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REVIEWS: Heat It Up, Heat of the Night, The Heat is On by Elle Kennedy

REVIEWS: Heat It Up, Heat of the Night, The Heat is...

Previously in the land of Dear Author, I wrote up my thoughts about the Out of Uniform series by Elle Kennedy.   This is a series of novellas published by Samhain Publishing and each story features the love affair and subsequent romance of Seal Team Fifteen. The first three stories were reviewed here and the last of the Seal Team Fifteen stories are reviewed here.   Ironically, the first story includes a menage and the last story ends in a menage and both have very similar overtones and I wondered at their symmetry. Intentional or serendipitous? The great thing about these stories is that they are short and inexpensive. The biggest detraction, however, is the length.   For the most part, I found that the conflicts were too serious or required more exploration and advancement than the novella length provided.

However, they were fun, sexy and very readable and I felt that I got my money’s worth even though I wished for more.

Heat It Up, pubbed June 2010.   I was originally reluctant to read this story because I’m not a fan of journalist heroes or heroines, probably because they are often being portrayed as delving into people’s private lives without justification or “just for the story” and the blurb for this made me wonder about heroine Jane Harrison.   She’s a writer and seeks out Thomas Becker, new SEAL team leader for Team 15, after he participates in a rescue mission of US civilians, including her sister.   Her magazine has a great shot of Becker outlined against the helicopter, looking heroic and manly. Becker turns her request for an interview down and Jane acquiesces, understanding his desire to not elevate himself above his team members.   When the two are stuck in an elevator, Becker doesn’t resist her unspoken invitation to allay her claustrophobia with a physical distraction. One thing leads to another and the two embark on an eight day fling.

Becker is a serious kind of guy who just got divorced.   Jane is enjoying the time she is spending with Becker but soon their sex only relationship begins to look like the two are dating, confusing both Jane and Becker. Becker thinks he will just screw Jane out of his system because she doesn’t fit into his vision of his future. He wants a sweet little wife and he had the ambitious, career oriented woman and that led to his divorce.   Jane finds in Becker everything she wants but she isn’t going to give up her dreams of a great career for him.   Next to Heat of Passion, this is my next favorite in the collection.   Jane and Becker are a great pair, the dialogue is funny, and the sex is smoking hot.   And, I admit, I loved the scene where Becker is getting relationship advice from Carson and Holly.

"So, why were you stir crazy? Did you get in a fight with that sexy-as-sin redhead you were with the other day?"

"Not really." He gave a noncommittal shrug.

"Then why the hell aren't you with her?"

Holly suddenly poked her head into the living room. "With who?" she said, looking super interested.

"Are you gossiping? If so, I want to know everything."

"I'm giving the Lieutenant love advice, babe. Mind your own business."

"Oh God," she said with a groan. "Thomas, don't listen to him. He's terrible at giving advice."

Becker found himself grinning as Holly bounced back into the room, her green eyes flashing with curiosity. She flopped down on the armchair across from the couch, leaned forward and narrowed her eyes at Becker. "Okay, tell me everything. I'm much better at this kind of thing. Who is she?"

B

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Heat Of The Night (Out of Uniform #5) by Elle Kennedy Heat of the Night, pubbed November 2010.   I swear I wrote a review of this book somewhere but I can’t find it. Maybe I sleep review?   Annabelle Holmes gets dumped because she’s too vanilla for her uptight fiance.   She makes out a sex list of all the things she wants to do sexually to prove to herself that she is not uptight or prudish.   Ryan Evans comes home from a mission and wants to unwind with his sexually adventurous, always willing upstairs neighbor.   He lets himself into her apartment and climbs into bed with her but instead finds Annabelle.

Annabelle responds with horror and pleads for him to not rape her. I really liked this response because it seemed so much more believable. The misunderstanding is straightened out, Annabelle’s list is discovered, and Ryan offers to help her check off the items on her list which includes everything from a little spanking to a threesome.

Annabelle is from a very wealthy family and when she brings Ryan home for a party, he feels out of place.   He takes out his uneasiness on Annabelle.   While I didn’t find this to be unbelievable or out of character, I did think it was strange that Ryan felt so strongly about the inequality of the situation when he and Annabelle had been just having a fling. I didn’t understand the depth of his emotional disquiet given the circumstances.   Ryan was also mixed up emotionally because he thought he was in love with Jane from Heat It Up. While this is an incredibly hot story and the setup (Annabelle’s sexual bucket list) worked, the emotional conflict and speed at which Ryan and Annabelle fell for each other lacked substance. C+

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HeatisOn72LGThe Heat is On, pubbed April 5, 2011

This book is an ARC I received from Samhain and despite the fact I didn’t love it, it was good enough that I went and bought the rest of the series leading to my Elle Kennedy glom. Matt O’Connor is a manwhore and pretty much enjoying life. He’s single, loves what he does, and has more women hanging off his jock than he knows what to do with.   Unfortunately for Matt, whenever he comes up against Savannah.   Savannah loves the thrill of the chase, the first time she kisses someone, her first orgasm with that guy, and then it all fizzles so she drifts from guy to guy, enjoying being single, successful, and available. I loved Savannah’s utter confidence in her sexuality.   At one point, she admits that cute guys are in a constant supply and she is totally unapologetic about getting sex and enjoying it.   Essentially, she and Matt are the same kind of person.

Hilariously, Matt finds his trademark charm and smoothness easily rebuffed by Savannah.

“Naah, I think I'll pass," she finally said, then had the nerve to give him a sympathetic smile.

He returned the smile, but his was loaded with heat. "Are you sure? You were just caught up in very dangerous situation-’I think you might need some comforting."

She gave an unladylike snort. "Comfort sex? Seriously, you're offering me comfort sex?" Matt faltered. Again. This woman was totally throwing him off his game here. He pushed aside the disconcerting thought, gathering up every ounce of charm and confidence he possessed. "I think you might need it," he said solemnly. She just raised one dark-blonde eyebrow. "I think I need to get to work, actually." She took off walking again.

It’s fun to see a player shown a bit inept. I liked the role reversal and how Matt’s attraction to Savannah and her indifference brought out “his inner stammer”.   It was fun and different.   When Matt starts showing signs of wanting something series, Savannah panics.   She tries to turn Matt off including inviting another person into their bedroom which leads to this uncomfortable menage.   Even though Kennedy writes great sex scenes, I felt bad for Matt throughout the story and I kept wondering what Savannah was really thinking.   Did she have remorse?   Any kind of regret for this? Was she so myopic that she couldn’t see that Matt really didn’t want this and why did Matt stay if the menage wasn’t something he wanted with Savannah.   While it wasn’t a forced sex scene, I felt like Matt hadn’t fully committed himself to the act and therefore I wasn’t comfortable as the reader.   I understand that Savannah enjoyed and pursued her own pleasure but I didn’t like that someone would be hurt in the process, regardless of whether it was a pro female statement.   C+

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REVIEW: Trifecta by Kate Sherwood

REVIEW: Trifecta by Kate Sherwood

Dear Ms. Sherwood.

I didn’t really expect to like this book. I love menage stories, especially m/m/m menage. So I read the book because of that, not because I was blown away by the excerpt. I thought the excerpt was too thinky, didn’t have enough dialogue, and the characters looked a bit flat. But I’m VERY glad to have been very wrong about that. I really enjoyed this story, I’m very glad I read it, and I’m very happy to recommend it to DA’s readership.


Mark is a pilot, only recently out of the closet and out of a marriage. He’s living with and in love with Alistair, the man he finally came out of the closet for. But Mark and Alistair have an open relationship: they’re free to fuck around when so moved, especially when Mark’s out of town on one of his long flights. But Mark is grounded at the moment with an ear infection and it’s Alistair who’s out of town at a conference. So Mark picks up Tyler at the local club, has amazing sex with him at the condo…and Alistair walks in.

The next day, of course, Alistair, a vet, meets Tyler at his practice. Tyler is in with a horse with a broken pelvis. One thing leads to another, Tyler buys the horse to avoid it getting euthanized, and then spends a lot of time at the practice. Eventually Alistair and Tyler start an affair, without Mark knowing, Mark and Alistair fight, Mark and Tyler have another night together…and it all gets a little confusing.

The fascinating thing about this book is that the tension keeps switching, but it all seems organic. It is a confusing book when summarized in three sentences, but that confusion doesn’t extend to the reading experience. It’s a menage in which Mark and Alistair are having relationship issues, Mark is trying to rebuild his life after having left his wife of 15 years because he finally came out, and Alistair and Tyler are slowly falling in love. There’s a lot happening, but the book is neither episodic nor overwhelming. It all kind of fits together.

Tyler is a bit of an enigma. He lies very well, he’s got some issues in his past, he’s only 23 (to Mark and Alistair’s 30-something), he’s aimless and ambitionless, but he falls for Alistair and Mark. The reader’s sympathy (or at least mine) is very much with Tyler, because he’s a nice, sweet guy, but I think he would frustrate me in real life. There’s an economic and educational imbalance between him and the other two men that isn’t dealt with at the start of the relationship but that I could see becoming a problem *during* the relationship and that’s not dealt with because, well, the book’s about the start of the relationship. Tyler’s emotional investment in the other two men, while he think they think he’s just a piece of ass, is a little heartbreaking and makes the story totally worth it. Especially since part of what *they* have to realize and fix is that they ARE treating him like a piece of ass:

"Mark?" The voice was uncertain, but Mark recognized it right away. His mind spun into overdrive. What was Tyler doing here?
"Tyler?" There was a pause. Mark could almost feel the man choosing between truth and lie. Mark couldn’t wait for the decision. "Are you here for Alistair?"

He had no idea how Tyler could have found the place, but he must have let something drop in conversation, or maybe Tyler had seen something with the clinic’s name on it when he had been at the apartment. Something, somehow. Tyler was here, so it was a little late to worry about how.

They were almost next to each other now. The barn door had shut out the bright light, making Mark able to see Tyler’s beautiful, conflicted face. "I need him, Tyler. You and me-’that was one thing. Please don’t get in the way of me and Alistair." Mark knew he was begging. If it was anyone else, he might have been ashamed. But this was Tyler. As inexplicable as it was that the man was here, in Alistair’s barn, Mark still trusted him. Still trusted his intent wasn’t vindictive, no matter how damning the circumstances might seem.

"I don’t-’I’m n-not-" Tyler stuttered to a halt.

Mark couldn’t begin to understand how Tyler had tracked Alistair down, or what he hoped to accomplish by being here. It seemed absurd to imagine Tyler would think he could tear Mark and Alistair apart; Mark wasn’t sure of the details of the night before, but he was sure they hadn’t talked much, hadn’t said anything that would make Tyler think Mark’s relationship was fragile. Well, nothing other than the fact that Mark had spent the night cuddled with Tyler instead of with Alistair. Mark couldn’t make himself believe Tyler meant to do him harm. There’d been no hint of anything possessive, nothing about Tyler’s behavior to suggest he was likely to become a stalker, or someone who had trouble with boundaries. Still, the evidence was clear; Tyler was in Alistair’s barn.

"I love him, Tyler." It was all Mark had. The only argument he could advance.

Tyler looked startled, then nodded. "Yeah. Okay. That’s important. I shouldn’t get in the way of that." He smiled at Mark, and the expression was such a pure mix of sad and sweet that Mark almost wanted to cry. "You guys-’you take care of each other, okay?"

I know things work like this in real life sometimes, but things are all solved a little too quickly and a little too easily. Mark’s ex-wife is being a complete bitch, especially when it comes to their daughters…and then she’s not. For good reason, and with the help of Tyler, but still, it felt like it was time to wrap the book up, so the problem needed to get solved. Mark and Alistair have a terrible fight, where they say some awful things to each other…and then they’re fine, united in their search for Tyler after he leaves both of them. And again, when two rational men get together and actually act rationally, rather than like fainting, hysterical 18 year old girls, that’s what happens, but…well, it seemed too perfect.

But that didn’t stop me from investing in the ending. The tension of will-they-or-won’t-they find Tyler at the end of the story was great and the reconciliation was well-done. Despite Mark and Alistair being very alike (in fact, this is why they have an open relationship — they’re both tops), they are still very different characters and it didn’t feel like they were interchangeable when Tyler was interacting with them separately. I loved how the jobs and life situations for all three of the men were an integral part of the story, rather than something they did off-screen. They felt like real people. And while the writing might not have been sparkling — there was a lot of exposition, almost info-dumping amounts of it, and it WAS a very thinky book, to the point of redundancy now and then — it was certainly up to the job of making me care about these men.

Grade: B

Best regards,

-Joan/Sarah F.

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