Review: Grif’s Toy — by Joseph Lance Tonlet

grifs-toyOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I had the opportunity to review Grif’s Toy, by Joseph Lance Tonlet and jumped at the chance.  When finding a new author, it’s much like discovering a new band or actor.  You get an opportunity to discover his writing style and then watch over the books and series as it matures and develops. So getting a chance to see it at the creative birth?  Magic.

 

As always, when given an Advance Reader Copy, my review is honest and unbiased.

Basic Plot:

Grif has always had issues with the size of his “equipment” and found any type of romantic relationship impossible because of it.  However, when he runs into a man named Wes, his life is changed forever.  The question is, will he be able to accept the possibilities?

Background:

Before you read the review any further, I need to you to realize that this book deals with BDSM in a realistic and detailed manner.  So if you are off put by that type of discussion or read, then this book and review is not for you.  I would consider what happens in this book to be Edge Play, so not something 50 Shades housewife level kink.  Ok, warning over, let’s get to the book.  Oh, and the quotes from this book?  They will be HOT, so no under 18 for this review!

Grif:

This book really is a follow through of Grif’s life from pre-teen to current time, so don’t get disoriented with the Memento time jumps. Without spoiling too much of the plot, let’s just say that Grif has a small penis and his embarrassment and humiliation because of that has kept him from any serious sexual relationship.  In college, he has a roommate named Tate, their relationship complicated but loving. I do not want spoil that for the reader, so let’s just say that it is the beginning for Grif to understand his need for kink.

Grif is, well us.  Let’s face it, there is something about ourselves that we don’t like about our own body.  In Grif’s case, he hates the fact that he has a small penis, but he is turned on by a lover who makes fun of his small package in a sexual situation.  This is called humiliation play and is considered a more advanced type of play.  For obvious reasons, someone could get seriously psychologically scarred because of this type of play.

But for Grif, this type of sexual interaction is a need that he requires fulfillment: a type of masochist, someone physical, but more psychological.  We see how Wes controls his orgasms and has various painful punishments.  You or I might not understand it or agree to the type of relationship that they have, but it works for them:

 And there it was, the key combination.  Sure, I enjoyed the submission, the pain, and the denigration.  But it was the combination — the indubitable knowledge — that he enjoyed my submission, inflicting the pain, and delivering the denigration, as much as I enjoyed receiving it.  That’s where the complete bliss lay.

We see where Grif has accepted who he is and what he needs from a partner.

Wes:

We only see Wes through Grif’s masochistic eyes:

“And speaking of aching, I often find it impossibly difficult to believe I’ve been lucky enough to find all of that in someone who not only understands my desire — my need — to inflict both physical and emotional pain, but someone who appreciates it.  Someone who burns with equal desire and gratitude in receiving it, in a way I never believed possible.”

Being a true sadist, which Wes is, is hard to describe and makes someone who is not in the scene understand he is not evil.  After all, how could you “torture” someone who you love?  I follow a podcast called Intellectual Kink (great podcast) and the Mistress there discussed how she had to accept that she was still a good person being a sadist.  Just because you enjoy being a sadist does not mean that you are evil or a mean person.  What it means is that you need to find that masochist who NEEDS the pain and humiliation just as much as Wes needs to give it.

And as we see Wes through Grif’s eyes, we can tell that this is a loving and caring relationship; in fact, Wes is giving something to Grif that no one else has been able to do.

BDSM:

Let’s talk about BDSM for a minute.  There is something called NMKBIO: “Not My Kink, but it’s OK” in the scene.  For example, someone might like to be just paddled in the bedroom, but if you tried to swat them in public it would not be acceptable.  For others, they have a more Master/save relationship and it is 24/7.  It all depends on the relationship.  And certainly, it is always (or SHOULD BE) consensual.  So, it might not be your thing, but it is certainly theirs.

I have written many BDSM reviews that discuss the types of psychological need that some individuals have.  No, not everyone in the scene has been sexual abused, most folks are just fine.  Here are just a few recent reviews:  Training Season, Screwing the System, and Leather + Lace that I also thought got the scenes correct.

In my opinion, I think that Joseph Lance Tonlet got the kink right.  He demonstrated how kink is a life journey.  We first need to find what arouses us and then we have to find safe partners to fulfill our needs.  Sometimes we make mistakes in the beginning and sometimes we get lucky.  In Grif’s case? He got some loving friends and lovers:

His voice was low and husky when he asked, “Chocolate?”

Surprised by the question, particularly in this setting, I paused briefly before swallowing and replying to our coded question with, “Yes, Wes.  Chocolate.”

I couldn’t help but notice the glint in his eye at my response, before he picked the menu back up and studied it.

Remember:  “Safe, Sane, and Consensual.”  This author got it right.

Theme Summary:

We are all searching to find a mate/mates in our lives that complete us. Hokey, maybe?  But not untrue.  For Grif and Wes, they have been waiting for find someone who got their needs, both in the “vanilla” as well the “chocolate” settings.  So, the theme here is that we can find someone who fulfills us, but we also must accept ourselves:

It had taken me a while to say it — hell, to even admit it to myself — as I had given up on the idea of finding someone to love and share my life with, let alone another person who understood me so completely.  But here I was, in love with a handsome, sexy, incredibly compassionate man whose strongest desire was to make me happy and build a life together.

This quote is everything about the book and the development of this relationship.

Strong Points:

The writing in this book was compelling.  I started this book  late one night and stayed up until 2 am to finish it; it was that addictive.  The sex scenes were so descriptive (and hot) that I felt like I was there.  Not a book to read while sitting with your family surrounding you!

But more than that, this was a well thought out book.  The pacing was good and Tonlet gave us the time to develop Grif’s character as we discover what his problems are and learn to care about him.  The accuracy of how the author wrote about kink and played the scenes demonstrates either someone who is in the scene or can do very good research.  I love an author who can give me the sexy kink, but at the same time give me the relationship development and the psychological connections.

What could be better?

This book is set in First Person, with all our focus on Grif’s point of view.  This is fine, but part of me wished I could have gotten into Tate’s and Wes’s head.  The author did a good job of getting their personalities across,  but I would have loved their perspectives.

Conclusions:

Overall, I loved this book, which can be seen by the 5-Stars I gave Grif’s Toy. The only caveat I would give a potential reader is that it is not your typical romance and the BDSM aspects might not be for everyone.  If you are not comfortable with BDSM, then I think you might be overwhelmed with some of the scenes in this book.  It’s not by any fault of the author, simply because of the subject matter.

I look forward to seeing the author’s voice develop as he tightens his craft.  I will be “first in line” when the next book comes out!  I have put Joseph Lance Tonlet on my must reader author list!

Bea

Review: Rebel Yells– by Rain Carrington

cover finalOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

 I recently reviewed another book of Rain Carrington, called Honky Tonk.  While I overall enjoyed the book, my main concern was the rushed ending.  So, when I got the opportunity to try  Rebel Yells, I jumped at the chance to see if this one had a better ending and pacing.

Basic Plot:

Jack Colton is the local Sheriff who currently recovers from the loss of his long-time romantic partner, Martin.  They were deeply in love and it has been hard for Jack to get back into dating. He’s lonely, but Jack is not sure if he will be ever ready to try love again.

Enter Rebel Marino, a hot young stud who rides into down on a Harley with lots of attitude.  Funny thing is, the  town doesn’t seem to like him any more than Rebels likes it.  However, there is instant chemistry between Rebel and Jack.  Can Rebel give Jack the spark to start living again?  Can Jack be the something stable that Rebel has been yearning for?

Background:

This book deals with a lot of BDSM, Master/slave type.  BDSM is one of those things where an author can make it “light, sexy time” or to a more lifestyle Master/slave intensity.  Rain is used to writing BDSM, so I was ready to read something that was fairly accurate in depiction of the lifestyle.

Jack Colton:

Jack is a Dominant.  We learn as the story goes along about his relationship with Martin.  I do not want to give away their back story, as it is developed organically as the book proceeds.

Jack chuckled and got out of the car slowly walking along the narrow shoulder.  As he approached the rider got off of the bike by swinging his leg over and then sat sideways on the seat.  He turned his head and Jack stopped in his tracks.  He was fucking beautiful.  The cocky smile alone made feelings awaken in Jack that he had thought he buried with Martin.  He pushed them away.  Those feelings belonged to Martin and only Martin.

What we find out is that not only has Rebel awaken his physical desire, he has also awaken his desire to become a Master.  What we find in Jack is someone who is not a perfect Dominant, he makes mistakes.  What I like about how Rain creates this character is that he is not some sort of magical Dom who does everything perfectly every time.  He has knowledge and skills, true, but he is also a human who can make some wrong assumptions and decisions.

Rebel Marino:

Rebel is a young, brash, and complicated person.  On the surface he seems to be indifferent to life and settling down.  However, what we find out is that he really has been searching for something, someone who could take care of the restlessness within.  What Rebel finds out is that by accepting Jack as his Dom,  the fears and anxiety within is lessened.

Dark like his past, like the things haunting him and the things he was bringing to Jack now.  It wasn’t fair to Jack.  All the man had done was treat him with loving kindness.  He didn’t deserve the fear Rebel had inflicted on him finding his unconscious body.  He deserved the world and as his tears continued to fall he resolved to give Jack everything he could, do anything to make him as happy as he possibly could.

The question becomes, can Rebel handle all of the emotions and questions that come to him as he begins his journey as a slave.

Theme Summary:

A theme can simply be “sometimes it takes finding another person to realize that something is missing within”.  And that’s what we see here.  Both men struggle with their own emotions.  Jack is lonely but still missing his deceased lover, Martin.  Rebel has been running away from his past and any possibility of stability.  As their Master/slave dynamic evolves, then so does their relationship.  Their relationship gives them an opportunity to full explore their own hidden needs.  The conflict develops more out of them understanding their roles and outside influence rather than a “will they fall in love”.

Strong Points:

One of the strong points of this book are the sex scenes.  Rain Carrington knows how to write a sex scene, certainly one of the hottest I have ever read.  She manages to give us sex scenes that advance the romance / relationship development as well as provide extremely hot descriptions.

I enjoyed this book better than the last Carrington book.  While I felt that Carrington understood what BDSM was in the last one, in this one she reaches deeper into the Master/slave dynamic.  Master/slave story lines can often be off-putting to some readers.  After all, it is more than just “Kinky in the bedroom”, so some folks might not feel comfortable reading about how Rebel willingly gives up control of his life.  I know some people who have similar relationships as described here, so Rain’s writing is in the ball park.

What could be better?

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  However, there was a part that I felt was not realistic either in “real-life” or in the BDSM world.  Jack and Rebel “fall in love” fairly quickly in the book.  Which is not a problem normally in a romance book.  However, because this is a BDSM novel,  “instant trust” can be dangerous.

Which is my problem #1.  Rebel allows Jack a lot of fairly heavy BDSM activities which requires a lot of trust.  I find it hard to believe that he would do this based on what we know about his history.  In my opinion, even a person who is naturally submissive would struggle more with the role of a slave.

Problem #2:  There is no contract.  They agree to a trial of 30 days and they do not discuss a contract until near the end of the 30 days.  I find it very hard to believe that a competent Dom would actually disregard the need to discuss the contract at this late date, especially because we are talking about a Master/slave rather than just a Top/bottom or Dominant/submissive relationship with someone who is new to the scene.

Did it hamper my enjoyment of the book?  No.  It just kinda irked me.

Conclusions:

I enjoyed this book, in fact, I was close to giving this a 4-star rating.  But again the rushed ending (the entire Lonnie thing was odd to me) made me round down.  Although I did enjoy this book more than Honky Tonk, it suffered from the same problems.

Yet, I have put Rain Carrington on my must read list of BDSM authors.  She provides an entertaining story as well as some exciting sexual dynamics.  I have a feeling that as she continues to develop her craft, my rating scores will increase.  I look forward to reading more by this author.

Bea

Review: Honky Tonk– by Rain Carrington

Honky_TonkOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is the first book of Rain Carrington that I have read, and I always enjoy the chance to find a new author.  With this discovery, I now get to read all of the other books!

Basic Plot:

Ethan Kerr is on the run, from his past, as he hitch-hikes across the country to San Francisco to start a new life.  Ethan is more of a lover than a fighter, moving from one night stand to another.  He doesn’t believe in love or commitment.  He finds himself in New Mexico and somehow gets a job at a bar called Honky Tonk.  The owner, Hunter Westmore is silent, but intense, something that Ethan would love to conquer.  But for some reason, Hunter eludes him.  Can Ethan finally get his man, or will Hunter just keep their relationship “all business”?

Ethan Kerr:

When I started reading this book, I found Ethan annoying.  The author spends the first 25% of the book letting get to know how “happy-go-lucky” he is when it comes to relationships and that is a self identified “slut”.  What we learn as the book progresses is that there are reasons for his actions and Ethan has deeply held pain within that he hides with his “twinky” personality.

Frankly he didn’t see the difference as far as fidelity was concerned but who was he to judge?  He’d had married, single, straight, and gay alike in his few years of being sexually active.  One cock was a good as another as long as the bearer of it was decent to look at, had a fair bit of meat between his legs and knew how to use it.

So, Ethan is a bit of a kid.  I like to think of him as in the “young and stupid” phase of life.  I found his character obnoxious in the beginning, but really his character is the one that grows the most throughout the storyline.

Hunter Westmore:

Hunter is the “Hot Dark Male Dominant” that you see in most BDSM based romances.  He is a successful businessman (he owns a ranch and the bar), who keeps his sexuality apart from his daily life.  He has had no real relationships, mostly just using slaves from his club on occasion when he is out-of-town for work and pleasure.  What we find in Hunter is similar in Ethan, he has never felt the need for monogamy in his life.

“He’s not regular people and I don’t care about gay or not, it’s your own business but what he is has no label.”

I found Hunter’s characterization lacking, in fact he does something around 75% of the book that I found difficult to forgive.  I will talk about that later in this review.

Theme Summary:

For me, theme identification is the key to how I score a book.  If I can not find a book that has a clear theme that drives the plot, then I tend to not like the book as much.   In Honky Tonk, I found the theme easily:

There were tiny yellow wildflowers in small patches right next to small cactus plants.  It was a contradiction to see them so close, a fine delicate thing living with something so rough and dangerous.  He wondered if that is how Hunter saw the two of them.  Some pretty boy next to his tough and  hard self.  Then he looked a little closer.  One of the cactus plants had a beautiful maroon colored flower on it and the tiny yellow flowers had small but painful looking thorns.  Maybe the two plants looked different but they were more alike than one could see at first glance.

This is actually some of the best writing in the novel.  The problem with this type of theme however, is that it is about a couple as a relationship.  Most of the plot then should revolve around internal conflict, rather than external.  However,  Honky Tonk also includes a plot-line for cattle mischief.

Strong Points:

I have to say, that this novel has some of the most intense sex scenes that I read in a while.  The added M/s dynamics enhances the scenes, giving us more than just a quick shag in the alleyway.

I also found the depiction of the BDSM lifestyle and Master/slave relationship dynamics accurate.  There is a scene where Ethan and Hunter sit down and write out their contract, which is accurate and clearly done.

What could be better?

As you can tell, this book has a large BDSM and Master/slave component.  However, in my mind, this novel is more of BDSM erotica, rather than a gay romance.  While there is a side plot, it distracted me from the relationship.  I think that the author should have either beefed up the cattle plot or focused more on the emotional relationship of Ethan and Hunter.  Instead, we got a lot of sex scenes that tied together the cattle plot with the “mystery” solved in the last 10 % of the novel.

In the BDSM lifestyle, while a Master/slave can be a committed relationship like a vanilla might call Husband/wife, the relationship might never be a “true love” relationship.  Honky Tonk provides the reader the latter relationship type.  So, for someone who wants a “HEA” “true love” story, this is not for them.  I found Ethan and Hunter’s relationship (despite the “I love you’s”) lacking emotional depth.  What I would have preferred was not just hot kinky sex, but more depth on the power exchange aspect of the relationship.  We could have seen some intensely emotional scenes where we see Ethan deal with his past and see how Hunter find Ethan to fulfill something that he has found lacking in his life before.

In fact, at about 75% Hunter did something that I found so out of place with the character we had seen up until that point that I was tempted to throw the book down.  It being my iPad, I walked away instead.

After some time, I grudgingly accepted the fact that he acted along the contract they both signed, so technically he did not “cheat”.  I just found the “conflict” the author put in the couple’s path either an excuse for “hot naughty sex” or Carrington wanted to reinforce the Master/slave dynamics for the reader.

However, what really drove the stars down for me was the confusing “suspense” aspect that came to a strange halt at the end (I am still not sure how Hunter “fixed” it at the end) and the editorial and typographical errors I found throughout the novel.  The errors were not enough to ruin my enjoyment, but it did distract me.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book.  It provided me a look into how the Master/slave dynamic can work and it did it in a realistic manner.  The sex scenes were very hot, especially if you like any type of BDSM actions.  However, if you are looking for a soft, character driven gay romance, then perhaps look for another novel.

There is a second novel in this series, Honky Tonk: Coastal Cowboysso perhaps some of the relationship issues will be explained then.  If you like BDSM gay erotica, then I think this book is for you.

Bea

Review: Training Season — by Leta Blake

Training_Season Other Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is the first book of Leta Blake that I have read, with no preconceived notions of her writing style.  This was a great opportunity to read Training Season with fresh eyes.

One note, this review will have some explicit quotes because I need to make a point. So if offended by sex (then you really would not be reading my blog), then this review might shock you.

Basic Plot:

Matty Marcus is an ice skater who is recovering from a sport injury and needs to begin preparing for the next Olympics.  Depressed about his failure and worried about money issues, he is given an opportunity to train and gain money in the wilderness of Montana.  Once there, he begins a relationship with a local rancher, Rob Lovely.  While their chemistry is instant, is it enough to last through Matty’s determination to win the gold?

Matty Marcus:

Matty’s introduction easily demonstrates his unstoppable drive to win at competitive ice skating.  This intense focus and drive has led him to the level that he has competed, yet he has always never quite made it.  This drive to succeed and make a name for himself colors his entire vision.

The question for Matty then through this book is something simple:  Is Matty happy?  What will make him happy?

Matty is our stereotypical flamboyant gay male, early on we see how his appearance is his expression of who he is and it is not something that he wants to sacrifice to “fit in” and be “straight”.  He is blessed with having a supportive family, including his father.  This is not a book where we have to deal with family strife.

However, one of the conflicts within this book is Matty’s internal struggles, both in relationships as well as his career.  Matty is afraid to put himself emotionally out there and has not dealt well with his professional disappointments.  Matty describes himself accurately here:

Matty found that Rob was a good listener.  He asked all the right questions to keep the conversation moving ever deeper.  Because of that, Matty soon found himself standing at an emotional precipice.  He was good at talking, good at expressing important concepts and emotions, but he wasn’t good at cutting through that final bit of protection band laying himself bare.  He kept a little armor up with most people nearly all of the time.

So, we can see that Matty’s flamboyant is a cover.  Much like when he is on the ice, Matty gives a performance to everyone in his life.  He allows no one to see his true self.

This is a quote later on in the novel as Rob describes Matty:

“But that’s not what I meant.”  Rob’s cheeks flushed a little.  “Like it says, bone to bone, down to your marrow, you’re beautifully made, like the swan.  And like the bring of pearls, you’re precious, shinning, and incredibly strong.”

This is where Rob comes in, as well as the BDSM.  Rob actually gets Matt and he understands what he needs.  I will not go into too much details here, because to me this is the majority of the novel.  But believe me that once Matt submits and gives Rob control with his submission, we see how Matt blossoms and gains control over his self-esteem and future.

Rob Lovely:

We are only given Matty’s perspective in this novel, so any characterization of Rob is through Matty’s eyes.  He is a divorced rancher with a son (Ben), who he raises on his father’s ranch.  There is a lot of back story that we learn about Rob, that I do not want to get into here.  The basics are fairly simple:  his entire life has unfolded without his control, so in his personal life now he administers it with complete control.  Yet despite this, he is still not happy or fulfilled.

With the entrance of Matty, Rob is drawn to this beauty (both inner and outer).  Rob sees the need for submission in Matty and this makes them a good pair.  The problem is that Matty focuses on his ice skating career and this leaves little room for a Montana rancher and his son.

Rob turned away and washed his hands again.  He smiled at Matty, “Sorry, I don’t mean to sound bitter, and I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.  Something came up today that reminded me of some bad times with my father.  I try, but I guess I haven’t really let it go.  I’m loyal that way I guess.”

This is Rob’s theme, “Loyalty”.  He is loyal to his family, but that responsibility to his family has kept him from doing what he really wants in life.  This responsibility also keeps him from moving forward with Matty.

Theme Summary:

I found the theme fairly late in the novel, although as we can read in the characterizations of Rob and Matt, Blake does an effective job of working us through to the theme:

“Perfection lies in the imperfection,” Anja said, lifting her glass in a toast.  “To Matty.  May he always feel our friendship and support whoever he goes,a n may success always find him.”

Again, I do not want to go too deeply into the theme, to keep the spoils at a minimum.  But, what happens when your focus is on the perfection and you never can quite make that goal?  Can any human mange to have this perfection in their personal and professional live?  Will you have to compromise yourself and are you willing to do that?

Strong Points:

This is an intense book, dealing with serious issues and with more dramatic BDSM scenes than some other romance books that I have read.  So with this intensity, comes the need for humor.  Early on we have a scene between Matty and his mother discussing this move to Montana:

“You realize she just wants me to be her pet, don’t you?  This could all be some sick tactic to get me alone in the wilderness with her.  It could end up like that Stephen King novel.  She’s going to kidnap me and make me into her own private skater!  She’ll force me to perform for her pleasure!  If I don’t she’ll cut off my foot.”

And heck, any book that can refer to Stephen King so elegantly is a win in my book.

The other strong point to me is her understanding of BDSM dynamics.  Kinky sex play can range from the light and fluffy scenes in the bedroom to the hard-core masochistic scenes in a dungeon.  It seems that lately (think the Fifty Shades debacle) every author just throws in a BDSM scene and thinks they are “current” in the trends.

But a great writer who understands BDSM will incorporate aspects into the entire book, including both characters.  In Training Season, Blake incorporates aspects of BDSM relationships into the theme of the novel and the characters’ developments.  This makes the BDSM systemic, rather than a fluffy outer layer.

Training Season deals with some Edge play, which I loved!  Blake managed to describe the idea of Power Exchange and I got that these two men were emotionally involved with their sex.  The sex is not just for titillation, but moves the relationship and character development:

Matty’s cock ached, throbbing with every touch of Rob’s hand.  His hips jerked in rhythm with the strokes, desperate to reach climax.  He vision swam and his throat stung the fruitless search for air.  When Rob released his nose, Matty sucked in air so loudly that it was all he could hear, huffing through his nostrils like a race horse.

“Good boy.”  Then the air was gone again.

Matty flung his head back on Rob’s shoulder, his entire body shaking and his heart pounding so hard that it resounded in his fingertips and toes.  Rob’s whispers came through to him, words of encouragement and affection.  “So good…so fucking beautiful and sweet…come on.  Good boy, let go, there…like that.  Let go.”

And this is what Matt needs, the ability to let go and know that he is ok.  That being Matty is acceptable.  His entire life has focused on what these judges think about him and they have determined his self-worth.  This scene demonstrates that Matty has found a support in Rob, something that he has never really felt despite the support of friends and family.

What could be better?

This is the hard section of the review.  Usually when I give a five-star review, there is very little that I would change.  I would say that getting Rob’s perspective would have given me a better view of Matt and to “get into Rob’s head”.  It is not a deal killer, just something that I would have enjoyed.

Conclusions:

When I read a book, I want to feel the impact.  Just reading a fluffy book might be fun, don’t get me wrong.  But most of the time I want books of substance.  Training Season By Leta Blake is a quality book that deals with complex issues and has a sophisticated theme.  I admit that I was angry at first at the ending, not because it was not happy, but it was not a Disney ending.  Yet, the ending was realistic and heart-felt.  We get our HEA, but we get something so much better than that:  a metamorphosis of two men who go from letting others determine their own happiness and success to unfettered men reaching for their own happiness.

Bea

Review: Screwing the System — by Josephine Myles

ScrewingTheSystemOther Reviewers: Goodreads

One thing that I love in reading a book is that it expands your knowledge, either by learning new cultures, societies, science, or history.  With Josephine Myles, I always get a peek into the UK that as an American, I have only seen through entertainment.

I usually love anything that Myles writes. Part of it is the English tone, but I also I love the humor that she brings to the story, and the diverse characters. I also love her courage in writing about topics that others might shy away.

If you are familiar with my blog, you know how I love to read about the BDSM lifestyle.  We can see so much diversity, and what I love the most about it is the ability for someone to feel comfortable being “themselves”, rather than repressing a part of themselves.  So, when I read that this book was going to contain all of the typical Myles style and BDSM, it intrigued  me.

Basic Plot: 

Cosmo Rawlins is a musician, who tries to get by with temp jobs while he and his band plays and make it big. So enter his interview with businessman Alasdair Grant. Cosmo is instantly attracted and drawn to Alasdair. One thing leads to another and he finds himself entering a BDSM relationship with him. Can their diverse backgrounds and hidden secrets keep them apart?

Cosmo Rawlins:

We begin the novel by seeing how Cosmo was trying to keep his unemployment going by getting job interviews, but never making it.  He normally does a good job of sinking himself, but he is aroused by Alasdair immediately:

Mr. Grant, on the other hand… There was a tree he wouldn’t mind barking up.  Or climbing up, more like.  He was huge and had to be old enough to be his dad, which wasn’t actually all that old, seeing as how his dad was only fifteen when he got his fourteen-year-old excuse for a mother up the duff.

So, Cosmo is a bit of a bad-boy, and a up and coming rock band musician.  But his humorous, bad-boy attitude covers his submissive sexual nature and his less than stellar past.

Alasdair Grant:

Alasdair is someone who has a mysterious past, one that unfolds as so the story.  We learn that his past affects his current mindset about BDSM and relationships, which provides some of our conflicts.  At first we find him arrogant and assholian, but it adds to his charm.  His relationship with Cosmo gives him both a new up-lifted attitude, but also fills that void he has been missing for years.

“Sure thing, Dad,” Cosmo drawled, while flipping him an oh-so-insolent salute.

“Cheeky brat.”

“Yeah, you love it, though, don’t you?”

Cosmo said, before fitting his helmet over his head.

Alasdair grinned through the tinted visor and swung onto the bike.  As he revved the engine, he felt Cosmo’s weight settle behind him, an erection pressing into the small of his back as those strong arms tentatively crept around his waist.  Yep, the lad acted cocky and confident, but he wasn’t nearly as sure of himself as he made out.  Stripping away all of that attitude was going to be fun.

Theme Summary:

Both men go through significant character development throughout the novel.  Myles does a masterful job of placing both men in “weak” positions, yet it only manages to illustrate their human aspects rather than portraying either as emotional frail.

What we discover through their exploration is that you can be submissive and not be weak, and that if you do not let go of your past, it will only destroy any of your future happiness.

“Screw the system,” to me is about how just because something is established does not mean that it is the only way.  Both Alasdair and Cosmo have to learn how to adapt to make this relationship work.

Strong Points:

What I liked the most was how Cosmo deals with his BDSM. Their first meeting demonstrates by accident how “Boss-man” play turned them on, and their relationship intensified as the book unfolds. I loved how Cosmo learns to depend on the lifestyle to deal with his emotional problems. We get to see how positive and often needed for individuals and couples.  I would not say that this book was “hard-core” BDSM, but it was a bit more intense than her The Hot Floor. I labeled this as “daddy-kink”, although Alasdair is not explicitly called “daddy” but rather “boss-man” or “boss”.  What I liked about this novel and BDSM was a more serious “slave” type relationship rather than just a sexy bedroom kink.

“I want  an apology, right now,” he growled, all gruff and sexy as hell.  “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I,uh… I’m sor–”

“Say it like you mean it.”  Alasdair dropped his wrists.

Cosmo blinked up at him, and then it struck him.  Boss-man found it a turn-on, dominating him like this.  Despite all Cosmo’s talk about “extracurricular activities”, he’d never actually done anything like this before, but he’d seen some kinky porn, so he had an idea of what Alasdair might enjoy.  Cosmo stood, then dropped to his knees in front of him, bowing his head.

“I’m very sorry, Mr. Grant.”

Their dialogue is sexy as hell and I really enjoyed their dynamics. But I really liked was how the relationship matured and both individuals grow and realize that they need each other.

I also loved how Myles gives us the musical mindset of Cosmo.  She so effectively portrayed his musical mind that I could immediately fall right into his personality.

Cosmo found himself tapping his foot and drumming his fingers along with his words.  Gave him ideas for inserting a rap in the middle of the new song.  Some UK Garage or Grime stylings, maybe.  Would that work?  The rest of the band would hate it.  Rizzo especially, which made it doubly appealing.

“Mr. Rawlins.  Am I boring you?”

That made him snap his head up.  “What?”

“You looked like you were lost in music.”

What could be better?

There is very little that I would change to improve it.  There was just the perfect amount of angst and the BDSM aspect was unique.

Conclusions:

If you have read other books by Josephine Myles, then you will love this one. If you are interested in BDSM books, then you should like this one, not too light and not too dark.  I loved how the story unfolds and it was both heart warming and incredibly steamy.

Bea

Review: Leather+Lace — by A.B. Gayle

LeatherLaceOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This week’s reading is a second time read for me and the book came out on March 22nd.  There is a lot of meaning behind the characters’ actions and depth in the pain; it took me a couple of readings to get this post right.  This is the second book by  A.B. Gayle that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have a passion in reading books with BDSM and characters in pain, either physical or psychological.  In both subjects, there are some stories that gloss over the past or glorify the sex and kink with over the top and unrealistic acts.  But A.B. Gayle seemed to to just draw the story gracefully and naturally.

As an added bonus, I want to say that the cover was brilliant and perfectly represented the story and characters.

Basic Plot:

Steven comes back home to Australia after fleeing from a previous boyfriend and the BDSM lifestyle.  Now that he is home, he tests the waters by returning to places from his past.  But he meets a Dom, Don whose charm Steven finds tempting.  Can he let the past go enough to find love and acceptance for his future?

Steven Stanhope:

The story is told in Steven’s perspective, so it is important that we believe his voice.  How he describes people, the past, and places is the only thing we get.  Luckily we also get his sense of humor, which at times had me laughing while I cried.  There was other moments when I cried because of Steven: his pain is heart wrenching.  There is a lot going on with Steve’s past, but to fully discuss it would spoil a great deal of the storyline.  But a peek at Steve’s perspective:

As soon as Don mentioned selling the house, I was in two minds whether to tell him about what lay behind that door.  In the end I decided not to.  Some things are better left hidden.

This is the metaphor for this entire book: some things are better left hidden.  Or are they?

Donato Rossi:

Don is hard to talk about because we only see this book from Steve’s perspective.  But what we see in Don is a strong Dom who knows his stuff about BDSM.  At the same time, even Don can doubt himself.  We find him to be a caring man who only wants the best for his friends, his slaves, and lovers.  Gayle did an excellent job of making him seem realistic as a Dom, but not making him sounds like an asshole.  So often we see Doms as some sort of “domly dom” who only yells and acts mean.  But we get to see Don’s vulnerability when he discusses his past slave.  It was beautiful when we see him talk to Steve about him:

This must be Master D.  A walking, talking cliché if there ever was one.  He looked like he’d stepped off a Tom of Finland calendar:  droopy moustache, leather jacket emphasizing his broad shoulders, with more soft leather stretched tight across his hips.  Every muscle was on display–plus the fact he dressed left.  My gaze tracked lower.  I was right-you could see your reflection in his boots.

What I enjoyed about this description is that Gayle gives us a first look that he is stereotypical, but we see he is so much more.

Theme Summary:

I think that this book is about accepting yourself.  We see in Steve someone who has repressed his desires for kink because of his past relationship.  He has listened to everyone else: therapists, his family, and his former Master and ignores what is in his heart.  Don tells Steve:

“I like you the way you are.  Raw.  Natural.  Perfect.”

And then:

“Remember, being kinky is not a sin.  Forget what your therapist said.  Unless they’ve had firsthand experience, they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.  Don’t ever be ashamed of what we do.”

Never being ashamed of who you are.  Strong words.

Strong Points:

A powerful point of this book was the description of the BDSM activities.  While the Master/slave relationship is not exactly displayed directly in this book, the roles, kink, psychological factors, and sensuality of it is.  We see how it can be good, but we also see how it can go horribly wrong.  What I liked about this story is that the author did not gloss over the dangers of the lifestyle.  She took what was a realistic worse-case scenario with Steve’s past boyfriend and made the reader feel Steve’s pain.  But she also gave us how it could be done correctly as well, so that the reader is not left thinking that BDSM lifestylers are all just wackos and abusers.  It is a difficult thing, to vilify a character without vilifying the scene, but I felt Gayle did it brilliantly.

I also loved the humor of the writing.  As Don always said of Steve, he uses his “shiny armor”, which is his humor and flippy lip.  His scenes with Gabriel were hilarious and I loved how his “Stevie Tricks” character is so effusive.

What could be better?

When I give a book a five-star rating, I find it difficult to find something wrong with it.  And this book is no different for me.  If I had anything to want, it would be have heard Don’s voice.  But after wanting that, I realized that it would have hurt the tension and the pacing of the story.

Conclusions:

I have a feeling that this is a book I will read numerous times.  Remember when we read paperbacks (hahahah) and the spine became broken and lined?  The book would automatically open to your favorite parts.  That’s what this book has quickly become to me.  I can just smile and think about the scene in the kitchen, in the garage, or in the meditation room.

This is her best writing.  I look forward to reading more of this series and from A.B. Gayle.

Bea

Review: Dirty Laundry — Heidi Cullinan

dirty-laundryOther Reviewers: Goodreads

* For this post, some of the quotes are explicit and sexual in nature.  

I read a lot of romances that contain BDSM.  I suppose one reason is that a relationship that contains BDSM is one that includes everything that a vanilla one does — plus a lot more complexity and nuances.  For example, some relationships might live without trust, but a BDSM one cannot.  I love reading about the dynamics within the lifestyle, how individuals who find their life, physically and psychologically better because of it.

Which brings me to Dirty Laundry, by Heidi Cullinan.  The novel focuses on the issues of Depression, Anxiety, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and how that affects one’s life, friends, family, career, and sexual relationships.  I have no idea whether there are any significant benefits between BDSM lifestylers and these disorders, I certainly am not a doctor or psychologist.  Yet, by how this author lays out the two main characters I must conclude that it works for them.

So I look to others within the community to gain some perspective, even if they do not consider themselves experts.  Insidious Muse from The Love Bite wrote an insightful blog post about the “Psychology of BDSM“, proposing that individuals who are in the BDSM lifestyle are actually more self-aware than those without.  If you are curious about the lifestyle, I completely recommend this podcast.  It provides insight into both their relationship (Insidious Muse and Novice Nancy) as well as the BDSM world in an informative, honest, and funny manner.

But I digress.. How did I like the book?

Basic Plot:

Adam (nerdy dude) is saved by a hunky cowboy named Denver when accosted in the laundromat by some drunk frat boys.  Hot sex ensues and a relationship develops, but both men bring a lot of “dirty laundry” to the table.  Can they overcome their own problems and accept that the other is just the right support they need?

Adam Ellery:

Adam is a graduate student finishing up his doctorate in Entomology.  We learn slowly how from his childhood on, his life is controlled by his OCD.  So much so that, he is distant to his parents who really do not understand him, has only had one serious relationship (Brad) that ended poorly, and the world of academia is the only thing that makes sense to him and helps to keep his disorders bearable.

That was the crux of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  It refused to allow the sufferer to deal with the fact that the world was crowded with uncertainty.  No decision could ever be the right one because there was no such thing.

While not everyone has OCD, I think Adam is a character that we can all relate.  We all have times of anxiety, but unlike many of us, Adam’s problems are not something easily shaken off.  We all know someone who doesn’t want to touch anything without cleaning it first.  Did you lock the door?  What if someone laughs at me and how I dress?  What if I fail?  These can all start with sound fears and questions, but unfortunately the sufferer does not have the ability to on their own refute the voice of doubt.  For someone with anxiety, these questions are constantly running through their mind, causing self-doubt that can lead to depression.

As a delectable cherry on the top of his neurotic sundae, in addition to depression and anxiety, Adam suffered from a rather sophisticated case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Oh, everyone could make jokes about hand washing and cleaning things and alphabetizing the cupboard, but in Adam’s experience, very little was laughable.  Inside the tortured confines of his mind, everything had to be Just So or the world would not continue to turn properly on its axis.  He found comfort int he knowledge he didn’t have something truly crippling, like the poor boy who couldn’t reply in conversation until he’d repeated the words spoken to him by someone else backward in his head.

There was one very large OCD handicap, however, that got in his way  more than any other:  Adam didn’t know how to navigate the anxiety morass that was people and their respective spaces.

Adam has issues with going to a person’s home and for other individual’s into his own.  This “tic” was one problem of why Brad and he could not work, and ultimately why Adam decided to move out and try to live on his own.  His brain tries to make order of the disorder and anxiety, by combating it so that people have to stay in “their boxes”: their houses are “theirs” and his is “his.”  If he ignores these tics it can easily lead to panic attacks that in itself can become quite dangerous.  This is one of the major areas of conflict in the story and the unfolding relationship between Adam and Denver.

But all of this talk of mental disorders should not make  you wary of reading this story.  It is not all about Adam’s issues, while his world is driven by these problems, he is more than just his disorder.  In fact, that is where we see how healthy their relationship is for him and how helpful their exploration into BDSM is.

“Look at me,” Denver ordered roughly.

Adam obeyed, trying to nod, but he couldn’t, so he blinked and fixed his eyes on Denver’s, watching as he thrust.  In, out. In, out.  Adam’s lips were strained and numb from the latex, his tongue sore from pushing hard against the bottom of the thick rod in his mouth.  He felt so fucked.  So beautifully fucked.  Like he didn’t matter at all, like he was just a mouth, just here to be the place Denver fucked in and out of.  Screw moths, screw his dissertation.  Nothing matter except that he kept his eyes up and his mouth open wide.  His OCD and most of his anxiety had checked out and gone to bed, having decided while Denver was in charge, they didn’t need to play.

Adam was so relieved and happy he wanted to cry.

And this scene is just one reason I loved this book. Sure, the scene itself is hot and sexy, but there is more meaning behind the actions than just mere titillation.  We are learning something about each character, and about their relationship together.

Denver Rogers:

Most of the problems we see on the surface surround Adam and his OCD.  I do not want to spoil the story by talking too much about Denver and his background/problems.  Needless to say, Denver’s problems are exposed within this book just as Adam’s are.

Denver, on the surface is the perfect studly man.  He is well-built, works out religiously and his job as a bouncer at a night club has had many benefits of endless supply of twinks to satisfy  his sexual urges.  But he begins to understand that he wants more in life, both in partners as well as job, but his past is holding him back.  He actually considers himself stupid, and the author does an excellent job of demonstrating that not everyone is perfect, that even if someone is perfect on the outside it does not mean that in their own mind they have no insecurities.

It is through understanding Adam and his mental problems that Denver begins to understand that his own life requires change.  He discovers that his own problems are not insurmountable,  he simply needs another perspective.

What I love about Denver’s attitude regarding Adam’s behavior is that he does not really see it as a hopeless disorder.  Denver merely thinks of a solution.

“It’s a crime, is what it is.”  Denver tapped his fingers on his leg while he thought quickly.  “Tell you what.  How about a compromise?  We go into the mountains, to the park.  I’ll drive you all over the place, wherever you want to go.  We don’t ever have to get out of the car unless you want to use the restroom or get something to eat, and I promise all those places will be in full civilization.”  There was another silence.  “Adam?”

“You’d do that for me?” he said finally, his voice soft and sweet.

“Of course I would.  Hell, Adam, I don’t care where we go.  I just want to spend the day with you.”

“I’ll be ready in ten minutes,” Adam replied, still soft and gooey and melted.

Denver glanced in his rearview mirror at his truck bed, which was technically pretty clean for trucks, but he remembered how fussed Adam had gotten over pretty much everything he encountered unless Denver was fucking him.  Which was what he had in mind for the truck bed, admittedly, but first he had to get him to lie down in it…

“Give me half an hour,” Denver said, started his engine, and headed for the wash.

One character strength is his patience and attention to detail.  Because he observes so much about Adam, he notices what makes him uncomfortable and proactively deals with it.  This is another advantage, as a Dom he is extremely observant to Adam’s actions and body language, often preventing a panic attack to even begin.

There is more to Denver than just how he supports and reacts to Adam’s issues, but I want to save them for when you read the book.  Needless to say, he has his own issues and his own complexity to make him far from perfect.

Theme Summary:

We are all fucked up.  That’s right.  Each and every one of us come into a relationship with baggage.  It might be covered in Gucci or  a paper bag, but the weight is the same.  In Dirty Laundry, Cullinan shows up that there is someone out there who can help their own load feel lighter.

“A therapist I used to have always told me that when our brains aren’t healthy, we look for unhealthy relationships.”  He laughed, a soft, sad sound, and shook his head.  “I think I knew Brad was wrong for me a long time before he broke it off.  Part of me knew he was best at being the voice I had inside my head, only on the outside, telling me I was bad in all the ways that felt familiar.  Why that’s better sometimes than people who treat us right, I don’t know.  When we’re broken, it’s like it’s scary to hear we might be fixable.  Or maybe that we don’t need to be fixed, that we can be okay as we are.  That’s actually hardest for me.  The idea that I might have to live with being OCD.”

For Adam, his BDSM relationship with Denver allows him to accept that he will always have OCD, but that it does not make him unloveable or unable to be a half of a healthy relationship.  For Denver, he learns that while he is a Dominant and a Top, it does not mean he has to always be the strong pillar for their relationship.  He too is vulnerable with Adam and Adam will be there to support him.  They work as a team, each one giving and each one taking.  Being a submissive does not mean you are weak, it means that often your strength is silent but still as strong as the one wielding the whip.

Strong Points:

The first strong point within this book is Heidi Cullinan’s writing.  I have not read many of her books, but I will certainly look up more now.  It is often difficult to understand a disorder until you can get into “the mind” of the person.  Remember all of those cop shows where they always talk about “getting into the mind of the killer”?  Yes, it sounds cheesy, but in this case, we really do need to get into the mind of Adam, so that we can experience what he experiences.  I am not sure how Heidi has knowledge of panic attacks, but having suffered from them before myself, she nailed them on the head.

“Tell that fucker to call 911, or I’ll be calling it for him,”  Denver bit off.

Another wave of panic hit, this one making Adam curl into a ball, the pain in his chest so bad, echoing the pain in his head now, and when it passed enough that he could fumble for his phone, Denver was gone.

No,” he cried, trying to dial the number again.  He tried again and again, his fingers always fumbling, the freight train in his head rushing louder and louder until he couldn’t live in the real world anymore, could only curl into a ball, into the panic, its screaming fury and promise of fatality the only security life had left to provide.

The second strong point within this book is the writing of the BDSM scenes.  They seemed realistic and intense.  I hate when I read a book that has a “50 Shades” lipstick view of BDSM that is too slick and too glossy.  The scenes within Dirty Laundry allow us to see how both characters eventually open up, show honest emotion and need without any shame for it.  Cullinan does such a good job of showing how the structure and control of submission actually could help Adam calm his anxiety, as well as fulfill the need that Denver had within himself to be dominant and in control.  The urge to submit to Denver begins to overtake the need to submit to the voice of his OCD.

She also shows how some outsiders see the bruises and marks, not as badges of courage and marks of possession, but rather as abuse.  She shows how responsible Adam and Denver are in discussing the relationship and play in a safe and consensual manner.

What could be better?

When I give a book a five-star, such as this one, it is hard to think about what could have been better.  It was certainly easy for me to pick quotes for this blog post, in fact, I might have had too many, but I found an abundant number of quotes that resonated within me.  So no, there is really nothing that I would do to make this book better.  In only a few weeks I have read it three times, and it resides in my “favorites” pile.

Conclusions:

In life, very little things are perfect.  When we want to read a book for escapism, we often search for topics that are foreign to our own lives. So reading a book where the characters are fallible and have their own issues on the surface seems counterintuitive.  After all, why would reading about two men with mental disorders cheer the reader?

Obviously I am not saying that BDSM will save anyone from OCD and cure them, certainly that is not what Cullinan is suggesting.  For example, Adam is still on medicine, he has supportive friends, a supportive partner, and he continues to go to therapy.  However, there is no doubt to me, that the dominant/submissive nature of Adam and Denver’s relationship helps Adam rather than the destructive nature of his previous relationship with Brad.

This book is really about how each individual can prevail over their own problems, and still find a healthy relationship that supports them, not tear them down.  And if these guys, with their such heavy burdens can make it work, well hell, we certainly can find happiness and love.

I adore this book, it provided just enough sex and kink to make it interesting, but it also provided quality writing and substance so that my intellect could sink her teeth in and come away with a message.  This book is more than just a kinky romance book.  I admire the author for her ability to write about a complex disorder and about a lifestyle that most would find disturbing and demonstrate how powerfully positive it can be.

Great book!

Bea