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MinnChica from The Book Pushers

I'm MinnChica, from The Book Pushers. I love reading all things romance. Come chat books with me!
Agony/Ecstasy: Original Stories of Agonizing Pleasure/Exquisite Pain - Jane Litte (Editor) Joint Review originally posted here and here: http://thebookpushers.com/2011/12/06/review-agonyecstasy-anthology-part-1/ and http://thebookpushers.com/2011/12/06/review-agonyecstasy-anthology-part-2/

Transfixed – Anne Calhoun
E: Ms Calhoun provided exquisite detail that doesn’t just focus on the physical but draws the reader into the story. I wanted to know the why behind the characters’ motivation. I loved how neither one really fit into the common stereotypes of leather, whips, and chins. I also really enjoyed how it was private not in a “club” with observers. B+

MinnChica: For a FemDom story, I actually really liked this one. I thought it was so much fun and sexy. It was obvious there was a connection between them, and when the story continued on the second half, it was that much more. This story definitely needs to be read before the Ecstasy half. (I made the mistake of reading this 2nd, and I was SUPER lost in the other story….)

Has: I agree that reading the Ecstasy part of the story first wouldn’t have made much sense, or made a better impact with reading that first. The set up incorporated S&M themes but did it in a fantastic and unexpected way and I really liked how Calhoun presented the twist on the dominant heroine as a 50s housewife. I also loved the emotional cracking of the heroine at the end when the hero challenges her. B+

Siren – Jean Johnson
E: Wanted to see more world building. I was more intrigued by the culture then the relationship between the two main characters. I did find it fascinating that the Seer’s connection with her Goddess was via pleasure rather then drugs/pain etc. I also don’t necessarily agree with her reasons for punishing him but that could be because of the limited backstory demanded by the short wordcount. C

MinnChica: I didn’t feel super strongly about this story one way or the other. I’ve never enjoyed FemDom books for some reason, so that aspect of the story turned me off a bit, but the world-building was interesting and I think the author has a great voice and the capability to write a good full-length novel in this world. D-

Has: I wished there was more worldbuilding too with this story. I did like the setting and the relationship between the hero and heroine was complex but for me the dominant and pain theme didn’t really work for me. I just didn’t get her reasons for punishing him and that had to be expanded. But I agree about the voice of the author which was engaging but the sex scene felt too awkward and just didn’t gel well with the tone. C-

Caged – J. K. Coi
E: Very interesting twist on the need for pain that I was not expecting. Unless something changes drastically this relationship is only going to make things worse on both individuals involving physical and mental/emotional pain. I actually didn’t like the heroine. D-

MinnChica: I actually thought this story had some potential, but didn’t think there was enough time to really develop everything. I thought the storyline with the paranormal aspects were interesting, especially with the werewolf change and all the grief that came along with it. I do wish that we would have been given a chance to see where the characters were going in the future though, the novella definitely left me wanting more (well, happy more!) C

Has: I really liked this story and I wished it was much longer, because the angst and the pain and how that played out with the relationship between the hero and heroine was great. But I hoped the ending was more hopeful or there is potential for more because I think this might be a gem of a story if it was expanded upon. B+

Each Step Sublime – Bettie Sharpe
E: A very very wicked twist on The Little Mermaid, not Disney’s sweetness and light version but the much darker Hans Christian Anderson version. I really enjoyed the way she ended the fable. B-

MinnChica: Ugg, I am not a fan of taking my happy and favorite childhood movie and turning it into a little bit of an F-ed up BDSM erotica. I finished the story, but scowled and rolled my eyes the whole way through. F

Has: I thought it was dreamy and romantic but the romance wasn’t as strong as the tone and setting of the story which was due to the story length. But I love the fairytale aspect but heroine falling for the Prince who just seemed too distant didn’t work for me. She was going to have to pay a major sacrifice and there was no real reason on why she was in love with him and the ending felt too rushed but overall I did enjoy the retelling. C+

Safeword – Delphine Dryden
E: WOW this was really good. Talk about taking everyone dream of that one person who you wish was into you and your kinks and making it a reality. I really enjoyed their journey short as it was and the inclusion of bits of humor. Ms Dryden made them seem real. BTW I want a novel *grin*. A

MinnChica: I really liked this story. I’m a huge fan of the friends to lovers stories, and especially when those friends realize that their kinks work together. I will definitely be looking for more books by Dryden, because I thought she had a wonderful voice and a great story to tell. B+

Has: I really liked this one too, although I wasn’t too sure of the beginning but as the story progressed, I really got engaged with it. I really liked how the theme was explored and it was definitely exciting and fun as well as very sexy and I am not a huge fan of S&M stories. So its a solid B+

Stitch and Bitch – A. L. Simonds
E: Rather diverse characters that I think actually need to talk more. I liked how knitting drew them together and became the center-point of their relationship. I think this would have been better as a longer length story. C

MinnChica: I wasn’t a huge fan of this story as well. I didn’t connect with either of the characters, and never really felt drawn into the story. I did like the knitting aspects though, really just added to my desire to go out and learn to knit. D

Has: I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked the setting and the knitting aspects too, but the romance felt a bit off and disconnected because I found Priya too stand-offish with Luisa and the reasons behind it didn’t gel well with me. Although I liked how different the story was different and Luisa the skate-boarding girlfriend was fun! But it has definitely made me more open to FF romance which I haven’t really had read before. C-

Bachelorette Party – Jessica Clare
E: I was really worried that this one was going to push one of my “chuck the book across the room buttons” but I am glad I kept reading because Ms Clare made it all come out alright in the end. C+

MinnChica: I was a little worried about this one, but holy hell I ended up loving it. In the hands of any other author, I think it could have been awful and really disheartening. However, I thought that the novella was both sexy and romantic and sweet and totally hawt. A-

Has: LOL I had the same fear at the beginning too, but then I sussed halfway through it that it wouldn’t be the case. I really loved this story and it is one of my favourites in the anthology. It was definitely sexy and fun and I will certainly check out more of Jessica Clare’s stuff in the future.

Wicked Wedding Night – Margaret Rowe
E: Ok I want a novel! I love how Ms Rowe was able to take some familiar tropes and spin them on their heads in such a short story. B+

MinnChica: I loved this as well, which surprised me a little because I’m not usually a fan of historical erotica. However, this one just really worked for me. Both the hero and the heroine were such great and well developed characters. I think the short length took a little away from the story though, this could have been so much more with a little extra word count. B+

Has: I wasn’t too keen with the beginning of the story but if it was longer I think that would have helped to expand the story as well as establishing. It reminded me a bit of Anne Stuart’s historicals but as the story went on, I really liked the melancholic tone but the changes and acceptance that the heroine faced was too swift but again that is due to the short length. I liked the voice of the author too and despite the short length – the emotions between hero and heroine packs a punch. B

Shameless – Edie Harris
E: Interesting lesson the hero passed onto the heroine at the end of this story, probably the only thing I liked about this one. The entire story struck me as a moment in time that at least one character would remember but it would remain disconnected with both before and after. C-

MinnChica: This is an example of one historical erotica that just didn’t work for me. I thought the heroine was flighty and a little annoying. I didn’t really find the story all that sexy either. Like E, I felt like a complete outsider to the story, and I can’t really say that I cared one way or the other. D-

Has: I really liked this, I didn’t read as a romance as such but an interlude which was something the heroine needed to get out of her situation. I felt the interaction she had with the hero was very cathartic – and I was taken aback how the story unfolded. I love the emotional intensity that was presented and I think it linked perfected with the overall theme of the anthology. B

Taken – Rebecca Lange
E: Flashback to the old western romances involving a woman and her captor. It was like the author unromantized that entire subgenre. D-

MinnChica: I tried to get into this story, but I only made it through about 5 or 6 pages before I just stopped and moved on. It didn’t hold my interest at all. DNF

Has: Yep, it felt like the old skool, and I couldn’t engage with the story at all or with the characters.

Wetwire – Sunny Moraine
E: Exploring the mysteries of how our brains process nerve stimulation and what happens if the interpretation is switched around. Makes me glad I don’t live in an entirely jacked-in world. C-

MinnChica: I also hate to say that I gave up on this story as well. I was more confused than anything, and there wasn’t anything in the first few pages that really called for me to keep trying to chug through. DNF

Has: I really liked the setting, and premise of the story but the characters and plot, it just didn’t work. I need some element of romance and the main characters were selfish and I couldn’t connect with them. It felt really cold and unemotional and that made the sex unsexy and cold too. If there was stronger element of romance it may have worked for me better as a story. D+

Transformed – Anne Calhoun
E: Well I got some of my questions from TRANSFIXED answered and I still want more! I highly recommend that you start with the Agony half because her two stories flow one into the other. It was great seeing another facet of the two main characters. A

MinnChica: I was a little confused by this story, because I started with this side of the anthology, and this should definitely be read AFTER Transfixed. However, once I read the other Calhoun story and thought back to this one, it made so much more sense and I liked it more. Calhoun has a great voice and does a wonderful job with both the BDSM aspects and the more sweet romance. B-

Has: This was definitely one of the strongest story/stories in the anthology and I am glad there was a followup with the perspective of the hero and different POV. This sequel was much softer and sweeter in tone but no less challenging than the first story in Transfixed and I love the role reversal and ditto on reading both together that starts off with Transfixed. While the hero was challenged and being dominanted in the first story – in Transformed the characters develop emotionally and I love the depth that was explored in this installment and how the hero helps to challenge the heroine who manages to let go emotionally instead of physically. A

Rescue Me – Meljean Brook
E: WOW, Such a strong female character with a great twist that is such a spoiler! A

MinnChica: I loved this novella. The heroine was so strong and driven to save herself from being kidnapped. I loved the way she dealt with getting out and how she used her desire to see and tell her long time best friend she loved him to get out alive. It was sweet and sexy and just such a great story. A

Has: I.LOVE.THIS.STORY. This has to be my favourite out of all the stories in the anthology, dark, tense, sexy and hawt. I loved how resourceful and smart the heroine was to get out of her predicament from being abducted by a serial killer and I especially loved the element of her fantasies about the hero helping her to get past her discomfort, it really ties in with the theme but it was wonderfully romantic and sexy. I just wished this story was longer. A+

The Wooden Pony – Soshanna Evers
E: This one was beyond my reading experience. It was well written but very uncomfortable for me to read. D

MinnChica: I actually liked this one, but it was very heavy on some BDSM aspects that might not be for everyone. I’ve read other stories by Evers, and I think she does a wonderful job of mixing harder BDSM play with the emotional entanglements that goes along with it. But it’s not for the faint of heart. B+

Has: I enjoyed this story even though it harder elements of BDSM, although the sex was hawt and intense, the emotional elements didn’t work as well. C+

Kiss of Life – Lily Daniels
E: I think I missed the intent of this one. I understand wanting revenge and seizing life after you have survived something horrible but those two parts didn’t meld for me. D-

MinnChica: I liked the Titanic aspect of this story, but other than that, the rest was lost on me as well. I find that when revenge and anger and hatred gets mixed in with my BDSM, it tends to train wreck for me. I don’t like when characters come from a dark place like that, and it didn’t work for me. D

Has: I loved this one, because the setting especially the Titanic element and the time period stood out for me. I also thought the romance was good, and the love scenes worked especially the one in the car. There was a lot of depth and plot and I thought the characterisation was well rounded . I thought it was unusual and wished there was more stories like this with this setting. B+

Silverhouse – Sarabeth Scott
E: The secret language of lovers, I really enjoyed what Ms Scott revealed at the end about their relationship. B

MinnChica: For me, I like the punishment aspect of this one. I thought it was sexy and fun and sweet and had a bunch of the great aspects of BDSM that I liked. I thought that it was actually one story that fit really well with the short length. B

Has: I really liked this one too, the sexual battle of wills between the hero and heroine and how that fits in with the BDSM theme really worked. The ending was perfect and I also didn’t feel that there was anything missing with the story. B

Bruised Ego – Christine D’Abo
E: Different take on how important it can be to know that you aren’t the only person who feels a certain way that doesn’t appear to be society’s accepted norm. B-

MinnChica: There were some aspects I did and didn’t like about this. As a psychology major, I’m not a fan of any mental health professional getting involved their patients. However, it was soon evident that our heroine was not a regular therapist, but part of the story had already been a little tainted for me. C-

Has: This was a very unusual story and I am not sure on how to take it with the theme of it. Although the sex scenes was hot and intense, I just felt the set-up missed the mark for me and I totally agree about the therapist thing – Although I am glad how the ending played out but it didn’t fully work for me. C

On My Skin – DL Galace
E: Very vivid description of what I have heard getting a tattoo is like for some people. I didn’t quite buy into the characters’ motivations though. I think this would have benefitted from a longer wordcount. C-

MinnChica: This story didn’t really do anything for me. Other than the heroine wanting a tattoo, I couldn’t understand why these two were together. But, having multiple tattoos, I can also see the pleasure in that pain. =) But as the story itself, it didn’t really do much for me. D

Has: I thought this story worked on a lot of levels, and I love the theme of tattoos and how it linked with the main theme and sexuality. I thought it was sexy and sweet but I also wished the story was longer because it felt that the plot, and characterisation just got going for me. C+

Just Say Yes – HelenKay Dimon
E: Enjoyable short story that included some rather neat twists that I wish more authors would use when it came to common tropes. B

MinnChica: I liked this story. It was a great little look into what happens when a boss steps out of line with her employee. I thought it was great that both the heroine and the hero were ready to accept the consequences of their actions, especially when our hero was willing to make a major change in life for his heroine. B+

Has: This was a great short and I liked how the relationship developed between the hero and heroine and the dynamics of being a boss and employee. It was also interesting to note that the heroine was the one in charge although I wished there was more emphasis on the hero, Colin. But I liked how the story played out and its conclusion. I really liked how realistic things turned out. B

Into The Red – Cameron Belle
E: Fascinating world-building, like a futuristic Rome complete with gladiators. Ms Belle made me wish the two main characters could have a longer HFN (Happy For Now). B-

MinnChica: This was an interesting one, with a really unique world that I would have liked to see more of. I thought the two heroes were an unlikely pair, but worked together. Where one was soft the other was hard and rough. I would like to see more in this world, especially in a longer format. C+

Has: This was one of the highlights for me in the anthology I think the setting and the premise was fantastic and I really liked how both heroes interacted with each other. I wished it was much longer. This was a short but sexually intense story with real depth and I will definitely look out for more of Belle’s books/stories. B+

Overtaken – Sara Thorn
E: I felt like there was a very complex back-story with the two characters that could have sucked me into the story, but without that… C-

MinnChica: This is going to sound horrible, but I don’t remember not liking this, but at the same time it didn’t stand out to me at all either. After a few days now, I hate to say that I don’t even remember much about this short. D

Has: I also didn’t like this story as much for similar reasons. I did like the setting and I get the reluctance by the hero, but I couldn’t connect with the characters and although the sex scenes was hot, it just didn’t have much depth. C-

MinnChica: I was really looking forward to this anthology because I’ve been a big fan of BDSM romance stories for awhile now. And while there were some stories that I really enjoyed and will probably re-read again and again…. most of them were either so-so or really fell short for me. I don’t know if I had my expectations too high or what, but I have to say that overall, the anthology was a solid C for me.