The Book that Called Uncle – Review of The Flesh Cartel

cover52093-mediumThe Flesh Cartel, The Complete Collection by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau

Thanks to Riptide and NetGalley for the review copy.

I requested The Flesh Cartel back in the Fall of 2014, and every time I would sit down to read it, then put it down again, I thought that I was just having a bad day. I’d go on and read other books and review them, and then try to come back to no avail. I’m finally throwing in the towel. It’s unfair to continue to think that I will someday finish this book.

I blame my own headspace for this one. I tend to love this stuff. Stories of intense BDSM relationships and situations are usually right up my alley. I was totally excited to read The Flesh Cartel, I’d been hearing about how great it was for years.

For those not in the know, this popular series centers around two orphaned brothers who are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, where they are meant to be trained as the perfect submissive slaves.

The first several chapters are straight up terror and pain. Again, usually it’s totally my thing, but it was hard to get through. The original serial nature of the piece made it seem drawn out in book form. A lot of intense things happen in every chapter, because they were originally set as stand-alone pieces meant to sustain a reader until the next installation, but the plot moves incredibly slowly, a least at first.

The boys are likable characters, and they are very clearly not enjoying any part of their situation. I usually prefer my hardcore to be similar in caliber, but with an eventual kernel of consent or underlying secret desire, and while that is threatened, it’s not something that happens. So I begin to feel more than a little bit like the bad guy by continuing to read these characters into deeper and deeper depths of insanity. Yes, I am the kind of crazy person who actually (sort of) believes that I put the characters into and out of danger by reading or not reading. It’s a sickness.

I do know that the boys eventually escape, and I have a feeling that the story gets way less repetitive after that, but it was difficult to get there for me. I’m going to keep going back to the work, and when I do finish it, I will be updating this review, but I wanted to get something out after so long in draft.

3 out of 5 stars

Pushing Buttons and Butting Heads – Review of Burnt Toast B&B

cover58649-mediumBurnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz

Thanks to Riptide and NetGalley for the review copy.

It was nice to see both Belleau and Haimowitz again. After my 5 star review of Bliss, which Belleau co-authored with one of my faves, Lisa Henry and Haimowitz’ cereberal slave/master piece, Anchored, I was really geared up for a good performance in book 5 of the Bluewater Bay series, which I’ve enjoyed so much.

And it totally delivered.

Burnt Toast isn’t my absolute fave BB book, but I was really happy to see a major title with a trans lead, and a story that didn’t shy away from the tensions, both psychological and personal that come up when a narrow-minded thinker is challenged to be greater than they are by the people and situations in their life.

Butch ex-logger Derrick has some deep seated issues with his own masculinity, born of a seriously internalized homophobia. So when he inherits his parent’s beloved Bed and Breakfast, the idea of making nice in a stereotypical gay paradise is beyond him. As the B&B falls deeper into debt and disrepair, he decides he’s done his filial duty, and it’s time to close up shop.

Fortunately for everybody, sassy stuntman Ginsberg, who you may recognize from the first Bluewater book, Starstruck is here to save the day. Except it looks like he’ll be ruining it first.

Derrick wants Ginsberg out of his house so he can sulk in peace, but he’s too polite and repressed to tell the kid to fuck off, especially after Gins says he’s trans. Derrick may be a grumpy bastard, but the last thing he’d ever want is for anyone to think he’s transphobic.

For his part, Ginsberg can’t get a read on the moody proprietor of his cheap new digs. After breaking an arm on-set, he needs to lay low and recover without expense. He knows more than anybody how quickly a sure thing can turn into a shit sandwich.

The sexual tension is amazing right off the start, but for a man who considers himself a fierce, self confident queer, the overgrown, underdeveloped Derrick is a little bit outside of Ginsberg’s normal level of acceptability. The fact that the man seems to go from nice, funny, and charming in one second to sub-verbal cave-douche the next is both annoying and frustrating.

Derrick finds himself thinking of Ginsberg all the time, but when it comes to the guy himself, he’s all elbows and thumbs. He completely ignores the shit Derrick means to be offensive, and takes offense to the shit he considers to be regular human interaction.

Can Ginsberg overcome his history in order to give Derrick a chance? Can Derrick trash his heteronormative hypocrisy in order to win the man of his dreams?

The only part of this book that didn’t make it my fave in the series is that Derrick really reminds me of myself sometimes. My own weird butch shit made me hate Derrick like cold fuck, but my love for Ginsberg and the supporting cast made me stick around. Also, I wish there was more sex, but Bluewater Bay books don’t usually have a lot of sex scenes anyway, so it is in keeping with the series.

4.5 stars out of 5 for an awesome read

Dirty, Sexy Slavery – Review of Bliss

cover48959-mediumBliss by
Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy. Bliss will be available for purchase Aug. 18, 2014.

Trigger warning: Mind rape and rape rape.

Can I just say that I love Riptide Publishing? Good and bad, their books are always fun. You’re never in for a dull ride with Riptide.

That being said, Bliss is an ambitious novel. It would be an ambitious novel outside the erotica field. This is actually why I love this genre. If you add fucking to any subject, it automatically becomes more human. What would seem like an insurmountable feat for a vanilla writer ends up being way more accessible in the erotica field.

Bliss deals with some heavy shit. Set in a combination paradise/dystopia, main character Rory James is a new immigrant to the city state of Beulah when he becomes the victim of what would be an everyday crime back home. But things are different in paradise. Very different, it turns out.

After Tate Patterson accidentally assaults Rory in an attempt to evade police, he is offered what looks like an incredible deal. Serve the man he hurt for seven years, live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. Maybe learn a trade. It seems too good to be true because it is.

Turns out Beulah has a secret. And now that he’s been implanted with a top of the line behavior-modification chip, Tate isn’t telling anybody. Least of all the only person who might give a damn.

This is a dirty, sweet, even uplifting story of obedience, loyalty, and ultimately of love found in a hopeless place.

Anybody with a sub/dom kink is going to love this shit. Especially if you enjoy non-consent that turns into emphatic consent. Consent in this case, being used lightly. Mind control chip, and all.

Political thriller fans, especially if they like whistle blowers, will also be pleased. Bliss doesn’t rest on cheesecake. The writers put the characters in danger, in distress, and the consequences are serious.

What can I say except that I loved this book. This is erotica that goes out on a limb. It’s totally different from the usual run of snarky, non-communicative bro-ish assholes chest bumping at each other. Compared to what I read most of the time, this book was a breath of fresh air.

Erotica writers, out of all the genres have the most ability to take risks, and yet it is the genre where risks seem to be taken the least sometimes.

Sex is so universal. It can happen in literally any setting, between anybody for any reason. More authors should reach out, try new things. Be fucking adventurous!

Unlike hard line sci-fi and political books, Bliss does get sappy at places. But I wouldn’t hold that against it. Considering some of the shit that goes down, it’s the only way it avoids being a boner killer. Which it absolutely is not.

5 stars out of 5 for being the most interesting thing I’ve seen in months.