Sweetwater by Lisa Henry

Grade: B-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Moderate Kink
Genre: Historical, m/m, BDSM
Published: 8/19/14
Reviewed by Kate

This one is such a tightly woven story that I find it hard to write a summary of it without giving you the entire play-by-play.  But here goes : When Elijah was little, scarlet fever took his family, and his hearing.  Although he isn’t 100% deaf, most of the town thinks he’s an idiot.  Elijah knows that being deaf isn’t the only thing that makes him different from everybody else.  He’s also gay.  His first “relationship” is with Harlan Crane, the owner of the saloon.  But Elijah is also attracted to cowboy Grady Mullins and Grady’s interested as well.

Elijah is around 20, but is just starting to try and figure out who he is and what he wants.  Unfortunately most of what he wants conflicts with the way he was raised.  Lots of internal conflict for Elijah.  Lots.

His relationship with Crane is dirty and nasty.  It made me flinch whenever I had to read it.  Their relationship is about pain and humiliation and subjugation.  Even though Elijah discovers he needs the pain, there is nothing romantic about Crane and Elijah.

In Grady, Elijah finds something that he never knew existed.  Gentleness, caring, compassion.  And while part of him craves that from Grady, another part of him is terrified spitless at this new type of relationship.  Elijah’s relationship with Grady, which doesn’t start until half way through the book, is the only part of this book that would qualify as a romance.

This one felt more like a coming-of-age story, rather than a romance.  Outside of the relationships with Crane and Grady, Elijah goes on a heartbreaking journey of self discovery.  A journey which takes him through highs and low—although mainly lows.  The relationships with Crane and Grady are a definite, but minor, part of his journey

Lisa Henry has written a gritty, raw, page turning tale about a young, deaf, gay man on a self-discovery journey in 1870.  And while the relationships in this book were not my cup of tea, I would not hesitate to read another of her books.  In fact I hope to do so soon.

As a romance, this one disappointed me a bit.  As a novel, in general, I loved it.  What’s the last book that you read that didn’t hit the romance note right, but you enjoyed regardless?

Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl


Grade: B
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, Small Town
Series: Jackson Girl’s Night Out #1
Published: 7/29/14
Reviewed by Anne
345 pages

A generation ago, Sophie’s mother and Alex’s dad disappeared on the same day, and were never seen again, fueling rumors that they’d run off together.  Alex grew up with his obsessive mom tracking down every lead she could trying to find his dad.  Sophie grew up with her loving father – and with Alex’s mom’s constant trash talking about Sophie’s mom. And Sophie.  This lead to Alex leaving town as soon as he could and never looking back.  Sophie stayed in town her whole life, trying to establish a reputation so good and pure that everyone would overlook her connection to her mother.

A few months ago (in the book Too Hot to Handle), a truck and camper were found with Sophie’s mom’s and Alex’s dad’s bodies inside.  This confirmed that the two ran off together and brought the old scandal to light again in both the town’s and Alex’s mom’s memory.  It also brought Alex back to town for the first time since he left years ago.  When Sophie and Alex meet the chemistry between them is off the charts, but wouldn’t the scandal they could cause be even bigger?

Sophie and Alex are my dream characters!  Sophie is a secretly sexy prim and proper librarian.  Alex is a shaved head, tattooed, biker bad boy.  They are so good for each other and their story was a joy to read.  Sophie’s relationship with her father and brother was also really good, and I enjoyed seeing her grow into herself – in some ways this story is Sophie’s coming of age story.  Alex has some issues to overcome, too.  The fallout of this one event and how it affected the lives of everyone involved is very believable.

On the other hand, the main conflict in this story requires the reader to accept that the town would hold Sophie accountable for her mother’s sins.  It’s certainly something Sophie believes, and it’s both more and less true than she thinks.  This was the weak point in the story for me.  Overall it was really, good, though.

I see by the series label on Goodreads that this book is the first in a new series by Dahl, but it’s clearly linked to her Jackson Hole series, since the events in book 2 are the story of Alex’s brother.  It does stand alone just fine, though, so you could jump in here and do great.

I recommend this book and I enjoyed it very much!  I admitted that the librarian and the bad boy is dream casting for me – how about you?  What’s your favorite hero/heroine combo?

Bonds of Courage by Lynda Aicher

Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: High Kink
Genre: Contemporary, BDSM
Series: Wicked Play #6
Published: 6/16/14
Reviewed by Kate
Vanessa, a rep for athletes and co-owner of the Den, has successfully compartmentalized her life.  A different colored phone for family, work, and the Den.  And things and people from one part never cross into another.  Never ever.  Until Holden walks into the Den one evening.  Holden is a pro-hockey player who longs to submit, but his career would be ruined if anyone ever found out.  He applies for membership at the very exclusive and very private The Den.  When Vanessa walks in to conduct the interview, Holden knows that she’s the one.
I went into this one not really expecting to enjoy it.  A Domme is not my favorite type of heroine to read.  But I had read and enjoyed each of the Wicked Play books so I thought I’d give it a try.  And I’m so glad that I did.  The vulnerability that Vanessa was able to show Holden almost brought me to tears and the strength that Holden was able to provide Vanessa.  Yet they still maintained their Domme/sub identities.  *insert happy, contented sighs here*  This was so much more than a Domme/sub relationship.  It was beautiful, emotional, and caring, with a side of delicious kink.  Everything that I’ve come to expect from Lynda Aicher.

I’d highly recommend Lynda Aicher’s Wicked Play series to any fans of Cherise Sinclair or Kallypso Masters.