Corey, Kitty, and Sequella Review Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey

Sequella: Wow, another sequel in the Chronicles of Alsea already. Amazing! Unfortunately it is still sitting untouched on my eReader.

Corey: What’s wrong with you? I’ve already read Catalyst, re-read Vellmar the Blade, and re-read Catalyst again. Or at least my favorite bits.

Sequella: Show-off! Real life is happening.

Kitty: And some nice alien bits there be. Also, Corey, you sound like a judgmental speed reader.

Corey: But… This is it! The novel that fills in all the adventures of Captain Ekatya Serrado and Dr. Lhyn Rivers out in the Universe while Lancer Tal and Bondlancer Salomen Opah were finding each other in the Without a Front books. And the framing is perfect: The first three days of the Alsean version of a honeymoon (“Alsean bonding break”) for Tal and Salomen in which family share stories –

Kitty: – and everyone avoids explaining to little brother Jaros why Tal’s neck looks like a treecat attacked her.

Sequella: So we get Tal and Salomen time? That makes me want to chuck real life out of the window and start reading immediately!

Corey: Right. Okay. So on one hand, all the shifting relationships amongst Ekatya, Tal, Lhyn, Lead Templar Lanaril Satran, and Lead Guard Vellmar are explored in the moment. On the other hand, Ekatya and Lhyn each share a wrenching story about their lives after the Voloth war described in the first Alsean book The Caphenon. A very early scene in which Ekatya helps Lhyn survive a PTSD-like episode lets us know she experienced something traumatic. And yes, it turns out to be VERY traumatic. Whew.

Sequella: How Sci-Fi is the book. Do we get new races? Societies?

Corey: Some of the tech aspects of FTL travel are explained (and felt), and you definitely get a dose of Space Opera political shenanigans and a military-style raid on a planet. Not so much world-building. I enjoyed the action, but my re-reads were all about the aftermath. So emotionally intense.

Sequella: Is this a book mainly about Ekatya and Lhyn, or is a new couple introduced, like it happens so often in Lesfic?

Kitty: Ahem. Dr. Wells.

Corey: Oh stop it, Kitty. You are so homosexist. Who knows who the ship’s chief surgeon is into? And there’s so much to learn about Ekatya, Lhyn, Tal. Salomen, Lanaril, and Vellmar… who needs new couples? One of my favorite moments is when Salomen points out to Tal that the Lancer doesn’t get to decide how to handle the connection between herself and Ekatya… That is something that involves all four women, including Lhyn. And the tensions between Ekatya and Lanaril are nasty intense. So awkward when your wife’s best friend makes you uncomfortable. Frankly, these books are developing into the ultimate friends-and-lovers-and-tyrees emotional mash-up. I adore it all.

Sequella: What about other kick-ass female characters?

Kitty: Dr. Wells…

Corey: Yes, Dr. Wells. But also so much more Lhyn, who is a warrior in her own way. I craved even more Lhyn. We finally get her perspective, but during such unusual and harrowing circumstances. Really, I wish I knew Ekatya and Lhyn as well as I feel I know Tal and Salomen.

Sequella: So Kitty and Corey, who of you liked the book better? Kitty, how many bookmarks did you place?

Corey: Oh, don’t get her started. Me, I highlighted 20 quotes that just made me squee and bookmarked 6 scenes for their (non-sexual) intensity. Basically, they make me cry or clutch my heart. The first time I read the book, the action sequences carried me along but I came back to re-read the emotions.

Kitty: I bookmarked two make-out scenes.

Corey: Sigh. Is that a spoiler? Bottom line, Sequella, is that life may be happening but you need to pause and go visit Alsea RIGHT NOW.

You can download a sample or purchase Catalyst by clicking here.

Sequella, Corey, and Kitty Review Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey

Kitty: It’s a three-way!

Corey: A review, Kitty. A three-way review.

Sequella: A sequel! Finally! About time after that damn cliffhanger.

Corey: Do we even need to do a synopsis? I cannot imagine anyone jumping into this book without first reading Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge. But let the record show I sobbed with both happiness and angst almost immediately after tapping open Chapter 1.

Kitty: Oh please let me provide the synopsis! I bookmarked exactly —

Corey: Kitty! You will not give away the number of sexy times in the book. Let the readers discover that on their own.

Sequella: I think Kitty is still sitting in the co-pilot seat waiting for the Lancer.

Kitty: But… neck ridges… and… other ridges…

Corey: Just hush your mouth. Sequella, thoughts on the end to the cliffhanger?

Sequella: Just for the record, cliffhangers should be outlawed and it would have been no problem to end The Producer’s Challenge two or three chapters before it. However, the cliffhanger was a great way to shove the happy couple and me off cloud nine and start kicking some ass. (Them, not me. I was just cheering from the sidelines).

Corey: We’ll be of that generation that says “Remember when we had to wait an entire month for the sequel? Young readers these days get instant gratification, the spoiled brats.” Even then, it was only a download away from our e-readers once released. Did you go through a few recovery steps, Sequella, trying to deal with your reading addiction?

Sequella: Are you asking me how much time I spent on the Chronicles of Alsea website looking for updates or how often I googled Lancer Tal only to come up empty handed?

Corey: Ha! I just kept re-reading the completed books and cursing in Alsean. Anyway, The Caphenon was action-oriented, and Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge got down to both politics and romance. Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge seemed to bring back the action in a fierce way.

Sequella: The sword fighting was awesome!

Corey: Yes! And so much more intimate than the Voloth attacking the entire planet in The Caphenon. I really personalized my hatred of the bad guys in this book.

Kitty: Not ALL of the action centered around hate and swords.

Corey: Yes, Kitty. Now, let’s get down to other important questions. In an earlier review, I declared my caste to be scholar. Sequella, I am guessing you are a crafter?

Sequella: Of course. The caste system is something I like very much about Alsea. I like guessing castes for all people that are never directly mentioned but also part of Alsea. What about the Lancer’s cook or the people flying the public transports?

Kitty: I would be a religious scholar, because I love hearing all those women scream “Oh Fahla” when —

Corey: — when they pray. Ahem. Speaking of which… You know I love me some Lead Templar Lanaril. Who are you most eager for DeLancey to feature in future Alsean books?

Sequella: Ahhh…my favorite question, because that means MORE sequels. Lanaril is definitely someone deserving another story. Also, there is already a hint of another Lhyn and Ekatya story happening between the end of The Caphenon and the end of The Warrior’s Challenge. And the one I am most anxiously waiting for is Vellmar! She is a sword throwing Xena lookalike in my head.

Kitty: Colonel Razine. Someone with such perfect mental control who’s done such dark things for the right reasons, makes me shiver. So much promise for more intrigue with that one, and can you imagine if she ever did let herself give up some control… in the right situation, away from the job… Purr.

Sequella: What did you think about the end of the book? Too shiny and overdone?

Corey: Nope. In fact, I appreciated the time spent with Jaros in the aftermath, as well as with the rest of the Hol-Opah family/community. And Micah’s revelations, too. I was loving the eight whole chapters of reading in the final section; the opposite of a cliffhanger. Very satisfying, particularly because I am expecting many more Chronicles to come.

Sequella: Absolutely! So we agree we all liked it? I got the “stop-reading-rest-your-eyes” warning from my reading app five times. That’s how hard is was for me to put the book down and participate in real life.

Corey: Oh yes! I read so steadily that I had to stop and charge my e-reader even though it advertises “A single charge can last up to six weeks (based on a half hour of reading per day)…” You do the math on how much I read in one day. Kitty, what did you think? Kitty?

Kitty: Leave me alone. I’m checking out my bookmarks.

Sequella: And, last but not least, some survival tips for the looong wait until the next sequel:
1. Reread, starting with The Caphenon. There will be smaller things that you didn’t discover on your first hasty OMG-it’s-so-good read.
2. Check the Ylva site for any announcements about upcoming sequels or maybe a short story in one of their anthologies. You never know, there might be something for your inner Kitty McSaucerton in the next Slippery Folds anthology.
3. Make sure at least one of your friends also read the Alsea books. It’s nice to have someone with whom to discuss your addiction.
4. Read Fletcher’s Star Trek: Voyager fanfiction. It’s perfectly fine to never have watched the TV show. And I can promise you, Lancer Tal is in there waiting to be discovered. She is different from the improved version in the published books, but it’s still nice to visit with her.
5. Are you a writer yourself? Write Alsea fanfiction! This will help you AND us! Make sure you include some nipple clamps for Kitty’s enjoyment.

Corey: Okay, you went there. I’m just going to sit over here, blushing.

Kitty: Purrrrrrrrrr.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by clicking here.

Kitty Reviews Best Lesbian Erotica 2014

Everyone deserves access to a decent erotica collection. Cracking open a box of naughtiness, sometimes sneaking a peek at the story titles or authors to skip ahead to a sure thing, lingering over a particularly hot tale, realizing you’ve neglected a few chapters because you keep re-reading that one scene. Or maybe that’s just me.

In an effort to be disciplined and comprehensive, I decided to read Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 from cover to cover without any detours. But I’ll be honest: my itinerary included a lot of u-turns back to Teresa Noelle Roberts’ “Birthday Butch.” In my imaginary collection of “Kitty’s Finest Lesbian Erotica Tales Guaranteed To Make You Purr (but only if you like a little kink with your smut),” this story gets an immediate invite. Ms. Roberts, let’s talk.

I suspect recovering Catholics will find that Catherine Lundoff’s “Reunion at St. Mary’s” will put an extra crackle in their communion wafer. Sinclair Sexsmith’s “A Good Workout” was just that – to the point and rather athletic. I sweated a few calories away just reading it. “Run, Jo, Run” by Cheyenne Blue is a sweet and complete story in which the making of love moved my cynical heart.

“Imaging” by Sharon Wachsler brought forth a peculiar response from me. I actively disliked the narrator so much that I didn’t enjoy reading about her sexual shenanigans. But then I realized I was letting my secret wish to root for a woman “overcoming physical adversity” obscure the fact that the “heroine” was a total (metaphorical) dick. Suddenly, I could enjoy the nasty fun as her ex and friends administered some justice.

It may be my imagination, but this particular collection features more non-erotic stories than usual. Anamika’s“Bridge Line” and Dolar Vasani’s “My Bagandan Princess” are well-written – the women and the specificity of their environments lingered in my memory – but the erotic moments slipped by quickly. “Stitch & Bitch” by A.L. Simonds was also “story-heavy” but it’s the one I most wished would be developed into a novella or novel. Priya, recycling the yarn from her ex’s sock to reclaim herself, meets living-on-the-edge pro skater Luisa. One “upright and bossy,” the other tenacious and vulnerable beneath the bravado, and together I wanted to read more, more, more.

Nairne Holtz’s “Call for Submission” and Amal Arabi’s “Tongue in Cheek” both went for an unexpected ending with a smirk. Only Arabi’s story worked for me. I’ll nominate it for sexiest and smartest intentional tease, but thank goodness I could flip back to “Birthday Butch” right away…

D.L. King’s “Big Lesbo Cupcakery” was a hoot and a half, the intensity of “What I Need” by Xan West scared the crap out of me (which probably recommends it to some readers), while Cheryl Jimmerson’s “Nocturne” and Diana Cage’s “Hey Stranger” just left me worrying about the relationships of all involved.

And then there’s “Mommy Is Coming,” an erotic screenplay from Sarah Schulman and Cheryl Dunye that was made into a film. This is smutty farce. Personally, I prefer a traditional narrative or watching a film to reading the stage directions, and I found the big reveal a crushing turn-off even as I saw it coming (so to speak). Maybe a live dramatic reading, though?

As more and more erotic collections zero in on specific themes – Sacchi Green is releasing a second erotic collection about lesbian cops this year – I appreciate the Best Lesbian Erotica series as an annual grab bag of erotic adventures. Now, please excuse me while I consider a proper gift for the birthday butch.

You can download a sample or purchase Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 by clicking here.

Kitty McSaucerton Reviews Uncommon Romance by Jove Belle

Please welcome Kitty McSaucerton to the C-Spot Review team!

After reading Jove Belle’s new book Uncommon Romance, I’m convinced that the novella is the perfect length for thoughtful erotica. I usually dislike “erotic novels” because the plot serves as flimsy filler between sexual encounters. Too often I am exasperated to the point of flinging my kindle (gently) across the bed, then tap, tap, tapping the ebook reader screen until an erotic short story anthology gets down to business quickly and efficiently.

Uncommon Romance includes three novellas that take full advantage of the longer-but-not-too-long story length to invest me emotionally and thoughtfully into the characters’ relationships. And, of course, some crazy sexy encounters fully engaged me, too. Ahem.

“Raw Silk” asks the question “how do two women in love negotiate bringing a third woman into their bedroom?” June and Ashlyn write a full essay on this over nine chapters, in a game of pursuit, resistance, negotiation, and hot, hot sex with the “other woman,” Kat.

I loved almost everything about this story: the glimpses into June and Ashlyn’s home life, the way they initially use Kat as fantasy material, and then Kat discovering who in the relationship has the power to say “yes” to sex. I even liked how Kat is a one-dimensional character with only sex with June on her mind, because then I didn’t worry about any hurt feelings when clearly June and Ashlyn are using her for their own sexual lubricant. I was truly emotionally invested in the couple’s romantic relationship. My only quibble: June and Kat meet in the workplace, and I had to willfully ignore the career implications (a common problem in lesfic and, dare I say it, lesporn).

“On Her Knees” made me blush deliciously. This is one intense story, with Abby meeting her high school crush/nemesis Simone at a work party (cue my HR anxiety again). The viewpoint switched between the two women, and they both work through some serious anger and desire issues. I loved the short scenes between Simone and her therapist, whose observations are pointed to a painful but necessary degree. Simone’s sessions made me laugh sympathetically. Why, indeed, did she end up wanting to snuggle with Abby after their raw sex? And is Simone just continuing to repeat her history of screwing straight girls? (Or, in this case, girls who are gay men’s beards at work?)

This novella’s sex scenes are front and center: Simone on her knees after placing Abby on the trunk of her car outside a party; Abby appreciating Simone’s “serious blow job” technique; and many other moments that surround Simone bemusedly telling Abby, “Oh, the things I want to do to you.”

Yet their relationship has an honest arc to it. While I never quite grasped what happened between them in high school, their conflicts and need for each other simply work for me. I found the ending, or rather the point in their developing relationship at which the story ends, to be immensely satisfying and hopeful.

The third story, “Hollis,” had a former life in shortened form as part of the anthology Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations. Jen and Hollis are two confident women who know what they like, and – to both their satisfaction – Jen’s skills in following orders perfectly matches the controlling dominance of Hollis. In some ways, I prefer the short story because my imagination filled in the “before” and “after” encounters between homicide cop Jen Lassiter and FBI trainer Hollis. Like any story developed past my own mental images, I couldn’t help but feel a disjoint between the author’s vision and my own.

The original short story dropped you quickly into a “take the perps down and cuff them” training exercise that served as rough foreplay for Hollis and Jen’s private power games afterwards. While the longer novella didn’t push my erotic buttons as much as the short story, I loved it for one specific piece of dialogue between Jen and her awfully young and naïve training roommate Reeva. As I highlighted this glimpse into why Reeva was recruited by the FBI, I realized something else: Sometimes I bookmark sex scenes in lesfic romances, but I really love highlighting smart dialogue and turns of phrases in erotica. Using that standard, Jove Belle’s Uncommon Romance is smart erotica, indeed.

Oh, and thank you, Jove Belle, for the scene where Hollis makes Jen say aloud “You do not have the power to ruin my career.” Finally, safer workplace sex.

You can purchase or download a sample of Uncommon Romance by clicking here.