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Review: Stud by Brigit Zahara
Reviewed by Mel Keegan
STUD by Brigit Zahara
Flame Rating: 4 Flames
Cover Artist: Angela Waters
Release Date: 10/01/2010
Genre: GLBT (m/m), Paranormal, Romance, Vampire
Buy now, from eXtasy Books -- $3.99, in ebook format.
The mission of this genre -– and this book! -– is to deliver sex, and when it comes to erotica, you want it like you want your pizza: sizzling, with plenty of toppings, and keep ’em coming.
Brigit Zahara’s STUD is a short work –- around eighteen or twenty thousand words –- with a hefty wallop, if uncomplicated man-on-man erotica is on your agenda for this evening. There’s not a great deal of plot wasted before or between the sexual encounters. Just enough story is told to get the story moving and keep it rolling, before the jeans are off once more and it’s down to more action.
The tale revolves around gorgeous young hustler Sasha, who can earn more in a night than most folks earn in a month. He has a rare beauty and a definite talent for showing guys a good time, but the life is palling on him. In fact, he wants out, though this idea remains inchoate, still forming in the back of a mind still focused on the job.
The ‘job’ means night work … prowling a beat between gay clubs where he can pick up a trick to whom his pricetag is affordable. He has his regulars, of whom we soon meet one. The unpleasant character of Tanner is somewhat stereotyped, but in this kind of story, with limited space available for the development of subplots, perhaps stereotyping becomes a useful tool, a way to depict characters fast, and then get back to the (pardon the term) thrust of the story, which is sex.
Then along walks another gorgeous guy. He’s Kyan, and I can’t say too much about him, because I’ll be into plot spoilers before you can say “slick shootin’ there, buddy.” Suffice to say, when Kyan offers Sasha five grand for the nightshift of his life, the reader knows as well as Shasha does, something is up -- beside the obvious.
For myself, I’d have liked to see a good deal more development of plot and character before -- and between -- the sexual encounters. However, I’m the first one to admit, erotica is a large departure from my usual reading, not to mention my writing. I suspect that in this genre such development would only serve to delay the sizzling content, while it’s this very content for which devotees bought the book in the first place! In effect, the “fast forward” button is thumbed, to get right along to the next juicy episode.
In fact, when Kyan offers the five grand for a hump of epic proportions, he has walked into a nasty, dangerous triangle; and Sasha is about to get the rough side of it, when Tanner fancies himself ditched.
The scene is set for major violence, before the upbeat ending. I could have used rather more “prep work” going into this segment of the story, but again, this genre’s aficionados probably won’t need it, being accustomed to tales related in shorthand – abbreviated to a bare minimum, so as to focus completely on the more juicy details.
If any aspect of the story leaves me scratching my head, it’s that I have reservations about a character with Kyan’s backstory (which I can’t disclose without plot spoilers which would get me boiled in oil!) choosing a street-walking hustler from the wrong side of the tracks for quite the role into which Kyan wants to deliver Sasha. There’s a matter of compatible personalities that make my brows rise.
Having said that -- stop, MK! This story is an erotic fantasy, and what’s Keegan doing? Trying to drag reality into it! So I put aside that misgiving at once, and got back into the spirit of the piece.
True to the genre, sex is the story’s mission, and STUD delivers. The writing is earthy, which one doesn’t see too often in m/m, where narratives are frequently designed to please women readers, and can as often be sweet, even florid, as they can be raw or rough. Brigit Zahara succeeds in conjuring malesex quite believably within the framework of m/m erotica, which imposes all its own rules and restrictions.
Not for a moment do I underestimate the challenge involved. This is not an easy genre to wrangle, because writers are walking a tightrope: on one side, gay guys who need a narrative to address them in the languages of word and body which they speak fluently … on the other side, the women who are m/m’s majority of readers, who need a narrative which speaks to them in a discrete language which is not quite the same, even though the words, gestures, sensations and emotions are similar. Brigit Zahara keeps her balance on this tightrope.
So, when you’re in the mood for man-on-man action without a dense matrix of plot and subplot to be excavated before the jeans come off once more and the lube comes out again, give this story a go. It has a dash of the exotic to boot, a twist of the paranormal, which are always a bonus -- very popular with current readers. You won’t need to strain the brain cells over the plot; you might need to turn a blind eye to one or two points and remind yourself (duh!) this is an erotic fantasy, the constraints of boring old reality can be forgotten for a while.
I’m going to give STUD four stars, because it works on many levels and within the genre of erotic fantasy, it seems to me to be both adhering to the rules of that code and staying ahead of the curve. For five stars, I’d have needed a good deal more plot and prep-work aimed at filling in the gaps and making the compatible personalities issue work out to my satisfaction. But these are personal perspectives. Readers looking for sizzling mansex with a touch of the exotic and a twist of the macabre might easily be deeply thankful that there isn’t a whole lot of story-weaving getting in between them and the sex scenes. So the final decision is up to the reader. Get STUD … figure the last star out for yourself.