Escaping Exile by Sara Dobie Bauer

Edmund finds himself shipwrecked on an island with an exiled vampire and a group of cannibals for company. And you thought your day wasn’t going so well?

What’s it About? 

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Andrew is a vampire from New Orleans, exiled to a tropical island in the 1800s as punishment for his human bloodlust. During a storm, a ship crashes off shore. After rescuing a sailor from the cannibals native to the land, Andrew becomes fascinated with his brilliant, beautiful new companion, Edmund.

Edmund is a British naturalist who has sailed the world seeking new species. Intrigued by creatures that might kill him, immortal Andrew is this scientist’s dream-but so is making his way back home. Edmund will fight to survive, even while wrapped in the arms of a monster.

As light touches and laughter turn to something much more passionate, the cannibals creep ever closer to Edmund. Can the ancient vampire keep his human alive long enough to escape exile and explore their newfound love, or will Andrew’s bloodlust seal his own doom?

First Impression

When Edmund first washes ashore on this lonely island in the middle of nowhere, Andrew thinks it’s his lucky day. He’s finally managed to capture a potential food source away from the hungry cannibals he’s been sharing this island with during his exile for the last few years. Once Andrew gets a good look at this stranger though he realizes that he desires him in another way beyond food. The brilliance of this read is that we all know it’s simply a matter of time before Andrew gives into his hunger for this man. His desire is so strong it’s an inevitability. What we don’t know though is which hunger he’ll succumb to first. His physical desire for Edmund, or his stomach’s need for sustenance? For a short read of only 83 pages, there’s definitely a building sense of anticipation as Andrew’s hunger grows, which begs to question if Edmund will come out unscathed on the other end. We want them to come together, but you sort of hold your breath in the process as you wonder if Andrew will be able to keep his darker hunger for Edmund in control.

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Exiling a Monster

The bulk of this novella takes place on the island, but we do get a few flashbacks here and there where we get a glimpse of Andrew in New Orleans before his exile. While there was a good balance between island time vs. flashback, I do wish we had more fully explored Andrew’s relationship with Michelle, the leader of his coven. She’s the one who exiled him to this tiny island full of cannibals, yet I can’t say I fully understand the reasons behind his exile. I mean yeah, sure, he killed a lot of blokes back in New Orleans, but…they’re vampires. Isn’t that sort of their modus operandi?

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We even get a very revealing flashback scene wherein we witness Andrew’s camaraderie with another member of his coven who seemed even more heartless and reckless than Andrew. At least Andrew seemed to want to bring his victims to unspeakable pleasure before drinking up every last drop of blood. Gotta look for a bright side, right? Obviously there must have been a building animosity from Michelle towards Andrew, but I would have liked maybe one additional flashback scene where we see why Michelle was so fed up with him that exile was the only option. It’s not only the impetus behind his very presence on this island, but I think it also could have revealed a very interesting and perhaps darker side to Andrew’s nature and character.

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The Cynic in Me

From the minute that Andrew finds Edmund on this beach you want them to end up together. However, a very small and cynical part of me couldn’t help but wonder if this is actually love, or just a convenient answer to Andrew’s last four years of solitude. Don’t get me wrong, I positively love the idea of them together. The naturalist and the vampire? Perfect. Upon discovery of Andrew’s dark creature hiding within, Edmund can’t help but want to study him. He’s spent the better part of his life traveling the world looking for new species, and he’s certainly hit the mother-load on this tiny island. You can’t help but question though if their intense connection is due to Andrew’s admiration of Edmund’s spunky attitude, or if he’s just so thrilled to finally have the presence of an able-bodied male on this island who happens to have the same sexual tastes as himself. I want to believe their love is true. However, considering not only their brief time together, but also the rather short length of the book, I’m not 100% convinced that we were presented with enough scenes demonstrating the depth of their feelings for each other.

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A Saving Grace?

It’s not long before both Andrew and Edmund indulge in their desire for each other. As their love for each other grows, so does their intense wish to escape from this hellish island. I have a feeling though that getting off the island may not eventually prove to be the saving grace they were both hoping for. Sure, they may have had cannibals for neighbors, but who out there doesn’t have at least one neighbor that they’re not a huge fan of? At least on the island they could both be themselves with each other, wrapped up all day long in their passion. We have to wonder if Andrew will be the same loving and in-control vampire he became on the island after he is let loose once again among the numerous temptations of New Orleans. Will his increased access to blood drive him to revert to his old ways, with a different kill and a different man in his arms every night? Or will his love for Edmund hold true once they leave the island behind them? I can’t wait to find out what’s in store next for our unlikely couple!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Escape Trilogy, book 1. There’s a really intriguing concept which is introduced at the end that will leave you wanting more!

Final Impression: I definitely understand why this book was shorter in length, as we are essentially dealing with two men trapped on an island alone together. If it was much longer we could easily run the risk of entering boredom territory. That being said, I think I would have liked to have seen two additional scenes. One which dealt more with Michelle’s reasons for exiling Andrew in the first place, and one more which maybe highlights an even deeper connection between Edmund and Andrew. They definitely open up with each other, and confide some crucial details of their respective pasts, but I think just one more scene could have cemented my belief in their relationship.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaamn. These two get to be all kinds of sweaty. Edmund asks Andrew to strip out of his clothes so he can conduct a full scientific examination of this unique species. Sure buddy, like that’s your only reason for asking him to shed his breeches 😉 What follows his plenty of kissing, licking, sucking, rutting, thrusting and of course biting that will be sure to make this day at the beach positively sweltering.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. NineStar Press. 83 Pages.

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A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet

Two men with a past. Will their mutual obsession with art draw them closer together, or drive a wedge between them forever?

What’s it About?

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An honorable artist: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .

A hedonistic viscount: Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process.

Sinner and saint–can both win at love? But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?

First Impression

A feature you notice from the very opening page of this book, and which the author should be commended for, is that it truly feels as though we have been transported to the Regency Era. I’m sure some of you are thinking that for a 19th century historical read, we damn well better feel like we’re in the 1800s. Well, hear me out! To write a historical romance is one thing, but to feel as though the novel was actually written in the 1800s? That’s a talent all in itself. From the syntax to the British slang, the work felt reminiscent of something written by Jane Austen or Frances Burney. While it was a noticeably admirable trait of the novel, it did also make for a slightly slower read. What can I say? It took me some time to decipher what the characters were actually trying to say. But I also couldn’t deny that my desire for a pot of tea and tray of cucumber sandwiches grew stronger with every page turned.

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Classic Beauty vs. the Unnatural

In my opinion, the true mastery of this novel lay not necessarily with the romance between Benedict and Dulcie, but instead through their discussions and debates of art. Benedict’s goal in life is to open a national art museum for the British people. All British people, regardless of class, station, or wealth. Dulcie on the other hand is one of the leading art critics of the day, with his sights set on acquiring unique pieces for his own private collection. The heated discussions which erupt between the two, as well as with their fellow high-class art peers, were so insightful and thought-provoking that you couldn’t help but feel moved to take up an opinion on the matter as well. As the novel progresses we see a shift in the conversation from who is worthy of appreciating good art to who decides what good art is in the first place. The scrutiny placed on the artistic system was riveting, as our characters understand that sometimes you have to look beyond the paint to what is hiding underneath.

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What hit me the most though was how this discussion of art and beauty could find direct symmetry in the romance between Benedict and Dulcie. The two are art connoisseurs, yet they can both appreciate the talent in an artistic piece that might not be considered classically beautiful. While some might view tangled limbs and an imperfect male specimen on a canvas as grotesque, they are both enamored with the emotion such a piece can evoke in the viewer, and therefore can’t deny that it deserves praise. Even if the majority of their contemporaries don’t agree with them.

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Do me a favor. Do yourselves a favor. Stop talking, and look. You’re not required to write a paper. You’re not even required to like it. You *are* required to consider it. – Mona Lisa Smile

When we look at Benedict and Dulcie’s relationship, the majority of regency society would also look upon it as something grotesque and unnatural. And sadly, there are many in our own time who would see it in the same context. But what lies underneath the surface? What do you have when you push the physical component to the side. What lies beneath the paint? Simple, it’s love. Love between two consenting adults who want to spend the rest of their lives together. Love is love and romance is for all. While they can see the beauty in this, and a minuscule number of their contemporaries understand it, for the majority it is seen as too far removed from what society deems as “right” or “proper”. Again, the parallels between their love and the discussion of modern art was so subtly clever that I’m still thinking about it.

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Romance vs. Challenge

While I was fully entranced by the discussion of art for the masses, unfortunately there was one aspect of the novel that I’m sorry to say I had a much harder time falling in love with. And that would be Dulcie. Now, let me start off by saying that eventually he does manage to redeem himself by becoming a devoted partner and friend once again to Benedict. The problem is that it took sooooo long to happen. Throughout the novel Benedict is this adorable, wide-eyed puppy dog that I just wanted to pick up and snuggle, even though he definitely has some bark behind his bite. When it came to Dulcie though, he was like a predatory hawk. Constantly circling, searching for who he could mess with next.

Ok, ok, so a hawk might be too harsh a comparison. How about a puppet master who loved to pull the strings of others? He could tease, seduce and manipulate with the best of ’em. It was really a struggle to know whether or not his heart was ever behind his pursuit of Benedict, or if it was simply a challenge to regain Benedict’s childhood affections. Again, eventually we see Dulcie open up with Benedict, and share some of his innermost thoughts, feelings and fears. I just wish it had come a bit earlier on in the novel. Something else which I think could have helped me warm up to Dulcie earlier was if we could have received a prologue to show how the two initially connected at school all those years before. We see the moment where their interaction ends, and towards the end of the novel we realize how both of them suffered following the end of their friendship, but the missing element for me was that initial crucial moment which connected them in the first place.

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Let’s Get Physical…Or Not

Duclie’s pursuit of Benedict throughout the novel is fairly relentless. Both admit to an undeniable attraction that seems to be pulling the two of them together. For Benedict though, he doesn’t want anything to happen between them unless Dulcie is willing to offer up his mind in addition to his body. For Dulcie? He’s basically just looking for a good ole rough and tumble in the back room of a tavern. He employs all the seductive looks, touches, and smirks at his disposal to try and sway Benedict to his line of thinking. Essentially, he’s a classic playboy. What I found to be so fascinating though was what happened when the two finally did get physical.

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There’s some rubbing, some tugging, some “spending”. Anything beyond that though? Shockingly this is where Dulcie becomes more reserved! Throughout the whole novel his attitude and confidence towards getting Benedict in his hands sort of implies that he’d be the expert and dominant when it came to the physical side of their relationship. What debauchery might they get into when the seducer finally captures his prey? Who knew it would be the complete opposite with Benedict being the more experienced one?!?! It was very interesting to hear Dulcie’s rather negative opinion towards the concept of oral sex, not to mention penetration, almost as though it was beneath his high stature to engage in such uncivilized and…unsanitary behavior. I have a feeling Benedict might succeed in changing his opinion on that matter though 😉

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Penningtons, book 4. This was the first book I read in this series, and I will admit I had trouble with the links between some of the different characters. It was kind of difficult to understand the relationship and familial webs at times.

Final Impression: Overall I can’t say I was fully connected to Dulcie and Benedict as a couple. I couldn’t help but feel that Dulcie’s eventual transformation into a caring and selfless lover came a bit too late in the game for me, and if anything I wanted more for Benedict. As a social and artistic commentary though it was an enthralling read. There are arguments about classic beauty versus opening the mind to modern interpretations that will keep you thinking for a few days.

Smut Level: Any time a couple can successfully balance on a chaise longue whilst exploring each other’s bodies deserves honorable mention. While we don’t get any scenes involving penetration, we get a few decent kissing scenes, tingling spines, tightening of groins, cock-stands, and “spending” a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Bliss Bennet Books. 298 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: The Mate by Abigail Owen. Paranormal, Shifters.