Disclaimer: The author is [personal profile] oracne, a pal of mine.

On the eve of WWI, English chemist Lucilla, who has been working in Germany with mostly-unfriendly male colleagues, gets trapped in suddenly-hostile territory. She teams up with Fournier, another scientist, a French man ten years younger than her, in order to escape. They end up in a room with only one bed. I’m sure you can guess what happens next, and is repeated periodically during their escape to France. While I had trouble suspending my disbelief that there would be quite that much sex when their time would be better spent running for their lives, the romance between two misfit geeks is very sweet and sexy.

Meanwhile, a number of English soldiers, with secrets ranging from being gay to being a werewolf, arrive in Germany to fight. They, Lucilla, Fournier, and others get enmeshed in a complicated tangle of romantic relationships, spy missions, battles, and a quest to take down a German scientist’s secret werewolf laboratory.

This unusual erotic novel reminds me of really excellent fanfic from some alternate universe in which there’s a TV show about werewolves in WWI. As fanfic, it would make complete sense: plotty, well-researched, and full of sweet character moments, interspersed with sizzling m/m, m/f, and m/m/f sex scenes.

As an original novel, it’s oddly situated in terms of genre: much more sex than one would expect in fantasy, and much more plot than one would expect in erotica. But taken on its own quirky terms, it’s highly enjoyable. The characters are likable and rather diverse (first Jewish hero I’ve ever encountered in erotica), the sex scenes are hot and varied, and I absolutely loved the werewolves.

The early scenes with Lucilla and Fournier turned out to be the only time when I didn’t really believe that anyone would have sex – the other scenes take place either when the characters get a break from the action anyway, or it’s psychologically plausible that they’d make a desperate grab at feeling alive when they think they might get killed at any moment. (My favorites, for the record, were the threesome and the foxhole frottage.)

I wish the book had been longer, and had a higher ratio of plot and character to sex, as it sometimes felt rushed and breathless. But I applaud the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to story and character, and it’s better to be left wanting more than wanting less.

Since I know the author, I will take advantage of that to ask a question, since I got quite fond of the characters: they all miraculously survive the war, right? More or less in one piece? Right?

The Moonlight Mistress
Lady Elyssa Amaterasu Yamato Wentworth is a half-Japanese, half-elf, half-uncle thousand-year-old vampire queen who takes on Jacob, a bad-ass ex-vampire hunter, as her bodyguard/boy toy. (Her Japanese and elf heritage is mentioned but doesn’t really come up beyond that, which is probably just as well.)

Like many things sexual, this is completely ridiculous but also pretty hot if you’re into it, and solely ridiculous if you’re not. I like reading about sexually dominant women having creative sex with men who are personally assertive but sexually submissive, which, at least within professionally written erotica, seems to be very much a minority taste. In fact Joey Hill is the only writer I’ve found who writes that. However, I don’t actually read that much erotica, so there may be much more out there that I’m not aware of. (If so, please rec it. I plan to buy [personal profile] oracne's The Duke & the Pirate Queen and/or The Moonlight Mistress
on my next Amazon run - will those suit?)

While the cracktastic A Witch’s Beauty, the one with the male angel with two-colored blood, the tentacled demon mermaid whose trauma was being eaten by fish, and the zombie dinosaur apocalypse, was readable as a novel apart from the sex, this one is pretty much wall-to-wall sex: bondage, telekinetic masturbation, CBT (the kind that isn’t cognitive-behavioral therapy – I was squicked by that and skimmed madly), “you must have sex with my vampire pals’ female servants on top of the dining room table while we all watch,” three-second refractory periods, in a mall fountain, on a sofa, on the forest floor, onna stick, etc.

I wasn’t that into Jacob, though I did like Lyssa – but then I was much more into the mermaid than the angel in the other Hill book I read, so Hill may just be better at female characters. And while I can’t say that the prose would win any prizes, Hill at least did not write here that “desire festered in his balls,” which puts the prose a huge cut above that other book of hers, which did have that line on page three, and which forever prevented me from reading any further.

What can I say? This is porn, porn, and nothing but porn. But if you’re in the mood for porn, and this is the sort of porn you like, you could do a whole lot worse.

The Vampire Queen's Servant (Vampire Queen, Book 1)
Disclosure: the author is a friend of mine.

I had mixed feelings about this erotic novel, some of them because I don't normally read in that genre. Erotic novels are somehwat similar to romance, which I do read, but sufficiently different that I kept bumping against thwarted expectations. The parts of this book which I liked, I liked a lot. Other parts didn't work at all for me.

After the aging duchess Camille's long-standing marriage to an abusive jerk conclusively fails to produce an heir, she desperately tries to impregnate herself via the sweet ingenue of a stable boy, Henri. When that fails, she realizes that the duke is going to kill her. So she, Henri, her bossy maid Sylvie, and her two loyal eunuchs flee to the domain of her old flame, Maxime, in the hope that he can help her get rid of her husband and regain her duchy. Along the way, everyone has sex with everyone in every combination possible, including the eunuchs.

The beginning of the novel, with its claustrophobic atmosphere and non-consensual nasty sex, was unpleasant and hard to get through, especially since I'd been expecting a happy romp. I also had a lot of trouble with the combination of the "flee for our lives" plot and all the sex on the way. I love a good adrenaline-fueled sex-in-the-midst-of-danger scene as much as anyone, but the sheer amount of sex made the danger impossible to believe in. And while I did find Camille and Henri likable, I was more interested in the supporting cast.

Sylvie is a fantastic character. Her sex scenes sizzled, and had plenty of humor and emotional punch. I also adored the aging hottie Maxime and the women in the supporting cast: the tattooed pirate, the bath house girl, the midwives quietly fomenting social revolution. And the Duke's dignified servant who knows about prostate stimulation. I would be thrilled to read a book about them. Especially Sylvie.

This is a novel in which everyone who isn't a homicidal maniac deserves and is capable of sexual pleasure and satisfaction - older women, minor characters, even eunuchs. That's a great message, and I appreciated that it was actually shown in the novel rather than just getting lip service. I also liked the attention paid to power relations.

My biggest issue with the book was that the balance of sex and characterization seemed off. In some scenes, like the flashbacks of Camille and Maxime, Camille's first encounter with Henri, and Henri's with Sylvie, the sex conveyed character and emotion. Those were fantastic scenes, and also very sexy. But in other scenes, the sex was just about sex. I wish the whole novel could have struck the balance of its best scenes.

But first novels are typically uneven. I'm looking forward to Janssen's next book.
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