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Shayla-Black

REVIEW: Four Play by Maya Banks and Shayla Black

REVIEW: Four Play by Maya Banks and Shayla Black

Note: Even though I really liked Maya Banks’ contribution to Four Play, I couldn’t recommend the entire book because I didn’t really like the Black story. This is an occasion in which I wish publishers would sell digital copies of anthology contributions separately.

Dear Ms. Banks:

Your last foursome, Be With Me, was not on my list of favorite erotic romances. In some ways, I feel like a foursome is a bit like making the vampire a shapshifting werewolf with angel wings.

Four PlayIt’s an extreme fantasy. If one good man is a good thing then three good men are great, right? Within the fantasy construct, though, I thought that this story did a pretty good job of touching on some emotional and practical components of a foursome while still maintaining sexiness that the foursome is designed to achieve.

Zoe Michaels, a nurse, and Chase Hilliard, a firefighter, are a long time couple who house share with their two long time friends Brody McNamara and Tate Winslow who are also firefighters. Zoe and Chase enjoy a fairly lively sexual relationship. One night after a particularly lusty bout, the two begin to share fantasies with each other, pillow talk. One of Chase’s fantasies is for everyone to know what a hot piece she is. One of Zoe’s fantasies is a threesome capture fantasy.

Zoe has this idea to bring Chase’s fantasy to life by renting out a local strip club and being the star attraction. She recruits Broday and Tate to get Chase to the club with other members of the station (no married men, she limits) because it’s not something he would ordinarily do. Her semi-public strip tease is a resounding success and the next day at the fire house, Chase feels ten feet tall (he acknowledges that this is really immature but he loves it anyway).

Around him, the guys stared up at her in awe. They looked back and forth between her and Chase as if they couldn't quite believe what was going on.

Then he saw the jealousy and the lust in their eyes. It hit him with more power than he'd ever imagined in his fantasy. This was his girl onstage, giving him the performance of a lifetime, and his friends were watching, envying him with their every breath.

He glanced back at Brody and Tate and realized then that they must have been in on it. It explained their unease. He almost laughed. They looked a little green, and every time one of the guys yelled something to Zoe or made a motion like he wanted to touch, he thought they were going to resort to violence.

But he saw something else in their eyes. Something they probably didn't want anyone to see. He saw desire and yearning.

Chase wants to return the favor. He saw something in Brody and Tate that night at the strip club, something that confirms a feeling he may have subconsciously suspected. He approaches them about bringing her capture fantasies to life. Each new encounter, each enactment of a whispered fantasy emboldens Chase and he wants to carry out other fantasies until his behavior starts to threaten the relationship of the four of them.

"Are you in love with her?" Chase asked bluntly.

Tate's expression grew impassive. It was like iron bars rolled over his eyes. He was a hard son of a bitch.

"Now that would be pretty damn stupid, wouldn't it?" Tate asked softly. "Falling for my best friend's girl?"

"I didn't ask you if it was stupid. I asked if you were in love with her."

It was one thing for Brody and Tate to yearn for Zoe from afar, but having had a taste of her and what it could be to really have her like Chase has her, makes the living arrangements, the casual relationship nearly unbearable. Zoe and Chase and Brody and Tate all have to make decisions about their future.

Drawbacks to this story is that because a) it is shorter and b) there are so many players, Zoe seems to be swallowed up at times. I would have liked to have seen more screen time with her and her thoughts in this. Some of the optics of the situations, particularly with the foursome seemed awkward at times.

I thought the guy to guy talks were really authentic (as authentic as it can be in this fantasy construct) and that you did a very good job of making an unreal situation seem real. Even the ending, where the four talk about going forward together (and I don’t consider this a spoiler because it’s a romance about a foursome, dammit), addressed a few of the challenges a committed foursome might encounter. B

****

Dear Ms. Black:

I confess that your story suffered even greater because of the thoughtfulness of the Banks’ emotional storyline. I’m not certain that there is an emotional storyline in Her Fantasy Men. Kelsey is the object of three men’s affection. Her neighbor Rhys Adams has been trying to wrangle an invitation into her bed since they moved in next door to each other. Her boss, Jeremy Beck, has been fantasizing about his secretary of four years. And Kelsey’s best friend of fifteen years, Tucker Hall, has held her hand and dried her tears and hoped that one day she would be kissing him in passion.

The three of them confront each other one night at a house part at Kelsey’s house.

Which one of you lucky bastards is nailing Kelsey?" Rhys Adams leaned against the back of the sofa, beer in hand, and glanced at the other two men. "It isn't me, and she glows too much to be going without."

Figuring out that none of the three are getting lucky, they band together to figure out exactly what Kesley wants by rummaging through her belongings and hoping to find a private journal and read it. I think one of the major problems in this story is the overweaning skeeviness of it. They know Kelsey is a private person. They decide to invade her privacy, rifle through her personal items in hopes of finding documentation of her most private thoughts because up until now they have struck out with her.

Another example is that Rhys watches Kesley through her bedroom. He has the neighbor across the street watch Kelsey’s house when he isn’t around. We are even treated to a scene wherein Rhys is sneaking into house and has to stay in her closet while she retires for the night. She begins to pleasure herself and unbeknowst to her Rhys is broadcasting her every movement to the other two guys and they all have a weird orgasmic experience. Yes, Rhys was essentially have phone sex with with friend and the boss.

Jeremy groused out a curse. "If you're going to watch this, you're going to share details. Every one of them."

The tone set Rhys on edge. "Fuck off."

"I helped you get into her house with a phone call and a plan,"

Jeremy argued. "Tucker lent you his key. If such a gorgeous sight is going to fall into your lap, you're going to share with us. Or we won't help you with an exit strategy."

What’s kind of crazy/funny (which I guess is classic Black) about this is that each one of them dom Kelsey including Tucker who a) finds the word pussy offensive and b) can’t imagine spanking Kelsey and objects when Jeremy suggests that he is going to do this once he gets his hands on her because she is torturing him by masturbating in her own bed with her own sex toys whilst Rhys is playing Joe Buck, play by play announcer in her closet.

Of course, the reason that Kelsey is pleasuring herself is she knows that if she takes up an offer from one of the men in her life, she will lose the others and they each bring a unique gift. She gets hugs from Tucker (or nerdlinger as my friend calls him), dominance from Jeremy (who refers to her as “vixen” or “little vixen”), and impetus to be carefree from Rhys (or peeping Tom).

Then without any notice, Rhys and Jeremy lose all patience and Kelsey’s fine principles come to a grinding halt, one by one. Of course, during coitus they do share their “I love yous” to keep this story romantic. When Kelsey is “punished” by Jeremy for having sex with one of the other men without him, she points out the hypocrisy of this. Jeremy excuses himself because all of his other women were short, curvy brunettes with lush figures. It’s okay for him to have fucked other women because they were just substitutes for her!

What is probably worse is that Kelsey goes from having sex with Rhys to having sex with Jeremy to having sex with Tucker all in the space of about five days with NO CONDOMS. In stark contrast, condoms were used in nearly every sex scene in the Banks book except between the long time couple. You even acknowledge that there is no use of condoms and that Kelsey is not on birth control. OY OY OY. I suppose in this fantasy, it is all about the woman getting what she wants but a foursome isn’t really what the others want and the male characters vacillate between having no backbone and dominating her and fighting over her. It didn’t seem that anyone was really happy in this scenario, particularly Tucker who was SHOCKED that anyone would be into BDSM and then couldn’t wield the spanking hand fast enough. C-

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Delicious by Shayla Black

REVIEW: Delicious by Shayla Black

SPOILER ALERT: THIS  REVIEW HAS ‘EM!

Dear Ms. Black,

Delicious by Shayla BlackI will admit front and center that I never read  Decadent, but I definitely did read the reviews and comments on both this site and Smart Bitches Trashy Books. I was intrigued by the reviews and comments, similar to how one is intrigued watching the slow-motion replays of the crashes during the Women’s Olympic Downhill ski race. The hits just kept on coming. But for some reason, I never picked up the book, and after readingDelicious, I am very happy that I didn’t bother.

It took me  quite a while  to get through this book, not because there were big words or complicated plot twists, but because I had to keep collecting my jaw from the ground and re-reading to make sure I’d read what I thought I had. I laughed…I cried…I nearly barfed. I can’t say it was better than  CATS, but that’s probably because none of the  characters were weres.

Luc Traverson (cousin of Deke from  Decadent) spent an incredible, unforgettable night with Alyssa Deveraux,  but it’s a night he’s never going to repeat. Alyssa is a stripper and very unsuitable mother material, and Luc is looking to marry his mommy. Don’t believe me? Straight from the horse’s mouth:

A perfect wife. A perfect stay-at-home mother, just like his own. That's what he wanted.

Why, you ask, is Luc looking for this paragon of virtue? Well, Luc has some sperm issues, and his biological clock is  TICKING! He wants babies, and he wants ‘em now, and he’ll do anything to get ‘em, be it adoption, insemination…he didn’t go as far as stealing, but it sounded damn close. This guy has baby fever…lord knows why. Luc thinks Alyssa is totally unsuitable as a mother because she’s a stripper. And, in Luc’s vernacular, stripper also equates to stupid, sex-crazed, gold digging whore. Without asking, knowing or having any sort of proof, Luc assumes that all of Alyssa’s interactions with the male population involve her trading sex for just about everything.

So why is  Luc back in Alyssa’s neck of the woods? Well, remember that special night they spent together? As an exchange for sleeping with him and Deke (Deke chickened out at the last minute), Luc promised Alyssa he’d cook for her restaurant opening week.  One wonders why Luc thinks Alyssa uses sex as currency.

Alyssa knows deep in her bones that Luc is the man for her. Anyone that gives a rogering that amazing and sends you flowers days later, but won’t return phone calls,  is your one twew  wuve. Alyssa has Luc cooking  at her restaurant  for one whole week, so she has seven days and nights to  work her wiles on him. Oh, and she hasn’t had sex with anyone since she hooked up with Luc in  Decadent, and before  that  encounter was  celibate for 3 years.  I bet that re-virginized her.

Alyssa’s restaurant, Bonheur, is an  expensive,  upscale  endeavor that is blocks from her original business venture, the strip club Sexy Sirens.  I don’t find it strange that Alyssa would want to be the proprietor of a hip, upscale business venture and  shed her stripper image. However, it’s hard to do that  when you’re still stripping. You read that right. Alyssa owns Sexy Sirens (and apparently has for five years) but still strips at her own club to make ends meet…or something.  Oh, the humanity. Luckily, Alyssa’s bouncer (and giant, Goldberg-sized slab ‘o meat) is there to keep the riffraff away:

[...] Tyler lifted Alyssa, sat in her chair, and set her on his lap. His hand rested high on her thigh, the other on her waist. And the bouncer's fingers weren't still. They roamed, his thumb brushing the curve of her breast, his other palm disappearing under her skirt, over her hip.

Alyssa didn't blink, much less fight him off.

What? In addition to this,  Luc has caught  Tyler ogling Alyssa naked…in her  own home.  Alyssa’s reaction? Not much of a reaction at all, in fact they had a conversation as he helped her out of the tub. Hell, I’d assume the same as Luc; she’s fucking the bouncer.

Happily, the stripper prejudice goes both ways. Alyssa is the target of a crazed lunatic and is on the receiving end of threatening notes and  break-ins, in other words, the usual. Rather than doing things  to protect  her own well being, she’s TSTL (as are all the characters in this book) and  ducks away from  Tyler and Luc to check in at Sexy Sirens. She’s talking to an employee and there’s this:

Though it was hard to take someone seriously wearing a thong and pasties, Alyssa couldn’t discount the dancer’s observation.

Yep, you read that right. She just knocked her own employee for doing something she does on a regular basis. You may think I’m nit picking here, but I promise you, there is a gem on nearly every page of this book.  At this point, I’m sure  you realize that the back-and-forth  between Luc and Alyssa consists of  Luc hating that he wants  Alyssa  and punishing her for it, Alyssa wanting  Luc but hating that he doesn’t want her, respect her or seem to give a rat’s ass about her:

"What I really wanted to hear was that you believed I didn't have sex with Tyler today."

Luc shrugged. "You don't owe me explanations."

"I don't," she agreed. "But I want to know what you really think."

It was probably pointless, but she couldn't stand him thinking she was the kind of woman who slept around.

He paused, seemingly lost in his thoughts, sorting through them. "You're too dedicated to your future to fuck away the afternoon the day

your happiness opens its doors."

Tears hit her instantly. He got it. He got her! It was a start.

Trust me, for much of the book, we don’t get beyond “start”. Luc’s jealous of any interaction she has with any other man, and backs it up with his crazy assertion that  <sarcasm> relationships  are difficult and  take work </sarcasm>.

No matter what route he took to fatherhood, he couldn't achieve it without a woman in the picture. Even if Alyssa supported his decision to adopt or undergo surgery or visit a sperm bank, she'd have to agree to go through the process with him, perhaps carry a child. And they'd have to find a way to make their passionate, difficult relationship work.

What kind of mother would she be? Certainly not like his own.

I nearly cried when I read the above, and this is the point the wheels fell off the bus for me. There are so many things wrong with it that I think any commentary would send me into rantsville, and I don’t want to go there.  In addition to all of the relationship angst, sexxoring and fighting,  there’s  a  buttload of  non-communication, miscommunication, intentional miscommunication,  oversharing (by secondary characters)  and an annoying background threat to Alyssa’s well-being that could be resolved/avoided if she’d just discuss her past with someone…anyone. This book is written in all seriousness, but the characters, plot and dialogue  are so unbelievable that I kept thinking my brain was going to spontaneously combust from the  absurdity. F.

~ Shuzluva

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