[After Dark] The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (A.N. Roquelaure)

[After Dark] The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (A.N. Roquelaure)The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A. N. Roquelaure, Anne Rice
Series: Sleeping Beauty #1
Published by Sphere on 01-08-2012
Genres: Erotica, Love & Romance
Pages: 273
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

From bestselling author Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquleaure. In the traditional folktale of 'Sleeping Beauty,' the spell cast upon the lovely young princess and everyone in her castle can only be broken by the kiss of a Prince. It is an ancient story, one that originally emerged from and still deeply disturbs the mind's unconscious. Now Anne Rice's retelling of the Beauty story probes the unspoken implications of this lush, suggestive tale by exploring its undeniable connection to sexual desire. Here the Prince reawakens Beauty, not with a kiss, but with sexual initiation. His reward for ending the hundred years of enchantment is Beauty's complete and total enslavement to him as Anne Rice explores the world of erotic yearning and fantasy in a classic that becomes, with her skillful pen, a compelling experience.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★
Readability: ★

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty begins with Beauty being ‘initiated’ into the world of sex by the Prince.  Naively, when I read the blurb, I assumed Beauty would be…well…awake, for this.  She’s not.  Beauty then goes with the Prince to his kingdom to become his sex slave.

I requested The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty on NetGalley, pretty much on a whim.  I knew it was an erotic retelling of Sleeping Beauty, I knew it was written by Anne Rice, and I knew a lot of bloggers I normally share reading tastes with had enjoyed it.  I was convinced enough by those facts to request it, but unfortunately The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and I just did not get along at all.

For a long time, I debated whether or not to write a review of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, because while I do write negative reviews, I try to write negative reviews rather than flaming ones (see this great post by Dudette Reads on negative reviews without negativity) and that means highlighting the positives of a story – even if they’re few and far between.  Unfortunately, I really struggled to find a positive about The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. 

I didn’t find either The Prince or Beauty compelling as characters, and I couldn’t really bring myself to care about either of them.   The sex (between them and others) is prolific, so there’s absolutely no sense of build up, and I found it quickly got repetitive.  This is not the BDSM of Fifty Shades or the like – the consent is so dubious, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling it BDSM at all.  It’s also definitely not BDSM-lite: characters are ‘given’ to others to use, they’re humiliated and they’re treated as slaves.  Beauty seems to spend as much time crying as she does anything else.

The most intriguing character is Prince Alexi, the Queen’s favourite ‘pet’, who Beauty is drawn to.  I really enjoyed the possibility of romance there, but unfortunately this wasn’t enough to balance out the rest of the story.  My overwhelming impression of the novel, to be honest, is one of abuse and endless spanking.

Despite being less than 300 pages, it took me pretty much a week to read and I nearly gave up more than once.  I’ve read other reviews from people who loved it though, so it seems to be a bit of a marmite read.  Unfortunately, while I’ve read and enjoyed a fair amount of erotic (and BDSM) fiction, for some reason The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and I just rubbed each other the wrong way.

Buy it? I’d borrow or read a sample to see if it’s your style, but it isn’t one I’d buy.
In a nutshell: Just not for me at all.

Other Reviews of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty: The Bookish Brunette | Reading in Bed | All About {n}

One Star

Mini review: The Silver Chain (Primula Bond)

Mini review: The Silver Chain (Primula Bond)The Silver Chain by Primula Bond
Series: Unbreakable Trilogy #1
Published by HarperCollins UK on 04-07-2013
Genres: Erotica, Fiction, General, Love & Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Bound by passion, she was powerless to resist.

One dark evening in London, photographer Serena Folkes is indulging her impulsive side with a night-time shoot. But someone is watching her – mysterious entrepreneur Gustav Levi. Serena doesn’t know it yet, but this handsome stranger will change her life forever…

Serena is fascinated by Gustav, the enigmatic owner of the Levi Gallery, and she soon feels an irresistible pull of attraction. The interest is mutual, and Gustav promises to launch Serena’s photographic career at his gallery, but only if Serena agrees to become his exclusive companion.  To mark their agreement, Gustav gives Serena a bracelet to wear at all times. Attached to it is a silver chain of which he is the keeper. With the chain Gustav controls Serena physically and symbolically – a sign that she is under his power.

As their passionate relationship intensifies, Gustav’s hold on the silver chain grows stronger. But will Gustav’s dark past tear them apart?

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★
Readability: ★

The Silver Chain was unfortunately not a book I could get along with.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that erotic fiction is a bit of a guilty pleasure, and the genre is usually great for a quick, light read.  It can be a little formulaic sometimes, but that in itself isn’t an issue – the characters, their individual romance, the issues they go through etc, are all different, even if the overall themes are similar.

Unfortunately, in The Silver Chain, none of those individual elements redeemed the book for me.  I couldn’t connect with Serena who acted occasionally strange.  Gustav is also quite hard to like, from his insensitivity to his relationship with his ex-wife.  The relationship was not particularly compelling and there were times in this book when I thought Gustav was just too damaged, and Serena would be far better without him! The sex scenes were not exactly sizzling either.

Buy it? This is a library borrow for me – but only if I couldn’t find anything else.
In a nutshell: I’ve read some great reviews for this one, but unfortunately I couldn’t get along with it.

Other Reviews of The Silver Chain: Basically Books | 1 Girl 2 many books | Madness and Folly

One Star

[After Dark] Review: Bonds of Hope (Lynda Aicher)

[After Dark] Review: Bonds of Hope (Lynda Aicher)Bonds of Hope Series: Wicked Play #4
on 9-9-2013
Pages: 228
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Quinn Andrews has a lot to learn about the world of BDSM. Once America's sweetheart, she has an opportunity to revive her career by playing a sexual submissive in a highly anticipated new series. Quinn is ready to throw herself into the role, and her hometown's premier sex club, The Den, is the ideal place for a crash course.

At first Marcus Reese is reluctant to take on Quinn's erotic education, despite his intense attraction to the stunning starlet. While she fulfills his every command perfectly, she's also a consummate actress—and Marcus is determined to uncover the real woman hidden behind the mask.

Quinn's been taking direction all her life, so submitting to a Dom comes easily. But it's not just the most amazing sex she's ever had—Marcus challenges her to define her own needs and make her own decisions. And when her training is over, Quinn will have to choose between continuing to play a part in her own life, or living by her own rules.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★★

Quinn Andrews is an actress determined to shed her good girl image and break into some different roles.  She plans to revive her career by taking on the role of a sexual submissive.  It’s like nothing she’s ever done before, so she’ll be taking a week of instruction at The Den first in order to play her part convincingly.

Marcus is still adapting to his new role as part-owner of The Den, and at first he’s very reluctant to take on Quinn’s training.  He’s expecting a spoilt celebrity brat, and he can think of plenty of things he’d rather be doing.  He’s pleasantly surprised by Quinn’s apparent natural submissive nature, and they click fantastically.  How can he tell whether she’s truly a submissive or just a damn good actress?  Marcus knows he needs to find out what Quinn really wants in the bedroom – and getting her to face up to that within a week is not going to be easy.  The two also seem to have a blooming attraction but is it real? And could it ever blossom into something more?

Although I really enjoyed the first two books in the Wicked Play series, I was thoroughly disappointed by Bonds of Desire, (book 3).  I was a bit nervous about Bonds of Hope because of that, but I’m pleased to say that Bonds of Hope felt like a return to form for Ms Aicher.  The writing and editing issues I had with Bonds of Desire all seemed to have been addressed in Bonds of Hope, and the book flowed much more in my opinion.

I loved Quinn as a character.  Her life has been planned out for her every step of the way, and she has little to no control over anything.  She also has a nightmare of a stage mother.  Despite all that, she’s vulnerable without being a victim.  She’s certainly used to following orders, but beneath all that she does still have some fire which makes her more likeable.   Her celebrity status doesn’t make her feel shallow, because we also see the difficulties she’s faced because of it.  It’s quite lovely the way she grows so believably throughout the story.

The relationship in Bonds of Hope grows very naturally, helped, I’m sure, by the fact Marcus is such a likeable character.  He’s great at what he does, and he knows just how to get Quinn to open up to him.  Marcus and Quinn have great chemistry, but their relationship is in no way completely physical – they also talk things through, have coffee and generally get to know each other.

All in all, I found Bonds of Hope an enjoyable addition to the Wicked Play series. While there is definitely some steamy sex scenes, Bonds of Hope is above all, a romance.  It has a slight coming-of-age feel, likeable characters and since it’s quite short, would make for an ideal indulgent evening read.

Buy it? It’s currently only £1.53, so I’d definitely be happy to buy it!
In a nutshell: A fun, sexy, character-driven romance.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Early Review: Revealing Us (Lisa Renee Jones)

Review: Revealing Us Amazon| Goodreads

SPOILER ALERT: I’ve tried to avoid spoilers for the earlier books, but if you haven’t yet read Being Me, I’d recommend skipping this review for now. If you haven’t yet started the series, the first book, If I Were You, is available to read free at XOXO After Dark until October 7th!

Summary (From Goodreads.com)

The third installment in the sexy Inside Out erotic romance series—in the seductive tradition of Fifty Shades of Grey.

You’ve discovered Rebecca’s secrets. You’ve discovered Sara’s secrets. Now Sara will discover “his” deepest, darkest secrets…but will those secrets bind them together–or tear them apart?

Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Length: 336 pages
Series: #3 of Inside Out series (read my review for #1 If I Were You  here)
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: 10th September 2013, by Gallery Books

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★
Overall: ★★★★

My opinion:

If I Were You and Being Me dealt with Rebecca’s disappearance, a mystery that has now been explained, if not completely resolved. The mystery element to Revealing Us focuses on Sara’s best friend Ella, who left for a honeymoon in Paris but never returned.  Revealing Us starts right after the ending to Being Me, with Sara having to make the decision of whether to follow Chris to Paris.

I felt that Revealing Us read quite differently from the first two books in the series. Whilst the first two books were a perfect blend of mystery and romance, Revealing Us felt a little slower in comparison. The action in the story comes from two real areas: Sara’s encounters with Chris’ old friends from the lifestyle and complications with the trial for Rebecca’s murderer.  I didn’t particularly love Sara’s encounters with Chris’ old friends, as although sometimes Sara came off strong and feisty, there were also times when I wanted to shake her for acting recklessly.

Ella’s disappearance is still left very much unexplained, which makes sense in light of the fact that the Inside Out Trilogy is now branching out, with books four and five covering the trial and more about Mark, and a new separate spin-off series about Ella. While I’m (very) excited about the prospect of more books, Ella’s mystery sometimes felt more like a distraction than the main story, which meant that Revealing Us felt a little dragged out.  The fact that Inside Out will no longer be a trilogy also means you don’t finish the book with the closure you were expecting to.  I imagine for a lot of people, Revealing Us will be the deciding factor for the rest of the books. If you’re happy enough with the revelations regarding Rebecca, and the end point of Chris and Sara’s relationship, you may not see a need to read the rest of the series, or Ella’s spin-off series. If you’re curious about the trial, Mark, and Ella’s disappearance, Revealing Us just won’t be enough, and you’ll want to keep going with the rest!

In Revealing Us, Chris’ big secret is finally revealed, and I can understand why it has taken him a long time to open up and reveal it to Sara. However, I have to also admit it felt a little anti-climactic given the long build up and hints throughout the first two books.  Although it felt like there was less sex and explicit content than the first two books, Chris and Sara’s relationship grows beautifully, with Chris finally facing his demons.  Having become so attached to the couple in the earlier books, Revealing Us will have you racing through, desperately hoping they can get over their remaining hurdles and live happily ever after.

As always, Lisa Renee Jones’ writing is fabulous.  She brings the characters to life until you can practically hear their thoughts. Her writing style, combined with the first person point-of-view also make Revealing Us hugely emotive, so if you’re looking for a book that makes you feel, Revealing Us is definitely a good bet!

In all honesty, I didn’t enjoy Revealing Us quite as much as the first two books in the series. However, I suspect that may be due to the fact I went in expecting a series finale, rather than the middle book of the series.  Despite the somewhat different feel to the earlier books, Revealing Us still had me hooked, and I devoured it in a day, even quicker than the first two! Lisa Renee Jones left me stunned by some of the plot twists , desperate to know whether Chris and Sara could make things work, and emotionally invested from page one.

Buy it? This is a buy for me, but I’d probably wait and get it on a deal.
In a nutshell: Another great read from Lisa Renee Jones, but not quite as good as the rest of the series.

Other Reviews of Revealing Us: Talking Supe | Peace Love Books | Jessy’s Book Club

[After Dark] Review: Bonds of Desire (Lynda Aicher)

Review: Bonds of Desire Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (From Goodreads.com)
Lawyer Allison English n
ever planned to return to The Den—despite her naughty fantasies about being bound by owner Seth Matthews. But when club guest Tyler Wysong is injured in a scene, Seth turns to Allie for help. Aroused by both men, Allie should turn the case down. But she can’t…

After his bad experience, Tyler has no interest in being with another Dom. Yet he can’t deny his attraction to Master Seth. When Seth offers him a place to stay, Tyler agrees—if Allie will stay too. But what good is a chaperone who adds to his temptation?

Living with two subs brings out Seth’s protective instincts, though Allie insists she’s not into the lifestyle, and Tyler swears he’s done with it. But the chemistry between the trio prompts them to agree to submit to him for one week, and he’ll show them both the true pleasure that a Dom can provide.

The intimacy could break them all, or bind them together forever

Title: Bonds of Desire
Author: Lynda Aicher
Length: 384 Pages
Source: Purchased
Series: Yes – #3 of Wicked Play

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★
Readability: ★
Overall: ★★

My opinion:

I don’t honestly really know where to start with reviewing Bonds of Desire. I read and very much enjoyed Bonds of Need, but Bonds of Desire was a disappointment for me.

First of all, the whole book was in need of a really good edit. I might expect that from an ARC but having purchased Bonds of Desire from Amazon as a finished book, I was surprised. A minor spelling mistake or grammatical error can be ignored, but in Bonds of Desire the errors thoroughly put me off the story. From missing words to mixing up character names, I found it very hard to look past the writing and get engrossed in the story.  The amount these errors wound me up reflects how little I was gripped by the book – it’s easy to ignore or even miss errors when you’re truly engrossed in the story. In this case I’m afraid it’s difficult to tell whether the mistakes prevented me from getting engrossed or whether I noticed the mistakes because the story wasn’t gripping enough. Given how much I enjoyed the first two books, the errors in Bonds of Desire left me feeling like this had been published when it wasn’t ready. This feels particularly wrong when it’s part of a series, as it sort of feels like a sub-standard book has been published relying on the fact people will buy it because they loved the rest of the series.

This was the first story I’ve read which involved a threesome so I can’t compare it to any others. The three characters had great chemistry, and the time spent at Seth’s was both intimate and very sexy. I was definitely interested in seeing the three of them work things out, but whilst they connected well in the bedroom and in private, the connection between the characters felt a little shallow, particularly given the great connections between the couples in both Bonds of Trust and Bonds of Need.

Obviously, the plot is supposed to be about Tyler getting over his trauma, and the three of them developing a relationship. For a lot of the book, perhaps the first two-thirds, that’s exactly what Bonds of Desire is about.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of talking and going around in circles in a can-they/can’t-they sort of way, without a huge amount of progress, and because I wasn’t especially enamoured with any of the characters, it sometimes felt dry and slow. Later on, a plot twist is thrown in which gives the story something more; a problem to be resolved, rather than a debate to have over and over. Whilst that meant more action and instantly got my attention, it came very late in the book, and felt rushed, with a resolution that was a bit of an anti-climax.

Seth’s quiet dominance, Allie’s defiance and Tyler’s attitude were all somewhat unexpected elements, making them much more interesting than the sometimes cliché romance characters. However, sometimes it felt like these elements were the only part of their characters that were really focused on – Allie for example became defined by her urge to run away, rather than any of her strengths.

While I certainly didn’t hate Bonds of Desire, I found it disappointing when compared to the first two books of the series. The plot was interesting, but felt uneven throughout the book, and whilst I liked the characters most of the time, there was a LOT of talking without an awful lot of action. Bonds of Desire wouldn’t put me off the rest of the series, but I wouldn’t recommend it either.

Buy it? Not for me.
In a nutshell: Some very sexy scenes, but otherwise disappointing.