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.


Author’s website (Elizabeth Schechter)

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Posted in Reviews on December 30, 2012

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.


Posted in Reviews on December 23, 2012

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.


Posted in Reviews on December 9, 2012