Kidnapped by Xondra Day

Title: Kidnapped

Author: Xondra Day

Genre: Erotica

Length: Short (35 pgs)

Publisher: Evernight Publishing (17th May 2017)

Heat Level: Moderate – Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3 Hearts

Blurb: Sam Kindley has lived a rocky life. Being a hired gun for a local crime lord isn’t easy, but it pays well, so what’s a guy to do? Life is routine. The boss gives him a job and he completes it without incident.

Kidnapping Tyler Hanson and holding him for ransom seems like an easy enough task. But Sam never expected to be attracted to his mark. When sparks fly between them things become complicated. The heat sears and after a couple of hot encounters emotions quickly become involved.

Tyler Hanson never thought that he’d actually like his kidnapper, but his world is turned upside down in a moment of lust. Things are never what they seem, but maybe it’s all for the best. There’s much more to Sam than his rough and gruff exterior.
In a most unconventional scenario can love survive? Will Tyler?

ISBN: 978-1-77339-287-5

Product Link: Evernight Publishing | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chase

Review: This is definitely the gritty side of Stockholm Syndrome. Standard rape fetish tags apply.

For the length, too much was stuffed into it at once. It wanted to be a political thriller, but it also wanted to be a porn shoot. Alas. It had already rented the studio for a day, tops, and gotten the guys’ clothes off by the time they decided to go with the thriller.

The constant perspective switching was jarring. Would have been more immersive if Day had picked one character’s PoV and stuck to it.

This said, I’d be interested in seeing Day’s future work after a proficient edit. Kudos for making me squirm with classic gay daddy issues re: “ugh, this guy’s an asshole… and so’s my dad.”

Unabated by Ryan Field

Title: Unabated

Author: Ryan Field

Genre: Erotic Romance

Length: Novel (199pgs)

Publisher: Ryan Field Press (28th April 2016)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥ 4 Hearts

Blurb: Danny and Vince have an almost perfect gay marriage in New York, and then they move to a small gay enclave in the suburbs of Pennsylvania where they discover something interesting: most of the older gay couples have open marriages. Danny and Vince are still in their twenties, and everything about their lives is new and exciting. So when they leave New York to be closer to Vince’s job as a TV weather person in Pennsylvania, they discover they’re interested in exploring the possibilities of an open gay marriage, too. In the midst of all this “adulting,” from being first time homeowners to buying a new car, the changes Danny and Vince experience in the small town of Penn’s Grant lead them to new sexual and emotional experiences they never had in New York. They not only meet gay couples who have been together for decades, but a few who have been leading double lives and hiding deep dark secrets that have ruled their lives. Thanks to his new open gay marriage, Danny discovers a few secrets about his own strong desires for men he never knew existed. Will their open gay marriage ruin them both forever, or will it wind up bringing them closer together? And will the move to Penn’s Grant turn them into the small town gay couple they never wanted to become in the first place?

ISBN: 9781311942876

Product Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chase

Review: While swingers are far from my preferred genre, I jumped on this book for the opportunity to read something written both by and for the actual members of the gay/mlm community. What Field advertises is a story of identity/sexual exploration, self-discovery, double lives, growth as gay men, and some teasings of gay history. This is what I’ll be paying the most attention to.

The first tidbit that strikes me is that Danny works as a freelance writer, to which I smirk and announce, “hashtag own voices” while my partner is trying to sleep (sorry partner!). To be fair, I give TV shit about that all the time, too.

There’s a certain ache of recognition in just hearing some dynamics of your own relationship described. I hear from people in heterosexual relationships who haven’t so much as kissed in years, who don’t have any clue how to initiate intimacy let alone sex. Meanwhile, 10 pages in: yep, there’s the middle-of-convo buttgrab of a regular couple who hasn’t had the chance to forget what oral feels like (or what it’s like to take advantage of a stairwell). Thank fuck.

I am grateful for the way race was addressed in this: frankly, respectfully, and without sugaring up how the average person actually *does* address race.

Our narrator has a subtle hand at introducing the things that annoy the fuck out of him but he doesn’t want to say outright. The battle of following his family of origin’s rules is both intriguing and familiar.

The politics are believable, both to the tune of laughs and sighs.

I am not Romani, and I am not sure how the American Romani experience differs from elsewhere or if the author is Romani. If Field is not, he’s treaded into some disappointingly face-palming levels of stereotyping here. If he is, well, we’ve all internalized shit we’re told about ourselves, but it sucks when we start inflicting it on our own communities, too.

I got a kick out of Nick’s “detective” story arch.

Speaking of Nick, minor nitpick: always double-check who “Nick” really is. It seems like the author might have planned him in two different roles than he eventually ended up in, and that that slipped through editing.

Four stars and recommending to my friends, even if Danny never does realize how awesome pickup trucks are. Delightful read.

Sam’s Story: It’s Good for Your Health by Dylan Joseph

Title: Sam’s Story: It was good, good for my health

Author: Dylan Joseph

Genre: LGBT literature, poetry

Length: Novel (209 pages) (poetry)

Publisher: Self-published

Heat Level: Mild

Heart Rating: ♥ 1 Heart

Blurb: When Dylan agreed to take a trip with his mom to a South Carolina campground, he wasn’t expecting much—until he met Sam, the lifeguard at the indoor pool. From that moment on, Dylan and Sam are thrust into a roller coaster of self-discovery. For them, even life’s most ordinary moments—brushing one’s teeth, playing a game of basketball, watching the sky—become precious. Sam’s Story is a poetic and heart melting read. Sam’s Story is more than a love story. It is about being human, it is about listening to our own crazy thoughts. It is about our own fears, how we deal with our emotions, and how we navigate through life. It is a reminder that love is possible for everyone. No matter the struggle being gay can be, you will pull through. You will find love. You will meet the guy you are destined to meet. And you will feel so good.

ISBN-10: 1539681300
• ISBN-13: 978-1539681304

Product Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chase

Review: Within the first sixty seconds, I am filled with reviewer’s remorse.

The book started with an out-of-place Chinese proverb to backdrop a couple of white gay guys, followed by a shock value reference to gas chambers that’s apparently supposed to be funny.

The blurb described this book as “poetic”. Which led me to think, “a’ight, one of the protagonists are hardcore romantics”. I hadn’t realized that meant “this book is actually supposed to be an experimental poem format”. Blurb does not at all meet the expectations it sells at all.

I like poetry, but this reads like trying too hard to sound clever rather than the succinct, deep descriptions of life that he seems to be aiming for.

I got to “chapter” two, skimmed to get a heat rating, and never picked the book back up.

Shadow of Doubt by H. Beryl

Title: Shadow of Doubt

Author: H. Beryl

Genre: Erotica, Paranormal

Length: 110 pages

Publisher: eXtacy Books (17th January 2017)

Heat Level: Explicit but tame

Heart Rating: 1 Heart

Blurb: What happens when one man has such a great talent that the US Government could use his help? A talent that the military could use as a weapon that makes the man frightened and even the Department of Homeland Security finds an interest in the sparks he produces.

One cop from a small town turns to help and protect him and even finds love where this cops wasn’t looking for any relationship.

ISBN: 978-1-4874-0981-4

Product Link: eXtasy Books | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chase

Review: At this point I’ve learned to read eXtacy books as self-published, with all the range that that entails.

There’s a sort of melancholy that takes me a while to shake every time PoC presence is invoked as a [villainous/expendable] backdrop. That melancholy is ramped up to full-fledged horror here.

All the black characters talk in the same style of satirized, childish Ebonics, including the kids. There are southern white accented characters who aren’t written with ‘accents,’ despite their accent being emphasized. The plot is cardboard, and none of the characters come off as particularly distinct beyond professions and the love interest’s superpower which he literally uses to fry an entire ‘gang’ of Black guys without remorse. Not sure it’s ever explained why a bunch of “stupid” Black guys are the villains in a government conspiracy.

Quote: “They were all dressed in what one would see in the movies, all in low hanging pants and too many necklaces and carrying knives” was the last line I managed to read.

Sex scene was rushed instaromance.

Thief of Hearts by E.D. Parr

Title: Thief of Hearts

Author: E. D. Parr

Genre: Erotica Contemporary

Length: Short (47 pgs)

Publisher: Evernight Publishing (12th June 2017)

Heat Level: Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3 Hearts

Blurb: Thirty year-old lawyer, Blake Aster gazes from his high-rise office window wondering if this summer he’ll find love, but deep inside he doubts anyone will ever want him again. He can’t forget the scar he has running the length of his face.

Hunky, daring, Alex Ryan is cleaning the building windows. Struck by the mythical beauty in Blake’s office, Alex sets out to get the other man’s attention. Maybe a striptease outside Blake’s eighth floor window will do the trick.

ISBN: 978-1-77339-310-0

Product Link: Evernight Publishing | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chas

Review: Things really pick up in the second chapter. Alex has a solid, distinct voice, and that voice is gushing over how hot Scarface here is. I’m laughing within the first paragraph. Thank you, Alex. This book probably would have done great being told explicitly from Alex’s perspective for the first half.

Hits some lovely exhibitionism notes. Major points for two guys who understand the importance of safe sex in their rendezvous.

Also highlights rich lifestyle, for those who are into that.

From the cheeky blurb, I’d been expecting something less angst and more romcom. It tried to be a thriller and a romance, but where it spent the most details by far was the sex scenes. This style of writing would have been more believable to me as an established, kinky couple.

Master Lover by Jan Suzukawa

Title: Master Lover

Series: SDS Robots, 02

Author: Jan Suzukawa

Genre: Science Fiction, Erotica

Length: Short (31 pages)

Publisher: Evernight Publishing (10th May 2016)

Heat Level: Moderate – Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3 Hearts

Blurb: Joon is the most highly sought after Dominant at the Humanistic Garden brothel on the Yotair pleasure satellite.

Trained in the BDSM erotic arts, the 6’2” blue-eyed sex robot services human and alien men, fulfilling their darkest fantasies. Joon is the consummate professional, delivering satisfaction to humans and aliens alike. But behind his perfect face he harbors a secret desire. Feelings for a special client he tells no one.

What Joon doesn’t know is that his special client has his own secret desire…about Joon.

ISBN: 978-1-77233-845-4

Product Link: Evernight Publishing | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chase

Review: I am reading this after already having read the first of the series, and so my judgment is primarily as a series rather than standalone. Again: solid, polished writing that is in no need of editing.

The pairings are a rich blushing virgin, and a rich inventor who wants to be spanked because apparently that absolves him of his crimes. Not my type, but I know plenty of readers enjoy that.

However, we get into racial description problems right from page 1. “Dark” skin is not really descriptive beyond “not white” and has been a lazy skin descriptor of lighter folk for far too long – what “dark” means to white, white-passing, and other pale-skinned people is quite different than what is “dark” to readers who are not.

That said, I’m glad to see someone who’s not light-skinned being portrayed attractively, however briefly. I just wish it wasn’t in a stereotypically servile role, especially when there are no other characters of his portrayed race represented in higher/more respected capacities.

The clinical language used for Joon’s robotic perceptions of sex are immersive, and at points help to show a shift in demeanor.

I’m unnerved that this is the second book in a row describing a blue-eyed, Caucasian man as the type of man virtually everyone finds most desirable. Again, we have an Asian patron fawning over a constructed white guy who is beautiful because he is as white as can be. Joon too engages in this type of behavior, absolutely smitten with a white guy and his lovingly described pale skin. There is a major plot point which only further ‘enhances’ this kind of narrative, which I won’t spoil here. I understand internalized racism; it’s just gutting to see it in action.

This work is less vanilla than the last. BDSM is prevalent, as are multiple partners. Prostitution and promiscuity is normalized in this world, to the point anyone not perusing both frequently is considered eccentric.

Though it’s anime science full-throttle, the transition from robot to human reads as metaphorical to me: as someone in a highly dissociated state coming to terms with themself, their emotions and their mortality.

Enjoyed a brief nod to previous characters from the prior work without making things not make sense.

Aftermarket Lover by Jan Suzukawa

Title: Aftermarket Lover

Series: SDS Robots, 01

Author: Jan Suzukawa

Genre: Science Fiction, Erotica

Length: Short (33 pages)

Publisher: Evernight Publishing (22nd July 2014)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥ 4 Hearts

Blurb: Ashton Cheng mines for gold on a lonely planet at the edge of the Milky Way. His boring routine is interrupted by the last thing he expects: a free one-week trial with a sex robot.
Lin is a sex and domestic services robot with human emotions—a hybrid. Ash is drawn to Lin, but Lin’s hybrid status isn’t the only thing that’s different about him…

ISBN: 978-1-77130-934-9

Product Link: Evernight Publishing | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chase

Review: This is way higher brow than I was expecting for robot sex. I’m impressed. This book is polished, the prose flows well, and the story is told in a straightforward manner.

Surprisingly realistic world.

Sex scenes are refreshingly realistic, especially regarding stamina after, ahem, long in-betweens.

There are clever turns in this, as well as some uncomfortable levels of soul-searching. Bring it.
I was disappointed by the “tidiness,” so to say, of medical procedures and how they were evaluated, but I think that says a lot about how much Suzukawa has already built my expectations up for realism in a genre notorious for bumrushing things.

Hyperfocusing on genitalia as a metaphor for humanity fell flat, again, because Suzukawa has already shown off a knack for finer details and subtlety.

All in all, a decent read for cis gays.

Perfect Game by Casey Cameron

Title: Perfect Game

Series: Legendary Pairs, 01

Author: Casey Cameron

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novella (112pgs) 12 chapters, plus page stuffing back matter with 5 different excerpts

Publisher: Casey Cameron

Heat Level: Low – Moderate

Heart Rating: 1 Heart

Blurb: “Hate the player, love the game…or was that the other way around?” 

Research biologist Neil Parkinson had to give up a lot in pursuit of his Ph.D–his friends, his music, his home town–but the one thing he managed to hang on to was Legendary Pairs, the hyper-competitive collectible card game that has propelled so many nerds just like him to fame and fortune. With a new job in a new city, loneliness drives him out of his apartment and into The Ogre’s Den–a haven for local players, amateur and pro alike. Neil never aspired to be a professional gamer, but that was before he met Robin. 

“Why even play, if you don’t play to win?” 

Robin Abboud is cocky, brash, argumentative…and absolutely gorgeous. He may be a lowly caterer with a crappy car, but this game is the one place where he’s a top dog, and boy does he know it. Robin’s end-game goal is to play in the Legendary Pairs Pro Tour; he’s got the skill to do it, and from the moment he meets Neil, he’s convinced Neil does too. His flirty bravado gets under Neil’s skin like nothing else, but he runs so hot-and-cold that Neil can’t figure out if the two of them are competitors, friends…or something more. 

“Don’t tell me this is just a game to you. I know better.” 

When Robin convinces Neil to join him on a road trip to a major tournament, there’s more on the line than just the cash prize. Even as the two of them clash on the field of the tournament, Neil’s feelings for Robin are growing impossible to ignore. But could Robin ever feel the same way? The longer they spend together, the more Neil risks showing his whole hand. Is a perfect match in the cards for these two, or will their in-game rivalry tear them apart? 

Perfect Game is a 25,000 word stand-alone romance novella with lots of heat, deliciously nerdy sweetness, and a happily-ever-after ending with no cliffhangers.


Product Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Reviewer: Napoleon A. Chase

Review: I chose this book because I’m a nerd and because I’m forever chasing that rare black-haired, brown-eyed protagonist.

This book instantly hits the problem many books hit when describing someone of a race that is not your own: “He looked ambiguously ethnic in a faintly Middle Eastern way, with deep olive-tan skin, dark hair and eyes, and a hint of a hook nose that drew the eye naturally…”
“Ethnic” is a poorly named grocery aisle, not a human being.

That said: mixed race Middle Eastern guy. Go on.

Chemistry is established immediately, which I dig. Gamer dynamic is accurate. Neil’s your typical stuffed-in-lockers variety of nerd; Robin comes off as a little Gary-Stuish since we pan into him Evil Masterminding a win against another competent player with no suggestion that there’s some element of chance to a card game.

Robin’s showing off strikes the right chords. I might have enjoyed this novel more if it had been written from his perspective.

Neil could be rewritten easily into a cis straight girl, which was disappointing but par for the course.
If you enjoy the smell of fandom tropes, this author has the cologne for you.

There were parts I enjoyed that I‘ve been robbed of due to layers of racism that just get worse and worse as the book goes on.

It was super creepy to have the one PoC painted as a guy without any real prospects, just one – and then sees that wiped out by the random white guy he brings along. Then we get to see him have an absolutely childish tantrum while Neil plays the Arbiter of Rationality White Guy role that all too often happens whenever an argument, no matter how valid, occurs between PoC and white people who can’t even agree that grass is usually green.

This particular brand of “stupid and childish” is one that gets thrown at Middle Eastern guys almost as often as it gets thrown at black guys.

I ended up reading reviews to see if there was any hint of it coming back from this. There wasn’t. Gave up reading in the beginning of the make-up sex scene in which Robin is made to grovel for being a bad little boy.