Rachel Likes

Not leaving GR, but I will set up a little refuge here.  Mainly reading m/m and m/f romance/ erotica. 

Unchained - exclamation


Sooo ... that was 150,000+ words of Sterek. I probably don't need to mention this fic is long winded. I have read a few of exclamation's works (this, Convenient, the pact, Chosen) and they are all epic novel length (with the exception of Convenient). In fact, I can pretty much write the same exact review for all of them. Exclamation is like the Mary Calmes of Sterek - nothing is exceptional, everything is exactly as you expected, the writing is par, the set up and tension sounds so delectable, but only delivers just a tad beneath what you had hoped ... and yet the fics are so darn addictive you can't help yourself. I can say that they are all three plus stars (not quite delivering that full fourth star), but they all kept me entertained and reading the whole ride through.

This one is a contemporary AU slave fic (Slave!Derek, "Master"!Stiles) with alternating POV. The Sterek is slow build and oddly enough not the star of the show. What stands out most to me and kept me reading is the world building and the story. It delves into melodrama and a too goody two shoes Stiles as the story enters into the last 30,000 words, but overall it was the story that interested me, especially Derek's journey and growth. For those who enjoy this I would recommend Pack Up; Don't Stray.

Now here's a random rant:
So I was slowly working my way through this author's fics when I checked out their Profile page and found this:

Please don't add my fics to Goodreads. Goodreads is a site for reviewing, rating and discussing published books. My published works are listed on there, but it's not appropriate for my fan fiction to be listed there.

Ahem. *cracks knuckles, rolls neck*

First thought: "Goodreads is a site for reviewing, rating and discussing published books." Wrong - it is not just for published works and it is a prime source of recommendations. So agree to disagree.

Second thought: Surprised to have found this fic on GR, so not sure if this comment on their profile page is new or not, but not counting on their fics staying here.

Third thought: I don't agree with fandom authors that are affronted by the premise of their fics on Goodreads, but I do respect that and do not add such authors to GR. For the most part that I have found though, the fandom authors that are anti-Goodreads usually are not professionals, but rather amateurs writing for the joy of Sterek and that tends to be their core reasoning for not being on Goodreads - which again though I respectfully disagree with their logic, I respect it.

Now let me share with you a little trend - I read Nothing Less & Something More by bigboobedcanuck and LOVED them. Found out that bigboobedcanuck is Keira Andrews (who I hadn't known before), which put A Forbidden Rumspringa & Kick at the Darkness on my shopping list. Read DiscontentedWinter works (who I did know was Lisa Henry) ... throws her whole catalog in the basket too. Reads Mating Bite, The Heartwood Box: A Fairy Tale grabs my attention. Accidents Happen introduces me to Jay Northcote. See a pattern?

Exclamation, why you no want my money for original works? Why as a professional author would you not utilize every marketing (especially FREE marketing) methods available to you?  And that Goodreads statement is the kind of statement that gets not only your fics, but your original works blacklisted by me along with Stoney's.

Final thought on exclamation's fics: They are engaging ... but just not enough to keep reading them once I found out the author has no business acumen. Guess they aren't Mary Calmes after all. :(

Evenfall Volume I - Director's Cut

Evenfall Vol. 1 Director's Cut - Ais, Santino Hassell


* Please note that I have read both versions of Evenfall and the following review reflects that perspective.



Not Flawless …


The POV of one of the best written and much needed unbiased narrators shockingly didn't make the Director's Cut. Typos, grammatical flubs, plot holes and sentence construction issues still abound. Personally I found Hsin’s POV gave too much away and negated the depth of his mysterious and dangerous aura that drew me in to the story originally. The UST was replaced with steaminess - it will be subjective if this is a flaw or not. And unfortunately it appears that an attempt to enhance memorable personality characteristics of the secondary characters, has resulted in them as reading more one dimensional. My hopes of this DC version reflecting the grittiness and world building as well as Hassell’s After Midnight (they are set in the same world during the same time frame) were crushed - this series still reads very YA and contemporary to me.

That being said ...

Hsin is still hot as f*** - and there is more from his POV. You will still root for (and at times want to rescue) Boyd - and his rambles have been silenced. All the lovable characters you fell for in the original version made the casting cut. The missions read much more fluidly and balance better with the relationship arc in the story arc. The pace of the relationship is accelerated. In essence, what made the original version of ICoS such a hit and regarded with adoration for so many readers - the characters and their relationship - are inherent to both versions and their development executed as thoroughly.


Bottom line:


This "Director's Cut" feels less like a well edited and polished version and more like a condensed work in progress. The authors duly note that they are not editors and that flaws remain in this version, on the first page in the "Just a Note" section, so don't be misguided as what to expect when seeing the "Director's Cut" badge slapped on it. But what made the original version enjoyable also makes the DC version enjoyable.

New readers to the series will appreciate the ability to experience the ICoS phenomenon without devoting every ounce of their spare time to it. I am interested to see how Boyd reads for those new to this series. Though I am happy his ramblings have been curbed, some of the insight that I personally found pertinent in explaining many of his motives for his actions was removed. In the new version I often found it hard to reconcile Boyd’s motives (or mental state) with his actions and to me this weakened his character. I venture that in the original where Boyd came off as quite young and his actions were often attributed to the consequence of being immature and inexperienced, in the new version he read much more emotionally volatile and unstable. Also, with so much of Boyd’s POV in the original and less of Hsin’s POV, I found I had fallen in love with Hsin through Boyd’s eyes. However, the Director’s Cut makes me feel much more of an outside observer to their relationship. Despite these niggles for me, I do believe new readers of the series will experience the same inherent feelings that the original aroused and will feel sated by the condensed version as much as they would have been by the original.

As someone who has read the original and loved it and expected the DC version to be a polished work it is disappointing to see the grammatical and some content issues left unaddressed. The new content they added and arc changes made don't derail the intrinsic appeal to the series, but it is like looking at a picture you have stared at a hundred times through clear lenses and now suddenly looking at it through colored lenses - there will be the camp that prefers the unfiltered view and the camp who prefer the colored spin. I still enjoyed my time with Hsin and Boyd for round two, but I view the DC version as more of a condensed work still in progress rather than an edited polished work and for me that is disappointing.


The cast is the key to the series …


I heart Hsin just as much after reading the Director’s Cut as I did the original. The characters are five star characters, but in need of a professional editor to rescue them from a three star manuscript. The new version is still flawed, there are some content changes for better or worse, but I can’t stress enough that this series continues to feature my favorite cast of characters. The story arc, writing and even relationship pacing are not without their flaws - but the characters are so wonderfully flawed they are perfect.


Captive Prince - DABWAHA finals! Please vote!!!

Reblogged from KatieMc:
Captive Prince: Volume One (Volume 1) - S. U. Pacat

 I voted for Captive Prince and so should you.  Final DABWAHA championship round, polls are open until 10 PM CST. http://dabwaha.com/

With or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg

With or Without HimWith or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I rarely bother reviewing books that receive less than three stars from me - primarily because most one or two star books end up on my DNF pile. But I finished this one just so I could fairly review it after having experienced it in it’s entirety. So buckle up, this will be brief and brutal.

Reading With or Without Him was like being in a conversation with a very imaginative compulsive liar. No part of your brain lends a shred of believability to the tall tale being spun before you, but for a while the words are highly amusing. Your secret, antagonistic side eggs on the conversation in a perverse delight, but after a while boredom sets in and you are left with the decision of waiting until the storyteller runs out of material or “accidentally” spilling your drink on yourself to escape. (I wanted to add my two cents to the reviews so I just poured myself another glass and kept reading). There are multiple points in the conversation where you think Miss Compulsive Liar is about to wrap it up and you will be free to mingle about the party, but, no - she just remembered another bizarre twist in the already preposterous series of events and it looks like you will be sitting through more. (Pours another glass).

Here’s the content rundown:

1. Beware obscenely wealthy one dimensional villain throwing orgy parties featuring questionably youthful, emotionally scarred male prostitutes.
2. A 427 page study on how NOT communicating honestly and openly to your partner leads to absurd and very avoidable drama … everyone knows what they say about assuming …
3. The MC’s separate back stories that attempt to explain why these men are so emotionally scarred are so over the top.
4. The sex started out super HAWT! Good, right? But there was so much of it and it was so repetitive that I began to skim it. That’s right - I SKIMMED SEX SCENES.
5. Enter second wealthy, one dimensional villain. Yep, that’s right - these guys have no luck. (Don’t worry action with this villain is glazed over. Mainly due to the fact that not only is his character underdeveloped, but so is his part in the story arc … as if he were an after thought tossed in).

There is a positive to this book and his name is Wilson. A snarky, charismatic butler, whose character is well developed, articulate and his jests amusing. Why isn’t the rest of the book written as smartly as he?

Okay, wrapping up this diatribe. I scored this book for $1.08 on Kobo and am clearly happy I didn’t pay a cent more. Tyler, Haris - your story started out with potential, amused me some, bored me much, irritated me a bit and reminded me of a few soap operas I haven’t watched in quite some time. I will be recommending others steer clear of your acquaintance.

* Note: THIS IS NOT A BDSM BOOK. The publisher's blurb is misleading. One of the MC's mentions that he had a past penchant for BDSM, but the kink never enters into play between the two MC's. It is a very minor detail of one of the MC's and personally, I do not think it should have been included in the blurb.

His Roommate's Pleasure by Lana McGregor

His Roommate's PleasureHis Roommate's Pleasure by Lana McGregor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yup, I just gave this book five stars. What can I say? I highly recommend it.

So, so, so so dirtily HOT - especially for such a, *gulps*, "healthy" relationship.

His Roommate’s Pleasure is probably one of the best BDSM books that explores the D/s archetypes through role playing that I have ever read. At the same time, it is one of the best new adult / self-discovery books I have ever read. At the same time being one of the best virgin discovering their sexuality and kinks book I have ever read. It isn’t overtly sweet, it is paced well, had a pinch of angst, the awkwardness of young love, sexy as heck and featured the healthiest relationship I have read of in quite some time, if ever. Neither Josh, nor Adam bring any deep seated baggage to the relationship and their D/s roles don’t transcend to outside of the bedroom. Their roles are just that - roles to get off. The roles are not needed to discover some twisted epiphany as to why Josh desires dominance and Adam desires being dominated. Their kink is just a kink and no convoluted psychology is needed to explain it. BDSM roles are a mutually shared desire and their power remains balanced with in their D/s roles as well as outside of the bedroom. Adam is as much in control of what he is very willingly submitting to as Josh is in control of how he dominates. What is the key to this healthy relationship? Communication, of course. These two are great at communicating, there is no contrived drama. Any misconceptions one might have about the other, is very sensibly discussed and resolved without unnecessary to do. And yet, McGregor is able to retain the right dose of awkwardness and taboo to keep the heat up and the reader engaged from start to finish.

I really liked how these two communicated their fantasies to each other via the porn. And then actively and openly discussed making those fantasies a reality that they would both be comfortable performing. Submission does not equal punishment or obedience. Domination does not equal totalitarian control or even a sage understanding of what the submissive “needs.” In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the sex scenes is when Josh would break “character” and tell Adam what he would like to do to him and ask if he would like that as well - essentially ask permission to do so. He was very attentive to both their enjoyments and comfort levels.

“Josh had turned out to be a friend as well as a fuck buddy, and now he was a boyfriend on top of all that.”

The progression of the relationship was well done as they journeyed from roommates to friends to fuck buddies to boyfriends. McGregor led the reader from physical intimacy to emotional intimacy smoothly.

“It was easy and relaxed, and even though they had clearly slipped into the power balance that suited them, they weren’t playing, not like they had done each of the other times they’d been together. It wasn’t a scene, it was him and Josh, and he liked that they could do this. That they could joke around and make out and have it be as hot as when they were playing for real.”

I liked that too. Josh and Adam’s story paints a wonderful example of how a couple can enjoy a kink without it defining their relationship or “lifestyle.” I don’t believe this is a PWP, though it will satisfy for a quick thrill. There is a story here. The story of two college boys exploring a very adult desire and doing so in a very adult manner. A story that many of us adults could probably take a page from.

A Romantic Notion Reviews

The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott

The Christmas ThrowawayThe Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not always in the mood for sappy, but when I am I like the syrupy goodness to coat my throat as it goes down. The Christmas Throwaway is by no means noteworthy. It reads like a public service announcement for homeless LGBT teens that would air on Lifetime or the Hallmark channel. However, it checks off the list of over sensationalized emotions that you want to feel when picking up a book like this to suit a sappy mood.

You will hate Zachary’s family, love Ben’s family, want to reach in the book and hug Zach and care for him and you will adore Ben for doing so. By the time you turn the last page, you’ll be on the phone with county foster or walking the streets searching for your own Zach to rescue and give a fairytale, “Hamilton family” ending to. It will leave you with a notion that those who are lost will be found and those who are abused will be rescued and we can all ride into the sunset together. If that is the mood you are in, pick this one up, it will suit it well.

With that said, after reading this review, go read T.A. Webb’s review. And keep in mind that at the core of this sweet, sappy tale is a reality of gritty, heartache that rarely ends with such gaiety. R.J. Scott brings attention to a growing epidemic in this country that needs more happy endings like the one he provides in The Christmas Throwaway. But T.A. Webb is the one who made sure I wasn’t allowed to gloss over the issue at the center of this story. And any emotional highs I took from R.J. Scott’s fictional story were quickly replaced by an emotional punch in the face by T.A.’s non-fictional one.

I will pray for the “throwaway” who is currently wandering the streets right now that he finds a Hamilton family of his own or at least, that T.A. gets another chance to help him.

Captive Prince by S.U. Pacat (Volumes I & II)


It says a lot about a book when it can transform a 33 year old heterosexual female who has been an avid reader of the M/F romance genre for 15 years into a M/M genre addict. On a chilly February night I was craving a historical M/F enemies to lovers romance novel to warm me up - I stumbled across S.U. Pacat’s Captive Prince series instead. Probably one of the best stumbles I’ve ever made and I fell hard.

The Story

Set in a historical AU that bears likenesses particularly to the historical cultures of Greece and France, I expected to read a chintzy slavefic possibly analogous to the bodice rippers of which I was acquainted. What I found was a story that is not chintzy. Not a slavefic. Not anything that my presupposing mind would have expected from a free WIP posted by an amateur author.

Prince Damianos of Akielos, aka Damen, stars as our narrative guide. Influenced by slavefics of Anne Rice, Pacat notes in a Livejournal interview, that Damen’s origins lay in “the alpha warrior-prince who keeps his attitude and sense of identity in all circumstances.” Damen is all that and more. He is likeable, relatable, no genius, but no dummy, honest, confident, a fighter, but reasonable. The kind of hero who is just itching to gallop into a fray in shining armor on a white horse and kiss the pain away - and even cuddle afterwards. Alas his world is jarred when he is forcibly taken from a place where he is centered and complacent to a place where he is, well, not. Enter Laurent, Prince of Vere. Inspired by Dorothy Dunnett’s Francis Crawford of the Lymond Chronicles, Laurent is ten steps ahead of everyone … possibly even Pacat herself. Together theirs is a tale of enemies to … speaking terms, to cautious trust, to budding respect, to sexual tension, to hesitant lovers, to more intrigue to come. As subtly as hidden truths unfold, so does an undercurrent of affection between these two.

The story is spectacular. However, Volume I is an obstacle that many readers will face the challenge of completing. I would venture that the many readers, like myself, are honest folk, trusting until betrayed and discerning based on prior experience - making not only relating to, but liking Damen a naturally easy conclusion. Damen’s likeability is a comfort and a distraction to the reader at the same time. Damen sees of Vere what he expects to see. And the reader sees what Damen sees. And as readers journey through Vere, reliant on Damen’s observant, but biased POV many of us will fall into the same trap that Damen does - to believe he has just journeyed down the rabbit hole into a depraved and perverted slave fic with a spoilt and dastardly Prince bent on being a thorn to his pleasure slave. About halfway through Volume I many readers will have the urge to toss it on the pile with Tribute and A Prince for a Kingdom wondering were the “smarts” that are hyped to set this series apart are hidden. Stick with it, you’ve been fooled. And so has Damen. The reader is dependent on Damen to tell the story. And from his telling, one must filter the actual story from his POV - the clues come in piecemeal and must be assembled after absorbing these two volumes from start to finish to savor the full affect. I cannot promise that this series will appeal to everyone, but I can promise that Volume II holds much more than Volume I for those of you who struggled to get there. Persevere it is worth it.

The Writing

The story is clever and intricate, but it is the writing that sells it. Don’t let the silliness of the pen name fool you, S.U. Pacat possesses an extraordinary command of prose. Though the words didn’t fall in line at the snap of her fingers, in a commentary on her Livejournal account, she notes that each chapter underwent multiple beta reads and edits, one of which was rewritten 40 times! The obsessive persistence of mastering the prose paid off and she got it right in the end.

Pacat has found the allusive balance of simple and complex. While writing, she does what I believe every author should do, she keeps the phrasing simple. No overindulgent, superfluous descriptions with ostentatiously flowery wording, her sentences are formed of easy elegance. Next she infuses these undecorated prose with layers upon layers of meanings, symbols and imagery. Her innocuous wording belies the complexity of what is actually stated. A complexity that must be deciphered bit by bit, which required of this reviewer multiple readings.

"The wooden doors were delicate as a screen and carved with a repeated design that included gaps in the wood; through them you could glimpse shadowy impressions of what lay on the other side.”

This seemingly basic description of the architecture of a Veretian door, was just that my first time reading the series. The second time around, it was not just a visual cue for Veretian architecture, but for Veretian culture as a whole. And my third indulgence into this work, I realized it very well could be describing Laurent (and possibly the series itself). I am not sure that I can fully relay how much a single, simple sentence like the one above - one that can change and shift with the reading and understanding of the reader, makes me smile. And so far there are two full volumes of these sentences!

At art school I spent an inordinate amount of time sitting in silence, staring at a painting to analyze every carefully executed detail for symbolism, for meaning. From a broom in van Hoogstraten’s The Slippers to a lion on the belt of a Cyprian soldier sculpture, an image could say a thousand words.

"The tiled floor around the table was scattered with detritus: overturned pewter, an apple rolled to a far tile, a pitcher of wine that had let fly its contents so that the floor was soaked in red. The silence stretched out."

Turns out that two sentences are able to say a thousand words as well. Pay attention to the imagery. It is woven seamlessly throughout both volumes (and I suspect the third also). Watch a sapphire earring appear at moments Laurent gets personal and blood red wine spilled repeatedly in a most decadent fashion every time a villain’s machinations ripple to fruition. There is more hidden in plain sight in this series than in a 17th century Dutch painting. I can only estimate the difficulty to achieve the same effect with a pen instead of a brush. And I admire the results.

Let’s talk business

With Captive Prince, S.U. Pacat excels the quality of writing in the romance genre. Not solely the M/M genre - the romance genre. Jane Austen would be jealous. And by putting forth such quality, is how an amateur writing nobody grabs the attention of and a contract with a big six publisher. As of October 1, 2013, the series was removed from S.U. Pacat’s Livejournal account per her agreement with Penguin Publishing. Making Captive Prince a free online fiction WIP, that is no longer free online, but it is still a WIP.

The paperbacks and e-books are now available for purchase on Amazon and upon completion Volume III will be offered there as well. I recommend the e-books, which each contain a bonus chapter at the end of them (you particularly don’t want to miss Chapter 19 ½ at the end of the Volume II e-book). The e-books are currently retailing for a meager price of $3.99 each and are worth every cent.

Pacat’s current work in progress is Volume III, which is expected to be the third and final volume in the series - to be released (tentatively) in 2014. Promising an HEA and to retain full artistic control over the content of Volume III, despite Penguin’s acquisition of it, Pacat has set the bar high for herself. Fingers crossed she can deliver, out of the love I hold for this series and concern she could face a wrath of diehard Captive Prince fans if she allows capitalist commercialism to muddy the unique niche that Damen and Laurent have filled in many of our libraries.

Does it warrant the hype?

Yes. This series can stand on it’s own merits - that is why the “hype” is generated by it’s readers. That is why a big six listened to the buzz - because they didn’t create the buzz. The series created the buzz all by it’s self. I am always a bit weary of overzealous hype surrounding a book, but in the case of Captive Prince I can only add to it.

I recommend picking this one up with an open mind and a hungry mind and it will sate plentifully. Don’t just read this to sate a mood for some M/M romance, read this for the character studies of what should be predictable high id archetypes that instead surprise with plausible reactions. Captive Prince is not a work of erotica. It is a work of adventure, of danger, of the posturing of court politics, of power plays on the battlefield, of nail biting traps and great escapes. And circulating in the midst of it all is a work of intimacy. Read it for the intimacy, for the beauty of the writing and yes, one scene halfway through Volume II that is as moving as it is sensuous. Read it to be stunned.

Check out more great free reads at: http://boysinourbooks.com/ 

A Prince for a Kingdom by Rockdoll61

A Prince for a Kingdom  - Rockdoll61

A Prince for a Kingdom is what would have happened if Captive Prince had been written by Mary Calmes … while she was intoxicated.

The writing is 100% unedited amateur. On page 73, I had to contemplate whether or not I could continue reading this story due to how poorly it is written. Boredom won out. Malapropisms, basic grammatical mistakes, typos (at one point the MC, who is repeatedly noted for his youth, states that he is “84”?!), sudden and unclear head-hopping, inconsistent tense and sentence and paragraph structure suffer at the hands of this author. Many of the mistakes are glaring and could be corrected with a thorough proof read. Any who, to make it through all 474 pages of Magnus and Adrian’s homoerotic elf love be prepared to hurdle some complete sentence fails.

Next up: the Captive Prince parallels. Though not a single parallel in the quality of writing is seen, the parallels abound in plot devices from a culture immersed in sex and court intrigue to the captor prince’s relative being the political enemy to intricately laced attire. Despite all the details reminiscent of Captive Prince, A Prince for a Kingdom will in no way satisfy a fix for one who is craving a similar read while waiting for Book Three. It is neither smart nor clever, but what does it have? The “Mary Calmes” element - a brooding-darkly-attractive-more-complex-than-his-shallow-façade alpha male dominating over (while pulling the heart strings of) a do-no-wrong-physically-attractive-to-everyone-feisty beta, thereby creating a chemistry that is very predictable-but-what you-were-looking-for in a basic slave fic. Mediocre in every aspect, but somehow a page turner none-the-less. If you’ve read them once, you’ve read them all and you’ll happily read them again. Blah, blah, blah.

Quick comment about the sex scenes: They are so long and detailed they are borderline comical. If you are big into D/s and slave fics, you might find them hot and I can definitely see the “hot” element to them, … but they are just so over the top. I was entertained reading them, but probably not for the reasons the author anticipated.

The truth of the matter is: I read the whole thing - admittedly skimming along the way. There was something engaging about Magnus and Adrian and their relationship. This story has glimpses of potential, but no editor in sight. If Rockdoll61 finds a copy editor and flushes out some plot holes a fun, classic slave fic would emerge. So… add it to your “back burner TBR.” There are plenty of better reads on your TBR that you should get to first, but when you exhaust them, are bored and are feeling flexible about the quality of what you are reading, give this a go. If you can’t overlook a piece that doesn’t even appear to have been proof read, then wait for the edited version.

A look at when cavemen did "samsies." :D 

After Midnight - Santino Hassell

*slow clap commences*

Okay, I am going to lay it on thick in this review - because Hassell deserves it! After Midnight is one smart, sexy, gritty, action packed read. With the occasional and expertly placed comedic relief in this dark world, Hassell spins an engaging tale of a street rat hitting rock bottom and realizing that he might deserve more.

Spin-off and Standalone

As an In the Company of Shadows (ICoS) fan girl, After Midnight (AM) clearly read as a well adapted spin-off of it’s parent series. Besides focusing on Gordon and Adam, both brief, minor characters from ICoS, ICoS characters litter minor roles and a favorite makes a couple cameos, as well some popular hang outs and the dystopian world are revived - providing enough nods to an ICoS fan to satisfy. However, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the ICoS series, no worries, After Midnight reads as a standalone and any prior knowledge of the ICoS world is not necessary.

World building.

Crystal clear. Hassell creates a world that is fantastical, but feels real. The depiction of the dystopian world painted vivid pictures in my mind, allowing the visuals in my head to glide easily through the distinct districts in Lexington, Annadale and the wastelands. Hassell’s ability to portray his imagination in the written world is comparative to Frank Miller’s ability to portray his with ink and brush. Surpassing the world building was the “drug building” of Pandora and the criminal underground culture that revolved around it. His conceiving of the Pandora and the culture that would develop and persist around such a super drug compares to Manna Francis’s creation of the Sim in The Administration series - something so real with in it’s literary context that it is hard to imagine that it doesn’t actually exist.

What you get

There is A LOT of story in these 244 pages. A lot of action, a lot of banter, a lot of pondering. Not a lot of romance, but, wow, can he write a UST. We get a kiss (that we are made to wait painfully for), the UST remains. We get panty dripping anger sex, the UST remains. Hassell is one of the few authors that can pen a graphic sex scene with emotional rawness, that spectacularly fails to resolve any of the sexual tension. Frigging kudos to that. The sex is hot, the tension is taut and the reader’s desire is burning to see a working relationship - as impractical and out of character as that would be - for these two lonely, sorry men. Read it for the story - every aspect of it.

What you don’t get

The one thing Hassell doesn’t do is sap. For a romance propelled by angst, don’t expect it to lead to a climax with endearments of love. The closet these boys get to “I love you” is “I want you” and even that moment seemed too sweet for this gritty novel, but it’s awkward admittance fit the tone and satisfied appropriately. The HFN is abrupt, and sealed with a pact rather than any promises. But it suits these characters well and the story probably ends where it should, whether or not a sequel is in the works.

Where Hassell shines

Creation of characters and how they relate. Hassell knows people. He knows angst. He creates seemingly shallow characters that in turn are multi faceted gems with layers that make sense psychologically. Gordon is a shady loser, most would steer clear from in real life, but in AM, you root for him. Maybe even relate to him, at least understand him. You want him to rise above and pull him self out of the ghetto and the despair of his reality to know that life is more than just survival and to know love. With all his pitiable short comings, the reader can see his attraction, as Adam does. To preserve some of his mystery, Adam is not as clearly drawn, but he is a notable Agency zombie, going through his daily motions as indifferent to his fate as Gordon is his. The two connect on a level of hurt, hope and the inclination of being “sick of it all.” And that is where Hassell shines. In his commanding grasp of understanding and portraying how characters relate on a human level. His talent to script interpersonal bantering is either innate or demonstrates he paid attention in sociology class. The secondary characters may not be as engaging, but certainly more than one dimensional. The Samu twins being the most undeveloped of the cast, designed mainly as plot devices.

Read it

Where ICoS is an enthralling series loaded with engaging characters, but packed with potential that requires an editor to excel, After Midnight is a refined power house showcasing Hassell’s true writing abilities. Hassell is able to maintain a rawness to his writing while refining the prose making AM a rough and polished gem at the same time. With a $3.99 price tag, under 300 pages and a perfected balance of actual story to gratuitous kink - After Midnight delivers more than your monies worth. Don’t miss this gem, it sparkles.

The Last Rebellion by Lisa Henry

The Last Rebellion - Lisa Henry

The dark, captive, non-consent stories test my limits. The subject matter I find to be very touch and go - sometimes I like to be tested, sometimes I don’t. Lisa Henry’s free read, The Last Rebellion did exactly what it was supposed to do - it made me want to pay money to read more of her works.

Rho’s torture, rapes and inner torments were sufficiently uncomfortable to paint his story without being so graphically detailed to be cringe worthy. Rho’s strength is admirable, situation sympathetic, hopelessness palpable and loneliness pitiable.

Miller’s logic is demented, but I imagine in an atmosphere of war, very sensible, compelling and ensured success for the team he played on - namely his own. I found him reminiscent of Carnac from the highly discussed, The Administration Series by Manna Francis, in that you agree with his arguments - but you don’t. He makes sense - but he doesn’t. He is creepily intriguing and plausibly likeable, but you don’t necessarily root for him. Miller’s agenda is self serving, but this selfishness is made acceptable, because it “benefits” Rho.

This is not a love story, it is just too weird to be so. Yet somehow in the last few pages it reveals itself to be a disturbingly dark romance - of sorts. The back and forth switching of the POV’s was smart and seamlessly done. Had Miller’s POV not been included in this story and the reader was only allowed to view him through Rho’s perspective, I doubt I would have enjoyed this story. But it was being in Miller’s head that sold me on The Last Rebellion.

I will admit, I was startlingly surprised by how much I was enthralled by this story. I didn’t want to put it down. I wanted a sick, twisted, “let’s play house” implausible ending. And Henry delivered. I will no doubt, be scrolling through her catalog for more to add to my TBR.

* Some readers expressed that the Kindle version of this work had grammatical and format issues. I read the ePub version on my iPad in iBooks and did not experience any of these hiccups. The story was well written and read smoothly.

Enjoy this review? More at http://romanticnotion.blogspot.com

Like stories like The Last Rebellion? Consider joining the GR group, Ticket to Stockholm: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/114872-ticket-to-stockholm for recommendations and discussions.

Falling Away by Lisa Henry

Falling Away - Lisa Henry

Thus far this is the only Love Has No Boundaries submission that I want either an epilogue to or a full novel devoted to the characters. And with the foundation Henry laid in Falling Away, I believe she is capable of giving me more. Hint, hint …

Jason’s awkwardness and struggle between going for what he wants and risking what he has is very relatable. I think we have all had a battle like this in our heads about something. A daily distraction that makes the routine of life’s responsibilities mundane.

Ben is a cool guy. Unexpectedly, but refreshingly normal. Sensible, sexy, honest and “not some emotionally retarded fuck up.”

I reach for a Love Has No Boundaries story when I am seeking to satisfy an easy, graphically sexy, sometimes sweet, sometimes kinky mood with an hour or less to spare. Falling Away satisfied that mood. Then it did more. It made me want more of the story, more of the characters, more satisfaction than it already provided me. Falling Away introduced me to Lisa Henry, who I never had took note of before, and put her on my radar.

* For an added bonus, check out the author’s bio on the last page. I love when author’s can be honest with a sense of humor.

Enjoy this review? More at http://romanticnotion.blogspot.com

The Shattered Gates - Ginn Hale I am going to begin this review by stating up front that the fantasy genre is not my cup of tea. I am game for dystopian worlds and alternate universes where the world is built from the author’s imagination, but people are still just people - no witches, no mystical powers, no oracle bones that can talk and no time travel. Now that that is out of the way, I will state that Ginn Hale’s The Shattered Gates does not have me captivated, but it does have me intrigued.

Well written, spectacularly imagined and despite a particularly convoluted plot with multiple, coinciding story arcs - clearly conveyed. There seems to be a lot of foreshadowing in this first book, but there has been one nice surprise so far. What I have inferred readers can expect in The Rifter series, from The Shattered Gates, is a story of two men whose paths coincide and cross at different points in a non-linear time and space continuum between two worlds. Each on the fringe of society in their own way, one harboring a fantastical secret and one clueless to the fact he is the secret. I am also inferring the reader is being set up to contemplate what is being presented as good and evil from each of the MC’s perceptions and all the “gray space” in between. Possibly a romance springing from a "who should you trust?" theme. Again, just inferences - this is a review of book one for goodness sake. :)

Book one is heavy on the fantasy world building and introduction of key characters, but quite lacking in any semblance of a romance. Not only is there no chemistry developed between the leading men, there is little interaction between them. Another possible reason why I am intrigued, but not captivated at this point. To introduce a world immersed in such sensational fantasy, I imagine an “introduction” book, such as The Shattered Gates is needed and the m/m relationship will take center stage as the series progresses.

For those of you who adore both the fantasy genre and m/m genre, The Rifter seems to be one that will impress, but I recommend giving it a go to those of you who enjoy a well written piece, despite not being particularly keen on fantasy. I roll my eyes at a lot of the fantasy aspects of the story, but as I read on I find myself rolling them less. I have determined that the first book in The Rifter series has engaged me enough that I will be reading on.
Captive Prince: Volume One (Captive Prince, #1) - S.U. Pacat,  C.S. Pacat When I was 18 I picked up my first romance novel, Sheik, by Connie Mason and for the following 15 years I was a regular, if not avid m/f romance reader. However, I always wanted more. As if the m/f romance novels were just dirty little quickies, giving me a happy ending, but never screaming their name. Then scrolling through my Amazon recommendations list one night I spotted a simple elegant cover with the crest of a lion scrolled on it and a title that rolled off the tongue. Clicking on this book I immediately spotted that it had a perfect five star review. What? Five stars, not a flaw to it, all reviewers demanding I read this book, NOW. Then the synopsis - an m/m romance novel. What? My 33 year unblemished record of heterosexuality guffawed. I wasn’t disgusted, but just couldn’t imagine being interested. I like my lady parts and enjoy putting them together with mister parts - if my lady parts were left out of the equation and two mister parts engaged would it interest me? But perfect five stars, under five dollars and an elegant cover (yes, I am an ad agents dream) - I had to find out.

So I began to read. The whole time thinking, this is not for me, why am I reading this, Laurent just said what? There was no sex in this book, but there was this mind game. The sexiest f-ing mind game I ever read in the last 15 years. I was dripping in anticipation of the sex to come - it was coming right? It didn’t matter, I already had many times from the mind game. And after only a few hours of not peeing, not eating and not looking up from my iPad to acknowledge anything in my surrounding environment, I found myself eagerly shelling out four more dollars to Amazon for Volume II. Saying my interest was piqued would be a thorough understatement.

Thank you S. U. Pacat. Thank you for Captive Prince and introducing me to a genre that leaves me screaming the names of Damen, Laurent, Warrick, Toreth, Hsin, Kassian, Vadim, Dan, Nikolai, Henri and many, many more too numerous to list and many more whose names I have yet to read. Thank you.

Enjoy this review? More at http://romanticnotion.blogspot.com/

If you also enjoyed the Captive Prince series, consider joining the Goodreads group: Captivated. http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/109088-captivated

Enjoy book discussions about M/M series, please consider joining the Goodreads Group Best M/M series http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/111708-best-m-m-series-discussion
Tainted: Channeling Morpheus 4 - Jordan Castillo Price A human with a disposition to kill and a vampire with a disposition to live.

A vampiric “condition” that taints the blood and is transmitted as if it were a deadly STD - but vampirism turns it’s host into a killer, while the STD kills it’s host.

A vampire so old he can no longer fake a pretense to assimilate to contemporary humans, but who searches for a cure.

The dichotomies and parallels abound in the fourth addition to the Channeling Morpheus series continuing to set this series apart from it’s generic counterparts.

“The homicidal eye-candy I’d hooked up with had more needs than I did.”

"You let something stick, and the next thing you know, you start accessorizing it."

“What I wanted to know was, if I was a mutant, why didn’t I have X-ray vision and a cool spandex costume?”

Back in Wild Bill’s head, we are treated to a plethora of quotable one liners - dryly delivered, humorous and insightful. Normally a nice, quiet, place to retreat to, now Wild Bill’s mind is an uncomfortable sanctuary for him as he struggles to face the reality of how contagious his vampirism is and the truth in his emotions regarding Michael.

Price continues to provide the reader with an underlying commentary while maintaining a campy mood and blood rushing sex scenes. Again cementing that this series is sexy vampire smut to feed your fantasies laced with subtle context to feed your brain.

Enjoy this review? More at http://romanticnotion.blogspot.com/

Like discussions about M/M series, please consider joining the Goodreads Group Best M/M series http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/111708-best-m-m-series-discussion
Where You Hurt the Most - Anne Brooke Ugh. *groans* This was bad. What distinguishes a three star from a two star for me, is if I can recommend it. I can’t recommend bothering with this story.

The biggest detriment to this story: “insta-love.” That didn’t even start out as “insta-love,” but at the turn of a page developed - with no explanation or even declaration of the change. The moment was confusing and nonsensical.

I grabbed this book while on the Riptide Publishing site in a Voinov bundle purchasing frenzy. Voinov doesn’t contribute a story to the Riptide Rentboys Collection, but the collection sounded interesting and it was on sale. What prevented this story from receiving a one star from me was the potential concept. Unfortunately the author didn’t know what to do with that potential. Where it hurts most for me, was being a sucker for the sale price and paying for this story.