Manning Up – J.T. Steele

Author: J.T. Steele
Publisher:  Loose Id, LLC
Word Count: 45,927
Published: 2011
Fictionwise: $5.99

Baseball star Elijah finally ends his sham of a marriage, finally ready to move forward and be true to himself. He just so happens to meet his soul mate to help him realize the possibilities for him to live as a gay man. Growing up in a strict religious family with his father as a preacher, Elijah needs to open his mind to what his heart has always known. When he meets Wesley, he knows he can’t wait any longer.

This book was confusing on so many levels – the first 20 pages are so were definitely the highlight, but very misleading. The story tries to pack too many different themes into one short novel, when had the story been played out without the “fantasy” undertones, it could have been even more poignant. As a reader, you think that the book is going to explore being a superstar gay athlete – but it barely touches on it. If you’re looking for that story, choose a different book. Instead, it is very focused on magic and psychic powers that Wesley is honing and Elijah trying to move past his father’s beliefs.

The sex in this book was anything but sizzling. Steele went for a strong D/s tone and play, but with the lack of character development, a somewhat erratic story line, and no real grounding for that type of relationship, it completely missed the mark and unfortunately tainted the hot factor for the book as a whole. The book was an easy read, so I’m certain that Steele can write an enjoyable book, but it felt like he put together bits and pieces from a how-to book without delving deeper into the story and characterization – or the parts that would keep readers engaged.

Out of four…
Overall Read: 
Sex Heat: 

This book is hard to recommend for me – I’d say if you like a little magic and perhaps constant tame sex and a quick read, then this book is for you. If you’re an experienced m/m reader, however, don’t even attempt it.

Dark Heart – Thom Lane

Author: Thom Lane
Publisher:  Loose Id, LLC
Word Count: 48,940
Published: December 2008
Fictionwise: $5.99

Set in a time long ago (actual historical date not given), a house slave becomes intrigued by a new guild houseguest – Master Lucan. There is an immediate connection for the house slave, Tam, and he has hope for the first time in his life – hope that Master Lucan is the perfect match for him – except, he is a powerful mage with a special power. As Master Lucan uses his powers for good, he realizes he needs (and wants) his boy by his side.

This tale was a different type of read for me – and a completely different take on the Master/slave realtionship. In all honestly, I was struggling to adjust to their interactions, as there was nothing consensual about the pairing. However, the characters were drawn together and their relationship developed to one that was caring and consentual at the end. I was intrigued by both the setting and the special powers, which was a surprise for me, and both added significant value to the story.

This is a quick and enjoyable read, and is the first of a series of stories from Lane which incorporate mages, Master/slave relationships, and long-ago times. The characters were developed well, although there was more emphasis on the plot, setting, and power exchange, than on the characters. The sex was powerful and happened often – maintaining the M/s dynamic throughout. Be forewarned, that some parts may be difficult to read, especially if you are active in the lifestyle. But those moments added to the connection the reader has with the characters (yes, I even shed a few tears in this one) and were true to the story’s setting.

Out of four…
Overall Read: ♥♥
Sex Heat: ♥♥♥
Plot: ♥♥♥

Read this book if you enjoy historical setting with a fantasy/mystical flair; enjoy the power dynamic between a Master/slave; want a quick and hot read that takes you to another land.