Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Review of Captive in the dark by CJ Roberts

Caleb is a sex-slave trainer whose plan for revenge involves kidnapping a beautiful young American virgin to train for auction. Olivia wakes to find herself kidnapped by Caleb whom she is unwillingly attracted to despite her fear.

The hardest thing about reviewing any book is remembering how subjective the reading experience is. This is why I always have the 'is it for you' section. There is a big difference for me between saying a book is poorly written/executed and saying I didn't enjoy it. On one hand, I couldn't stop reading this (a clear sign of a great book), but at the same time I did not want to. In fairness maybe I should have expected what was coming when the book clearly indicates it is about the sex trafficking trade, and constrains disturbing situations but I was still shocked by the brutality. 

I read a few reviews where people said things like "really sexy sex scenes", or described it as BDSM. I find this misleading. I have read quite a bit of BDSM and the motto of the BDSM community is "Safe, Sane, and CONSENSUAL". Even if characters don't always enjoy what is happening in BDSM, it is a far cry from non-consensual rape. I just feel it is important to make that distinction to anyone who may read this. It is very dark erotica.

The heroine Olivia is tortured and sodomised against her will by Caleb. While at times she is forced to feel pleasure, for the most part she is distressed, afraid and unwilling. While this is a 'deal breaker' for me in terms of investing in the romance, it was a roller-coaster ride of emotion that had me desperate to find out what would happen to Olivia. 

What this book does have going for it is Olivia's reactions were actually very believable. It is not one of those books where when the heroine actually really enjoys her capture and just resists for the sake of pride. You get the whole spectrum of emotion here. 

I won't say don't read this, I won't say you won't enjoy it. Just be prepared.

Is it for you?
IF YOU LOVE: Erotica that blurs the lines. If you like your erotic extra dark and your hero's more screwed up than Christian Grey then you may enjoy this.

IF YOU HATE: Non-Consensual sex. Abusive relationships, torture, and horror themes avoid this.

Rating = 3.5 out of 5
Characters 4/5
Plot 3/5
Voice 4/5
LOVE factor 3/5

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Review of Siren by Tiffany Reisz

   This is not a book that you fall in love with - it is a story that enthralls you. There is something so real and tangible about this book that pulls you in and does not release you until you put it down completed. Tiffany Reisz warns us repeatedly that this is not a romance - it is the anti-romance. She does not lie. But, at the heart of it lies a beautiful and haunting love story. It is dark and sometimes disturbing. It is erotic but by no means is this erotica. Sex may be the undercurrent of this story but it is not thrown in for thrills, it is simply an essential part of the journey.

   Nora is a Sub/Dom switch and dominatrix as well as an erotic author trying to move on to something deeper and more meaningful in her work. Zachery is her editor with little respect for her style of writing. While it starts off feeling like a romance between these two characters it soon becomes clear that they are both still deeply entangled in past relationships. This is what Reisz has really done differently; it is about two sexually attracted people not destined for each other, who help each-other discover/rediscover themselves.

   Reisz employs some compelling and creative story-telling techniques. All throughout there are snippets of Nora's book. We never know for sure how much of these snippets are fiction but they feel like memories of Nora's relationship with Soren, although she tells him she destroys what she writes about him.

   Nora herself is witty, strong, sexual and ambitious. She is warm and caring but also damaged. She is the perfect counterpart to Zachery who is stuffy and cynical. I liked and felt for both characters.

   It is very unusual to read a love story about two people where a love interest hardly appears other than in memory - but that is how Soren is portrayed. He is at the centre but it is not about him. He is a character that I found it very hard to decide my feelings for. While he is everything that makes a Dom sexy, and he is utterly sexy, there is so much about him, and his relationship with Nora that is extremely disturbing, and many would say very wrong.

   Essentially Reisz makes us question who decides what is, or can be considered right or wrong in a relationship.  While I felt Nora genuinely believes there was nothing shameful about her relationship with Soren, and that she can only thrive in such a relationship, I was not convinced. It was not that it was a BDSM, it was not that she was hurt, dominated, humiliated and even violated that made me uncomfortable, it was the way the relationship began. 

   The fact that Nora was 'groomed' from fifteen years old by a man who was in a position of authority, who should never have touched her disturbed me. The justification is that Nora was a troubled youth who needed that to save her.

   Just because I am uncomfortable with the relationship did not make the love, or the bonds less real. In the end equal parts of me want and did not want the final outcome. I would have struggled with the ending if I did not know there was a sequel. It is not always a comfortable read but it is a clever and captivating read that I am glad to have experienced.

Is it for you?
IF YOU LOVE: BDSM this gives a deeper and more genuine insight into what is behind it. If you want to read a romance that is free from almost all cliche's and troupes this delivers.
IF YOU HATE: Dark romance, relationships with violence, and promiscuous characters this will make you uncomfortable. Contains religious themes that may offend some readers.

Rating = 4.5 out of 5
Characters 4/5
Plot 5/5
Voice 5/5
LOVE factor (possible 1 point Bonus) +.5

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A Review of Taken, by Kellie Maine

This is a very difficult review for me to write. Firstly because I fear sending mixed messages, and secondly because I don't want to sound like a preachy writer. I had this book on my wishlist before it was released. The blurb drew me in immediately. I love a good captive scenario, and the cover... the cover sent shivers down my spine. There is something beautifully erotic about it without being vulgar.

For me this book failed to live up to the sensual promise made by the blurb and the cover. The hero while a billionaire was not very alpha despite kidnapping Rachael. It did not possess the erotic power-play I expected.

The biggest let down was that the plot made no sense. The motives of the characters did not seem believable in any way. Rachel would not take a job for the sake of her mother. So Merrick learns about her and decides to kidnap her for her own sake... Maybe, maybe on some deluded planet that might be feasible IF (and this is the bit that shatters the plot) he did not manage to send her mother on a holiday before kidnapping her. The fact he was able to do that proved he could have reasoned with Racheal, talked to her mother (maybe sent her away anyway) and convinced her. There was in fact no reason or motive for kidnap. Rachel's reservations seemed extreme and made completely irrational considering how easily her mother took to her going away.

However, I STILL recommend reading this, especially if you are a writer. This is one of those books that will give you a chance to learn, and experience something new. It is written in the second person, something most people have not experienced in fiction. Many people will not be able to enjoy it for that reason alone, it is very disconcerting.  I would recommend reading it for the experience.

Second person perspective has the Narrator (Racheal the "I" Character) address the reader directly as "You". This means Racheal says things like "You smile. Dimples pierce your cheeks. Your eyes flash. I can't resist". It is a powerful way of writing because the Narrator is talking to you, engaging you in conversation. It is important when a writer chooses a POV to know why they are doing it and who they are doing it for. I don't think Kellie Maine did, which is why this perspective works less well than it should.

The problem with the POV is the reader was forgotten! This is an erotic romance, it is targeted to an almost all female readership. Yet "You" is Merrick! That means that the reader is the male character. It is disconcerting enough to adjust to this POV, without having references made to my non-existent penis. If this was written from Merrick's perspective it would be much, much better. "You" would be Racheal, and the hot hunky Merrick would be able to talk to us directly, seduce us personally, and tell us how we make him feel. It would be like your sexiest hero's coming to life in your romance book to seduce you directly. But no, instead of that you get to read some chick telling you about how much of a man you are... Fail.

Despite my humble opinion sales do talk, and this book preformed well. Its release had perfect timing coming straight of the back of Fifty Shade. Maybe this influenced that result but hey, you can't argue figures. I would really, really love to hear other people's perspective on this one!

Is it for you?

IF YOU LOVE: Reading styles different to what you a used to, this will give you that. If you like the Billionaire/normal girl style romance this is that.

IF YOU HATE: Contrived story lines and characters then don't read this. If you just want something you can fall into without trying then this is not for you.

Overall, I did not get into Taken. I am not sure if it is the fault of the POV or the plot itself. I am glad I read it though and had a chance to experience this style in a romance. Also there were some really pretty phrases.

Characters 3/5
Plot 2/5
Voice 4/5
Love Factor (Possible 1 point bonus) 0

Rating 3/5