Woo, Jaye Valentine can always be guaranteed to write hot stuff and this was no exception. It's pure fluffy, smutty fantasy but I rather enjoyed the w...moreWoo, Jaye Valentine can always be guaranteed to write hot stuff and this was no exception. It's pure fluffy, smutty fantasy but I rather enjoyed the whole idea of an exclusive gay bordello. I also liked Grant's shy uncertainty and Jaguar's cool confidence. It's more erotica than romance but there's a hint of a HEA in Grant's future so that left me happy. A sexy read for those looking for some hot stuff but which won't tax the brain cells.(less)
I've read a Todd Gregory book before - Games Frat Boys Play - and had enjoyed it for it slightly wicked sense of humour and the clever revenge plot. W...moreI've read a Todd Gregory book before - Games Frat Boys Play - and had enjoyed it for it slightly wicked sense of humour and the clever revenge plot. When I saw this one, I thought I'd give it a go because I always find it difficult to pass up a vampire book and I knew the author could write well.
The story follows Cord (yet another example of a US first name that you would never find in the UK). He was turned into a vampire about two years ago (or maybe three, the book changes its mind about this about half way through) and has enjoyed a privileged life as his maker's favourite since then, partying it up and having lots of orgasmic gay sex with the rest of the vampire gang. When things turn sour, and Cord realises that he's only really the flavour of the month, he takes off and returns to the city where he was first turned, New Orleans. He's still relatively new at this vampire business and very naive, and this leads to Cord making a mistake which brings him to the attention of a group of Nightwatchers, a sort of vampire police force.
Whilst I overall enjoyed this book, it certainly wasn't without flaws. Much of the book hangs on how well you like Cord and I found that I did on the whole. He's only in his early 20s and that shows in his overall attitude during the book. He hasn't yet got past that slightly tiresome stage that many young people go through where they think they are the centre of everything and the whole world should cater to them. It's therefore a bit of a slap in the face for Cord to discover that actually he's just one of many pretty faces to his maker, and that once on his own he knows next to nothing about being a vampire or vampire society. Even once he learns of his own insignificance, he tries to deny it to himself. Some readers may find this annoying, but I didn't. Instead it seemed a true reflection of the sort of behaviour you get from a man of Cord's age and for the most part I went with it, especially as we see some character growth in Cord as the novel progresses.
The story isn't a romance, but an erotic paranormal. Cord has sex several times in the book and on each occasion it's the best sex he ever had, even better than the best sex he had 10 pages previously. The latter part of the book is almost exclusively devoted to a series of sex scenes and I have to admit I was suffering a little by sex fatigue at that point. All the sex is written from what I consider a very male perspective with the focus firmly on the genitals, nipple and arseholes, with a side order of muscle worship. There's nothing wrong with this type of sex, and I can think of several readers who will love the earthy descriptions and the roughness to the sexual acts that are shown in this book. However, personally I prefer a little more emotional connection in my sex scenes and so these often left me a little cold. Some of the sex borders on non-consensual and so those readers who have a strong dislike of this theme should stay away from this book.
The paranormal mystery plot itself is pure popcorn and resolved fairly easily. I liked the initial set up with Cord and the mistake he makes, but then the book takes a sudden turn and it all got a bit far fetched. Having said that, the world of the vampires and the various rules they are supposed to abide by was imaginative, as was Cord's struggles to find his way as a new vampire. Plus once we get away from the sex, the paranormal scenes are described clearly and with an eye for action. The denouement in particular was tense and gripping.
However, the biggest flaw of the book is that much of the background to the story is told in flashback. Those of you who know me will know that I don't mind the judicial use of flashback in a story, and it can be a useful tool in a narrative. In this book flashback scenes are used all the time, particularly at the beginning of the book and I was left feeling rather frustrated that we couldn't just get on with the actual story. Every time the plot progressed it was held up by further flashback scenes which had the result of slowing the narrative. This wasn't dull or boring, but it was a little tedious after a while and affected how engaged I was with the book as a whole.
Overall, as you can see I had mixed feelings about this book. The character of Cord was done well, and I even rather liked the only female character in the whole book - finding her bitchy sniping at Cord rather amusing. The rest of the characters are only sketchy and often used as willing bodies to worship at the shrine of Cord in all his loveliness, or for Cord to worship them in all their hard-muscled glory. I wasn't bored though and read the book quickly. It even looks to be perhaps the start of a series and I'll happily read further books. If you're looking for a vampire book which in no way takes itself too seriously, or a relatively entertaining sex romp with a paranormal twist, then this book may be just the ticket.(less)
Things are really hotting up in this series now. Boy oh boy are they hotting up. Some bits w...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
Things are really hotting up in this series now. Boy oh boy are they hotting up. Some bits were so hot they nearly set fire to my book reader! Unlike the previous two volumes in this series, this book has three shorts instead of two and in my opinion is the best book so far.
The first short Dark Lady was an utterly gripping thriller taken from the view of Russian mobster Sergei. he's approached by a transexual prostitute at a bar and takes her back to the safe house for him and the rest of his gang to play with. Honestly, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time with this. I knew what was coming, but the getting there was a mix of pleasurable and nerve-wracking. The main highlight though was the way that the author allows us to see the humanity in Sergei which leads to and en filled with pathos. First class.
The second short Dark Lady II was a short erotic scene between Stefano and Silvio. Like many of their scenes together this is used to incrementally move their relationship forward and worth reading for that alone.
The final story Dark Brother, gives us a true glimpse into Silvio's past as his brother Franco shows up on Silvio's doorstep fresh out of the French Foreign Legion. It's taken from Franco's point of view and we learn a lot about Silvio, their father and their background from him. I found this a most compelling story, especially in the nature of the brother's relationship which was utterly gripping. The dynamics between them shift and change and I was especially pleased to see how Franco could persuade Silvio to his point of view as a control for Silvio can only be a good thing, as well as the control that Silvio exerts over Franco. I'm very curious how Stefano will fit in with these brothers, as there were a few tense scenes where Franco and Stefano were sizing each other up. I get the impression that things are only going to get more complicated as the series continues.
Those readers who are looking for a dark, intense thriller and who are very open minded will love this book. The themes won't be to everyone's taste but I'm completely hooked and eagerly await the fourth book in this series.(less)
After an intriguing start to this series in Vol 1 (reviewed here) I was interested to see wh...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
After an intriguing start to this series in Vol 1 (reviewed here) I was interested to see where this story would take us. The previous book finished with the situation where Silvio was being sent away from his lover Gianbattista to help Stefano with his ‘Russian problem’.
Like the last book this book is made up of two shorts. The first story didn’t interest me as much as the second as it was mostly an extended phone sex scene between Silvio and Gianbattista. It was hot and sexy, but ultimately left me feeling a little cold. I could see why the story had been included because it formed a bridge between the end of the previous book and this one, plus it drew a line under the relationship between Silvio and Gianbattista, making it more than just a sexual act but imbued with feelings of regret and goodbyes. It also told us a little about Silvio, and in particular his love of danger. I wasn’t sorry to have read the story for those reasons.
The second story picks up Stefano again. He’s returning from a date night with his wife when his car is hijacked and he is kidnapped. Taken to a isolated warehouse, Stefano is given a warning by the Russians – get out of the area or die. For me this was the best story out of the pair. This author always excels when it comes to descriptions of violence and its aftermath and here we get that in visceral glory. It’s more than just a violent scene though because we see the threads of Stefano and Silvio’s relationship begin to weave and tighten. Stefano is confused about his feelings for Silvio – he loves his wife, but feels a deep attraction to Silvio. He spends a lot of time in this story assessing Silvio, trying to seek out his flaws but instead finding nothing but a growing admiration along with the desire. With Stefano’s wife out of the picture for a while, there is an opportunity for the pair to explore this attraction, although those readers who hate infidelity are not going to like this turn of events. Both men are morally corrupt, but I still liked them and I’m interested to see where further stories lead us.
Overall, whilst I didn’t like the first story as much as I did those in the previous book, the second story shows that the series is really starting to take off. We leave Stefano at a weak point – perhaps the weakest he will be. I’m looking forward to seeing what form his revenge on the Russians will take, and how he will reconcile his relationship with Silvio alongside his wife and his image as a vibrant heterosexual man.(less)
Let’s first start by saying that this collection of two short stories is not for the faint h...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
Let’s first start by saying that this collection of two short stories is not for the faint hearted! It has themes that won’t appeal to everyone. Themes such as infidelity, gun play, dub con and rough sex. If that hasn’t put you off then you’ll probably like this book.
Both stories follow the character of Stefano who’s a minor member of the ‘family’. In the first story he’s at the house of the head guy, waiting for him to die along with all the other mob members when he meets Silvio, the protege of retired mob member Gianbattista. When Silvio breaks into his room late at night, Stefano has to teach him a lesson in respecting other people’s privacy. In the second story Stefano has traveled to Italy to meet with Gianbattista in the hope that he can get some help turfing the Russians from his patch. It’s here that he meets with Silvio again.
Out of the two stories the first is a little more complete in that it could be read as a standalone, whereas the second is a sort of lead up to future stories. How well you like this book will depend on your feelings for the very amoral Stefano, who narrates the stories. He’s married and very much in love with his wife, but he also has a burning passion for Silvio which, admittedly, he tries to resist – although I get the impression his resistance is more about being in the closet, than being unfaithful to his wife. This push/pull of feelings for Silvio forms the most interesting part of both stories and despite the fact that Stefano isn’t a particularly nice man, I still warmed to him.
There’s a quality to the writing in the story which I found quite compelling, so that even during some uncomfortable scenes I wanted to read on to find how it was all going to work out. For example, gun play is not really my thing because I just don’t really see the appeal, but I was still caught up in the power play dynamics during that scene. There are three men in the room and although we are focused mainly on Stefano and Silvio, I still could feel the discomfort of the third man, Stefano’s body-guard, because the atmosphere in that scene is so rich with emotion.
The second story too plays with dynamics. Gianbattista is a dangerous man, even in retirement and the story looks at how Stefano and Silvio fit in with Gianbattista and with each other. There isn’t much that happens in the second story, but the careful dialogue and tension between the three men provided a forward thrust to the plot. In some ways this story is more about Silvio and Gianbattista than Stefano, although it’s all seen through Stefano’s eyes. It made for interesting reading to see a outsider’s views on the events within a relationship.
This is the first of a set of stories about Stefano and Silvio and I’m looking forward to seeing how these relationships develop in future books.(less)
I requested this book from Xcite because it sounded like a fun bit of erotica, and actually, yes that's what it was! It tells of Scottish flight atten...moreI requested this book from Xcite because it sounded like a fun bit of erotica, and actually, yes that's what it was! It tells of Scottish flight attendant, Cal, who has an overnight layover in Aruba where he meets Justin, the manager of the resort where Cal is staying. They hit it off and when the tail end of a hurricane means that Cal has to stay another night, the pair make the most of their time together.
This short novella had a lot of good things about it. I liked Justin and Cal but there wasn't anything which made them stand out from the ordinary. They are both nice men who have demanding jobs and who are a little bit lonely. We find out next to nothing about them other than that and a little about Cal and his ex-boyfriend. The sex scenes between Cal and Justin are hot and well written with a slight kink to them, although the number of times the word 'wank' was used made me snigger like a teenage boy. One slight question was when Justin used the word wank. He's from the USA and I didn't think they used that word over there, maybe someone can correct me on that. As this is an erotic novella, much of the story is made up of sex, but there was also a decent balance between sex/not sex in the book and so I didn't feel that it was all sex and no plot.and the HFN ending left me with a smile on my face.
The setting was unusual and I liked some of the descriptions of Aruba. I've not been there and it sounds like a very interesting place to visit.
I did have some niggles, mainly minor ones. For example Cal and Justin both make great pains to let us know that they don't sleep around and that the way they jump into to sex with each other in the first few minutes is atypical. I always find this a bit annoying in books as it's used as a sort of shorthand to signpost 'this is the one', and really it wasn't necessary. I'd rather a character behaved as they normally do, and it would have only taken a short time of them getting to know each other to make it believable that they would then want to have sex. Another niggle was that at the beginning of the story the flight crew are partying rather raucously in the bar and Justin asks them to leave saying it was late. It was only 10.30pm! I can't see a hotel manager turfing out paying customers at that time - maybe asking them to keep it down, yes, but not asking them to leave. Then Justin and Cal go skinny dipping and we are told that no-one was about because it was so late. It was still way before midnight by my reckoning so that seemed a bit wrong too as I would have expected plenty of people to be out enjoying the balmy night air at that time.
As I said these are only very minor niggles and are all from the first few pages of the book, after that the story settled and I rather enjoyed this erotic story. If you're looking for a fairly quick sexy read with a pair of amiable heroes, then this book would be a decent choice.(less)
I like JP Barnaby’s writing and was pleased to see this short at DSP. The story is a Bittersw...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews
I like JP Barnaby’s writing and was pleased to see this short at DSP. The story is a Bittersweet Dreams title so I knew I wasn’t in for a HEA, instead the ending is quite a surprise!
The story follows Kyle who, after splitting with his wife, has decided to face up to the fact that he’s at least bisexual. He’s completely failed at bars and clubs so decides to pick up a male prostitute. Jesse is that prostitute who only has sex with men for money so that he can help his sister have a better life. He’s surprised at the feelings that Kyle brings to their liaison and hopes that Kyle will become a regular client.
Those of you who are looking for a light and fluffy read may not find this story to your taste. It’s not bleak, but certainly doesn’t shy away from the realities of being a whore. There’s a closed off cynicism to Jesse which was ideal for his situation. Kyle is a good mix of embarrassment and determination. He wants his first time with a man to be a good experience, and so refuses to see it as the transaction Jesse wants it to be. The way that Jesse is at first surprised and then won over by Kyle’s attentive gentleness was the most enjoyable part of the story for me.
What worked less well was the ending. Not that it left me feeling bad, just that I wanted the story to continue. There’s scope in this story for the characters to develop and grow into something that could be a HEA and the end only whetted my appetite for what could be a longer story. I’m hoping that JP Barnaby will write more with these characters.
As it is, there’s enough characterisation and setting to provide the basis of a good story and I’d recommend Papi to those who like a touch of darkness to their romance and don’t mind a non-HEA.(less)
Confessions of a Rent Boy was one of those books I may never have read if the author hadn't sent it to me to review. The author is new to me and I'd n...moreConfessions of a Rent Boy was one of those books I may never have read if the author hadn't sent it to me to review. The author is new to me and I'd never heard of the publisher, and since I'm one of these rather conservative readers who tends to stick to the bigger league m/m publishers this book would have passed me by entirely. What a huge shame that would have been because I found this book utterly compelling.
I have to admit the title of the book led me to believe that this was going to be one of those red-hot, sex filled books where the hero loves his job as a prostitute and everything is rosy but this, thankfully, was not at all the case. Whilst the book is certainly filled with a lot of sex scenes, the subject matter is a realistic view of life as a rent boy with some of the good, bad and in between points of selling your body for a living. Having said that, this is not a bleak book, although the hero does suffer at times. This is for two reasons: The strong narrative voice of Andy and the way that the sex is used to show the better clients whilst the worst ones are glossed over a little.
The book is set in Britain, mainly London, and Andy has the voice of many typical British men. He's a bit of a lad, with a tough inner core. He's self-deprecatory with a wicked wit and humour. He's also very honest about his feelings, unapologetically so. It's this 'take me as you find me' attitude that I found very sympathetic. He's also unstable at times, mainly because whilst he's had a lot of sex in his life, he hasn't had much in terms of love and genuine affection. At times I felt so sorry for him as he struggled with loneliness and disappointment, with betrayal and unrequited love. This is then balanced by the pride he feels in his job, the act of giving of himself to provide a service to other lonely men. I also liked that he's not conventionally handsome, and even struggles with lack of confidence in his looks and body. It made him all the more human than these heroes with rippling muscles and movie star looks. The character of Andy was entirely rounded, filled with depth of emotion, realistic feelings and actions. He made me laugh, but at times I also wanted to cry.
As I said earlier there's a lot of sex in the book. However, each sex scene was used to show us something of Andy's development as a person. We see the extreme nerves he felt with his first client, the way he slowly builds up a client base, the different types of men he encounters, and even the way he gentles the nerves of a virgin. The sex scenes are all so tightly well written and sensuous, even when what is being described isn't always a positive experience. There's a freshness about the writing and Andy's feelings, especially during the sex, that lifted it beyond mere titillation and made it a part of Andy's experience.
The question for me by the end was how much of this book is a romance. There's a change in direction towards the end of the book where in a time of weakness Andy goes back to a previous lover. I wondered whether that would turn out to be the focus of the romantic core of the book, or whether he would begin a relationship with one of his clients. I'm not going to spoil things by giving too much away, but the romance is almost secondary in this book to the drama of Andy's life. The book ends on more of a promise of romance. I found this satisfying enough as my imagination supplied the rest. However, some readers may feel that they want more of a solid happy ending for Andy.
Before I conclude, I want to point out that Andy is bisexual and as such there is some m/f sex in the book. This didn't bother me because it's only briefly described but it may not appeal to all readers of m/m books. I'd urge you not to let it put you off though because you would be missing out on a great book.
Overall, I found this book to be a surprising gem. The writing is engaging, the character of Andy vivid and extremely sympathetic. I may not have heard of this author or publisher before, but I'm definitely intending to check out further books from them in the future. I highly recommend Confessions of a Rentboy with a grade of 'Excellent' to those looking for a book which is strong on character, emotion and drama. I couldn't put it down and intend reading it again very soon.(less)
Rather disappointingly there are no nubile young men in speedos in this book. Instead the bo...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
Rather disappointingly there are no nubile young men in speedos in this book. Instead the book follows Sam, a man who is dissatisfied with his relationship with his current lover John, so much so that he feels stifled. These feelings lead to him meeting up with a man he met at a music recital, Richard, which in turn leads to a period of reflection and soul searching for Sam.
This is a bit of a difficult book to pin down. It wasn’t the romance I expected it to be, which isn’t a bad thing. Instead it was a bit of a psychological journey for the main character of Sam. We are in his head for most of the book, hearing his dissatisfied thoughts about the way that John has insinuated himself into his life. The interesting shift is that what Sam thinks is happening or has happened in the past is very different to John’s views, whose head we are in for a few startling moments of the story. The twists and turns of the plot, which is mostly static and confined to Sam’s head, rather than action-filled, was a very interesting aspect of the book and made it one of the more unusual romances I’ve read for a while.
As the whole book hinges on the character of Sam, then it’s important to like him, or have a measure of sympathy for him at least. I didn’t like him at all, and that is the only reason this story gets a 3 star grade because the ideas were original and the writing good. I just couldn’t get past him total dislike for Sam, and conversely my sympathetic feelings for John. It coloured my views of the romance between Sam and Richard because I couldn’t see what Richard saw in such an objectionable man. Even when Richard tries to explain his attraction to Sam towards the end of the book, I still didn’t really get it. Perhaps the book was just too much of a psychological drama for me. Who knows.
So overall, if you want to read a romance that takes an emotionally cold and rather callous man and analyses the reasons for his behaviour in the context of a budding new relationship, then this story is for you. My reactions to Sam meant it didn’t work as well for me but other readers may like it.(less)
This book isn’t actually a romance, and nor would it be called erotica, although there is a...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
This book isn’t actually a romance, and nor would it be called erotica, although there is a very short sex scene. Instead it’s a drama about a young man, Felipe, who is beginning a two year stint in prison, and how he copes with the first few weeks of his prison sentence.
Felipe is a sympathetic narrator. He’s essentially a good guy but a family tragedy coupled with a thirst for revenge has got him where he is. He’s also an intelligent man who figures out very early on how to use the system to his advantage without losing his soul to prison. The writing is a mix of lyricism and harsh descriptions, often found in the same sentence, which sounds like an odd combination but works beautifully:
“The bus smelled of sweat and urine. Eight other inmates sat shackled with Felipe, swaying as the bus lurched through its gears, burly caricatures of the schoolboys they had once been.”
What struck me most though is the gentleness and compassion that we find in Felipe and his situation. Despite the harsh surroundings, Felipe’s grief was real, as was the way he tried to make the best that he could. I had a lump in my throat on a few occasions in sorrow for Felipe.
My biggest complaint is that the story just ends with no solution or resolution and I was left with a number of questions which I fear will never be answered, mainly to do with Felipe’s reaction to what happens to him at the end of the story. However, that didn’t stop me from liking this story a great deal and I would recommend it to those readers looking for a heartfelt story.(less)
This looks to be the start of a fun new series telling the story of eighteen year old Mark a...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
This looks to be the start of a fun new series telling the story of eighteen year old Mark as he spends a 5 day cruise in the Mexican gulf with his family. Well, not really with his family because he manages to ditch them within the first few paragraphs, after which he tells us of his encounter with Kevin.
This is only an erotic quickie, but I found Mark to be very engaging. He’s full of the arrogance and self assuredness that comes from being an attractive eighteen year old man and I smiled at his calculated attempt to flaunt his stuff on deck. He knows what he wants and how to get it, and boy does he get it! The fun of the story is seeing how quickly Mark can “find a couple of takers”. The sex is hot and a little bit wince-worthy but Mark’s narrative is reassuring about that and so I went along with what was happening knowing that he was having a fine time of it.
I also liked that in amongst the erotica we are fed bits of information about Mark and his background. This lifted the story from just being about sex between two hot guys and personalised the whole experience. It certainly helps that we see things through Mark’s first person narrative.
Overall, this was a well written erotic short with a pleasing narrator in Mark. It’s the first of a series and I shall look forward to the next story. (less)
Shy Gerald is stuck in a rut. His life is pretty dull and boring and he doesn’t have the gump...moreThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews
Shy Gerald is stuck in a rut. His life is pretty dull and boring and he doesn’t have the gumption to find his way out of his staid ways. Even accidentally stumbling across his hot new neighbours having sex only leads to sexual frustration for Gerald, until another chance encounter pulls him out of his boring life.
As a short piece of erotica, this story works well. I liked the build up to the sex, especially Gerald whose passive nature was quite sweet, and also in his lust-filled reactions to the more assured Dave and Rick and how he is astounded when they invite him to join in the fun. I also liked the minor insight we get into the relationship between Dave and Rick – how they met and their devotion to one another – which is woven between the sex. The way that both men are surprised at their feelings towards Gerald also worked and I was pleased that we get all three men’s point of view written into the narrative, plus there was a lightness and humour about the writing which I found engaging.
What didn’t work as well for me was firstly in some of the descriptions of the ménage sex which I had difficulty in picturing in my head. Don’t get me wrong the sex was smoking hot, but I had to re-read the three group sex scenes two or three times, at each point trying to fix who was where and what they were doing to whom. I’m not entirely sure the last sex scene was possible, but maybe that’s just me. This meant that I wasn’t able to engage seamlessly with the action, leading to a slightly stilted read. Secondly, the way that the story focuses on the comfortable and dedicated relationship between Rick and Dave made me wonder what exactly Gerald’s role was going to be in that relationship. The story doesn’t have time/space to deal with that, and although we are left with the possibility of more between the men, I couldn’t help but get the impression that Gerald is heading for a broken heart. Or perhaps I was reading too much into what was just a piece of ménage erotica between a man and an established couple.
Overall, If you like m/m/m ménage and are looking for an erotic quickie to fill a lunch break then this story would be a good choice. This is the first story I’ve read by this author and I liked it enough that I would read another story by her.(less)
A fun erotic short which gives a slice of life from the point of view of Taylor. He's in love with his 'almost straight' room mate and occasional fuck...moreA fun erotic short which gives a slice of life from the point of view of Taylor. He's in love with his 'almost straight' room mate and occasional fuck buddy, Z, but has a boyfriend Jake. Jake and Z hate each other but are willing to put aside their differences in a show of 'who gets Taylor'.
There's so much going on in terms of character dynamics in this story that I would love to see these guys in a longer story, where we can really get to grips with the motivations of each character. I liked the writing and the unapologetic way that the characters are led by their dicks and their own selfish desires, but there's also enough depth of characters to make Taylor at least sympathetic, and Jake even more so. If you're looking for romance, it ain't in this story - much - but of you're looking for some m/m/m erotica with intriguing characters then this short will be right for you.(less)
This erotic romance with strong themes of fetishism, dubious consent, prostitution and more than a generous dollop of yaoi certainly won’t be to every...moreThis erotic romance with strong themes of fetishism, dubious consent, prostitution and more than a generous dollop of yaoi certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. In the end though what let this book down wasn’t the themes, the plot or the execution but rather the large number of characters which led to superficial characterisation and a lack of connection between myself and the characters.
The story begins in Osaka, Japan. Gabriel, a rich American man who works a desk job as a translator for the CIA, has come to Osaka for one reason only: To feed his fetish for young mixed race Japanese men. Whilst in a restaurant he spies Kuri, who works as a host boy in a local host club. Gabriel pays for Kuri’s time and although Kuri is a little cautious he goes with Gabriel. Things don’t work out as planned for Gabriel and Kuri and they part, but when Kuri’s best friend and lover, Daichi, goes missing, Kuri calls on Gabriel to help him, plunging them into a potentially tragic situation.
I said at the beginning of this review that the main problem is the number of characters in the book. The book contains no less than 10 characters, all of whom have an important part to play in the story. This is mainly because the story is split into two halves. The first half, set in Japan, takes us through the meeting of Kuri and Gabriel and establishes the relationship between Kuri and Daichi, and their friends-with-benefits relationship with room mates and fellow host boys Sori and Takumi. The second half involves Kuri’s desperate attempt to discover what has happened to Daichi, and also follows Daichi as he tries to survive his captivity along with several other young Asian men, particularly a man called Jokara and a Vietnamese man, Zahirah. Added to this are the two villains, Abdullah and Akmal, as well as a CIA agent Cyd and Gabriel’s therapist, and the whole book was in danger of being very overcrowded. The main consequence of this is that the book is mostly plot driven, with much of the characterisation being limited to shallow interactions. One exception to this is Gabriel, whose feelings about his fetish are explored sympathetically in the first part of the story. I found it a great shame then that this theme faded into the background as the book progressed. Later in the book, Gabriel is forced to face up to his fetish and try and overcome his feelings, but these scenes were all written from the point of view of the other characters, and as a result, I felt this was a missed opportunity to get back into Gabriel’s head and see first hand his thoughts as he struggles with this. Instead we had only Gabriel’s words, body language and facial expression to indicate his inner turmoil.
Although the story is plot driven, much of that plot is made up of sex scenes, some of which are dubious consent. Those readers who prefer their characters to remain monogamous to one another through a romance book, are going to be disappointed with this book. Kuri has sex with about six different people and has sexual acts performed on his body by even more. As well as that there are a few scenes where he is being watched whilst having sex. Kuri isn’t the only one, Daichi too has sex with numerous partners. Nearly all the sex happens without condoms. Personally, I didn’t mind all the sex scenes as many of them happen for a reason, whether to show situation or to further the plot. I have to admit the lack of condoms made me uncomfortable, but again, I could see why this happened for many of the sex scenes. However, I’m sure there are readers out there who wouldn’t be as accepting of this as I was.
There were several things that worked well for me in the book. For example, the way that the life of a host boy was depicted. On the surface, the boys are happy with their life, the money they make and the attention they get. As the book progresses and Kuri and Daichi take a break from their host boy jobs, they are able to evaluate their past and see it for the tawdry, debilitating occupation it is. The theme of friendship is also explored effectively, not just between the four host boys, but also the boys that Kuri and Daichi encounter during their captivity. Friendship is also linked with trust, another theme which worked well as we follow the characters as they learn who they can, and can’t, trust and who is to be counted a friend or an enemy. The story itself, although a little overwrought in places, was unusual with a good mix of tense drama and lighter moments.
Despite its flaws, Little Japan was still an engrossing read. I didn’t find myself getting bored, even with the large number of sex scenes, possibly because the sex was varied and sensual. The plot also zipped along at a fair rate and I was having so much fun with the story that I could overlook some of the more preposterous parts of the book. Fans of the authors, used to the way they push at the boundaries of m/m romance, will probably be delighted with this book. I found it to be a pleasant diversion, but not without fault.
Set in Palestine during the crusades, Test of Faith follows two men who on the surface seem very different. Thierry is a French Templar knight who has...moreSet in Palestine during the crusades, Test of Faith follows two men who on the surface seem very different. Thierry is a French Templar knight who has been captured on the battlefield and sent to the tent of a man who has paid silver for him. That man is Abdul, a Muslim convert who has bought Thierry in order to rape and humiliate him. Things are not as they seem between the men though, as Abdul gains respect for the knight who refuses to cower in terror before him, and Thierry learns that even brutal infidels can be honourable and tender.
There was much to like and admire about this short story. The story is very intense as most of it takes place over a few hours in one location - that of Abdul's tent. During that time a whole wealth of emotion is unleashed between these characters. They begin by hating one another and everything that they stand for. Abdul may be a convert to Islam, but he has his own reasons as to why he despises Christians so much. Thierry has a typical ignorance of what he sees as a race of barbarians. He's only been in that part of the world for three months and believes only the propaganda fed to him by the knights who trained him for war. As the men interact their hatred changes to grudging respect, even admiration, before other emotions such as lust come into play. The way that the emotions of men ebb and flow, change and develop was one of the more fascinating aspects of this story.
Another thing I liked about the story was the way in which it took the theme of captive/captor and twisted it. At the beginning Thierry is bound and helpless, completely at the mercy of Abdul. However, even then Thierry doesn't allow his almost overwhelming fear to show, nor does he let go of the one thing which makes him strong - his faith. Despite being captive, Thierry is actually the stronger of the pair as Abdul doubts his actions throughout the first part of the book and questions himself continually. Thus the men are almost on an equal footing even with Thierry bound. They are well matched, both utilising words to great effect, whether it is to solicit anger, a questioning of faith, or lust in the other man. Even though Thierry is the youngest and least experienced of the pair, mentally he is just as strong as Abdul. Their arguments and counter-arguments, which bled slowly into agreements and genuine respect; the logic of their arguments, the way that neither man was willing to back down or give in, was absorbing to read. I found it fascinating to read such overwhelmingly masculine characters, full of pride, honour and self-assurance, who could also be warm, tender, attentive lovers.
Alas the pride and strength of mind in both men also lead to what turned out to be a very definite non-HEA. It's not even anywhere near a HFN. I can see that many readers will not like the ending, especially those who insist that any book which deals with a relationship ends well for the heroes. Normally, in a book which ends as this one does, I would give it a label of erotica, rather than romance. However, Test of Faith was a romantic book. My emotions were engaged and this story is far, far more than just a sex scene to titillate the senses. I finished the book feeling genuinely sad, but also resigned to the fact that the story is as historically accurate as it should be. My heart ached for what could have been for these two men, had not pride and circumstance interfered.
Other than the ending, there was one other slight niggle which affected my enjoyment of this book. The story is constructed so that the viewpoint shifts backwards and forwards between the men and I found some of these shifts quite abrupt, so abrupt that it pulled me out of the story whilst I read back to work out whose head I was now in. This wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment too much but it was a small annoyance from time to time.
Despite the niggle, this was a pretty terrific story. Historically it seems well researched; the characters are engaging; and the writing poetic and beautiful. If you like historical stories and are prepared for the lack of HEA, then I highly recommend this story to you. I've been very impressed with this collaboration so far, and I look forward to reading more of their stories.(less)
This story takes Greek mythology as a base and uses it to create an unusual story of love, sex and war. The focus is on Achilleus, a brave and noble G...moreThis story takes Greek mythology as a base and uses it to create an unusual story of love, sex and war. The focus is on Achilleus, a brave and noble Greek warrior who dies during battle only to be taken up to Mount Olympus and shown the nature of submission by the god of war, Ares.
This story isn't a romance as such, but about the glory and brutality of war and sex. Ares takes Achilleus for his own before his brother Hermes is able to take Achilleus to Elysium and the waiting arms of his lover Paktroklos. This taking is not the thoughtful and tender sex of lovers but the clashing, straining, brutal sex of antagonism and war. I found it all quite thrilling and primal as we see the Greek god and Greek man struggling for dominance with one other. This was then contrasted with Achilleus' memories with the time spent with his human lover. This isn't a story for those who are looking for a gentle romance but I found it a fascinating read - even if it did tax my knowledge of Greek mythology to the limit. The strength of this story is in the strong imagery and solid writing but the nature of the plot will not appeal to all, even if I, personally, found it fascinating. (less)
The Silent Hustler is a collection of short stories by gay fiction writer Sean Meriwether. These stories are not romance, although some of the stories...moreThe Silent Hustler is a collection of short stories by gay fiction writer Sean Meriwether. These stories are not romance, although some of the stories are romantic in tone, so those of you who are only interesting in reading a romance stories with conventional HEAs better stop reading here, although it would be a shame if you did because you would be missing out on a fabulous book.
The stories in this book are edgy, exciting and full of a raw passion and delight in the male form in all its guises. The stories are mostly erotic and loosely arranged by theme, with the first couple of stories reflecting on a son’s relationship with his father; followed by a section of stories about a young gay teenager, Ryan, and how he copes with life at high school; followed by a section on the theme of young gay men living in New York and their relationships; and finally the last section is an eclectic mix of stories on a whole range of ideas including life, death, literature, madness, obsession, and love. The stories are also variable in their length and structure with some stories being little snippets of life and others being self-contained stories, although often without a happy or even wholly resolved ending. The narration shifts so that some stories are written in the first, second or third person point of view.
Personally I liked the two middle sections best. The character of Ryan is a mix of innocence and sly experience as we chart the development of him coming to terms with his sexuality. These are stories full of the longing and confusion of the teenage mind as he deals with bullies, experiments with girls and copes with lusting after his essentially straight friends. Mixed in with this are Ryan’s feelings about living in a small town and the hypocrisy he sees there.
The section based in New York contains stories which are mostly relationship based, which is probably why I liked them. Having said that, these are stories that are essentially written by a gay man for gay men and as such contain themes that some readers might find a little off putting. One story in particular, Sneaker Queen, was a story about a man who had a fetish for old sweaty sneakers gave me a feeling of fascinated disgust as I read descriptions of sneaker licking which made me want to reach for the bleach! Many of the other stories have a delicious nastiness to them as the men in the stories revel in the rank foetidness of themselves, their partners and their surroundings which I actually found quite refreshing. These are not clean men, fresh from the shower, but men in all their earthy goodness and I enjoyed reading about them even as I realised that this may not appeal to all readers.
Many of the stories in the anthology are not about action, but rather experience and how the characters view the world in which they live, as the characters make mistakes but also glory in their sexuality, unashamed and vibrant. The themes of innocence and experience are returned to again and again but these are not the conventional innocent boy being damaged and humiliated by the older man. Instead we see youth and innocence wanting to be debauched as much as the men who take their innocence and yet the confusion of the young gay man is still represented as the characters search for meaning in the sex, often coming to the realisation that there isn’t any. The majority of the stories deal with things that affect many gay men. Themes such as fidelity, homophobia, gay bashing, self-acceptance, prostitution, internet pornography, male beauty and a whole range of others are all represented in this set of stories.
I mentioned earlier that some stories were written in the second point of view. This is always a rather odd narrative viewpoint but one story, For hire – a Date with John, which was basically an account of a man who hires various prostitutes, worked particularly effectively in this viewpoint as I was placed in the position of the man paying for sex and was forced to see the encounters from his point of view. This meant that I experienced all the self-delusion in the sexual act along with the character as I became a participant rather than an observer. It was rather cleverly done.
Actually the whole anthology was cleverly done. The range of stories, narratives, themes and tone made this a very interesting set of stories. I never knew what I was getting myself into as I began each story; whether I was going to read something serious or something with a thick layer of black humour, or whose head I would be in, or what journey I would be taken on. What I did know was that I was in for a treat with each story as I became immersed in the anthology, and that each story would teach me something about the life of a gay man. I said earlier that this anthology was written for gay men, and I suppose in many ways it is, but it shouldn’t be read exclusively by gay men as there is a lot here to offer those, like me, who are willing to step out of their comfort zone. I will say again that these are not nice stories, in fact the many of them are downright nasty, but they are compelling, and beautiful, and sad, and upbeat, and funny, and disgusting, and horrifying, and breathtaking, and very, very well written. I highly recommend this anthology to those who want to take a break from m/m romance and read something just that bit different.(less)
After enjoying Cold Hands, Warm... so much I thought I'd read another story by this author and see if I would continue to enjoy her writing. I did. Th...moreAfter enjoying Cold Hands, Warm... so much I thought I'd read another story by this author and see if I would continue to enjoy her writing. I did. This raunchy tale tells the story of Kyle who has decided to go for a fast drive down a lonely highway at 2am. He's hitting 110mph when he's pulled over by a cop, John. Kyle knows that if he gets a ticket for speeding then he'll lose his license, so he offers up a blow job as a bribe. The BJ goes ahead but both men get more than they bargained for when they discover a chemistry between them. The story wasn't the most original of premises - in fact I've read just such a scenario in another book recently - but it was well executed and both men are likeable and as well rounded as possible for such as short story. The sex was hot but there was also a hint of tenderness in it and a promise of things to come which I liked a great deal. Overall this was a great sexy short which I would recommend(less)