Sunday, June 29, 2014


LAVENDER ROSE by Theo Fenraven

Pages: 93
Date: 29/06/2014
Grade: 4.5
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

“Precipitated by an unexpected encounter with another man, Malcolm Hale flees a marriage that no longer fits and a soul-sucking job he hates. When his car breaks down near Naples, Florida, he stumbles onto the grounds of the luxury gay resort, Lavender Rose, asking for help. The concierge, Tristan Bellers, takes one look at him and offers him a job. With bridges burned behind him and nothing to look forward to, Mal accepts and becomes immersed in a seductive, private world of beautiful men and tantalizing sexuality. But even as Mal tries to work out where he belongs, and with whom, a hurricane approaches, threatening destruction… and death. A killer has been waiting for an opportunity, and the time to strike has arrived.


My thoughts:

I’ve said it before and you’ll just have to bear with me while I say it again; Theo Fenraven weaves magic with his words. I wish I knew how he does it; how he manages to convey so much with so few, carefully chosen and beautifully positioned words. The pacing in this book is just about perfect. The reader learns everything they need to know about the characters and the resort if and when it becomes relevant. No huge chunks of back story ruin the reading rhythm in this book and I didn’t encounter a single instance of ‘where the hell did that come from’ either.

Both Tristan and Malcolm piqued my interest from the moment they were introduced. And then they grew. Neither is exactly what he appears to be at first glance and both of them show their deeper layers as the story progresses. Tristan may initially come across as camp and over the top, but he soon reveals himself to be a sensitive and very perceptive individual. And I loved how Malcolm seemed to grow into himself as the story progressed, surprising himself once or twice as he finally embraces his true nature and follows his desires. For that I can even forgive him his hate of black licorice.

On a side-note, the various references to Voodoo Lily throughout the story made me smile. It could have been cheesy or self-indulgent but somehow seemed to fit, especially given the resort’s name.

'Lavender Rose' contained one paragraph that made me stop, blink and sigh. I read it, read it again and knew I had to highlight it and put it in my review because the image it created just blew me away.

“Heaving a mental sigh, he again wondered when he would meet someone he could give his heart to forever. While he’d loaned it out plenty, he’d always gotten it back, sometimes much faster that he preferred and in worse shape than when it had gone out.”

Lavender Rose’ has it all; a beautiful love story, engaging characters and a thrilling threat in the background. This is a relatively short yet perfectly formed and ultimately very satisfying story. 

It is almost exactly six months since I first read a book by Theo Fenraven. ‘Blue River’ gave me a wonderful introduction to his writing and made me hungry for more. When I read ‘Transgression’ shortly afterwards I knew I had stumbled across one of those rarities; an author who can transport me to whatever world they feel like and make me at home there. ‘Wolf Bound’ confirmed that versatility and 'Lavender Rose' proves once and for all that a good author can write across genres without losing any of their voice or storytelling qualities. I count myself lucky there are still several books I haven’t read. And while I’m tempted to just devour all of those back to back I’ve decided to pace myself. I guess I’m going to keep those remaining stories for times when I need a very special reading treat. I have absolutely no doubt they will prove to be exactly that.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


FOUR LETTERS OF LOVE by Niall Williams

Date: 22/06/2014
Grade: 3.5
Details: Reading Group Read

The blurb:

'When I was twelve years old God spoke to my father for the first time. God didn't say much. He told my father to be a painter and left it at that . . . ' So begins Niall Williams' magical tale about love and destiny.

Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore were made for each other -- but fate doesn't always take the easiest or the most obvious route to true love. For a start, Nicholas and Isabel have never met and nor are they likely to, without some kind of divine intervention. But as God, ghosts, a series of coincidences and seemingly chance events and encounters conspire to bring the couple together, other -- often more human -- forces attempt to keep them apart. 'What will be, will be,' of course, but that doesn't guarantee a happy-ever-after ending, nor answer the question 'Will they, won't they?'

Written in a lyrical, lilting tone, Four Letters of Love is a glorious, uplifting story about faith, about seizing the moment, believing in your instincts and acting on impulse -- and about following your heart, no matter where it may lead.


My thoughts:

“When I was twelve years old God spoke to my father for the first time.”

That has to be one of the best opening lines for a novel I’ve ever come across. And there are more gems in this book, like the following.

“Then, my head resting on fists, I sat and listened to the end of my childhood.”

In fact, the book is written in the most beautiful language imaginable. If I were to rate the book based only on the way in which it was written I would probably give it five stars. I require a bit more from my books though. First and foremost what I want is a story that grabs me by the throat and doesn’t let me go until the very last page, or, even better, until well beyond the last page as my mind continues to spin the story that has already ended.

For me this book lacked in story. In fact I found most of this book rather frustrating. Two desperately sad and apparently unconnected story-lines meandered along, introducing heartbreaking moment after heartbreaking moment without any apparent point to them. I didn’t like the different narrative styles either. Nicholas’ story is told from his perspective but he seems to have that universal insight that only a third person omniscient narrator should have. All other characters’ stories are told from that third person perspective and work a bit better for that reason but still didn’t tell me what I really wanted to know.

This book is a wonderful example of how reading tastes change and/or are related to the reader’s mood or where they are in their lives. I remember loving this book and being really impressed with the writing when I first read it, probably round about 1998. This time around I was far less impressed. The writing seemed too elaborate, too descriptive, making the story itself move desperately slowly. I had to fight the urge to skim passages in order to get to the ‘real’ story I knew would come eventually. But then, even when that real story did come, it didn’t manage to pull me in. From the first page until the very last word I felt detached from these characters and their stories as well as wondering what I had seen in this book the first time around.

I really wish I had a review from when I first read the book. It would be nice to compare my thoughts then to my feelings now. Unfortunately I’ve got nothing except the memory of loving ‘Four Letters of Love’ at the time. All I can say now is that you will probably love this book if you adore beautiful words. If you want those beautiful words to tell you a captivating story, this book may let you down a bit.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


BONDS OF COURAGE by Lynda Aicher

Pages: 263
Date: 17/06/2014
Grade: 4.5
Details: No. 6 Wicked Play
            Received from Carina Press
            Through Love Romances and More
Own / Kindle

The blurb:

Pro hockey player Holden Hauke has kept his sexual needs buried for years. After a near miss over a picture of him bound to a spanking bench resulted in a mid-season trade, he's kept his image clean. But with the season over, he's ready to surrender control. And he's found just the woman to help him—if only he can convince her to give him a chance.

Bending men to her will is nothing new for Vanessa Delcour, aka Mistress V—she's a full-time rep for pro athletes, a part-time owner of exclusive sex club The Den, and an experienced Domme. But when Holden Hauke comes looking for a discreet partner, Vanessa's concerned about his motives. Touching his training-toned body during a scene wouldn't exactly be a hardship, but taking him on crosses barriers between work and play that she's had in place for years.

From their first intense encounter in Mistress V's playroom, Hauke knows he can't let this chance slip away; he's found the woman he's always needed. Submissive or not, he's willing to push her every limit to prove how good they can be together.

My thoughts:

‘Bonds of Courage’ is the sixth title in the ‘Wicked Play’ series and more than lived up to the expectations I had based on those earlier books. Over the course of six books I have gotten very attached to The Den, the people who own the place and their partners.

This instalment features Vanessa Delcour – full-time rep for professional athletes, partner in The Den, an exclusive sex club, and known as Mistress V an experienced Domme. For years she has successfully kept all the threads of her life separated and she is determined to keep it that way. Vanessa is in control of her life and doesn’t allow anyone to breach her carefully set boundaries or anything to control her. It is a balancing act but a successful one until Holden Hauke applies for membership at The Den.

Holdon Hauke is a professional hockey player. He has kept his sexual needs and desires buried, especially after one indiscrete photo of him tied to a spanking bench nearly cost him his career and forced a mid-season transfer. With the summer break on his hands Holden turns to The Den in the hope of finding a discrete Mistress. One look at Vanessa is enough to tell Holden he’s found what he’s been looking for.

With their first encounter going off to a bad start because of Holden’s lie on his application to The Den and Vanessa’s reluctance to let anyone in to her life never mind her heart a relationship between these two seems doomed from the start. Holden is not prepared to give up though. He may be submissive, he is determined to do whatever it takes to show Vanessa that they belong together.

For the sixth consecutive time Lynda Aicher has brought her readers two characters who are interesting, easy to root for yet realistic and flawed. I fell in love with Holden the moment he made his first appearance. I loved the ease with which he surrendered to his needs despite the risks involved and Vanessa’s attempts to push him away, and delighted in the release he found in bondage.

“The firm clasp of the thick bands of leather was his freedom.”

Vanessa was a little bit harder to like. She was so determined to be independent, to keep all the different threads in her life separate and avoid all attachments, that it was almost too easy to believe she really was the hard bitch she portrait herself as. That image made the rare occasion on which her hard shell cracked all the more beautiful though.

“It made no sense, but he was under her skin, burning through her as no other sub ever had.”

This story is a reversal of the BDSM story we usually read. In this book it isn’t the sub who needs to be convinced of his needs, it isn’t the sub running away from something new and scary. This time we are dealing with a sub who knows exactly what he wants and has a job on his hands convincing his Domme that his needs happen to mirror hers.

“He could make her happy. Please her. He got everything he needed by giving her what she needed. It was a perfect combination that.”

I loved Holden for getting Vanessa, for taking his time and for reading her well enough to know what all her small sign and gestures meant. I loved the moment he gave her a pair of flip-flops.

“The only time she wasn’t in heels was when she let her shields down, and he wanted that all the time with him.”

I’m very grateful that although there is lots of angst and conflict in this book I didn’t have to read my way through a lengthy split between the protagonists based on fear or a misunderstanding. I’m equally happy that the author kept things real; the resolution of issues was organic and believable.

Overall this was a wonderful, smooth, very sexy and fascinating read. The descriptions of Vanessa’s sessions with Holden were captivating as were the occasions when the two of them gave into their feelings without any play involved.

I discovered that there is one more Wicked Play story to come in September 2014. While I’m delighted to have another book in this series to look forward to I am already sad that book will also mean I’ll have to say goodbye to The Den and all who play and love there.

“I’m yours. In every way. Beyond the playroom. Beyond the spankings and bondage and play – I belong to you.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. Up until today I’ve posted my thoughts on the books I read and never asked for comments, although I did answer the few I would get. This however is not a post about a book; it is a post about ‘reviewing’ and what a blogger should and shouldn’t do when writing about books.

Two days ago I read a post about Bias when it comes to reviewing. In it the three participants come to the conclusion that in order to be credible, a reviewer should refrain from reviewing books written by people they are friends with. This idea pulled me up short. It is not a possible conflict of interest I’ve ever thought about, but now that it has been brought to my attention I’m left with a few questions I would dearly love an answer to. I posted my questions in a reply to the original post but don’t expect to find my answers there. After all, the post makes it perfectly clear where the author and his collaborators stand. I would like a wider perspective on this issue, which is why I am now turning to you; the people who read my thoughts on the books I read, the authors who know (of) me, and other reviewers.

I could try to summarize the original post here but am reluctant to do that. A summary would not necessarily be an honest representation of the post’s content and might easily be influenced by my personal feelings. I therefore hope you’ll have the time to read the original post before reading my questions and further thoughts below.

The original post can be found here:  A Discussion on Bias.

Below is a copy of my reply:

“I read this post last night and started a long reply before deciding to sleep on it and wait to see what my thoughts and feelings would be in the morning.

Sometimes a good night’s sleep does not provide all the answers.

I’m conflicted about almost everything the three of you have said in the post. Part of me is in complete agreement while another part of me screams that things are not quite that simple.

Allow me to start with a few thoughts/questions that sprang to mind as soon as I read the post:

·         Where do you draw the line? When does interacting with someone online turn into a friendship disqualifying you from reviewing their books?

·         If you’re staying away from reviewing books by a certain author because you are friends with them should you then not go all the way and also shy away from cover reveals, interviews and competitions? Isn’t there a real risk that the followers of your blog would assume that you promoting a book or author also means you endorse that/their work?

·         If you have reviewed and praised (a) book(s) by an author and become ‘friends’ with them at a later date, does that make those earlier reviews suspect?

·         Peer reviews are as old as books are. And while authors in the past didn’t have social media to keep in touch with each other I have no doubt that a lot of them knew each other and communicated in a time appropriate way. Of course in those days the reader had no way of knowing whether or not the reviewing author personally knew the author (s)he was reviewing. Does that not mean things are more rather than less transparent these days? If someone is suspicious about any given review it’s very easy to check the relationship between reviewer and author.

·         Should we not give the people who follow our blogs more credit? Provided we’re honest and consistent they’ll get to know our tastes soon enough and read the reviews accordingly.

On a personal note, I do have two blogs on which I write about books. I do this mostly on my own (I may have bullied the husband into writing a few for me). I don’t and never have referred to my posts as reviews. The headers on both blogs stipulate that I share ‘my thoughts on books’. I don’t claim to be objective, although I try to be.  I write posts for every single book I read, regardless of whether or not I ‘know’ the author. I trust the people who read my posts to get this. I like to think my posts are about the book, the story, the way it is written and whether or not it worked for me and why that was the case. I never questioned what I was doing on those blogs and now I am. Should I write a lengthy disclaimer? Or should I take comfort from the fact that up till now no author or reader has complained about my posts?

Not only does a night’s sleep not bring any answers, neither does writing a way too lengthy reply.”

When I wrote those words I tried to keep in mind that I was replying to someone else’s post rather than writing my own and tried not make it any longer than I felt it needed to be. Now that restriction has been lifted I’d like to add one or two things.

Does the fact that I know and adore Celine Kiernan and hug her every time we meet mean I’m no longer able to be objective about her books? I don’t think so. However would you look at my posts of her wonderful books differently, now that you are aware that I personally know her?

Should I refrain from ever writing about a book by Andrew Nugent again just because he was kind enough to mention my blog in his chapter in ‘Down These Green Streets’? I’ve never met or communicated with this author and as he says in his essay he knows nothing about me.  Still, suspicious minds might distrust anything positive I might have to say about his books in the future.

I don’t like the idea that in order to be able to write about the books I read I should refrain from interacting with the authors who write them. Most if not all authors I interact with, I didn’t get in contact with until after I had read one or more of their books. In fact, chances are I sought them out because their stories impressed or touched me rather than read the books because I happened to ‘know’ them.

It would really help me to know how others feel about this issue. Are the participants in the original discussion right and have I been naive to have never thought about this in the past? Should I change my approach and refrain from posts about authors I personally know?

My blogs started out as a means of keeping track of what I read. I did that on paper long before I even had access to the internet. If the consensus is that my approach is wrong or, worse still, that I could potentially damage an author with my posts, I am tempted to change the settings on my blogs to private and go back to writing those thoughts just for myself again.