This book is about the journey of a man into BDSM with the right teachers. Ethan is an m/m erotica writer. He does everythiUpdated Review: *4.5 stars*
This book is about the journey of a man into BDSM with the right teachers. Ethan is an m/m erotica writer. He does everything he can to find a subject that totally enthralls him. Then, he digs deep into research and come out on the other side with a story, hopefully about real men in that situation. On the flight home from his day-job as a freelance photographer on a safari in Africa, Ethan sees a BDSM magazine in the hands of the passenger next ot him, and after striking a conversation with the man about the publication he is reading, Ethan decides that the BDSM community is going to be part of his next project. He records the name of the Dom in the magazine that has caught his eye, and after finding out that he and his sub will be attending a conference near him, he arranges to meet them both at the conference to start his research.
David and Kiyoshi are quite a famous couple in the BDSM circuit. David is a skilled Dom who teaches classes, theory and practical, at different conferences during the year. Kiyoshi, his sub, is also equally famous, both for being David’s long-time sub, and for his own grace, beauty, and submission. They love each other very much, but they have a somewhat tenuous connection. Ethan is completely taken by them, and within only a few hours, decides that if he really wants to learn from them, he will enter into the community for the weekend. He soon learns that almost all of his thoughts about BDSM are completely wrong, though there are many within the community as well who are unable to grasp the finer points. David does not rule with an iron fist, just as Kiyoshi does not relinquish power when he submits to David. The power dynamic is fluid and constantly changing, just as a relationship does. Soon, however, David starts to love the place he has come to settle within the couple’s dynamic. Will they feel the same? Or will they let him go at the end of the weekend as he originally wanted?
The beauty of this particular story is the lens through which the story is told. We are told the story from Ethan’s POV as he learns about the community himself. He is an objective audience to David and Kiyoshi’s relationship (though he soon becomes part of it). Yet, with the possibility of their weekend menage lasting no longer than the convention, Ethan is able to retain the mask of partiality. Therefore, while we are able to see the BDSM community from the inside out at the same time as Ethan is able to understand the true meaning of the community — of power, and the dynamics of giving and receiving it, in a fresh and new way. The dynamic between David and Kiyoshi, and later as Ethan seems to take pleasure in pushing the boundaries of their relationship, helped me to understand the benefits that David and Kiyoshi, and Ethan as well, receive from a relationship in the context of BDSM. Likewise, the way that they viewed the community helped. Though they may seem the perfect Dom and sub in public, it is only that — a display. In private, the one who ultimately holds the power is Kiyoshi. It was fascinating to watch Ethan learn this, and then see the community through their eyes.
Original Review: I loved this book so much. Even though I don't read very much BDSM, this is by far my favorite m/m BDSM book, not to mention my favorite so far of Jaye and Reno's books. I admit that there have been times where a book has helped me to understand the BDSM culture, which isn't something that I'm naturally drawn to, but I've always still remained confused. This book changed that for me, and helped me understand the love and trust that is implicit in a BDSM partnership. I appreciate that and value it as someone who doesn't really enjoy the shock and awe factor that many m/m BDSM books employ. A favorite for sure :)...more
I really enjoyed this book. I like reading slow and sweet love stories, and this definitely fit the bill, due to Jaime's history. Even more (4.5 stars
I really enjoyed this book. I like reading slow and sweet love stories, and this definitely fit the bill, due to Jaime's history. Even more (though they often infuriated me), I enjoyed Levi's family. I think it was very smart of Marie Sexton to let this story run the course it did. Now that I think back on it, there isn't one book I remember reading right now in this genre that doesn't offer a complete resolution for coming out (even though Levi is already out) that isn't either complete and ultimate acceptance or estrangement. It is so often black and white, or the climax of the novel is the point in which the family accepts the MCs completely and without reservation. This is so often not the case in real life, especially in situations like this. Yet, I never doubted the love the whole family had for Levi, and I believe that they truly loved him. And not only did I find Levi much more mature than the family gave him credit for, but I thought it was incredibly mature of him to persist having to bear their disapproval instead of writing his family off and cutting himself off from them, even before he realizes that Jaime needs them as much as he needs Levi.
The only other thing I can say is that they should have chosen Coda!...more
I absolutely loved this last addition of Josh Lanyon's to the Petit Morts series. It has a quirky quality that is different from most of Josh's storieI absolutely loved this last addition of Josh Lanyon's to the Petit Morts series. It has a quirky quality that is different from most of Josh's stories, and we also see here the "pre-crime" instead of the "post-crime", or the focus of what leads up to murder, which I found really interesting and a nice change of pace from his stories. Solidly written like all of his work. I really loved Tug, who is just charmingly optimistic in his efforts to woo Ridge. Wonderful story!...more
The penultimate story of the Petit Morts series and a strong play on the theme of duality, MediReview at Brief Encounters Reviews.
5 stars all the way!
The penultimate story of the Petit Morts series and a strong play on the theme of duality, Media Naranja (Other Half) opens with both Chance and Hunter finding their “One” in the same place, a resort called Sol Moduro on the island of Majorca, Spain. While Hunter’s One is mysterious to us, and its mystery used greatly in the turbulent relationship between the two otherworldly creatures, Chance’s One is Trevor, a young man accompanying his Gran on holiday after her recent round of chemo treatments. He is somewhat shy and reserved, but more from a lack of taking what he wants in life, as we learn when he hear of his secret passion for dance and the pressure he feels from his family. Elsie (or Gran to Trevor, lovingly) is his beacon of acceptance with her wise and romantic memories of her past life and love. Her friend Vera, a cougar well past her prime, is constantly on the prowl for young men while flouncing around with a drink in one hand and barely restrained ample cleavage. Everyone has their eye on someone, and their relationships all progress in different ways.
I have to say that this is one of my very favorite stories in the series. By this point there is so much for the authors to work with, and this story has a real beauty in the writing that is almost akin to a slow sunset, nearing the gloaming of the series. So much is dying down, but in that process the real beauty of the characters come out. I think that Clare and Jordan really took advantage of that in this story, where the relationships are seen from a broader perspective — which lives are beginning, which are ending, which relationships last and which are tenuous, and in the middle stand Hunter and Chance, with reconciliation in reach, able to see every strand around them but the ones that connect each other.
I really adored Trevor, and even though we don’t get to know his “other half” very well in the story, the point in made that the real choice concerns which direction he’ll take in his life, or if he’ll allow those around him to make the choice for him. What I loved the most was the way this was brought forward — through dance. Something so freeing is a leap of real faith for Trevor, someone who is a pleaser, who is shy, to let the passion take him, to have the dominance to command attention. My favorite bit of the story is the flamenco and Trevor’s reaction to it. I remember seeing a show when I was in Madrid, and Clare and Jordan captured that beauty and passion perfectly:
“The dancer twisted and struck a pose. Guitar music rippled around her. Lifting her shoulders and extending her arms from the elbow, she created elegant flower shapes in the air with her hands. She stamped, and the layered silk around her feet flashed in multiple shades of red, catching the evening lights around the patio. … The music increased in speed: the guitarist’s fingers strumming swiftly, the drummer quickening. The dancer matched them, beating out the tempo with the balls of her feet, snapping her fingers, flicking her hair across her shoulders as she turned again and again, her eyes still on the people watching, her step ever sure.”
The duality of this dance in particular, sensual and dominating staccato rhythm echoes the other dualities in the story which was nice to see: within Trevor himself, the yin/yang of Hunter and Chance, the old and the young, as well as the atmosphere of the resort itself, which transforms from banging noises and contraction by day to and Eden of possibilities at night, as well as a number of little visual cues here and there, Chance cutting into an orange.
I won’t say much more in effort not to give too much away, but I loved the open ending and very much look forward to the final story. I could probably go on and on about the things I loved about this story for a while, but I’ll let you discover most of them yourselves. All I can say is that the writing is really rich, and this story was a pleasure to read.
Finally, I was happy to get a little bit more about the distance between Chance and Hunter. This quote by Hunter said a lot about Chance, and really put some things into perspective for me:
“…he silenced the conversation with a kiss before Chance could come up with another cutting remark…because he didn’t really mean any of them. They were just a reflex. Somewhere Hunter had hurt him one time too many, and somehow he’d contrived to defend himself with scorn.”
This review is for the complete first part of the Wolf's-own story, books 1 and 2Review for Ghost and Weregild together posted at The Armchair Reader.
This review is for the complete first part of the Wolf's-own story, books 1 and 2, and contains spoilers for the first book, Ghost.
Oh Carole! What are you doing to me!?
I remember when I read Aisling, Carole's first published series, how amazing she was at characterization, especially in creating a tragic hero. Here, with Fen Jacin-Rei she created an even more tragic one, with deeper motivations and a fuzzier moral compass. Even though I love the true works of art she creates, I still felt blown away finishing the first two books of this series, which are really one complete story (just as 3 and 4 are the same). And the most amazing thing about it is how humble Carole is, like I wasn't reading this book with a sense of awe at the worlds and characters she creates, that just seem so… fluid, so thoroughly settled in their world. All of the books she writes are about characters that bring the world to life around them, instead of a unique world that tells us about the people in it. That direction toward characters and allowing them their room to grow, to fall in love (or not) make this not a romance, but a study of characters that happen to be in a fantasy world and happen to fall in love, in their own way. That truly baffles me, how she's able to do that and it all comes across the page so easily. I swear, I'll never get tired of reading her work.
Okay, now that my gushing is over I'll try to get on to a bit about the story (I could talk all day -- in fact I could analyze the shit out of this like I really want to but I know you all don't want to sit here and end up reading a dissertation, nor should you, that would take away the mystery).
Ghost and Weregild are set in the land of Ada, whose native residents, the Adan, have subjugated the race of the Jin for fear of their magic and annexed the country of Jejin into their own. Now the Jin are a dwindling race living in internment camps and periodically raided for those hiding magic. Those with magic are Disappeared. The Jin before the war that brought them down were ruled by their Ancestors -- spirits of those that came before them who were themselves descended from gods. When the magic of the Jin and land of the Jejin was breached, the Ancestors went mad, and the once revered Jin who could hear their voices -- the "Untouchables" -- went mad with them from having the raving collected voices in their minds. Tradition among the Jin, and the Adan who before the war had intermarried with them and their customs, held that the Untouchables still couldn't be touched, for who could say they knew the wisdom of the ancestors and by touching one might alter the path that was already set in motion? So over a hundred years after the war, no one may alter the course of an Untouchable, even if that raving Untouchable were beating you in the street, you would not lift a finger to defend yourself.
However, there are those that would alter the fate of an Untouchable, so cruelly nicknamed Ghosts. A family who would shelter one, or someone who might harness the power of one. Because the war between the Jin and Adan upset the balance of the gods, and the agents who work for them, the Temshiel and the Maijin, serve to reset that balance, and curry favor for themselves in the balancing, even though the gods themselves are fickle, sometimes quiet, and seemingly always at war among each other. Like pieces on a chessboard, the Temshiel and the Maijin can only move in the way their gods command them, and they each serve different ones. For a Ghost placed among such mass manipulation, can there even be free will, even for one supposed to heed the wisdom of now raving spirits?
Well, you can see from that long, yet still very superficial setup that this story contains circles within circles. The characters all have to make difficult choices because there are no good ones. There are so many hands fighting for control of Fen, the Ghost at the fulcrum of the near future machinations of the gods, and even the ones that would seem good and caring have their own agenda. It is a harsh, cruel world, where punishment against ones gods means going to the suns and never being reborn. It is a world where there is no "fair", no matter how much Fen might dream of it, because the gods themselves are not fair, and they as agents are consequences of the gods.
I want to talk a bit about the characters, while I'm talking about how sad their prospects are ;) We have Fen Jacin-Rei of course, known by different names by different people. Fen is the product of his making and of subtle and deliberate manipulation from the Ultimate Aantagonist (because he is). The outside stoicism and underlying barely-held strength Fen has in the face of so much impossibility he's expected to make possible is heartbreaking, especially in the light of everything we slowly learn he's been through. Every revelation nearly broke my heart, and even though it has forged him into a weapon which could easily be just as soul-damningly terrifying as stunningly heroic, that fine edge of uncertainty allows his fortitude to shine through. Then there is Malick -- of questionable background and leader of a rag-tag group of assassins (Samin, who I LOVE, Shig and Yori). It takes the better part of both books to understand his true purpose, as it does for him to understand it as well. Yet, for someone who perhaps shows the world a person of questionable morality and often ruthlessness, is quite piercingly idealistic himself. The natures Fen and Malick show the world around them are startlingly different, and their façades immediately repel the other. It makes for a delicious friction between the two, both professionally and romantically. The rest of the group are all so much more than secondary characters, many full characters with offered POV themselves. I have so little time to talk about them, but in particular I loved Samin, as well as Joori, though I really did love them all in their own way. I don't see how you couldn't.
I see so much growth in Carole's writing from Aisling to Wolf's-own. There is a noticeable shift into a more adult mindset from that series to this one. I see how, when I didn't understand before, just why Aisling was a YA series, if only in the room that shift allowed her characters to grow -- a subtle shift from innocence against the world to a jaded kind of innocence still fighting for survival. It has little to do with sex, or romance of any kind, but more I think with a different minset from the characters (not maturity, per se, but maybe life experience). That shift really allows the story to follow it's natural progression, a story which from the outset dealt with a somewhat harsher slice of life, just like as with age and wisdom choices become muddled without the stark black and white surety we have with youth. These characters look upon their situation with adult eyes, which makes their choices much more difficult. I don't think that this story would have been successful if Carole hadn't been able to make that shift, which for me, was one of the biggest growths I saw in the writing.
The first book, Ghost, is told in a very specific format of flashbacks. I normally abhor flashbacks. My little brain just can't take all the back and forth sometimes. But I think I realized reading Ghost, that that wasn't the case at all. What I can't take are flashbacks that don't serve a larger purpose, because I had no problem with these. They allow Carole to play with the delivery of information. To all of you who have ever read these books or the Aisling books, you know that this author isn't one to give information to the reader idly -- we have to work for it. The addition of flashbacks in a book that deals the most setup of the story means that we, the reader, are privy to certain bits of information before the characters. Most, of course, is still in Carole's hands to be doled to us in precise fashion, but I liked the back and forth play that made me as a reader take a more active role in the story. I think that you might need to finish the first two books (to get a complete story) before you realize that, which is why I don't necessarily blame anyone who bemoans the use of flashbacks, but I could see that they are there for a very specific reason and that they serve their purposes.
Lastly, I think there is something that needs to be said about the direction we approach this series as readers. They might be released from Dreamspinner Press, a publisher that we all know for publishing m/m romance. But, I think it is a fault of our own if we don't approach this story with an open mind, and since that's hardly the fault of readers, since most of us come from that community who read these books, I really think that everyone should know they're in for an epic fantasy with some romance underneath, instead of a romance that deals in fantasy. There is a huge difference, and I'm not sure that if I didn't understand that distinction if I would really appreciate these books the way they should be.
I really think that Carole has one-upped herself when I didn't know if she could. I think everyone should read these, but then again, no story is for everyone. You really have to think with Carole's writing -- you cannot be an idle reader. And you have to have some patience. The story unfolds in it's own way, and at an unhurried pace.
PS. I cried. No… I CRIED. But it was so worth it!...more
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn't put it down -- I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF'ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn't get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn't. So I couldn't believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I'll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he's unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He's pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn't recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan's slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They're those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren't Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan's new life seems wonderful and exciting. He's protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan's life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he's young, still living at home with his father and before he's had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he's also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He's buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can't see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he's also very internal and cautious. I didn't see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can't tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan's journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he's a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there's nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don't think that's really possible. But I know now that I'll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn't too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in....more
Sarah Black really advances with each book she writes. This just blew me away, and in the end, it leaves a really heavy impression about war and how iSarah Black really advances with each book she writes. This just blew me away, and in the end, it leaves a really heavy impression about war and how it changes us, both individually and as a country. I loved it.
Mmm, this was actually one of my favorites of this author's. For one, I didn't really understand why people were upset about the amount of t4.75 stars
Mmm, this was actually one of my favorites of this author's. For one, I didn't really understand why people were upset about the amount of time that the two MCs spend together. They actually saw each other quite a bit, unless it was in relation to the amount of time Will spends with his arrogant friend Baz, though that might because he's such an unlikeable character. Even though I wanted to hit him repeatedly, I still appreciated his role in the story (the same for Leif).
Once again the characterizations were spot on with an interesting evolution to watch. It was nice to see Will's affections change and to understand what blind loyalty can mean over time, which was the same issue with Marcus and Leif.
I think that the mystery wasn't very convoluted and difficult, which suits me more because I'm not actually a big fan of mysteries. Still, I enjoyed the fact that much of the novel passed before I really even started to guess that it would take the role it did.
Overall, I had a great time reading this one, loved the characters even though I hated some of them, and completely tore through it in just about 4 hours, which for a book not not so little size was pretty quick for me....more
Though the third installment of a series, this story can be read as a standalone.
I’ve been a big fan of Eden Winters’ work now for a while, with The Match Before Christmas and Fanning the Flames at the top of that list. I fell in love with Barry in those stories and remember loving the little bit that showcased the nerdy bear Otis, who just couldn’t seem to find a guy to like him because he hadn’t yet accepted that anyone ever would. So, finally getting a story all about that lovable, awkward and slightly chunky bear made my day and ended up being on par with the other two stories I loved, while in many ways it surpassed them.
Otis is tragically romantic. He’s got a furry belly that just won’t seem to go away, though he can’t bear to try enough when he loves cooking and video games and hates working out. He’s only confident in the things he can do alone, like playing his favorite game Invasion of Akutan and imaging finding a man just like his hero in the game Captain Nathan, or cooking Italian home gourmet from the recipes his Nonna taught him, though that reminds him how wonderful cooking with someone he loved would be. He lies to his co-workers about actually having a life over the weekends, when he’s actually sitting on his couch imagining steamy scenarios with Captain Nathan. Worst of all, he’s clung to his fake internet persona Vincent for so long that he’s begun to feel like a friend. Vincent is everything Otis wishes he was, sexy and fit, interesting and exciting. So when Barry (the friend he made when Barry made an internet date with “Vincent” and Otis showed up instead, from The Match Before Christmas) finally convinces him to make a real profile on GetaDate.com, furry belly and obsession with gaming and all, he does it to satisfy his friend, even though he doubts anyone will show an interest in him. Still, one man does, and it blows Otis away. Garret is beautiful enough to be a model and has all the same interests as Otis. If Otis can only get over the fact that Garret could do so much better than him, then maybe they’ll have a chance together.
There is so much to love about this story. Otis is one of those characters that tug at your heart right away and make you laugh in the next sentence. No matter how much he despairs of his life and his longing for someone to love, he’s never pitying. He’s spent so much time alone that he often talks to himself, carrying on conversations and imaging scenarios with different people. My favorite is when he see’s Garret’s profile for the first time on the dating site:
“He kept reading. ‘Enjoys fishing, long walks, and working out.’ Otis looked down at his belly, mood dropping. ‘There’s something we don’t have in common.’
When he reached the “Interests” folder, his spirits lifted, seeing that Garret loved international cuisine. ‘I could hook you up with some authentic Italian food,’ he told the smiling image onscreen.
‘I suck at cooking,’ Garret’s About me, blurb stated.
“Got ya covered,” Otis remarked.”
and before their date, as Otis is nervous but still completely unashamed of himself in private:
“Several times he caught himself humming, “Time of My Life,” smirking at himself in the mirror. ‘What a sentimental goofball you are,’ he told his reflection.”
There’s something so special about Otis, in the same self-deprecating and awkwardly humorous way that Barry had in the previous books, where Eden shows us a person that in front of every one else seems to be constantly in a mess of their own making, shrouded in all their faults, yet is open and free in private. We see Otis as he is at his core, a really loving, sweet, funny, nerdy man whose one dream is just to be a part of something special.
The fulfillment of Otis’ dream is the subject of this story, and while in most stories a character getting all they dreamed as everything seems to fall in line might have made me choke on saccharine clichés, Eden has a knack for creating characters that really deserve their happy ending and shine in a way that I don’t often see in a short format. I was happy that we really got to know Garret well, even though the POV is Otis’ in the story. In the end, I had no doubt that this was a perfectly paired couple. They made me smile, and laugh. In the end, I just wanted to read the story over again it made me so happy.
There’s so much to say about this story, and I’m sure that I’ll find other things when I read this again and again, as I know I will. Otis has now made my list of my all time favorite characters, right next to Barry. For the happiness this story gave me alone, I have to give it an A, and recommend it highly to everyone I know!
For a free scene written from Garret's POV, click here to be taken to Eden's blog post!...more
I finally got around to reading this book, one that I bought quite a while ago and regretfully let fall to the bottom of my teetering TBR pile. Just wI finally got around to reading this book, one that I bought quite a while ago and regretfully let fall to the bottom of my teetering TBR pile. Just wanted to write a quick note here and say how delightful this story was, how funny, heartwarming, and well written it was. There's just something that Eden Winters does well that always gives her stories that little extra push. I'm not sure if it comes down to her characters, which are always a delight to read, or if she just has a direct line to the dark recesses of my cluttered mind, because she always seems to tell a story that I've just been waiting to read....more