Saturday, February 28, 2015

Excerpt: 'Vanilla' by Megan Hart

My latest book from the Amazon Vine program is Vanilla by Megan Hart. I shall now quote a brief passage from an early chapter:

"We talked for a while about our favorite TV program. Alex had turned me on to a show about two monster-hunting brothers who drove around in a black Impala--sometimes in the office, we'd toss quotes from the show back and forth to each other, trying to stump the other. Because Alex was way more into the show and had been watching it for a lot longer, he was usually able to beat me at the game. Now, asking me which of the brothers I'd be if I could choose, he claimed he would always be Dean, the older brother, and I was stuck being the younger brother, Sam.

"'Except shorter,' he said.

"I made a face. 'And without a penis, don't forget that part. That's kind of important. Anyway, I'm totally Dean. Dean's way cooler.'

"'We can't both be Dean,' Alex pointed out.

"'You have Sam hair." I gestured at the raggedy mop of dark hair that spilled over his forehead.

"'But you're the smart one, and you do all the computer stuff,' Alex said. 'You have to be Sam.'

"We both laughed at that. He pushed the platter of spicy salmon toward me then took some for himself."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Final Straight by Charlotte Howard (@shy_tiger)


April Miller works for her best friend, Max Knight on his livery and competition yard. Their friendship has withstood many turbulent times, and while April is deeply in love with Max, she is also aware of his womanising ways and has refused to succumb to his flirtatious charms. When her ex, AJ, suddenly comes back with a business proposal, April finds herself torn between the two men.

Buy Links:

Coming soon to all other eBook retailers.


“You up there?” she called. The thud of footsteps grew louder as she made her way up the stairs. It wasn’t long before she was in the doorway, hands on hips, surrounded by a halo of curls the same colour as her temper.
The dog had followed and was panting by her leg. April batted her away, and Max rolled his eyes at the anger and frustration that exuded from her every pore, turning his back on her and dropping the towel.
“What the hell, Max?” she exclaimed, but it wasn’t because of his nudity. She’d seen him naked more times than any other woman.
He stepped into a pair of tight boxer shorts and turned around, preparing himself for the grief he had been hoping to avoid. “What have I done now?” he asked, walking towards the wardrobe and pulling out a pair of dark, shredded jeans.
“What’s the point? Do you even remember her name?”
He didn’t answer. She wasn’t expecting him to; she never did. Fastening the button on his waistband, he went to the chest of drawers and took out a clean T-shirt.
“Well, I’ll tell you what her name was,” April said, walking into the room. “Mellie Banks. Ring a bell?”
Max shrugged.
“It should,” she snapped. “Her father has three horses on this yard, or did until he turned up this morning and took them off.”
He moved behind her and started to massage at the knot of tension that had built at the base of her neck.
“Don’t try to appease me, Max,” she said, but he could tell that her anger was waning. He continued to press into her muscles, letting his thumbs make small circles either side of her spine. Bending his head to the curve of her shoulder, he placed his forehead on the sleeve of her polo T-shirt and took a deep breath, inhaling the dusty scent of straw and shavings.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured into her back.
She shrugged out of his touch and turned to face him. “You’re hopeless,” she sighed. The corners of her lips flickered into the smallest of smiles.
“We could just hide in bed all day,” he said, taking her hands and tugging her forwards. “Forget about Mellie Banks. Forget about the yard…”
“And who’s going to pay my bills when this place falls on its arse?”
The edge of the mattress connected with his knees and he fell backwards, pulling her with him. “You know I’ll always take care of you.”
She landed on top of him, inches away from his face. He lifted a hand and tucked a stray red curl behind her ear. With a frustrated groan, she rolled off of him and lay on her side.
“As much as I would like to be the next notch on your bedpost, we have a business to run.” She shoved herself up.
He watched as she straightened her clothes and ran her fingers through her hair.
“Anyway,” she said, glancing over her shoulder. “I’m not your type. I have a brain.” She flashed him a smile before bending down to pick up the towel and tossing it in his direction.
“Ouch.” He feigned a hurt expression before getting up to follow her. Bracken panted around his ankles.
“I’ll make you a coffee, and then if you need me I’ll be saving your business.”

Author Bio / Links:

Charlotte lives in Somerset with her husband, two children, and growing menagerie of pets and can always be found with a cup of tea in her hand. When she's not writing or running around after small people and animals, she loves to eat curry and watch action films.

Charlotte is an active (and vocal) member of the Yeovil Creative Writers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

'Great' By Sara Benincasa: Gender-Swapped, Contemporary 'The Great Gatsby' Retelling

GreatGreat by Sara Benincasa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I liked about this book: In Sara Benincasa's young adult retelling of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway's stand-in is Naomi Rye, the Chicago-bred daughter of an upwardly mobile cupcake magnate who now summers in the Hamptons. (Rye - caraway seed - get it?) Her Gatsby is her mother's mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta Trimalchio, rarely seen in public but famous in the fashion world for her high-end style blog.

Jacinta's Daisy Buchanan is aspiring supermodel/congressperson's daughter Delilah Fairweather. Delilah and Jacinta were friends in primary school, then drifted apart, only to reunite in a flower-filled room in Jacinta's mansion.

They become a couple even though Delilah has a boyfriend. The Tom Buchanan of this story is Teddy Barrington, who was a child sitcom star. Teddy's Myrtle Wilson is a waitress named Misti, and Misti's George is a bartender named Giovanni.

Having some of the characters in this American classic be gender-swapped was a refreshing twist on an old favorite. Nice touch: Naomi spends an afternoon reading Save Me the Waltz. Benincasa doesn't mention the author's name, but the "old novel" happens to be the only extant work by Zelda Fitzgerald.

What could have been improved about this book: F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing in The Great Gatsby is so literary it's almost poetic. Fitzgerald's wistful, thematic prose has here been replaced with nuts-and-bolts storytelling that's not quite as much fun. Benincasa's narration in the voice of Naomi is rough in some places, inelegant in others, and downright clunky in some spots. Places where the narrator seemed much older than her supposedly 16 years, where she said things only us grown-ups would say, took me out of the story.

Not great: As narrator, Naomi refers to boys and girls as gay and to girls as lesbian. She seems to think Delilah's relationship with Jacinta makes Delilah a lesbian, but obviously that isn't necessarily the case. She's been in a long-term relationship with Teddy for years, so Delilah seems to be bisexual/pansexual. While it's not a requirement for every person to wear his or her sexuality label on his or her sleeve, it's not acceptable to pretend as if gay/lesbian or straight are the only sexualities that exist. Say no to bi erasure, kittens.

Overall, this was a fun book because of the thrill of the familiar, beloved classic American novel, combined with a new setting and new personality traits among the characters. If you haven't read The Great Gatsby but you saw the Leo movie and liked it, you'll probably think this is a pretty good book.

P.S. I looooove the Leo movie.

View all my reviews on Goodreads. I received an ARC of this book free from Amazon Vine in exchange for a review. This review represents my own honest opinion.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fan Fiction Obsession of the Week: Bound and Gagged

"Bound and Gagged" by Caroline, a.k.a. BlackHoleCastiel.  That is the Destiel fan fiction I've been obsessed with this week. Hear me out on this:

1) In this fictional universe, Dean (he has no last name in this short chapter) is a god. He's sort of a Greek-style god, a male version of Artemis, only not so much with the chastity. But he's the god of wild things, with a large collection of hunters who serve him. He has sons; their number is not specified.

2) To appease him, his mortals have to offer him an annual human sacrifice, who is supposed to be a willing volunteer. This volunteer is taken to Dean's temple, where the god appears bodily to claim his sacrifice, in front of the entire congregation.

And get this: the high priest's name is Azazel. Apparently Azazel appears as a character on Supernatural? But Caroline describes him as a "mean old drunk," so I doubt he's the dazzling beauty of a fallen angel* we explored in Cover Him With Darkness.

3) A boy named Castiel - for the sake of not being creepy and gross, let us assume "boy" here refers to a man between the ages of 18 and 21 - is most emphatically NOT a volunteer. He's being sold by his parents to pay their rather hefty bar tab!

4) But do not worry, because Dean has no intention of killing his not-so-willing sacrifice. He has another kind of claiming in mind. Ancient Greek-style sex ensues. Yes, in front of everyone.

This is supposedly only the first chapter. Castiel now has the honor of being promoted from "temple boy" (I'm imagining something like a Roman Catholic church's altar server) to god's consort.

Some thoughts:

It's a nice twist to have Cas be the bewildered mortal and Dean the powerful supernatural being. It's the opposite of both the TV show and what I tried to do in the Cupid & Psyche fic.

Despite the title, it doesn't seem that Cas is actually gagged. He keeps screaming, so I'm imagining he's just tied up and allowed to scream at will.

Dean threatens to eat Cas, causing Cas to flinch away from his beautiful but intimidating god. However, Dean means this in a sexual rather than carnivorous way, and that is an adorable little detail.

Personally, I can't imagine young!Castiel being as attractive as present Castiel. This is Misha Collins in his early 20s.

He's skinny, his hair is a lighter color, and it looks as if he borrowed that suit from a larger person - Jared Padalecki, perhaps. Like Laura Prepon, Misha Collins gets better with age and with darker hair. He is much prettier at age 40 than he was at 24-ish.

So if I were writing this story, I would have a much older Castiel tied to the altar. And gagged. I mean, if we're going to play around with a light bondage paradigm, then let's do the thing.

Also, I would have played up the "I'm going to eat you"/oral angle A LOT more before getting to the actual intercourse. That's more of a personal preference than a literary criticism, of course.

The writer is very young (14, if her Tumblr page is accurate) and I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from writing, ever, but this is a literary criticism: This fic commits the big guy-guy erotica sin of omitting lube. Kids, when we write anal, we write in some lube, k? It's true that ancient cultures didn't have AstroGlide, but they at least had olive oil, which was better than nothing.

I think I would have made the setting private, too. I think in the fic, god!Dean likes the naughtiness of scandalizing his mortals by "consuming" his sacrifice in front of their eyes. But if Castiel and god!Dean are going to end up having actual feelings for each other - and it's not guaranteed that they are - their first time together would be much more romantic in private. Maybe Dean appears to Azazel to accept the sacrifice, but then tells the priest to leave the temple. Azazel leaves the temple thinking Castiel is going to be literally eaten as a snack, clueless that god!Dean is much more horny than hungry. But again, that's more of a stylistic preference than a literary criticism.

I look forward to a second chapter.

*Speaking of fallen angels, I forgot to mention in my Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire review that Lucifer is described in that book as being indescribably, almost painfully beautiful, but with utterly dead eyes.

Mark Pellegrino is Supernatural's Lucifer. I added his monologue from John Milton's Paradise Lost, because literary.

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

OUT NOW – A Different Kind of Cosplay by Lucy Felthouse (@cw1985) #erotica #romance #geek


Zachary has a dilemma. His girlfriend, Reese, has a special birthday coming up soon and he has absolutely no clue what to get for her. It doesn’t help that Zach does not share or really understand Reese’s biggest hobby—comic books, superheroes and everything that goes with them. Zach raids Reese’s DVD collection for inspiration, and what he finds there gives him an idea…possibly the best one he’s ever had.

Sure, Reese has fantasized about her favorite superheroes. All those muscles and rakish smiles are to die for. She didn’t think Zach would ever really understand, though. But he proves her wrong in the best way possible.

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Zachary sighed at the calendar entry in his phone, which was reminding him for the third time about Reese’s upcoming birthday. And it wasn’t just any birthday—she was going to be thirty.

There were perks to dating a doctor—the uniform was pretty hot, for example—but when that doctor had no particular fondness for jewelry, flowers or chocolates, buying her presents was nigh-on impossible. And because of her work schedule, a surprise weekend away was out of the question. He’d long since learned to always keep the receipts.

Most people get their partners something to do with their hobbies or interests. However, Reese was even awkward in that regard. Her main hobby was so complex that Zach didn’t have the first idea what to get her to do with it—Reese was an uber-geek. Films, graphic novels, collectibles, all that jazz.

Obviously he could just ask what she wanted, then go out and get it, but then it wouldn’t be a surprise. And it was too easy—he wanted her to know he’d really made the effort.

Snoozing the calendar reminder once more, Zach threw the phone onto the sofa, then walked over and started rooting through their combined film collection for something to watch after dinner, which was almost ready. Reese was on-shift at the hospital until silly o’clock, so he had the house to himself and could watch whatever he liked. An action movie it was, then.

Running his fingers along the spines of the DVDs and Blu-rays, he suddenly paused. The Avengers leaped out at him, for some reason. He’d seen snippets of it before, as Reese watched it pretty frequently. The parts he’d seen hadn’t looked too bad, actually. It was essentially an action film, he decided, but with superheroes in it.

He pulled the case off the shelf, an idea beginning to form. Maybe if he watched it beginning to end, he’d seen what drew Reese into that world so much, why she was so fascinated by the films, the graphic novels and so on. Even if he didn’t get it, though, maybe it would still give him some inspiration for a gift. He had nothing better to do that evening, in any case, so it was certainly worth a try.

After putting the disc in the player, he headed into the kitchen to see how his dinner was coming along. A meal in front of the television was the order of the day, it seemed.

A few minutes later, he settled onto the sofa with his lasagna and garlic bread, a bottle of beer on the table next to him. Time for some Avengers action.

Within half an hour, he’d ascertained that the film wasn’t just for geeks. In fact it was easy to see why it had such a wide appeal—the cast was supremely attractive, whatever gender you were into, the plot was interesting and the dialogue seriously witty. He’d already developed quite the crush on the Black Widow, and Nick Fury’s right-hand woman had a lovely pert backside.

Trying to put himself in Reese’s shoes, Zach looked at the male characters. Okay, when it came to this film, straight women clearly had more eye-candy than they knew what to do with. He vaguely remembered a bunch of crazy stuff going around on the Internet about Loki—even the villain of the piece had sex appeal, for heaven’s sake! So much so that it had spilled over into even Zach’s limited social media presence. He barely used Facebook, and he’d never gotten the hang of Twitter. And yet he knew about the rabid fangirls. That was another score for The Avengers, then—truly mass-market appeal. If only there were mass-market gift-buying options.

Sighing, he tried to empty his mind and concentrate on the film. The more he tried to force an idea to present itself, the less likely it would be to happen. He’d just enjoy the entertainment and keep his fingers crossed that his subconscious provided something useful.

Once he’d made the decision, it wasn’t difficult to get sucked back into the narrative. It was engaging, easy-going and fun. Zach surprised himself by thoroughly enjoying the entire thing. Reese would be pleased when the next film came out at the cinema and he offered to go along with her.
He’d keep his new found admiration quiet for now, though. He didn’t want to arouse her suspicions, although she was bound to know he was planning something for her milestone birthday.

The question remained—what the hell could he do or buy to blow her away?

Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women's Erotica 2013, and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica ForAll, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more at Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at:

Friday, February 6, 2015

As Couples Get Kinkier, Nevada Brothel Sheri’s Ranch Brings 'Fifty Shades'of Fantasy to Life

PAHRUMP, Nev. / February 2, 2015 [Press Release] – With the momentum of pop culture event Fifty Shades of Grey reaching full sizzle, mainstream society has taken a very kinky turn in the bedroom, and Las Vegas-area brothel/resort Sheri’s Ranch is seeing the results first-hand.

In a recent blog article on Sheri’s website, company spokesman Jeremy Lemur gives readers ‘The Authentic Fifty Shades of Grey Experience’ from the perspective of the brothel, which has a fully-stocked BDSM specialty dungeon with industrial-strength shackles, chains and riding crops “that would even make E.L. James blush.”

“Many couples are excited to try the new toys and accoutrements, but are unaware of the basics of bondage,” said Lemur. “We’re noticing an uptick in the ‘fantasy’ aspect of couples’ pleasure, and Sheri’s dungeon has become a very popular place to explore those desires before committing to this lifestyle at home.”

Fifty Shades-inspired couples may live out the hottest scenes from the story and submit to Sheri’s version of the Red Room of Pain, Sensory-Deprivation Sex, the Bathtub Blow Job, Silk Tie Oral Sex and Ben Wa Balls Spanking, and Sheri’s courtesans are skilled at fulfilling every BDSM fantasy in a safe, comfortable environment.

“Many of the customers who visit Sheri’s are similar to the Fifty Shades character of Anastasia,” said Lemur. “They enter our establishment timid and curious, but soon discover that they have a kinky side that was just itching to come out and play.”

Sheri’s Ranch is located at 10551 Homestead Road, Pahrump, NV 89061. For more information about Sheri’s, please visit the website.


Sheri’s Ranch is legal brothel, resort and spa located in Pahrump, Nevada, sixty miles west of Las Vegas. The Ranch was purchased by former Chicago homicide detective Chuck Lee in 2001 and was recently remodeled into a fantasyland of suites and bungalows with themes such as Lustful Locker Room, Naughty Classroom and Geisha Girl Bedroom, based on customers’ most popular requests.
Lee has taken great care in maintaining a resort playground with the clients’ safety and privacy in mind.

BOSTON – If you’re a 50 Shades of Grey fan with a gift for writing short fiction, then’s #Sssh50 “kinky tweet” contest has your name all over it.

Starting Thursday February 5, the challenge is to tell a kinky story in a single tweet, using the hashtag #Sssh50. Contestants have more than one chance to win, as each tweet using the #Sssh50 hashtag counts as a separate entry. Tweet submissions will be accepted through February 22, 2015 at midnight EST. The winner will take home an author signed copy of the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy.

“We’re giving fans a chance to have some fun and use their creativity for a shot at winning a memorable prize,” said Angie Rowntree, owner of, the web's premier porn for women site. “Using Twitter as the medium makes it something people can participate in easily. At the same time, the platform requires contestants to be clever and efficient in order to tell their story in short bursts.”

The winner of the #Sssh50 contest will be announced February 24, during the upcoming show “50 Shades of Reality: Insights from BDSM Professionals,” which airs live starting at 3p.m. EST.

"People can pack a lot into tweet," said Lauren MacEwen, from 7 Veils. "The #Sssh50 contest gives people the chance to explore erotica in 140 characters. It will be fun to see how creative tweeps get!"

For more information about “50 Shades of Reality: Insights from BDSM Professionals,” or to watch past shows, go to For more information about Angie Rowntree (@AngieRowntree) or, please email us at

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Letter To My Cat

Dear James, 

I have a confession to make: the main reason we chose you out of the cattery at the Humane Society four years ago was that you were so pretty. We'd originally intended to get a black cat, but when we saw you sitting in the window seat with your beautiful tabby mask and your snowy white fur, we wanted to pick you up and cuddle you.

You were so mellow when we held you. You didn't try to squiggle away or bite us. You sneezed a few times, and we thought you might have asthma or allergies, but that didn't deter us. When the Humane Society called the next day and asked if we still wanted you, we said yes! We wanted to claim you before someone else snapped you up.

We didn't know you'd already been in the cattery for two years, since you were a baby kitten.

We didn't know you had a polyp growing in your ear, one that would give you repeated upper respiratory infections, one of which would leave you so weak I thought you were dying in my arms on the way to the vet's office.

But you're a fighter. A dose of antibiotics, and the next day you were trying to chew out your catheter in your kitty cage at the vet's. Laser surgery took care of that icky polyp, and you haven't had a sick day since.

Now you are our big, 14-pound, mellow ball of kitty snuggliness. You love everything warm, from sunbeams to the bedroom space heater, and you're very picky about which brand of kitty treats we can feed you. You never jump on the kitchen counters or beg for human food, preferring your dry Purina. You know how to sit, although you haven't mastered "fetch" or "go make me a cup of tea."

And you don't mind when I change the words to a Lady Gaga song so it's all about you. You're beautiful in your way 'cause cats make no mistakes. You are the striped cat, baby, you were born that way - and you were born to be our kitty.


Your human, Erin


A Letter To My Cat, edited by Lisa Erspamer, collects letters by the famous and the not-so-famous, all of whom are the caretakers to extraordinary cats. Among the cats is Lil Bub, who is famous just for being the most adorable thing ever.

Bub was the runt of her litter and has some birth defects, but she is still a being of pure sweetness and light. Then there's Matilda, the official cat of the Algonquin hotel. And Buddy, who saved his human Rick's life when Rick went into sudden cardiac arrest. Buddy wouldn't leave his mommy, Jennifer, alone until Jennifer checked on Rick, and she found Rick not breathing.

Cat can be heroes in lots of ways. Charlie is a certified therapy cat; children can read to him, and he listens and purrs in a totally non-judgmental way, helping them increase their reading confidence. Kinky Girl started life as a stray, but turned out to be the perfect cat for teaching kids to be kind to animals and for ministering to people in hospice. Burma helps her human, Stephen, recover from the psychological effects of being an Iraq War veteran - and inspires him to bring awareness to the issue of homeless veterans.

All the cats are good cats - even if they pee in the bag on the way to the office.

Some of the human caretakers who appear in this book include Rosanna Arquette, comedy writer Ellie Barancik, chef Anne Burrell, reality TV star Mayte Garcia, actress/author Gina Gershon, actress/mental health activist Mariel Hemingway (not really a "cat person," surprisingly, given her granddad Ernest's fondness for polydactyl felines), designer India Hicks, children's book author Nina Laden, (men's) NBA player Brook Lopez, Bridesmaids actress Wendi McLendon-Covey, Dr. Mehmet Oz, rocker Joe Perry, Kimberly Schlapman of the country band Little Big Town, and True Blood actress Kristin Bauer van Straten.


The follow-up to A Letter to My Dog takes on cats, with celebrities writing letters of love and gratitude to their beloved pet felines.

Alluring, elusive, mysterious—the cats in our lives are not always easy to get to know. But as with all pets, they have unique personalities and stories to tell. Alongside beautiful four-color photos of their cats, A Letter to My Cat collects personal letters from celebrities offering love and gratitude for all that their cats bring to their lives.

About the Editor

Lisa Erspamer is president of Lisa Erspamer Entertainment and Unleashed Media. Previously, Lisa served as chief creative officer and executive vice president of programming and development for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, as well as co-executive producer at The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she produced hundreds of shows. The creator and coauthor of A Letter to My Dog and A Letter to My Cat, Lisa lives with her dogs Lily and Grace in Los Angeles.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

'Cover Him With Darkness' by Janine Ashbless Is Beautifully Written

Cover Him With DarknessCover Him With Darkness by Janine Ashbless

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has received praise from a number of erotica authors and editors whose work I enjoy and respect: Kate Douglas, Violet Blue, D.L. King, Saskia Walker, Shanna Germain, and Portia da Costa:

"Janine Ashbless has long been a master at conjuring the erotic in myths and legends. Now she's taking on religion and all I can say is wow. Just wow! What is evil? What is good? Can the faithful have completely missed the point? Sexy food for thought: Cover Him With Darkness is an intensely wild ride."
—D.L. King, editor of Seductress and The Sweetest Kiss

"One of the hands-down masters; Janine Ashbless showed me that erotica can be literature."
— Violet Blue, editor of Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women and Girls on Top: Explicit Erotica for Women

"One of the most talented, original and brave authors in the erotica field"
—Shanna Germain

"The best erotic fairytale writer around."
—Saskia Walker

"Vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love."
—Portia Da Costa

How could I resist giving it a chance? I couldn't, and my will to resist its charms was annihilated utterly by Janine Ashbless's spellbinding prose. This book is simply magical, proving once again that good erotic writing is good writing, period.

The heroine is Milja. The daughter of a village priest in rural Montenegro, Milja has grown up with her family's momentous secret: they are the guardians of an ancient, immortal prisoner. He is Azazel, a fallen angel. When Milja impulsively releases him from his bonds, she unknowingly puts her life and lives of her family in terrible danger. The Church will go to any length to see that Azazel is once again bound.

You may remember the angel/demon Azazel from Can't Teach an Old Demon New Tricks by Cara Lockwood. In that book, Azazel is a very dangerous demon feared by Satan because of his determination to take over Hell, as well as the father of several monstrous, giant children by innocent human women. The Jewish Encyclopedia mentions that the name is used three times in the Hebrew Bible, although its meaning is unclear. It seems to come from the ancient Hebrew words for "a strong mountain," perhaps referring to the cliff from which the scapegoat was sacrificed in the ancient, pre-Temple Day of Atonement ritual. In later Jewish folklore, the name seems to have become associated with a demon or evil spirit of the wilderness, like a jinn, an ifrit, or a fearsome desert creature like Pazuzu. Only the Book of Enoch uses Azazel as the name of a rebellious angel who taught forbidden knowledge to humankind.

If one reads the King James Bible, then Leviticus 16:26 says, "And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp." In some translations, however, the same passage reads, "The one who sets the goat free for Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward may come into the camp" (New Revised Standard Version, used in the Roman Catholic Church).

If the word is so old that even the rabbis don't quite understand what it means, then it is a very old word indeed, possibly left over from before Jews and Arabs were separate cultures from our ancient Mesopotamian forebears. Ashbless - an artist, of course, and thus completely free to take all the artistic license she wants - seems to be drawing primarily on the Book of Enoch for her version of Azazel.

Ashbless's tale is darkly romantic, a dizzying balancing act between heavenly pleasures and depths of pain. Milja finds herself in a love triangle of cosmic proportions. Can she ever truly love a creature as inhuman and powerful as a fallen angel? Or will she find love with Egan Kansky, an American transplant originally from Ireland, even though Egan seems to be hiding a secret of his own?

"Cover Him With Darkness" began as a short story published in Red Velvet and Absinthe. I never read that anthology, but I'm glad the novel developed from it. Both the beautifully written prose and the compelling narrative make the novel a real page-turner.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review, which represents my own honest opinion.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

'Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire' by Kerrelyn Sparks

Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire is the 16th book in the Love at Stake series by Kerrelyn Sparks. I'm not a regular reader of the series. In fact, I've read only one other Love at Stake novel: #5, All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire:

All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire (Love at Stake, #5)All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good story, though it's part of a series and evidently I've skipped a few. Said vampire is a good-hearted, kilt-wearing, 600-year-old Scot who only drinks synthetic bottled blood (well, with one exception near the end). Santa, I will gladly take a vampire for Christmas, especially if he looks like James McAvoy.

So then I skipped ahead eleven volumes when I got the opportunity to order this free of charge through the Amazon Vine program, in exchange for a review. I liked the cute title, and I'm almost always willing to give a paranormal romance a chance, even though I couldn't remember all the specifics of the background characters.

As one might conclude from the title, this one is about a weretiger. She also happens to be a member of royal weretiger society. A Chinese native, she's about to become engaged to the weretiger prince of South Korea. But first, Jia is determined to exact revenge on the vampire who killed her parents and brother. He goes by the name of Master Han.

Jia isn't Han's only would-be assassin, though. He's also hunted by Russell, a secretive vampire who lives alone in a bat cave. Russell has to rescue Jia - an inexperienced assassin - and take her back to his cave. Slowly they begin to find themselves attracted to one another, although relationships between weretigers and vampires have never been heard of before. Chafed by her constrained life in weretiger society, Jia finds freedom with Russell.

Master Han is a dangerous enemy, but making him even more dangerous is his association with the demon Darafer. Darafer drags Jia off to hell, and then Russell needs the help of the angels to get her back.

In short, it's everything I want in a paranormal romance. The protagonists are likable people, they're both a little wounded by their tragic histories, and they fall in love in a natural, gradual way, not a love-at-first-sight fantasy way.

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The First Bite Is the Deepest by Elisa Catrina. $2.99 from
“Funny and clever and emotionally hard-hitting” "A perfectly creepy read." Elisa Catrina's debut novel begins as a quirky send-up of vampire romance, but quickly turns sinister. High schooler Stella Ortiz starts dating the mysterious new guy, but her friends are convinced he's bad news: Sebastian misses tons of school, he day-drinks something that smells like pennies, and oh yeah, he's a vampire.