Review: Egypt’s Captive by CD Leavitt

After plotting against his incompetent king, Han and his supporters are driven from the Hittite Empire and seek refuge in Egypt. Instead, he finds only suffering. Taken captive by Prince Itamun to ensure the village of refugees will follow the pharaoh’s will, Han plots ways to turn the young prince’s desire for him into a weapon. Soon, desire becomes a double-edged sword and it’s no longer clear who’s seducing whom.

Itamun was sent to defend the borders of Egypt by his own father, Ramesses II. His heart heavy with the guilt of bloodshed, he’s all too willing to seek relief in the arms of his captive. From the start, Han satisfies Itamun’s dark needs for dominating a lover, desires Itamun never knew he had. But with so many scars on Han’s soul, can Itamun ever convince his captive that they may have something more together than temporary pleasure?

Review by Sally Davis

At the beginning of the book, where I had expected the blurb to be, was an excerpt that included the words submission, entry, plunder and cock, so I started reading with no particular expectations other than that the protagonists would be at it like knives. Sure enough, no sooner do they meet than they are. Lovers of stories that have a lot of sex scenes [almost one third of the book] will be pleased by this one.

One protagonist is Hanilis, exiled prince of the Hittites, who has brought a group of his supporters and their families to squat on the fringes of the Egyptian Empire after unwillingly participating in a failed coup attempt. Expert archer, commander of men and laden with issues, Hanilis is in mourning the lover whose life he failed to save in battle a year before. His opposite number is Itamununemwia, youngest son of Rameses II, a glossy, privileged youth used to having his own way, who has been sent to collect tribute from the area inhabited by Hanilis people to toughen him up a bit.

Both have certain specific unrealised sexual needs that they find fulfilled by the other. The POV alternates from chapter to chapter so the reader gets a good idea of the motivations of both characters but there are some interesting secondary characters, too, though not much time is spent fleshing them out.

There are also two subplots beyond the romance between the two princes, but it is their sexual relationship that is the main point of the story. I should also mention that this relationship has strong BDSM themes, to which I have no objections but may not be every reader’s cup of tea.

There are minor editorial issues, which surprised me because Amberquill markets itself as being the best, and the all-American lad on the cover, so neatly cropped and styled, made me assume that the book would be 20th century history rather than Ancient. I have to admit that I’m no expert on either Hittite or Egyptian history so Google has been my friend as I tried to locate the story on the historical timeline. The author has obviously done his/her research and has fitted the action of the story into actual historical incidents. There are also plentiful cultural references, some of which may be a bit too educational in tone for some tastes. This is, I suppose, the drawback when dealing with one of the less familiar periods of history. An author writing ‘Romans’ wouldn’t need to take the time to describe what a toga is because the majority of readers have a mental image associated with the word. But a ‘shenti’ requires some explanation.

My own reactions to stories are very much coloured by my reactions to the protagonists. It interested me that the author had chosen to make the younger protagonist the dominant character while the bigger, older, warrior type took the submissive role. The reasons for both are explained adequately and I think the sex worked quite well. However, I need to feel sympathy for the protagonists in order to enjoy their journey. Unfortunately both Hanilis and Itamun forfeited my sympathy in chapter one when, as military commanders during a battle, they left their men to fight unsupervised, and in Hanilis’ case to die, while they got busy in a hut. That one scene was a hurdle I couldn’t get over. I’m sure that if the author had used a different method to bring them together, for instance just having Hanilis captured, I would have enjoyed the story far more. Also, I’m passionate about plot and only one of the subplots was brought to an emotionally satisfying conclusion for me. It’s possible that this was deliberate and that the author was using it as a red herring to distract attention from the other plot. But both had been given equal weighting in terms of anticipation so when the first was resolved so easily I was more irritated than relieved.

A decent story, with plenty of sex for those who want it and some interesting elements, but it didn’t push many of my buttons

Buy from Amberquill Press

Review: A Daring Devoted Heart by Linda Hines

Years ago, revenge brought Emeric von Gondrecourt to New Mexico. Now, the force keeping him there is loyalty to the Metairie family — and his love for the young Calder Metairie, who has grown up while Emeric watched.

A DARING, DEVOTED HEART is a Western with a difference. Not merely an m/m romance, it’s also “quest fiction,” taking a pair of mis-matched heroes through country which brings to mind the works and words of Zane Grey, and culminating in a double-bareled climax — it’s a hail of hot lead and a struggle to survive, before Calder Metairie and Emeric von Gondrecourt take those devils by the horns.

Review by Jess Faraday

I really wanted to like this one. And to be fair, there is a lot to like here, even though the story ultimately didn’t work for me.

The story is well researched, for one. It was a bold move to bring together characters from such divergent backgrounds–the son of a rich New Mexico rancher and a dispossessed Austrian prince. And the author did enough research to come up with an explanation that was not just satisfying, but intriguing: Dispossessed Austrian Prince Hired as Old-West Hitman Changes Sides and becomes Protector of Intended Victims. With a side of forbidden love.

Oh yes. I’d read the hell out of that.

Add to this novel premise the fact that in the space of 117 pages, the author has created a solid plot with subplots and backstory. So far so good.

Unfortunately, the sloppy execution obscures the plot and the backstory. I have no idea how much time went into the writing of the story, but to this reader, it read like a hurried early draft. I can’t help but feel that it would have been much stronger if the author had put in a little more time to get it just right.

The backstory would have been much more powerful–and easier to connect to the story-in-progress–if it had been filtered in gradually rather than dumped in large, textbook-like chunks. The head-hopping confused me in places. And to beat the proverbial dead horse, there’s a lot of telling here, and not a lot of showing.

Which is what made this one a heartbreaker. Given one or two more drafts, this could have been a subtly crafted page-turner.

Linda Hines strikes me as an intelligent writer with terrific ideas and a good sense of what a historical should be. I will definitely read more from her, even though this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Author’s website (although the links don’t work)

Buy from Dream Craft Amazon UK Kindle Amazon USA Kindle

Review: Young Man in Paris by Sophia Deri-Bowen

I had always believed that I would return home to empty rooms for the rest of my life, for who would I want, and be wanted by in return? It had been an impossible alchemy until Alexander Montrose, and the summer of 1923.

1923 was the summer I fell in love with Alexander Montrose. I suppose I could say it was the summer I met my soul mate, but I have little poetry in my soul. That which I do have, however, was spent upon Alex. Nearly sixty years have passed since that summer, and I am an old man and Alex is gone, but here at least is our story, set down for all time.

Review by Sal Davis

I have to admit to some bias right from the beginning with this story. As soon as I opened the pdf I was saying ‘Cool’ because I love the personal touch of a painted book cover. This is particularly nice with the protagonists in colour against a monochromatic background with some nice period correct detail. Thumbs up to Dreamspinner for picking artist Paul Richmond. Definite thumbs DOWN for getting Sophia’s surname wrong. It’s BOWEN, guys, not BROWN!

Inside the book there are no blurb page or publishing details. It goes straight into the prologue of the story, which gives a little background for the narrator, Michael Clifton, who comes over as passionate, moody and a bit of a diva at 19, and amused by his own youthful behaviour in his seventies. Michael seems an honest narrator, nostalgic for the pains of the past as well as the pleasures, with a somewhat dry manner that I very much enjoyed.
Chapter one introduces his grand passion, Alexander Montrose, a golden young man whose chirpy manner makes a nice contrast to the dour Michael.

In subsequent chapters, both have secrets they need to share and problems they need to overcome, not least Michael’s tendency to theatrics.

There is another main character – Paris. The city is a major plot point in the story. Some story arcs could be moved just about anywhere, but this one requires Paris, with the way of life and the pleasures available, in order to work.

I think it worked very well. I must admit to an automatic “But what happened next?” grumble at the end, but that was because I hadn’t kept an eye on the page count. Once I reminded myself that it was the story of one summer and a first love, not a whole life I was very happy with it. It couldn’t have been longer unless it was MUCH longer, and it comes to a very satisfying conclusion as it is.

Author’s website:

Buy from Dreamspinner

Review: Raised by Wolves 2 Matelots by WA Hoffman

Buccaneer adventure/romance. The second of a series chronicling the relationship between an emotionally wounded and disenchanted English lord and an insane and lonely French exile, set among the buccaneers of Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1667.

Part two of an epic four part “love story for men” set amongst the buccaneers of Port Royal during the infamous Henry Morgan raids. It is the story of the relationship between two lonely and scarred men as they attempt to find happiness and peace through love and friendship. With adventure and romance, this chronicle explores questions and themes of gender, sexual preference, societal acceptance of homosexuality, survival of childhood abuse, and how to build a lasting relationship in a world gone mad.

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have been watching the Raised by Wolves series for quite a while, Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2 [Alien Perspective, 2007] by W.A. Hoffman is the first that I have read. To begin, I like the swashbuckling genre of buccaneers and pirates, and the romantic setting of the 17th-century Caribbean. Moreover, the author has done a fine job of describing both of these in colourful detail so that the reader becomes immersed in the story—the way a good historical-fiction should do.

And for those who enjoy character-driven tales, Will and Gaston’s are both engaging. Will is a romantic who lives and loves to the fullest. He’s also a keen observer of humanity, and seeks to understand the complexities of human nature, particularly when it comes to Gaston, who is the victim of a damaging past. In Gaston’s case it is not an easy quest, for he also suffers from a kind of madness that has been with him from birth.

It is here, however that the story suffers a debilitating set back. Will’s deeply held convictions regarding the human condition seem strangely anachronistic for 17th-century European thinking. After all, Europe was an exporter of human misery in the 17th-century, especially to the Caribbean. Moreover, as a previous reviewer has already pointed out, Gaston’s medical expertise seems anachronistically modern as well.

That said, Will and Gaston are still delightful characters, and perhaps even more endearing because of their very human foibles. Wills’ first person narrative also contributes to this, and adds some charming elements—such as saving a supporting character from being pressed only to find out that he doesn’t like him very well.

The secondary cast are all well-developed and interesting, too. The difficulty with introducing a large number of supporting characters is the risk of cluttering the story line, but here Hoffman has managed them all quite well, and made them all distinct as well.

An intriguing era, colourful setting and endearing characters, and altogether an enjoyable read. Enthusiastically recommended.

Amazon UK Amazon US

Review:Of Death and Desire by Jude Mason

October 15, 1898

Dear diary, that’s how you’re supposed to begin these things, or so I assume. I never in a million years thought I’d write in one, let alone under these circumstances. This was Jonathan’s doing. When he asked me to make this entry, it was something I had to do, for him. He’s given up so much.

The beginning. Yes, that’s where I should begin and then let his accounting tell the tale.

Review by Erastes

This is a short story, about 10,000 words, and is probably worth getting to fill twenty minutes or so. It’s a ghost story, which allows it to slide in here—paranormals not being the norm—and for most of the story, the ghost element works well, but I have to say I rather lost the plot towards the end.

The beginning is rather baffling. There’s a prologue, which is written in Jonathan’s first person POV (from his diary, which plays a part later on) but at the end of the prologue, it says END EXCERPT so I assumed that this was indeed, not a prologue at all, but an excerpt of the prologue.  But then we go into Chapter One straight away, so I assume that’s a typographical error and a most off-putting one.

The period placing is done quite well, the entire book takes place in one house, so it was easy to stay placed in the time and location. Having a claustrophobic feel to it added a touch of the gothic too which works well, as it is really a gothic short story. Note the title, please and be prepared for both aspects of it.

Some words jarred here and there, and there were a couple of typos but not too many—and I felt the BDSM element was somewhat pasted on, because when Jonathan started talking about his master, I was rather surprised as there’d been no mention of that for the first section.

It wasn’t clear what Jonathan’s sacrifice was—and I didn’t think it was much of a one—and it was never explained how anyone dealt with what happened to Philip at the end, how it was explained to the public at large.

It was a good concept, but perhaps the length of the piece prevented it from being all it could be. As I said at the top, fine to fill in a lunchbreak, but probably not a keeper.

Amazon UK Amazon USA

Review: Bound Forever by Ava March

Lord Oliver Marsden’s life is perfect…well, almost perfect. His bookshop is doing well, his bank account isn’t empty, and his nights are filled with a deliciously dominant man…who tends to be a bit too domineering outside of the bedchamber. But Vincent loves him and that’s all that should matter. Right? And of course, Vincent still firmly holds the reins of control. Yet while Oliver feels Vincent is finally ready to give himself fully to him, to make good on the offer Oliver refused a year ago, the looming threat his lover could someday be forced to marry keeps him from tugging the reins from Vincent’s grasp.

Then Vincent receives a letter that changes everything. Oliver seizes the moment and pushes Vincent toward a night neither of them will ever forget. Yet come dawn, Oliver awakens to an empty bed. Lord Vincent Prescot knows he loves Oliver. The man’s his best friend and he trustshim. So why does submitting to Oliver leave him so shaken? It doesn’t take him long to find the answer, yet his solution could drive his lover away for good.

Review by Erastes

This is part of a series, and previous books in the series were enjoyable: Bound by Deception and Bound to Him.

Ava March writes unashamedly erotic books and this one is no exception. From the first page we know we are in for a romp, and we aren’t disappointed. But March has talent when it comes to writing sex, she intersperses the action with input from the senses and this really helps us feel we are there along with the character. The heat of his lover’s erection on his skin, the chill of December air, a wrinkled cravat pulled from the floorboards, all subtle deft touches which stop this sex from  being just another sex scene.

I have to say that I’m probably not thebest person to review a BDSM book, because I don’t get the games, or the mindset involved, but it seems right—I understand Vincent’s reluctance to become a switch in their relationship when he’s been so happy being the dominant one, but I also understand that as he loves and trusts Oliver he wants to please his partner in as many ways as possible. But as I say, I don’t see why it’s such a huge issue as to nearly split them up, because it seems they are just finding conflict to beconflicted about.

The way the characters care for each other (just as well, after three books of submission, domination and flogging) is touching, and I liked the way they thought about each other’s daily lives, not just the way that their partner interacted with themselves. Vincent is concerned about Oliver’s shop, and his grandmother and wants him to be financially stable.

The way that Oliver refuses to submit to Vincent outside the bedroom interested me. As I said, I’m not an expert in the kink/lifestyle, but what I had been led to understand is that the Dom is the dom in every aspect, but perhaps I had been reading up on the more extreme paths of BDSM. Perhaps a switch relationship is possible, and I’m sure it is, all things are out there. I understood Oliver’s point exactly, as I would be much the same, so it did seem to me that what they did in the bedroom was more about games and less about a true D/s relationship.

The language remains nicely formal throughout, even when they are arguing—you really get a sense that these are men of their time, struggling with concepts new to them, and working around the difficult parts of their arrangement.

The small niggle is not enough to take the gloss of this series for me, and this installment deserves a five star–and if you haven’t checked out Ava March, then you really should.

Author’s website

Buy from Loose I-D

Review: The Wanderer by Jan Irving

Doctor Jude Evans has built a safe but barren life for himself in a small western town where he pours all his passion into caring for his patients while hiding his secret yearning to love another man. Gabriel Fontenot is a drifter who is handy with a gun, prospecting for gold and trying to forget the night the letter “O” was carved into his hip. Suffering from hard living, he is cared for by Jude, but Gabriel is aroused by Jude’s gentle touch and offers to service the innocent doctor.

But Jude has other problems. A reformer in a small town reluctant to change, he is targeted by David Smith, a wealthy and dangerous landowner. Gabriel vows to protect shy Jude, becoming a reluctant guardian angel who helps to keep the doctor safe. But what will it take for Jude to finally feel free to give himself completely to his beloved gunfighter

Review by Sue Brown 4 stars

I come away from reading this book confused about my feeling towards The Wanderer. On one hand, this is a very well-written tale of Doc Jude, a man troubled by his sexual proclivities, who has sequestered himself in a small town of Sylvan to atone for not being what his family expected, trying hard to fit in, but never fully accepted by the townsfolk. Jan Irving has written an engrossing tale with well-written characters and I found myself immersed in their lives, particularly the young, blind Mouse, a young boy who as a misfit himself, had a much better understanding than the doctor just how unaccepted he really was.

I had no problems with the characters. On the contrary, they were warm and well-developed, leaving me wanting to know more. My issues came with the relationship between Gabriel and Doc Jude. I could see the attraction between them, world-weary Gabriel must have been very attractive and rather scary to the deeply closeted and frightened doctor. I could see why the drifter would be attracted to the virginal doctor. There was chemistry between the two men and therein lies my issue. The doctor was a thirty year virgin, yet immediately was embroiled in sexual practices as a sub and frankly, I couldn’t get my head around it. One minute the doctor disliked his first experience of penetrative sex and the next he was a compliant sub, complete with role playing and a belt to his backside. As a reader I don’t usually have a problem with dom/sub relationships but it didn’t ring true with this particular couple so soon into their relationship.

That aside, it is an engrossing story and hence my rating. If I had engaged with the sex my rating would have been higher. I think the way Jan Irving has written the sense of otherness of the doctor, the blind boy and the other misfits was deftly handled. For me, by far the best part of the book was how Jan Irving portrayed the attitude of the townsfolk, actively colluding with the bully, David Smith, until shamed by Gabriel into helping to rebuild the doctor’s clinic. I have reread the book which is testament to how much I liked the story, even allowing for my reservations with the sex.

Author’s website

Buy from Loose ID

Review: Icy Pavements by Lee Wyndham

Peter Scudamore, a former captain in the Royalist Army, has unwittingly become a tool in a game much larger than it seems. When Peter assists the English Queen in her escape to Paris, he finds himself caught up in the machinations of the infamous Corvay, a man determined to be the final word in espionage – and becomes friends with the enigmatic Guyon de Chesnay, a scholar and tutor of debate at the Sorbonne. Guyon’s service, too, is eventually bought by Corvay, but at a price he is unwilling to disclose, and which is directly linked to the Archbishop de Retz of Paris. As the two men fight to survive the intrigues of Court and Church, and those of a man who wants to gain power in his own right, they grow closer to each other in ways that neither one would ever have expected.

Review by Jess Faraday

The length is daunting–684 pages with around 400 words per page. And yet the prose is crisp and clean: never purple, never overwritten. In addition, I was bowled over by the immense research that the author obviously put into the story–not just historical events, but setting, character, clothing, and so on. By the end of the first chapter, which flew by, I had high hopes–and though it took a while to eventually learn how the first chapter fit in with the rest of the story, ultimately, I was not disappointed.

The second chapter introduced the snappy dialogue and witty repartee that would characterize the rest of the novel. Unfortunately, the chapter was long, and not much else seemed to happen. A more patient reader might revel in long passages that illustrate character through word-play. But by the middle of the second chapter, I found my eyes passing quickly over vast swathes of well-crafted, low-tension writing, searching for something to happen.

Fortunately, by the third chapter, the story picked up again, laying down several exciting plotlines: espionage, political intrigue, and romance–oh my! And by this point, I was hooked.

This is not a book for someone who wants a quick, uncomplicated read. But neither is it inaccessible. Though the author sometimes makes the mistake of assuming too much knowledge on the part of the reader–an easy mistake to make when one has absolutely immersed oneself in research, as Wyndham clearly has–the story is interesting and well crafted. The characters are subtle, rich, and complex.

This also isn’t a book for someone who just wants a bit of titillation and a clear path to HEA.

Rather, this is a book for someone who enjoys reading. For someone who likes to settle into a well-crafted, complex story and enjoy the unfolding. It’s a book for someone who likes to think about what they’re reading, and to savor it afterward, turning over the characters and plot twists in their mind. It’s for someone who enjoys romance as a slow burn, gradually and realistically developing, rather than love-at-first-sight-sex-at-second.

It’s a book for grown-ups.

I’m giving Icy Pavements four and a half stars. Though it was slow to begin, once it did, it grabbed me and didn’t let go. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic read with sympathetic, three-dimensional characters and an intriguing, complex, and well-structured plot. In addition, the amount of work and research that has gone into it is clear from the very first page. And though one of the perks of reviewing is getting to read books for free, this is one that I intend to purchase for my collection.

Buy at  Amazon UK Amazon USA

Sorry we’ve been missing

We had to change the hamsters in the wheels but we are back up and running now. We’ll be back to reviewing asap!

Thank you for being patient.


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