Tuesday, 30 September 2014

CONSENT

CONSENT by A.J. Rose
 
Pages: 350
Date: 30/09/2014
Grade: 5+++
Details: No. 3 Power Exchange
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

Cole, what’s wrong?

Former detective Gavin DeGrassi likes his new life and his job as a university professor, molding the minds of the next generation of law enforcement. It keeps him in the field he loves, but out of the media and out of the danger he seems to draw. He’s settled and happy with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson.

It’s Myah.

Until a middle of the night phone call from his brother, Cole, whose desperation and fear yank him back into the world of criminals and countdowns. Only this time, the stakes are much higher.

She’s missing.

Detective Myah Hayes, Gavin’s sister-in-law and former partner, has a past of her own, one that has returned to claim her. With only their instincts and the help of a rogue CSI, Gavin, Ben, and Cole will do whatever it takes to find Myah, following a flimsy trail of evidence to Chicago, where all is not what it seems—dirty cops, moral pimps, and a nest of snakes who call themselves businessmen.

They’re on a collision course with the worst of humanity, and more than Myah’s life is caught in the vortex. Can they find her, and if they do, will there be anything left to save?

My thoughts:

“The worry like paper cuts slicing away at our composure.”

That quote applies to the reader of this story as much as it does to the characters in it. AJ Rose captured me with the first two Power Exchange novels and I didn’t think she could get any deeper into the soul of me, but I guess I should have known better. Her characters and what she puts them through is not something you ‘just’ read. The writing is so visual it is almost possible to see the horror and the beauty, feel the pain and the pleasure, experience the fear and the love.

Consent is everything you might hope and expect a book to be and then some. While I’m reluctant to say anything about the story beyond what you can find in the blurb I do want to mention all the emotions this book put me through; worried, scared, petrified, horrified and disgusted formed one side of the spectrum. On the other side I found warmth, smiles, heart stopping beauty and heady arousal. There were times the emotions shifted so fast I couldn’t keep up with myself and had to put the book down just to figure out what exactly I was feeling. I rarely cry when I read, regardless of the story-line, but tears obscured the words on more than one occasion while reading Consent; sad tears, angry tears, frustrated tears and happy tears all came out to play. It was a heady experience.

This book is as much the continuation of a love story as it is a heart stopping thriller. In the midst of the nightmare Myah’s abduction creates, Ben and Gavin continue to take my breath away with their love and complete trust in and reliance on each other.

“You don’t have to martyr yourself. If you need to break, you break. I will catch you” – Ben to Gavin
“I know you will. But tell me something, Sir. When do you get to break? When does the weight of me plus the world get to be too much for you?” – Gavin to Ben.

We get to see several sides to Ben we haven’t seen before and as much as it hurt, it also made him even more of a hero than he already was in my eyes. The flipside of seeing Ben for once not in complete control was seeing Gavin taking it and giving his partner what he’d so often received in the past. Their relationship had been beautiful from the moment they first met in Power Exchange. In this book it was taken to glorious heights and shown in all its multi-coloured splendour.

“He’s your protector and you’re his purpose.” – Cole about Ben and Gavin.

As in the previous two books Ben and Gavin’s BDSM-relationship is beautiful beyond words. Fascinating as I find this sort of relationship, it is only when I observe the dynamic between Ben and Gavin that I feel it might be something I’d be interested in...provided of course I would have a Ben to submit to.

“(...) as he dragged me into a kiss so obscene, so obsessive, I wouldn’t have been surprised if his name stamped itself on my bones.”

This story comes with trigger warnings and, believe me, it needs them. The horrors Myah is facing are indescribable and I’m not going to go into them in any detail here. Suffice to say I found it very hard to read Myah’s chapters. Don’t get me wrong, not because they weren’t good, quite the opposite, they were brilliant. It was the environment she found herself in, the things she had to endure and witness and the realism with which they were described, that made her part of the story so hard.

“The trust with which he looked at her as he nodded set all the remaining pieces of her heart aflame, reducing them to ash.

 Every time a new Myah chapter started I found myself something to do, feed the dog, make another cup of coffee, have a quick look at Facebook; anything that would give me a chance to catch my breath and build up my courage before diving in again. Not going back to the story was never an option though and neither was skimming through these chapters. The need to know what would happen, how it was going to end and if a happy ending was even possible kept me turning the pages. The fact that I was able to do this proves how much I trust this author, although there were one or two moments I would have happily slapped her.

Another reason I could not put the book down lies in AJ Rose’s masterful storytelling. She knows how to alternate the horrific scenes – those you’d prefer to read with your eyes closes or not read at all – with the wonderful beauty that is the relationship between Ben and Gavin, thus keeping the reader teetering on a precarious balance between disgust and delight.

Consent is the story that shows there is more to people than we could ever suspect. There is strength where you’d expect only weakness. Perseverance can be found in the midst of despair. Beauty may hide under a layer of dirt and sometimes people do the wrong thing for all the right reasons.


Consent is proof, if we needed it, of AJ Rose’s magnificence as a writer and storyteller. The beauty of her words, the depth of her characters and the power of her stories take my breath away every time I read one of her books. I’m in awe and forever grateful I found her books; my world would be a bleaker place without them.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

COUNTERPUNCH

COUNTERPUNCH by Aleksandr Voinov
 
Pages: 200
Date: 28/09/2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Belonging
           Received from Riptide Publishing
           Through NetGalley
Kindle

The blurb:

“Brooklyn Marshall used to be a policeman in London, with a wife and a promising future ahead of him. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose father was a Member of Parliament and had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the overcrowded prison system, Brooklyn was sold into slavery rather than incarcerated. Now, he's the "Mean Machine", a boxer on the slave prizefighting circuit, pummelling other slaves for the entertainment of freemen and being rented out for the sexual service of his wealthier fans.

When Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn's services for a night, it seems like any other assignation. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it "love"—such things do not exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to help get Brooklyn's conviction overturned, he dares to hope. Then, an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he has worked so hard to achieve and sending him into the most important fight of all—the fight for freedom.”

My thoughts:

Anybody keeping an eye on my reviews may have noticed that I’m a fan of Aleksandr Voinov. He’s on that list of authors whose books I buy without second thought, even without reading the blurb in too much detail, secure in the knowledge that I’m going to love what I’ll find between the covers.

Counterpunch was no exception to that rule. And, up to a point, that’s surprising. I’m not a fan of boxing, to put it mildly. I actively avoid having to watch it and would, under most circumstances, stay away from it in my reading as well. But, just as Aleksandr could make me read about World War II when I’d sworn I’d leave that subject alone, he could make me read about boxing and enjoy the story.

Counterpoint contains a very nice mix between alternate universe circumstances and celebrities and situations we recognise from our own reality. Being able to recognise so much of the world Brooklyn and Nathaniel live in, made this story real and therefore more heart wrenching than it would have been in a outright fantastical setting. It didn’t take a huge imaginary leap to believe the slavery premise of the story. In fact, slavery is only taking community service combined with a security bracelet one step further, isn’t it? I mean we’ve all seen the protests where police forces are attacked by those marching. Accidents happen. A policeman killing one of the protesters has happened and is bound to happen again. In our world the guilty cop might not end up in slavery, boxing to stay alive, but he might well be ostracised and end up living a life he’d never imagined in his worst nightmares.

Because it was all too easy to read this story as if it were taking place in the world I live in, because it stayed close enough to reality to make me forget it was fiction on one or two occasions, Brooklyn’s story took a hold of my heart. I completely got the constant battle between anger and frustration. I understood how dangerous it was for him to hope or to trust his emotions when the merest slip could bring him face to face with torturous punishment.

The story is told from Brooklyn’s perspective which means that the reader is as much in the dark about Nathaniel’s motives and feelings as Brooklyn is. As readers we might be a bit more inclined to be optimistic about the eventual outcome than Brooklyn is, but Nathaniel’s actions were mysterious enough to keep me on my toes and racing through the words towards what I hoped would be a happy ending.


Aleksandr Voinov’s writing voice is one that appeals to me. I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is that works so well for me but every single book I’ve read by this author has drawn me in and captured me, regardless of the setting or subject matter. The books almost read themselves. All I have to do is show up and the stories take over, the characters come alive and I can hear their dialogue in my head. Aleksandr is one of a few authors I’ll be forever grateful I’ve found as well as one I’ll continue reading as long as there are new (to me) stories to be found.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

BRUISED

BRUISED by Sean Michael
 
Length: Short Novel
Date: 27/09/2014
Grade: 3
Details: Received from Totally Bound Publishing
            Through Love Romances and More
Kindle

The blurb:

“Johnson and Billy come from different parts of the country, different backgrounds and different places in their lives. Maybe different is exactly what they both need.

Johnson figures it's got to be a sign when cowboy Billy shows up at his garage after hours, just as he's about to go find someone to spend the night with. He's horny enough that a lot of guys would look good, but Billy seems special somehow.

Billy thinks Johnson's the hottest ticket he's seen since he moved to California from Texas, and after a good meal and some good fun, he takes Johnson home. They both find out they're getting more than they bargained for. Can Johnson and Billy figure out why they feel so connected and can they make it last once reality sets back in?”

My thoughts:

This is a sex driven story. If you’re not a huge fan of sex in your books, or only tolerate it in small doses, this is probably not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy hot sex with a light dusting of BDSM, combined with a relationship established on the basis of two men perfectly fulfilling each other’s needs, you’re going to love this book.

If I’m honest, my personal preference lies somewhere between those two extremes which means that while I enjoyed the very hot encounters between Billy and Johnson I would have liked to read a bit more about their relationship beside the physical aspect of it. As it is, the readers only get glimpses of Billy and Johnson’s lives. While the story makes it perfectly clear that Billy’s long hours as a defender mean the two men don’t spend nearly as much time together as they would like, the issue is mentioned and put aside in a sentence or two. Billy and Johnson don’t appear to talk and rarely seem to leave the house other than for work. Issues are dealt with in the bedroom. I really liked what I did see and learn about these two men and felt a bit short changed that I wasn’t given the opportunity to get to know them better.

 In fact the reader would be forgiven for thinking both men have super human powers when it comes to erections and orgasms. And, if I’m completely honest I have to say the sex between Billy and Johnson, while hot, became a bit repetitive after a while.


Having said all that I should also point out that this was a very easy and smooth read. While I may have had one or two issues with the story and the way it was told, that didn’t mean I ever even thought about not finishing the book. I enjoyed my time with Johnson and Billy. I just wish they had shown me a bit more of themselves.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

THE BUTTERFLY KING

THE BUTTERFLY KING by Edmond Manning
 
Pages: 350
Date: 23/09/2014
Grade: 6
Details: no. 3 The Lost and Founds
Kindle

The blurb:

“Terrance Altham doesn’t know why he’s been arrested. He’s committed no crime and the cops aren’t talking. Sadly, the man sharing his holding cell talks too much. Known only as Ghost, he is a young grifter, apparently familiar enough with this police station to convince Terrance a break out is possible, and pushy enough to leave Terrance no choice but to follow Ghost into the underbelly of New York City.

Terrified by the unjust imprisonment and the possibility of a life behind bars, Terrance searches for proof of his innocence while Ghost seeks the elusive Butterfly King. But neither man seems in control of the weekend’s direction and the consequences of missteps are life-changing. As Ghost’s manipulations come to an explosive head, each man must decide amid danger and street violence what kind of man will triumph, lost or found?

Narrator Vin Vanbly (a.k.a Ghost) returns in the most revealing King Weekend yet, where he faces the dark side of his dangerous manipulations, and learns mistakes can be deadly. Vin must confront sinister dealings from his past—and a future promising disaster—as he waltzes Terrance across Manhattan in spring, searching for the elusive and charismatic, Butterfly King.”


My thoughts:

“It’s a heavy burden, trying to love a world that doesn’t seem to love you back.”

Before I say anything else I would like to point out this is the third title in an ongoing series. I can’t recommend reading these books in the right order enough.. While each book tells a wonderful tale of its own, the magnificence of this story only shines through in all its glory if you read the story as the author intended. And that includes reading the chapters of book six, King Daniel, as they are posted on Edmond Mannings website.

The King Daniel chapters are not random filler material. They remind us of what’s gone before and give us (probably crucial) hints of what’s still to come.

Chapters four to seven bring Daniel to New York where he hopes to find The Butterfly King. Given Daniel’s difficulty walking, New York is a bit of a nightmare for him. But as difficult as it is to get around and no matter how hopeless his quest appears at times, he cannot bring himself to give up. His need to find the Found Kings and discover if he too could be found, is far bigger than his anger against the world and his fear when he’s moving around.

Reading about Daniel’s need to look down all the time to make sure he’s on firm ground and his sudden desire to start looking up, reminded me of one of my favourite Dutch songs. I took a chance and searched YouTube for an English version of the song and found this really beautiful one: ‘Sammy’.

***

Do you ever get pre-read anxiety? I was desperate to read The Butterfly King. But then, when I had the book as well as the time to read it, I found myself procrastinating. You can only read a book for the first time once. And I know there’s going to be a wait for book number four. If I didn’t start The Butterfly King now, that wait would be shorter. But I had the book and needed to know the next part of the story. But... You get my drift. In the end curiosity won out and I lost myself in another of Edmond Manning’s Lost and Founds tales.

The story of Vin’s seventh ‘kinging’ throws you straight into the action. A man called Ghost is waiting in a New York prison cell for his cellmate. Terrence, The Butterfly King, is about to start his King Weekend in prison.

I’m not going to say anything else about the story as such. It should be read, experienced even, without preconceptions and expectations. Edmond Manning has created characters and a world to lose yourself in. The dialogue and Vin’s thoughts draw you into the story. It is impossible not to feel Vin’s pain, his fear and the love he has for the man he’s spending a weekend with. I read whole sections of this story with tears in my eyes. Vin’s conviction that he’s unworthy of love and that those who think they love him would stop feeling that way the moment they found out what he has done in the past, was heartbreaking. Vin has such a huge capacity to love inside him and yet can’t believe that others, not even his Kings, might be as capable of unconditional love towards him.

I’ve slowly (far more slowly than I should have) come to the realisation this is a philosophical series of books as much as it is a work of fiction. These stories and Vin’s theories force you to think about things like curiosity, or, in this book, fear.

 “But if a man spends his life fighting fear, keeping it at bay with logic and rationalizations, he doesn’t notice fear exacting its toll, draining him, preventing his ability to access true power. That’s the dark wizard’s greatest curse, not draining you enough to notice and fight back, but embedding fear so deeply, you forget to consider achieving your greatness.”

Reading the Lost and Founds books forces you to examine how you approach the world yourself. Are you living your life in the best way possible, are you allowing all your potential to emerge or is fear holding you back?

“Fear never collects enough love, enough money, enough power.”

Terrence, he who is destined to become the Butterfly King, has to come to terms with everything that happened to him in the past and to forgive those he’s blaming for the way his life got derailed, before he can live without fear holding him back.

“(...) Lost Kings have to let something die to become Found Kings again. They have to shed a comfortable burden to become a better version of themselves. Give up living on the sidelines. Give up feeling sorry for themselves. Stop blaming others. The price of power is a new burden. The gateway is often grief.”

The moment he decides to embrace life, despite all the obstacles, was glorious.

“I’m going to live Ghost. (...) No matter if my world crumbles around me. I’m going to live in these moments.”

We meet a different Vin Vanbly in this book. Since the story is set earlier than the two previous titles, he’s obviously younger. But it is more than that. This Vin isn’t nearly as sure of himself as he is in King Perry or KingMai. He’s making mistakes, doesn’t know the man he’s going to King as well as he should, and feels out of his depth at times. Vin is pushing Terence harder than he’s ever pushed anyone and wonders, on several occasions, if he’s gone too far.

As we get further into this series, the stories are less about the men Vin ‘kings’ and more about Vin himself. We get to know Vin through the men he picks. Perry, Mai and Terrence are like mirrors, showing Vin what he needs to learn, what is lacking in his life and what is possible. There are moments when Vin gets that message loud and clear but his dislike and distrust of himself are too big to allow him to take the message on board.

“I’m just like him. I also use fear to masquerade what I truly want, and in moments of clarity, I can admit the thing I want is always the same: to be loved.”

Those moments of clarity shatter my heart and make me want to dive into the book, find Vin, and wrap my arms around him while whispering that he’s more than good enough, that all he needs is the strength to forgive himself for what happened when he didn’t know any better. But Vin isn’t there yet. While he catches glimpses of the way forward, he is not yet able to walk down that path.

“(...) I missed an opportunity to practice being a Found One, to be open to feedback and truly listen without my shit getting in the way.” – Vin

And yet, every man Vin ‘kings’ brings him closer to the moment when he too will be able to embrace his greatness.

“Something old and broken is less broken.”

I have no idea exactly what it means and have got a feeling it may be a while before I find out, but I can’t help feeling the following quote will prove to be pivotal:

“Watch for the king whose initials are D.C. He will unmake you. He’s coming to destroy you. You could stop him, but if you do, the Great Remembering never happens.”

And my heart broke when Vin drew his, almost certainly wrong, conclusion from that prediction.

Now that I’ve finished The Butterfly King and its darker story, part of me wants to read the rest of it immediately. Another part of me isn’t sure it could endure Vin’s story before the events in this book. I’ve been shown glimpses of it from the start and know it will be brutal and heart-shattering and probably man-breaking. And I suspect it has to happen. Before you can King a man you have to break him after all.

Something rather amazing happened while I was reading this book. A rather loud flapping noise tore me out of the story. When I looked up I saw a beautiful butterfly desperately trying to flee my house through a closed door. I was so engrossed in the story there wasn’t a lot I would have put the book down for, but I did just that for the butterfly. It took me a few minutes and quite a lot of gentle coaxing, but eventually the butterfly managed to find its way through the door I had opened, and back to freedom.


I’ll end my ramblings with a quote that made my heart sing.


“A feeling, a foreign one, flits through me, a fiery red cardinal dashing from twig to twig in my brambled heart. Hope.”

Sunday, 21 September 2014

CONFETTI, CAKE AND CONFESSIONS

CONFETTI, CAKE AND CONFESSIONS by K.C. Wells
 
Pages: 180
Date: 21/09/2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: copy received from author
Kindle

The blurb:

“Tony Porter and Marc Powell had lived in the same house for the past eight years, since their single parents moved in together. When Tony’s mother Marie and Marc’s father Dennis decide to tie the knot at last, it should be an occasion of great joy for everyone. Except all Marc can think about is having to spend the next two weeks with the young man he’s been in love with since he was sixteen.

Tony feels so torn about Marc coming home from college. He keeps telling himself that it’s wrong to feel this way about him. After all, in two weeks’ time they’ll be related. So when the two young men are thrown together to prepare for the wedding, tensions rise and discoveries are made.
It’s going to be a very long two weeks, and a wedding that no one will ever forget.”

My thoughts:

Confetti, Cake and Confessions surprised me. I’m not a huge fan of angst driven stories and boy does this story contain angst. In this book it works though. It makes complete sense for Tony and Marc travel from fear to uncertainty, from ecstasy to despair and from heartbroken to happy.

The boys have known each other for years and have shared a house and family for most of that time. Individually they moved from a familiar affection to attraction and even further. Neither knows the other is gay. And especially Marc is worried about how a relationship between the two of them might be perceived, by the rest of their family as well as the rest of the world.

As much as I wanted to knock Mark and Tony’s heads together on several occasions, the story was entirely plausible. The situation they find themselves in is awkward at best. Neither of them are out to their family and their parents are about to marry. Not only that, they’re also young  - barely out of their teenage years - and in love for the very first time. Each of those factors would be enough to cause issues. Put them altogether and it’s a miracle they didn’t combust.

Their two week journey from step-brothers to lovers was mesmerizing; their fear, uncertainty, happiness, and desperation where palpable. Their sexual explorations managed to be both sweet and extremely hot at the same time. Maybe the ease with which these two virgins got everything right the very first time was somewhat unrealistic but it didn’t really bother me. By that time they’d put each other and the reader through so many ups and downs we all deserved a satisfying climax.

It was refreshing to read about a happy and accepting family for a change. A lot of books feature disapproving families, kids being thrown out because they are gay, bullying and desperation. While Tony and Mark run into a few obstacles, those stem from their own doubts and foolish actions, not from any prejudice held by those around them.


K.C. Wells writes a wonderful story. She creates multidimensional characters that come alive on the page. Conversations between the characters sound true and sparkle. This book contained just the right mix of toe curling angst and light relief; the characters are on an emotional roller-coaster and the reader is right there with them. The result is a captivating story that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until you’ve reached the end. 

SHATTERED BONDS

SHATTERED BONDS by Lynda Aicher
 
Pages: 284
Date: 20/09/2014
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 7 Wicked Play
            Received from Carina Press
            Through Love Romances and More
Kindle

The blurb:

“Will the doors of The Den close forever?

When the lives and friendships of The Den owners are thrown into chaos, Noah Bakker steps in to deal with the fallout. He hasn’t had a sub or participated in a Scene since tragedy changed his life four years ago. But as an investor in the exclusive BDSM club, he can’t walk away from the lifestyle completely. As he works to keep the club running, he finds himself drawn to Liv Delcour, the seemingly naïve sister of one of the other owners. 

Liv didn’t know about the naughty things her friends were up to behind closed doors, but when their secrets become headline news, she’s more curious than shocked. As she works with Noah to keep the media at bay, she finds that his dominant strength is more than a little arousing. Soon they’re exploring their mutual desires in the most wicked ways. 

Liv isn’t sure if she can completely submit to Noah the way she thinks he wants her to—and Noah isn’t sure he can withstand the pain of falling in love…”


My thoughts:

Shattered Bonds starts with a bang. Before you’re five percent into the story you’ll be worrying about at least half the characters you’ve come to love while reading the ‘Wicked Play’ series. Everything is suddenly uncertain. There are questions about life and death as well as the future of The Den and it’s impossible not to get caught up in the worry and uncertainty.

In the midst of the chaos that ensues, Liv is the light and bright spark keeping everyone going. There were times when she was a bit too much for me; too good, too cheerful, too understanding and too unquestioning. But overall she made me smile as well as wish I was a better person. And, given the darkness Noah struggles with, Liv’s character had to be both understanding and patient for the story and the romance to work.

Noah broke my heart for most of this book. His pain, fear and reluctance to commit ever again were so vivid it made me hurt for him. The way he eventually deals with his issues and the sacrifice Liv makes to make that possible for him, were both heartbreaking and utterly beautiful.

Ultimately this is a book about love, friendship and loyalty. Things that might shatter us if we have to face them alone, can be managed if those who are close to us gather around to see us through. It is a wonderful truth and powerful message.

As always Lynda Aicher has put several pearls of wisdom in her story. I’ve decided to not quote BDSM related statements this time since I covered those in my previous reviews. The following sentiment though rang very true for me:

“She didn’t go around envisioning the sex lives of any of her other friends.”

This is such a wonderful line. The whole world seems to feel they have the right to judge how people who are into kink or are gay or ‘other than the norm’ have sex. And yet those same people probably don’t spend a minute thinking about their neighbours’ sex life. Because they know it’s none of their business. Well, guess what. It’s none of your business either if the people concerned happen to like something you’re not into or you don’t understand.

The following scene brought tears to my eyes. Liv’s selflessness was astounding and inspiring.

“You have so much love to give, but your heart is still broken. Her actions shattered it. But it still beats. You’re still alive. You need to find a way to piece it back together so you’re not afraid to use it again.” – Liv to Noah.

As she did in the previous books in this series, Lynda Aicher manages to give us yet another perspective on BDSM. With Liv not being submissive, even though she does enjoy kinky sex, and Noah no longer comfortable with the idea of a full-time D/s relationship, this book shows that it isn’t all or nothing. We all develop our relationships based on our personal needs, and that’s the only way it can possibly work. I’m both delighted and impressed at how well Lynda Aicher managed to convey that message in this series.

I have adored this series from the very beginning. Every single title brought me hours of reading joy and all the characters I encountered in the stories will stay with me for one reason or another. For that reason, the epilogue left me with a big smile as well as a bit teary-eyed. It was a wonderful and very romantic ending to a series I’ve loved from start to finish. It was also goodbye. As much as it was great to have the series end on a high, I can’t deny I will miss these characters and The Den. The world and characters Lynda Aicher created became real for me and saying goodbye to them is a bit like saying goodbye to trusted friends. Not having a next book to look forward to is going to take a bit of getting used to. On the upside though, there’s a new series on the way and if the ‘Wicked Play’ books are anything to go by, it’s going to be fun losing myself in new characters.

“That was what this day was really about. The victory of love and the promise it had given them all when someone had tried to destroy it.”


Saturday, 20 September 2014

THE DATING GAME

THE DATING GAME by Jay Northcote
 
Pages: 103
Date: 20/09/2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: Copy received from author
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

Five sex-free dates—how hard can it be? 

“When they were at uni, Owen always had a bit of a crush on Nathan. But Nathan was apparently straight, and Owen was too busy with other guys to take his crush seriously. 

When Nathan moves back to Bristol after a year away, Owen hears that Nathan has come out of the closet, and he propositions him. Nathan doesn’t want to be just another notch on Owen’s bedpost, though, so he challenges Owen to prove he can be serious: five dates before they have sex. 

Owen doesn’t think that sounds too difficult. He’s expecting Nathan to find his charms irresistible anyway. But as they grow closer, Owen begins to care more about proving himself to Nathan than he does about getting him into bed.”

My thoughts:

You know those books you read with a goofy grin on your face because you really like the characters and the way they are together; stories that pull you right in and almost convince you that you know the characters, or people closely resembling them? Have you ever thought how wonderful it would be if you were able to take the characters you’ve met in a story, out for pint and just enjoy their company? If you haven’t you’ve missed out on a wonderful experience. If you have you know exactly how amazing that is. Whether you have or haven’t, you need to read ‘The Dating Game’ because that’s the sort of story this is.

I liked both Nathan and Owen from the moment I met them. Owen was straightforward and brutally honest from the very first moment. All he initially wants is to get Nathan into his bed, and he has no problem admitting as much. It is the combination of his lack of guile and his cheeky charm that make instantly attractive as a character.

At first Nathan seems far more reserved and serious. He has no intention of being a quick hook-up and convenient one-night-stand, and makes that perfectly clear. The fact that he doesn’t just send Owen packing when Owen suggests they spend the night together, but instead sets him a challenge made him fascinating.

The way Owen and Nathan’s feelings, ideas and needs change as the story, and their sex-free dates progress was subtle and a pure joy to witness. Much to his own surprise Owen discovers an appreciation for simple dates during his second Saturday out with Nathan. Nathan, on the other hand, starts to think his no sex for five dates plan, has to be one of his more stupid ideas.

As the weeks go by and they go on more dates the sexual tension between Owen and Nathan increases until it nearly drives them, as well as the reader, crazy. I’m not going to tell you if they actually have five dates anymore than I’m going to tell you whether or not they manage to stick to the rules they’ve set themselves. It is way too much fun to find out for yourself, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

Suffice to say this is a fun, almost but not quite angst free, story. The writing is as good and smooth as I’ve come to expect from Jay Northcote and the dialogue rings true and sparkles. I think I may have found my go-to author for comfort reads.

Buy links:


Thursday, 11 September 2014

FRENCH LESSONS

FRENCH LESSONS by Pelaam
 
Pages: 38
Date: 11/09/2014
Grade: 3
Details: Received from Totally Bound
            Through Love Romances and More
Kindle

The blurb:

“Jesse goes to French classes with a friend, but soon spends more time having erotic daydreams about the teacher than he does on learning the language.

He is caught not paying attention once too often. Corwin, the class tutor, gives Jesse an ultimatum--a one-on-one lesson to prove he's worthy to continue or be thrown out of the class.

Jesse accepts the challenge, but is his French up to the mark?

Moreover, is that the only lesson Corwin wants to give him?”

My thoughts:

This is a short and hot read.

Combined with the blurb I could basically leave my review there; it says it all. I will however expand on that thought a little bit.

I knew this was a short story before I started the book so I can’t say I was disappointed there wasn’t more to it. I had however hoped to get to know the characters a little bit better. And the author created the perfect opportunity to flesh them out a bit when she created a dinner scene. It is a shame that, in my opinion, she didn’t make better use of that setting to give the reader a clearer picture of what made these two, very sexy men, tick.

As it is we have Jesse, who doesn’t seem to have anything on his mind beyond the hotness of his French tutor and the sexual fantasies resulting from that attraction. And, since the story is told from Jesse’s point of view, we have even less insight into what might be going on in Corwin’s head.

What we do get are two very hot encounters between two equally hot men in what looks like the beginning of a steamy BDSM-based relationship. Corwin supplied just the right balance between domineering and tender while Jesse was charming as he discovers how much he enjoys submitting to his teacher’s commands and taking his punishment in the form of a solid spanking.

With this being a short story we do not get a happy ever after. However the story did end in a tone which suggested these two men have every opportunity to create a happy and steamy future for the two of them.

French Lessons is an easy to read, smoothly written short. The story pulls you in and allows you to lose yourself in a sexual fantasy. If you’re in the mood for a hot story you can read in one sitting; if you’re are looking for two hot men giving you steamy encounter to lose yourself in, French Lessons may well be the story for you.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

KING MAI

KING MAI by Edmond Manning

Pages: 350
Date:  10/09/2014
Grade: 6
Details: No. 2 The Lost and Founds
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

“Adopted from Thailand and never one to fit in with the local bubbas, life has been rough around the edges for Mai Kearns, even before he came out of the closet. Now, almost ten years past the torture of high school, Mai still can't catch a break: he and his parents stand to lose their beloved farm.

How will a “King Weekend” help change Mai’s fate? What has narrator Vin Vanbly been up to for the four weeks he’s been sneaking around Mai’s hometown? At the urging of a ransom note from ‘The Lost Kings,’ Mai embarks on an impossible treasure hunt chasing mystic poetry, Fibonacci Hopscotch, ancient prophecy, the letter ‘x,’ and a confounding, penguin-marching army.

The stakes are high: if Mai fails, the Lost Kings will permanently claim him as their own. Finding the treasure may unlock the secret to saving his family farm. But can this angry farmer risk opening his broken heart before the weekend is over? Mai Kearns has 40 hours to get very, very curious in this second installment of The Lost and Founds.”

My thoughts:


I read and fell in love with ‘King Perry a few months ago. Friends told me to read King Mai as soon as I finished that book, but I resisted temptation. I wanted to cherish what I had read first, allow the story and its message to percolate in my mind before moving on. Besides, I knew King Mai would not be the end of the story of the Lost and Found Kings and the sooner I read the book the longer I would have to wait for the next instalment.

Last week the cover for the third book, ‘The Butterfly King’ was revealed. It is due to come out later this month. I took that announcement as my cue to start reading ‘King Mai’.

First I took a detour to Edmond Manning’s website. Our author has been kind enough to post the first chapters of ‘King Daniel’, which will be book six (yes, you read that right SIX). The first three of those chapters should be read after ‘King Perry’ but before ‘King Mai’ and give us a glimpse at Perry’s life after his weekend with Vin. Of course they also introduce us to Mai and make us curious about ‘King Daniel’. Our author sure knows how to tease us.

I finished those first three chapters and was a good girl. I resisted temptation and did not read on. The next four chapters should be read between ‘King Mai’ and ‘The Butterfly King’. Since I don’t want to ruin what so far has been a perfect reading experience I intend to play by the rules and read this story as it’s meant to be read. What follows is my review (also known as gush-fest) of ‘King Mai’.


“It’s exhausting to hate what you love and love what you hate.”

When we first encounter Mai Kearns he is one very angry young man. Having spent his life as the odd one out in the community where he grew up, and after losing his first love, he now faces the impending loss of the only home he’s ever known as well as his family’s source of income.

Vin Vanbly is on a quest to reunite Mai with his natural curiosity and sense of wonder but for a long time it appears to be an impossible mission as Mai’s anger and frustration continue to get in the way.

“Kearns, it’s all a waste of time. All of it. Until the minute it’s not. Then every moment perfectly led us there.”

With his usual mix of clues, misdirection and stories about the Lost and Found Kings, Vin brings Mai to breaking point only for Mai to resurface, stronger and more determined to reach his goals than ever.

In the midst of this story the reader is treated to endless amounts of pearls of wisdom and quotable passages. I tried to restrain myself but still ended up with the following quotes I felt I had to share because they spoke to my heart, brought tears to my eyes and/or made me smile.

The following, for example, is a universal truth, not reserved only for men.

“We are so busy defining ourselves as gay men and straight men, we forget we share a whole word in common. We are men.”

And this quote, about love and waiting for that special one who’s meant just for you, broke my heart:

“When you’re single all the time, like I am, it’s hard to remain curious about that one true love, to keep your heart open to the possibility of its eventual return. We want it, we court it, we dream about it. The one thing we cannot do is control it. Love comes for us or not. The curious remain on a train platform, waiting for an imminent arrival. We look at the silent tracks and wait for their vibration, promising love is on the way.”

I returned to the following sentence over and over again. I live for the day this will be true.

“Once we’re all on the same page celebrating not being on the same page, the world transforms.”

And finally (for now) the following; so simple and yet so true. Surrender to life and it will all come together. Maybe not in a way we expected or hoped for, but come together it will.

“All he had to do was surrender.”

A scene I won’t quote from but which stole my heart with its sheer beauty was the one involving the Butterfly Tree. Not only was the description of the tree beautiful and so vivid I could see it, the whole set up and all it revealed to Mai brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. It was as magical a moment as I’ve ever experienced while reading.

While I was totally engrossed in Mai’s story and quest, I was as invested in Vin and his emotions. For the second time Vin broke my heart. I can’t read about him thinking he’s not good enough, doesn’t know enough or isn’t clever enough without hurting for him. I hate how he can’t see all the good he’s doing. I guess Vin’s story was harder to read than Mai’s (and Perry’s) because I knew Mai (like Perry) would find his Kinghood despite all the obstacles he would encounter along the way. The clue is in the title. There is no real happy ending for Vin though. He gets the satisfaction of having ‘kinged’ another man but he still ends up alone and still sees himself as not good enough to deserve the same outcome.

“I like to believe there’s a big secret to becoming a Found King and it simply eludes me. But what if there is no big secret? What if I’m just a terrible person and don’t want to admit it to myself? Or maybe I’m just not smart enough. If I had gone to college I would know a better way to do this. Who knows? Maybe college doesn’t even help if you’re just a fuckup at life.”

Edmond Manning writes like no other author I’ve ever read. He appears to break every single rule known to men, writers and editors, and ends up with a work of sheer brilliance. He doesn’t tell his readers a story he brings them on an adventure. We’re not observing proceedings from a distance, we are part of them. These characters become as important to us as our closest friends are. In fact, they join the ranks or those friends.

Finally, it was both rewarding and spooky to read a story revolving around what has been my personal mantra for at least the past fifteen years. On my Facebook author page the cover photo states ‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been’. Or, as Vin says to Mai in this book:

“But the Found Kings have a prophecy about end times as well, which they call the Great Remembering. It’s less of an end of times and more of a new dawn as every Lost King and Queen remembers who they were always meant to be.”

And:

“It’s time, Kearns. Time for you to remember who you were always meant to be.”

I’m in awe of Edmond Manning’s genius. If there is a ‘Storyteller King’ I know his name and am honoured to call him a friend.