Written in Flesh

Alex Whitehall;Alina Ray;Kimber Vale
Written in Flesh
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Storm Moon Press
Release Date
September 2012
Fantasy Romance, LGBTQ, Romantic Science Fiction/Futuristic

For many people, there's nothing hotter than a man with tattoos. He might get them to commemorate a lost loved one, celebrate an event, or just to look bad-ass, but there's no doubt the man enjoys showing off his ink. Tribal, classic black and white, or elaborate colored artwork spanning the entire back, each mark has a story, an indelible reminder of the past etched onto the human canvas with care and precision. We're showcasing four of those stories in "Written in Flesh".

Key is "Bound by Ink" to a woman he does not—*cannot*—love. He runs to escape his fate, but finds Dax, another fugitive, and learns that some bonds go deeper than skin. In the heyday of the 1980's, Ian Grothe's club is about to discover the Next Big Thing, but Ian only has eyes for the lead singer. But as the band's star rises, Ian gets left behind, his hopes turning to "Powder".

Then, in "Helotry", Rontak is an escaped slave who wears the mark of his service beneath his skin. While on the run, he is sheltered by Tréy, an artist with a heavy secret of his own. Finally, Ellis comes to the Sui Generis Protection Agency bearing the "Mark of the Familiar", magical animal tattoos granting him remarkable shapeshifting abilities. When he feels a True Bond to William, the Wardsman of the agency, he has to convince William of the truth or risk losing his sanctuary, and perhaps even his life.

Book Review by Lana A (reviewer)
Oct 08, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
197 people found the following review helpful
A mixed bag of stories! The last two stories are pretty good and have interesting plots, they are a must read for fans of sci-fi and of shifter romance!

WRITTEN IN FLESH is an anthology featuring the theme or fetish tattoos, which have some special meanings to the characters. Tattoos mark some events, periods, personal experience to the protagonists of the stories. There are four stories by different writers and the result is a mixture of good, bad and average.

Bound by Ink by Kimber Vale

I was really looking forward to this one and it was also my biggest disappointment. Key is to be bonded to a childhood friend and is in the process of getting his bonding mark, when he decides that he cannot go through with the marriage. He likes men but it's unheard of in their tribe to be bonded to someone of one's own gender. When he runs away, he is hunted down by his tribesmen. Hurt and drowning, he is saved by Dax.

So far the story isn't bad! Not really a lot of world building and the characters feel a bit flat but not bad. After saving Key, who is hurt and unconscious, Dax cannot resist and gives him a blowjob; this was the turning point for the story going downhill. Mostly they are having sex, no suspense or romance building; they just go right for the sex.

Powder by Alina Ray

This second story had a somewhat slow start, but the story progressed predictably, though I had hoped for a longer period of groveling and apologizing, some grand romantic gestures – but alas, it was not to be.

Ian is a club owner and while he sees a band that he likes to play in his club, he also notices their singer for other reasons than his voice. He offers them a deal to play every Friday and gets closer to the object of his interest Arnold, whom he helps develop a new image for him and his band. The newly-made Apollo rises with Ian's help but their love affair comes to an end when Apollo and his band get noticed by a scout, whom Ian invited.

Ian really cares for Apollo and wants to help him succeed. They have their Friday night ritual of going for coffee and doughnuts, until Apollo gets his deal and starts finding excuses. Soon, Apollo and his band are off to grander locations, they are on MTV and going on tours, while Ian is left behind, heartbroken…

The story has a setting with 1985 is their first New Year and I liked the world building well enough. It's a short story, so I wasn't expecting a lot. Dialogs are mostly between Ian and Apollo, as the other band members don't feature in. I couldn't get a feel for Apollo, as the story is told from Ian's POV, and from that place Apollo is not my favorite person. I had hoped that he would prove himself but he didn't. Also, I hated Apollo's way of talking. Every time he used the word "man" in his sentence, it was just annoying.

Helotry by Suzanne van Rooyen

For fans of sci-fi! Another world, an enslaved race, whose members are sold often as whores and their planet exploited!

Rontak is a slave, a tattoo marks him as such and he is forced to service Kishar customers, who visit his planet and the place where he works, as a whore. He dreams of freedom and after a particular bad encounter with a Kishar who abused him, Rontak sees a possibility to flee, if he can disable his master and board the ship in his stead. On the Kishar's planet, Rontak meets a young photographer who feeds him and takes him home. Unfortunately, Rontak's escape hasn't gone unnoticed and the sentence he faces on his home planet is an execution.

Good story, well written, but it could have been longer and would probably work out better that way. Still, I loved the world created in this story; it was detailed and managed to pull me in from the start! I liked the characters, Rontak and Tréy, who decided to help the man he found injured and hungry in the commentary. Their romance is fast paced and the story could use edits but the story is quite interesting and the pace of the romance fits with the pacing of the story.

Mark of the Familiar by Alex Whitehall

Best story in the anthology, at least for me! Also it had shifters and bonds—those get bonus point for a story well done in such a short page count.

Ellis is an abused familiar shifter, who can bound with mages but all familiar have one true master, which wasn't his previous master, as he was a cruel and abusive one. After the situation escalated and Ellis killed his master in self-defense, he is taken into custody, until an organization that deals with abused magical beings takes an interest in him and takes him to a new home.

Ellis reacts on pure instinct when he meets the son of his rescuer, William, but his master doesn't seem to want to bond with him. William has succubus genes and a lot of magical beings are attracted to him without him wanting that, and he has to fend them off, and at first, he doesn't think Ellis is all that different from them.

I liked how this one was done. Ellis is an abused character, he gets flashbacks, freezes and has bad dreams about his time with his old master and William is caring but distant at first, while Ellis is pure instinct, as he doesn't know how else to act. It takes them some time to work out what is going on between them and to bond to each other. A really sweet story, with hurt/comfort thrown in.
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