Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review Anthology: O Come All Ye Kinky

Sarah Frantz (Editor)
O Come All Ye Kinky
Riptide Publishing, December 3, 2012 | 234 pages

Publisher’s website | Goodreads | Buy book here

Backblurb:
20% of all proceeds from O Come All Ye Kinky will be donated to the Domestic Violence Project of the National Leather Association–International.

Christmas is a time of love and joy, and the New Year is a time of renewal. But they are also times of stress and strife, family drama, pressure and heartache—a potent mix of high expectations and conflicted emotions. Add in power exchange relationships, kinky gift swaps, and unconventional love in a sometimes unforgiving world, and you have a formula for a sizzling anthology of stories that tug at your heart.


From Ava March’s forbidden Regency love among men, to Katie Porter’s scorching hot contemporary tale of two women discovering holiday happiness, everyone will find a favorite here. Pervertible toys abound: Lambda Literary Award finalist L.A. Witt’s candy cane, Jane Davitt’s wrapping paper and tape, and Alexa Snow’s Christmas candles all please and delight. Newcomer Elyan Smith and fan favorite Kim Dare both celebrate New Year’s Eve with romantic flair and kinky fireworks, while bestselling author Joey W. Hill’s poignant story of love lost and regained will lead you home.

Whatever your desires, we invite you to explore new fantasies and old with these eight kinky tales of holiday happy endings.

Genre & Keywords: M/M Romance, Contemporary, Christmas, Kinky, BDSM, D/s, New Year, Toys, Anthology, Power Play, Pain, Bondage, Seasonal Gifts

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 3 out of 3 flames
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The collection of stories brought together by Sarah Frantz in this hot anthology is a wonderful mix of various holiday themed BDSM tales, that are all inventive, original, hot, surprising and well-matched. They never get boring, because they are all very distinct despite having a lot in common. Probably because the most important thing they have in common is their high quality. It's the first time Riptide brings a holiday collection like this, but I hope it's not the last time!
Here's my take on the eight kinky stories:

Tree Topper by Jane Davitt

Blurb: Martin’s new to the scene, and his sub Stan has recently stopped taking him seriously. Their tree has floggers, clamps, and cuffs underneath it, but will they ever be used? Frustrated and confused, Martin knows it will take more than a star to guide him on his way to becoming the Dom Stan needs—but their path to happiness might be shorter than he thinks.

This was a nice opening story for the anthology. It has the right amount of kink with delicious use of wrapping paper and for such a short story it has a well developed story arc with an interesting conflict and a satisfying solution. I liked Martin and Stan together and their frustration was very tangible. It was sweet how they finally opened up to each other and the message came across loud and clear: communication and talking about your feelings is necessary for an equal relationship, no matter if it's a D/s one or not. I thought theirs was an erotic little encounter and I would've liked to have seen more of their sexual chemistry. Anyhow, I believed in their HEA.
3.75 stars


’T was the Night by Ava March

Blurb: Percival Owen yearns for the nights when he can kneel before his lover, even though no self-respecting gentleman willingly submits to another. Michael wants his first Christmas with Percy to be perfect, but is frustrated by Percy’s inability to ask for what he wants. The gift Michael offers Percy—and that Percy offers in return—is the best Percy could ever hope to receive: his will to submit.

Like with everything else I've read from Ava March, I was engrossed in this story from the first page to the last. This author has a special way to tell her stories from within, as if you're inside her characters' heads, which makes you a very close witness of everything that's happening. It's as if you experience the intensity of the character's feelings yourself. Like, in this case, Percy's insecurities and struggling and contradicting feelings about his sexual preferences on the one hand and Michael's love and patience with his lover on the other hand. It's so endearing how Michael is set to help Percy battling his reluctance to express what he wants. The scene they have is incredibly hot, one of the hottest in this entire anthology (and that says a lot!). And on top of that they have an obvious emotional connection which deserves a sweet HEA and we as a reader are left satisfied in that department as well.
4.5 stars


Fireworks by Katie Porter

Blurb: Rachel’s job is taking her to Tokyo, which means leaving behind her lover and submissive, Emma. When she summons Emma for one last hurrah on New Year’s Eve, Emma answers, hoping desperately to be able to break through her ma’am’s emotional barriers and find the spark of love among the glittering fireworks.

This is the only F/F story in this anthology and, aside from perhaps one or two F/F stories in other anthologies, I don't have much experience with reading this genre, so that should be taken into account. And to be honest, so far I haven't found the same excitement yet in reading F/F stories as I have in M/M, and this story is not an exception. Maybe it's the story, maybe it's me, but I'll try to explain why this story couldn't enthuse me very much.
Foremost, I didn't love the premise and plot line: Rachel leaving for her job to Tokyo and having one last scene with her submissive lover Emma, all the while convinced that it is best for her and Emma to end things this way. Somehow this made the sex scene they have on New Year's Eve pretty 'angry' and I thought Rachel was mostly cruel (and not in a loving bdsm way) and cold. I also didn't feel that we got much of an explanation for their emotional attachment (with their relationship being long distance), other than the match in kinky sex, for which they hooked up every now and then. That way it was difficult to feel or understand these characters and specifically Rachel's sudden and late change of mind and both their declarations of love at the end. However, I liked the writing style and inventiveness (glitter!) of this author duo and I'll definitely try one of their other titles that aren't F/F in the near future, because it made me curious enough.
2.75 stars


Candy Caning by L.A. Witt

Blurb: Nate is dreading the annual Christmas visit with his family, during which they will ignore or insult his partner and Dominant. Stephen tries hard to take Nate’s mind off the trip with the promise—and threat—of a three-foot-long candy cane. It’s a race to see if Nate’s resolve or the candy cane will shatter first.

With this fabulous Christmas story L.A. Witt proves once more why I'm such a big fan of her writing. It's one of my favorites in this collection. I absolutely adored how Stephen surprised his lover and how he succeeded in taking Nate's mind of the trip home. I can honestly say that I've never thought of candy canes in a sexual way, but wow, I'm sure I can never eat or even look at one again without thinking of this story! It's so freaking hot and adorable and sweet, it just left me all happy and sated. Nate and Stephen make a wonderful couple and I would love to read more about them in a longer story if the author ever decides to write one.
4.75 stars


Submissive Angel by Joey W. Hill

Blurb: After Robert found Ange bleeding in an alley, he employed the man in his vintage toy store as an act of charity. However, this Christmas, the eccentric young dancer will offer his thanks—and himself—to teach a brokenhearted Master how to open himself to love again.

I've enjoyed reading Joey W. Hill's D/s stories prior to this story and I'm in love with her voice. Also, her dominants are far from stereotypes and everything they do to their submissives is wickedly hot. Especially the way the subs get restrained is inventive and the emotional impact is made tangible. It's not different here. Robert and Ange have those elements all going for them. And I enjoyed them very much. However, what keeps me from rating this story higher, is the way their backstory is told and how the story has been paced. I felt as if the flow of the story was interrupted by too much pondering and looking back. Additionally, I didn't really care for the picture made by the manger introduced into the last sex scene. However, apart from these little struggles I was still entertained by this original and beautifully written story.
4 stars


Open Return by Elyan Smith

Blurb: Fifteen years ago, Zach left the small Midwestern town he grew up in, confused and scared and determined to figure out who he was. Now transformed, he’s drawn back by the memory and promise of the dominant couple he left behind. Laura and Scott are still together, and as the year draws to a close, they explore old feelings and new ones as they discover they’ve all been waiting for Zach to come home.

This is not the first transgender story I've read but its still rather a novelty for me. I liked how this is told from the point of view of Zach who left town as Hannah fifteen years ago. We learn about his feelings and thoughts and we see reactions of people through his eyes. This part is well done. Zach is back in town to reunite with Laura and Scott, a dominant couple he knows intimately from his past. It's heartwarming to see that they don't care about his gender change one way or the other. They reminiscence their past as a threesome together and end up discovering each other anew in a sexual way. Unfortunately, when the story finishes we are left with quite some questions, which confuses me about how I feel about this story. I think it packs too many different elements to make it work for me in the end: there's the transgender theme, the reunion with the former lovers (but also with his foster parents), the ménage a trois, de D/s element, the fact that Laura and Scott have children. I'm not even sure if it has a happy ending or not. It probably would've worked better a) in a full-length novel or b) when one or a few of the many elements were left out of this short story.
3 stars


Ring Out the Old and In the New by Alexa Snow

Blurb: Recovering from a mugging on the London Underground, Evan has barely left the house in weeks. His partner and Dom, Russell, finally manages to drag him outside on Christmas Eve, but it’s the surprise that Russell has waiting for him back home that helps Evan get past his trauma and remember what’s important: being on his knees for the man he loves.

Oh, this was a rather heartbreaking little story. Evan is scarred and traumatized due to a mugging during which he got sliced in the face with a knife. His Dom Russell has been very patient with him but now he wants him to go out to see some friends and to celebrate Christmas Eve together. That part of the story alone was heartwarming enough thanks to Russell's caring way, but on top of that Evan also has some serious doubts about his looks and Russell's feelings for him now that he's scarred. And being the loving Dom and lover that Russell is, he has the right answer to those doubts as well. Like most other stories in the anthology this one features an established couple with some temporary problems. It's a well-told and enjoyable story, in which nothing really stands out in a negative way.
3.75 stars


His Very Last Chance by Kim Dare

Blurb: Drew screwed up. So when his master, Kingsley, summons him on New Year’s Eve, he knows he deserves the punishment in store for him. Everything changed for Kingsley when he overheard Drew running his mouth to his friends on Boxing Day. Now, there’s only one way he can possibly ring in the New Year: starting over fresh, either with an ending or a new beginning.

Kim Dare's D/s stories always guarantee to give me a feel-good(-though-kinky) time. Her characters usually don't converse all that much, other than through body language. That's what makes misunderstandings as the one between Drew and Kingsley happen. And I love the way Dare makes her characters work through it all until a solution (and a delicious happy ending) has been reached. What did work very well for me in this story is the alternating point of view. And I liked how the scorching chemistry between them had this emotional layer added as well. As a last contribution in this anthology (also thanks to the fireworks and candles used in this story) it is a fabulous way to ring out the year and to conclude this bundle of kinky and hot stories!
4.25 stars
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