Posts Tagged ‘alternate universe’

Reviewed by Elizabetta

Bump in the Night, edited by Rachel HaimowitzTITLE: Bump in the Night
AUTHORS: Heidi Belleau, Ally Blue, Kari Gregg, Peter Hansen, Laylah Hunter, Brien Michaels & Sam Schooler
EDITOR: Rachel Haimowitz
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 210 pages
BLURB: Turn off the lights . . . and turn on your darkest fantasies.

Demon pacts. Ghostly possessions. Monsters lurking in the depths. The things that go bump in the night frighten us, but they also intrigue us. Fascinate us. Even turn us on.

Join us as fan favorites Ally Blue and Kari Gregg bring over-amorous aquatic beasts to life with their mythic twists on the Siren and the monster in the lake. Erotic horror pros Heidi Belleau, Sam Schooler, and Brien Michaels show us just how sexy scary can be with a pair of demon deals destined to curl your toes and set your heart thrashing. And literary masters Laylah Hunter and Peter Hansen weave haunting worlds where ghosts and dead lovers can touch our hearts (and other, naughtier places too . . .) and teach us lessons from beyond the grave.

By turns exciting, evocative, and exquisitely explicit, the stories in Bump in the Night are sure to scratch your sexy paranormal itch. Explore your wildest fantasies with us in this collection of dark erotic tales.

REVIEW:

This is one of the strongest and most provocative anthologies I’ve read in the slash genre. Each story is unique in its own special horror and all are well crafted. Warning: this is more horror than erotica. And while there’s little to no romance, there’s plenty of sexual intoxication. There are a lot of disturbing elements. If rape or dubious consent is a trigger, proceed with caution.

The endings are more ‘happy-for-now’ or even ‘this is as good as it’s gonna get’. But isn’t that what life in the ‘Twilight Zone’ is about? I have to admit that I gobbled these up, thrilled by the story-telling.

There is a common thread through the stories summed up by a line lifted from one of them, “I hadn’t stopped to consider the cost.” Just in time for Halloween, this is highly recommended for those who want a darker, no-holds-barred read. Please heed the tags.

Overall anthology rating – star_review

Resurrection Man by Laylah Hunter
Tags: historical, paranormal, gore

An interesting turn on the Frankenstein story, this is a perfect example of the adage, “be careful what you wish for”…  A young man desperately in love, practices the dark art of necromancy and sells his soul to bring a beloved lover back from the dead.

“The flesh is scarcely the trouble… the installation of a soul in flesh is the domain of God.”

This feels like a chapter out of a larger piece (which means I want more) but works fine as is. Chillingly horrific and melancholy.

Rated: four-stars_0

Mating Season by Kari Gregg
Tags: paranormal, monsters, tentacle-sex, slave/captive, non/dubious-consensual/rape, cock/ball torture, gore, bondage, medical kink

Oh*my*freaking*lord

This is over-the-top wickedness with a cherry on the top, and the bit of devious plotting keeps it from being purely torture porn. The author throws everything but the kitchen sink into this feast of tentacle sex depravity…

A lusty monster with very active suction-cupped appendages…

“… the suckers on the underside of the tentacles nuzzled and guzzled down my cock like dozens of tiny mouths slurping… siphoning… tenderly squeezing…”

Deception, bondage, non-con/dub-con/rape, mpreg, stuffing, fisting… torture…you name it.

Did I like it?

Yes… yes, I did.

It starts off innocently enough. Danny is on a back-to-nature camping trip in a bucolic setting… cue birds, bees, butterflies…

Then begins a descent into nightmare-hell as he is tricked and forced into an evil experiment and… let’s just say he finds a special connection with a large, slimy, tentacled lake monster. It’s not pretty. I can’t say more. Read it.

This comes so close to my (so-far) favorite tent-sex read, Charlotte Mistry’s Gay Tentacles from Outer Space! (discerning tent-sex readers will already know this one). But Kari Gregg (I Omega, Spoils of War) offers up her very own special brand of delicious torture in the tent sex genre.

It’s just all kinds of… no… and, yesssss… Read it, but heed the tags.

Rated: star_review

Flesh and Song by Ally Blue
Tags: contemporary, paranormal, gods/demons, sailing, tropical island

Noah Rose is a restless man. He has everything he could want, a thriving surf holiday business in Costa Rica, a beautiful sailboat, and an eight month vacation cruising around the Caribbean. He’s been searching for a mythic island, “La Terre de la Belle Mort” (Land of the Beautiful Death), but what exactly is he searching for? He has been desired by many men “who wanted to own him but couldn’t” yet he is alone, adrift on the sea, searching, until…

”… here he was, facing the island the old men swore would give you your heart’s most secret desire. For a price.”

A naked man shows up on the island’s pristine beach and Noah is called to him. The lure of the siren song, here with a twist, changes Noah’s life as, once more, someone wants to own and bind him. Has he found his “heart’s most secret desire”?

“Then the stranger spoke again, the words like bells and nightingales… making his heart race… intoxicating song words Noah didn’t understand but already needed the way he needed air and water.”

The story is well made, but in the end it felt like an interesting interlude. Noah is in a dangerous situation, we see it even when he doesn’t, but we don’t know or learn enough about him to really care. Points for the descriptive writing and Noah’s fall into a kind of madness— that was fun.

Rated: 535px-3-5_stars-svg

Out From Under by Brien Michaels
Tags: contemporary, paranormal, demons/monsters, slave/captive, bondage, vine sex, non/dubious-consensual/rape, three-way, stuffing & sounding, torture, gore-fest

Brant has been enslaved and imprisoned in an old, decaying mansion cellar by an evil demon that can take different physical forms. It can even manifest itself by turning the cellar into a lush, verdant forest, sprouting foliage and sex-crazed vines. And it is hungry, it needs a certain type of nourishment. One guess what that is…

“… leaves sprouted beneath my feet, moist and lush… the first string of cum jettisoned from the tip of my cock, and the leaves glowed where it landed.”

The author outdoes himself, this is such a randy gore-fest of demon badness. And Brant is no innocent. He’s a pain-loving nympho, hooked on vine sex, reduced to procuring men for the monster, keeping its secrets; he’s sold himself for it and is lost to the pleasure.

“… the demon’s curse amplified every feeling, made me need that caress so badly I ached.”

And yet, there are lines like, “This nymphomania was really a burden sometimes. It made life so much harder…” and… “(the demon’s) head walked toward me (saying): “Things may not have worked out quite the way I’d planned.” The cheeky humor is welcome and balances the nightmare nicely.

The author switches back and forth in describing the demon’s sexual appendages… are they vines or tentacles? Confusing and irritating. Discriminating tent sex readers will want an important detail like this kept clear and consistent!! *nods* For this reader ‘vine’ works just as well as ‘tentacle’.  I have to add that the demon’s ghastly, human form with its tattoos that could ‘peel away on command’ into 3-D vines— so cool. I also liked the ending, how things resolved for Brant, though there is a lot of gore to wade through to get there. Be warned!

Rated: four-stars_0

Sleeping With Ghosts by Peter Hansen
Tags: paranormal, alternate universe, ghosts, violence

An odd, grim alternative universe, this, and slow-going at first as the reader is dropped coldly into it with little preparation.  Brother Yordan Korvechi is a Bookman, he works for the Church of She Who Turns the Page and their job is to protect against the soulless who roam this world (it seems there are a limited number of souls to go around). “Turning the page” being a euphemism for death, and Yordan wielding the power of the Grim Reaper.

What happens when an aged person needs a little nudge, a little help with separation from life and soul? Who you gonna call?

Yordan is dispatched to such a task, equipped for action… “He had a knife up each sleeve and a slim pistol in his coat lining, a garrote in his breast pocket just aching to be unwound.”  His task is critical, as somewhere, an unborn baby is waiting for the recycled soul, must have it.

But when Yordan discovers that he has been used in a political rivalry, he begins to have second thoughts about his work. Things have become more complicated when he is touched by the soul of the not-so-aged man he has just dispatched, and he is forever changed.

This was well written and atmospheric with a brooding sense of tension, dis-ease and suspicion, but it didn’t feel especially horrific or erotic. It left me almost as cold as poor Yordan’s interaction with the soulless ghost… I couldn’t help but feel that a little more info and character development would have greatly helped. (I recall that I’ve read another short by this author (Changing the Guard) which left me feeling much the same.)

Rated: 535px-3-5_stars-svg

Blasphemer, Sinner, Saint by Heidi Belleau & Sam Schooler
Tags: paranormal, demons, rape, ‘shock-value’

Holy cannoli, this is all kinds of messed up. Disturbing and mesmerizing.

Things start off relatively quietly. There’s David who has to sell himself on the streets to get by, and is dying from syphilis, and Tobias, his self-righteous, sanctimonious ex-lover who runs a boy’s orphanage, steeping himself in ‘good works’.

Told from Tobias’ POV, we see that they were childhood lovers, but Tobias was unable to accept his ‘unnatural’ feelings for David. So he abandons him, and buries himself in religious conviction that it’s for the best. David, meanwhile still loves Tobias, and comes asking him for help.

Part-way in I felt that this was looking to be the most romantic of all the offerings in this antho. Yeah, Tobias is a prick, but he eventually enters into a deal with a strange man he meets in a church, whereby he can give David his life back, give him a chance at redemption. It seems that Tobias still cares for his old lover and does want to help him. But are his intentions completely unselfish and in good faith?

This also has an underlying message of the need for compassion— that sometimes there is no choice— that we must accept who we are, and that love is love. Too bad Tobias learns this too late because the bargain he makes for David’s soul turns out to have a horrific and shocking payment. He has literally sold his soul to the devil for it.

Most of the important action happens in a church and there is an act that is so shocking that it stopped me cold… it will offend some, I suspect. But this is some special mindfuckery— that the horror here, lies in messing with our perceptions and boundaries. There is a twist in the act that makes it work in the end, though. In the end, everyone gets what they deserve. But at what cost?

Rated: four-stars_0

Elizabetta’s Overall Rating – star_review

BUY LINKS: Riptide Publishing

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Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: ELIZABETTA’S REVIEWS
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Reviewed by Heather C

SERIES: Agamemnon Frost Trilogy
AUTHOR: Kim Knox
BOOKS: 3
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death (Book One, Agamemnon Frost Trilogy)

BLURB: Liverpool, 1891

Click image to view full coverDecorated artilleryman Edgar Mason was forced to find new work when the British Empire replaced its foot soldiers with monstrous machines. Now he waits on the Liverpool elite as a personal servant. He has just one rule: he won’t work for fashion-addled dandies.

Agamemnon Frost, however, is far from the foppish man-about-town he appears to be. He’s working to protect the Earth from an alien invasion being planned by a face-changing creature known as Pandarus. And on the night he plans to confront the aliens, he enlists Mason to assist him.

For a man to love a man is a serious crime in Victorian England. But when Mason meets Frost, his heart thunders and his blood catches fire. And when Pandarus drags the two men into the torture cellars beneath his house of death to brainwash them, Mason’s new passion may be all that stands between him and insanity.

REVIEW:

Okay, this was crazy!

The cover is what first drew my interest to this story, but when I originally read the blurb for this, I was immediately turned off by the Victorian England-slash-alien invasion concept.  Then, something kept pulling me back to it over and over, and when I finally realized it would be a trilogy, I decided to give it a try.

It’s Liverpool in 1891, and Edgar Mason, a former soldier, has been hired for the night to play manservant to Agamemnon Frost, a well-dressed gentleman *cough* and guest at Sir Randolph’s dinner party.  Mason soon realizes that ALL things aren’t what they seem and the two men soon find themselves on the run…from Martians!

I’m going to separate my review into parts: first half and second half…

For the first half, the entire first half, I was so lost and confused I almost gave up.  There was a lot of “alien speak” and I couldn’t figure out what the other characters were going on and on about.  Plus, all the Greek references were lost on me.  I couldn’t visualize any of the alien contraptions, nor could I picture what the bad guys were doing to the MC.  It was like all this was written for a higher level of intelligence and my measly, human brain could not comprehend the complexity of it.  Like I said, it was a real struggle for me to continue reading.

Then, for the second half, like right AT the 50% mark, something changed, and all of a sudden, it was making sense and I was really interested in what was going to happen.  The story was still crazy, but by then, it was a fun crazy in a creative and unique way.  I now believe that the beginning was meant to be confusing and hard to follow, since we are getting the story from Mason’s third person POV, and not necessarily a poor execution from the author.

My favorite part of this story was the sexual tension between Mason and Agamemnon.  There’s lots of heat there that I really hope will finally reach a climax in the next book. (Yes, I can’t wait to read it; I must find out what happens).  I am really, really intrigued by Agamemnon and want to know more of his secrets; and I want to know what’s really going on in Mason’s head.

I’m giving this one 3 stars for the fact that it failed to hold my interest for a large part of the story.

Don’t let the historical aspects scare you if that’s not usually your thing, because the feel of the story is more science fiction, alternate universe.

Heather rates it – 3-stars-out-of-5-300x70

BUY LINKS: Carina Press :: Amazon

Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships (Book Two, Agamemnon Frost Trilogy)

Click image to view full coverBLURB: Edgar Mason is ready to embark upon his new life at Agamemnon Frost’s side. But all is not perfect. His Martian overlord, Pandarus, has implanted a dark voice in his mind, a voice that urges betrayal. And though Mason can keep close to Frost, there’s little room for romance under the watchful gaze of the engineers from Station X.

That changes when Mason and Frost reopen their investigation into their old enemy’s whereabouts. Posing as double agents and investigating cryptic rumors of “hollow ships,” they find him impersonating a London banker and worm their way into his confidence.

But their success brings them trouble in spades. Pandarus takes them into the belly of his ships, where he plans to transfigure them into mindless automata. And with Earth on the brink of invasion, Frost’s old flame Theodora reappearing and Pandarus’s brainwashing growing more effective, Mason and Frost will find their bond tested as never before.

REVIEW:

I’ve come to the conclusion that science fiction just might not be the genre for me.

So, Mason is still trying to adapt to his “changes” and is working as Frost’s valet, but now they are stuck at Station X and really can’t explore any of that unresolved sexual tension that’s been building up between them.  Mason is also still struggling with the whispers in his mind that keep telling him that Frost is a traitor and urging him to report that to his master.  Nestor decides that Mason and Frost need to go check out the “hollow ships” and see if they can find Pandarus.  And that’s where things begin to fall apart…

I didn’t think it was possible, but this story was even more difficult for me to follow than the first one.  I couldn’t picture ANYTHING that was happening to the characters or the setting around them.  There were chambers, and spikes and ships made out of human skin…I think.  It was all over the place!  Mason kept thinking he was dying and then he would wake up and I would be even more lost. Then, I think there may have been some kind of time travel to an earth made of living skin…or was it dead skin?  I have no idea because then it was gone…I think.

The sexual tension/romance was much more lacking here than in the first book.  Previously, Frost was all ready to fuck Mason, and then when he finally has a chance, he turns him down!  But not before giving Mason a hand job that I couldn’t even see in my head. And Mason keeps going on and on about how Frost needs to be with his former fiancée, Theodora, even though Frost has told him over and over that he wants Mason and not her.

I struggled reading this from the first page to the last, but I’m still going to read the third book to see how this mess ends.

Heather rates it – 

BUY LINKS: Carina Press :: Amazon :: All Romance eBooks

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW: Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers (Book Three, Agamemnon Frost Trilogy)

Click image to view full coverBLURB: Edgar Mason is losing Agamemnon Frost despite everything they’ve been through–the passion, the torture, the heat. Frost’s fiancée, Theodora, is back, and Mason can feel his lover gravitating toward her. Every day he sees them together, it tears at his heart.

Frost feels raw himself. His brother and sister-in-law are missing, and his guilt about failing to save Theodora from Pandarus eats at him. His feelings for Mason, whom he has put through hell twice already, just twist the screws tighter.

On top of that, Pandarus and the Martians are back to make their final push to Earth, and Frost and Mason are duty bound to fight them. People are vanishing. Bodies are turning up burned beyond recognition in the slums. The bleak, human-less future Frost and Mason saw in the hollow ships has nearly come to pass.

And in order to prevent it, each man will have to make a final choice: lose his lover or doom the world.

REVIEW:

Probably my most favorite book of the series and the most coherent…for the most part.

After rescuing Theodora, Mason and Frost are now protecting her at Frost’s home, Greenbank Hall, and trying to keep the darkness in her mind from taking over. Then, Frost’s brother, Menelaus, and his wife go missing and Frost decides he must take action against Pandarus and discover what the puzzle of The Crown of Towers really is, and choosing between Mason or Theodora’s safety.

For about the first 75% of this book, I was really liking it and was able to follow what was going on.  We get to see more of Frost’s vulnerabilities when it comes to the safety of Theodora; and Mason’s jealousy of Frost’s “engagement” to her.  We also get to see a resolution to all the sexual tension between Mason and Frost…and it’s totally HOT!!

For the last 25% of the book and the big climax where earth is saved from the invading Martians, well, this is where I got confused again and I’m still not sure I understand what really happened. Somehow Mason was the brain of Pandarus’s ship and then Frost’s cravat pin somehow becomes the key to saving the world. Huh?

In the end, Mason and Frost are free from Pandarus and Theodora and can now live happily ever after.

So probably, this kind of science fiction just isn’t for me.

Heather rates it – 3-stars-out-of-5-300x70

BUY LINKS: Carina Press :: Amazon :: All Romance eBooks

==================================
Heather C. is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: HEATHER’S REVIEWS
==================================

The main character of my new novel, The Adorned, is a courtesan…and that’s a wriggly little word, isn’t it?

Originally, it meant an attendant to a ruler, someone “of the court”, but these days it wears something different than the stately robes of a courtier–something slinky and red, maybe. When you hear the word, what do you see? Maybe a geisha, face painted ivory-white. Maybe a woman in an powdered wig, hiding a wicked grin behind a painted fan. Maybe a blond in a mink coat, simpering on the arm of an older man.

How about a beautiful young man?

Over the course of The Adorned, Etan, the beautiful young man in question, becomes a part of an elite class of tattooed courtesans–the playthings and objets d’art of a semi-divine aristocracy. Some of his patrons appreciate him solely for the decorative, near-magical art that he wears on his skin, but to be sure he’s expected to fulfill other duties as well.

Adorned are somewhere between living canvases and high-class escorts, and they can be both male and female–I knew that when I first started writing. I wanted to see what a courtesan class might look like in a world where the lines between gender roles are bit more permeable than they were in, say, Elizabethan England or Ancien Régime France.

Of course, it wasn’t quite a serious exploration of gender roles that I was after; more than anything, I just wanted to tell a good story. And I’ve got my shallow reasons, as well: I’m rather fond of good-looking guys, covered in tattoos or not. But there was something fascinating going on, I thought, and it kept cropping up here and there.

In the first draft of The Adorned, there were a few characters who I didn’t like very much–they were flat, stereotyped, wooden. In the rewrite, I upended their gender…and suddenly they came to life. Even today, our minds will often automatically assign a gender to ostensibly neutral words–words like housekeeper, nurse, cook, and, of course, courtesan–and when you flip that expectation, things can get pretty interesting.

~ [.:.] ~ [.:.] ~ [.:.] ~ [.:.] ~ [.:.] ~

THE ADORNED by John Tristan

The AdornedBLURB: My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered—and Roberd and myself along with it…

EXCERPT:

The date of the feast had been set for a week hence. A single day after the contract had been negotiated, one of the Count’s servants had brought us the news, along with our display-clothes. Those had been brought in lovely wooden boxes, which we were casually informed we could keep as gifts, and wrapped in thin tissue-paper.

The paper was blue and white, the colors of Karan’s house, and soft as silk. With Isadel’s he had sent a silver pomander. It fell out of the folds, unremarked upon, as she unwrapped it, regarding his choice with a businesslike expression. It was a long skirt of crimson velvet, slit high to the hip. She held it up. “Well, it’s a good thing the flame on my stomach’s finished now. This will expose it for sure.”

We were in the dining room, which was empty save for the two of us and the two boxes on the table. Yana and Doiran were busy with their own work, and Tallisk could not be disturbed to fuss over our clothes, so Isadel took the task of it in hand. I looked over her shoulder at the skirt. I could see no other clothing in the empty box. “Are you to wear no, uh, no…”

She laid the skirt back in the box, careful of its delicate seams. “No, of course not. We don’t get hired to cover our Adornments.”

“Still,” I said, “you would never see a woman in the street so bare.”

“Well, no, but she would have nothing to show, Etan. When we do our work well, no one sees our bodies as bared flesh. We are moving art.”

I chewed this over. “Count Karan—”

“Count Karan,” she said, “might be our patron, but he is not who I bare my Adornments for. He has us made because it is…the done thing, not because he is a connoisseur of art.”

I traced my fingers over the lacquered top of my box. I had not yet opened it; I half feared to. “Do you know what he asked? What the Count asked of me?”

“Yes. I know.” She closed her box with a snap.

My mouth had gone dry. I bit my lip. “Do you know what he expects of me?”

“Yes, Etan,” she said, more gently. “He asked the same thing of me.”

“Was itwas he?” My face felt furnace hot.

She shrugged. “It heis tolerable enough.” A quick grin lit her face. “Sometimes, it can even be a pleasant diversion. But don’t dwell on it so much; your true work is the display. His Grace may not appreciate the art as much as the skin it’s inked on, but be sure that his friends have eyes.”

READ THE 5 STAR REVIEW (LINK) <—||—||—> BUY THE BOOK (LINK)

GIVEAWAY

Would you like to win a free copy of The Adorned? Leave your e-mail address and your preferred format (PDF or epub) in the comments … and, if you’d like, what sort of design you’d want tattooed on you if you were one of the Adorned! The giveaway will end on August 20th, when the winner will receive their book.

About the Author

John is a Transatlantic nerd currently living near Manchester; when he’s not writing about sexy men in strange worlds having adventures and falling in love, he’s probably reading, playing video games or changing the cat tray.

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/johntristan Website: http://www.johntristan.com

Reviewed by Elizabetta

five-stars120205

The AdornedTITLE: The Adorned
AUTHOR: John Tristan
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
LENGTH: 280 pages
BLURB: My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered—and Roberd and myself along with it…

REVIEW:

I’ve been looking forward to reading another fantasy work by this author after having enjoyed his “Forest of Glass” some time ago. I remember that work for its richly descriptive writing and world building, and “The Adorned” doesn’t disappoint. The story is laid down like a carefully crafted painting as brush stroke by brush stroke, this other world is revealed. Vivid and haunting, more than anything, it is the storytelling that sets it apart.

“When we do our work well, no one sees our bodies as bared flesh. We are moving art.”

The Adorned are youths chosen for their flawless, physical beauty. They are blank canvases for master tattoo artists, known for their exquisite and highly sought after designs. Those lucky enough to become indentured to these masters can also enter into a patronage by members of the ruling class, the Blooded. This mysterious clan, set apart and rumored to have descended from the gods, has an insatiable appreciation for beauty, and their pursuit of decadent pleasure and debauchery can make the reputation of an Adorned.

An Adorned is contracted by these wealthy patrons for display– as well as other carnal services– as their body art progresses. There is a mysterious something else that sets their tattoos apart and distinguishes them as ‘adorned’ but the story must be read to discover what that is. This is an outrageously rarified world these tattooed youths move in. And it’s risky stuff, considering the troubled times where many in the populace eke out meager subsistence and often go hungry– in fact, the story has a feeling of the last days of Marie Antoinette’s French court.

Nineteen-year-old Etan Dairan has nothing left in the world. His father has suddenly died and left debts that have eaten up Etan’s legacy. He has been softly reared and well educated but his options are limited and he finds himself on the street. Luckily for Etan, he comes to the notice of Roberd guild-Meret Tallisk, perhaps the finest tattoo-master in the country. Etan, becomes Etan writ-Tallisk, and over the course of a five-year indenture, turns his body over to the artist’s incredible designs… to become Adorned.

“I was like a midnight garden, my Adornments almost glowing green… here and there a barely-opening blossom in blue…”

Etan earns his keep by display contracts for the Blooded and in particular, Count Helsin Karan, a primary patron.

“There were men in the fine clothes of the Blooded and their companions, and with them were the Adorned, flashes of moving color in the dark crowd… the men laughed, loosened by wine, and their hands were freer with the Adorned than they would have been with ladies… I felt suddenly like a minnow in a pond of sharks, their toothy grins all turned on me… I saw the Count at last, and he—the sleekest, swiftest shark in the pond—saw me.”

Even though Etan can also be contracted for sex there is very little of it in the story. The story’s sensuality mostly exists in the writing and in the description of this world and the unfolding interaction between Etan, Tallisk and Count Karan. It would seem that Etan is set-up for life; he will be well cared for and be able to make a very lucrative living after his service to Tallisk is completed. But these are troubled times and Etan finds himself pulled between loyalty to Master Tallisk and the machinations of the Blooded.

The story moves sedately, carefully building the relationships and tension. There is intrigue, political scheming, and violence. And there is romance. Etan’s journey from penniless orphan to courtier and beyond is captivating. This was a treat to read, itself a work of art, and is highly recommended.

BUY LINK: Carina Press  ::  All Romance eBooks

==================================
Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: ELIZABETTA’S REVIEWS
=====================================================

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Reviewed by Elizabetta

SERIES: Mongrel
AUTHOR: K. Z. Snow
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press

Book One: Mongrel

Mongrel (Mongrel, #1)

LENGTH: 202 Pages
BLURB: Hunzinger’s Mechanical Circus, a rollicking seaside carnival where imagination meets machinery, shines as the only bright spot in the dreary city of Purinton. A shadow is cast there one day when a tall, cloaked figure approaches the stand of Will Marchman, a young patent-medicine salesman. Fanule Perfidor, commonly known as the Dog King, isn’t welcome at the Circus. No resident of Taintwell is; they’re all Branded Mongrels, officially shunned. But Will is beguiled by the stunning, mysterious Perfidor. Their mutual wariness soon gives way to desire, and a bond forms.

Soon the naive but plucky pitchman becomes embroiled in a dangerous quest. Fanule suspects Alphonse Hunzinger and Purinton’s civic leaders are responsible for the disappearance or incarceration of countless Branded Mongrels. But why? As Will’s passion and regard for his tormented lover grow, he’s determined to help Fanule get answers and prevent any further persecution… or worse. They just have to stay together—and stay alive long enough—to see their plan through.

REVIEW:

Mongrel is a steam-punk fantasy about a world divided between the haves and the have nots

Human (pures) vs. Mongrel (tainted)

Puriton vs. Taintwell

the privileged vs. the shunned.

A romance fantasy with a theme of social injustice and discrimination running through it.

The story beginning is wonderfully done and Snow is in top form with her depiction of this world in full, rich Technicolor. She brings to life an oceanside boardwalk carny; a Mechanical Circus with its line of stalls manned by hawkers pushing their wares, and buildings housing steam-powered mechanisms to entertain. The Circus is the one bright spot in dreary Puriton, home to the human population.

“… the overdone facades… all strung together like a lineup of gaudy, aging whores. Colorful pennants snapped above their roofs… elaborate cornices and quatrefoil windows, little gargoyles… the permanent carnival that stretched along and beyond the boardwalk…”

Fanule… the Branded Mongrel, part human/part something else… he is mysterious and exotic and nobody’s mongrel. He has been elected Eminence of Taintwell, home to the Mongrel population. Fan has been chosen to represent and protect their interests. He has a troubled side though— has mood swings from euphoria to depression. He’s also as tough as he is vulnerable. He’s a captivating character with some very interesting friends: a randy vampire, Clancy Marrowbone, who has convenient teleportation skills, and the witch, Lizabetta, a revenant— murdered and dismembered— but existing in a spirit form, she’s a jumble of disjointed body parts that are given to floating about at random. Oh, and her equally dismembered cat, Lickshank, who is often preceded by his tail…

“… Lizabetta’s torso, draped in a simple chemise with drawstring neckline and scalloped hem, sat serenely on her sofa… (her) head, semi-translucent and wearing a happy smile, floated from a high shelf at the back of the room…”

Fanule and Clancy had a long-ago affair but when Fan meets Will Marchman, a comely snake-oil salesman at the Circus, he is quickly attracted. Theirs is a sensual, sweet love story, hot and yet somehow innocent. When Fan meets Will, he finally feels hope. I love that the two pursue a love affair despite public censure about humans “mixing” with Mongrels.

Snow is an adept storyteller— the opening chapters, so rich and thick with imagery, are a hard act to follow. There is certainly a lot to cram into a mere two-hundred pages and at times things felt a bit rushed. While they were wonderfully evil, I would have liked a little more detail about the no-good, bad guys. The threat would have seemed greater if those characters had been more fully drawn, especially towards the end. Still, Mongrel was a stylish, very enjoyable read and I look forward to more stories in this world.

Elizabetta’s Rating:

BUY LINK: Dreamspinner Store :: Book Store

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW

Book Two: Merman

Merman (Mongrel, #2)

LENGTH: 207 Pages
BLURB: When vampire Clancy Marrowbone returns to Purin province after nearly two years, he intends only to visit with his dear friend, Fanule Perfidor, and find out how his former lover, the unfortunately mortal Simon Bentcross, is faring. But two developments change Marrowbone’s itinerary: the appearance of a drastically altered man from his past, and the reawakening of his passion for Simon.

Both of these unexpected reunions become increasingly complicated. The connection between Simon’s new creation, a bathysphere-like submersible, and a clandestine underwater-research project results in Marrowbone and Bentcross becoming hunted men. But sometimes, it takes danger to make a star-crossed affair seem worth saving.

REVIEW:

The story continues about two years after the end of Mongrel, the first book in this series. I really liked the camaraderie in this, the playful banter between the four main characters, Clancy, Simon, Fanule and Will. This was the highlight of the book for me— Snow’s deft touch as she skillfully lays the brushstrokes, drawing these guys and their supporting cast; she sets up simple, quiet scenes between them that feel real even in this fantasy world. I really appreciated this.

So, we settle back into Snow’s hybrid steampunk-pnr world and get more development of the main characters. In the prequel we got a good feel for Will and Fan— who they are and the dynamic between them. But this show belongs to Clancy, the sensitive and fastidiously refined vamp, and Simon, his brawny, blue-collar working stiff. We get to find out more about what happened between them in Mongrel, that there was and remains a sparky, magnetic attraction. It’s slow going at first though, as Clancy distances himself from Simon because of qualms based on his own insecurities when it comes to commitment or love or acceptance of himself.

As in Mongrel, there is another mystery, this time about nefarious goings-on and the abuse of prison inmates on Floating Brick Island, just off the coast of Puriton. Simon, who now runs his own mechanic shop, is commissioned to build an underwater vessel, a “bubble” or bathysphere, to be used to explore the deep ocean trench next to the island. There could be a link between this project and the appearance of a strange part-fish/part-human mutant creature found washed up on the shore. A creature who used to be an inmate of Floating Brick Island prison many, many years ago…

The connection between the project and this merman creature is left pretty vague though. And, in the middle section of the book, “Separation,” there is an awful lot of explaining about the merman and how he came to be, and whether he is nefarious or a victim of circumstance. The action slows way down with a series of convos between various characters. Ugh. Fortunately, things pick up in the last section of the story when all the characters work together toward a satisfactory ending.

This book did not feel as strong as its prequel. Perhaps this is due to some pacing issues and my ambivalent feelings about the merman. Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed, once more, the wonderfully descriptive writing found here.

Elizabetta’s Rating: four-stars_0

PRE-ORDER LINK: Dreamspinner Store

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Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: ELIZABETTA’S REVIEWS
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Review by Elizabetta

five-stars120205

TITLE: Freedom
AUTHOR: Jay Kirkpatrick
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
BLURB: In a future Earth, Patrick Harvey, newly promoted Class One Empath, dreams of the independence his position brings and the apartment he’s saving for. His first solo assignment is treating John Doe 439, a man found outside the city, battered, traumatized, and apparently mute.

Despite a strong taboo against Empaths forging romantic relationships, Patrick realizes he feels a strong attraction to his patient. Soon he learns the man is a high-level Psychic Talent named Jac. Then Jac reveals that there are abusive people hunting him for his gifts, and Patrick’s uncomplicated world explodes.

Jac needs to meet up with his companions and flee the city before anyone else can find him—but it may be too late. Word of Jac’s talents has leaked to Central Government in Chicago. If Jac wants to retain his freedom, he needs to run—now. And if Patrick wants to explore a relationship his society tells him he can’t have, he’ll have to exchange the safe fetters of his job for the uncertainty of liberty.

REVIEW:

Food for thought, that’s what this book is. This is more than a futuristic gay romance, it is a look at something we view as a basic necessity in life, and a gift: freedom… The dictionary calls it:

  • the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without restraint
  • absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government
  • the state of being physically unrestricted; not being imprisoned or enslaved
  • the power of self-determination attributed to the will

But it is also a state of mind.

Patrick Henry is our hero in Freedom, and he seems to have never really thought deeply about his own freedom within his world. That is, not until he meets his patient, John Doe#439/Jaq. Little by little, Patrick’s eyes are opened to what his ‘perfect’ life really is, and just how much he has given up for safety and security.

Freedom takes place in an alternative universe, ‘new’ Las Vegas, New Earth. It is post-apocalyptic, post cataclysmic— we never really learn what the ‘Burst’ is that so devastated the country, leaving a society divided between those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’. The former live in protected, walled Cities, under guaranteed safety but also severe structure and surveillance (cameras are everywhere; citizens are tagged with tracking devices); while the latter live in the back-and-beyond in near anarchy, are seen as degenerates, are left to a scrounging subsistence.

For Patrick, living inside the City has always been the goal. There, at the Empath Center, he can use his abilities to help others. In this world, some are born with extra-sensory abilities: empathic, telepathic, telekinetic, and these gifts are highly sought-after by the powers that be. These valued abilities are the tickets to life on the Inside. Patrick is a Class One Empath and he is given his first big case, to work with Jaq, a severely beaten and raped, mentally broken, shell of a man found dumped in the desert. Patrick is anxious to prove himself, excited to finally help someone in need, spurred by the challenge of finding the key to Jaq’s mental prison.

But who is really the needy one here? As he finds out more about Jaq and his life on the Outside, Patrick discovers the limitations in his own life. Perhaps Jaq has known greater freedom than Patrick has ever imagined. Patrick’s whole world is set on end as his eyes are slowly opened to what he has given up for that safe and secure life. He also becomes aware of long suppressed emotions sparked by his close interaction with Jaq. The scenes where Patrick works to help Jaq find a way out of his nightmare are some of my favorites.

Patrick learns that security comes at a personal cost, and it is easy to make correlations to our present day situation— with surveillance cameras on every corner, drone technology, data mining of phone and internet correspondence in the name of security, the Patriot Act— insidiously and surely, what we perceive as freedom is being altered.

This book is very strong through the wonderful first half. The writing, plotting and pacing are well done, the characters, all of them, compelling. If there is a weakness, it is in Patrick. He is at times frustrating, seemingly naive and too malleable: he has allowed himself to be manipulated by those in charge, he has buried his head in the proverbial sand. It is hard to believe that he could be so oblivious. What saves him is his purity of soul and his nurturing, kind spirit. On the other end, Jaq is a truly unique character, a man of hidden depths. It’s a mistake to discount him, he is more than he seems.The second half of the book is a little less satisfying— it does have great action and drama, but there is an OTT bad-guy who just turns goonish, and the focus is more on the secondary characters. Jaq and Patrick are separated for much of it… and leaving the cocoon of their blossoming intimacy is jarring.

For me, Freedom draws parallels with where we are right now in our own ‘negotiations’ for security and safety and how these will inevitably affect our access to freedom. This raises it to five stars. Oh, and it is a great love story!

BUY LINK: Dreamspinner Press  ||  Book Store

PAPERBACKS: Dreamspinner Press  ||  Amazon

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Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love
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Check out all our recommended books in Sid Love’s eBook Store:
Recommended Books

(Support this site and buy the books from my A-store)