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: “Napoleon’s Privates” by Tony Perrottet

NAPOLEON’S PRIVATES
2,500 Years of History Unzipped

by Tony Perrottet
Harper Entertainment, ISBN 978-0-06-125728-5

From the blurb on the author’s website:

What were Casanova’s best pick-up lines?
(They got better as he got older).
Which Italian Renaissance genius “discovered” the clitoris?
(He could have just asked the Venetian nuns).
What was the party etiquette at Caligula’s orgies?
(Holding one’s own could be a stressful business in ancient Rome).
How were impotence sufferers put on trial in medieval France?
(And why this should be a new reality TV show).
What were the kinkiest private clubs of Hogarthian London?
(Austin Powers would have blanched).

And what was the truth about Napoleon’s privates?
(Was it a big baguette or petit éclair? And did size matter to Josephine?)

There are some books you just have to order, even if you fear the worst when it comes to content. I hang my head in shame – when I stumbled over “Napoleon’s Privates” (now please don’t take that literally!) I couldn’t resist. Yes, yes, I know, my mind’s in the gutter at times. But if everything else fails, there’s still eBay, right?

I’m happy to report that I won’t have to deal with eBay. “Napoleon’s Privates” is an amusing collection of the high and mighty’s “raunchy little secrets” all through history. Reading it transported me back to the days when I was a really young teenage girl and read with a friend “Dr. Sommer’s Sex And Relationship Tips” in a teenage magazine. Means: lots of giggling and the occasional “d’oh?”-experience!

Author Tony Perrottet knows how to keep his readers captivated. In the slick tone of a gossip journalist (an almost extinct species capable of forming complete sentences), he shares the tale of the whereabouts of Napoleon’s little emperor with as much wit and glee as the rather mind-boggling “Holy Guide to Coital Positions”. Perrottet completely won me over with his “Impressionist Misery Index”, listing the social backgrounds, personal dramas, career lows and wretched dotages of artists like Monet, Cézanne, Renoir et al just like Marvel Comics would have described the special powers of their super heroes.

Some chapters are almost exclusively of a speculative nature, though – was Abe Lincoln gay or not? – but to his credit, the author points this fact out and notes that it really wasn’t uncommon for men to share a bed back in those days. So “Napoleon’s Privates” is also a journey through the urban legends of the past.

However, all gossip and giggles aside, the misogynistic roots of some anecdotes are pointed out several times. The “Boys Club” could not deal with strong women, the church tried its best to keep them down, and many of the rumours still clinging to great women’s names – Katharina the Great and her “horse lover”, for example (complete rubbish, of course) – have been born out of this attitude. It’s also interesting to see how disparaging rumours about sexual prowess, sexual orientation or even shape of genitals have been used – and are still used! – to impair an enemy’s reputation.

For those interested in the history of sexuality in general, beauty ideals, gay history, gossip and saucy details, this book offers a lot of material to shake your head over. Kinky clubs in 18th century Scotland, proof of (im)potence in front of witnesses and the court, brothels, ancient sex toys, horny popes and knitted condoms, syphilis and why castrati made better lovers – “Napoleon’s Privates” offers all this, and more.

The book consists of stand-alone chapters, so you can easily put it away for a while. I read the whole thing in one go, though, so I can now impress my friends at the next party with my amazing knowledge about Napoleon’s dick and dickery between the sheets. I might even throw in the amazing tale of “The Invention of Smut”, should anybody ask.

Especially you navy folk will be pleased to hear that the Duke of Wellington, if actress “Mademoiselle Georges” (a former mistress of Napoleon) can be believed, “was by far the more vigorous.”

In conclusion:
a) “Napoleon’s Privates” is a book wellworth buying, and
b) people are funnier than anybody.

In case you’re interested: the author’s website.

“Napoleon’s Privates” is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and as e-book from Harper Collins.

* * *

(c) Emma Collingwood

Review: A Warrior’s Hope, by Sabrina Luna

From the Blurb:
As political unrest swirls in the palace of Tutankhamun, Commander Thabit, a Warrior of Amun-Ra, is eager for a stolen moment with his lover, the royal scribe, Akil. Leading his men to the border to face an unfamiliar tribe of renegades, Thabit isn’t sure when he’ll return home to Thebes…or his beloved again.

Review by Alex Beecroft 

This is a short read – 29 pages, of which fully10 pages are copyright information, a biography of the author and PHAZE advertising.  As a short erotic story it would be unfair to expect too much plot, and if anything this story has the opposite problem.  There is more plot than there needs to be:

Thabit is a warrior of Thebes, who is being sent out by the evil vizier to pacify some border tribes.  Thabit wants to persuade the tribes to move away by diplomacy, but the evil vizier wants them destroyed.  Little, eight year old Tutankhamun daren’t say anything against the evil vizier in public, but sneaks out at night dressed in the clothes of the common people to tell Thabit that he wants his army to just go and ask the tribes nicely to move away.  Thabit and his lover Akil then get together for some sex in a bath-house.  When Thabit leaves in the morning he looks back to find the young king holding Akil’s hand, and thinks to himself that there is hope that Tut will grow up to get rid of the evil vizier and a new age of justice for all will reign (or something like that.)

I’m not quite sure how to tackle this.  On the one hand I like plot, but on the other hand, I like a set up for something to happen to be followed by that thing actually happening.  Given the amount of time spent on Thabit’s mission to the border tribes, I’d have liked to see what happened when he got to the border and had to deal with the tribes.  Given the ‘omg, the country is in the thrall of an evil vizier‘, I’d have liked to see the protagonists working together to get rid of the evil vizier.  It seems odd to have two threads of a story set up, and then to ignore them both in favour of hot bath-house sex.

By all means, lets have the hot bath-house sex, but maybe it just doesn’t need to come wrapped in a set up for a story that never happens.

In addition, there were a couple of other things about the framing story that just didn’t sit right with me.  The evil vizier, the virtuous young king who goes among his people in disguise, they seemed too archetypal to be a true reflection of a specific court.  Even though Tutankhamun may very well have historically been murdered before he could begin to rule (a fact that makes the ending of this story heavily ironic) the handling of the issues felt fairy-tale, even cliché, rather than historical.

I also felt that the author had tweaked the characters for modern sensibilities, in a way that made it hard for me to believe in them any more.

Would any ancient king really think it was a good idea to just talk to potential invaders?  When a culture’s iconography depicts their king standing over a kneeling prisoner, about to bash his brains in, the idea of him using his armies for gentle diplomacy seems hard to swallow.  Equally, I could not buy Tutankhamun—the living incarnation of a god—holding hands with a scribe.  Even a modern eight year old boy is beginning to think it’s below his dignity to hold hands with adults; would the god-king of Egypt really be more approachable?

It’s quite possible that I’m over-thinking this.  At this rate my review will be longer than the story itself, but I feel that in some respects the author shot herself in the foot.  The bath-house scene, which seems to me to be the heart of the story, is really very nice.  The author has quite a gift with metaphor and description, and the bath house, the steam, the scent of lotuses and myrrh, for the first time really captured that evocative sense of being in another, more romantic country.

As a little sensual vignette, the bath house scene made sense.  I wouldn’t say it was the best written sex scene I’ve ever read, but it was very pleasant, and there was no feeling that something was missing or wrong.  It was just the envelope which this central sex scene came in that let it down.

I know I’m always asking for more plot, but this could either have done with less, or with being long enough to wrap up the threads of plot that were started at the beginning but never finished.

Having said all that, I did enjoy it, and I would love to see more with this sort of setting.  Ancient Egypt is a treasure house of stories just waiting to be opened, and this was like a first glimpse through the wall into a jumble of gold.

Buy: Phaze

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