Review: Lord and Master by H.C. Brown

Lord Reynold Wilton, fearing exposure after a public argument with his sex slave, Lord David Litchfield, leaves England for the Americas. On his return, he finds his delicious man in the hands of a brutal sadist. In a time when homosexuality is a hanging offense, Reynold must use every trick in the book to regain the possession and trust of his young lover.

Approx 150 pages – ebook only

Review by Erastes

I’m not a great fan of BDSM, and that’s partly because it does seem to be almost mandatory in gay Regencies these days, and partly because so many don’t know, care, or are bothered to know about BDSM, the way it works. Happily, though, HC Brown either knows the genre, or has researched it enough to convince. My heart sank with the first lines, which jumps straight into a caning scene, but it’s soon clear that this is pain and punishment being meted out in a way that’s beneficial (if that’s the right word!) and consensual to both parties.

Lord David has been abandoned by his Master because of his possessive behaviour, and has been left alone in London. Another Master has taken him on, bound him with his debts and claims a ten year contract with him. Sadly, this Master is a man given only to his own violent pleasure with no consideration for his sub, and worse, he’s sharing him with his equally violent friends. The plot revolves around how Lord Reynold saves David from the brutal Lord Hale.

Although I enjoyed the story, I found that I couldn’t engage with anyone except the wet-lettuce Lord David. I didn’t really understand why the man stayed with an abusive sexual partner, but then I have about as much submissive in my soul as a rock. If he broke his contract–Hale could hardly come out and “out” David to the police, without incriminating himself. He had no fortune, being a 3rd son, so if he was disinherited it would hardly make much difference.

But it was Lord Reynold I didn’t like the most–closely followed by his good chum Lord John.

Reynold staggered me. He purports to be in love with David (who for some reason he continues to think of as an innocent) and when he rescues David the first time, David is traumatised, broken and clearly says he doesn’t want any contact–and what does Reynold do?  He says “I don’t want to fuck you, I just want to love you” and proceeds to suck off, masturbate and satisfy himself on David’s inert body. Then when David reiterates his wishes, saying he’s lost all trust in any master, all Reynold can do is whine that David has rejected his “love.” It didn’t endear me to him at all. David asks for their relationship to be exclusive, and that he needs to trust Reynold once again, and the first thing Reynold does is to shag Lord John and tell David.

Then there’s the attitude to women. Granted, I know that women were not exactly equals in the 18th century, but I don’t like every character in the book, including fathers and prospective husbands treating them and speaking of them as though they were rubbish. Both Reynold and John go through a lengthy and rather unnecessarily detailed “courtship” of two ruined socialites who they intend to marry and raise their by-blows as their own. Women are universally referred to as “chits” which really applies more to children, but overall there is no respect shown for women which put me off the main characters greatly.

What’s really wrong with this book, though, is the editing-which is just appalling. I’m surprised because Noble Romance usually produce more tightly edited books. The amount of errors left in the book are quite inexcusable for a publisher of the size of Noble. Homonyms misused (discreet/discrete for one), misspellings throughout (The Tattler, Blackfrier’s Bridge) and comma abuse which had to be bad, because even I noticed it. There’s a Duke who changes into a Baron and then back to a Duke in one short scene, and constant references to “sadists” which of course was impossible for at least another hundred years. It’s a shame because it kept pulling me out of what was generally a quite engaging book.

The descriptive passages are well done, however, and the dialogue, in the main, tries hard to be Not Modern and succeeds pretty nicely. The sex scenes are well-written and intense, and although they didn’t float my boat, I’m sure people who enjoy flogging and restraint and all that will enjoy them. I could have done with less of the rape scenes, to be honest, however lightly they were described, they were described. As I said at the top, Brown seems to know about–and indeed, according to her website, specialises in–BDSM erotic romance so as far as I can tell she gets the mindset right. However, it was an enjoyable read, despite my issues with it. A better edit would probably have upped the mark by a half point, though.

Author’s website

Buy at Noble RomanceAmazon UK | Amazon USA

Review: The Psychic and the Sleuth by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

Trusting a psychic flash might solve a mystery…and lead to love.

Inspector Robert Court should have felt a sense of justice when a rag-and-bones man went to the gallows for murdering his cousin. Yet something has never felt right about the investigation. Robert’s relentless quest for the truth has annoyed his superintendent, landing him lowly assignments such as foiling a false medium who’s fleecing the wives of the elite.

Oliver Marsh plays the confidence game of spiritualism, though his flashes of insight often offer his clients some comfort. Despite the presence of an attractive, if sneering, non-believer at a séance, he carries on—and experiences a horrifying psychic episode in which he experiences a murder as the victim.

There’s only one way for Court to learn if the young, dangerously attractive Marsh is his cousin’s killer or a real psychic: spend as much time with him as possible. Despite his resolve to focus on his job, Marsh somehow manages to weave a seductive spell around the inspector’s straight-laced heart.

Gradually, undeniable attraction overcomes caution. The two men are on the case, and on each other, as they race to stop a murderer before he kills again.  

Review by Erastes

I ummed and ahhed about reviewing this one, because it does have some paranormal aspects (spiritualism) but I’ve decided that this could be treated in the same way as ghosts – the only other paranormal theme we accept – because it could be subjective and brought on by other reasons, such as split personalities  etc.

This book continues this writing partnership’s run of titles with similar names, The Nobleman and the Spy, The Gentleman and the Rogue–there’s endless fodder here and long may they continue to do them.

If you enjoyed either of the last titles, then you’ll certainly enjoy this. The thing is that although the titles are similar and there might be the danger that the authors would find it easy to slip into a pattern of plot that would be highly predictable they are to be commended that they don’t do that at all.

This, quite apart from the gay romance within it, is a good Victorian sleuth story which stands firmly on its own two feet. You could remove the gay romance and the detective story would still be viable, and that’s needed in the genre, too many stories simply concentrate on the meeting and eventual falling in love.

Yes, there’s instant attraction on both sides, and this attraction is acted on pretty soon, and both parties start to realise they are becoming fonder of each other than is wise, but the detective story runs neatly parallel to this at a good pace, deflecting us from simply concentrating on the uncertain love affair. This makes the balance of the book great and therefore accessible to more than just people who want gay sex stories.

The sex is nicely written, with a BDSM theme. I’m not a fan of the trope, and find it odd that so many gay books have it–far higher percentage of men in fiction indulge than do in real life, I’m sure, but what there is is nicely done. At least for me with little knowledge of the lifestyle. It’s most definitely “play” and the bottom is the top, which is how it should be. There was one scene where–for me–it tipped from sexy to rather giggle worthy, but I am 12 and I’m sure others won’t be as juvenile as me.

There are many secondary characters here, as befits a sleuthing story, and each one is given the necessary weight as suspicion shifts from person to person. As well the suspects there is a veritable line-up of society matrons, simpering hopefuls for the bachelor Court’s affections and Dickensian work colleagues.

What I liked most is that both characters, whilst developing in their personality throughout, both for the better, remained true to their core beliefs. Robert is a copper, to his bootstraps and he was sent to investigate Oliver’s mediuming (don’t think that’s a word!) and the way he deals with it after Oliver becomes his lover is entirely in character. Similarly, the authors give Oliver a need to want to help people, and he’s never been comfortable conning them, although he’s been very clever never to actually do anything that could be proved to be fraudulent.

I would have liked to have seen a little more of Oliver’s original business, as he seemed to give it up altogether very quickly.

One thing that jarred for me–and again, I know that some readers love this device–was the sex scene that was put in after the denouement and the concluding sections. It seemed really jammed in and it added nothing to the plot, and my criteria has always been with sex scenes, if you can lift them out and they don’t cause a ripple, they didn’t belong there in the first place.

However, despite a couple of tiny niggles, it’s a really enjoyable read, and if you like Victoriana, crime fiction and anything written by this dynamic duo, then you’ll like this with great big brass knobs on.

The score doesn’t reflect it, but for shame, Samhain–surely you could have done a better job on the cover than that? Elasticated boxers? So much scope with lovely Victorian scenes and clothes and we get disconnected naked guys and a Matt Bomer lookalike.

Authors’ websites: Bonnie DeeSummer Devon

Buy: Amazon UK  Amazon USA  Samhain

Review: Colonel’s Treasure by Dirk Hessian

Young Rob Winston is deemed too small of stature and unsoldierly to take his place in the military ranks of the American Revolution. All he is seen fit to do is to become the sexual comfort and treasure of Colonel Seth Hampton of the army of General Nicholas Herkiner in the Mohawk Valley campaign. With the help of the Indian subchieftain and scout Otetiani, however, Winston endeavors, by taking on the role of spy, to show that his talents in enticing the desires of men are more than enough to turn the tide of war. At war’s end, however, he must choose between his colonel, the Indian chief who has mastered him, or the runaway slave, Jeremiah, to whom Rob himself has become a slave.

Review by Erastes

A short review for a a short novella. At around 17,000 words this story follows Rob Winston has he tries to help America win the war of independence–on his back.

It’s an erotic novel, rather than a historical piece, even though it’s set in 1775 and onwards, there’s plenty of sex on the pages but it’s more geared towards porn than erotica. The story starts with a rape (although some, as Rob’s reactions soon turn from “no no!” to “more more!” might call it “dub-con”) and progresses to him becoming a male prostitute, then becoming a Colonel’s sex toy (with all his platoon knowing about it) to participating in a bogus Native American sex ritual of group sex of rape and bondage.

I can’t say I enjoyed the story much, because it was a real case of OK Homo, one of those cases where everyone–be it black slave, Native Americans, loyal Americans, dastardly British–instantly wants this odd little milksop of a short-arse weakling of Rob Winston. A young man who is so runty that he’s not even considered for a soldiery which I know included much younger boys than him. He’s desicribed as being skinny and pale-white in skin colour–despite the fact he often works shirtless in the anachronistically democratic slave fields of a neighbouring farm–so he didn’t come over as being appealing to me.

His motivations were rather clouded. He starts off saying how much he wants to help the cause, because as I say, he’s been turned down for proper solider work, but as he goes on, he’s thinking more about the sex he can have rather than any good he can do.  When he becomes the “Treasure” of the Colonel named in the title, he professes to be really in love with him, but later actions show that he doesn’t care a bit. He wants to be some (and I’m quoting directly) a sex slave to someone, but he walks away from someone who offers him just that. Also, when he’s having some of this sex (and some of it is quite distasteful, with BDSM that isn’t BDSM but simply someone damaging another person who’s only willing for spying purposes) the camera pulls out of his head and we have no indication of what he’s feeling other than the times he’s enjoying it.

Overall, mildly uncomfortable to read, not at all erotic, despite it being more a sex-manual than a book showing the American War of Independence.

Dirk Hessian is a pseudonym for the author “Habu” which is also a pen-name. I’m not sure why–when Habu already writes gay historicals, s/he needs a further penname for the same genre.

Author’s website

Amazon UK    Amazon USA

Review: Magnolia Heat by Keta Diablo

North Carolina, 1876: Rumors abound about the dark, mysterious Dominic Beresford in Chapel Hill. Their curiosity piqued, their libidos functioning on overload, Craven and Anthony are intent on obtaining answers about the supposed licentious gatherings taking place every weekend.

When the duo are caught spying on Beresford Hall, their punishment will be swift and severe, and in Craven’s case, dispensed by none other than the stunning Lord of the Manor.

What begins as penance soon veers off to a session of feverish passion where the avenger becomes the pawn in his own game

Review by Aleksandr Voinov

Note: This is the re-release of “Carnal Cravings” by the same author and “completely expanded and revised” according to the publisher.

First off, I haven’t read “Carnal Cravings”, but from what I could glean from various reviews (especially on Goodreads), all the things that bothered readers with “Carnal Cravings” have been taken care of in “Magnolia Heat”, such as the fact that the protagonists were under-age and apparently there were rather off-putting enema scene flashbacks in the previous version of this story.

Having not read the first version, I can judge this story only on its own merits. It is a, for the most part well-written, very short “historical” novella featuring two students who spy on a gay lord of the manor, get caught, get sexually abused (i.e. one gets whipped and fucked, the other ends up restrained and spit-roasted, that is, fucked from both ends).

A solid helping of modern people in costumes (research here has been minimal, the history is nothing but a veneer), which features instant love and instant monogamy, which some people find offputting. Personally, I’m tired of the device, as it’s often crammed into a very short length, such as this one here, where, after a night of passion and some fucking, characters discover they are endlessly in love and become exclusive.

If you want a quick dirty read on the – very soft – side of dub con and don’t mind some hilarious stylistic howlers, you can have fun with this.

Author’s website

Noble Romance Publishing

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: 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: His Client by Ava March

Mr. Nathaniel Travers has been visiting Madame Delacroix’s brothel for five years. On every visit, he requests the same man. Stunningly handsome and highly skilled, Jasper not only shares Nate’s fondness for wickedly erotic games and black leather corsets, but he’s become a friend. Someone he can talk to. Someone he can share a supper with. And Jasper’s the only person who knows Nate secretly harbors a love for his old childhood friend, Peter Edmonton.
Mr. Jasper Reed has been working at the house for a decade. He’s saved enough to retire, yet he remains at the decadent London brothel. Retiring would mean leaving Nate and the hope perhaps someday the rugged gentleman would stop pining for his best friend and realize he loves Jasper, just as Jasper loves him.
Review by Erastes

I like Ava March’s work. I can’t help it. I don’t know her, and I don’t like BDSM as a rule, but there’s something about March’s writing of the subject that gets under my skin and makes it tingle.

This is no exception, and I can say hand on heart that if you liked her other work, you won’t be disappointed with this.

It’s a tart-with-a-heart story. Jasper is a whore of ten years, a man who already has enough money to set himself up in a decent house and retire, but he hasn’t for one simple reason, Nathaniel, a regular client.

As with March’s other gay historicals, the sex is a large proportion of the story. Unashamedly erotic, this is what erotica is all about – somehow, although it describes all the action, it never seems crude or over descriptive, you are given just enough to turn you on, and never too much to turn you off. An excellent balance, and the roleplay seems very realistic.  I don’t know if men in Regency times ever did these things–although I can’t see any reason why not–but March’s descriptions are note perfect. I loved the ridges the corset leaves in Jasper’s skin, the descriptions of well-researched dildoes,the nightshirts and the ribbons. It summons images that are more than just arousing, they are beautiful.

You’ll probably need to like BDSM to like March’s books, and although I have to say that I don’t like BDSM in general – but March does manage to make me warm in places they set out to do, as well as having a decent storyline attached to them.

I spotted one tiny anachronism, and couple of typos, which stood out, but nothing worse, and your eye might skim them. Although I had to grin at a marble dildo being snuggly rather than snugly.

As for the characters: Jasper got on my nerves at one point as he kept prolonging the agony of separation, rather than making a swift cut which would have been more sensible, but he didn’t revert to uber-girliness thank goodness.

I would have liked some indication as to how he’d managed to turn himself into a facsimile of a gentleman – how he learned to read, how he changed his accent from common to cultured. I would liked to have seen Nate outside the brothel—particularly in the boxing club. It was a mighty different sport back then, as Nate’s injuries prove, and it would have been good to see a little of that.

The ending was all a little obvious—once Jasper had mentioned the village to where he was retiring to Nate—it struck me like a suicide who really wants to be found. He’d always be hoping that Nate would turn up, and that spoiled my belief that he wanted to break from Nate. It would have been harder for Nate to find him, in that case, but more proof that he wanted to find him. But the reconciliation was nicely done, no insta-love and throwing themselves into each others’ arms in a girly frenzy.

I think what annoyed me was that Nate—once he’d discovered that he wanted Jasper– just assumed that Jasper wanted him, and that was a little presumptuous, because really Jasper had never given him that impression—had been careful not to.

In fact when Nate—when trying to convince Jasper he’s serious says: “Have I ever shown myself to be fickle?” I had to laugh, because “YES, you did rather! You’ve been mooning over your best friend and then when Jasper takes a break your affections switch!” Jasper thinks that Nate has never been unfaithful, and that’s not strictly true because he’d been taking male whores while professing himself madly in love with his best friend. And even when Nate satisfies himself by telling Jasper that he loves him, he doesn’t care to inquire whether his feelings are reciprocated, that he loves Jasper is enough, apparently!

I’m being picky, though, partly, I suppose because instead of 124 pages, I would have liked 250 pages or more and that’s a good sign—when I want more, it means I really enjoyed it. This is the longest Ava March book so far, so I live in hope that one day I’ll have a paper made and full-sized novel by Ava March on my shelf.

Author’s website

Buy at Loose-ID

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