Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review- Miyuki: The Silence of the Deep Snow by Carla Croft

Miyuki: The Silence of Deep Snow

By Carla Croft

March 16, 2013

Erotica/ f-f-f/ Bisexual/ Contemporary/ Interracial/BDSM/D/s

111 pgs

From the renowned author, Carla Croft, comes Miyuki: The Silence of Deep Snow. Ms Croft has been described by one well known erotic author as her favourite find of 2012.This, her first novella, charts her discovery of the relationship between Miyuki (a beautiful half-Japanese girl) and her Mistress. Described as a stunning story full of dark angst, mystery and suggestive erotica, the story is sure to delight readers of Romance and Erotica. The story contains adult themes including explicit sex, lesbian relationships, bondage and S&M. Graphic Content

It’s been a while since I ventured into erotica territory and I had a craving for it after reading many fairly non erotic romance books. I found out about this book from a link on Twitter and it looked interesting. I like finding books with Japanese characters in it and the reviews gave me an indication that maybe it’s a good book.

Cara (Carla) is a lawyer by day and a sort of sex writer/collector of sex stories by night. She’s living an average life: married, working, but her passion of sorts is collecting those  stories. In her everyday dealings with many people she has met Miyuki, a biracial Japanese girl who has been living in England for a few years. Miyuki is an enigma and mystery to Cara and capturing Cara’s imagination, has become fodder for her sexual fantasies.

(By the way, the character’s name in the story is the same as the author’s, which I don’t know how to take really. Also, the author’s bio is the same as the lead character’s in this story. Is this autobiographical? Not sure.)

One evening to Cara’s delight, they meet up at Miyuki’s request. Miyuki offers Cara a proposition that shocks and freaks her out on one level, but also excites her on another, and Cara decides to go along with it.

The rest of the night is all about Pretty (Miyuki’s sub name) and Pretty’s mistress Dominica, a much older woman, introducing Cara to the delights and specifics of the sexual world of Doms and Subs.

I found the author’s voice and way of writing to be rather exquisite and it appealed greatly to my sense of aesthetics. I would call this more highbrow erotica since the focus seemed to be less on the actual sex acts and more on the senses and strict rituals involved. Also, she got the essence of Japanese aesthetics down as well, meaning way of expression and thinking. (Not the part that the author included in which Miyuki has trouble saying certain letters in English words.)

The author really gets into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on in Cara’s head, what she’s experiencing, and to some degree Miyuki and Dominica's as well. Through Cara’s thoughts, emotions, impressions, and astute observations about how Miyuki and Dominica interact, we get to see her process as she goes from being someone with only superficial knowledge of and having a somewhat negative view of the D/s world, to someone who comes to “get it.”

For the most part, this book is provocative and sexually intense. The characters, how the sex is written- fairly hot-- and style of writing as it starts and ends is engrossing. However, it wasn’t a perfect story.

I was all into these three women, how they are engaging with each other on a visceral level and then bam, there’s this whole section in between in which Dominica starts explaining what the D/s relationship is all about to Cara. It got way too cerebral for me, taking me out of the story altogether and my mind started wandering into chores I needed to do, what was on TV, etc. Since the writing does get into lofty philosophical territory at times outside of that, I was afraid it might not get back on track. Others might like a tutorial on D/s lifestyle, but for me, it detracted from the fantastic energy and chemistry of the beginning of the book.

I get that Cara is there partly from the standpoint of a writer who likes to do “research” on sex as it were and didn’t know much about the D/s relationship, so I can see the injected commentary from the character’s standpoint. However, her main reason to go there, at a baser, more instinctual level, was due to her deep attraction to Miyuki and desire to be with her. Even so, I wanted to see how it turned out and did keep going. The end does make up for it and carries on with the same intensity as the beginning had, but with an interesting and unexpected twist.

As far as the actual D/s/ BDSM part of the story goes, I felt it’s rather mild compared to others I’ve read. This would be a really good story for anyone wanting to step into reading the genre for the first time without being overwhelmed with aspects that that can put off those not into or accustomed to reading it.

Overall, with the story getting back on track at the end, I’d give this recommend if you’re looking for a light D/s f/f erotica story.

Heat Level: 4-5- graphic sex, although not as much as I would expect in erotica. Light BDSM, D/s, f/f/f.

Grade: Liked it

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review- Deep Deception by Cathy Pegau

Deep Deception
By Cathy Pegau
May 27, 2013
Sci-fi, f/f, (lesbian), romantic suspense
208 pgs
Publisher: Carina Press

Colonial Mining Authority agent Natalia Hallowell doesn’t always play by the rules, but she wouldn’t compromise a case either. Put on administrative leave under a cloud of accusation, with no support from her boss, Natalia seeks a little anonymous companionship at her favorite bar. But she’s surprised when the woman who catches her fancy starts buying her drinks.

Desperate, Genevieve “Gennie” Caine had no choice but to seduce, drug and tie Natalia to the bed to get her attention. With the Reyes Corporation after something she has, Gennie needs Natalia to open an investigation and distract them long enough for her to get off Nevarro.

Natalia doesn’t trust Gennie—despite the growing attraction between them—but the corporation’s suspiciously high profits convince her that they must be hiding something. But she has no idea just how deep the deceptions run….

I read Cathy Pegau’s first book, Rulebreaker, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved the author’s voice and that it was an action packed, thriller-ish sci-fi story as well as an f/f romance. So I was excited when she came out with a new f/f book set in the same world, Nevarro, an Earth like planet existing sometime in the future.

In this third book of the series, right out of the gate the action starts. Natalia, a Gov employee, is sexually seduced (they both totally went for it), drugged, and tied up by Gennie, a known criminal conspirator. Gennie feels it’s the only way to get the Gov to look at info she has on the Reyes Corporation, which she thinks is corrupt and operating nefarious and illegal businesses. She also has a personal stake in them being caught, which she keeps secret from Natalia.

This sets the tone for most of the interaction between Gennie and Natalia throughout the book; lots and lots of sexual tension mixed with major distrust. Gennie’s tactic, while pissing Natalia off, did make a huge impression and Natalia decides to help Gennie after looking over the info Gennie left behind. During the course of having to get more information by going undercover together, they are forced to work out both the constant sexual heat that keeps drawing them together as well as learning to trust that each has the other’s back.

As far as both characters go, Natalia and Gennie are equally strong, independent, willing to fight for what’s important to them, and are not averse to bending the rules to do so. Having similar characteristics is what keeps them on track with each other even though they get wary at times, especially Natalia who is never sure about what Gennie is hiding from her.

This is one of the characteristics of Cathy Pegau’s books that I like. Her main characters usually have a strong, inner moral code even if they step out of the bounds and or if that moral code is not in step with the rest of society. This makes them very interesting and not the usual.

What’s good about this story is that there isn’t too much focus on their issues something that gets annoying in other books. They’re constantly testing the physical boundaries of their attraction with touches, glances, innuendos, but at the same time, the constant threat and suspense that comes with working undercover and the fact that they are investigating a potentially dangerous group interjects some somberness into their interactions.

On the romance itself, I felt the author kept that on track at an even pace, slowly building up their love for one another. It starts as lust but as the story progresses it grows to something deeper in a realistic way.

Even though this is a sci-fi romance, the author does a great job at writing what I consider to be suspense. The action is fairly fast-paced and exciting. Besides the tension of being undercover, Gennie is dealing with the stress of constantly being on the run to protect, at all costs, what’s most precious to her. And Natalia is dealing with unknown enemies trying to take her down at work with convincing lies and false evidence. Neither can relax or settle into a routine life until these things are settled.

As in Rulebreaker, I love that this futuristic world is fairly generic and doesn’t have social taboos on sexuality. Maybe sci-fi fans will not like that there is not too much world building on the sci-fi level, however, I like that the author leaves enough room for readers to use their imaginations to add to what is not described in detail. Plus it makes it easier to follow if you step into this book without having read the first two. 

Deep Deception is ultimately an entertaining read and I will be reading the next installment, if there is one, of Cathy Pegau’s f/f books set in this future world. Or even any other f/f she writes.

Heat Level- 2-3- Several fairly spelled out sex scenes but not too graphically written.

Grade: Really liked

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review- Daughters of Buxton by Kathryn Ewers Bundy

Daughters of Buxton

By Kathryn Ewers Bundy

June 4, 2012

Period Historical (1902)/Lesbian/romance

Pgs 288

“The Black Utopia” is what it was dubbed in the papers.

Buxton, Iowa was a coal mining town in 1902. Built by a visionary businessman, it was home to black, white, immigrant and native families. Peace and cooperation reigned.

Into this unusual mix came Lucinda Vanderberg, German immigrant daughter of the new century. She was independent, self-sufficient and full of ambition. The last thing she needed was love.

Soft-spoken Vanetta Washington, born to the sons of slavery, was plucked from the Virginia hills to make a home for her husband and children in the cold Midwestern mine country.

To Lou and Netta it seemed inevitable. They were drawn together by adversity and likeness of mind, and together they made a family. But not everyone in Buxton thought they should.

This book was a nice find for me. I’m still on an early 20th century reading kick and downloaded this book really without reading the blurb; I just hoped it would be a decent book. Daughters of Buxton turned out to be one of those books that wormed its way into my psyche and I couldn’t put it down. Even when I did have to put it down for RL chores and job, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the characters.

I’ll be honest, I’ve written and re-written the review for this book many times.I even posted one for a few days. I really wanted to give this book justice since I loved it. I finally decided to take down the review and rework it again. Almost everything about this book affected me on some level. It’s so complex and covers a lot of interesting history and issues for the time it was set in. It made me think a lot, about life then and these characters’ lives. I struggled for a few weeks to whittle down the review to a decent amount but couldn’t. After leaving it up for a few days I realized I gave away too much of the story and it’s better for everyone to experience the depth of it for themselves. So… I’m trying again.

The first thing that grabbed me about this story was the detailed description of this world of a southern Iowa mining town and its inhabitants. The language, the tone, attitudes and expressions all felt so true to the time period. This town and characters came to life for me in such a rich and vivid way that I even felt that the author must have actually lived then and was relaying personal experiences.

Most especially I was drawn to Lucinda, the character that drives this story really. Lucinda is an independent minded young woman for her time who balks at the idea that as a woman she’s expected to marry and have babies. She wants none of it. Against her parent’s wishes she goes to nursing school in Chicago where she’s exposed to a more liberal society and ideas. She lands a job in Buxton, a newly created and fast growing mining town not too far from her home, as a nurse working for the mining company to tend to the miners and their families’ medical needs. She receives a better salary than most of the miners so she’s quite capable of taking care of herself.

She’s direct, honest and has a clear and strong sense of right and wrong. And she has no qualms about expressing herself when she feels people are not acting in an upright way or if she or someone she loves is being slighted.  She’s simple, wears plain, functional clothes and works hard. She also has a strong sense of community and family even if she’s moved away from home to have her life.

Vanetta was less defined for me, but I did get a good feel for who she is. She’s a miner’s wife and was brought from Virginia to be with her husband when the mining company decided it was better in the long run for the company if the miners could have their families with them. She’s a good, soft spoken woman who tends to her family and takes care of her husband who has become injured in the mine and has become an addict of pain killers and booze, all without complaint.

At first we only get few glimpses into Lou’s growing feelings for Vanetta. As she goes about her days tending to the sick in their homes, Lou starts finding excuses to visit Vanetta, knowing she’s having a hard time. She helped deliver Vanetta’s baby and has bonded with her. She doesn’t muse about her in a sexual or romantic way; she just knows she has a strong desire to be around her.

As for Vanetta, she mentions that she appreciates Lou helping her, being there during her difficult times, and that she enjoys Lou’s company. Lou is very protective of Vanetta and sort of takes care of her in her own way, which Vanetta responds positively to.

What I liked about this relationship beginning was that it didn’t build in the way of a typical romance, but still conveyed a deep, mutual, blossoming of love for each other---(to the point that I couldn’t wait for them to get together.) There were no sexual or flirty side glances or overt expressions, no, their growing attraction for each other happens in a very subtle and natural way without any questions about what they feel for each other being outside of what would be acceptable. And it always stays on a proper level on the surface and to some degree in how they act with each other, meaning, there’s never any assumption of anything more than a close friendship filled with respect for each other.

Also, I’d like to interject that I found it refreshing that when Lou reflects on or tells Vanetta how beautiful she is, it’s never with the usual adjectives used often in books with interracial couples. She never describes her in terms of her skin color, nor does she fetishize her. She’s simply beautiful, period.

When they finally acknowledge that what’s going on is more than just a friendship, they easily slip into it without any angst or discussion that they shouldn’t feel or act upon what they feel. I liked that they seem to be innocently in love and in their own little world for the first years together, conspiratorially oblivious to any social stigma around their love.

Of course things don’t stay innocent for them. They are a lesbian and interracial couple living in the era of Jim Crow laws. Even though this little racially diverse town and close by towns in Iowa at the time didn’t suffer the extent of racism the south did, it still wasn’t a cozy love fest between races either.

Both women and their kids try to find their place in society as a couple, a family and as individuals. Of course this leads to many conflicts with some locals and family, especially in the case of Lou whose family lives close enough to hear the gossip. Both racism and homophobia get equal time in any negativity coming their way, however, the really nasty stuff is about them being lesbians. I felt the author neither skirted the realities of racism or homophobia, nor did she use them gratuitously to manipulate emotions. They are dealt with honestly and realistically. However, I will say that it was satisfying that issues along the way got resolved in positive, and I felt, believable ways.

While this story includes the everyday issues these women face, this is ultimately about a lifelong love story. The glue that holds Lou and Vanetta together through all the years is their undying love for each other and this comes through so strongly throughout the book. They support each other, they express their love often in so many ways and although not a romance per se, this is an endearing, sweet love story.

All in all this was this was an excellent read and one that I won’t forget for a long while. I still can’t get these characters and the setting out of my head.

Heat level: 0-1. Not erotically written on any level, but clear intimations about their sex life are expressed.

Grade: Loved it!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review- Prohibited Passion (Bandit Creek #10) by Alyssa Linn Palmer

Prohibited Passion (Bandit Creek #10)
By Alyssa Linn Palmer
January 12, 2012
F/F/Bisexual/ Period Historical 1920’s
72 pgs

This erotic romance brings you right into the middle of Prohibition...

Ruth wants to escape the boredom of Bandit Creek and the strict expectations of her father, the local pastor. Her life changes the day she meets CeeCee, a world-wise flapper, and an irresistible attraction develops between them. She’ll be disowned and shunned if anyone discovers their prohibited passion, but can they keep their growing affection a secret?

CeeCee is drawn to Ruth, but things become complicated when her gangster companion disapproves of their liaison. He’s in town to broker a deal with the owner of the local speakeasy, and he’s not above using them to further his own plans. Can CeeCee protect Ruth and their budding relationship?

As Ruth gets drawn further into their world, she must decide between her familiar life and a new, dangerous path with the woman she loves

I really don’t know how to categorize this book. I enjoyed it, but it’s not really a romance per se. It’s more like a coming out/of age lesbian fiction story.

Ruth feels stifled and trapped in her life. Her mother has passed away and she is all her preacher father has. She takes care of him and the house as was what women were expected to do in those days and is expected to act as a proper preacher’s daughter should.  She’s of an age that young men are coming around to court her, ones that will take over the position of church preacher when her father retires, but she has no interest in that. Instead she dreams of a life outside, free of all these constraints and full of new experiences.

While shopping in town, she casually glances through the cafe window and sees a beautiful woman sitting alone, clearly a stranger in town. She’s mesmerized by this woman, the way she’s dressed, her beauty. This woman, CeeCee, happens to notice her looking and see’s something about Ruth that attracts her. She’s so much like someone she once knew, someone she loved.

CeeCee ends up inviting Ruth to a speakeasy, something Ruth feels rather uncomfortable about due to how things would look for her father if she were caught, but is so enthralled by CeeCee she goes. This catapults Ruth into a whole new world and helps her discover things about herself she didn’t know about.

Ruth responds easily to CeeCee’s advances even if she’s shy. CeeCee represents just the new and exciting that Ruth craves. However, there’s a kink in the budding love between CeeCee and Ruth, Sheirdan, CeeCee’s busisness partner/boyfriend/controller.

Sheridan is not happy that Ruth, the preacher’s daughter, has been brought there and makes it known is clear and on aggressive terms. This creates tension in all of them.

What was kind of weird for me in this story was how easily CeeCee moves between Sheridan and Ruth. I didn’t quite get her relationship with Sheridan. They have a sort of business relationship in which CeeCee is used to seduce costumers into buying the bootleg booze from Sheridan. He seems to have a lot of control over her both physically and emotionally, which he exercises somewhat violently at times. But at the same time, they also have a comfortable sexual relationship, which she openly enjoys. CeeCee, however, begs Sheridan on a regular basis to allow her to get with Ruth, which he tries to dissuade at every turn.

Clearly CeeCee is bisexual and in a somewhat co-dependent relationship with Sheridan. I got CeeCee’s attraction to Ruth and that she wanted to have something with her, however, it was all set up to be doomed as long as Sheridan was involved and she kept working as a bootlegger, something she seemed to have a hard time walking away from for a reason we don’t know.

Although not a romance that follows the rules of romance, the author did manage to infuse a lot of loving energy between the women. The sex scenes were nicely written even if not too graphic and the setting felt authentic to the time period as well.

Mainly this is a story about Ruth’s journey from being small town sheltered girl to having the courage to go for what she wants and to be who she is. This is what her relationship with CeeCee gives her.

Heat level: 2-3- sensual sex scenes, not graphically written.

Grade: Liked it

Warning: this is not a romance that follows romance rules.