Tagged: Lyrical Press

Being Amber by Sylvia Ryan

Link to buy Being Amber

ASIN B00C2UX75G

Story Rating: 4 out of 5 paddles

Sting Factor (kink) 3 out of 5

Review:

This was a pleasant surprise of a book.

It’s a romantic and somewhat dark tale set in near-future post-plague Atlanta where the government has decreed that only humans with superior genetics shall be allowed to reproduce. There are differing grades of “quality”, and the lowest of these, “Ambers”, are exiled outside the better part of the city and allowed to have only one child. The Ambers have formed their own culture, its customs created out of the need to support one another.  Touching is as common as breathing, sex is freely enjoyed, and cuddle-piles are a way of life. In the midst of their dystopian exile, they’ve made an interpersonal web of beautiful connections. One of the tools they use sometimes is the mingling of pleasure and pain.

Jaci is genetically evaluated and found to have one of the automatic disqualifier genes – one that would potentially lead to a lethal disability for her children. Born a Sapphire, one of the higher grades of human, she’s summarily sterilized and sent to live in the Amber zone as a non-reproducing “fallow.” Culture shock ensues. She’s assigned a roomate, hunky cop Xander, and both of them find their lives complicated when they start to fall for one another. Making things worse, there’s a serial killer murdering fallows, and Xander is the one on the case.

Xander tries to alleviate Jaci’s sorrow with sympathy, cuddling, and pleasure, while also not burdening her with his feelings for her during a difficult time. Jaci struggles to understand Xander’s behavior, and what her place is in the relationship as well as the culture.

When she needs to be taken away from herself, he administers recreational pain, and when she needs to be corrected for doing some incredibly ill-advised things, he punishes her. That’s very hot, even if I do strongly object to the idea that men apparently just. have the right to punish women.

The writing is pretty darn good, far better than average, and my interest never flagged.  Both main characters are well-drawn, I think, and are sympathetic, even if they both do boneheadedly stupid things from time to time. The author makes us believe that Xander feels protective of Jaci right away by making us feel for her as well. We believe that Jaci falls for Xander because he really does come across as a great guy. Gentle, kind, comforting, very emotionally strong and also stubborn as hell. I really, really, really liked Xander.

Most of the conflict arises from lack of communication. Jaci and Xander are constantly feeling and thinking things that they do not discuss, or if they do, it’s after it’s caused some sort of unpleasant mishap or misunderstanding. While I actually do think this is pretty realistic under the circumstances (people do really, really stupid things when confronted with sudden feelings, and also when they’ve just been cut off from everything they’ve ever known and have nobody to trust) it happened a lot, and it was rather frustrating after a while. It drove most of the plot, not just parts of it, which bothered me.

And, last of all, it ended abruptly, and there’s at least another book’s worth of story left untold. There is an epilogue on the author’s website, but it mostly had me squealing “NO! NOOOOOOO!”, and did not resolve any of the questions I had. However, there’s another book planned for the series, Being Sapphire. It will follow a different character, but it may at least give us a look at the political situation that is obviously about to freaking explode. (And boy, wouldn’t I love to see the whole corrupt and disgusting system dragged into the light and shredded like a rat’s nest.)

As far as kink goes, this is not harsh. I do want to throw one magnificent thing out there, though. The sex is all wonderfully happy and enthusiastic. It’s rare to see happy, cuddly BDSM, and this is fairly snugglesome. There’s bondage, blindfolding (a bit), toys, flogging, and domination.

The sex is hot. The very first scene with Xander acting as an anonymous birthday present for his best friend’s girlfriend was especially great. The scene where Xander and Jaci finally get it on was extremely hot. I love that there was some play with toys, I always like to see that.  And dear freaking god, I didn’t know I had a thing for this, but the scene where he’s got her tied up and tells her she’ll have to learn how to please him, and then plants himself right in front of her and makes her watch him jerk off? That was brief, but so, so hot!

The world building was pretty darn good. Good idea, made chilling by the absolute plausibility of parts of it, and by the obvious parallels to how many people live today.  There are some pretty glaring holes, though, and those troubled me. Gay sex is outlawed, which doesn’t make sense to me. (Although we see woman-on-woman sex onscreen . . . so . . . does that count, and if not, why?)  Non-potentially-reproducing relationships would be favored in a society discouraging further propagation of undesired elements. If it was the result of asshole moral standards taking firmer root in a time of political turmoil, that would have made sense, that actually happens, but it was never explicitly stated. I find the lack, the erasure, disturbing. It’s briefly addressed but not tackled as a major issue and I feel like it should have been given more stage time, or written out, because it genuinely gives me the creeps.  (I’m bisexual, my family of choice is more rainbow than plainbow, so please don’t write us out of the future?  It makes us sad pandas.) The same goes for race. Atlanta has a high percentage of nonwhite residents, but this isn’t reflected in the population of the Amber Zone. We’ll come back to that.

People are paired up with roommates so they will always have someone around to help them out and be there for them. These relationships can be platonic cuddly friendships, or extremely sex-heavy relationships. These are always strictly male/female pairings, though, and the idea that a man needs a woman to care for and a woman needs a man to care for her is stressed. It’s depicted as a reciprocal need, it’s handled way, way less grossly than it usually is, but it still rubs me the wrong way. Combined with the no gay sex thing, there’s gender issues here. They aren’t super-objectionable, and they’re smoothly integrated with the world building enough that I didn’t want to stop reading, but I actually find the uniformity upsetting; this is how it works for everyone. This is what people are expected to do.

But given that the Ambers have broken out of the negative myths about hetero sex, and women are shown doing all kinds of jobs, the fact that gender roles in interpersonal relationships are still stuck kind of stands out. Possibly accurate, given that society retreated into itself pretty close to the present day, and people are still complete dicks about it right now, but the insistence on it bugged me. And, last complaint, if they are backwards enough to insist on MAN/woman, and if the government is discriminating against people with actual or potential disabilities, or who are gay, I’d think they’d be discriminating on the basis of race as well, because they’re all on about the same ethical level: very, very stupid and wrong.

I don’t want it to come across as me hating the book. I didn’t. I actually think it was very good, and I want to see more genre-based speculative erotica, whether that’s fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian. (At least erotica and romance have the vampires and werewolves covered, thankfully.) Part of speculative fiction, though, is exploring the ramifications of your ideas thoroughly, and turning those things back into the story, addressing them, using them. The whole things served as a kind of metaphor for not having a place. For not belonging. For alienation. For the way the established network abandons us, and what supports us in the end is always the people we know and love – friends, sometimes family. And given that, the absence of other outsider groups in a book that is very much social commentary on our own times seems like a missed opportunity.

I recommend it. I think it demonstrates the flexibility of erotica as a genre and its value as a tool for social commentary. On a less dry note, it’s a moving story, it’s entertaining, and the sex is hot.

Reviewed by Naamah

Rough Surrender by Cari Silverwood

http://www.amazon.com/Rough-Surrender-ebook/dp/B0088P3Z9C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341874727&sr=1-1&keywords=Rough+Surrender+by+Cari+Silverwood 

ASIN B0088P3Z9C

Story rating: 5 out of 5 paddles

Sting factor (kink): 5 out of 5

Blurb:

 One master, one woman who craves surrender, and a sky that will challenge them both.

At a time when airplanes are as new-fangled and sensational as the telephone, Faith dares to fly. The one territory she has not explored is her own sexuality. In Leonhardt she discovers the man who can teach her how a woman surrenders her body and her mind. However, Leonhardt has a shadowed past and his own learning to do. He doesn’t have the right to keep Faith from flying, even if he thinks airplanes are flimsy death-traps made of canvas, timber and their inventor’s prayers.

Faith has her limits, Leonhardt has his flaws, and sometimes the nicest people get murdered by unscrupulous bastards. Even if Leonhardt can save the woman he loves, the battle for Faith’s heart will be the hardest one of all.

WARNING: BDSM, anal sex, orgasms galore, and a Dom who likes to claim his property with pen, ink and bondage.

Review:

Rough Surrender, a historical romance, is set in the early 1910’s in Cairo.  Faith Evard is one of first female pilots in the world, strong in her beliefs, quick with her witty tongue and living for flying her Bleriot in the skies over Egypt.  Just having arrived from Paris, she is introduced to Leonhardt Meissner, an engineer working in Cairo. He is immediately enamored and enthralled by Faith.  Although Faith had long since decided that she would die a spinster and that no man would want a woman so bold and dominant as she, the titillating flirtations abound.  Leonhardt slowly, methodically, mouthwatering and with panty-drenching detail teaches Faith the ways of his unusual sexual appetites.  As she is only in Cairo for 10 days, and certainly not one for missing the opportunity for an adventure, Faith finds she enjoys submission.  While the sparks continue to fly between the couple, murder is afoot in Cairo, and little to Faith’s knowledge, she is much closer to the killer than she knows.

Ms. Silverwood drew me completely into the world of early 20th century Cairo.  Her attention to detail concerning buildings, infrastructure, clothing, vehicles, verbiage and taboos were spot on.  While her BDSM elements were not the most brazen of hard core, they were detailed, delectable and left me panting, definitely wanting more from her.  I will read her again and again.  

 Reviewed by LeighAnna

Chairman of the Whored by Lucy V. Morgan

http://www.amazon.com/Chairman-of-the-Whored-ebook/dp/B007A2N2E2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340682702&sr=1-1&keywords=chairman+of+the+whored

ASIN B007A2N2E2

Story rating: 3 out of 5 paddles

Sting factor (kink): 3 out of 5

Readers who love workplace sexcapades with uneven power balance will be interested in “Chairman of the Whored” which could best be described as kinky chick-lit. The tone is quirky, irreverent, and whiny. I vacillated between being intrigued at the unfolding events and annoyed by the pretentious witticisms and self-absorption.

One is immersed in Leila’s mind as she struggles to find her identity somewhere between tax attorney and whore; the first, her aspiring career as an ambitious, corner-office wannabe and the second, how her education was financed—not as she originally intended.  The discovery of her moonlighting job by two fellow attorneys who solicit her unravels the carefully constructed illusion that she can maintain two separate lives. Leila is suddenly faced with decisions she never thought she’d have to make.

Matt, another apprentice at the firm is enamored with her and seeks to save her. Young and idealistic he aims to win her heart.

Joseph, a prestigious lawyer and their boss has no use for hearts, but covetsCharlotte—Leila’s alter ego.

As the story unfolds the web of Leila’s interactions becomes more tangled and certain truths can no longer be hidden. While I can empathize with her, the pacing is slow as it meanders and she keeps trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Teetering between the two men and lives Leila grapples with the dichotomy that faces all females—to be the virgin or the whore.Ultimately, she has to answer the question: What does she want and what does she need?

Honestly, until the last ten percent of the book the kink factor was low. Sure, there’s some nice slutty behavior, but not BDSM.With Leila’s self-acceptance a new door opens, one with some delicious edgeplay—which still doesn’t excuse the pretentious blade references that one suffers through ad nauseum.

Reviewed by Vivian

Rough Surrender by Cari Silverwood  

A historical BDSM romance due out June 4th from Lyrical Press.

One master, one woman who craves surrender, and a sky that will challenge them both.

At a time when airplanes are as new-fangled and sensational as the telephone, Faith dares to fly. The one territory she has not explored is her own sexuality. In Leonhardt she discovers the man who can teach her how a woman surrenders her body and her mind. However, Leonhardt has a shadowed past and his own learning to do. He doesn’t have the right to keep Faith from flying, even if he thinks airplanes are flimsy death-traps made of canvas, timber and their inventor’s prayers.
 
Faith has her limits, Leonhardt has his flaws, and sometimes the nicest people get murdered by unscrupulous bastards. Even if Leonhardt can save the woman he loves, the battle for Faith’s heart will be the hardest one of all.
 
WARNING: BDSM, anal sex, orgasms galore, and a Dom who likes to claim his property with pen, ink and bondage.