Ninja Recommended Sneaky Reads

Rhyll reviews Sweet Agony by Charlotte Stein

Pull on your asbestos mittens and panties before reading Sweet Agony and don’t, whatever you do, wear or drink anything flammable. Because when your lady parts spontaneously combust you don’t want any accelerants nearby or you could lose the whole bedroom to fire damage.

The particular cocktail mix that’s going to act as such excellent accelerant and leave scorch marks on your bed covers is the following: 

·      One diabolically hot but damaged hero who is so desperate to push others away it’s delicious

·      One sassy, hilarious heroine experiencing freedom for the first time

·      Forced proximity inside a ‘gothic’ house

·      Dark secrets

·      So much push-pull sexual tension the reader risks friction burns.

The thing I adored most about this book was the hero. He puts the ‘mudgeon’ in curmudgeon and says the sorts of things that a robot or alien might:

‘If you recall, I observed you walking up to my front door. It was not exactly difficult to extrapolate based on the variables at hand. You only managed to step over my gate by standing on tiptoe, which tells me that you are no more than five foot three, and once you had traversed it I could clearly see the distance in inches between each of your hips and the edges of said gate. As I know the exact width it was fairly easy from there to surmise your lower measurements, and only a little more difficult to ascertain what sort of bodice you might require. As you quite clearly wear a bra two sizes too small for you, it took me a little longer to absolutely be sure, but, judging by your relative self-consciousness, the way you hold your arms when you walk and the other parameters of your body, I believe I have the right of it’

I always feel that reading one of Charlotte Stein’s books is like taking a dip in her mind—and her mind is a fun place to paddle around in. It’s full of whimsy and slightly wicked humour, just like her heroine (Molly) who is entranced by the hero’s use of words like ‘reprobate’ and ‘disillusion’ and his voice so lusty with syllables that the she feels that “his sentence should smoke a cigarette, directly after the full stop.”

What I loved about this story is that it’s the most unusual of courtships because one half of the couple can’t bear to be looked at, let alone touched. Hero and heroine initially progress their banter through correspondence (despite the fact they share a house because she’s hired as a live-in housekeeper) which moves from criticism of her sweeping technique to playful letters about hair thievery. And, in a reverse of the usual order of intimacy, the first encounter between hero and heroine is a rather kinky (yet distant) encounter, and from there they gradually work up to more ‘normal’ but risky (for the hero) things like kissing.

I’ve never read a writer more brilliant at emotive description than Charlotte Stein, and her descriptive brilliance really shines in Sweet Agony where she manages to put a fresh slant on the gothic mansion at the same time as revealing much about her protagonist:

“The whole front of it is the kind of grey you only get after natural disasters. Some apocalypse happened to this place and this place alone, and now it sits like a bad tooth in a mouth of pristine white ones. It even seems vaguely crooked, in a way that should be impossible. The other houses are ramrod straight. There is no space for it to slant to the side—it just looks as though it does. 

Malevolence is probably making it happen. I think malevolence might be making a lot of things happen. All the windows are blank, black eyes, and each one of them seems to follow me wherever I go. I glance away for a second and can almost feel them, pressing into my body. Then I turn back and they pretend to be all innocent again.”

While the heroine initially finds the hero’s house spooky, she’s anything but spooked when she sees her attic bedroom and it’s there that we get an insight into what her former life was like when she reveals that she used to sleep on folded-over towels and two sleeping bags. She’s also delighted by his library and the two bond over their love of books despite the unpromising start to their relationship.

It becomes clear as the story unfolds that Molly’s employer’s house is her escape from her family, and that her employer—despite his hilarious gruffness and odd ways—is the first person to show her real kindness and to appreciate her whimsical and bookish bent. Likewise, Molly is the first prospective employee the hero is unable to frighten away and in an odd way the two are perfect for one another because they see through the other’s pretences and value what is unique about the other.

This story is filled with all the usual fresh, wickedly funny dialogue, exciting interior monologue and keen observation that I’ve come to expect of Charlotte Stein, but this one has an extra something to it (perhaps Molly’s instinctive kindness and the way she manages the hero’s deep wound) and I admit that this may be my favourite book of hers so far.

 

 

 

 

Rhyll reviews: Taken by Charlotte Stein

(And don't miss the Rafflecopter entry at the end of this post!)

We’ve all had them, those pleasant fantasies where Brad Pitt runs into you at the day spa and refuses to allow you leave until he’s given you a full mani and pedi, or aliens that look like Chris Evans abduct you for a ménage a cinque, or a hot wookie forces you to accompany him to ballroom dancing lessons…

You know, whatever blows your hair back.

But I can’t imagine any other author getting away with such an outrageous plot (and making me like it) as that in Taken, especially in such a short romance (ten chapters). The plot of Taken is essentially that of a young woman falling for her ‘accidental’ captor, and the ‘capture fantasy’ is alive and well here, albeit a modern version where both adults are aware of what’s going on psychologically and why it’s turning them on, and both are also aware of the risks and understand the concept of consent. 

In case you’re young and sheltered (in which case, boy, are you on the wrong website) a ‘capture fantasy’ involves a woman or a man (but more commonly a woman) kidnapped or held against their will and subject to the wicked will of their captor. 

Yes, kids, that’s a thing. A submission and dominance kind of thing (although earlier romance novels never explicitly acknowledged that).

In the romantic version, captor and captive end up living happily ever after, or at least happy for now, while the non-romantic version looks and smells a lot like rape (albeit some fantasy version of that). It’s a trope that goes waaaay back –think of all those historical novels where maidens are captured by pirates, sheiks, clansmen, highwaymen and almost anyone else with a penis. And yet the trope also has a bazillion contemporary faces, both in speculative fiction (where many a handsome alien or dragon shifter takes a captive) and erotic romance, where the fantasy is often explicitly discussed and the scene negotiated. 

My personal preference is for stories where consent is explicit and communication about fantasies takes place before any ambitious enactments, so I was glad that Taken fell into that category. I’m not a fan of bodice rippers anymore (though I was in my teens and will passionately defend them against any haters) and while I’ve tried erotic romances in which the boundaries of consent are pushed or disregarded (e.g. Wanderlust) I find them too disturbing to enjoy. So I was pleased that the ‘capturing’ in Taken was accidental, and that the captor was an unwilling one.

Just how ‘accidental’ can handcuffs be, I hear you ask.

Well, Johann, owner of a bookstore (and right there we know this hero is gonna be alright because he owns and runs a bookstore) catches Rosie’s almost-friend trying to start a fire in his store but captures Rosie instead of Marnie (the world’s worst friend). He intends to hold Rosie in the basement just long enough for the police to arrive—before realizing that since he has a rap sheet the fact that he’s locked a young woman in his basement might not work out too well for him. He then panics and makes the situation worse by handcuffing her to a bed so he can leave her there while he thinks about his predicament. But when he calms down and returns to unlock the cuffs and free her, the key breaks off in the lock.

Don’t you hate that?

Stein does more than just get away with this plot, she does a great job with it considering how easy it would be for the hero captor to come across as creepy and sleazy. Instead he comes off as adorably overwhelmed, both by the heroine and their situation, and his own awkwardness.

I could keep talking like this until the end of time. He just told me that his favourite book in the store is a rare edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales where the wolf in Red Riding Hood has an erection, which is awesome for two reasons. The first is that he quite clearly loves the old gruesome versions of the stories with everyone getting their feet cut off and strangling themselves with hair. And the second is his awkwardness when he realizes he just said erection to me.

I fully enjoyed Rosie’s needling banter and inner monologue, which manages to be innocent and wicked at the same time, and frequently hilarious. (Don’t ask me about the hair-trigger vagina.)

Unintentionally filthy things are still waiting around every corner, just waiting to spring on us when we least expect them. He thought he was just innocently talking to me about books—the saftest subject there is.

Then bam, suddenly we have a rampant cock right in the middle of it.


And…

I was starting to think he really might be that one—you know the guy you read about in romance novels who just gets you and sees you want a spanking before you know you do—and it’s kind of a letdown to think he might not be.

Given the capture fantasy element, the gradual unfolding of the couple’s relationship (and exploration of kink) is unexpectedly sweet, as is the level of concern they show for one another's welfare. Since I prefer romances where the characters treat one another well, I found that satisfying and was happy with the ending for the two characters (unique as they are). 

I think this is one of the more unusual books by Charlotte Stein that I’ve read, both due to the way she turns the capture fantasy on its head by creating an unwilling, concerned captor, and the way she’s uses language to dramatic effect. Examples:

Your cardigan alone screams my dick is bigger than your arm.

And: 
“Why do you want to sit down?”

“Oh I don’t know. So we can share stories, talk about old times, learn little details about each other the way people usually do before they turn into angry bears in heat.”


And: 
…in the absence of sex, everything somehow becomes sex. It’s like sex rushes in to fill the sex void.

Yes, this book is different but I love different, and I know there are plenty of other romance readers out there who do too. The book is available from Amazon and you'll find all the other buy links and whatnot here.

P.S.

If you decide to go ahead and read it, make sure you look up the name Francis Dolarhyde (if you don’t already recognize it) so that you’ll get the joke that’s neatly slipped in somewhere in the middle of the book.

Blurb:
It was just a prank I didn't want to be a part of. I never meant to hurt anyone, least of all Johann Weir. You wouldn't know that he sells literature for a living. He has these wild eyes—eyes that light something up in me—and he must be twice as big as I am, with strong, warm hands. Hands I try not to imagine everywhere.

He scares me. And thrills me.

But now the deed is done, and I have to face the consequences. He says he just wants to hold me here until the police come, but it's been hours and I'm still here.

Chained to a pipe in his back room like a prisoner.

The only person I have to talk to is Johann, and I tell him dark, shameful secrets—secrets that involve the metal around my wrist and him standing over me. But I can't stop. I need him to know everything. I need him.

Johann has his own secrets—ones he wants to tell me too. And more than anything, I want to listen. And maybe, before he sends me away, he'll punish me.

Just a little.

Just enough.

Excerpt:
“What are you doing?” I hiss, because seriously this was not what we discussed. She just said she was going to come in here and do a bit of mischief, not burn the goddamn place down. I thought she meant creasing the corner on page seven of War and Peace, and to be honest even that was too far for me. The books in here are absolutely gorgeous. The owner might be a maniac. It all seemed like the very worst thing in the world.

And then she starts in on actual arson.

Oh god, she plans to commit arson.

“I told you: teaching him a lesson,” she says, and I can see it in her hand.

A can of lighter fluid, that she’s getting ready to spray.

“This is not a lesson Marnie. This is suicide.”

“No way you think that pompous jackass is going to do anything? He’s not going to do anything, and besides we can be out the door before he even knows.”

“The door is past where he is right now.”

“Yeah but I bet he’s super slow.”

“I don’t think he’s slow Marnie,” I say, but even I have no real idea how right I am about that. I picture him lumbering after us as we dash down the street. I think of him sort of catching me as I round the shoe place on the corner. I do not expect him to be so quick that he comes up on us before we even know he has moved. That is not just fast. That is pretty much super human and insanely stealthy. For a second I think something mad like did he take off his shoes to do it?

And then all my thoughts are cut off at the knees.

They have to be, because oh my god he just grabbed me. I swear to god he grabs me. His enormous arms go right around my middle, and not in a simple and straightforward restraining sort of way. He actually lifts me clean off the ground. I see both of my feet kick up in an arc, those cute purple Converse suddenly so small and silly seeming. I should have chosen something more adult, I know, and now I am going to be murdered while wearing them. "

About the Author:
Charlotte Stein is the acclaimed author of over thirty short stories, novellas and novels, including the recently DABWAHA nominated Run To You. When not writing deeply emotional and intensely sexy books, she can be found eating jelly turtles, watching terrible sitcoms and occasionally lusting after hunks. She lives in West Yorkshire with her husband and their now totally real and completely nightmarish dog.

 

Review of Gay Dinosaur Billionaire Adventures with Bigfoot and Friends!

Are you ready to “test the prehistoric waters”?

If so, be warned: Like many of the characters in story, you may be left feeling confused and slightly ashamed for enjoying the human-on-dino action and wanting more. 

But it won’t be because of any thrillingly sticky dinosaur jizz showers (unless that’s your thing). Rather, it’ll be because every story in this anthology is hilarious, and intentionally so (though some of the stories are disturbingly hot despite their tongue-in-dino-cheek nature).

Romance readers will enjoy the playful swipes at certain tropes and a well-known novel that shall not be named, and those familiar with the dino-porn epub fad (perhaps unwillingly so) will get a laugh from the over-the-top language: “his scaly torpedo”,  “jacking into that scaly matrix”, “my spiral-penised protector”.

The anthology stories are, in order of appearance:

T-Rex Wants Bigfoot’s Gay Billionaire Boyfriend 

Jezebel Lixxx’s story about Darren Bilderberg, the billionaire founder of TwitBookSpaceMyFace, and his betrayal by his Bigfoot lover (who offers him up to Rex Slaughter, a billionaire T.Rex playboy, as payment for debts) incorporates snapshots of Darren’s hilarious posts to TwitBookSpaceMyFace.

Darren’s compulsive texting leads to a break up with Bigfoot, but luckily Darren has all the emotional depth of a plastic credit card and two seconds after breaking up with Bigfoot he's ready for dino-peen action with Rex. Needless to say, being the “gay billionaire vessel of the Rex Slaughter’s rapturous cock” puts him in touch with his inner goddess. He’s torn (not literally), however, when Bigfoot returns for him.

Captive In The Raptor’s Dungeon 

What’s a girl to do when a “suave, well-dressed velociraptor” asks her out? If you’re 19-year-old barista, Allison, you borrow a co-worker’s dildo—one made from a mold of the peen of “pterodactyl porn star, James Deenosaur”—and try to “loosen yourself up” so to speak. Though it does turn out that velociraptors have a decided preference for blazing the Hershey Highway over popping virgin cherry.

Anyway, we know everything is going to work out beautifully between these two lovers the second we learn Allison is the sort of girl who flicks the bean while thinking about the T.Rex in Jurassic Park. This virgin’s way more kinky than Anastasia Steele.

Raptor Gang Bang 

Foofla La Pluge’s story was the most confronting in this collection for me because the tale of a macho man driven to crave violation by a pack of horny raptors is so well written that I fear it’ll legitimize the genre and spawn a series of imitation novels, movies, tele-movies and academic papers (none of which will be half as good as her story). Foofla will then become known as the 'raptor smut-loving destroyer of youth' and become the scapegoat of political leaders and media moguls who will blame her for everything from global warming to teen pregnancy.

The Billionaire Playboy Superhero Raptor’s Unexpected Lover 

There’s a hint of Marvel Comics to Arabella Snark’s story about a reporter character chasing a superhero raptor who he suspects was once a billionaire playboy. I’ll confess, I’m impressed by the way Ms Snark subverts the genre by having the human reporter bang the raptor. Literary innovation at it’s finest. And I loved that there’s a hint of happy ever after for the dino-human couple.

Oviraptor, My Love 

In this story by Crystal Lattis, the heroine is a young but experienced assistant working for Egmont Snatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Muffy Snatcher, and head of Yolo Industries. Chrissy is unsure whether it’s her DDDD cup size or ability to speak Oviraptorian that promps Egmont to invite her to travel to Miami with him. Their love is consummated on Egmont’s jet, and before they even touch down he’s already ogled her bare breasts which her last Oviraptor lover adored because they “reminded him of eggs, which oviraptors loved to eat. In fact, eggs—the larger the better—were the staple of their diets.” Some of the most hilarious lines from the anthology are in this story:

"I’d never felt more beautiful than I did in that moment, somewhere in the sky along the Eastern seaboard with a sexy billionaire oviraptor."

"The last image I had before I fell asleep was of Egmont, roosting on the footboard, his head tucked under one feathered forelimb. My spiral-penised protector. My billionaire hero with eyes and a heart made of gold.

Oviraptor, my love."

There’s no question I enjoyed this cabaret of high-comedy dino-smut. But please don’t anyone tell my mum I said that—she’d be disappointed in me because she prefers tentacle porn.

Fans of Shoshanna Evers, Delphine Dryden, Charlotte Stein and Audra North will treasure this dino-porn gem. 

Rhyll searches for plumber love...

Plumbers, plumbers. After my fun interview with the plumber boys (here) I desperately wanted me some plumber romance, so went scrambling through Goodreads looking for suitable novels.

Perfection by R.L. Matthewson apparently had a heroine handy with a plunger, but I didn’t want to read it after seeing the review on Dear Jane saying the hero’s attitude towards fat women made him an epic douche.

I bypassed the fat-shaming fiction to skip over to something healthier (i.e. something less likely to enrage me).

I quickly discovered that all the books tagged with ‘plumber’ in Goodreads turned out to be carpenters. This led to: a) a feeling of being cock-blocked, even though I don’t own a cock and b) me wondering if Goodreads needs to employ a career guidance counselor to help reviewers distinguish between carpenters and plumbers. (Do they call a carpenter when they need their toilet unblocked?)

Did undercover cops posing as plumbers count? If so, then there was Divorced, Desperate and Deceived by Christie Craig.

No, I was holding out for a real plumber.

But at 35 pages, The Plumber and the Cha-cha Queen was too short, even though the title was intriguing.

I also passed on the vast quantities of very short (11 to 20 pages) porno mag style plumber erotica (mostly of the adultery and ‘nooner’ variety) on Amazon.

The promise of a satanist plumber in one blurb piqued my interest, but $3.59 seemed steep for 14 pages.

And then I ran out of hits on Amazon. 

So I did what I do in real life, I lowered my standards and decided that, why yes, that gay couple in the detective series (one of them a plumber) did count as romance! After all, it was part of the Plumber’s Mate series. Plus I could hardly resist books titled Pressure Head and Relief Valve, could I?

In fact, plumbers seem to be far more popular in gay romance fiction that straight. And I'll admit that I was taken with this title: Working Hard, Loving Harder: Draining the Plumber. Even more taken with the fact that the author has an entire series of tradie erotic romance books e.g. Carpets Get Laid and The Carpenter Needs Wood. Woo-hoo! And there's pool boys and sparkies and, and...okay, you get the picture.

So far the only awesome lady-plumbers I've found are a were-shifter duo in The Mane Squeeze by Shelly Laurenston. They're both shifters, with Gwen a tigon shifter and Blayne a wolf shifter. The book is full of potty-mouthed humour, my favourite kind...

Rhyll reviews Unsuitable by Ainslie Paton

Shocking fact: I don’t particularly like children, and I like them in romance novels even less. It’s therefore a testimony to the author’s writing skill that I liked this book a lot.

Reece, the nanny (or manny, if you will) is a delicious hero. A hot blend of expert nanny, former fighter and passionate lover—an ingenious, magical mix of alpha and beta.

And I felt for Audrey, still suffering emotional frostbite from her loveless family after so many years.

Once Audrey and Reece give in to their attraction despite their employer-employee relationship, the intensity of their relationship is breath-taking. Which then makes it all the more devastating when it seems things aren’t going to work out. Audrey’s lack of faith in herself and their relationship causes her to sabotage their happiness, and she reminded me of the creature in the Stephen Crane poem that gnaws upon its own heart and declares it enjoys the bitter taste.

Polly and Les serve as wonderful secondary characters, as do Reece’s sisters and Barrett the sperm-donor dad, offering comic relief during some of the more dark moments of the relationship.

Ainslie is another writer, like Charlotte Stein, who cares about words, and I found myself highlighting the more delicious metaphors in the same way an antique book collector runs their hands over limited edition tomes.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes: She chose him all the way from his boat size feet to his quiet domestic heroism. She made a cocoon of them, an alternate world for the two of them and Mia to exist in.

I also enjoyed the way the author played with conventions and stereotypes (e.g. how parents and carers should act, physically mis-matched couples) and explored deeper themes around workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.

Unsuitable definitely delivers the hyper-real romance that the author is known for. You won’t find any cardboard characters, over-the-top dialogue or improbable scenarios to choke on, just warmth, wit and an intelligent love story.

 

Rhyll reviews: Control by Charlotte Stein

Good help is so hard to find…

In need of an assistant to help run Wicked Words, her naughty bookshop, Madison Morris conducts an interview selection process quite unlike any I’ve ever experienced. The rough and domineering Andy bends her over her own desk and leaves a strong impression, but it’s the incurably uptight and dressed-to-repress Gabriel who wins the position and brings out all her most mistress-domme tendencies. Soon she finds she can’t get either man out of her head or her life.

This is a fun and sexy read as Madison not only has her hapless assistant read from the naughtiest books in the shop but has him mark up the bits he’d like to re-enact with her. Hormones fly around the bookstore like sex-crazed drones and there’s enough kink on the store’s bookshelves to knit a giant fetish muumuu. Charlotte Stein’s stories are always filled with laugh-out-loud humour and this one is no exception.

But beyond the sexy romps and the sexual teasing, there’s also character development and insight as Madison begins to question who is really in control in her relationship with Gabriel, who she is and what she wants. In addition, the way that the three characters come to the sexual and emotional rescue of one another adds to this emotionally satisfying read. As a 'switch' Madison is also an interesting character, by turns submissive with Andy and dominant with Gabriel. 

I enjoyed the setting of this novel as the atmosphere of the bookstore with its thick red pile carpet, extensive smut collection and furtive browsers added to the story, almost serving as a fourth character considering its impact on Gabriel and Mads. The store also provides the perfect captive environment for the sexually assertive Madison to stalk the seemingly-innocent Gabriel as she attempts to lure him out of his protective shell of priss.  

Another excellent novel by Charlotte Stein.


Lily reviews: Unrestrained by Rhyll Biest (Escape Publishing, 8 November 2014)

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If there has been a book this year that has grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and kept me up late at night, and found me reading while my children grizzled about toast promised to them an hour ago... Unrestrained is that book.

This is the story of Holly and Stein, two terribly wounded souls who find an incredible bond together that unites them against all odds.

The plot in a nutshell: Holly finds an iPad in a cafe, and in order to return the item to its owner, she opens it and looks at it, and finds a folder of explicit sexual photos of the female iPad owner with a man marked with a German tattoo. Upon further computer investigation (and no, she really shouldn’t investigate further but she can’t help herself and I ask... could you??) Holly discovers emails that prove the disgruntled girlfriend is trying to blackmail the man in the pictures (Stein) with threats to expose the photographs on the internet.

So Holly finds Stein’s details on the ipad and rings him to give him the iPad, and the two strike up a friendship.

What a friendship!

Stein deserves every medal in the universe for his incredible patience with Holly, and it made me love him SOOO much. What a guy. A stonemason! And I do love myself a blue-collar hero.

What these two get up to as Stein tries to win Holly’s trust was just champagne and caviar reading for me, with lobster on the side, and black forest cake dessert.

It’s not just sex. It’s incredibly emotional sex, and there’s a hell of a lot of foreplay on the way because these two are so, hate to say it, scarred. 

Holly’s scars are such that she will not let Stein see her without a t-shirt, and he has to then come up with a myriad of fiendishly clever ways to get her to open up to him, while her clothes stay firmly on.

For sexual tension, I think Rhyll Biest just leapt into the top two or three authors I could name, but what I found different about Rhyll’s writing is that there is still a cut and thrust of dialogue and clever description throughout the book. All this is perfectly in character because Holly is an editor. So it’s absolutely fitting that she’ll say or think something that has me in stitches like: “fuck me sideways with a hyphen.”

This is a passage I loved because of what it tell us about these two. This happens quite early in the book:

Stein says: 

“I’m not a doctor but I do know that neck lacerations are very uncommon in car accidents.”

Ah, busted.

He rested the cleared plates on the bench. “What makes me curious is that you feel the need to lie about them.” His calm grey eyes inspected her with a compassion she could not tolerate.

“I don’t lie, I just gloss over the details.”

A small smile parted his sensuous lips. “Do you gloss a lot?”

She glared at him.

“Can’t hide from me, Holly.” He fielded her glare and tapped his own scar.

I have two favourite, favourite scenes. (The entire book is one favourite scene). The first is when Holly washes Stein’s dishes. (Yes, you heard me right, his dishes).

I must say, washing dishes in my house hasn’t been the same since (and I own a dishwasher). Keep an eye out for this scene.

The second is their shopping trip to a grocery store. This is absolutely beautiful as they each swap “saucy stories of vegetable adventure.” There’s a brilliant twist at the end of this scene that reminds the reader of the stakes in this relationship.

I want to congratulate Rhyll who is a great writing buddy, and a ‘naughty ninja’ besides. I think Unrestrained is amazing, Rhyll, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

Cate Ellink reviews: Demons Within by Rhiannon Ayers

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Facebook is not my preferred social media form…but I have to admit that this book came to me from Facebook. In early September, Kylie Scott shared Joey W Hill’s amazing post where she shared a letter written by an author’s submissive husband. It was an amazing letter. So of course, I just had to go and check out the author…I mean, she has a submissive husband, and she’s writing stories about Dominants and submissives…I’d be silly not to check her out!!

Demons Within is a MMF menage, or triad. The two men are bisexual, so there’s M/M interaction, as well as action with the female. I have a thing for MM action and I love it, but if this is not your cup of tea maybe skip this story because it’s pretty hot and heavy (and delicious!).

Sidri and Tatum run an advertising business which they’ve inherited it from their parents. They’ve been friends since childhood and know each other inside out and back to front. But they’re both Dominants and as such, don’t play well together. Over years, they’ve discovered that by adding a submissive male to their pairing, they’re very happy. But finding the right male, who’s attracted to both of them, is proving difficult.

They bring Allen into their business and they’re both extremely interested in him. It’s just that Allen is so submissive, and so hurt by life, that they’re not sure he’ll be interested in their plan.

This story is awesome but has flaws and parts I didn’t like, or questioned why they were there. In some ways I thought it was a bit of an author soapbox, but even thinking that, I’d recommend people read it.

If you don’t understand, or want a bit more information on, Domination and submission, BDSM, same-sex relationships, the power struggle within relationships and even the arguments against religion’s anti same-sex stance, then this book is jammed packed with that information.  I felt it was a bit heavy-handed, a bit author soap-box, but if I was living that lifestyle, I’d probably do the same as Rhiannon Ayers did in this book. There is so much written by others that is incorrect, that I’m sure she wanted to right every wrong she’s ever read/heard/experienced. So for that reason, I’d say read this book! Learn from this book!

The relationship, a true triad (or three partner relationship), between Sidri, Tatum and Allen is so beautifully described and executed. The story takes you inside the Domme’s head (Sidri’s) and inside the submissive’s head (Allen’s). Tatum is a very cleverly depicted character in that he is a Dom for Allen but in my mind, quite a sub to Sidri…and he works. He’s huge and hot and beautiful and caring.

Although I’m no lover of Facebook, I have to say that I loved finding this author and I’ll be checking out the other Rhiannon Ayres book I saw on the Siren website.

Roz Reviews Driving In Neutral By Sandra Antonelli

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This is the third of my Ninja reviews for the week. I was planning to review Driving in Neutral, the September Escape release from Sandra Antonelli, on Wednesday. But time got away from me, and I didn't finish the book on time to do it then.

Fear not, my readers, I finished Driving in Neutral earlier today - and here is my review.

So, what did I think of Driving in Neutral?

"While his sartorial choice said Lamborghini Diablo, the raging timbre of his voice said 1982 Datsun 210 with a rusted, holey muffler."

Right from the moment that they get stuck in the elevator, and all the way throughout this fantastic book, it was clear to me that this was going to "rev my reading engine" (pardon the terrible pun).

I do harp on about it, but I love reading about the lives and loves of people who aren't always fresh out of the nursery. There is mention of Olivia and Emerson's ages, and those of the supporting characters, however that was all - and I couldn't be happier with that. We get to see them being them, and not dwelling on the golden years, or whinging about getting older.

The personal and physical chemistry between Olivia and Emerson is off the charts. There's snarkiness, moments of laugh-out-loud humour, and some definite moments of sauciness between them. Olivia's a strong, fierce heroine - I love that she used to be a racing driver - but I also love that she isn't all hard angles and prickliness. She has a real kindness and genuine love for her friends. Emerson's initial gruffness and claustrophobic panic gives way to a wonderfully cheeky and funny countenance. I totally got them as a couple, and loved every moment I got to spend with them.

Speaking of the supporting characters, Sandra has created a great cast to surround Olivia and Emerson. From Ella, the Scarlett-channelling bridezilla, to Karl, the ever-so-oily ex, they all add a great touch of humour and fun to the story.

If you have not discovered Sandra Antonelli's work, I urge you to get out there and do it. Her romances are smart, mature, funny and sexy. I am super, super happy to tell you that Sandra has provided me with yet another silver fox of awesome.....oh yeah, and a freakin' good read!

Roz Reviews Miss Spelled by Sarah Belle: Review

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Ninja review number two for today is the September release from Sarah Belle, Miss Spelled. I read this in an afternoon on the Monday post-RWAus conference, and I could not stop smiling when I closed the book on my Kindle.

Here are my thoughts on Miss Spelled:

Well, with a lot of the things that come from the internet (case in point), things don't turn out as they should for Lou, our heroine, when she dabbles in the magical arts:

"And new at the top of the list is buying a magic spell off the internet in order to erase the memory of me from the mind of my long ago ex-boyfriend."

Hey, we've all got that person in our past that we wish we could erase - Lou, I totally get your reasoning.

I adored this book so hard! Lou's initial panic and her frantic efforts to right the past make for highly entertaining reading, but the real strength of Miss Spelled is watching Lou trying to backpedal and reconnect with the glorious Aidan, and in turn not to destroy the happiness of the others in her life (what that is, you will have to read to discover). In turns, it is sweet, funny, emotional and always relateable.

Even though you are aware that she has gotten herself into this pickle, I felt for Lou's situation, and I found myself willing her towards the resolution that she wanted (and deserved).

The supporting characters in Lou's world are just fantastic - her friendship with Mel is just gorgeous. Aidan could have easily come off as Mr Too-Perfect, but he has a realness and genuine nature about him, and I could definitely see why Lou wanted him in her life. Dear Lord, that Hunter was a complete asshat! The silent and subtle payback that Lou begins to exact will leave you cheering in a less than silent manner.

From the spell gone wrong, to the bovine colostrum, to the very gorgeous end...Miss Spelled left me with a big goofy grin on my face! Loving your work, Sarah Belle.

This is the picture I linked to under “Case in Point”

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Roz Reviews Deep Diving By Cate Ellink

The first Ninja review for today is for Cate Ellink's upcoming Escape Publishing release, Deep Diving. Releasing in just a few days from now, this fantastic new erotic romance has so much of my catnip: cool setting, athletes, hot HOT sexytimes and a ripping good connection between the hero and heroine.

So, here are my thoughts on Deep Diving:

It's not often I get the chance to read a romance where both the hero and heroine are athletes - usually that is the hero. So you can imagine how happy I was to find out that both Sam and Cooper were professional athletes. For me, that both knew what it was like to devote so much of their life to the same pursuit made their initial connection all the more believable.

Even though the story takes place over a relatively short period of time, I totally believed in the chemistry between Sam and Cooper. As dive buddies and running mates, they work so well, but it is in their romantic and physical connection that they truly come to life. There are crazy hot sexytimes in Deep Diving, and plenty of them, however they are never gratuitous or feel as if they've been chucked in to fill a quota. Fruit platters may never be viewed in the same way, though.....

I wanted to scream "Hallelujah" from the rooftop when the age difference between Sam and Cooper was not constantly used as an excuse for them to not be together. Sam may be older by close to a decade, but there's not this constant sense of "I'm too old".

Oh yeah, I dare you to come away from reading Deep Diving without wanting to visit Lord Howe Island. Ever since a high school geography assignment in a time and galaxy far, far away, I've always been fascinated by this beautiful island. However, the vividly descriptive way in which Cate describes the surrounds in which Sam and Cooper are visiting....well, it just makes me want to take a holiday there right now.

If you are in the market for a fun, sexy, likeable and hot love story, Deep Diving will be entirely up your alley. It would be a perfect read for sitting by the pool. Just make sure you grab yourself a fan, because things do get steamy!

Her Favourite Temptation by Sarah Mayberry

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I was worried this book would be too sweet for me (yes, the Lady Biest is nasty and proud of it) and I have to admit that I felt some impatience with the heroine (Leah) who has spent thirty years trying to please her controlling parents. “Grow a pair and be done with it” I wanted to yell (because, obviously, I’m that aggressively defiant girl who doesn’t try to please anyone).

However, having said that, I found the story highly engaging, with very likeable characters, and Mayberry reveals a double degree in saucy banter and a deft hand at tweaking reader emotions.

Also, as an Aussie, I totally got the diabolical family humour (calling the hero ‘zipper head’ and his hand ‘the claw’ after his operation). Mayberry captures family dynamics and dialogue well, though I’m not sure how overseas audiences would have reacted to this typical Aussie humour.

My main worry—about how the hero’s terminal illness and operation would be handled—were put to rest by Mayberry’s unsentimental approach. I appreciated the research she did to find out what types of exercises Will would need to do after his operation to regain motor coordination in his hand, and enjoyed seeing Leah sticking it out with Will when he’s looking, and feeling, like shit. Because that’s true love, isn’t it? When we see someone at their worst and we still love them, and although the going is tough, we stick by them.

Nice one, Mayberry, now I’m a fan.

Pretty much anyone will enjoy this sweet story, though those who are into rock singers/musicians and medical stuff will devour this one in a single sitting.

For those who love spin-off novels involving secondary characters, Sarah’s got you covered; you can read the story about Leah’s sister in Her Favourite Rival.

Lily reviews: Drawn by Lilliana Anderson

It's hard to put my head in a place to properly review this book and do it justice. I have read quite a few of Lilliana's books, the first two in the Beautiful series, and some of her Confidante (which wasn't really my thing). I've also enjoyed the many snippets and excerpts of other books as I've seen her post on FB and on her blog. I find her writing style very easy to read, but still fresh and authentic.

I've been entranced at the idea of the new 'choose your ending' books that have just been released, that are promoted as choosing for Etta to either be with 'Damien' or with 'Aaron' and I applaud Lilliana for giving her readers these options. With all this in mind, I thought it best if I read Drawn first. It has been on my TBR shelf for a while, and I've read quite a few of the reviews which are a mixed bag.

It took me some time to get into Drawn. I found the pacing slow in the beginning and I didn't really connect with Etta or her family, or the loss of her brother, that was the driving force behind her wanting to move out of home. At 30% into the read, I have to admit I was struggling to care. And then Damien comes into the book properly, through training Etta in Akido, and it was the Akido scenes that caught my interest.

My favourite book of Lilliana's has been her first one, A Beautiful Struggle, and something that I enjoyed most in this was the heroine's athleticism. She was a triathlete, and I enjoyed all the scenes that involved exercise and training. Much the same, I started to warm up to Drawn through the section of the book relating to Akido, which Etta stopped practicing after her brother's death.

From that point on, I was hooked. I stayed up late last night, and finished the book this morning.

The emotion in this is incredible. Lilliana portrays it graphically, usually wound up in steamy, mind-blowing sexual scenes that rival some of the best I've read.

But it was the story underpinning all this sex that most fascinated me. Stalker Damien. Controlling Damien. How Etta wants to leave and knows she should, but can't and keeps returning to give him another chance. I haven't been involved with this kind of abuse in a relationship of my own, nor known of it in friends or family in real life, but I can imagine those relationships must start in some way similar to how the author describes in Drawn.

Small things that the perpetrator easily explains... moving to larger things (such as a blocked phone or changed SIM card and control of food, friendships, and social activities). As the 'abuse' goes on, the victim's own relativity blurs so that I think it becomes hard to see how a situation is escalating, once you're inside it. It's only by stepping outside the relationship that some clarity ensues.

All these things I got out of Drawn.

It is easy perhaps to dismiss this book as erotica, or an erotic thriller. It definitely is, but for me at least I found a deeper meaning here.

Well done Lilliana.

Rhyll reviews: Scorched by Erica Hayes

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I loved, loved, loved this taught, tight superhero story with romantic elements and a fabulous cast of super-villains.

There’s a hint of the hard-boiled about Scorched with its punchy language, dark themes, snappy dialogue and searing wit.

The story rips along at a furious pace with plenty of twists and turns and I loved the depth to the characters. I also enjoyed how Verity, AKA the Seeker, is almost crippled by rage, not a trait usually explored in heroines.

Usually I have to turn to graphic novels to find the kind of don’t-eff-with-me heroines I adore, but this book was a perfect ass-kicking fix.

If you’re a fan of heroines who hand others their ass on a plate (raises hand), or have enjoyed the recent movies based on Marvel comics, this book may be just what you’re looking for.

My favourite quotes from the book:

“Everyone knew Equity lived on celery sticks and jealousy. So why the hell had Dad left her in charge?”

“I seem to have misplaced my crime-fighter’s spring collection while I was in the nuthouse. So sad.”

“Wait till I tell the OCD little brat he’s been made. He’ll count toothpicks for a week.”

“I crawled out like a crusty, bad-tempered turtle, raking my fingers through knotted hair.”

 

* ARC provided by Netgalley for review purposes.

Andra reviews: Affection by Krissy Kneen

I doubt it would come as a surprise that as a writer of erotica and erotic romance I’m more than a little partial to books which deal with sexuality. After hearing Krissy Kneen speak on a panel about ‘Sex In Words’ I was compelled to find out more about this three-time Queensland Premier’s Literary Award nominee whose blog is intriguingly titled ‘Furious Vaginas’.

Although published in 2009, Affection is a timeless memoir of sexual self-discovery.  Ms Kneen chronicles her life in a series of short flashbacks of times and events in her life coloured by her growing awareness of a dependence on sexual gratification. 

Everyone experiences the daunting, exhilarating, confusing wonders of burgeoning sexuality. Some struggle with it, even suppress it. Others, like Krissy, embrace it with gusto, fascination and curiosity. She poignantly and vividly describes her ongoing journey starting from accidentally discovering the multi-sensory joy of orgasms as a young girl, to finding the love of her life. There is no salaciousness or titillation – just the honesty and acceptance of coming to terms with her desires.

The vignettes flick back and forth between decades and though beautifully written and evocative, for me it breaks the flow of the narrative to be constantly trying to recall what the status quo was the last time we visited that timeframe.  However, taken as a whole, Affection is like your best friend telling you about her life, you share her emotions and feel privileged to have been let into that usually private world. 

ROZ REVIEWS: FANNING THE FLAMES BY VICTORIA DAHL

Oooh, now I do love me some silver-fox action. My ninjas know this, and there has been provision of said mature protagonists from them. However, I am always on the lookout for more.

Victoria Dahl, I loved your work before. After reading Fanning the Flames, I shall be pimping your work even more mercilessly than before.

I may still be in my thirties, but I still read characters that are younger than me. Why shouldn’t I read characters that are upwards of my own age? In Lauren and Jake, Victoria has created a wonderfully real and ridiculously hot couple, who just happen to be the other side of 40. They’ve lived their lives and they’ve been the responsible parents, and for differing reasons, they’ve found themselves single, footloose and fancy-free.

I love that Lauren is forward and that she doesn’t sugarcoat things. She has life experience, and isn’t ashamed of it. And Jake, if you want to run shirtless at 46, you go right ahead. I love that he has a good relationship with his adult daughter, and that he isn’t made out to be totally clueless Dad.

The fact that their relationship has grown from a friendship, and that neither is clueless about the other’s past, is refreshing.

Stretch marks and gray hair aside, these two generate some serious heat. Victoria Dahl does the sexytimes VERY, VERY well!

While this is not a very long book, novella-length at 60 pages, Fanning the Flames has done an awesome job of setting up the series, and I didn’t feel as if I missed out on anything. Hey, I got to imagine a hot older fireman running around sans-chemise…I’m cool with that!

Roz reviews: Outback Blaze by Rachael Johns

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There’s usually a few things about a book that let me know that it is a winner. Reading it in one sitting does it every time. Outback Blaze was that book for me.

I am an unabashed fan of Rachael Johns and her gorgeous rural romances, and when I managed to pick my jaw off the ground at the sight of “hot blue-eyed guy” on the cover …. those eyes …. sorry, got distracted …. I dove into the reading of her latest release. There was just so much to love about this book – the wonderful, colourful characters, the hint of suspense that runs through the story, a hero and heroine you want to cheer on and care deeply about.

I loved the development of Ruby and Drew’s romance. There is that to-ing and fro-ing that I love, along with a good dash of heat. Both have secrets they feel the need to hide, and neither is expecting the attraction to develop as it does. There is no rush towards the sexytimes, and there are some definite bumps and potholes on their road to a happy ending. I loved that Drew wanted to find out the truth about what led to and caused the fire, but still wanted to believe the best of Ruby’s parents. You never feel as if he’s teetering over the edge into either side, which could quite easily have happened.

With this having a suspense thread weaving its way through the story, I have to say a big, big thank you to Rachael for keeping the mystery to the very end. No flashing and obvious red lights here! Just as you think you may have it sorted out in your head, something comes along that makes you think differently. Let’s just say, without me pulling the curtain back to show you the wizard, that you will NOT be expecting things to happen as they do or at the hands of that particular person. I love this kind of suspense – the type that keeps you guessing without making you feel like you’re stuck on the never-ending Gravitron.

The events that bring about the mystery and the reactions of the people of the town are so wonderfully done. Rachael has done a brilliant job of showing how communities like Bunyip Bay can muster the troops in support of those who are suffering, but with the slightest hint (right or wrong) that something sketchy is afoot, can withdraw and shun just as quickly. I wanted to get all punchy on Ruby’s behalf when she and her family were turned on, but luckily she had Drew on her side.

If you are keen for a read that will make you laugh, give you a couple you’ll love, and show a town you’ll want to visit, Outback Blaze will definitely fit that bill. Go back and read Outback Dreams, if you haven’t already! This will introduce you to the town and the series – after reading them, you will be as antsy as I am to get your mitts on Outback Ghost. The covers are edible too.

Oh, and any book that has good looking men running through the streets in their undies has my vote!

Lily reviews: Sinister Intent by Karen M Davis

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The first half of the book I really enjoyed, but the second half I found myself skimming. I think it's because I'd worked out who the killer was and although there was a little surprise at the end, it didn't quite redeem the book for me.

I love this genre, so I'm not sure exactly why it didn't work for me. I've read other books with a female cop protagonist in an Australian cop setting and preferred those; and my all-time favourites are the John Sandford cop/crime thrillers set in Minneapolis with Lucas Davenport. Sandford is amazing.

I think at the end of the day, I like my villains nastier, creepier. I like to get a better sense of why they are the twisted/warped people they are. So I might have liked a little more time spent inside the creep's head, before I'd worked out who said creep was.

But it's well written, and I did enjoy the side story of the attraction and relationship between Lexie & Josh.

Lily reviews: Losing Kate by Kylie Kaden

There's a line on the first page of this book that includes the phrase "Sticky brood of boys", and the very last line in the book says: (hang on, that would be a spoiler, wouldn't it?)

For me, everything in the pages between is wonderful writing from a fresh new voice in Australian fiction.

I enjoy real estate. I've renovated several homes now with my hubby, and so all the present-day scenes involving Frankie's cottage and rebuilding, and Jack as the lost best friend who buys the vacant block next door, really resonate with me.

I also like what property symbolises in Losing Kate. How Frankie's old cottage is perfect for her, while next door there is a brand-spanking-new home with all the bells and whistles being built for resale purposes, yet it lacks the solid foundations and 'labour of love' that go into making a house a home.

For readers who like a challenge, there is a whodunnit storyline in this book, as Frank and Jack revisit the tragedy of their friend Kate and her disappearance at an end of school party on the beach. And if you like your romance, I think you're guaranteed to finish the book with a lovely fuzzy feeling, too - because the last line... well, it's a beauty. I finished reading with a smile on my face, and that's all I'll say!

Georgina Reviews: Star Attraction By Vanessa Stubbs

Totally did it for me. I love a complex story with a whole lot of characters, a whole lot of emotional depth and above all, I'm a sucker for a flawed hero. Star Attraction has it all. 

I picked up this book expecting a light read and got a lot more than that. There's so much here. 

While other readers seem to have a little trouble getting to know the heroine, I genuinely liked her a lot. 

So let's face it, she's either going to work for you or she isn't. This is simply one of those books where you're going to have to pick it up and start reading to work out if the two of you will get along.

Madison and her self-doubts and insecurities really worked for me. She made sense to me and made the reader work a little to get to know her, pretty much like a strong, driven woman in real life would. She's a complex character/ and imperfect character and that's my kind of heroine. 

I enjoyed reading about a successful woman who was still trying to find her way and I particularly liked the underlying question of what success means to those on the outside, as opposed to those on the inside. The way Ms. Stubbs used the friendship between Madison and her friend Lucy to explore this was really gripping. Loved it. 

Jamie... I really got a kick out of this hero. Yeah he's the world's biggest movie star but, like Madison, he's still finding his way and working out what it all means and what he wants out of life. Again, imperfect hero? My cup of tea. I liked getting the insider information on what was going on in his head and seeing him grow and change over the course of the story.

I don't like doing plot giveaways because the joy of reading a book to me, is being taken by surprise but I will say that this was an absolute page turner. I tried to go to bed last night after reading three quarters of it and ended up getting up to finish it when the characters wouldn't get out of my head.

And the writing? It was some of the cleanest, tightest prose I've come across in a long time. The way Ms Stubbs uses sentence structure alone to speed the reader through her story is going to have me coming back to Star Attraction to take notes in the future. 

Do give this book a go. It's rare I find a story that genuinely resonates with me from the outset and this was one of them.