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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door by G.A. Hauser
Publisher: Linden Bay Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Other: M/M, BDSM (light bondage play)
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Review by Chamomile

You’ll never forget your first…

Brandon Townsend and Zachary Sherman were best friends and next-door neighbors. Growing up together in a cozy suburban town in New Jersey, they were inseparable and thought nothing could tear them apart. Then one night something happened between them, something that brought them even closer together…

They didn’t anticipate that what began as youthful sexual experimentation would lead them into an affair of the heart that would rock them to the core. Nor did they expect the danger of being discovered and separated by their families. At the time, neither Brandon or Zach realized that life would give them another opportunity.

Now, ten years later, a chance meeting brings them together again. Let best-selling gay fiction author G.A. Hauser take you on an unforgettable journey. A coming of age story about faith, about courage, and about trust…you’ll never forget The Boy Next Door.

This love-will-find-a-way story spans over many years and had my rapt attention from beginning to end.

As high school seniors, Brandon is the first to recognize his attraction to his best-friend Zach and I thought that the vulnerability of that age in dealing with such a dilemma came shining through. I could understand why Brandon kept his feelings to himself, but I admired the fact that he admitted to himself that Zach was special to him. I really loved that it was Zach that made the first move because it made their first intimacy even more amazing because Brandon wondrously describes the experience through his eyes. Brandon has loving parents that accept him and I think that this gift grants him the ability to forgive.

Zach's eagerness about his relationship with Brandon is genuine, but he fears being labeled as a homosexual, so he questions whether he is or isn't gay. When everything falls apart, I really felt sorry for him. I couldn't imagine being place in such a dreadful situation and to be forced to make life changing decisions at such a young age. He doesn't handle things well, but under the circumstances, I don't really think he was given any choices. I was thrilled when he finally gets the opportunity to right old wrongs and to redeem himself.

These two boys are just adorable. Their zeal for one another is hot and almost frantic as it would be for adolescents in new discovery of their sexuality. Although they first appear at the inquisitive age of 10, the majority of the story takes place during their last year in high school and then ten years after that. The drama that unfolds due to Zach's parents' lack of acceptance is handled with sensitivity and heart-rending realism. Sex between them evolves from experimenting teens to impassioned men and it was titillating to watch their appetites mature. I thoroughly enjoyed this coming-of-age romance.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Paladin's Pride 5: Binding Llaryn

Paladin's Pride 5: Binding Llaryn by Angelina Evans
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Futuristic
Length: Short
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 Cherries
Review by Viscaria

A healer’s heart:
Not even for Paladin can Llaryn walk away from someone in need. The price of healing is high but the payoff is great and with Paladin as her mate she can do anything.

A protector’s plan:
Paladin won’t let anyone harm Llaryn, not even herself. He’ll use whatever means he has to keep her safe… from sex to relocation and seclusion.

Nowhere is safe:
An attempt to abduct Llaryn goes awry and Paladin’s life is forfeit. Only Llaryn can save him; only he can save her and in saving each other the legend of their love is born.

Oh, wow, this was an amazing book and I have nothing but good things to say about it. For a short story that comes at the end of a series, it packed a lot of punch.

Llaryn is a healer. She has never known anything else, but now she finds that her life no longer only revolves around healing, but around a man: Paladin. She has found herself mated to man that isn’t an easy man to love much less be mated to. Llaryn seemed to very delicate and yet, I got a very strong sense of her strength. Paladin was able to “rule” her because she allowed it… just don’t tell him that. She was great fun to watch as she tried to sort out her place in Paladin’s world. Her love for her man simply jumped from the pages and I had no choice but to respect her and root for her from the start of this story to the very last line.

Paladin is a leader. He has never known anything else, but now he finds that his life is revolving around a tiny little healer that seems to hold said heart in the palm of her hand. Paladin seemed to have all the attributes that I just love in a hero. He was strong, and dominant, assured of his strength and power, except where Llaryn was concerned. Paladin was a truly sigh-worthy hero who tugged at my heart as well as my libido.

Angelina Evans is a truly refreshing voice in the Sci-fi Erotic Romance genre. Binding Llaryn was spell-binding, which took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to be so completely enthralled with such a short story. As has often happened in the past, I came into this series with the very last book. But, unlike the past, I didn’t feel at all lost. That in and of itself is a true statement of this author’s talent; her world-building was so very solid that not once did I feel like I was missing something. Even being dropped into the middle of a well-established world and plot, I found that both were so well-written that the only reason to truly read the previous books is to get the beginning and middle of this story… and because I’m nosey. I have to see how these two met, and what brought forth this amazing and truly touching love. A great read that I highly recommend. I look forward to reading the beginning of Paladin and Llaryn’s love.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heat Stroke: Banished

Heat Stroke: Banished by Alice Gaines
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Futuristic
Length: Short
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Cherries
Review by Xeranth

For the crime of belonging to the wrong family, Disa is banished to a desert planet for twenty years. When a man comes to her as a mirage, she thinks she's lost her mind. Paullus's species disappears without social contact. The sexy shape-shifter has only one chance to seduce the woman he's been watching. If he succeeds, they can spend her sentence exploring sensuality together.

Warning: Contains Shifter sex scenes some readers may find disturbing.

Heat Stroke: Banished is a very quick read and one that condenses a ‘meet and greet’ life saving event, a hot and sensual cure and optimism for a better future.

Disa is a woman who has spent months alone and is very afraid that her punishment is truly going to be worse than death. Like a stranded wanderer in the Sahara, mirages remind Disa what she’s lost and what she may never have again. The weight of despair is palpable.

Paullus’ dilemma is that death is a surety. Despite his fears, his desire to live causes him to make one last desperate choice – to reach out to another and risk final rejection of not only his heart but his life.

These two characters could have hated each other or mistrusted each other so easily. But the will to live, to survive, to beat the odds that want to destroy them is a strong fire that burns within each of them. It allows Disa and Paullus to embrace their unvarnished and base desires – one of which is quite different.

I know of certain cultures in today’s world where sexual exploits do not preclude inter-specie dabbling. Since this story takes place in outer space, mores are different and stringent protocols are bent. Paullus is a shifter and he gives Disa’s deepest erotic thoughts a glimpse of reality. She knows what it could be, she’s seen it on her home world, but never indulged. This story makes me wonder; if you trusted your lover, if you had feelings for him/her, how far would you be comfortable in experimenting? Where would you draw the line? I was comfortable with this scene because at one point I felt what she saw was an illusion. The mind is a pretty powerful tool and can interpret things as one would wish, not necessarily as they were. I kind of think Paullus was that smart. He knew the line and danced the fine edge. Because of my interpretation, I enjoyed this story.

If you like to flirt with the wild side then Banished is a story that will take you there. It will also leave you with the feeling that Disa and Paullus’ HEA is a given --a must for any romance story, no matter how short.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bound By Melody

Bound By Melody by Hunter Raines
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by Xeranth

Having just been evicted for what his landlord calls “immoral and unnatural carnal acts,” Gilrain is forced to move into the first elf-friendly building he finds -- even if that means renting a basement apartment that has more in common with a cellar than a penthouse.

Still, a change of scenery is just what Gil needs. He's still not sure whether what he experienced the previous night was a dream or a real encounter. What he does know is that he woke with bruises, love bites, kiss-swollen lips… and an eviction notice on his door.

But when the first night in his new apartment brings strands of a spectral song drifting from beneath the ground straight into his bedroom, Gil realizes he'll find no rest here. He recognizes an elf binding when he feels one, but he won't be taken against his will.

So what will Gil do when he learns he’s the only one who can grant a wounded elf a second chance… or condemn him to everlasting damnation?

Bound by Melody certainly hooked me with the blurb about two elves. I’d never read anything quite like this story and took a chance on reading it.

The idea of Gil being from a race of predator elves was cool. What made his character sympathetic was his drive and determination not to succumb to his nature. Nature is hard to beat when it’s throbbing and seducing you from outside influences. Talk about tortured. And, the reason Gil got evicted hit my funny bone. I giggled at the visual imagery.

Arion is a different kind of elf who has been cursed and not only is he another tortured hero, he WAS tortured. Arion is a more complex character where I alternated between not liking him and then rooting for him. By the time the story ended, Arion had a place in my affections.

The secondary character, Cordelia, is not too detailed but she’s given enough flesh to make her involvement and feelings believable so her actions fit when they affected the plot.

This short story is more about internal conflict, reconciliation, forgotten dreams and hopes, and the surprising way love can touch the most wary of lovers. The dialogue flowed well and the concept was entertaining. Some of the erotic scenes are manly and aggressive and since Gil is what he his…I think anything less would have been unbelievable. Now, I am wondering if there is more on the horizon for Gil and Arion.

If you are looking for an M/M story with a different flavor, then Bound by Melody has much to offer. It will also make for a hot summer read.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rough and Ready by Wendi Darlin

Rough and Ready by Wendi Darlin
Publisher: Siren BookStrand
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 Cherries
Review by Chamomile

Undercover D.E.A. agent, Hollis McAllister, has learned to guard his secrets well. People close to him are always in danger, and he's never in one place for long. Those are two good reasons not to fall in love. Too bad he slipped up and fell for Taima Everhart when he infiltrated the biggest drug operation in the Southwest.

Drug lord, Marques Santiago sniffs out Hollis. With his cover compromised and local police on the wrong side of the law, Hollis leaves before he has a chance to give Taima an explanation. She hunts him down, but she's not the only one who wants him dead.

Cornered, Taima and Hollis must fight for their lives. She can play rough, but when it comes to Hollis McAllister is she ready to play for keeps?

Rough and Ready is a short story that has it all – intrigue, adventure and passion.

Hollis is a man of mystery and his true purpose isn't revealed until the end, making me wonder about this attractive man. He has regrets concerning Taima, but his responsibilities conflict with his need for her. I was caught up in Hollis' anguish even though I didn't have the whole picture because I could feel his remorse for hurting Taima and I sensed the strength of his character as he works toward his goal.

Taima is a strong, in-your-face woman but when it comes to Hollis, her tough, outer shell is threatened. Forced to believe the worst of him, she sets out to make him pay but the intense feelings she has for him cause her resolve to waiver. Her internal battle between duty and love is a marvel to watch and I admired the way her mind works as she tries to do the right thing.

The pacing of this short story is amazing. I was given just enough information at just the right time to keep me captivated and begging for more about these two complex characters. The fiery passion between Hollis and Taima is explosive and adds so much to the intrigue of their adventure. I highly recommend this tale and I will be reading more by Wendi Darlin.

Drive Me Crazy

Drive Me Crazy by Janna Lee Hayes
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by Rose

Race track owner, Alyssa Palmer has loved Newt Rodgers since they were in junior high, but being the local dirt-track race car driver, he has beautiful women standing in line to jumpstart his engine. An almost episode in the ladies room at Trudy's bar only makes Alyssa that much more aware of him.

Newt can't forget the night he had Alyssa Palmer--his best friend’s sister for Pete’s sake--up against the stall wall...or the lacy red underwear he nearly got past before they were interrupted. Who knew the grease-stained tomboy he'd worked alongside in the pits would be hiding such treasures? But he was more than ready to find out what else was under her hood.

Newt's chances to take the checkered flag with Alyssa are threatened when a corporate backer wearing high heels and a tight skirt offers to sponsor him in the big time. He'd be a fool to turn down the opportunity, and Alyssa knows she can't compete--not with the elegant beauty or her money. Can she stand by while he races toward his dream of fame and fortune, or will she finally put the pedal to the metal and make a move of her own?

“Drive Me Crazy” by Janna Lee Hayes takes us to a world of racing. A world of hot cars and hot men. And a world Alyssa Palmer is afraid is going to change forever when the man she has loved most of her life, and a man she nearly had sex with five months earlier, is given the chance to leave the dirt track to go to California for the big times, accompanied by a lovely woman.

Alyssa is afraid she can’t compete with either the woman or the opportunity. But, how can she stand in Newt’s way?

Ms. Hayes does an excellent job with the sights, smells, and sounds of the dirt track. The unique perfume of gas and oil that clings to the participants. The smells Alyssa Palmer grew up with. Her characterizations are also wonderfully done. Full-fleshed, the two main characters are people you really want to see happy. How they can both be happy, though, is a question Ms. Hayes has to answer.

I enjoyed this story very much. I ached for Alyssa when she tried to drown her sorrows at the local watering hole and Ms. Hayes description of Alyssa’s “morning after” was well-drawn. Newt is a man you would love to take home, and I was glad when he finally realized his feelings for Alyssa were more than “big brotherly.” Only the ending prevented me from giving this story five cherries, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. I personally found the ending less than satisfying, though.

But, even with that, I recommend this story and I will definitely be checking out some of her other works.