Title: Tales of the Dark World Book 3: Fire Season
Author: Lex Valentine
Publisher: Pink Petal Books
Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance
Length – # OF PAGES: 105
Other: M/F * M/F/M * M/M Multiple Partners
Card Rating: 3 out of 5 tarots
Review by: Kim Clune
About The Book:
Holden Antaeus is the smart and charming chief counsel for the family business, Antaeus International. He is also a black dragon living in human form and a true ladies’ man destined to mate for life with a green dragon. While dragon pairings are predetermined by natural forces, the fruition of Holden’s match requires intervention. Failure to mate would result in a life of unbearable solitude and, according to the powers that be, failure is a strong possibility.
Sean Antaeus, Holden’s older brother and head of the company, is aware that his younger brother may judge his match based on human cultural stereotypes rather than dragon ideology. To intervene, Sean orchestrates a corporate retreat, dashing Holden’s plans with his “girlfriend du jour” under the guise of business to pair Holden with an intelligent, driven and attractive bisexual, Garret Renquist.
Garret is Antaeus International’s latest acquisition, a hot-shot financial expert strategically hired as a company asset and, more importantly, as Holden’s known dragon mate. Unwittingly accepting the position for professional reasons, Garret immediately senses the chemistry between himself and his match during their first meeting. Holden, on the other hand, has his world turned upside down when he realizes that, while his sense of self is deeply rooted in heterosexuality, his predetermined mate is male.
During the first day of the retreat, Holden’s resistance remains firmly embedded in disbelief. Garret, frustrated and disheartened over his mate’s initial rejection, has a one night stand with another man to soothe his soul. When Holden accidentally walks in on Garret and his date, his anger and unexpected sexual stirrings plague him long after he storms out of the room. By morning, Holden decides to give Garret a chance. While the majority of his reasons are based in fear of lifelong desolation, they are also peppered with a strong sense of natural connection and curiosity.
Throughout their short retreat, the two men intellectually explore their physical desires, the mating bond of dragons, the purity of love over gender and the intensity of intimately feeling the other’s heart and mind as part of their own. Laced with receding trepidation, their sexual experiences become exploratory and intense, as do their intimate conversations, but whether love will successfully follow suit is a concern for them both.
Complications with an Australian corporate takeover separate Holden and Garret temporarily after an explosive run-in with Holden’s homophobic ex-girlfriend. Will the demands of life and/or social criticism break their new and fragile bond, or will these men find their way to love as lifetime mates? You have to find that out for yourself. I offer no spoiler here.
Author Lex Valentine has all the makings of a beautiful, gay-for-you love story in Tales of the Dark World Book 3: Fire Season. Set against the corporate backdrop of an Anteaus International business retreat, the powerful passion and exploration of eroticism between Holden Antaeus and Garret Renquist is playful, steamy and endearing. Inserting her characters within dragon lore and pitting them against the exclusivity of human social construct is an interesting and thoughtful way for Valentine to challenge gendered stereotypes.
What Valentine illustrates best is the full spectrum of feelings Holden grapples with after learning, as a heterosexual human, that his natural dragon mate is male. As these green and black dragons tread carefully in new waters, sometimes literally, Holden’s journey with Garret is riddled with restless confusion and respectful recognition for the natural order that pairs them. The push and pull between these conflicting emotions eventually creates sexual tension so hot that the reader is grabbed and drawn in by the scruff of the neck.
While playful interactions lead to intensely erotic scenes, this relationship cannot be based on lust alone. Intimate friendship, love and equality are integral in the success of a natural dragon match. The book highlights the ultimate bravery required for each lover to become open and vulnerable, allowing the other to sense the emotions that lie beyond the physical connection. This deeply intimate link can only be sustained if Holden is able to see his lover as a complete person, not simply a male.
What is most unfortunate about Fire Season is Valentine’s awkward writing style and the ways in which it detracts from the story. Amateur mistakes are prevalent within the first 5 chapters as though only half the book has been proofread. Grammatically finessing basic comma usage, inserting missing words and removal of redundant sentences would do this piece a great deal of good. Equally beneficial would be a variance of vocabulary as the word sardonic is used 8 times in a 100 page span and variations on the terms “Machiavellian, manipulation, machinations and top honors” are used repetitively within the first chapter or two. This work is far too short for repetition.
While ill chosen vocabulary and grammatical mistakes are consistent, the flow is significantly inconsistent. Breaking the first rule of creative writing to “show, don’t tell,” our narrator does a great deal of telling at the start. Additionally, more thought should be given to who the narrator is. When he or she abuses words such as “completely, just, even” or “sorta” to speak of a corporate world filled with highly functioning professional people, the narrator becomes a dubious source of authority.
Only by the end of Chapter 5 does Valentine’s strength in developing well executed dialogue and descriptive action dominate the page. A sense of relief washed over this reader when I no longer had to plow through textual unpleasantries and the characters finally came to life.
I find it disappointing for the writing world in general that other reviewers have avoided the topic of form altogether and highly commend Valentine strictly on her substance. This review reads like a writing workshop critique rather than an evaluation of content, speaking volumes about the inconsistencies present in the self-publishing world. While opening the door to topics deemed unpopular by the traditional publishing industry, the system also lacks oversight and invites unprofessional contamination.
Effective writing requires a strong, seamless command over both content and form. Together, these are what make writing an art. Fire Season needs some significant work before it can be considered as such.
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