Passion

The usual Valentine Review disclaimer applies once more.

Standard Lex Warning:

I often spew spoilers in my enthusiasm. If  you hate spoilers just skip down to the bottom to see how many Valentines I gave this book.

I offered to review this book and the editor sent me an ARC. So this book deviates from the others that I review by virtue of the fact that it wasn’t something I just picked up because it sounded good or it was written by a favorite author of mine, although I was encouraged by the fact that Delilah Devlin and Portia Da Costa were in it. They are authors I know and admire.

This book also deviates from my norm because it is a print book. (It is offered in eformat too but the print book is what they sent me.) I pretty much have given up on print books. I love em, but I love my Nookie more. And I get in trouble for adding to the monumental amount of paper books I already have in my house.

Rott said this week,  “I was looking for the box with the Christmas stuff and every box I opened had books in it!” Let me tell you, when he saw me ensconce myself in the recliner with my reading glasses, a bottle of water, Louie my faithful acolyte (ie cat) and a PRINT book…his eyes narrowed to evil slits and I knew he was thinking of those boxes and boxes of books in every closet of our little condo.

So to the editor and authors of this book, know you this: I risked the wrath of my DH to read this book and Rott in a snit is a fearsome thing.

One other thing before I start talking about these stories, I am prejudiced. I don’t read stuff without HEAs anymore. I don’t normally enjoy books without HEAs. I like everything all tied up neatly with a bow that says, “I love you” at the end or at least “I think I’m falling in love with you.”  This book isn’t really a book that has HEAs. These are truly short stories, vignettes, romantic versions of Penthouse Variations stories, although more perfectly crafted.

I read a ton of those in my 20’s. I have a box of the books to prove it. (Rott never threatens those books like he does my romances.) I had a distinct sense of familiarity when I was reading this book and then Rott mentioned the Variations when he was looking in the closet this week. The lightbulb went on over my head. Once I finished the book, I turned it over and read the back cover, discovering the editor’s connection to Variations which felt rather karmic to me at that point. (Cue the Twilight Zone music.)

My overall impression of Passion is that every single story lived up to the theme. In spades. I didn’t like every single story in the anthology, but that doesn’t matter. My reasons for not liking some of them had nothing to do with how they were crafted. They were mostly personal prejudices including my preference for a HEA. And really, calling this book erotic romance didn’t quite fit the bill to my way of thinking. (Although, how I define genres isn’t necessarily how the publishing industry defines genres.) Some of the stories definitely fit the romance part. To me, others only fit the erotic part with romantic overtones.

An example of this is The Arch of Triumph, a story about a cougar encounter in Paris. Loved the story. Loved the visuals. Loved the sexual tension. Loved the romantic overtones. I’m a cougar. I usually adore cougar stories. But this one had no HEA or even an expectation of one. It was always clear this wasn’t a romance.

That story was awesome and I liked it, but my personal prejudices kept me from adoring it as I did the story of the cop who arranges to have the elevator stop so he has a chance to get back the woman he loves. OMG did I love Third Time’s a Charm. But then, it had a HEA or at least the expectation that one would occur. I wanted to know more about Nick and Lynn, wanted backstory and epilogues to fill out their hot sex and “I love yous.” I felt the same about the two stories about riding public transit, one of which was by Delilah Devlin.

Delilah’s story, The Morning Ride, gives you a taste of two people caught in the same net of attraction and building passion.  It focuses on the internals of this couple, the searing heat that builds from the brain and percolates to the groin the longer they watch each other. Plus it had a freaky little twist that I really liked. And I really felt that the couple were headed for the beginning of a relationship that could only have a HEA. I mean, c’mon…freaky little paranormalish twist, yanno.

The other public transit story is An Easy Guy to Fall On by Annabeth Leong. In this story, you get a more traditional sort of boy meets girl with a progression to sex. The passion between Saeed and Ina is in part fueled by what you think are his secrets. She wants to know. You want to know. And when you find out, you just sigh and think, “Awww…”

A couple of the stories take long time couples and reheat them to the boiling point. Rekindle has a hot sweetness that makes you long to brush your finger along the sinew of your man’s forearm or stroke your palm over his jean clad ass. Dear in Headlights makes you feel the urgency of need, needing to be with the man you love so much that you’ll risk sex in public over the hood of a car.

The other two stories I fell in love with were Riding Wild Things and No Risk, No Reward. In Riding Wild Things we have a hero who wants to do right by the woman he’s fallen in love with. He won’t fuck her standing up, out in public where someone could come by. He says the L word. He takes her to his trailer for privacy. He doesn’t want to do her unless she too wants something more than just hot sex. How can you not adore a man who won’t fuck you because he loves you?

In No Risk, No Reward we find a couple who are saying goodbye and the goodbye brings their lives and their hearts sharply into focus. Yes, there’s public sex and yes, it’s hotter than hell. But it’s the anticipation of them both acknowledging that there is something growing between them, something they dare not let get away, that sucks the reader in and makes their heart pound.

Anticipation fills The Efficiency Expert. The anticipation of the hero and heroine. The reader’s anticipation as they wait to discover why the hero had woman trouble. And the anticipation of both the reader and the heroine as they edge closer to the end of the story, neither wanting it to end. And then the hero does what heroes do and he gives in to the possibility of love. *sigh* For a guy who was an asshole at work, this one turns out to be hot, sweet, and full of promise.

So yeah, there were things I didn’t like. And yeah, there were things I liked a lot. But overall, this book delivers. And that’s saying something when you’re dealing with stories this short. They may be short stories, but they are so not short on passion.

As an Epic male I know would say, “Go. Buy it. Buy it NOW.”

Happy reading!

4.5 Valentines

Passion: Erotic Romance for Women

Editor: Rachel Kramer Bussel

Publisher: Cleis Press

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Short Stories

Buy Link at Cleis

Buy Link at Amazon

Titles/Authors:

Big-Bed Sex by Donna George Storey
My Dark Knight by Jacqueline Applebee
Dear in the Headlights by Angela Caperton
The Cherry Orchard by Wickham Boyle
Autumn Suite by Suzanne V. Slate
Contentions by Isabelle Gray
The Silver Belt by Lana Fox
Five Senses by Rachel Kramer Bussel
The Arc of Triumph by Monica Day
Crave You Close by A.M. Hartnett
Any Easy Guy to Fall On by Annabeth Leong
Lingua Franca by Justine Elyot
Third Time’s the Charm by Charlene Teglia
Riding Wild Things by Lizzy Chambers
No Risk, No Reward by Saskia Walker
If by Emerald
Getting It Right by Teresa Noelle Roberts
The Morning Ride by Delilah Devlin
The Efficiency Expert by Portia Da Costa
Rekindle by Kathleen Bradean

Boys in Blue

Warning: Remember that I have an issue with being able to keep my mouth shut. Spoiler alert!

So I have a thing about series…you knew that right? I write them. I read them. I love them. The latest in my reading adventures started out simply enough, read a short story by Mia Watts about two cops, partners who have a little too much beer and do something two straight guys would never do. Bad Boys, Bad Boys turns out to be the first in the Boys in Blue series and when I discovered that the heroes of Bad Boys, Bad Boys were in another longer story I had to have it.

These first two books in the series (at least I hope this is only the beginning and not the sum total) are about Geo Wilson and Mack Sullivan, two detectives who’ve been partners for several years. Bad Boys, Bad Boys, as I said, is a short story. In it, we meet the two cops tying one on. Or rather, Geo is tying one on while remembering all the erotic dreams he’s had lately about about his partner Mack. Both Geo and Mack are straight with a long history of women in their pasts. Still, something’s happened recently inside Geo and his dreams are filled with lust for Mack. When his inebriation leads him to kiss Mack, it’s a domino that begins to drop a lot of other dominoes and inhibitions in succession.

Mack questions himself and his reaction to the kiss as he drives Geo home. His cock obviously liked it. And Mack finds himself filled with confusion mixed with a reluctant lust. At Geo’s house, things escalate as Mack tries to get Geo into bed so he can sleep off the drunk. Instead, Geo yanks down Mack’s pants revealing a hard cock that Geo instantly goes for. The resultant blow job blows the doors off of Mack.

Of course, Geo doesn’t remember it except in snatches after Mack confesses what happened. Mack acts like he wants to forget it, but Geo isn’t afraid to turn his back on what happened.  The rest of the short is about Geo chasing Mack. Not literally so much as figuratively. He wants to pursue the attraction and Mack is filled with denial and trepidation not to mention confusion. Through it all, Geo shines brightly as a man who isn’t into lying to himself or others. His attraction for his partner isn’t something he’s willing to compromise on. He wants Mack and he wants Mack to acknowledge that he wants Geo too.

The HFN leaves lots of questions in the reader’s mind. And it leaves this story open for author Mia Watts to return to it. Luckily for the reader, she does revisit Geo and Mack a year later in Reasonable Doubt. In the last year, the two men have grown closer and are now living together. They are in a committed relationship albeit a relationship that’s in the closet. They love each other and are at the stage where they express that freely. However, each man has doubts, albeit about different things.

Reasonable Doubt takes Geo and Mack’s relationship and adds a huge bump in the road to their HEA. First, there’s Geo’s ex, an FBI agent who walked out on him and never looked back. Then, there’s her partner, a snarky twink with a crush on Mack.  Geo allows Lauren to crawl all over him, thinking that Mack’s jealousy is a good thing because it means Mack loves him. Mack pushes Geo away and right at Lauren, thinking that if they had something commitment worthy, Geo wouldn’t let her touch him. At cross purposes, their relationship deteriorates into arguments and unhappiness. It’s not until Andy the twink FBI agent points out to Mack that he’s not much of a man to let a woman take his man away.

When Mack explodes out of his broody, sullen behavior and lays it all on the line, Geo instantly pushes away his ex and comes clean to Mack about his feelings. Their case escalates and comes to a close as Geo and Mack talk commitment and bring their relationship out into the open.

The longer story this time around gives the reader a more complete picture of Geo and Mack, their relationship and their emotions. Sure, there’s hot sex too, but it’s the emotions that I always look for in a book. Personally, I could have stood to have more emotion and description in the sex scenes. I like lots of internal thought about what they are feeling as well as how the sex itself feels. However, while Watts only delivers that at a what I’d call a basic level (she describes the acts themselves sparingly), she does make up for it in two ways. One, she has a way with sexual tension that will make your panties wet. And two, she’ll capture you with a sparkling dialog that shows the depth of the emotion between the two men. Sure, I was rooting for more hot descriptives, but I love good dialog and Mia Watts is great at it.

I’m not sure if there will be other books and if there are, if they will be about other couples or a return to Geo and Mack.  I’d sure like to see more of Geo and Mack. There seems to be more to their story than we’ve seen thus far. Maybe in future installments they’ll only be secondary characters, but still, more Mack and Geo is only a good thing.

I give Bad Boys, Bad Boys, a 4.5 and the longer, hotter Reasonable Doubt gets 4.75 which gives this series (at this point anyway) 4.75 Valentines.

4.5 Valentines

Bad Boys, Bad Boys: Boys in Blue Book 1

Total e-Bound

Short Story

BUY LINK

Blurb:

What you gonna do when they cum for you? A police force partner submits to his desire while under the influence of alcohol. But since neither of the men are gay, what do they do with their lurking lust?

Geo Wilson has been partnered to Mack for three years. Sharing the same muscular build, dark hair, and olive complexion, they’ve been dubbed ‘the twins’ by the department. But lately Geo’s dreams have taken an erotic twist to centre around Mack.

Mack values his friendship with Geo, would give his life for the man. Then one night Geo has a few too many beers and plants a kiss on him, he can’t forget. He might have been able to pass it off as beer-haze except in helping Geo get back to his apartment, Mack is taken off guard by Geo’s tackle and a mind-numbing blow job.

Now the partnership has to redefine itself while the criminal world continues around them. They could lose their badges, or lose each other.

4.75 Valentines

Reasonable Doubt: Boys in Blue Book 2

Total eBound

Novella

BUY LINK

Blurb:

Geo and Mack have faced a lot of problems, but when the problem is within their relationship, will Mack come clean and claim his man, or lose him to an old flame?

Geo Wilson’s feelings for his partner Mack Sullivan run deep. But formerly straight Mack grows distant when Geo’s old flame, a former female detective gone FBI, comes to town to take over the lead on their case. Geo makes no effort to discourage the woman, and Mack wonders if he missed the break up memo.

Geo’s apparent rejection hurts and Mack begins to have reasonable doubts about where they stand.

For Mack, taking the next step is a huge risk and one Geo has never taken before. Geo’s friendliness with the former girlfriend could be a sign of changing affection. It wouldn’t be the first time Geo has left a broken heart in his wake and Mack’s beginning to wonder if he’s just become another notch in Geo’s belt. All that’s left now is the case and as it comes to a close, will Mack and Geo catch the killer only to lose each other?