A Cat Builds a Raft by Bee Allen (review)

Tagline: Shifter living the life of ease as a housecat finds his otherwise workaday caretaker has otterly dangerous pretensions

Cat on a Raft Book Cover Image

Cover Art: Bree Archer
Title: A Cat Builds a Raft 
Author: Bee Allen
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 52 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Sites:  Publisher | Goodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-511-3

Retail: $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star  star  star  (I liked it. – Cat lovers might like it even more.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis:  Unwilling to deal with family expectations and complexities,  Zeke takes refuge with a relatively luxurious life as a housecat. Toby, his human companion, pampers him as a cat demands, and it’s too good to expose himself as a shifter.  When an intruder up-ends the comfortable life of human and cat, family issues haunt both of the companions, requiring a review of their priorities, wants, and needs.


Review: While not the most romantic story in the world (to me), this quick read explores several themes with some intriguing interaction and interplay.  The owner/pet dynamic is on display with just a nice display of cat-like attitude from the shifted man.  For a short story, the author weaves a setting and conflicts within shifter families that is simple enough to absorb but also complex enough to enjoy.  The focus of the story is the relationship between the two men (or a cat and a man), but I found the details surrounding the shifter setting, behavior, and conflict to be possibly more interesting.


Recommended for fans of: Housecat shifters; feline attitudes; alternate shifter paradigms.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat:  fire  fire  – While mostly about characters, there is a small but heated bit of sizzle.
Passion:  heart  heart  – The relationship is a bit more as friendship and respect, but some chemistry builds.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
There was another character who was incidentally bisexual, and I am appreciating seeing this type of queer man receive some attention in this genre, as we do make up a significant portion of men who love men.
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Daniel’s Lynx by Ava Hayden (review)

Tagline:  Jilted fifty-something veterinarian discovers the beauty of small town wilderness, including a rare Lynx and a hunky neighbor

Daniel's Lynx Book Cover Image

Cover: Catt Ford
Title: Daniel’s Lynx
Author: Ava Hayden
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 55 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-507-6

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  half-star  ( 4.5 stars – I really liked/loved it.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.


Synopsis: At fifty-five, Daniel had lost his wandering, cheating partner of over a decade, and needed a new start.  Moving from the city to resume his veterinary practice at a remote wildlife reserve seemed just the ticket.  His new home was plenty intriguing, including visiting wildlife, a rather rare lynx, and a sexy, mature new neighbor, Ronan.

Review:  The author does a good job of taking some standard shifter themes and tweaking them just enough to make them a bit more interesting and believable.  Even more intriguing, the story wraps these paranormal ideas around sometimes neglected romance themes, including mature men and a lover jilted by an ex going through a midlife crisis.  For those looking for  young, fresh, extra-heat this might not be quite the right mix.  However, readers who appreciate a decent dose of sweetness woven into stories of slow recovery form deeply felt betrayal and restarting life in one’s 50’s, it’s a delightful story with just the right touch of bittersweet flavor.  For a novella, the work does an excellent job at incorporating a good range of themes, including clumsy conversations, painful memories, and slow but steady recovery, while not ignoring lust or passion or sizzle.

Recommended for fans of:  romance for the mature/middle-aged men; traditional shifter themes with a slightly different  take; the sweetness of establishing a true connection after betrayal; rustic, small-town, wildlife friendly settings; a bit of reality (death and danger to animals) in a wildlife setting.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire  – Although not the center piece of the novella, the two quickly sizzling scenes, including a first-time together and make up sex, were nicely realistic, lustful, and plot-appropriate, if a bit brief.
Passion: heart heart  – The attraction of the men seemed real.  The physical chemistry was a bit understated but definitely present, and a friendlier, more deepset passion balancing vulnerabilities, physical attraction, and growing friendship blossomed slowly.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):

I found this to be an excellent if bittersweet exposition of a mature man separating from a partner who took a different direction.  After 14 years together, Daniel’s break-up with Kit wasn’t quick or easy for the mature man, which I really appreciated.

 

“He’d spent months in a fog. He’d kept wearing the ring long after Kit had made it clear that they were over. And no matter what Jonathan said, that really was pathetic.”

 

One of my favorite parts was the shifter reveal, believable enough and different enough to be nicely inventive and a good break from the most common type of shifter fare.

 

The lynx providing for his “family” was adorable – “Words didn’t say love the way mouse tails did.”

Spiked and Feathered by Jessica Walsh (review)

Tagline: Stressed call center boy hits a new bar leading to sizzling and feathered stress-relieving experiences

spiked-and-feathered

Title: Spiked and Feathered 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (7k words, 21 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-506-9

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star half-star (2.75 stars – I liked it ok.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: After a particularly bad day on the phones,  Anthony hits a strange bar to unwind a bit, and hits it hard. The results include a hint of just what kind of bar it is and just what kind of trip that kind of establishment can deliver, but the evening in the bar was just the beginning.  Waking up within sweet shits and a hint of feathers takes Anthony to another level of “escape” from work.

Review: While this is another story that is not overly compelling, it was certainly an enjoyable trip.  Anthony was very sympathetic, the grind at the end of the day all too real and his attempt to escape and unwind (and overindulge) read well – nicely evocative of the “bad day at a bad job” blues.  After an empathetic set up, the journey turns plenty wilder and hotter, with trip into typical/sexy and a bit more fantastic fantasy spiced with sizzle and a bit of imagination.

Recommended for fans of: quick, heated escapes at the end of a long day; bird shifters; frustrated workers looking for some (a bit sizzling) relief.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire – For a short story, there were a couple of heated and explicitly enticing exchanges.
Passion: heart  heart  heart   – The chemistry was physical but the lust and excitment seemed true.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
I am very much enjoying the emergence of openly (and usually non-chalantly) bisexual main characters.

More Fish in the Sea by Fil Preis (review)

Tagline:  Betrayed Wiccan bisexual slips to Hawaii to beseech the Moon to get away from the players and sharks, but the tricky, finicky Goddess delivers a shifty shark anyway

More Fish in the Sea Book Cover Image

Title: More Fish in the Sea
Author: Fil Preis
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 49 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-505-2

Retail: $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star  half-star  (3.5 stars – I liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.


Synopsis: The Arizona dude did not trust his Wiccan bisexual boyfriend to be true, so he cheated first. The Hawaiian shark shifter lost his boyfriend when the modern man refused to respect the traditional, spiritual beliefs of the Islands’ native and mysterious people.  Can a Wiccan’s prayer to the moon be answered?  Can a man from the people of the Shark ever find someone who respects him?  And how can two betrayed men ever learn to trust another?

Review: While this was not an extremely revitting read for me, overall the themes of betrayal and trust combined with some interesting and enticing spirituality worked rather well as a plenty entertaining and nicely different story.  The background and setting – which had at least a bit of complexity and nuance – needed to be explored and explained quickly in this novella, and the character writing moved along nicely without it being too mechanical or simply plodding exposition.  While I found the themes personally enjoyable, I also appreciated how they meshed internally for each of the protagonists’ stories as well as the satisfying manner in which they eventually came together.  I wasn’t totally bowled over, but I very much enjoyed reading a cool story about some common relationship themes wrapped nicely in some alternative character and cultural concepts.

Recommended for fans of:  Lovable sharks; indigenous/pagan/Wiccan spirituality; Hawaii; bisexuals finding their one true love.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire   –  A couple of mostly fade to black moments, but with a tiny bit of explicit tid-bits.
Passion: heart heart – The past hurt borne by each character gave some life and chemistry to their connection.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
I absolutely loved how the unfair stereotype of bisexuals that they can be expected to stray was turned on it’s head. (It’s as ridiculous as expecting someone to stray because they find both blondes and brunettes attractive, but that “bi must be unfaithful” stereotype is definitely out there among both gay and straight partners.)
Jarrett also couldn’t change the fact that he was bisexual. Bradan kept making comments that Jarrett was going to cheat on him with a woman, or that he didn’t have the guts to come out as gay. Jarrett wasn’t a cheater. He believed in one partner at a time. And he’d definitely had the guts to tell his family that he was dating Bradan. Why didn’t Bradan understand? How did the fact that he’d dated a girl in high school, and loved her, and found her attractive, somehow become, in Bradan’s mind, proof that Jarrett’s attraction wasn’t as “pure” as his? And in the end, Jarrett wasn’t the one who’d cheated.”

Wild Fate by Savannah Brooks (review)

Tagline: A man in the Alaska wilds tells the traveling photographer he is fated to mate a bear – an insta-mate, lumbersexual, mpreg story that works

Wild Mate Book Cover Image

Title: Wild Fate 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novella (17k words, 55 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Book Sites: AuthorPublisherGoodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-501-4

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star  star  half-star  (3.5  stars – I liked it a lot.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.

Synopsis: Caden is a wildlife photographer looking forward to spending time isolated in the Alaska wilderness practicing his craft – until he meets Drake.  The rough and tumble lumberjack of a man has a reputation for being a grumpy loner, but when Caden gets past the initial awkward meeting, his mind (and other parts of his anatomy) can’t stop thinking about the rustic hunk of a man.  When Drake tells Caden they are fated mates and, oh yeah, he can turn into a bear, the functioning brain in the photographer doubts the wisdom of staying in an isolated cabin near this man, while his body seems to have other ideas.

Review:  Fated and “instant” mate stories are often drafted with too much of a trope that seems incredibly artificial and unbelievable.  For a short story, this author handles the “insta-mate” phenomenon with some fineness and more credulity than many novels.  While the pairing was a central theme, surrounding setting and plot devices nicely brought out and reinforced the hesitant yet strong connection between the two, yielding for a pretty decent, quick, and enjoyable read.

Spoiler:  On top of a good insta-mate bear shifter story, the author adds a hot lumbersexual and mpreg in a very readable and decently written story – nice work for topics that often veer into incredibly cheesey, simplistic, or sex-focused smutty reads.

Recommended for fans of (spoilers):   Bear shifters, lumbersexuals, mpreg, and couples with kids.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire – Only a couple explicit scenes, but they add an appropriate, nice sizzle to the story.
Passion: heart heart  heart – The instant mate attraction and need for each other was handled in a pretty decent manner, reinforcing the story without losing all believability.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (spoiler):

Human mates, instant/fated mates, mpreg, bisexual character – this story covers many of my favorite themes.

Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage (review)

Tagline: Queer penguin shifters in lust to the rescue!

7&7 Anthology Book Cover

Title: Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage 
Author: C.S. Poe
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (32 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 9781634774864

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.

Synopsis:  Two queer shifters stumble upon each other at WaddleCon, a heterosexual Penguin shifter dating and mating match-up convention.  Wes in his hot eyeglasses rescues the virginal Theo from a woman who has her eye on the gay shifter, and the two men escape to what appears to be a nice, penguin-friendly seafood dinner.  When Theo stumbles across an abandoned egg, the two men are torn by their mutual attraction and a merry but threatening chase to try and save their own hide and maybe an eggling, too.

Review: What a cute, fun read!  Plenty of activity is packed into quick story, including embarrassing situations for the gay virginal Theo and Wes, the hot bisexual underwear model.  The bumbling, attraction, accusations, and an almost farcical pursuits were all briskly woven into an entertaining read.  The author included a nice balance of allusions and themes into a brief setting, from Central Park Zoo’s gay penguin couple to paranormal shifter tropes.  I’m not always a fan of the “instant mate” device, but the author handles something similar rather nicely, alluding to it without directly invoking it, letting the reader incorporate and interpret a couple of possible connections for the protagonist however they would like.

Recommended for fans of: quick, entertaining m/m (non-wolf) shifter reads; gay penguins, stories about couples and kids; those looking for bisexual characters in m/m romance.

Heat: 4/10 – a nice, quick explicit payoff with a fade to black for additional steam between the cuties in lust

Series Review: KinKaid Wolf Pack by Jessica Lee

Tagline: Series of wolf shifter romantic erotica (gay and bisexual)

Bloodlines Book CoverMake Me Book Cover
HeatRisingimg_0079

TitleKinKaid Wolf Pack Series
Author: Jessica Lee

Genre:  Paranormal Erotic Gay and Bi (m/m/f) Romance
Format:  Series of 4 connected stories (166k words)
Series: KinKaid Wolf Pack (4 titles)

Sites: AuthorGoodreads | Amazon

Publisher: Self-Published (2013-2016)

 

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Uneven but heated series with a range of sizzling relationships (two m/m and one MMF menage) and a bit of a story, but best for the (sometimes a bit dominating) sex
The first three installments (two novels and a short story) focus on a pair of wolf shifter twins and their struggle to assert their non-traditional sexuality as it collides with pack traditions and treachery along with plenty of heated encounters.  (These first three were also republished together in a trilogy.) The fourth title (a novella) is set in the same pack, but is not particularly tied in with the previous pack storyline and instead is focused on a new relationship.

The underlying story of a shifter pack going through chage extends through the trilogy (2 novellas and one short story) and had plenty of interesting elements, although the strength of this work (especially the first two installments) is clearly the erotic encounters, so I classify it as romantic erotica.  The fourth book combines some of the strength of the relationship building found in the third book, but with a return to a focus on a male/male relationship with two very strong (and one more dominant) males.

The writing starts weak, although the first two installments have decent m/m sizzle.  Somewhere in the third (MMF) book, the story, dialog and character development exposition become significantly better, and the plot becomes more compelling before the heat rises again. While the fourth book returns to a male couple, the characters and relationship building remain stronger and are more than just filler for the sizzle.

Heat: 7/10 – explicit, repeated (25-30%), some kink (variety of MM, including Domination; MMF)

 


Bloodlines Book Cover

#1- Bloodlines – Free Novella (42k words, 192 pages), m/m
Evin, alpha heir to the KinKaid pack, is banished by his father when he refuses to mate a woman to cement a family and pack alliance. The gay shifter in exile encounters Mason, a human heir to a powerful family also rather outcast because of his sexuality. When the sparks begin to fly, the heated intimacy has great implications for both males’ families, health, and position.
Story is not the strength of this first installment, but there is plenty of m/m heat – (full review)

Make Me Book Cover

#2– Make Me– Short Story (8k words, 30 pages), m/m

The alpha and his mate face threats to the pack from outside, resulting in some fear and relief that leads to hot discipline from the dominant wolf.

Short story with “Yes, alpha!” sizzle –  (full review)


Heat Rising Book Cover
#3 – Heat Rising – Short Novel (59k words, 220 pages), m/m/f
Rosa, twin sister of the KinKaid pack’s alpha, is on the cusp of going into “full heat” and therefore needs to choose a mate, but choosing one of the males she longs for would wound one of her best friends.  Kaleb learns his friends’ secrets and only is likely to spill his own when he’s had one too many.  Landry, the bisexual pack enforcer, knows his lineage and unrequited longings prevent him from pursuing his friends, but his resulting trips to the BDSM club have endangered the pack.
Some nice MMF menage sizzle in a bit of a wolfy story  –  (full review)

 


Sins of the Wolf Book Cover
#4 – Sins of a Wolf – Novella (49k words, 180 pages), m/m
Aydin, a rough wolf pack enforcer with a troubled past, is on probation with his new pack, but biting a human in a bar room brawl is not going to make his position any more secure.  Sin, a recently discharged special forces veteran with family issues of his own, jumps in to help another gay guy from getting bashed in the bar room brawl, only to get bit in the process.  Aydin must track down the fleeing human, as an unaware individual turning into a wolf in the midst of a human population would be problematic in so many ways. The resulting heat between the two tough men is palpable and palatable, but each must overcome past decisions, traumatic memories (including PTSD), and family complications if the connection between them has any chance of deepening.
Palpable and, amidst a bit of outside and “humans dealing with wolves” drama, eventually realized heat between two strong males, one a bit more dominant than the other –  (full review)

KinKaid Wolf Pack Book Cover

#1-3 –KinKaid Wolf Pack Triology – 2 Novellas + Short Story (111k words), m/m, m/m/f

Includes the first two novellas and a short story in the series, exploring twin wolf shifters struggling with sexuality in the midst of pack politics and treachery. Plenty of male/male and MMF sizzle in wolf shifter setting –  (full review)


KinKaid Wolf Pack Trilogy by Jessica Lee (review)

Tagline: Series of wolf shifter romantic erotica (gay and bisexual)

KinKaid Wolf Pack Triology Book Cover

TitleKinKaid Wolf Pack Trilogy
Author: Jessica Lee

Genre:  Paranormal Erotic Gay and Bi (MMF) Romance
Format:  Series of 3 connected stories (107k words)
Series: KinKaid Wolf Pack #1-3

Sites: AuthorGoodreads | Amazon

Publisher: Self-Published (Sep. 2013)
ISBN: 9781301298655

Retail: $5.99

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

 Wolf shifter twins’ sexuality (and heated encounters) collide with pack treachery 

Series: Originally released as three separate installments, this trilogy combines two stories (a novella and a short story) about a gay alpha heir and his beau followed by a third (novella-length) centered on his twin sister and her two best friends. (Individual parts detailed below.) A fourth installment in the same setting (but with a separate story) was published separately.

Synopsis: The story centers on threats, pack power struggles, and the personal lives of twin children of the alpha of the KinKaid pack. The first two installments focus on Evin, the gay alpha heir banished to a world where he meets a human he can’t resist. The last installment covers threats to the pack as well as the impending heat and need to mate of Rosa, Evin’s twin sister. She’s in love with two best friends and can’t choose between them.

Review: The three installments of this series contain plenty of heated scenes, and indeed the strength of the first two parts are the heated encounters between Evin and Mason. The third part, Rosa’s MMF story, has much more plot and more developed story telling.  While it delivers a bit fewer sizzling scenes, it still has several heated encounters between Rosa and her friends.

The work starts out with some formulaic and sometimes very thin writing, with decent story and character ideas that are not fleshed out but simply glossed over on the way to the more heated scenes, clearly the focus of the first two (m/m) stories. In the third installment, parts of the middle crank up the tension and read like they were written by an improved, more experienced and nuanced writer. In all of the books, the setting, plot, and character ideas were sound and much of the exposition weak, but  Rosa’s Heat Rising story had enough substance in the dialog and explored enough character and plot tension to make the build to the climatic scenes more substantive and interesting than the non-sexual portions of Evin and Mason’s stories.

Recommended for: Fans of erotic m/m and m/m/f wolf shifter heated eounters, who don’t mind if the supporting plot is a little weak. The underlying story of a shifter pack going through change extends through the trilogy (2 novellas and one short story) and had plenty of interesting elements, but the strength of this work (especially the first two installments) is clearly the erotic encounters, so I classify this as romantic erotica.

Heat: 7/10 – explicit, repeated (25-30%), some kink (variety of MM, including Domination; MMF)


Bloodlines Book Cover
Bloodlines – Free Novella (42k words, 192 pages), m/m
Evin, alpha heir to the KinKaid pack, is banished by his father when he refuses to mate a woman to cement a family and pack alliance. The gay shifter in exile encounters Mason, a human heir to a powerful family also rather outcast because of his sexuality. When the sparks begin to fly, the heated intimacy has great implications for both males’ families, health, and position.
Plenty of heat – (Full review)

Bloodlines Book Cover

Make Me– Short Story (8k words, 30 pages), m/m

The alpha and his mate face threats to the pack from outside, resulting in some fear and relief that leads to hot discipline from the dominant wolf.

“Yes, alpha!” sizzle –  (Full review)


Bloodlines Book Cover
Heat Rising – Novella (49k words, 180 pages), m/m/f
Rosa, twin sister of the KinKaid pack’s alpha, is on the cusp of going into “full heat” and therefore needs to choose a mate, but choosing one of the males she longs for would wound one of her best friends.  Kaleb learns his friends’ secrets and only is likely to spill his own when he’s had one too many.  Landry, the bisexual pack enforcer, knows his lineage and unrequited longings prevent him from pursuing his friends, but his resulting trips to the BDSM club have endangered the pack.
Some MMF menage steam-  (Full review)

 

Heat Rising by Jessica Lee (review)

Tagline: Mating heat mixed among a bisexual wolf and his two best friends (MMF)

Heat Rising Book Cover

TitleHeat Rising 
Author: Jessica Lee

Genre:  Paranormal Adult Bi (MMF) Romance
Format:  Novella (57k words)
Series: KinKaid Wolf Pack #3

Sites: AuthorGoodreads | Amazon

Publisher: Self-Published (July 2013)
ISBN: 9781301396191

Retail: $2.99

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Synopsis: Rosa, the twin sister of the alpha, has not yet mated, but her full wolf shifter heat is about to be upon her, and she will need to have a mate.  Unfortunately, she cannot choose between the two men she loves, as they are best friends and she does not to pick one over the other.  Landry, the bisexual chief enforcer for the pack, knows his questionable lineage makes him unsuitable for the alpha’s sister.  He is in a quandary over discovering that his past submissive lover at the BDSM club is the scheming brother of a rival pack alpha, while he also tries to tamp down his own feelings for his straight best friend.   Kaleb is dedicated to helping both of his friends through their predicaments, but only lets his only feelings out after a few too many drinks.  As the rival pack plots and schemes, Rosa, Landry and Kaleb are caught in a web of shifter intrigue, raging hormones, and the most dedicated friendship and love.

Review: This installment in the KinKiad Wolf Pack series is more focused on plot than the preceding stories.  While it shares a few of same eye-rolling weaknesses as its predecessors, overall it is much stronger in terms of story and relationship development. Indeed, while it stated out with some formulaic and thin writing, the middle of the novella cranks up the tension more thoroughly, seeming like it was written by a much improved, more experienced and nuanced writer.  In all of the books, the setting, plot, and character ideas were sound while much of the exposition was weak, but in this third installment there was enough meat in the dialog and tension to make the “build up” to the climatic scenes a bit more fleshed out and interesting than in the previous stories.

Recommended for: Readers who need well-developed and written stories might enjoy this story more than the previous ones.  Fans who like to focus on explicit MMF menage scenes in a wolf shifter setting will likely appreciate this novella the most.  Those who also like some addition male/male action (with a different couple) and the full (but not necessarily wonderfully written) backstory should start with the first two installments about Evin and Mason.

Heat: 6/10 – not as much as in the previous stories, but the few scenes are plenty hot and explicit (focused on MMF menage)

Specific (but rambling) minor critiques and little pet peeves (with possible spoilers):

The Male:

The author uses the term “the male” in place of “man” quite often.  I understand this practice and have seen it before, especially in shifter books, as the characters don’t necessarily think of themselves as men (humans), but shifters (or wolves).  On the one hand, this is a bit of “turnabout is fair play,” since so many male characters in shifter  books refer to female wolves as “the female” or “she-wolf” instead of as a woman.  However, since the characters refer to each other as “man,” this logic is at least a little bit inconsistent in this work.  Overall, the fact that the narration and inner-dialogue repeatedly, almost constantly, refereed to “the male” ended up making the prose read rather awkwardly.  For example:

Uncurling his fingers from the male’s biceps, he stepped away.”

There were plenty of times the author could have used other words instead of man (his friend’s biceps, the other’s biceps, the wolf’s biceps, the guy’s biceps, etc.)   A lighter sprinkling of using “the male” would have added a touch of flavor without making so many sentences sound awkward to my ears.

Not quite gay, not completely straight = fucked up

One of the characters was straight, except for his attraction to his best friend.  The “gay for you” trope is one of my least favorites, the way those stories are written often smack of bisexual erasure to me.  In this story, the main character was openly bisexual, which certainly helped make Kaleb’s thoughts about his own sexuality a little less offensive to me.

He wasn’t quite gay, but there was a part of him that wasn’t completely straight either. Christ. That was fucked up.

Given that his best friend was openly and “fully” bisexual, it strikes me as a stretch that being attracted to women but also one particular man is “not quite gay” (sounds pretty far from gay to me) and that not being “completely straight” is fucked up. Still, these words are Kaleb’s musings about his own sexuality (and not a narrative commentary on it), so even if they strike me as almost offensive, it’s certainly something a person struggling with their orientation could think, even if I wouldn’t have expected those thoughts from Landry’s best friend.

BDSM club pick-up line?

“I know a sub when I see one. And, pup, I can tell you’re just itching for someone to call Daddy.”

As I, myself, am a submissive who formerly frequented BDSM clubs, this line just floored me and struck me as ridiculous. If an unfamiliar Dom said that to me in a club, I think I’d be horrified and aghast (as was the target of this line in the book).  But the more I think about it, if the chemistry were right, I could have been flattered by such an over-the-top approach.  In the right situation, maybe a super-cheesy BDSM pickup line would have worked on me? Yikes!

Issues with the “gay for you” trope (not in this book but, unfortunately many others):

Apart from a personal mini-reaction one semi-offensive line (that actually makes some sense for the character who said it), this mini-rant is not directed at this author (who has a rare, fully bisexual character – which is much appreciated).

Often a character at the center of a “gay for you” story seems to be written as 100% straight but, because they are attracted to one man, they are often labelled as fully gay for that person. In other words, there is often with no recognition of bisexuality – that there are plenty of men who are attracted to women and men to some degree or another. Often, the word bisexual is not mentioned at all or maybe be referred to once in a whole story about a “straight” man attracted to another man. In this book, the author includes a fully bisexual character, and over all Kaleb’s confusion lines hit a negative chord with me. (Just a pet peeve of mine, probably worth a more thoughtful, better researched and supported post, but the “fucked up” line just gave me an opportunity for a mini-rant…)

Be My Queen by RayeAnn Carter (review)

Be My Queen Book Cover

Title: Be My Queen
Author: RayeAnn Carter
Genre:  Transgender Romance
Format:  Novella (38k words /114 pages)
Sites: Publisher | Goodreads | Amazon

Publisher: Less Than Three Press  (April 2015)
ISBN: 978162045268

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Tagline:  Handsome bi guy slings into town and sweeps transgendered heroine off her feet

This was a relatively simple, short, and extremely sweet novella regarding a handsome bisexual guy sliding into town and sweeping a young transgendered woman off her feet. It was a quick, nicely escapist, and rather straightforward contemporary romance.  Lavender, the heroine, displayed a nice combination of nervousness, excitement, and pragmatic (if perhaps a bit jaundiced) expectations.  Her struggles with issues related to her physical and mental health, including the safety of living with supportive friends which also exposed her to their tribulations, injected both some obstacles to overcome and at least a little bit of “realism” in the otherwise fairy tale feel of the romance. Diego was a bit of an over-the-top hero, but his “love at first sight” ridiculousness worked just fine in a nicely saccharine story.

Overall, I enjoyed this as a wonderful little “feel good” romance that has protagonists who could use more love and representation in fiction (as well as in non-fiction and real life visibility). It’s fantastic to have a transgendered heroine, which is clearly the draw of this piece, but I was also pleased to read a fun story with a fully realized (i.e. not confused or experimenting) bisexual character.