In terms of m/m publishing this book is a bit of an oldie, having been published in 2007. However, I'm slowly working my way through Clare's backlist...moreIn terms of m/m publishing this book is a bit of an oldie, having been published in 2007. However, I'm slowly working my way through Clare's backlist and came across this when I was looking for a book to spend my reward voucher on at Books on Board. Now, I have to admit, I did something a bit out of character for me when I bought this. I didn't look to see what the book was actually about. I saw the book was by Clare London and thought 'oh, her books and stories are always fabulous' and bought it unseen, as it were. A bit of a risk, I suppose, but I reckoned that Clare wouldn't let me down - and I wasn't disappointed.
I was a bit surprised then, when I discovered that this book is actually a set of four short stories, each having a paranormal theme. That is about where the similarity ends as Clare shows us in each of these stories just what a versatile author she really is. I'm going to take each story in turn.
Bonded This story is written in the first person and takes the viewpoint of a rich, handsome, spoiled chancellor of an unknown country set sometime in the past, possibly medieval. As the story begins he is brought a young, ragged man, named Oriel. Oriel has special powers - once he touches someone they have their greatest need fulfilled. He is a traveller who moves throughout the land, staying with people and helping them in return for shelter and food. The chancellor, Charis, is immediately attracted to Oriel and they begin a relationship. The joy of this book was watching the way that Charis changed from a jaded, wholly self-centred anti-hero, into someone that would risk his life for the gentle Oriel.
Trickery This book was also set in the medieval period but has a very different feel to the first story. This is a comedy which follows two hapless squires searching a tower for their royal master who has gone missing. The story is full of silly and sly humour, both at the expense of the squires as well as at the genre. Rapunzel it is not! It reminded me greatly of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".
Possession This was a horror story set in the Victorian age and told in an interesting mix of first and third person. The hero is the owner of an auction house which is gradually failing. A mysterious buyer comes forward and offers to sell some priceless rubies at the auction house, thus saving the flagging business, but only on the condition that he deals with Lucas in person. At the same time, Lucas is plagued by disturbing dreams where he is visited by a male lover. These dreams disgust and entice Lucas, especially as he is fighting an attraction to his best friend, Valentine. This story was genuinely creepy, particularly in the scenes with the mysterious buyer. The ending was a real shocker!
Threadbare This was my favourite story. Written in the first person from the point of view of Victorian mill owner, Edward, it involves his sweet relationship with a mill worker called Mori. Mori is a mysterious young man who is the leader of a small group of mill workers who work hard and produce fine cloth. In their spare time they weave an intricate tapestry, each taking turns to add to it. One by one, illness or accident carries off the workers in this group until only Mori is left to complete the tapestry. I can't say too much about this story without giving away spoilers but by the end my heart ached.
Each story is written in Clare's beautifully evocative prose. She is a master (or is that mistress?)of understated emotion, using a few words concisely to show us how the the characters are feeling. Take this passage from "Threadbare".
I just liked to watch him sleeping, surrounded by large, thick pillows that cossetted him, embracing him in their soft shell. I liked the way he stirred in his secret dreams, his eyes flickering under his lids, and his delicate hand clasping at the coverlet. I liked to see his dark hair spread on the white linen, and his legs tangled among the crumpled sheets. I liked the smile on his face when he eventually woke to find me still there.
In one short passage, the author has managed to convey all the pride, protectiveness, sensuality and love that Edward feels for Mori. Beautiful.
This anthology made me experience a whole breadth of emotion: From laughter to tears; from hate to love. It was at times surprising, breathtaking, horrifying and exciting. I highly recommend you read this book and I give it a grade of 'Excellent'. (less)
The first thing I need to say before I start the review is that this is the fifth book in the Psycop series written by JCP. This series is one of thos...moreThe first thing I need to say before I start the review is that this is the fifth book in the Psycop series written by JCP. This series is one of those that you have to read in book order to understand what is happening in the rest of the series. Seriously, you'll be lost and without a clue if you don't start from the first book Among the Living and work your way through. This is especially true with this book which follows straight on from book 4, Secrets. If you haven't read any if the previous books then, firstly, why not? - these are seriously great books - and secondly, go away and read them now!
The whole series is set in a world which is just like ours except that paranormal abilities have been scientifically recognised. Or hero, Vic, is a medium - yes he really does "see dead people". In fact he does a lot more than that. Vic is a homicide psycop whose brief is to talk to the ghosts of people who have recently died and find out who killed them. Over the last few books he has had a number of partners or 'stiffs' - cops who have no paranormal abilities, but finally has settled down with his partner from book three, Bob Zigler. Each book has a mystery theme which Vic is supposed to be investigating. In this book, there have been a number of unexplained deaths in a local hospital and Vic has to find out why. However, as with all the psycop books most of the investigation is sidelined in favour of Vic trying to sort out his personal problems. In the previous book, Vic discovered that he was being watched by a mysterious organisation. This book focuses on Vic trying to find out more about this organisation, as well as recovering some of the memories he has lost about "Camp Hell"or Heliotrope Station, where Vic was trained to use his abilities. As well as this, we get to see how Vic and his lover, Jacob, strengthen and develop their relationship with each other.
This whole series hangs on the character of Vic who is the first person narrator. I have to admit that I love the character of Vic. He's funny, self-depreciating, nervy and lacking in self-esteem. On the other hand he is also one of the most self-absorbed characters I've ever read. He is so focused on finding out about his past and why he is being watched, that he often abandons both his partner and Jacob in favour of going off on his own. However, he is so clueless that he doesn't actually realise how much he has hurt or offended someone until they call him up on it later. There's this marvellous scene in the book where Vic notices that Jacob has become even more muscular recently. It then hits him that perhaps one of the reasons Jacob spends so much time at the gym is to vent his frustrations about Vic on the gym machinery. It's very difficult for the characters (or the reader) to get angry with Vic, though, because he doesn't realise what an idiot he is sometimes, which is the beauty of the characterisation in this series. The reader knows that Vic is frustrating and that he spends a lot of time unable to see what is going on under his nose, and yet he's still really adorable.
The other characters often play a back seat in the series because Vic has such a strong voice. It was nice to see in this book that Jacob's character was given some development and we are also introduced to Stefan, another inmate from 'Camp Hell' and one of Vic's previous lovers. Crash is still around, causing trouble, but no Lisa this time, and Jacob's partner is also given less of a role.
The psycop books are described as 'horror', which they are in a way; there's certainly lots of descriptions of dead people. However, they are also very, very funny. Vic has a habit of getting himself into farcical situations and even a small incidental situation like trying to eat in a taxi on the way to an appointment can be cause for comedy in this book. I have to say that this book has been my favourite so far. Victor has come a long way since we first met him, high on drugs, confused and lonely in the first book. I get a real kick out of seeing the love that has developed between him and Jacob as well as the newly found sexual kinks they are working out together. I also enjoyed seeing Vic coming to some realisation that his ability wasn't just something to hide or dismiss, but that he could increase his potential for good by stretching that ability. This series just gets better and better. I'm giving this a grade of 'Excellent' and I'm very much looking forward to book 6.(less)
After I finished Camp Hell I was thirsty for more of that world, so I got this 'novelette' from JCP Books. The story is about Andrew who comes for a p...moreAfter I finished Camp Hell I was thirsty for more of that world, so I got this 'novelette' from JCP Books. The story is about Andrew who comes for a palm reading. He gets there too late and the shop is shut. Outside the shop he meets a tattooed, pierced man who offers him a coffee. Of course the man is Crash, who takes Andrew up to 'Sticks and Stones' and proceeds to seduce him. It was an interesting look at Crash and how he uses his ability as an empathetic to get what he wants. There was also an element of sadness running through the story. Crash senses that Andrew wants to be forced and dominated, yet you get the feeling that Crash is after something with a bit more tenderness. Also Andrew is essentially straight and about to get married which might be offputting for some people. There's no real resolution in the story which left me wanting more - not necessarily a bad thing. I hope that JCP writes another story with these characters, just so I know how it ends, for good or bad. For now this gets a grade of 'Excellent'.(less)
recently got hold of a copy of KZ Snow's Indescent and was about to start reading it when I realised that there were a number of books previous to it...more recently got hold of a copy of KZ Snow's Indescent and was about to start reading it when I realised that there were a number of books previous to it. All the books are stand-a-lones but they feature some of the same characters and as a result sort of follow on from each other. Obsessed is the book that comes before Indescent, so I thought I'd read it first and pick up on any back story.
At the start of the book we meet Adin at his thirtieth birthday party. Actually it's his first birthday as a human in 660 years. Six months ago Adin was changed back to a human from a vampire. I'm not sure quite how this happened but it had something to do with Adin's best friend, Jackson, who is a wizard. During the time of his conversion Adin met and fell in love with his partner Celia. However, he also has very strong feelings for Jackson, feelings which have only grown since he became human and was able to experience the deep emotions lacking in a vampire. Adin is also having disturbing dreams which fuels his desire for his best friend. He confesses those dreams, and his feelings for Jackson, to Celia who, incredibly, suggests that Adin visit Jackson to explore some of those emotions and desires.
Let's get that last bit out of the way first, shall we? Having not read the book where Celia and Adin meet, it was difficult for me to get a real handle on her as a person as we only see her through Adin's eyes. It seems inconceivable to me that any woman would willingly allow her partner to go off and spend the weekend having sex with his best friend. However, I have to say that in this case it worked. Celia never comes across as jealous, or self-sacrificing, but rather that she loves her partner and wants him to be happy. It helps that she knows Jackson well and is the one to suggest the trip. She also finds Jackson attractive and jokes with Adin that she is envious of the connection between him and Jackson, but she never suggests bringing Jackson into their bed, choosing instead to allow Adin to explore what he later calls "The dark side of the moon". Having said that, I was a little uncomfortable with what is, in a sense, permitted infidelity and those of you who cannot stand infidelity of any form in their books had better stay away from this.
When Adin arrives in Milwaukee he has to convince Jackson to act on their obvious attraction. Jackson is sort of bisexual - I say sort of because he doesn't see himself as gay, but rather as having the occasional attraction towards men, especially in his wizardry. He also finds it difficult to express his feelings (like many men). Consequently, much of Jackson's emotional journey in this novella is taken up with him coming to terms with the powerful sexual feelings he has for Adin and how expressing his physical desire in public changes his perception of who he is. Adin is much more comfortable at giving away his emotions and as a result is alternately delighted by Jackson's open affection and then hurt by Jackson's inability to disclose his inner feelings. All in all, I was enchanted by both men and wanted their odd relationship to work, despite my doubts as to how all this would fit in with Celia.
There's a lot of smexing in this short novella as you would expect given the storyline. Adin's sole purpose in visiting Jackson is to see whether his repressed desires are reciprocated and when they are things go off with a giant explosion. If I have one criticism of this book it would be that the descriptions of the sex scenes, especially towards the beginning, were a little verbose and some of the imagery pulled me out of the scenes somewhat. This did settle down a bit in the later sex scenes which were more emotion rather than lust laden.
Overall this was an interesting premise: What happens when a character falls in love with two people? It's a different love that Adin feels for Celia than that he feels for Jackson, but it's love nonetheless. I shall be interested to see how this odd triangle works in Indescent and any subsequent books. Until then I recommend that you read this if you are interested in relationship dynamics, hot sex scenes and are not too bothered by the infidelity. I enjoyed it greatly so I'm giving this a grade of 'Very Good'.(less)
Jackson Spey isn't a very happy man at the beginning of InDescent. On one hand, he has started a glorious sexual relationship with his best friend, Ad...moreJackson Spey isn't a very happy man at the beginning of InDescent. On one hand, he has started a glorious sexual relationship with his best friend, Adin Swift, a man for who he has deeply repressed feelings. On the other hand, Adin is also in love and living with a woman, Celia, meaning that Jackson only sees Adin for a weekend every few months. Jackson is coming to the realisation that being Adin's 'bit on the side', no matter how sanctioned by Celia, is not what he truly wants out of the relationship. Whilst in the midst of all this internal confusion, Jackson is hired by a group of witches led by the suspicious witch, Christy, a woman who seems to be all body and no brains. They need a wizard to perform a sex rite, and Jackson agrees more to ease his sexual frustration and as a way of getting his own back on Adin, than any real interest in the rite they wish to perform. There also seems to be something a bit strange about the whole business, especially with one of the witches, Mikela, who draws Jackson's attention during the rite. What Jackson doesn't know is that an old enemy of his has obtained a mysterious prism which could cause his downfall and is testing out Jackson's weaknesses as a way of drawing him to the prism. However, it turns out that the prism itself needs Jackson to heal a rift between our world and that of another dimension.
There are two interlocking story lines running through this book. Firstly there are the paranormal parts. Jackson is a wizard who has grown in power throughout the years since a motorcycle accident and a near death experience activated his powers. He knows that he is perhaps one of the most powerful wizards and yet he is quiet, unassuming and prefers not to publicise his abilities. He keeps very much to himself, using his magic when asked, rather than showcasing it to the world. I liked the quiet control and self assurance that Jackson has in regard to his powers, which was a complete contrast to the odious Ivan, another wizard, who seeks revenge for a humiliation metered out by Jackson in a previous book. Jackson's control, though, is starting to slip when the second element of this book starts to take him over. That being his feelings about Adin and his reaction to being always second best in Adin's life. These feelings lead to a certain recklessness in Jackson and he behaves in ways even he acknowledges are out of character. He visits strange bars in an attempt to find solace in anonymity amongst strangers; he takes part in a sex rite, even though there's something odd about it; he starts to show off his magical powers; he allows complete strangers to give him a blow-job to ease his sexual frustration. These tiny moves away from his previously controlled existence were all indication of his emotional turmoil which Jackson keeps firmly locked inside until a moment of clarity later in the book forces him to acknowledge how he really feels for Adin.
In many ways it is the theme of Jackson's loss of control which forms the main thrust of the poltline. Jackson hates having control taken away from him. He likes to think that he is in charge of his life and it is a humbling and somewhat humiliating experience for him to discover that for most of the book his control is being slowly eroded. He fights this all the way, even when doing so almost costs him his life. Only once he faces up to the fact that other people in the book, especially Adin, exert a certain amount of influence on his life and then casts aside his pride and rigid control can he then move on in his powers and in his relationship with Adin.
It is in the confusing, tender, sensual, thrilling relationship between Adin and Jackson where this book really begins to shine. Both Jackson and Adin are feeling the strain of their brief times together. Jackson adapts to this by never giving away his true feelings whereas Adin constantly expresses his love for Jackson. This leads to hurt on both sides as Jackson feels pushed out and bereft when Adin is with Celia and Adin feels (rather hypocritically) jealous of any other sexual encounters that Jackson may have whilst they are apart and also longs for Jackson to return his love. Their sexual encounters have changed from the purely lust filled with some tender feelings in Obsessed to wholeheartedly emotional, even when in the throes of an initial desperate coupling after a long separation. As a consequence of this, the vocabulary used to describe their couplings has moved on from the overblown descriptions of body parts and lustful feelings found in the previous book to something more genuine and heartfelt. This is no longer just about sex for either of them and that comes across strongly in their interactions both in and out of the bedroom. I was drawn deeply into the situation between these men, caring about them, wanting them to find a suitable solution to their difficulties. I can't wait to find out how they resolve the problems with the strange triangular relationship that has formed between Celia, Adin and Jackson.
Overall, I was enchanted with this book. The strong emotions of Jackson and Adin; the interesting, well drawn paranormal world; and the contrast between Jackson, who used his powers (mostly) selflessly and Ivan, who was self seeking with an arrogance which bordered on stupidity, all combined to draw me in and keep me reading. If I have any reservations at all, and this is very minor, it is that there is some m/f sex at the beginning of the book. This is not unusual for KZ Snow, who likes to mix up the sexual encounters in her books. I would urge you not to be put off by that because otherwise you would be missing out on a terrific book.
I would highly recommend this book for those who like a great paranormal story and who are interested in looking at two complex men and how that complexity spills over into their relationship. This gets a well deserved grade of 'Excellent'. KZ Snow's writing just gets better and better with each book and I very much look forward to reading more about Jackson and Adin.(less)
I hadn't read a book by this collaboration before (although I had read books by the individual authors, Pepper Espinoza and Vivien Dean) so TP recomme...moreI hadn't read a book by this collaboration before (although I had read books by the individual authors, Pepper Espinoza and Vivien Dean) so TP recommended that I try this one. I was slightly taken aback by the warning on the publisher page: This book contains graphic violence, hardcore bondage and punishment, torture and blood play. May not be suitable for the more sensitive reader. However, I've read quite a number of light BDSM books so I thought I'd give this one a go and I must say I'm glad I did.
Jesse Madding has been working for vampire Gideon for two years and loved him from afar for almost as long. He hasn't wanted to reveal his affections to the closely guarded Gideon because he doesn't want to ruin their friendship. Gideon runs a paranormal detective agency and they are currently looking into the murder of a councillor's son. It looks like there's a strange new drug called Obsidian, which takes away a vampire's inhibitions and could have led to a vampire killing the man whilst under the influence of the drug. Gideon accidentally comes into contact with Obsidian which leads to Gideon seducing Jesse and opens up the possibility that the pair can become more than just friends. As part of this, Gideon introduces Jesse to a vampire club which caters for those who enjoy wild, uninhibited sex and blood play with vampires. It is this club which turns out to hold the key to who is manufacturing Obsidian.
I really liked the character of Jesse, perhaps more than I did Gideon who was a little more difficult to get a handle on. There was one aspect of Jesse's character that worried me rather at the beginning of the book and that was his motivation in taking part in the more brutal aspects of the BDSM lifestyle. When I read a book where the characters are involved in a lifestyle of which I know nothing about and wouldn't be interested in doing myself, it's important that I have an understanding of why the characters are interested in that lifestyle themselves. Early on in the book Gideon takes Jesse to a BDSM club and a series of events occurs which involves Jesse being totally degraded. During this scene I spent quite a lot of time wondering why he allowed himself to be treated in this way; he's an intelligent man and I didn't buy the whole 'I'm doing it because I love Gideon' excuse. There had to be something already in him which didn't shy away from all the things that happened to him at the club. Up to that point in the book I hadn't seen that in his character and I was starting to feel a bit disappointed with the characterisation - after all, it's a big step from liking your sex a bit rough to all out sexual degradation. I needn't have been worried because shortly after leaving the club the authors give the reader an insight into Jesse which shows that he is attracted to that type of sexual play. I just wish that we had been given the explanation before the club scene and I may have felt a bit happier with it then.
As I said earlier, the character of Gideon is slighty less rounded. He's a very old vampire who, up to about 50 years previous to the book, was an evil vampire. During the sixties he met a woman who changed him and he became a good vampire. We are never told how this happened or why, which was a little frustrating. I am assuming that the rest of his story is going to be fed to us throughout the series (there are currently five books in the series) which is a shame because the other books are menages and I'm not interested in reading those so it looks like I'll never find out about him! I do accept that this was mainly Jesse's book and so I wasn't too bothered that Gideon remained somewhat of an enigma at the end.
There wasn't much I didn't like about this book, except maybe for the very short menage sex scene at the club. As for the rest of the book, I enjoyed the mystery subplot; the sex scenes were more than hot; the story tightly plotted and interesting. All the great aspects that I have come to expect from these authors in their individual books were here too. I must not be an especially 'sensitive reader' because I found the BDSM scenes, especially those in the club, not at all off-putting - in fact I was fascinated at the lengths that people will go to get their sexual thrills. I'm a fan of horror stories and this had lots of elements of that genre too. I closed the book happy with the way it ended and glad for the tender relationship between Gideon and Jesse. I won't be reading the sequel, I don't think I need to know that the pair introduce a woman into their lives, and I'm happy to leave them where they are now. This gets a grade of 'Excellent' from me and I highly recommend it for those who are looking to take a step on from reading light BDSM, or who already enjoy books containing scenes of heavier BDSM.(less)
I like a good ghost story, especially one which delivers an interesting story along with the thrills and chills. Although I've not read anything by th...moreI like a good ghost story, especially one which delivers an interesting story along with the thrills and chills. Although I've not read anything by this author before, Hunter's Dawn: Laying the Ghosts turned out to be an interesting story of love, loss and skepticism.
The story that begins this book is a bit of an old one, I suppose. Jack, a professor of paranormal phenomena who spends his time debunking ghostly sightings, is called to the house of an old lady who is experiencing some odd events, such as doors opening by themselves and strange murmuring noises. Before he can get started a young man, Casey, turns up at the house claiming that his 'spirit guide' sent him to help the lady with her haunting. There's an instant antagonism between the two men. Jack thinks that Casey is a con-man, out to fool an old lady, and Casey finds Jack's smug insistence on proving that ghosts don't exist, infuriating. They are both shocked when the discovery of an old memento mori broach sets off a violent manifestation which almost kills Jack. After that both men agree to join forces to find out who is connected to the broach and how they can begin to release the spirit.
Although we begin the book on familiar territory it is after this point that the story starts to take on a more unique spin. We learn, for example, that Casey's spirit guide is his mother, who died when Casey was a boy. She has stayed to watch over him and help develop his gift for seeing and communicating with ghosts. The relationship between Casey and his mother was both tender and also a little weird. She communicates with him by his thoughts and the occasional manifestation. Casey doesn't seem to mind that she is in his head all the time - even when he starts to become intimate with Jack, but I found it a little odd and perhaps intrusive. Casey is quite a shy man who has had a lot of disappointment in his life. Because of his abilities he has found it difficult to maintain friendships and has little or no experience when it comes to relationships. This made him oversensitive and liable to think the worst in his dealings with Jack. At first this was understandable, but after a while this aspect of Casey's personality started to grate a little. Out of the two men I think I liked Jack the most. It was amusing and somewhat gratifying to see his smug, scholarly outlook come crashing down around his ears. He finds Casey both enticing, bewildering and a little frightening but I admired his determination to give their relationship a go, despite Casey's uneven temper at times. One area which brought out most of my compassion for Jack was in his grief over the death of his lover. The fact that Paul had been so much older than Jack was a nice change from usual and I felt the author had struck a nice balance between showing how much Jack had been affected by Paul's death and his willingness to move on in his relationship with Casey.
In term of characters this was a pretty couple intensive book. There are few secondary characters other than Casey's mother and a couple of others and most of the book is spent in the company of these two men. I liked that Jack had a role reversal in his relationship with Casey, from being the younger inexperienced partner to the one who had to take the lead. This was done with sensitivity and good humour, leading to sensual and tender sex scenes. If I have any complaints about them it would be that Jack was the one who had to make a number of adjustments to be with Casey and it would have been nice if Casey had made some changes or sacrifices too.
The paranormal aspects of this book were done well and it was easy to picture all that was happening. I find this a bonus in paranormals because I've read quite a number which end with a confusing jumble of paranormal occurrences. Thankfully this didn't happen with this book and whilst the scenes involving the ghost were exciting, they weren't overly scary for those of you who don't like horror too much.
I finished this book feeling that I was glad that I had taken a chance on this author. The book was well written, fast paced, with interesting characters and some unusual paranormal aspects. Hunter's Dawn: Laying the Ghosts is a book I would recommend to those who like paranormal ghost stories and an 'opposites attract' storyline and it gets a grade of 'Very Good' from me.(less)