They Observe the WILDLIFE (Themselves!)

Hi all. Today I’m reviewing a newly released YA tale of angst, firsts and mountain life. It’s WILDLIFE by Fiona Wood, and I really enjoyed it.

WildlifeAbout the Book:
Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.

My Review:
This is a coming-of-age book, suitable for teens.

Sybilla is a 16 y/o girl in Melbourne, AU. She and dozens of her classmates are embarking on a 9 week term in the “wild”–okay, really. They are being sent for classes in a mountain retreat where they are expected to be rather self-sufficient, living in a cabin with classmates and prepping food, doing outdoor education classes, taking required hikes, having campouts. It’s the opposite of Sybilla’s strength–she’s not fit, per se.

Just before going, Sybilla is noticed by a popular boy–Ben. This coincides with a bit of modelling Sybilla did for a perfume advertisement that gains her some popularity. See, Sybilla is an ugly-duckling-turned-swan, and her BFF Holly is all too happy to cash in on Sybilla’s new social status. Holly, Sybilla, Ben and Michael (Sybilla’s other BFF) are all due on the trip together. Michael is hopelessly smitten with Sybilla, though she is oblivious. He is quirky and (plain-out) weird–but Sybilla knows she is a stable presence in his life and wishes to maintain their friendship.

Louisa (Lou) has been suffering severe depression since her boyfriend died in a bike accident. She hasn’t attended school in a year, and her mothers decide a change of scenery is in order–so they enroll her at the mountain school. She is the newcomer, the outsider–and that suits her fine as she has no desire to connect with anyone again. Slowly, Lou reveals her anguish and experiences into her journal.

The book alternates between the POV of Sybilla, who is trying to figure out who she is and how to deal with a popular boyfriend and conniving bestie, and Lou who endeavors to shut everyone out, and ends up failing.

We get to see a lot of Michael through his conversations with Lou. Lou is the dispassionate observer, witnessing Holly’s machinations and Sybilla’s confusion. She keeps her distance until Holly reaches levels of viciousness that cannot be tolerated. And then, she picks up the pieces of both Michael and Sybilla.

It’s a bit of an angsty read, with some clandestine sneak-offs and the (seemingly) inevitable showdown between lust and sense. I believe this was portrayed with realism and honesty, and the manner in which both Ben and Sybilla handle themselves and their relationship felt real–and at a teen level. Nothing is glorified.

The end is lovely storytelling, with the “villain” getting a comeuppance in a way that satisfies without being horribly humiliating.

While this book is written from the POV of two Aussie gals, the language is accessible to American teens. The format, grammar and diction conform to American English standards, and the use of Aussie/Brit slang is next to absent.

Most of Lou’s chapters are very short–half a page or less–as this is her journal. As the story progresses and she begins to engage with her peers, the chapter length increases–including vignettes of the people she observes, until she is fully-engaged with her grief and can move through it. It is an interesting juxtaposition from Sybilla’s chapters which hold plenty of social interactions, and little contextual understanding on her part.

It takes a while for Sybilla to find the strength within her to grow past the passive girl/friend/girlfriend that she has always been, but she is better for it and happier with her newer, stronger relationships. She weathers betrayal well, and her confrontations had the same understated heat that Sybilla embodied, so no fireworks, but clear demarcations bounding new friendships from old.

I did enjoy this book. I liked the backdrop of the camp, and the metaphors for adulthood that it engendered. I liked how the students struggled to be nicer people–knowing that they had little choice in their living arrangements and had to devise creative ways to release stress in the face of 24/7 camp companionship. Some, like Ben and Michael, take to long-distance runs. Lou has her journal, Sybilla has, well, nothing, though she does invest in some new friendships, which was healthy.

Interested? You can find WILDLIFE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Find out more about Fiona Wood by checking out her website or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Out Today! HOMETOWN HEROES! Giveaway and Soldier Benefit

 Hi all! Today I’m sharing a book blast for a cause–This bundle of romances has been assembled to raise money for the Pets for Vets charity. I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy–and helping out a vet…I am.

Hometown Heroes – Hotter Ever After

Contemporary Romance
Date Published: 9/30/14

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Available for a limited time at a discount of $1.99. All proceeds from this bundle benefit the Pets for Vets charity. The Pets for Vets program is dedicated to providing a second chance for shelter pets by rescuing, training and pairing them with America’s veterans who can benefit from a companion animal.

They’re all hometown heroes, guys from small towns who’ve made a name for themselves, big or small, who’ve withstood the odds and risen to the challenge, who are heroes in their own right.

Presenting a contemporary romance bundle of 16 novels with happily ever after endings, including previously published readers’ favorites and brand-new material by USA Today Bestselling Authors: Melissa Schroeder, Lucy Monroe, and Nancy Warren

NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Sabrina York. Along with bestselling and award-winning authors Allie K. Adams, Destiny Blaine, Cathryn Cade, Jami Davenport, Kate Davies, Taryn Elliott &Cari Quinn, Rachel Grant, Sandy James, Adrianne Lee, Hildie McQueen, Katy Regnery, Sandy Sullivan.

Hometown Heroes Charity Bundle Facebook

Pets for Vets Facebook

Pets for Vets Website

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A LITTLE HARMLESS SEX (Harmless, Book 1) by USA Today bestselling author Melissa Schroeder–When Anna falls for her best friend Max, it might be true love, or the biggest mistake of her life.
CHANGE THE GAME by USA Today bestselling author Lucy Monroe–Alex is looking for revenge.  Isabel is looking for a relationship without those pesky things called emotions.  Neither will get what they’re looking for, but a whole lot more!
WILD RIDE (Changing Gears, Book 1) by USA Today bestselling author Nancy Warren–Trouble is piling up in the small town of Swiftcurrent, Oregon with hints of a treasure missing since WWII, a motorcycle riding bad boy history prof, a sexy librarian and a murder. It all adds up to a very Wild Ride.
HEARTBREAK ON A STICK by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Sabrina York–When the man who broke her heart ten years ago suddenly returns to town—a hot shot movie star—Gina Fox is determined to avoid him. But for some reason, Jason Sherwood is pursuing her again. It is all she can do to resist his seductive wiles. But she must. Sexy Jason always has been heartbreak on a stick.
MADRONA SUNSET (Madrona Island) by bestselling author Jami Davenport–Meet a wounded warrior suffering from paralyzing guilt and a woman pining for her dead husband–both damaged souls craving comfort for a moment or a lifetime.
BRACE FOR IMPACT by bestselling author Allie K. Adams–Bush pilot Reid Cavanaugh’s life is turned upside down when he takes a fare that ends up driving his plane into the ground and him into the danger surrounding her. When he discovers that she’s a doctor—the only profession he hates more than lawyers—he knows better than to trust anything that falls from her sexy lips.
HONORABLE SACRIFICE by bestselling author Destiny Blaine–Hired to protect an affluent family with embarrassing secrets, Audra McAllister doesn’t believe in love until she reconnects with a small-town hero willing to risk everything to win Audra’s heart.
SHE’S WORTH IT ALL (Club 3, Book 4) by bestselling author Cathryn Cade–Mase Barnett is a hometown hero with a secret. Natalie Cusco has a broken heart only a strong man can heal. Will this wounded hero risk everything to show her she’s worth it all?
DECEIVING DANTE by award-winning author Kate Davies–A stolen car on her front lawn. A sexy cop – looking to arrest her favorite student. A principal ready to fire her. Could Ellie’s Monday get any worse?
ROCK, RATTLE AND ROLL (Lost in Oblivion, Book 1.5) by USA Today bestselling author Cari Quinn and bestselling author Taryn Elliott–A beachfront cottage, hours of alone time, and plenty of skin-on-skin action is just what the rock star and his new wife ordered. Until the future comes much quicker than they expected, threatening to crumble not only their perfect honeymoon but also their brand new marriage.
GRAVE DANGER by Golden Heart finalist Rachel Grant–An archaeologist digs up a murder victim in a Northwest archaeological site and must help the hunky local police chief solve the crime before she becomes the next victim.
TURNING THIRTY-TWELVE by award-winning author Sandy James–Jackie Delgado didn’t want a new man in her life until a dreaded blind date with police detective Mark Brennan turns out to be more exciting than she’d ever imagined.
HIS ONLY DESIRE by Adrianne Lee– Nick Rossetti married the wrong twin sister. Will the right one ever forgive him?  Not if her stalker has his way.
EVEN HEROES CRY by Hildie McQueen–War widow Tesha Washington slowly draws Adam Ford out of the shell that used to be a man, and learns there really is such a thing as starting over.
THE VIXEN & THE VET by bestselling author Katy Regnery–In a Beauty & the Beast reboot, an ambitious reporter tracks down a wounded war vet for a scoop and ends up falling in love with him instead.
TROUBLE WITH A COWBOY by Sandy Sullivan–Can some slashed tires and an ornery bull bring two hard-headed people together for some fun in the sun…and a little more?
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Interested? You can find the HOMETOWN HEROES bundle on Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, and Barnes and Noble.

***GIVEAWAY***
$20 Amazon gift card, and one of Jami Davenport’s ebooks of choice
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

They Solved A PERFECT DILEMMA–Review and Giveaway

Hi all! Today I’m reviewing A PERFECT DILEMMA, the third book in the Perfect Secret series from Zoe Dawson. For other stops on the tour, click here. Like the first two books int he series, this is a SEXY New Adult romance with a whole lotta bayou heat.

APD Amazon GR SW(1)
About the book:
The one secret she can’t stand to keep is the one she can’t afford to tell.
The perfect little rich girl, River Pearl Sutton has always done what her family expected of her. She’d become the perfect little beauty queen, the perfect child model and now her global success locks her into a life she never really chose.

Coming home for the summer to prepare for the Founder’s Day Festival, a celebration of her lauded ancestor, she is tasked by her father to write a speech to be delivered at the end of the party.

Returning to Hope Parish brings her back into close proximity with sweet-talking, skirt-chasing Braxton Outlaw, the boy who always seemed immune to her charms in high school. But now he looks at her with those challenging blue eyes, both intimidating and seductive at the same time. Using research of her family lineage and his as way to get close to this bad boy, they fall into a hot, torrid affair.

She stumbles across a terrible secret that could bring to ruin not only her reputation, but the reputation and standing of her family. But when her infatuation with Brax grows into something that she can’t live without, she must decide what to do. Keep the secret and lose Brax or destroy her family and lose them.

It’s an awful, heartrending perfect dilemma.

My Review:
River Pearl Sutton is a model daughter, and a model period. She’s been all over the world in fashion shows and glam mags, but she longs to follow her dreams of art school and painting–not enter another pageant to please her mama. While researching a new angle on the history of her town–and I mean HER town–Suttontowne was founded by her great great grandaddy, Colonel Sutton. River Pearl learns of a secret between the Colonel and the shame of Suttontowne, Duel Outlaw.

150 years ago Duel was hanged by a lynch mob on the suspicion that he robbed a cache of gold that was due the Confederate army. Turns out the Colonel and Duel had been best friends and Duel’s execution may have been unwarranted. Can one runway model turn the tide of hate against Duel’s grandkids–most importantly uber-sexy Braxton Outlaw?

Braxton Outlaw will never marry. He’s seen the way Outlaw women get treated in Suttontowne–cursed, spat upon, nudged and tumbled–his mama took a whole lotta abuse after his no-good thief of a daddy up and disappeared leaving her destitute with triplet sons. All grown now, Brax has is super bad for River Pearl, but he knows the score in Suttontowne–any woman he associates with becomes a pillar of scorn to the community; and her daddy sure won’t want any no account Outlaw on his doorstep. But what Daddy can’t hear climbing through River Pearl’s bedroom window sure won’t trouble him none.

The book’s a bit of Romeo and Juliet–with the clandestine love affair simmering away. Don’t worry. There’s some serious double-crossing and double-exonerations to with the double-O’s. It’s a fine addition to the sultry bayou collection complete with a high-stakes battle and a gator feed. In the meantime, Brax comes to terms with his frustration of being an Outlaw in the town where history is long and prejudice is longer. I enjoyed this book–it’s a quick read with decent heat and a likeable cast.

Interested? You can find A PERFECT DILEMMA on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.

A Perfect Mess CoverA Perfect Mistake coverA PERFECT DILEMMA is the third book in the A Perfect Secret series. I’ve reviewed the other two books–and they were interesting, spicy New Adult reads. They are all stand-alone novels with some common characters and no cliffhangers.

If you’re thirstin’ for an entertaining quick read these Bayou books might could wet your whistle. Check out my reviews for either A PERFECT MESS or A PERFECT MISTAKE.

I’ll tell you, never did suspect a pretty young smart gal could hide a body so darn good. And the Outlaw triplets are a big ‘ol slice of yum.

****GIVEAWAY***

The author is giving away (1) $25 Gift Card!

To enter, visit her Facebook page HERE.

About the Author
Zoe Dawson is the alter ego of Karen Anders, award winning, multi-published author. Her writing journey started with poetry and branched out into fiction. With a couple of college English courses under her belt, she penned a historical, then moved onto contemporary romance fiction. Today, she is happy producing romantic suspense, romantic mystery, urban fantasy and paranormal novels. The words feed her soul and the happily ever afters feed her heart.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads | Newsletter

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Cephalopod Coffeehouse September 2014–FIRST DAUGHTER–A Review

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

Before I get started, I’d like to say I read/reviewed >20 books this month–so getting to be my Top Pick is kind of a honor. (Though I will admit that winning my favor is a rather dubious honor…I’m pretty instinctual which is why I connect so well with the protaganist of the book I’m featuring.) And, I wish to highlight my own accomplishment–turning 40 this week. If you read MY BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY post, you’ll know why I’m feeling pretty stoked about reaching this milestone, and you might could win yourself $40. So, there’s that.

This month I’m sharing FIRST DAUGHTER from my friend Susan Kaye Quinn. It’s the third (final?) book in her Dharian Affairs trilogy. I make the question mark because, with Sue one never knows if a series is ever “finished,” but where she left it right now is very complete story-wise. Is she ever travels back to Dharia, it will be with a whole new storyline.

First Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #3)About the book:
Skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue…

With the war begun, Aniri, Third Daughter of the Queen, has to battle not only a prince with a deadly skyship, but her own sister, the First Daughter, who finally sees her chance to become Queen. With their mother gravely ill and the Second Daughter kidnapped along with Aniri’s husband-to-be, Aniri embarks on a desperate mission to save the people she loves from a war that will tear all three countries apart.

First Daughter is the third book in the The Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance that takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

My Review:
I’ve read both previous books in this fast-paced, steampunk romance series and I had high expectations for the finale. Those were exceeded!

In FIRST DAUGHTER we connect with Aniri, our high-spirited princess, on the brink of leading her country to war. Well, sorta. I mean, she’s not QUITE queen of Jungali, the land where she WOULD be queen if her wedding hadn’t been crashed by bombs dropped from a heretofore unknown Samirian skyship. She may have even married Ash, prince of Jungali, and gone to battle with him–if he haddn’t been kidnapped for ransom by Samirian forces.

Still, Aniri knows she is going to hunt down Natesh, the wayward second son of Samir who has not only provoked war, he has Ash and Aniri’s pregnant sister (Seledri) in his control. Oh, and his assassins almost succeeded in killing Aniri’s mother.

It’s a tense time, and Aniri’s eldest sister, Nahali, is now in control of Dharia as their mother convalesces. Nahali is brilliant, but cold. She has a longheld jealousy for the capricious Aniri and is not inclined to seek rescue of Aniri’s beloved, not when vengeance is sweeter and warranted.

It’s up to Aniri to wage a battle on many fronts: to convince Nahali to move slowly, and allow a rescue of both Ash and Seledri, while also seeking to foment rebellion in Samir. Aniri is sure assisting Seledri’s husband Pavan to rise to the throne will remove the threat of war, but she must go undercover in Samir in order to find Pavan, first.

So, we get a whole lotta intrigue, espionage, clockworks, and daring maneuvers in FIRST DAUGHTER. Aniri rises to the top, pushing for peace while scouring all avenues for signs of Ash and Seledri. One thing that princess won’t abide is leaving them to Natesh’s murderous whim.

It is a full-tilt race to not only rescue the two people most central to Aniri’s heart, but to disable Natesh’s armada of skyships that are poised to invade and bomb her homeland into oblivion.

At it’s core, FIRST DAUGHTER is a tale of constant love–familial and romantic. There are many positive examples of loving couples, and of people going beyond all borders to save those they love–Aniri foremost because she tells this tale, but also Pavan who is determined to reclaim his wife, and Janak–steadfast protector of the Queen who is inexorably in love with her and seeks to avenge her wounding.

The climax is nothing other than brilliant, with battling skyships and a weapon of mass destruction poised to decimate the Samirian war complex. Everything happens just as I hoped it would, but not in the order I had expected, leaving me turning the pages in haste to get to the ending I needed–faster.

If you are a fan of this series you will not be disappointed. For all that it’s a love story, the prose is innocent and appropriately-paced. There is no instalove, just affection growing over time and in volume. Aniri is a good protaganist. She makes mistakes and she owns them. She strives hard to protect and save not only her own loves, but to help her sister make decisions that will benefit their world.

I loved getting lost in the steampunk elements and the East Indian flavor of Dharia, Samir and Jungali. It is rare to see a culture of “color” and a matrilineal society in literature, but this world is rendered beautifully. I appreciated the lengths to which the author went to create a society that celebrates women, not only for their beauty and status, but for their courage and ingenuity. It is a place in which I would like to live.

Interested? You can find FIRST DAUGHTER on Goodreads, Amazon, Nook, iTunes and Kobo. I received an ARC from Sue because we are friends, and because I hounded her for the end of the series, and because I’d probably read her grocery lists if they were available–I’m just that big a fan of her writing.

The two previous books in the series: THIRD DAUGHTER and SECOND DAUGHTER are phenomenal and should probably be read first, on account of lots of story points that are working through FIRST DAUGHTER. Please click their titles for review and purchase links.

THIRD DAUGHTER is currently FREE on all digital outlets, so you can get started on this series!

Thanks for popping in, today. I hope you’ll hop over to my fellow coffeehousers and see what books they recommend this month. And, as always, keep reading my friends!

1. The Armchair Squid 2. mainewords
3. Berriesandmore 4. Linda Kay
5. Cherdo on the Flipside 6. V’sReads
7. Aristotle’s Mistake 8. Life Before the Hereafter
9. Subliminal Coffee. 10. My Creatively Random Life
11. WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME 12. Stephanie Faris
13. About Myself By Myself 14. StrangePegs — The Marvelous Land of Oz
15. MOCK! 16. StrangePegs — Many Waters
17. StrangePegs — A Flock of Ill Omens 18. Words Incorporated

Slavery, Sex and Society–Two Belonging ‘Verse Books

Hi there! Today I’m featuring two M/M novels that deal with some pretty intense topics–notably slavery. The Belonging ‘Verse, as it is called, is an alternate reality where slavery has never been illegal. It is a worldwide experience with millions of slaves held, traded and bred annually.

In some ways, I found the perspective extremely refreshing. As a woman, I’m quite used to the expectations of subservience in my sex. The double standard of demanding competence and, in the same turn, acquiescence. It’s not the easiest dance to master, and certainly fosters hostility which must be masked–less a woman be called out for her assertiveness (Read: bitchiness).

In both of these books men are the protagonists. They are ones being held against their will, subservient, with little-to-no autonomy, no ability to refuse a direct order. For me, the parallels to dysfunctional relationships were numerous, and chilling. Further, the larger social context of slavery (which still exists today even if not openly) was dealt with in a manner that was completely rendered and harrowing. These are not romantic books. They are political statements. And they were phenomenal.

Anchored (Belonging, #1)About ANCHORED:
Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company that’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him privately on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.

Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason someone would pay so much for what little free time he has. But dark memories of past sexual service leave him certain he won’t survive it again with his sanity intact.

He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him when it comes to ordering Daniel into his bed. Carl can’t seem to take what he must want, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, affection just might flourish over fear and pain. Carl holds the power to be an anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, but if he isn’t careful, he’ll end up the weight that sinks his slave for good.

My Review:
ANCHORED is not a love story. It’s not even a like story, really.

What it is is a GREAT story.

This book is set in an alternate universe where slavery is legal worldwide. It is otherwise set in contemporary NYC. This review is for the 2nd edition book which was re-released Sept 2014.

Daniel is a slave. He’s also a celebrity news anchor. His network bought him at age 11 and he’s been a faithful slave, reporting the news for NewWorld Media for years now. Unfortunately NewWorld is struggling financially and they’ve decided to lease out some of their commerical properties–like Daniel–to buyers overnight and on weekends. Daniel’s being prostituted out for an annual rental to one buyer, at 6 million dollars. And, he’s terrified.

See, slaves like Daniel are communally housed, but not allowed any physical relationships. His only experience with sex was being raped by men as a child. He had a clandestine “lover” with whom he shared a few trysts, but no penetrative sex. And, Daniel’s worst fears are realized when he enters his new master’s home–he’s been leased to a man. Okay, it gets worse: the man who is now his master, Carl, is a talk show host on a competitor network. Yikes.

Carl has longed for Daniel for years. Aroused by Daniel’s physical beauty, and his intellectual persona on TV, Carl expected a partner to share his empty nights with witty repartee and mutual passion. Daniel isn’t sure what to do–he’s essentially a virgin, and can’t read Carl’s mixed signals.

If Carl ordered Daniel to have sex with him, Daniel would have submitted, but Carl never does that. No, he treats Daniel like a Freeman, which only confuses Daniel more. Carl wants a willing partner, and Daniel is unwilling. It, honestly, is a complete failure to communicate, but the end result is Daniel receiving “training” in his new role as a pleasure slave that is unconscionable to Carl, Daniel and the reader.

Okay, so I’m gonna say, this is the only time I’ve read a rape and felt so incredibly visceral about it. The absolute clinical and violent manner in which Daniel was coerced into sex was so distressing and so riveting. I kept hoping against hope that someone would step in, that Daniel would not be harmed. It was frightening, and yet I could only see the story unfolding in this way.

Daniel’s plight called to the fore the political injustice of this fictional world–and gave context in the inequality of our actual world. So many millions of people are either legally (fictional) or financially (real world) subservient that the choice to engage–or not to engage–in sexual relations is not always within one’s power. It was a harrowing, honest, and enlightening experience for me. Other reviews highlight this as well.

Carl is a terrible master, not because he is violent or coercive–because he is weak. He has no interest in ordering around a slave; he really doesn’t like being a slave owner. His two other slaves are virtually autonomous, with Carl having no desire to reprimand them–not that they act out. In fact, Daniel doesn’t act out–he just isn’t sexually interested and refuses to please if he isn’t ordered. Well, at least until he’s “trained”. After surviving that experience he’s ready to serve Carl as often as possible, in whatever way necessary, to prevent any further training.

Carl learns the consequences for his folly in renting Daniel, and makes amends in the best way that he can. He is a truly good man, and didn’t understand how his dissatisfaction with Daniel would manifest as torture.

I was particularly touched when Daniel reflects on the difference in emotional attitudes between slaves and Freemen. A Freeman, like Carl, can have/give love to Daniel–because he has autonomy.

On the other hand, Daniel could have respect, or even affection, for Carl, but he didn’t feel free to love him. The power imbalance was too great to have equal footing in something so visceral as love. Daniel appreciates that he always faces the risk of being sold to someone else, so he guards his love carefully to ensure he’s not emotionally damaged by what amounts to a commercial transaction.

It was a very powerful commentary, and one I probably didn’t even fully appreciate–regardless of how moved I felt by it. There are some tender moments in this book, but it isn’t a tender tale. As I said, it’s not a love story. I was glad to see that Daniel was satisfied in the end. That he was safe and protected. This book will stay with me long after I expect. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Interested? You can find ANCHORED on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the author:

Rachel Hainowitz is a “M/M erotic romance author, freelance writer and editor, sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and proudly pervish. I’m a twitter addict (@rachelhaimowitz), and I blog every M/W/F at Fantasy Unbound. To learn all about my current and upcoming projects, please stop by my website. I love to hear from folks, so feel free to drop me a line anytime at metarachel (at) gmail (dot) com.”

Counterpunch (Belonging, #2)About COUNTERPUNCH:
Fight like a man, or die like a slave.

Brooklyn Marshall used to be a policeman in London, with a wife and a promising future ahead of him. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose father was a Member of Parliament and had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the overcrowded prison system, Brooklyn was sold into slavery rather than incarcerated. Now, he’s the “Mean Machine”, a boxer on the slave prizefighting circuit, pummelling other slaves for the entertainment of freemen and being rented out for the sexual service of his wealthier fans.

When Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn’s services for a night, it seems like any other assignation. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it “love”—such things do not exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to help get Brooklyn’s conviction overturned, he dares to hope. Then, an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he has worked so hard to achieve and sending him into the most important fight of all—the fight for freedom.

My Review:
This story is fantastic. It is set in an alternate universe where slavery still exists, in contemporary London. Brooklyn is a 27 y/o slave sold to a boxing consortium, and he’s burning up the heavyweight division. Brooklyn hasn’t always been a slave. He was born a freeman, and was sold into slavery following a conviction. In his free days he was a married man, a policeman in fact. A chance encounter resulted in a murder conviction, when manslaughter (or no charge) would have been the ordinary course. Brooklyn is haunted by the memory of the riot where he was dispatched and a girl died. He suffers real guilt, but as a slave his feelings do not matter.

He is housed in a communal living space where all his actions are controlled by armed guards, and rented out as a boy toy when he is not training or fighting. Some of his “johns” have been female, many male. He’s not adjusting well to slave life, but channels his rage into his fighting, which helps.

Nathaniel rents Brooklyn one night, and learns that his experience as a slave is not always about what is taken from you. In Nathaniel’s sphere, Brooklyn is cherished. Allowed what little freedom a slave can be afforded.

Nathaniel becomes a regular renter, and Brooklyn is able to claim a small bit of his humanity back through their encounters. Soon, Nathaniel reveals that he is interested in re-opening Brooklyn’s conviction; he felt he was scapegoat–wrongfully accused and convicted due to an abuse of power by the victim’s father. Brooklyn almost can’t bear to hope to escape his lot as a slave, but he does. He trains harder and harder, trying to compartmentalize his fear and mortification of slave life, and he gains even greater acclaim in his boxing.

Then, there’s a big problem in one of Brooklyn’s fights, and he freaks out. His breakdown results in a loss of his connection with Nathaniel and abuse he had never before endured in his slavery. The climax comes fast and furious, with a chance for redemption and “freedom” offered if he throws his big title fight. Brooklyn is a steadfast man, and his HEA is just around the bend.

I really enjoyed this alternate universe, legal slavery, because it served as a greater context to discuss racial relations (most Blacks in this world are slaves) and the inequality of wealth and power, and how it corrupts. Brooklyn is a good man. He is in a bad spot, and makes the absolute best of it. He does not let his situation defeat him. He does not take the “easy” way. He strives, and perseveres. He fights for his dignity, even when it is continually ripped from him. He endures unspeakable cruelty, and achieves his ultimate reward on his terms.

I am a sports fan, so the boxing milieu was amenable to me, but I don’t think it was too much for an average reader to absorb. It was all very well described and the context always felt appropriate. I also enjoyed the boxing history vignettes, as I grew up in the 80’s watching Sugar Ray and Mike Tyson and others find their titles, so this was a little piece of home. And the writing/language was superlative. The author notes how readers will likely balk at his “British” English, but for me, an Anglophile, this story could not be authentically told any other way. It kept me up way too late because I absolutely could not stop reading once I opened it.

The smexytimes aren’t overdone, and pack a good balance of sensuality and heat. They take a while to develop, which was unexpected, and pleasant. It allowed me to really enjoy Nathaniel and not see him as another exploiter in a vile system. And, later, when he worked behind the scenes to help Brooklyn, I really grew to love him. I think Brooklyn did, too. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Interested? You can find COUNTERPUNCH on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:

“Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he works as a writing coach, complementary therapist and freelance corporate editor. At 39 years of age, Voinov has written more than a dozen novels and commercially published five print books with German publishers. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov is now primarily writing contemporary and historical erotic gay fiction. A recurring theme in his fiction is “the triumph of the human spirit” or an individual rising to challenge the status quo in a world gone bad.”

You can connect with Aleksandr on his website, on Facebook and/or join his Facebook group here. He has an author forum at Goodreads and is active on twitter.

Thanks for popping in my friends, and keep reading!

These Three (or Four) are REALLY COOKING–A Review—and a FREE Book

Filthy Forties meme

Hi there! In honor of my new “Filthy Forty” status…today I’m featuring a ménage freebie that I found delicious. Yep. It’s REALLY COOKING by Victoria Blisse and it’s sexy and scorching.

Really CookingAbout the book:
Three hot men and one curvy woman, now we’re really cooking.

After breaking out of a truly awful relationship Paula finds herself floundering until she bumps into Gary. He cheers her up with a much coveted appointment at Flair, where more than her hair gets pampered. In return she offers Shane and Gary a cooking lesson to cheer up their ready-meal laden week.

The Friday feast turns into a sex-laden success and becomes a recurring weekly date. Paula loves having the sexual attention of two hot bi guys but longs for something deeper.

Shane sets her up with professional chef, Nigel McCormack. Paula responds to his dominant appeal and the delights of all three men together. But how will Paula fair when she takes up a position in Nigel’s professional kitchen, will she capture his heart or will he return to his first love, food?

My Review:
Paula is a bit adrift after cutting loose her boyfriend. Things hadn’t been progressing here and she wasn’t really looking for anything serious. What woman would, whilst out for drinks with gal-pals in a gay bar? Turns out Paula caught the eye of Gary, a rather good-looking man. Gay, and involved, but they had a great chat about how hopeless Gary is in the kitchen. Hit it off so well, Paula invites Gary and his partner, Shane, to her home for a dinner and cooking lessons. They have fun, and it’s quickly mentioned that Gary and Shane aren’t gay—they’re bisexual. And hungry for more than dinner.

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Soon the three have regular Friday night meet-up. Paula’s a bit stunned at the new sexual kink in her life, but she isn’t complaining. Not even when Shane invites a friend…master chef Nigel.

Nigel is a busy man, running a first class restaurant, but his social life is nonexistent. The thrill Paula receives, being one-on-one with Nigel, and as part of their ménage, is better than she could have hoped for. And, he loves her food to boot! They take up a side romance, hampered by Nigel’s hectic work schedule–until the unthinkable happens, and Paula’s no nonsense, fix-it skills lead Nigel into a great opportunity–cooking shows on TV. Can these two maintain their off-screen kink? Or, will too many cooks spoil the dish? (Expect some conniving employees and a stalwart Paula!)

Also, light kink elements include minimal sub behavior and super sexy foursome scenes.

I flew through this. It’s a Brit book, so the format and diction are appropriate for Londoners, which I enjoy. The story moved along quite quickly, with lots of smexytimes and all of it feeling well-grounded. Paula is ashamed about her new sexual naughtiness, and keeps it all hush-hush, but she privately revels in her sexuality. And, Nigel is good, too. I ached with loneliness, as did Paula, when he was too busy to see her. Their chemistry was just so pleasant. Loved the ending. Hoping for the best with those two, or four, or….it’s ménage, folks.

Interested? You can find REALLY COOKING on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, but it’s FREE on iTunes until 9/30. Couple clicks and you’ll have this baby heating up your eReader—for nada, gratis and zilch.

About the Author:

Victoria Blisse is a Mother, Wife, Christian, Manchester United Fan and Award Winning Erotica Authoress. She is also the editor of several Bigger Briefs collections, and the co-editor of the fabulous Smut Alfresco, Smut by the Sea (Vol.1), Smut by the Sea (Vol.2), Smut by the Sea (Vol.3), and Smut in the City Anthologies.

Victoria is also one of the brains behind the fabulous Smut Events, days dedicated to erotica, fun and prizes. Check out Smut Manchester (15th Nov 2014), Smut Luton (7th March 2015) and Smut by the Sea: Scarborough (23rd May 2015) for more info.

She is equally at home behind a laptop or a cooker and she loves to create stories, poems, cakes and biscuits that make people happy. She was born near Manchester, England and her northern English quirkiness shows through in all of her stories.

Passion, love and laughter fill her works, just as they fill her busy life.

You can find often find Victoria procrastinating on Facebook , Twitter and Pinterest

Don’t forget to enter into MY BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY-for a $40 gift card or a box o’ books Two weeks until the winner is selected.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Get a Look at RAVEN!

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New release

covergifTitle: Raven

Series: Legends Saga # 2
Author: Stacey Rourke
Audience: NA Paranormal
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Formats: E-book and Paperback  
Publisher: Anchor Group Publishing
NOW AVAILABLE!

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An infamous love, destined nevermore,

For death could not claim, the enchanting Lenore.

Cursed by the malevolent spirit of the Headless Horseman, Ireland Crane ventures to Manhattan in search of a way to break her soul crushing bond. Instead, she discovers the lines between fact and fiction are blurring once more. Croaking ravens. Telltale hearts. Could the works of Poe be coming to pass with handsome Wall Street Midas Ridley Peolte as their unwilling target?

She walks the Earth, a plague on mankind,

searching for he, her rotted heart doth pine.

Together, the two unknowingly release a dark force death itself could not tame. Surrounded by the unrelenting violence and mayhem they’ve unleashed, Ireland feels her control over the Horseman slipping. Before the beast within consumes her, she and her crew must follow the clues of the dead to right a centuries’ old wrong. Will it be enough to sate the Horseman’s appetite?

Hell hath no fury like a ghoul scorned.

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Goodreads / Amazon / Smashwords / Barnes & Noble

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excerpt

Clamping her eyes on the wash of tears that threatened, Ireland ignored the wailing of her heart … and laid a palm to each of their cheeks. One lone tear snuck between her lashes at the cascade of tingles seeping up her arms.

“You can’t blame them for not understanding,” a familiar voice drawled behind her.

She spun as he neared, leaving Rip and Noah wheezing for breath—or, more likely, completion of her task.

Techno-colored flowers bloomed in a colorless world each time the sole of Ridley’s shoes met the earth. The crisp cut of his white, tailored suit was accented by a burst of color from the button-down shirt beneath that changed in hue to match the species of flowers that sprung to life. Hydrangeas blue. Orchid purple. Lily fuchsia. Rose coral. As he neared, Ireland noticed his eyes morphed to match as well. The result hypnotic.

His haggard and troubled façade was a thing of the past. The man before her exuded confidence and a zest for life from every pore. The draw of which was so magnetic Ireland had to fight to keep her feet planted while her body insisted she close the distance between them.

“To them this is a thrill, a game of chicken against the Reaper himself.” Ridley paused beside her, his shoulder skimming hers. Even then he didn’t grace her with a glance, his attention fixed on Rip and Noah. Tipping his head toward her, the warmth of his breath teased over her breast bone. “For us, it’s destiny.”

The moment he stepped away from her, the chill of solitude lashed at Ireland’s soul and cut deep. Bending eye-level with her withering subjects, Ridley pursed his rose petal lips to blow a soft, healing breath over both of them. Wan complexions of the dying were ripened to plump apricot. Both men blinked away their disappointment before dipping in a low bow—foreheads to the ground in a show of respect.

“No need for that, boys.” Ridley smoothed the front of his suit coat, a self-depreciating chuckle playing over his lips.

Neither humbled servant budged.

“You’re like me?” Pacing in a slow circle around him, Ireland’s eye narrowed.

He matched her steps, leading them in an intimate waltz normally reserved for predators—or lovers.

“Like you?” He tsked. “Oh no, my darling flower. There is no other like you. Our only similarity is being pawns in a game that began centuries before either of our fathers got an amorous gleam in their eyes.”

Ireland’s gaze lingered over the soft curve of his mouth, wondering if his lips could possibly taste as delectable as they looked. “How do we play?”

Curling one finger into a ruffled tuft of her skirt, Ridley pulled her to him. Bowing his head, he brushed his cheek over the delicate curve of her collarbone. “The game is already in motion,” he murmured. “The rule sheet not meant for our eyes. All we can do now is stay alive.” 

Ireland weaved her fingers into his hair, yanking his head back with a passion driven force that bordered on violent. “I’ve taken lives. I’m a monster,” she snarled against his lips, tormenting them both with the agonizing veil of energy that denied their touch.

His hand snaked up her arm to find her fingers and loosen her grasp. Palm to palm. Fingers entwined with fingers. “Does granting it make me any better?”

Ridley didn’t give her time to answer. With one hand pressed to the small of her back he crushed her to him.  Their lips met with a desperate urgency that caused Heaven and Earth to quake in nervous anticipation of what was coming … 

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I personally loved CRANE. What a great concept–that a young woman could be the long-lost descendant of Ichabod Crane and channel his spirit to achieve balance in the historical novel. Rip Van Winkle was her trusty…er, informant. Except when he got scared and passed out. He was a total hoot! Check out my review here.

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The Horseman is unending,

his presence shan’t lessen.

If you break the curse,

you become the legend.

Washington Irving and Rip Van Winkle had no choice but to cover up the deadly truth behind Ichabod Crane’s disappearance. Centuries later, a Crane returns to Sleepy Hollow awakening macabre secrets once believed to be buried deep.

What if the monster that spawned the legend lived within you?

Now, Ireland Crane, reeling from a break-up and seeking a fresh start, must rely on the newly awakened Rip Van Winkle to discover the key to channeling the darkness swirling within her. Bodies are piling high and Ireland is the only one that can save Sleepy Hollow by embracing her own damning curse.

But is anyone truly safe when the Horseman rides?

 

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authorgifThe Gryphon Series is written by Stacey Rourke. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant, drooly dogs. Stacey loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head. She is currently hard at work on the continuations of this series as well as other literary projects. The Gryphon Series is available wherever fine books are sold.

Contact Info: Visit the author at www.staceyrourke.com

Twitter @Rourkewrites

Email anchorgrouppublishing@gmail.com

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