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Ava March

What Sarah was Reading in September

What Sarah was Reading in September

Like Jane, I’ve been reading a lot of ARCs for November and December, and wow, you’re all in for some real treats.

Riptide Publishing opens its door on October 30. It’s already open for pre-orders and sending out review copies. Almost all of the initial offerings so far listed are under 30K words. And honestly, $2.99 for 10K words seems utterly ridiculous to me. $4.99 for under 30K words$10 for 100K words? I mean, 100K words is a great story, but $10? Really?! While the stories are great and the idea behind the new press is admirable, with price points like that, I can’t see it getting very far.

Rachel Haimowitz’s Master Class is a fabulous (short) look at the beginning of a very intense BDSM relationship. It does an amazing job at getting at the psychology of both of the dominant/sadist and the masochist/submissive. I loved it. It was super-hot. It was super-intense and really heavy BDSM, but very well done. Review on release. Apparently I talked about this one last month. I’ve skimmed it since then too which is why it’s on this month’s list too. That’s how good it is.

 

Peter Hansen’s First Watch: Tentacles. This book comes highly recommended, but it’s got tentacles and I haven’t actually managed to get past the first scene with tentacles. I’ll let you know if I ever do. Just…tentacles!

Aleksandr Voinov Dark Soul Vol.1 is about the mob. And I love Voinov’s writing, but I really really REALLY have a problem with heroes who are part of a crime organization and have no intention of getting out of it. So…I’m having a hard time with this one too. No tentacles, just criminals.

Of the three Riptide books I’ve flipped through or read so far, the writing is exceptional, but the subject matter is very dark, very different. That could be a good thing and could gain the press a reputation very quickly. But I still think readers are going to balk at those price points.

I also received the Carina Press m/m holiday shorts. And OMG guys, these stories are amazing. Perfect novellas that tell wonderful heartwarming stories. More extended reviews on release for all of them.

K.A. Mitchell’s Christmas Proposition: Small town guy trying to keep his family Christmas tree farm afloat gets back together with former lover who owns a natural gas company. Told from only small-town guy’s perspective, but you see the vulnerability of both characters. And groveling on BOTH sides. :) Wonderful, as always.

Harper Fox’s Winter Knights is a ghost story about Gavin, a man whose Catholic lover Piers breaks up with him because Pier refuses to come out to his family and Gavin had issued an ultimatum. Gavin then meets some ghosts who save his life and help him find his way back into a better relationship with Piers. What I LOVED about this story was how Gavin and Piers’ relationship was actually bad for both of them and they both learn how to improve it in order to find their way back to each other. For how short the book is, it’s brilliantly constructed and I loved the characters.

Josh Lanyon’s Lone Star was like a What If? story: What if a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger fall in love? Except they fell in love before they were a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger and get back together right when both their careers are taking off and that’s the barrier between them. It’s a cute story but I didn’t 100% believe that their careers wouldn’t pull them apart again.

Ava March’s My True Love Gave To Me is the historical of the bunch. It starts the story when the two men are 19, very much in love, but one of them’s too scared to pursue the relationship and runs away to America, away from his own feelings and his lover. Four years later, he’s back, determined to win his lover back. Much MUCH groveling ensues and there’s an utterly black moment when all hope is lost. I love stories in which one character has to admit how much wrong he’d done and the other character seriously has to just…forgive him.

These four stories from Carina were unbelievably good. They’ve done a brilliant job gathering these amazing writers together for these novellas.

L.A. Witt’s The Distance Between Us and The Closer You Get are two books that follow a couple through a threesome in the first book and then the third of the threesome in the second. TDBU is about a couple who have broken up but are stuck living with each other because they can’t offload the house they bought together. They bring in a roommate and both end up sleeping with the roommate, then sleeping all three together. This allows the couple to work through their issues so that they can get back together. TCYG (releasing in November) tells the story of the roommate, a self-described slut, who goes out with the friend of one of his lover’s daughters. His blind date is a virgin and they slowly figure out how to fit together, with the help of the characters from the first book. I adore Witt’s writing — love love love it. And these books are just about characters falling in love, getting past their own emotional barriers, and finding their way to each other better than ever before. Wonderful. I’ll review both when TCYG releases.

Distance Between Us: Goodreads | Amazon  | nook

The Closer You Get: Goodreads | Amazonnook

Kari Gregg’s I, Omega was so full of WTF that I honestly don’t know if I can bring myself to read it again to review it. Three months ago, Gabriel had been bitten by a werewolf who fucked him and he’s been on the run ever since. Even though he wants desperately to be with this werewolf, he’s terrified of him too. The werewolf finds him, fucks him, and kidnaps him, taking him back to the pack’s house. He forces Gabriel into a heavily D/s relationship, collaring him and tattooing him without Gabriel’s permission, waiting for Gabriel to give his final surrender, but he never TELLS Gabriel anything. And he won’t let anyone else tell Gabriel anything. So a lot of the conflict in the book comes from Gabriel’s fear and mistakes because of his utter ignorance. It made me NUTS! It’s the total and direct opposite of Safe, Sane,and Consensual. And the sex wasn’t even that hot.

Goodreads | Amazonnook

I read S.A. Reid’s Something Different twice through, the second time right after the first time. It was a self-pubbed book sent to DA for review. I *loved* it. Review here.

Goodreads | Amazon | nook

I’m flipping through a few other books, not actually settling down to read anything because (1). I have a book I really need to review, and (2). I’ve got craploads of grading to do. I’m skimming through an ARC of Sarah Wendell’s EIKAL until I can get my hands on a paper copy. I’m having a lot of fun with it (and feel extremely honored to be quoted twice, so can’t really comment on it further with too much impartiality — see how easily I can be bought?). J.L. Merrow’s Wight Mischief – I adore Merrow’s voice. I’m about 10 pages in and love it so far, of course. Cara McKenna’s Curio – another story about a prostitute. This is the only m/f romance on this whole post. Looking forward to it. Lynn Lorenz’s Bayou’s End – I enjoyed the first story in this series, but I’ve read the introduction to this one and was seriously unimpressed with the writing, so I’ll probably skip through the rest of it and see if there’s anything worth reading.

So, anyone else reading any good m/m that I’ve missed? Any prostitute/sex worker stories that I’ve missed?

REVIEW: “Bound…” trilogy by Ava March

REVIEW: “Bound…” trilogy by Ava March

Dear Ms. March.

I really really REALLY thought I’d reviewed this series already but I can’t find it anywhere. SUCH a hardship it was to reread it so I could review it. Or…not. ;) It’s totally worth a reread. And what better recommendation is there than that?

This series is three novellas: “Bound by Deception,” “Bound to Him,” and “Bound Forever.” Regency-set, they tell the story of the building relationship between Lord Oliver Marsden and Lord Vincent Prescott. “Bound by Deception” ends with an HFN, and “Bound Forever” ends with a full-on HEA — as close as they can get to a proposal and a wedding-type commitment for two men in 1823 — while the middle book ends with something sort of in the middle of an HFN and an HEA. The characters are strong and consistent, the sex is hot and fun and (mostly) integral to the story, and the  building of the relationship through the three stories is logical and affecting.

In “Bound by Deception,” we find Oliver negotiating with the madam of a whorehouse. He’s found out that his friend Vincent gets it on once a month with a male prostitute, mainly because the male prostitute he (Oliver) sees regularly boasted about it often enough for Oliver to figure out who the prostitute was boasting about (really? so much for professional discretion). Anyway, he is utterly unrequited in his love for Vincent, didn’t even know that Vincent liked men, and wants this one opportunity to be with Vincent. He agrees to the madam’s outrageous price and gets his chance.

Now here we have incredible suspension of disbelief. We have to believe that a dark room, a bad accent, and some stubble are enough of a disguise that Vincent doesn’t recognize Oliver, despite knowing him since they were teenagers. On my re-read, I found this too much for me. I mean, really?!

Anyway, the sex is unexpected because Vincent’s into pretty heavy BDSM. Oliver, shocked out of his skull that Vincent likes men, is even more shocked that Vincent likes whipping men, but enjoys it anyway (Oliver does, that is. Both of them did, in fact). Really enjoys it. It’s the best sex either of them has ever had, of course. After the amazing evening, Oliver then angsts his way around London. Once with Vincent was supposed to be enough, but it’s not. He wants Vincent to know who he fucked. He wants Vincent again. Vincent does some angsting too: he’s worried about “Jake” the prostitute and wants to make sure he’s okay. Eventually Oliver reveals all to Vincent at a ball, causing a showdown where he forces Vincent to realize he actually prefers men as sexual partners. Vincent had his monthly appointment, of course, but refused to label himself a “sodomite,” refused to admit that he could be that different (he’s got some issues around fatherly approval):

“Other than us both being frequently overlooked second sons to marquises, I used to believe we had very little in common,” Marsden said, calm and composed when Vincent felt like the floor was tilting underneath him. “You succeed at everything you do. You’re damn near perfect. Whereas I’m, well…” He waved a hand, indicating himself and the shabby room in one gesture. “You have responsibilities, property to oversee, and I have absolutely no prospects. Never even attended university. But we aren’t so different after all. You know what it feels like to wonder why you’re this way. Why you aren’t like every other man who lusts after women and wants a wife to call his own. And you can understand the difficulty and the need to keep it hidden.”

Vincent’s eyes widened, cold panic gripping his spine. “I’m not like you.”

“Yes, you are.”

“The hell I’m not! I don’t bend over and take it like a woman.”

Marsden flinched, as though Vincent had punched him in the gut. “Is that what you tell yourself?” he asked, hurt and anger warring in his narrowed eyes. “That has nothing to do with it.”

“Yes, it does! I’m not a…a –”

“A what?” Marsden shot back, hands fisted at his sides, advancing swiftly until he stood chest to chest with Vincent. “Go on, say it. But calling me a sod or a molly isn’t going to change the fact you fucked me. Hell, you did more than that. A fuck is just a fuck. But you kissed me!” Marsden threw the truth violently at Vincent.

This excerpt shows the one niggle I had about this whole series besides the suspension of disbelief in this first story: there’s a very fine thread of misogyny running through it. I’m still not sure if it’s really there, or if I’m just looking for trouble, but every now and then the men expressed themselves about women in ways that made me uncomfortable. It might have been historically appropriate and/or appropriate for their sexual orientation and/or their feelings for each other, but it was just very slightly off-putting.

But! The angst was wonderful, the sex was hot, the characters were fully realized, even in a short story.

Grade #1: B-

Goodreads | Amazon | nook | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

Bound to Him” starts six months later. Oliver and Vincent have been hot and heavy for that time, but Oliver feels like he’s Vincent’s bit on the side. He doesn’t go out to parties or to his clubs, because Vincent tends to ignore him there. All he does it wait in his apartments for Vincent to show up. Vincent, on the other hand, is absolutely terrified that someone will figure out that he’s a sodomite. And to top it all, Vincent’s father summons him to inform him that he will marry a woman in order to forward his father’s own political ambitions. Vincent agrees, because he’s been trying to gain his father’s attention, if not approval, his entire life. This summons makes him late to an appointment with Oliver, which is the last straw for Oliver, who breaks things off with Vincent because he feels like Vincent doesn’t respect him at all and won’t admit to loving him.

There’s even more angst in this one, if possible. Oliver feels unloved and unloveable, but grows a pair and actually kicks Vincent to the curb, setting off a spasm of regret and emotion in both of them. Vincent has to get over himself and grow a pair of his own. It’s all brilliantly done. And the sex is hot. I also really love being inside Vincent’s head and see him unconsciously switch from calling Oliver his “friend” to “lover.”

Grade #2: B+

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Bound Forever” starts one year after “Bound to Him” ends and the plot is set in motion because Vincent’s brother has produced an heir, freeing Vincent from the prospect of ever having to marry. This allows Oliver to finally believe that Vincent will be his forever and they switch for the first time. This sets Vincent spinning mentally, but not because he’s worried that he liked being the sexual bottom. Rather, this final act of commitment sets him to worrying about what would happen to Oliver if something happened to him, so he gets all paternalistic about “taking care” of Oliver. They work it out with requisite angst (although slightly less) and sex (wonderful as always). And as much of a commitment as two men in the early 19thC could legally have to each other.

Grade #3: B

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All together, these three stories were wonderful. It was interesting to me that the sex got less kinky during the series. But I also loved how you could see the two men committing to each other, see them learning from their mistakes, see them trying not to make them again. You don’t see that in one story with an HEA so much. But three free-standing stories, each with their own culmination, it really worked. I would heartily recommend these three stories individually, but recommend them MORE together.

Best regards,
-Sarah