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Archive for March, 2013

Mini-break

BlogBreak[5]

We’re gong to be taking a break this week at BER. We’ve all been getting a bit swamped with that silly old real-life, so we are going to take a little breather this week and come back rejuvenated.

Wishing everyone a lovely Easter this coming weekend and hope that the bunny leaves you some chocolate. See you April 1.

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Box of ChocolatesTitle: Sweets for the Sweet
Author: Kit Dickson & Kat Davidson
Length: 5,600 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Grade: C-

Blurb:
As teenagers, Joshua and Ian thought they were inseparable — until Josh’s family sent him off to military school. After years apart, the pair are reunited at last, but things quickly spiral out of control as both men struggle with their feelings towards one another and Joshua’s PTSD.

Review:
Josh and Ian are best friends and inseparable, until the lies of a teacher force them apart. Twelve years later, Joshua returns home after spending the intervening years in military school and the army where he finds that his old friend has followed his dreams and now owns a chocolate shop in town.

The blurb of this book sounded very promising and I’m always interested in stories which pick up on themes such as PTSD. However, I found that the short length of the story, coupled with a written style which involved far too much telling and not enough showing, meant that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I might.

The part that did work for me was in Josh’s weariness in returning home. He joined the military because of parental expectations and did his duty. Now he seems tired and a little bewildered to be free of the army. This seemed a very realistic portrayal of a man who has suffered through war and I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. I also liked Ian’s nervousness at meeting Josh again after all the years apart.

What worked less well was the rather ridiculous over-reaction of the boy’s parents at the beginning of the story, plus the sheer amount of telling of the background to the characters. The actual meat of the story involves a short conversation between the men in a supermarket, followed by another short conversation in the street. The rest is feelings or background told to the reader. Whilst I understood that we needed to know what the men had done in the years they were apart, the execution was a little dull and I became impatient to get to the action. I was also not convinced by the end of the story when the men barely speak before making a move. I would have been happier if there had been at least a shared acknowledgment that they are gay and attracted to each other before anything physical happened.

Overall, this is a sweet story but the writing didn’t work very well for me.

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clothingoptionalTitle: Clothing Optional
Author: Allen Mack
Length: 5,200 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Jim convinces his partner Brad to spend a day at a newly “liberated” beach — meaning nudity is permitted within designated bounds. Brad overcomes his shyness and agrees to go, on the lookout for “watchers” the whole time.

The couple meets others like themselves, some interesting folks, some interested in only one thing. Their little excursion turns out to be far from the quiet, restful vacation Jim originally planned. By the end of the day, the sun isn’t the only thing heating up the beach!

Review:

This was a cute little short about an established couple, buy my curiousity about them meant I felt a bit cheated out of their full story. Anyway, Brad and Jim are going to check out the new clothing optional beach. They even head down to the area where the gay crowd hang out so that Brad will feel more comfortable. It was kind of fun to watch Brad’s reticence and you find out he was a priest before they got together so you can definitely understand his reluctance to bare all on the beach.

However Jim’s (mostly) innocent enthusiasm for frolicking in the water starkers soon wins Brad over, along with some interactions with some other naturists. Soon however an older couple come trotting down the beach and proceed to sit on the shore and shout homophobic obscenities at the couple in the water. Jim wants to just ignore them, but Brad, usually a roll with it guy, finally snaps and confronts them about their behaviour which they try to deny. They eventually scurry off realizing they aren’t going to be allowed to play their nasty games.

I liked how Brad stood up to them, even if there is a bit of a morality lesson about bigots who generally when confronted won’t fight back. So maybe a bit of preaching to the converted, since most of us reading would be firmly on Jim and Brad’s side in this encounter, but I still enjoyed the interaction between the two men. You know they have been together for some time, but I was really curious if they met when Brad was still a priest or after he left the priesthood. I think Brad’s story had a lot of potential as he talks about the hypocritical behaviour of many of his parishioners was what caused him to leave the priesthood.

So I think the author could have fodder for a much longer book about Brad and Jim, but they definitely love each other, that came through clear. So if you are in the mood for something short and sweet, with a few naughty parts waving around in the sand, a good choice to pick up.

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masksofftoo-eternity185Title: Masks off Too: Eternity
Author: Sean Michael
Length: 5,200 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal BDSM romance
Grade: C+

Blurb:
After four hundred years as an immortal, Lukas has become bored and is dying of ennui. He wills everything he owns to his creator Gustav, with whom he’s had a three hundred years long falling out, and goes up onto the roof to meet the dawn.

Will he survive the sun? And if he does, can Gustav keep him from becoming bored again?

Review:
This story is part of a series of short stories about vampires and masked balls. The vampire in this case is Lukas who after 400 years is bored of life and decides to end it by sacrificing himself to the sun. Before he does that he bequeaths all his goods and property to his Master, Gustav, the man who made him into a vampire.

The first part of the story is engaging and I felt some sympathy for Lukas as he tries to end it all. Thwarted by the lack of sun he is then accosted by Gustav. The pair fell out centuries ago, but Gustav is not willing to let Lukas kill himself and so takes him in hand, starting with a good spanking for his bad behaviour. After that it’s typical Sean Michael fayre with a BDSM scene involving lots of spanking and a smug Dom who knows exactly what Lukas needs to overcome his boredom. The sex scene is well written, however, and I liked the way that the blood pay is used. The dynamic between the characters wasn’t anything I haven’t read before but it was still amusing to see Lukas’ attempts to fight Gustav’s attentions.

The masked ball theme is a little tacked into the story and not really relevant to the main plot, used only as a way for the characters to have a bit of cat at and mouse game.

Overall, if you like this author then this will be something familiar to add to your collection. If you like sexy vampires who engage in some D/s sex then, again this would be a pretty good story to read. For me, it was amusing enough to pass the time but nothing that will stick in my mind for long.

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choclTitle: Fruity on the Inside
Author: G.R. Richards
Length: 6,400
Publisher:
Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary BDSM romance
Grade: C

Blurb:
As the Valentine’s window display competition approaches, Trent hires Jonathan to pretty up his optical shop. Jonathan is a student from the local Arts and Design College, and he’s not shy about showing the world he’s gay. Trent hates to admit it, but guys like that make him uncomfortable. Clearly, Jonathan doesn’t care what other people think. He’s also damn good at calling a stranger’s bluff. Jonathan can tell that Trent is just like his candy-covered berries: dark chocolate on the outside, fruity on the inside. But will he discover Trent’s kinks in time for Valentine’s Day?

Review:
This valentine set romance begins with older black man Trent who owns a shop selling glasses (he may be an optician but this was never explicitly said). In order to win the annual valentine shop window display award, Trent hires Jonathan, a window dresser, to work wonders and finds the sassy Jonathan a distraction throughout his working day.

This story began well. The tone is quite lighthearted and I enjoyed the teasing way that the men dance around each other through the day. Trent seems like a bit of a lonely person and there are hints that he hasn’t had a lover for a while. There’s a fair bit of sexual tension in this first part which is tempered by an awkwardness because Trent finds the flamboyant Jonathan a little disconcerting.

Things come to a head once Jonathan completes his window display and there is an intense sex scene with a BDSM theme. To be honest, this part left me scratching my head a little as it seemed completely out of the blue. There had been no foreshadowing that either man was interested in D/s play and so I was surprised that all of a sudden they are agreeing a safe word and letting go with leather belts.

The sudden BDSM scene meant that I withdrew from the story at that point and so the end didn’t really work for me. The story ends with a reveal of the window display, which could have been quite a funny & romantic moment if I wasn’t feeling revolted that they would think it was appropriate to have spunk stains on something shown to the public. Maybe they were modelling the display on a Tracey Emin piece.

Overall, this turned out to be just an Ok story for me. I liked the older man/younger man dynamic and the early interactions between the couple but didn’t like the way the story ended.

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1053358Title: Demonic Interlude
Authors: Talon Rihai & Salome Wilde
Length: 4,000 words (16 pdf pages)
Publisher: Storm Moon Press (free at ARe)
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: C

Blurb:

The demon Mael has grown increasingly weary of the mortal who has bound him. And though he knows he will soon be able to complete his contract and devour the mortal’s soul, that time has not yet come. Finally, frustrated with the mortal’s limited imagination and pedestrian orders, he strikes the man unconscious and uses the small respite of freedom to summon his own demonic slave, Feng, to service his long unsated needs.

Review:

This is a very short free story which left me feeling a bit like I was dropped into a world where I should have known the characters. Mael is forced by an agreement to do/be whatever his human master wants, in exchange, Mael will get his soul. However Mael finds him repulsive and most of the things he wants are so boring to Mael who could take over the world. After a particularly distasteful evening which involves murdering a woman after sex, he knocks out his master and meets up with his submissive lover Feng in the garden.

The vast majority of the book is a sex scene between the two. Feng seems to be more wolf-like than humanoid, or perhaps one of those hybrids similar to kitsune. Mael takes note that Feng is a high-level demon in his own right who could own his own servants, but chooses instead to remain loyal to Mael. The sex is rough and demonic I suppose. Mael regrets that he’s forced to remain in his human body and unable to really let loose the way he’d like.

When his master wakes, he knows he’ll be punished for knocking the man out, but the stolen moment with Feng were worth it and Feng assures him he’ll wait for him. The ending made me snort, and it was an interesting premise, however being so short I was left a bit wondering how Mael came to hook up with the human. Yes, he needs to do it in order to consume souls to survive, but how did he come to be with that man, and what was the story between him and Feng, how did they come to be lovers.

However if you’re looking for a little demonic D/s action, it’s got a little bit of a darker edge to it and it was well written, I just wanted a bit more to flesh out the story for me.

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masksofftoo-foolmetwice185Title: Masks Off Too: Fool Me Twice
Author: Missouri Dalton
Length: 19 pdf pages, 5200 words.
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: C+

Blurb:

The Everglades have secrets, Professor Edmund Toussaint, the swamp’s lone vampire, knows this all too well. He’s lived there all of his life and hasn’t run into another of his kind since the fateful night he fed his maker to a crocodile. But things are changing, and another vampire might just be the only thing that will bring Edmund out of the swamp.
This story is also available in the Masks Off Too! anthology.

Review:

A well-written story with an intriguing setting that just tried to do too much within the limited word count.

Fool Me Twice opens with vampire Edmund in a typically mournful mood, hanging around in an area of Florida swamp that has special meaning to him. Not only is it where he died, it’s also where he killed his maker (the odious Lucas) and where his 300 year old gravestone is located. There was a strong evocation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire here, from the swampy setting to the morose, French colonial vampire, and I was intrigued. Edmund has made a virtue of his affliction by becoming an expert in night-blooming swamp flowers, and manages a life of sorts as an academic who teaches at night. I wasn’t entirely sure how he dealt with the practicalities of this (along with having to assume a new identity every few years while staying in the same area), but detailing that would have been beyond the scope of this story.

The first half of the story shows us Edmund’s daily life and illustrates just what a grumpy, isolated hermit he’s become. He’s terrified of other vampires, especially as the only one he’s ever met was such a nasty piece of work. However, when he agrees to attend a masquerade ball in order to help his university department obtain funding for future projects, he discovers that the potential benefactor he’s meant to be charming is another vamp. James Argent isn’t quite so quick to sniff out Edmund’s identity, but when he eventually does, Edmund discovers that he has a lot still to learn about his true nature.

I feel like this story has suffered from having to be short enough to fit in an anthology word-count limit, which is a shame as there’s the potential for a really interesting novella here. Instead of a fully developed romance we just have a frustrating tease, skating over lots of Edmund’s back story but not really satisfying in the here and now. Not only is there a fade to black on the sex scene, but we don’t get to find out much about the mysterious James either. From the little we did see of him I found him to be rather arrogant and patronising with his “little bat” endearments, so the way Edmund falls for him felt like too much, too soon. However, I’ve given the story a C+ because I thought the prose was flawless, the world-building intriguing, and it had the seed of a fascinating story here. I particularly loved Edmund’s crocodile!

In short, I feel this probably works well enough as an anthology story, but as a standalone it lacks both the erotic and romantic content to really satisfy an m/m romance reader. I do want to track down more of Missouri Dalton’s writing, though, because she certainly knows how to write beautifully.

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