Henri, who owns a shop selling paranormal paraphernalia as well as offering readings. On the side he helps out the Paranormal Crime Unit, which he used to belong to before he retired after a particularly harrowing case. The story begins as he’s visited by one of the most powerful witches in the country who wants Henri to discover the whereabouts of her missing assistant. At the same time Henri is called in by the PCU to help find out who killed a series of people who were in a locked room.

I was quickly drawn into this story through the first person narrative of Henri. He’s a skilled psychic with a heavy dose of skepticism which keeps his abilities honed and his defences sharp. I liked him a great deal. I also liked the idea that his powers are also a weakness, making him unable to stand being touched as he gets unwillingly drawn into people’s memories. In fact, the paranormal aspect was the strongest part of the story with a lot of thoughtful world-building to Henri, the PCU and the mystery plot.

Henri has an immediate attraction to Micah, the missing assistant. Their compatibility worked well and I could see how this would influence the speed that the pair get together. Micah also complements Henri’s personality in the way that he is a steady presence to Henri’s nervousness, and who is also willing to help save the day when necessary. There’s a lot of secrets about Micah – the most pressing of which is what manner of creature he actually is – and these secrets are not revealed at the end of the story.

There are also lots of questions about Henri’s past that need answering too. In many ways Henri as a character is a little lacking in definition at this stage in the series. We know of his PCU past, his psychic abilities and his new career with the shop, but we don’t know much about his past, his family and how he came into his powers. we also only get hints of the circumstances which led to him retiring from the PCU. I’m hoping I’ll find out more about this intriguing character, and more about Micah, in later books in the series.

Self-published books get a lot of criticism for lack of editing, and I’m afraid there were a noticeable amount of typos in this book – only small things like letters missing from words or the use of ‘too’ instead of ‘to’, but still a little irritating. A good proof-reader would have picked these up.

However, that was my only real niggle in a story which took me on a roller-coaster mystery adventure. The pace didn’t slacken the whole time and there was a good mix of drama, excitement and romance. I read it quickly from cover to cover and enjoyed it a great deal. This author shows great promise and I’ll be certain to pick up the rest in this series. If you like mystery stories with paranormal aspects, then this should be just the ticket and I recommend it.

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Title: Counting Down
Author: Kiernan Kelly
Length: 6,400 words (29 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Contemporary: m/m contemporary
Rating: C-

Blurb:

Jackson Lafayette’s life is nearly idyllic. He’s newly married to his husband, Alex, and they’re madly in love. They’ve just bought a house together, have two dogs, and are basically as happy as can be. The only fly in the ointment is Jackson’s boss, Mr. Simpson, whose homophobia is creating a hostile work environment for Jackson.

When conditions at work escalate, and Jackson begins to show physical symptoms of stress, Alex must help him understand that unless he stands up for himself, nothing will ever get better.

Review:

This story is a departure from the author’s sometimes light-hearted style and takes a serious look at discrimination against sexual orientation in the world place. Jackson’s life is hell at work. He’s given the worst jobs and on Valentine’s Day he’s bullied into taking on extra work and thus canceling his plans with his husband. The slurs thrown at him publicly by his boss were extremely blatant and in front of other employees who seemed to accept it. He even refuses to allow Jackson’s husband on his insurance and forces him to cancel his vacation. I thought Jackson’s husband was an angel. All he did was push Jackson to take action, while Jackson’s fears of being unemployed kept him tied to the horrible situation.

There was nothing inherently wrong with the story, except that I felt like I was being lectured. Shown how awful it is in some jurisdictions for gay employees. I don’t doubt that it is, I know there are states/countries where you can be fired simply for your orientation, but it seemed to be hammering me over the head with how awful it was as the only purpose of the story. I started to get frustrated with Jackson, because seriously, if anyone treated me that way I’d rather sleep in a cardboard box or move in with my parents than put up with it. Even though Alex was encouraging him to quit, he was hung up in the mortgage payment.

The romance in this is the quiet support of Alex as Jackson finally takes the steps he needs, and is “laid off” as a result. But as I said, I felt like I was being educated or lectured explicitly, rather than being entertained and learning something at the same time. This is very personal and others may not feel the same way. I enjoy the author’s voice a great deal, but this time it just didn’t work for me.

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Title: Brotherly Love
Author: DC Juris
Length: 3,500 words (15 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary twincest
Rating: B

Blurb:

Frankie has been in love with his twin, Jacob, for as long as he can remember, but he’s pushed those feelings aside. What kind of man lusts after his brother, after all? When he discovers a story about twins loving one another, those old feelings rear up, and he has to say something. But how will Jacob take the news? Will they find their happily ever after together, in each other’s arms, or has Frankie just ruined everything?

Review:

This is a short and sweet twincest story, but it doesn’t ignore the fact that twins in a romantic/sexual relationship are required to keep secrets.Frankie’s roommate has been looking for a “perfect” romance story and is disappointed yet again, this time informing Frankie that she’s put-off by twincest. Frankie is not even sure what that is, but once she explains it, he can’t help but be intrigued, especially as he’s been having feelings for his own twin for years. After reading the story, he decides to confront his twin and see if he feels the same, however as can be expected, it doesn’t go that well, although Jacob doesn’t freak out, he’s just kind of stunned.

After drowning his sorrows in wine, Frankie goes to bed, only to awake later to find Jacob there and after having some time to think about it, admit that he feels the same. This was where they both admit they are going to have to keep it secret and reveal it to only a few people, definitely not Frankie’s roommate who was upset by the twincest and their family. So it was nice to see them actually aware that they just couldn’t blithely go about a relationship with each other without repercussions.

This is obviously a story that won’t appeal to all readers, but for those who enjoy a twincest story, the sex when it comes is hot and yet tender as the two brothers finally get what both have been wishing for.

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Title: Ditched
Author: Lucy Felthouse
Length: 5,234 words
Publisher: Resplendence Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
Private Damien Stone is living in a nightmare. He’s out on exercise on Salisbury Plain with Lance Corporal Michael Scott—who also happens to be a huge pain in the arse. He’s a teacher’s pet who seems to delight in bossing Stone around. But that’s not the real reason Stone appears to dislike him so much. It’s because Stone—who’s bisexual—is seriously attracted to his superior, but he can’t do anything about it, because Scott is straight. Or is he?

Review:
Those who like stories with military guys in them are going to like this one. It tells of two British army guys who are on practice manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain. They hole up in a ditch to await a late pick up, sniping at each other all the way. Things come to a head when Scott catches Stone staring at him in a lustful manner.

At just over 5,000 words there’s not much to this story but I really got a good flavour for both characters despite the short time we spend with them. Both are strong men, stubborn and used to getting their own way. Scott is the superior officer, but Stone treats him with the bare minimum of respect. The testosterone and the sexual tension rolls off these guys as they fight frustration at having to wait for the helicopter, and their own sexual frustration with each other. It was nicely played.

It isn’t long before the sparks start flying, followed by a sex scene which was hot, but realistic, given the setting. I liked the distractions of the rain and cool weather and the contrast between that and their hot skin. I also liked that the scene is peppered with good-natured teasing which shows that once the men let their guard down they could be friends as well as comrades and lovers.

My one niggle about the scene was the lack of condom – obviously neither of them carry any condoms on manoeuvres so it would have been strange for one of them to suddenly produce one – but it still left me feeling a little uncomfortable when they could have avoided penetrative sex altogether. It actually had me scurrying to Google to look up STD testing in the army, but as far as I could tell, there isn’t anything regular. Maybe someone has better information than me. Maybe other readers will just go with the fantasy of it all and ignore the cold reality of a possible STD!

That niggle wasn’t enough to spoil the story for me and I greatly enjoyed this piece of erotica. There’s not really any romance involved at this stage, other than a hint at the end of more encounters between the pair, but this didn’t bother me either. If military men are your thing then this story could be just right for you. I enjoyed the story and would recommend it.

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Title: Practice Makes Perverts
Author: G.R. Richards
Length: 3,800 words (16 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Yoison is a little freaked out on his first day of practice teaching in Mr. O’Connor’s social studies class. He can’t believe some of the toughs in this school–and when a big bad biker steps into the classroom, greeted enthusiastically by all the students, Yoison is surprised to find out this dude is Mr. O’Connor. His students call him Rut, and he’s unlike any teacher Yoison’s ever worked with. For starters, no other teacher has turned Yoison on quite like this! It’s high school all over again.

Review:

This spicy little short comes across as the intro to a relationship, as it only takes place over a period of the hours in a classroom. Yoison (pronounced like Jason) is a bit nervous about his first day of practice teaching. The type of school is known for kids who couldn’t make it in the regular system and after his last job in a posh high school this is quite a change, although he’s rather impressed that he’s no longer the only non-Caucasian in the school. However when his new supervising teacher arrives, he’s even more boggled. The man is wearing leather pants, his students call him Rut and he’s very openly gay.

As the day wears on, Yoison is impressed with Rut’s style and his ability to engage students who would most likely have tuned out of the school system. At the end of the day, Rut acts on what has been Yoison’s obvious attraction during the day and it ends with a brief sexual interlude in the classroom, with the possibility of more. I do have to say I have a great respect for teachers who can teach outside the box when necessary as some kids don’t respond well to traditional education methods, so I quite enjoyed the idea of Rut getting through to the kids. And the sex scene is hot and spicy (although I kept wondering if there was a classroom window or if the door was locked), but the story is really only the start of their relationship. You don’t know anything about Rut or his background, as the entire story takes place in the classroom, and while the POV is from Yoison, you don’t know much about him either beyond his lustful thoughts for Rut or his nervousness about the new job.

However it is well-written and if you are in the mood for something short and spicy this might do the trick.

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