Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Written in Flesh Anthology

For many people, there's nothing hotter than a man with tattoos. He might get them to commemorate a lost loved one, celebrate an event, or just to look bad-ass, but there's no doubt the man enjoys showing off his ink. Tribal, classic black and white, or elaborate colored artwork spanning the entire back, each mark has a story, an indelible reminder of the past etched onto the human canvas with care and precision. We're showcasing four of those stories in Written in Flesh.

Key is Bound by Ink to a woman he does not—cannot—love. He runs to escape his fate, but finds Dax, another fugitive, and learns that some bonds go deeper than skin. In the heyday of the 1980's, Ian Grothe's club is about to discover the Next Big Thing, but Ian only has eyes for the lead singer. But as the band's star rises, Ian gets left behind, his hopes turning to Powder.

Then, in Helotry, Rontak is an escaped slave who wears the mark of his service beneath his skin. While on the run, he is sheltered by Tréy, an artist with a heavy secret of his own. Finally, Ellis comes to the Sui Generis Protection Agency bearing the Mark of the Familiar, magical animal tattoos granting him remarkable shapeshifting abilities. When he feels a True Bond to William, the Wardsman of the agency, he has to convince William of the truth or risk losing his sanctuary, and perhaps even his life.

All of these were great. Even Powder, which takes place in the 1980's, was a pleasant surprise.I had not expected it to be as good as it was. Ian and Arnold pull at the heartstrings as Arnold gets swept away by his success which makes the ending even better. However there were no favorites for this collection. All of these were awesome.

4½ Smooches for the Written in Flesh Anthology. You can find it here.

Carved in Flesh Anthology

People often say that the true perfection in the human form is in its imperfections. Scars are visceral reminders of a person's past, a sign of an event that can never fade. Whether it was gained in combat, a traumatic experience, or part of a ritual with a lover, scars are the ultimate labels. They leave a permanent mark on the body and spirit that, one way or another, change a person forever.

Veld is an Elf who has known for years that his mute friend Oren is spoken for; the design of scars spanning Oren's torso reminds him with every look. When Oren's vowed, Haram, is killed, Veld must not only help to prove his own innocence, but also tread carefully as he discovers Oren's Right and Haram's last request. Next, Tiocfaidh Ár Lá—"our day will come"—was the cry in Joe Colson's heart, even as he fled his beloved Ireland to hide from his sins in the States. He'd assumed his chances for love were long past when a much younger man rekindles something in him he'd thought long dead.

A near-fatal car accident leaves superstar model Ashley's face permanently scarred and his career into a tailspin. Only his lover, Will, can pull him out of his depression, provided his affection hasn't turned to Faded Love. Young Timothy has come to Larry for Scar Therapy. But Tim is seeking healing of a different kind, and Larry finds that he has his own wounds that need tending. Garvin's scars are a Gift of the Goddess, seared into his skin as a beacon to find his kidnapped love, Nyle. Rescuing him, though, may entail a deeper wound than even the Goddess would bestow. Finally, when Kanovan returns from his off-world tour, his lover Mirin finds a lover's mark he hadn't expected. Mirin must re-evaluate how much Kanovan means to him, and what he must do to make Kanovan always Sojourn Home to him.

A few of these were really romantic despite being so intense. The characters really care about each other even when taking a literal piece out of their lover when others around them might not understand. The favorites for this collection were Scar Therapy, Oren's Right, and Faded Love. These I would have liked to be longer and would have liked to read more about these pairs. There were a couple that I didn't care for all that much but over all, I enjoyed reading the stories put in this anthology.

4 Smooches for the Carved in Flesh Anthology. You can find it here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Forgotten Menagerie Anthology

A shifter leads two lives: one as a human, and one as an animal. Sometimes these lives are intertwined, and sometimes they are not, but always the shifter has to find a way to reconcile one with the other. Forgotten Menagerie reminds us that not all shifters are werewolves or werecats, despite the preponderance of them in fiction. The stories in this anthology focus on shifters with animal forms other than canine and feline, building their own mythos for these non-traditional species.

In Nuts About You, Nathan's been crushing on one of his regular Bulk Mart customers for a while now. In squirrel form, he sits on Vince's bird feeders, munching on seeds and enjoying the eye candy. Until the day Vince notices him raiding the feeder... Then, in The Greatest of These, Daniel struggles to deal with his new-found sexuality and his Catholic faith. He's already overcome the question of how otter shifters fit into God's plans, but the next step is so much harder. After all, people don't picket about otters burning in Hell. Eber's shifting in Mirrors, the Moon, and the Boy is a curse carried by his family for nearly 500 years, but he's found a sexy side to it that makes him popular at the elite club "Conquistador" in Madrid. His legendary prowess inevitably leads to questions about why he's never there on the full moon. And when he begins to explore a budding connection with young American Miguel, the stakes get even higher if Eber's secret is ever revealed.

Dobson needs his Burdens Lightened, as he has a farm that's too big for one man and has to work construction to keep it paid for. The boss's nephew, Jim, is on the crew this summer—his father's idea to sweat the gay out of him. But Jim wants Dobson, and the feeling is mutual. To the point that Dobson is about to show a part of himself to Jim that no one has ever seen and that only the right person can see. Finally, Carter is eager to sever ties with the ignorant lout who married his sister and thereby owns half of the family ranch, but the only way to do that is to beat his brother-in-law to the cattle auction. That means a trip through Dangerous Territory full of hard terrain, venomous snakes, and flash floods. Fortunately, a deal with the local shifter tribe earns Carter a guide, the stern and humorless Rani, who has his own reasons for coming along.

All of these stories were really great. I really enjoyed most of them and I would read a couple of them again. If I had to pick favorites, it would be Nuts About You and Burdens Lightened. The reactions of Nathan and Dobson when they are found out adds to their stories and makes the endings that much sweeter. Over-all this is a great collection.

4½ Smooches for the Forgotten Menagerie anthology. You can find it here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Like It Or Not Anthology

Be it forced seduction/dubious consent, non-violent intimidation, or pre-negotiated fantasy, there is something wickedly taboo about non-consensual sex, where consent is muddled. While rape is a crime of power, focusing on exerting physical control over another person, non-con is all about the gray area where verbal consent is either never given (not a 'yes', but not a 'no' either) or doesn't match the arousal and passion both parties share during the act. In Like It or Not, we push the boundaries of consent without fully breaking them.

When Connor's rent money is due and not even hooking can make up the shortfall, he really is Out of Options. So when playboy Jarrett makes him a very generous offer, he doesn't look too closely at the terms—and lives to regret it. Then, werewolf Trevor is subjected to Obedience Classes when his pack alpha becomes fed up with his rebellion. Dirk, the wolf charged with this task, though, seems more interested in claiming Trevor for himself, by any means necessary. Writer Ian Richards has to decide What It's Worth to get his story when his contact meets him in a private club. In fact, Vincenzo has no intention of letting his information go easily, if at all.

In Blindside, freshman Matt is tired of enduring the hazing by (admittedly gorgeous) upperclassman Dylan, when Dylan ups the ante significantly. And as much as Matt wants Dylan, he can't be sure the whole thing isn't one more bizarre prank. Confessor Isak must resort to Unnatural Means when he is charged with the task of forcing Sain to confess his sins of murder and witchcraft before inevitable execution. Torturing in the name of the Divine is difficult enough, but when Sain's seductive magic takes hold of him, he isn't sure it will be Sain who breaks under pressure to find release. Finally, Salting the Earth becomes Ronan's only choice when he suspects his sister has been taken by the fairies. However, this only draws the interest of ruthless King Finnbheara, who extracts a price for his cooperation that may be too high for Ronan to pay.

All of these stories were very good. The interactions between the characters were intense in all of them and even though they are pretty much non-consensual encounters, they still tug at the heart strings a bit with veiled caring. Very balanced. I can't really pick a favorite out of these six because they were all equally great. There were some slow points in Salting the Earth but it catches the reader up pretty quick. Overall, these are great stories.

4 ½ Smooches for Like It Or Not Anthology. You can find it here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Harvest: Taken by M.A. Church

In the year 2050, humanity finds out they are indeed not alone.

Massive space ships appear without warning above the capital cities of all major nations. The planet Tah'Nar is dying. Chemical warfare has reduced the once-intersexed warrior race to sterility. They need fresh DNA in order to reproduce and have an idea for a harvesting program... and so they turn to Earth.

Earth governments negotiate a lottery, and Dale Michael assumes he's safe since he's under the Harvest age limit. How wrong he is. He's illegally harvested and claimed by Tah'Narian starship captain Keyno Shou. From the moment Keyno sees Dale, he knows he must claim the spirited human male for his own. What he doesn't expect is a spitfire with a mind of his own—and a deadly disease that will require a risky procedure to cure.

This book was amazing. I really liked the entire concept of taken by aliens to help their dying race and the twist of betrayal that happens later in the book was totally unforeseen. Dale and Keyno are a great couple with passion and compatibility even though Dale fights it in the beginning. Excellent book and one that I would want to read again.

5 Smooches for The Harvest: Taken. You can find it here.

Turning the Tables Anthology

You know how the saying goes: turnabout is fair play. That means it's time for boyfriend to bend over. These four stories all feature women who might not wear the pants in the relationship, but who do take a turn wearing the cock. Whether it's the woman taking a turn receiving a blow job or otherwise taking charge in the bedroom, once you slide on a strap-on, power dynamics change. And that's just what these tales examine, with all the steamy consequences.

Zara's husband David, one of the twin heads of a premier biotech company, may not quite be what he seems. His violent history, long suppressed with a neural implant, is re-emerging in strange ways, and he—or his twin brother—may be Double Dealing with their identities. It will take cleverness, courage, and the services of a world class hacker to untangle the web of deception around the brothers Gemini. Then, is it happily ever after for William and Jenny... and her husband, Alex? Will knows he's loved, but he's still the third wheel in a married couple's household. It's up to Jenny and Alex to prove to him that his place in their hearts has the Permanency he desires.

Except for a couple of gems in the book, all together this anthology was so-so. The first story, Double Dealing, was confusing because it tried to incorporate both reality and cyberspace. The third story, Phallusy, was supposed to be like a fairy tale but to me it was a bit corny and cheesy. The second, Permanency, and last story, Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant, were the ones I liked. They had something a bit more and were totally romantic and all around enjoyable to read. The characters were believable and the stories themselves were easy to follow. I would totally read these two stories again.

3 ½ smooches for Turning the Tables Anthology. You can find it here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

All Wrapped Up Anthology

Tentacles are a taboo subject for most, something most people look at from between their fingers as they hide. But for a growing number of people, it's a subject that is fascinating and sexy! Tentacle erotica has been around for ages, fromThe Dream of the Fisherman's Wife to Demon Beast Invasion—it's a genre that is here to stay. All Wrapped Up explores this genre through the lens of gay erotic romance, offering four science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring tentacled heroes in all their wiggly glory.

The men in Ground Mission are podmates, a matched set: Simon Pollux, the lethal scout, and Adrian Lovasz, his willing and even more lethal combat specialist. In the midst of exploring an alien world, Simon is infected with an alien virus; to what lengths will Adrian go to ensure Simon's comfort? In the wood-locked town of Orm, ranger Koster meets the mysterious Irsing: the guardian of the forest. Is he the one letting the forest turn to wilds, or is the forest turning to wilds on its own? In Wildwood, Koster aims to do whatever it takes to set things right.

Eli exchanges his a life of poverty in Dark Covenant when tricked into signing a contract giving himself to the masters of the Academy. His body, his movement, his life is theirs to do with as they wish, until the enigmatic Eramus offers Eli his power—if Eli will join with him. Sebastian Reed lives on the legal limits in Situation Normal, barely scraping by in his hunk of junk ship until a Peace Officer, Ten, commandeers his ship... and his body. Not that Sebastian minds, except for wondering exactly where it is that Ten means to take him.

All in all a well put together anthology. The stories were really tasteful despite involving tentacles which for me is usually hit or miss. These for the most part, were all hits. There were a few moments in a couple of the story beginnings where I was lost but the writers brought me back to their world quickly with detail and explanations needed in a short story.

4 Smooches for the All Wrapped Up anthology. You can find it here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Hero in Their Eyes by Tracey Steinbach

Chase is an EMT and Phil is a fireman. To someone who didn't know better, they appear nothing more than best friends. To the people who know them, they’re so much more.

A major fire brings Rachel into their lives. Who knew one little art teacher could make such a big impression?

Chase and Phil find out Rachel’s up to something and vow to help her. The more they’re around her, the more ‘friendly’ they feel toward her. Do they pretend the opposite, invite her for play, attempt a relationship?

Sweet. The seduction is well written and the sex scenes are steamy. Also the steps that Rachel and the guys take to recover from the fire were awesome and brought everyone together to help. The author left me wanting more but the story was well rounded in the length the author chose. I think it’s a great addition to the series. 

4 ½ smooches for A Hero in Their Eyes. You can find it here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Prodigal Wolf by LE Franks & Sara York

Carlo has a problem, after years away he's finally returned to his South Carolina roots - but instead of peace and quiet all he's found are nosy wolves, romancing twinks, an out of control roommate threatening to expose them all, and a demanding Alpha who just won't go away.

All his Alpha wants is to show Carlo who he really is, and where he belongs. But Carlo Montefiore is a man fighting his instincts, memories, and responsibilities. His beachside home was supposed to provide sanctuary, but pack politics, unruly roommates, and human neighbors at risk of discovering that shifters exist, are making life anything but peaceful. Twinks Kevin and Grady have their own problems. Two college freshmen are no match for a couple of hot wolves who like to play chase. If they don't stop playing games they'll miss the biggest thing to happen in their young lives---love.

The story was good but it lacked focus on a single couple and seemed to lose the focus all together part way in. I would like to have seen more about Carlo and Angelo since they were the main characters in the description. While the story between Grady and Kevin was sweet and super romantic, so much was happening at the same time that it was hard to keep characters straight. The secondary story was nice, but the main story line was overshadowed and got left behind. There were a lot of unresolved issues at the end leaving me wondering where the rest of the book was. 

3 ½ smooches for Prodigal Wolf. You can find it here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two Firemen and a Lady by Tracey Steinbach

Mac loves his wife, Grace and would do anything for her. Anything includes asking their best friend, Travis over so they can seduce her. After all, they’d done it before and they had all enjoyed it. But Travis’s true feelings for the couple come to light after their night of passion. Mac is then forced to confront his own feelings for Travis.

Grace gets some startling news that puts their new relationship to the test. Can they resolve everything and get back to being happy?

When a fire threatens to destroy part of their family, they learn what family is all about.

Enjoyable and fun. Tracey has created a “complete universe” feel with her characters which makes this book even better. Several heart stopping moments also gave the book that something special that had me on the edge of my seat. The length was perfect and the story as a whole was awesome. I really liked it and look forward to seeing more in this series.

Overall 4 ½ smooches for Two Firemen and a Lady. You can find it here.