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Friday, August 22, 2008

Tokyo Ink

Tokyo Ink by Ann Vremont
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story
Other: M/M, Multiple Partners
Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by Lotus

Shimizu -- the once-glittering glass pyramid in the middle of Tokyo Bay that housed a million people -- is now a crumbling super-prison owned by Iyashii Corporation. Tetsu Hogosha’s mother was caught in the city’s conversion. In a criminal system where the care and feeding of a child adds time to the mother’s crime, she signed him away to be an Iyashii bond employee as her only chance at freedom.

Now Tetsu is a free man and head of Iyashii’s security forces for the country. But he has a secret sideline that might one day break Iyashii’s hold on Shimizu. For months, he has watched the male dancer serving Iyashii’s executive tea room. Tetsu knows every flawless movement the male geisha will make, from tea ceremony, to fan dance, to the slow revelation of his naked, tattooed flesh before he takes the executives, alone or in pairs, into the bedroom suite adjoining the tea room to satisfy their every desire.

For just as long, Tetsu has tried to convince himself he watches his unwitting accomplice only to record the secret messages embedded in the tattoos’ design. But when Iyashii sends its top assassin after the male geisha, Tetsu is faced with the cold hard choice of protecting the message and its secret language at all costs or rescuing the one man capable of challenging his loyalties.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should perhaps mention that I’ve been fascinated with geisha for years. So, the prospect of reading about a male geisha in futuristic Tokyo got my mouth watering.

That, and I’m a sucker for a pretty boy with tattoos. Ann Vremont’s Tokyo Ink does not disappoint. Here you’ll find ridiculously sexy men, lots of subterfuge and drama, and delicious expositional sex. The action begins immediately and rarely lets up. Vremont gets that cyberpunk, even erotic cyberpunk, should have a dark, bitter, noir flavor to it. Tokyo Ink may be a love story, but it’s definitely not a romance.

You’ll end up really caring about Tetsu and Gabe, and not just because they’re both ridiculously hot. I found myself picturing Tetsu as Chow Yun Fat in his Hardboiled days, and that’s not a bad thing. Tetsu is driven, coldly logical, and achingly efficient. And yet, his obsession with Gabe humanizes him. Gabe is more than a little insane, but intriguing and emotionally magnetic. Even if you hate him at first, you might find yourself, like Tetsu, falling for him in spite of yourself. Their story is filled with danger and misunderstanding, but ultimately they somehow get to the point where they can face an uncertain future together.

The sex is searing hot, fraught with danger, regret, and doubt, and the plot itself is a bit of a nail-biter.

If there’s an overarching theme to Tokyo Ink, it’s probably this: true desire somehow thriving under the shadow of mechanical lust and sexual power brokering. It’s an intoxicating theme, and pretty much encapsulates everything erotic cyberpunk should be. Intrigued? Good. Now go read it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Carnal Inheritance

Carnal Inheritance by Kate Hill
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story
Other: M/F, ménage
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Review by Dandelion

Vampire Elise is a young student on her own and struggling to make ends meet. Now she has inherited from her estranged father one of the most profitable lumber companies in the Vampire Nation. There is just one catch. Her father's will stipulates that she must allow the two wolf managers, Verne and Ace, to remain and help run the business. Elise soon learns that there's more to her father's death than she first thought and the two gorgeous wolves are far more than just business managers.

“Carnal Inheritance” is a well crafted, entertaining story that blends shape shifting with eroticism and family business with murder without missing a beat. Heroine Elise is a vampiress whose life falls apart the day her father dies and she inherits his lumber company – along with the company’s two werewolf managers, Ace and Verne. When she finds out just how valuable Ace and Verne can be to her, both in matters of business and the bedroom, Elise realizes that great tragedy might just bring her the most sexual satisfying time of her young life.

All the characters in this story, major and minor, are well developed. Ace and Verne are sexy with a capital S, Ace the more sensitive and introverted and Verne the stronger and gruffer – but both are willing to protect Elise from danger. When she discovers that her father’s death was not an accident, and when she finds out that his killer might be coming for her, the suspense level in this story amps up nicely. I did think the ending was a little abrupt, and I’m not sure I completely bought the strange “intruder” who invades Elise’s house in the final pages, but these issues don’t detract too much from the overall plot.

The sex scenes are hot and well written, with Ace and Verne sharing Elise along with enjoying her on their own. I especially liked the way the vampire and werewolf worlds merge in this story, and the epilogue solidifies Ace, Verne, and Elise’s relationship in a satisfying manner. “Carnal Inheritance” is a fast, fun read that should please readers who enjoy a good ménage story along with a little paranormal suspense. Kudos to Ms. Hill!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eria's Ménage

Eria's Ménage by Alice Gaines
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story
Other: M/F/M, Ménage, BDSM
Rating: 5 Cherries
Review by Dandelion

On the distant planet Heriad, Her Excellency Queen Eria, Ruler of the Lands and Seas, Commander of Suns and Moons, Supreme Being of the Fourth Nebula, needs an heir. A daughter conceived in the royal manner -- with the donation of sperm from two mates.

Suitors from around the galaxy have assembled in pairs for her consideration. None appeal to her until she spies Tad and Brath in the rear of the council chamber.

Tad’s the intellectual while Brath is a magnificent beast of a man. Little does she realize that both of them have tricks to keep her guessing.

Tremendous! Ms. Gaines captures the feel of a foreign fantasy world, the complications of love versus duty, and the high eroticism of three perfect mates in this captivating short story. Eria is the queen who must choose a pair of mates – but amid regal duty, she’s stunned by the perfection of Tad and Brath, twins from different planets. They waste no time proving their sexual prowess to the queen, in several super-hot bedroom scenes. But to these characters’ surprise, love soon follows lust – and all three must figure out how to break custom and follow their hearts after the mating is over and Eria is successfully impregnated.

The characterization in this story is just terrific. Eria is a strong queen, certain of what she wants until she finds herself dominated by Tad and Brath. Then her emotions come into play, and we see her very real struggle between the customs of her planet and her desire to remain with the twins forever. Tad and Brath are equally complex – not just physical stereotypes of perfect, potent mates, but realistic men with feelings and jealousies as well.

While readers will certainly be satisfied with the ménage scenes in this story, they’ll also enjoy the plot complications the main characters face. The ending might wrap up a tad quickly, but it’s a happy ever after for Eria, Tad, and Brath, and I have no complaints with that! Ms. Gaines’ writing is poetic and captivating, always a nice addition to a story this hot in nature. Readers will find “Eria’s Ménage” a wonderful short read. Go out and pick it up today!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Firm: Charmer

The Firm: Charmer by Tuesday Morrigan
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story
Other: M/F, BDSM
Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by Xeranthemum

Tall. Blond. Suave. Keegan Lionheart is “The Charmer” -- known for his ability to charm anyone, man or woman. Daniela Davis is his one failure. And Lancaster, his father and head of the firm, has just demanded that Keegan charm Daniela into staying at the law firm.

Daniela agrees to stay. On one condition. He must help her find Mr. Right. Her biological clock is ticking and she’s tired of coming home to an empty home. That’s where Keegan comes in. With his gifts, he can teach her how to find and keep the man of her dreams. Too bad his carefully crafted plan starts to go awry when he sees exactly what Daniela is hiding beneath her business suits.

I sure do like my shifter romances and The Charmer delivers romance without dark and serious dramatics or gun and claw fights. Sometimes, I just like to read for fun where the only conflict is the difference between a man and a woman –with a bit of fur on the side.

Keegan is a man totally enjoying bachelorhood and has no intention of rocking the boat. He’s a yummy guy because he can intuitively know what’s going on in a person’s head. He has a gift and it should hold him in good stead when his dad enlists his aid. The thing I like about Keegan wasn’t his sexual prowess, thought he is quite skilled and endowed with a killer bod, but his push/pull internal struggle with acceptance and denial. He has lots of denial until his nature speaks to him and makes it clear what’s at stake. Thing is, he’s such a guy. He just can’t to do things the easy way and he ends up being adorably yet frustratingly clueless. Oh, and he growls. I like that. But he’s not supposed to have a reason for growling and yet it seems Daniela has a way of getting under his fur.

Daniela is feisty, independent and on a mission. She’s got the idea that she needs to quit so she’ll have more time to devote to filling the empty space in her heart and home. However the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But she wants it to be, expects it to be and that focused idea is what throws Keegan in a tizzy. She drags Keegan into her crazy scheme because he is convinced it is the way to reach her and do what his father needs him to do. Oh yes, he’s only doing this for his dad. Right? And Daniela’s just glad she has someone to help her. Until Daniela starts realizing that what she wants may not be what she needs. And I like how she learned Keegan’s secret and how she reacted. Very sweet and a joy to read.

Keegan likes exploring possibilities and Daniela goes along for the ride. There are enough interesting and fun moments as they experiment and get to know each other while denying they are actually getting to know each other. There is some light BSDM and some spanking to spice things up. Just be aware that profanity is used rather heavily throughout the story. In my opinion, the story neither needed nor benefitted from the overuse because the regular dialogue between Keegan and Daniela was strong enough without it.

The Charmer has the elements that you look for in erotic romance with humor and spice added in for a well rounded book experience. If you want to read and be charmed by a fun and quirky story between a sexy lion shifter and his love, then this short book delivers and makes you interested in those other brothers of his.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gray Badge of Trust

Gray Badge of Trust by Gracie C. McKeever
Publisher: Amira Press, Shorts
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story
Other: M/F, BDSM
Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by Forsythia

Internal Affairs Detective Luke Gamble has been known to take risks in both his personal and professional lives, but none more dangerous than bedding a colleague and subject of an ongoing investigation who carries a gun and handcuffs and is all too willing to use the latter on him.

Detective Tally Cavaleri is into bondage and domination and finds the perfect subject to work out her demons in the willing Luke Gamble. But will the detective be so willing to accommodate Tally’s fetishes when he discovers their past link or exactly how long Tally has had her eye on him?

We open at the bar of typical cop watering hole where Detective Luke Gamble and Officer Tally Calvalieri have an obvious conflict of interest. One is the focus of an investigation, the other the investigator ... or are they? Both have a clear goal in mind though neither has a clue where it will lead. The story heats up in the men’s room then eventually moves to the bedroom but what an adventure in between.

Gracie McKeever draws the reader immediately into the escalating conflict and sexual tension between moody Detective Luke Gamble who meets his match in sultry Tally Calvalieri. You can’t help but feel up close and personal to the motivations of these two who battle from opposites sides of an investigation only to butt more than heads in this spicy encounter. The grit and intensity of these characters leave a lasting impression as well the need for a cold shower. However, my only complaint is the ending which came to abruptly leaving me wanting more. Did this encounter spark an unexpected desire to continue their liaison or did they move on in their careers never to look back?

All in all an intense read wrapped around well-fleshed characters—in more ways than one—encased in a well-written plot.