Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Charmer, by Madeline Hunter [4]

****/***** (4/5)

The Dueling Society Series
1. The Seducer (**) - Daniel
2. The Saint (*) - Vergil
3. The Charmer (****) - Adrian
4. The Sinner (SKIP) - Dante
5. The Romantic - Julian

I was charmed by Hunter's 3rd installment in this Dueling Society series entitled THE CHARMER; finally a story in this series I can get behind! Although the inspiration for this novel lies with Adrian Burchard, THE CHARMER soundly belongs to his heroine Sophia Raughley, the new Duchess of Everdon. Remarkably, provisional laws granted by British royalty allows a daughter to inherit the Dukedom of Everdon after sons. Following the death of Sophia's cruel father, Sophia now comes into Everdon's title and vast estates. Only Sophia doesn't want any of it. THE CHARMER contains by far the strongest historical backdrop in this series and I always appreciate a story which offers more than the run-of-the-mill romance. Reform over aristocracy's power in the English Parliament entangles the new Duchess as each side of the Reform movement vies for Everdon's power over its 12 elected M.P.'s in the House of Commons. Everdon also holds a vital seat in the House of Lords and although the Duchess cannot sit in the House of Lords, the one she marries can.

Like most of Hunter's novels, the book is emotionally charged. Sophia's demons and tortured history take center stage and Adrian mitigates Sophia's journey from the frightened girl constantly running away to a woman who finally assumes responsibility and gives in love. Since THE CHARMER gradually reveals Sophia's demons, at first I found myself disliking Sophia who just seemed like a spoiled brat. But I found myself doing a 180 on her by the end of the novel as I grew to empathize her after learning of the treatment she receives from her father and her struggle with her tremendous guilt (over her brother and betraying reform activist Captain Brutus). It's a tribute to Hunter's writing and plotting that compels the evolution of the reader's opinion of a character along with the character. As for Adrian, I truly treasure Hunter's heroes like Adrian Burchard because even though he isn't the notorious rake of every other romance novel, he makes a substantial impact and the story wouldn't work if he didn't push Sophia at every step. He's dark, and unlike heroes who command a room when they walk in it, Adrian's power lies in the background since he's an accomplished spy. I always enjoy Hunter's heroes who aren't born into title and wealth. The prose is excellent, the characters poignant (especially Sophia), the h/h chemistry evident and I found the plotting and pacing equal parts political, witty, engaging, comical and suspenseful. THE CHARMER is the first book in this series from which the meticulous setup from the previous two novels finally hits home. I don't have too many complaints with this novel, and it's worth a re-read actually.

The Story.

After the Duke of Everdon passes away, the Iron Duke, the Duke of Wellington, dispatches his protege Adrian Burchard to fetch Everdon's errant daughter, the new Duchess of Everdon, Sophia Raughley, from Paris. Wellington and other members of the aristocracy along with the King of England require Everdon's vast influence to defeat a hotly-contested Reform bill currently in the House of Commons. Seven years ago, 29 year-old Sophia Raughley escaped her home, country and father following very traumatic events to while away in leisure and comfort in Paris. Adrian boldly a enters a staged harem scene in Sophia's home in Paris and whisks away a foxed and scantily-clad Sophia from further debauchery. Great, Adrian thinks, he has to deal with a debauched duchess and force her to accept a responsibility she renounces. Adrian perseveres however and after some fun games of wit and clashing of wills, Sophia finds herself back at Everdon's seat in Marleigh and suddenly visited by the King of England, the Duke of Wellington and other key members of the aristocracy. Wellington's political party - the Toreys - want Sophia to direct her subordinate boroughs to vote against the reform currently in the House of Commons while a prior amorous acquaintance, the radical Captain Brutus, threatens Sophia to support the reform. Wellington also wants Sophia to marry Gerard Stidolph according to her late father's wishes.

She's torn from both sides of the reform bill, she's haunted by demons from the past, and the King and Wellington want her to marry someone whom she despises. In the midst of it all, Adrian Burchard accompanies Sophia in her journey to overcome demons from the past and present as she travels to her boroughs and meets her M.P.s in the House of Commons. The tension between Sophia and Adrian slowly builds and their chemistry resonated. Whenever Sophia wants to run away from it all as she's done previously, Adrian lends a firm yet supporting gentle hand of reassurance. Adrian is fascinated by Sophia's layers and slowly but surely, he digs deeper to learn and love each layer.

There's truly some hilarious moments in the novel like Jacques' accusation that English men don't measure up to the lovemaking of Frenchmen and Adrian's funny rescue of Sophia and her menagerie from a burning house. There's really some witty banter between Sophia and Adrian that only Madeline Hunter can deliver on. There's always a danger in this type of novel focusing on a heroine's plight that the hero disappears and blends into the background but that's not the case here. Adrian Burchard makes a substantial impact from beginning to end.

Worth a re-read? No doubt.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Menage scenes in erotica

So I've run across a lot of erotica featuring two (or more) guys and one girl. Yes, I can understand how literature provides a nice outlet for women to vicariously enact sexual desires they're unlikely to experience in real life, and that's all fine. It's another reason why you rarely see "nice" heroes and the lot of'em are high-handed, dominant alpha rakes.

But man, it pisses me off to no end when erotica authors manufacture a "love" between the woman and one of the men she's getting pounded by in a menage scene.

Please, please, PLEASE leave love out of it. Clearly this is a fantasy about a woman getting nailed by multiple men with huge erections at the same time. Fabricating a circumstance in the paranormal or modern realm where it's customary or tradition for the woman to get nailed by more than one man at the same time and then contrive a love with one of the men... it's just ridiculous. Guys screwing a girl with other guys at the same time do not feel love for the girl. Even if the guy is bisexual (which also happens often in erotica), there's still *no* way he can forget that he shared the woman he supposedly "loves" and she enjoyed it tremendously. Lingering and suppressed grudges will inevitably decimate any potential for a meaningful monogamous relationship. And if there's no lingering grudges from the guy, then there's no love!

For example, I read an erotica where it's customary in elven culture for the leader or king of the elves to share his bride with another man so both can be attuned to her and "protect" her as needed. Please. Right before both men screw the girl, the king thinks to himself that he loves her and this will be the last time he'll share his wife with another man. Aren't you the king/leader? If you "love" her, change custom! Do something about it! But don't give me crap about love and then go through with it. I read another story where the story contrives to have the husband get off on watching and taking his wife with his brothers. It was actually a ritual for the brothers (a "claiming"), and it's beyond retarded because the husband and wife "love" each other. Are you kidding me, no guy would want to share the woman he "loves."

So why doesn't the woman get off on sharing her man with other women?

Seriously, if erotica novelists want to contrive a love between one of the men and the girl from 2+guy-and-1-girl scene(s), then let's see a scene where the girl shares the guy she supposedly "loves" with another woman. Otherwise just leave the scene alone for it's raw value: more than one gorgeous man pleasuring the woman. It's raw sex dealing with multiple men pounding a single woman. Nothing close to the profound intimacies of a monogamous relationship.

Is my way of thinking too traditional? Hell, I'm fairly liberal but I will never see love in multiple men screwing a woman in all her orifices. Regardless how much the story wants to force a "love." A lusty woman? Sure, and there's nothing wrong with that, but love? Uhuh, keep telling yourself that you love the person you share with other people.

Okay enough of my ranting and raving.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara [4]

****/***** (4/5)

I enjoyed Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel dealing with the three-day Battle of Gettysburg widely acknowledged as the turning point of the American Civil War. The book derives its title from Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain memorizing a Shakespeare quote in his childhood regarding man in action and his father's subsequent remark: "Well, boy, if he's an angel, he's sure a murderin' angel." Chamberlain then coins the term, "Man, the Killer Angel." Shaara's enthralling novel affects the leaders of the Battle of Gettysburg as these Killer Angels: the difficult choices they make, their courage and heroism, and finally their grief and agony. Michael Shaara recreates the battle from old letters and correspondences and I found the resulting prose, characterizations, settings and pacing singularly bewitching. We know the plot, but it's Shaara's style and delivery which affects a worthwhile and enjoyable reading experience. Although the book demonstrates the brutality and inhumanity of war, it also balances that with a feeling of camaraderie, thrill and excitement that nothing except war could bring. Very unlike Jakes' unilateral depiction of a monstrous war in his NORTH AND SOUTH series. And that's a good thing.

And yet suddenly, terribly, [Longstreet] wanted it again, the way it used to be, arms linked together, all drunk and singing beautifully into the night, with visions of death from the afternoon, and dreams of death in the coming dawn, the night filled with monstrous and temporary glittering joy, fat moments, thick seconds dropping like warm rain, jewel after jewel.

THE KILLER ANGELS deftly contrasts the Battle of Gettysburg from the Southern and Northern points of view; for the south and its generals, missed opportunities plagued their loss while for the north, much-needed luck vaulted them to victory. We follow most of the brilliant generals from the South including Robert E. Lee, Pete Longstreet and Lewis Armistead while from the North, it's mostly Col. Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine and his climactic stand on Little Round Top on Day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg. The North's hodgepodge of religions and races worked against their superior numbers while the South possessed a more cohesive, more united group of soldiers. Unlike the North, the South also had the brilliant commander their soldiers believed in: General Robert E. Lee. As opposed to Lincoln's capricious line of army commanders (at least before he settled on Grant), General Robert E. Lee has never lost a battle prior to Gettysburg, thoroughly whipping Yankees left and right. Known for a making a tough decision and acting on it, Lee's men believed in him enough to execute his decisions with alacrity and success.

"By damn, man, if there is one human being in the world less devious than Robert Lee, I aint yet met him..." [Longstreet] leaned forward blackly across the pommel of the saddle. "Colonel, let me explain something. The secret of General Lee is that men love him and follow him with faith in him. That's one secret. The next secret is that General Lee makes a decision and he moves, with guts, and he's been up against a lot of sickly generals who don't know how to make decisions, although some of them have guts but whose men don't love them. That's why we win, mostly. Because we move with speed, and faith, and because we usually have the good ground. Tactics? God, man, we don't win because of tricks . . . " (p. 251, Gen. Longstreet refuting Fremantle's fabled and iconic view of Confederate victories prior to the Battle of Gettysburg)

Then it's a wonder the South lost the Battle of Gettysburg when they had every opportunity to win there as well. From Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's joyriding depriving Lee of his eyes and ears into Northern army movements, to Heth's decision to engage Buford's Union line on Day 1 when Lee specifically ordered no attacks until the entire Southern army congregated around Gettysburg, to a diffident Gen. Ewell's failure to pursue the Union army at the end of Day 1, to Lee's rejection of Hood's sensible plan to outflank the Union line on Cemetery Ridge outside of Gettysburg on Day 2, the loss at the Battle of Gettysburg represented one missed opportunity after another for the Southern army.

THE KILLER ANGELS intersperses a very engaging political and philosophical discussion over the each side's motivations to fight in the war. We know the South isn't fighting to keep slavery despite what the North (and the rest of the world) believe, they're fighting for the Cause: state rights. Like Lee's beloved state of Virginia, they view state laws superior to the nation's and therein lies the divide. Meanwhile, as Col. Chamberlain's brother remarks, no matter what the "Johnnies" (Southerners) say they're fighting for, at the end of the day if they win, slavery continues and if they lose, slavery begins to die. For Englishman Fremantle, the South symbolizes a transposed Europe, while for Chamberlain's Sergeant Kilrain, the South represents a time when the name of one's father means more than your name. Kilrain is adamantly against such traditions.

But the point is [the South does] it all exactly as we do in Europe. And the North does not. That's what the war is really about. The North has those huge bloody cities and a thousand religions, and the only aristocracy is the aristocracy of wealth. The Northerner doesn't give a damn for tradition, or breeding, or the Old Country. He hates the Old Country... of course, the South is the Old Country. They haven't left Europe. They've merely transplanted it. And that's what the war is about. -Englishman Fremantle traveling with the Southern army

"Equality? Christ in Heaven. What I'm fighting for is the right to prove I'm a better man than many...No two things on earth are equal or have an equal chance, not a leaf nor a tree. There's many a man worse than me, and some better, but I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters is justice. 'Tis why I'm here. I'll be treated as a I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain, and I God damn all gentlemen. I don't know who me father was and I don't give a damn...The point is that we have a country here where the past cannot keep a good man in chains, and that's the nature of the war. It's the aristocracy I'm after. All that lovely, plumed, stinking chivalry. The people who look at you like a piece of filth, a coachroach, ah." --Union Sergeant Buster Kilrain talking to his Colonel, Chamberlain

The Story, possible SPOILERS.

The story begins one day prior to the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg when Longstreet's spy alerts Longstreet of Buford's cavalry near Gettysburg. And where the Northern cavalry rides, their army isn't far behind. Union Gen. Buford has an eye for the high ground and on seeing the hills surrounding Gettysburg, Buford's meager cavalry regiment dismounts and digs in to defend the hills. Meanwhile, Lee's eyes and ears, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry, hasn't reported to Lee in some time and Lee's entire army forays into Pennsylvania blind to Northern army movements. After hearing of Northern movements near Gettysburg from Longstreet's spy, Lee orders the army to move towards Gettysburg and not attack until the entire Southern army has congregated there. Gen. Heth's division arrives first and upon seeing the sparse regiment of Union soldiers on the hill, orders his division to take the hills west / northwest of Gettysburg. Buford holds out long enough against Heth for Union Major Gen. Reynolds's corps to arrive. Despite holding out all day, Ewell's corps attack the Union corps from the north while Heth and Pender batters them from the west and finally the Union soldiers retreat to the higher ground of Cemetery Ridge to the south of Gettysburg. Ewell fails to pursue the Union army towards the end of Day 1 despite orders from Lee to keep at it.

All the rest of that morning gray Rebel troops came pouring down that narrow road...The [Union] line continued to hold. There did not seem to be anyone in command, but the line held... (after the death of Union Major Gen. John Reynolds on Day 1 of the Battle of Gettysburg)

On the momentous second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Col. Chamberlain's 20th Maine digs in on Little Round Top and they form the absolute end of the Union line. If rebel forces overrun the 20th Maine, the Union line will be outflanked and Gettysburg lost. A learned man, tall and handsome, Col. Chamberlain and his men bravely defend Little Round Top against tide after tide of Confederate soldiers. In previous battles, Rebels screams and a slight tilt in their favor easily resulted in Yankees turning tail and running. Now however, the veteran and experienced group of soldiers in the 20th Maine persevere and they're unafraid of the Rebel screams after having witnessed them so many times before. After their ammunition runs out, Chamberlain orders the unthinkable: he orders his soldiers to fix bayonets on their guns and charge. Never before has the South seen Northern soldiers charging at them with such fervor as Chamberlain's 20th Maine on Little Round Top.

"Where'd you get the idea to charge?"

Chamberlain said, "We were out of ammunition."

Rice nodded. "So. You fixed bayonets."

Chamberlain nodded. It seemed logical enough. It was beginning to dawn on him that what he had done might be considered unusual. He said, "There didn't seem to be any alternative."

Rice shook his head, chuckled, grunted.

Against Longstreet's better judgment, Lee orders Picket and his division to charge the middle of the Union line on the third day. After getting routed for a second time, Lee finally orders a full retreat from Gettysburg, thereby ending his campaign in Pennsylvania. The Union commander during this battle, Gen. Meade, was inept and fails to pursue a hobbled Confederate army and the war lingers on for more years.

A very entertaining and engaging depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Stranger I Married, by Sylvia Day [0]

/***** (0/5)

THE STRANGER I MARRIED depicts two taming-the-rake routines, and it's clear Sylvia Day enjoys her heroes giving chase and pining quite a bit. The routine dealing with our main hero and heroine is mostly imbalanced and unjustified. I hated both lead characters (Gerard/Gray and Isabel) and the soapy plotting was so bad it needed a secondary pairing (Rhys and Abby) to fill the pages. For an erotica, the love scenes here are just plain. ASK FOR IT (**) is much better in that department. There's no doubt appearance plays a role in attraction, but I found Day's infatuation with superficial appearances even towards the end exhausting. If I didn't know any better, one big cock is as good as any other for Isabel. I had a hard time understanding why Isabel loves Grayson other than his size. I guess that's enough for Isabel. Grayson pines so much throughout the second half and voices so much tender drivel for Isabel's delight, I believed him I suppose. But she really doesn't do anything to earn all that pining because she never trusts him.

A prior pregnancy ending in death makes Grayson very fearful of losing Isabel to childbirth. Instead of Isabel staying and talking him through it, Day has Isabel's brother Rhys coach Grayson like some idiot (Grayson also fails to recognize Isabel's misgivings for making their marriage legit when it's so plainly obvious). Rhys explains that Grayson should take the risk of pregnancy and childbirth to keep Isabel. Day's heroine Isabel here mistrusts, seethes and curses Grayson throughout the novel and even runs from him after both admit their love for each other in the end. The answer to every heroine's problems: when things aren't going exactly the way you want it, CUT and RUN! Make the hero give chase, test him repeatedly, say and do nothing to show your affections. The denouement showcases Isabel at the height of her bitchiness when endless words of love, caring and giving fail to convince Isabel ("I pledge my troth to you, my wife. Not for my needs, but for yours..." blah, blah, blah. Later: "Will you let me in?" Isabel: "Why?" Grayson: "I want to give you all that I am to you. Including children..." blah, blah, blah. Isabel's answer: "I agree to talk. Nothing more." My thoughts: B---, !$#@$! Then from Grayson: More blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc. pining to prove himself; Grayson, along with having perfect abs, perfect butt, biceps, a monster cock, a title, and abundant wealth, is also a poet).

The entire story has Grayson needing to prove himself for Isabel and win her affections as if Isabel has been some chaste virgin her whole life. I found it repetitive and strenuous to read. There's nothing there, Isabel does little more than seethe and lambaste Grayson the entire book because she believes Grayson is exactly like her first husband who cheated on her. Isabel holds it against Grayson that years ago he was "cheating" on the woman ("Em") he professed to love (who was married) with another woman. Despite the fact that both the women went into the affair with Grayson eyes wide open and knew of his libertine ways. Despite the fact that Isabel has had many paramours herself between her first husband and Grayson. Why is it that Grayson has to constantly prove himself? Because Day has some perverted notion to reform him? But he was already reformed by the time he returns to Isabel after his hiatus. Isabel believes Grayson wants to sire a child off her and so Grayson assiduously spills his seed elsewhere to allay those concerns (every time). Many times Isabel thinks Grayson with other people and so Grayson must assuage her concerns there. Isabel never surrenders all of herself to Grayson because she believes him exactly like her cheating first husband. If anything, It was Isabel's mistrust and commitment issues that needed reforming. When the issue with children drives our lovers apart, it's again Grayson who needs to prove himself and chase Isabel. I'd love to see Grayson finally discover bliss with someone else after she drives him away. Screw Isabel if she doesn't know she has a good thing when she has it.

More than once, the book talks about how true love is about accepting the other person with their faults. I don't see any faults with Grayson: he's physically perfect, amply-endowed, titled, and wealthy. Arrogance, high-handedness and lascivious debauchery in heroes are actually celebrated in historical romances like they are in THE STRANGER I MARRIED (Rhys is a celebrated rake too). Hence, I don't consider these qualities all that bad since sexual experience in heroes is a prerequisite more than anything else. It's why readers of romance gravitate towards alpha heroes so much. While threatening Isabel's last paramour Hargreaves in the second half, Grayson (Gerard) thinks to himself that Isabel was not a fickle woman to leave Hargreaves for him. Which is bullshit because a muscled body, big cock and a quick recovery time in bed are pretty much all it takes for Isabel to submit to Grayson and ditch Hargreaves. I'd say that's pretty fickle. Sex is great [with Grayson] and she gets multiple orgasms for every one of Grayson's. That's nice, Grayson is your regular cartoon pimp complete with trimmings of a tortured love story from his past.

The plotting is mostly immature and soapy. Everyone in the book seeks a good fuck and lusts for the forbidden affair which appeals so much to women (Isabel, Grayson, Grayson's brother, Isabel's parents outside marriage, etc.). You have a marriage bargain that invites both spouses to sleep with everyone but each other. Neither recognize potential problems that could arise from such an arrangement. Then once Grayson decides he wants his wife for himself, you have these episodic jealousies and outings introduced by other characters. Twice, Isabel chances on Grayson and his former mistress Lady Stanhope (Barbara) in a compromising situation from which Isabel draws all the wrong conclusions and mistrusts Grayson even more. There's even a scorned mistress and an evil mother posing road blocks as they try to confound Grayson and Isabel's lusty relationship with misunderstandings and misconceptions. After all of Isabel's misconceptions and misunderstandings are out of the way, there's the children issue which rears its ugly head. First, it's hard to believe that Isabel would remain childless with so many men considering the time period's inadequate contraceptive methods. Second, if she wants children so much, just pick a guy to screw like she has previously and get a child off him! The book is so inane, it turns its attentions to a second pairing: Isabel's rakehell brother Rhys (aren't they all rakes?) and the virgin spinster Abby. Just so we have at least one pairing where there's a handsome rake deflowering the ordinary-of-appearance virgin.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Shoot 'Em Up [4]

****/***** (4/5)

S/he who stays in the rear, takes it in the rear.

SHOOT 'EM UP amounts to a delicious debauchery in violence and sex. Mostly violent, mostly brutal, completely facetious, the key is to never take this movie seriously and just have fun. If you're offended by violence for violence's sake, this one is not for you. Some of the ridiculous stunts our protagonist Mr. Smith manages makes it difficult to suspend disbelief, but it's still fun if you're laughing with the movie instead of trying to take it seriously. There's scenes where he's handling a baby like a football in one arm and somersaulting in the air gunning down villains from the other hand. There's another scene where he's having sex pumping away and shooting the baddies from around the woman's shoulder. It qualifies as a fulsome caricature in violence and it's pretty graphic as well. Basically it's fun.

The story is fairly simple enough. Clive Owen plays "Mr. Smith," a guy who rescues a pregnant woman chased by some goons. Smith's arch nemesis is Hertz, played by Paul Giamatti. Paul Giammati and Clive Owen deliver convincing performances in spite of a dearth of acting opportunities. Clive Owen is his no-nonsense hardcore self while Paul Giamatti's Hertz, a former psychological profiler, chases Smith. Smith digs deeper behind why the goons wanted to kill the pregnant woman, and a plot using the bone marrow of illegitimate babies surfaces. All of it, however, takes a firm backseat to the movie's central intent: gratuitous violence and action.

Want to know the difference between a luxury car and a porcupine? The car has a prick on the inside...

The movie is pure, unadulterated fun. It's funny too.

More erotica reviews

A Grand Passion, by Samantha Winston (*****)

What a cute love story! This one, along with Evangeline Anderson's SECRET THIRST (*****) is passionate, hot and very romantic too! The hero-and-heroine chemistry resonated in both Anderson's story and here in Winston's. After the death of her beloved husband our heroine Casey travels to Italy to take art classes. There, she interviews soccer star Alessandro Sottini for a friend back in the States. Ignorant of the sport and taken aback by Alessandro's long eyelashes and beauty, Casey stumbles through the interview. Things progress between the two slowly at first then rather vigorously. The Italian media turns Alessandro and Casey's relationship into a public affair and they face many obstacles. For one, Casey is described as a "generously curved" and since she's older than Alessandro, Italian soccer fans and media alike deem her unworthy of their soccer star Alessandro. When Casey's foster parents (and in-laws) drop in, things further deteriorate between our hero and heroine.

The end was very sweet, and extremely romantic, concluding on a very satisfying note. The sensuality, passion and chemistry between Alessandro and Casey resonated and their love finally found a way in spite of all the road blocks. A GRAND PASSION is so cute and hot, it's worth a re-read.

, by Chris Janglen and Michele R. Bardsley (***)

A 49-page "quickie," our story focuses on Arissa, who suffered a disastrous ending to a relationship her fiance publicly shattered 6 months ago. Arissa's friend enlists her into a sex agency (1800SEX4YOU) for some great anonymous sex and practically shove her back into the dating scene. Shedding her ordinary visage in favor of makeup, a slinky, strapless black dress and three-inch heels ("fuck-me pumps"), Arissa prepares to thrust herself back into the dating scene some with some anonymous sex. Despite resorting to anonymous sex, Arissa fantasizes over her boss Derek Mortenson who is described as "big, tall, broad-shouldered and muscled."

Derek Anderson has no time for girlfriends and relationships and so uses the same sex agency for his voracious sexual appetite. For reasons which escape him, he's attracted to his employee Arissa and when he sees her tape in the sex agency, he volunteers himself for Arissa's one night of anonymous sex. Derek is a well-respected member of this sex agency, and because of the myriad of compliments he's received from women, the agency allows him many privileges including his choice of ladies and a personal robe with his name.

The short story takes place in one night as Derek pleasures a blindfolded (initially) Arissa. Big cocks, muscles and abs obviously take precedence in a story so short, though it's presented with some flair and comedy. Both Arissa and Derek describe events in the first-person alternately and I actually found Derek's sensual ministrations proficient and efficacious. There's some chemistry here, but egregious references to Derek's skill and size mired any potential long-term connection and it seemed like he settled down for Arissa. Another cartoon pimp servicing the lonely, ordinary girl? You bet.

Charming the Snake (three stories), by Mary Janice Davidson, Camille Anthony and Melissa Schroeder

The first story -- SAVAGE SCAVANGE (*) -- by Mary Janice Davidson is pretty dry. It's another futuristic tale that takes place 3 months after another one of her books. There's one very lackluster sex scene, it's different (not necessarily satisfying for the woman), and Davidson's story is also the shortest of the three contained in CHARMING THE SNAKE. Our heroine is Dr. Gladys Loder of the "B-Block" who ventures to a lower part of town. There's a culture in this futuristic world with mutes and a hierarchal society. Gladys pleasures our hero Jaz, though I found the portrayal lazy.

The second story, Melissa Schroeder's SEDUCING THE SAINT (****), is the best of the lot and also the longest. Libby's acrimonious disposition towards 6-foot-4 womanizer Brady (misnamed the "Saint") was entertaining here, while Brady's selfish desires appropriate. Again, it's futuristic and about two lovers finding their way back to each other after the heroine Liberty (Libby) Wainwright called it off years ago. Libby needs help finding her missing father and no one is better than the mercenary Saint (Brady). Brady accompanies Libby on her journey and the two renew their passion, chemistry and love for each other. Renew is a bad word for it -- more like ignite. It was hot, it resonated with chemistry and passion depicting a love that never died. The little pretense of a story to find her father helped the setting.

The final story was also hot but the most superficial of the three as well. Camille Anthony's CARTE BLANCHE (**) is about Regency England in a futuristic setting. Our beautiful virgin heiress Chastity Tilson agrees to come out for the Season and hunt for the assassin that attacked her father. She spies notorious libertine Darian "Dare" Acer below a stairwell in a ballroom and his oozing masculine sex appeal ropes in Chastity despite promising herself she'll never allow a man to tie her down. After a meeting where Chastity proposes "carte blanche" to Darian (Chastity will support Darian financially in return for his sexual services), Darian initiates Chastity to sex. Of course Darian feels insulted that she'd ask him such a thing and he actually wanted to propose marriage, but accepts Chastity's "carte blanche" arrangement anyway. Steamy sex scenes and a pimp initiating a virgin to sex summarize this common fare.

Wednesday Nights with Jaime, by Daisy Dexter Dobbs (**)

This one is hot too, though I found the avid descriptions of Jaime's appearance superficial. The interracial issues and racial prejudices from the lead pair's families also drained the love and passion. Additionally, it wants to tackle a woman's issues with her weight. Jaime is Lyla Lassiter's boss; he's black, hunky and Lyla fantasizes of him every Wednesday night while she's pleasuring herself with chocolate and a vibrator. Lyla, a "generously-curved" white woman, lusts after Jaime's pecs and cock pretty much for the entire story. After an incident which leads Jaime to reveal his attraction for Lyla, the two go at it in the office. The words they say to each other are steamy but again, the glib references to Jaime's physical appearance swallows the chemistry along with Jaime's cock. Jaime reveals his love for Lyla after their second time, proposes and they share challenges from their family as they plan the wedding since he's black and she's white.

Pearls of Passion, by Ann Jacobs ()

This 56-page quickie is a zero. Basically taking place in a futuristic, oriental setting, you have ceremonial wedding between youngest daughter Pearl and the stoic Pak Lin. Pak Lin is the son of a sexbot mogul, and he's created 6 gorgeous male sexbots for Pearl's pleasure. The 6 gorgeous sexbots titillate and arouse her to the brink of climax as Lin straps on a dildo to claim her both from the vagina and anus at the same time. The rest of the brief story has Pearl taking it in the mouth, ass, cunt, and her breasts thrust into mouths, all at the same time. Our hero Lin even takes it in the mouth and ass while he's screwing Pearl who's also taking it in the mouth and ass. Nothing timid about this novel. Lin is almost obsessive over perfecting his cock designs on the sexbots. The whole time I'm thinking why isn't there a scene with multiple female sexbots with Lin involving the heroine Pearl? It's only fair. Alas, it is of course women's erotica where more than one woman (including the heroine) with one man is rare, while multiple men (including the hero) with one woman very common. Nothing kills romance, love and chemistry like multiple cocks pumping the heroine (and hero in this case) in various orifices.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


"Winter is coming..."

For those A-Song-of-Ice-and-Fire enthusiasts (druggies) amongst us, George R.R. Martin updated his progress on his latest ASOIAF book, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, and unveiled a *new* sample chapter. The Tyrion and Daenerys sample chapters appeared previously but now we receive a sample chapter from my favorite character, and probably the most cliche as well: Jon Snow.

The Dance goes on...

Sample chapter

I knew what happens in that first Jon-Snow chapter a while ago from spoilers on the asoiaf.westeros.org boards.

In case you have no idea what this series is about, it's intense, it's fantasy for adults, it's hard-hitting, it's adventurous, it's political, it's epic, it's extremely well written, it's character-driven and you won't read anything like it. The words "Winter is coming" never fail to give me the chills. Just skip A Feast for Crows which I'm hoping was a bad hiccup in the series.

A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
1. A Game of Thrones (****)
2. A Clash of Kings (***)
3. A Storm of Swords (*****)
4. A Feast for Crows (*)
5. A Dance with Dragons ~ Fall 2008, at the earliest

My guess for ADWD? More like fall of 2009.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reviews of some erotica

Since we're talking about erotica here, I'm going to do a quick and dirty lowdown. The ratings below mainly reflect degree of eroticism. Much erotica delves into a paranormal realm just like the following four.

Secret Thirst, by Evangeline Anderson (*****)

This one is extremely hot and more often than not, it's the words the characters say that make it so erotic, not necessarily the action. I hear Anderson primarily scripts stories of surrender in some fashion. This one is hot without avid descriptions of perfect (and huge) male anatomy, which is rare. Our heroine Lauren's immunity to vampire "mind tricks" and other vampire powers places her in grave danger. The tortured vampire Kris abducts Lauren for her protection and she must play his concubine at a pleasure house. I thought a love resonated from the intensity of the sex scenes and the way Kris loves and cherishes Lauren. The writing never meanders too far away from its erotic intent -- it's hot for gals and guys alike.

Oath of Seduction Seducing Sharon, by Marly Chance (*)

I started reading this one after SECRET THIRST, and it just didn't hold a candle to Anderson's SECRET THIRST. Too many things to dislike, especially from a guy's perspective. One, Earth guys have long since failed to satiate their women, and the women must turn to another planet where there's plenty of men but a shortage of women. When a woman turns to this other planet for pleasure (or a "mating" as the alien man would describe it to make it appear like love), she has one of three choices: seduction, challenge and a third oath which I'm forgetting. Sharon chooses seduction and her hunky 8-inch cock-man is Liken. Our heroine, in the throws of passion, pauses to accurately note the exact length of the cartoon pimp's engorged cock. Liken, Sharon and a future hero (Tair) share a sexual experience in the same room to conclude the story. Nothing like two cocks to double your pleasure! This one too attempts to mix in shades of a "love" between Sharon and Liken, but the entire read seemed too much like the pimp servicing the sexual appetites of our librarian heroine Sharon. The carnal scenes were pretty boring actually. This story is strictly for women, if for anyone at all. Other than the language and the ending featuring a semi- menage a trois, I found the story's love scenes fairly tame.

Slave to Sensation, by Nalini Singh (*)

This one has more to do with shape-shifting. I found Singh's attempt to build her world of telekinetic beings, shape shifters and regular humans a very anemic affair. I thought the story loses focus and aimlessly spurts in sundry directions. The characters are unique though. We have our honey-skinned heroine Sascha Duncan, a powerful Psy trained to feel no emotion. Our shapeshifter hero Lucas is on the other end of the emotional spectrum. He's the "alpha" leader of his pack of panther shapeshifters (they call pack leaders alphas). The plotting wants to go beyond the common, get-it-on erotica but I thought it failed miserably. For an erotica, the book abstains from explicit language (the only story that can make this claim from this lot). Sascha and Lucas must work together on a architectural building project which represents a cooperative effort between the DarkRiver (panther) Changelings and Psy. Meanwhile, many Changeling packs hold the Psy responsible for the disappearance and consequent murder of many Changeling females. There really aren't that many scenes of passion in this. Again, a weak effort overall.

Kiss of the Night, by Sylvia Day (***)

Like SECRET THIRST, the carnal scenes and explicit language pervade the reading experience. It's basically a bodyguard story with avid descriptions of both the monster-cock guy and hot, blond woman. Like Sylvia Day's ASK FOR IT (**), the carnal scenes are definitely hot here, but the chemistry and connection didn't live up to ASK FOR IT, much less Anderson's SECRET THIRST.