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Friday, October 22, 2010

Awakening Beauty by Marie Treanor and Bonnie Dee

Awakening Beauty (Fairytale Fantasies Book Three) by Marie Treanor and Bonnie Dee
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (120 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 Cherries
Reviewed by Holly

To fight this evil, they’ll have to make love. Lots of love.

Fairytale Fantasies, Book 3

Joel Thorne feels as if he’s been sleepwalking through his life. Wealth and success are his; now he’s at a crossroads. Politics beckons, a move that would be made easier with a loveless marriage of convenience to his ambitious friend and ally, Vee Gabor. During a long mountain hike to clear his head, he discovers a castle overgrown with thorns and, inside, a beautiful sleeping woman.

When Princess Aurora opens her eyes, Joel’s handsome face is imprinted on her heart—then she’s swamped with grief and loss. An evil fairy tried to take her pure blood to gain power, and though her other godmothers fended off the worst of the curse, she’s been asleep for a thousand years. Worse, she’s been erased from history and from the memories of all she loved. True love brought her back, but to what future?

Despite their instant, strong attraction, Joel’s practical nature wars with the possibility that magic is real. Yet with every touch, every kiss, the heat and emotion grow more real than anything he’s ever known. Their union also reawakens something else. Something darker. An evil fairy’s centuries-old vendetta that just won’t die.

This is the third voyage of Marie Treanor and Bonnie Dee into fairytale land. This slant on the Sleeping Beauty story is delightfully sexy and well written. These two have a unique slant on the tales we all grew up hearing as children, and making them work for us once again as adults.

When Joel Thorne takes the first vacation he’s had, he never expects it will change his life. A work-a-holic, he doesn’t realize his life is missing something until he uncovers a long abandoned, bramble-covered castle buried deep in the forest. Even more surprising is the beautiful young woman he finds sleeping in the tower, dressed in clothing of days long past. She claims to be Princess Aurora, and has been sleeping for a thousand years thanks to a curse by the evil Valborga, until Joel awakens her, not with a kiss, but with a shake.

Princess Aurora is delightful. She is, at first, confused and unsettled, as would be expected after sleeping a thousand years. She is intelligent enough to realize that she has to make the best of her situation, but she still shows flashes of the pampered and indulged princess she once was. I loved watching her learn to adapt to the situation, even while she mourns the loss of all that was dear and familiar to her.

Joel is the skeptic at first - certain that Aurora is either suffering from delusions or running an elaborate con game. I loved watching him slowly come to the realization that she was exactly what she said, and that there is more to life than work and duty. I enjoyed watching Joel relax and become the kind of man that was worthy of his princess. He begins as the hard nosed man who has forgotten what fun is, but grows to understand there is more to life than hard work, even for a self-made success like himself.

This is a wonderful story of growing love, seduction and love conquering evil. There were several surprises on they way to the happy ever after, and very unexpected surprises at that. When the evil tries to take everything away, I love that Joel and Aurora discover that only together can they stop the evil Valborga once and for all in order to gain their happy ever after. This one is for all of those young at heart readers who still believe in fairytales.

Seeking Charlotte by N.J. Walters

Seeking Charlotte by N.J. Walters
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (98 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Fuschia

Creed Lawson knows Charlotte Jones is trouble from the moment she presses her lithe body to his and kisses him. But that doesn’t stop him from taking what she’s offering—a night of hot, uninhibited sex. But Creed hasn’t bargained for the feelings she stirs in him, nor the talk of crystals, demons and destiny.

Charlotte is an empath. The ability to feel people’s emotions has made it difficult for her to lead a normal life. At eighteen she received one of the eight pieces of the Heart of Fire, a crystal that contains untold power. She was told there was a male who held the other half of her stone, as well as a demon that coveted all the pieces of the crystal.

The demon has finally found her. But she knows that Creed is the special man she’s been waiting for. Charlotte is facing the fight of her life. Will Creed fight beside her or walk away?

Everyone wants to feel important.

The heroine in this story learned at age eighteen that she was one of eight people who held the responsibility of saving Humankind from a terrible Demon. Maybe Charlotte believed it for a time but, as often happens as we grow older, it all became nonsense to her. That is until she was forced to believe once more.

Although this story isn't long, it is well written. I found it easy to move with the flow of the story and the progression of the main characters' relationship. Charlotte and Creed seem like a very unlikely pairing, but fate doesn't care. The chemistry between the two will have you hot and bothered in no time.

There was only one draw back that I could even imagine might befall an unwary reader... and that would be not being able to get the other stories that go with this one. That's right folks, it's part of a series and I for one will be reading them all.

One Way Trip by Rebecca Leigh

One Way Trip by Rebecca Leigh
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (50 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 cherries
Reviewed by Anemone

Captain Jay Marcos is on a mission to Mars as part of an international endeavor to find a planet suitable for terraforming.

With governmental support waning, however, Captain Marcos's trip becomes one way. Once he lands on Mars, Jay doesnt find a new home for humans. But he finds one for himself.

On Mars, Jay meets Raem, leader of the indigenous Rahitians. Raem welcomes Jay to his world and into his bed. Together, they share a cosmic sexual encounter like none ever experienced between a human and an alien. More than just hot, steamy sex Jay and Raem find love.

Brave astronauts make for a sexy hero and Jay is no different. I instantly found myself sympathetic to his plight, being sent away from Earth to find a planet to sustain life. As he sets off on what may be a one way trip, Jay is ready to sacrifice himself for the good of humankind.

Rebecca Leigh's tale of Jay's bravery in the face of certain doom had a great start, sometimes leaving me hanging on every sentence. The dialogue was well paced and the interaction between Jay and Raem, the sexy alien hero Jay meets on Mars, had me excited to see what happened next between them.

The chemistry was there and it popped between the two characters. With some help from an alien fruit as lubricant, the sex was exciting. I did get a bit lost with some poor editing and a middle part that sagged which threw me out of the story, especially the dream sequence. The end though, had me wishing for more on this sexy couple and hoping I could turn the page for another sex scene.

Two hunky heroes made the sex droolworthy. This is a fun read that stayed with me days after.

Corruption by Jack Greene

Corruption by Jack Greene
Publisher: Phaze Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, Masturbation, Voyeurism
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

When Tom went to a dance club with his friends, he wasn't looking for love. What he found was a sexy young male dancer who turns his life inside out.

Tom's never had a male lover but when he meets Cameron he can't get him out of his mind. Tom wants Cameron badly, but is it for more than just one night?

Be careful what you wish for or who's dancing in that cage. You just might find your dream come true and a little corruption in the process. But don’t worry, it’s all good.

I’ve read other works by Mr. Greene and enjoyed them. This book is no different. The characters are believable and the descriptions are rich enough, I felt like I could see them and was in the club with them. The emotions between them are palpable. Even when I wanted to snarl at them, I did because I was emotionally involved in the story. Where other stories can be stereotyped, this one wasn’t and it was a pleasant surprise.

Tom wasn’t looking for a good time when he came into the club Corruption, but when he saw the person cage dancing, his interest and other things stirred. I liked how he had to work through his emotions and his preconceived notions in this story. He really grew as a character and the little things he did, such as sending flowers, were sweet.

Cameron took a bit for me to love. Why? He’s a party guy and makes no excuses for it. That I could respect. What was hard was his lack of fear — once he decided he’d go home with Tom, he set his heart on making Tom happy. Good, but risqué. That being said, I liked that once he made his mind up, he stuck to his guns.

This story isn’t a run-of-the-mill M/M story and that’s what made it a good read for me. I didn’t know what to expect and the outcome was fantastic. If you want a book that’s short but hot, then you need to read Corruption. I give it 4 cherries.

Healing in His Wings by Ariel Tachna

Healing in His Wings by Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (123 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3.5 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

When the Starfire is struck by a mysterious and deadly plague, the captain and crew have no choice but to throw themselves on the mercy of the healers of a nearby, uncharted planet. First Officer Ryan Nelson accompanies the sickest patients to the planet’s surface, where he is put under the supervision of Juo-ta-ri, an apprentice to one of the healers who is helping the crew. The two have barely begun to explore the chemistry between them when Ryan’s body betrays him and he falls ill as well. Now it’s a race against time to see if Juo can bring the fever down before Ryan’s hallucinations kill him.

A beautiful, gentle male who wraps you in his wings as medical intervention – if only every procedure could be like this. Healing in His Wings is, I believe, Ms. Tachna’s first foray into Sci-Fi Romance and it is a sweet and soft one. There are no blasters here, no space pirates, no desperate interstellar runs to outrace whatever needs to be, no warlords, no violence of any kind. It’s almost hushed in tone, so the reader can hear the rustling of those beautiful wings.

From a romance standpoint, it is a touching story of two hearts finding each other despite the long odds of hailing from a galaxy apart. Ryan comes to the planet with a badly wounded heart and a ship full of mortally ill shipmates. Juo-ta, restless and curious, and not quite certain why, doesn’t realize how lonely he has been until the alien ship arrives. Their slow, careful courtship is a lovely dance until Ryan falls ill as well, and then it takes on a desperate poignancy.

While this is truly Space Opera, a story with the trappings of Science Fiction but without the science-driven plot, I do feel that the Sci-Fi portion of the story falls a little short. It was difficult to get a good read on the alien culture and, perhaps, some more time could have been spent in the background constructing a culture less familiar to us. I saw too many Earth-like objects and reactions for a non-human culture (beds and showers, hospitals and restaurants with menus, and so on.) We never see family or social structures on this planet, never know if Juo-ta has parents or how he feels about them. The alien biology is a little sketchy as well, with Petari males identical to human males in every anatomical detail except the wings. Aside from the xenology aspects, some consideration of disease vectors and processes would have made the plot more convincing and complete. I became stuck on the fact that the crew contracts this virus off planet in some unknown way, but the virus seems to be native to a planet they have never visited previously and where the natives don’t engage in interplanetary exploration or trade. Space Opera or not, these things can be quite distracting for an avid SF reader.

On the whole, though, this is a charming read, a good break from high-stakes drama and convoluted plots. Distilled to its basic essence, this is a story of two hearts discovering each other and learning that love is possible even across the greatest divide. And, honestly, isn’t that the very heart of romance?

Absolute Perfection by Stephanie Burke

Absolute Perfection by Stephanie Burke
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (130 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus

Taza, a sea horse, sole male offspring of the Coushrin king and heir to the throne, really doesn't like his life. For one thing, two crazy female sea horses are vying to impregnate him and become the next queen of the Coushrin dynasty because sea horses mate for life. He doesn't want to be just a breeder while his wife rules the seas. But if being the prey and intended brood-stallion of two insane females isn't bad enough, Taza's also being chased by a human who's determined to attain immortality by eating him. Stir fried, easy on the garlic.

What does he do? Flees to the a vampire bar on the surfaceworld, where he meets Astika, a Hindu Naga god. Astika's been dispatched on a fool's errand, because his advice to his uncle and grandfather's harems is causing mayhem in the kingdom. He wasn't supposed to meet a sea horse prince, save his life, and end up mated in the process. But that's exactly what happens.

Because when Astika saves his life from the human who might just be crazier than the sea horses chasing him, Taza does the only smart thing and pledges himself to the Naga. For life. Since they're stuck with each other, Astika eventually decides he might as well see what it's like with a sea horse. Together, out of the wildest circumstances imaginable, the two lovers find and build Absolute Perfection.

What happens when a sea horse prince mates with a Naga prince? Well, colorful hair and multiple penises is just the start. Sea Horse Taza is on the run from his overbearing family and falls into the hands of a crazy man bent on eating him. Finally getting away from the man wielding garlic, oil, and salt, Taza literally runs into Astika, heir to the Naga throne. Although Astika didn’t want a mate, he’s stuck with Taza and the two slowly find they just may be each other’s perfect match.

Absolute Perfection is a twist on shape shifter stories. Neither of the two are shape shifters so much as they have a primary form – a snake in Astika’s case – and a secondary, more human looking form. The main plot consists of the two meeting then a typical push/pull back and forth until they finally come to an understanding and fall in love. There is a subplot about stalkers coming after Taza, but this is very loose and not incorporated well. The main thrust is simply the two falling in love and having a lot of sex.

The characters come across pretty underdeveloped but then again the story itself is outrageous. The best way to approach this book is to read it with a sense of whimsy and a desire for simple entertainment. If you do, then the moments of humor combined with the exaggerated actions and dialogue are much more fun. Once you realize the story is over the top in every conceivable way, then it's more enjoyable to just have fun with it. The writing is occasionally uneven and contains lengthy internal monologues that try to convey all the world building that would have been more appropriate in other places.

Overall, though, this is a decent story once you can give in to the outrageous nature of the writing and characters. Then their tendency to shout, demand, and exclaim every piece of dialogue makes more sense. The vibrant colors offered and few bits of whimsical humor make this something different and worth reading for that alone.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Regularly Scheduled Life by K.A. Mitchell

Regularly Scheduled Life by K.A. Mitchell
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (293 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, anal sex, toys, voyeurism
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

It’s a long way back to happily ever after.

Sean and Kyle have enjoyed six perfect years of what their friends called a “disgustingly happy” relationship. But what happens one sunny Tuesday morning in October might be more than even the most loving couple can survive.

When the bell rings that morning in chemistry teacher Sean Farnham’s first-period class, a terrifying sound fills the halls—gunshots. Without considering the consequences, Sean runs to tackle the shooter, sustaining a bullet wound to his leg. Despite his actions, he is unable to save the lives of the principal and two students.

Architect Kyle DeRusso hears about the shooting on the radio, and in the flash of an instant finds his life irrevocably altered. Everything—especially his heart—hangs suspended in a nightmare until he finds out Sean is alive. It doesn’t matter that Sean will be left with a permanent limp. Kyle’s just relieved the worst is over.

Or is it? Putting that day behind them isn’t as simple as it sounds. As Sean struggles to make something positive out of the tragedy, Kyle fights to save their relationship from the dangers of publicity—and Sean’s unwillingness to face how the crisis has changed him.

Laughter, tears, and yearning. Yeah, this book delivers that, and so much more.

There are few times when I’ve bestowed a "best book" rating on something I've reviewed. The story really has to nab me quick and hold me in my seat. When I picked up Regularly Scheduled Life, I knew I’d like the book, if only that one of the heroes was a teacher. But this book was so much more. Once I started the book, I literally couldn’t put it down. I propped it open while I made dinner, because I needed to know what happened next with Kyle and Sean. Yeah, it was that good.

So what hooked me? The emotion and the characters. K.A. Mitchell writes with such intensity that it felt like I was in the room with Kyle and Sean. But where the heavy times could’ve dragged or been preachy, it was like seeing my two best friends living, loving, and dealing with hardship. The human touch in Ms. Mitchell’s work made the story flow, not to mention the pacing.

There are few times when I find myself thinking about a character when I don’t have the book in hand. This book was one of those times. I rushed through, savoring every word to know what would happen. Kyle was my favorite character, hands down. Yes, there were times when I wanted him to stand up and show his frustration, but I totally understood his position with Sean. He loved Sean with all his heart. Seeing Sean hurt tore Kyle up inside. If it was possible, I’d have hugged the poor guy.

And then there’s Sean. The guy has heart, a big, fuzzy, cares-about-everyone heart. As with Kyle, there were times when I wanted to bop him on the head, but I understood. He’d been shot and wanted people to learn from the situation. Give the man props for thinking about the greater good. He cares about Kyle more than he can say, but as with life so many times, things spiral out of control. That’s where I really respected Sean. His reactions were human and something many readers can relate to.

Oh and there is this super hot scene with a glass toy and a little maneuvering—get your head out of the gutter—that made me respect and love them more. Plus it made me squirm in my seat for all the best reasons.

If you want a book that’s sure to stick with you long after the last page, then you need to read Regularly Scheduled Life. It’s a Best Book, indeed.

At Piper’s Point by Ethan Day

At Piper’s Point by Ethan Day
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (210 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4.5 cherries
Review by: Phlox

Ten years and many boyfriends later, Cassidy Winters finally returns to the ancestral home of his late grandmother, Sadie Hart, despite the best efforts of his father to prevent it. Cassidy's plans of a quiet, seaside ceremony to wish a final farewell to Sadie quickly unravel. Interruptions run roughshod, beginning with Neil, who walks out of the ocean and straight into Cassidy’s bed. The dominos topple one by one when the little dog he rescues from the hounds of hell brings him to Ben, the hunky vet who rescues Cassidy right back. News of his arrival spreads faster than Cassidy’s legs, bringing his boyhood friend and first love Nate Sommers to his doorstep -- leaving Cassidy spiraling into a multi-layered love snafu. As if the island wasn’t getting crowded enough for Cassidy’s good taste and bad decisions, best friends Ollie and Spencer arrive in time to witness the uninvited return of Cassidy’s most recent ex, Teddy, who’s refusing to stay dumped.

Fists fly and all hell breaks loose amid mojitos and martinis while Cassidy finds himself planning a huge party to celebrate Sadie's life. Accusations are aimed as arguments and libidos boil over, but even through the chaos Cassidy knows exactly who he wants. While he's certainly willing, he isn’t sure if he's ready or able for love and life at Pipers Point.

Don’t judge a book by its blurb – you may miss something truly delightful. I’ll admit I hesitated over this read because the publisher’s blurb made the main character sound a bit self-absorbed and shallow, and as if the story would consist merely of him jumping from bed to bed. I found myself, at first, pleasantly surprised by my mistake and then helplessly drawn in as the story unfolded.

Cassidy suffers from commitment issues, it’s true, but he’s so much more than a shallow lothario. From unsupportive, distant (sometimes downright nasty) parents, to his difficulties feeling comfortable in his own skin, to his inability to admit there was only one man he ever truly loved, Cassidy has spent his young adult life in desperate denial. He takes lovers with the understanding that it’s temporary, telling himself that nothing can be permanent. But he’s truly a goodhearted, generous soul and even as he breaks up with his lovers, he can’t quite kick them to the curb – thus his interesting collection of friends who are also ex’s.

While the story has a number of funny moments, there’s a note of melancholy weaving through it. Cassidy hasn’t come to Piper’s Point on vacation; he’s come to return his grandmother’s ashes to her home. It’s through Cassidy’s love for his grandmother, and her love for the island, that we’re allowed to see the depth and breadth of the emotions involved. There’s nothing shallow about his struggles, and his pain becomes very real to us. The author chose to tell the entire story through Cassidy’s point of view, an interesting choice, but one that brings us close enough to him to hear his heartbeat, and which allows the misunderstandings with his old love, Nate, a more believable dimension than if we had been allowed inside Nate’s head.

The locale, this small-town island, has a certain magic to it and Mr. Day never info-dumps a description of it at his reader, but allows us to absorb the flavor and taste of it slowly, as one would on an actual visit. Sadie, Cassidy’s deceased grandmother, and her house, are no mere plot points. They are characters all their own, in the best sense of the word.

After my first, wrongheaded impressions had been swiftly shattered, I found it amusing that Cassidy and Nate spend most of the novel not having sex. Quite honestly, the not having sex and almost having sex was hotter and more squirm-inducing than most sex-filled novels I’ve read. The ultimate message, that it’s never too late if you can muster the courage necessary, strikes a universal chord. With enough light moments to keep the gloom at bay, and enough serious, often heartrending moments to engage the emotions fully, this is a romance for all seasons, a timeless story that proves acceptance has nothing to do with generation or status.

Arctic Shift by Lissa Matthews

Arctic Shift by Lissa Matthews
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (88 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Cherries
Reviewed by Fern

She believes in myths…can she believe in destiny?

Denali Heat, Book 1

Unlike her adventurous sister, Ruby is perfectly content to let her mind be the wanderlust while her body stays safely in Chicago. Melanie wouldn’t be out of touch this long without a damned good reason, though. Which means it’s time for a giant step outside her comfort zone.

While Denali National Park is like another planet, the myths and legends that saturate this wild land are right up her alley. The wilderness guide waiting for her—naked in her bed—looks about as safe as a polar bear.

Carson’s people are kin to the great beast, right down to the white hair. Before Ruby ever set foot in Alaska, his inner bear knew that Melanie’s little sister was his mate. He’s doing his level best not to let his primal needs scare her, but everything about her sends his urge to possess her into overdrive.

To his surprise, revealing he’s a shifter only stimulates her innate curiosity. Warming her with the perfect fire of their lovemaking, easy. Convincing her that real love isn’t a myth—and making her want to stay in his home, his bed, his heart—now, that’s a problem…

What’s a woman to do when she sets out to find her sister and lands in the arms of someone else entirely? When your heroine is the sassy and inquisitive Ruby, and your hero is the super sexy, part-man part-bear, Carson, the answer is hold on tight, close your eyes, and enjoy the ride.

When Arctic Shift starts, the reader is placed directly in the center of the action. Ruby has traveled all the way to Alaska to search for her missing sibling. What she isn’t aware of are the facts that surround Melanie’s disappearance, as well as the circumstances that have lured her to the isolated area. As she settles into the room she’s rented for her stay and falls asleep, these things become clear. Carson -- the man hired to assist Ruby in her efforts-- isn’t a man at all. And her sister, Melanie, isn’t exactly missing. In fact, everything up to this point has been a carefully constructed plan. It’s impossible to divulge too much at this point, as it’s quite honestly the gist of Arctic Shift. However, suffice it to say you are given all the information you need right away.

Arctic Shift is a shifter story of a different sort, as the mythos of the polar bear shifters is fascinating and unique, offering something diverse in a genre saturated by wolves. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Matthews' take on things, as well as the way she merged man with beast. This isn’t something that you’ve never seen before, though I’d wager that portions of it, especially when it comes to “shifting,” will provide something different. Equally as important are the characters, Ruby and Carson, and they are given a balanced prominence. Whereas Ruby is a city girl, Carson is an outdoorsy man, and never the two shall meet. I enjoyed their quirky and clever banter, as well as their chemistry which was apparent from the moment they appear on the page together.

There is only one thing I disliked about Arctic Shift, and it had nothing to do with the characters and everything to do with the story. The novella, quite literally, ends with the characters trying to resolve the above mentioned issues. When I reached the final page, I continued on to the next, thinking there had to be more. When I learned there wasn’t, I felt as if I’d missed out on something important. Because of this the experience wasn’t as enjoyable as I would have liked. It’s not to say that Arctic Shift is a bad story, rather it ends without providing any resolution, epilogue into the future, or any indication of what happens for our hero and heroine.

With that aside, the writing itself is very good -- with witty dialogue and characters that come to life. While I would have liked more, I did enjoy Arctic Shift and plan to keep an eye out for future works in this series. I’m interested to see where Ms. Matthews decides to take the characters in the future.

Roman Circus by Carlene Rae Dater

Roman Circus by Carlene Rae Dater
Publisher: Noble Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (217 pgs)
Other: m/f
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Snowdrop

When Harmony Jane Jones loses her cat, her car, her job and her boyfriend, all within the space of a week, she does what any twenty-something woman would do—she runs away and joins the circus. With finesse rather than a whip, Harmony takes charge of her life, finds a new career and possibly the man of her dreams.

If your world was crumbling around you, would you run away and join the circus? That's exactly what Harmony did when everything she had going on in her life fell to pieces in a matter of a few days.

When Harmony first starts out as the new publicity person for Roman Circus she has no idea what is expected of her and she has to quickly learn how things work. Harmony's character is smart and sassy. At time's she is truly a girly girl, but once she pulls herself together she can face pretty much anything thrown her way – including dealing with the dreaded clowns and carnies.

Near the beginning, Harmony meets two unbelievably sexy men: Roman, the owner of the circus and Sam, an Oklahoma cop. The sexual tension between Harmony and both of the men is easily felt in all interactions – you will find yourself rooting alternately for each guy to win her attentions. Roman is the classy, well dressed guy that every girl wants to be seen with. Yet, Sam is the smoldering, hardcore cowboy that every girl daydreams about. What's a girl to do?

The scene that stands out to me the most is a scene at the circus when yet another tornado hits the area – action packed and full of high-strung emotions. Between taking down some bad guys, fighting for her life and trying not to be klutzy – Harmony manages to accomplish it all and adopts a sidekick along the way.

Throughout the story we follow Harmony as she realizes she is stronger than she ever thought – both emotionally and physically. She fights the urges to pack it all in and run home to the loving shelter and comfort of family. What a great transformation in her character – from damsel in distress to chick in charge.

This book is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud, sigh dreamily and absolutely make you smile.

Lucifer’s Slave by Gail Starbright

Lucifer’s Slave by Gail Starbright
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (75 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, F/F, Ménage, Anal Play, Fetish, Toys, Spanking, Voyeurism
Rating: 3.5 cherries
Reviewed by Peppermint

Jacqueline is the newest slave in an exclusive BDSM group called the Dark Masters. As such, she is expected to follow only three simple rules.

Rule one, obey.

Rule two, submit.

Rule three, see rules one and two.

Although the rules are simple, the devil is in the details. The group’s three rules apply for all Doms and Dommes, which means Jacqueline is expected to sexually service men, women and even multiple partners.

Among such demanding Masters and Mistresses, the last thing Jacqueline expects is to be collared by a Dom…let alone by two.

“You will be Lucifer’s Slave”. That is what the fortuneteller had told Jacqueline. Jacqueline was sure there was no way she would meet the prince of darkness himself but she did intend on being someone’s slave before the night’s end.

Jacqueline’s dedication and obedience really struck me. While I like most BDSM stories I have read, the subs tend to have a little bit of a defiance even if it is just to get punished. Jacqueline seems to be the perfect little slave doing what Master Reaper and Master Lucifer say even when she feels uncomfortable. While this is a positive when dealing with these two you can also see how Jacqueline’s blind obedience could get her in trouble if she was to find the wrong Dom or Domme. But with Master Reaper and Master Lucifer it allowed her to experience some fantasies of her own as well as assist in fulfilling a few of theirs.

Although I got a feel for whom Jacqueline, Master Reaper and Master Lucifer were in the BDSM scene I know nothing about their regular lives. This made it a little hard for me to connect with them since I was required to connect with a character of a character. I would have liked to have gotten to know who the individuals were as well as whom they were in the BDSM scene even if just a little.

I did enjoy the fact that both Master Reaper and Master Lucifer did not want Jacqueline to be a temporary trainee. Both had originally just been trying to introduce her to the Dark Masters and making sure she would fit in within their particular scene. In the end things seemed to work out perfectly and everyone got exactly what they needed. What I didn’t understand is why at least Master Lucifer agreed to not acquire any more subs other than Jacqueline. She had at least two masters and Master Lucifer had every intention on watching her with at least one dominatrix if not more. It just seemed odd for a sub to be able to have multiple partners and not a Dom, but then again I do not know much about the real world of BDSM, just the fictional one I read in stories.

As far as kinky sex goes there are not many stories that get kinkier than this. You get a little bit of everything which I completely enjoyed.  If you are not into spanking you may want to skip the caning scenes, but then you would miss Master Reaper rubbing down Jacqueline’s red ass. When Master Reaper and Master Lucifer come out and play, they play for keeps and you will definitely keep coming back for more. If you are in the market for a kinky story that's all BDSM all the time, this one may be for you.

Match Maker by Alan Chin

Match Maker by Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (300 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus

In the four years since being forced off the professional tour for being gay, Daniel Bottega has taught tennis at a second-rate country club. He found a sanctuary to hide from an unkind world, while his lover, Jared Stoderling, fought a losing battle with alcohol addiction to cope with his disappointment of not playing on the pro circuit.

Now Daniel has another chance at the tour by coaching tennis prodigy Connor Lin to a Grand Slam championship win. He shares his chance with Jared by convincing him to return to the pro circuit as Connor’s doubles partner.

Competing on the world tour is challenging enough, but Daniel and Jared also face major media attention, political fallout from the pro association, and a shocking amount of hate that threatens Connor’s career in tennis, Jared’s love for Daniel, and Daniel’s very life.

A second chance may end up being life changing. Daniel and Jared were run out of professional tennis when their romantic relationship was exposed in a very public way. Now Daniel has a second chance at coaching when a young prodigy asks for his help. Connor’s career isn’t the only one on the line as Jared returns from retirement to the sport he craves. Time has passed but not enough as the same prejudice rears its head and threatens not just their careers but their lives.

Although Match Maker has moments of drama and intensity, at the heart this is a tennis driven story. The sport is the main focus of the story as the characters are all devoted to their passion. While it’s not necessary to appreciate tennis to enjoy the story, it helps a great deal since there is quite a bit of information offered. The plot revolves around Jared and Connor as they prepare for and play on the pro tennis circuit with Daniel as their coach. The story is told through Daniel’s perspective and often ignores weighty issues such as relationship problems between Jared and Daniel, instead focusing on the sport itself.

There is a romantic element towards the end of the story after a hate crime has been committed that forces Jared and Daniel to reevaluate their lives. This brings the most romance and emotional intensity the book sees, because otherwise this reads like an interesting look at fictional professional tennis players and the various people/issues surrounding them. That’s not bad and indeed the author has written an interesting sports themed story that highlights the discrimination in sports. The level of detail and information offered is impressive but never overwhelming and carefully crafted to keep the reader interested without being bored.

The main theme of the story is undoubtedly tennis with a secondary romance towards the end but it still manages to work in the themes of love, forgiveness, respect, self esteem, and above all hope and perseverance. Some of the issues are resolved very quickly, almost too quickly, while the focus on tennis mutes the overall emotional impact of the events included. However for readers who love sports themed stories, this will really shine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do Over by Mari Carr

Do Over by Mari Carr
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (72 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 4 Cherries
Reviewed by Fern

Sometimes once is not enough...

After twenty-five years of marriage, Faith Wainwright wonders what she'll do next. Her kids have moved out and sometimes she feels so distant from her husband, Troy.

Right before their anniversary, Troy gives Faith an unexpected gift: a journey through their hometown to reenact all their "firsts." Their first date. Their first kiss. And especially the first time they made love—only better.

Each stop on their tour becomes an opportunity for Faith and Troy to rediscover how explosive their passion can be. Now Faith knows exactly what she's going to do—Troy, over and over again...

When the children leave the nest behind, it changes things between husbands and wives. Their lives are no longer filled with busy schedules, homework, and family obligations. Rather, the things that brought them together prior to starting a family are brought into a sharp focus. So what does a couple do to revive the spark and rekindle the romance? Author Mari Carr provides the answer for one such pair in her novella Do Over.

Faith and Troy have been married twenty-five years. However, unlike stories that focus on the distance between the couple due to the passage of time, this one turns back the clock to bring attention to the important moments in their lives. Thanks to a carefully laid out plan by Troy, Faith is allowed to revisit events that left impressions along their journey together. Of course, these life changing occurrences are of equal importance to Troy. It’s the primary reason he decides to surprise the woman he fell in love with as a young man with a weekend she’ll never forget.

I have to say that Do Over wasn’t entirely what I expected. Since Mari Carr penned the novella, I knew it would be hot - and I was right. The sex scenes should come with a burn notice. Each time you think Ms. Carr can’t kick it up a notch, she proves to you just how wrong you are. I loved that Faith and Troy are a very loving, devoted couple. Knowing their love stood the test of time made it all the more touching. However, while I was prepared for a bit of sentimentality, at times it became overly much, especially when Troy said or did things that were syrupy sweet. Of course, there are women who will love this. It’s all a matter of what you enjoy in your erotic romance. The relationship between Faith and Troy is what makes Do Over what it is. Even with the moments that weren’t entirely for me, I couldn’t put the book down until I reached “The End.”

I’d recommend Do Over for Mari Carr fans, as well as those who enjoy scorching hot contemporary novellas. There is enough heat to satisfy those with a wicked craving, yet enough emotion to compel those looking for romance. If you’ve not experienced the work of Ms. Carr, this is an excellent story to consider.