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REVIEW:  Into the Storm (Signal Bend #3) by Susan Fanetti

REVIEW: Into the Storm (Signal Bend #3) by Susan Fanetti

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Dear Ms. Fanetti:

I read and really enjoyed the first in the Signal Bend series, Move the Sun. The second entry, Behold the Stars, which Jane reviewed, I could barely finish, it was so violent. So I bought this book with some trepidation, but with the hope that your voice, which worked so well for me in Move the Sun, would work again for me. I was pleased to find that for the most part, this was the case.

Signal Bend, IN is in recovery from a war. The Night Horde MC, which runs the town, took on a drug kingpin in the last book and won, but not without horrifying collateral damage to the town and even more, to the townsfolk. Showdown Ryan suffered some of the worst losses. His oldest daughter, Daisy, was killed and his wife packed up their two younger girls and took off. Showdown takes all of the blame for the losses. He knows that as the #2 in the Night Horde, his family was a target and they paid the ultimate price for it. He is empty, he is barely putting one foot in front of the other and more than once has considered ending it all. He can’t bear to go back to the home where his family was attacked, and has been existing at the Night Horde’s keep.

Shannon Bannerman has been hired to run the Keller Bed and Breakfast, a new venture owned by the President of the Night Horde’s wife (and protagonist in books 1 & 2), Lilli. Shannon came to Signal Bend from the big city, which makes her a curiosity for the people of Signal Bend. She is extremely over qualified for the job, but also wants it desperately. It seems clear to the reader from the start that she is running from something. Shannon is very attracted to Showdown, but knows his story. She knows that it’s incredibly unlikely that he’d ever have any interest in here. Despite that, when the opportunity presents itself, Shannon lets Showdown know she’s attracted.

“What is your problem?”

At Shannon’s sharp question he turned to see her standing there, holding her arms across her body against the chill. The stance made her cleavage even more distracting.

“What?” He tossed his butt to the ground.

She took a couple of steps closer. He could reach out and touch her if he wanted, run his finger down the cleft between her breasts. He clenched his fists.

“You have to know I’m interested. You act like you have some kind of claim or responsibility or I don’t know what. But then you ignore me – or you don’t, and you say what you said in there. What the hell is your problem?”

“No problem. Just not interested.”

Her brow creased at that, and her eyes narrowed. Then she surprised the shit out of him by taking the last step between them and grabbing his face in her hands. She leaned in and kissed him, her lips silky on his, her mouth open. She tasted of tequila. He felt her tongue tracing his lower lip. He hadn’t had a woman’s mouth – her tongue!- on his mouth in…Christ, five years? Since Holly would even let him kiss her like this? His cock turned to cast iron, heavy and hard, and it was all he could do not to grab her. But he didn’t. He didn’t grab her, or kiss her back. He sat there feeling shocked and tormented.

When she pulled away, she searched his eyes for a moment. Then, with a sad little twitch of her lip, she nodded. “Okay. Sorry.” She turned and went back into the clubhouse. – Kindle location 1222

Of course, he’s interested. And soon after, he makes a move. Showdown and Shannon’s love story develops at a very slow pace. He thinks he’s emotionally dead, but she offers herself to him, and the more he knows of her, the more not just his libido, but his emotional self awakens. He begins to see that he has things to live for.

There are things that I really enjoyed about this story. I thought that Showdown’s emotional growth, from angry, emotionally unavailable man to one who is able to love was credible. Given that I’d gotten to know him in the previous two books and certainly, read the horror of the last book, I was glad to see him find some happiness. Shannon was a bit harder for me to get a bead on. She has a secret, and is technically running, although you never made me invest in what she was running from. I think because you delayed too long in delivering the backstory on her. Her conflict seemed manufactured because it arrived so late in the story and you’d built little to no foundation for it. So I wasn’t invested at all in that aspect of the story’s resolution.

That being said, I read the book in one sitting, and enjoyed getting to see the characters in a situation that was much less horrifying than book 2. As in the previous books, the sex scenes are plentiful and hot. And in the end, I was glad for having spent time reading the book. My hope in reviewing this book is that those who were put off by the extremity of the last book will give your work another chance. Because I felt like this story had potential and delivered on a good portion of it. I’d definitely read more from you. Final grade: B-/C+

Kind regards,

Kati

 

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REVIEW:  The Dom Project by Heloise Belleau, Solace Ames

REVIEW: The Dom Project by Heloise Belleau, Solace Ames

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Dear Ms. Belleau and Ms. Ames:

The Dom Project is erotic romance with heavy emphasis on the erotic side. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have a happy, satisfying ending — but it’s set in a milieu in which the traditional romance “rules” simply do not apply. And it creates that world so well, I didn’t miss them.

While on the trail of rare photographs of a kinky 1930s sex symbol, special collections librarian Robin notices that her best friend John is surprisingly knowledgeable about BDSM terms and paraphernalia. And John realizes that his best friend might actually be a “buttoned-up-real-fucking-life-naughty-librarian.” He knows her habits so well that it takes him little time to track down her blog, The Picky Submissive, which chronicles her efforts to find a dom who meets her needs and isn’t a jerk. And for the first time they open up about the fact that they’re both kinky, and that Robin is profoundly dissatisfied.

[Robin] “I’ve been trying and I’ve been waiting. I’ve been communicating my needs and I’ve been letting go of my highest standards and it’s just not working. Maybe I just attract assholes. Maybe the creepy guy to nice guy ratio among doms is higher than among ‘normal’ dudes. Maybe I’m not really a submissive at all, and if I was, I’d be okay with guys calling me whore when we’re out to dinner or telling me to put my hair in pigtails or grabbing me and telling they’re mind readers.”

[John] “Maybe I can prove you wrong.”

With the basic premise that there won’t be sex — “I don’t see you that way, and you don’t see me that way, and really it’s a moot point” — John proposes that he help Robin define what submission means to her. “I know all about you. I know what makes you tick. If I can’t dominate you, then maybe nobody can.”

Does that quote make John sound like an arrogant douche? He’s really just appropriately confident and assertive — as well as highly ethical and conscientious — and he does indeed know Robin very well.

They begin with a carefully worked out contract and a systematic approach — testing out an intriguingly long list of items such as Denial, Restraint, Pain, and Role-play to find what really floats Robin’s boat — but there’s nothing clinical about the intensity of their sessions. Some scenes are more for fun and help Robin write off certain aspects of submission; others take her out of the stratosphere. Although the narrative is third person, we’re right there inside Robin’s head, which makes the scenes blazingly erotic. As the one who has to stay in control, John’s point of view is naturally less overwhelming, but it shows his growing attraction to Robin as he strives to please her without breaking their contract.

This isn’t my usual beloved angst-fest. Problems do predictably arise, as John and Robin begin to have stronger feelings for each other and want to change the rules. And of course they both have fears about it, and make some mistakes. (Robin sometimes uses her safeword! John sometimes screws up a scene! It’s almost like they’re supposed to be real people!) The strength of the story is in the powerful D/s writing and the authenticity of the characters and situations. They have genuine issues, like the fact that toys and equipment are expensive, and that John has other play partners/lovers (both women and men) that he doesn’t want to casually discard. (They do move towards exclusivity over the course of the book.) I also really liked the inclusive of an old, ailing kinkster as a character, in a world which is usually portrayed as the exclusive domain of the young, beautiful, and rich.

Incidentally, John and Robin are an interracial couple, and it does feel almost completely incidental. Robin is white, John is apparently Chinese-American. (He may be one of the few contemporary romance heroes to have tattoos that aren’t cultural appropriation.) Although John’s family members are important secondary characters, race doesn’t enter into the story much, except for a wry comment from John about how he’s perceived as a large, tattooed Asian man. Since Robin and John have known and loved each other for years, the lack of issues around race seems plausible.

I really enjoyed this, as a smokin’ hot story and as a vivid portrait of people leading unconventional lives. I would have liked to see more romantic feeling between John and Robin that doesn’t stem from sex; the book used standard short-cuts to squeeze in the love. And I yearned to know more about how they ultimately made their relationship decisions. The ending left some unanswered questions, though maybe that’s just me wanting things tied up neatly, so to speak. I give The Dom Project a mostly satisfied B.

Sincerely,

Willaful

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