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Marleen (Cavan, Ireland)

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Dial M for Ménage
Dial M for Ménage
Price: £2.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Hot and Realistic, 5 Mar. 2014
I received my copy from the publisher through Love Romances and More and rated it 4+ stars.

Two months have passed since the events in ‘Ménage on 34th Street’ that brought Katrina, Liam and Hunter together. Two months that brought them a level of happiness none of them thought achievable, but didn’t solve all the practical issues resulting from their unconventional relationship.

Hunter knows he is with the two people he wants to spend the rest of his life with but is also sure that this relationship will never be acceptable in the eyes of his superiors in the military. And his career is as important to him as Liam and Kat are.

Liam is still struggling with control issues. He can’t stop himself from keeping information that might distress or upset Kat and Hunter from them even while he knows that his secrets will cause trouble.

Kat can’t believe her luck now that she is with the two men who mean everything to her. She is all too aware of both Liam’s and Hunter’s issues though, and being the one in the middle, trying to hold it all together is emotionally draining.

Now that Hunter is about to receive his new posting it is time for this triad to put action to their words. Is Hunter really comfortable with having his two lovers close to his work environment and are Liam and Kat really prepared to leave their familiar surroundings behind in order to be with the man they have chosen as the one who completes them?

I read ‘Ménage on 34th Street’ in December and wrote the following words in my review:

“ the time the story ends you know that these three people will be in a relationship that requires work and compromise on all sides, that things won’t always be easy or smooth for them...”

I also stated that I was delighted to see that a sequel was forthcoming and that I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to these characters.

I was right on both fronts. This story deals with all the issues connected to making a triad work. Traditional relationships can be tricky at times. Throwing a third person into the equation, with their own ego, history, and hang-ups, creates a whole host of extra potential pitfalls. All three characters involved have their own doubts and insecurities. And because all of them deal differently it causes tension. Liam’s reluctance to share what bothers him until he thinks he’s found the perfect solution drives both Hunter and Katrina crazy. Hunter’s need to keep his emotional life completely disconnected from his professional one, creates frustration for all three of them. Katrina is, at times, stuck in the middle; trying to read both her men and defuse situations before they become too big.

The road Kat, Liam and Hunter need to travel to come to a place where their future seems secure is hard and at times filled with fear and confusion. It is the way in which they confront their problems and refuse to stop talking to each other that sees them through and made this book such a very satisfying read.

“This is where my military training is going to serve us (...). If I didn’t learn anything else, I learned how to move beyond being part of a whole, to seeing the whole as an entity bigger than its pieces. The three of us, we’re bigger together than as individuals. We’re bound together and we’re not coming apart now.” – Hunter.

As they go along Liam, Kat and Hunter learn to trust each other as well as themselves. They discover that while they may each have their own hang-ups and insecurities, they are in complete agreement when it comes to their need to be and stay together and that it is those differences between them that make them so much stronger together.

“They were three separate people even when they were together, and being individuals meant they had different relationships with one another. Those one-on-one relationships made them a stronger whole.”

And it was that focus on the intricacies of the developing relationship that made this book so much more than ‘just’ another hot and fascinating read. Having said that, the story was most definitely hot and fascinating, especially Hunter’s slow but oh so sensual acceptance of his need for Liam.

This story ends in a most satisfying way. It was both the happy ending I was hoping for and completely credible. Of course that does leave me with one issue; it is quite possible that this is the last time I get to read Liam, Kat and Hunter and that idea makes me a little bit sad.

Surrender Yourself (The Desires Unlocked Trilogy Part Three)
Surrender Yourself (The Desires Unlocked Trilogy Part Three)
by Evie Blake
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Conclusion, 4 Mar. 2014
I received my copy from the publisher through the author and rated it 4.5 stars.

This is the third and final title in a trilogy and best read in order. The first two books, ‘Liberate Yourself’ and ‘Lose Yourself’ were previously published (and reviewed by me) as ‘Valentina’ and ‘Valentina on the Edge’.
A year has passed since Valentina lost Theo, the love of her life. He drowned while trying to safe her from Glen, his rival and enemy. The passing of twelve months has done little to lessen Valentina’s grief but she knows she has to try and embrace life again.

The opportunity to work in New York for a while seems to be just what Valentina needs and it isn’t long before her new surroundings awaken her sexual desires as well as a renewed interest in life and photography. When Leonardo also arrives in New York he is, once again, her rock in the storm. When he introduces her to Tantric sex she discovers things about herself, her body and about sharing that she never knew existed.

But New York also brings danger back to Valentina’s life. While in a gallery she sees a man who strongly reminds her of Glen, the criminal who has killed Theo, who was supposed to have died at the same time. Torn between a growing sense of danger and the need to get revenge Valentina makes a shocking discovery and puts her life in danger.

This is also the story of Valentina’s mother, Tina. We learn about the two big loves in her life and the tragedy that made it impossible for her to be with either of them. We discover why Valentina and her mother have such a strained relationship and are witnesses as the past is slowly but carefully revealed and past hurts healed.

I’m a bit surprised at how much I loved this book and this series. If I’m completely honest, I have to admit that I really don’t like Valentina, or her mother, very much. I most books not liking the main character would be enough to put me off reading or finishing the story. Clearly that wasn’t the case with this trilogy and I can think of at least two reasons why.

First of all there’s the fact that while Valentina may not be the most sympathetic of characters she is definitely intriguing and fascinating. I felt like slapping this young woman on too many occasions to count while reading this trilogy and yet had a hard time putting the books down. Valentina managed to get under my skin. I needed to know what she’d get up to next, how her story would end and, most of all, if she would, eventually, redeem herself (in my eyes).

The second reason I love this book and trilogy is so much can be found in the wonderful way with words this author has. Evie Blake writes with almost poetic precisions, her descriptions sparkle and she manages to create an almost tangible atmosphere on the page. Whether it is the doom and gloom of East Berlin during the 1980’s or present day New York, the place comes alive before the reader’s eyes.

This book is not so much sexy as sultry and seductive. The reader is drawn into to the intimacy rather than confronted with it, allowed to share the sensuous pleasures at a leisurely but also pleasurable pace. In fact, I think the way the sex scenes in this story are written is completely in tune with Tantric sex as described in this book; focussed on sharing joy, giving rather than receiving and opening your heart to beauty. And if this trilogy can be captured in just one word, that word would be ‘beautiful’.
For the (sexually) curious among us this book comes with a few wonderful extras. We are given ‘Leonardo’s Tantric Sex Keys’ as well as the opportunity to learn ‘How to give a Lingam Massage’. The joys this book brings to its readers continue long after the story has finished.

Lover Enslaved: 24 Hours in Mumbai (1Night Stand Series)
Lover Enslaved: 24 Hours in Mumbai (1Night Stand Series)
Price: £2.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Short and Sexy, 24 Feb. 2014
I received my copy from Decadent Publishing through Love Romances and More and rated it 3.5 stars.

“His moans sounded like sobs from a long-forgotten, sad story.”

This was my third 1 Night Stand novella in a month and I have to admit I’m quickly turning into a fan of this series. I love the premise of these stories; two people desperately looking for that elusive love connection turn to Madame Eve to set them up with a perfect partner for one night. If all goes to plan that one night will be the basis for a happily ever after, but not without some obstacles to overcome first. I mean, what’s not to like?

In this book American contract negotiator Thomas Barkley finds himself stranded in Mumbai having just been made redundant. Thomas has lost the man he loved under tragic circumstances 18 months earlier and hasn’t been able to be intimate with anyone else since. He’s almost forgotten the request he sent to Madame Eve months ago when he’s notified that his one night stand will take place in his hotel that night.

Arjun Mukesh has been a rent boy all his life. Since it is the caste he was born into he never expected to be anything else and can’t imagine a life that wouldn’t involve giving himself to men for money or the violence his pimp, Ranjeet inflicts upon him. All he’s asked Madame Eve for is one night of real pleasure since love is a dream he can’t afford to indulge himself in.

When Thomas reaches the room where Arjun is waiting for him he walks into a violent scene. He manages to scare Ranjeet off, but is heartbroken to discover that this is what Arjun’s life is and always will be. The night the two men share is a revelation for both. While Thomas discovers that he can develop feelings for somebody other than the lover he lost, Arjun experience real pleasure and intimacy for the very first time. Arjun has never been with a man who is as anxious to make sure Arjun gets his pleasure as he is for his own.

More violence follows the two men while they explore each other’s bodies as well as life-stories. When Arjun disappears the following morning Thomas knows that he has to find the man he’s begun to fall for as well as a way of bringing him back to America with him.

This was a charming little story even if there seemed to be a bit too much happening for such a short tale. Personally I would have liked to see a bit more of the two men discovering each other and a little bit less of the violence. Having said that, everything we were shown about the two men was well written and clearly painted. I especially appreciated Arjun’s story and his inability to believe that somebody might want to give him pleasure for no other reason than to make him happy, and his reluctance to believe that it might be something he could hang on to.

Some of the writing in this story – like the sentence I quoted at the top of this review – was so beautiful it took my breath away. I also liked that the book came with an epilogue, giving us a small glimpse of the future and the happy ending Madame Eve had once again managed to create for two of her clients.

Now that I’ve found these ‘1 Night Stand’ stories I find myself rather addicted to them, so it’s just as well there seem to be a lot of them and new ones are being published quite regularly. Sometimes a hot quick read is exactly what this reader needs; at moments like that I could do a lot worse than turn to this series.

No Such Thing (The Belonging Series Book 1)
No Such Thing (The Belonging Series Book 1)
Price: £2.81

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Read, 23 Feb. 2014
‘No Such Thing’ was a very pleasant surprise. Having never read the author before I had no idea what to expect other than what the interesting sounding blurb told me. I was hoping for an gripping love story and that was exactly what I found, as well as a whole lot more.

Alessandro Silva (Alè) has grown up in the foster-care system and spent most of his youth being an angry young man. The last family he was placed with saved him from ruining his life, and now that is foster-father has died he has returned to the small town where he spent his teenage years to help his foster-mother and the two children she’s caring for. Luck seems to be on his side when he immediately finds a job in a local bakery and that is before he sets eyes on the owner’s younger brother.

Jaime Winters hasn’t really experienced his teenage years. Years of heart failure have kept him in bed and in hospital. Although it has been two years since he had a life-saving heart transplant, Jaime is still keeping a low profile. Pretending that he’s too busy with his studies to date is easier than having to admit that aged 23 not only is he still a virgin, he hasn’t properly kissed anyone yet either.

The attraction between Jaime and Alè is instant and Alè is more than open to introducing the inexperienced but very sexy Jaime to the delights of intimacy and sex. It is to be a no ties, no emotions involved affair between two men who like each other but both have good reasons for not looking for anything more permanent.

When Jaime and Alè start to get closer despite their attempts to keep things casual, small town bigotry and bad decisions Alè made in the past intrude, putting both their budding relationship and their lives at risk.

This book had it all. There is, of course the charming romance between the experienced Alessandro with his bad reputation and golden heart, and the outwardly fragile but very determined Jaime. But there is so much more. From the start there’s the mystery of what exactly happened in Alè’s past, as well as the building tension as that past seems to catch up with him.

Alè is a good man with a dodgy past. The care he takes of his foster mother after she’s widowed and the two young foster children living with her was heart-warming. In the hands of a lesser author the way this character wants to blame himself for everything that happens to others would have been irritating. In this book it completely worked, as did the way it was dealt with.

“Do you think you can change what a jerk you were as a kid by saving Tony from doing the same things?” Jaime to Alè

And the same was true for Jaime and his hang-ups about his medical past and the scar he wears as a result of it. It could have been frustrating but was beautiful instead.

“Do you know why this scar is beautiful? Because it’s proof you’re alive, that the doctors could fix you. Without the scar you wouldn’t be here.”

I loved Jaime and Alè’s relationship. The sexy scenes between them from the very first kiss to the exhibitionistic scene later on were beautifully written and very hot. I loved that Alessandro, despite his growing feelings for Jaime, still wants to make sure the novice gets his chance at experimenting, even if it means letting him go. And the fact that Jaime, despite his attraction to Alessandro, has doubts about diving headlong into a steady relationship with his very first partner only made the book more realistic.

“What do you want, Jaime?” Alessandro whispered, his breath hot on his lips. “Tell me.”

This book dealt with a lot of heavy topics – foster care, health issues, gay-bashing and violence – without ever getting too heavy or taking anything away from the love story.

“I lived in fear of dying for same many years Alè. I don’t want to be afraid all the time anymore. I got a second chance at life, so I want to live.”

And some of the scenes in this book were so hot I had to put the book down to catch my breath before reading on. For those who are sensitive about such things I should probably add that those scenes are rather explicit, although for me that only added to the beauty of them.

I discovered a sequel to this book will be released in July and I will be keeping an eager eye out for that one. I’ve fallen in love with Jaime and Alè and can’t wait to spend more time with them.

“I promise to take care of your heart, if you promise to take care of mine.”

Price: £2.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roller Coaster, 22 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Strain (Kindle Edition)
Occasionally I read a book and I find myself having to take a time out after I finish it because I just can’t get my head around everything I’ve just read and images and thoughts won’t stop spinning through my head. ‘Strain’ is one of those books. Although there was some time between finishing the story and going to bed last night, I found myself dreaming about this book; the characters and the world they inhabit were the first thing on my mind the one or two times I woke up. And one question wouldn’t and still hasn’t left my mind; how far would I be willing to go to save my own life, or to try saving someone else’s.

I should probably begin this book with a warning. This is not an easy or light read, quite the opposite in fact. This is also a book that could easily offend and/or shock a lot of readers. Ultimately though this is a very powerful and memorable story; one I’m very glad to have read and one that will probably continue to play in my mind for a few more nights at least.

The world ‘Strain’ is set in is a horrible place. A lethal and very contagious virus has killed most humans and is still being spread by ‘Revenants’; infected humans who have turned into monsters driven to kill the remaining uninfected population. Contact with a Revenant is a death sentence; if they don’t kill you on the spot they will infect you and seal your fate.

When 19 year old Rhys Cooper sacrifices himself in the hope of protecting others he survives his encounter with the Revenants only because a troupe of ‘super-human’ soldiers arrives in time to kill them. Survival isn’t necessarily a blessing though; those Rhys was trying to protect have died anyway, his arch-enemy and bane of his young life, Jacob, is the only other survivor and both of them have almost certainly been infected with the virus that will turn them into Revenants before killing them.

The soldiers offer both Rhys and Jacob a slim hope of survival. It is possible that the virus can be counteracted if they manage to get infected with another strain; a strain the soldiers carry. The only sure way to get infected though is through frequent sexual contact with as many of the soldiers as possible.

Darius Murrell is the 43 old leader of the squadron of soldiers who rescued the two men and is determined to save them. He’s spent his life fighting and killing to protect the remaining uninfected humans and would do anything to ensure he won’t have to put a bullet in Rhys’ head once the plague sets in.

It is difficult for Rhys though. While he doesn’t want to die and is interested in men, he has huge issues dealing with the multiple partners he needs to have in order to optimise his chances of immunity. Sex with Darius is something he, reluctantly, enjoys. With anybody else he can barely make himself endure it, putting Darius in a position where he has to force the young man to have sex if he wants to save him.

“Look, far as I’m concerned, only thing evil about sex is rape. Now, that puts us in a real gray area but I’m trying to avoid it.” - Darius

Darius and Rhys may be discovering feelings for each other; it is an impossible situation for both. Darius can’t afford that get attached to a man he may have to kill and Rhys is at best a reluctant participant in his own rescue.

I have to admit this was, at times, a very difficult read for me. Reading about Rhys, his insecurities, fears and shame at having to be intimate with all these men who, as far as he can tell, are only with him out of a sense of duty, was heartbreaking. In fact, the only thing that prevented this book from turning into a very dark story about institutionalised rape was the fact that the soldiers volunteering their services to Rhys grow ever more reluctant to do so as his distaste for the act becomes more obvious.

“I fought it for a long time because I didn’t want the only sex I ever had before I died to not mean anything, especially when it was already something I didn’t have a choice in. Then it didn’t feel meaningless anymore, and it was okay. Better than okay.” – Rhys

Despite appearances earlier on in this story, this isn’t ‘just’ a book about sex. Nor is the story-line an excuse to introduce as many sex-scenes as possible. Ultimately this is a story about love, finding it under the most unlikely of circumstances and the things we are willing to do and endure for those we love. It is also a book about what it means to be human and how to hang on to that humanity even when the world around you doesn’t appear to have room for ‘luxuries’ like that.

“Knowing people like you exist, people who won’t lie or kill or whore themselves out for another day of pointless breathing, people who actually believe in something – even if it’s just yourself and what you know is right – it makes it worth it, boy.”

This story broke my heart, forced me to look away in horror but ultimately made me rejoice because of the sheer beauty of it. It was a joy to watch Rhys as he tried to hang on the things he valued. I lost myself in his journey from scared boy to sensible young man. And I may just have fallen in love with Darius, the tough soldier who turns out to have very deep feelings despite his job and the things it forces him to do.

I have to applaud the author for releasing a book with a story-line that was likely to find as many detractors as fans. I’m in awe that Amelia C. Gormley managed to put this much beauty in what was for all intents and purposes a horrific story, and find myself deeply grateful for having found a tale that will linger for a long time to come.

“None of us have much worth holding on to, which makes us hold on even tighter to what we can.”

Shady Deals (The Unbridled Series Book 5)
Shady Deals (The Unbridled Series Book 5)
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings, 16 Feb. 2014
I received my copy from the publisher and rated it 3.5 stars.

I’m not quite sure what I thought about this book. There were parts of it I loved and parts of it that made me think ‘what the ....’.

The story was interesting and had all the elements needed to make this a thrilling read; a young couple in love, horses and a racetrack, a vet risking everything through involvement with horse doping, gangsters, violence, men of honour, kinky role-play... I don’t think I need to go on; this book was packed with intrigue. And that is also my first issue with this story; there was too much happening.

There is Holden and Kate’s relationship which seems to be going well despite the fact that he’s keeping secrets from her and putting her under enormous pressure to set a wedding date. There is the pressure Holden is under from the drug lord forcing him to provide prescriptions to drug the race horses. There is a new jockey who’s not quite what he appears to be. When I ran into cruelty against a horse I nearly discarded the book. And still the action continued; attempted murder and Holden’s desperate need to get away without revealing to Kate why they’re leaving without saying goodbye to anyone. I’m sure I missed one or two things but you get the idea.

There is so much happening in this book that reading it became exhausting at times. I’m a huge fan of thrilling page-turners but even those need a pause for the reader to catch their breath occasionally. The amount of characters and the frequent shifts in perspective also made me (literally) lose the plot a few times. But, I think I could have dealt with all of these issues if the writing had been a little bit less brusque. The author didn’t seem to want to take the time to develop anything. Thoughts and feelings of the characters were reduced to a single paragraph. I couldn’t help feeling that the author begrudged having to explain the characters’ motivation because it took away from the action. While this may work very well for other readers, I love dissecting the characters in my books and never got the feeling I got close to knowing or understanding these people.

I also had one or two issues with Kate. I mean it was hard enough to believe that she wanted to marry a man who was obviously keeping secrets from her and had also recently had an affair with another woman. But to have her think that if she hadn’t been with Holden she could have fallen for Lugowski was a bit too much.

After all of that complaining, I should also admit that there were parts of this book that worked very well. The scene in the stable when the gangster has two men captive and is getting ready to kill them had me mesmerized and reading as fast as I possibly could for example.

I guess it all comes down to personal taste. If you like your books fast and furious, with lots of action and little reflection, this will be the perfect read for you. If, like me, you prefer a bit more insight into the motivation and feelings of the characters, you may find yourself wishing there had been more to this story. Overall though, this was a fast-paced and easy to read book; an enjoyable way to lose a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

The Virgins
The Virgins
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but a bit too distant, 13 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Virgins (Kindle Edition)
I received my copy from the publisher through Nudge.

Bruce Bennett-Jones is starting his last year of high school at the Auburn Academy boarding school when he sees Aviva Rossner for the first time. It is the start of the 1979 - 80 school year and Bruce is interested in Aviva from the moment he watches her step off the bus.

Aviva isn’t for Bruce though. It doesn’t seem to take the girl anytime at all before she hooks up with Seung Jung who is a senior like Bruce. Almost from the start of the relationship, the school is buzzing with talk of Aviva and Seung; the young couple seems so close, so intimate, so unashamedly attracted to each other that the other pupils can’t help imagine their sexual adventures.

It is only after everything goes wrong with the most horrible of consequences that Bruce comes to realise that maybe things weren’t as clear cut as he thought. And that realisation affects Bruce so strongly that years later, he feels the need to share Aviva and Seung’s story with the world.

This is a book about teenagers and the volatility of their feelings. The story is told by Bruce Bennett-Jones a rather typical high school senior. His hormones play havoc with him, girls occupy his mind and sex intrigues him. Aviva attracts his attention the moment she steps off the bus and he is quick to introduce himself to her and help her with her luggage, even quicker to kiss her once they get to her dorm room. And then he flees, afraid of the consequences if he’s caught in the girls’ dorm.

That must be the moment he ruined things for himself. Although his obsession with Aviva only grows over the rest of the school year, Bruce lost her as soon as he found her. The next thing Bruce knows Aviva and Seung are a couple, flaunting their relationship and sexuality for all to see.

When I say that Bruce is the one telling this story I have to point out that he doesn’t have a lot of the facts, something he freely admits.

“I’m inventing Seung, too, of course. It’s the least I can do for him.”

Bruce plays only a small role in the drama that is Seung and Aviva’s relationship. A small role with devastating consequences. Because Bruce doesn’t actually know a lot about Seung and even less about Aviva we never know if what he tells us about them and their relationship is true or imagined. This made the story feel a bit contrived for me. I never got a real impression of any of the characters in this book.

“I’ve imagined every part of her: her body, her thoughts, the conversations she has with her friends, with her brother and father and mother, the things she says to him, Seung, the books she reads and the fantasies that make her touch herself.”

Aviva and Seung remain vague because the reader knows that the narrator is sharing what he imagines may have happened without knowing whether or not he’s right. And because he never finds out if his assumptions are correct, the reader can’t be sure either. And we don’t get a much better picture of Bruce himself. While he doesn’t try to make himself look good or nice - quite the opposite actually - we can’t be sure if he really was a rather nasty young man or if it is his guilty conscience talking. The result, for me, was a rather intriguing read that left me a bit dissatisfied by the time I turned the last page.

What this book does really well, on the other hand, is illustrate the workings of a teenage mind. The extremes of emotion youngsters go through in those few years are vividly painted and all too recognisable. That sense of all or nothing, the constant fear of life passing you by, that you are missing out on some secret others have already discovered and the ease with which you can convince yourself that there is something fatally wrong with you, are the very powerful elements around which this story is constructed. The sparse but beautiful language only adds to the illusion of being lost in a teenage mind.

For me this was a beautiful and intriguing read that didn’t quite hit the spot. Too much relied on my ability to believe in the imagination of a narrator who doesn’t have a lot of the facts and isn’t all that sympathetic. Having said that, the author’s voice did strike a chord with me and I will almost certainly be on the lookout for more of her work.

The Gospel of Loki
The Gospel of Loki
by Joanne M Harris
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 13 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Gospel of Loki (Hardcover)
I received my copy from the publisher through Nudge and rated it 4.5 stars.

Loki, the trickster God; creature of chaos who played an instrumental and foretold role in Ragnarók, the end of the world and the fall of the Gods as told by ‘The Prophecy of the Oracle. But, as Loki tells us, that is the official version of history and history, being his story, can’t be trusted.

“And because this isn’t history, but mystery – my story – let’s start with me for a change.”

And that’s where we do start, with Loki, in what he calls Lokabrenna – the Gospel of Loki because:

“writing history and making history are only the breadth of a page apart.”

We are told the story of Loki and the Nordic Gods from the moment the trickster is recruited from the realm of Chaos by Odin. We watch as he is brought to Asgard, to take his place among the Gods without ever being given his own space there. From the very start he is distrusted and kept on the sidelines although that doesn’t stop any of the other Gods from using him whenever they have an issue that needs to be dealt with.

We witness Loki as resentment against those who refuse to treat him as an equal rises. He tells us about his rise in popularity as long as he can give the other Gods that which they yearn for and rejoice with him during his short spell of popularity only for it all to fall apart again. With the Oracle having prophesised that Loki will play a pivotal role in the destruction of Asgard it was always only a matter of time before the other Gods would turn on him and even Odin would go back on his word and withdraw his support and the promise of brotherhood. The fact that Loki, in this telling anyway, only finds himself fighting against the Gods he lived among because they never treated him like an equal and were only too happy to bring him down just goes to show that prophecies are by their very nature self-fulfilling.

This is a wonderful book. Loki, is a self-confessed trickster, the ultimate unreliable narrator, and warns his readers that his version of events is at least as untrustworthy as the official version. And yet, he strikes a tone that makes it hard for the reader not to sympathise with him. While he never denies the dirty tricks he played on those around him, he manages to describe those events in such words that you almost believe he didn’t have a choice. All the other Gods, as described by Loki, have bad habits and unsympathetic characteristics, while Loki comes across as charming, funny as well as opportunistic and devious. It is impossible to read this book and not walk away thinking that of all those living in Asgard, Loki would have been the most fun to hang out with.

“(...) the difference between god and demon is really on a matter of perspective.”

And Loki is both god and demon, or maybe he is neither and just fallible, or, dare I say it, human in his desires, resentments, hopes, disappointments and actions.

There is much to love and enjoy in this book. The book is filled to the brim with quotable passages. Some of these are pure wisdom:

“A man too often meets his Fate whilst running to avoid it.” Or,

“People tend to blame Chaos whenever anything goes wrong, but in fact, most of the time Chaos doesn’t need to intervene.” And,

“There’s no happy-ever-after for anyone, least of all the gods, who, if they’re lucky, get to rule the world for a while before another tribe takes over.”

And then there are those passages that are just great fun, while they also make you nod your head and think, he’s got a point there.

“But some might say that where women are concerned, all men are one-eyed, and even that eye doesn’t see much.”

On the surface this is the exciting, well written and fascinating retelling of Nordic myth. Dig a little bit deeper and you’ll find a book filled with wisdom as well as humour and food for thought. History is usually told by the victors. This story however doesn’t have a winner. When the battle has ended everything has been lost, the world has been destroyed and Loki comes to the conclusion that while he has achieved his revenge on those who’ve treated him badly, he has lost at least as much as they have.

“I’d realized that one of the things I enjoyed most was challenging Order and breaking rules – and how in the Worlds could I do that if there was no Order to challenge?”

Joanna Harris is an author whose books I’ve enjoyed on numerous occasions in the past. This book is completely different from those earlier works and yet there are similarities. Her talent for drawing the reader into her story, to have them compulsively read on almost unaware of the pages being turned, is as strong in this mythical story as it was in those books of magical realism. Although I know that Loki’s story ends with the destruction of Asgard and his return to Chaos I can’t help hoping, with the trickster himself, that there still is something more to come, one more trick up the Oracle’s sleeve.

Price: £1.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud sexiness, 12 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Misbehaving (Kindle Edition)
I guess I should start this review by owning up to the fact that Tiffany Reisz put a spell on me when I read ‘The Siren’ and has since then managed to turn what appeared to be a wonderful embrace into something resembling a stranglehold. I don’t think this author is capable of writing a book or story that will fail to impress me. By the same token I know with 100% certainty that I will never be able to resist any of her words.

‘Misbehaving’ is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Since my knowledge of and familiarity with the Bard’s work is negligible, I decided to at least read a summary of the play before starting this novella. I wouldn’t say it is necessary to be aux fait with ‘Much Ado’ in order to enjoy this story, but I do think it adds to the pleasure you derive from this book.

Both the play and the book are a comedy of errors centred around two couples. In the modern version Claudia and Henry are about to get married and appear to be a match made in heaven until an unfortunate misunderstanding almost puts an end to the nuptials.

Ben and Beatriz were attracted to each other when they met in college but circumstances and Henry prevented anything from happening between them. When Ben, on his last day in college, flat out refused Beatriz’s offer of sex he broke her heart. It is a decision he still regrets five years later and not a mistake he intends to make again.

When Beatriz finds herself having to review a book on sex positions but without a partner to do the necessary research with, she has a bit of a dilemma on her hands.

When Ben is made aware of Beatriz’s conundrum he does think about it for a moment.

“‘To do Bea...or not to do Bea...?’ Ben asked himself.”

But it doesn’t take him long to realise that it really isn’t a question.

What starts out as very entertaining fun soon turns into something more, until Henry and Claudia’s problems flow into Ben and Beatriz’s reunion and it appears that not only a wedding but also the start of something beautiful has been rudely disrupted.

‘Misbehaving’ is by far the funniest book I’ve read this year. I knew Tiffany Reisz has a wicked sense of humour from her previous books, but I don’t think I’ve laughed this much over the course of 108 pages in forever.

“Sometimes I think I’m kinky because I fantasize about slapping you. And then I realize I really just want to slap you.”

The idea behind the story is ingenious. Beatriz as a reviewer of sex toys is the ultimate character (well, maybe after Nora Sutherlin of ‘Original Sinners’ fame) to be the star of an erotic story. Teaming her with Ben, who appreciates sex in all its multiple forms as much as Beatriz results in a tale that is both shamelessly sexy and laugh out loud funny – both of which are of course trademark qualities in a story by Tiffany Reisz.

Her characters love sex and have the most glorious sexual encounters. While some of these are off the page steamy, humour is never far away here either.

And for anybody who is, like me, a hardcore ‘Sinners’ fan there is a nice reference to someone who happens to be one of my favourite characters in this book; a reference that managed to put a big smile on my face.

Before the story starts we read the following words: “With apologies to the Bard.” Like I said before, I’m anything but an expert when it comes to Shakespeare. I would like to think though that the man would tell Tiffany Reisz that she has nothing to apologise for. This is a very clever, very funny, very sexy and highly entertaining retelling of a famous play. It is a well told story that works on every level.

‘Misbehaving’ is a pure delight to read and the most fun I’ve had with a book so far this year.

by Kit Rocha
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Read, 12 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Marked (Paperback)
I received my copy from Kit Rocha and rated this book 4.5 stars.

Reviewing and rating anthologies is hard. I don’t think it is possible to find a collection of stories by different authors and enjoy them all to the same extent. This book came close though. While I wasn’t equally in love with all three novellas there is little to separate them and all of them managed to push my buttons just that way.

I suppose comparing the three stories wouldn’t be fair anyway. I have been a fan of Kit Rocha’s ‘Beyond’ series for a while now and have managed to fall head over heels for the O’Kane’s and Sector Four. Vivian Arend and Lauren Dane on the other hand, are both new to me authors although I’ve got a feeling that is a state of affairs that’s to change in the not too distant future.

I’ll give a short review as well as an individual rating for each of the three novellas below. As far as the book as a whole is concerned I’ll limit myself to saying that the stories are well written, the characters interesting and the scenes incredibly hot. All three of these novellas will leave you with an appetite for more.

Beyond Temptation by Kit Rocha (5)

Four years ago Noah Lennox promised his dying friend that he would keep his younger sister safe. And for a long time he thought he’d succeeded in doing just that. Recently Noah has discovered that rather than living away from the Sectors in safety Emma, the girl he was supposed to protect, is living in Sector Four, fully integrated in the O’Kane clan. He tells himself he only wants to make sure she’s safe, but when Noah and Emma are reunited it is impossible to deny the attraction between them. The feelings have always been there, but now that Emma is all grown up, they’ve become impossible to suppress.

Emma knows what she wants and it is Noah, it has always been Noah.
Noah knows he isn’t good enough for Emma but can’t deny the pull she has on him and is powerless against her persuasion.

“(...) giving him everything he’d never dreamt of allowing himself to want.”

When a secret Noah has been keeping for years is revealed, Emma turns away from him although it breaks her heart. But, while Noah knows that Emma no longer needs him to keep her safe, he can’t make himself stay away from her.

“There was no part of him he hadn’t yielded to her, heart and soul, past and future.”

Emma is a real O’Kane woman. She loves men but doesn’t need them. She’ll take Noah back, but only on her own terms, only in a partnership of equals.

“Laughter, love, and a lover who didn’t need to be her savior, didn’t need her helpless and at his mercy. Everything she’d ever wanted, in the one man she’d always craved.”

I may have said this before, but I guess there’s no harm in saying it again; I love the ‘Beyond’ stories. I fell in love with the post-apocalyptic setting and the O’Kane’s in ‘Beyond Shame’ and that feeling has only grown stronger with each subsequent story. There is something wonderful about a series in which strong men and women find their own balance on their own terms while living according to a high standard of honour. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with dominant, tattooed bad-boys and the women who know just how to handle them. This novella, like all its prequels was a hot erotic romance set in a dark and thrilling world where danger lurks around every corner. These stories take the reader on an exhilarating ride, always leaving us both satisfied and hungry for more.

Rocky Ride by Vivian Arend (4+)

I liked this stories in which two friends with benefits slowly come to the realisation that they want to be more to each other.

Anna Coleman is a cop who’s worked hard to arrive where she is and is very reluctant to do anything that might jeopardise her position in the department. Being seen to be dating Mitch Thompson might put her career prospects in serious danger. In fact she has one colleague who goes out of his way to tell her how inappropriate such a relationship would be.
Mitch Thompson has a bit of a reputation as a local bad boy; with his tattoos, and a penchant for bikes he exhumes danger more than ‘perfect husband material’ but Anna can’t deny that the chemistry between them is scorching.

After two months of causal but very inventive sex, Mitch is ready to take his affair with Anna to the next level but:

“Mitch Thompson had fallen hopelessly in love with the worst possible woman in town – one fighting tooth and nail against letting her real nature free.”

When Mitch convinces Anna to give a relationship a try it raises a few eye-brows but doesn’t appear to cause the problems Anna has been anticipating. And there’s no denying the two of them are good together. However when Mitch is faced with the idea that her relationship with him might cause Anna to miss out on a huge career opportunity he takes a decision that might cause him to lose everything he wants before he’s even gotten close to it.

This was a rather sweet story. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Anna’s issues as far as the risk to her career was concerned but did like the way she got her revenge. The chemistry between these two characters was scorching hot.

“I want to savour you. I want to taste every inch of you until you’re mine all over again.” – Mitch

Some exchanges between Mitch and Anna are funny;

“I’d never turn down the offer to take you for a ride.”

While there is also room for moments of wonderful tenderness:

“You can keep your fire hidden from everyone else, as long as you promise to always let it burn with me.”

In short this was a sexy and sweet story that delivers everything you might look for in an erotic romance with abundance.

All That Remains by Lauren Dane (4.5)

Centuries from now the world has gone through radical changes. A plague has killed a large proportion of humanity and those who remain live in an environment drastically altered by climate change and a society in which men vastly outnumber women.

In a small settlement called Paradise, Summer has created a satisfying life for herself. She has a job she loves, is close to the sister she wants to keep an eye on and happy with her circumstances. When she meets Charlie it is a case of lust at first sight. The only kink in what would have been a hot and carefree entanglement is Hatch; Charlie’s partner and the man who loved and left Summer.

The attraction between Hatch and Summer is as strong as it has always been, but Summer can’t bring herself to trust him or to risk being hurt by him again. If these three are going to establish a successful relationship Hatch will have to do a lot of grovelling, Summer will need to forgive and trust again and Charlie will need all his mediating skills.

“I’m not sure I’d be able to find my way back to Hatch without you.” – Summer to Charlie.

I really liked the setting in this story. I like the idea of relationships taking the form of Triads and Quarts to compensate for the surplus of men and I loved that the author took the time to illustrate that those relationships need a different form of management and compromise in order to succeed.

The interactions between the three characters were fascinating; individual traits result in sparkling interactions. Because Summer, Hatch and Charlie are different and complement each other it was easy to believe in this relationship and root for a happy ending.

I’m glad this is the first instalment in a series and look forward to reading more stories set in this place called Paradise.

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