on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

Category Archives: Romance

Venetian Masks by Kim Fielding eBookTitle: Venetian Masks
Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 216 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Betrayal, HEA, Italy, Mobsters, Vacation
Rating: Really Liked It

Guest Review by Heather C

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Jeff Dawkins’s last partner left him with a mortgage he can’t afford and nonrefundable tickets for a month’s vacation in Europe. Despite a reluctance to travel, Jeff decides to go on the trip anyway. After all, he’s already paid for it. He packs a Kindle loaded with gay romance novels and arrives in Venice full of trepidation. There he meets the handsome and charming expat Cleve Prieto, who offers to serve as his tour guide. Jeff has serious misgivings—he wasn’t born yesterday, and something about Cleve doesn’t sit right—but anything is better than wandering the canals alone. With Cleve’s help, Jeff falls in love with Venice and begins to reconcile with his past. For the first time, Jeff finds himself developing strong feelings for someone else. But he can’t be sure who that person is because Cleve’s background remains a mystery embroidered with lies.

Then a dark figure from Cleve’s past appears, and Jeff must choose whether to let Cleve flee alone or to join him on a desperate run through central Europe. Maybe Jeff will finally be able to see behind Cleve’s masks—if he survives the journey.

REVIEW

Nikyta totally tricked me into reading this!

I went into this book completely blind and had no idea what it was about, although I did gather from the title that it might be set in Venice…

Poor plain ol’, boring Jeff. He’s been cheated on and dumped by his boyfriend, forced to sell his house, and now he’s on a plane traveling to Venice to begin his 4 week European vacation…alone. Shortly after arriving in Venice, he catches the eye of “Cleve”, a gorgeous, tattooed, American drifter who offers to play Jeff’s tour guide…for payment. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like a trusty, safe plan to me!

I immediately connected with Jeff. He is pretty much me (if I were a gay man), as we share many of the same neuroses. Plus, we both:
Work in IT
Live an unexciting existence
Have to plan for everything
Have never traveled anywhere alone
Carry our Kindles everywhere we go, although I haven’t maimed anyone with mine…yet

Then Jeff throws his brain out the window and agrees to give Cleve’s offer a try, while I’m screaming “NOOOOOOOOO, he can’t be trusted!!!!!” But Jeff sees Cleve’s sad eyes and decides to overlook all of his lies and half-truths, and squeezes Cleve into his travel budget…there’s just something about the gorgeous man… It truly was about the companionship, although it wasn’t long before it led to some sexy time…Cleve was never paid for sex!

Cleve…no way did I trust him in the beginning! And I don’t think I even liked him at first because of how much I didn’t trust him. Ooooh, but it wasn’t long before he stole my heart…I think I loved him before Jeff even loved him. And even though it was a bit insta-love-ish, I still loved Jeff and Cleve together and was cheering for them the entire time.

Sooooooo, I’m not going to tell anymore about Cleve or give away any spoilers about what happens next, but the lazy vacation romance suddenly turns into a twisted thriller. Huh? Didn’t see that coming. It did get a little outrageous…but who cares? It was fun and sweet and I couldn’t put it down…and that’s all that matters.


An Unconventional Courtship by Scotty Cade eBookTitle: An Unconventional Courtship
Author: Scotty Cade
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 230 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Adorable!, Affair with the Boss, Businessmen, Co-Workers,  Lots of Tension,  On Vacation, Series,  Sweet, Unrequited Love
Rating: Really Liked It

Guest Review by Heather C

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Tristan Moreau loves his job as chief administrative officer and personal assistant to Webber Kincaid, President, Chairman, and CEO of Kincaid International. It would be the perfect job… if only he hadn’t fallen in love with his boss as well as the work. After two years, he’s still doing everything in his power to keep his feelings hidden—mostly because he wants to protect the reputation of his famous boss but also because he wants to keep his job.

Webber Kincaid has stayed in the closet, using his best friend and confidante as his beard. Everything in his life was working out just fine until he met Tristan Moreau. Within months, Tristan stole his heart and became his lifeline. But Webber knows the rules of the workplace better than anyone, so he’s kept his distance.

But two years is too long to wonder “what if?”—especially when business takes them to a private Caribbean island. When Tristan and Webber succumb to the tropical heat, their professionalism starts to backslide. It’s a seemingly impossible relationship, making a go at it under the paparazzi’s microscope. It may be the best—or the worst—business decision they ever made.

REVIEW

The good, the bad…and the adorable.

It’s a story that’s been told many times over again: employee-slash-personal-assistant falls for uber rich boss. Tristan Moreau has been deeply betrayed by a past lover who chose to be with a woman instead of a him. Now, seven years later, Tristan finds himself secretly in love with his boss, Webber Kincaid, and has been hiding it for the last two years. Then when Webber comes to Tristan and invites him to spend three weeks on his private island with him for work and relaxation, Tristan doesn’t know how he can keep his feelings from showing any longer. The conflict: Webber is supposedly straight and doesn’t even know Tristan is gay! Plus, there is the matter of Webber’s company and reputation to think about…

The Good: There was soooooo much sexual tension!! Seriously, all of the accidental touches and heated looks had me giddy. The guys didn’t even kiss until 37%!!! Plus, there was only like 5 minutes of angst that gets cleared up quite quickly. Honestly, I expected it to drag on for ages, but nope, it all gets fixed and sweetness ensues.

The bad: Speaking of the the sweetness, at times it was a bit much. Once these guys realize they are both in love with each other, its kinda insta-I-plan-to-spend-the-rest-of my-life-with-you-love. So it made me roll my eyes a few times, but Tristan and Webber were so cute I just accepted it and kept on reading. It did get a bit wordy at times, but I like this kind of wordiness, so it didn’t really bother me.

The Adorable: I adored Tristan and Webber! How could anyone not love them. They are both sweet and kind and Webber has to be one of the most romantic heroes I’ve ever read. He knows how to steal a girl’s man’s heart! And all the romantic plans he made while courting Tristan…*sigh*…so romantic.

Moving on to the sequel: An Unconventional Union. I’m hoping for a beautifully, romantic wedding!

Disclaimer: This is not something I would normally like to read, but today, it was perfect for my mood. I recommend saving it for one of those days when you need something sweet and easy.


Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death (Agamemnon Frost #1) - Kim KnoxTitle: Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death (Agamemnon Frost #1)
Author: Kim Knox
Publisher: Carina
Length: 26k words
Genre: m/m Steampunk Romance
Heat: 2 – Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Netgalley, Alternate World Historical, Aliens, 1890s, Victorian, England, ex-Military, Class Differences
Rating: So So

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Liverpool, 1891

Decorated artilleryman Edgar Mason was forced to find new work when the British Empire replaced its foot soldiers with monstrous machines. Now he waits on the Liverpool elite as a personal servant. He has just one rule: he won’t work for fashion-addled dandies.

Agamemnon Frost, however, is far from the foppish man-about-town he appears to be. He’s working to protect the Earth from an alien invasion being planned by a face-changing creature known as Pandarus. And on the night he plans to confront the aliens, he enlists Mason to assist him.

For a man to love a man is a serious crime in Victorian England. But when Mason meets Frost, his heart thunders and his blood catches fire. And when Pandarus drags the two men into the torture cellars beneath his house of death to brainwash them, Mason’s new passion may be all that stands between him and insanity.

REVIEW

This is certainly of a different pace than what I’ve been reading lately, and if you consider the steampunk nature of the story, then certainly different from what I usually read. In a way, I found that refreshing. On the other hand, this is such a short first part of a trilogy, that if it holds to a similar word count pattern as the first two, will only (in all) add up to around 75k words. I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the rhythm of the prose and piecing together the confusing details. And once I did, the story ended just as it was coming together.

Mason has given ten years to the army, marching through Afghanistan and India, only to return to England with so many of his other comrades that it is difficult to find a job. Sent to an estate to be the valet for one of the home’s guests for the night is work — so he’ll take it — even though it isn’t permanent and he’s warned right away that Agamemnon Frost is a bit, er.. peculiar.

In Agamemnon Frost, Mason finds a clear candidate for a mental hospital, yet at the same time a curious intelligence and the spark of a different personality under his foppish exterior. What at first seems to be a typical dandy, Mason soon sees a man underneath using that exterior in a game of sorts, though Frost’s make believe players don’t offer him much trust. But if it is a game that Mr. Frost wants to play, it is only his job for one night — though the undercurrents may promise he serve the magnanimous personality in another way.

That still may come to pass when Mason quite quickly realizes that the stakes in the game are real and that the world has he knew it has been ripped away from him completely. Suddenly he doesn’t understand anything of what is happening save that he’s on the run from aliens. And later, that he’s being pulled in both directions, with only Agamemnon Frost as his anchor to reality.

The official blurb gives you quite a bit more information that my summary did, but I like to think that my summary gives a bit more of the confusion that I felt. The thing is, it’s not terribly confusing, it’s just that when the story does finally start to come together and you finally put more of the pieces together about who is what and the myriad of different creatures there really are, the story ends. I was finally ready to settle into the story only to be ripped out again. So my rating of So So really has to do with the way this story is separated into a trilogy. If I had been able to read the second one right after the first, I might have been more into the story. The writing itself is fresh and inventive pulling humor through the social mores of Victorian England, as if Mason and Frost are at once playing their game of same sex attraction amid an outdated structure, but at the same time poking fun at the grander scheme, the aliens in their midst. The writing showcases that fun through lots of little detail like their body chemistry amid something as simple and yet sexually charged as bathing or shaving.

So, for the most part, I’ll save my feelings about this story until I read the next and can get a better picture of the story as a whole. I’m certainly intrigued to find out what is next for Achilles and Patrocles 😉


Pura Vida - Sara AlvaTitle: Pura Vida
Author: Sara Alva
Publisher: Self Published (m/m Goodreads Romance Group)
Length: 25,400 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Love Has No Boundaries story, Free, Short Stories, New Adult, On Vacation, Diverse Pairing, Costa Rica, Second Chances, at the Beach, College, Summer Break
Rating: Really Liked It

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Simon has found himself in an open relationship for the summer—though not by choice. Instead of wallowing, he’s decided to make the most of a family vacation to Costa Rica by hooking up with the first hot guy available. Trouble is, he has no clue how to go about doing that.

Luckily, he runs into someone with a little more experience. But when the moments of lust turn into something more, Simon isn’t so sure he’ll be able to return to his old relationship. And there’s no way to hold onto this new one, either, as thousands of miles will separate them in only a few short weeks. Either way, he’ll have to learn to let go.

REVIEW

I’m really happy that Sara Alva asked me to specifically review this short story of hers. Many of you will have read it, I know, because it’s a free short from the m/m Goodreads Romance Group’s LHNB event. I usually keep up a little better with the stories than I have this year and I also try to do a couple mass reviews of some of my favorites. But, I’ve really missed most of them, just because there have been too many new releases this summer! And way too many of them that I’ve wanted to review 🙂 Thankfully, Sara did ask me to review this one and I’m really glad she did because it was so cute and a real joy to read.

Simon is with his father, mother and sister on vacation in Costa Rica where his father is in development of vacation homes. It’s the few weeks after finals just at the start of the summer and Simon is in a bit of a quandary. His boyfriend back at college, Leo, has pretty much parted his company without much fanfare, giving Simon a “let’s see what happens over the summer” goodbye that pretty much means he just wants to fuck whomever he likes until Simon is back to be his bedwarmer throughout the year. Leo is a little bit cruel, but even if he isn’t what Simon really wants, he’s what he’s got and Simon figures that he shouldn’t give up on a solid thing himself.

What better for him to do than try to find a summer fling himself? At least so that he doesn’t go back to Leo having pined for him all summer. But Simon doesn’t really know how to go about catching someone’s eye. There are a lot of cute guys at the beach of their resort and it seems so easy for his sister Alyssa to catch a cute guy. It isn’t until he stumbles up on the local migration of sea turtles hatching on the beach at night that he meets Juan.

Juan is a local that doesn’t show much faith in another American tourist at first, especially when the two get off to such an inauspicious start. But Simon rallies and when he actually shows interest in the turtles, Juan invites him to help with his nightly duties. It doesn’t take them long to find a chemistry between them, but even if Simon did start to have feelings for Juan, there’s no chance of anything happening when he lives thousands of miles away.

This is such a perfect and sweet vacation fling story and this author does it in a way that sets it apart. There’s no easy out that things could continue in the future, that one could stay or the other could follow at the end of their fling. There are real differences between them. But we get to that point by getting to know the two of them in all of their awkwardness and by doing so their relationship has heart where other stories with a similar premise might not. And that’s because there are such differences between them. Juan is a local who has had only too many opportunities to get to know different kinds of people, but so many of them through the facade of the resort, bringing him into contact with a type of person that he can’t understand might not be rich or spoiled. He’s someone who has to work hard for what he has, battle his own family against his sexuality, and then battle the people he comes in contact with every summer to be seen as more than a stupid village boy. Though they come from different worlds, Simon is different. He can’t seem to make himself believe that their fling could be no-strings attached. He just doesn’t know how. And part of that is because he’s the type of person who would find interest in the beauty of the turtles and understand the beauty in what Juan sees everyday.

I don’t know Sara Alva well. And this is the first work of hers that I’ve read — no matter how many times I’ve remembered how much I want to read Social Skills. But, I can see from reading this story that she’s someone who really cares about what she writes and that she writes because she loves it. I’m not an author, but I can understand that. I want to read Social Skills now more than ever, because I feel into her prose and it was so easy and comforting to get lost in. I’m excited to see what to make of a longer story. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve had so many people tell me to read it by now 😉

If you missed this one in all the crush of the free stories this summer, then definitely go get it. It’s sweet and heartfelt and you’ll probably find a new author that you like.


angelsredemptionTitle: Angel’s Redemption
Author: Azalea Moone
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 31k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Fallen Angels, Rockers/Musicians, Metal Music, Roommates, Luck, Insta-Love
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

BLURB

Twenty-four-year-old Blaine Schneider is seasoned to hardship. Since the age of eight, he’s experienced nothing but a swarm of bad luck: from the funny electrical fire in shop class to failing grades and relationships gone sour. He believes he’ll never get past it; only his band, ‘Til Dark, and their dream, keeps him going through it all.

Shortly after he mysteriously inherits a beautifully carved angel statue, Blaine also finds an apartment big enough to display the lifelike sculpture, and he thinks his luck has finally taken a turn for the better. But when he discovers the spell inscribed on the statue’s base, he frees Lynsael from his stone prison, a handsome fallen angel who claims to be Blaine’s former guardian angel, and then his luck really improves.

But while Blaine is falling hard for the angel’s blue eyes and lively personality, in the shadows, dark forces are working to keep Blaine and Lynsael apart. It will take more than luck for the pair to come through unscathed—it’ll take a miracle.

REVIEW

I shouldn’t apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry ahead of time to those who put a lot of love and care into the creation of this book, this isn’t really going to be a positive review 😦

I have a love/hate relationship with angel stories. I think that maybe people are turned onto angels for a few different reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the loss of innocence. There are so many directions an author can take an angelic character — an exploration of literary history and popular angelic mythos, playing on the fallen angel theme and the dichotomy of innocence and corruption, angelic and human. Many romance novels place a lot of importance on world building as a backdrop to the reason their angel falls and then some place the romance itself as the focus of their story. Many of those stories are where I find myself not as interested. I like seeing an author’s imagination in world building of angel stories. I think that what I really don’t like is that I sometimes find angels in romance stories to be somewhat… vapid? without personality? They convey all of that innocence but it seems one dimensional. It’s hard to connect with a character like that, and even though it might be a purposeful choice because angels are in fact, not human (who knew?!), that doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice for the story.

That’s where I started to encounter some problems for me with Angel’s Redemption. I like this author’s prose, no doubt about that. And that is probably why I continually come back to read her stories even though, in the past, I’ve not been very kind in my reviews. So for me, taking a gamble on this story for review was… well, a gamble, what with the angel theme and my past history with not liking some of this author’s characters so much. The premise of this story is the freedom of an angel who is bound in a statue. Blaine received the statue, which has always mystified and alternately unnerved him, from his father’s best friend, an artist who worked on the statue for a long time and for some unknown reason left it to Blaine in his will. When Blaine moves to an apartment with enough space to showcase the beautiful rendition of the male form (au naturel), he puts it in a place where he can showcase it, even adding a spotlight to show it off.

In the meantime, Blaine is trying to make his sucky life better. Ever since the age of 8 he’s been terribly unlucky. Prior to that, his life was wonderful. Now that he’s 24 and with a band he’s proud of he thinks he might be able to master his own luck and make his life happier. There’s a chance for his band to play a weekly gig at a popular club, which will give them lots of visibility and even a bit of cash. His life and luck is looking up, if they can actually get the gig. It looks promising, if only his bandmates would get their shit together.

But Blaine is still mystified by the statue of the beautiful angel. Sometimes… he swears that when he walks by the eyes follow him and occasionally he sees a feather ruffle. It can’t be true, but further investigation of the statue reveals a strange phrase in latin marked on the base. Blaine’s curiosity could be the best, or worst thing that has ever happened to him.

I hate to sit and list the problems I had with this book. I mean, for the most part I still enjoyed reading it and I definitely didn’t hate it. But, I also found some things here that have bothered me with past Azalea Moone books and stories. One of those things, and the one of the biggest problems that I had here was the world building. It’s almost non-existent. I read through this whole book having no clue what was going on. It wasn’t because the characters were purposefully keeping secrets — they were — but, we’re often given references of things that have happened in the past. This is great because it helps us put the pieces of the story together ourselves, but there has to be a framework in which to fill in those gaps — a world. I read the blurb again when I finished the book and it had more detail than was in the actual book. Also, throughout the book, Lynsael continually asks Blaine to help him find out what happened with the statue. Both of them don’t understand how he broke out, how he was bound, or what the sculptor (Blaine’s father’s friend) really knew about any of this, including Lyn. Blaine offers to help, about a million times but something always seems to come up to distract him. This is just one of my pet peeves. It didn’t seem like a very good reason to stall them, to put off talking about their situation and finding out what is going on. It seemed more like an easy way to stall them until the ending of the story. It was just… frustrating to read, honestly. I would have liked to see them talk, not only to figure out why everything was happening as it was, but also to get to know one another — their history, their lives, their feelings — and by extension for me to get to know the characters.

I ended the book feeling like I didn’t really understand the story, only the few events that happened but no background at all to fill in the details and gaps. I also felt like I didn’t really know the characters well. I understood Blaine a bit better than Lyn, but not well. So I didn’t connect with them and I didn’t really see a connection between them. In another story by this author that I read and reviewed (“On Clouds of Obsession” in the Fraternal Devotion anthology, reviewed here), I felt like I didn’t really like one of of the main characters. And I felt that way about Blaine somewhat too. While he wasn’t the kind of asshole like in “On Clouds of Obsession”, he still pissed me off most of the book with his words toward Lyn and his refusal to help him and his general attitude of pissy and then, suddenly, he loves him. I didn’t get it, really.

I think that pretty much says everything. I didn’t really like the book and I feel like it needed more work to fill out the story. That and I just couldn’t connect with both of the characters. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one.


His Roommate's Pleasure - Lana McGregorTitle: His Roommate’s Pleasure
Author: Lana McGregor
Publisher: Carina
Length: 30k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary BDSM Erotic Romance
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: College, Jocks/Nerds, Nerds/Geeks, Roommates, Opposites Attract, Closeted, Coming Out, First Times
Rating: Pretty Good

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It started with an accidental click…but where will it end?

Desperate to turn in a paper, Adam borrows his roommate’s computer and mistakenly opens a folder that contains Josh’s collection of porn. Adam had no idea that his jock roommate was gay–and into leashes, paddles and domination. And Adam, an inexperienced virgin who’s only ever kissed one guy, is surprised to find himself curious about submitting…

Josh can’t believe that his roommate discovered his spank bank–and he can’t believe that Adam is so turned on by the thought of giving up control to someone. Taking a chance, he offers to look through the photos with Adam…and maybe try acting some of them out.

Night after night, the boys delve into their darkest fantasies of domination and submission. And as lust and experimentation grow into the promise of something deeper, Adam must decide if he’s brave enough to tell Josh how he feels.

REVIEW

I’ve been looking forward to reading and reviewing this book for months now, and I hate that I had to keep pushing back my review, especially after hearing so many of you talk about it in such a tantalizing way. And even though I think I may not have loved it in the way that some of you did, I can’t deny that it was a seriously sexy piece of story that I had to put down a few times just to take a breather.

It’s a pretty simple and embarrassing premise that leads to oh so much of something more. Adam’s computer is pretty crappy and he only has twenty minutes to log onto the university’s server online and turn in his paper. But his computer is once again crapping out on him. So, in order not to be marked down for his tardiness, he sneaks onto his roommate’s computer to send it in. But when he starts to shut down and erase all his work with a series of quick closing clicks before his roommate is due back to their room he stumbles upon something he never would have expected from his supposedly straight jock roommate — a gay porn folder full of guys in leather and an array of erotica BDSM regalia.

Then the worst comes. Adam’s roommate Josh opens the door before Adam can get his hand out of his pants — because he was obviously turned on and out of his mind — leading to a rather embarrassing situation for Adam. But Josh surprises him. They don’t know each other very well, even though they’ve shared the same room for six months of their freshman year. Adam took one look at all of Josh’s sports gear and assumed he was the same kind of jock who used to shove him in lockers in high school. College is supposed to be a chance to get away from all of that, to start over. He never knew that not only was Josh gay and apparently in the closet, but that they do have some things in common after all, because Adam is seriously turned on by the pictures of submissive men, skinny like him, tied up and dominated.

What might tear their relationship apart forever very soon crosses a line to bring them together. Instead of accusing Adam of violating his privacy, Josh starts to open up and ask Adam all sorts of naughty questions about what he likes in the pictures.

This story is rather short and had a different sort of dynamic than what we usually read, especially with characters this young. This could easy be in the New Adult set, but with so much sexual debauchery between the two, for pretty much the whole book, it really is very firmly an erotic novel, but also a romance. The dynamic is at once explicitly sexual, frank almost and at times for me riding the edge of uncomfortable. Told from Adam’s point of view, he quickly learns that what he wants is not just to be dominated by Josh, but also to be debased. And it isn’t the actions themselves that provide the intensity between them but their discussions. They talk out almost every scene before and during and they’re both very open to the other about what they like and want, but at the same time the newness of it all is uncomfortable. For most of the story they’re working around each other, feeling out their limits and their feelings about one another, and the frank openness with which they go about doing that was at times, almost a little embarrassing for me to read, lol.

On the other hand, I really liked the smooth transition between their frank business of sex setup and the intimacy that grows between them to a real relationship. In many ways, this is a very sweet story, because both of them are so refreshingly new to not only BDSM but also to sex that their scenes ride a line between extremely explicit and endearing. I admit that it did take me about half the story to really understand and get in the groove, but after that the story was cute.

This is definitely something that BDSM readers will like, but it makes it difficult for me to recommend in a way. It’s such a cute romance on the one hand, but the BDSM in other parts is intense. It isn’t intense in a play sort of way. There aren’t a lot of strange toys or play that crosses boundaries, but Adam finds that he very much likes the debasement aspect of submitting, to be embarrassed and made to feel dirty, and that might be a line for some readers. Honestly, with so many people liking this one already (and it’s a pretty cheap price), I’d say go for it and try it if you haven’t yet and at least see what you think of it 😉