Like Statues by S. Rose


Like Statues by S. Rose
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (14 pages)
Other: F/F, Fetish
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Like most girls, I have a secret or two. One of those secrets just happens to be a fixation with statues.

My tendencies go largely unnoticed, until one night when Valerie, my boss, catches me alone with a company-owned statue.

Confessions ensue, and sparks fly.

Almost nobody can keep a secret forever, especially when it’s about their deepest desires.

One of the things I liked the most about this tale was its descriptions of what it’s like to live in a small town and not fit into the culture there. The author did a wonderful job of showing how lonely that experience can be, especially for people who think they’ll never meet anyone in their rural community who is sympathetic. Understanding this was an important part of understanding why Melanie, the main character, decided to hide her statue fetish so well from everyone she worked with. I was glad that so much attention was paid to this part of the plot because of this.

The chemistry between Melanie and Valerie never felt right to me. While they shared similar sexual tastes, they didn’t have much else in common. As much as I wanted to root for them to end up together, it would have been nice to have a few more reasons to hope for that kind of ending. There simply wasn’t enough information about what kind of people they were and why they’d be good for each other for me to make up my mind about that.

The dialogue was nicely written. There were times when it made me giggle in a good way because of how dramatic Melanie could be when things weren’t exactly going her way. This definitely wasn’t something I was expecting to find in an erotic tale, but it was a nice addition to the storyline. I also enjoyed seeing how things between her and Valerie played out once Valerie realized what was happening in the sculpture garden.

I’d recommend Like Statues to anyone who is in the mood for a short, steamy read.

The Princess and the Swineherd by Michael Bracken


The Princess and the Swineherd by Michael Bracken
Publisher: Deep Desires Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Other: F/F, Toys
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Princess Maegth is the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, and, like many others, a young, female swineherd named Hunig has a crush on her.

When the evil wizard Vilemort abducts the beautiful princess, Hunig joins the search. In the company of a broken-down knight named Fearn-leah of Heathfield, Hunig trails the wizard and his entourage, battles dwarves transformed into swine, and faces physical and emotional challenges.

During the search for the princess, Hunig discovers herself. After rescuing the princess, she reveals her feelings and discovers the feelings are reciprocated.

But there isn’t time to become complacent. Vilemort and his dwarves are hot on their trail. Can Hunig prevent Vilemort from stealing the princess back, can she keep the broken-down knight from claiming credit for rescuing the princess, and can true love win the day?

It takes a very special kind of person to win a princess’ heart.

The world building was really well done. I actually wondered if I’d accidentally stumbled into the middle of a series when I first began reading because of how well-developed and beautifully-described the setting was. While my first guess didn’t turn out to be correct, I was impressed by how much attention Mr. Bracken paid to all of the little details that make such a big difference in how a reader imagines what a faraway place would really be like to visit.

There was a lot of telling the audience what was happening instead of showing it to us in this story. Some of the most exciting and interesting scenes were only given a few sentences worth of attention before the narrator moved on to the next part of the plot. It would have been nice to see how those scenes played out for myself instead of them being quickly explained and then brushed aside like that.

Maegth and Hunig had fantastic chemistry. At first I was a little surprised by how quickly their relationship moved when they first met, but they were so well-suited for each other that it made sense for them to jump in and start exploring their attraction to each other right away. Their personalities were so compatible that I completely understood why they were into each other as well as why neither of them had any interest in taking things slow.

The Princess and the Swineherd should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a sultry fairytale.

Trouble Clef by Kara Lowndes


Trouble Clef by Kara Lowndes
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (52 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Maya has spent years putting her time as one quarter of a world-famous girl band, Trouble Clef, behind her, along with the intense romance she shared with her closeted bandmate, Kyra. But now, ten years after their last controversial show, Trouble Clef has a chance to pick up where they left off with a reunion tour, and Maya is forced to face the past—and the lingering feelings she still has for Kyra—once more.

Nostalgia can make someone do all kinds of things they might not normally do. The question is, what will happen to them when the reminiscing ends?

The chemistry between Kyra and Maya was amazing. As soon as they showed up in the same scene, I started hoping they’d end up together forever this time. They knew so much about each other, and they obviously still cared about each other as well. I couldn’t wait to find out if my wish would come true and if they’d be as good for one another as I thought they’d be.

With that being said, Maya and Kyra did move awfully fast once they met up again and began planning the reunion tour for their band. This wasn’t something I would have expected to happen because of how long it had been since they’d last seen each other and how painful their breakup had been back in the day. It would have been nice for them to take things a little more slowly while they were deciding whether to give their relationship another chance.

One of my other favorite parts of this tale was its descriptions of how the music industry works. Musicians and bands are kind of like products in that they’re marketed to certain types of people. I was fascinated by how all of this works and by how little control artists can have over their image at times. While it was only a small part of the plot, it was definitely still an important piece to Maya’s story. I’m glad it was given enough space to shine here.

Trouble Clef should be read by anyone in the mood for something sexy.

Graphite & Glitter by Shae Connor


Graphite & Glitter by Shae Connor
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (75 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy (F/F interaction)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

All that glitters might just be gold.

Adrienne Michaels’ best friend is getting married, and Adrienne’s not feeling it on the night of the bachelorette party. Then she meets Tessa Smith, bass player for an all-female glam rock tribute band. After a one-night stand worthy of the hottest rock star fantasies, Tessa surprises Adrienne by asking her on a real date, and Adrienne soon finds Tessa’s side gig pales in comparison to the down-to-earth music geek beneath the glitter. Tessa even helps Adrienne through a family loss, but when Tessa gets a sweet job offer in another city, Adrienne has to make a choice: let her go, follow her halfway across the country—or become part of the reason for her to stay.

It was only supposed to be a fling.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the dialogue. Whether it was main characters or one of Adrienne’s friends talking, everyone was always on point when it was their turn to speak. There were a few times when I had to stop reading and let myself chuckle for a minute before diving back into the plot because of how humorous and realistic all of those conversations were.

I would have preferred to see a little more character development when it came to Tessa and Adrianne’s personalities. The plot showed how they behaved when they were at work, but I never quite got the same sense of their personalities when they were in less formal situations. As much as I liked them, I would have loved to know more about who they were when they let their hair down and completely relaxed. Those sides of their lives remained a mystery. I would have given this book a perfect score if I’d known the main characters just a little better.

Adrianne and Tessa were perfect for each other in every way. They were both so witty and flirtatious that I couldn’t wait to see what kind of playful comeback they’d come up with the next time they met. I also loved the fact that they had so much in common. This made it easy for me to understand why their relationship moved as quickly as it did. They agreed on so many different things that it simply wasn’t necessary to talk a lot of that stuff out. It was nice to have that foundation set so firmly while I waited to see if these characters would end up together for longer than one night.

Graphite & Glitter was a beautiful love story. If you’re in the mood for something funny, hot, and romantic, definitely give this tale a whirl.

Call of a Succubus by April Garrus


Call of a Succubus by April Garrus
Publisher: eXcessica
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (19 pages)
Other: F/F, Toys
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A woman has needs, but they can be hard to fill in the depths of space. Tiris Longsword, one of the greatest bounty hunters in the galaxy, is alone and unsatisfied. Too busy for men, and too frustrated for toys, she is desperate. When Oriel appears, she promises Tiris something more…something unearthly.

Tiris is conflicted. Who is Oriel? Where did she come from? Should she give in? Can she hold out? Will her life ever be the same?

Spaceships can be lonely, dull places. How will Tiris find a way to pass the time?

Tiris was such a great character. I loved how tough, calm, and assertive she was when she was on the job. She’s definitely someone I would want around in an emergency. There are very few things in life that she’d find overwhelming or confusing. What made her even more appealing to me was how she reacted when she finally stumbled across something that defied all of her expectations or logical explanations about what was happening.

There were a few big plot holes that were never explained. A character briefly appeared in the first scene only to never be heard from again. Based on how he was introduced, this wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It would have been nice to have more information for why he was included in the storyline for such a brief period of time. The other part of the plot that I found confusing had to do with where, exactly, Oriel came from and how she found Tiris. I kept expecting Oriel to go into more detail about it and was surprised when she didn’t.

The dialogue was funny and realistic. I especially liked seeing how Tiris reacted when she realized that there was a stranger on her ship. She was just as flabbergasted and alarmed by her new visitor as I expected her to be, and I giggled throughout that entire exchange. It couldn’t have been a better conversation or one that was more appropriate for their personalities.

One of the main characters in this story is a woman who is also a hermaphrodite. It wasn’t something I was at all aware would be part of the storyline when I started reading it, but I found it interesting.

Call of a Succubus was a wild ride. Give it a shot if you’re in the mood for something short and hot.

Ready for Love by Jules Dixon


Ready for Love by Jules Dixon
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (52 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Advertising account executive Jace Zelensky has a lover that won’t ever have a heart beat.

Personal trainer and former soldier Kai Thomas worries that when it comes to love her heart may have been permanently broken at a young age.

When Jace’s blind commitment to her job interferes with Kai’s attempts to make a true connection and leaves Kai searching for her neurotic dog, Waffles, can Jace come to the rescue? Will a night with a no-strings-attached promise be the release they both need to satisfy their curiosity, or will those few minutes lead to something they’re willing to risk their hearts for?

One night of pleasure is all either one of them is looking for. What a night it will be!

I appreciated having the chance to jump between Kai and Jace’s minds as I read this tale. They both had incredibly unique voices, so it was always easy to remember exactly who was narrating a specific scene. I also liked being able to see both characters through each other’s eyes. How someone sees themselves isn’t always how other people see them. That happened to be even more true than normal for both of these ladies, so it was nice to see the differences between their perspectives.

There were a few too many characters in this story. I especially had trouble keeping track of all of Jace and Kai’s friends. Some of them were friends with only one of the main characters while others were close to both. It was hard to remember how everyone knew each other, though, because of how many different names were being mentioned.

The chemistry between Kai and Jace was perfect. Their personalities played off of each other beautifully, especially when they were flirting. They had a lot in common, and both of them had similar communication styles as well. All of these things made me hope they’d end up together even though they said they were only looking for a casual fling.

Ready for Love was a short, sexy tale that should be read by anyone who is in the market for a seriously hot romance.

Thrown to the Wolves by Naomi Clark


Thrown to the Wolves by Naomi Clark
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (42 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Paige went to Romania looking for inspiration for a book. She found herself caught in a horror story. Attacked and left for dead by a vampire, Paige finds herself at the mercy of Kata, a beautiful, enigmatic werewolf. Their attraction is instant, but Paige’s fate hangs in the balance. She may yet be turned into a vampire herself. Soon it’s clear to Paige that the only way to save herself may be to return to the woman who attacked her…even if it means placing both herself and Kata in the greatest danger.

Few things in life will get your blood pumping faster than running around in the woods in the middle of the night while trying to avoid being eaten by a vampire. Luckily, that’s only the beginning of this tale, and it’s not the only thing that will raise Paige’s heart rate.

Paige was such a likeable main character. The first thing I noticed about her was how smart and level-headed she was even when she was surrounded by danger. She was the kind of person who took her own safety quite seriously, and that’s refreshing to see in a modern fantasy story. It made me hope that all of her precautions would pay off for her in the end.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the conflict with the vampire who attacked Paige just before the first scene began. The characters spent so much time trying to figure out how to handle that threat that I was surprised by how quickly that storyline ended up being resolved. I was fascinated by the idea of werewolves and vampires not getting along, so it was a little disappointing to not get to dive into that conflict very deeply.

The chemistry between Paige and Kata was sizzling hot. Watching the sexual tension build up between them made me eager to see it finally come to a head. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen once they finally ended up in bed together and if the sparks that flew between them could ignite something that lasted far longer than one night.

Thrown to the Wolves should be read by fans of erotica and dark fantasy alike.

Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton


Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery, Horror
Length: Full Length (708 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, M/F/F, F/F, M/M, F/M/M, Multiple Partners, Menage
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

In her twenty-fifth adventure, vampire hunter and necromancer Anita Blake learns that evil is in the eye of the beholder…

Anita has never seen Damian, her vampire servant, in such a state. The rising sun doesn’t usher in the peaceful death that he desperately needs. Instead, he’s being bombarded with violent nightmares and blood sweats.

And now, with Damian at his most vulnerable, Anita needs him the most. The vampire who created him, who subjected him to centuries of torture, might be losing control, allowing rogue vampires to run wild and break one of their kind’s few strict taboos.

Some say love is a great motivator, but hatred gets the job done, too. And when Anita joins forces with her friend Edward to stop the carnage, Damian will be at their side, even if it means traveling back to the land where all his nightmares spring from…a place that couldn’t be less welcoming to a vampire, an assassin, and a necromancer.

Ireland.

Ever have a book that gripped you so hard that it sucked you right into the author’s world and your own faded away? That’s what Crimson Death did to me. I only did the bare minimum of household chores. I read late into the night until it flipped to morning, grabbed a few hours of sleep only to wake up a few hours later to devour a few more chapters before having to slog off to work to simply come home to read and read some more until almost midnight the next night. Yeah, so, it took me two days to read, but what an amazing two days it was.

I’ve been following this series for years. I’ve watched Anita view everything as black and white; a character was either good or bad, no quarter. Monsters were bad, humans could be bad too but they were human. As the series unfolds, the heroine realizes that she can no longer ignore the ‘gray’ areas; life is a LOT more complicated, and messy and as she grows, Anita realizes that gray areas not only exist, they’re huge. It opens her up to accepting and doing things she never, ever, in a million years would think or do. Following her has been an amazing journey and that journey continues in Crimson Death. Sure, there are original fans that prefer her early years when it was all about the mystery, the horror, the suspense, drama and how it affected her. I mean, first person point of view really gets into a character’s head and the author has the daunting job of staying there. Ms. Hamilton has done Anita for so long, it seems second nature – I’m always right there with Marshall Blake, even when the blood flows.

This huge novel is no different when it comes to exploring her growth, both in her personal life and in her power. Yes, there is large section that explores Anita’s power’s connection to sex within her small group of loves and lovers, but before anyone scoffs at all the sex, be aware that there are a few astounding and earth shattering revelations that ripple through the rest of the novel stemming from all that erotic sex, which includes just a smidgen of voyeurism and exhibitionism from one of mine and Anita’s favorite people. Another warning to die-hard fans – be prepared to sniffle or cry or just get serious goosebumps on what happens. The one huge tragedy that affected me the most ends up being a turning point in Anita’s life that will have ginormous ramifications for future books. I didn’t want it to happen. All I could say was ‘no! no! no!, but of course Ms. Hamilton excels at writing the hard scenes – scenes for which a reader ultimately comes to the sad but resigned conclusion that it served a valid, crucial and necessary purpose. I don’t have to like it but I recognize Ms. Hamilton is staying true to Anita’s journey.

A lot of my favorite recurring secondary/primary characters populate this novel. There is one new character that sheds some light on Edward/Ted. It was actually humorous at times, which I didn’t expect at all. I think Anita was just as bemused as I was. Thing is, she has the ability to pester him in future books to satisfy her curiosity. I’m looking forward to what she finds out.

Of course the main villain and cohorts are truly evil, nasty, horrific, sociopathic and creepy. However, not all the cohorts are there willingly and how the author dealt with them kept my heart pounding with dread. This is such a powerfully, well written book, I could not remain unaffected.

This isn’t truly a standalone read because some of the things that occur are at their most commanding and powerful if a reader is personally vested in caring for certain characters from previous stories. If a person were to just start with this book, there are mentions of past experiences that provide Anita with the power she currently has, and they might be shocked by how erotic and numerous the sex initially is, but the main mystery of trying to figure out who or what is making all these vampires and why, can carry this novel by itself. It also might capture new fans and they might be inspired to read the series from the beginning or at least a few of the books that were alluded to in this one.

I am a fan of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, and I highly recommend this novel to fans that’ve followed her all this time. Crimson Death wowed me to the point that writing this review was a compulsion. I just HAD to tell you how marvelous and incredible Crimson Death was, and recommend it to readers with high praise and accolades.

Tokyo Love by Diana Jean


Tokyo Love by Diana Jean
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (169 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual, F/F Interaction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

When Kathleen Schmitt is promoted to project lead at Mashida INTL for the Personal Love Companion (PLC), a life-sized, hyper-realistic dating doll, she must relocate to Tokyo. Trying not to get lost in translation is quite the culture shock for this born-and-bred Midwesterner.

She’s surprised when her boss asks her to beta test the new dolls—an assignment that requires having her brain scanned so the company can fashion a personalized doll based on her innermost desires. But most surprising of all: her test PLC turns out to be a woman—one who looks and acts remarkably like her neighbor and coworker, Yuriko Vellucci.

American-born Yuriko is a former transplant herself and is sympathetic to the difficulties of adjustment—to a point. Kathleen is about the most pathetic foreigner this engineer’s ever met. She clearly needs Yuriko’s help and expertise if this transition—and the PLC project—is to be a success.

With Yuriko to show her the way, Kathleen will learn to socialize at an izakaya, find the best onsen in Nikko, party at a matsuri, buy doujinshii in Akihabara, and fall in love with a country so very different from her own.

But can she also learn how to confess her love for the person who showed it to her?

In the not so distant future, will robots make the perfect companion-both in conversation and in love?

Tokyo Love is a deep story the looks into the depth of society and human nature and takes into account that modern technology can find a replacement for almost anything. In fact the main character, Kathleen Schmitt, is the head of a project designed to produce Personal Love Companions (PLC)-essentially robots that can tend to our every need that look, act and learn just like humans. With a rushed timeline and her job on the line, Kathleen is tasked with testing the very first PLC released. The companion, built after a specialized cortex scan is supposed to be everything that Kathleen finds attractive in the human species.

The twist, the PLC looks and acts just like Kathleen’s neighbor! But it doesn’t end there, her neighbor happens to be female causing a mess of emotions and confusion for Kathleen. Kathleen is convinced there must be a glitch in the cortex scan and the gender was wrong with the PLC. Since only a handful of people know about the PLC test, when issues with the PLC arise, from technical complications to severe errors in data processing there are only a few individuals that Kathleen can call on for help-with one of them being her neighbor.

This is a great story that takes into consideration the direction of technology, cultural traditions and human nature. The author, Diana, does a fantastic job at creating real emotions and stirring up conflict. The actions and conversations of the PLC named Ai, and Yuriko, the neighbor are humorous and the constant struggle with Kathleen’s identity and perception of self add to the plot and depth of the story.

The plot is smooth and works in the concerns and stress of work, life-balance, and even how a simple cold can throw everything into a tailspin. Diana does a great job at making the world of the characters-a world in a not too distant future-feel like it is happening right now. The overall questioning of human nature and the capacity to love are the pivotal questions that the author works to answer.

I highly recommend this book if you want to add some technology to your romance reading!

Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier

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Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A young bodyguard finds her special abilities are no match for a flirtatious delegate willing to gamble everything on the galaxy trade talks.

Assigned to guard a diplomat at the galaxy trade talks, Security Officer Anais wants to shine during her first solo mission for the Chezeray Palace Conglomerate. An Elusive with the ability to make herself invisible, Anais knows her modified genes designate her servant class, but she yearns to be more than simply a protector to the beautiful delegate.

Savea Blackmun arrives alone to the trade talks with the weight of her planet’s future resting on her slim shoulders. Flirting with her pretty bodyguard reveals Anais’ knowledge of the colony markets and Savea realizes there’s much more to her protector than meets the eye.

As their attraction grows, will the diplomat and the bodyguard reject society’s rules to give in to desire instead?

Sometimes what seems like an ordinary day at work can turn out to be not so ordinary after all.

I appreciated how much time Ms. Ladnier took to explain the main character’s background story and special skills. Both of them were key to understanding certain parts of the plot, so I was glad to have as much information as I did about where she came from and why she was given such an important job. There is room for a sequel here, but I was also satisfied with how much I learned about her.

Things heated up too quickly between Anais and Savea for my tastes. I would have liked to see more time spent exploring their connection before they started to get sexual with each other. They definitely had chemistry together, but neither one of them came across me to as someone who would want to have a fling without getting to know their potential partner a little bit first.

The science fiction elements of this story were strong. It was fascinating to see how technology has developed in this futuristic universe. Anais explained it all briefly but included enough details for me to understand how everything worked and why the characters relied on certain kinds of technology so heavily. This is the sort of thing I really enjoy finding in erotic science fiction because of how nicely it fleshes out the rest of the storyline.

Anyone who is a fan of both erotica and science fiction should give Elusive Radiance a try.