A Lord to Love by Sara Dobie Bauer

This is one of those novellas that will be over before you know it, and leave you craving for more!

What’s it About? 51-6F+eseoL

During negotiations for a truce between the feuding Price and Morgan families, Lord John Morgan makes a shocking offer: he will give the Price family their land, in exchange for Harrison Price’s hand in marriage. John has long been enamored with Harrison, the beautiful son of his late rival. Harrison is nineteen, inexperienced, and known for being cold and bitingly brilliant. The union seems impossible, but John is determined to win the affections of his young obsession. Will the frigid Harrison concede, or will the object of John’s adoration leave him alone at the altar?

First Impressions

I didn’t realize before starting this book just how quick of a read it was going to be! One night before bed I figured I’d start on it, maybe finish a few chapters before catching some zzz’s. Next thing I know thirty minutes have passed and I’ve reached “The End”! This would be a great quick read to take to the beach, although truth be told you’ll probably be finished with it by the time your first coat of sunscreen actually sinks in. Technically this reads as a historical regency romance, though we can tell it’s not necessarily set in a true historical time period seeing as John and Harrison can be fully open about their love with everyone around them. It’s simultaneously delightful to feel like you’re set in the time of Pride and Prejudice, yet also rather sad to acknowledge that such an open romance between two men could never take place in society at that time.

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Romantic Blackmail? 

Does John blackmail Harrison into agreeing to marry him? Eehhhh not reaaaaally…but kind of. The long and short of it is that Harrison always had the option to say “no” when John offered to return Harrison’s family land in exchange for his hand in marriage. It’s never called into question that if Harrison had said no, John most likely would have still proceeded with the negotiation to return it sooner or later. After suggesting the exchange, John lets Harrison think on his proposal, and doesn’t even provide a quick timeline or ultimatum which would make it seem like Harrison had no choice in the matter.

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That being said, we can’t deny that John is sort of using Harrison’s recent familial loss as a way to win the man he’s always wanted. For the past several years, John has been in a land dispute with Harrison’s father over the fact that a zoning technicality actually places their family’s cemetery plot within John’s property line. Harrison hasn’t been able to lay flowers on his mother’s grave for three years, and now he must bury his recently deceased father. When John has it written into the negotiated paperwork that he’ll give back the land for free on the condition of receiving Harrison’s hand in marriage? Well, we won’t say he forced him into marriage, or took advantage of his grief, but he may have given him a slight poke in the ribs.

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Learning to Live Again

Harrison has always been known in society as a rather closed-off individual. He’s been surrounded by melancholy for the last three years since his mother’s death, and now his father has passed on as well. He’s been overcome with grief due to so much death that he’s forgotten what it’s like to live. John is the one to remind how. One of the most emotional scenes in the book involves Harrison seeming completely crestfallen at the prospect of spending the rest of his life alone without the two people he’s loved most in this world. John encourages him to realize that while it might be difficult to imagine, things will inevitably get better with time. He just has to remember to live. The fact that Harrison has to ask John, “What is living” is such a heartbreaking reminder that he has forgotten what it feels like to be alive.

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Through John’s loving attention, kisses and embraces, he remembers. He remembers those moments years ago where John would stare transfixed at him from across a ballroom; remembers what it was like to have a far away crush on this man; remembers what it’s like to feel. Towards the end of the novel Harrison declares that “he remembers” in reference to John’s undivided attention all those years before. I like to think it not only signifies he remembers the longing looks that another man bestowed upon him, but that he also remembers back to a time before the death of his parents, before he was overcome by grief, and that he remembers what “living” used to feel like. The fact that John is the one to reawaken this passion for life demonstrates the depth of their connection.

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“You will never again forget to live–and you will never, ever forget you are loved.”

The Beauty of Music

John’s seductive stares might have been powerful all those years ago, but they weren’t what drew this couple together. In a way, music was actually the driving force behind their relationship. John first noticed Harrison’s hands as he played the violin at a dinner party years before, and his clear devotion to music was what made John start paying attention to this young man. Harrison was always too shy to willingly perform his music in public without the urging of his family, so it’s a sight that John hasn’t seen again in all that time.

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Once John grants Harrison access to his family’s cemetery once again we see Harrison play the violin at his parent’s graves before breaking down into sobs, admitting that he only used to willingly play for his mother before she died. It was a gift he only chose to share with her. We know this is probably the most sacred part of himself, and after John and Harrison spend more time together he chooses to share this special gift with John. It’s a beautiful moment between these two lovers, and it’s proof of how much Harrison has come to trust and love this man in such a short amount of time. As a musician myself, I must say that John’s fascination with Harrison’s ability to play, and Harrison expressing his love for John through music was probably my favorite feature of their story.

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“I love music. The way it makes me feel. And I love you. You make me feel like music. If I were a romantic, then I’d say you’ve made my life like a song.” 

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: I wanted this to be a full-length novel. I wanted more of those descriptions from back when John and Harrison first met, the feud between John and Harrison’s father, and those weeks following John’s rather peculiar proposal which detailed the time they spent getting to know and learning to trust each other. Can you understand and still appreciate the story that’s being told without all of that description? Of course, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I’m a greedy reader who wants to see as much from this couple as she can!

Smut Level: John is Harrison’s first kiss, first love, and first lover. He might be new to intimacy, but the man is a student at Cambridge. Let’s just say he’s a quick study of this whole “pleasure” concept.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Carnation Books. 35 Pages.

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Escaping Mortality by Sara Dobie Bauer

Witness the exciting conclusion to the Escape Trilogy! Will vampire Andrew and his beloved sailor love each other for all eternity? Or will a vampire Elder come between them?

What’s it About? 

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Their ocean journey was successful, and Andrew and Edmund found an Elder just in time. As they wished, Edmund is now a vampire like Andrew. They have eternity together, but first, they must visit Edmund’s ailing mother in the English countryside with their flock of immortals, including the Elder, who has taken an ominous liking to his new creation.

When they arrive at Edmund’s family estate, his sick mother and her loathsome best friend await them. While ducking religious curses, Edmund struggles to harness an unexpected power gifted him by the Elder. Andrew fears for his beloved as Edmund becomes more and more monstrous—but vampires have always been monsters, haven’t they?

A battle is coming, for Edmund’s heart and his soul, and Andrew will lose neither. He escaped island exile and a near tragedy at sea to be with Edmund, the beautiful young sailor he loves. Andrew will do anything to keep Edmund by his side, but his most dangerous adversary may be Edmund himself.

First Impressions

Book three in the Escape Trilogy picks up right where book two left off, with Andrew and Edmund locating a vampire Elder in the hopes that he’ll be able to turn Edmund into an immortal before he succumbs to illness. Mini spoiler alert (although not really a spoiler considering it’s in the synopsis), the two are successful! We’ve been wondering for the entire series whether or not Edmund would ever turn into a vampire like Andrew, and at long last our question is answered. Enter Brien, an ancient vampire who manages to save Edmund’s life…by taking it from him. Following his transformation, Edmund acquires some vampiric abilities that I’m sure we’re all used to at this point. Immense strength, blood lust, a pair of fangs that like to descend with little warning. You know, the usual. And yet we slowly discover that Brien has passed on some additional abilities to Edmund which make him unlike his fellow vampire friends and lover. Will his new abilities, not to mention this new connection with Brien, draw a wedge between him and Andrew?

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A Journey to the Past

Edmund doesn’t have too much time to get used to his new abilities as a vampire, as he and Andrew must make a quick dash to England to meet with Edmund’s sickly mother before she passes away. You can’t help but appreciate the irony of seeing Edmund return to his birthplace immediately following his rebirth as a vampire. We’ve seen Andrew and Edmund confront such stark differences in terms of society and locations throughout this entire series. In book one we saw them connect on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. In the sequel they immersed themselves in the fast paced and sin-filled city of New Orleans. And then in this final piece of the trilogy we explore an entirely different locale by visiting the uppity upper class of English society, and the slow-paced ennui of the countryside. With each change in setting we wonder if Edmund and Andrew will make it through the transition and changes of a different world, especially in this instance when we see Edmund confront his past.

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He’s trying to find some semblance of peace with his mother before she passes, and reconcile their differences upon his departure all those years ago, not to mention the particulars of his love-life. She’s gone mad in his absence, which he can’t help but feel slightly guilty for. It’s rather shocking to see how our quick-witted and flirtatious Edmund collapse into himself upon going back to his childhood home. It forces him to confront the pains of his past, as well as the changes which have occurred in his absence. He practically becomes a quiet shell of his former self, and it was such a fascinating, yet heartbreaking transition. In these broken moments we have to wonder who will succeed in pulling Edmund out of his melancholy. Will it be Andrew, the man who has vowed to love him throughout all eternity? Or will it be Brien, the new mysterious Elder who gave him the gift of immortality?

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An Elder of Mystery

Ohhh Brien the Elder. His entire being is steeped in mystery. We are all immediately intrigued by his quiet presence, especially considering he remains primarily in the background of the novel as an observer of Edmund and Andrew’s relationship. The whole time we are sort of wondering what his game is, as does Andrew. Brien is clearly infatuated with Edmund, and the two have a strong bond as creator and…child? But there’s also an attraction there. Will Brien come to share a bed with both Edmund and Andrew? After all, they’ve been known to share lovers in the past, but with their newfound commitment to monogamy it also seems out of the question.

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Or are his motives perhaps more underhanded? At one point, Edmund astutely points out that Brien is the most powerful creature in existence. If he wanted, he could probably rule completely over both man and supernatural beings. And yet he’s choosing to stick around with Edmund and Andrew’s friends as they traverse the English countryside. What’s he really plotting as he silently observes the group’s activities? While I was definitely drawn to the enigma that was Brien, I was also slightly disappointed that we didn’t get more from him. It’s easy to forget about him at times considering his quiet nature, and it really isn’t until the very final climax of the novel that some of our questions are answered about him. And even then, I felt like I still had more questions than answers about our mysterious Elder.

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One and Only

In books one and two we saw Andrew and Edmund declare their undying love for each other, and they vowed that it would last forever. That’s all well and good when they knew that Edmund’s time on this Earth was limited, but what happens now that he is an immortal just like Andrew? You have to question if monogamy is really a possibility when it’s for eternity, and yet what I absolutely adored from our couple is that it’s really never a question for them. Their connection and bond is so strong they never doubt the reality that they’ll remain devoted to each other forever. Through all the difficulties and trials that Edmund faces in his transition, as well as with confronting his past life in London, Andrew remains the one calming presence in his life. And yet, he also has an undeniable connection with Brien, his creator. Brien did take his soul after all. And this is a connection which creates an almost inconsolable type of jealousy with Andrew. True, Andrew holds Edmund’s heart, but can he compete with someone who holds the soul of his beloved?

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Unleashing the Beast

While the connection between Edmund and Andrew has been a delight throughout this entire series, I will say there was one disturbing scene presented in this novel that I could have done without. Upon returning to his homestead to discover the unhealthy mental state of his mother, Edmund goes out on a solo drinking binge. He returns to Andrew looking for a fight, spurring him on in an attempt to draw out the dark beast hiding within Andrew. Unfortunately, he pushes a bit too hard where the beast takes control, smacking Edmund around and attempting to rape him. Only through Edmund’s new powers as a vampire is he able to fight off Andrew and bring him back to his senses. Andrew is understandably horrified at his behavior, but it was just pretty disturbing to see him lose control to the point where he was about to take Edmund against his will. Eventually they are able to move past it and forgive each other for their erratic behavior, but it wasn’t my favorite scene. Edmund and Andrew have been so loving and caring of each other since their island exile that it seemed out of character for them to behave in such a manner.

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

Series: The Escape Trilogy, book 3. So sad to see this series come to an end! I’m keeping my fingers crossed we get some kind of spin-off involving the other vampires in Edmund and Andrew’s world.

Final Impressions: I love this couple. There, I said it! It’s been such a tumultuous journey we’ve traversed with them since book one, and we clearly saw the strength of their physical connection in book two. This final chapter highlights the emotional bond between the two, and it’s one that we know has the ability to last for all eternity. If I had to find one fault with the close to the trilogy, it would be that Brien the Elder should have been featured just a bit more prominently throughout the book. I understand that this is meant to be Edmund and Andrew’s story, and that we don’t want to stray too far from that considering it’s what makes the series so special. However, an additional scene or two involving Brien’s interactions with our lead couple could have provided more of a glimpse into who this character is.

Smut Level: Edmund and Andrew have always been a passionate couple, and this theme definitely carries over into our conclusion. That being said, considering how Edmund is going through a bit of an identity crisis as a new vampire, as well as with confronting his past, the two don’t spend as much time in the bedroom as they did in book two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. NineStar Press. 127 Pages

Escaping Solitude by Sara Dobie Bauer

His exile has ended. Vampire Andrew is finally back in society with his shipwrecked sailor, Edmund. The temptations of New Orleans await them both!

What’s it About?

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Ancient vampire Andrew escaped his tropical island exile with his beloved human sailor, Edmund. They’ve now returned to Andrew’s home in nineteenth-century New Orleans and must navigate not only their developing relationship—and equally haunted pasts—but also a hungry coven of vampires Andrew used to call friends.

Desperate to stay by Andrew’s side forever, Edmund examines the impressive coven library in search of an Elder, the only creature capable of turning Edmund. Although missing for centuries, Andrew believes an Elder must still survive somewhere; they just have to find him.

The search is put on hold when Edmund receives word that his mother is ill in London, and the lovers set off on an oceanic journey surrounded by new friends and old enemies. When things go terribly wrong, Edmund’s fragile human life hangs in the balance, and an Elder must be found or Andrew will be alone forever.

First Impressions

At the end of book one I wondered if dry land would prove to be the salvation Andrew and Edmund thought it would be. They’re both thrilled to be on dry land and in society once again, but now they find themselves having to check their behavior when out on the town. They simply can’t be openly affectionate in public like they were on the seclusion of the island. Sure, they may have only had blood thirsty cannibals as companions on the island of exile, but apparently they didn’t discriminate.

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While Andrew and Edmund both lament not being able to show affection in public, they’re certainly able to locate a few places all over the city for them to indulge in their passions behind closed doors! I also questioned at the end of book one if Andrew’s blood lust would prove too great to handle once he’s back in the midst of society. While his hunger for blood does grow, we see that his tastes are for Edmund alone, and he can’t bring himself to feed on anyone but his sailor. The question is, will Edmund bare his neck to Andrew’s fangs, or will he run away in fear? Spoiler, he bares it allllllllll.

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Vanishing Cynicism

I’ll admit I was a partial cynic in book one, wondering if the love between Andrew and Edmund was authentic, or simply a matter of convenience at being the only two men alone on a deserted island together. Not including the cannibals of course. I’m happy to say that this book really did put aside those critical views of mine. At the start of this novel you can see that their sexual connection is obviously very strong. There are many scenes which focus on their physical desire for each other, as well as with other people at times. And yet, as the novel progresses we see their emotional link come to the forefront. Whereas they start off by taking advantage of all the sexual delights and brothels that New Orleans has to offer, it doesn’t take long before they admit to each other that they only want to spend the rest of their lives in each other’s arms.

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There were two moments in particular for me which highlighted that this sailor and vampire are actually in love. The first is when Andrew realizes how comfortable he is spending time with Edmund simply doing nothing. Do they enjoy exploring the city together and indulging in their sexual passions? Absofreakinlutely. But they’re also happy to just lounge around in their room for a few hours reading. They can be comfortable in silence with each other, and that in my opinion is a sign of true love. And then there is Andrew’s fear over Edmund’s safety. Sure, that might seem like a given, but we see this augmented even more for Andrew as they begin their search for a vampire Elder to turn Edmund into a vampire as well. Andrew is so afraid that something will happen to take Edmund away from him just when they’re on the brink of spending a lifetime together. It was such a humbling show of desperation and vulnerability in his love for Edmund, you can’t help but feel moved.

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

Series: Escape Trilogy, book 2. The ending of this book? Wow, just wow!! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I can’t wait to dive into the continuation and conclusion that book 3 has in store.

Final Impression: This book was a delightful look at uncovering who Edmund and Andrew truly are when they’re off the island. At times their indulgence in all the sins that New Orleans had to offer were a bit too over the top sex heavy for me. Not something I usually say, I know. However, I did appreciate that underneath it all we could really sense the growing love and devotion these two share for each other. I also liked that we got to see more of a focus on some supplementary characters from Andrew’s vampire coven. They provide an interesting complement to our loving couple. I think I would have liked a few more moments focusing on Edmund’s research into locating an Elder, with some additional details of this unique vampire world we’re getting to know.

Smut Level: My goodness, somebody get me an ice cold hurricane punch to cool off from all this New Orleans heat! Andrew and Edmund spend a lot of time in bed together, and sometimes they even have a few guests present as well. I feel like New Orleans humidity + 4 men in one brothel room= a literal bucket of sweat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. NineStar Press. 111 Pages.

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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.

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.

Gay Lovers in the Victorian Era (1)

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.

Tides by Mara Oudenes-Cruz Ramos

“I have been to Hawaii!”

“Oh yeah? Which island?”

“Come-on-I-wanna-lay-you.”

What’s it about?tides

Sun, sand and waves, three words that summarize what life is like at Sea Glass Beach. The normally quiet village is hosting a surfing festival with the biggest names and brands in the sport. The Kalani siblings; a lawyer and an instructor, and their friends; an investor and a librarian, are surrounded by new visitors, unexpected situations and a tide of emotions as they find themselves as amateur contestants in the world of professional surfing.

First Impressions

I’ve actually never been to Hawaii. Hell, I don’t even know for sure if that’s where this book takes place, but I really wanted an excuse to use that quote from Grumpier Old Men. Considering that the main family in this novel has the name “Kalani”, and they’re big into surfing, I took a leap of faith in assuming that we were reading about a Hawaiian island. A note to authors everywhere: one little sentence clarifying the setting of the book can reduce my anxiety level by about 85%. Anyway, this novel has a love story for just about everyone out there, as it relates the budding romances of the entire Kalani clan, and some of their closest friends as a big surfing competition comes to town.

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Wait…Who Now? 

Definitely an interesting premise to focus each chapter on another member of the Kalani family, or a close friend, but in my opinion there were just way too many stories going on at once. I mean, we’ve got at least 5 couples here: Luna and Blue, Dax and Lottie, Skye and Joan, Dylan and Ross, Kay and Valentina, not to mention a plethora of other characters. The constant switching back and forth between everyone made it really hard to keep the stories straight, or get lost in any one romance story. Then a long-lost brother gets thrown in there, Dylan gets attacked for being a homosexual, and a large portion of the group has severe medical conditions. Talk about drama!

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Coincidence? 

It’s great how the underlying theme of pretty much any romance novel is to show you that true love is possible. However, having practically every person in one friend group find their significant other at the exact same time? That sort of extends beyond coincidental and into unrealistic territory. For crying out loud it took 10 seasons for everyone in Friends to find their one and only someone, and this book is dealing with twice as many people! Actually, now that I think about it, Joey never did end up with anybody. Well there ya go, it took 10 years for 5 members of Friends to have a happily ever after, and it took everyone in Tides just a matter of weeks. Maybe it’s something in the water. I gotta get me to Hawaii! Or wherever this book is set.

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

Series: Nope

Should you read it? There really is a love story for everyone, but the grammar was extremely distracting. I even had to re-read a few sentences to understand what was being said. At first it wasn’t too bad, but after a while it really became a distraction.

Smut Level: For a book with a lot of romance, there are only 2 love scenes. But damn are they steamy! The one is between Dylan and his boyfriend Ross, and the other involves Luna and Blue in her work studio. Hot and sweaty all the way!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Brave New Books. 372 Pages.