Category: Erotica Reviews

Wherein Blue is Not Warm, But Sweet – Review of Blue Eyed Stranger

20150905blueeyedBlue-Eyed Stranger,Trowchester Blues Two by Alex Beecroft

First off, I want to say that I am really happy to be able to read a book with a black main character where he isn’t irrational and in need of the calming guidance of his white partner. You’d be surprised how many people of color, in romance novels especially, are portrayed that way. Even in the more lovingly written stories that were clearly made in order to include characters of color in a positive and accurate light, the white savior dynamic is so often hidden in places I’m sure the author didn’t even consider when they were writing it.

Alex Beecroft, you are a dream.

This second of the Trowchester Blues novels centers around Martin Deng and Billy Wright. Martin’s Somalian father doesn’t understand him. He certainly would understand him even less if he knew his son was gay. Maybe even disown him. Martin’s stuck-up British boss doesn’t understand how a history teacher would be so obsessed with history. She wants him to teach to the book and stop messing around with his historical reenactment society. Martin’s vikings understand his love for history, and would probably understand his being gay, but it’s not like he’s ever given them the chance to.

Billy understands all of this. If only he could understand his own depression. Dancing, music and melancholy are his constant companions until Martin Deng and his viking hoard come barreling into his dance troupe. Martin is sweet, he knows about depression, and he doesn’t ask for more than Billy can give. But does Billy ask for more than Martin can give when it comes to loving him openly?

Can Martin overcome his own insecurities in order to be the kind of partner Billy needs?

I genuinely liked Martin and Billy. Unlike other coming out will he/won’t he stories, I didn’t get frustrated with Martin, even though he really does do some pretty bone-headed things. I understood the pressure he felt, and I related to how difficult it can be to deal with the demands of the monoculture, the demands of your own family culture, and the demands of your heart. History wants to erase minority contributions and families tend to bulldoze individual members to the extent that a person can start to feel guilty taking up any space at all. More than exasperation, I felt elation and empowerment when Martin finally came out, both of his shell and of the closet.

For those reasons, I really enjoyed Blue Eyed Stranger.

However, this is definitely more a romance than a work of erotica. Those who read Trowchester Blues and hoped to spice things up in book two will not be especially stimulated by the direction this went. The sex is pleasant, affirming and sweet. Also rarely mentioned in detail. It’s lovely, but it’s not going to be keeping anybody up at night.

Oh, and if you were looking for an update on the orphan and bff from book one, you will not be getting one. The book one characters are hardly mentioned at all outside one small cameo by Fin.

4.5 stars for being the rare book with a solidly relatable black main character, despite a lack of steamy sexy bits.

New In Town: Review of Trowchester Blues

20150801cover58651-mediumTrowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

Maybe it’s because I’m getting up in years myself, but I really prefer the stories about the above-thirty set. Kids are dumb, and their problems are dumb problems. Not like the main characters in this first Trowchester Blues novel, the start of what promises to be hit series from Alex Beecroft.

Michael May was a police officer. One too many gruesome murder scenes sent him over the edge, and he was encouraged to take early retirement after assaulting a suspect. Back in the home where he was an outcast among his peers, and a victim of his father’s abusive cruelty, he is attempting to rebuild. What, he doesn’t know.

Fintan Hulme was a fence. A good fence, but he got out of the game and exiled himself to an antique bookshop in a tiny tourist village on the English coast. Content to live out his quiet retirement, he was completely unprepared for a new love or an old associate to show up at his door at virtually the same time.

Throw in a snarky orphan, a genderqueer, age-appropriate BFF (and maybe more) for her to bond with, excellent character development, and just a hint of sadomasochism and you have a pretty great combo. And that’s not even accounting for the very English mystery to top it all off.

Michael is afraid of his own anger, Fintan is aroused by it. Michael is adrift on a sea of uncertainty, Fintan knows exactly what he wants but his past isn’t going to let him have it.

The stand-out feature of Trowchester Blues has got to be the character development. It’s so crisp and good, even minor characters are real and whole people.

In terms of complaints, I only wish the sex was a little spicier. Fintan’s masochism is talked about, but not explored to the extent that I was hoping for. Vanilla readers, the kind who can be put off by the more hardcore pain/pleasure stuff will probably be grateful the scenes don’t go far, but they felt anticlimactic to me. I did, however, really enjoy that Fintan’s masochism didn’t automatically translate into submissiveness. All too often the two are portrayed as being practically the same trait, and as a masochist who likes to be in charge, it was refreshing to see somebody with a similar style.

4.5 stars for being a damn good read.

Challenge Participant

What Are Best Friends For: Review of Getting it Right

20150710gettingGetting It Right by A.M. Arthur

You may know Dr. James Taggert, or friendly club hook-up Tag from A.M.’s other successful books in The Belonging Series. This first book in the brand new Restoration Series is extremely promising.

Police detective Nathan and his psychologist best friend James have always been on the verge of something. Both have feelings for the other, each lives depressingly unaware of his friend’s internal struggle. James stays away from Nathan on the grounds that he’s straight, Nathan stays away from James on the grounds that James doesn’t like him back.

As Jame’s alcoholism progresses, and Nathan closes in on a career making case, the two friends fall into a drunken make-out session that leaves Nathan more sure of his intentions than ever, but black-out drunk James has absolutely no memory of the relationship changing event.

When a brutal attack leaves Nathan fighting for his life, then under the care of his parents, James is forced to come to grips with what loosing Nathan would really mean to him. it’s time to grow up and stop playing at club boy if he wants a shot with the true love of his life. But will Nathan still want him when he recovers?

For his part, Nathan pretends that his avoiding James is all about getting better, but it’s also about keeping his distance from a man he’s always thought didn’t want him, and who he can’t imagine would want him now covered in scars and suffering from some serious trauma.

Where the Belonging Series were clearly young and new, the Restoration Series feels grown up and serious. I like it. I also like the transformation that the characters go through. Unlike other books I’ve read where one partner turns to the other says “gee honey, I wish you wouldn’t drink so much” and the book basically ends in a giant heart around them both as the other partner promises to do just that.

There are some things missing, for example, how Nathan could be in love with his openly gay male best friend for most of their friendship and neither bring it up, nor act on it with any other dudes. Or that he would also decide to repress these feelings despite having incredibly accepting parents and a gay best friend.

My arguments in that past that the writer either didn’t access their own trauma, or didn’t know much about trauma are slightly assuaged. The portrayal is way more realistic than it has been in the past.

Otherwise, I approve of this new, darker direction.

3.5 stars

Car Crossed Lovers: Review of Hell on Wheels

20150710hellHell on Wheels A Bluewater Bay Novel by Z..A. Maxfield

Everybody needs a break sometimes. But what happens when a much needed diversion from the rigors of everyday life turns out to be more than that?

Nash has a lot on his plate. He’s running his family’s auto shop while simultaneously looking after his wheelchair using younger sister and absent-minded inventor father. Spencer is a celebrity in the middle of divorce that is pure tabloid-fuel.

They find each other at the worst possible point, but can peace grow from chaos?

I am seriously loving the Bluewater Bay series. Not only is it set in my favorite place, the Pacific Northwest, but every character is so well made. The writers are truly the first string on team Riptide, and the quality is quite apparent.

Nash and Spencer are so well written, as are the various family members and self-identified minions that surround the two characters. I do wish that there was more fire between the two leads. I also wish that there was less loving kindness for Spencer’s shitty ex.

I get that how the story plays out is actually the healthier and more realistic, and I know that I’m always harping on these red-flag romances, but I also wonder if there could have been a little more flash bang. What can I say, I’m a woman of contradictions.

4 stars

The Thing I Should Have Known: Review of The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

20150710thethingThe Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Book 1, Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years by Brent Hartinger

I requested The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know because it was by the same author who wrote Geography Club. I’d never read the book, but I’d seen the movie and really enjoyed it.

Usually I don’t like books with young protagonists, owing to my singular hatred of anybody under the age of 25, and issue I’ve struggled with just about my entire life. But I did really like Geography Club.

Thus the thing I should have known. I haven’t been able to finish this book because I can not stand the protag. He has that John Green style over-analytical naivety that just sets my fucking teeth on edge.

Maybe it’s jealousy because I was never the kind of person who felt safe enough in my own home and with my own family to be that adorkably lost all the time, but God Damnit I can’t take it.

Somebody else would probably love this book. Somebody who enjoys painfully innocent young men who don’t actually get hurt so much as they learn deep lessons. Lessons the reader themselves probably learned or are about to learn just as gently and sweetly. I can’t take it.

1 star.

New Dog, Old Tricks: Review of Lone Wolf

image
Lone Wolf, A Bluewater Bay Novel by L.A. Witt, Aleksandr Voinov

Another successful episode in Riptide’s Bluewater Bay series, Lone Wolf will have fanatic writers green with envy.

When Kevin Hussain aka Lone Wolf gets an IM from his fellow fanfic writer and cyber crush Wolf Hunter, it seems like it might be time to take it to the next level. Little does he know what level that actually is.

Wolf Hunter, also known as insanely popular fiction writer Hunter Easton, author behind the hit new show Wolf’s Landing has come to a complete stalemate in his writing. But when the flirty and very stimulating Lone Wolf shares his unique take on the next steps for their favorite pack, Hunter can’t help but reach out. Lone Wolf’s book needs to be the next volume in the Wolf’s Landing series, and Kevin’s name needs to be on it, but how to make that happen?

And what’s to be done about the very real chemistry between the two self-professed loners? Can two men so used to their own company learn to work together? To be together?

If you want to know the answer to these questions, as well as some hot sex between an extremely forward younger man and his equally enthusiastic older partner, this is the book for you.

As I have come to expect from both L.A. Witt and Aleksander Voinov, the writing is spot on, the plot is great, it flows well, and at no point did I find myself taken out of the function by something unrealistic or nonsensical. The only thing keeping me half a star away from the 5 star rating is that little extra punch that I look for in a true 5 star. This is good stuff and well worth the price. Pick it up.

4.5 stars out of 5

The Book that Called Uncle – Review of The Flesh Cartel

cover52093-mediumThe Flesh Cartel, The Complete Collection by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau

Thanks to Riptide and NetGalley for the review copy.

I requested The Flesh Cartel back in the Fall of 2014, and every time I would sit down to read it, then put it down again, I thought that I was just having a bad day. I’d go on and read other books and review them, and then try to come back to no avail. I’m finally throwing in the towel. It’s unfair to continue to think that I will someday finish this book.

I blame my own headspace for this one. I tend to love this stuff. Stories of intense BDSM relationships and situations are usually right up my alley. I was totally excited to read The Flesh Cartel, I’d been hearing about how great it was for years.

For those not in the know, this popular series centers around two orphaned brothers who are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, where they are meant to be trained as the perfect submissive slaves.

The first several chapters are straight up terror and pain. Again, usually it’s totally my thing, but it was hard to get through. The original serial nature of the piece made it seem drawn out in book form. A lot of intense things happen in every chapter, because they were originally set as stand-alone pieces meant to sustain a reader until the next installation, but the plot moves incredibly slowly, a least at first.

The boys are likable characters, and they are very clearly not enjoying any part of their situation. I usually prefer my hardcore to be similar in caliber, but with an eventual kernel of consent or underlying secret desire, and while that is threatened, it’s not something that happens. So I begin to feel more than a little bit like the bad guy by continuing to read these characters into deeper and deeper depths of insanity. Yes, I am the kind of crazy person who actually (sort of) believes that I put the characters into and out of danger by reading or not reading. It’s a sickness.

I do know that the boys eventually escape, and I have a feeling that the story gets way less repetitive after that, but it was difficult to get there for me. I’m going to keep going back to the work, and when I do finish it, I will be updating this review, but I wanted to get something out after so long in draft.

3 out of 5 stars

The Eye of the Storm – Review of Tempest

cover54381-mediumTempest (Playing the Fool #3) by Lisa Henry, and J.A. Rock

Thanks to Riptide and Netgalley for the review copy.

In the third Playing the Fool book, Henry and Mack are on the run, from the both sides of the law. They have no one to turn to but each other, and Mac’s parents, who’s farmhouse they make into their hiding place. This is reminiscent of book one where Mack fails to plan and ends up in the one place anyone who knows him would look for his ass.

But I do like that it gives Mack and Henry some time to be normal people and not on the run or threatened by stuff for a second. I also appreciate that the authors spent time with Viola, developing her character and giving her an arc, rather than making her a plot device, as can sometimes happen with children and the developmentally disabled.

The book wraps everything up nicely in the end, which you guys know that I’m not usually a fan of, especially with a series I enjoyed as much as this one. It makes me very doubtful that there will be a book four, which I very much want. By the end of book three, their White Collar thing is totally in place, and it looks like Henry and Mac are going to have a beautiful partnership, both in and out of the bedroom.

I’d really like to see more of the series with them solving crimes and actually being on the same side. The banter that gave me pause in the first book is completely on point by book two and stays that way through book three. If anybody reading this knows Lisa Henry of J.A. Rock, or the fine people at Riptide, let them know that a book four would be much appreciated. By me, but I’m sure by lots of other readers as well.

4 stars out of 5

Dressed to Spill – Review of The Merchant of Death

cover54382-mediumThe Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2) by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

Thanks to Netgalley and Riptide Publishing for the review copy.

Book two of the Playing the Fool series was an absolute charmer. Henry Page, recently an FBI witness, has decided that something is rotten in the state of his twin sister’s adult care facility, and resolves to go undercover as her in order to figure it all out. As anyone would.

Mac, who started falling for the enigmatic conman in book one is quick to follow him down the rabbit hole, as it were. Or at least he would be if somebody wasn’t so busy framing him for murder.

The banter that was hard to round up in book one is on point in book two, as is the suspense, and the mystery. I no longer feel like Mac is making huge mistakes at every turn, maybe because Henry is so damn crazy that I’m just impressed he can hang on for the ride.

Henry in a dress turns out to be a major turn on for Mack, and the reader too, if my own experience is anything to go on. There’s also the signature Lisa Henry touch that takes a story just that much farther and makes it an impactful, humanizing scene rather than mere erotica.

In addition to their relationship heating up, we also get closer to a secret only hinted at in book one. The original trauma that set Henry on his dark path to begin with. Which just happens to be critical to solving the mystery of who’s framing Mack. The mystery of the hospital is a whole other bag of worms.

4 out of 5 stars

The Man Who Loved an Island – Review of Waiting for the Flood

cover58650-mediumWaiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

Thanks to Riptide and Netgalley for the review copy. Waiting for the Flood will be available for purchase on Feb. 23, 2015

I requested Waiting for the Flood because of Alexis Hall. I’ve reviewed other of his books, and loved his characters especially. He did not disappoint.

Edwin Tully lives alone in Oxford in the house he used to share with his boyfriend of 10 years, an artist named Marius. He leads a solitary life, having left all his old friends to Marius in the break-up, he’s spent the last two years with his elderly neighbor as his only companion.

When flooding threatens his neighborhood, Environment Agent Adam Dacre shows up literally on his doorstep, and things start to get… wet and uncomfortable.

How does a man who’s spent the last two years in self-imposed isolation finally decide to break the silence?

This is a sweet love story about the way a broken heart tends to mend itself in time, especially when we aren’t looking.

I was enamored of Edwin right off the start. The fact that he has a fairly serious stutter makes the whole things-he-didn’t-say plot element actually believable, and his quiet loneliness was extremely relatable. They say no man is an island, but it’s clear that he is trying really hard to be one anyway. With the waters rising, both literally and figuratively, he has to make a decision: sink alone, or swim for shelter. The acute pain of making what can seem to outsiders to be an extremely rational decision for a chronic isolater was very well depicted.

Adam comes across as a kind of non-character in comparison to Edwin’s rich depths, but since the narrator focuses only on Edwin, it makes sense that we wouldn’t know him as well.

Since this is a fairly short book, there’s not a lot of it to go over, but it’s adorable, and can be finished in a single afternoon. Worth the $3.99 price tag, but I wouldn’t pay more than that.

4 stars out of 5 for being adorable and having absolutely nothing wrong with it.