Tag Archives: alpha

Caught in the Smex Beam

I think it is fair to say that in PNR/UF novels, there are a few things that are expected and accepted:

  1. The hero will be gorgeous and well hung.
  2. The heroine will be attractive, smart, perhaps funny, but most of all likeable and relatable to the reader.
  3. The story will have elements that drag us in, besides the two pretty people it centers on, and transport us to another reality.
  4. The hero and heroine will be irrevocably caught in the Smex Beam.

“What exactly is a Smex Beam, Captain?” you ask.  Ha ha, fear not reader.  Your Captain is here to offer guidance and instruction.

The Smex Beam is the magic that exists the first time our fated lovers meet and never lets go.  They may be engaged in a fight to the death (perhaps with each other), they may be walking down the street contemplating quantum physics, they could even be falling out of a dressing room while trying on too tight jeans.  The point, young paduan, is that when it hits, the Smex Beam obliterates everything else.

Suddenly, there is no one else on the planet that holds any interest for our couple. No matter how much they may fight it, no matter the obstacles, which can include and are not limited to: zombies, vampires, werewolves, assorted fey creatures, car accidents, gun battles, psychic attack, old lovers, fear of commitment, fear of her mother, fear of his mother, paralysis, demons, magic spells gone wrong, angry gods/goddesses, being sucked into another dimension, differences in species, ancient prophecies…….

It. just.doesn’t. matter.  The Smex Beam conquers all.

When you are in its sights, there is no escape. Cupid wishes his arrows worked this well.   Star Trek’s tractor beam? Heh! Old news, old tech.  Captain Kirk wishes he could have had this on the Enterprise. (As if the guy wasn’t already busy enough with all those hot alien chicks.  Just sayin’.)

We readers love it. Every tension-filled scintillating moment, every hungry look and heat-filled glance at our hero’s amazing pack – ahem- pecs,  every time one or the other tries to escape its clutches, we come screaming back for more.  It helps drive the story and plot arc, keeps us turning pages at a break neck pace, reading until our eyes burn and our chin is resting on our chests.  We have to know, will they make it out together?  Will our couple realize their amazing gift of love and unending lust as bestowed by the Smex Beam?

But of course!  This is romance, silly!  The Smex Beam doesn’t make mistakes, and while occasionally we may think someone has managed to slip its sticky tentacles and go running down the side of a ravine, they are always dragged back, lamenting their own stupidity.

What, you want evidence?  Examples, you say, of these lusty lovers caught in the inescapable clutches of true love and exceedingly good sex?  No problem, here’s a little list of my favorites:

1) Edward and Bella, the Twilight Saga.   Sure, he’s a hundred something year old vampire who reads minds, eats mountain lions, and is condemned to high school hell for eternity.  She’s the clumsy, too perfect daughter of the town sheriff with blood that smells so delectable Edward can’t stop obsessing over how he’s NOT going to eat her.  He runs off to Italy to try to save her soul, she jumps off a cliff and hangs with his sworn enemies, a bunch of stinky dog smelling  shape shifters.  His skin may be freezing cold, but that doesn’t stop them from gettin’ down and dirty in the ocean off a little island named after Edward’s pseudo-mom.  With marriage comes a baby who doesn’t need a carriage but an iron crib and a newly transformed wife who won’t ever die and doesn’t need sleep.  What do they do with all that free time at night?  Hmm, let me think…..

2) Cat and Bones, the Night Huntress Series.  Cat’s an uber hot red head born to a mom convinced her half breed daughter is mostly evil.  Bones is a two hundred plus year old vamp that spent his human years earning his keep on top of, under, next to, well, just inside a bunch of aristocratic British bitches before he got shipped to a penal colony for putting his hands where they didn’t belong.  Add some silver knives, sexual tension you can’t cut with a Sawz-All, a smokin’ hot hero who is incredibly open with his feelings, a sexually repressed heroine you just love to root for, witty banter and action sequences so slick and tight your heart beats almost as hard as during the sex scenes, and it just can’t be denied that these two are definitely in the direct path of the S.B.

3) Clay and Elena, Women of the Otherworld.  Clay is the Enforcer of the North American Pack, Elena is his lady love, mate and wife.  These two had such a strange and rocky start to their story with Elena taking off and Clayton quietly stalking her from afar (the issues are heavy and myriad, both had difficult childhoods – actually that may underplay it, but you’ll have to read the books if you want to know) that the angst was almost unbearable.  Clay is no angel, and a reader can’t help but understand his lady love’s anger and bad attitude, but his single minded determination and focus are in the end some of his best qualities. Well, that and his unswerving devotion to tough as nails Elena.  Clay is so physically attractive as to be almost unbelievable, but he has eyes only for Elena, no slouch in the looks department herself.  Last I checked in with these two, they were living the PNR/UF dream with minimal death threats, a healthy pack and great sex life.

4) Mercy Thompson and Adam Hauptman, Mercy Thompson Series.  This series is more urban fantasy that paranormal romance, but I beg you to give it a look-see.  There is sex, yes, but it is not graphic and the romance is not the main arc of the plot, but it is so well written and paced that you’re rooting for these two from book one.  Mercy is a shape shifting coyote, Adam is the super powerful and incredibly sexy alpha of the Columbia Basin Pack.  These two engage is some really funny contests of wills that involve, among other things, a cat named Medea, a broken down Volkswagen Rabbit, and pancakes.  Mercy tries to consciously run from Adam while her subconscious is just pulling her in closer all the time courtesy of the Smex Beam.  She may be dodging rogue spells cast by angry Fey, trying not be a vampire snack and confused (at first) by her feelings for her first love Sam, but she is inevitably and quite happily conquered by the unstoppable force of the Beam and the drowning chocolate brown of a certain alpha werewolf’s eyes. (The bod attached to those eyes is certainly a bonus….)

5) The hellren and shellans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  A series that is running strong nine (or is it ten?) books in, a girl can’t stop rooting for these couples.  The danger, the sex, the passion of a mated male, the sex, the unswerving devotion in the face of danger, the sex, the shit kicker boots and leather, the sex……

These guys and gals overcome bodily injury and constant peril to be together.  They battle their sworn enemies the lessers, train endlessly, fight personal demons, and fight obstacles that seem insurmountable to be together.  What other explanation could there be than the Smex Beam?  Who would go through the nonsense that the universe throws at these people for nothing but a good lay?  No, there is more at work here to cause the levels of love, devotion, respect, and downright horniness these people feel for each other.

“But Captain”, you ask, “just where did the Smex Beam come from? Who, in all their infinite wisdom and intelligence invented the Smex Beam?”

That, dear reader is a topic for another post.  I will however, give you her initials.

G.O.E.

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Review: Dark Leopard Magic, by Sapphire Phelan

TLDR recap:

Orphaned a 16, Dev has lead a difficult and lonely life as a transient wereleopard shifter.  Montsho, alpha of his African wereleopard pard, has known only women and is uncomfortably surprised to find that the Dreaming has brought him news of a male as his mate.  While Dev helps Montsho learn to accept and become comfortable in their new relationship, he discovers a mystery that hits too close to home to ignore.  These two strong-willed men will face more than just social struggles on their journey together.  This story is erotic and sweet, but the writing is a little lacking in finesse.

    • Title: Dark Leopard Magic
    • Series: n/a
    • Author: Sapphire Phelan
    • Prominent Characters: Dev & Montsho
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: heavy and explicit (vulgar language typical of erotica)
    • Classification: m/m erotica

***** CONTENT ALERT: This is a review of a male/male erotica book.  If anything about that statement offends you or if you have delicate sensibilities, you may consider skipping this review.  Nothing here is crude or explicit, but some of the visuals evoked might be disturbing to you.  Consider yourself warned.  =) *****

Thoughts:

The story starts out with a quick and dirty (and a little gruesome!) waltz through Dev’s past, told in jaded, sharp-tongued first-person.  The second chapter unexpectedly changes to the first-person perspective of Montsho (communicated only by the chapter title) after awakening from a disturbing erotic Dreaming of Dev.  I like the idea that one of the men in this relationship has to be willing to go way outside his comfort zone in order to find the happiness they’ve been promised.  That said, however, I don’t feel there was enough of a struggle for Montsho before he caves to the inevitable and starts declaring his love.  I found it fairly unrealistic that a seemingly-straight man would allow another strange guy he’s basically just met to do things to him that he’s never even thought about before… but hey, it’s erotica, right?  Isn’t that sort of the point?  Yeah, agreed, but I think there could have been a much stronger build-up of sexual tension between them before the first penetration happens, and (true to the romantic stereotype) there seems to be absolutely no physical repercussions of these new (and heavily repeated!) activities.  “But they’re shifters – they heal fast!” Sure, they heal fast, but they still feel pain and they still have at least a small recovery time.  Meh, who reads this stuff for realism?!  Not I… *wink*

For those who are adamantly opposed to sex scenes with humans and animals, know that there is some borderline beastiality in this book.  It feels carefully written, so that they’re never human/cat (not for very long anyway) but always human/human or cat/cat.  I didn’t really get much out of the cat/cat parts, but they aren’t that plentiful or as explicit and are always paired with the human scenes.  The human/human scenes are definitely explicit but not overly long.  There is a good mix of passion and tenderness, and a decent dominance tradeoff between the two “alpha” males.

The dual first-person perspective is an interesting writing technique that I haven’t seen much of, and Ms. Phelan uses it effectively to express the dichotomy of personality between our two heroes.  Dev most definitely identifies more with his leopard than with his human side, and he makes no apologies for it… wild, careless, and without roots is how he prefers to live.  Montsho is a respected pard leader and enforcer, cognizant of his impact on those around him, and takes comfort in the structure and familiarity of his pard.   However, the dialogue occasionally teeters between childish and preachy, sometimes resulting in a stuffy feel to the conversations.  The sexual vocabulary is also awkward and cheesy at times, taking me out of the moment to try to process what I’ve read and understand what context the author intended it in.  There was a fair amount of snickering over terms like “ambrosia” and “nectar”.

Memorable quotes:

But it sucks so good! (I know I know, I just couldn’t resist this one…)

We were a perfect, blazing circle of suck.


If you like Dark Leopard Magic

If you enjoyed Dark Leopard Magic for its shapeshifting and paranormal storyline, you may also like the books in the Psy/Changeling series (starting with Slave to Sensation) by Nalini Singh.  Ms. Singh has created a rich world of shifters, mentally-gifted Psy, humans, and all the passion and politics that comes with the mix.

If you liked Dark Leopard Magic for its male/male erotically explicit romance, you might enjoy The Vampire Queen series by Joey W. Hill, particular books 5 and 6 which star Gideon and Daegan.  Now if you’ve read those books, I know what you’re probably thinking… “but those books are really more about a F/M/M BDSM threesome than a M/M romance!” and yes, that’s absolutely true.  I haven’t read much M/M erotica yet, so I’ll probably have more appropriate recommendations for you in the next few months.  =)

Final thoughts:

The opening of the book is a story of survival, a young man’s acceptance of his beast and his struggle to live alone in a human world he knows little about.  It’s initially difficult to identify with Dev because of his cavalier and violent attitude toward humans, even with regards to sex.  There’s a pretty disturbing scene before he meets Montsho that involves a little dismembering – best not to let your guy friends read that bit.  The story feels a little loose but I can see where Ms. Phelan was going with it, and the relationship and chemistry between the characters, while accelerated a little too early in my opinion, was strong enough to overpower the plot.  As it should be, with erotica.  =)

I would have liked to give this a rating of 4, but there are just too many spelling and grammar mistakes that took me completely out of my headspace, and the dialogue turned awkward a little too often.  Some people may think this review and analysis is overkill for a story classified as “erotica”, so to all the unenlightened I say this: read the Vampire Queen series by Joey Hill and then tell me you don’t think a high standard has been set for the genre of paranormal erotica!

If male/male erotica is your thing, grammar and spelling don’t phase you, and you’re just in it for the smexy, you will probably enjoy this book.  Dev and Mont definitely have chemistry and there’s a little mystery and action to be had as well.

Rating:
3.5 fangs: Bite worthy! 

*Original review done for The Forbidden Bookshelf.  Go here to see it.

Related links:

http://www.sapphirephelan.com/ (Sapphire Phelan’s website)

http://www.nalinisingh.com/ (The Psy/Changeling series website)

http://www.storywitch.com/ (The Vampire Queen series website)

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Fangtastic Friday: The Alpha Showdown is ON! Bones & Cat go fang-to-fang!

I came across this great review blog last week via Facebook and LOVE the Alpha Showdown idea!  The Vampire Book Club has set up a tournament bracket, pitting some of our favorite heroes and heroines of paranormal romance & urban fantasy against each other.  The contest is billed as an “alpha” showdown, implying it’s about strength of leadership but it’s feeling more like a “who could kick whose ass in a fight” sort of thing.  Really either way is fun, so no complaint here!  In the first two showdowns, one of my personal favorite paranormal romance couples, the Night Huntress series’ Cat & Bones, won their respective matches and are moving on to the next round… to fight EACH OTHER!  *gasp*

Soooooo, this is either some really bad bracket seeding or a nice ironic jab at the power couple.  Now there’s a tough choice for voters: powerful, sexy, badass, dirty-fighting Bones or his one-of-a-kind vampire-blood-drinking mate, whom he trained personally.  My first instinct is “Bones, hands down”.  He’s got at least a century on Cat, extra strength and abilities, and knows all her weaknesses.  That said, she knows all of his weaknesses too, and she tops his list of “people I’d rather die for than sneeze at”.  She also could drain him of all his blood and absorb some of his powers… if she could hold him down long enough.  Mmmm, toss -up.

Now, that said, this is the showdown doesn’t necessarily have to involve fighting.  When it comes to straight leadership, it’s still a tight race, with both of them having headed up separate successful and powerful organizations, but I think the scales tip a little to Bones on that front.  She does allow him to dominate her though (well, moreso than the other way around at least), and that’s what being “alpha” is about – convincing others to accept you as their leader, whether through fighting, love,  loyalty, or manipulation.  Who will win?  You’ll have to check back and see!

Other notable match-ups are…

  • Anita Blake vs Eugenie Markham
  • Zsadist vs Curran (I’d have rather seen Vishous here! /pout)
  • Eric Northman vs Raphael (this one should be interesting)
To follow the action, check out The Vampire Book Club and cast your vote!  The competition bracket is below, if you want a sneak peek…
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