Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review of Three Wrong Turns in the Desert by Neil Plakcy



Neil Plakcy
Three Wrong Turns in the Desert
Loose Id, 2009

Series:
This is the first book about Aidan and Liam. Recently a sequel, Dancing With the Tide came out, in which another adventure of bodyguards Aidan and Liam takes place.

Backblurb:
From the moment he sees handsome Liam McCullough showering naked behind a Tunisian bar, ESL teacher Aidan Greene wants to screw the sexy bodyguard. At first, though, a dead courier and beefy hired thugs get in the way. But Liam soon convinces him -- with wiles and smiles and solid logic -- to join him on a race across the desert for a rendezvous with a Tuareg tribe at a remote oasis. Then nothing can stop them from getting naked and getting it on. Together they explore the passion Liam hid from as a closeted Navy SEAL, and the love Aidan's missed after his longterm boyfriend kicked him to the curb.
From the back of a motorcycle to a Turkish bath to a remote dune in the desert, these two Romeos find ways to bring each other to the heights of pleasure. So what if they’re carrying the password to a million-dollar Swiss bank account and being chased by Libyan intelligence agents determined to stop them at all costs? Love and lust fuel their passion and not even three wrong turns in the desert will keep them from surviving this adventure alive -- and together.

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, contemporary, suspense, action, mystery, ex-SEAL, bodyguard, Tunisia, violence, terrorism.

Why I read it:
The author asked me to read and review this novel. I’d never read any of his books before but had heard good things about the Mahu Mysteries series.

Storyline:
Aidan came to Tunisia to reinvent himself after his boyfriend dumped him. He meets bodyguard and ex-SEAL Liam and ends up in one big adventure with him, due to an initial misunderstanding. One thing leads to another and they end up on the run for thugs to bring a secretive mission to a good end. Meanwhile their mutual attraction makes for more than one hot night.

My opinion in short:
Three Wrong Turns in the Desert is a sexy, romantic read that has a lot more to offer than just an engaging, hot gay couple that falls in love: namely suspense, mystery and action. I enjoyed the setting of North Africa and the author made me practically feel the heat of the desert. His heroes are easy to love and their chemistry is great, and not only in a sexual way. I would’ve liked a little more internal conflict and focus on insecurities and fears, and a bit more ‘showing’ than ‘telling’ in the writing, but the choices the author made regarding these aspects had its own advantages. If you like an uncomplicated romantic story arc with a strong back story full of suspense, I can highly recommend this entertaining novel. I not only look forward to the sequel of this novel, Dancing With the Tide because of my curiosity about the romantic future of this sexy couple, but also because of the thrill of a new adventure, and perhaps the latter even prevails.

~~~~~
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2 out of 3 flames
~~~~~

What’s more to know about this book:
Characters
Somewhere in the book we read: “Mean people suck. Nice people swallow. Aidan swallowed.” And that sums up Aidan pretty well, he is a very nice guy. I adored him, not only his kindness and pliability, but also his inventiveness, his sexiness and his passion for excitement and new things. The excellent character development is, in his case, fueled by the adventure and his relationship with Liam.
Liam is more the strong and silent type. He’s in control, sexy and taking charge but not very talkative about his past or feelings. The longer he is in Aidan’s company the more the other man disarms and surprises him and the more Liam opens up to him.
As a couple they do not only have a great sexual chemistry, they also interact smoothly and form a great team in fighting the bad guys. It’s very convincing by the end that they are a perfect match for each other, although they hadn’t figured that quite out themselves. Thanks to little glimpses of their feelings and thoughts about each other - like admiration, surprise, lust and joy - the falling in love came gradually but steadily. I enjoyed this kind of relationship exploration very much. Sometimes the lack of a conflict can work just fine.
POV
Two alternating points of view in third person (Aidan and Liam). This provided all the information I needed and I never had to guess what was going on. Consequently I had sometimes more information than the protags and was never afraid or kept in suspense together with one of them about the whereabouts of the other man. I admit that perhaps I would’ve liked the insecurities and fears a bit more exposed and dragged out.
Plot
The plot is very dynamic. This book is a romance, mystery and action novel in one, with all the matching elements of those genres interwoven into one plot. It never gets boring. With a full plot like that it sometimes can get confusing on what to focus though. And at certain moments I was wishing for more developments in the romantic department and at other moments I wanted more information about the mysterious assignment and its who’s and why’s. But in the end all different threads were knitted nicely together into one big, colorful scarf that wrapped comfortably around my shoulders.
Smexing
M/M. The sex scenes were sensual, hot and rather uncomplicated, especially when one takes the lack of beds, showers and lube into account. These scenes aren’t the main focus of the relationship building.
Writing style
The author is a great story teller and tells his story straightforward. His writing is lucid and pleasant. The strongest characteristic of his prose is the accurate descriptions of a setting with which he evokes colorful, lifelike images - for example of the medina (the old part) of a North African city:
“The sounds in the medina were overwhelming, from the calls of the merchants in harsh Arabic to the methodical pounding of the repoussé artisans and the Arabic pop music blasting from speakers.
They passed souks full of carpets, elaborate birdcages with pointed arches, brass teapots, and cotton blouses in a rainbow of colors, embroidered with intricate designs. He saw a souk stocked with the long, hooded cloaks called djellabas and thought he might buy one to wear at night while relaxing and grading papers.
Sweet aromas wafted out of the spice vendors' souks; the leathermakers' stalls were pungent. They even passed the perfumers' souks, where the flowery scent combined with the delicate colorful bottles to assault the senses.
At the fez-maker's souk, an old man was proudly demonstrating the traditional process.”
I admit that I’m probably a little biased and I might have enjoyed these descriptions of North Africa so much because I’ve been there, and these parts of the book brought back good memories.
At the same time the writing style made me a little lazy, because everything was told and explained and not much was left for me to put together with my own imagination. I usually enjoy a story more when the writing does ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’, especially when it concerns the intimate scenes between the protags.

Favorite scene/quote:
Apart from the colorful descriptions I mentioned above, I also enjoyed little quips and ironic comments like this one:

“Maybe he could write a book. He'd been thinking about writing an ESL text for a few years, unhappy with the materials that were available. Or maybe a novel about two gay guys chasing through the desert and falling in love.
No, no one would believe that one.”

Linking:
Neil Plakcy’s website | on Twitter | on Goodreads
Buy Three Wrong Turns in the Desert here

Other m/m romances by this author:
Dancing with the Tide (sequel of Three Wrong Turns in the Desert)
Gaylife.com

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review of Caught Running by Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux for the DIK Book Reading Challenge



Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Caught Running
Dreamspinner Press, 2007

Backblurb:
Ten years after graduation, Jake "the jock" Campbell and Brandon "the nerd" Bartlett are teaching at their old high school and still living in separate worlds. When Brandon is thrown into a coaching job on Jake's baseball team, they find themselves learning more about each other than they'd ever expected. High school is all about image - even for the teachers. Brandon and Jake have to get past their preconceived notions to find the friendship needed to work together. And somewhere along the way, they discover that perceptions can always change for the better.

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, contemporary, nerd/jock romance, high school teaching/coaching, baseball

Why I read it:
I’ve enjoyed other books by these writers and wanted to read more. I’ve read this book for the DIK Book Reading Challenge.


Storyline:
Jake and Brandon renew their acquaintance when they have to coach the high school baseball team together. Both are gay but don’t know the other one is. Therefore they try to fight their attraction at first until one of them makes a move. A sizzling hot relationship starts in which they each have to deal with insecurities about the other man’s feelings.

My opinion in short:
Caught Running was a joy to read. It has likable, sexy heroes, a fabulous build-up, hot kissing and arousing sex scenes and a great story arc without there being much external conflict. The humorous, light scenes and the more serious feelings and developments are well balanced and the love scenes complement the wonderful relationship building without them being the main focus. I think it makes this a perfect read for new readers to the m/m genre, who don’t shy away from explicit sexual content but want to be taken there gradually. Being an angst free and ultimately enjoyable and hot novel, Caught Running has come to stay on my list of comfort reads as well as on my all time favorites list.

~~~~~
Rating: 4.75 of 5 stars
Heat level: 3 of 3 flames
~~~~~

What’s more to know about this book:
Characters
Both heroes are sexy and fun guys. Jake is the so called jock and Brandon the nerd, but they both learn quickly that there’s way more to the other man than these stereotypes. The character development of both protags is excellent. These men have depth and are well-rounded characters. I absolutely adored them both and their chemistry is a joy to witness. I also loved the little banter and comfortable humor between them.
POV
There’s an omniscient narrator that has access to both main characters’ minds and thoughts in every single scene, even to those of some secondary characters. With the result that within one single paragraph we get both Jake’s and Brandon’s point of view, back and forth. This asks for a high level of concentration to keep up with the POV fluctuations, which can become dizzying. It took me a little while to get used to this, but once I was, it had advantages to know exactly what both characters thought or did at a certain moment, even when they were not in the same place. Readers who have issues with head hopping in general, probably will get annoyed very quickly. Personally, it didn’t bother me too much in this book.
Plot
The first half of the book consists of introduction and development of the characters and the build-up to their first kiss. Anticipation is the key word, which is done fabulously. All we want to know is ‘(when) will they hook up and who’s going to take the first step’. The second half of the book is drawn around their building relationship and the question ‘will it last’. There’s not much of a conflict and hardly any external threats to their relationship, but that doesn’t diminish the urge to keep reading. I still wanted to know how they would handle things. All in all, it was an enjoyable angst free plot, which still had a good suspense arc.
Smexing
M/M. Very hot kissing scenes and arousing sex scenes made me enjoy this novel a lot. The love scenes complement the story without ‘being’ the story and were extremely well written. And I loved that both men were equals in the bed room. Although Jake is more the alpha type and Brandon is somewhat more insecure about Jake’s feelings, they both took charge in bed when the situation asked for it. Their fabulous chemistry as well as their playfulness made for a lot of variety in scorching, sexy and fun love scenes.
Writing style
There’s only one niggle regarding the writing style, and that is the abundant use of the descriptions ‘the science teacher’ and ‘coach’ or other varieties when Brandon and Jake are mentioned. Other than that, I enjoyed this duo’s writing very much.

Favorite quote:

“He was slowly figuring out that he wasn’t going to get words from Jake. But the actions were pretty damn incredible, and he told himself to be content with that.”

Linking:
Madeleine Urban’s blog | Abigail Roux’s blog | Caught Running on Goodreads
Buy Caught Running as an ebook here and as a paperback here

Other books by these authors:
Warrior’s Cross (read my review here)
Cut & Run
Sticks & Stones (Cut & Run, #2)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mondays Hot Couple & The Tudors


No time today to post much. I have this deadline tomorrow morning, by then a bunch of articles needs to be edited and ready to send to the lay out designer. And I’m behind, as always, due to my fabulous ability to procrastinate.

Anyhoo, with any luck and some more perseverance I’ll make it in time and even have my DIK Challenge review finished by tomorrow (of Caught Running by Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux). On Wednesday a review of Three Wrong Turns in the Desert by Neil Plakcy will hopefully be posted (it’s almost done at this moment). And Thursday maybe another review or my June wrap-up post will show up.

For now, I don’t have a sexy scene for you, but maybe this video about one of history’s classic love stories, will entertain you instead. It’s the romanticized love of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and the clips are from the TV show The Tudors. The song is Sarah Brightman’s Eden. I haven’t seen the show yet, but recently received the DVD of the first season from a friend.
Have you watched or ever heard of this show?
Is it just me, or is Jonathan Rhys Meyers sexy as hell?



Happy Monday!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Gay Friday & This and That

To conclude my ‘Gotta Love Historicals Week’ I have chosen these vintage gay couples as my weekly cookies. They are from the wonderful website Gaytwogether.



Don’t know how it is at your places, but it’s hot over here. And it’s even getting warmer over the next couple of days. And that, while things were going to heat up anyway, coming Monday when our soccer team is playing the next worldcup match. ;) All Dutch people will go batty over this match, because the winner will make it to the quarter finals.

And amidst this heat we suffered a power loss for almost 7 hours yesterday. Aside from having no AC during the hottest hours of the day, I nearly freaked out about having no access to internet, lol! I was working and found out that hardly anything can be done without electricity. The only thing that still worked was my laptop, which I just recharged.
After a few hours there was nothing much more left for me to do than whip out my Jewel and read until the power did get back on. What a shame, huh? *g*
So, what lesson did we learn? Well, a few things but the most important one to always keep the ereader charged to its limit for unexpected cases of power loss. ;D

And here are some of the m/m books I’ve read the past week or so, and haven’t blogged about yet *but hopefully will soon*

Bad Boys, Bad Boys (Boys in Blue, #1) by Mia Watts
Reasonable Doubt (Boys in Blue, #2) by Mia Watts
Three Wrong Turns in the Desert by Neil Plakcy
Bring The Heat by M.L. Rhodes
Love & Loyalty (Faith & Fidelity, #2) by Tere Michaels
Duty & Devotion (Faith & Fidelity, #3) by Tere Michaels
I Fell in Love with a Zombie by Sean Kennedy

And at the moment I’m reading the book for my DIK Challenge, Caught Running by Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux.


What books are you reading at the moment or coming weekend?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gotta Love Historicals Week: Review of Bound by Deception & Bound to Him by Ava March



Ava March
Bound by Deception
Loose Id, 2008

Series:
Bound series, book 1.
So far there are 2 books, and one free short story, in this series. All three have the same main characters, Oliver and Vincent, in it.

Backblurb:
Lord Oliver Marsden has a secret. He's been in love with his childhood friend for years, though Vincent's never shown an interest in him beyond friendship. Ruggedly handsome, wealthy, and successful, Vincent is everything Oliver is not. And Vincent doesn't prefer men.
Then Oliver discovers Vincent hires a man during his visits to a London brothel. Desperate to be with Vincent, Oliver orchestrates a deception, switching places with the brothel's employee. When Oliver arrives at the bedchamber, he's in for another surprise. Restraints and a leather bullwhip? Apparently Vincent isn't as conservative as he appears.
Lord Vincent Prescot has a secret of his own. One kept locked away and only indulged once a month. But this month's appointment is different. The mysterious man is so perfect, so beautiful in his submission, rousing protective instincts Vincent can't deny. Yet he refuses to believe he might truly prefer men, for it could mean the end of his hopes of earning his father's respect.
Will betrayal destroy them or will they be bound together by deception?

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, Historical, Regency England, Friends become lovers, D/s, Bondage

Why I read it:
Some of my blog friends read and reviewed it, after it had caught my eye at the Loose Id site. But I was hesitant because of the historical element. Especially Mandi from Smexybooks knew how to convince me to read it.

Storyline:
Oliver tricks his ‘straight’ friend Vincent to spend a night with him after he finds out he’s gay. Vincent surprises him with his unusual BDSM preference. Oliver succeeds in keeping his identity a secret, Vincent can’t forget the man and tries to find him. When secrets are revealed all there’s left is to find a way to be together, although that’s not easy in Regency England.

My opinion in short:
Bound by Deception is one of those romances that let me forget my surroundings to become entirely wrapped up in, in this case, the vicissitudes of Oliver’s and Vincent’s life. Set in Regency England this novel shows some of society’s behavior towards homosexuality as a reason for conflict in their relationship, but aside from that the story didn’t feel too historical, to my relief. The inner turmoil and relationship issues were the main focus altogether. I completely enjoyed Ms. March narrating skills, her writing is beautiful, lucid and compelling, which makes her work easy to read. After finishing the novel I felt a bit unsatisfied about the happily ever after, and luckily for my peace of mind the sequel Bound To Him was already written and available.

~~~~~
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Heat level: 3 of 3 flames
~~~~~



Ava March
Bound to Him
Loose Id, 2009

Series:
Bound series, book 2.
So far there are 2 books, and one free short story, in this series. All three have the same main characters, Oliver and Vincent, in it.

Backblurb:
Lord Vincent Prescot’s life couldn’t be better. His investments were exceeding his expectations, he’d finally accepted that his father would never look on him as a prized son, and his best friend loved him. A thriving bank account, well-respected by his peers, and mind blowing sex with a man who submitted to his every desire -- what more could he want?
Lord Oliver Marsden should be more than happy with his life. He’s been in love with Vincent for over a decade and six months ago the impossible happened and they became lovers. But since then, nothing had changed. More specifically, Vincent hadn’t changed. Oliver tried to be patient – it had taken a lot for Vincent to accept the fact he preferred men. But what felt like a tiny distance between them six months ago now felt like an ever-widening chasm. Why couldn’t Vincent stay the night every now and then? Was it too much to ask for Vincent to call him Oliver and not Marsden? He knew Vincent cared for him, but did he love him?
Then Vincent’s father asks him for a favor – to marry his elder brother’s intended, thus freeing his brother to marry a powerful duke’s daughter. If Vincent agrees, he’ll have the respect he’s craved from his father but could lose Oliver. Nor does Oliver make the decision easy. To keep Oliver, he’ll have to do more than deny his father. He’ll have to give Oliver his heart.

Storyline:
Six months later. Vincent thinks all is going well between him and his lover, but Oliver doesn’t agree. He would like Vincent to become less cold and distant and acknowledge their relationship more. When Vincent’s father asks him to marry his elder brother’s lover for political reasons, Vincent ponders it and another conflict is added to their relationship.

My opinion in short:
Bound to Him is even more gripping and compelling than its prequel Bound by Deception. The build up to a big misunderstanding is inevitable. The tension and angst level are rising high and I loved every minute of it. My heart ached badly at one point and again I could’ve happily smacked Vincent once or twice, but he redeemed himself in the last part of the book with one of the most beautiful HEA scenes. As well as in the first book I was way more sympathizing with Oliver than with Vincent, but in the end I adored both. And, not unimportant, the love scenes were again ultimately satisfying and orgasmic.

~~~~~
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Heat level: 3 of 3 flames
~~~~~

What’s more to know about these books:
Characters
Vincent and Oliver are both second sons of the aristocracy and gay, but otherwise they are completely different. Not only is one rich and the other not. Vincent is also more distant and cold than Oliver, he’s the one who thinks things through while Oliver just acts according his feelings. Vincent is the Dom, Oliver the sub. Both are great heroes, but I must admit that I loved Oliver most. He’s adorable and sexy and we know from the beginning that he’s in love with Vincent since ages. With him you can’t help sympathizing, he deserves to be happy, and at some point I wanted to slap Vincent for making Oliver wait and hurt. Both are well-rounded characters and acting consistently throughout the two books.
POV
Both men’s alternating points of view are told in third person. At the beginning of the first book, for a significant amount of pages, only Oliver’s POV is shown, which makes identifying with him the logic and easy thing to do. Fortunately, we also get Vincent POV, for example in his search for the mystery man in the first book and also in other scenes, both in the first and second book. Ms. March managed to convey the feeling of being in their heads perfectly.
Plot
Really not much happens, especially in the first book. There are a few long and memorable scenes that are detailed and intense. And in between some connecting scenes hold everything together. The first book opens with an introduction to and the performance of one of the hottest BDSM scenes I’ve ever read, which drags you into the story with compelling sentences and the vivid description of occurrences and feelings. No matter if you want to or not, you have to keep reading, it’s inescapable. And the overwhelming tension of that scene remains a presence during the rest of the story too. When I finished the first book an unconsciously held breath escaped. And I immediately wanted to read more about this couple. Luckily, there already was a sequel out to fulfill my need.
The second book has a richer plot, in which more of historical society plays a part and in which Vincent’s father is having a devious role. This plot is, like that of the first book, tension filled, which adds to the suspense and the intensity of the reading experience. The second book also delivered the most beautiful HEA scene! Finally.
Smexing
M/M. D/s. These are amazingly erotic reads, really! The main reason why I found the smexing so fabulous and scorching hot, was because these scenes are written from within the character’s heads and hearts. Emotions and feelings accompany all the sexy visuals. The BDSM consists mainly of bondage, some whipping and teasing, imo the best variant of BDSM in romance novels there is. It’s not the hardcore stuff at all and Vincent and Oliver are principally a Dom and sub, not a Master and slave, which is how I prefer them.
Writing style
Compelling and beautiful sentences seduce you to surrender to Vincent’s and Oliver’s world, and step into this other era. Ms. March is a master in creating moments of intensity that makes you feel isolated from your actual surroundings where nothing else exists any longer than what happens with her protags. These ‘moments’ can sometimes go on for over 40 pages in which, on the outside, nothing much seems to happen, but the opposite is true. In those 40 pages we are regaled with such a richness of information. Not the boring-detailed-irrelevant-description kind of information that only serves to slow down a story and add some artificial suspense. No, it’s an elaborate, heart-felt, intense description of sensations. Ms. March is definitely a very skillful writer.

Favorite scene/quote:
I’ll pick one from the first book, because my favorite scene from the second book is too spoilerish. The one from the first book is the one in which Vincent feels confused after he just discovered that his mystery man is actually his old friend Oliver (Marsden), and in which Oliver shows him his feelings: *sigh, you gotta love Oliver*

So where did this leave them? He didn’t want to lose Marsden’s friendship, but could they go on as they had, after all of this?
Was that what he really wanted? Or did he want more?
He didn’t lift his head when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching.
“Just know there’s one person who accepts you, and loves you for who you are, even if you don’t feel that way about yourself.” Marsden let out a heavy exhale. “Here. I know how much it means to you. I apologize for taking it and for upsetting you tonight. I just” -- he sighed again, the sound tired, beyond defeated -- “needed you to know it had been me.”
The pure heartache in Marsden’s voice tugged at Vincent’s chest, and all of his questions answered themselves. He wanted more.

Linking:
Ava March’s website | blog | on Goodreads
Buy the Bound Series here
Download Deliberately Unbound for free here

The books in this series:
# 1: Bound by Deception
# 2: Bound to Him
# 2.5: Deliberately Unbound (Free short story)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gotta Love Historicals Week: Review of Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone



Charlotte Featherstone
Sinful
Spice, 2010

Series:
Addicted Series, book 2.
So far there are two books, with each its own love couple, and more books will follow.

Backblurb:
In Victoria England vice of every kind can be purchased, and Matthew, the Earl of Wallingford, makes certain he avails himself of every possible pleasure. Bored and jaded, he is as well-known for his coldness as for his licentious affairs with beautiful women.
While these numerous dalliances fulfill Matthew's every physical need, they secretly leave him numb and emotionally void. Until one night when he finds himself beaten, eyes bandaged and in the care of a nurse with the voice of an angel - and a gentle touch that soothes the darkness in him and makes him yearn for more.
Yet Jane Rankin is a lowly nurse, considered shy and plain by most. There is no place for her amongst the lords and ladies of the aristocracy - despite Matthew's growing craving for the fire that burns behind her earnest facade. And then there is Matthew's secret. A secret so humiliating and scandalous is could destroy everyone he loves. A sin, he fears, not even the love of a good woman can take away...

Genre & Keywords:
Historical romance, Victorian England, aristocracy, plain girl/virgin heroine, rake/rogue hero, opposites attract

Why I read it:
I received an e-ARC from the Publisher, through NetGalley and the buzz about this book at Twitter, especially from my blog friends pattepoilue and Patti, made me curious.

Storyline:
Cold, aristocratic rogue Matthew falls for his angelic nurse Jane, whom he can’t see because his eyes are bandaged. Their attraction is palpable and mutual. But when they meet outside the hospital he doesn’t recognize her, which hurts her. Thrown together by faith at a wedding as maid of honor and best man they get reacquainted and the truth gets revealed soon. His dark past and her upbringing are interfering with their blooming love and they seem unable to be together long term.

My opinion in short:
Charlotte Featherstone won me over on a topic and a genre I’m usually not too thrilled about (virginity and historical romance). More than won me over, in fact. She made me love her book, her hero and her heroine and their unconventional, heart-wrenching romance. I absolutely loved it all and I devoured Sinful like chocolate. Ms. Featherstone’s beautiful, rhythmic sentences seduced me to keep reading after I managed to overcome my initial reluctance and finally started this compelling, erotic, overwhelming, emotional novel. Against all odds I can only highly recommend Sinful to everyone who hasn’t tried it yet.

~~~~~
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 of 3 flames
~~~~~

What’s more to know about this book:
Characters
Only in a historical romance I accept the heroine to be a plain virgin and the hero to be a cold-hearted, jaded rake. Besides, these descriptions don’t do much justice to the H/h in this novel, because they are so much more than that. They are round characters that show some significant development throughout the story. What I liked most about this couple is that they brought each other’s better characteristics to the surface and that they had a certain influence on the other person’s growth as a person. They complement each other in the best way, even though they seem a mismatch at first sight. I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the strong development of characterization that Ms. Featherstone pulled off in Sinful.
POV
We switch from time to time from Matthew’s point of view to Jane’s, both told in third person. As readers we have more information than the protags at some points in the story. This fits the story well and increases the understanding for the main characters.
Plot
The plot takes us from a slow beginning, in which we get introduced to the hero and heroine in separate chapters, to an erotic meeting of the H/h. After that they go their separate ways again and we have to wait patiently for a reunion which is not all about revived passion at all. Tension and anticipation plays a big part in the story arc here, and then finally the recognition and the advancing of their relationship. Twists and turns propel the story in a faster pace than before, to slow the blooming romance down again towards the end. Emotional tension kept my eyes glued to the pages at this point and I felt wrenched as the story continued towards an ending that couldn’t be that happy, or could it? Emotional roller coaster can’t begin to describe what the author was putting me through at this point in the plot. And finally, the ending, that I dreaded a bit, was there. I sighed with relief, although not traditional, Matthew and Jane get their HEA. Thank goodness!
In short: the plot changes pace a few times, to accelerate and slow down at the right moments to keep me fascinated and compelled. And right before the finishing line I’m in fear and all tensed up, to end up relaxed after all.
Btw, there’s an epilogue that’s not in the book, but available at the author’s website. It’s for those who want a more traditional HEA. To be honest, it didn’t add much to the story and I could’ve done without, but it provides those who like that with a nice satisfying ending.
Smexing
M/F. The sexual encounters between Matthew and Jane in the hospital are bold and very erotic without them going all the way. Although Jane is a virgin she’s prepared to give it up for Matthew, before the big misunderstanding that is. From there on their sexual encounters are more restrained but still very steamy. The moment Jane loses her virginity becomes very significant. I have to admit that, as a modern woman, I don’t care much for this trope, but I have to give Ms. Featherstone a lot of credit for making me so much invested in the story by then, that I didn’t feel a shred of dislike at all. The love scenes until that point were perhaps even hotter than the ones after that significant moment when emotions become more important.
Writing style
Well, the writing of this book is definitely the strongest quality of it. It’s beautifully written and made me want to get lost in the sentences. It’s illustrative, sensitive, erotic and poetic. Rhythmic sentences like this drew me unavoidably in: “Her gaze fixed on his chest, watching how slowly his chest rose and fell. She allowed her hands to traverse the width of his torso under the pretence of counting his respirations. She heard the breath enter his lungs, felt his heart beating slow and steady against her palm. Saw his lips part as the air escaped through them.” (p.39)

Favorite scene/quote:
I enjoyed the different scenes with the black (and white) swan, that - because of the obvious comparison with Matthew (and Jane) - seemed to foreshadow the events. In the quote I choose, Jane sees the swans for the first time. The other scenes in which the swans appear, are sadder.

A white swan swam beside a black one. The black one was obviously the male, for it never left the white one’s side, and every time a rumble of thunder would roll, he would swim closer, directing her to the bank. Jane had never seen a black swan before. There was a quiet beauty to the creature. A sadness, too, she felt, as she watched the pair swim beneath the bridge. They were mismatched, yet they seem to suit one another as they floated atop the water. (p. 196)

Linking:
Charlotte Featherstone’s website | blog | on Goodreads
Buy Sinful here
Read an excerpt here

The books in this series:
# 1: Addicted (Anais and Lindsay’s story)
# 2: Sinful (Jane and Matthew’s story)
# 2.5: Sinful: epilogue (You’ll receive the epilogue for free when you describe to Charlotte Featherstone’s newsletter here)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gotta Love Historicals Week: Review of Jungle Heat by Bonnie Dee



Bonnie Dee
Jungle Heat
Carina Press, 2010

Backblurb:
Congo Free State, 1880, a mission deep in the jungle, Oxford anthropologist James Litchfield comes face-to-face with a local legend: a wild man who wanders with mountain gorillas and lives as one of their own. The chance encounter with the savage, whom James calls Michael, leads to a game of observation and exploration. Their mutual curiosity turns to an attraction—one that Michael has never experienced and James is desperate to deny. When members of the expedition unearth James's secret discovery—a living specimen of man at his most primitive—Michael becomes a pawn in their quest for fame. As their relationship deepens, James is compelled to protect Michael from the academics who would treat him as nothing more than a scientific acquisition and London society, which threatens to destroy their passionate bond...

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, Historical Romance, Expedition, Anthropology, Savage, Africa/London/Scotland

Why I read it:
I received an ARC from the Publisher, through NetGalley

Storyline:
While on an anthropological expedition in the jungle of Africa, James is saved from a leopard by a savage man. The man turns out to be living among the mountain gorillas. James succeeds in winning his trust and calls him Michael. They develop a friendship and explore their physical attraction until James’ colleagues learn about Michael too, James becomes seriously ill and Michael is captured. The group ships back to England and takes Michael with them, treating him as an animal. Recovered from his illness, James fights for recognition of Michael’s humanity and continues this fight back in London, while he and Michael have to conceal their blooming love.

My opinion in short:
I loved this M/M version of Tarzan. The premise intrigued me but could’ve easily turned into a ridiculous story if not handled carefully. Ms. Dee made it into a unique story that remains erect. The image of Tarzan never popped into my head while reading this book, because the heroes are refreshing, likeable, well developed, three dimensional characters. They have a beautiful and genuine chemistry that had a great appeal. The historical setting, which is not really my favorite, added in this case to the internal conflict of the relationship. I felt involved with James and Michael, from the first to the last page, even at those moments when I wasn’t reading in Jungle Heat. I can highly recommend this novel, especially to those who are willing to take an exotic journey with two sexy and sweet men from the 19th century.

~~~~~
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 of 3 flames
~~~~~

What’s more to know about this book:
Characters
Both main characters were very refreshing and quite unique compared to those I’ve read about in the m/m genre so far. Now, these are not necessarily qualities I look for in my romance characters, but I found both James and Michael rather interesting personalities to spend some time with. They could’ve easily become caricatures because of the Tarzan-like plot and setting, but thank goodness they had way more depth and substance than that.
James is endearing because of his primness - formed by the social rules of his time - and, on paradoxically, his passion for Michael and his cause. Aside from that he worries about how genuinely Michael’s attraction and feelings for him can be: he’s sure Michael will realize he’s not gay once he sees the first woman. Michael on the other hand has none of those worries. He has no shame or sexual awareness beyond his own feelings, and no social pressure. He doesn’t understand why he can’t show his feelings and he feels conflicted by James’ behavior in public. This relational conflict, which is based on their very different backgrounds and social awareness, is portrayed very well by the author. This compelling romance thrives on that conflict and it’s what keeps me as a reader invested in both protagonists due to the way the author handled it.
POV
The story is told in third person from both men’s point of view, alternating from one to the other. Michael’s POV is, especially in the beginning when he’s still more primitive, rather interesting. It’s easy to pick on little errors as Michael knowing things he couldn’t know, like his own eye color in the next sentence: “He needed to look into those eyes again – eyes as blue as the sky, as blue as his own.” But I choose to focus on the uniqueness of Michael’s intriguing perspective, and maybe it was my mistake to read this type of examples as his own thoughts (although they felt that way rather than an omniscient narrator’s).
With only a little suspension of disbelief regarding Michael’s POV, the choice for the alternating perspectives worked perfectly in this story, since the characters come from such different worlds, literally. It was an intriguing journey into those opposite men’s thoughts and feelings and it resulted in a wonderful exploration of their relationship.
Plot
The plot is well developed and rich of unexpected twists and turns. It’s not completely set in the jungle (where the story has a more universal feel to it) but also partly in 19th century London and Scotland and on a ship (where the historical time period has more influence on the relationship). The developing romance between the two protags is the main focus of the plot, but not without them having to deal with threats from other people and society. Luckily they also have people in their team with whom they can fight against the enemy’s team, literally and figuratively. So, there’s enough conflict (from within as well as from outside the relationship) to bring suspense to the story. The ending was happy and satisfying, although I didn’t care too much about the last chapter in which we got treated to a look in the future where James and Michael continued their HEA, it was a bit too sweet for my taste. But it gave the story a nice round closure.
Smexing
M/M. The sex scenes are very erotic. Especially when the heroes are still in the exploring phase of their physical attraction, the sexual tension is very tangible. After that phase, tenderness and emotions become more and more part of their love making. Then the sex scenes, still hot and explicit, support their growing connection and show their love.
Writing style
Ms. Dee’s writing is lucid and expressive. I didn’t have to make much of an effort to picture the setting or situation in which the characters were. The short sentences were descriptive and clear enough to make an image of the events without having to reread parts of the scenes. I enjoyed it very much that she wrote this story mainly from within both heroes, which helped to see the depth of the characters.

Favorite scene/quote:
The scene where Michael allows James to touch him for the first time (to see to his wound). This is from Michael’s POV, he’s Odd One, and he has named James Sky Eyes:

To have this foreign creature touch his skin was beyond description. Powerful warmth shot through him, filling him with heat like sunlight. His cock, which had been growing steadily harder from the nearness of the stranger, began to ache, and he wanted to reach out and touch Sky Eyes in return. He needed to know what his brown hair felt like, to stroke his fingers over smooth skin instead of fur. He wanted to see the stranger stripped bare of the layers he wore on top of his skin.
Odd One held still while the stranger smeared the sweet-smelling stuff on his wound. The area was sore, especially when Sky Eyes pressed against it, but he didn’t care. He whimpered in pleasure and submitted to the tender touch.

Linking:
Bonnie Dee’s website | Yahoo group | on Goodreads
Buy Jungle Heat here
Read an excerpt here

Other books by Bonnie Dee that look interesting to me:
Seducing Stephen - A jaded rake and a student tumble into bed and into love.
The Gentleman and the Rogue - Lad from the streets meets lord of the manor.
Star Flyer - Two men on a trajectory for an explosive collision.
Hearts Afire: January - Hot firemen and the men who love them.
Undeniable Magnetism - Magnetism draws them together, but only love can forge a bond.
Cage Match - A prince of industry, an imprisoned gladiator -- Cinderella just got hotter.

A complete list of Bonnie Dee’s books (M/M, M/F, Historical, Paranormal, Contomporary) can be found here

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mondays Hot Couple & Gotta Love Historicals Week


While I was a good girl last weekend and wrote my reviews for this coming week, I discovered that I read a few historical romances (both m/f and m/m) recently that I totally loved and devoured. This is note-worthy since I always and anywhere tell people that I don’t really like this genre. Hmmpf, time to stop doing that, I’d say. And to make it even better I declared this week the ‘Gotta Love Historicals’ Week at my blog.


Here’s what you can expect the coming days:

Monday: the weekly smutty scene from Lover’s Knots by Katherine Cross (already posted below)
Tuesday: a review of Jungle Heat by Bonnie Dee (m/m)
Wednesday: a review of Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone (m/f)
Thursday: a review of Ava March’s Bound-series (m/m, bdsm)
Friday: the weekly Happy Gay Friday cookie and other stuff

What about you? Do you like the historical romance genre? Have you read any good historicals that you can highly recommend? I’d love to hear all of it!

Happy Monday!

Gotta Love Historicals Week: Monday’s Sexy, Smutty Scene



Today’s sexy scene is from the historical m/m romance Lover’s Knots by Katherine Cross. This was one of the first historical gay romances I read and it blew me away at that time. I don’t know if it will still enthrall me as much as it did back then, but looking for a sexy, smutty scene for today’s post, made me think it would. I devoured the next scene at the beginning of the book. It’s rather long so you can see for yourself what I loved about it. Enjoy!



Daniel didn’t stand, his eyes fixed on Andrew’s face even as his hands continued to work, looping and knotting the rope into a double hitch with graceful twists of his fingers.
“What are you doing, Mr. Barret?” Andrew asked, setting aside his bicorn on a convenient crate. The light shifted around them as the ship moved, lantern swaying on one of many rough-hewn wooden posts. The rope had been twisted into a series of two loops, he saw, one connected to the other by a straight, knot-enforced strand.
“Making ready for you.”
Andrew barely had time to register movement. With no warning, almost too fast to be believed, Daniel straightened and pushed forward. He drove Andrew back a full three steps, larger body pressing tight against his. Andrew hit a beam with a startled yell, sound cut off by the sudden press of Daniel’s hot, insistent mouth. Andrew struggled against the muscled chest, shoving ineffectually as he was penned in.
Trapped as Daniel’s mouth glided over his again and again.
Body rapidly heating, Andrew lifted his face to the shockingly intimate kiss and gradually ceased fighting. He moaned, lips parting, and melted back against worn wood when Daniel’s tongue stroked into his mouth, hot and slick and curious.
I should push him away, Andrew thought even as he instinctively parted his lips. His hands lifted, cupping the other man’s elbows before sliding up his arms to his broad, muscled shoulders. Andrew squeezed his fingers into blue wool convulsively, head tilted back as Daniel teased and tested and explored his mouth with quick, darting licks of his agile tongue. Oh, oh God.
Body humming with growing arousal, blood rushing dizzily beneath the skin, Andrew gave in and arched into the measured assault. Daniel’s body fit perfectly against his, wide chest hemming him in, hips moving against his own. He jerked at the first hot thrust of Daniel’s erection and twisted blindly, rubbing against him with a low, needy moan.
This is madness, he thought, hands sliding up into Daniel’s hair. Then, I hadn’t even realized he wanted me too. He unwound the leather cord binding back Daniel’s queue and twisted his fingers in thick golden-brown strands. It was softer than he had always imagined, loose curls twining about his fingers as he tried to pull Daniel closer. He fed off Daniel’s mouth hungrily, lips wrapping around his thrusting tongue. Emboldened, Andrew sucked hard, swallowing the low hiss and answering with one of his own as strong hands gripped his hips.
Andrew shuddered, arousal pounding through him in sharp, throbbing bursts. His cock ached, straining against the fabric of his breeches. Andrew shifted his hips and both men moaned when their erections ground together through layers of cloth.
“Daniel,” Andrew whispered, breaking the kiss. His head dropped back against the post and his chest rose and fell with each rapid breath. “This is insane. If we were to be found out—”
Daniel lifted a hand and pressed two fingers to Andrew’s mouth. He leaned in, breath hot, and kissed his temple. “Shh,” he murmured as he tongued a path below Andrew’s ear then down to the stiff collar of his jacket. Andrew dropped his hands, palms rubbing over Daniel’s chest in reluctant encouragement.
Calloused fingers hooked, pressing past Andrew’s parted lips and sliding deep. Andrew could taste salt—the ever-present sea. He shuddered and opened himself up to Daniel, licking the pads of his fingers as Daniel gently fucked them into his mouth.
Daniel’s voice was low and deep when he whispered into Andrew’s skin, “We won’t be found out. There’s no one here to witness this.” Teeth raked over the curve of Andrew’s jaw and he groaned, sound muffled by Daniel’s fingers. “I have wanted you,” the other man murmured. “I couldn’t wait anymore.”
Yes, he wanted to say, tugging at the closures of Daniel’s jacket. Andrew flicked his tongue out, teasing the crease between fingers as he rocked their erections together. The feel of Daniel’s hard cock against his was like nothing he had ever imagined. He wanted more—he wanted skin to skin. Andrew made a low, pleading sound in the back of his throat as Daniel slipped his fingers from Andrew’s mouth. He arched his neck, biting at the pad of Daniel’s thumb as he moved his hips in an unpracticed circle. He was slick from pre-come. Sweat dotted his forehead and trickled between his shoulder blades as they moved together in the ship’s oppressive hold.
“I want you,” Andrew began, licking his lips. Daniel reached down, movements hidden, but Andrew didn’t care what he was doing so long as he didn’t leave. “I want you,” he said again, reaching up to cup Daniel’s jaw. The light stubble scraped his palms like frayed rope. He wondered how it would feel against his body and his cock jerked hard at the thought. Andrew bit his lower lip, eyes locked with Daniel’s. He knew those eyes. He knew this man. They’d been stationed together aboard the Charon for more than four years.
Fifty-one months. It’s a long time to love from afar.
Andrew’s fingers curled around the square of Daniel’s jaw, forcing the other man to focus on him. The creak of wood, the crash of the sea, the distant voices calling far above them—none of it touched them. Not even thought of the Articles of War and what would happen should they be caught distracted Andrew from his study of those beautiful, familiar eyes. “I want you to—” he began, but Daniel cut him off with a sudden, whisper-soft kiss.
“Yes,” he murmured against Andrew’s lips, tongue snaking out to tease the crease of his mouth. Andrew opened wide for him, encouraging. Heat flared low in his belly, licking through his body in waves, but Daniel kept the kiss light. He caught Andrew’s bottom lip between his teeth and tugged gently. He reached up, tongue curling and slipping inside Andrew’s mouth for brief, maddening licks as he wrapped his fingers around Andrew’s wrists. Slowly he brought their hands down, deepening the kiss by degrees.
Andrew tangled their tongues together with a gasp. He closed his eyes as Daniel stroked along the underside of his tongue before sucking it into his mouth. The sharp sting of teeth traveled straight to his cock and he jerked, allowing Daniel to urge his arms down and back. His toes curled and his erection throbbed. Everything was focused on Daniel’s lips, Daniel’s teeth, Daniel’s tongue, Daniel’s thigh sliding between his legs and rocking against his jerking cock.
Which is why Andrew didn’t realize his hands had been tied until Daniel stepped away from him, lips swollen and eyes dancing.
“What—” Andrew began, trying to reach for him. His hands caught, the sudden pressure of rope making its way through his fogged senses. He frowned in confusion, twisting his neck to see around the support beam he was pressed against. The rope Daniel had been twining into a pair of attached loops had been fastened around his wrists, fitted snugly.
Andrew looked up at Daniel, confused and briefly alarmed. “What are you doing?” he asked, the question almost lost as the ship pitched and waves crashed outside the curved wooden walls.
Daniel leaned in to kiss him, one hand pressed over Andrew’s heart as he nibbled on his lower lip. “I want you to trust me,” he murmured, fingers shifting as if feeling out the racing beats. His other hand slid down, palm resting against the outline of Andrew’s erection.
Daniel!” he hissed, eyes going wide. He flexed his fingers, struggling against the rope, and rocked his hips up. When Daniel pressed down his palm, rubbing against the hard line of his cock, Andrew dropped his head back and moaned, heat washing through him in a nearly painful wave.


Katherine Cross on Goodreads
Buy Lover’s Knots here

Backblurb Lover’s Knots:
Third Lieutenant Andrew Clayton wanted senior officer Daniel Barret from the moment they first met. Something about the charismatic man with the scarred knuckles and street-tough voice heats Andrew’s blood and makes his body ache. He’d give up everything for just one taste of the forbidden—his position in Society, his commission…even his life.
Daniel’s sure he’s losing his mind. Nothing else could explain his obsession with noble-born Andrew or his constant desire to spread him across the wardroom table and mark his fair skin. In His Majesty’s Royal Navy, the punishment for their love is death. One misstep could have them both at the end of a hangman’s noose.
But everything changes when they’re granted an unexpected leave. Far from the captain’s watchful eye, Daniel agrees to one week—seven days to explore each other’s bodies, to let four years of suppressed desire consume them—before they must return to their ship and the way things were. But some passions can’t be tamed once unleashed, and some dangers are worth the risk.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Gay & Follow Friday


Today it’s not only Happy Gay Friday at my place but also Happy Follow Friday. Follow My Book Blog Friday seems a fun way to discover other book blogs and make new blogger friends. It’s hosted by Parajunkee. I've never participated in anything like this before, but I thought 'why not?'.




To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:

• Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
• Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
• Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
• Follow Follow Follow as many as you can
• If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
• If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review of a very graphic novel: Black Wade by Franze & Andaerle



Franze & Andaerle
Black Wade: The Wild Side of Love
Bruno Gmunder Verlag, August 2009

Genre & Keywords: M/M, graphic novel, erotica, pirates, rape

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 3 out of 3 flames

Backblurb:
The rough and merciless pirate Black Wade and his band are the scare of the seven seas. And just like his greed for gold is insatiable, his sexual craving knows no boundaries as well: When they board a British ship, Wade takes Lieutenant Jack Wilkins as a prisoner to satisfy his lust. At first Wilkins struggles with all his might, but soon he has to acknowledge that he actually has pleasure in the eager sexual encounters with the handsome pirate. In the meantime his fiancée Annabeth is waiting wistfully for the return of Jack, not knowing if he’s still alive. And on the pirate ship emotions are running high as well: Buccaneer Marak keeps a jealous watch over the prisoner Jack. He would love to polish Wade’s gun barrel himself. Due to the rising nervousness Wade realizes that he cannot allow himself the tender feelings he begins to have for Jack. To prove how merciless he is, he maroons Jack on a raft and relinquishes him to the forces of the wide ocean. But that’s nowhere near the end of the story…

Black Wade website
Buy Black Wade here

Why I read this book:
When one wicked woman blogged about it, another wicked woman bought the book and offered to send it to me after she read it. Thank you KC and Leontine! *click at their names for their posts on Black Wade*


Ohmyohmyohmy! Reading Black Wade is a completely unique and hot experience!

But I’m a bit at a loss here how to review this sexy, exciting and beautiful graphic novel. Because, when I look at it pure plot-wise, like I’m used to do mainly with regular romance novels, it’s not much of a story. It’s rather schematic and predictable. It has a nonconsensual beginning which would’ve put me off in any other story, but in this case the drawings drew me in again. The twists and turns that bring the love couple together, split them up and bring them together again seem artificial. And the emotional level of the protags’ feelings seem rather superficial. I missed the depth that I usually get from the descriptions in a regular novel.

Well, looking at Black Wade pure plot-wise and on a textual level doesn’t do the book any justice, that’s for sure!

I learned very quickly that the drawings are much more important than I initially gave them credit for (duhuh!). Looking more intense at the pictures learned that I could ‘read’ much more from them than from the little text balloons. They are not mere illustrations that accompany the story, no, they are telling a big part of the story themselves. Where I was at first more focused on the explicit sexual pictures, that are gorgeous *ahum*, at second glance the other pictures were extremely artistic too!
One of my favorite scenes is this tender, though rough, moment:

*click the picture to enlarge*

Wade’s sexy crudeness and Jack’s shy submissiveness are captured beautifully in word and image here.

I wish I could ‘quote’ the complete book, to show you its great and varying artwork, but alas you better get yourself a copy to enjoy its full potential. It’s worth the money, although it seems a lot for 80 pages.
I’m browsing through the book one more time before I return it to Leontine, but I think I’ll be missing it within a few days and I’ll have to get my own copy. As soon as I’ve found a good hiding place for it...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review of Captured by Julia Rachel Barrett



Julia Rachel Barrett
Captured
Sirene Publishing, 2010

Backblurb:
Mari never expects to find herself in a cage in a cargo hold on a spaceship. She quickly learns from her captors she's headed to the meat market. When they try to return her to hypersleep, she resists. After allowing her to stay awake, Mari realizes her survival depends on connecting with the male in charge, Ekkatt. She must make him see her as a sentient being or she will end up as dinner.
Ekkatt has never spoken to any human. They are valued for one thing, the money they bring at auction. The Attun race is vegetarian, but other species prize human flesh and bring in good money. Then the female with red hair speaks to him and forces him to admit she has a name. Mari throws Ekkatt's entire life into question, the biggest question...can he watch her sold to the highest bidder?

Genre & Keywords:
SciFi Romance, violence, kidnapping of humans, survival

Why I read it:
The author sent me the book as a present to cheer me up

Storyline:
A woman bonds with one of her male kidnappers who’s from another planet and never knew much about her race before. Mari shows Ekkatt that humans are sentient beings like him. She surprises him in more than one way and she on the other hand learns to see his softer, kind side. Together they run from the authorities of Ekkatt’s planet while they fall softly for each other.

My opinion in short:
I’ve hardly read any SciFi romances, but the ones I read I liked. Captured included. Mari’s and Ekkatt’s story drew me in like a moth to a candle. I was eager to learn more about this other world and Ekkatt’s and Mari’s romance was very addictive. I enjoyed switching from her to his perspective and thoughts from time to time so I could equally sympathize with both protags. All in all, Captured was a surprisingly believable, sweet love story that I adored. When all SciFi romances are written as well and convincingly as Julia Barrett's Captured, I might have discovered a new love.

~~~~~
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2 out of 3 flames
~~~~~

What’s more to know about this book:
Characters
Mari is a feisty, smart and witty woman. I like how her survival mode kicks in and brings out her good qualities. She seems delicate and breakable to Ekkatt but she is very strong in fact. On top of that she has a good sense of humor and never complains. No wonder Ekkatt is at first intrigued and later totally smitten with her. She’s almost too perfect, but I loved her. Ekkatt is something else, he’s not human, does look a bit cat-like with his yellow eyes, and is huge. At first he doesn’t seem to be nice at all, but from the moment he risks his own life to save Mari he stole my heart. He’s a fun character because he doesn’t react as expected in a lot of situations and in the conversations with Mari. They make a sweet love couple that I would love to read more about.
I think Ms. Barrett is working on a sequel, but that'll tell Ekkatt's brother's story. I'm hoping we'll get a glimpse of Mari and Ekkatt as well.
POV
The story is told in third person, alternated from Mari’s and Ekkatt’s point of view. This suits this story well. It makes both characters three dimensional and easy to empathize with, which is not unimportant when you’re dealing with an alien. ;)
Plot
The plot is well developed and takes us from a dangerous situation, via some suspenseful moments to a happy ending, in the right pace. There are no annoying time gaps or huge jumps and all is told in chronological order. The world building is done gradually, nothing too overwhelming, but very convincing. And although a few questions remain unanswered, everything is totally credible, within the frame of the story. New developments and little twists and turns keep you reading until you’ve finished the book. The ending was maybe a bit abrupt, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I didn't want to say goodbye to this couple yet.
Smexing
M/F. Human female and alien male, with a different but comparable anatomy. I was curious as hell how that would work out. But I had to wait, their attraction wasn't rushed and anticipation was built. Eventually they had really steamy sex and although Ekkatt turned out to be huge in every department, it did fit! Thank heavens that this difference in anatomy didn’t become cheap or putrid at all, because it easily could have. The smexy scenes were hot as well as tender and showed the H/h growing love.
Writing style
It’s vivid and a nice variation of descriptions, thoughts and dialogues. It shows a good sense of humor and renders the characters feelings in all depth. Ms. Barrett’s writing kept me cleverly invested in her hero and heroine and produced an enjoyable suspense which kept me reading and reading. Her dialogues are witty and made me laugh out loud more than once.

Favorite scene/quote:
I enjoyed Ekkatt’s process of realizing that the leaders of his planet are not necessarily to be trusted. Their laws mean nothing to him anymore when he discovers they are based on false assumptions of the human kind. The next quote says it all:

“He’d come to enjoy the sensation of her beneath his fingers. He’d found pleasure in the silk of her hair, and he’d taken comfort in the smoothness of her skin. Ekkatt knew his own religious leaders would call such feelings a sin against nature. Their opinion on the subject had come to matter nothing to him. The little human, on the other hand, had come to matter a great deal.”

Linking:
Julia Barrett’s website | on Goodreads
Buy Captured here

Other books by Julia Rachel Barrett:
- Beauty and the Feast
- My Everything

PS: Julia posted about her new SciFi series, Daughters of Persephone, at her blog yesterday. The first two books will be released in July and I look forward to them. You can read an excerpt at Julia's place here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review of Oleander House by Ally Blue




Ally Blue
Oleander House
Samhain Publishing, 2006

Series:
Bay City Paranormal Investigations, book 1.
So far there are 7 books, with each a new investigation, but Sam and Bo’s love story continues and is the focus in the first 5 books.

Backblurb:
When Sam Raintree goes to work for Bay City Paranormal Investigations, he expects his quiet life to change-he doesn't expect to put his life and sanity on the line, or to fall for a man he can never have. Book One in the Bay City Paranormal Investigation series. Sam Raintree has never been normal. All his life, he's experienced things he can't explain. Things that have colored his view of the world and of himself. So taking a job as a paranormal investigator seems like a perfect fit. His new co-workers, he figures, don't have to know he's gay. When Sam arrives at Oleander House, the site of his first assignment with Bay City Paranormal Investigations, nothing is what he expected. The repetitive yet exciting work, the unusual and violent history of the house, the intensely erotic and terrifying dreams which plague his sleep. But the most unexpected thing is Dr. Bo Broussard, the group's leader. From the moment they meet, Sam is strongly attracted to his intelligent, alluring boss. It doesn't take Sam long to figure out that although Bo has led a heterosexual life, he is very much in the closet, and wants Sam as badly as Sam wants him. As the investigation of Oleander House progresses and paranormal events in the house escalate, Sam and Bo circle warily around their mutual attraction, until a single night of bloodshed and revelation changes their lives forever.

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, paranormal, Gay For You, ghost hunting, supernatural dimensions, violence

Why I read it:
Chris @ Stumbling over Chaos recommended this series to me

Storyline:
Sam joins the team of Bay City Paranormal Investigations, which is led by Bo. There’s an attraction between the two men but Bo is married with children. The team investigates a haunted house. While they discover dangerous supernatural dimensions Sam and Bo struggle with their mutual attraction and feelings.

My opinion in short:
This book had me on the edge of my seat during the complete second half. It has thriller elements as well as a blooming sweet gay for you romance. It’s well written, has likeable main and secondary characters and is a promising start of a series. I liked the angle of investigating the supernatural, instead of (one of) the characters being a vampire, shifter, demon, angel or any other paranormal being. I highly recommend this series.

~~~~~
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2 out of 3 flames
~~~~~

What’s more to know about this book:
Characters
Sam is a likeable protagonist: open, vulnerable, honest, sexy, caring and forgiving. His frustration and anger are tangible and understandable. Bo is the main cause of his frustration and anger because he refuses to admit his gay feelings. I would’ve loved to smack Bo with something on the head to beat some sense into him (and this urge only grew stronger in the next books of the series). The rest of the team members are nice supporting actors who are interesting enough without them stealing Sam and Bo’s show.
POV
The story is told in third person from Sam’s point of view, which works perfectly for this first book, with him being the newby in the investigation team. The reader has to guess along with him, not only about the investigation but also about the other team members, their relationships and feelings (especially Bo’s).
Plot
The plot is the strongest feature of this book, it’s well developed, fast paced and full of suspense that keeps you at the edge of your seat, especially during the second half of the book, when the supernatural danger is manifesting itself more and more. The build-up is dosed perfectly.
Smexing
M/M. There are not that many smexy scenes (when you don’t count the hot dreams Sam has) but the few sexual encounters between Sam and Bo are pretty scorching and well written. They are cleverly related to the paranormal story line as well. In this book the sex scenes add something meaningful to not only the developing romance between Sam and Bo, but also to Sam’s unfolding paranormal abilities, due to his vulnerability in those scenes (cryptic, huh?).
Writing style
Pleasant, doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, which is good because it never pulls you out of the story. The dialogues are nice and numerous. The descriptions of the surroundings and situations are vigorous and easy to picture. I enjoyed Ms. Blue’s writing.

Favorite scene/quote:
The scene where the other team members find out Sam is gay and the way they (especially Andre and David) handle it:

““Yeah,” Sam answered. “Sorry I didn’t tell you before. It just didn’t seem important.”
“It’s not.” Andre clapped him on the back. “Whatever floats your boat, man.”
“Just don’t stare at my ass.” David grinned over his shoulder. “I get as much of that as I can stand from Andre.”
“You wish,” Andre said, and swatted David’s rear.
David yelped and danced out of reach when Andre lifted his arm for another swing. “See?” he exclaimed. “The guy’s totally gay for me. He can’t get enough of my manly sexiness.”
David wiggled his butt invitingly. Andre calmly flipped him off while Cecile giggled. Sam laughed, feeling the last of his unease drain away. In his experience, anyone who could joke so casually about it had no problem with it. He was profoundly grateful no one had mentioned his confession to Bo the evening before. He wasn’t ready for that conversation just yet.”

Linking:
Ally Blue’s website | blog | on Twitter | on Goodreads
Buy Oleander House here

The books in this series:
# 1: Oleander House (Sam and Bo, 4 stars)
# 2: What Hides Inside (Sam and Bo, 4 stars)
# 3: Twilight (Sam and Bo, 3.5 stars)
# 4: Closer (Sam and Bo, 4 stars)
# 5: An Inner Darkness (Sam and Bo, 4.5 stars)
# 6: Where The Heart Is (series-related: Dean Delapore's story, 4 stars)
# 7: Love, Like Ghosts (series-related: Adrian Broussard's story, not read yet)

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This is the first review I tried the format on that I came up with a little while ago. I would like to know what does and doesn't work for you about this review format.
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