It’s time to talk about my readerly activities again. I enjoyed lots of good books over Christmas and new year so I’m spoiled for choice.
First up is Ricochet by Xanthe Walter. Since reading this debut novel, I’ve discovered that Ms Walter is a longstanding writer of slash fanfic and that it was while writing these stories (available on her website) that she came up with her ‘BDSM Universe’ an alternative world in which people’s primary orientation is dominant or submissive and otherwise, the norm is to be bisexual (‘monosexuals’ whether gay or straight are a minority). Richochet is her first novel using original characters – Rick and Matt – set in this universe. ‘Ricochet’, Matt’s safeword, is a play on Rick’s name (Rick O’Shea). The characters are actors who play roles in a popular TV show. Matt craves a serious Dom and considers Rick to be too goofy for him, whilst Rick fears any kind of commitment following on from the mistakes he made in the past.
The fun of this read, for me, was in the high concept setting; the portrayal of D/s relationships as something beyond merely acceptable but actually the norm, even down to the ordinary domestic stuff. It was nicely detailed: instead of the typical BDSM ingenue, we get characters who’ve been brought up within a settled D/s culture. Their fairytales have D/s characters (with gender being entirely immaterial); popular films and TV shows rehearse D/s romance cliches that characters alternately groan and sigh over. I’ve read parallel worlds stories before - steampunk stories etc. – but I’ve never come across this conceit, namely the switching up of ’normal’ and alternative lifestyles before and it was a lot of fun. Great characters too – I particularly liked Rick’s secret serious side.
Dark Space by Lisa Henry was a book I really loved. Sci-fi (of which I’ve not read much) and another high concept story. Brady is a low ranking soldier and medic on a spaceship. Cam is the golden-boy officer who was used by the army on their recruitment posters until he was abducted by the Faceless, the terrifying aliens Earth is at war with and with whom communication is impossible.
When Cam is returned, four years after his abduction, in a fluid filled alien pod, Brady is summoned to be present when the pod is cut open. In the chaos that follows, Brady ends up saving Cam, only for them to discover that Cam needs to Brady survive. Only Brady’s touch can regulate his heartbeat and keep him alive. At least until Cam’s Faceless captor, Kai-Ren, arrives to fix him. And Kai-Ren’s on his way, having sent Cam as his messenger, to prepare the authorities for his intended arrival, for peace talks. After four years with them, Cam can communicate with the Faceless.
I loved the concept in this one - so smart. The two MCs are forced into constant contact, and a further side effect of the link they share is that they can read one another’s thoughts, and are unable to hide their attraction from one another. I loved too how high the stakes were in this book. The MCs suffer on their road to a HEA (and I loves me some suffering). My one and only complaint would probably be that after heaping so much suffering on them, the resolution felt a bit sudden, a bit abrupt. Perhaps it could have been drawn out a little more. Otherwise, a fantastic read.
I Spy Something Christmas by Josh Lanyon was, as ever with this author, an utter pleasure to read. Josh’s year-long sabbatical has, I gather, come to an end and I am looking forward to reading more Lanyons in 2013. I adore his writing and have I think read everything he’s written. This is the third novella in this series, about Mark, a former British spy, and Stephen his American doctor boyfriend. Their relationship felt pretty resolved after book 2 and to be honest, I was expecting a mince pie of story – something sweet and festive. Instead I got the full Christmas dinner. Lanyon mines another facet of the MCs’ relationship that in no way felt repetitive. You know what I love about Lanyon? Everything is about character. The story serves the character journey, not the other way round. My only complaint? Over to soon. That’s always my complaint. He could write a 200,000 word book and it wouldn’t be enough for me. (Incidentally, for mince pie reads, you could take a look at the Christmas Codas on his website - checking in on various characters from his oeuvre – these were a lovely festive treat for me over Christmas).
The last one to mention in this post, very briefly, is Half Moon Chambers by Harper Fox. Fox is another auto-read for me and this one is set in Newcastle with, Vince, a recently disabled policeman and Rowan, a junkie witness as the MCs. This is the usual (by which I mean excellent) Fox fayre. The writing is lovely and has a slightly magical quality. A patience too, in the pace of the prose. A poetic sensibility. If I’ve made it sound a bit poncy, I assure you it’s not. It’s gritty and painful and hot. A great book, and I loved it.
The point of interest, for me, as a regular reader of her work, was her depiction fo Jack Monroe, Vince’s ex-lover who betrayed him. Fox quite often presents us with a brash, unsympathetic ex-lover. It’s a character-type I’ve become familiar with. But in this story, while Jack is as brash as they come, he’s far from unsympathetic. I’d very much like to read his story.
That’s my festive reader report, then. What’s been occupying your readerly eyeballs?