Monday, March 30, 2009

Review- Secrets and Sins by Rosalyn Wraight

Secrets and Sins
by Rosalyn Wraight
Aug 11, 2008
Contemporary/ Mystery/ Lesbian
Ebook version

Buy it Amazon, Fictionwise, DLSIJ press

The day before lesbian detective Laura McCallister's vacation, an elderly man, Tobias Faraday, is found dead in his estate, a victim of an apparent poisoning. While all the evidence clearly points in one direction, a deathly cold hand, clenched to her shoulder, steers her in another. She is led through a maze of riddles and codes, secrets and sins.

She looks into Faraday's cloudy eyes with a vow to determine the truth. What she didn't expect is that he would end up peering into her own. The investigation becomes excruciatingly personal, leaving her struggling to face her own secrets and sins.

Who killed Tobias Faraday? Is it really as simple as it seems? And what does the painting in his sitting room--crafted by her lover of ten years, Holly Crawford--have to do with it all? Can she solve the mystery without getting mired down in her own fears and pain? And, can she do it in time for her and Holly to catch that plane to Maine?

Secrets and Sins is a nicely done old-fashioned whodunit set in contemporary times. While having the aura of a retro mystery due to the age of the victim and his way of acting and speaking, a carry over from a time past, Secrets and Sins moved along at a fast, modern day pace with all the uses of contemporary technology mixed with traditional detective work.

McCallister, as everyone calls her, is getting ready to go on vacation with her live-in lover/ partner Holly when she’s called to a murder scene. It looks all cut and dry as to who the murderer is so she and Holly manage to get to the airport in time to have their vacation. Not so fast though…McCallister has a gnawing, bad feeling in her stomach about this case and Holly, realizing that her lover will not be able to relax, tells her to forget about the holiday for now.

It turns out that old man Faraday, the victim, was a mystery buff and has set up an elaborate puzzle just for McCallister, leaving a series of clues along the way for her to follow and decipher to help her know what really happened. Along the way, McCallister also finds out things about herself that she’d rather not have to think about.

I really liked this story. I’m a huge fan of the mystery genre and it’s what I mostly read before getting into romance and erotica. On that level this book was very entertaining and well done. As a mystery, Rosalyn Wraight managed to keep it fresh by adding in many twists to the plot, keeping the story from being totally predictable.

As McCallister gets the clues left to her by Faraday, so do we the readers and the step by step process kept me curious as to how it all pans out. Moreover, I liked the idea that the victim has set up all the clues prior to his death somehow knowing what might happen making it a game of wits with McCallister whom he admired, even in his death. Then there’s the private romantic life of McCallister…

Sorry folks, but if you would read this book for some girl on girl action, this book doesn’t have it. Nor is this a romance really, either. What was very satisfying though was that the romantic relationship between McCallister and Holly was woven throughout the story offering a glimpse into home life and heart of McCallister who is a no nonsense detective.

The interactions between these two are very sweet and loving and it’s very clear that these two women have a very close, intimate relationship in which they are very supportive of each other. So while not a hot and steamy romance, if you are looking for a story that depicts an intimate, loving lesbian relationship as part of a larger story then Secrets and Sins will satisfy.

As a character, McCallister is very appealing. She soft in the right areas, as in her love life and interactions with her friends, but she’s tough when it comes to work. She’s in charge and lets people know it, but at the same time, she knows how to delegate the work, trusting her underlings to do the job while at the same time teaching them.

And she smokes. Oh boy, but I love a character who unabashedly smokes. She smokes and drinks coffee throughout this book, constantly needing a smoke break to chit chat things out with her reporter friend or just because she needs to clear her head. It’s my quirk, but the whole politically incorrectness of it is a turn on, especially for me, an ex-smoker.

While for the most part I really enjoyed this book, there were a few niggling points that took me out of the story several times. One of them is Ms Wraight’s overly descriptive language sometimes. Not flowery purple prose, but wording that felt awkward and stilted and which just felt odd. For example:

“…her hat tipped to block the sunshine that tried desperately to burn off last night’s rain.”

“Once satisfied, she continued on until the study’s doorknob succumbed to the twist of her hand.”

“As the car’s clock readied itself to flash three-thirty, she again drove the car in the direction of the Faraday house.”

“Then, like a bullet from her gun, she sped to the kitchen in search of a screwdriver or a knife.”

Fortunately these kinds of sentences were mostly in the beginning and a nice flow in the writing kicked in for most of the book, keeping me from ditching it. Another niggling point was that the name of the supposedly Japanese gardener who taught young Faraday about orchids in the 40’s, was called Kim Su. Sorry but Kim Su is not even close to being a Japanese name. This also threw me out of the story. One other thing that was a bit too much for me was the fact that almost everyone else in this story is gay or lesbian. The coroner is gay and another main character, a reporter, is also a lesbian. What are the odds really?

Still though, I liked Rosalyn Wraight’s story telling enough to buy the first book in this McCallister mystery series, which is touted as an erotic book. I have the feeling that Ms. Wraight can write a very nice erotic romantic mystery type of story based on how deliciously she wrote the relationship between McCallister and Holly in Secrets and Sins.

Sex rating: Dry panties- no sex in this book. Just hints of these two characters might have a hawt, juicy sex life.

Grade: B+

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Review- Carnal Collision by Jenna Byrnes

Carnal Collision
by Jenna Byrnes
Contemporary/ Lesbian
Short Story

Buy it Total-E-Bound- $2.45

Jada Green is shocked when a vehicle appears from out of nowhere, smashing in the side of her new compact car. She's even more surprised to find the driver is a cute, enticing blonde woman. Thrown together for one night, Jada resists the idea of casual sex until a hot dream has her changing her mind.

Wendi Smith has neither insurance, nor the money to pay for the damage she caused. She's prepared to walk away and let Jada deal with everything, until her heart gets the best of her. When there's a carnal collision, can love triumph over money?

This is the second of Jenna Byrnes' lesbian stories that I’ve read, and like the first, it’s a very juicy story in which two women meet, and after a night of smokin hot sex they decide that they want to keep their relationship going.

Wendi hits Jada’s car and freaks out worried about Jada after seeing that her head is bleeding. Through her dazed fog, Jada notices Wendi’s gorgeous large breasts and feels attracted to her. She was horny all day and was planning on going home and spending the night with her vibrator and the accident didn’t seem to curb that. She gets taken to the hospital to get checked out and who shows up there after while but Wendi, whose finger got broken in the accident.

The Dr. insists that Jada have someone wake her up every couple of hours to make sure she’s fine, and having no one to do so, Wendi volunteers. Jada’s feeling a bit nervous about it but agrees to it. In no time at all they both find out that they are lesbians and they are curious about each other. Jada is African American and is curious about what blond haired, Caucasian Wendi looks like naked, and Wendi wants to touch Jada’s smooth chocolate colored skin.

During the night Jada has a wet dream about Wendi and brushes it off, but later on when Wendi wakes her up to check on her, she seduces Jada. They have a night of the most amazing sex they’ve each ever had and want to continue seeing each other. But there’s a catch, a slight problem of who’s going to pay for the damage to Jada’s car since Wendi has no money.

The Good: As with her book Truth or Dare the characters get together very quickly with only minor glitches, which is good since this is a very short story. Jada and Wendi like each other and go for it, no big drama at first. The conflict that does come up that can put the kaibash on these two getting together is a realistic personality conflict that happens, but which ultimately didn’t disturb the chemistry they have with each other.

Jada is very responsible and on top of things and Wendi comes across as a total flake who doesn’t take the issue of paying for Jada’s car too seriously. What I liked about how they dealt with it though was that both women really wanted a connection with each other bad enough that they are willing to sacrifice something of who they are for it. It made this story a very satisfying read as far as that goes and established that they will have an HFN relationship.

The Bad: Sometimes the language describing genitals was just a little too funky and not very erotic for me. I’m not too fond of weeping, oozing, dripping pussies or knockers and boobies as terms for breasts as well. Why do authors use those terms?

Still though, if you like dirty, raunchy sexual language spoken between two really turned on women during hot, sweaty, gritty sex, then Jenna Byrnes' way of writing sexual scenes in this case will turn you on.

For a short erotic story that doesn’t involve too much more than two people having a night together and taking it from there, Carnal Collision was a fun, sexually hot and quick read in both the erotic and story relationship elements.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- f/f, 69, double ended dildo use, rimming, minor anal.

Grade: C+

Monday, March 16, 2009

Review- Glamour by Stella and Audra Price

by Stella and Audra Price
December, 2006

Buy it Phaze- $5.00

Janey Duvall, newly bound consort to the Djinn Nicodemus Marsh, is having a few minor problems with the delivery of a contract, namely, the assassin is refusing to finish the job. There's no reason why the Mark should still be alive, not with one of her best on the job. Knowing this is not normal behavior, she decides that going to Beijing, the city the hit is supposed to take place, is the best course of action.

Marsh is intrigued by the idea, having a few of his own that involve Janey and an auction, and agrees to go, even calling in his marker from his most recent job of taming the fiery woman that became his consort to help with the investigation.

After hearing of the situation from Marsh, Sean Taylor, exiled prince and the demon solely responsible for getting the Djinn and the assassin together, sends in Malcom Frost, vampire and his second in command, to help or hinder the investigation, whichever is more profitable.

When Marsh is faced with the task of transforming Janey for their investigation, will his glamour hold up to the scrutiny and allow them to prevail, or will he lose the one woman he could ever give his heart to?

I’m going to be honest; I started reading this book a while back and just couldn’t get into it. But I got back to it this week and it turns out that Glamour is a unique and, at times, graphically gritty paranormal, which totally sucked me in.

Janey runs a team of assassins. When one of her best assassins fails to check in that a job was taken care of, she and Marsh, a Djinn who she is bound as consort to, decide to go to Hong Kong to investigate for themselves what happened and get the job done.

Marsh calls a powerful demon acquaintance of his who runs major underworld businesses to get information on the mark and this demon sends his best guy, Malcolm, a vampire, to help them find out what’s happened. Malcolm and Marsh find that the assassin, Miranda, has been hypnotized by the man she was supposed to kill and is under his fae spell. The mark is a famous televangelist type who they think is scamming the masses by promising healing, and who married a wealthy but sick woman who has disappeared. Malcolm bites Miranda bringing her out of her state and she tells them what the Rev’s room layout is so they can kill him.

What I liked about this book is that the authors had me rooting for the characters even with the no holds barred violent and socially unacceptable ways in which the characters think and act. That and the quirky relationship that Janey and Marsh have.

There’s an interesting and blurry line between good and evil in this book. While Janey and Marsh live in a world where they don’t have any qualms about killing for hire no matter the reason or person, dealing with people who have really questionable moral ideas, i.e., running an orphanage that makes kids give up an organ for repayment later on, they are outraged that this televangelist is scamming innocent people and fight to find out what he did with his wife before killing him. That’s just a bizarre take on normal logical responses and it turned me on.

Janey and Marsh are crazy and amusing as a couple. She’s a cool assassin who gets off on being submissive, but bitches about it non-stop when Marsh puts her in situations in which she has to submit to him. And Marsh gets off on pissing her off on purpose to get her worked up. It’s their game and it’s really fun how these two go at each other. At the same time though, it's clear how much they love and admire each other. He agitates her, she bitches at him that she’s never again going to do as he says, but then he’s all sweet with her and she can’t get enough of it. It’s that love/hate dynamic but done in a way that makes you feel like these two really get off on each other in a good way.

The secondary characters are the same way as well. Very violent, having no scruples about things, and yet sympathetically written so that you like them. The paranormal aspect of this story really added to the story also. It includes a mixed bag of demons, djinn, vampires and fae and had a futuristic feel to it since assassin seemed to be regarded as an acceptable occupation with each group controlling different parts of underworld activity.

Glamour turned out to be one of those surprisingly good reads for me. That kind book that made me glad that I stuck it out and finished it.

Sex rating: Orgasmic. m/f, one f/f/m scene, which was rather hotly written. For the story though, I’d say there wasn’t as much sex as I would have expected in an erotic story. But I thought it was just the right amount. For the readers who would read this for the f/f part, which I did, I’d say it’s probably not worth it. It’s a pretty hot scene, but it was just a small scene.

Grade: B