[Musings] Kind words and a gentle push

Received a lovely review of “Hunter on a Moonless Night” by Tina Williams of A Reader’s Review Blog:

Although a short read it is well written and executed and contains a number of passionate and erotic scenes which I enjoyed and some lively banter between the hero and heroine, whose characters are well drawn.

I couldn’t be more pleased.

It also adds motivation to write more. Life got in the way of my plans to have Bound by Wyvern’s Blood done by now, but it’s still very much an active project. I’ll prove it by posting more snippets soon!

Hunter on a Moonless Night

Hunter on a Moonless Night

Lord Duinel only returns home once a year, when something savage rides across his lands under a moonless sky. He’s resigned to the curse — until he meets Nimae, a young woman at ease in the stables and the woods. She intrigues him; she makes him laugh. And although she’s been marked as the dark hunter’s next prey, Duinel’s determined not to let her be taken.

A fantasy erotic romance story of 8,000 words.

Released March 2013.

On sale at:

An excerpt:

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The brightness to be found on moonless nights

From the forthcoming Hunter on a Moonless Night. A man buried in sorrow discovers a woman who offers him laughter and brightness and heat:

He laughed a little, helplessly. “Ah, Nimae. Who needs stars when you’re around?”

She didn’t know what she’d done to amuse him, but she liked the sound of his laughter, rich and deep, and so she smiled back at him.

The laughter slid away from his face, then, leaving something stark and raw and vulnerable. She swallowed, forgetting her own smile under the intensity of his gaze. He had the most regal cheekbones, she thought suddenly. And his eyes were a blue as deep as sorrow.

He leaned closer. She didn’t move away. His mouth covered hers forcefully, and she yielded to the pressure of his lips, the invasion of his tongue. His stubble scraped against her skin, and it only made her nerves blaze more alive.

One of his hands cupped the back of her head, trapping her in the kiss. The other came to rest along her ribs, his thumb just under the curve of her breast. She could feel her nipples pressing against the fabric of her clothes, aching for touch. She wanted to melt into him, let him claim every fiber of her being, down to the marrow of her bones.

Instead he tore himself away. She made a noise of protest. She felt as heated as though summer had overtaken her, and it pulsed most strongly between her legs.

“I can’t,” he said in a low, rough voice that made her think of cats’ tongues and distant thunder. “Nimae, I’ve been fighting in a war for a year and I want you too badly. I won’t be gentle.”

She gave him a slow smile. “I don’t want gentle.”

This is a shorter piece that came to me when I was thinking about the Wild Hunt, and had just read a bunch of short stories by Patricia McKillip.

A Jack-in-the-box sequel

I’ve been diligently working on Bound by Wyvern’s Blood, but while writing the dialogue for a secondary character, I realized that I liked her quite a bit. And suddenly a sequel was born, with even a matching title (Wrapped in Wyvern’s Skin).

Now I’m writing them simultaneously, although the events in the stories occur in sequence (so one is set after the other). And I’m doing my best to make them both standalone, yet enriched by reading the other. And an idea for a third book is tickling my brain…

(Writers can be just like cats chasing after laser pointers.)

I recently picked up an anthology of erotic fantasy, and I’m trying to figure out whether to review it here or not. On one hand, it was fabulous to find an entire collection of stories that match two of the three genres I love. (Too often “fantasy” includes urban fantasy or paranormal elements in the modern world, rather than secondary-world fantasy.) On the other hand, not all of the stories include a romantic element. Perhaps if I describe how each story falls on that dimension?

Posted in Musings on January 4, 2013

Raven-shifting brothers finding love

Schechter_Princes_of_AirPrinces of Air by Elizabeth Schechter

Published by Circlet Press on November 21, 2011 | 63,000 words

The nine sons of the goddess Morrigan can take the shape of ravens; and like ravens, they mate for life. This book contains the stories of three of them finding the women to whom they will give their hearts. But it’s not an easy path when the raven-brothers’ powers make them both an envy and a target.

I swear, by Mother’s tail feathers, until that moment I had put aside all thoughts of a tryst. I was fully intending to bring this woman back to her home and then take wing back to Dunn-Morrigan. That was before I found myself with a lovely naked woman in my arms, her lips on mine, her hands sliding down my chest to work at my belt. Her skin was cool from the waters of the pool, warming under my touch as I ran my hands down her back, pulling her closer, feeling her wet hair tangling through my fingers. With quick motions she stripped me of my cloak of feathers and my leather jerkin, loosened the waist of my trews, and drew me to lie down with her, hidden in the sun-warmed grass.

I’m only passingly familiar with Irish mythology, but this book evoked it beautifully. It’s written in first person (for each of the three brothers it focuses on) and its tone feels like that of a tale being told in the olden days of kings and blacksmiths and witches. And it was lovely to see a family rather than a lonely hero: the nine brothers all live together and love each other, although occasionally one may wander off for a time. The vulnerability of having your second shape bound in a cloak of feathers was also depicted with a deft hand, and made these men compelling characters, even as the children of a goddess.

However, the beginning (after the prologue) crammed in quite a bit of back-story—a love realized and lost, which I thought deserved more attention than a summary—and once events in the present started moving, they turned out to be a bit repetitive as each of Morrigan’s sons finds himself in trouble and must seek aid from his brothers. It was odd paced throughout; momentous events like deaths seemed only glancingly described. And some paragraphs also tend toward the long side, perhaps because of the fable-narrative feel of the writing.

The romances were a bit bland, thanks to the fated mate setup; you knew that the mate would be a good person who loved the brother in turn, so there wasn’t any conflict to be found in the relationships. I found the sex scenes explicit without necessarily being particularly erotically charged, perhaps because there are a couple of encounters and fantasies with non-romantic partners. Also, the women tended to be dominant during couplings; it was only in the m/m pairing that a man (obviously) claimed the upper hand. Whether this will work for you or not is just a matter of taste.

I’d recommend this one if the world and the writing appeal to you; the fantasy aspect struck me as the strongest part.

Links

Author’s website (Elizabeth Schechter)

Buy at: Publisher’s store (Circlet Press) | Amazon.com | Kobo Books | Smashwords | All Romance eBooks

Posted in Reviews on December 30, 2012

Aphrodisiac wine

From a scene from Bound by Wyvern’s Blood where Mirrin doses Brendar’s wine with an aphrodisiac:

He drained the glass, then set it down on the table and smiled when he saw how intently she was watching him. “The wine was still trembling in its glass when you finished with it,” he said. “Careless of you. Was it poison? I switched glasses.”

She swallowed. Her mouth was dry. Blindly, she reached for her own wineglass and almost knocked it over. Some of it spilled onto her dress, leaving a crimson stain. It didn’t matter; she’d be undressing soon enough. “It wasn’t poison.” She brought the glass to her lips.

His eyes widened as she drank. It ran like molten metal down her throat. She never released his gaze, even as she lowered the glass.

Her voice grew husky. “And I put it in both our glasses.”

His chair crashed to the floor behind him as he rose and leaned over the table. “What was in that wine?”

His words were a low growl.

The air seemed overly warm. She tugged at the neck of her gown. There was no reason not to answer; he’d already drunk. “The heart’s blood of a wyvern. It inspires lust.”

“Do you know what you’ve done?” he demanded. Sweat shone on his forehead.

“Your father slew the wyvern,” she said. “The blood was rightfully yours. And you captured Elenyor. You’ve one last thing to take, Warlord.” She began to pull at the laces of her bodice.

A Greek god offers solace and pleasure

cover of Destiny Entwined by Nadia LeeDestiny Entwined by Nadia Lee

Published by Four Isles Press on February 14, 2011 | 9,000 words

Cast aside by Theseus, Ariadne longs to forget how her love for the hero caused her to betray her father and left her abandoned on an uninhabited isle. Dionysus, god of wine and frenzy, hears her entreaty and offers to distract her. She knows that the gods treat humans as playthings, but she accepts his offer, asking him to use her hard.

“Iwant to be bent over and taken from behind…like an animal,” she said finally, her breath ragged. “While another man plays with my breasts.” […] “The man who takes me, uses me…but he is also giving me so much pleasure I think I’ll die. He has gagged me, so when I come, nobody hears me scream.”

(Note: There’s no ménage.)

Destiny Entwined lies along the mythological vein of fantasy, although Dionysus is far kinder than in most depictions I’ve seen him. (He’s the patron god of a set of woman who go mad and hunt down men to eat their raw flesh.) I never would have imagined him as an appealing hero in a romance, but this story convinced me, as in it he’s the master of decadent sex. I have to applaud the author for the creative use of vines and and a grape while satisfying Ariadne’s want for a dominant lover. And Lee’s hand with description is such that even acts like being tied down are somehow not rough or hard-edged, which helps the transition from sex-between-strangers to something more.

The HEA aspect of the romance is justified by a prophecy, which is itself fulfilled in a way I found a bit too subtle—I had to flip back a couple of pages and reread the relevant part, although it all ties in with Dionysus’s nature.

Speaking of which, I also suspect that the setting will only really benefit those familiar with the relevant bits of Greek mythology, as there wasn’t quite enough color to introduce readers meaningfully to the back-story cold. Which is a shame; Ariadne is just ripe for exploration as a character, and I liked what the author did with her here enough to want more. Aspects like Ariadne’s guilt and potential revenge on Theseus are touched upon, but not really delved into, and that’s my biggest complaint: this story felt a bit too condensed for my tastes, as I never really got the chance to feel any real tension.

But if you’re looking for a quick, solid read that fits into the erotic fantasy romance crossroads, and especially if you ever wondered how Dionysus claimed Ariadne as his bride in explicit terms, you may enjoy this one.

Links:

Posted in Reviews on December 23, 2012

History–and attraction–unearthed

A bit from Bound by Wyvern’s Blood, a work-in-progress:

He studied her. “Do you know why your father banished me?”

“I only know that the two of you argued in private, and that you struck him. He said later that you had grown ungrateful.”

One corner of his mouth lifted in a crooked smile. “I wasn’t the ungrateful one. I asked him for you, Mirrin.”

She swallowed. “You wanted me?” Her heartbeat was impossibly loud. The men on the city walls would mistake it for a drum-message.

“Does it surprise you so much?”

“But we were raised as foster-siblings—”

He took the single stride necessary to close the distance between them and set his hands on her waist. “Can you truly tell me that you always thought of me as your brother, and nothing more? That you still do, even if I hold you like this?” He pulled her body flush against his. She thought she could make out the imprint of every one of his muscles, even through their clothing. “And even if I touch you like this?”

His palms slid down to her hips. Such a small movement to have such a great effect. There was something undeniably territorial about it, and a short distance from the pit of her belly, where heat bloomed in response.

He bent his head and his mouth hovered just above hers. She couldn’t help parting her lips; she needed air, desperately.

Then he uttered a dry laugh and let her loose. “See.”

A thief of magic strikes a bargain with her body

Dark Dealings by Kim Knox

Published by Carina Press on Nov. 26, 2012 | 73,000 words

Ava grew up as the only thief in an institute of mages–not a pickpocket, but a thief specifically of magic; being soulless, she steals the souls/magic of others. Her nature also has given her a literal hunger for flesh that she usually staves off by eating rare meat. Although these traits mean she’s regarded warily, she’s been raised by the Highest Mage Reist, and because she adores and obeys him, she’s a tolerated creature. Her sensitivity to magic also proves useful in investigating murders that seem to have been committed by other thieves, ones less controlled than she.

With her luck, she’s assigned to work with Captain Heyerdar, an elemental. This means he’s full of primal magic, something which, combined with his powerful body, proves irresistible to Ava. And since his old lover has recently taken up with Reist, whom Ava’s determined is hers, the two of them have recently struck a bargain to try to break apart the new couple. To do this, Ava can actually draw the magic from Heyerdar through sex, and use it to send erotic dreams. She thinks she’s being practical about the arrangement, while Heyerdar’s openly intrigued by the prospect of sleeping with her, especially as she’s a virgin.

The heat between them is instantaneous. Heyerdar is arrogant and domineering, taking from her what he wants, but Ava is no fragile blossom to be intimidated, and she holds her own both in snappish conversations and in inciting the elemental’s desire in turn. They gain a grudging respect for each other’s abilities and a far more enthusiastic appreciation of each other in bed.

Although the world-building was promising, I had trouble connecting all the pieces. There are relationships between thieves and mages and between thieves and elementals that didn’t always seem fully explained. And never mind the political setup–Heyerdar is the Left Hand of the Emperor and Reist the Right Hand, for example, but these terms aren’t precisely defined. And there’s a long-lost family member who shows up at convenient times. In short, the mystery plot felt tangled and confusing to me, although what clear glimpses I got of it were interesting enough. I almost felt like I’d missed out on a prequel.

This story’s worth reading for the interplay between Ava and Heyerdar, both verbal and sexual. He’s definitely the alpha sort, and I loved how Ava’s rebellious nature was a match for him.

His teeth grazed her neck. “You’re so fucking tight.” His meaty hand gripped her thigh and pulled it up. “And all mine.”

“For now.” Her words escaped on her gasp.

“You think I won’t have you again?”

In sum: a heroine with verve and genuinely dangerous cravings, an unapologetic smoldering hero, and a tantalizing (if not fully materializing to its promise) fantasy backdrop.

Links:

Posted in Reviews on December 9, 2012

Bound by Wyvern’s Blood

A work in progress.

Brendar was exiled from Elenyor-under-Shadow for daring to love the prince’s daughter. When he returns, it’s with an army behind him. But although Mirrin may not recognize him at first with his armor and his grim expression, his love for her hasn’t changed. She thinks to ensnare him to win her city’s freedom, and to be sure of it, has an alchemist brew a potion of wyvern’s heart-blood to inflame his passion. When she shares a drink with him, she falls into her own trap…

An unedited excerpt follows.

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