A Little Afternoon Talking Trash With the Don of Doms and the Submission (Submit for Redemption, #1) by Robert Cage & Kathryn Sparrow

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TITLE: Submission (Submit for Redemption # 1) by
PUBLISHER: Storm Moon Press
RELEASE DATE: April 17, 2015
GENRE: BDSM Romance

BOOK LINKS:  Storm Moon Press  | Goodreads |  Amazon | Barnes and Noble  |  All Romance (ARe) 

Submission Banner

Talking Trash with the Don of the Doms!  A Special Guest Post!

Hi everybody! I’m Robert Cage, one of the co-authors (along with Kathryn Sparrow) of Submission: Submit for Redemption, Book One. Thanks for hosting us today.

In the excerpt above, masochistic Army Ranger Everett Palmer meets His Grace, Finny Bainbridge for the first time. Finny has just rescued Ev from a violent assault by one of the more sex-crazed and disturbed patrons of Cuffed Links, an illegally operated underground BDSM club in Kabul Afghanistan. Hopefully you get a sense that there’s a lot of electricity passing between these two MCs. It only gets more intense as Finny draws Everett further into his illicit world.

Finny is a somewhat mysterious figure for most of Book One. He’s hiding a lot, mostly from Everett. Wanting only to capture Everett and coerce a confession from him, Finny finds himself falling deeply, inexplicably in love with the younger captain, which both thrills him and knocks him off balance.

We were lucky enough to get a transcription of a telephone interview conducted by Good Reads UK reviewer extraordinaire, Jessie Cox. Her mission, which she generously and gamely accepted, was to interview His Grace from his eponymously-dubbed Greek isle, Phineas, on the morning of his departure, with Everett. Here’s the interview in its entirety, Brit to Brit.

Jessie: Good afternoon, Your Grace. Thanks for dropping by.

Finny: Thank you, Jessie. How do you do? And call me Finny, my friends all do. I don’t often find myself on the other end of an interrogation, as you know [laughs]. Please—go easy on me.

Jessie: I’ll try, but I warn you I have Habib’s number in my pocket as well as a set of thumbscrews in case you’re stubborn.

Finny: Ouch! You’re ruthless—but a woman after my own heart.

Jessie: Quite right. So, what was your relationship with your parents like?

Finny: Right into the fray, eh? You don’t pull punches. [Pauses] To quote the Coen Brother’s delightful film Raising Arizona, it wasn’t Ozzie and Harriet. I lost my mother when I was young, and even when she was alive I believe I saw her once a day for perhaps an hour, after tea. It’s made it hard to even picture her face in my mind or hear her voice at this point. Father was a complete nightmare. When he was around, there was always something wrong it seemed, usually involving me. We never really connected. I was much closer to Habib, my father’s valet and now mine. Father used to have Habib discipline me when I was younger but it wasn’t very effective—we would both usually end up in giggles or tears, sometimes both. Habib never needed to strike me in order to get my nose back in joint. One stern look from him and the wind would exit my sails faster than you could say Jack Robinson.

Jessie: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Finny: If I can’t name Finding the Love of my Life, in Everett, I’d say… well, that’s a tough one. To be frank, I’m not proud of anything I’ve done. Quite the opposite. I guess it would be a toss-up between starting to weed out contract interrogation jobs that are just wrong. Funny how that’s happened. I used to be such a terrifying son-of-a-bitch. Now, anytime I’m faced with a potential subject all I can see is Everett’s face. Pain is something I’m finding it harder and harder to take pleasure in, unless it’s with Everett, and in a consensual context. It almost feels a violation of our contract to share that with anyone else. Frankly, it has me a bit worried, but maybe it’s a cue that I’m in the wrong line of work altogether. Wouldn’t father find that funny? I’m proud of finally dumping Hector Ventana. What a disaster that was—he only brought out the worst in me, entirely the opposite of Everett in every way. Hector, if you’re reading this, it serves you right. Why are you still obsessing over me? As the yanks say, get a life!

Jessie: What is your most prized possession?

Finny: That’s another thing. Prior to Ev, I wouldn’t know where to start with the list—I have many beautiful things. But now they don’t seem so precious in light of having someone I can truly give my heart to. Though of course I don’t own Ev, not by a long shot. I don’t think anyone owns Everett. And—that bothers me a bit. Old habits die hard, you know. But in answer to your question, I think it would have to be a pair of antique watch fobs that date back a few hundred years, one of which I recently gifted to Everett. Though oddly enough, mine seems to have gone missing as of late.

Jessie: What was losing your virginity like?

Finny: Liberating. Terrifying—amazing. It was after a fencing match at Eton. I’d had my eye on this young man for some months and it was one of those things where each time I’d glance at him, I’d find he was doing the same. And not just glancing, our eyes were exploring each other. Granted, I think this happened quite a bit at fencing events—it certainly didn’t hurt that our uniforms were tight and clingy and we were always bathed in perspiration. This particular match was actually played on my family estate, so I had a very good lay of the land, as they say. Still, I was feeling more and more trepidatious as to what I would say to him—how could I express my feelings and not drive him away, yet also let him know how amazing I thought he was? And how would I get away with making a move on my home turf with forty or so staff roaming in and out of all those rooms. Turns out I didn’t have to say anything. He was waiting in the back of the hall for me just as I thought I’d lost him forever. We made love in a large dusty old closet—banging up against a stock of masks and foils—appropriate, isn’t it? [Laughs]. I spent god knows how many years getting up the nerve to come out of the closet and I find myself breaking cherry inside of one. That should have been a lesson, a harbinger of what was to come. Still, it was magic. My whole view of the world just opened up and a lot—not all—of my constant anger just seemed to leave me. Similar to how I’m feeling now, actually.

Jessie: Let talk more about Ev, since you’ve gone in that direction. What’s the biggest obstacle that you find in connecting with him? I assume you have your disagreements, as all couples do.

Finny: Oh yes. Right now, I’d say it’s trying to get him to see the forest for the trees, as they say. Ev comes from a simpler, more black-and-white world. He has had the responsibility of having many men under his direction in the Rangers but the effects of his decisions were always localized within his squad. The decisions I make can have ramifications all over the world, whether I like it or not. And when your scope of influence expands that far, you eventually hurt people as well as help them. That’s not something he understands just yet. Just as he doesn’t yet understand that I truly know what’s best for him. Not everyone is happy with our union, but I can’t speak too freely about that. He’s going to have to trust me as the road ahead may be difficult for him. But he should understand that, if he’s to keep to our contract as a willing submissive to me.

Jessie: Would you ever marry Ev? If so, where would you take him on your Honeymoon?

Finny: I get very nervous even thinking about that possibility. Not because I don’t want it, but because I don’t feel I’m quite worthy of him. Not yet, anyhow. And as I mentioned before, we still have a lot of hurdles to traverse. But where to go? The island I would think, seeing that it holds so many fond memories for us.

Jessie: The island you’re on now?

Finny: It does have everything we need. There are times I don’t ever want to leave it. Would be wonderful sometimes to just… stop the clock.

Jessie: What do you think is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?

Finny: When I find something I want, I get it, no matter the cost. My tenacity is well-known. My weakness is that I sometimes don’t consider the cost of those things until it becomes too late. And there is always a cost—something I’m having a hard time learning. Sometimes that cost is monetary, but most often it’s emotional and even spiritual on occasion. I think spiritual cost is what’s taken its toll most on me, as of late.

Jessie: What is something sexual you haven’t yet tried but would like to?

Finny: [Pauses for several minutes, apparently in deep thought] No one’s ever asked me that. Outside of a few blatantly illegal, outright deviant acts, I can’t think of a damn thing. When I owned Cuffed Links, prior to giving it to Hector, I’d push the envelope in a number of directions. I used to take such pride in that. Now it all seems meaningless, a waste of time. The act isn’t what does it for me anymore. It’s hard to believe I’m even saying something like this. [Very long pause] The way I see it now, unless you’re with someone who means something to you, you might as well be banging a hole in the wall, a well-lubricated one, but still…. Why waste your time?

Jessie: Wrapping up, when you look into your future what do you see?

Finny: Everett and only Everett. Without him, there is no future—for me, anyhow. He’s the one thing I can’t afford to lose. And I can’t help wondering if there’s not a cost hidden in there somewhere that I’ve yet to encounter…. But, I must take my leave of you. Everett has quite a big decision to make this morning and we’re due back in Kabul today. Wish me well and it was wonderful chatting.

Jessie: Same here. I wish nothing but the best, Finny. Thanks again.

Contact either Kathryn or myself on Twitter or by email. We live to hear from readers!

Robert: @robertcage2 on Twitter or Robert@robertcage.com.
Kathryn: @KSparrowAuthor on Twitter or Kathryn@kathrynsparrow.com

BLURB:

When Army Ranger Captain Everett Palmer enters gay BDSM club Cuffed Links, he is seeking brutal punishment for what he perceives to be an unforgivable failure: allowing an entire squad of men under his command to dieSFR_book1_500 while he worked to defuse a bomb at his base. Everett initially wants only pure pain, which professional interrogator and jaded British aristocrat Colonel Phineas Bainbridge is more than prepared to give. Their meeting, however, is not at all by chance.

Phineas has been contracted to coerce a false confession from Everett, implicating the captain in planting the bomb. Phineas has tortured many men in the past, but there is something different about Everett Palmer, a man whose sheer purity of soul causes the colonel to question his every selfish, devious act and legion of war crimes.

In Submit for Redemption: Book One – Submission, erotic romance and spiritual redemption come from the most unexpected places – from the seedy extremes of a smoke-laden, neon-drenched bondage den to the tropical, hedonistic pleasures of Phineas’ private Greek island.

On this unbidden psychosexual odyssey, Everett and Phineas find exactly what they don’t expect: a chance to redeem their troubled souls and fulfil their every romantic ideal. But the clock is ticking. The deeper Phineas falls in love with Everett, the harder it becomes to finish his assigned task. If he succeeds, the consequences may be far more explosive than he ever anticipated.

TAGS: Gay, BDSM, Contemporary, LGBT, M/M, Military, Romance
HEAT LEVEL (1 being no sexual content, 5 being erotica): 4
PAIRING: Male/Male
LENGTH: 99,300 Words

EXCERPT

(NSFW – You confirm that you are 18 years of age or older by clicking on the link to continue reading).

AUTHORS BIO:

Kathryn Sparrow has had stories spinning around in her head her whole life and finally decided it was time to write them down. After working twenty years in the Software Industry, she has left the engineering world to be a chauffeur mom (because she doesn’t really get to stay-at-home). She lives with her fantastic, geek husband and her two adorable, sometimes infuriating daughters, who are too smart for their Mommy’s own good. If she had spare time she would spend it knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, and doing any other handicrafts that catch her fancy.

Email | Website |  Twitter | Goodreads | Storm Moon Press Author Page
Robert Cage has been writing BDSM novels and short stories for close to twenty years, publishing on the Web through various e-book publishers. From 1997 to 2010 he authored four novels and one collection of short fiction under another pseudonym. He has always striven to make his fiction “more story and character-focused than much of what he sees published in the BDSM world.”

Robert has just released his first novel, which he coauthored with writing partner Kathryn Sparrow in the male romance genre. Available now in both Kindle and print formats from Storm Moon Press, it is titled Submit for Redemption/Book One: Submission and is the first book in a multibook series planned by Robert and Kathryn. Robert is currently busy at work on Just Desserts, a novel that is a prequel to Submit for Redemption/Book One: Submission. He and Kathryn also plan to release Submit for Redemption/Book Two: Domination soon, also from Storm Moon Press.

In addition to writing fiction, Robert collects books, music, and films avidly, and also contributes to a number of online film sites as a movie reviewer.
Email | Twitter } Website

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In the Author Spotlight: Blaine D. Arden on The Forester II: Lost and Alone (Contest)

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spotlight on books

The Forester II- Lost and Found cover

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to have Blaine D. Arden here today to talk about her inspiration for her Forester Trilogy and her latest release The Forester II: Lost and Found.

Contest:  Blaine D. Arden and Storm Moon Press are giving away one copy of The Forester (The Forester I).  To enter to win, leave a comment and an email address in the body of the comment where you can be contacted.  Contest ends 4/18.

Where the world of the Forester came from by Blaine D. Arden

Inspiration for a story is never a straightforward with me. Often different segments of a story are inspired by different sources. I started out with my idea for the Forester itself because of a number of Christmas story/winter celebration calls and the word Solstice got stuck in my mind. But that was only the beginning. I had yet to come up with where my story would take place, and who the people were.

The magic system was something that I’d been playing with for a while. Though a big fan of fantasy, I never quite understood why magic was used so often as an elitist item. Only a few would possess it, and those often held all the power. I also wondered why magic seemed something you needed as a weapon. I liked the idea of magic as an everyday commodity, something used in everyday situations—think Mrs. Weasley doing her dishes—and not just by the elite few.

In real life the talents we were born with in combination with studying hard, dictate what we become. Some have a head for numbers, some for creating things with their hands. In more than one of my worlds, a person’s energy core dictates where their talents lie and what their profession will be. And their magic? Their magic helps them with their jobs. A smith can keep his bellows going while he works, a Truth Seeker can scan objects for traces of a killer, a Forester’s energy helps him turn trees into dwellings—with the trees’ cooperation, of course.

This last profession came to life because I wanted my elves to live in trees, which in turn was inspired by a comic series I’ve always been a big fan of Elfquest (which you can read online these days). But I didn’t just want simple hollow trees. I wanted ‘real’ houses for my elves real dwellings. And that’s where the Forester comes in. He’s someone who works with trees to create the dwellings the elves live in.

An excerpt from Oren’s Right describes a Forester’s job best.

The tree was the right age to mold into a dwelling for a soon-to-be vowed couple, but it was one of the late bloomers. I smiled. Late bloomers were very much like striplings—rebellious and single minded.

The first tree I treated when I arrived here had been a late bloomer as well. I looked around the center. Children played as parents sat at the tables chatting. It had looked so different then. This tribe had been without a Forester for over a turn, and the village had been littered with tents to house all of the elves. They must have been so cold in winter.

A soft breeze reminded me of what I was doing, and I pulled myself out of my thoughts. This late bloomer refused to let me open up its core. I wasn’t worried. I would get the permission I sought, but it would take time. Rubbing my hands together until they were warm, I could feel my energy bursting to get out. “It’s all right,” I whispered as I laid my hands on the thick bark. “I won’t do you any harm; I just want to take an image.”

It was a silly suggestion. Trees had no idea what I was talking about, but it would the moment I pushed my energy into it. I needed to get the layout. I already knew it would suit the wishes of the couple perfectly, but I needed to lay the foundations, to put my markings in the right places and show the tree what I was planning.

The tree balked. Not literally, but I could feel it trying to retreat even though that wasn’t possible. Trees could do many things. Moving was not one of them.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Oren approach, but I couldn’t remove my hands now. The tree finally gave in and let my energy soak into it. It was like drawing, this phase. I could see the lines, could see the shape it would get. The tree calmed down, and I could sense its permission. Until I suggested swelling. It balked again,
then. I’d teased the tree for long enough, and with a nod and a whispered greeting, I removed my hands. I’d be back tomorrow, and the tree would let me continue then, I hoped.

Slowly this little village in the middle of the forest took form, with tree dwellings and elves with and without wings living in harmony (well, not counting murder and kidnapping for the moment). And then the world grew in my head, and I realised this little tribe wasn’t the only one in this world. There were other tribes with, maybe, slightly different habits and different characters to write about. And I can barely wait to write the stories they want me to tell you all.

~~~

Blurb from The Forester II: Lost and Found:

The Forester II- Lost and Found cover“The Guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.”

One turn has passed, another Solstice is just around the corner, and having an illicit affair with not one but two lovers-smith Ianys and shunned Forester Taruif-is taking its toll on Truth Seeker Kelnaht. If it isn’t sneaking around to find some quality time with his lovers, it’s heavy rainfall hiding traces of a missing stripling, or waiting for the elders to decide whether or not to set Taruif free. And if that’s not enough, Kelnaht fears that in gaining one lover, he might be losing another, as Ianys seems to be pulling away from them, and it looks like someone is, once again, trying to frame Taruif.

Book Details:
ebook, 88 pages
Published December 21st 2013 by Storm Moon Press
ISBN139781627570855
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Forester Trilogy #2, Tales of the Forest #3

Buy Links:

Storm Moon Press,
ARe
Amazon

~~~

Author’s Bio:

Blaine D. Arden is a purple haired, forty-something writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes, and a penchant for wearing mostly black and purple, who sings her way through life.

You can find Blaine at

Contest: Blaine D. Arden and Storm Moon Press are giving away one copy of The Forester (The Forester I). To enter to win, leave a comment and an email address in the body of the comment where you can be contacted. Contest ends 4/18.  By leaving a comment, you are automatically agreeing you are over the age of 18.

 

The Forester II- Lost and Found coverThe Forester coverOren's Right

 

Review: The Forester II: Lost and Found (The Forester Trilogy #2) by Blaine D. Arden

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

“The Guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.”

The Forester II- Lost and Found coverTruth Seeker Kelnaht, a cloud elf,  is tired of sneaking around to see his tree elf beloveds. The Solstice is approaching and nothing feels right in Kel’s world with his Triad incomplete.  His lover, a forester named Taruif, is still shunned, sentenced to 40 turns cast out for the recent horrible events (The Forester -The Forester Trilogy, #1) .  Taruif now lives on the outskirts of the village and Kel must use every trick to secretly visit him without the others finding out.  Kel’s other unacknowledged lover, the smith Ianys, visits him furtively,approaching Kel only when Ianys has a good excuse to use as camouflage for their assignation. Ianys is afraid to break a promise given to his deceased vowed and lose his daughter in the process.  Only visiting with The Guide,  their spiritual pathfinder, has Kel been able to find a measure of solace and hope.

Kel knows that the Elders are discussing reducing Taruif’s sentence, and the stress of not knowing is becoming unbearable. Ianys too is struggling with their situation and it feels like Kel is losing Ianys as well as Taruif. Then a young elf goes missing, and all the clues point to Taruif as the culprit.  Kel needs to find the stripling and return him safely to his parents before the Solstice and learn who is behind the scheme to frame his lover.  All before the elders announce their decision regarding Taruif.  Master Kelnaht must hold on to his hope as the path to happiness turns treacherous for them all.

The Forester II: Lost and Found was my first introduction to this trilogy by Blaine D. Arden.  But upon finishing this lushly spellbinding tale, I quickly returned to grab up the first story, wanting to know all about these charming characters and their complicated relationship.  I did so because for the most part The Forester II: Lost and Found is not a story that can totally exist as a standalone tale.  While Arden does supply a sufficient amount of backstory to these elves and their tumultuous relationships, these characters are so well created that the need to know more becomes almost compulsive by the end of the story.  In fact I feel that way about almost every aspect and element that Blaine D. Arden has constructed for this Trilogy and the universe these characters inhabit.

There are the cloud elves with wings and the tree elves tied to the earth and such a combined existence can bring about much pain and longing to those who cannot fly.  That is a truth that runs throughout the first two stories and its one that has haunted mankind since the first person watched a bird in flight in awe, hungering to do the same.  Arden takes this undeniable longing and threads it into multiple storylines with an authenticity that most readers will understand and relate to.

I love Arden’s descriptions here, whether she is letting us feel the burden of loss that Kel is feeling or the complexities of flight under adverse conditions.  And overlapping all of those elements is a layer of investigation and discovery carried out in search of the missing elf.  Looking for clues while flying through the woods or over a meadow, how wonderful an idea!  Kel has a cadre of elves working with him, similar to an elf forensic team.  They scan the soil, search under leaves and moss, make casts of footprints as they gather evidence to the crime.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.  I found it not only fanciful but fascinating.  Here is an excerpt:

We drew a rough map in the mud, indicating our discoveries and the possible directions to go next, and divided the routes amongst the three of us. After Ellon and Vroni took flight, Brem held me back, insisting I sit down and have a cup of tea to warm up first, though I suspected he only did it to give me a moment to catch my breath. Sometimes, he reminded me of my mother.

Despite the rest, my wings were more sensitive to the cold than they usually were. I shivered with every breeze, and my speed wasn’t optimal. The first place I landed held nothing of interest, and neither did the second. It took me longer to reach the third destination, with fatigue setting in, but even before I landed, I knew I’d find something. The earth was as muddy as the rest of the forest, but I still spotted footprints as I descended. Footprints of which parts seemed washed away in the rain. Well, that’s what it would look like from up close, but from here, the line seemed too clean, too sharp to be natural. I’d guess someone tried to sweep their tracks with a branch.

Studying the footprints, I found a piece of fabric next to the clearest of them, stuck in the mud, half hidden by fallen leaves. Thanking Ma’terra for the end of the rainfall and preserving this evidence, I performed a quick cleansing before digging out the fabric and wrapping it in goshe leaves.

As I examined the partial prints, the Guide’s saying came back to me. “When flood runs dry, stones stop sinking.” I shook my head. I had no idea how he did it, but he was right… again. Granted, I didn’t find stones, but the footprints and the line in the mud would have been hidden from sight had it still been raining. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry anything that would allow me to make a cast of the prints, so I secured them by covering them with goshe leaves I pinned to the ground with sticks. Not allowing myself any mistakes, I checked the fourth destination, even knowing I wouldn’t find anything there.

In Truth Seeker Kelnaht, Arden has created a sort of Master Elf Inspector and it works magically as well as realistically.  And like any good Inspector, Kel has junior detectives helping in the search and providing insight along the way.  Brem is one such character, strong and sure in his beliefs.  Loved this character too. Brem will be leaving for his own Truth Seeker role in another village and I hope that Arden allows him his own mystery or two in another story.

And then there is the romance and Triad relationship between Kel, Taruif, and Ianys.  The Forester II: Lost and Found starts with the three elves pulled apart by the painful circumstances of the first story.  Told from Kel’s point of view, we are never quite sure what the other two elves are feeling or thinking which adds to our understanding of the stress that Kel is under.  There are scenes that help convey the love and deep feelings that all three elves hold for each other.  And while I wanted a little more romance, ultimately their need for each other came across without additional scenes required. Both Taruif and Ianys appear and disappear often from the narrative because of the need to hide their continuing relations with Kel but that also keeps both characters at an arm’s length from the reader.

I felt that of the two, Taruif was the most accessible of the lovers with Ianys pulling away from his lovers, from their standpoint, for most of the story.  And while there is some resolution here for the Triad, there is clearly more to come in the final chapter. Both the first story, The Forester (50 pages) and the second, Lost and Found (88 pages) are short enough in length that they can be read in one sitting, one right after the other, which is what I recommend.

The Forester, The Forester II: Lost and Found and Oren’s Right,  which can be found in Storm Moon Press’ Carved in Flesh anthology, are all a part of Blaine D. Arden’s The Tales of the Forest universe.  I will eagerly await the last story in The Forester Trilogy.  If you are new to this universe, start with the first Forester story and work your way forward.  I think you will find this as elven world as addicting as I do.

Cover art by Nathie Block.  This cover is just gorgeous.  It’s lush, a visual treat and so perfect for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 88 pages
Published December 21st 2013 by Storm Moon Press
ISBN139781627570855
edition languageEnglish
Buy Link at Storm Moon Press

Books in The Tales of the Forest:

The Forester (The Forester #1)
The Forester II: Lost and Found (The Forester #2)
Oren’s Right
The Forester II- Lost and Found coverThe Forester coverOren's Right

 

Review of The Storyteller by Blaine Arden

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The Storyteller

Rating:  4 stars

The Storyteller is an amazing short story now available as a free read from Storm Moon Press.  It is narrated by Oleg, a young man who has been banished to his family’s country estate because of his blindness.  “Sightless, useless, an abomination”, he is tended to by Neiam who has been hired by his Father to take care of both the estate and his son.  That’s the bare bones of the story that is remarkable in so many ways.

Using Oleg to narrate the story forces the reader to perceive life as he does. Oleg feels the sunlight on his naked body, he listens to the hitch in Neiam’s voice and hears the shuffling of his caretaker’s feet that marks the path he is to follow.  You learn only as much as Oleg does about the estate they are living on.

Neiam is not the typical caretaker/servant either.  Neiam is Oleg’s lover and the storyteller in the title.  As Neiam tells his stories, he forces Oleg to follow his voice and take steps through the house, helping Oleg gain independence and confidence.  Another layer added to this story is the D/s role in their relationship.  Neiam, the servant, is Dominant while Oleg, son of royalty, is happily submissive.  Their sexual relationship is sensual and oh so hot. The D/s here is gentle and loving as Neiam steers Oleg towards self sufficiency.

There is no mention of time and place.  It could be Russia in the 1700’s or a alternate universe.  It really doesn’t matter as the focus is on Oleg and Neiam. Their day is interrupted by “Father” and serves to underscore Oleg’s relationship with his family.

At 3,600 words, this story is short and sweet.  The Storyteller takes place on Valentine’s Day, a perfect time to read this wonderful story.

Cover: This cover is perfection.  Lush and romantic, it really suits the story.

 

Review of The Ronin and The Fox by Cornelia Grey

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Reviewed for JoyfullyJay on 3/10/12

Rating: 3.75 stars

The Ronin And The Fox

Following a dispute with his lord, Samurai Hajime left his master’s realm to become ronin, a masterless samurai.  As he journeys through one village, the innkeeper begs him to stay and help drive away a kitsune or fox spirit that is bedeviling the village.  Lacking destination or purpose to his life, Hajime agrees to help.  A seductive encounter with Katsura, a gorgeous young man in his room at the inn leaves Hajime reeling and drained. Imagine Hajime’s surprise when upon capturing the kitsune, it turns out that the fox spirit is the same young man who seduced him that first night at the inn.

Being captured is the least of Katsura’s troubles.  The pearl containing his soul has been stolen by an unscrupulous healer who has forced him to do his bidding.  It is the yamabushi or religious healer, not Katsura, who is the real cause of the village’s problems.

Hajime feels sorry for the kitsune and is honorbound to help Katsura retrieve his soul and save the village from further harm.  But their partnership is not without obstacles, including former samarai, spells, encounters with water spirits, and issues of trust.  Will they obtain the pearl and save the village and Katsura?  Or will the kitsune’s own nature bring disaster upon them both.

I will state right from the start that I liked the characters of Hajime and Katsura.  Hajime is a person who, having achieved his goal of being a samurai, finds himself a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.  He’s kind, a man of honor who doesn’t do well with authority and just wants to help people.  Definitely not samurai material.  Katsura is a long-lived kitsune but still retains his impulsiveness and folly of youth.  It is due to his own stupidity and gluttony that his pearl was stolen.  How can you not love a spirit who is his own worst enemy?  They are the best part of this story.

I wish the author had taken her story and placed it in modern Japan.  I would have loved to see how Katsura dealt with today’s Japan.  Instead she set it in Shogun era Japan and all the problems with this novel tumble forth.

First the dialog and the phrasing.  Cornelia Grey tries for dialog as it might have been spoken in feudal Japan, using the titles of  “samurai dono” when the innkeeper is speaking to Hajime.  This is an old form of “sir” not used today.  But then phrases such as “he was in his early twenties”, “I could have timed that better”, or Katsura saying being a fox spirit “has got to have it’s perks” brings the story to a jarring halt and dispels any idea that these are men/beings of antiquity.  Further references to Katsura’s “alien gold eyes”, “stroke of genius”, “where on Earth” and “throw his life away” left me reading in disbelief.

The author also tells us repeatedly that Katsura is wearing an orange yukata but never informs the reader that it is a summer kimono.  Most people are aware of what a kimono looks like and had she used that term instead, it would have clarified what he was wearing. Yet, later on, Cornelia Grey tells us that the healer is wearing “his tokin—a small black hat tied just above his forehead”.  Better editing leads to better continuity.

The Samurai era started about 646 ce and ends in 1868 with the Meiji Restoration.  Japan was an isolationist society with layer upon layer of rules and rituals that governed society and its castes.  Such phrases and words such as timing, aliens and perks are modern and mostly Western in origin let alone “where on Earth”.  Also samurai followed a code of conduct called “bushido” which  translates to the way of the warrior.  It is honor, courage, and freedom from the fear of death.  Yet, Hajime says he was “trying to be honorable and kind, as the bushido instructed”and that he “didn’t want to throw his life away”.   *Shakes head*  Well, no, bushido doesn’t instruct that, in fact, bushido even demanded that sepukko or ritual death be committed in certain situations.  So actually, yes, do throw that life away, bushido demands it.

I got the impression that much of this story has been drawn from Manga and not history.  Hajime is actually a boxing manga and anime series. Also the kitsune has some attributes  that come from yuri/yaoi manga fandoms and not Japanese folk tales.  The fox spirit is Japan’s answer to our own Coyote trickster.  It can change shape, possess people in some instances and loves to play tricks, especially on the arrogant and unworthy. Here the land is drained of its energy by the fox spirit and the kitsune drinks Hajime’s blood. The vampiric nature of Katsura seems to have its basis in Shouji Ai or lesbian manga as the Japanese folktales do not mention this.

Writing historical fiction, even one that has fantasy overtones, can be tricky, as mistakes with dialog, dates and culture are easily pinpointed and distract from the story.  Cornelia Grey had a wonderful novel here and she buried it under poor word choices, unintentionally funny dialog, and uneven editing.  And that is such a shame.  Hajime and Katsura deserve much better.

Cover.  The cover is lush and portrays a scene in the book beautifully.  I wish the book was as well done.