Tour’s Books Blog

November 1, 2009

Book Reviews: Three Short Paranormal/Futuristic Erotic Romance Reviews

After a bit of a drought for me on the new book offerings at various erotic romance publisher sites, I did find three that looked interesting enough to give a whirl.  First let me say that the price of these three novellas is way too high for what you get.  This is not a new complaint of mine, but the escalating cost of ebooks, especially novellas, is getting out of hand.  Proportionally speaking, short stories and novellas are way overpriced and getting worse. It’s also one of the main reasons I’m buying fewer erotic romance ebooks.  Too many disappointments with expensive, poorly developed and executed novellas.  Is it any wonder that there’s a market for used print books?  The swapping of erotic romances is often the only economically viable solution.  So erotic romance publishers – WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE.  You’re pricing yourselves out of the market.

  • Title: Unleashed Temptation
  • Author: Savannah Stuart
  • Type: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy erotic romance
  • Genre: werewolf meets mate
  • Sub-genre: over-sexed werewolf lover and nutso immortal
  • My Grade: C- (2.7*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length: 39,000 words for $4.42 (sale price, will be $5.20)
  • Where Available: as an ebook at Ellora’s Cave (discounted at this time; link for convenience only)
  • FTC Disclosure: ebook purchased on the publishers website

OK, I admit it.  I’m a sucker for shape-shifter stories.  Big cats, dragons, wolves – I like the idea of blending certain animal traits with human ones.  It just appeals to me.  The world building often sucks.  The world building here was slim, but given the length of the story, it was about all you could expect.

Carly Kendall catches her now ex-fiance having sex with her now ex-boss and uses that as a kind of excuse to move from cold, snowy Chicago to Miami to be near her grandmother.  She’s a CPA, so she shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a job.  She’s rented the apartment on her grandmother’s property and her first week there she interviews at an auto repair shop and gets the job at a great salary – and a really hot boss, Nick Lazos.  Nick Lazos is a 170 year old alpha werewolf who runs several auto repair shops in Miami.  His former bookkeeper quit and now he’s trying to find a qualified replacement.  In walks redheaded Carly and suddenly he can hardly form an intelligent sentence!  Damn. After waiting for so many years, he’s found his mate and she’s human and hurt by her ex-fiance.  Great.

The first day at work, Carly is so hyper-aware of Nick it drives her crazy, but Alexandra, Nick’s cousin and one of the mechanics, befriends her and they have lunch.  She also invites Carly to a family birthday party picnic that Friday. Carly goes to leave that night and her car dies.  Nick takes her home and before she knows what she’s doing, they’re lip-locked and she’s ready to jump his bones.  Then he apologizes for kissing her!!!!!!!!  Damn, how will she face him?  Well, it’s his fault, he kissed her!

When Nick sees Carly at the family picnic later that week, after playing avoidance at work, she’s speaking with a man he’s never seen, a man who smells strange.  Carly is just being polite chatting with a guy named Dennis or something, when Nick is suddenly there.  They end up leaving and Nick takes her home.  Nick might not have planned on a human mate, but he didn’t want to fight fate anymore.  But he holds off marking her until he can tell her the truth about what he is.

The trope is the usual shifter/human mate one, but with a crazy immortal thrown into the mix.  Seems Dennis isn’t at all what he seems and this is where the story gets weak.  Dennis is an immortal who needs sex to survive.  Immortals are elementals, in this case a fire elemental.  He’s also a sexual sadist.  This part of the story needed more depth to make the inevitable denouement where a shifter and an immortal fixate on the same woman work.  Unfortunately, that was one of the weakest parts of the book and substantially diminished the overall quality of the novella.

There’s plenty of sex, conflict is primarily that of Nick working through telling a human about his shifter heritage and to a lesser extent the threat of Dennis.  Thing is, the conflict isn’t all that well developed and, as mentioned above, resolution needed more substance.  The writing was decent, but the pacing seemed off and whole story felt like parts were missing, possibly due to the short format.  As an erotic romance with a touch of suspense, Unleashed Temptation was average.  The ending suggests this is the first of a series, so I might try the next book to see if the quality improves.

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  • Title: Oasis of Pleasure
  • Author: Savannah Stuart
  • Type: Futuristic erotic romance
  • Genre: Opps, we accidentally grabbed a human passenger
  • Sub-genre: Sex obsessed aliens – join the party
  • My Grade: D (2*)
  • Rating: xxx
  • Length: about 30,000 words for $4.45
  • Where Available: as an ebook at Ellora’s Cave (discounted at this time; link for convenience only)
  • FTC Disclosure: ebook purchased on the publishers website

One of the first futuristic erotic romances I read was Lara Santiago’s Menagerie.  Unfortunately, not many have measured up to that standard.  Even worse,  Oasis of Pleasure felt like a really bad rip-off of that book!  Like Menagerie, heroine Elizabeth Malloy, gets swept onto an alien spacecraft that is too close to Earth.  Elizabeth awakes to find herself trapped in some kind of a healing chamber with two strange men watching her.   Nearly killed by the ship that was caught in a bad electrical storm, the Argons took Elizabeth into their healing facilities and realized that what they did to her to save her life would be destroyed by Earth’s environment, so they kept her aboard, rather than returning her to her time and place.  Now she’s stuck in the future with a bunch of aliens, no skills, and at a loss in an alien culture.

Hagen Ruucher is the Commander of the Oasis and feels somewhat responsible for what happened to Elizabeth.  His friend and long time lover, Gareth Orrne, the ships healer, are there when she wakes.  They’ve been watching over her since she was caught in their near miss with Earth.  Right up this point I was with the book, then suddenly, it took a turn into a boink-fest.  The whole adjustment part was not especially believable – including the scene with Elizabeth and the caged animal mother, nor is the fundamental premise that sexually free aliens are pleasure obsessed.  I think that’s my biggest stumbling block with books of this type.  I can ignore the silliness, but not the deeply flawed logic.  Or maybe there really is a bit of Puritan soul buried in me in that I believe there is more to life than building it on sexual pleasure.  Yes, there is commitment, but not any sense of exclusivity.  The ‘units’ are just as long as you want them.  It all feels so shallow to me.  There’s lots of sex – well mostly sex – a threadbare story and a very strange, disconnected ending that seemed to come from nowhere.  The whole story really connected for me.

Elizabeth is immediately drawn to Hagen and Gareth, despite his odd appearance.  Hagen is a commander both in title and in personality – a natural dominant.  He sees Elizabeth as a natural submissive who is fighting herself.  (Can it get more unoriginal?)  Elizabeth is used to having a job and a place in life that defines who and what she is.  Torn from that, she struggles with establishing a place for herself on the Oasis.  Unfortunately, hat is overshadowed by her trying to cope with a pushy Hagen and seductive Gareth.  Yes, it’s the usual trope thrown onto a spaceship.  It’s a story we’ve all read before, maybe with vampires, or cowboys, or werewolves, or maybe covert ops guys, but it has a ‘been there, done that’ feel that’s just inescapable.  I was honestly baffled by the ending.  It was like the author tried to track on a whole different story for no apparent reason, unless a squeal is planned.

Oasis of Pleasure is one novella I just can’t recommend,  unless a lot of sex and not much story is all you’re looking for.  Even for that, there are better options out there.  Give it a miss.

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  • Title: Kiss of Moonlight
  • Author: Stephanie Julian
  • Type: Paranormal erotic romance
  • Genre: Etruscan werewolf meets mate
  • Sub-genre: Etruscan myth in the modern world
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length: 54,000 words (short novel) for $5.06 (sale price, will be $5.95)
  • Where Available: as an ebook at Ellora’s Cave (discounted at this time; link for convenience only)
  • FTC Disclosure: ebook purchased on the publishers website

The saving grace of the three novellas is Kiss of Moonlight.  Stephanie Julian uses the little know Etruscan people as her source for her supernatural paranormals.  I read Seduced by Two from her Etruscan witches series back in May and was pretty impressed with her storytelling.  I bought Kiss of Moonlight on the day it was released thanks to the quality of that novella.  The Etruscans have always been of interest to me – I am an ancient history buff, or I was when I had time.  For anyone looking for a wonderful fictional story of them, read Mika Waltari’s The Etruscan.  Waltari wrote great historical fiction and several of his books were made into movies in the days of epic films.  The Etruscans are rather like the Italian equivalent of the Anazai people of the Southwest US, leaving behind a lot of evidence but no records.  Their tombs and art suggest a sensual and earthy people who loved life.  As with most mysterious civilizations, they were also thought to be gifted with ‘magical’ abilities.  It is this rumor, likely started by the superstitious early Romans, that Ms Julian draws on in world building now set in Eastern Pennsylvania in Berks County.  The nifty part of using a recognized culture about whom almost few facts are known is you can make them whatever you want, yet they’ll have some sense of familiarity, a place in real history, that lends credibility.

Kiss of Moonlight is a well crafted story with interesting, well developed characters and *GASP!* a plot that makes sense.  It is the first of her Lucani – wolf shape-shifters – books and blends with her witches books.  Kyle Rossini is a lucani who normally lives alone, but shares his daughter with his oldest friend and their witch lover.  Kyle, Dan and Margie had once been together, but Kyle moved on and Dan and Margie bonded.  Catene, the daughter they share, is now 15 and has inherited both her witch mother’s ability and the shape-shifting gift of her fathers.  She’s free to roam in her pelt and, as a young wolf, she visited a lone woman who is her father’s new distant neighbor.  Cat convinces Kyle he should go and meet the eteri, a human, so that night he shifts and heads toward the old Johnson place to check out the woman who his daughter is so worried about.

In wolf form, Kyle approaches Tamra.  Hesitant at first, Tam shares the food she made and eventually allows what she thinks is a dog onto her porch, where she pours her story out to him.  Next day, Kyle and Cat stop by her house in human form to ask her to dinner.  All goes well and then a woman, a witch, Nortia, shows up calling to Kyle asking if Tam would like to come for a run with her and Tivr – who is in wolf form, but is actually the Moon God and many millenia old, despite looking like he’s about 19.  Before she leaves, suddenly a young man is carrying Cat into the house.  Someone is on lands and they’re looking for Tam.  Kyle gets a very frightened Tam and distressed Cat into the safe room basement and he shifts to wolf form with Ty and they head to Tam’s house, learning only a little from the hired thugs before they kill them.    Back in basement, unable to control herself during a full moon, Cat shifts to wolf and is then unable to shift back.  Tam, frightened but worried about the girl who is now the wolf/dog she’d been feeding, comforts Cat as best she can and stews over what Kyle hadn’t told her.

Now there are two conflicts – Kyle and what he is and who is after Tam and why?  While he can tell Tam part of the story of what he is and his heritage – and the fact there is some Etruscan blood back in her family – he can’t tell her everything.  When he takes her to a strega, that is a seer, Tam learns that that Kyle will be shot because of her.  When she has a chance, she runs, thinking it would save his life.  Now he has to find Tam and try to learn what they can about who is hunting those of Etruscan decent and why.  The who part remains unresolved, but Kyle and Tam manage to get together despite all the obstacles, though he has to chase her down and convince her to become is mate.

The one weakness of this book, for me at least, is the dramatic and emotionally devastating trauma of Tamra.  She was raped, imprisoned, and nearly killed and never went to any counseling – the pain and emotional wounds being too new, yet she overcomes all those barriers to bond to Kyle.  The use of a heroine who has suffered terrible physical, emotional and psychological trauma is a fairly popular one of late.  I do wish it were otherwise.  Too many women work their whole lives to recover from such abuse and even if they normalize their existence, many carry such deep scares forming any meaningful bond is impossible.  Look at the victims of childhood abuse and you’ll see people past middle aged still emotionally devastated by their past, their lives often filled with drug or alcohol abuse and a pattern of self destructive behavior.  Such damage is not easily repaired and I guess I find these ‘love cures all’ kind of situations too much of an easy out.  Ms Julian handled it far better than most authors I’ve read of late, with a sensitivity most lack and some very real feelings from Tam and worries from Kyle about dumping the truth about himself and his people on a woman who is still in a fragile state of mind.  I suspect I just can’t quite believe it’s all that easy to overcome violent trauma and find happiness in short order.

I liked Kiss f Moonlight.  The plot was cogent, the world building is good, but could have been a bit more atmospheric, the characters believable and interesting and the sex was hot.  My problems with the use of a rape/assault victim aside, this was a really good book and I recommend it.  Worth the price.

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