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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Fortuneteller's Lay by Lara Dien

The Fortuneteller's Lay by Lara Dien
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 Cherries
Review by Snowdrop

Miranda knows it was fate that brought Devon into her fortune telling tent, fulfilling her grandmother's prophecy. But the sexy detective doesn't believe in fate – he's just looking for a hiding place while he figures out his next move. Can Miranda convince him that love is really in the cards?

Lara Dien creates characters that captivate you right from the start. They personalities are exciting. The chemistry between Miranda and Devon keeps you reading without wanting to stop until you reach the end. The scenes are very detailed and erotic. I definitely rate this one high on the heat level and written so well you forget you're reading.

The story itself has just enough about both of their lives and their sexual encounters to keep it interesting. Also, I love that it is based on fortune telling and tarot – very unique and unusual. The first scene at the fair was quite intriguing and very steamy – something I might be tempted to fantasize about myself. I would definitely like to read more by this author.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Enthralled 1 & 2

Enthralled by Laura Baumbach
Enthralled 2: Breathing by Laura Baumbach

Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short
Other: M/M, BDSM
Rating: 3 Cherries
Review by Lotus

Colin Dobson has everything he ever imagined -- excitement, travel, and night after night of possessive passion with his new lover, Rowland Campbell. Safe in the arms of his vampire lover, for the first time in his life the sheltered young hemophiliac has nothing to fear.

There’s only one thing marring their perfect relationship. Colin is finding it increasingly difficult to sleep with a corpse -- until an unexpected trip to a mystical tattoo parlor and a run-in with an old nemesis puts things into perspective.

The first Enthralled had a fairly predictable plot: vampire meets boy, vampire and boy have hot, sweaty man-sex, and vampire and boy fall in love. There’s nothing wrong with that story, but we’ve all read it before. And yet, there’s devilment in the details. When Laura Baumbach writes this plot it involves a vampire crashing into a suicidal hemophiliac who tries to trick him into granting him death, the vampire is actually pretty damned evil, and secretly half-believes that death-wish boy might be his route to salvation. Really, when’s the last time you’ve read that story? The standard tropes of paranormal erotic romance merely seem to provide a framework for a haunting dance between two badly damaged souls. I still find myself thinking about it, for all its simplicity.

So, I was looking forward to reading the sequel. Breathing focuses on Rowland and Colin’s relationship, and what both of them will have to face to be together. As readers, we never get to see any stagnation or agitation in their daily routine, but through Colin we experience the distress and worry that comes from wondering if a commitment is a mistake. The story takes place over one danger-filled night, which brings all of Colin’s doubts and fears to a crisis point. It really is a simple story, but it is also a meditation on the pleasures and problems of being owned, without the intrusion of morality or politics. This is really refreshing, but Baumbach seems to think that her readers will not understand subtext or visual cues, and so she constantly breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule of writing. Possessive is a favorite word, and is overused to the point of annoyance. It should be obvious to all readers from Rowland’s behavior that he believes Colin belongs to him, and that Colin loves that he belongs to Rowland. There is really no need to constantly remind the reader of this by spelling it out. The recurring symbol of breathing and lack of breath is also dealt with in a slightly heavy-handed way, which is a shame because it really is a beautiful theme and ties the story together. And while Baumbach’s descriptions of emotion ring true, her descriptions of sex and its choreography show a lack of research or even accurate visualization. Unrealistic anal sex is a pet peeve of mine, and Baumbach is a shameless offender.

In the end, while Breathing is not as good as Enthralled was, it still focuses on some truly beautiful and intriguing themes. Breathing outlines the struggle to trust one’s lover, the owner of one’s soul, and to accept his imperfections. In this respect, the story still holds its poignancy and flavor, and should be read by anyone who fell in love with Colin and Rowland or is a sucker for an unconventional love-affair.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pack Mentality: Natural Selection

Pack Mentality: Natural Selection by Julia Talbot
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short
Other: M/M, M/F/M, M/F
Rating: 4 cherries
Review by Viscaria

Ryan is pretty happy working as a Park Ranger and living with his big bear of a lover, Loyal. The one thing he misses is a pack of his own. He's a werewolf, and everyone knows wolves are social creatures, right? When a new pack moves in on his territory, Ryan hopes they'll play nice.

The new pack in town has been burned before, and Kamen and the others aren't sure if they want anything to do with Ryan and his bear. They're willing to live and let live, but when Loyal gets kidnapped, will the pack throw in with Ryan and help save him?

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It made me laugh and it made me sigh… and that’s quite a bit to get from a really short story.

Ryan and Loyal are two of the most endearing shifters I think I’ve ever run across. Ryan is earnest and quite a bit like a puppy begging for attention, while Loyal is methodical and solitary except for his lover, his love, Ryan. Where Ryan wants, no needs the socialization that comes from being within a pack, Loyal is perfectly content with it being just him and Ryan. I simply adored these two, and loved watching their interactions with one another. Their loving banter, as well as the love play between them had me grinning on more than one occasion. They really were quite obvious in their adoration of each other, and it made my heart melt.

While this story was mainly about Ryan and Loyal, it was also about characters that have apparently been in previous stories by this author. While I loved getting to know these other people, shifters and magical creatures… I did feel a bit left behind when it came to knowing their stories and how they came to be in their pack. I didn’t know much about how they wound up in the relationships they have all found themselves in within said pack. That and the sometimes stilted narrative are the only reasons that I can’t bring myself to give this book a higher rating.

Aside from those issues named above, I did truly enjoy this book. The plot moved rather smoothly from one point to the next, and read rather quickly. I enjoyed the verbal playing that most of the characters throughout the entire story engaged in. I found that Ms. Talbot has a witty sense of humor in her writing that has me wanting to read more of her work. This was a fun read about a romance that has already begun, but now needs to be saved. A delightful quick read that will leave you with a smile and maybe a couple of chuckles. A definite recommend on my part.