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

elusive
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.

Zoey by Jennifer Labelle

zoey
Zoey by Jennifer Labelle
I Dare You book 2
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (54 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/F/M, F/F, M/M, Ménage, Multiple Partners
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Zoey Appleby is bored of her vanilla sex life, or lack thereof lately. So, when her friends dare her to have a threesome she’s all for it, in theory anyway. It isn’t until she’s introduced to Heidi and Nathan’s boyfriend, Rafe, that the opportunity comes knocking.

Rafe Zakas is hoping Zoey will consider being their fourth. He needs something more from his two lovers and Zoey is just what he thinks he needs to help him settle down. There is a void she seems to fill within him, and it’s up to Zoey to decide if she’s okay with their new found love and unconventional lifestyle, or will she stick to the life she’s used to?

Zoey has always wanted to be part of a threesome or an orgy and a drunken dare by her two best friends finally gives her the opportunity to really let loose and try it out. Will it be everything she hopes for?

This was an interesting and very sexy short story. I liked Zoey’s character – there was so much potential to her and I was excited to get to know her better. I really wished we got to spend more time with her and that the author had fleshed out her character more. I was extremely surprised that even though this was Zoey’s story a large chunk of the book was spent with Heidi (one of Zoey’s two best friends) in the spotlight. An entire chapter was spent with Heidi and her husband Nathan and their ménage lover, Rafe, and there were also short scenes that didn’t involve Zoey at all. In a 54 page book, I really felt this was critical words and space that should have been focused on Zoey or Zoey and Rafe together – not Heidi.

This all made the story really feel more like an extension of Heidi’s (which was covered in book 1) and made me feel like Zoey was almost a strong secondary character. I had a lot of curiosity about Zoey and wish we could have explored her character further, considering this was “her” book. Why was Zoey’s ultimate sexual fantasy that of a ménage/moresome? How did she go about seeking this in the down-time when the story was focused on Heidi and not Zoey? What was her attraction to Rafe and how did they interact together? I really wanted more focus to be on this. There was so much happening “off camera” that it felt like I missed out on big chunks of the story – Zoey and Rafe getting to know each other better and Zoey exploring the swingers club, both of these felt critical to the plot and progress of the story and yet both were really only mentioned in passing – not in detail. I feel this was a huge opportunity that was left unexplored.

About half way through I decided to stop questioning everything and just disengage my brain. Once I simply read the story as it was portrayed I did enjoy the sexy scenes and I have to admit the writing itself was really good. As a fun, hot foursome story this ticks a lot of the boxes, sex wise. If you’re a reader who can ignore curiosity and just enjoy a sexy story for the sex, this is definitely a good book to try. I enjoyed the foursome scenes – I felt they were hot and well paced. Zoey and Rafe were both smoking hot and clearly attracted to each other. Rafe was also obviously deeply in love with both Nathan and Heidi and the menage scene between the three of them was sexy too.

You don’t necessarily have had to read the first book in the series to enjoy this story. There’s a lot of repeated information around both the dare and how Zoey, Heidi and Meagan are friends. I was pleased for the happy ending and the foursome scenes were hot and well worth the read. Megan’s story is the third (and presumably last) in this series and I’m still curious enough to check it out.

Go to Bed by Melissa “Brownie” Grant

BED
Go to Bed by Melissa “Brownie” Grant
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (4 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What do you get when you have a sleepless night, a bottle of rum and two good friends? These are the ingredients of a captivating night. Join Carla and Justin as these two friends show you the meaning of nightcap.

There’s more than one way to unwind after a long, stressful day.

What I enjoyed the most about the dialogue was how realistic it was. The characters often shared a part of a thought before getting interrupted or deciding to say something else instead. Listening to them talk to each in such a casual way was such a fun way to get to know them. Both of their personalities shone through in how they decided to speak and what words they chose to use.

The pacing of the plot was uneven. I noticed this the most with the introduction. The narrator spent so much time setting the scene up and giving hints about her relationship with her lady friend that there wasn’t a great deal of space left in the story to describe what happened between them sexually speaking. This made the sex scene feel rushed to me.

With that being said, the chemistry between the two characters was definitely promising. I liked the fact that they knew each other so well that they could often finish each other’s sentences. It made me wonder how long they’d known one another and where their relationship might go next. While it made sense not to spend much time exploring their shared history in a tale as short as this one, I’d be interested to know more about it if the author ever decides to write a sequel.

Go to Bed should be read by anyone in the mood for a quick and intriguing read.

Figs by Tabitha Rayne

FIGS
Figs by Tabitha Rayne
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pgs)
Other: M/F/F, F/F, Ménage, Fetish (Food play)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Two girls, some fruit and an office perv—what could possibly go wrong?

When Mae finally confronts the office perv, Rory, by taking part in one of his suggestive pranks with a fig, she starts a journey that changes the way she thinks and feels about her current partner, Janey. Janey lost her sight just before they met and Mae realizes she has been keeping Janey like a prisoner in her own home—safe, protected and unseen. After the scene with Rory, Mae decides to take Janey out and show her off to the world—something she should have done a long time ago…

Little does she know what a hellraiser her girlfriend can be.

Mae and Janey have been girlfriends a while and are very happy with their relationship. But when Mae takes on a dare from the office perv, Rory, she has no idea how his suggestion will change the status quo of their relationship.

I found this short story to be quite interesting and different. Rory isn’t really made out to be hero material at all. Described not only as the office perv, but as lecherous and almost stalker-ish, I have to be honest and admit his character didn’t initially make a very good first impression. I did, however, like how it was clear almost immediately that there was far more to Rory’s character as that first “perv” impression made out. Mae and Janey also have their faults, both are quite jealous – Mae of Janey’s past experience with other women and Janey of Mae’s current social life and freedom at work throughout the day. This made the interactions between the characters – to my mind at least – both realistic and a lot more interesting than would first appear on the surface. These faults and issues were written in such a manner that they actually compelled my interest in reading further and discover how the story would unfold.

One thing I particularly enjoyed though – and which should appeal to most romance readers – there was never a question to my mind on Mae and Janey’s love for each other. No matter what else was going on between them – with or without Rory – the two women really loved each other and had a solid core at the base of their relationship. This helped ease me over any of my small niggles and little worries. I found their love and devotion to each other was beautiful to read.

Readers should be aware that there’s a fair bit of food-play sexually speaking. While figs are the initial instigation, Mae and Janey don’t stop there with their experimentation. The F/F main relationship between them is what the majority of the story is based upon. While the addition of Rory is consensual and teased/hinted at between the two ladies to ramp up their own sexual arousal the addition of a third and man for the ménage is the culmination of those fantasies, not the basis of the story itself. Readers who aren’t interested in F/F storylines might want to consider this when thinking about this story.

There’s plenty of lush sex scenes that should satisfy any erotic reader. All except the final climax scene were F/F, though the long-awaited ménage really lived up to the foundation that was laid for it in my opinion. A great scene and it left me satisfied by the high note the characters felt.

A steamy, raunchy short story about two committed women exploring their fantasies and some deliciously naughty sexual food-play. Add in the office perv for one night of a decadent ménage and all three of them are about to have a night of the wickedest fantasies. A sensual, sexy story that I enjoyed and found refreshingly different to so many other ménage stories out there.