Title: Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1)
Author: Shira Anthony
Length: 69,784 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty**
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between**
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters (Merfolk), Sea/Rivers/Sail, Under the Sea, Slaves/Prisoner, Indentured (Sexual) Slavery, m/m/m scenes, Multiple/Other Partners, Spies, Civil War, Resistance, Dreams, Superpowers, Reincarnation, Sex in Shifted Form (underwater mermen sex, which is much more interesting than underwater basket weaving)
Rating: Pretty Good
Taren Laxley has never known anything but life as a slave. When a lusty pirate kidnaps him and holds him prisoner on his ship, Taren embraces the chance to realize his dream of a seagoing life. Not only does the pirate captain offer him freedom in exchange for three years of labor and sexual servitude, but the pleasures Taren finds when he joins the captain and first mate in bed far surpass his greatest fantasies.
Then, during a storm, Taren dives overboard to save another sailor and is lost at sea. He’s rescued by Ian Dunaidh, the enigmatic and seemingly ageless captain of a rival ship, the Phantom, and Taren feels an overwhelming attraction to Ian that Ian appears to share. Soon Taren learns a secret that will change his life forever: Ian and his people are Ea, shape-shifting merfolk… and Taren is one of them too. Bound to each other by a fierce passion neither can explain or deny, Taren and Ian are soon embroiled in a war and forced to fight for a future—not only for themselves but for all their kind.
Believe it or not (and I can’t), this is the first book I’ve read by Shira Anthony. I have several and there are many of her books that I’ve really wanted to read, but somehow never found the time to. So when I saw this on the Dreamspinner Coming Soon page I made sure that I made room for it in my schedule. It wouldn’t only be a chance to try out this author, but also a book about mermen! Just like unicorns, I’m really an 8 year old little girl who loves the cute and cuddly fantastical creatures. Except, you know, when they have gay sex and aren’t as cuddly anymore, except maybe in a post-coital fashion.
I’m glad that I made room for this book, it was quite fun to read. The whole book takes place over a somewhat short amount of time — about 8 weeks — but the book starts with Taren at a young age and the first few chapters traverse his teenaged years as he’s sold and stolen as a slave and passed through several masters’ hands. The journey that Taren takes in this first book of the series is pretty big. He learns quite a bit about his life and goes through many transitions of change before the end.
Taren doesn’t know anything about his parents, save that his master told him they gave him away. He longs for the open sea and though he’s just a rigger for his master’s shipyard, he hopes that one day he’ll be able to travel the seas and be a proper sailor. When he’s sold to pay off his master’s debts, Taren becomes a slave to a man who runs an inn. He’s not sure how old he is, though he thinks around 18 or 19. He’s been mostly sheltered in his life, so when a handsome captain introduces him to his sexuality in a room full of watching sailors at the inn, he finds himself excited rather than scared and violated. He’s submissive and clings to the safety he feels in a man like the captain, whom he later knows as Rider, because of the man’s kind, yet firm dominance.
Stolen by the sailors of the ship that night, he wakes to find himself the captain’s prisoner and introduced to indentured slavery of the sexual kind. But, for a young man like Taren who has always been a slave, sexual slavery aboard a ship on the open ocean is a kind of freedom that he’s never known. Taren revels in it, especially when he comes to be a loving presence in Rider and his lover’s bed and allowed to put his knowledge of sailing to use aboard the ship.
But there is so much that Taren doesn’t know or understand — why he has such vivid dreams and the extra-sensory feelings that he has in reading the water and weather at sea. When he’s knocked unconscious and lost at sea, he washes up to their rival vessel, captained by Ian Dunaidh. Ian is enamored of Taren immediately and their connection, once he wakes, pushes and pulls between them as they sail to Ian’s home island where a shadowy presence called The Council awaits to judge Taren as a spy in their war against a resistance group of their own people who live on the mainland. Living through the hell of their torture, the betrayal between Taren and Ian and the possibility that he might never be free takes everything in him. All he knows to get him through is that he is destined for a higher purpose than this, if it is true that any higher power is guiding them.
I went pretty far in summarizing the story for you, but that is because there is such a long and twisting plot in this story. Taren goes through so many changes, homes, and relationships with other people for only 70k words. It makes me curious how many books this author has planned for this series because I didn’t feel as if I started to understand the larger picture until the very end of the book. I have no doubt that that was intended for the reader, that we should pull the pieces together at the very end, but it also meant that I had to wait through the whole book to really understand what was happening. Which, ultimately, meant that I really had to enjoy the story for the present, for what was happening to Taren in the moment without understanding where the story was headed to really enjoy the book. Sometimes I felt as if I was right there with him and Ian and I was really sucked into the present of the story. But, sometimes I wasn’t and I felt as if the story lulled, perhaps because the relationship between Taren and Ian is so freaking complicated. For much of the book they’re separated, though not for any very long pieces of time. It takes the whole book for them to really reach the same page, relationship-wise, because they each needed this book to progress themselves. Taren is searching for his destiny, a shadowy purpose that we and he knows is there, somewhere, for him to understand one day, and for him to understand his race and his history. Ian is battling his own demons — regret and guilt — that stand in the way of his happiness.
So once again I say that while I really enjoyed this book, it’s as a first book of a series. I still feel as if I don’t know much about where this series is headed. In a way, I like that because it means that this author is doing a fine job of withholding information until the correct (and perhaps most artful) time to release it. On the other hand, I fear not knowing enough to keep me interested in the big picture, and that it makes my reading experience different. So, I’m excited to read the next book and hoping that the ending of this one — seeing the formation of a more solid relationship between Taren and Ian — will carry forward through the rest of the series.
**There is a pretty big imbalance in the heat level and sex frequency in this book, as far as trying to rate it goes. The first several chapters are hot and heavy, with m/m/m scenes (spitroasting, exhibitionism) that really raise the heat, and frequent sex in those chapters. The rest of the novel has little to almost no sex at all and what intimacy there is is very romantic and tame (the underwater mermen sex).
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Captive/Slave, Civil Wars, Dreams, Dreamspinner Press, Indentured Slavery, m/m/m scenes, Merfolk, Multiple/Other Partners, Prisoner, Reincarnation, Resistance, Sea/Sail/Rivers, Series, Shifter Sex, Shifters, Shira Anthony, spies, Superpowers, Under the Sea
Title: Show and Tell
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 79,641 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Time Travel (not really, just visions of a sort), Fated Lovers, Mythology (Gaelic), Gods, Reincarnation, Love Triangle, NYC
Rating: Really Liked It
One of the few joys in Dan’s life is the TV show Junk Shop, a reality show about antiques hosted by the handsome and charismatic Malcolm Tell. Then an old music box turns up, and Dan’s sister encourages him to try to get on the show and meet the object of his affection. He does, and his life changes completely.
When Dan and Malcolm first meet, they have a sudden vision of a couple from the past. Is it a glimpse at a past life or something else entirely? They agree to work together to figure out what is going on, and they stumble upon a forgotten Celtic myth that may explain everything. If the myth is true, then Dan and Malcolm could be a pair of lovers who have been reincarnated over and over again over two thousand years. That seems impossible, but it’s hard to deny that something very strange is happening.
As Dan and Malcolm work to find the truth, they fall for each other hard. But searching for who they really are puts them both in grave danger, and they find themselves racing against time to keep their happily ever after.
Okay…. I’ve just got to say this: What the hell is wrong with everyone? I had tempered my excitement for this book after it came out because so many people have written very luke warm reviews. I didn’t expect it to be bad, but what I found was a really fun, un-put-downable read. I mean, it’s not perfect and I’ll talk about that in a bit, but for the most part this book was highly enjoyable for me. So yeah, ya’lls on crack is all I can say.
Just like me ;), one of Dan’s favorite shows on tv is a reality show about an antiques shop where a guy buys/sells/pawns things and goes through the provenance of the items in detail for the viewers. Of course, a lot of Dan’s enjoyment is his attraction to sexy star of the show, Malcolm Tell (great tv name!). So when he comes across an old music box, his sister encourages him to use it to try to get on the show. When he gets to the store, he finds that they’re taping, which means Dan has to go through a whole song and dance just to get to the good part. Dan’s nervous, and meeting the man he’s found himself fantasizing about is much more important than the music box. When Malcolm comes out and it’s his cue to start talking about the music box, he is finally able to look in the man’s eyes and finds that they seem strangely peculiar. The strange thing is that Malcolm obviously feels the same way. It isn’t until Dan hands it to him and both touch the box at the same time that the visit gets really interesting. Both share a peculiar vision that includes a tremendous amount of pain and anguish, which abruptly ends when they remove their hands.
The visit goes to hell after that. The box isn’t really that interesting at all, except for an inscription. But Malcolm is reluctant to let Dan leave. And when he does, Dan finds that he’s got a date for the next evening for dinner and to examine the box again in private. Will whatever happened happen again? And what does it mean if it only happens when they both touch it?
The music box sets off a strange series of occurrences where different objects tend to show up giving them different visions. When they start to put the pieces together and find out what is really happening, they’re thunderstruck by what it all means and what it means for their now-growing relationship. But the inherent problem with repeating history is that they repeat their mistakes, as well as a tragedy that follows them. They have to follow each object and vision until they can find a way to change history and secure a real future for themselves.
I think what I loved so much about this story is the different visions they have. I won’t get into what they are of, but it’s pure gold for a story because it’s a mine of different settings and scenarios to explore. That’s exciting for a reader because it makes the book exciting. It also gives the book a really great pace, with so much forward movement in the story, so I never got tired of reading it and I was always interested to discover what would happen next. Of course, I did have one big problem with the story — I just found the ending anticlimactic. You can see it coming from a mile away. But, the way the story is set up makes for good, natural tension. Except, maybe too much tension. By the time the end rolled around the stakes were so high that I ended up just finding the ending a bit… lame and comical. However, though that might sour a bit of the story, I still found that I loved the rest of the story and it didn’t bother me too much. So, it wasn’t enough to mark the story down very far for me.
I’ve heard from friends who read this that they found Dan a bit too weepy and whiny. I’m not sure if it’s just a case of some people not really liking for their guy characters to cry too much (I know some people don’t — that’s fine), or that I just felt like the circumstances were justifiable (if I was facing possible death and loss of my newfound and totally awesome love of my life and counting down the days for find a remedy I think I’d be a ball of angst and tears!), but it just didn’t bother me at all.
So, while I might caution some readers who these things will automatically send up red flags, I would encourage you to give this one a try. Because while it may not be perfect, it’s still a really fun and exciting read with quite a few twists and turns that I wasn’t really expecting. Expect for the book to take a turn towards real fantasy and be a bit surreal toward the end, but I found that part of the fun 😉
Kate’s new book, Save the Date, is out tomorrow along with my review!
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Fated Love, gods, Kate McMurray, Kate McMurray Week!, Loose Id, Love Triangle, Mythology, NYC, Reincarnation, Time Travel, Villain
Title: Three Fates
Author: Andrew Grey, Mary Calmes & Amy Lane
Length: 103,075 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Keywords/Tags: Anthology, Author Backlist Project, Mythology
Rating: Pretty Good
For time immemorial, the goddesses of fate have decided which human threads will shine and which will be cut short. But even the fates have off days.
Fate Delivers a Prince by Andrew Grey: Finding love shouldn’t be that difficult for a diplomat’s son, except Cheyenne is part of a grand tradition of werewolves, and a werewolf with a skin condition needs more help than most mortals. When Chay meets the prince of his dreams, it takes Clotho’s intervention to keep him from letting go.
Jump by Mary Calmes: When two lovers die, their threads of life are collected instead of scattered, as one of them was the brother of a god. Can the fates reunite two lovers whose threads should have twined together for eternity? Or will Cassidy allow Raza’s interest to pass his pale, mortal self by?
Believed You Were Lucky by Amy Lane: The gods’ meddling isn’t always welcome. It’s given Leif good luck but poor fortune, and Hacon a family curse he’s lived in fear of all his life. But when Leif’s good luck saves Hake’s life, Hake has to reevaluate everything he’s ever believed about luck, life, and love.
I was interested in this quasi-anthology (?? — collection?) from the get-go and bought it mostly because of two of my favorite authors — Mary Calmes and Amy Lane — were in it. But, now that I’m reading a book by both of these authors a week, or at least trying, for my Author Backlist Project, I knew it was time to get this one out and see what to make of it. While I mostly liked it, the three stories within are all very different, so I’ll refrain from talking too much in this general part of the review and save it all for the individual stories.
However, all three stories do deal with the mythology of the Three Fates/Sisters/Morai. Known in Greek mythology as Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, there are many things you might associate or remember about them from different sources — the one eye they share, how one allots the yarn or string, one weaves them and the other cuts them. These three different authors dealt with this mythology in different and interesting ways. Andrew Grey didn’t associate them with any of our known mythologies, but made them rather independent and changed their tools from fiber to wheels (though this might be from another cultural myth, I’m not sure). Mary Calmes gives us a the classical Greek definition with a bit of ancient Egyptian flair. Amy Lane, however, took the cake with her representation of the sisters, I think. Much more heavily involved in the lives of the characters of her story than the other author’s stories, her sisters were firmly entrenched in Norse mythology along with some other famous gods you might recognize, Loki and Thor. I found the interludes where they watched and discussed the lives of Leif and Hacon to be some of the best parts of the story and I loved that she inserted a bit of her own fiber knowledge (spit-slicing!) in there for comic relief. Of all the representations of the gods throughout these three stories, I have to say that not only were they the most enjoyable to watch, but they acted the most like the gods from mythology, at turns flighty and careless of their human charges, while at the same time playing favorites and taking a very firm hand in the mortal realm.
Fate Delivers a Prince by Andrew Grey (So So)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Wolf Shifters, Germany, Royalty, Mate Bonding
Coming in at around 20% of the overall length of the book, Andrew Grey’s story is the paranormal tale of a wolf shifter named Cheyenne, an American in Bavaria with his family. Chay is the youngest of three boys in their diplomat family, his father a powerful Alpha. Cheyenne is a rather weak wolf himself and not at all like his brothers, the oldest just like their father in strength and personality and the middle cruel and callous. What Chay wants more than anything is so find a mate he can love, but he knows that won’t ever happen. He’s afflicted with a mysterious skin condition, but when he’s a wolf and a human that covers his skin in large and red flaky patches that drive him crazy with discomfort and pain. He’s a bit of an embarrassment to his family really — who wants to sit next to the boy constantly starching himself at a state dinner?
So Chay might be the most surprised of all of them when he finally gets a whiff of his mate at a ball. And not only is it a man like he expected (and his father feared), but it’s Arthur, a prince. Chay is doomed. Not only is his mate entirely out of his league, but he’s human. The intervention of a mysterious and divine woman will change all of that.
I suppose that I was just a little bit disappointed by this story. I mean, it isn’t bad, but it really isn’t great either. It’s cute, but we never really get to know Arthur that well. It was frustrating to see the climax of the story hinge on the stupidity of the characters rather than a more original plot twist and the behavior of all of the characters was a little annoying. It doesn’t quite read “Big Mis” standards, because the miscommunication doesn’t last all that long, but I was hoping for a more interesting turn of events. In many respects it’s a werewolf Cinderfella (Cindercubba?) story, with the rich prince falling in love with the skin-afflicted commoner (no matter how rich he is), but I found the tone of the story to be more in line with a typical paranormal story rather than a fairy tale.
In all, this was my least favorite story in the collection. However, it takes a really ingenious, original and interesting shifter story to really get my attention and I know that many readers will like this story. It’s cute, a bit fluffy and an easy read. It just wasn’t what I was looking for.
Jump by Mary Calmes (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Cops/Agents, Crime, The Mafia, Psychics, Mythology, Reincarnation
Taking up about a third of the overall length of the book, Jump is the story of Cassidy, a short-term psychic matchmaker who is urged by his gift to interrupt the pattern of Raza’s life, in order to safe him from death. Raza is a mysterious figure, surrounded by guards, but Cassidy can immediately see that for as dangerous as he looks he has a big heart and a sweet disposition. Cassidy, who is rather self-effacing and seems desperate to remain lonely and guarded from his lovers, and the two immediately take to one another.
What they don’t know is how their lives are fated to continually cross after their death in a past life in ancient Egypt. It isn’t just Cass’ gift that shows they have an extra-strong connection to one another, but also interference from the gods. Because this divine intervention from the gods is set up in the prologue, I didn’t really mind too much that Raza and Cass fall immediately in love. If they were fated and felt like they knew each other upon meeting because of their past-life history, then I can suspend disbelief for that. I actually found Cass to be an interesting Calmes character, because though he has the token magnetism that she always seems to give her characters, where everyone is drawn to them as if they’re sent down from Heaven, Cass was actually rather nerdy and had quite a strong streak of low self-esteem.
This was definitely an enjoyable read, something that I’m used to getting with Mary Calmes’ stories. I still had a few problems with it, though. I felt it was rather short for the plot. I’m used to quite a fast pace from this author, where the scenes bleed into one another and seem to go directions I hadn’t expected, but I felt like since the mystery behind the men who want to kill Raza isn’t the primary focus of the story then we could maybe have gotten some more time for the romance to develop. I’m not even saying to make it not insta-love, but they only know one another for one day before their jumping into an HEA (and they really jump into it!), but a couple extra days together wouldn’t have hurt anything and I would have liked to have a little more time to settle into the relationship and see the characters getting to know each other better.
Believed You Were Lucky by Amy Lane (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Norse Mythology, Fiber Arts, Family Issues, Mystery
The last story in this collection takes the remaining half of the book, coming in at a much longer story than the others and around 50k. It’s certainly a much larger story, with more characters and more time for the characters to develop a relationship. I already talked about one of my favorite aspects of this story, the heavy intervention on the part of the gods at just about every turn. The thing that made this story so absolutely charming, though, is Leif, who is lucky. Leif’s luck is a tangible thing, a little piece of string he sees in his mind which makes his decisions for him and keeps him out of trouble. It’s hardly scientific and sometimes it leads him into trouble only for him to learn that with that trouble is an even luckier payoff at the end. It also doesn’t mean that Leif has lived a charmed life. The luck/string goes hand in hand with his personality, however. It has shown Leif to look on the bright side of every situation, which leads him to have the sunniest disposition of any person or character I’ve ever seen. Some might even think him naive, but he’s a completely unique and utterly enthralling character, and so absolutely charming that you’ll be cheering for him to have his happily ever after.
There is quite a bit more that I could talk about with this story, there are (funnily enough) multiple strands running throughout that all give greater meaning in reflection of one another. But, I’ll let you find out all about this one on your own. Sure, I liked the other stories — I liked Mary Calmes’ story a lot — but this story is worth buying the whole book for. Even if you don’t read the others, get this book to read this story. Leif charmed me so much that I want to say he’s one of my all time favorite Amy Lane characters, which is saying something considering I finish every book of her’s and think, ‘WOW… those are my new favorite characters!’
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 3 So So, 4 Pretty Good, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Authors G-I, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Amy Lane, Andrew Grey, Anthology, Author Backlist Project - Amy Lane, Author Backlist Project - Mary Calmes, Cops/Crime, Dreamspinner Press, Family Issues, Fiber Arts, Germany, Greek, Mafia, Mary Calmes, Mate Bonding, Mystery, Mythology, Norse, Psychic, Reincarnation, Royalty, Short Story, Wolf Shifters