Tag Archives: Carina Press

Review: The Companion Contract by Solace Ames

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  The Companion Contract by Solace AmesThe Companion Contract by Solace Ames
Published by Carina Press on February 9th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Fiction, General, Multicultural & Interracial, Romance
Pages: 169
Format: eARC
Control. Submission. Power.Amy Mendoza knew she'd never have a Cinderella story. She walked away from the ashes of her childhood on her own, and signed her first porn contract the day she turned eighteen. The money's been good, but it's time to walk away again before the life drags her down. When a mysterious stranger offers her an unusual contract—sexual companion to a recently relapsed rock star—she accepts.Amy quickly and gratefully falls into an easy rhythm of control and submission—but it's not her client who keeps her up at night. Emanuel, lead guitarist and the man who hired her, occupies her thoughts—and soon, her bed. Their connection is intense, and although Amy knows sleeping with Emanuel isn't what she's there for—isn't what she's being paid for—what's between them is too strong to ignore. But there's more to Emanuel than Amy knows, and submitting to him might come at too high a price…89,000 words

This review originally appeared at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

THE COMPANION CONTRACT is the latest entry in Solace Ames’s excellent LA Doms series, and although it ended up being a good read for me, it wasn’t nearly as good of a romance as her previous stories.

In this story, we meet Amy Mendoza, who lost her entire family to deportation at the age of thirteen, forcing her into life choices that no child should ever have to make. Now eight years later, the world knows her only as the porn star Serena Sakamoto, and she’s made the most of what life has dealt her in order to stay alive and send money back to her family in the Philippines. But when Amy’s good friend Chiho needs rescuing from a Hollywood party gone wrong, the man who helps them out might end up being the one person Amy can count on to be there for her when nobody else ever has.

Emanuel de la Isla experienced the best and worst of life as he moved from a violent upbringing in South America to incredible success as part of the seminal rock band Avert. When he witnesses Amy’s strength in handling pressure under fire, he realizes she’s the perfect person to keep track of Avert’s problem lead singer as the band attempts a long awaited reunion album and tour. As Amy becomes indispensable to the success of the band’s future, it becomes all too obvious that she’s just as crucial to Emanuel’s happiness as he is to hers. But when the band’s planned future derails yet again, it remains to be seen if Amy and Emanuel’s love can survive outside the protected bubble they’d created together.

As with the other books I’ve read by Solace Ames, I was struck by the richness and elegance of how she structures her stories and develops her characters. No matter how unlike the events and people she writes about are with respect to my own life, I am always able to fully relate on an emotional level to what her characters are feeling and experiencing. In THE COMPANION CONTRACT, our heroine is a porn star who deliberately chose this career on her 18th birthday because she knew it was her best option to make enough money to support herself and her distant family. She falls in love with an albino Afro-Colombian who is the lead guitarist of the band she loved best as a teenager, and becomes the close friend of both the band’s lead singer, who has ongoing problems with drug addiction, and the trans woman he loves but cannot have. All of these characters are fleshed out beautifully and their interactions with the hero and heroine are both organic and essential. By the end of the story, each character is in a better place than they started, and optimistic that they will continue to be happy.

Yet, as a romance first and foremost, THE COMPANION CONTRACT missed the mark somewhat for me. Although I believed in Amy and Emanuel’s love, it was often pushed aside in favor of the various dramas associated with Miles, Avert’s unreliable lead singer, and Xiomara, the trans woman important to both him and Emanuel even as she was still learning how to live as her true self. And with the story told entirely from Amy’s first person POV, it was difficult for me to understand what motivated Emanuel beyond caretaking of his loved ones and a sexual pull toward Amy that she shared in return. That also affected my reaction when Emanuel and Amy were briefly separated, as she worried he wouldn’t return even though he swore he would, and I wondered why she didn’t believe him when I’d never seen any reason why he would lie.

Still, THE COMPANION CONTRACT is a lovely read overall and if you’re good with the romance being equal to other parts of the story, then you shouldn’t have any problems. Either way, I’m still a fan of Solace Ames and look forward to what she’ll be writing next.

Favorite Quote:

I wasn’t a beggar or a queen. I had room in my heart to love everyone who stayed behind.
I was only myself.
And that was enough.

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Review: The Submission Gift by Solace Ames

The Submission Gift (LA Doms, #2)The Submission Gift by Solace Ames
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author and the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

I enjoyed reading THE DOM PROJECT earlier this year, and was glad to see that there would be additional books in the LA Doms series. But I did worry (because I’m a worrier) that the loss of the previous book’s co-author might somehow have an adverse affect on the series going forward. The good news is that THE SUBMISSION GIFT isn’t merely the equal to its excellent predecessor; it’s even better, with what I believe to be one of the most realistic portrayals of what it means to have a truly polyamorous relationship in the present day.

Before we even meet the person who will change their lives forever, we see how the past year has tested Jay and Adriana’s marriage. The car accident that nearly took Jay’s life has wreaked havoc on their finances, their love life, and their peace of mind. Even now, Jay is only able to handle the most basic tasks involving physical effort, and has to be ever mindful of what he can and cannot do. Meanwhile, the bills aren’t going away, and Adriana struggles to provide financial stability while laboring in a demanding work environment where the hours are long and her co-workers are trying to sabotage her on a daily basis. But she still has needs in the bedroom that Jay just can’t fulfill, so when an unexpected windfall from the insurance company provides the means, they agree to use the money for something they’d always discussed doing: paying a professional Dominant to share their bed for a night or two. What they didn’t expect was someone like Paul, a man whose rightness for them would surpass any fantasy. But when a series of unconnected events expose still hidden secrets, it will take all three of them working together to transform this fantasy into a lasting relationship that can survive their new reality.

I’m a big fan of menage romances, but I’m also aware that many aren’t exactly what one could call true to life. They tend to take place in lovely fictional towns where everybody accepts menages, or where one or more of the involved characters has enough money to let them exist untouched by any possible controversy. But in THE SUBMISSION GIFT, the triad relationship begins as a financial transaction between a somewhat non-traditional couple and a part-time rent-boy. Even before their first sexual encounter, every one of these three characters is already living on the financial edge, and where they live and love is present-day Los Angeles, in neighborhoods far from the rich and famous. So when Jay and Adriana and Paul make the decision to commit to each other publicly, the direct effect on their day-to-day lives will be immediate and significant.

Even before Paul entered their lives, Jay and Adriana already had to deal with those who thought that their marriage was a sham just because Jay was, as he put it, “a bi guy on the femme side.” But this loving couple soon realizes that Paul is as intrinsic to their happiness together as they are to each other. So when Paul’s hidden past is revealed at the worst possible moment, Jay and Adriana must make the hard choice between reaffirming their love and trust in him, or letting him go for their own security, if not their long-term contentment. It’s to the author’s credit that she never hesitates to show us every ugly moment of doubt, and never flinches from the ugly facts of what these three people will face if they choose each other. But as we see how Paul fills the gap between what Jay and Adriana have and what they need, it’s clear that their unconditional love and determination to make it work will be more than a match for whatever life has to throw at them next. THE SUBMISSION GIFT is a gift to readers who love romance in all its permutations, and it made me believe that a polyamorous relationship could work in a world outside the borders of fictional Romanceland.

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Review: Wicked Weekend by Gillian Archer

Wicked Weekend (Pleasure Code, #1)Wicked Weekend by Gillian Archer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

I think I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but it bears repeating here: It takes a special talent to write a good romance novella. You’ve got about 100 pages or so to make your reader believe that these characters not only have a genuine attraction that makes them want to be together, but that they will stay together – if not forever, than at least past the end of the story. After all, pretty much anybody can write multiple chapters of insta-lust sex scenes, then slap a happy ending on it and call it a day. It doesn’t mean that what they’ve written will be believable, or even readable. So when I read a romance novella that does everything well and makes me want more without feeling deprived, I want to tell everybody.

WICKED WEEKEND by Gillian Archer is one of those romance novellas. It tells the story of how the woman who just lost her office crush to her sister finds a much better man and perhaps even a chance at true love. Lauren is one of those people who always end up doing what other people expect, especially when it’s for someone in her family. That’s how she ended up in the same ski resort bar as Jamie, a man who would never let anyone push him around that way. Lauren’s love life is practically non-existent, but she’s read about other more fascinating sexual lifestyles, so when she sees a black handkerchief sticking out of Jamie’s back left pocket, she knows he’s a Dom looking for a sub. But it takes Jamie’s mutual attraction for Lauren to convince her to not only go up to his room for the night, but also give herself over for what proves to be a pivotal weekend for them both.

I’ve read quite a lot of BDSM-themed erotic romances, but the handkerchief code was a new one on me. (It does exist, mind you, and some quick online searching was especially enlightening.) I enjoyed this more believable way for Lauren to recognize that Jamie was just the sort of man she had always wanted to help her explore her as-yet-unrealized fantasies of being a sexual submissive, if only for just one night. I’ve read too many books where the Dominant simply “senses” that the other person is submissive just by looking at them for 5 minutes, and while I’m not saying that could never happen, the handkerchief code seemed more plausible for me, especially in this shorter format.

Jamie and Lauren have a great personal rapport when they first meet, but that doesn’t mean their initial sexual encounters go off without a hitch. Again, this made the progression of the romance so much more believable, and seeing the way they both dealt with their differences then, and later as the story developed, was the best part of the story for me. By the time we got to their final conflict, it was obvious that they would be able to take their relationship to the next level, and embrace their need to be together both in and out of the bedroom. All this made WICKED WEEKEND a wonderful example of a romance novella with the Happy For Now ending, one where we can imagine what happens next without the need for a marriage proposal or baby epilogue. I loved every minute I spent reading it.

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Review: Up In Knots by Gillian Archer

Up In Knots (Pleasure Code, #2)Title: Up In Knots
Author: Gillian Archer
Series: Pleasure Code #2
Genre: contemporary erotic romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Format: ebook
Release Date: March 17, 2014

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

Book 2 of the Pleasure Code Series

After the loss of her Dom and first love two years ago, the time has come for Kyla to again allow herself the pleasure of giving up control. She isn’t looking for anything serious yet, just the comforting embrace of rope and a firm hand on her body for the night.

Rope-top Sawyer is extremely skilled and he doesn’t do relationships—but he’s fascinated by the gymnastics instructor who approaches him at a kink con. By the end of the day he’s vowed to help her feel submissive pleasure again, and to introduce her to a few Doms she can choose from.

But as Sawyer breaks down Kyla’s emotional defenses, his barriers also come down. Soon he can’t imagine giving Kyla over to any other Dom—and Kyla can’t imagine being with anyone else. When their feelings are put to the ultimate test, they’ll learn that while taking risks in the bedroom is easy, taking risks in love is terrifying.

My Review:

I quite enjoyed WICKED WEEKEND, the first book in Gillian Archer’s Pleasure Code series, so I was glad to see the series would continue with Sawyer, the snarky and infamous rope bondage expert who was the good friend of Jamie, the hero in that first book. Best of all, UP IN KNOTS is a full-length book (unlike the previous novella) so I was excited at the prospect of reading a fully realized romance from start to finish.

UP IN KNOTS begins with our introduction to Kyla, a former nationally ranked gymnast who now teaches tumbling to young children along with her younger sister, while continuing to mourn the loss of the only man who had been both her true love and perfect Dom. It’s been two long years since Adam fell to his death from a construction scaffold, and Kyla has finally decided it’s time to seek out another Dom for the kink she’s missed since then. She’s always had a crush on Sawyer – the most famous rope top in Vegas – but never thought she’d ever meet him, let alone get a chance to be his sub. But when they meet by chance at the local kink con, it seems like her perfect opportunity to embrace a new kink and a new life, if she can just leave the past behind.

We already saw in WICKED WEEKEND just how well known Sawyer is in the Vegas kink community, and how dismissive he is of any emotional commitments. When Kyla arrives alone for his Rope Bondage for Couples class, it seems obvious that she should be his subject for instruction purposes. The immediate attraction between them makes it only natural that Sawyer would want to spend a bit more time getting to enjoy her, if only for the night. When their first D/s scene results in an emotional reaction from Kyla, Sawyer decides that he’s the best one to help her back into the lifestyle, and then find someone good for her to be with once she’s healed. But as time passes and they grow closer, he refuses to admit that the person who is best for her is him, even if it ends up breaking both their hearts.

Ninety-nine percent of UP IN KNOTS was an intensely exquisite read for me, as Sawyer pushed Kyla’s kink limits, while Kyla pushed right back on Sawyer’s commitment limits. She had lost her first great love, to be sure, but what Sawyer gave her was exactly what she needed to heal from her loss and become open to love again. Yet even as Kyla continued to hold nothing back in her pursuit of new happiness, Sawyer continued to pull away even as he knew that Kyla was someone he didn’t really want to ever let go. There was a pivotal scene in UP IN KNOTS where Sawyer had planned to hand Kyla over to Grayden, his good friend and fellow Dom. As the intimate scene between the three of them played out, Sawyer’s possessiveness over Kyla overtook his original intent, resulting in anger and confusion for all. But it was only when Sawyer’s carelessness with his own safety landed him in the hospital that Kyla finally found her own moment of clarity. It was then that she not only came to terms with Adam’s death but also her feelings for Sawyer and knew what she had to do for her own self-preservation. Her next action set up what I anticipated would be the perfect romantic ending for Sawyer and Kyla, one where they would openly admit that they loved each other and have their HEA/HFN at last.

The ending is where I felt let down by UP IN KNOTS. If you don’t want to know how it ends, don’t click the spoiler button.

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I don’t expect every romance to end with a marriage proposal (or god forbid, a baby epilogue) but after 200+ wonderful pages of two broken souls working their way to each other through kink, I guess I expected more of an ending than what I got. I’m still glad I read UP IN KNOTS, though, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a hefty dose of kink with their erotic romance. I also hope there will be another Pleasure Code book and that we’ll get to see more of Sawyer and Kyla then. 4 stars

Review: Chance of Rain by Amber Lin

Chance of RainChance of Rain by Amber Lin

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Night Owl Reviews.

Review Excerpt:

What I love the most about Chance of Rain is how Amber Lin uses every word to build a whole world in the one small Texas town with stories and descriptions that put us there by showing instead of telling. We learn so much about not only our hero and heroine, but also the town, its more colorful members, and the environment which formed Natalie and Sawyer into the adults they have become in the years since they were together back in high school. The actions of the the characters ring true and provide a foundation for a well earned reconciliation by the time we reach their happy ending. A selfish part of me wishes there was more to read, but even if this is the only time we visit Dearling, Chance of Rain will always stand alone as a perfect jewel of romance. I wish more stories of this length were half as good.

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