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Saturday, 30 March 2013
Dead to the World
by L. E. Bryce
M/M Romance/Fantasy
Phaze Books

5 Stars

Blurb:

Servant and consort of the Lady of the Waters, a powerful sea goddess, Erred is captured by slave traders during a pilgrimage and borne across the desert to be sold. In the decadent city of Tajhaan, he is trained in the arts of love to become a pleasure slave and eventually a courtesan. But in the claustrophobic world of intrigue and brutality he inhabits, what place is there for hope, faith--or love?

Review:

In a strange and exotic land, Erred is an initiate of a powerful sea goddess. Without salt water he will die, as his spirit form is hrill, a type of creature reminiscent of a dolphin. On returning from a pilgrimage he and his entourage are attacked and at first the attackers think he is a woman with his silks and his veiled face. When it is discovered he is actually a very beautiful man, they decide not to kill him but capture him as a slave. Erred is taken across the desert to the city of Tajhann where he is trained to become a pleasure slave.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. It is beautifully written but the things that happen to Erred are not glossed over, including his first rape at the hands of a greedy merchant who bought Erred for his son but then couldn't resist having a taste of the slave himself. It is a brutal scene, with Erred being drugged and unable to defend himself at all. It is harrowing and you really feel for Erred, but although it is a difficult scene to read without it the book wouldn't have been as strong. It does not come across as gratitous.

Erred is a slave, he is there for his master's pleasure and nothing else. As he progesses and obeys he is moved through the ranks and one day may have the option to become a free courtesan, wherin he will pick and choose his own clients, but up until then he has no say in who his masters wish him to pleasure.

The book does have a hopeful ending, but I don't want to give it away. The characters are well drawn and you feel yourself drawn into this world of slaves and courtesans where one wrong look or word can mean your death; where friendships are one of the most important things and where love can be found even in the most unexpected places. Lots of political intrigue helps the plot along and I didn't want to stop reading I was so keen to see what happened to Erred.

The story is poignant, touching and erotic and one I would re-read again.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby
Friday, 29 March 2013
40 Souls to Keep
by Libby Drew

M/M Romance/Paranormal
Carina Press

Review Copy from Netgalley

Blurb:

Seven years ago, Jase awoke with the mystical power to heal people—and no memory of his past. The only clue to his identity is the number forty tattooed on his arm. Driven by a mission he doesn’t understand, Jase follows his visions to those he’s meant to save. He is convinced that the fortieth person he’s drawn to—a little girl named Macy Pearl—is the key to finally learning the truth…

Social worker Lucas Jacobson has made a promise to protect Macy, orphaned when her parents were brutally murdered. So when Jase shows up in Naples claiming he’s there to heal the child, Lucas is wary, despite his attraction to the enigmatic stranger.

Then Macy is abducted, and Lucas has no choice but to trust in Jase. Scouring the city from its glitzy resorts to its seedy underbelly only deepens the mystery—and draws the two men closer. But Jase is certain of one thing: if Macy dies, a dark fate awaits them all.

Review:

This book has more of a plot than some M/M romances I've read, but that isn't a problem for me, I like a bit of a plot with my romance. The book opens with a man awakening on a park bench with no memory of his past, or even who he is. A kindly grandmother takes him home, feeds him and gives him some money to help him on his way and calls him Jase, the name of her dead son. Before he goes, Jase senses that she has cancer and more than that, he senses he can heal her. He doesn't know how, but just by touching her he cures her cancer. She was number one and now he has thirty-nine more people to heal.
Macy Pearl is number forty and Jase is determined to save her and once that is done hopes to discover the secrets of his past. Lucas Jacobson, the social worker called to the scene after Macy's parents are murdered, is standing in his way. As well as being able to heal, Jase also has the power to influence people, but for some reason Lucas is immune to this power.

The sparks fly between Lucas and Jase from the moment they first meet, but Lucas is understandably wary of this stranger and his weird talk of saving people. They grow closer over their concern for Macy and after an intimate moment on the couch, Macy is kidnapped from the bedroom.

You can feel their guilt over this, as they both knew Macy was being targeted by someone, but who and why? The mystery keeps you guessing right till near the end. And, such a treat for me, I didn't guess the culprit until way near the end, even though there were a few hints throughout the book.
We have flashbacks in the book regarding Jase's use of his healing abilities and sometimes his not no nice use of his influence, which might have made him a dislikeable character, but the flashbacks also go to show how much he's grown and how he desperately wants to do the right thing now, and not just because he might get his memory back.

There was a bit too much social commentary for my taste, but as it was from Lucas' point of view, and I could well imagine Lucas thinking these things, it didn't interrupt the flow of the story too much. The love scenes were deftly handled, with most of it concentrating on the emotional connection between the characters rather than just the physical. It was a well-written book with engaging characters and descriptions so vivid you could feel the heat, humidity and torrential rains of Florida and almost see the alligators. Lucas and Jase were both flawed in some ways, but that just made them seem that bit more realistic. There was also a touch of humour dotted throughout the book which helped balance the darker aspects.

A very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby
Thursday, 28 March 2013
Little Japan
by Reno McLeod and Jaye Valentine
Noble Romance
M/M Romance/Erotic Romance

5 Stars

Blurb:

Japan. Land of honor and beauty, crowded streets with neon signs, and exotic markets where ancient traditions still hold fast in modern-day society. As Japanese business people rush about their busy lives, there exists a place in Osaka, Japan where a modern take on the ancient tradition of the geisha thrives.

Kuri and Daichi work at Kingyo Club, a popular host club in the Dōtonbori district of Osaka. After sleeping their days away, the boys' nights are owned by the host club lifestyle and anyone willing to pay the steep price for a few hours of hard drinking and flirtatious companionship. Kuri and Daichi are lovers and best friends, and along with their roommates Sora and Takumi, they look out for one another in an occupation fraught with both physical and emotional danger.

In addition to the endless bottles of fizzy champagne, expensive gifts, and confessions of false love courtesy of regular clients, every now and then comes a customer with even deeper pockets and much darker demands. Gabriel Hartley is one of these men. After a chance meeting, Gabriel targets the stunning Kuri to feed his obsession with seducing and dominating young Japanese men.

The relationship between Kuri and Gabriel dramatically changes when a traumatic event plunges them from the Land of the Rising Sun into the land of powerful sheikhs and servant boys in the dark underworld of exotic Dubai. As Kuri struggles with the heartache of having what's most precious to him ripped away, he helps Gabriel learn important lessons about love, honor, and the power of self-forgiveness.

Review:

Although this is an M/M romance, with heavy yaoi influences, this is not a light-hearted book. We have prostitution, kindapping and sexual slavery and some scenes that are so heart-wrenching, you wonder if you can bear to read any more, fearing that a happy ending may never arrive. It's a testament to the writers that I just had to read on, even not knowing what was going to happen.

But it is a great book and the writing just draws you in from the very first page. The love scenes, while graphically described, aren't just about the bodies, they're about the emotions between the characters, making them seem that bit more sensual than if it was just about bodies. All the characters are well-rounded and with lots of depth, there are no cardboard cut-outs here.

Kuri seeks out Gabriel after Daichi is kidnapped for a sexual slave in Dubai, as Gabriel is the only person he knows he might be rich enough or have some sort of influence, for who was going to help a host boy? The modernity of Japan is contrasted well with the old-world feel of the male harem where Daichi and others are kept prisoner as sex slaves; the descriptions of both are so vivid that you feel you are there, not just reading about it.

Kuri's hearbreak after Daichi's kidnapping is so well done that you feel it yourself and wonder how things are ever going to be resolved. I was a bit unsure of Gabriel's character at first, but he redeems himself and by the end you were rooting for all the main characters to get their happily ever after. The book packs an emotional punch and I was thinking about it long after I'd finished it. It's a book that makes you feel and connect with the characters. A great read if you enjoy something a bit different.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby

Trick of Time
by J L Merrow
M/M Romance/Time Travel
Carina Press

5 Stars

Blurb:

A lover from another time

When Ted Ennis steps out the doors of the Criterion Theatre for a cigarette and finds himself in Victorian London, he begins to doubt his sanity. At first he thinks it's all a film set, and is sure that the strikingly handsome young man leaning against a lamppost must be the leading man…

What starts as a sordid transaction with a beautiful rent boy quickly turns into something much deeper, drawing him back again and again as he gets to know Jem and craves meaningful encounters with him.

But Ted doesn't understand the exact conditions necessary for his trips through time—and for Jem, time may actually be running out. Now Ted has one last shot to get back to Jem and save their relationship, before it's too late…

Review:

Grief stricken after the deaths of his parents and husband in a car accident, the accident that he survived, Ted Ennis works as a theatre assistant in London trying to get some semblance of normality back in his life. He may have survived the accident, but he's still scarred - both physically and emotionally. Ted is suffering some after-effects, especially with his brain. When he steps out of the theatre for a cigarette break, he's unsure whether he's hallucinating or if it's some big budget costume drama he's stepped into that night.

It soon transpires that this is no hallucination or vision, not even a drama set. Everything is very real, from the gas lamps to the squalor of the back streets of Victorian London, not to mention the real fear of being caught by the police for having sexual relations between men.

Although short, the novella has quite a depth of characterisation. You are drawn both into Ted's world of the twenty-first century and how sad he still is after the car accident and losing the people who mattered to him and then into Victorian London and what Jem has to do to survive there. Ted and Jem were both so sweet that I just wanted to reach in and hug them both. Victorian and modern-day London were both brought vividly to life, just as both characters were. Everyone else was well-rounded and fleshed out too, from Ted's boss at the theatre to Jem's landlady Mrs. M.

The writing had a beautiful, lyrical quality to it, even though it was also written in quite plain language. There are a few love scenes in the book, which were written in a sensual style, making it feel almost dreamlike. It's an engaging read and easy to get lost in for a few hours. You'll be rooting for Ted and Jem to get their happy ending.

Review copy from Netgalley.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby