Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review- The Portal in the Park by Shara Bloodstone

The Portal in the Park
by Shara Bloodstone
2008
Contemporary/ fantasy/erotica/(m/f)-(f/f)-(f/f/f/m) bisexual
20K- $3.75-$5
Ebook- Amber Quill Press

Buy it Amber Quill Press, Fictionwise, ARe

Springtime is blooming in Manhattan when Julie Daniels takes a break from her dance research at the Lincoln Center library. Her visit to an unfamiliar coffee shop renders an eccentric gentleman who serves up more than the average latte. After blending a little magic in her drink, he sends her to a grove hidden deep in Central Park. In addition to the usual flowers and trees, Julie discovers the woodlands also contain mythological creatures. The lusty fauns and seductive nymphs who appear have traveled through a portal in the park. The exotic creatures entice Julie into a realm of passion beyond her wildest dreams, and she embraces the carnal pleasures they offer.

When evening approaches, Julie awakens from a nap to find the magical beings nowhere in sight. And even more frightening, neither is the coffee shop, where the strangeness all began!

Julie would like to write off the bizarre occurrences as a dream, or perhaps an hallucination. But her sated body and spirit convince her otherwise. She’s left to wonder how and why this strange day began—and if it’s really ended...


I have many mixed feelings about this book. But unfortunately, mostly not very good feelings.

From the blurb: “She’s left to wonder how and why this strange day began—and if it’s really ended...”

Yeah, me too.

This story is classified as erotica, so I’m not going to get on its case for the sexual content that really had no rhyme or reason to it. It’s a pure sexual fantasy. What I am going to gripe about is what I consider to be funky writing.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the constant thinking out loud that Julie does. Most often in stories we get insight to what the character is thinking internally but not in the literal sense of saying exactly what they are thinking. When thoughts are written as if the character is actually speaking these things to themselves, verbatim, it’s just awkward. It really kept throwing me out of the story. For example:

Nothing. Just wind over tall grasses, I guess.

Arms akimbo, she completed the circle without seeing another human being.

Nobody. Then why does it feel like somebody's near?

She slid her knapsack down her back and let it fall to the ground.

Maybe I'm picking up on the two lovers getting it on, up in the cherry trees.

She let out a little snigger of laughter and froze.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear somebody just laughed along with me.

Hairs on end, she cocked an ear to the wind...nothing.

Man, I'm losing it. Let me lay down here for a while.


I mean, who does that?

The next issue I had with the writing was the awful prose during the sexual scenarios. I usually have no problem with blunt, in your face graphic sexual language, but this was over the top bad and in places, corny. Or maybe because the set up was not that great, it read more like porn than erotica. Example:

He slid her down to stand and embraced her before turning her toward the tree. He then stroked her bare ass, drawing his hand in and out of her crack.

"Mmm, this is so beautiful. I want to be inside you, in each of your holes."

He spoke between the sultry but relentless forward motion he was using to stretch her pink hole wide.

"You are such a healthy, beautiful human, strong enough to have me in you. Let me fill your beauty up in a way you have never known before. Open your precious ass for me."

While Tichi suckled her breasts and kissed her neck, Fila finger-fucked her, and Faunus pressed his cock halfway down her throat.

And corny:

Her vaginal lips were swollen, pulsing with a tom-tom beat of excitement, and she thought he had to be stimulating her clit with his hand.

"Look," he said, motioning his eyes down toward his groin. "Look at what I have for you. See how great my tool of awakening."

"Yes, but that...you're so big."


Although this is erotica, meaning there doesn't need to be a big love story, I still feel that erotica should contain some sort of emotional connection between the characters or it's basically porn. In this case, I do give kudos to the author for coming up with a creative scenario for Julie to get her freak on without consequence or need to justify to herself anything she’s done. And I actually liked this part. However, I really didn't feel much of an emotional connection between Faunus and Julie. And the main excuse it seems that the author gives for Julie getting to be part in an orgy is that it’s for her “sexual awakening,” as if there’s something wrong with her.

The words “sexual awakening” are mentioned many times in this story. First by the coffee shop owner who hints to her about her sexual awakening. Then when she slips through the portal and is in portal land, she gets her “sexual awakening” by several wood nymphs and a Faun.

Apparently though, “sexual awakening” in this instance mostly means having butt sex. Really, does having anal sex constitute a sexual awakening? This is why I feel the “sexual awakening” as an excuse is pushed on the reader by reinforcement:

Julie blushed even before asking, "And what would that be?"

"Playing, of course. Laughing, drinking, lusting. These are the things we are sent to attend to. Therefore, let us concentrate on them--and, in so doing, attend to your sexual awakening."

These words sent a shiver down Julie's spine.

"My sexual awakening? Why did you say that?"

When he smiled, unabashed sexuality gleamed in his expression.

"Bringing nubile creatures to their sexual awakenings."

She had allowed herself to get into the throes of a "sexual awakening" today, and any hesitation on her part would spoil the effect. She spread her legs to let Fila finger her, gyrating her ass as Fila plied her deeper.

"Shh, I know that," the faun coaxed. "This is your awakening, remember? I promise to pleasure you in all ways. You will be opened after this. In touch with your sexual prowess."

"All right," he said, "I'll awaken you from here."

She felt him dribbling more oil into her crack.

"Now, I will anoint you," he said.

"That's right, Amorfos, let me have you in a way no human man has ever dared. Let your awakening come. Open wide to me."

The trouble for me in this whole “sexual awakening” thing is why does Julie NEED sexual awakening? There was no background story to indicate that Julie was in need of any sexual help or that she was an uptight person sexually. Were her past lovers complaining she never allowed butt sex or sex with women? Was she herself feeling like she wanted to explore her sexuality before all this? Was she frigid? Does not having anal sex and orgies mean that you are not sexually awakened? All this interference by others telling her she needs sexual awakening was a bit weird to me. I would have felt better if Julie had just been seduced only without the insinuation that something was wrong with her.

With no reason that I could see that Julie needs this help to begin with, I also don’t get why she in particular was chosen for a “sexual awakening.” Therefore, to me, this was all a lame excuse for a whole sexual scenario that had no bearing on anything.

For me, it turned what was a good premise into something a bit more corny. Like the short beginnings to a porn flick that pretend the flimsiest excuses for the sex to happen.

Then there was the issue of Julie having sex with a Faun. During the sexual encounter, Julie notes how his fur feels against her skin. And of course, several references to Faunus digging his hooves into the ground for more leverage.

I’m sorry but the descriptions of his humongous cock and his waist down being furry like an animal kind of squicked me out. I just kept picturing Julie having sex with a goat. Not really a turn on. Maybe I’m not sexually awakened enough. Heh.

On the bright side, I rather enjoyed the beginning and ending. The set up of her finding a special coffee shop with an eccentric owner, the whole portal idea, and the end when she goes looking for where she had been, was nicely written. I feel that the author started and ended in the right direction but really veered off course throughout the whole sexual part of this story.

There’s a small part in which there is some f/f, and that’s kind of hotly written. But this is basically a m/f fantasy.

Personally, I’d have pass on recommending this book unless you like raw sexual language and descriptions and or you just want something to titillate you sexually. If you need an emotional connection, I can’t recommend this.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- very graphic sexual language, anal, DP with dildo, f/f, f/f/f/m, m/f, toe sucking, *bestiality* (if you consider sex with Pan bestiality)

Grade: D+

18 comments:

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Best purple prose line of 2010 goes to- "tool of awakening."

Cathy in AK said...

The words “sexual awakening” are mentioned many times in this story. First by the coffee shop owner who hints to her about her sexual awakening.

If a dude at a coffee shop, eccentric or otherwise, hints anything about ANYone's sexual awakening, I'm outta there. No one needs a cup of coffee that badly, no matter how "awake" it might make you ; )

I agree, "tool of awakening" totally wins. So to speak.

K. Z. Snow said...

Great review, Leah -- very detailed and informative! I've been sort of lurking around here, nosy bitch that I am. ;-) Good to see you back in the reviewing saddle, guns blazing!

LVLM said...

Katie- there were several doozies in this one. That one made me giggle. I rather thought "open your precious ass for me" was pretty funny as well.

Cathy- I thought that whole thing was very patronizing. Even the character Julie says to Faunus that he's being a bit presumptuous. But then she decides that yes she'd like to feel more open to him. Ugh.

This reminded me of those cheesy porn openers where the woman fakes being so innocent and the man acts like he's really showing her all about sex. snort

What shocks me here though is that I've read another Shara Bloodstone book and reviewed it a while ago and liked it. Thought it was kind of good. So I don't get it.

K.Z. - whoa! Nice to see you here. I've been reviewing here all along, albeit sporadically. My guns are always blazing. heh. Especially when I feel I've read crap. I do try to be somewhat nice though and give my reasons.

kirsten saell said...

I remember seeing this at the publisher's site and thinking it looked interesting, but when I read the excerpt decided against buying it. The writing did seem clunky and awkward in places.

I got nothing against purple prose--I can tend toward the lavender myself, and I'd say one of my fave fantasy authors ever, Guy Gavriel Kay, is the purplest male author in existence. But purple requires a certain flair to do well.

And yeah, I like deep third POV, and internal monologue can be a great way to get right into a character's head, but in this case it's both overused and used ineffectively. Dude, no one thinks in long, complex, complete, grammatically correct sentences, especially when they're scared.

I wonder if Ms. Bloodstone wrote this book before or after the other one you read and liked?

LVLM- Book Review Index said...

Kirsten- I checked and she wrote this book a year after the one I reviewed. I know that if the first book was so "prosy" I wouldn't have picked up another of her books.

She does write a lot of f/f/m so I'll probably read at least another one of her books. Could be this was just a fluke.

And about purple prose, well, I think in this case it was more the set up that turned me off of this because I can read raw, graphic sexual language if it's done right.

If this wasn't all about the magic cock and her "needing" it to fix something in her, then maybe It would have had a different feel to it. I don't know really.

M. A. said...

Best purple prose line of 2010 goes to- "tool of awakening."

I dunno. I recently skimmed a M/M excerpt where one male love interest was all hung up on how silky, attractive, graceful, wonderful the other man's eyelashes were.

Not that I'm saying eyelashes can't be all those things.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

But can the eyelashes awaken the woman's womb in such a way were she succumbs to the pleasures of the flesh?

M. A. said...

*grins* Well, since it was a M/M excerpt, it would have been very interesting if that had happened.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

jots down in current MM I'm writing. "his thick curling eyelashes, drifted across his lover's bulging manhood in a way that made him think of daisy petals floating on the wind"

M. A. said...

jots down in current MM I'm writing. "his thick curling eyelashes, drifted across his lover's bulging manhood in a way that made him think of daisy petals floating on the wind"

LOL...Don't forget to add:

The gesture's intensity proved too much for M.A. Bizarre mirth coiled beneath her breast, serpentine, seductive, propelled outward by her despairing lungs as her iced tea overwhelmed her into a choking fit of laughter.

M. A. said...

Then there was the issue of Julie having sex with a Faun. During the sexual encounter, Julie notes how his fur feels against her skin. And of course, several references to Faunus digging his hooves into the ground for more leverage.

I’m sorry but the descriptions of his humongous cock and his waist down being furry like an animal kind of squicked me out. I just kept picturing Julie having sex with a goat. Not really a turn on. Maybe I’m not sexually awakened enough. Heh.


I admit the "bestiality-divinity" issue confounds me at times.

Bestiality seems to have been a turn-on for a lot of mythological storytelling (Helen of Troy is the offspring of Zeus who coupled with Leda in the guise of a swan, for instance.) I'm not sure Faunus qualifies as a beast since he is a divinity (Titan, god.)

That said, he is most certainly not human.

I call this kind of writing "pseudobestiality," where the erotica certainly has a bestial slant to it, but it's sort of a grey area due to the "beast/animal" possessing sentience, divinity, or other qualities somehow removing it from the "beast/animal" category.

It's one way epublishing seems to push the envelope of "acceptable vices" in erotic fiction.

Incest is another issue like that. Most epubs will not accept incest in manuscripts...so why are the "twincest" and other "fraternal incest" books somehow given a pass? It's "okay" for a female protagonist to have sex with two or more horny brothers or cousins, and the books are even advertised as such.

LVLM said...

M.A.- yeah, I was aware that this doesn't quite qualify exactly as bestiality. But more than any shifter stories I've ever read, even with partial shift sex, this one squicked me out.

Maybe because the author kept bringing in his animal attributes while they were having sex. If that hadn't been mentioned several times, I would have blown it over in my head.

And I know that Pan and other deities are not in the same category as a were or such. But that makes no difference to me. I guess that kind of thing just doesn't float my boat. God or not, it's part animal having sex with the female.

I mentioned it in the review in case others are bothered by that. Maybe other readers aren't bothered by that, but it's good to know.

Everyone has their squick point I guess.

M. A. said...

Maybe because the author kept bringing in his animal attributes while they were having sex. If that hadn't been mentioned several times, I would have blown it over in my head.

I know where you're at. Evangeline Anderson released an ebook featuring a "pseudobeastial" hero. I admit, I wasn't completely comfortable with the sex scnes. It helped that the hero had a pleasant character and seemed like basically a good person.

Cathy in AK said...

Incest is another issue like that. Most epubs will not accept incest in manuscripts...so why are the "twincest" and other "fraternal incest" books somehow given a pass? It's "okay" for a female protagonist to have sex with two or more horny brothers or cousins, and the books are even advertised as such.

That squicks me even more than the partial beastiality thing. I may be wrong, but I think the pass is given if the related men don't actually have sex with each other but are in the same room/tag-teaming. In my mind, however, even if relatives are merely present it's enough to make me say no thank you.

LVLM said...

Cathy- I don't like the brother tag team thing either. Lora Leigh has done that and NO.

I did read a book with twin brothers who were sexual and was more intrigued than squicked. But in that case, the book was a psychological thriller and not a romance or even erotica. And it was about Japanese twin brothers, which made it feel a bit different to me than if they would be from a western culture. It was written more like they were two halves of a whole so I was able to be OK with it.

But in general, it gets into weird territory for me.

I know that Hugh Hefner's two new girlfriends are twins who do everything together. It is kind of weird to watch them be sexual, not so much with each other but to project sexuality together. Like both washing a car together in the buff and splashing each other and such. I don't know, that's borderline for me.

kirsten saell said...

I read a brother/sister incest story recently that kind of worked for me, but I was in a weird mood. And it was straight-up erotica, not romance or anything.

And one of my favorite books, Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, features an incestuous, brother/sister thing that was so moving it made me cry even as the taboo nature of it turned me on.


I think I'd have a hard time accepting that kind of thing in anything other than extraordinary, extreme circumstances, or without some seriously deep character development. As just a trope? No thanks.

That said, I don't think hooves or furred legs would turn me off--I thought Tim Curry was so effing sexy in the movie Legend, and he was barely recognizable. I kept wishing Mia Sara would pick him over Tom Cruise, lol. But when one half of a pairing is in fully-shifted or were form and the other is human? No no no no no.

M. A. said...

That squicks me even more than the partial beastiality thing. I may be wrong, but I think the pass is given if the related men don't actually have sex with each other but are in the same room/tag-teaming. In my mind, however, even if relatives are merely present it's enough to make me say no thank you.

I've read a few "pseudo incest" erotic romances, and I find it strange how these stories "pass muster" as far as crossing the line to "acceptable."

I agree with your analysis, Cathy. Even if blatant sexual contact between the relatives does not occur, it still qualifies as incest IMO.

I don't always have a problem with incestuous relationships in fiction. I loved Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches series, a paranormal saga in which a vengeful ghost manipulated a family of witches into incestuous relationships with the goal of breeding stronger, more powerful witches.

I think a lot of the time it has to do with how the relationships are presented. I'm wondering if the incest fantasy stuff is more common than one'd think, since there does appear to be a market for it within certain boundaries.


I think I'd have a hard time accepting that kind of thing in anything other than extraordinary, extreme circumstances, or without some seriously deep character development. As just a trope? No thanks.


I think that's what bugged me in some of the books I've read. There really didn't seem to be any reason for the sexcapades apart from the kink/titillation factor. Girl meets Gorgeous Boy, Boy has Gorrgeous Brother/s, Girl can't make up her mind so does both/all.

I don't want to invalidate someone else's kink, but I'm just not down with it myself.