Clayton, d’Abo, Dryden, with Series Enders from Parker, Rock | Erotica Reviews, July 1, 2016

As summer hits high gear, these steamy titles embrace characters shaking it up, letting it out, and stepping beyond their comfort zone. In J.A. Rock’s 24/7, withdrawn, cautious sub Gould finds healing and satisfaction in something that surprises even him—a Master/slave relationship with a married couple—while naïve Angela Ripon in Lavinia Kent’s Scarlet Angel initiates an erotic game of cat and mouse with the dashing, distant Lord Colton as a means of revenge but discovers she might share his rather unconventional tastes. Workaholic research assistant Glenna O’Donald puts her duties aside, for once, to do an exploration of another kind with hot professor Eric Morris, and city slicker Natalie Grayson just might expand her horizons, literally and figuratively, for a sexy, solitary upstate dairy farmer. C.L. Parker’s Coming Clean shows a whole new side to power couple Cassidy Whalen and Shaw Matthews, as the cutthroat sports agents tackle the trials and tribulations of parenthood and unconventional couples therapy.

shaking it up

redstarClayton, Alice. Cream of the Crop. Gallery. (Hudson Valley, Bk. 2). Jul. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781501118159. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501118166. EROTICA

creamofthecrop.jpg62816Natalie Grayson is a larger-than-life ­twentysomething Manhattanite enjoying sex and success in Clayton’s newest addition to the “Hudson Valley” series (Nuts). After years of attempting to hide her size and personality, Natalie has vowed as an adult never to be that girl again. She can, and often does, seduce any man she wants to but hits a roadblock with beautiful dairy farmer Oscar Mendoza, relegating their weekly interaction to a brief exchange at the farmers market. When a job opportunity lands her in Oscar’s town of Bailey Falls, the two finally give in to burning temptation. Will Natalie switch gears from the New York City fast lane for the quiet country life with her new man, or will past baggage keep them at a distance? A humorous cast of Natalie’s supportive family and friends round out this sweet, sexy novel. Clayton’s playful writing style blends silliness with apt observations regarding modern life, love, and self-­confidence. Plus-size protagonist Natalie embraces her curves with self-assurance, marking a refreshing change from erotica wherein most female leads fit the same mold (and dress size). ­VERDICT A titillating story with plenty of happy endings. Recommended for fans of Clayton’s previous works (the “Cocktail” and “Redhead” series) and readers seeking erotica with lots of heart.

d’Abo, Christine. 30 Nights. Kensington. (30, Bk. 2). Jul. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781617739569. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617739576. EROTICA

In this follow-up to 30 Days, ambitious university research assistant Glenna O’Donald chooses the lab over love, and lust, every time. However, a confluence of events soon breaks her habit: her great-grandmother dies suddenly, leaving Glenna a note with sage advice to take life’s chances. After the funeral, she stumbles upon index cards abandoned in the graveyard containing a month’s worth of daily sex romps. Though the cards burn a hole in her drawer (and her conscience), Glenna can think of nothing better than testing them out with gorgeous professor Eric Morris. Much to Glenna’s surprise, Eric is just as eager to play her game as she is. But when emotions rise, Glenna finds her play partner receding into the fog of his haunted past and her predictable life very nearly derailed. Author d’Abo infuses a quirky story with equal elements of drama, humor, and hot, unconventional sexcapades. VERDICT Hardworking, cautious Glenna will hit a familiar note with many; d’Abo (“Eternal Bond” and “Long Shots” series) and “finds a creative way to pass the infamous sex cards along to promising new characters in this entertaining sequel.

redstarDryden, Delphine. Top to Bottom. Riptide. (Escape, Bk. 3). Jul. 2016. 162p. ISBN 9781626494152. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781626494145. EROTICA

Amie Templeton is a longtime Domme fatigued by the St. Andrews club scene and her apparent inability to connect in vanilla relationships. Her lackluster routine is shaken up when old flame Drusilla Stasevich comes back to town, with a new kink club and Amie’s once-dormant romantic notions firmly in tow. When Dru needs some serious programming assistance for club Escape, gym manager Amie is the only logical option. The two encounter more than they bargained for as old feelings well up, just in time for an anonymous saboteur to threaten Escape’s burgeoning reputation. Dryden’s (The Unicorn; How To Tell a Lie) writing is dry and clever, deftly imbuing Amie and Dru’s reconnection with aching familiarity as each adjusts to the person she is meeting after a decade. Nuanced depictions of D/s scenes prevail; every moment isn’t mind-blowing, as Amie and Dru struggle to rekindle their old dynamic and finally decide to start anew. Demisexuality is also explored, as Amie considers her intimacy issues and the significant shift in her “stone” feelings when playing with Dru, someone she knows and trusts. VERDICT This novella is short and sweet, with a fair dose of smut for good measure. Highly recommended for folks seeking a delightfully quick, kinky F/F read.

Kent, Lavinia. Angel in Scarlet. Loveswept: Random. (Bound & Determined, Bk. 4). Jul. 2016. 302p. ebk. ISBN 9780399593864. $3.99. EROTICA

In this newest “Bound and Determined” installment (after Ravishing Ruby), a bitter Angela Ripon seeks the assistance of ­Madame Rouge in gaining vengeance against Lord Colton, the suitor with whom she had an intense courtship that dissolved when Angela spied him in flagrante with an actress. Oblivious to the cause of these dimmed affections, Lord Colton finds his hopes dashed when the enticing woman he courted appears to vanish, leaving a vapid, disinterested waif in her place. Now Angela returns, claiming to seek nothing more than his lust and his command. Colton and Angela embark on a game in which both and neither have the lead, as Angela coaxes Colton in his desire and Colton retaliates by testing Angela’s sexual limits. As the pair reignite the spark of their former romance, a close encounter threatens to expose their secret rendezvous. While the back-and-forth regarding the pair’s “game” and its emotional consequences might be tedious for those looking for a novel with less talk and more action, Angela and Colton’s eventual erotic trysts are well worth the wait. ­VERDICT Though less overtly graphic than its predecessors (including Mastering the Marquess and Bound by Bliss), Angel in Scarlet and its naughty nature will not dis­appoint fans of Kent’s raucous ­Regency tales.

Parker, C.L. Coming Clean. Bantam. (Monkey Business Trio, Bk. 3). Sept. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781101882986. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101882993. EROTICA

comingclean.jpg62816The climactic conclusion to the “Monkey Business Trio” (after Playing Dirty and Getting Rough) sees onetime adversaries Cassidy Whalen and Shaw Matthews team up for their biggest challenge yet: parenthood. Three years after a risky childbirth, Cassidy and Shaw are feeling the strains of domesticity. While Cassidy chose to stay home with their son, Abe, she can’t help but feel slighted (and envious) as Shaw continues to climb the ladder at the prestigious sports firm where they formerly competed as equals. Shaw, meanwhile, is buckling under increasing professional pressure and his promise to give his son a better life than the one he had. Tension seeps into all aspects of their marriage, particularly in the bedroom. Through Dr. Katya Minkov’s “hands-on” sex therapy, Cassidy and Shaw rediscover the inimitable passion that makes them excellent competitors and even better lovers. Parker flickers between the disparate personalities of her main characters with ease, balancing Cassidy’s weary nostalgia for her life before motherhood with Shaw’s dark humor and mounting insecurity over his role as father and family provider. The heavier moments of the novel are tempered with scorching-hot scenes of a lost couple finding each other once again. VERDICT Readers familiar with snarky Shaw and no-nonsense ­Cassidy will thoroughly appreciate this­finale to the duo’s wild ride.

redstarRock, J.A. 24/7. Riptide. (Subs Club, Bk. 4). Jul. 2016. 259p. ISBN 9781626493506. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781626493490. EROTICA

The conclusion to Rock’s “Subs Club” series (The Subs Club; Pain Slut; and Manties in a Twist) centers on Gould, the onetime boyfriend of the group’s late friend Hal and a curious sub who is currently navigating new waters in a Masters/slave triad with married couple Kel and Greg. Gould finds himself desperately wanting a deeper bond than “weekend play partners” with the pair while struggling with their quick forgiveness and re­acceptance of Bill Henson, the Dom whose irresponsible behavior led to Hal’s death. The three enter a “test run” Masters/slave agreement that teaches Gould more about himself and his unresolved issues than therapy ever has. Meanwhile, other significant life changes, including the possible loss of the Subs Club headquarters and Dave moving in with his dominant boyfriend, leave Gould feeling paralyzed by the past. This M/M/F tale, with gentle, perceptive top Kel and her snarky submissive husband, Greg, provides a change of pace from the previous characters’ M/M relationships. VERDICT Gould’s keen introspection and desire for abasement means this novel has a darker tone than prior installments in the series. Scenes discussing past self-harm and graphic depictions of consensual humiliation, while expertly written, might prove intense for readers seeking lighter BDSM erotica.

Ashleigh Williams is a New York–based freelance writer

This article was published in Library Journal's July 1, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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