Shadows Of Our Past by Tanya Jean Russell


Shadows Of Our Past by Tanya Jean Russell
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (214 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Jackson Halland has spent ten years running from a mistake that cost him everything, including Amory Jackson, the woman he loved. With his gut wrenching response to her reappearance, he realizes that if she will forgive him, then maybe, just maybe, he can forgive himself.

After ten years of working undercover, Amory agrees to one final mission. Vowing to get justice for the woman she promised, and failed to protect, nothing will stand in her way, not the prolific criminal she’s determined to bring down and certainly not coming face to face with the man she fell in love with on her very first undercover assignment. Even if he has no idea who she really is, or the part she played in his past.

Amory is tired of undercover work and determined to move her life into a different direction. She agrees to do one more job, only this one seems like a catastrophe from the beginning. Jack Davis is her target’s brother and he could easily blow her cover – since Jack was part of Amory’s first operation and she was responsible for sending him to jail. But this job is worth the risk, but Amory doesn’t realise that her heart might be on the line too.

I really enjoyed this character-driven mystery. Amory is an interesting and quite complex character, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and watching her try to juggle all the various balls in her operation. This story had a bit of a feel of a spy-like thriller to me, Amory needing to keep a whole bunch of people, actions, reactions and counter-reactions all moving along smoothly while simultaneously trying to guess what would happen next and how best to achieve her mission. This alone meant the story was complex and rich – and to my mind made the plot interesting enough it retained my attention throughout the story. Add in the complexity of Jack turning up and being the estranged brother of the key player to Amory’s plan and that just added a delicious extra layer to this story as a whole.

I loved that the romance sub-plot was subtle. I truly feel the mystery – and complex mission – was front and centre, but having Jack around, and the memories he invoked in Amory just added that lovely simmering romantic tension that had me eagerly turning the pages, waiting to see how their reconnection (and hopefully their starting a romance up again properly as adults this time) would unfold. I was delighted to not be left disappointed. While not overly explicit, I did enjoy the steamy sex scenes which I found to be full of love and tension. Amory and Jack have chemistry in abundance – they both have their own reasons for thinking their relationship will go nowhere, but neither are able to resist the lure of love they feel for the other.

I was a little concerned that Amory’s deception to Jack for her work would either become a clichéd or over the top. I felt the author did an excellent job handling Jack finding out the truth. While he was understandably angry and felt betrayed I thought the pacing and level of drama attached to his sorting through his emotions and thoughts was handled really well. It wasn’t drawn out but neither skimmed over, and I was particularly pleased with how Amory acknowledged her part in Jack’s pain – but how she refused to take responsibility for his choices and actions.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this story, finding the plot complex and substantial and the characters vibrant, realistic and engrossing. The author has woven together a fantastic story with some sizzling chemistry and a lovely romantic sub-plot. A great read and one I shall absolutely enjoy again a number of times in the future.

The Eager Boy by Sean Michael


The Eager Boy by Sean Michael
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (193 pages)
Other: M/M, BDSM, Toys, Spanking/Flogging
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

An Iron Eagle Gym Novel

Eight months ago Robin Secoya left his lover and master, Stack Lobond, because he didn’t believe Stack really cared about him. He was sure that for Stack, any warm body would do, and Robin wasn’t willing to be just a warm body anymore.

A chance meeting at the Iron Eagle Gym brings them back together, and old feelings aren’t far from the surface. They decide they can’t pass up a second chance at romance. But this time, it isn’t just Stack’s demanding career as a big-cat vet putting strain on their relationship. Robin also has a new job that takes up a lot of his time.

Will their kinky love affair crash and burn a second time, or can they find the balance that will allow the passion between them to flourish?

Robin and Stack had broken up because Robin felt Stack simply wanted a warm person to fuck and he was tired of that being all their relationship was built around. But when Robin joins the Iron Eagle Gym – a gym geared towards the BDSM community – he and Stack find each other again. Can this time be different for them both?

I really enjoyed this character-driven BDSM story. Both Robin and Stack have a serious history together, but have been broken up for a while. Poor communication between them and Stack’s demanding job drove their relationship to the point where Robin was lonely and feeling truly neglected, and after trying to talk about it a few times he decided to leave. So there is baggage and complications between them in trying to mend their relationship and find their way forward together.

Usually I don’t enjoy the style of stories revolved around patching up a broken relationship – normally the reasons for the relationship failing are either too weak and leave me feeling like they were simply a plot device, or they are genuine and serious enough I don’t always feel the reconciliation is believable. I was really happy, therefore, when the author made this story both believable and serious enough that I found the story both gripping and realistic. Also, there wasn’t some “easy fix” where Robin and Stack just had a long, serious conversation and their relationship magically worked perfectly. They both had to continuously work at it and put in some serious effort – which made the whole plot even more believable to me.

Also, there was plenty of deliciously hot and kinky sex. Both men had a strong history together, and clearly still loved each other deeply – so the sex between them was both hot and intense. Neither of them had any issues in the bedroom and that wasn’t where their relationship problems lay, so the fact there was oodles of sex throughout the story didn’t feel like padding but more the easiest medium for Stack and Robin to connect together. I feel the author did a great job of balancing the “loads of sex” aspect of the story along with the trickier and more emotional “patching up the relationship” aspects of the plot. I appreciated that neither Robin nor Stack were 100% to blame for the break up, both had been somewhat at fault and both needed to learn certain things and work on their romance together. I was really pleased this wasn’t a case where one party was at fault and their issues were unbalanced, there were problems on both sides and they each had to keep up the effort and that kept things evenly balanced to my mind.

I really enjoyed this story and found it full of interesting sex, a strong romantic/relationship based plot and with two interesting and vibrant characters. There were a few familiar faces from previous stories – though this can absolutely be read as a stand-alone – and a few new faces that will hopefully be showcased in upcoming stories. A great read and one I will enjoy again in the future.

Divulging Secrets by Lynn Burke


Divulging Secrets by Lynn Burke
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (81 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Candace Lake’s testimony against her father landed her in the Witness Protection program. With a new identity comes a new beginning, one based on lies and loneliness. How can she find someone to share her future with when a relationship without trust at its foundation won’t stand the storms of life?

Tom Berkley didn’t expect his new tenant to make him question his solitary lifestyle in the backwoods of Maine. He also didn’t expect to be caught up in the secrets of her past that bring his own tragic ones to the forefront of his mind.

The sizzling chemistry between them can’t be ignored, but when the threats from Candace’s turbulent past catch up with her, can she trust Tom enough to protect her from the price on her head?

After Lila had turned state’s evidence, helping put her father in jail so her own sentence would be more lenient, she’d gone into Witness Protection and left everything of meaning in her life behind. Choosing her new name and deciding to start again in Maine, Lila wasn’t keen to have the rest of her life revolve around lies, but she had no choice. Tom is an ex-SEAL and enjoys his farm and quiet life. He’s initially reluctant to have Lila – now Candace – on his property but he figures it’ll only be for a few months till she gets her feet solidly under herself and then she’ll move on. The fact she stirs his blood unlike anyone else is just a minor annoyance he needs to overcome. While their attraction grows they both have secrets and lies that become harder and harder to keep.

I found this to be an enjoyable story. Lila (who is referred to as Candace once she takes on that new identity) was a deep and complex character, which absolutely thrilled me. An only child in an exceedingly close-knit family with her mother and father I got the strong impression Lila was protected and spoiled and her life before the story was smooth, clear sailing. I was pleased she genuinely had no idea of her father’s criminal activities (I think I’d have found it vastly more difficult to enjoy or like Lila had she been a knowing participant in that) and while it was selfish of her to sell her dad and most of his partners in crime up the river to lessen her own sentence and gain access to witness protection I can certainly understand why she did it and I couldn’t fault her for her actions.

With her whole world turned upside down – and having to leave all that behind her – I actually came to really enjoy Candace. Now, obviously, Lila and Candace are the same person – just different facets of the true character/person Lila/Candace is, but Candace is someone who I can see myself being friends with – a modern woman learning her own independence, teaching herself to cook and do a grocery run, searching for a job and opening a bank account, lusting after her hot, ripped neighbor. Despite the lies surrounding Candace’s past, Candace was someone I genuinely could see myself being friendly with. Candace struck me as the quintessential girl-next-door, with a real life and real problems and plenty of secrets and a past.

I felt the pacing of the story was really good – not too fast and not too slow – but I also found the plotting exceptional. Tom’s knowing/guessing much about Candace’s past was intelligent and some exceptional writing. It also solved the problem (and my only twinge of concern when picking up the book) about how to get around Candace uttering lie after lie of her history and past. I usually am not a fan of stories where the entire relationship is built on a stack of lies (even for a good cause – like Witness Protection), but I found the author did a brilliant job of keeping the story real but also giving a fresh (to me, at least) reasoning behind why Tom wasn’t duped and went into the relationship with Candace with his eyes wide open. I *loved* this aspect of the story and it was like the final piece of the puzzle clicking into place for me, no worry and concern about Tom reacting to being duped, no guilt and baggage for Candace feeling like she had to build her relationship (as well as her new life) based on endless lies. It was glorious and I’d rate this easily the best style of story like this that I’ve read in years.

And of course the sex is steamy hot. Like any modern woman having to start again from scratch with a deliciously hot ex-SEAL literally on her doorstep, the eye candy alone would be worth the price of admission. My only tiny disappointment was that it was mostly chemistry building up between Candace and Tom throughout the story. While they both do eventually come together and cement their relationship in a sexual sense this is right at the end of the story. I loved the fact the plot, character growth and increasing tension was so well written and such a large part of the story-line, but readers looking for a strongly erotic, sexual story might find this one aspect slightly lacking. When the climax was reached, however, it made the wait – and explosive chemistry between Candace and Tom – worthwhile to my mind.

A well plotted, character-centric story with plenty of steam and chemistry, this was a great read and one I can highly recommend.

Capturing Clint by Laura M. Baird


Capturing Clint by Laura M. Baird
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (47 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Clint let Chrissy, the adorable nerd, slip through his fingers while in college.

Ten years later, after a chance encounter, Chrissy will use her sexy confidence to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Clint is more than interested but doesn’t feel worthy, and it’ll be up to Chrissy to show him how good they can be together.

Clint’s best friend, Beth, had introduced him to Chrissy. Clint was in his last term before graduating, and he was determined to focus on his studies, but he just couldn’t manage to get Chrissy out of his head. Clint and Chrissy were thinking that things were really going somewhere when Chrissy had to leave suddenly due to a family illness. It’s years later when they finally cross paths again. Will past hurts keep them separate? Or can they finally build something beautiful together?

I found this to be an interesting and fun short story. I really liked both Clint and Chrissy’s characters – particularly Chrissy’s timidness and book-ish manner. I found it refreshing that Chrissy managed to be both a modern woman, but not overly bold or brazen. I wasn’t keen on the abruptness of the two paragraph explanation that Chrissy suddenly went home due to her mother being ill. It made the “college” section of Chrissy and Clint getting to know each other and the jump forward ten years in time to them actually starting a relationship quite jarring and I thought it derailed the smoothness of the story somewhat.

That said, I ended up kind of thinking about the book in two different parts “college time” and “grown up” life. While I wish the segue between the two had been a bit smoother and better-described, the two parts themselves were great. I found this to mostly be a character-driven storyline/plot, as in the attraction, then beginning of the relationship between Clint and Chrissy is the driving force of what the story is about. I enjoyed the secondary characters – Beth and Zac – and found them to be both interesting and multi-layered, not simply there to add the requisite “friend” to the storyline. Indeed, a part of me hopes there might be a story revolved around Beth some time in the future as there was a slight hint at her new career and “grown up” life that could prove interesting.

With a lovely happy ending and a really good, warm feeling I loved the wrap up to this story too. The sex – while hot, wasn’t envelope-pushing or extreme. I feel most romance readers who like a bit of spice in their story should find this book overall really good and happy. As a quick read it’s a great one for picking up when you don’t have a lot of time and I’d happily try more works by this author.

Partners In Love by Rebecca Brochu


Partners In Love by Rebecca Brochu
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (31 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When an unplanned and unwanted remodel of his apartment leaves Detective Dylan Vancarr homeless, the natural thing for him to do is turn up on the doorstep of his best friend and partner, Tyler Wilky.

An arrangement meant to last only for a night quickly turns into a surprisingly comfortable new life for the both of them.

While living with Tyler and realizing just how easily their lives mesh, Dylan quickly begins to realize that he may have found a partner for more than just the job.

He may have found a partner in love.

When Dylan’s apartment is wrecked who else could he possibly crash with except his colleague and partner, Tyler? Can they each take this chance to act on the simmering attraction boiling between them and build a relationship together outside of their work?

I found this to be a funny and rather macho M/M romance. Written in the first-person perspective I would have personally preferred to get to know Tyler’s character a little better, but can understand how difficult this task would have been for the author given the very short page-count. I was also left a little puzzled by the manner in which Dylan and Tyler’s relationship grew. For two men whom I found to both be rather macho to have almost the entire relationship seem to almost accidently flourish it just felt odd to me. Neither man made overt moves and while a part of me absolutely loved this incredibly different and fresh tactic in an M/M romance, a larger part of my brain just couldn’t find it at all believable. Two macho, alpha men and neither made the first move? Neither wanted to rock the boat or stake a claim? Neither man even hinted at the deeper undercurrents in their relationship? It just didn’t jibe with anything remotely logical or believable to my mind.

That said, I truly enjoyed this book. I laughed a lot, I really liked both men’s characters and felt attached and invested in their relationship – I just struggled to find the growth of their relationship realistic. Once I disconnected my brain and simply sat back and enjoyed the ride though, I really did find myself enjoying the story far more. The story seems to be told very tongue-in-cheek and while completely from Dylan’s perspective (and I really did miss hearing at least a little from Tyler’s) the jovial, macho story really was a fun ride to be a part of.

With just the one short – but very steamy – sex scene readers looking for a hard-core, sex-laden M/M might not find this the right story for them. But readers who relish the build up and chemistry between their heroes should find this a great, short read.

Coming On Strong by Faye Avalon


Coming On Strong by Faye Avalon
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (55 pages)
Other: M/F, Spanking
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Lexi McKenna nursed a crush on James Mallory since forever, but he was the bad boy who never looked her way, except to protect her. Until the night she turned eighteen, and he noticed her. But just when things were getting interesting James called a halt, crushing her teenage heart. Seven years later she’s finally in a position to make him finish what he started. And this time she’s not taking no for an answer.

As a professional escort, James Mallory has learned to separate sex from emotion. He’s made himself into a sophisticated lover adept at pleasing his clients, but dark memories haunt him and bad blood still flows in his veins. So while Lexi seems determined to tempt him, there is absolutely no way he intends on dragging her down to his level.

But Lexi has other ideas, and faced with her considerable seduction skills, just how long can James hold out?

When Lexi worked a two-week stint, temping at the Talbot Escort Agency she discovered that her childhood crush, James actually worked there as an Escort. Lexi had wanted James practically forever, but he’d made it crystal clear that his best friend’s little sister was off limits and – even though he might be tempted – he wouldn’t go there. James finds himself somewhat trapped when Lexi hires his services. His reputation as an escort is flawless and he’s proud of it – for good reason. Sex is just his work. Clinical. Emotionless. How can he keep his pride, his career and his sanity when Lexi gives him an offer he simply can’t refuse?

This is an interesting short story. I was really pleased that the first part of the story was told from James’ perspective. While the perspective does change from James to Lexi back and forth through the story I was especially pleased to get this insight into James’ character.

I also found the whole story was actually quite emotional – and I found this was wonderful. James had been pretty harsh in his turning Lexi down seven years previously, and James got major brownie points to my mind by admitting he hadn’t thought through his rejection of Lexi and how it might effect the young woman. But when we as readers are shown that James had been at war previous to this rejection, had served his country and seen things that forever change a person, my heart totally went out to him. No one likes an unfeeling character – but I personally am willing to give an awful lot of lee-way to a hero who hasn’t fully recovered from his experiences out in the field. I felt it completely explained – and absolved – his actions and really set James up as an impressive character and hero in my eyes.

It took me a while longer to really enjoy Lexi’s character. While I felt for her and was impressed that she’d decided to take matters of setting herself up with James into her own hands and into her own control – I really feel like she overstepped a little. Her machinations felt a little too close (in my personal opinion) to emotional manipulation – Lexi stating pretty clearly that if James decided to not have sex with her at the end of their evening then Lexi would simply go out “trawl a bar or two” until she found a man who would be intimate with her. And throughout the start of their evening “date” she continually tried to twist his arm into giving her what she wanted, simply so she could dump him and “pay him back” for the previous hurt. It all just felt a little too harsh and mean to me. Additionally, regardless of whether someone has paid for sex, I feel pretty firmly that anyone (man or woman) saying “no” should be respected and adhered to. Sure, Lexi convinced James – but again, it was all just a little too close to emotional blackmail for me to really enjoy it and feel comfortable.

I think plenty of readers, however, won’t get the strength of this vibe from the story that I did. I have no doubt that a lot of readers will really enjoy this steamy story. It’s sexy and modern, and while I personally didn’t believe the chemistry between Lexi and James, I feel that readers who don’t get bogged down with the questionable antics of Lexi might be able to appreciate their attraction to each other. The sex is hot and plentiful and I thought it was really well written. Readers looking for an emotionally complicated, sizzling and sexy read might find this a quick and interesting story.

Please Be My Valentine by Jennifer Wenn


Please Be My Valentine by Jennifer Wenn
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (77 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Benjamin Emerson is determined to honor the dying Mrs. Brody’s last wish, that her granddaughter shall not spend Valentine’s Day alone. But as the special day is closing in, he still doesn’t know how to reach the stiff, correct librarian.

Broken by her psychopathic former fiancée, Leonore Brody moves back into her empty childhood home in Barnesville, numbly taking one day at a time. When Ben asks her to help his daughter, she can’t refuse, knowing how much he meant to her grandmother.

Caught at the Emerson Farm by a snow storm, Leonore finds herself drawn to the charismatic Ben. But the scars from her past are deep – can she ever trust a man again?

After being dumped almost at the alter by her long-term fiancé, Leonore knows that her mood is volatile and that she’s far too easily irritated. She knows that her Granny would hate the snappish, waspish woman Leonore had become, but Leonore just can’t seem to help herself. Even Ben – whom she’d known since childhood – wasn’t safe from her temper and annoyance. When Ben comes to the library to get a book explaining about puberty in females – his almost-teenaged daughter suddenly mystifying him – Leonore a can’t help but try and help the humble, shy man and his delightful no-longer-little girl.

This is a lovely and mostly sweet story about a very hurt woman trying to find herself again and in the process helping a caring and loving young man raise his teenage daughter. I found it to be full of heart-warming emotion and definitely with that “small town” type of feeling. I sympathized with Leonore and her initially crabby mood – she’d been harshly treated by her ex and hadn’t really healed from the painful break up. While I felt for her, I didn’t really particularly *like* her in the first half of the book. Leonore’s actions – her anger and cynicism – were completely understandable, but I didn’t feel as connected to her or like her as much as I would have hoped. Ben, however, I felt smitten with almost instantly. A shy, sweet, humble farmer who simply wants to do hard work, love and raise his family and keep his nose clean – he was absolutely hero material to my mind and I was eager for him to receive his (well deserved – in my opinion) happy ending.

I found this story to be a very interesting, if character-based, plot. Again with a “small-town” kind of feel Ben’s relationship as a single father with his almost-teenaged daughter, and then the growing friendship/relationship with Leonore was definitely central to the storyline. Readers who want an action filled, fast-paced style of story might not find this as satisfying as I did. But I honestly feel sometimes everyone needs to sit back with a slower paced story, with vibrant, relatable and believable characters and read something a little sweeter and in those respects this book completely exceeded my expectations. While I admit a part of me would have been ecstatic had I found Leonore more appealing as a heroine, she was real. She had a temper, she was hurt and needed to complete her healing process. I might not have enjoyed her as a heroine as much as I could have – but I could certainly respect her and understand where she was coming from.

This is definitely a slow-moving romance story. Leonore takes quite a bit of the book emotionally healing from her ex and I wasn’t keen how she compared so much of who Ben was to what her ex had been like. I found for me, personally, that got old pretty quickly, but again it was understandable and realistic. When Ben comes clean on his promise to Leonore’s Granny and Leonore finally starts to look at Ben with romantic interest their relationship really starts to build. While they became intimate fairly promptly after this, I didn’t find the singular sex scene graphic – the bedroom door wasn’t “closed” as such but it absolutely wasn’t drawn out or described in explicit detail. I would think most romance readers who enjoy a bit of spice (but not erotic levels of it) in their romance should find this satisfying without being overly graphic. There are only a few passionate kisses and the one sex scene – so really to my mind the majority of the story revolves around the characters and their growing relationship to each other – not the physical and intimate side of the romance.

Readers looking for a story with a whole bunch of characterization, realism and good, warm-fuzzy type of feelings, this is a great story to kick back and relax with. While absolutely not perfect, it is a great read and one I fully intend to enjoy again in the future.

Second Go-Round by Lynn Burke


Second Go-Round by Lynn Burke
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (88 pages)
Other: M/F, BDSM (very light), Toys, Anal Play, Voyeurism/Exhibitionism
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Christine Gemberling doesn’t enjoy breaking hearts, but she has yet to find a man who knows how to handle the package between his legs well enough to satisfy her needs. No man has held her interest beyond a second date—much less her love.

Until one sultry night with an Elite Escort rocks her world like never before.

Professional escort Jarod Zimmerman has a strict code when working with clients—no emotional attachments. But the beer-drinking, football loving Christine and her curves push beyond his control, until the guarded playboy finds himself craving another go-round with the only woman intriguing enough to make him break his own code.

With her defenses stronger than his favorite football team, it will take more than Jarod’s talents in bed to change her stance on relationships. He’ll have to sacrifice his heart when the unexpected circumstance thrown their way threatens to rip them apart forever.

Christine is sick of boring, unfulfilling hook ups, men who simply don’t – or can’t – use their physical gifts to help her get a similar level of sexual satisfaction they do. She’s tired of it but doesn’t know how to change her luck. And then a friend finally comes through with payment on a previously made deal, and Christine is set up with Elite Escort Jarod. She finds him to be a delicious hunk whom she hopes can fulfill all her fantasies. Will Jarod live up to his hype?

I found this to be a fun and sexy short story. Christine is a modern woman who knows exactly what she wants sexually and is hungry and eager to get it. There’s no sweet “getting-to-know-you” phase to this story and considering Christine hired Jarod for a night of fulfilling sex I can’t really blame either of them. I enjoyed the chemistry and sexual tension between them both and wasn’t at all surprised at some of the kinky games the two played together. The story has a cracking pace and is definitely heavy on the sex and erotic desires of both main characters. Most of the plot centers on Christine and Jarod’s sexual needs and the building of their romantic relationship. Some of the sex is kinky – but I didn’t find it too dark or deep and feel most erotica readers shouldn’t struggle with anything raised in the sex scenes. There’s plenty of consensual play and a bit of kinky spice – but nothing that I found outrageous or too envelope pushing.

The chapters shift from Christine’s point of view to Jarod’s perspective. Since the story is written in the first person I found this really helped me connect well with both characters and so I thought that was skillful writing on the author’s part. I personally find first-person writing sometimes leaves me not feeling as attached to the characters but thankfully with the shifting perspectives this wasn’t an issue for me with this story. I particularly liked seeing how much Jarod was affected by Christine and how he struggled to try and retain his usual arms-length, professional escort emotional detachment. That made their chemistry and romance a lot more believable to me than if they’d both just taken one look at each other, had sex and fallen in insta-love. It helped sell the realism and emotional depth of the story to me.

For a hot and heavily-sexed short story this was a great quick read with interesting characters and plenty of steam for a quiet night in.

First Time by Lynn Burke


First Time by Lynn Burke
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (90 pages)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Toys, Spanking/Flogging/Caning
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Daniel Cooney loves to tie women up and is nicely compensated for his services as an Elite escort. He’s no sadist, however, but a gentle dominate who longs for a woman of his own, one who won’t be intimidated by his size and ropes.

Becky Eaton bends over backwards to help her boyfriend work through his mental problems, but her submissive nature enables his sick desires to turn vicious. His plans to exploit her for his pleasure backfires … Becky experiences desire—and a climax—for the first time beneath another man’s command. Master Cooney’s tender touch awakens her in ways she never expected.

Beaten and broken, Becky’s tattered heart yearns for what could be, and while Daniel’s strength proves a pillar of support, she must find the courage within to escape a murderous monster—before it’s too late.

Daniel was paid very well at Elite Escorts to tie willing women up and fulfill their bondage fantasies, but deep down he yearns for more. Daniel wishes there was a willing woman, a sub, who wasn’t put off and scared by his large body and dominant demeanor. Someone willing to get to know him and even love him. Becky is in an abusive relationship but is too cowed to do anything about it, until she meets Daniel and he takes the time to show her how special she truly is.

I struggled to really get into this story. Becky is very clearly being physically, sexually and emotionally abused and trodden-down by her partner, Stephen. This abusive relationship honestly made most of this story difficult for me to read. In one respect that’s a huge compliment to the realism and extensive emotion the author has put in the story and characters, but I’m personally the sort of reader who likes to escape the nasties of life when I’m reading. I could easily believe that a number of the scenes – particularly at the start and end of the story might be a trigger for some readers. Stephen at a number of stages is outright abusive to Becky and while there’s no pretense of caring or love in the abuse (it’s not written to be enticing or titillating, but just as a part of the plot) that didn’t make it any more palatable to me. Personally I found everything related to the Becky/Stephen plot exceedingly difficult to read. That said; I found this story to have a huge depth of emotion to it. Daniel through his bondage, and particularly his rope-play, opens up a whole new vista of emotions and feelings inside Becky, things she had secretly yearned for but never experienced for herself.

At times I found Becky’s character quite frustrating for naïve and “too stupid to live” style of behaviors, but I have to admit that it seemed a genuine part of her character as an abused and downtrodden woman. Abused women frequently return time and time again to their abusers, thinking they will change, that it’s their (the woman’s) fault that the abuser had lashed out particularly harshly. While I can appreciate the realism of all this – I just can’t say with honesty that I enjoyed this aspect of the storyline. I think to be honest it was just a little too gritty and realistic for me, personally. A little too confronting. The author has done an amazing job writing the story – but it was all just was real and detailed enough that I ended up feeling more uncomfortable than anything else while reading it.

Overall I truly think this is the style of story readers will either love or hate – I can’t imagine anyone reading this and being ambivalent. With realistic and excellent characters this is a vastly different story to the kind I usually read. I feel this would be a great story for readers looking to expand their horizons or read a truly different kind of tale. Gritty, almost too realistic and definitely not for the faint of heart, this is an emotional and confronting story.

Convict by Sam Crescent


Convict by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (56 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ryker’s escaped prison to prove his innocence, but before he can do that, he needs a safe place to hide. When a curvy woman makes her way toward her car in a secluded section of a parking lot, he sees the perfect opportunity. Holding her at gunpoint, he forces this woman to take her to his home.

This isn’t the first time Scarlett has been held at gunpoint, and she’s not actually afraid of Ryker. There’s something in his eyes that makes her realize he’s not going to hurt her, which is crazy—and that is what scares her.

He’s the first man she’s ever wanted, but she has to resist him. There’s no place for love in Scarlett’s life.

Ryker wants Scarlett more than anything else in the world, and he’s going to have her. Learning about the abuse she suffered in the past doesn’t make him see her any differently. He just knows that she deserves a man without a black cloud hanging over his head.

He’s going to clear his name, but what will happen after? Will he go back and claim Scarlett as his, or will he let her go?

Ryker had been framed and sent to jail. Desperate, he managed to escape and just needed a bit of time – and luck – to prove his innocence. Hijacking Scarlett as she took some groceries to her car, Ryker finds this strange, curvy woman full of surprises. Most shocking of all was the growing realization that she could prove to be his saving grace, and not the freedom Ryker had so desperately dreamed of all this time.

After the first few pages I realised this was one of those “disengage your brain, sit back and enjoy the ride” style of stories. I found it rather unfathomable that Scarlett could treat being kidnapped at gunpoint by an escaped convict with not just aplomb but a hint of confidence and keep her self-assurance intact. It just didn’t feel at all realistic to me. Once I simply enjoyed the story as a fun, sexy tale, however, I really started to get into it. Scarlett had quite a sad history and I was really pleased she hadn’t let it ruin her character. While I definitely felt she was in a sort of limbo, I was equally glad that the author didn’t short-change Scarlett from the effect her trauma would have had on her life, personality and outlook. I thought this was balanced quite well, Scarlett not being a shut-in, but similarly not having ignored it and been a glittering happy-go-lucky kind of woman.

Ryker is the classic “bad boy been framed” and we as readers are assured he’s good deep down. Scarlett is a strong, independent, curvy and utterly capable woman and I’d love to have her calmness under pressure and gunpoint. The chemistry between these two quickly sparked out of control and I loved the sizzling sex scenes exploding between them. Again a fair amount of suspension of disbelief was needed, but the fun and joy I got from reading the sexy story far outweighed my desire for a believable plotline. Hot and sexy – these two characters certainly burned up the pages and made the short story quite enjoyable for me.

Readers wanting a realistic, logical and relatable story might not find this book suits their needs. But for a fun, sexy and dangerously (but not) bad boy tale could find this as enjoyable as a readers-escape as I did. Sit back with a glass of bubbly, grab a handful of cookies and enjoy the ride. This was a fun and pleasurable way to pass an evening and I enjoyed it.