Review: O Come All Ye Kinky edited by Sarah Franz

Buy Links:  Amazon | All Romance
Length: Anthology

O Come All Ye Kinky is a holiday anthology with a BDSM theme from Riptide Publishing.  We get eight stories featuring a variety of different relationships, mostly m/m, but also an f/f and a m/m/f as well.  

For me a good anthology both ties the stories together well, while at the same time keeping them interesting and distinct. I think Kinky succeeds wonderfully in this regard.  The holiday theme is well incorporated into all of these stories. For most we even move beyond simply taking place during the holiday season to also incorporating the theme into the kink with sexy uses of wrapping paper, candy canes, and angel wings, for example.  The stories have a nice range that keeps the anthology interesting throughout.  While I obviously had my favorites, I was impressed with the consistent quality of the stories and enjoyed this one tremendously.

In keeping with the holiday theme, 20% of all proceeds from the sale of the anthology will be donated to the Domestic Violence Project of the National Leather Association-International.


Tree Topper by Jane Davitt
Rating: 4.25 stars

Martin knows things are not going well between him and his sub Stan.  When they first met six months ago, Martin was thrilled to find someone who seemed to share his passions, someone with whom he could play out his wildest fantasies.  But the dynamic between the men is just off.  Stan doesn’t seem to really respect Martin and is constantly trying to provoke him.  Martin feels inept, like the problems between them are due to his inexperience as a Dom.  And Martin wants more than the spanking play they have shared; he doesn’t want to push Stan past his limits, but he yearns for more hard core scenes between them.

Martin knows that Stan has had a bad experience in his past with his former Dom, Neal.  When Martin accidentally sees some communication between them, it finally sparks a long overdue discussion between Martin and Stan.  It turns out that Stan is just as unfulfilled as Martin; he wishes Martin would push him harder and has been provoking him in attempt to get Martin to exert more control.  The men finally open up with each other, share their feelings and their true desires.  And with that, they are able to finally reach a place of mutual enjoyment that gives both men what they really need.

I think this story is a great kick off to the anthology as it really highlights one of the big issues in any BDSM relationship, which is good communication. These guys were letting their own insecurities get in the way of really being open and honest about what they needed and how they felt, and their relationship was suffering as a result.  Only by really talking to one another honestly are they able to get on the same page about their desires and really rekindle the love between them.  The resulting scene is very hot (and clever use of leftover Christmas wrap) and shows that the men have finally found their way to a true connection.  Things may have been a bit heavy handed with the message here, but overall I really liked this one and thought it was well developed and very sexy.


‘Twas the Night by Ava March
Rating: 4.75 stars

It is Christmas night in London, 1820, and Percival Owens has received a summons from his lover Michael Barlow.  Percy knows what it means when he receives a note from Michael — a night of passion where he can explore his submissive side.  Although Percy still feels wicked about his desires, he will not pass up a chance to be with Michael. He just wishes the Michael wanted more than sex, that he desired a true relationship together like Percy does.  But Percy doesn’t think Michael cares for him that way.

When Percy arrives, Michael is thrilled as usual, although he wishes his sub was not still so nervous after their months together, and that he felt freer to express his sexual desires.  Michael appreciates that Percy is compliant, but he is too much so, afraid to be open about what he wants. So Michael challenges Percy to voice his desires, to tell Michael what he wants Michael to do to him.  But it is incredibly hard for Percy. He feels wicked for his sexual needs and has trouble vocalizing them. But with Michael’s help, Percy gets strong enough to accept and even embrace his desires. And through their experience, Percy realizes that Michael’s feelings for him are even stronger than he had hoped.

So I am a huge fan of Ava March’s historicals and this one was no exception.  I loved the dynamic between Percy and Michael, and Michael’s desire to truly understand what will bring Percy pleasure.  Percy has such a strong submissive side, both sexually and in his outside life, but he has been taught that this is a bad thing.  His mother pressures Percy to move beyond his job as a barrister’s clerk, but Percy loves what he does.  And of course society not only won’t accept his submissive side, but forbids a relationship with a men in general.  Michael helps to give Percy confidence that his feelings and desires are all right, that is takes strength to submit to someone else, and that he can share what he wants.  The sexual tension between these guys is amazing and the scene where Percy finally gives voice to his desires is super hot.  I really loved this one and thought it was very well done.


Fireworks by Katie Porter
Rating: 4 stars

It is New Year’s Eve as Emma arrives for her final encounter with her lover Rachel.  After two years of a long-distance relationship, Rachel is moving to Tokyo for her job and is ending things between them.  Although Emma loves Rachel and would gladly follow her, Rachel has made it clear that things have to end here.  So even though the thought of losing Rachel is hard, Emma is determined to enjoy their last night together, bringing along all their favorite toys.

Rachel knows what Emma wants, and part of her wishes she could have it too.  But Rachel knows she is not good enough, that her relationships never last, and that eventually Emma would grow tired of Rachel and move on. She feels like it is better to make the break now than set herself up for the hurt that is sure to come. And this way Emma can find something better and lasting with someone else.  But as the women share a special night and a final goodbye, they find separating may not be what either of them wants.

This was an interesting story with an unusual take for a romance story, with a relationship seemingly at its end rather than the beginning. Porter does a great job showing the connection between these women and the ease and familiarity that comes from their long time together.  I loved the creativity in their scene (impressive use of glitter!) and the women are very sexy together.  And I loved the descriptions of Emma’s high as she drifts along after the pain is over.  Where I struggled though was the sense of frustration and sadness that runs through the story, especially when we get Emma’s POV. She clearly wants more from Rachel than she is able to have and her feelings color their encounter to the point where she often seemed to be pulled out of the experience. It is not necessarily that is was just sad, it was more that I felt like they both just kept mentally going in and out of the scene.  I wish we could have seen these women talk about their feelings before the last possible second, and the jump from having the relationship end to not only continuing, but moving to a full scale HEA seemed too sudden for me.  But I did enjoy this one and really liked Porter’s writing.  Nice first introduction to f/f romance for me.


Candy Caning by L.A. Witt
Rating: 5 stars

Every year Nate and his partner Stephen spend Christmas with Nate’s family.  What should be a happy time has become a chore as Nate’s mother is disapproving of everything about him, including Stephen, and doesn’t hide her criticism.  But Nate feels like it is important to be with his family and, as much as he too hates it, Stephen is willing to support him and go along.  One day while the couple shops for holiday gifts (including the world’s ugliest Christmas sweater for Nate’s brother), they stumble upon a giant 3-foot candy cane with a perfectly cock-sized stem.  Nate’s mind immediately goes to lots of interesting places, imaging the candy cane being used instead of the other cane he so loves.  But Stephen just says he will think about it, and Nate knows better than to try to push his Dom into anything.  But just as Nate needs it most, Stephen has arranged a delightful surprise for him. One that shows what a good partnership these men have, and that the connection between them is worth more than a disapproving family.

This was such a fun story, so playful and full of quirky humor.  It is told in present tense from Nate’s first person POV, which brings a nice energy to the story.  And I loved the relationship these guys have together.  The love and connection between them is so clear, it is obvious that they cherish one another.  The story is full of great kink (and OMG the candy cane blow job!) along with being super sexy and incredibly warm and loving.  Excellent story and one of my favorites.


Submissive Angel by Joey W. Hill
Rating: 5 stars

One night six months ago while taking trash to the dumpster behind his vintage toy store, Robert found Ange, beaten and bloody on the ground.  It was clear that Ange was in a bad place, though he refused to tell Robert details of his attack.  Robert took Ange to the hospital and then gave him a job working at his store, allowing Ange to live in the backroom of the shop. And for the last six months, Robert has been slowly falling for him.

Everything about Ange appeals to Robert; he is beautiful and graceful, sweet and gentle, but with a fierce and strong center.  And it is clear to Robert that Ange is also made to be a submissive, as he craves serving other’s needs.  Being around Ange wakes up the dominant in Robert that he had put aside after the death of his parents and the abandonment by his former partner.  It has taken him a long time to get back to a place where he feels like he can be a true Dom again, and he is wary about getting involved with Ange.  But on Christmas Eve as the snow begins to fall, Robert finds he can no longer resist what he and Ange both so desperately want.  And so he goes to Ange and the two of them finally find happiness together.

Oh, I just loved this one! So beautiful and warm and just so lovely.  This story is a bit of a switch from the others in that it focuses on the development of a new relationship, rather than one between existing partners.  Robert and Ange have been falling in love with each other over the past six months, but both men needed time.  And so this story gives us that one special night when they finally come together, and their hopes and expectations become a reality.  I loved that we get to see Robert as a Dom who is a bit vulnerable, who isn’t completely sure he is ready emotionally, and who needs support as he moves on from past hurts.  It is so rare to have a dominant character who is not always in control, and I loved that we get to see Robert as a real person with his own baggage.  At the same time, when he and Ange finally come together, Robert is completely confident and in control, knowing just what to do meet both of their needs. And  I loved Ange, whose need to serve is so clear, even in his everyday tasks at the store.  This is a man who is meant to belong to another, and watching them connect is just so sweet.  Not that there are not hard edges to this story. Although it is not as hard core as some of the stories, there is plenty of pain and bondage play, as well as other fun kink (oh I loved the wax and feathers).  But I just loved how we see these two vulnerable men reach out to one another and finally accept the connection between them, creating something beautiful together.  This was my favorite story of the anthology and I thought it was wonderfully done.  


Open Return by Elyan Smith
Rating: 4.25 stars

After 15 years away from home, Zach returns to his small Illinois town.  It has been years since he has spoken to his friends and family, but he found himself drawn to return home to see them, if only for a brief visit.  He arrives in time for the family holiday party, immediately seeing Scott and Laura, a couple with whom he had a relationship one winter after college.  But Zach left them, along with everyone else, and although he would very much like to reconnect with them, he is not sure they will be willing after so much time and distance between them.  Fifteen years has brought many changes for Zach.  Many people still think of him as Hannah, including his adopted family Kevin and Elaine. And even those who knew him as Zach have not seen him since his body has changed.  But Zach finds the attraction is still strong among him and Scott and Laura, and all three want to see if the connection they once had is still there and if possibly there can be a future for them.

This is interesting story as it is not a traditional romance in the sense that the primary focus isn’t really the development of a relationship between Zach, Laura, and Scott.  The story really centers on Zach’s journey, both literal and emotional, as he tries to figure out if the life he thought was long gone might just be the one where he should return.  Smith does a great job of conveying Zach’s emotions throughout the story — his fear and anxiety about being accepted back at home, his hope that there can be a future with Scott and Laura, his regret at past decisions, but also his determination that he made choices that needed to be made.  I enjoyed following along with him as he finds his way back and reconnects with those who are important to him.

I did feel like the story left me with some open issues that never really tied together though.  Zach’s surrogate parents, Kevin and Elaine, are mentioned right at the beginning and we never hear about them again. Although this story is very internally focused on Zach, it seemed odd that these two people would not play some sort of role in his return, especially since he is living in their home.  I also would have liked to understand better what caused Zach to leave in the first place. Lack of acceptance? Desire to have new experiences?  I think it would have helped me better understand his return and his desire to settle back down in his old home if I understand more clearly why he left.  And finally, the story ends quite abruptly and caught me quite by surprise.  Part of that may be the curse of the ereader as the book ended literally on the last word of the page.  And when I flipped to find more, I realized it was over.  I didn’t really need a lot more story, but I just felt like a few more paragraphs could have smoothed out the transition from love making to story resolution.  Overall I enjoyed this one and really liked Smith’s writing.  The tone of the story and the tempo fit so well with the journey we take with Zach and I found it very well done.


Ring Out the Old and In the New by Alexa Snow
Rating: 4.25 stars

After an attack on the Tube left him with physical and emotional scars, all Evan wants to do is hide away at home until it heals.  He is self-conscious about the scar on his face and feels like everyone will stare.  And confronting the Tube again makes him scared.  When his partner Russell insists they attend their annual holiday get together with friends, Evan wants to refuse.  But Russell is convinced he needs to get back out in the world and get comfortable again.  Although Evan is still unsure, Russell’s love and support really helps.  Especially when the men finally resume their sex lives, bringing Evan back a sense of normalcy and the comfort that comes from being a submissive.

This was a sweet story dealing with a couple who has been through a very difficult situation.  It is not completely clear how much time has passed since the attack, but it is obvious that both men have struggled with handling it.  Yet while Evan’s instinct is to hide away, Russell sees that he needs to try to return to normal life.  I like how we see the way their dominant/submissive relationship brings so much comfort to Evan, and how he gathers strength from knowing his role in the relationship and serving Russell.  I wished for a bit more to happen here, but overall I thought it was nicely done.


His Very Last Chance by Kim Dare
Rating: 4 stars

After Drew makes a comment to his friends that his Dom Kingsley overhears, things have been strained between the two men.  Drew didn’t mean it negatively when he said Kingsley could never love him, but his partner has been distant and bothered ever since.  When he calls Drew to his hotel on New Year’s Eve, Drew is sure he is in for punishment, and maybe the end of things between them.  He loves Kingsley, but worries his disrespectful words may have caused too big a rift.

Kingsley was shocked to hear Drew doesn’t think he could love him. In fact, Kingsley thought his love for Drew was obvious, but clearly the man has not seen it.  He is determined to use this last night of the year to show Drew how he really feels and to reconnect with the man he loves.

So this one focuses on a misunderstanding where both men interpret Drew’s comment differently, and both have different ideas and expectations of how the evening will go.  Drew is sure he is to be punished and may lose Kingsley, while Kingsley just wants to show Drew how much he cares.  So a lot of the story is switching back and forth between the men as they each try to figure out what is going on.  I found it a bit repetitive, especially when we get Drew’s POV as he reminds us often that he loves Kingsley but he knows Kingsley is not capable of loving him.  Things don’t go on too long, as this is a short story, but I did feel it took away a little from their connection as they are so obviously on different pages most of the time and Drew is very upset at what he is interpreting as the end of their relationship.  It does end on a really nice note however, and I liked both of the guys together. It was interesting to see Kingsley as a Dom being a bit more vulnerable, not really sure how to express himself.  This last story nicely bookends the first, where we also see an established couple with communication issues, and the New Year’s theme is a nice way to wrap up the anthology.

Comments

  1. Jay, you made my morning. Thank you for the awesome review of the book. I hope everyone reacts the way you did to it – as a great integration of holiday themes/emotion with the pleasures of kink. I’m thinking these stories will be an awesome escape for those dealing with holiday chaos – just keep it on the cookbook stand so you can flip it open to a story at random and enjoy. I’ll probably be doing just that, since I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the rest of the stories yet – pout (stupid deadlines). I do have to say that great integration and story quality had as much to do with Sarah and the Riptide editing staff as the author efforts. Those folks busted their butts to deliver an outstanding book. Kudos to them, and thank you again for taking the time to review our book. See you on the 11th! (Oh, and needless to say, I LOVED your specific review of Submissive Angel – so pleased you loved Robert and Ange!)

  2. Same here – we’ll have fun! (beaming)

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