August 18th, 2009

andrew potter

Renegades, Rebels, & Rogues by J.M. Snyder

All Shook Up by J.M. Snyder

Eduard is a depraved nineteen century Dutch nobleman who runs a plantation on the Isle of Java. Actually his wife runs the plantation and all Eduard seems to do his to harass all the men servant of the place. Since Eduard was banished from his native Denmark after a trial for homosexuality, a trial he survived only to the fake testimony of his wife. And now they live far from the high society, with the unspoken pact that his wife could be the real master of the house, and Eduard will lead the life as he likes.

In this apparently paradise arrives Reza, Eduard's former lover. Reza was a crewman on the ship that took Eduard on his new homeland, and it was also the first native lover of Eduard. After him, Eduard always sought men like Reza, probably never found one. But sincerely Eduard was not very sad to have to leave his former lover, and actually he even doesn't recognize him when Reza re-enters his life. But Eduard realizes that he was like a child in a candy store: he had in front of him an entire new world full of men who he could finally have without risking his life, but what he didn't understand years ago, is that Reza was his real love and he shouldn't never let him go.

Eduard is not the perfect hero of your usual romance. He is naughty and debauched, a man who is content to be order around by a woman, and actually not a man with a courage of his own: he becomes courageous when he is near Reza, he draws force by the silent man. Reza is a very difficult character to understand: he doesn't speak a lot and he, at first, seems strong and independent, but then you realize that he is a man in love and that he is not whole without Eduard, his first real love. In the end, Reza is a simpler man of what you thought.

A very interesting short historical romance, less than 75 pages, with two original characters... original since nor Eduard or Reza are romance heroes: usually a romance hero is so perfect that he really doesn't respect the reality of an historical character. In this romance instead, I think that both Eduard than Reza are pretty real: Eduard with his laziness and naughtiness and Reza with his simple soul.

Amazon: Renegades, Rebels, & Rogues

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
andrew potter

It's Only Love by Pepper Espinoza

Elected by Pepper Espinoza

This is a really short, 35 pages, but really nice story. Sam and Owen know each other. More, they probably spent more than one night together knowing each other better. But Sam and Owen can't be friends.

Sam is a Republican strategist while Owen is a Democratic news producer; and even if it's not clear if Sam really believes in what he promotes, it's more than clear than Owen is a Democratic for passion and not only for convenience. In the only 35 pages we had, it's not said how they met, probably for work related reasons, but Owen knows very well and in a very intimate way Sam, and Sam is more than willing to prolong this acquaintance, if they are discreet. Sam is also willing to make some changes in his life, to find a work that allows him to be near Owen, even to behave as Owen's boyfriend in their private life, if he could maintain his public face. And their attraction is so strong, and truth be told, Sam's behavior when they are alone is really good, that Owen is willing on his side to let go the "little" facts that he absolutely doesn't like Sam's boss, Sam's work, Sam's public face.

The story is a really good example of how you can't choose the person you love. And that it's better to try to fit together you different personality rather than be sturdy and wait for the other to change. Being extremist only led you to be alone in your bed.

Peanut Butter Kisses by Pepper Espinoza

As the candies in the title, this romance is sweet like sugar.

Peter is a big pastry chef, he is at the top in every competition, but always second. He is again competing at a national level and again he has as an assistant Josh. Josh is a young chef who looks with starry eyes upon Peter: for Josh everything Peter creates is perfect, and when Peter loses, for Josh is almost a personal matter. Obviously Josh is in love with Peter but he has never had the courage to make a move on Peter, both since he doesn't judge himself worthy of the love of wonderguy Peter, and because he really doesn't know if Peter is gay, since the man never express an interest in him, other than for work.

But this time Peter seems a bit more interested in Josh as a man than in Josh as a pastry assistant...

The story is short, less than 40 pages, but really really sweet. I like above all the fact that Peter is really not a special guy, maybe he is even a bit overweight, and he is really a sweet guy; but for the loving eyes of Josh he is wonderful.

Amazon Kindle: Peanut Butter Kisses

The Obsolete Man by Pepper Espinoza

This is a really, really, really nice short story... I have said to many really? well sorry but it's what I was continuing to replay in my mind while reading this book.

James is an average man; good looking, nice, beautiful eyes, probably if he was a little more self-conscious he could be the classical successful man, and instead he is quite and maybe even a little shy, he doesn't consider himself worthy of more than he has and he settles down to a life that maybe it's not what he dreamed, but that is good and so why change? There is a part of James' life that remains obscure, and it's how he ended married with a woman when he is clearly attracted by men. Anyway James being a nice man as I said, has never thought to cheat on his wife, even if he has noticed the handsome man on the 7.23 a.m. train he takes every morning to work.

But if drama didn't hit James' life, he would probably have continued with his daily routine till the end of his working life to then settle down again in a retirement routine, letting that handsome man slip in a hidden closet of his mind. But in a blink of a moment, James becomes an obsolete man: at 45 years old he is too old to learn again how to be printing technician in the publishing firm he has worked for 25 years and he is fried; his wife, that probably has never shared passion with him, has not enough patience to support her husband in a life change, and leaves him. Without his daily routine of going to work and coming back home, James is lost, and the only solution he sees is to end his life "using" that daily routing, throwing himself under the 7.23 a.m. train.

In the spur of the moment, and since he has really nothing to loose, James decides to devote his last day to realize his secret fantasy, approaching the man of his dreams, the handsome stranger on that train. He is nicely surprised when Chad not only welcomes the approach but confesses that also him had noticed James before. There is no question on the fact that Chad is gay, maybe since we are at San Francisco, and Chad has "that" attitude, maybe only since he welcomes James' approach in a way a straight man wouldn't do, anyway James chooses the "straight" way (pun intended) and asks Chad to follow him in an hotel and share a morning of sex. And Chad accepts.

Chad's character is not really full developed, at least not as James' one. He is a nice man, he is gentle and caring, and from the things he says, we can understand that he is not selfish; he not only noticed James since he was a nice looking man, but he also noticed when the man stopped to smile, so in a way, he noticed when life started to spiralling down for him. He is not so unselfish to refuse an offer of easy sex from an almost stranger, even if Chad knows that something is not right with the man, but then he is really nice, trying while having sex, to also understand James' reasons and troubles.

I don't believe that James really wanted to commit suicide, he only needed a nice gesture from someone; but if that gesture hasn't come, probably James would have gone on with his intent, the author is really good in mounting the tension till the break point.

The Prince Who Never Smiled by Pepper Espinoza

Leopold is the prince of a fantasy medieval kingdom. He has never smiled and so people think that he is deformed or maybe cursed. Recently his mother is not well and her only wish is to see her son's smile and so the king, who is deeply in love with his wife, sends out a decree: the first person who will make his son smile will marry him.

After being subjected to all the type of "show" from a string of wanna-to-be princess, Leopold takes a break and goes on an hunting expedition in the country, and here he meets Dexter, a young peasant who is going to court in search of a well-paid job to help his family. Leopold, who actually prefers the company of men, even if, till this moment, neither men were able to make him smile, as soon as he sees Dexter, can't help the smile on his face. Why is not exactly clear, if not a sudden case of love at first sight, since Dexter hasn't done anything of really funny.

This is the classic example of Cinderfella's story, with also a bit of breeches rippers: Leopold is besotted by Dexter, and he claims that he only wants to please him for once, since till this moment people only pleased him. But truth be told, Leopold bends upon a full debauching plan to strip Dexter of his virginity, and there is a bit of droit du seigneur in this story, with Dexter that feels as he can't deny anything to Leopold since he is his prince. But Dexter is not so against the idea, and once Leopold shows him what they can do together, he is more than a willing participant. He almost forgets that he has a family at home waiting for him.

The story is a quite enjoyable novella, a funny romp between the sheets with a fairy tale atmosphere (even if nothing of really "strange" or out of ordinary happens), but all in all it's more tender and romantic that real funny, with almost a little core of sadness.

Amazon: It's Only Love

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
andrew potter

The Sheikh and the Servant by Sonja Spencer

The Timeless Dreams series by Dremspinner Press has all the good basis to be one of my favorite series. I often say that the Sheikh is one of my secret dream hero, and so I was pretty curious to read this story by Sonja Spencer about the love between a daring sheikh and the pleasure slave he bought. There were all the preambles for it to be naughty and sexy, but I forgot one important detail: the author. For what I read by Sonja Spencer she is not the usual erotic romance writer, she is more "dreamy", with a strong propension to be emotional rather than sexy. And so also her story is like that, the love between Shahin and his servant Noori, is sweet and tender, but not at all sexy; there is almost no sex, but there is a lot of intimacy. And there is the rebirthing of a man who was used and misused and that has to learn to trust again, but he is lucky enough to meet a gentle and caring man.

There are some details that almost made me think that this was more a fantasy tale rather than an historical. The setting is obviously historical, but not so far in time to be medieval: Shahin wears glasses and they use ink and paper, and I don't know, the relationships between Shahin and his men and people is more "modern" than a medieval kingdom. But still Noori was sold as a slave to pay his father's debt, and he was from a "northern region", he has blonde hair, blue eyes and very pale skin... some of the old Scandinavian kingdom? A place where there was still a some sort of feudalism that allows people to be sold in slavery? I think that the author purposedly chose to not be too detailed, to let the story have this "out of time" feeling. And then it's exactly the way why the Sheikh romance is so popular, the sheikhs and their way of live, out of time even when they are in the XX century, make a story fascinating and with an aurea of mystery mixed to danger. The Sheikh, in the little world that is their household, a few tends scattered around, is the one and only Master, he is both power and law, he is the only steady point for a lot of people as well for his lover, being this lover willing or not.

But Noori is more than willing. Noori is a particularly clever and cultured slave, he was not raised to be a slave and he was sold when he was old enough to have memories of his previous life. Nevertheless Noori is also a very sweet and gentle man, he is not a domineering character, he is witty and spirited, but he has not an independent streak. He doesn't like his life before Shahin, but he was accustomed to it; he dreams for a man who will save him from his sad fate, and he is willing to urge that man toward the right decision, but it's not freedom he is searching, it's a good natured man who will treat him good. Noori is used to be a slave, and also a pleasure slave, he would only like to be so for a man he likes as well.

On the other hand, Shahin is gentle and caring but he is not used to have a slave. He buys Noori since he dislikes to see a clever man like him being treated no more better than an object, but Shahin is too closed inside his protective shields to allow someone else in. And even if he was married twice, I believe that he has always had trouble to express his feelings. For sure his second marriage was an arranged one, and Shahin had not to court and woo the bride. So from a side there is Noori, who is willing to share Shahin's bed if only asked, but who was taught not to overimpose himself if not wished; from the other side there is Shahin, that has never learned how to court a lover and that is too considerate to impose himself to someone who do not make clear his wishes... not the best of situation and this is the reason why, even if they are very intimate, and shared the close proximity of a tent, Shahin and Noori behave more like two child who don't know sex, rather than a twice widower and a former sex slave.

The only thing that let me perplexed it's the change in pace toward the end. All the story has a slow pace, very coherent with the way of life of the desert people and their philosophy, there is no need to rush thing, all the world has a natural pace and you have to follow it. But at some point danger breaks the peaceful flow and from that moment on, the book takes a full swing, not all the details are full explained (see for example to man who brought the danger inside Shahin's household, what happened to him?), and almost as suddenly as it happened, all is resolved and the book ends... But maybe the author needed something to shake both men from the empasse they were stalled in.

Despite the lack of sex, I like very much this book, it was sweet and tender to see how Noori opens little by little to Shahin and his people, how he first learns how to smile again, and then how to be impulsive and happy; even if at first Noori didn't understand it, and took Shahin's refusal to bed him as consequences of something he did wrong, it comes out exactly how Shahin wished, Noori was able to be again a free man, and when it is time to share Shahin's bed, the sheikh is sure that Noori is doing in completely willingness, and not as a duty or as a way to express his gratitude.

Anyway, The Sheikh and the Servant is not maybe the naughty tale I was expecting, but it's probably even better.

Amazon Kindle: The Sheikh and the Servant

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

andrew potter

Behind the Cover: Gene Mollica

"I'll get right to the point - this is a confession of my lifelong desire to make fantasy and paranormal images. Originally a painter (RISD grad '90), I made the switch to digital media in graduate school (School of Visual Arts '01). It was a daunting transition at first but now it's an equally obsessive process.


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Creating images that the authors feel translates their original vision, offering a window into that world for the reader, is as much fun as I've ever had. I work hard and work constantly to ensure that I'm always working on these otherworldly assignments.

I'm a full-time illustrator living in Chelsea with my wife Bethany and our cat, Chica." Gene Mollica

Partial Client List
Dutton Books, NAL, Signet, ROC, ACE, Del-Rey, Random House, HarperCollins EOS, HarperCollins Children's, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown & Company, Grove Atlantic