Story Rating: 4 out of 5 paddles
Sting Factor (kink): 4 out of 5
Having been a part of box sets, I know it’s tough to receive reviews since individual efforts may get lost in the overall concept. This box set is all about saying “no” whether by using a safeword or backing away from a heated moment. Except for the last story, I’d say the authors delivered what they set out to show. There are twenty short stories in this box set and yes, I’m going to review them all. All of these stories were unique and different. They weren’t all my thing, but your mileage may vary.
Tether Me In Luxury by Violet West This story featured Fem Domme Julie and submissive Zappora. In this story, Zappora wants to submit through a light form of erotic asphyxia. Her fear of suffocation and Julie’s fear of hurting her sub is dealt with in a great way. This is heavy stuff to jam into a short story and I did feel the ending was too abrupt.
Make Tonight A Show by Rose Serrano. It seems to be the new thing (or maybe an old thing I’ve not encountered) to write in the present tense third person or present tense first person. This story had some tense issues. Reva isn’t looking for a relationship. When she goes out, she becomes “Leila” and hooks up with Simon, a gay male sub who has an open relationship. Ultimately, this story, despite its racy subject doesn’t really deliver on the promise. It feels a little forced and stilted. The “happy ending” didn’t make much of an impression on me.
The Words, The Walls, And The Weaver’s Son by A.J. Odasso. Two young boys at a religious school steal moments together. It seemed to be set in some medieval or fantasy world. The tense issues in this one completely distracted me from the story. The world building never happened at all. I felt dropped into the middle of a bigger story and dropped out just as quickly. The connection between the two characters didn’t seem to gel for me. The writing was good but it didn’t save the story for me.
Donovan’s Door by Sonnide Soto. Kat is new to the BDSM club scene though she and Peter have been practicing kink in private. This story is about her first time in front of others. The author depicts her fear, her reluctance and her discomfort in a real and impactful way. I loved Peter’s response to her panic and his infinite care for her feelings in this. Of all the stories thus far, this one gives the best inside look to saying “no” in the kink context. I enjoyed this story very much and the emotional connection between Kat and Peter leaped off the page. The BDSM scenes were very good and the conflict was excellent.
First Date by Camille Lee This offering was a f/f with a slight twist. One of the characters is “aromantic” and the land mines this creates was handled very well. Lynn has sex. Not romance. She doesn’t date. Janine, her co-worker, is the first lover she actually wanted to date and her struggle is fascinating to watch. Janine is a non-judgmental partner who doesn’t need lengthy explanations into someone’s psychology to be with them. I liked these two.
Little Dan by Nancy Weber. This funny, quirky first person story perfectly addresses how a couple can overcome little “hitches in the giddyup” that can happen in the bedroom. I don’t want to give too much away because how the story unfolds is part of its charm. I recommend reading it for a memorable laugh.
The Best Entanglements by Emma Grant. The depiction of role playing in this m/m romance is very realistic. I liked the characters but I found the ending a bit stilted. The author did a great job setting up a realistic conflict. I felt a little let down by the run-of-the-mill solution. But still, I’ll be looking for more stories by this author.
Borderline by Stacia Regala. One thing I love about this box set is it doesn’t just break the mold of the m/f pairings or the D/s pairings. It covers different kinds of lovers with real issues. Jean doesn’t like to be touched directly so when Beverly wants to “return the favor” after a hot orgasm, it breaks the mood. It’s refreshing to see an author tackle this issue and Ms. Regala does a great job with it.
Vine by Melissa Snowden. I was very confused through much of this story, mostly by the pronoun use of “they”. I thought I was just ignorant about the correct usage for an androgynous person, but a little time on Google and I discovered the overwhelming response to what pronoun to use is “Ask the person”. At no time did the character ask the androgynous love interest. Dion is an alien and weird stuff go on in the story. It was an odd story with an odd ending. It wasn’t really my thing, but your mileage may vary.
Rolling Deep by Tiana Tatanov. This is a unique story about a woman who is in a wheelchair but is a female Dominant. Adira is Delilah’s submissive and in celebration of a fabulous job offer, she wants Delilah to tie her up and dangle her from the ceiling. The conflict that Delilah faces with her own helplessness if something goes wrong is real and I love that the author shone a light on this romance. Definitely a great read.
The Art of Improvisation by Alex Freeman. Elsa, Priya and Kel are in a polyamorous triad and Priya is facing the prospect of time without her lovers. Kel gives Priya permission to go out and pick someone up (with restrictions) because she’s in “need of a good shag”. Enter Gethin. This story was very well written filled with gems of characterization, hot sex and cute rejoinders. I loved it. It felt like hanging out with my friends. The dialogue and the writing as a whole was stellar. Highly recommend this one.
How Can I Meet You by Penny Armstrong. Another present tense third person. This one made me say “No! No! No!” so many times that I lost count. Sarah is a submissive (supposedly) and Nina is a Domme. Sarah wants “more”, more pain, more physical domination, more restraint. Nina is a Domme who uses manipulation and psychological dominance rather than brute force. What I disliked intensely about this story is that Nina caves into Sarah’s bitchy little demands. Why Nina gives into her I don’t know. Which is the problem with this story. The “relationship” between Sarah and Nina isn’t on the page enough for me to say “Oh, they shouldn’t shit can this just because their ideas of Dominance differ.” To me? The reality would have been that either Sarah learned to concede a bit (despite the author’s belief that she had compromised in the story which she didn’t) or Nina would move on and find a sub who appreciated what she had to offer. Very disappointing. The writing was fair, not stellar enough to get me past the overall issues I had with the characters.
Crazy In Love by Lark Green. Now, this was an interesting concept. A woman who is bipolar and wants sex when she is in her manic phase. How Cary deals with her husband’s feelings about that is actually pretty amazing to see in romantic fiction. I really liked the way Ms. Green nailed this.
Waiting For The Light To Change by Kate Wickersham. Another present tense third person. This story has fabulous world building. It has the feel of being part of a bigger series but I didn’t feel completely lost. The two characters Josh and Aaron are well drawn. I love the conflict that has layers and no easy resolution. I’d like to read more of this author’s werewolves.
Provided For by T.C. Mill. Vero and Mark are still new to each other, dating. But Vero isn’t from Earth and her needs may end their relationship before it can really begin. This story seems like it’s part of a series and I was pretty lost through most of the paranormal aspects of it. Readers familiar with Mill’s series will love it. It didn’t inspire me to want to read more. There was a lot of long passages that were to build up the whys and wherefores but it didn’t add much to the connection between the characters.
Return to Rope by Annabeth Leong. This story about Val and Izzy was brilliantly done. The concept was wonderful and the story was handled in a thoughtful and emotional way. I felt as if Val and Izzy were real and the resolution to their conflict was stellar. I loved this one.
Handcuffs Aren’t Just For Bad Guys by Freddie Raff. At times this story read like it had begun as a m/f and been turned into a f/f. The story itself was good and the sex scenes are solid, but I had a hard time buying that Alex and Emma had been together for a year and never discussed that Emma had been a Fem Domme in her other relationships. This basic issue ruined the rest of it for me since that felt deceptive. Certainly we all hide things from our lovers, but that seemed pretty big to keep under wraps for a year.
Undercover Cops: EXPOSED by Elizabeth Hickin and Rachel Rackley. This was definitely not my thing. There is a lot of fetishes in this one-crossdressing, stripping, voyerism-but all that didn’t add up to much of a plot. Valerie is a Senior Constable trying to break up a drug ring. She and her three underlings (all male) set up an undercover operation at a strip club. This off the books job almost costs them everything when a reporter exposes the act. The whole thing felt like a gimmick to add as much sex and fetish into every scene. The only thing that stopped it from reading like a porn magazine article was the dialogue was good. But just because it wasn’t to my taste doesn’t mean it won’t be to yours.
Starshine by Guinevere Chase. What an amazing story! I can’t express enough how well written this story is. I was riveted, enchanted, carried away. And I’m totally ignoring the last sentence. Ignoring it. To keep readers from pitchfork and torching the author, I’m warning them up front. The character of Basil Langdon is an odd duck but you feel his desperate need to connect, to love. Estelle’s unquestioning acceptance is perfect for him. I am going to continue to believe that Basil and Estelle find happiness and contentment with each other rather than the implied Dallasification (see footnote) that the author put in for the VERY LAST SENTENCE. Ignoring it, I say! Read this story. I thought it was brilliant.
TWO CAPTAINS by Kim Dias. The editing on this story wasn’t very good. Though the concept was compelling, the writing fell flat for me. Also, this story appears to end on a cliffhanger. Annie is a pirate captain and Max (or “Maxine”) is her rival, her lover, her colleague, her frenemy. Their relationship made little sense to me. There is no resolution since I was left hanging at the end, wondering if Maxine’s newest betrayal would smarten Annie up or if she’d fall for a line of bullshit again. This wasn’t my cup of tea.
All in all, I’d say this box set was worth reading.
*Dallasification: The act of leading a reader/viewer through a plot only to claim at the last minute that it was a dream. (ref: Dallas: Shooting of J.R. Ewing)
Reviewed by Jennifer Leeland