Friday, June 27, 2014

Goodreads Review: His Whipping Boy by J. A. Jaken


Cedric de Breos was an average son from an average farmer’s family before he was chosen—by royal decree—to befriend Alain Tomolia, the solemn and enigmatic crown prince of Dunn. As Cedric dutifully pursues their strange friendship, he begins to suspect that Alain is haunted by a dark secret, one which has its roots sunk deep in the crown prince’s past. Cedric’s situation is complicated by the gradual realization that his intended purpose is not only to serve as companion to the crown prince but also as his surrogate in the whipping yard, taking the punishment for Alain’s misdeeds. Will Cedric find a way to come to terms with the resentment, pity, curiosity, and reluctant attraction he feels toward the crown prince, or will he allow the circumstances around them to command their fate?


Excellent. This pretty much epitomizes what I am looking for in a work of erotic fiction. Way too often, books like this turn out to be nothing more than a kinky set up. This is a full story about two genuinely complex leads, with an efficiently drawn fantasy/historical setting that was intriguing and plausible within the confines of the genre. Even more crucial, the "erotic" elements were not gratuitous or just for titillation, but were absolutely essential to the world being drawn and the characters' psychology. It also doesn't hurt that the story is beautifully written and, minus a few very modern sounding phrases like "suicidal ideation," carefully edited. I was really impressed by how much it does with its 50 pages. More than all of this, the story surprised me, continually moving in unexpected directions that opened up deeper insights into Jaken's characters while never totally doing away with their fundamental mystery. Highly recommend.

[Me being annoying and picky: what's with the cheesy, ugly cover! Totally does not do justice to this story.]

Rating: Four Stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads: link to Amazon)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Goodreads Reviews: Brute by Kim Fielding


Brute leads a lonely life in a world where magic is commonplace. He is seven and a half feet of ugly, and of disreputable descent. No one, including Brute, expects him to be more than a laborer. But heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and when he is maimed while rescuing a prince, Brute’s life changes abruptly. He is summoned to serve at the palace in Tellomer as a guard for a single prisoner. It sounds easy but turns out to be the challenge of his life.

Rumors say the prisoner, Gray Leynham, is a witch and a traitor. What is certain is that he has spent years in misery: blind, chained, and rendered nearly mute by an extreme stutter. And he dreams of people’s deaths—dreams that come true.

As Brute becomes accustomed to palace life and gets to know Gray, he discovers his own worth, first as a friend and a man and then as a lover. But Brute also learns heroes sometimes face difficult choices and that doing what is right can bring danger of its own.


There is a special kind of pleasure in books where we see dirty, broken places and people fixed up--repaired, scrubbed clean, properly fed, and healed. (Or movies: I am thinking of Cold Comfort Farm). This is one of those books. It happens first with Brute, who through an act of bravery is given the chance to escape the hopeless squalor of his life in the town where he was born. There he is friendless and exploited--treated as a beast of burden, cheated even when he works twice as hard as anyone else, with no hope of anything better. In his new home at the castle, all of the sudden he is able to make improvements to his life--a good job, new clothes, hot baths, clean sheets and good food lead to good friends, education, and then the chance to do the same for someone else.

Watching him and Gray get cleaned up, and then find healing and happiness in each other is incredibly satisfying, especially after how much each of them has suffered. All in all, a very well-done, enjoyable fable.

Rating: Five Stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads: Link to Amazon)