Spotlight: Loser Takes All by Kora Knight

Loser Takes All Part 1Title & Author: Loser Takes All by Kora Knight
Series: Up-Ending Tad: A Journey of Erotic Discovery #1
Release Date: September 5, 2014

Publisher: Self-published
Length: 63 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Tad’s weekend started out like any other; hitting a college frat party with a handful of buddies. But just as the evening hits its peak, things get up-ended fast. Ditched by his drunken, trolling friends, Tad winds up getting hustled by three jocks playing poker. Now he’s forced to pay his dues in the most outlandish of ways; accepting a couple broken bones or spending an hour with his victors’ favorite flogger, Scott. But the guy’s tantalizing torture quickly proves to be the least of Tad’s worries… and the kickoff to a night of raw, shocking lust.

Experience the graphic, minute-by-minute account of that hour spent at the hands of Tad’s insatiable tormentor. Addicting chemistry lights the stage as Scott ignites Tad’s reluctant desires into a frenzy of forbidden need.

My Thoughts:

“You’re a fucking perv.”

Scott laughed. “You have no idea. But don’t worry. I’m a fun perv. You’ll like what I do to you.”

Boy, did I ever!

Okay, so the novella’s premise is a little ludicrous – I’ll give you that – but I’m going to overlook that fact (and you should too!), because this book was HOT. Like, have your honey or your favourite battery-operated boyfriend on standby levels of hot. 😉

I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on Volume 2, which is set to be released October 8, 2014.

My Rating:

1 Smooch3 SmoochHalf

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About the Author:

Kora Knight is a woman of mystery. No, really. A new author, Kora is too busy writing sexy morsels of porny perfection to write an “About the Author” blurb for social media or her books, so I’ve got nothin’. But if you want to connect with her (read: gush about all the dirty things her book has you fantasizing about happening to Grey Shirt Guy), check out the links below:

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8529860.Kora_Knight 
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorkoraknight/timeline

Review: Legally Bound by J.R. Gray

Legally Bound CoverTitle & AuthorLegally Bound by J.R. Gray
Series: Bound #1
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Pages: 220

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

The last thing Daniel, a hard-working public defender, expected to see the morning after a one night stand was his hook-up staring back at him from the wrong side of the law. Assigned to work his case, Daniel vows to keep things professional with Rafael but has a hard time controlling his craving for dominance, the control, and the connection they shared. Rafael, a paid Dominant in the Chicago underworld, has been dealing with a cop problem for far too long. Used to sex with no emotion, he’s entranced with Daniel’s submission, his innocence, and…could there be something more? Can Daniel clear Rafael’s name, keeping him out of jail and in his life, with the odds, a cop, and the mounting evidence against them?

Be Warned: m/m sex, BDSM, branding, flogging, caning, whipping.

My Thoughts:

*** Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. Continue reading at own risk. ***

A friend and I recently had a conversation about BDSM erotica and romance novels. Though the specifics of what turned our cranks differed somewhat, one of the things that we agreed upon was that in order for us to enjoy a novel with BDSM themes, there had to be a deep emotional connection between the main characters. For us, the power exchange between a Dom and a sub is hottest when it is based upon mutual trust, respect, understanding, and a sense of equality between partners. I want to know about the character’s emotions and motivations – why are they drawn to the lifestyle? What deep-seated need or desire does the D/s relationship fulfill for them?

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel as if there was enough emotional depth in Legally Bound to make me invest in the characters or the story the way that I had hoped I would. I never felt as if the relationship between Daniel and Rafael moved beyond the lust and curiosity of a one night stand into something more meaningful. Lust and hormones and curiosity can make for a steamy sex scene, I’ll give the author that, but ultimately, this lack of a deeper connection between the characters made the BDSM elements of the books feel tawdry and rushed.

In fact, parts of the author’s depiction of the BDSM lifestyle made me feel downright uncomfortable. I understand that there’s not one “right” way to explore or engage in BDSM play (nor a singular way to depict it in books), but the one thing that people seem to accept unquestioningly is that it must be safe, sane, and consensual at all times. In Legally Bound, however, Daniel and Raf not only engage in restraints, and floggings, and wax play long before they have discussed limits and safe words, but Rafael’s character admits to engaging in scenes with clients while strung out on Vicodin! Later in the book he takes a crop to King’s slave while angry and not entirely in control! That is just NOT okay.

*watches as the author throws the “Safe, Sane, Consensual” edict right out the window, pours gasoline on it, and sets it on fire.*

As for the rest of the book, I respect an author’s prerogative to make creative choices and shape a book however they see fit. I just don’t understand why anyone would set out to create the most idiotic, unethical characters on the face of the planet. Between the characters’ very relationship, the ridiculously thoughtless timing of the couple’s solicitation role play, and Daniel’s decision to confront McCoy at his home and then refuse to go to the hospital or press charges after he is brutalized, I am baffled by these characters and the decisions that they make.

(Don’t even get me started on the fact that Rafael and Daniel have sex immediately after Daniel is assaulted!)

And, before anyone gets up in arms about that last paragraph, I’ll just point out that Daniel’s disregard for his professional ethics are one of the central themes of this book (and therefore fair fame for this review) and that the author, herself, refers to Daniel’s behaviour as “idiotic” on more than one occasion.

From a technical standpoint, I didn’t find the book to be particularly well-written either. It contained a fair amount of unnecessary punctuation, orphaned words that should have been caught and removed during editing, and awkward phrasing. Choppy sentence structure and jarring transitions between characters’ thoughts and actions often left me re-reading passages to ensure that I hadn’t inadvertently skipped something (I hadn’t). Although they may bother other readers less than they did me, I found that these errors made it difficult for me to get into the groove of the book’s narrative style and ultimately made the book feel amateurish.

That said, I did find that the writing began to smooth out somewhere around the book’s midpoint. This made for a much more pleasant reading experience in the second half of the book and bodes well for the author’s future work.

The one writing quirk that I couldn’t ignore or get past was the author’s habit of referring to her characters as “the lawyer” or “the male” or “the Dominant” rather than using their names or personal pronouns. It was weirdly impersonal and made it feel as if there was a distance between the characters long after they had supposedly formed a strong emotional connection. It also put a distance between the characters and me, as a reader, which I think contributed to why I never connected with either of Daniel or Rafael.

I believe that there are plenty of readers out there that will happily overlook the aspects of Legally Bound that I took issue with. Those readers will probably find the book raw or sexy or intriguing. However, this review is about my reactions to the book, and as much as I wanted to, I just didn’t like it. 😦

My Rating:

1 SmoochHalf

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Review: Secrets, Skin and Leather by Sean Michael

Secrets, Skin and Leather CoverTitle & Author: Secrets, Skin and Leather by Sean Michael
Series: Secret Series #1
Release Date: December 18, 2013
Publisher: TorquerePress
Pages: 264 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
Scott Daley is a high-powered executive by day, but by night he plays on the fetish scene. He keeps his two lives scrupulously separate, not wanting his clients to have any idea what he gets up to. Afraid it might ruin him, Dal keeps the wild child firmly in the closet.

So when Dillon, a distant business associate, sees Dal at a club one night, things take a dangerous, and exciting turn. Dillon invites him to what he thinks is a business meeting, but it turns into a weekend of debauchery that sets off a torrid affair. Meeting whenever they can, high-powered Dillon and ambitious Dal explore all of the ways they can love each other, living just enough on the edge to get a thrill. And maybe get caught.

When things go sour, Dal hits the road, running as far away as he can, trying to figure out how to minimize the damage to his life and his career. Dillon isn’t quite ready to let him go, though, and sets out to get Dal back. Can Dillon convince Dal that some secrets are worth letting out of the bag? Sean Michael creates an exciting world where business meets pleasure and all of the games have high stakes in this steamy novel. Wrap it up and take it home.

My Thoughts

Before I begin, I feel it’s only fair to let the record show that I DNF’d this book at 33%.

I know that there are a lot of book bloggers and reviewers out there that refuse to review and/or rate books that they do no finish; I am not one of them. I feel that if I make it a third of the way through the book, I have done my due diligence as a reader – I have given the author a fair shot to draw me into their world using their characters and plot and dialogue. If, a third of the way through the book I am not thoroughly enjoying the story, I see little point in continuing to read it. Life is simply too short to spend it reading bad books that do not resonate with me, personally.

Still, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have opinions on the parts of the book that I did read. So here goes… Oh, and if you get bored with my review, feel free to DNF it (it’s only fair).

Secrets, Skin and Leather opens with Dillon Walsh sitting in on the most boring business meeting in the history of business meetings. A half dozen dull-as-dishwater office drones are discussing… To be honest, I don’t fucking know what they were discussing – it wasn’t that memorable. But before you get angry and throw things, I should mention that Dillon wasn’t paying attention either. No, he was imagining the various stuffed shirts in his favourite fetish wear. And what do you know? A few hours later, Dillion’s having a drink in a fetish club and who’s on the dance floor looking totally fuckable but one of the stuffed shirts from the meeting – Scott ‘they call me Dal’ Daley.

Dillon needs him. He wants him. Oh baby, oh baby. 

But instead of walking a dozen steps and asking the man to dance, Dillon decides to leave the club and plot an overly complicated and bordering-on-workplace-sexual-harassment type scheme to get Dal in his bed on a tropical island. Call me simple, but I didn’t really see why it had to be this way.

Suspend disbelief, Catherine, you say?

Okay. I will. Let’s push on.

Oh wait, there was no more plot. From this point until the point where I threw in the proverbial towel, the book was just unrelieved fucking. Like, bunnies-would-feel-upstaged levels of fucking. Some readers might enjoy this. If they do, they’ll probably stick with the book and read it through to the end. I won’t lie, the sex scenes were pretty hot, but they weren’t enough and I quickly found myself getting bored with the whole thing.

I guess I’m guilty of liking a little plot with my porn. I wanted the characters to do something together outside of the bedroom, or have a conversation that didn’t fully consist of single syllable words grunted at one another in the heat of passion. Call me old-fashioned, but I wanted them to get to know one another. I wanted them to make a connection. I wanted to know that these men had redeeming qualities and actual, grown-up feelings and emotions.

But I got none of that.

Instead, I got a 48-hour sexual marathon that left me feeling  disconnected from the characters and wondering about chaffing in uncomfortable places.

Now, I acknowledge that it’s entirely possible that a plot developed in the remaining two-thirds of the novel or that the characters became more three-dimensional after they left the island. I even acknowledge that the dialogue and clunky narration may have improved over time. However, I make no apologies about preferring to have all of these elements present in the first third of a novel. I don’t really think that’s too much to ask.

I can’t recommend this book because I didn’t enjoy it, but for those of you who love the kink and aren’t bothered by porn without plot, have at it! You and your battery operated boyfriend will probably be quite pleased with this naughty tale. 😉

For a review of a book by this author that I did enjoy, click here: A Family of His Own (Mannies Incorporated #2)

Or, if you’d like to see a fuller explanation of Bachelors & Bombshells Book Reviews rating system, please click here: How We Rate ‘Em

My Rating:
1 Smooch

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Review: Safeword by A.J. Rose

Safeword CoverTitle & Author: Safeword by A.J. Rose
Series: Power Exchange (#2)
Release Date: June 2, 2013
Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press
Pages: 333 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.

Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.

The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.

But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?

My Thoughts:

6:00 a.m.

No, that is not the ungodly hour I had to get up this morning; it’s the time that I finally made it to bed, bleary eyed and exhausted after staying up all night to finish reading A.J. Rose’s Safeword (the second installment in his Power Exchange series).

And it was so, so worth it.

Safeword picks up in the aftermath of the trauma left by the Breath Play Killer in Power Exchange and to say that it’s an unsettling place to be would be a gross understatement. Ben and Gavin have been through hell together. They’ve had their sanctuary invaded, their bodies abused, and the foundation of their relationship ripped apart. Somehow they’ve come out the other side, but that trauma is like a permanent black mark on their lives – colouring their reactions to everything that comes after.

But, as A.J. Rose said every time I railed at him via Twitter for putting some of my favourite characters through hell:

The bigger the catastrophe, the bigger the catharsis.”

And he was right.

Rose did a fucking fantastic job of showing the struggle that these characters went through during this novel. The anger, the pain, the guilt, the fear, the frustration, and the never-ending tension that stretched and stretched until you just knew something or someone was going to snap – it was all there on the page. And through all that – or, perhaps more accurately, above all that – was the love that Ben and Gavin felt for one another. I never doubted that the love was there, but the struggle was written so realistically that there were points in the novel when I worried that the characters may not recover enough to make it together. Those were the moments when my gut clenched uncomfortably and tears prickled behind my eyes. I know I’m a giant sap, but this book moved me.

As strong as Rose’s characterizations of Ben and Gavin are, the novel’s secondary characters shouldn’t be overlooked. Cole’s great and Gavin’s partner, Myah, is one of the best supporting female characters that I have come across in a long while. She’s complex, intelligent, intimidating, intensely loyal and protective. She’s also witty and thoughtful and capable. I love that she’s a compassionate human being who hasn’t let what she’s seen on the job make her jaded, but she’s also tough as nails when she needs to put scum (and homophobic a-holes) in their place. In other words, she’s an admirable character regardless of her gender (though her gender is worth noting simply because so few female characters of her depth and ability exist in the romance genre). It probably says a lot that if Myah existed in real life, I both would never want to meet her in a dark alley AND I would want to be friends with her.

In terms of the mystery at the centre of Safeword, I thought that it was extremely well done (much more complicated, unique, and realistic than the one in Power Exchange). The pace of this case was slow and the results of Ben and Myah’s legwork often frustrating and coming to nothing, but the tension and urgency were palpably building under the surface the whole time. When the serial killer is revealed and then tracked across the city, I wasn’t left yelling “it’s about damn time!” at my Kindle the way I did with Power Exchange. No, this time I was swept along for the ride, wishing I had an “oh-shit” bar to hold onto.

My only real complaint about the mystery aspect of the novel was that while I thought Rose built a plausible case for why the serial killer did what they did (and their motive seems authentic given what we knew about them), I still felt like the sexual aspects of the crimes were never fully explained to my satisfaction. Regardless, it was interesting to see how another character responded to trauma in a completely different way than Ben and Gavin did. It was like a glimpse into how Gavin’s recovery could have gone had he not had such an incredible support network or been as strong as he was.

(FYI, it is incredibly difficult to write about the serial killer without giving away major spoilers, so please excuse my vague language.)

Bottom line: I loved this book (and the series as a whole).  Power Exchange and Safeword combine cops, BDSM, sexy men who love other men, thrills and suspense, genuinely emotional moments, and a whole lot of other stuff that I love to read about all in one nearly perfect package.

So perfect that I wish that there were a third book in this series.

I know, I know – I’m being incredibly selfish. Ben and Gavin deserve to put all of the murder and mayhem behind them and enjoy their hard-won happily ever after, but my heart wants what it wants (and it wants more Ben and Gavin). They are one of my favourite couples in the MM genre, so even though I’m grateful that Rose gave these characters a satisfying end without making it into a sappy Hallmark event, I’m sad to see the last of these boys.

I guess I’ll just have to re-read it. 🙂

If you don’t pay attention to any of my other book recommendations, pay attention to this one:

Read the Power Exchange series. You won’t be sorry. 

My Rating:
2 Smooch3 Smooch

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Review: Pup by S.J.D. Peterson

Pup CoverTitle & Author: Pup by S.J.D. Peterson
Series: Guards of Folsom (#1)
Release Date: April 19, 2013
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 214 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
Micah “Pup” Slayde knows he wants Tackett Austin the moment he lays eyes on him in the Guards of Folsom. Micah wants to have purpose, to be taken care of, and to take care of his Dom—wants to trust him completely, live for him, belong to him. To become his everything. Micah is sure Tackett is the one. The problem is, in order to be the perfect sub, he needs to stay focused, and that’s not easy for Micah, who suffers from what he refers to as a “broken brain.” Focus and adult attention deficit disorder rarely coexist.

Ever since Ty Callahan and Blake Henderson’s collaring ceremony, Tackett’s been thinking too much about his own loneliness. Even though Ty introduces Micah and urges Tackett to give him a try, Tackett isn’t so easily convinced. He’s spent his life pursuing a successful business career, and the subs he dominates almost never enjoy the kiss of his leather twice. Twenty years Micah’s senior, Tackett has no interest in taking on and taming such a young and naughty sub—but it’s difficult to resist such an adorable pup when he begs.

My Thoughts:

I went back and forth a couple of times on how to rate this book.

I mean, did it deserve a full-on 2 smooch rating? *wince* Maybe.

The book started out strong enough; I found myself enjoying Tackett’s gruff, growly, toppy Dom persona a lot in the opening scenes of the book and loved the dynamic that those scenes set up between him and Micah’s much more playful pup persona. This relationship had such potential! Potential to be fun. Potential to be frustrating. Potential to be off-the-charts, thermometre-meltingly HOT. Potential to give me a real warm and fuzzy HEA when they found their balance and their love together.

But as the book progressed, I really, really began to dislike Tackett’s character and the way that he chose to deal with Micah. Micah was a sensualist. Touch was one of the main ways that he communicates and interacts with the world. To deny him that seems cruel – so cruel that I couldn’t really wrap my head around how I’m sure the author intended those elements to come across (which was freeing or… something?! I’m reaching. As I said, I didn’t “get” how those rules and punishment achieved whatever the heck Tackett was trying to achieve).

I also wasn’t too excited by the pacing of the novel. I mean, it was okay, but it all felt a little one note to me. I guess the easiest way for me to describe it is to say that no part of this novel really pulled a strong emotional reaction from me (be it anger or happiness or extreme, extreme horniness), and that’s what I’m looking for in a 3-, 4-, and 5-smooch rated book. And, let me be a little crass for a moment and say that having that first sex scene be a fade to black made me feel cheated. SJD, if you expect me to remain invested in your characters and their relationships, you gotta cut that shit out. ASAP.

But as much as some of the elements of the novel were screaming 2-smooches at me, there were parts that tugged at my 3-smooch heartstrings.

Well… basically one giant element: Micah. Micah was a friggin’ delight. The boy was sweet and funny, giving and loyal, and so, so eager to please. He wound his way around my heart and I was so firmly in his corner that I’m sure it had something to do with why I was not happy with his big, bad, mean Dom. Also, watching the way that his brain worked was fascinating. I’m pretty sure that he’s the first character I’ve ever come across with ADD/ADHD, and though I’m not personally familiar with it (and therefore can’t speak to the accuracy of the portrayal), I thought Peterson did a bang up job of showing Micah’s thought processes and tangents, and the struggles that an adult with this type of cognitive disorder might face.

So long story short, I heart Micah and was SO happy when he didn’t take Tackett’s actions at the end of the novel lying down. It wasn’t very sub-like behaviour, but it was very human behaviour and I was proud of the little pup for standing up for himself.

I also totally dug the whole May-December angle to their relationship. Gotta admit, folks, that one pushes some major lust buttons for me. And the cover is BEYOND AWESOME! Kudos to whoever designed it because the cover alone practically had me panting to read this book (recommendations from friends did the rest).

Anyway… after some initial hemming and hawing that saw me clicking back and forth between 2 and 3 saucy smooches, I eventually decided to save myself the mental anguish and just split the difference. Is that a cop out? Perhaps. But it’s how I roll — sue me.

Have you read this book?! If so, please leave a comment in the section below and let me know what you thought of it. From the reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads, it’s definitely a love it or hate it type of book.

My Rating:
2 SmoochHalf

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