Tour’s Books Blog

April 5, 2009

Erotic Romance – April Installment Part 2: The So-So

Here we go with the second part of the monthly installment of erotic romance reviews and we’ll open this segment with a three part futuristic romance from Annabel Wolfe, a series published in book form as The Starlight Chronicles (Book 1 contains the first two ebooks) from Siren and sold as 3 separate ebooks on their website. I read the three ebooks, each a short novel/novella running just 30,000 words or so each.  Annabel Wolfe also writes mainstream and erotic Historical romance as Emma Wildes.

Starlight Chronicles by Annabel Wolfe –  Futuristic

Here’s the setup for the three books:  Sometime in the future, an advanced race of space faring genetically altered humans that evolved through genetic engineering in colonies that Earth founded when it got too crowded, called S-Species, or Superhumans, have an agreement with Earth to ‘harvest’ females for sexual slavery of sorts.  Human females are tested throughout their childhood to determine suitability.  The potential candidates are watched to make sure they have the proper psychological and genetic makeup  – not only intelligent, and physically beautifully, but free of negative genetic traits and with a strong sense of survival. The S-species looks down on humans, as they haven’t evolved as far and can be dominated by the technologically advanced and physically aggressive S-Species.  But the S-Species don’t have enough females, and the genetic engineering that made them bigger, stronger and smarter also gave them an increased sex drive that can only be relieved by females.  Plus, they can breed human females, something they badly need to do.  The catch – the children always stay with the fathers.  After a certain number of years, the harvested females are released and allowed to return to Earth should they choose.  An entire generation of half Earth hybrids is growing up and that means the future will change again, but the S-Species is slow to accept that humans are their equals.

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Pale Stars in Her Eyes – Book 1

Jerra Aubrey was a nurse on Earth when she was ‘harvested’ by the S-Species, taken aboard one of their ships, examined, given instructions on how to behave and an injection to increase her sex drive, issued the required scanty gown that marked her as sex slave and ‘given’ to three of the Superhuman males to act as their concubine for a long space journey.  Jerra knew her choices were gone.  All she could do was make the best of it.  That didn’t mean she had to be happy it.

Jerra, being of exceptional beauty and intelligence, is ‘given’ to the three highest ranking officers on the ship,  Ran Kartel, the ambassador on the mission, Col. Ian Helm ranking military officer and the younger, brilliant engineer inventor Larik Armada.  Ran, the diplomat, is chosen to initiate her into sex.  In addition to being a diplomat, he’s partly telepathic/empathic (that’s never clear), so he is the best suited to the task of getting Jerra comfortable.

The story unfolds as the 4 of them adjust to each other.  It isn’t easy for Jerra, but all of the males treat her well and all want her to be pleased physically.  Ran gets attached to Jerra.  Ian likes her, but the real object of his attraction is Captain Kia Liale, a fellow officer.  It’s a violation of the rules for them to be together and they’re both stuck with it.  Larik Armada is an easy going sort and as he realizes that Ran is seriously attached to Jerra, he starts backing off and finding other outlets.

Ran finds himself questioning the rational that allowed the S-Species, who preached  equality among the races, to set that fundamental tenet of their beliefs aside with Earth females and allow their sexual enslavement.  Jerra proves herself during the action that happens on the planet when she helps in the medical department.

The book is fairly short and really does not have enough time to develop certain themes on the whole dichotomy of ‘equality’ and ‘enslavement’ the S-Species practices.  Because this book must also do the job of setting the stage and creating the “world” in which the story is set, the characters end up rather lightly drawn, like a hazy picture, instead of being crisp and clear and deep.  It is not helped by the very short format used.  Even though she was very well treated, make no mistake, Jerra’s fate is entirely in the hands of the males.  The sense of dependency that inequity created annoyed me.  The sex, though frequent, is not especially hot for an erotic story.  For what it is, it’s good, but it’s the least satisfying of the three for me.  Because Book 2 is closely linked, Book 1 should be read first.

My Grade: C+ (3.25*) NOTE:  This is a multi-partner story, not a ménage.

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The Covenant – Book 2

The Covenant takes place several years after Book 1.  Lt. Aspen Thorne is an engineer on a three person mission to Rapt One so Larik Armada, the engineering genius from Pale Stars in Her Eyes, can test and repair a new state-of-the-art system of his design that seems to be malfunctioning.  Immediately on arrival, Pilot Trey York, Armada and Aspen are greeted by colonists in full anti-contamination gear, get a complete medical scan that shows to problems, but they get quarantined by the government anyway – for 8 weeks.  There’s supposedly a risk of contagion and no way to give Aspen her own separate quarters.  The Colony Governor reminds them of military rule 051 and shuts of communication.  Trey has it memorized, of course.

“Regulation 051 states that in case of prolonged close contact between female personnel with males who have no other alternative for sexual release, it is part of their duties to assist in the welfare of their counterparts by providing them access to sexual intercourse. Believe me, during initial training, every new male soldier memorizes that one.”

Thing is, Aspen is an S-Species Human hybrid and has no experience.  That’s about to change.  The story has essentially two parts.  One is the seduction of Aspen by Trey and Larik, their growing attachment and the forming of not a separate multi-partner relationship, but a ménage of sorts with the two males equal in caring for Aspen.  The other part is Larik being convinced that all is not what it seems and there’s a reason he’s being kept away from the equipment he’s been sent to repair.  Larik is a genius and with time on his hands hacks thru everything and finds a way to contact Ran Kartel, now Governor of Minoa, the S-Species home world, to send a cryptic message for help.

Things get complicated when Aspen shows signs of illness.  But it isn’t the virus.  The implant that protected her from pregnancy was disabled by the daily medical scans and not reset.  Larik is convinced the contamination scare was created to keep him from finding their modifications to the energy plant and a disaster is imminent.  There’s a rebellion group that’s been fighting the S-Species and this colony has a very valuable mine they might be accessing for use in weapons.

Almost half the story is centered on how the three handle the threat and manage to help defeat the rebellion, so erotic romance fans may find this diversion away from relationships and into action unwelcome.  When the dust settles, neither Trey nor Larik are willing to step back from the pregnant Aspen, so the three decide to make it work together.  Of course, they have to tell her father, General Thorne.

Overall, I liked this book better than Book 1 or 3.  Partly because it felt more like science fiction rather than just ‘sex in space’ and it had a more complex story line, partly because the female lead was pretty much equal to the males here.  The way the characters interacted, how they respected each other was reflected in how they worked together when it came time to take action.  It just made a more satisfying read for me.

My Grade: C+ to B- (3. 7*)

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Under His Command – Book 3

Lt. Peyton Valmont is a pilot, a damn good one, who violated a direct order, took a transport to the disintegrating world of Epsilon and evacuated colonists, soldiers and scientists that had waited too long – including her own sister, Tara and the Governor’s son.  Against all odds, she made it out and back to the ship – a hero to those she rescued.  Now Commander Kelton Gallico has to discipline her.  He has no choice.  Peyton knew he was by the book and fair and he’d never let her actions pass just because she succeeded.  He was mad as hell, for a whole variety of reasons.  The only thing he can do is let her choose which of the options available to take.  One – loss of pay and no flying for six months, two loss of rank, or one month of sexual service.  When she asks about who she’d have to service, he’s shocked she’d even consider it.  Then she asks for him and he’s completely nonplussed.

Peyton is a nervous wreck, but taking a month in sexual service to a man she’s lusted for doesn’t seem too awful – but it sure is awkward.  And the way her fellow officers look at her in the required outfit is unnerving.  And Kel is torn.  He’s had his eye on Peyton, but she’s under his command and he can’t fraternize.  Now here she is.  His ……. his and Col. Jake Naiad’s, his second in command, for one month.

Kel changes Peyton’s feelings about sex and Jake doesn’t do badly either.  But there’s a problem.  There’s a ship out there full of escaped prisoners from Epsilon.  Minoa finds the ship at a remote colony.  They’ve sent the settlers to the shelters, but the convicts have to get supplies, and it’s up to Kel and what troops he has to stop them.  Kel gets stuck on the surface of Anaya Two and Peyton is temporarily released from punishment to fly the rescue craft.

There is a strong background story here with Tara and the Governors’ son Will.  Like the other books this has the necessary HEA, but unlike the first two, it’s a true stand alone.  There’s plenty of sex, more than in Book 2 it seemed.  Again, you have the mutual respect among the characters and two females, Peyton and Tara, who can stand up for themselves.  Thanks in part to the secondary story of Tara and Will, Book 3 has less diversion away from characters and their relationships into action scenes.  For romance fans, this might be a better balance between the two.

None of the books have any kinky sex, D/s, or threesomes, so those who are looking for true ménage might find them disappointing.  Even the permanent ménage in Book 2 wouldn’t meet the usual ménage expectations.

By Grade: C+ to B- (3.7*)

NOTE:  All three books are rated 4*+ on the Siren site where readers can rate the books.  All had a fair number of votes.  No vote was below a 3*.

Take the following comments in context – I am and always have been a fan of science fiction as written by the classic authors like Heinlein, Sturgeon, Ellison, Bradbury, Niven and many others.  The use of the genre to explore political and social issues that stem from scientific advances is well established.  Wolfe touches on the edges of several ideas worthy of examination but leaves them hanging.  I know this is erotic romance, not real science fiction.  Still, I cannot help but regret such a lost opportunity, especially because the author was aware of them.  I felt like I got a peek at a greater story that just flitted across the stage and disappeared.  I dare say erotic romance fans are all groaning at the thought and wishing there was more ‘gratuitous sex and violence’, as Q says to Sean Connery’s James Bond in Never Say Never.  I did warn you in Part 1 this month that actually do like a story with the sex.  🙂

Who would enjoy these books: Fans of Lara Santiago’s Menagerie and her Galactic Gunslingers series.  I’d rate all the books in the series as NC-17 to X.

The ebooks can be purchased at the Siren site and Amazon is carrying The Starlight Chronicles Book 1 that includes both Pale Stars in Her Eyes and The Covenant.

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Dragon Mate by Jory Strong

Part 5 of the Supernaturals Series – Urban Fantasy

Jory Strong’s Supernatural’s series is a related group of urban fantasy books and one of her longer and better series.  Books 3 and 4, Sophie’s Dragon (one of the best in the series along with Storm’s Faeries) and Drui Claiming were both about dragons that live in human form in the area.  Dragon Mate picks up at the end of Drui Claiming with the old dragon, Kirill, seeking help from the drui that Xanthus mated.  Kirill agrees to name Xanthus his heir so he and his family can access the portal to Earth as long as Kirill or his descendants hold the valley.  In exchange, Marika, Xanthus’ mate will remove the curse – the one that has held Kirill impotent since he was a young dragon and dared to steal from a powerful sorcerer.  Marika tells him the curse was naturally wearing off, but she drains the last of it and Kirill is free to seek his mate at last.  He flies immediately to the portal to Earth.

Arrogant in the way of all dragons, Kirill, assumes he seek his mate among the humans and just bring her back to his lair on this side of the portal to live.  He has heard of the half-elf Aislin, and stops at her shop first.

Jazzlyn McCabe goes to Inner Magic seeking Aislin’s help in locating her cousin Carolyn.  Her friend Sophie told her of Aislin’s ability in locating missing people, but Aislin is limited in that the missing person must want to be found.  Caro is self adsorbed, and she and Jazz have been estranged for the last 6 months, but even she wouldn’t miss their great-grandmother’s 90th birthday party.  Jazz, the responsible one, is worried and needs to find her.  Filing a missing person’s report would be a waste of time, especially given Caro’s history and the fact Jazz is the only one is who worried.

Waiting for Aislin to become available to speak with her, Jazz is drawn to a mirror surrounded by stones that seemed inscribed with a spell. A rock hound and gem dealer, she fascinated by the stones that surround the mirror.  At Aislin’s request, she continues to hold it.

“If I can help, you don’t owe me anything.” Behind them the chimes announced another visitor to the shop. “Or better yet, consider the debt paid in full by your humoring me and holding on to the mirror so I can determine if using heartmate stones instead of sorcerer stones achieves the outcome I hoped for.”

Before Jazzlyn could think of a response the stones flared, becoming liquid silver spiked with dark blue. The change was so obvious Jazzlyn couldn’t deny seeing it.

For a split second, just as a man’s face was captured in the mirror, she would have sworn he was outlined in the image of a silver dragon with a blue neck crest.

Kirill knows his heartmate when he sees her, amazed to find her in Aislin’s shop, as if she was just there, waiting for him.  But Aislin trumps him.  She promised Jazzlyn safety from whatever came from holding the mirror.  Kirill knew her word would be enforced by the dragonlords who owed her a great debt.  Now Kirill must find patience to claim his mate.

Parts of the interaction between Jazzlyn and Kirill are pretty funny, especially his reaction to being a passenger in her truck.  Humor threads through all the books, except the first one, Trace’s Psychic.  Compared with the first 4 books in the series, this book has a far less complex and compelling story line to it.  There was plenty of sex, perhaps more than usual.  It felt like Strong dashed this one off in a hurry.  Kirill and Jazzlyn were not as interesting as Sophie and Severn and the story line was single dimensional.  Unfortunate really.  There was a better book there trying to come out, all it needed was a little work.

My Grade: C+ (3.25*)
Who would enjoy this book:  Followers of Jory Strong’s Supernaturals or Christine Warren’s Fixed series.  I’d rate this book at X to maybe XX

The ebook is available from Ellora’s Cave and at the moment the print book has not been released.  The first four books of the Supernaturals are available at Amazon.

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Double Trouble by Sierra Cartwright

Part of the I Heart That City series – Contemporary with BDSM

Bridget Kelly’s sister Mary wants her to get on the stage for a charity auction at the I Heart That City Bar in Richmond.  No way was she doing that!  She was too old to compete with the blond cheerleader types that were pulling in the big bucks – and it would be so humiliating to have no one bid on her.  She was no one special.  Over 30 and curvy, a waitress and no match for the beauty queens.  But Mary is a force of nature and gets what she wants.  She announces Bridgette as the next bachelorette up for auction.  At $9000 Daniel Armstrong, who had all but stalked her at a summer camp back when they were 10 or 11 – and spotted her when she paid her first and only visit to a club, Wicked, that specialized in BDSM, won her.  Damn.  Now he wants her as a sub for a weekend. When he kisses her she all but falls apart – until a deep voice says,

“We won’t have her at Northall until next weekend, so you’d better stop before you have her spread open before you on the stage.”

At the intrusion of the voice, different but somehow familiar, she opened her eyes to see who was speaking.

Interrupted, Daniel ended the kiss.

Frantically, she shoved him away. “What the hell is going on?”

“I don’t believe you’ve met my twin,” he said. “David Armstrong.”

Identical twins.  And they’ll be sharing her.  Double damn.  She’s scared and excited.  She spends the week driving herself insane as she alternates between panic – calling and making excuses and Daniel refusing everyone.  And excitement about finally trying what she’s been drawn to for years, but lacked the courage to try.  Just an hour before Daniel is to pick her, she gets a box with clothing – and it even includes a collar with a Celtic knot.

The bulk of the short novel then moves to Northall where the brothers have even constructed a ‘dungeon room’ upstairs.  Bridget tries everything she’s always been afraid to try, all the while reminding herself this was just a weekend, just for sex.    But Daniel is a natural Dom and begins to draw her submissive side out with relentless single mindedness.

Bridget finally decides to not just let go, but go for it all.  Get it out of her system.  She explores all the things she’s ever wanted – and things she never thought she would.  She’s probably the world’s bossiest sub.  There’s the usual dithering at the end, till brothers go and get her and asks her to stay, permanently as their wife.

I’m not much of a fan of BDSM books, especially the more extreme ones which just creep me out.  The whole D/s thing can get on my nerves pretty quickly.  Double Trouble looked like D/s with humor and it does have light moments, but it’s basically a sexual adventure without a great deal of character development or depth.  To a large degree, the brothers, especially David, remain a cipher.  Bridget has more substance, but even she is not as well defined as you would expect.  A lot of sex, but it’s oddly lacking the excitement that usually comes with such intimate D/s scenes and their associated psychological adjustments.  The plot and characters are superficial at best.  Think of it as BDSM fluff and totally forgettable.

My Grade: C- (2.75*)
Who would enjoy this book:
Fans of light BDSM stories or someone who has never read a BDSM story and would like to try one that doesn’t get seriously into the whole scene.  I’f rate this book at XXX

Available as an ebook from Loose-ID

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