3.5 Stars, Connie Bailey, DSP Publications, Literary Fiction, Reviewed By Carrie, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: The Bastard’s Pearl by Connie Bailey

Title: The Bastard’s Pearl

Author: Connie Bailey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 324 Pages

At a Glance: The Bastard’s Pearl is a rather difficult read at times, and sometimes Sheyn is a difficult man to like, or even tolerate.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: When Sheyn, a headstrong young aristocrat, disobeys his parents and travels to the far east, he passes through Kandaar, an isolated country of strange customs. He is abducted, transformed by a mysterious ritual, and sold to a barbarian king as a pleasure slave. When the king is killed by Kashyan the Bastard, dispossessed prince of Clan Savaan, Sheyn becomes Kashyan’s possession.

The Bastard expects Sheyn—now called Pearl—to behave as an obedient pleasure slave, but compliance is not in Sheyn’s nature. Nor does Sheyn’s ordeal stop at being held captive by people he considers savages. The Red Temple covets Sheyn as a living gateway to the demon realm and plans to use him to summon the God of Death.

Kashyan loathes Sheyn, and Sheyn despises Kashyan, but when the Red Temple kidnaps Sheyn, honor compels Kashyan to rescue his slave, and he starts a war in the process. If they hope to stop the Red Monks from bringing hell to earth, Sheyn will have to accept Kashyan is more than an uncivilized brute, and Kashyan will have to admit there’s more to his Pearl than a pretty, arrogant exterior.

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Review: The Bastard’s Pearl is the story of Sheyn and Kashyan, one a spoiled aristocrat prince and one a bastard prince. It’s the story of a caustic, self-righteous prince made low, and an honorable, decent man receiving the recognition and hard won power he deserves.

We enter a land made by gods, who then fought and divided that land, and so, the people who live there as well. Sheyn is kidnapped from his philosophically forward country and brought to the backwards land of Kandaar, where he is transformed into a pleasure slave, or daaksi, and meets Kashyn, who is his one true mate. Their worlds clash and collide as they attempt to understand one another and the customs and ways of which they have each been taught. In the end, they each learn the value of service and devotion over self and love of country over all.

Connie Bailey has created a complicated mythical world in which these two men meet and ultimately, fall in love. It’s a rather difficult read at times, keeping up with all the words and new language vocabulary. Sheyn is a difficult man to like, or even tolerate, at times as his sarcasm and pretentiousness can be off-putting. In the end the gods are happy, the men receive their HEA and their respective countries become allies, so if you are a fan of mythical worlds and fantasy, then this book would be a good read for you. If you are not a fan of sarcasm, then I would pass this one by.

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You can buy The Bastard’s Pearl here:

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Andrew Grey, Anthology, Connie Bailey, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, John Amory, Louise Lyons, Reviewed by Angel

Reviews: Dreamspinner Advent Calendar 2014 – Celebrate!

Short stories are hard to write—and review. I love them, personally, but it does take a special type of author to get them correct, in my opinion. I think Stephen King said it best, and I am paraphrasing here, Short stories are like kisses from strangers in the dark. And they are, you never know if you are going to enjoy that stolen kiss or not. I’m adventurous and I usually do like that caress, and tend to go seeking out more than just kisses as well. **g**

That said, here are four stories from the Dreamspinner Press 2014 Advent Calender package “Celebrate!” This package contains 31 stories total, with a recurrent theme throughout of the holiday season away from home.

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BestLaidPlansTitle: Best Laid Plans

Author:  John Amory

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 21 Pages

Rating: 2 Stars

Blurb: George is an anxious, neurotic mess. The only thing that calms him is his partner of ten years, Scott. So despite how nervous it makes George to travel alone, he decides to go to Europe, where Scott has been working for two months, to visit for Christmas. George plans a day on his own in London before traveling to Paris, where Scott is staying. But on George’s day of sightseeing and shopping, everything goes wrong, from a misunderstanding with the hotel concierge to getting lost in Harrods. All George wants is to be with his partner for Christmas, but he’s not sure he’ll survive long enough for that to happen.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

Review: I did enjoy this one, but  the story fell a bit short, I think. It was sweet and had a Christmassy feel, but there was just something lacking. I’m not certain what it was. It could have just been me. Regardless, I felt bad for George. EVERYONE was so rude to him. His plans fell through, and he was trapped in a strange city with nowhere to go. He, and the writing, tended to ramble on in overlong sentences, and I kinda wanted to tell him to get over himself. If you can fly halfway round the world for your lover, you can overcome anything. Scott, though, is George’s rock, and sets everything to rights by coming to his rescue. He doesn’t actually show up, but manages to calm George down long enough to give him proper directions to carry on with his trip, where we finally get to meet Scott.

The ending makes up for George’s horrible experience, with a sweeter than sweet romantic proposal at the top of the Eiffel Tower after they spend the day together. Overall, I liked the author’s writing and will probably seek out more of his work.

DividersThreeWiseMenTitle: Three Wise Men

Author:  Connie Bailey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 29 Pages

Rating:  2 Stars

Blurb: College friends Joon, Tae, and Sangsun parted ways after an aborted attempt at a threesome. Ten years later, life has carried them down very different paths, but Joon misses his friends and decides to invite them to his home in South Korea for Christmas. He believes they belong together, but convincing the others to defy tradition and try again will take faith, hope, and a lot of talking—especially since all three of them are still in the closet.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

Review: I didn’t really like this one; however, the writing was not terrible. The story was rough and felt like a beginning even though it ended, if that makes any sort of sense. It was over before I could even get involved with any of the characters, and I kinda felt like I had missed something entirely. Especially since this was rooted largely in Korean traditions, which, I gathered from the story, aren’t exactly homosexual friendly. It wasn’t really touched on, though, just kinda glossed over that they had a duty to family and couldn’t have their triad.

Basically, I think it was too short for the themes visited, and confusing to boot. It isn’t until after the three men are together again that you realize the threesome was aborted. In fact, it is revealed that only two of the three slept together, and one got completely left out. Horrible, really, and yet, ten years after the fact, the one left out, Joon, is still in love with the other two. It also seemed to me that Joon was just there as a connecting piece because the real chemistry was between Tae and Sangsun, the two that actually had sex.

Ten years is a long time, in my opinion, and people change. Tae certainly did despite sometimes indulging in men, but Sangsun was in the firm no-never-happened-never-will-again camp. Poor Joon was just left on the sideline, still, and a virgin after ten years.  It was also confusing because suddenly they were all closeted, two of them refusing to change, then bam! we had an orgy on our hands and all promised to make a change so they could be together in their triad. Talk about tale spin. I hate to say it, but I probably won’t seek out any more stories by this author.

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SecondBiteoftheCherryTitle: Second Bite of the Cherry

Author:  Louise Lyons

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 28 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: When Daniel Berrisford reluctantly agrees to accompany his best friend Kate to the New Year’s Eve celebrations in London, he doesn’t expect to enjoy himself. Daniel is pleasantly surprised to see his first boyfriend, James Allison, among the merrymakers. The pair haven’t seen each other for four years, but as they talk and midnight approaches, it becomes clear the spark between them is still there. The New Year is a time for new beginnings, and for Daniel and James, it might be the time to give love another chance.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

Review: This story I enjoyed in spite of the cutesy nicknames. That’s a pet peeve of mine in particular, so ignore my idiosyncrasies. There was background and while it was short on details, you could almost feel the chemistry between Daniel and James. It was a mature look at a second chance romance between two people who thought they might have had a connection but realized they were too young to do so. And really I think that’s a smart thing. A little pining is revealed when our couple take a break from the New Year’s celebrations, and it shows that in spite of being mature when they were young, it was also a learning experience for both of them. They found themselves and found one another again and decided to make a go of it. A perfectly serviceable and amicable read. I really enjoyed this author’s writing and pacing and will most likely seek out more by her.

DividersStardustTitle: Stardust

Author:  Andrew Grey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 62 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Duncan is an ocean from home over the holidays and expects to spend them alone. To his pleasant surprise, one of his European co-workers, Georg, befriends him and includes Duncan in the holiday traditions of his homeland: cutting a Christmas tree under starry skies at Georg’s country estate, decorating it at the family’s city home, and shopping at the Christmas market in Munich. Both men are lonely and realize they have much in common. But Georg’s life is in Germany and Duncan’s is in Boston. With the project they’re working on nearing completion, any chance for more than a holiday fling seems as elusive as stardust.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

Review: This is how you do a short story. This story is truly a wonderful Advent gift. Grey is new to me and after this introduction, I will definitely be seeking more works by him.

Amazing detail and plot without being overly dramatic, Stardust is a sweet tale of romance and finding your place. I don’t even care that the happily ever after never occurs because Duncan and Georg were fully realized, and there was the hope of them making it in spite of their long distance relationship plans.

This was the first of the Advent stories I read that didn’t leave me feeling as if the setting was just another plot device. The holiday, the Germanic traditions, and the characters were amazing in their completion and detailing. I wanted more of the story at the ending of the book, but I was just so satisfied with how Grey ended everything; once again, it didn’t matter the bow wasn’t on this fantastic gift of a story.

I’ve got more of the stories from the anthology to read, but I wanted to take the time to share my thoughts on these few. I’ll be back with more thoughts on the stories at a later date.

 

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