Their Experience Was STAGED–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m really excited to share a review for a new alternate universe M/M romance from Kim Fielding. You already know I enjoyed A SECOND HARVEST and LOVE CAN’T CONQUER, but STAGED is something altogether different. It’s a new episode in the Belonging ‘Verse series offered by Riptide Publishing, and it’s a really unique story setting. All the stories take place in a world very much like ours, except slavery was never outlawed…

Staged (Belonging, #3)About the book:
Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: dubious consent, explicit violence and non-consent.

My Review:
This book is the third set in the “Belonging ‘Verse” series that explores an alternate world where slavery was never abolished, and is set in current times. It is a stand alone read.

The book has these warnings: dubious consent, explicit violence, and non-consent. You need to understand that this is a fictional slave society. Slaves are not allowed to refuse any task or action desired by any master, even ones not their own. This book contains rapes and horrific beatings of slaves, including the MC, Sky Blue.

Sky Blue is a slave, born from a slave in a whorehouse, though his father was a well-known freeman singer. He was sold at age 8 to a music producer. He later took second in a slave singing competition, and toured the world with the all-slave band 2Nyte. These days he sings in a rundown club, and he knows his days are numbered there. He’s not surprised when he’s sold to a slave trader, and he’s fretful, awaiting purchase in a filthy warehouse where he’s caged all day and night. Then he’s bought.

Morgan Wallace seems wealthy and kind, at first, but he’s never handled a slave before. Sky is anxious for direction, and has no idea what to do with himself. He travels from NYC to San Francisco and there he learns the worst of his new experience. He and Morgan make the rounds at all-male, private, BDSM parties. Which are horrifying. Truly. Not only are the slaves there mistreated, they are disfigured and raped for the dubious enjoyment of their masters. These are freemen who take great pleasure in breaking the toys of their fellows.

Morgan seems genuinely apologetic and torn regarding his employment of Sky at these parties. He seemingly takes no pleasure in it, and spends days tending Sky’s wounds in the aftermath. He buys Sky all sorts of gifts, and it’s utterly confusing to Sky. Why? Why torture? Why make amends? Can none of these people see him as human? The answer to that is: NO. Sky challenges Morgan’s beliefs regarding the intellect of slaves, but Morgan’s in a position where he can’t stop his association with the horrible cretins, and manumission (freeing of a slave) is not allowable–unlawful–in any case. That said, he has a genuine affection for Sky. Sky’s also perversely attracted to Morgan–and often takes the upper hand in their private, intimate activities. Sky’s never had a home, only a place to stay where he was communally housed with other slaves. The apartment that he and Morgan share is the first place that feels uniquely home to him.

I don’t want to give away the big twist, but I will acknowledge that I expected it. Morgan’s activity is too shady, and his remorse too sincere. He’s clearly playing a dangerous game with Sky and his new BDSM associates, and he’s unable to pull out, even if it means hurting Sky more and more. Still, Morgan recognizes that Sky is as much a man as he is, and just as intelligent, debunking the indoctrinated fiction that slaves are somehow lesser beings, and unable to feel any sense of their position. This makes Morgan realize that his actions are all the more heinous.

I loved how Sky was so in touch with his humanity, and the limitations and injustice of his station. While there is absolutely a thriller/horrifying aspect to the book, the ending is truly tender and spectacular. Sky never imagined what his fate might be, but he made actual decisions–generally forbidden–that directed the course of his new life and happiness. When he had the opportunities to escape, he demonstrated, without any shadow of doubt, his humanity and commitment to Morgan. It was really so sweet, and I was happily rewarded by bearing witness to Sky’s HEA.

Writing a book from a slave’s perspective is never easy, I imagine. This whole alternate universe is a statement about control, and the lack of it. It allows deep investigation of the darker side of humanity, perspectives that linger malevolently on the side of our current experience, but have never really faded: entitlement, prejudice, absolute power, exploitation, and the like. It’s not a pretty picture–and surely exists on the fringe of society today. By internalizing these stories, readers are able to gain a new empathy for those who don’t have any real power over their destiny or livelihood. I enjoyed the previous two books in this series for that same reason. That said, none of the books are upbeat or happy, though they do end with an HEA, as well. There are no actual repercussions for owners who abuse their slaves, while there are many torments to which a slave can be subject, not the least of which is being sold off to work in dangerous mines. There is a small movement to abolish slavery, but it is still in its infancy.

You are warned in the blurbs–non-consent, violence and dark themes within. Let the reader be wary.

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

About the Author:
venicebigKim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Catch up to Kim on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Give a Cheer for MIDNIGHT RODEO: BELONGING! Excerpt & Giveaway


Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt and giveaway for MIDNIGHT RODEO: BELONGING. It’s a paranormal M/M anthology featuring some interesting characters hitting the dark rodeo circuit. All the stories sound intriguing, and there’s a giveaway for a print copy listed below.

About the books:

What happens when rodeos start to get too tough for humans to compete in? Midnight Rodeo, of course, where supernatural creatures like shifters and vampires work for the prize money, and for the awe of their audience.

midnightrodeo21400Light a Rocket by Julia Talbot
Rocket is probably the worst rider in Darque and Knight rodeo troupe. This cheetah shifter is fast as the wind, but he only has so many lives in his cat body, and he spends more time injured than not. Raven Walkingman is the number one cowboy in the Midnight Rodeo, at the top of his game. The two seem an unlikely match, but Raven enjoys doing things no one expects him to, including Rocket.

Raven likes his relationships casual, though, and when Rocket starts talking mates as shifters are wont to do, Raven pulls up the stakes. He has his animal spirit guides, his good friends, and his fancy trailer. He doesn’t need a ragtag cheetah falling in love with him. His spirit guides know better. They adore Rocket and are more than happy to support him, and abandon Raven, until the stubborn fool does the right thing.

Tails and Whiskers by BA Tortuga
Tiger shifter Dmitri loves the rodeo. Darque and Knight has become his home, and he adores all of his new friends. Still, his past as a circus animal causes him to hate injustice, so when he meets a trick rider and fox shifter, Dmitri is appalled to find that the hot little kit isn’t allowed inside the rodeo ground except when he works. In fact, none of the entertainers are allowed in, all being contractors and thus bound to a different boss, who happens to be a greedy goblin.

As Dmitri and Isaac learn to love one another, they find growing dissatisfaction with the status quo, and they go to their friends for support in forcing a policy change. Too bad there’s a certain goblin who doesn’t want to give up control of his workers. Can Dmitri and Isaac find a way to be together, and to make a change for the better of everyone at D&K?

Freaked Out by Kiernan Kelly
Gargoyle-shifter Killian has spent his life living and working with all different sorts of supernatural folk, but because he had three forms instead of two like most other shapeshifters, he’s always felt like a freak. His habit of keeping to himself and minding his own business has been his shield against being hurt, and to aid in that endeavor, he’s adopted a stony personality.

When a troupe of sideshow performers are hired by Darque and Knight to augment the rodeo, he’s forced to redefine his ideas of what constitutes beauty and what defines a freak. Meanwhile, the hard, protective shell he’s erected around his heart threatens to crack wide open under the tender touch of Micah, the sideshow’s hideous Snake Man.

How about a little taste? From Tails and Whiskers!

Someone was singing about having a tiger by the tail. Loudly.

Honestly, Dmitri loved to sing. He loved other people’s enthusiastic music. This morning, though, he was not so pleased. His head felt very large.

He blamed Brax. The head of the kitty cavalcade loved to get everyone full of green smoke.

Dmitri lifted his throbbing head that was, at least, five sizes bigger than it had been, and peered out of the window. Oh. His dear friend Denver was calling for him.

With fried sweet things.

For that he would crawl out of his happy bed, which still smelled like Denver since he’d bought his friend’s old trailer, and put on—shorts? Something.

“Open up, pussycat. I brought doughnuts.” Denver was a good friend, especially for a wolf. Blaine must have thrown him out this morning for being too perky. Denver’s little wolf partner was not a morning person.

Dmitri opened the door to his trailer. “Welcome, friend Denver.”

“Good morning, fuzzy.” Denver walked up and rubbed cheeks with him, sharing scent. The bullfighter knew the rules, knew how to be pride as well as pack. That made him more valuable than gold.

“What did you bring for breakfast?” Dmitri asked.

“Apple fritters. Fresh from the fryer.”

“I love apples!” His head began to clear pretty quickly. “Tell me what is the news.”

“We got a big crowd tonight. Seems tell people are revved. Bulls are spitting fire. That weird little group of trick riders are pulling the first break, to give Kurt a breather. He’s burning up.”

Yes, it was warm in Texas for a panda. Dmitri understood. His inner Siberian tiger longed for Colorado. Maybe Canada.

“There’s a lake close by. We should go, the bunch of us,” Denver suggested.

“Oh.” Swimming. His tiger surged, close the surface, wanting out of his human body. “Yes. Apple things first.”

“You bet. Come sit with me.”

Dmitri followed Denver out into the sun and sat at a picnic table. The heat pressed at him, but he did love the light.

Denver had an entire box of the pastries and they ate eagerly, wolfing the doughnuts at first, then ending with lazy nibbles. Oh. Better. So much better.

Sugar left his tiger cold, but his human side loved it, and the crispy-fried part? Perfect.

He bounced, rocking the table. “Swiim now?”

“Let me grab the others. You’ll invite the pride?”

“I will.” He grabbed a trash can lid and a piece of wood and began banging. “Wake up, kitties! We are going to the lake!”

He got half cheers, half people throwing things at him. Blaine walked over with an apple fritter in hand, the other bullfighters Caul and Carter followed along with Potts. That only left one bullfighter and Terrance was notoriously slow.

Brax appeared, his naked, tanned form lean and pretty. “What are you caterwauling about?”

“Swimming! Friend Denver says there is a lake.”

Brax wrinkled his nose, stretched slowly, all golden skin and muscle. Yum. “I’ll pass.”

“Coward,” Denver teased. “You can come tan. Show off all that pretty skin. Maybe you’ll get laid.”

Dmitri wished he would have that, not Brax. No one wanted to be broken, Brax told him, afraid of Dmitri’s size and… enthusiasm.

“Yeah?” Brax came over, scented Denver and Blaine, then nodded. “Okay, sure. Let me grab some oil.”

“And some shorts,” Potts called. “A shame to damage yer pecker, eh?”

“Mine is so big I can cast my own shade.” Brax winked and headed off.

Potts growled, but the sound was more happy than ugly. Dmitri looked between them, then raised a brow at Denny.

Denver just shrugged, eyes twinkling. “What will be, will be, huh?”
“It will.” He was happy if his friends were happy.
“Lake. Water. Swimming.”
“Dog paddling,” Dmitri teased.
“You know it. Terry is a champion paddler.” Denver clapped Terrance on the back when he went by.
They clomped the half mile to the lake, the water glinting under the sun, the grass on the way green and thick. Dmitri whooped as soon as he saw the water, breaking into a run.

Blaine followed with him, the little wolf losing shirt and flip-flops with a happy howl.

He laughed, splashing in and leaving his clothes on the bank. He popped water at Blaine, roaring with delight.

Blaine tackled him, totally unafraid and eager to play.

Dmitri chortled, and soon he was surrounded, five puppies and kittens flying in all directions when he shrugged hard. Denver was floating on his back, watching with deceptively hooded eyes. Denny saw all.

Oh, Dmitri loved his life.

Interested? You can find MIDNIGHT RODEO: BELONGING on AllRomance and Amazon.


Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a print copy of MIDNIGHT RODEO: BELONGING.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the authors:
BA Tortuga:
Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds, getting tattooed, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing porn sites in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife (still amazing to say that), Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has gone to the high desert mountains and fallen in love. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.

You can find BA online on her website, blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and twitter.

Julia Talbot:
Julia Talbot lives in the great Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Torquere Press, Dreamspinner and Changeling Press. She believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved.

Find Julia online on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, or twitter.

Kiernan Kelly:
Kiernan Kelly lives in the wilds of the alligator-infested U.S. Southeast, slathered in SPF 45, drinking colorful tropical, hi-octane concoctions served by thong-clad cabana boys.

All right, the truth is that she spends her time locked in the dark recesses of her office, writing gay erotic romance while chained to a temperamental Macintosh, drinking coffee, and dreaming of thong-clad cabana boys.


To date, Kiernan has seven novels in print, a plethora of short stories in e-format…and still no cabana boy of her own, although her husband may beg to differ.

Catch up with Kiernan online on her website, Facebook, Goodreads and twitter.