Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review- Total Eclipse of the Heart by Crystal Jordan

Total Eclipse of the Heart: In the Heat of the Night, Book I

by Crystal Jordan

Oct 3, 2008

Contemporary/ Paranormal

Short Story


Buy it Samhain

What’s a werewolf to do when she finds her soulmate twice? It’s a total eclipse of the heart.

In the Heat of the Night, Book One

It was only a few years ago that humans found out magical creatures existed. Now, they’re all out of the closet and leading their lives freely when they once used to hide their true identity. Werewolves, vampires, fairies and everything else that goes bump in the night.

When Lena walks into the Eclipse bar, she turns Rachel’s world inside out. She’s a werewolf who scents her mate, and nothing will stop her from claiming what’s hers.

Rachel has always assumed that when she mated with Jerrod she’d never know another lover, despite her longing for both men and women. No werewolf would be unfaithful. Ever. She’s heard of werewolves having two mates in one lifetime, but after the first one died, not at the same time. She’s terrified of how the man she loves will react when he finds out the instincts that drew her to him five years ago now pull her to another woman.

Right off the bat, I’m going to admit that I bought Total Eclipse of the Heart because it’s a f/f/m story and it didn’t disappoint on that level at all. It’s a very well written story about three weres who are mated, which I found to be a unique take in the were paranormal genre. What also intrigued me was that there is a female were character who is bisexual, a rarity in a werewolf paranormal where nature, meaning fated mates, and biology play huge role.

Rachel and Jerrod are mated for life. They run a bar that caters to all species, including vampires, which the were pack that they belong to isn’t happy about. So they are already treading on shaky ground when Lena, a were from another pack, shows up and it’s apparent that she is both Rachel and Jarrod’s mate as well. This throws a huge wrench into Rachel’s safe and comfortable world and she accidentally insults Lena as she struggles to deal with it. She’s bisexual and wants Lena, however, Lena’s presence in their life can now get them kicked out of the pack and they could loose the secure life that Rachel has desperately worked hard towards and which is very important to her. They are mated though, so they have to work it out.

Total Eclipse of the Heart was a very quick read and for the most part I liked it even though I’m kind of off on the whole “mine” thing, which I think has been done to death. Or at least for me it has. That said, Crystal Jordan has a yummy way of writing and the characters in this story are developed enough to get who they are and how they relate to each other. While short, the story still cruised along at a nice pace and the sex, which was quite a bit for the length, was smokin hot and completely relevant to the story.

What turned me on about this story is that all three: Rachel, Jerrod and Lena are into each other and no jealousy comes up, which I liked. Of course they are mated, which is a nice excuse to get three characters together in a monogamous, polyamorous relationship. However, outside of that fact, they just seem to really enjoy each other as a threesome, which felt good. It’s definitely one of the more satisfying f/f/m threesomes that I’ve come across.

While this story satisfied on many levels, there are a few things that I got stuck on, but I believe that it was more an issue of trying to confine what I think should have been at least a novella into the small space of a short story. The big problem for me was that there wasn’t enough relationship/ emotional development between the three characters to warrant some of their reactions to each other.

Mated or not, they only have one night together and outside of a biological need for each other, which would be instantaneous in that situation, I really couldn’t see why Lena got so insulted when Rachel freaks out on her when they are caught and might get thrown out of the pack. There was really no build up of an emotional connection to warrant that. It created a nice tension in this story, but it felt a bit unbelievable. Also a bit unbelievable is that before their one night is over they’ve been outted to the Alpha by the evil pack control freak when they’ve done nothing in the open.

While these issues did have me going huh, they are minor. And as I said, I think they would have been alleviated with a longer book giving more time for relationship and story development. For what it is though, it’s a nicely written short story with juicy characters. I hope the “Book I” tag implies that this world will be more developed in another, longer book as I think a series has a lot of potential at Crystal Jordan’s hands.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- the f/f in this is very hot. f/f, f/f/m.

Grade: B

Friday, December 26, 2008

Review- Edge of Darkness by Jove Belle

Edge of Darkness
by Jove Belle
May, 2008
Suspense/ Lesbian

Buy it Amazon, Bold Stroke Books

Diana Collins charges at life with an irreverent comment and a right hook, but even her hard-headed attitude may not be enough to protect her heart…or her life.

As a senior investigator for a high-end insurance company, Diana needs to find the person responsible for the theft of a rare sword. While Diana struggles to protect her burgeoning relationship with kindergarten teacher, Cami Michaelson, the investigation leads her into a bitter world of rage and revenge. Diana uncovers one damning piece of evidence after another that challenges everything she knows about right and wrong. She finds her hard-driving work ethic, which demands the thief be held accountable, at odds with the desire to protect her new friend, Ali Sandoval, who is caught in the center of the conflict. As she draws Diana deeper into a dark subculture of sex, power, and death, Ali must choose between vengeance and peace if she hopes to escape with her sanity intact.

I never would have known about author Jove Belle if a friend hadn’t mentioned her to me, but I’m so glad I’ve found her. Edge of Darkness is one of those books that really popped for me. Its edgy, dark suspenseful story line combined with a juicy love story made it one of the best reads in while for me. And I must admit, that cover totally grabbed me.

Diana is an investigator for an insurance company who’s been asked to do an interview because she’s a dyke and her bosses feel that the person they need to interview will be more open with her. There is a claim on a very valuable Katana sword that disappeared after the murder of its owner, so Diana and her mentor/friend, Braxton, who is an expert at interviewing, go to question the step-daughter of the murdered man. While Diana and Braxton search for the Katana, they find out that they might actually be in search of a serial killer, and get embroiled into a dark, twisted world.

While this is going on, Diana’s love life also picks up when she meets Cami, a kindergarten teacher, and finds herself falling in love again after a failed relationship and a string of one-night-stands.

There is absolutely nothing bad I can say about this book. I was just so impressed by all of it: the complex character development, the slow build up of a suspenseful investigation, and a realistically and honestly written love story, which all came together in a flawless, enthralling way for me. I really can’t say enough about how positively affected I was by the writing and story telling in this book.

The characters: Diana—is the main character and it’s through her eyes that this story is told. She’s a tough scrapper type who is not afraid to get into it with people to do the right thing. She’s also got a huge heart and takes her Irish Catholic upbringing, including being family oriented, very seriously. She’s still getting over a failed relationship and has been sticking to having one-night-stands even though she dreams of having the white picket fence and living in domestic bliss forever with someone someday. At the moment though, she’s mostly focusing on her career as an insurance investigator. She’s such a complex and interesting character whose mix of contradicting qualities really turned me on.

Cami- is Diana’s new love interest. What I really got off on in this story is how realistically the love story develops between Cami and Diana. Cami is a real sweetheart of a woman, who, like Diana, feels so attracted but also has all the usual doubts and insecurities that goes with falling in love and getting to know someone knew. The interactions between her and Diana came across as very authentic and it’s the first time for me read a lesbian love story that expressed how I imagine it would really be between two women.

I will also say on that front, that reading this book and trying to put together my thoughts for this review I finally realized why I enjoy reading f/f love. Based on this love story and how it developed, it’s the raw emotional communicating between the characters I get off on. Because both parties are women, the thoughts and feelings going on internally were openly expressed between these two women. It’s something I don’t get in a m/f romance, or at least not to this degree and it came across as extremely intimate.

Braxton- is Diana’s mentor at work and she is also a well written character. She a tough, straight forward, take no prisoners type of woman who’s extremely intelligent and a pro at interviewing and psychologically breaking down people to get info. She and Diana have this playful but respectful rapport between them, which I really liked. And even though she’s a straight, married woman, she flirts with Diana with lots of subtle sexual innuendo, which Diana doesn’t quite no how to take at times. I got the impression that she did have a thing for Diana in some way and it was interesting to me that Jove Belle kept what’s going on between them ambiguous because that felt more real to me.

Ali- is the serial killer. I can say that because it’s revealed right in the beginning. She’s a refreshingly written damaged character and I felt so much for her. She was kidnapped and abused for most of her youth by a tyrant of a man and basically kept prisoner until she managed to escape one day. Consequently, she is trying to save other helpless women by trying to rid the world of abusing men. What I loved about the way Jove Belle wrote her is that even though she’s become this cold blooded killer, when Diana shows her real love and compassion, that part of her that she’s forgotten that needs to be loved and accepted makes her feel more vulnerable than she was as a kidnapped victim because she actually opens up and reaches out for the first time. It was heartbreaking.

Other than those main characters, I felt the interactions between the office men and Diana were very interesting as well. The men joke about her being a lesbian and show their ignorance and sexism on a regular basis to the degree that it borders on sexual harassment, and yet, Diana’s sarcastic and humorous reactions to it, easily deflecting it back to them, and the fact that the men actually respect her and Braxton, didn’t turn all of that into a male bashing fest, which it could have easily happened to add more unnecessary tension or drama to the story and I liked that.

The suspense plot is also very well written. We know who the killer is straight away, but like a Columbo story, it’s the detailed and logical way in which Diana goes about investigating and the conclusions she comes to along the way, plus the unpredictable reactions of Ali, that kept the interest up in this story.

Reading Edge of Darkness was a thrilling, fascinating way to spend a couple of hours. It’s a book that really has me wishing that having a lesbian as a main character wouldn’t be cause for lack of interest or automatic dismissal of reading an author, because this book is so worth reading. I can’t wait to read Jove Belle’s other books, if only on the level that she’s such a good story teller.

Sex rating: Wet panties. f/f. This is not an erotic romance, but it’s very sensually written. So no real graphic language or situations, but just enough description to get worked up.

Grade: A

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shantage by N

by N
July 2007
Contemporary/ Erotica
Short Novella- 12,000 words

Translated by Nelli Rees

Buy it Phaze-$2.00

When Zina Pavlovna, the youngest Leitenant in the Moscow Police Investigation Bureau, is handed a case of sexual blackmail--shantage--involving an air-headed member of Russia's detested nouveau riche, Zina is less than impressed. But as she discovers, shantage can be a rewarding experience. Translated by Nelli Rees.

In my quest to review as many f/f books that are out there for those of us who like to read it, I’ve decided that I won’t be discriminatory about what I read, but to put out as much info through reviews no matter what the quality of story telling and writing is. With that in mind, I picked up Shantage because it’s one of the few books on Phaze with f/f in it. For what it is, it’s a pretty good story.

Zina, a police investigator, is stuck getting all the crappy assignments those with more experience the men don’t want. The latest case she has to deal got dumped with is a seemingly high class rich woman, Irina, who’s being blackmailed.

Irina is being blackmailed by someone who took a video of her giving a blow job to a bartender at her wealthy and influential husband’s birthday party. Zinna being a bit pissed an bored at having to deal with these kind of petty cases, listens with all the interest of a dead fish to Irina’s tales of what she’s been requested to do by the blackmailer, which includes being instructed to go to certain people and service them sexually, like a prostitute.

When Zinna finds out who is blackmailing Irina, tired of slaving for low wages and being treated like a second class citizen in the police dept., she makes a deal of her own with the blackmailer, getting to stick it to everyone, including the smug Irina in the bargain.

Shantage is mostly a pure erotica story as it’s basically one sexual account after another as told to Zinna by Irina of the jobs she’s been forced to go on from the blackmailer. All include f/f, in case you wish to know. What is interesting about this book is that even though I’d classify it as erotica, there is a story, which had a rather unique and intriguing twist to it. I kind of liked that Zinna manages to get some satisfaction over those who’ve looked down on her.

The sex is written fairly hotly, including the f/f bits. Although due to the fact that this story is very short, I felt some of the sexual escapades of Irina to be stilted and abrupt in the telling, which frustrated me. Or maybe it was because none of the characters, except for Zinna, really get satisfied except at the basest of levels. It’s not something to really complain about in erotica where emotions can’t be expected to come into play though.

Shantage is one of those books that are good for a quick f/f to read in between more substantial and sexually satisfying stories. I enjoyed N’s style of writing although it is a bit choppy in parts. But that could be from the translation as the author is Russian and it was written originally in Russian. Still though, for what it is, it’s a decent read. I’d still be willing to check out some more of N’s work.

Sex rating: Damp panties. Erotically written, but didn’t really get me going that much.

Grade: C-

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review- Jesse's Homecoming by Jude Mason

Jesse’s Homecoming

by Jude Mason
Western historical/ Lesbian
Short Novella-12,000 words

Buy it Phaze- $3.00

When Jesse returns from a weekend of wandering in the hills to find her lover, Meg, being brutally raped by an ex-husband she'd escaped from years ago, Jesse fires her gun, wounding the man. Battered and bruised, Meg is sure she's unlovable. It's up to Jesse to prove her wrong and to get the monster she'd married sent to prison.

What a sweet little short story Jesse’s Homecoming is. Despite the subject matter, Jude Mason managed to create a beautiful love story between two women that totally expressed how touching and deep a woman’s love for another woman can be.

Jesse and Meg are in love and share a good life together on a ranch. Jesse, being the younger one, goes out for a couple of days to check on things around the land. When she gets back, it's too quiet and the normal things that should be happening aren’t, telling Jesse that something is drastically wrong.

When she enters the cabin with her gun drawn, she finds Meg bruised and bloodied, pinned to the bed with a disgusting looking man on top of her and she shoots him when he tries to get his gun. He claims that Meg is his wife and that he has a right to do what he wants with her, which of course doesn’t sit well with Jesse and she rips him a new one.

Normally I don’t like to read stories when rape or the after effects are so graphically described, however, I feel that Jude Mason handled this with a lot of sensitivity and in a way that I didn’t feel overwhelmed with those feelings of rage that come up when I do read about or watch a rape in film. But just for clarification for those who do have issues with reading it, the rape itself is not described; the story takes place just after.

Meg is in an awful state when Jesse gets to her, but Jesse’s soft, loving energy towards Meg and Meg’s strength and fortitude shine through, making that part easier to read and take in. Right from the get-go Jesse doesn’t pity Meg, but reminds her how much she loves her over and over as she lovingly washes her and reassures her that she will be there for her and will not leave her no matter what. Plus there are some nice revenge moments.

The sexual scene between these two was done with a lot of thoughtfulness as well, I thought. Considering the subject matter in this story, even though the sex was written in very graphic and erotic terms, it comes off more as tender and affectionate and not salacious as it would in a normal situation, which I really appreciated in this case.

One thing that did come up for me was that I felt it was a bit too much for Jesse to try and have sex with Meg just after she’s been raped even though she did it to prove to Meg that she was still wanted and desirable after being defiled like that. I got the feeling that it wasn’t only for Meg that Jesse did that, but because she needed it as well, which did feel a bit off for me.

I would think that even with the most sensitive of love making, getting turned on sexually right after a rape would not be a typical or even remotely possible response normally, as Meg did. In this case though, Jesse really is so gentle and loving with Meg, so it's possible to see that having a positive, nurturing sexual experience could help heal those wounds.

Moreover, I think Jude Mason got around this issue by the rapist being Meg’s ex-husband who had abused her non-stop when they were married. So while rape is rape, I could see how Meg might be able to compartmentalize that since she’s experienced his abuse so much in the past and therefore it might not have been as shocking to her as it would have been had it been the first time being raped or being raped by a stranger. But maybe that’s just my own justification here because I was left with such a warm and fuzzy feeling about these two characters and the way they are together.

Those issues aside, I was surprised at how much I did enjoy reading this story. I felt the deep emotional bond between Meg and Jesse was prominently and beautifully expressed throughout this story, so I would recommend it even though the subject matter might be difficult for some to deal with. Jude Mason has a nice easy flow to her writing that I found very pleasing. And I liked that Jesse’s Homecoming evoked many feelings in me, most especially positive feelings about women in love.

Sex rating: I’m not going to rate it. Technically the sex written here would be Orgasmic because it’s very erotic, however, due to the story content it’s more about the emotion.

Grade: B+