Men on Seamonsters – Review of Rise of the Thing Below

cover52738-mediumRise of the Thing Down Below by Daniel W. Kelly

Thanks to Net Galley and Bold Strokes Books for the review copy.

In this third installment of the Comfort Cove series, private dick Deck Waxer is once again on the case. When men on the gay island paradise start washing up disembodied on the beach, it’s up to Deck and his friends to solve the mystery before the mysterious murder-spree is discovered by the populace.

Having never read a Comfort Cove book before, I felt like the author did a good job of catching new readers up to speed without overwhelming us with info that may or may not be relevant to book three. We also meet three new characters, and learn some interesting facts regarding what I presume is the larger plot stretching through all the Comfort Cove books.

This book reminded me a lot of the literary stylings of Zavo in terms of there being readily available sex between extremely well-built and joyfully horny men around every corner. They go much farther than Zavo in that the sex tends to be anything but the vanilla oral/anal combo we know so well from the Jake Slater books. Sex in the Comfort Cove universe is almost gamified, even outside of the context where it is literally a series of carnival games. I wouldn’t even call it hot so much as it’s mentally intriguing, and i don’t think I’d change a thing, because while I can think of a dozen books with more stimulating sex scenes, I can’t think of any with more interesting ones, and that’s the true beauty of Daniel Kelly.

If you ever wanted to know, for example what an entire carnival full of sex games would look like, or how a two foot tall man would fuck a giant, or even just what life would be like on an island entirely populated by confident, disease free gay men in their sexual primes, The Rise of the Thing Below is for you. Bonus murder mystery.

5 stars out of 5 for knowing what it is, and being that extremely well.

The Most Thought Provoking Slave/Master Porn You’ll Read This Year – Review of “Anchored” by Rachel Haimowitz

cover53361-mediumAnchored by Rachel Haimowitz

Thanks to NetGalley and Riptide Publishing for the review copy.

Riptide does it again. There’s no wrong way to go with these guys, is there?

Anybody who doesn’t have a stomach for violence, or for alternate universes where basic human rights are not only not a thing, they’re kind of a new idea altogether, should not read this book. There are horrific beatings, and violent rape, although they’re not told in such a way as to be arousing, unlike some other books I’ve reviewed with varying degrees of approval.

Anchored is one of two books set in a universe where slavery, specifically Western slavery, where slaves have no rights, was never made illegal. It is an extremely dark look at the notion of privilege, ownership, and power, and how those things can influence relationships. A psychologist would have a field day with these characters.

Daniel is a successful news anchor and lifelong slave, owned by the corporation who produces his show. When the flagging network turns to “leasing” him out nights and weekends, he can only be happy that he’s been leased to one man, and not hundreds, like some other television slaves.

Carl buys Daniel as a companion, not only because he’s admired him on TV, but also because he’s a fellow news man, and thinks Daniel would be a good friend outside of the bedroom. His complete lack of insight into the horrors of slavery was familiar to me in that I’ve seen the same shocking obtuseness in some of my #notallmen friends. To a much smaller degree, both situations tend to look like an otherwise good man trying, and mostly failing to peer across the veil of culture to see the very real divide between himself and someone he would have as a fellow.

Daniel is terrified of getting fucked by his strange new master, and the man’s inability to see his reality comes across as either cruelty or idiocy more often then not. Something I’m sure a lot of us can relate to. Whether they can get along, whether they can provide any small comfort to each other in a world so stratified, is yet to be seen.

This is the second edition of Anchored. Riptide has revised it, and added more than 10,000 words, which sort of makes me wonder what it was like before. The emotional twists and turns that a person is required to make in a situation where he does not have the right of choice are on display, as are the issues we find when a person of privilege tries to relate to someone on whom that privilege is built. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s amazing in it’s own right.

The scope of Anchored is broad, and the emotional landscape it lays out is a veritable mine field, but but it succeeds in being an extremely compelling and provoking thought-experiment that tries to answer the question: Can a slave truly love a master?

Because the only context I have for this is, of course, my own reality, I ended up interpreting a lot of the interaction through the lens of privilege, and to that end, this is a fascinating read all around. Every character is so real in their imperfection, in their raw humanity, that they could be people I know in my own right. When another, wise and maternal slave advises Daniel that it would be better for him if he resigned himself to what she regards as his sexual obligations to their master, I could almost hear my own mother and grandmother speaking in that moment. Her own history, and her own experience keep her a sympathetic character even after this horrific mutation of the birds and the bees talk. For this, and for so many other reasons, this book is a must-read for anyone who can take the violent, disturbing nature of the content.

Ultimately, things get a little too poly-anna for my feminist heart, but I also wasn’t outraged by the turn, and I could easily see myself being pissed had things gone another way. The fact that there is about 50% of a happy ending was, I think, a good choice given the venue. On the one hand, there’s no way a writer could have been so flippant as to give a life-long slave a happy ending, on the other hand, there’s no way a writer could be so cruel as to not give a life-long slave some kind of happy ending. Basically, I ain’t mad.

4 stars out of 5

And I Will Always Cover You – Review of “The Walls of Troy” L. A. Witt

cover53338-mediumThe Walls of Troy
L. A. Witt

Thanks to Netgalley and Samhain Publishing for the review copy.

You guys know I love me some L.A. Witt. She can take a story that might seem dull in another writers hands: mature, career oriented body guard falls for his younger, and saucier charge, and make it a cover to cover compelling read.

Navy cop Iskander Ayhan takes his first bodyguard assignment as yet another step in a military career ladder he desperately wants to climb, but he can’t see how guarding an admiral’s 22 year old son is anything but a joke. The only reason he can think of for the “need” for a body guard would have to do with political grand-standing, something Iskander sees as an all too common waste of taxpayer dollars. But when he gets to his post, it’s anything but grandstanding. If only Troy Dalton would be honest about the very real danger is in.

Troy has a secret, but the chances of him opening up to Iskander are slim to none. That is, until the sparks flying between them prove to me more than just skin deep. Can he trust his new body guard on the basis of their shared sexuality alone? Either way, he’ll have to trust someone. Before it’s too late for both of them.

Like I said, L.A. is the reason to read this book. Her inherent skill in storytelling and pacing take this out of the regular, everyday gay romance for me. The fact that nearly every novel she writes is a new and interesting journey is also a plus. It’s not the story, which is fairly run of the mill, but the way in which it’s told that make the difference between an okay book and a really good one. As usual, this is a good one.

4.5 out of 5 stars

My Boyfriend is the God of Tricks – Review of “Liesmith”

cover52017-mediumLiesmith by Alis Franklin

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the review copy

Sigmund is a mild-mannered IT drone by day, and a mild-mannered video game programmer by night. When he attracts the attention of Travis Hale, the more-than-meets-the-eye CEO of his company, things get interesting. Soon, there’s a new guy in the desk next to his: Lain Laufeyjarson, a stunning, mysterious liar who seems to think the nerdy Sigmund hangs the moon, but where did he come from?

Being able to tell when people are dishonest is only one of Sigmund’s talents, but it’s the key to why the CEO and his new work friend seem so very interested in earning his affections.

Old grudges come to light while even older Gods do battle in the Australian suburbs with three human gamers caught in the middle. At least, they think they’re human.

Sigmund and his friends Em and Wayne are in for a wild ride when the Gods of the Norse pantheon come to town, with Loki at the forefront looking for none other than Sigmund himself.

Monster battles, double crosses, and some seriously adorable young nerds in like make this book both delightful and heartwarming. Pick it up.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review of Below the Belt by Phil Andros

Below the Belt by Phil Andros: Most of the original Andros stories came out in underground gay magazines between 1950 and 1980. In the 80s and 90s they were bound into books. Today I learned that this book of porn I had beside my bed is worth between $50 and $750. So if you can find it, you better snatch that shit up.

The sex is good, generally vanilla with some light power play and one extremely small, incidental cutting scene, but nothing outrageous. The reason Phil Andros is a must-have for any penis enthusiast is because of the historical significance of the work. Andros is one of the first pornographers to infuse joy into his gay sexcapades. He’s no Mitch Mitchell, but the first-person narrative of happy-go-lucky street hustler Andros is entertaining, interesting, and educational. Come for the manly hustler action, stay for the antiquated spelling of “gyzym.”

Editor’s note: I re-read some of the later chapters over lunch, and the sex is very not vanilla. Bondage, dominance, and piss drinking all in attendance.