Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Safeword: Matte by Candace Blevins

Book: Safeword: Matte
Safeword Series #3 
Author: Candace Blevins
Erotic Romance, BDSM

3 Stars... It was okay. Here's the blurb:

Matte, pronounced mah-tay, is the word used in some forms of martial arts to stop a fight. It’s the Japanese word for stop or wait. Sam (short for Samantha) has made a hobby out of learning the various fighting disciplines, but she also happens to be a sexual submissive. What better safeword than matte?

Sam wants to find someone to submit to who she can’t beat in a fight. She’s tried to make it work with men from the scene who know nothing about fighting, but it doesn’t feel real to her – she needs someone who can truly control her. However, after dating from the fight scene and discovering not all guys like to spank their girlfriends, she’s decided to just back away from the whole dating thing for a while… until Fate decides to step in.

Safeword: Matte is a stand-alone book. You do not need to have read the previous books in this series.

I gave Safeword: Matte 3 stars. It was a good book, a quick read. The writing was good and the story flowed well. 

The BDSM scenes were very well written. I thought that Candace Blevins did a great job representing a healthy scene interaction - the negotiation, the D/s and SM interaction within the scene itself was all done well. I really liked that Ethan was a Sadist and that there was no stigma attached to it here. In many of the books I've read, SM is treated with kind of iffy attitude, often portraying the Sadist as damaged (Christian Grey comes to mind) or angst-y about trying to come terms with these desires... Ethan doesn't have these issues, he just likes to hurt women and he's totally cool with it. That's hot. Likewise, Sam knows herself and doesn't question her desires or worry that being a sexual submissive and masochist somehow undermines her in other parts of her life. Again - hot. When they came together sexually, some really explosive BDSM and sex came out of that. 

Aside from the BDSM and sex scenes, there was nothing remarkable about the story. The characters are nice and there's definitely potential... but nothing really happens. It's just all kind of middle of the road, trudging along and having fun sex in between. I kept waiting for something to go wrong or maybe more introspection or something.... It was just missing that edge to make it a book that I'd want to come back to. I haven't read any of the other Candace Blevins' books for fear that they'll all be this bland. 

I'd recommend this as a great BDSM book, if you're looking for more of a story then I'd skip it.

Purchase Link:

Review: Offside by Bianca Sommerland

Book: Offside
Dartmouth Cobras Series #4
Author: Bianca Sommerland
Erotic Romance, BDSM, Menage

I finally finished it! Oh my god, when does it ever take me this long to read a book? It took me a while to really get into it and then houseguests converged. Excuses, excuses... I actually liked having so many interruptions because it made me savor it more. I usually go through books so quickly that afterward, I get a little sad because then I have nothing to read. Thanks Bianca for an awesome read! I'm so glad it was long and there was plenty to savor.

Five stars, I'd say that's an accolade! Here's the blurb:

A pace ahead of the play can send you back to the start. And put everything you’ve worked for at risk.

Single mother and submissive Rebecca Bower abandoned her career as a sports reporter to become a media consultant with her brother’s hockey team. A failed marriage to a selfish man makes her wary of getting involved with another. Unfortunately, chemistry is hard to deny, and all her hormones are dancing when she gets close to the Cobra’s sniper, Scott Demyan. 

Zachary Pearce ‘came out’ to the world last season to shift attention away from a teammate. And his one night with Scott Demyan had been unsettling. There could be more there, if only Scott was a different person. Instead, a night of sensual BDSM play with Becky leaves him wanting more, but she thinks he’s gay and questions his interest. It’s been a long time since a woman has attracted him both as a man and a Dom, and he’ll do everything in his power to prove she’s the only one he needs. Or wants. His one time with Scott was a mistake.

Scott might have forgotten what happened in his childhood, but the effects linger, and he specializes in drunken one-night stands…until he meets Zach and Becky and sees what he’s missing. But neither one believes Scott can be faithful. Although he’s trying hard to clean up his act to avoid getting kicked off the team, they want more from him. He’s willing to make changes, but the most important one—putting their happiness before his own—means he’ll probably end up alone.

If you have read the previous Dartmouth Cobra books, then you already know what to expect from Bianca and she definitely delivers. I already admitted that it took longer for me to get into this story than I expected, because I'm a Cobra fan and expected all the drama to explode right in my face right away and to be unable to step away from the book ignoring all signs of life outside of my e-reader until I was done. That didn't happen, there was much more of a build up to the actual juicy part of the story. What put me off a bit in the beginning is that I expected a lot more build up for Zach and Becky's relationship and it just felt like everything was so dandy so quickly... But Bianca is sneaky and apparently has a sadistic streak of her own, all the drama hit as soon as I got comfortable and at that point, I could NOT put the book down (except when I had to cause life does still happen). 

I love that Bianca doesn't abandon the characters from previous books to the happily ever after fairyland. They all make appearances here. We get our fix of our favorite blasts from the past, some of them still working towards their HEA. We also get a glimpse of the characters whose books are coming up next. I was already super psyched for Akira's story, but now I'm just chomping at the bit! All these side stories add more layers to the book, make the main story that much more interesting and get the readers totally revved up for the next books. That's some major multitasking!

Alright back to Zach and Becky and Scott. The character development was great. There were layers to each character that were slowly revealed. Nothing is as it seems at first glance. That was my mistake - too many assumptions at first about how everything was going to go and I was totally wrong. Yet, it was all just totally right. The way that Bianca developed their relationship was not at all forced, things made sense and were explained. I like that. And I had to just fall in love with all of them... Except when they did really stupid things and made me very angry and I had to shake my head in their general direction. I'm looking at you Becky... and Scott... and Zach... and Ford... and ...Akira... Did I mention I can't wait for the next book? 

LUST! Yes, please. The sex was definitely HOT. Again, it wasn't forced, it made sense in the context of the story... the story didn't stop for impromptu sex or random spankings. It was a very good balance of build up, anticipation and delivering the right amount of hotness at the right time with the right people. Very well done. 

The editing wasn't very good, there were lots of typos. But I forgive that, because the writing itself was very good and the story more than made up for any confusion the typos may have caused.

I rarely re-read books. Once I know what happens, there isn't much to hold my attention. However, there are a few favorites that I come back to time and again. I think that I'll come back to this story and I might need to re-read Breakaway now that I'm in the mood for more Cobra action. 

Purchase Link:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Erotica too Dark? What is too Dark?

I made a comment yesterday regarding Kitty Thomas' books - that some of her writing is "too dark" for me. I'd like to clarify what I meant. I read most of Kitty Thomas' work and the prevalent theme is dubious consent, powerful males, and women in precarious situations without any viable options for an out. Now, most of it is romance erotica, so ultimately there's a HEA and the heroine learns to love her situation and the hero and blah blah blah. It's fantasy. I'm cool with that. I loved Comfort Food, enjoyed most of Tender Mercies (the death of the original slave was a little disturbing and not well explained.. I have questions about that whole situation [this is not a spoiler cause this is in the blurb], but the rest was GREAT if you like slavery fantasies), The Auction was really good. I'll do more in-depth reviews on those at some point, but just know that if you're into dubious consent then the above titles are good choices.

What was too dark for me was in Guilty Pleasures. I just thought that the big mind-fuck that happens there was fucked up and the emotional sadism is just not my thing... intended or not. If you're planning to read this book then don't continue to read this blog post, cause this will be one big SPOILER. You've been warned.

It wasn't any specific activity. I'm obviously cool with non-consent fantasies and hardcore BDSM and hardcore sadists... as long as there's a connection between the Hero and heroine I can deal with a whole lot of cruel-seeming treatment. The connection and ultimately, love and trust are very important. For me. Then I can enjoy it. Just take Annabel Joseph's Mercy for example - the hero - Matthew is a hardcore Dominant and Sadist and some of the things he did to Lucy can be viewed as cruel and unfair. But, for me, it was all good, cause he redeemed himself and he loved her and she loved him and it was almost a tangible thing that you could just about touch as you turned the pages.

Guilty Pleasures isn't meant to be a romance, maybe that's why I found it to be too dark for me. Here's the blurb:

Vivian Delaney leads a life of privilege, but behind closed doors she feels isolated and trapped in a gilded cage. Unable to achieve sexual pleasure with her husband, she finds herself in the capable hands of Anton, a massage therapist intent on awakening her to her full sexual potential. By any means necessary.

As their secret meetings progress, she falls farther down a rabbit hole where the line between rape and illicit affair grows increasingly blurred. Anton will accept nothing short of her complete surrender as he molds and shapes her to be sold to the highest bidder.

In the process of trying to fix her marriage by going to a sex therapist, Vivian gets entrapped in a sexual relationship with the massage therapist (Anton) through coercion and blackmail. He then escalates from just sex to more extreme BDSM activities and then adding partners or trainers and Master/slave scenarios. That, in and of itself, is fine with me. The sex and BDSM scenes were hot and well written. What threw me off was the emotional torment Vivian went through. In addition to trying to come to terms with her submissive cravings, she was dealing with guilt over cheating on her husband and realizing that she has to leave him because he cannot provide what she needs sexually. The cheating bugged me. If she would have come to terms with her needs and left her husband and then was trained as a slave and sold to a Master then fine. But it doesn't end there. Here's the spoiler - she's sold to her husband, Michael. So, ultimately, this whole debacle, the struggles, the self doubt, the guilt.... the cheating... and in the end she ends up back with him. 

I'll be honest, I skipped over a huge chunk of the middle of the book and read the last few pages. I just couldn't get myself to read it. It was too much with the subterfuge.   

If all you're looking for is some hot sex and don't care about the connection between the main protagonists then this might be a great book choice for you. But the lack of relationship building and the icky choices and lack of honesty just ruined it for me. Any trust that needs to exist in a solid relationship of any kind [for me] was totally missing from this. Vivian cheated on Michael. Was pretty much ready to end the relationship for something better. In fact, she thought she was leaving him... and it ended up being one big mind-fuck. Michael, for his part, set this whole mind-fuck situation up in the first place. He knew she what was happening and let her just struggle with it on her own.

In the last few pages, we are told why Michael went about Vivian's training in this backwards way, which might make it okay for some people. For me, though, it didn't redeem him. There were so many other ways that he could have gone about saving his marriage and getting her to submit to this sexual exploration and the training and all that... He could have done the bullying, the coercing and pressuring, even if he didn't want to be the one to train her, he could have been the one who made her accept the training... That would have made it better for me. But that's not what happened and the way he went about it just felt like a big cop-out.

A good book is supposed to make us feel, suffer along with the characters, worry for them, cry with them, yell at them when we think they're doing something wrong. I certainly worried for Vivian and yelled at Michael for fucking with her head. I doubt I'll ever read the whole book through, even though the sexy parts were very sexy and the SM was super hot. 

Conclusion - if you're just looking for hot BDSM and are cool with shady ethics then this book might get your rocks off. But if you're like me and want to see more of the actual relationship, connection, affection, and trust then it might be too dark for you too. Maybe I shouldn't talk about the shady ethics... I clearly liked Comfort Food and that was way shady. So it's really just the connection and the honesty of going through the experience at the hand of the actual end-goal Master. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Having a Life and Debating Oppression

Okay, so I kind of promised a review on Offside by Bianca Sommerland the other day and realized that it's now Friday and I haven't even finished the book yet. Apparently I have a life that takes me away from reading smutty books. Also, a preliminary comment on Offside - it didn't pull me in like I expected it to and I was able to put it down without too much regret. That made me very sad, cause I thought it would blow me away from the start. However, now that I'm really in the thick of it, I'm liking it much more.

Alright, oppression discussions. Kitty Thomas writes dark erotica and I enjoyed some of her books. Some were a bit too dark for me, which is saying a lot. Anyway, Kitty Thomas writes a blog and I decided to take a peek. I made a comment ... agreeing with her on a point well made and then Kitty replied and I replied back and somehow I find myself in the middle of a debate on feminism and oppression. More accurately, debating whether Western women were ever oppressed. Umm, yes they were. In some case, still are.

I'm not sure if I want to post all this on my blog, cause that would be all political and I am not usually into that. However, when someone says to me that Western women were never oppressed it makes me pause. I get that there are some radical feminist schools of thought out there that go beyond the pale of reasonable. Yes, there are feminists who believe that men are the enemy. I think that's pretty crazy. Obviously, men as a group are not evil. Duh. And yes, I realize there are evil women out there. Ann Coulter anyone? But let's not pretend that having no agency, no or less access to education, to jobs that pay enough to support oneself (+family) that is also respectable, often not having a say in who to marry (if you're lucky it's not your rapist) is not oppressive....

I kind of didn't want to argue with Kitty Thomas. Cause she's Kitty Thomas. She's an author. I kind of like her. I was agreeing with her until she said that Western women weren't oppressed. Ever. I'm not going to write a feminist essay here. Not now anyway. But in light of all the rape talk recently, I'll post my response to one of Kitty Thomas' comments: "Though… I am kind of curious… if “women” as a group have been oppressed by “men” as a group… why was rape a crime in EVERY civilized culture. (And it doesn’t matter what the reasons were and if you think those reasons were sexist. The point is… every civilized culture has said rape=bad). "

Define civilized culture. If you mean the West in general, let's say Europe and North America from the fall of Rome to modern day. And let's define rape - are you talking about stranger attacks woman in an alley? Yes, that was generally frowned upon. However, if we define rape as non consensual sex of any kind between a man who wants it and a woman who doesn't then the waters get much more murky.

Up until the 1800s (and really this continued on as tradition for a while after as well in certain areas), a woman who was victim to a rape was often made to marry her rapist. It's a Christian thing - here's where you can reference it in the bible: Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days." Umm, I'm not sure that's a punishment that fits the crime for the rapist. And the rape victim is now stuck with her rapist... she's being punished here too. I’m not sure how anyone could argue that she's not in a position of weakness, that she's not being oppressed.

From Wikipedia: "Only 16% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police (Rape in America: A Report to the Nation. 1992 and United Nations Populations Fund, 2000a). Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. One of six U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape. More than a quarter of college age women report having experienced a rape or rape attempt since age 14."

If we are, in fact, so protected from rape and if it is really viewed as a horrid crime, then why is it so under-reported? Why are women afraid to come forward? Even in our modern day "civilized" US.

Why is it that when women do come forward, whether about so called violent rape or so called acquaintance rape, is the first question whether she’s lying or how she provoked the attack?

Why, if rape is something we're supposed to be protected from, does a prominent public figure running for office feel comfortable differentiating between "legitimate rape" and ... do we need to go there? Just read this: 

Yes - there was a strong public reaction to this. However, the sentiment still exists, as proven by Todd Akin. And if Todd Akin isn't enough for you, then you can look up Richard Mourdock. Thankfully, they weren't elected to office, but let's face the fact that they say things that are pretty oppressive.  And the officials who have been elected have on several occasions attempted to redefine rape as if unless a stranger grabs a woman in an alley and has his way with her on the pavement then it’s just not rape enough.

These are the facts that make many women feel like they are oppressed and they are not safe.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Currently Reading Offside by Bianca Sommerland!

I've been waiting for Offside by Bianca Sommerland and I'm so excited that it's finally out!! This is the fourth installment in the Dartmouth Cobras series, which is awesome and I totally recommend it if you're into menage and good BDSM. Liking hockey is a plus. Though, most likely, if you don't like hockey now, you'll become a fan when you read these books.

I've really enjoyed this series so far. It's very realistic in that we see real struggles and pain and real people who come together and learn to love. Oh and they have lots of hot sex too. What makes it even more interesting is that the characters from previous books are still in the stories, their HEA is always a work in progress, cause life is complicated. Anyway, I'm not gonna give anything away. Just know that it's good so far and if you haven't read the whole series, go read it. Personally, I liked Breakaway the most out of the series. I started with that one and got hooked as a result. Yeah yeah, I read books out of order, blah blah blah. I know. Go read it.