Monday, August 30, 2010

Deviations: Submission by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne

I'm re-reading the Deviations series in preparation for the release of the fifth book, Deviations: Safe Word.

It's been a while since I read Deviations: Submission, and I was a bit nervous about reading it again. I loved it when I first read it, I've compared other books to it, and I've been disappointed when other books did not live up to the Deviations series. What if a re-read isn't as good as the original read? What if I've become jaded and it's no longer the book I remember it? That would have been so disappointing.

Thankfully, after a re-read, I still consider this one of the best BDSM stories I've ever read. Or rather, the beginning of one of the best BDSM stories, and I look forward to a re-read of books two through four.

I am reminded of the descriptions used, and how I emailed some phrases from the book to my husband when I first read the book. Phrases like:

"...Tell me, do you get off on the pain itself, or is it the surrender?"

"Both, though it's more the surrender, sir." Noah licked his lips. "The pain is a present, active reminder that someone else is in control..."

I had tried to explain to him before how, even when one is not getting off on the pain, one can get off on the control implied by the pain. I had spent too many words trying to explain that, and then there it was.. all concise and stuff, "Pain is a present, active reminder that someone else is in control". Beautiful.

The Deviations series speaks to me on so many levels, is it possible I enjoy it so much because of the type of control Tobias wields? Because of the way Noah expresses his submission? Yes, I suppose so, but I'd like to think it's because of the character development, and because of the intensity of the emotions that are explored. Oh, and because of the quite accurate descriptions of so much of the physical stuff, too. Mmmmmm.

I've put the Deviations series into the Realistic BDSM category, even though the club they belong to is all fantasy, as is Tobias' playroom. But the rest? The meat of the story? It paints a fairly realistic picture of one type of BDSM relationship. 

Here's the blurb:

Tobias is a skilled Dom, able to bring even the most hesitant submissive around. Noah is a man in need of just that. He wants to sub badly, but has yet to find someone he believes can take him where he needs to go. Through a series of encounters in the world of bondage and discipline, Noah reveals why he has trouble trusting, why he needs such a firm, steady hand. Tobias may allow himself to dominate, but he has trouble letting himself love. Still, Tobias can't resist Noah's charms, and the two of them set about making a scene for themselves, one that works for them and their unique set of problems. They learn to love, but can they stay together while they explore each others' secrets, in a world where all is laid bare and emotions run high? 

BDSM elements:
  • Bondage and Discipline: Oh yes. Very yummy discipline, too. 3 of 3.
  • Dominance and Submission: A very sexy Dom who is Topping a sub who wants to be taken places.  Perfect.  3 of 3.
  • Sadism and Masochism: Tobias is a Sadist, but he's a caring Sadist. I know, sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn't.  Noah has a masochistic streak, but he's not into heavy pain. He loves to be made to fly, though. And Tobias is great at making him fly. Tobias is also good at making the Discipline be truly Discipline when it needs to be. 3 of 3.
  • Extra Point: Yes, the BDSM is an intricate part of the book and the series.
As for the writing elements: the plot seems fairly simple in book one, but I know that book one is a set up for a much more complicated plot later in the story. It's a beautiful plot, and I enjoyed reading Deviations: Submission again, and watching all of the pieces be oh-so-carefully laid so they would be in place for later books. The pacing is perfect, prose is very well done, dialogue is great (complete with comic moments and relaxed conversation as well as formal scene conversation).  I can't say enough about the character development, it is really well done.
  • Book Rating:: 10 of 10
  • BDSM Intensity Level: 10 of 10
  • Heat Level: 5 of 5
Sometimes picking up a favorite book really is like visiting with old friends.

1. Deviations: Submission
2. Deviations: Domination
3. Deviations: Discipline
4. Deviations: Bondage
5. Deviations: Safe Word (due out in September 2010)


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Corporate Seduction by Bridget Midway

Corporate Seduction is, as the title suggests, an office romance. But this one has a few twists along the way. More than a few twists, actually.

Here's the blurb:
Maybelline "May" Davenport wants a few things in her life: to move up at work after she obtained her college degree, and to find a man who could sweep her off of her feet like the heroes in her erotic romance novels. She's sure she won't find that while working for a man she calls "the totem pole with style" even though she finds him attractive. Winston Biggers thinks he wants a dominant type of woman in his life. And although she doesn't seem the type, Win can't stop thinking about May, his administrative assistant. But he can't let her go. Not just yet. So he hides her newly-acquired degree to keep her as his assistant. But there are other important aspects about his life that he's hiding. When the truth comes out, will it be too much for May to take? Or will staying with this man make her Win Bigg?

The BDSM in Corporate Seduction is pretty tame, so if you don't like pain in your BDSM, this may be a good book for you.  The BDSM action is mostly D/s with no S&M between our main couple. 

BDSM elements:
  • Bondage and Discipline:A very very very small amount. 1 of 3
  • Dominance and Submission: Some. 1 of 3
  • Sadism and Masochism: None. 0 of 3 
  • Extra Point: No.
As for the writing elements, the plot was pretty predictable except for one surprise that was thrown into the mix towards the end. Pacing had issues. Prose and dialogue were fine, with a nice voice over all. Character developement was well done.

And the character development  is probably what carried the story for me. I've said it before, but good characters can overcome a lot of other problems with a story. There are two other books in this series and I am very interested in reading them.

  • Book Rating: Corporate Seduction: 8 of 10
  • BDSM Intensity Level: 2 of 10
  • Heat Level: 2 of 10

The blurbs for the next two books give the appearance that there will be more S&M involved in future stories. We've met both female characters in Corporate Seduction, I look forward to reading their stories.

    1. Corporate Seduction
    2. Corporate Desires
    3. Corporate Needs


    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Willing Victim by Cara McKenna

    Willing Victim Cara McKenna

    Willing Victim isn't your normal BDSM type book, but that's okay because it didn't really claim to be. Everyone has their own kink, and nothing says it has to conform to what has turned into the "norm".

    There is an incredibly sexy boxer who likes rough sex, likes for the woman to fight him and tell him to stop... but he stops the instant the safe word is uttered. He's a really nice guy. And sexy. Did I mention sexy?

    The author does give the warning that anyone sensitive to rape, even simulated rape that is totally consensual, may not want to read Willing Victim.

    Here's the blurb:

    For the past couple years Laurel's been coasting, hiding in the backseat while her life drifts off course. Then one summer afternoon a tall, built bruiser named Flynn strides in and steers her straight into an infatuation she never saw coming.

    Flynn introduces Laurel to things she’s never imagined before—to the violent but exciting realm of the underground boxing circuit, to rough sex and even rougher role-playing, and to an attraction she craves even as it intimidates her. As Flynn invites her deeper into his world and his life, Laurel has to make a choice—let fear keep her holed up where it’s safe, or take a chance and fight for the man who makes her feel more alive than she’d dreamed possible.

    One pretty major thing didn't work all that great for me. Without giving spoilers I'll just say that Flynn has a friend that kind of gets tossed out on her butt when Laurel steps in, and considering how nice the girl is to Laurel, that bothered me.

    I appreciated the humor interspersed throughout, enough humor that I put my netbook down and had a good laugh a few times. Several things come out of left field and catch you off guard, so you snort yourself into laughter and then your husband gets to make fun of you for snorting.

    Our couple starts out just a little rough and then work their way up to some pretty rough stuff. Nothing that leaves marks, but still, some of it gets intense. 

    The nice thing about this particular story and situation is that she watches him get punched in the face by people who weigh more than twice her weight, so she doesn't have to hold back when she slaps him or hits him -- she can fight back full force without worrying about hurting him, and without worrying about actually getting away from him. And he's strong enough, and in control of himself enough, that it's safe to do that -- he can control her without actually hurting her.

    BDSM elements:
    • Bondage and Discipline: As I said, Willing Victim isn't actually BDSM in the traditional sense of the term. There is bondage, but not really discipline. 1 of 3
    • Dominance and Submission: Yes, sort of. But not really. He kind of looks down on the BDSM scene, says it's like the civil war reenactors. But he still uses a lot of their tricks, ways to simulate what he wants and still stay safe and make sure it's consensual. Even though it's not the traditional form of D/s, it's there. He gets off on being in charge and she gets off having someone else in charge. 3 of 3
    • Sadism and Masochism: Again, it's not the "normal" form of S&M, but he enjoys hurting her and she gets blazing hot when he hurts her. 1 of 3 
    • Extra Point: Yes, the role play and power exchange is an integral part of the story, it gets the extra point.
    As for the writing elements, the plot just follows the sexual games and the relationship, not much else going on. It's a fairly short story, so there are no pacing issues. Prose and dialogue are very well done, the author is skillful enough to make the dialogue make me snort in laughter, that's pretty skilled. Character development was also nicely executed.

    • Book Rating: Willing Victim: 9 of 10
    • Heat Rating: 4 of 5
    • BDSM Intensity: 6 of 10

    If simulated rape is a turn on for you then Willing Victim will be a nice way to treat yourself. It isn't really one of my kinks, but the story still worked for me. It feels wrong to call it a charming little romance, but I'm going to, anyway.

      Summer School: A Ponygirl Novel by Jurgen von Stuka

      Summer School is a non-consensual tale of girls being forced into pony play. Actually, the term "pony play" isn't quite right here, because this is quite serious, with no playing around. The girls are eventually made into something as close to ponies as a human body can be taken. (Probably a lot farther than you're thinking.) There are also human cows and human piggies, once you get into the story.

      Some non-BDSM parts of the story bothered me:
      • The author tried to show that this could be an economic venture, and tried to explain how the "missing" girls could be explained. I agree you could possibly explain some missing girls in this manner, but once there are dozens of girls who go away to school and then never go home again... for families with fifteen thousand dollars to blow on summer camp, they are going to be able to hire private detectives and lawyers, too.
      • The description of some of the gadgets was too much for me. A description of a complicated mouth gag took pages and pages to describe the gag and then to show how it was installed. Some of the gadgets were well thought out and ingenious, but there were times that the story stopped too long for the descriptions.
      • The author lost track of the kind of bondage her victims were in a few times. Someone in a full hood that blocked sound was able to hear her tormentor speak, but then a few paragraphs later could not hear other sounds that would have been louder than a voice.
         Here's the blurb:

        Desperately wanting to get away from home for the summer, Dori Hammond, talks her father into sending her to a summer riding school. However, she quickly learns that this is not a traditional riding school, and its unusual training methods are cause for alarm. However, having signed the required contract, she and the other students are obliged to submit to a rigorous training regimen. Unbeknownst to them, they’ll be methodically transformed into human ponies. Headmistress Wright and Headmaster Boswick employ mechanical horses, strict restraint, suspensions, impalement, and the resources of the farm's deepest cellars. Their female students quickly learn what a horse's life is really like and that misconduct will lead to severe punishment. Riding, as the girls discover, is more than taking a pony around the ring. As Head Master Boswick says, "You can't learn to ride until you've been ridden."

        Though the girls may resist the humiliating treatment, they often experience an overwhelming sexual satisfaction in the pleasure and pain they are forced to suffer.

        Not all the students are at the school voluntarily. Many are spoiled and unruly young women sent there by their wealthy parents. One unlucky German girl, Lucy, is kidnapped on an overnight train and sent to the school, the abduction arranged for by her Dutch boyfriend.

        Dori and her fellow students are subjected to discipline and training from both the male and female staff. For those who resist, there is the dairy barn where the girls are turned into human cows. And for those incorrigible young females who fail in equine training and in the dairy barn, there is the lowly squalor of the Hog Farm, where they are good for nothing but sexual sport. For Dori and the others, it becomes clear long before the end of the story that their lives will be transformed forever, in ways they never imagined.

        In addition to details scenes of human pony training, the inventive story includes graphic descriptions of elaborate pony costumes, unique extreme bondage and suspension, gags, cuffs, collars, chains, dildos, steel restraints, elaborate bondage devices, electrical stimulation, milking, piercing, surgical body modification and straight and lesbian sex. Strong BDSM content.

        BDSM elements:
        • Bondage and Discipline: Yes. Both taken to the extreme. Some of the bondage could easily be fatal if done as described with no one left to observe. This is fantasy BDSM, complete with floggers that tear bits of skin off and send it flying through the air. 3 of 3.
        • Dominance and Submission: Again, taken to the extreme, and the submission is not consensual. 3 of 3
        • Sadism and Masochism: There are certainly sadists who run the school. And some of the girls seem to be trained into masochism.  3 of 3.
        • Extra Point: The story is based around a sadistic pony girl school, it's safe to say it gets the extra point.
        Obviously, the Intensity Level is a  10 of 10, but I'm not sure what to do with the Heat Level. The first part of the book was a 5 of 5, but the latter part went over the top to the extent that it wasn't hot anymore. More scary than hot. And, with the believability and continuity issues I talked about above, that also interfered with the heat level a bit. I think giving it a 3 of 5 is about right, with the understanding that there are parts of it that do hit the 5 of 5, especially if you're into the whole pony thing.
        • Book Rating: Summer School: 6 of 10
        • BDSM Intensity Level: 10 of 10
        • Heat Level: 3 of 5

          As for the writing elements: There isn't really a plot. The book is a description of what happens to a number of people who end up at this school. One person is followed more closely than the others, and we see how far she is taken into being a pony instead of a human.  But it's the physical aspects we see, not really the psychological aspects.

          Pacing has some issues. Prose and dialogue were well done. There wasn't very much character building, just descriptions of what was happening to the various characters.

          As I said, prose and dialogue were well done, and the voice was easy to follow. If you enjoy pony girl activities, and if the non-consent stuff isn't a turn off for you, then you'll probably enjoy Summer School.   


          Saturday, August 21, 2010

          All or Nothing (Taking the Odds Book 3) by James Buchanan


          Once again I'm reviewing a book that isn't the first in the series, and where I've read but not reviewed the earlier books. So, I'll be giving a semi review of the first two books, and a full review of the third.

          Here is the blurb for Cheating Chance:

          Vice Detective, Brandon Carr, despite his tattoos and bad-boy cool, lives in the closet with no intention of ever coming out. Then he meets Nevada Gaming Agent, Nick O'Malley, at a Goth convention and his perfectly constructed world starts to crack. Nick's passions for him, a restored hearse and rope bondage might drown Brandon's will. With the odds stacked against them they try to move from simply sex to something more. Sparks fly as the pair probes a world of cheating, murder, drugs and money laundering. The investigation repeatedly derails their relationship, finally forcing Brandon to choose between staying in the closet and saving Nick's life.

          The blurb for Inland Empire:

          Agent Nick O'Malley and Det. Brandon Carr are back. Nick heads to Riverside, California, center of the Inland Empire and Brandon's home turf. But every minute Nick's in Riverside threatens to out Brandon. When events embroil Nick in one of Brandon's investigations -- gang hits, prostitution, illegal gambling and human trafficking - can they survive both?

          And the blurb for All or Nothing:

          Blundering his way forward in his relationship with Nevada Agent Nick O'Malley, Riverside Detective Brandon Carr brings his daughter, Shayna, to Las Vegas to meet Nick. Nick has his own reasons for pushing Brandon toward a deeper commitment. But when the unthinkable happens, what every cop knows ends in tragedy, can Brandon hold it together long enough to solve the crime? As Brandon spirals into the hell of being a cop and a distraught parent will his love of Nick, and Nick's love for him, be enough to see them through? It's all or nothing and they can't afford to lose.

          I have enjoyed all three books. There is a good bit of crime drama involved, some geek stuff, and the sex is pretty good, too. Actually, make that smokin' hot.  There wasn't as much sex in the third book, All or Nothing, and that was a bit disappointing. It was still a good story, and the relationship between the two men moves along. It's a nice set up for the fourth book, too. And that book promises to give the guys a lot more time alone than they had in All or Nothing.

          I'm trying to decide if All or Nothing is relationship driven, or plot driven... and I'm leaning towards plot driven. A lot happens with the relationship, but it's the main plot that drives the story forward, the relationship is mostly just along for the ride after a certain point. It was a pretty emotionally draining book, with the sex and power play taking a (very) back seat to the events going on.

          BDSM elements, All or Nothing:
          • Bondage and Discipline: When it happens, the bondage is fairly involved. There is an intense discipline scene as well, though it's not really supposed to be about discipline, more about helping Brandon find his center. I'm tempted to give it a 2 of 3 for the lack of quantity, but in the end I'm going to give it a 3 of 3 for content.
          • Dominance and Submission: When they fall into their roles, yes, it is very much there. I'm only giving it a 2 of 3 though, because the roles really aren't there that much.
          • Sadism and Masochism: Yes, but again, a 2 of 3 because it's not there that much. 
          • Extra Point: No extra point this time.The BDSM is not really an intrinsic part of the story.
          As for the writing elements: The plot is very well done and pretty twisted (though I knew the bad guy pretty early on). Pacing was good, prose and dialogue were excellent, action scenes were also well written. Character development is exceptional in this series, the characters are very much alive and three dimensional.
          • Book Rating: All or Nothing: 8 of 10
          • Heat Level: 3 of 5
          • Intensity Level:  7 of 10  (3+2+2)

          It's been a while since I've read  Cheating Chance, but my  memory of it would have the Heat Level at 5 and the Intensity Level at 9 or 10.

          1. Cheating Chance
          2. Inland Empire
          3. All or Nothing

          I believe we were being set up for a fourth book at the end of All or Nothing, and I look forward to reading it when it comes out.


          A Well-Trained Pup by Dominic Ridler


          A Well Trained Pup takes us from shortly after puppy play training is started all the way to a completely trained puppy. The story is a good one, not as rough as some puppy stories, certainly rougher than others, though. Pup is trained at a nice pace, so that she's ready for the next steps as they come to her. She's trained and humiliated and thoroughly used, but no one is terribly harsh with her (with one exception). However, we see other puppies* being treated harshly when pup is at the parties, and that adds a nice flavor to her experience. It also really helps the heat level.

          The language used to tell the story is simple. At times it felt like the rhythm of a preschool reader, but I think that since the "pup" is telling the story, we're getting simplified language because that is how she is thinking at the time.

          As a side note, I tried to figure out why pup refers to her Master, her Trainer, as E. No name, just an initial. Other men in the story have names, why not the man she is closest to?

          A Well-Trained Pup give us M/f,   M/m,   M/m/f,   F/m/m,  MMMM/f, and lots of other configurations. There are a few canings, nice use of a tawse, some hand spankings, a little bit of face slapping, puppy tail butt plugs, a cage, sleeping in baskets, and lots and lots and lots of sex.

          BDSM elements:
          • Bondage and Discipline: Some discipline, some bondage. 2 of 3
          • Dominance and Submission: Yes, mostly in the context of puppy play, but there are also a few interactions that are more of a typical D/s type. 3 of 3
          • Sadism and Masochism:It's not a huge part of the story, but it crops up a few times - primarily as we see other characters interacting with each other. 2 of 3 
          • Extra Point: Yes, the puppy play is an intrinsic part of the story.

          As for the writing elements, the plot is mostly just the story of a girl being trained to be a puppy - not that that's a bad thing, its a perfectly good story, but there are no other plots thrown into the mix. Prose and dialogue had some issues, but I think the author was trying to give us the simple talk of someone who is submerged in the role of a puppy. Character development was sufficient for the story, but could easily have been fleshed out a bit more.

          • Book Rating: A Well-Trained Pup: 7 of 10
          • BDSM Intensity: 8 of 10
          • Heat Level: 5 of 5
          I don't know if the author intends to keep telling the story or not. The ending was satisfying, but it was also one that would easily lend itself for another book in order to give us the story of the next chapter in pup's life, so to speak. If a sequel is written to A Well Trained Pup, or another book written in this universe, I would be interested in reading it.

          * Just to be clear, when I say "pup" or "puppy" or "puppies", I'm talking about the human variety, not the true canine variety. No actual dogs are involved.


          Wednesday, August 18, 2010

          Deep in the Woods by Annabel Joseph

          Deep in the Woods is a charming story of healing, growth, and love, all wrapped up in a nice warm D/s relationship that happens to have a Sadist and a Masochist in it.

          I like that the book doesn't span just a few weeks before we see a HEA, we have a few large jumps in time, so we get to see them grow over time.

          Here's the blurb:

          Sophie finally finds the courage to reenter the Atlanta BDSM scene after extricating herself from an abusive relationship. At a local munch, she meets Dave, a funny, laid-back erotic photographer. When she sees him again later at a dungeon, Sophie is surprised by her strong attraction, and nervous about starting a new relationship, but Dave eases her fears. They embark on a sexy, thrilling D/s relationship and Sophie finds healing and fulfillment in Dave’s arms.

          But Sophie is still haunted by nightmares of her past. On a dark night in the woods with Dave and his friend Ryan, frightening memories overtake her. She knows that in order to move on, she must uncover the tragedy that haunts her subconscious.

          Sophie’s quest for answers brings her face-to-face with her previous tormentor. She finds herself once more in the deep woods, not only fighting for answers…but also for her life.

          I only had one issue with the book: It was bothersome that Sophie wasn't honest with her therapist - a year in therapy sounds good, but with her therapist not understanding what happened and why she was in therapy to begin with, I'm not really sure how that could have helped too much.

          It is good that Sophie found someone who wouldn't take advantage of her again, because I wasn't convinced that Sophie was healed in the "she won't ever let that happen again" way of being healed. However, by the end of the book I do believe she was healed where it concerns the memories and getting beyond them.

          There were a lot of things I liked about Deep in the Woods. I liked that Dave teaches her martial arts so she can defend herself. I like that he insists she keep up with her therapy appointments, and that he keeps her in contact with her family. I liked that he went slow with her at first, but that once he was sure she was ready for it, he didn't go easy on her. I also loved the menage scenes in the book. Yum.

          Deep in the Woods speaks to the fears of many submissives -- what happens if the Dom you are in a relationship with gradually takes you deeper and deeper until you are in an abusive relationship -- but, as with the story of the boiling frog, it's done gradually so that you don't realize it? For submissive men or women who want to be in a 24/7 relationship, that's a scary thing. (As someone who has been around for a while I'll say that if you have those worries then your biggest red flag will be a Dom who tries to take you away from your friends. If your lifestyle friends think something is wrong - listen to them, don't get defensive. Okay, I'll get off of my soapbox and get back to the review.) We don't see the abusive relationship, we just see the aftermath of it, and that's enough. I'm not sure I'd have enjoyed reading about the abuse, just seeing it in flashbacks was painful for me.

          BDSM elements:
          • Bondage and Discipline: Yes to both. Not too heavy on the bondage, but there are a couple of punishment scenes that are quite yummy. 2 of 3
          • Dominance and Submission: Yes. Deep in the Woods is a good example of a D/s relationship that works.It's 24/7 without being over the top 24/7. She doesn't have to say Sir every time she speaks to him, only when he's using his "Dom voice". They find a nice balance of D/s and real life.  3 of 3
          • Sadism and Masochism: He's a sadist, she's a masochist. They work well together. 3 of 3
          • Extra Point: Yes, the BDSM is woven nicely into the story.
          As for the writing elements: the plot is original and well done, the pacing was good, prose and dialogue were nicely done, and character building was excellent.

          Book Rating: Deep in the Woods: 9 of 10
          Heat Level: 5 of 5
          BDSM Intensity Level: 9 of 10

          Deep in the Woods is a nice little romance with enough plot twists to keep it interesting, and is written by someone who gets the world of BDSM. Annabel Joseph manages to get the physical stuff right, and the mental/emotional stuff right.


          Marianne!: A Journey Round A Golden Sun by Simon Lowrie


          Marianne!: A Journey Round A Golden Sun  is... different. For one thing, the voice is interesting, with lots of fun British sayings.

          But mainly, it's different because it's not your typical erotica. There are no descriptions of sex, and very few blow by blows of punishments. There is a lot of telling, not a lot of showing, and almost all of the juicy stuff is left to the reader's imagination.

          Let me try again. The story is one you won't find in a mainstream book. The story is pure erotica. But the telling of it is pretty mainstream. Very mainstream, and a bit literary.

          To be honest, I think I'd have been happier knowing they had sex instead of assuming it. And I'd have been happier with some more descriptions of what happened in a normal day -- the rules, and the discipline needed. Most of the training is just jumped right over, so we go from the first day to almost-fully-trained with only a few paragraphs to describe what happened. Part of me wants to say it's a really good story that was only half-way told to us... but then another part of me has to respect the author for telling it in his own way. It's almost as if he's aware it's a sordid story and is trying to keep it as respectable as possible.

          Also, the story moves along rather slowly, at first. And... I'm not sure when it takes place. At first I thought it was historical, but then I decided maybe it was present day and some of the words I'm not used to are just Brittish words, not necessarily historical words.  By the time I reached the end I'd decided it was probably closer to present day. Still, some of the actions and assumed morality seemed almost anachronistic, as if they don't belong in the present day. Other actions are firmly rooted in present day, though... so, that's where I ended up envisioning the story.

          Here's the blurb:

          Marianne and Simon have been more than friends since they were kids, but when she meets Mark, her whole life changes. It's not easy being spanked when you're not used to it, but although the two men in her life are rivals, the one thing they firmly agree on is Marianne needs her wild side tamed. Once she's had a taste of that kind of life, she's not sure she wants to argue. She loves them both, but Mark is not the kind of man to share. When he breaks the triangle, he makes her choose, at a cost to everyone. Can Sophie, the quiet girl who accepts Simon's discipline with absolute humility and never one word of complaint, save the day? She isn't beautiful and dazzling like Marianne, and the special qualities she has aren't on the surface, but her love for Simon goes past all limits. Shy and gentle though she is, perhaps Sophie's resolve to heal two broken hearts will prove to be more powerful than all Mark's dominance and strength...

          BDSM elements:
          • Bondage and Discipline: There is a dream with some bondage, and we get the idea that there is a great deal of discipline, but we aren't shown much of it. 1 of 3
          • Dominance and Submission: Yes, a whole lot of both. 3 of 3.
          • Sadism and Masochism: You know... I really don't think so. I think it's all about the D/s. Well, with Simon and Sophie anyway. It could be more S&M than D/s with Marianne and Mark, come to think of it. 1 of 3.
          • Extra Point:  No.
          As for the writing elements: The plot is a good one, pacing has some issues, prose and dialogue are exceptionally well done. Character development is... spotty. I mean, what we get of them is mostly well done, but there are four characters and I don't feel that I know any of them all that well. I know parts of them well enough, but knowing them inside and out? Not so much.
          • Book Rating: Marianne!: 8 of 10
          • Intensity Level: 5 of 10
          • Heat Level: 3 of 5
          I've complained often enough about erotica authors who need to work on the craft. I've said that it's wonderful to be able to imagine a good story and characters, and great to have a good understanding of BDSM... but you've also got to be able to string sentences together grammatically in a way that is pleasing to read. Simon Lowrie has a beautiful writing style, I would even go so far as to say he's gifted when it comes to using words to get his point across. There are no issues with grammar here. It's also a well crafted story, and he does seem to have a decent idea of the dynamics behind D/s.  I'm knocking points off, though, because I wanted there to be more showing and not so much telling. So, an 8 of 10.  The intensity level, if we'd seen everything that happened, would likely have been an 8 or  9 of 10. But we must use our imaginations about much of what happened, so that brings the intensity level to a 5.

          I am debating about whether I want to go back and read Mr. Lowrie's previous book, Journey Round a Darker Sun. If I do, it won't be right away. I enjoyed Marianne!: A Journey Round A Golden Sun, but I was also frustrated by the parts not shown.

          The author has stated that he's considering writing a sequel so that we see what happens to the characters beyond the end of the book. I would like that, as I'm quite interested in hearing the juicy tidbits about how their lives continue. But that's just it... it's the juicy tidbits I want, not just an overall description of what happens next.

          Duck! by Kim Dare


          Duck! is a nice urban fantasy retelling of the Ugly Ducking, with a few twists along the way.

          Raised among humans, Ori Jones only discovered he was an avian shifter six months ago. Unable to complete a full shift until he reaches his avian maturity, he still can’t be sure of his exact species.

          But with species comes rank, and rank is everything to the avians. When a partial shift allows the elders to announce that they believe Ori to be a rather ugly little duckling, he drops straight to the bottom rung of their hierarchy.

          Life isn’t easy for Ori until he comes to the attention of a high ranking hawk shifter. Then the only question is, is Ori really a duck—and what will his new master think when the truth eventually comes out?

          I love it when an author trusts me to figure things out on my own and doesn't feel the need to hand feed every little thing to me. And Kim Dare trusts the reader to figure out that a boy who had gone from foster home to foster home, often being returned to the social worker after extreme bouts of clumsiness and broken things, would expect to be sent away for breaking things as an adult, too.

          As for the story, I was wanting an Urban Fantasy read, but none of my favorite Urban Fantasy authors have anything new out, and nothing from the debut authors really appealed to me. Then, I read the blurb for Duck! and figured I'd give it a try, mixing BDSM with Urban Fantasy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This one works.

          I loved the descriptions of shifting from human form to bird form and back again. I enjoyed the experience of coming back to human form -- the need to hear words in order for the human part of the brain to come to the forefront again.  Then, later, sex right after coming back from bird form, when the human wasn't entirely in charge just yet, the idea of that hawk brain taking control while in a human body. Nice.

          The BDSM is... at first thought I want to call it BDSM lite. When in reality it's the S&M and B&D aspects that aren't very big, because the D/s is huge. There is also a lot about the difference in a bully and a Dom, but it's shown by experience, not shoved down our throats. Again, the author gives the information within the story and trusts the reader to figure it out.

          BDSM elements:
          • Bondage and Discipline: None. Well, other than writing lines for punishment. Which was actually the perfect way to handle the situation... but still... no "discipline" in the normal BDSM sense of the word. And very little bondage.  1 of 3.
          • Dominance and Submission: Yes, quite a bit.  3 of 3.
          • Sadism and Masochism: Just a touch. There is one really nice scene where Ori is made to fly in the traditional type of a BDSM scene.  1 of 3. 
          • Extra Point: The D/s is a big part of the story and a major part of the plot, but I'm not adding the extra point.  
          As for the writing elements: the plot is wonderful and well thought out, and I love the plot resolutions. The pacing was mostly good. Prose and dialogue were excellent, with the author taking the time to use words that an Avian society would be more likely to use. Character development was excellent, and world building was perfect. Seriously, world building was put together with the kind of detail you don't always see in Urban Fantasy Erotica, and I'm impressed.
          • Book Rating: Duck!: 9 of 10
          • Intensity Rating: 5 of 10  (1+3+1)
          • Heat Level: 4 of 5
          How can I have an Urban Fantasy in the Realistic BDSM category? Well, it's an Urban Fantasy, but the actual BDSM is realistic and does not really change because both men happen to be bird shifters. There is no "I can damage you horribly because you'll heal" stuff.  There are a few small exceptions, where things are a bit different because they are shifters, and for that reason I've also listed Duck! in the Fantasy BDSM category - one exception is the time they have sex when the hawk mind is still in control even though the human body has shifted back into being. That was pure fantasy, and it was a rather nice one, at that.

          All in all I enjoyed Duck! and would enjoy more stories from this universe.