Friday, July 18, 2008

All Shook Up by J.M. Snyder

TITLE: All Shook Up
AUTHOR: J.M. Snyder
PUBLISHER: Amber Quill (Allure)
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 25k)
GENRE: Gay historical erotic romance
COST: $5.00

Eduard van De Lier runs a spice plantation on Java – or rather, his wife in name only runs it while he chases after the young native men surrounding him. Ever since being forced to leave Europe when his sexual preferences are discovered, he has indulged everywhere he can. To say he’s obsessed is an understatement. When his lover from the ship that brought him to Java arrives on his doorstep with a letter that could destroy everything Eduard has, he has to work desperately to get it back. But not even Krakatoa’s eruption is enough to keep his desire for Reza from burning out of control…

The setting and concept of this story intrigued me into buying, and I have to admit, the story is pretty much what the blurb describes. I got a taste of what the prose was going to be like in the excerpt, and for the most part, I’m okay with the highly romanticized style. You know the kind I mean. The sort that uses the term “weeping cock” and means for it not to be giggled at. There’s something remarkably easy about reading this particular author most of the time. In spite of the occasional error or cringeworthy phrase, I find myself done with a Snyder story in record time, regardless of what it’s about. This story was no exception to that.

I can’t say the romance necessarily worked for me, however. Eduard is obsessed with sex with all these young native men. Seriously. This is all he thinks about, and since his wife does most of the running of the plantation, the vast majority of his time is spent seducing servants or men he meets about town. He plans for it, he has it, and when he’s not getting it, he’s touching himself, wondering about when he’s going to get it next. When Reza shows up at the house, Eduard doesn’t even recognize him, though it’s only been two years since they’ve seen each other and they spent weeks upon weeks almost exclusively in each other’s company. Yet, later on, I’m expected to believe that Eduard has been looking for somebody to replace Reza this whole time? No, I just can’t. If that was the case, why wouldn’t he recognize Reza when he saw him? The fact that he doesn’t just tells me that he wasn’t nearly as wrapped up in the young man as the author wants us to believe. Subsequently, for as nicely paced and choreographed the rest of the story is, I just can’t buy into it emotionally.

The erotic scenes for what they are serve their purpose, though the fact that Reza has a thick cock whose base Eduard could barely encircle with both hands creeps me out a little bit. Because…that’s pretty big. Try it. Form a circle with your hands and then imagine what that might feel like. Some of the imagery is over the top, too, like When Reza came, filling Eduard with a fiery spurt that triggered his own orgasm, even the distant volcano mimicked their explosive climax. Again, though, that’s indicative of the author’s voice in this. I can’t really complain about it when I knew from the start that’s what I was getting into, and honestly, for the vast majority of the story, it didn’t bother me.

The entire section detailing Krakatoa’s eruption is choreographed with fine detail, and stands as the strongest section of the entire story. I think it’s more than just a credit to the nice pacing of it. For the first time, Eduard gets to react in ways that are not just sexual, and he becomes more human and sympathetic for me. If I’d had glimpses of this man before the catastrophe, I might have had a better time believing the romance. He and Reza – who until that point has proven elusive for the reader as well as Eduard – both finally gain personalities beyond being sexual creatures. I just wish it had happened sooner.


8/10 – Highly romanticized prose, but oddly enough, it reads in a flash.

Hero #1

4/10 – His obsession with sex overshadows any sense of personality he might have developed, and makes it hard to believe that he’d settle with this one man.

Hero #2

4/10 – An enigma, though thankfully a nice one

Entertainment value

6/10 – For being what it is, a mildly diverting tidbit.

World building

8/10 – The detail with the volcano’s eruption was done incredibly well, as were various pictures the author painted of the daily life.



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