After leaving it for ages between books 1 and 2 of this series, I forged ahead quickly onto book 3. The Pirate's Game begins straight after the previoAfter leaving it for ages between books 1 and 2 of this series, I forged ahead quickly onto book 3. The Pirate's Game begins straight after the previous book. Our main characters, Charles, Madeline, Jonathan, James and Timothy (who has hitched a ride with James, sharing his body) have left the new Catal and the Zamoan women behind and are now travelling on a pirate ship, through dangerous waters, to reach the safety of The Ring where they hope to spend winter and recuperate their battle weary self before facing Bassam, the Pretender, in battle again. Things don't quite go according to plan when they are attacked by Bay pirates on the open sea. In order to protect them, Charles makes a bargain with the Sea and things don't go quite as planned. They arrive at The Ring, minus one of their number, where Timothy discovers he can harness a strange magical power and have his body back for the winter.
I said in my review of the previous book that I spent quite a lot of book 2 feeling rather confused as to what was happening, especially in the parts set in the spiritual plane. This book is much simpler with much of the Lord/Lady mythology left until right at the end of the book. Until then the story is mainly focused on the human side of the characters and follows three main plot strands. The first is that of Charles and Timothy. At the start of the book Charles is a sexual slave to James, the pirate captain and we get a small number of sex scenes with them together, most of which show something of Charles' turmoil as he tries to reconcile the two parts of him that are god and human. James could come across as unfeeling during these times, but as his role seems to be that of listener and adviser to many of the characters, and sex is often linked through that role, I actually found I liked James a great deal. Timothy lives within James and there are scenes which swap between Charles and Timothy and James. Once Timothy gets his body back, things move in a different direction for James and so the focus moves to the reunited lovers. These scenes are sensual and very romantic and I was happy that these men finally get to spend some time together.
The second plot strand involves Jonathan. I was sad that Jonathan was missing for much of book two but realised that this allowed for growth in Madeline as a character. In this book the focus turns to Jonathan, and in particular the feelings that were stirred up during his time in the temple with Timothy. Madeline leaves the story for a while and this separation allowed for development within Jonathan's character as he struggles to redefine his sexuality - something captain James is only too happy to help him with. Like the previous book there are discussions on sexual fidelity, orientation and desire which were handled in a mature and adult fashion by all the characters. I was very happy by the way this plot line worked out, although I was a little frustrated that James still remains somewhat of an enigma by the end. He seems to know exactly what to do and say to help people or allow people to work through their problems and yet, other than his feelings for Jonathan, we know so little about him.
The third plot point intertwines with the other two and is focused on the character of Elleian, one of the androghenie who has embraced a body which is both male and female. Transgender themes are explored through this character as well as allowing the reader to see a different side to the androghenie to that of Bassam. I liked Elleian a great deal and sympathised with tir's struggles to find love and acceptance free from gender constrictions.
The three plots are all explored in quite a quiet section of the book, set in The Ring. I very much enjoyed this part, mainly because for me the strengths of this series lies within the varied relationships. The book still contains exciting action sequences at the beginning and end of the book, and towards the end I found myself getting all muddled again with the mythology. The ending ties up a few loose ends, but left me with a lot of questions - in particular what has happened to the goddess and how the revelation about Jonathan will fit into future events - and I'm hoping they will be answered in further books in the series.
Overall, I liked this book better than book 2 but it didn't have the scope and breadth of book 1. I'm looking forward to the next installment where I'm hoping to see some happiness for Elleian....more
I have to admit I was a little nervous about reviewing this anthology this week because I know that I'll get to meet all the contributors face to faceI have to admit I was a little nervous about reviewing this anthology this week because I know that I'll get to meet all the contributors face to face this weekend. I have this fear that one day I shall meet an author and get punched in the nose for writing a bad review! Fortunately there will be no punching this weekend (well not as a result of this review anyway) because this anthology was absolutely marvellous.
Often when I read anthologies there's always one or two stories which miss the mark for me. However, with this one each story was very well written and worth reading. I also find that anthologies can be a bit samey but, again, that wasn't the case with this book as the stories are diverse and unique.
It's at this stage where I usually specify my favourite stories in the anthology, but that's proving to be a difficult task since I liked them all. What I particularly liked was the range of different themes and ideas to the stories as well as different tones. So those readers who like funny stories will love Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane which poked gentle fun at shifter stories, or Lost in London by Tam Ames, where a Canadian student finds the streets of London too confusing for words, or Et Tu Fishies by JL Merrow which combines a fun science fiction story with a humourous outgoing narrator in Marty. Those readers who like serious themes involving homophobia or racism will love Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black which looks at two middle aged men revisiting Whitby in an attempt to rest some ghosts, or Waiting for a Spark by Lillian Francis, which deals with blinkered views on immigration. Both of these stories manage to combine a lovely romance with the serious themes in a way that wasn't heavy-going.
I also liked the sexual diversity in the stories with two trans stories and two f/f stories in amongst the m/m. Zones by Elyan Smith tells of Lisa, a male-female transgender person, and my heart ached as she finds both suspicion and acceptance as a football mum. My Husband by Zahra Owens looked at the other side of things with Sam, a female to male transgender person, and his sweet, tender relationship with his husband, Sean, as they work through Sam's realisation that he is a man in a woman's body. F/f stories are not usually my thing, but Faulty Genes by Rebecca Cohen reminded me a great deal of Virginia Woolf, and Social Whirl by Emily Moreton was a flirty tale of two women who keep bumping into each other at weddings - a sort of lesbian Four Weddings and a Funeral, without the funeral bit :).
As well as diversity of gender there was also diversity of race, as is fitting for the UK which has a range of different ethnic groups all living together. I've already mentioned Waiting for a Spark which has a Polish main character, but there's also Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles which is a lovely friends to lovers story set in a small Chinese community in a village in Somerset, and an Egyptian character in Jordan Castillo Price's Post Mortem which is also another fun and amusing story.
I liked that there was a range of different heat levels in each story. The sexual tension is high in Clare London's cross dressing story, Dressing Down, and explosive in Anne Brooke's School for Doms (*fans face*). However, stories such as the historical Shelter from the Storms by Sandra Lindsey or the contemporary Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte concentrated more on a simmering lust with little in terms of consummation. Ideal for those readers who like a bit of everything in terms of the amount of sex in a book.
Finally, I loved the range of different locations shown in the story. Quite a few of the stories were set in London and different places in the South of England, but as I've mentioned there was one set in Whitby (with the characters originally from South Shields) and A Few Days Away by Elin Gregory is set in both Wales and France as it shows an established couple taking a short break together, and how things don't always go to plan.
Overall, this was an exciting and interesting anthology which firmly reflected British life in all its idiosyncratic ways whilst retaining a strong romantic core to all the stories. I'd highly recommend Lashings of Sauce to those who wish to have a peek into life and love in Britain....more
**spoiler alert** I’ve become rather addicted to Syd McGinley’s Dr Fell books in the last year and so when I saw this short I was interested in readin**spoiler alert** I’ve become rather addicted to Syd McGinley’s Dr Fell books in the last year and so when I saw this short I was interested in reading something by the author outside the Dr Fell world. The story is structured in two parts, both taken from the first person point of view of Cory. The first part concerns the six month ‘ownership’ of Cory by Bill and the second part looks at the period of time after the contract is over and the pair of men are trying to work through some of the issues in their relationship.
The blurb is slightly misleading, I think, because it doesn’t mention that Cory is pretrans male to female. He has agreed to be ‘owned’ for six months on the understanding that Bill will then pay for the sex change operation. Bill is gay, through and through. He’s not the slightest bit interested in women and so forces Cory to be a man for the six months they are together. The problem comes when the men fall in love. Bill knows that should Cory have the operation, Bill will no longer find him sexually desirable. In the end Cory has a choice: Either he chooses to accept himself as a cross-dressing man and keep Bill; or become a woman and lose the man he loves.
It’s a difficult choice and one that made me a little uncomfortable as a reader. I liked Cory. He’s lively and sarcastic and a bit of a woolly-headed drifter, but I sympathised both with his utter boredom of being a slave and his confusion over his feelings for Bill later in the book. It did feel a little like Bill was in control all the time, even later when the contract ended and Cory was the one who was constantly making sacrifices. Having said that, the fact that Cory is so flighty meant that his relationship with the steadier Bill worked well and I was happy with the way that the story concluded.
Despite only getting Cory’s point of view, I felt we that we find out enough about Bill to make him a well rounded character. The fact that I could see both sides of the problem, and sympathised with both men, shows that the author was successful in not allowing only Cory’s feelings to dominate the story.
There’s much more I could say about the story, such as the way the master/slave dynamic was difficult for both men; the wonderfully romantic scenes of the pair once the contract is over; and the way I liked that Bill was a great mix of stern and yet also considerate and tender to Cory. Those looking for an unusual D/s story with a romantic twist will probably like this story. I did and would recommend it....more