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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Review: Rough Canvas

Rough Canvas
By Joey W. Hill

When his father dies, Thomas is forced to abandon a burgeoning art career in New York. As difficult as it was to give up his lifelong dream, it's nothing next to walking away from the man he loves. Marcus taught him to embrace who he is, a sexual submissive who responds to the touch of only one Master. But why would the sophisticated Marcus need some farm kid from the South?

Then Marcus shows up and offers him a way to continue his art career and help his family. There's only one hitch — he asks Thomas to spend a week with him in the Berkshires. Thomas knows he should refuse. But he's never been able to say no to his Master.

Rough Canvas is an intense seduction and an emotional embrace of a lifestyle that few people have the eloquence or courage to share.

This is the story of a journey two men must make in order to realize their dreams. They simultaneously embrace their differences and push each other away because of them. Their hidden passions are untapped and misunderstood while their openness to explore them is at times, joyful, hurtful and cathartic. The yearning is painful to read yet inspires hope for their future. I came away from reading this story exhausted. The highs and lows of their relationship are very real, touching and even scary at times.

Thomas is a talented artist with a farmer’s background. His love of family is stronger than his love and acceptance of himself – a tug-o-war that is tearing him apart. He is afraid on many levels because he’s not one hundred percent sure that the feelings he has for his partner are indeed love, and if it is love, that is it the ever after kind of love. How can it be love when he desires to be dominated in such a complete and utter way? Has he no respect for himself?

Marcus is the Dom who recognized the Sub in Thomas. Marcus has it all, or so everyone thinks. He hides some dramatic history that had shaped the man he’s become. He lets no one in, yet he yearns to let in Thomas. He just doesn’t know how. Marcus is written as one of the most tortured heroes in an emotionally gripping way that you can’t escape feeling a myriad of feelings for. I felt like I was on a see-saw, reading about his side of things. After awhile, I wanted his happiness just as much as he.

Yes, Joey has written the book from both men’s POV’s and you’ll find it a better reading experience because of it. Seeing how these men think individually helped me connect and worry about them. It helped tremendously that I could get into their heads and see the crisis’s in their souls.

Joey doesn’t shy away from touching the sensitive topics that involve two men loving each other. She doesn’t shy away from the religious aspect of it either. The author came across as having a tremendous respect for people’s beliefs in God and his teachings. And yet, she zeroes in on the very basis of that foundation; real selfless love builds successful relationships. This book explores in a very human way how love, true love, seeks to heal, to guide and to encourage emotional growth in those we gift with the caring of our hearts. The ultimate willingness to be vulnerable because you trust that the person you love, trusts and loves you back. It is in that parameter than Joey has her characters explore the extremes of love in a relationship through BDSM.

If you’ve been teased with light or soft BDSM, let me inform you that this story is not for the faint of heart. The scenes can be graphic and intense, however, at no time did I feel it was gratuitous. It was a challenge for me to read, that I can assure you. I’ve read the soft versions but this is the most intense exposure to this alternate lifestyle I’ve ever read. The writing was extremely well done and it painted pictures in my mind that were at times both intriguing and disturbing. The ultimate compliment I can give is that all the scenes worked because throughout all of them, you never lost sight of the emotional connections between Marcus and Thomas. I felt I was there, being seduced at the same time as Thomas into trusting that the Dom, Marcus, would take care of Thomas. Would keep him safe, could be trusted and would treat him with respect and, as hard as it is for me to understand, with love.

Rough Canvas took me on a journey with Thomas as he learned how to be a proper sub to Marcus’ Dom. Every time I felt the story might be taking too long, Joey upped it up a notch so that all the information you read, all the scenes, all the steps the two men make are relevant, important, and move the story forward. At no point did this story spin its wheels in a long drawn out event. Everything Joey wrote made in impact, made a point and kept me, the reader, invested in the outcome. I will also say that this story had some descriptive scenes that will satisfy any desires erotica fans may hold while for me, where plot and substance are key, Rough Canvas delivered a solid story.

This is high powered writing, folks. Rough Canvas is worth the time investment to read.

Rating:


Reviewed by Xeranth

Friday, February 15, 2008

Review: Naked Dragon

Naked Dragon
By G. A. Hauser

Police Officer Dave Harris has just been assigned to one of the worst serial murder cases in Seattle history: The Dragon is hunting young Asian men. In order to solve the crime it's going to take a bit more than good old-fashioned police work. It's going to take handsome FBI Agent Robbie Taylor. Robbie is an experienced Federal Agent with psychic abilities that allow him to enter the minds of others. You can't hide your secrets and desires from someone that knows your every thought. Some think what Robbie has is a gift, others a skill, but when the mind you have to enter is that of a madman it can also be a curse. As the corpses pile up and the tension mounts, so does the sexual attraction between the two men. Then a moment of passion leads to a secret affair. Will their love be the distraction that costs them the case and possibly even their lives? Or will the bond forged between them be the key to their survival?

Naked Dragon is a balancing act between a nail-biting suspenseful crime drama and the unfolding romance between two unlikely heroes brought together under dire circumstances.

I found the storyline that followed the Dragon to be of most interest to me. If you mix up The Silence of the Lambs and CSI- Vegas with Starsky and Hutch, you have the flavor of the drama. The descriptions of the crime scenes was graphic enough to allow my understanding of the horror law enforcement agencies were fighting against yet just stopped short of making me toss my cookies.
Thank goodness.

Dave Harris is your typical good-guy cop; gruff, buff, dedicated and honest-with a secret. He’s doing fine working himself into exhaustion, denying who and what he was until the killings start in his district. He has the fortitude to withstand the aftermath of the Dragon but not the one-two punch of his first look at Special Agent Robbie Taylor.

Robbie is FBI, but more than that, he’s psychic. Or so the story goes. G.A. Hauser has me questioning that all through the story. Is he/isn’t he? What a tease. And he sure does tease the truth out of Officer Harris. He is confident and comfortable with who he is and is determined to inspire that same confidence in Dave. He also teases and outs the madman to such an extent, the Dragon focuses on him and begins to make each killing personal – causing Robbie hellish grief.

I enjoyed watching how these two strong men reacted to the insidious nature of the crimes. Very human, very determined yet unable to isolate themselves from the effect it was having. In their open acceptance of each other they found the strength and fortitude to survive not only this, but issues on personal fronts as well.

The two other agents that came with Special Agent Tyler sure didn’t like him in the beginning. That came through quite clear. I appreciated the evolving of that working relationship on the pages. As for Officer Dave Harris, he had to make some tough decisions; to come out or stay hidden and lose the best thing that’s ever happened to him. How in the world can that be worse than what’s happening on his beat? For one thing, once and if the crime is solved, it’s over whereas if he comes out, it’s the future of his whole life. Dilemma, Dilemma; I liked how the author handled it.

Meanwhile, the two men do express their yen for the other by getting physical. The scenes weren’t graphic or overly explicit, just enough skin and action to get into the swing of things. Enough to give me the hint that what was between them was much more than rampant and inexhaustible lust. But how far will Officer Dave go?

If you enjoy gritty crime dramas and/or romantic suspense, then Naked Dragon will deliver. Just give yourself plenty of time to read; with the lights on.

Rating:

reviewed by Xeranth

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Review: All Lycan's Eve

All Lycan’s Eve
By KyAnn Waters

A misdirected email invitation to a Halloween party is an opportunity for Callie Jones to shed her inhibitions and become a liberated woman looking for a night of wild, hot sex.

Kean Phelan, alpha male, expected a night of fun and fornication for himself and the males of his pack. A full moon brings out the animal for a night of rutting, which is why he's invited "escorts" to entertain the males.

What happens when Kean realizes Callie isn't one of his escorts…but his mate? Once the pack discovers an outsider amongst them, can he protect her, fight for her, and ultimately claim her?


If you are in the mood for a story that is a hefty sound bite of the paranormal and your yen is for sexy shifters, alpha antics and hot blooded passion look no further than All Lycan’s Eve. This short piece condenses all the best parts of an intense love story amongst animal instincts with just enough character background to pull it all together to deliver a satisfying HEA.

Callie is the woman scorned. Dropped like a hot potato by her husband to ‘find himself’, Callie is left to find herself as well. Not that she thought she needed to, but this major shift in her life provides an opportunity to explore all the things she missed because she married so young. Older and wiser, she now has a clear picture of what she doesn’t want and the most important thing, what she does want.

But how does a woman who’s been out of the loop for two decades figure out how to find the man to do the naughty with her? And how in the world does she ask for her secret desires to be acted out without looking like a fool, an old fool at that?

Jewels is her best friend who is big on romantic adventure. She should know, she’s had her share and yet is ready to marry and finally settle down. So, Jewels is thrilled to share advice with Callie. I mean, giving Callie the benefit of her vast experience is what best friends should do, right? Jewels’ crazy schemes make me cringe. I’m more like Callie, and less. My initial reaction is the same as Callie’s, but unlike her, I would never have the guts to go through with the plan that Jewels comes up with. How can you pretend to be someone you’re not? And convince others that you are who you are not? Not me. No way. But I cheered Callie on because KyAnn wrote a very intense and foreshadowing hook to tweak my interest.

Kean Phelan is that interest. He’s an alpha that doesn’t want to be alpha, yet. He is being hounded by his family but even he is not quite sure where to find what he seeks. So he’s been dragging his feet.
I can relate. He surely hasn’t found ‘it’ with the normal crowd and his time is running out. He plans one last hurrah before gritting his formidable teeth and bare his responsibilty.

The fun comes in with Callie and Kean’s first meeting. You’ve heard of “love at first sight”? This is ‘love at first sniff’. I loved it. But remember, this is a hot love story with wolf shifters so you know it’s going to be fast, hard and dominant. That’s why I liked this story so much; it embodied my most favorite parts about alpha shifter courting.

I also found the humor and witty repartee between Callie and Jewels, their one-liner jokes and pop culture references to be fun. I am a Trekkie, so any clever references to Star Trek always bring a smile.

There is so much fun to be found in All Lycan’s Eve and I do recommend it to those in the mood for a fast fix of alpha romance. It delivers. After reading it, you might ask, ‘What about Jewels’? I am hoping KyAnn will be writing her story too because Jewels is too fun and colorful a character to just let fade into the writer’s mists.
I liked everything about All Lycan’s Eve, the characters, the rough courting, the chase and the culmination. I hope you do too.

Rating:

Reviewed by Xeranth

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Review: And Then There Were Four


And Then There Were Four
By Emma Holly

Emma Holly Speaks About: And Then There Were Four:
This epilogue came about because, when my fabulous editor finished telling me how fun and sexy she thought FAIRYVILLE was, she added: I was seriously tempted to ask you for that foursome you hinted was coming at the end, but the characters do need some rest ?. Needless to say, most authors respond well to praise, and I decided my fictional peeps could rally their strength after all. I hope you enjoy watching Zoe, Magnus, Bryan, and Alex find their personal slice of heaven in a snowy cabin in the Rocky Mountains.

If you read Fairyville by Emma Holly, then this epilogue is for you.
This short sensual adventure picks up where Fairyville ended and ties up the HEA even tighter and hotter than when you last visited Zoe.

In my review of Fairyville, I mentioned about the hint of a foursome that was more than a hint yet not a real one. I'm thrilled to tell you that the epilogue addresses that and makes it a reality for Zoe, Magnus, Alex and Bryan.

I'm glad I always sit down when I read. Why? Because if I didn't, when things heated up in this epilogue, I would have fallen down. The words on the page were that detailed. I sort of felt like a priveledged voyeur--able to see and experience the culmination of a fairy love fest.

Yes, I know both Zoe and Bryan aren't fae, but they love their fae partners and this little snippet is pure celebration of the physical expression of that love.

True to Emma's style, she once again touches on their emotions and feelings while this passionate encounter unfolds. Without this masterful touch, this could easily have tripped into the realm of gratuitous erotic sex. Emma treats each of her characters with respect and dignity, even in the most physically twisted positions worthy of the game,Twister.

For those who adored Fairyville, And Then There Were Four is the perfect dessert to the main course. Read this and indulge.

Rating:

Reviewed by Xeranth

Monday, February 11, 2008

Review: To Love a Cowboy

To Love a Cowboy/Justice
By Rhianne Aile

Seven years ago, Roan Bucklin left the family ranch for college, leaving foreman Patrick Lassiter with a mix of sweltering emotions: relief, regret, and nearly overwhelming desire. Afraid that Roan would regret giving himself to an older man, Patrick let him go without a word about his true feelings. But Roan took Patrick's heart with him.

Roan had harbored a crush on Patrick from the time he'd turned fourteen. He thought he'd gotten over it, grown up, moved on, but now he's back and home to stay. After one look, he knows he has something to prove to Patrick – that he wants to be claimed by the cowboy who has always possessed his heart.

Includes the Bonus Novella ~ Justice

Years of eating, breathing and dreaming revenge have left the three Abrams brothers homesick for a place that doesn't exist. When they happen upon the small town of Justice, the welcome and acceptance seems too good to be true. As each brother finds a reason to stay, the desire for revenge fades – until one Abrams brother disappears. Then Justice bonds together to support its own, and the brothers discover they've finally found a home.

This book contains two separate novellas — "To Love a Cowboy" and "Justice" — and they had me fanning myself more than once. In "To Love a Cowboy", you experience the sexual tension between the two almost immediately in the longing that Patrick feels for Roan, who he fears is forbidden to him. Roan has loved Patrick for years but struggles with his own insecurities because of Patrick’s dismissive behavior toward him. There is a significant age difference between the two, and this creates an internal conflict within each of them — Patrick is afraid that Roan will tire of him when he gets older; and Roan, who grew up around Patrick, thinks he still sees him as a kid.

It’s not a smooth journey, but Patrick and Roan work to find a way through their mutual misgivings and Ms. Aile relays their tale beautifully. My heart ached from the very beginning because I felt Patrick’s anguish the first time he sees Roan — after seven years — with another man. He is crushed by jealousy but at the same time chides himself for the emotion because he’s convinced that Roan would never want him. The constant internal battles and external resistance kept the passion high and the story captivating.

"Justice" is about three gay brothers in the old west who find a town with open minds about sexual preference. Traveling around for years, set on vengeance against the man responsible for their parents’ death, they get side-tracked in the town of Justice by opportunities for love. The fact that the characters of the three brothers — as well as their love interests — are developed so thoroughly in less than one hundred pages is a testament to Ms. Aile’s artistry as a writer.

The intimate scenes in both novellas are steamy and vividly described and written to quicken your pulse. At no time did I feel sex was gratuitous; it was an expression of sincere affection, and was in keeping to the spirit of the growth of the characters. The appeal of gay erotic romance for me is that men are usually depicted as strong, yet very vulnerable, making the characters richer and more appealing than the typical brooding or closed-off men portrayed in traditional romances. If you’ve never read gay erotic romance and are curious, this is a perfect introduction. If you already enjoy the genre, you’ve got try this one — and keep a fan handy!

Rating:

Review by Camomile

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Review: Celtic Love Knots 8: Sands of Time & Turning Back Time

Celtic Love Knots 8: Sands of Time & Turning Back Time
Michelle Houston

Sands of Time: After being diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Nicole can feel what time she has slipping away. Like many, she has told herself she would do the things she has always dreamed of "later". Pressed for time, later has come: she's going to see the world. She planned to start with Scotland, and go on from there, but once she arrives she meets a man she can't resist. Ciarnan offers her a hope for the future she had given up on having, but it comes with a price. For Ciarnan is not what he appears to be, and his race can't risk anyone finding out they exist.

Turning Back Time: Devastated at the news of her friend's supposed death, Julie rushes to Scotland to find some answers. What she finds instead is Roarke. Unwilling to let go of her search, Julie winds up finding what happened to Nicole, and finding her own chance at happiness, if she can accept that Roarke isn't human.

Celtic Love Knots 8 contains two separate but related stories about two women friends that find their fated mates in Scotland. In Sands of Time, Nicole discovers she is dying of cancer and decides to travel to exotic locales for the time she has left, starting in Scotland. Turning Back Time is the story of Nicole’s best friend, Julie, who follows her to Scotland and embarks on her own journey.

I enjoyed the way Ms. Houston illustrated Nicole’s feelings of liberation. She had a little apprehension, but when presented with a really hot guy and an opportunity, she went for it — she’s dying, right, so why not? It’s difficult to develop rich characters in a short story, but the friendship between the women was heartwarming.

In both stories, the interaction within the male/female relationships could have been deeper, but the paranormal aspects of the storyline supported the quick connections between them so it didn’t distract from enjoying the adventures.
Other than removing their clothing, which was a little uncomfortable, the sex scenes were pretty steamy. Both stories were well written and I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys paranormals.



Review by Camomile