Practicing Kink for the RISK AWARE– A Review

Hi there. Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary BDSM M/M romance from Amelia C. Gormley. I really enjoyed her dystopian future books, JUGGERNAUT, STRAIN and BANE, and I jumped at the chance to read RISK AWARE. This one is a different type of kink, and I really enjoyed it.

Risk AwareAbout the book:
Tattoo artist Geoff Gilchrest is convinced his life is some sort of cosmic joke. Why else would a hemophiliac also be a masochist? He’s given himself more than one elbow bleed since puberty just doing what guys do when alone and bored, so forget about whips and chains. How many partners would contemplate playing with someone even a mild flogging could kill?

Gallery owner Robin Brady knows he can deliver what Geoff needs: to be taken to the edge of danger but never beyond. But Robin came to Saugatuck to get away from the leather scene and heal from a betrayal by his former sub, so he’s not sure he should get involved with Geoff. His ambivalence isn’t helped by the fact that Geoff’s unwillingness to communicate about his well-being hits Robin in some very raw places.

Geoff’s hemophilia isn’t the obstacle he thinks it is. Instead, a lack of trust—on both their parts—is what could end them before they have a chance to begin.

My Review:
4.5 stars for this contemporary M/M BDSM story.

Geoff Gilchrist is an adult hemophiliac who is also gay. Hemophelia is a disorder of the blood which prevents clotting when a vessel is broken. Thus, even small cuts or bruises could lead to life-endangering medical problems. Years of his mother’s extreme overprotectiveness, may have saved his life. Growing up in the 80s/90s before the blood supply was considered secure meant sure transmission of disease to people requiring transfusions. It’s true that many hemophiliacs contracted HIV, Hepatitis, and other diseases as a result of receiving infected blood. Geoff’s mother, who had recently died, urged him to stay closeted–because she was sure he’d end up being beaten in a hate crime and bleed to death.

Geoff’s sexual desire is in BDSM, very rough sex, and kink. Not that he can have any of that, safely. Still, he craves it, and is fascinated by the idea of lashings that draw his hated, defective blood. He goes to a gay resort in Michigan with a good friend, and their vacation coincides with a Leather Man meet-up. There, experienced Dom Robin Brady is attracted to Geoff’s gangly features and shameless want. Robin thinks that Geoff is just a newbie, but the reality is a wedge between them. Geoff is nearly so desperate to gain the sexual experience he desires that he doesn’t tell Robin about his condition, at first. Robin can’t consent to being Geoff’s Dom if he doesn’t understand what Geoff would require as a sub–and that includes his medical care, in this case.

See, it’s all about RACK: Risk Aware Consensual Kink. Robin can’t give consent if he doesn’t understand how to safely play with Geoff. Robin does think he can give Geoff many of his desires, even if it’s not the way Geoff originally envisioned them. I found it fascinating, truly, how Robin was able to conceive scenes that were safe for Geoff, and yet challenged him. This book has a lot of sex. It also has a lot of blood, pain, and misunderstandings. At different points, Geoff has to be honest–and not just about his disease. Then again, Robin has some damage from his most recent relationship debacle, and that causes him to pull back when he should reach forward.

It was interesting the different stigmas present. Geoff was shunned for being a hemophiliac as a child. He was assumed to be diseased (of the HIV variety) when he wasn’t, and assumed to be gay if he had (even if he didn’t) HIV. All of this faulty circular logic was prejudiced and ignorant and he struggled to be normal in a world that didn’t accept him. He is loathe to accept help or solicitousness from anyone, as a result of his mother’s extreme parenting. It takes him a while to really trust Robin, but Robin is awesome at pushing those boundaries and getting help when needed. Naturally, a hemophiliac is easily bruised. One who engages in rough BDSM play, like Geoff craves, is going to get hurt at some point. And, the medical/legal community is not especially keyed in to kink-related injury. I could full-well imagine how grimly they would look on the bruises Geoff considered preen-worthy badges.

I’m not a fan of blood play, but this is the first book I’ve read where I truly understood it. Geoff has a very love-hate relationship with his blood. He hates his condition, and wants to be normal. That the care of Geoff was clearly Robin’s first consideration made all this easier to understand. They invested a lot of time to knowledge and training, so that Robin could give Geoff treatments to facilitate blood clotting, and prevent spontaneous bleeds. Robin invested himself so completely it was easy to expect that these guys were in it for the long run.

I’ve read a lot of BDSM in the last few years, but this one is different. I like that if features a character who is chronically ill, to the point of slight disability. I like that it addressed prejudices within, and outside of, the kink community. The sexytimes were really well written, and had kink that was believable for the characters. It’s a book that’s going to stay with me.

Interested? You can find RISK AWARE on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Amelia C. Gormley published her first short story in the school newspaper in the 4th grade, and since then has suffered the persistent delusion that enabling other people to hear the voices in her head might be a worthwhile endeavor. She’s even convinced her hapless spouse that it could be a lucrative one as well, especially when coupled with her real-life interest in angst, kink, social justice issues, and pretty men.

When her husband and son aren’t interacting with the back of her head as she stares at the computer, they rely on her to feed them, maintain their domicile, and keep some semblance of order in their lives (all very, very bad ideas—they really should know better by now.) She can also be found playing video games and ranting on Tumblr, seeing as how she’s one of those horrid social justice warriors out to destroy free speech, gaming, geek culture, and everything else that’s fun everywhere.

You can find her self-published Impulse trilogy almost anywhere ebooks are sold, and check out her catalog of Riptide Publishing releases at their website.

You can contact Amelia on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Surviving in a BANE New World

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for Amelia Gormley’s BANE, out today. This is the next (and perhaps last) book in the Strain M/M romance, post-apocalyptic series. As you know I read and loved STRAIN and JUGGERNAUT, and those books must be read first in order to properly enjoy BANE.

Bane (Strain, #2)About the book:
The weapon that nearly destroyed humanity may be their only salvation.

Rhys Cooper’s unique immunity to all three strains of the virus that nearly annihilated humanity has brought him the unwanted attention of Clean Zone scientists. They’ve summoned him for testing—ostensibly in the hopes of finding a vaccine—but Rhys’s partner, Darius Murrell, has good reason not to trust any government. He and his comrades in Delta Company were unwitting test subjects for Project Juggernaut, the military experiment that gave them superhuman abilities and unleashed the pandemic. Doubting the government’s intentions, Delta Company refuses to let Rhys go alone.

Fear of infection has kept Zach Houtman and his lover Nico Fernández apart for a decade. They meet rarely, just long enough to coordinate their spying on the head of the government’s virus research division. Secretary Littlewood is a vicious predator, and they suspect he’s trying to acquire the strain of the virus that would make him superhuman. To stop him, they need the perfect bait: Rhys.

For Rhys, helping them might cost him his relationship with Darius—or his life. For Zach and Nico, even if their plan succeeds, they still face the ultimate question: can infected and uninfected people ever live together safely?

My review:
This is the third book in the STRAIN world and should absolutely be read after JUGGERNAUT and STRAIN. It picks up the story where both JUGGERNAUT and STRAIN left off, bringing their romantic pairs (Rhys and Darius from STRAIN and Zack and Nico from JUGGERNAUT) in direct contact to save what is left of the world.

This series of books is set approximately 100 years in the future after a military-developed supervirus decimated the population. People left on the planet? Estimates are in the ten thousands–the majority of them uninfected survivors living in small-to-large enclaves, the largest a settlement in Colorado Springs. The others are experimentally-treated soldiers, Jugs, who help comb the country to kill the lingering revenants–ravenous, Bane Gamma infected zombie-like persons.

Rhys is a survivor who is likely to be immune to all three strains of the Bane virus, and the scientists who remain in Colorado Springs want to test his blood and determine if a vaccine can be developed. Rhys’ partner, Darius, is a Jug who will not leave Rhys to the whims of the scientists. The Jugs are outcasts, and rather bitter about it, due to their lethal blood. He and several other jugs travel from the Seattle area to keep Rhys safe.

They encounter Zack in Colorado, as he is a health worker for the scientists–this meeting is scarring for Rhys who was the subject of abuse from Zack’s father and brother for nearly half his life. Over the course of testing, however, they build a rapport, and Zack confides in Rhys, Darius and the other Jugs about the disappearances in the compound, and how he knows that there are real scary things going down–likely due to the machinations of the sadistic Secretary Littlewood.

There are lots of political issues with the still developing society in Colorado, not least of which is a forced breeding program. Zack enlist Rhys’s cooperation to help discover the secret lab of Littlewood, and the chase–quite literally–is on.

If you were hoping Zack and Nico would work things out, they do, but it’s not pretty–for a long time. I just marveled at the deft plot twists and fantastic use of character in this book. I could honestly see and feel the scenes unfold. The love between Rhys and Darius is as harsh as their world, and it’s erotic and delicious, too. Expect extreme monogamy. Yay! Also, expect the Jugs to save the freaking day, yet again. I hate to say it, but this book is frighteningly on-point with contemporary issues (think: corporations buying up the natural park lands) and with the supramilitaristic response when faced with the viral outbreak.

Rhys was a child when the outbreak occurred, and his adult insight–as he travels past burned out hospitals and tenements where the infected were locked down and incinerated alive–is poignant. Darius’ constant love is engaging, Zack’s commitment to his purpose (to remain Bane Alpha-free) is as noble as it is frustrating. Nico has known for years that he could sexually transmit safety to Zack, but Zack feels called to remain unprotected. His faith has a surprising reward and gave me the ability to breathe again–after holding my breath so long in fear that Zack would become infected and turn revenant.

The series is phenomenal, and I cannot love it more.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout the Author:

Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.

Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major ebook retailers, and be sure to check http://RiptidePublishing.com for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), and her upcoming post-apocalyptic romance, Strain.

You can contact Amelia on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Death Has Momentum–A Review of JUGGERNAUT

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for JUGGERNAUT, by Amelia Gormley. This is the “prequel” book to STRAIN, a post-apocalyptic dystopian future story about survivors of a virus that killed billions. In Juggernaut we see the world before and immediately after the viral outbreak. If you have read STRAIN (published a year ago), there are no spoilers below. If you haven’t, well, I don’t think I give away more than the blurb will tell you….

Juggernaut (Strain, #0.5)About the book:
They helped destroy the world. Now they have to survive the new one.

For rentboy Nico Fernández, it’s a simple job: seduce a presidential advisor to help cement approval to launch Project Juggernaut. He’s done similar work for General Logan McClosky before, and manipulating people for his favorite client beats the hell out of being trafficked for slave wages in some corporate brothel.

Zach Houtman feels called to work with the most vulnerable outcasts of society. But his father, the Reverend Maurice Houtman, insists that Zach work for him instead as he runs for Senate. Zach reluctantly agrees, but is horrified to see his father leave behind Christ’s mandate of love and mercy to preach malicious zealotry and violence instead. Zach even starts to suspect his father is working with fundamentalist terrorists.

When Project Juggernaut accidentally unleashes a deadly plague that claims billions of lives, Nico and Zach are thrown together, each bearing a burden of guilt. With only each other for safety and solace, they must make their way through a new world, one where the handful of people left alive are willing to do anything—and kill anyone—to survive.

My Review:
This story is set approximately 100 years into the future, when long military campaigns had decimated the recruitment of soldiers. In this brave new world, wealth is highly concentrated, and poverty is likewise concentrated–in corporate-owned slums. The ways out are not plentiful, but soldiers could get their families out, and people could take up prostitution, legally, if they worked for a corporate brothel. Education was only for the wealthy, because who else could afford to download their digital lessons?

Nico is a rentboy in a special place–his mother broke away from her corporate brothel and opened a boutique business in providing educated, charming companions to the upper echelon of society. He has all the advantages of his courtesan education, including the regular clientele of Gen McClosky. Nico steps in and accepts a job for McClosky to ‘entertain’ a high ranking advisor: Secretary Littlewood. The night goes according to Littlewood’s sadistic plan, leaving Nico wrecked–and especially so when he learns what his efforts enabled: green lighting Project Juggernaut, infection of several army battalions with the Bane Alpha virus to give them super strength, super agility, advanced stamina and healing power–but also turning their blood into a chemical weapon. When cut, any non-Alpha immune person would contract Bane Beta and become violently ill with a terrible flu. Only, something goes epically wrong. (PS, this is not a spoiler if you have read STRAIN)

Zack Houtmann is a former divinity student working on his father’s, Reverend Maurice Houtmann, political campaign, and he’s not happy about it. He struggles with the anti-homosexuality message being touted by his father and also the lack of compassion he sees displayed by his father and younger brother, Jacob. It’s not a small thing that Zack seemingly overhears plans of a terrorist hate-crime to coincide with his father’s campaign kick-off. As the virus is unleashed on American soil, Zack is forced to hole up with his increasingly paranoid and zealous father and Jacob.

Nico is saved from the virus by the guilty hand of Gen McClosky–who also sets Nico on his way once the worst of the outbreak has happened. Nico and Zack cross paths in America’s crossroads–Indiana, en route to the survivors’ camp in Colorado Springs. Getting there is quite the battle, but surviving quarantine and staying is even more dangerous.

This is a fantastic post-apocalyptic story with great characterization and incredibly well-crafted plot tie-ins to STRAIN. We meet the Jugs (infected soldiers) and witness the crippling issues of starting society over. Zack and Nico develop a love story, but it is one of mutual self-sacrifice. Expect more bitter than sweet in this book, and expect to immediately want to jump into STRAIN if you have not read it–or BANE, STRAIN’s sequel–if you have. The book has the typical zombie-like menace, marauding revenants who are just as deadly as the Jug’s toxic blood, but it is the uninfected humans who provide more terror. Their justifiable paranoia leads to inhumane action–it’s a cruel, cruel world for real.

I couldn’t stop reading this book. Just excellent.

Interested? You can find JUGGERNAUT on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout the Author:

Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.

Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major ebook retailers, and be sure to check http://RiptidePublishing.com for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), and her upcoming post-apocalyptic romance, Strain.

You can contact Amelia on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Life After the Apocalypse–STRAIN, A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for STRAIN, the first book in the Strain series by Amelia C. Gormley. This is a fantastic sci-fi, dystopian M/M romance, though the romance is slow to build.

Strain (Strain, #1)About the book:

In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might confer immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little humanity. He’s spent a decade putting plague victims out of their misery and escorting survivors to a safe haven he can never enjoy. He’d rather help Rhys live than put him down, so when Rhys can’t reconcile himself to doing what’s necessary to survive, Darius is forced to save Rhys in spite of himself.

But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that Rhys can be saved. Which means that soon Darius might have to put a bullet in the head of the one person in years who reminds him of what it means to be human.

My Review:
The story is set on Earth, more than a century from now. After more than 100years of constant aggression to settle interests in the world, the US military struggled to recruit new soldiers. So, it’s scientists created a virus with which to infect its soldiers to generate supersoldiers, and a poison pill to its enemies at the same time. The effect was devastating, leaving an airborne virus that caused Rot, degeneration of the skin and brain and yielding revenants: hungry, carnivorous uncontrollable humans who are for all intents and purposes zombies.

Rhys has lived in a sheltered community, an abandoned monastery in rural Oregon, for the past 7 years– since age 12. His mother died two years ago and the only remaining adults were Father Maurice and his son, Jacob. They despised Rhys–having suspected him of being a homosexual from his youth–and routinely beat and starved him. Jacob was given Rhys’s younger sister as a bride, in accordance with Father Maurice’s demands, and the book opens with Rhys positioned as bait for marauding revenants while the good Father, Jacob, Rhys’s sister and nephew all escape. Only, it doesn’t go down like that. Rhys fights back–still trying to distract the “revs” and is nearly overcome when the cavalry arrives. And, by cavalry, I mean the original infected supersoldiers.

The soldiers of Project Juggernaut are super in every way: strength, stamina, accuracy. They take down the revs, but not before Rhys’ sister, nephew and the Father are killed. Jacob, that miserable abusive gobshite survived because he ran, leaving his “wife,” toddler son, and father to be attacked.

The “Jugs” aren’t sure what to do with Rhys and Jacob. The are clearly at risk for Rot, but the medic officer argues that transmission of the original virus–via copious sexual intercourse with the Jugs–could help Rhys and Jacob develop immunity to the mutated strain causing Rot before they develop symptoms. It’s a super longshot, and the platoon commander, Darius, is reluctant. Previous Jug leaders had created mini-empires by capturing civilians and raping them into submission–creating new Jugs in the process, and Darius is loathe to taste that power. Rhys even volunteers to die, knowing that he’s likely infected, and this changes something for Darius. He’s intrigued by Rhys, who is so small and scrawny and fierce at the same time.

All of this happens in the first 50 pages, or so. It is fascinating! All those years of being punished (beaten and starved) by Father Maurice and Jacob for his “unnatural perversion,” and yet, given the choice of Rot or Jug life, Rhys remains hesitant while Jacob is only to happy to drop trow. Rhys’ scared out of his mind of developing Rot, and sure that Jacob will find some way to torment him if he shows any inclination of enjoyment of sex. As the platoon makes it’s way back to camp, Rhys and Jacob submit to the “treatment” and I don’t mean this in any porny way, at all. It is rough and brutal, and some non-consent is part of the bargain. It affects Darius, who becomes inordinately possessive of Rhys–against his own better judgement.

I absolutely loved this story. It was an intriguing look at ethics and morality in a post-apocalyptic world. And, I dug that the author flipped the script on man-on-man action–making it vital to Rhys and Jacob’s survival. Growing up in the HIV/AIDS era as I have, and being disgusted by the dismissal of it as a “gay plague” that too many smugly thought well-deserved, I could appreciate the irony and also the necessity of this device. I so wanted Rhys to come to terms with his issues–but it is truly all he can do to keep up with the fast-paced Jug patrol and also keep out of Jacob’s line of fire. Rhys doesn’t mind having a sexual partner–Darius, actually–but the treatment is to “inoculate” him with as many variants of the strain as possible, which means multiple partners daily.

The story is simply brilliant in its treatment of bullying, the balance of power, life after bioholocaust, and the need to live a good life, as good as possible, in extreme situations. I was captivated from the beginning. There are a few tender moments, and many that aren’t so tender. That said, this is a romance, and you can expect an HEA for Rhys–but only after he is pulled so far through the plot-wringer that he’s *almost* superhuman.

Many thanks to the publisher, Riptide Books, who supplied a review copy.STRAIN has two companion novels coming in the next two months, JUGGERNAUT and BANE. I have read both of these, and they are incredible.

Interested? You can find STRAIN on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout the Author:

Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.

Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major ebook retailers, and be sure to check http://RiptidePublishing.com for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), and her upcoming post-apocalyptic romance, Strain.

You can contact Amelia on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!