SLAVE is now a full time reviewer for Guys Like Romance, Too!

Please note that SLAVE's Erotic Review is on hiatus to catch up on reviews.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Attila wraps up the month

I remember someone asking how such an infamous and barbaric warrior as Attila the Hun could be used as the lead character in a romance. My answer was that the good and kind do not have a monopoly on love; Adolf Hitler loved, after all, as have many tyrants and monsters through the ages. Love is a natural condition to which we are all susceptible, we simply have to meet the right person. But how did I ever get the idea to write a gay love story involving Attila? The kudos, I have to say, goes to a fan on Goodreads who, having read one of my earlier novellas said ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrote an MM about Attila the Hun and made him the sub?’ My interest was piqued and I accepted the challenge.

At the time, I’d actually thought I might write a SciFi but with the seed planted, the idea of an historical novella soon captured my imagination and my thoughts turned to the past rather than the future. Other than the Hollywood stuff  - which is rarely accurate – I knew little of the barbarian leader, but I have always been fascinated by ancient Rome. About Rome there is much, but about Attila there is relatively little known. Fortunately, my research turned up a couple of good books on the Huns and their leader, and I discovered enough about their ways and his probable characteristics to piece together someone I could work with. I rather grew to like him, since the real Attila was far from the outright slaughterer that we have been led to believe.

Drawing on my knowledge of Roman history, I began to put together a tale of political intrigue, warmongering, love and betrayal. But for me the key was to twist the truth a little. I have used real events, some real names, but have altered their involvement and significance. After all, it would have been perverse, in my view, to make one part of the story historically accurate while playing God with the main character. There is no evidence that Attila the Hun was gay or bisexual, or that he ever developed a friendship with a Roman general.  All of that is my own imagination, running riot among the huts and mud of ancient Pannonia.

This is not to say that my Attila is anything less than the fearsome tribal leader you would expect. Publicly he is tough and uncompromising, and the story opens with him beating his metaphorical chest in no uncertain terms. For me the key was to imbue his character with a more emotional private side where he reveals his weaknesses and his needs. Although the homosexual relationship between him and the general Livianus is the crux of the story – and it provides an opportunity for some alpha male sex as opposed to the smushy stuff of some MM romances (that would have been totally out of place with these two giants) – I didn’t want to slight Attila’s wife or undermine his relationship with her. I had this feeling that he would have been too strong and dependable for that. Her too! 

Livianus is bored and longs for action. His reward for serving Rome is the governorship of a quiet corner of Gaul, but as he whiles away his days at his sumptuous villa, his thoughts turn to Attila the Hun, the feared barbarian with whom Livianus once enjoyed an intimate friendship. When a desperate emperor asks him to return to Pannonia to broker a truce with Attila, Livianus’s old passion flares.

Attila is losing the will to go on. He is tired of being a tyrant but his people’s future depends on him. The arrival of Livianus renews Attila’s spirit as he prepares to march on Constantinople. Livianus has nothing to bargain with, but when the emperor’s sister delivers a proposition for Attila, a new and brighter future seems to lay directly ahead. For the people, and especially for the two men.
But the deadly hand of the emperor isn’t interested in peace, and as their plans are destroyed, only one course of action remains open to the Hun and the general.
Length: Novella, 28,000 words approx.

The Hun and The General - Sample
Livianus woke with a heavy heart. Caecilius would not listen to him. In some ways he admired the younger man for the strength of his convictions but nothing could persuade Livianus that it was right to stand by a weak and unreliable emperor. Not when the empire was at stake.
He turned on his side, surprised to see the space beside him empty. Attila had taken him to his bed, and they had fallen asleep entwined in one another, discussing their plans. But for Caecilius’s stubbornness, Livianus felt happier than he had for a long time. If he had any regrets, it was that he had to leave this place at all, and he knew that the likelihood of returning was as remote as the farthest corner of Britannia. Siege or no siege, the campaign would be bloody.
Livianus got out of bed, slipped on his clothes and picked up the scroll he’d prepared the night before. He tapped it on his chin, then went outside to look for Caecilius. Attila had agreed to let Caecilius leave on condition that he stayed away from Ravenna and Constantinople, at least until Theodosius had been toppled. Still, Livianus was under no illusions. The odds were stacked against Caecilius. The future of an entire people, of two nations in fact, carried more importance than that of one man.
He found Caecilius and the four soldiers ready to depart, the horses loaded with provisions that Attila provided. “Are you sure you won’t change your mind?”
“I’m sure, Livianus. It pains me more than you can know to leave you in these circumstances, but I will not be a part of this.”
Livianus took hold of Caecilius’s hand and squeezed it. “I fear for you, my friend. Please, stay with me.”
Caecilius snatched his hand free. “It is not for me you should worry, but for yourself. Whatever my fate, I go to it with a clear conscience.”
Livianus sighed. “Then take this.” He handed Caecilius the scroll. “This makes you the rightful owner of my villa and all that goes with it—the women, the slaves and the governorship.” He remembered his ring, the governor’s seal, and tugged it from his finger. “Here, it’s yours now.”
Caecilius took the ring, scrutinized it silently, and slipped it onto his finger. “Livianus, are you sure—”
“I’m sure. Go, before one of us weakens.”
The sound of horses greeted Livianus as he turned away from his old friend, a dozen Huns armed to the teeth with swords and recurved bows. Livianus counted five of them with stakes strapped to their mounts. He felt sadness more than surprise. He looked again at Caecilius, ready to plead another time, but he could see from the expression on his friend’s face that it would be futile.

You Can Find Tristram La Roche Here:

You Can Buy The Hun and The General Here:

Friday, September 21, 2012

When you least expect to find romance...

Many of us go through life struggling to figure out just what we want to do, how we fit into things, and wondering if we will ever find that person meant for us.

In The CEO And The Cowboy, rancher Calhoun suffers from these confusing issues.

The woman Calhoun Cordell was supposed to have married left the arm of her new husband to come over and give him a hug. He felt more than a bit awkward…. If Katherine hadn’t insisted on his coming, he sure wouldn’t be here…. No matter the problems they’d had or how big a jerk he’d been, she’d stood by him patiently waiting for him to do the right thing by her. Which he hadn’t been able to do. It wouldn’t have been right for either of them, and she’d finally accepted that. The biggest problem was that he didn’t know what he wanted. Something was off with him. He felt like a square peg shoved in a round hole.

And just when he’s trying to get over the “wrong” relationship and wondering what now?

…a striking man he’d noticed earlier at the wedding turned from talking with an older couple. The man’s gaze met his, and he felt the same jolt he’d experienced when they’d noticed each other at the church. It made him uneasy. There was something sexually enticing in the man’s scrutiny. It unnerved him, especially when he felt the stirrings of arousal. What the hell?

But Calhoun isn’t the only one surprisingly drawn to a stranger at the moment.

Daniel Patterson had tried to figure out what about the tall, ruggedly handsome cowboy kept him searching among the crowd. He’d felt the tension when he’d first seen the man striding into the church…he was curious about why his “hot guy” inner warning system had been going crazy. Sure, the rancher had plenty of brawn barely hidden under his tailored Western-cut suit, and he certainly admired brawn in a man. Killer eyes, warm brown and bedroom-soft, added to the appeal…It wasn’t like he was on the hunt for a new man in his life. He’d barely gotten over his last lover, who had walked away a few months back.

Should Daniel ignore this attraction?

Daniel felt the tension in his body…He saw Cordell stiffen and knew he was getting ready to leave. For some reason, he wanted to stop him. He couldn’t explain his gut feelings, but he knew if he let the cowboy disappear, he would regret it. Which was a crazy idea, because he usually only got this kind of desperate feeling when his gaydar was on full alert. But he’d seen no signs the man was anything but straight.

Could Calhoun resist his attraction?

…his curiosity was getting the better of him. This man, in his obviously expensive tailored suit and polished shoes that probably cost more than his own suit, intrigued him. Worried the hell out of him, too, for reasons he didn’t want to think about. Again, he thought about just saying no and walking away. But he wasn’t the kind to walk away from a challenge.

I really enjoyed writing this story of two men finding each other at times in each of their lives when their world had been upset. One is finally discovering the man he was meant to be, struggling with taking a chance in an unfamiliar world of romance. The other is experienced at loving another man, but has been emotionally hurt and uncertain if taking on a man new to this lifestyle is right for him. Yet neither can walk away from the strength of their attraction to one another.

If you enjoy a story about two strong-willed, complicated men finding something very special, then I hope you will like The CEO And The Cowboy. This story has been so well received already that I have been asked to do a sequel to it. The new story will be a ménage, probably adding a woman into the mix.

Starla Kaye
Available now at:  Decadent Publishing

Monday, September 17, 2012

Best read with a glass of wine and jazz in the air!

When I met the Resplendence Publishing gang (I totally picture all of them traveling around the country in the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine) at a conference in Philadelphia last year I was immediately struck by the overwhelming kindness and open arms with which they welcomed me. From the publisher reps to their on-site authors, everyone was so amazingly warm and welcoming to everyone they came into contact with, that by the time the weekend was over I knew I wanted to be a part of that. It’s taken just over a year, but I can now say that I am.
I’d been itching to once again attempt to write something shorter for some time, along the lines of Sno Ho and Anything for You. It’s a story length I’ve never been crazy about as I have a tendency to despise word limits. Whether writing or reading, I’ve always enjoyed longer works of fiction a bit more. Those shorter 35k to 40k length books have a tendency to end, leaving me wanting for more. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad feeling to be left with – certainly preferable to apathy or thoughts of gouging one’s eyes out if nothing else, lol. As a writer, placing limits upon yourself can be healthy – like life, just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. : )
When I sat down and began to think about what kind of story I wanted to tell one theme came to me immediately – the idea of love coming along when it’s most needed as opposed to most wanted. That was the basic thread that I used when I began the process of weaving together this tiny tale. While Henry Abrams is at that point in his life where he’s ready to settle down, that prospect has never really been on Cain Elliott’s radar – for no other reason than his age and the amount of pressure he’s been placed under.
Another topic I wanted to tackle in Love in La Terraza revolved around the habit we human beings too often have, that tendency to mistrust anything that comes easily – as if we’ve been trained to place little stock in something we haven’t had to fight, scrape and wear ourselves out in order to obtain – forever looking that gift horse in the damn mouth in an attempt to figure out what the hell is wrong with it. Instead of being happy over our incredible luck we poke, prod and peel back the layers until we’ve nearly ruined that perfect gift.
Sometimes a spade really is just a spade.
For me, this book is sweet and romantic – hopefully funny as well, though I think most of that humor comes from those surrounding our loveable hero’s – the family Cain has made for himself as well as the one he was born into. Best enjoyed with a couple of glasses of wine and a soundtrack including, Sinatra, Dean Martin & Ella Fitzgerald playing in the background…not necessary mind you, merely recommended. : )
Happy reading!

Cain Elliott is a desperate man – on the brink of losing La Terraza, the 1920’s Spanish style courtyard apartment complex his grandmother left him in her will, he’s faced with the option of selling to a real estate developer or losing the building outright, due to the costs of upkeep that have now left him teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
On the partnership fast-track at the flashy architectural firm of Hamilton-Bach, Henry Abrams is new in town, a little lonely and looking for inspiration. Tired of games and longing for something real, Henry discovers the road to happiness could lie in the arms of the sad, uncomplicated Cain Elliott.
Discovering that Hamilton-Bach represents the mysterious entrepreneur attempting to purchase La Terraza, combined with the self-doubt and mistrust over a love that develops too fast, leave both men struggling to decide whether or not they can truly find…Love in La Terraza.

Cain took another long gulp from his beer, feeling as if he were slowly sinking into quicksand. He felt panic building in his chest, the utter sense of hopelessness threatening to take him over. He was just about to hop out of his chair and run for the nearest exit when Eddie interrupted his fretting.
“Who’s staring at us?” Eddie’s shoulders and back writhed as if he physically felt someone’s gaze upon his back.
“How does he do that?” Cain asked, flabbergasted by what the blind man could see that the rest of them had been oblivious to.
Everyone except Eddie turned to look about the room. Cain somehow knew there was only one direction in which to concentrate his efforts.
Yep, there he is, still holding up the bar.
Cain started to grin the instant their gazes met. Mr. Preppy did indeed still seem to have his heart set on conquering Cain’s wild unknown. In truth, the guy was a little slice of heaven, perhaps someplace warm and safe where Cain might rest his weary head for the evening…well…after all the spirited fucking and sucking, of course.
“Mrs. Madrigal has a gentleman caller,” Matt said to Eddie out of the corner of his mouth.
Cain took a cue from Nic and smacked Matt in the arm for his trouble. “I hate it when you call me that.”
“What’s he like?” Eddie asked, now grinning as well.
“Damn!” Nic hissed under her breath.
“That good?” Eddie asked,
Cain scowled over the implied insult. “I’m going to try forgetting you sounded that surprised by the fact.”
“I’m hotter than him.” Stu smirked as he nodded his head in confidence.
“Sorry, Cain,” Eddie mumbled. “Didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“Since you won’t be fucking me tonight, that’s sort of a moot point, Stu.” Cain shook his head before reaching across the table to give Eddie a reassuring squeeze of forgiveness.
“The wife does frown upon any extracurricular activities.” Stu winked at Cain while nudging Nic in case she may have thought him serious for even a moment.
“Are you all still staring at him?” Eddie asked.
They glanced between one another, quickly turning back to face the table in shame.
“Way to drive him away there, people,” Eddie said.
“Shit, I—” Nic glanced up quickly then looked back down at the tabletop like a child who’d just been scolded. “I think he’s coming over!”
Cain sat up straight, eyes wide, more frightened by the high-pitched squeal of Nic’s voice than surprised over the fact he was about to land himself a hook-up for the evening.
Eddie shook his head as if he were attempting to get his hearing back. “Good god, woman, another octave or two higher and only dogs would’ve been able to hear that.”
“Pardon me for interrupting,” a deep, sexy southern voice came from behind Cain. “I couldn’t help but notice the entire table staring at me.”
Cain turned, looking upward at the man in question and trying his best to not laugh. “Hiya.”
“No pardon needed.” Eddie stood up from the table while yanking on Matt’s arm. “We were just leaving.”
Cain felt the heat flush his cheeks the instant Eddie had said it.
Not at all obvious.
Matt stood, clumsily. “Please take a seat, though. Cain was planning to hang.”
Cain rolled his eyes. “And I’m just dying to keep you company, sir. In exchange for taking me off their hands my daddies can offer you two goats, a head of cattle and a skillet.”
Eddie was already shaking his head in disgust. “Please try and stick around long enough to make it through the first act, Mr…?”
“Abrams. Henry Abrams,” he said, extending his hand before noticing the white folding cane in Eddie’s hand.
Cain thought he was kinda cute, standing there slightly awkward for a moment as he tried to decide what to do with his hand now that it was already out there. He tossed Henry a lifeline by taking it instead, shaking his hand.
“The second act does have a bitchin’ musical number you don’t wanna miss, Mr. Abrams. My name is Cain Elliott.”
“May I sit?” Henry asked as everyone said their goodbyes to Eddie and Matt who scurried off into the crowd, whispering to one another.
“Please,” Nic said, smiling as if she were Cain’s self-appointed social director, having completely missed the cues Eddie had thrown down like gas on an already flaming forest fire.
Cain could tell Stu had not but wasn’t quite able to figure out a subtle way to tell his wife they were now intruding upon and likely impeding the sacred homo mating dance.
“So what is it you do, Henry?” Nic asked.
Cain could tell she was wired up and ready to play Debbie Drill Sergeant, already commencing with the interrogation.
Henry started to answer, but Cain dreamily placed two fingertips over the man’s lips.
He laughed to himself, realizing he’d had just enough alcohol to make him fearless. “Let’s not do the whole, this is me and that is you shakedown, gorgeous. I’m feeling like a little mystery might do me some good. How about you?”
Henry’s forehead crinkled, as if he were thinking real hard about whether or not he liked where this was going. His playful half smile told Cain he was still amused if nothing else.
“We can always have share-time later, you know, after—if the sex is hot, that is.”
Henry blushed, but he started to laugh. Cain could tell the man knew he was at least half joking for the benefit of their audience across the table.
“Well, what if he’s a serial killer or something?” Nic asked, visibly disgusted with Cain.
“He most likely wouldn’t come out and say so just because you asked him, dear.”
Nic started to object then must’ve realized Cain had a point.
“You aren’t a serial killer, right?” Cain muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
“No, sir, I am not.” He smiled at Nic, pouring on the charm. “I hereby solemnly swear to inflict no pain or suffering upon your good friend.”
“Not even if I beg you to?” Cain asked.

Reach Ethan Day here. 
Love at La Terraza is available now at Resplendence Publishing