Book Review: The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham

If you’ve been reading my posts here on Sexy Romance Stories, you know I have an insatiable curiosity about all things Biblical. So when a dear friend recommended THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN by Elizabeth Cunningham, I promptly bought it in February, 2011, looked at the beautiful cover of this 620 page book and told myself to get back to work. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.  Then again, perhaps things really do happen for a reason. But I digress.

WARNING: If you are offended by feminist interpretations of the Bible, do not read on.

Elizabeth Cunningham, descendant of nine (9) generations of Episcopal priests, knows whereof she speaks in all things biblical. My impression of this author is that she literally ate, drank, slept and breathed Bible stories from birth—no from conception. And, rather than hew to the party line, so to speak, she listened for the voice of the women in these tales and found them missing. In THE PASSION OF MARY MAGDALEN, Ms. Cunningham gave Mary Magdalen and the other two Marys of the New Testament, not only voices, but brains, bodies, spirituality and backstories.

This is the second in the Maeve Chronicles, but you do not have to read the books in order. The author provides an excellent summary of the first book in a non-intrusive manner. She gives the reader enough information to understand where we are as the story begins and weaves in more later. I never felt lost reading the story. I felt as if I was firmly anchored in Mary’s point of view throughout the book, in large part because of the author’s skillful use of the first person.

We know from the New Testament that Mary Magdalen was a prostitute; what we don’t know is where she came from, why she was in that occupation, and what her relationship was to Yeshua, aka Jesus. The first half of this book tells us about Mary’s life as a prostitute and takes place in Rome. Born a Celt named Maeve, she escaped certain death in her home country, only to be captured by a tribe intent on using her as a breeding vessel. She escapes again, only to be drugged by the sea captain. The book opens with her in an open air market in Rome where her captor is extolling her wares. Stripped, poked and prodded in the public setting, she maintains her Celtic backbone and lives up to her bright red hair by cursing the man in three different languages. Amused by her antics and intrigued by her body and brain, the brothel owner and madam knows a good value when she sees one and buys Maeve.

Maeve becomes a craftsman at her trade, taking pride in her work as a whore. Sought after by generals, senators and wealthy land holders, she becomes a favorite of the patrons and the other women in the brothel. The only problem is she isn’t just a worker bee; she’s also a priestess of Isis and strange, supernatural things happen around her at inexplicable times. It is a bawdy, fun, gripping read and the details of daily life in 1st Century Rome are seamlessly woven in without becoming a history lecture. I felt as if I was there at the feasts and in the Temple of Isis. Throughout it all, Maeve never forgets the young man she fell in love with in her home country: Esus.

The second half of the book takes place in Jerusalem, Israel, where Maeve has taken up residence after a series of misadventures in Rome and being bought, sold and finally released into the wild. Setting up a Temple of Isis in a Jewish country occupied by Romans is not an easy affair. While she has financial backing from Joseph of Arimathea, support from some of her fellow whores from the Roman brothel, and a flair for finding hidden sacred springs, she still has to stay under the radar of the religious and Roman dictators. True to her profession and her calling, her temple is offers healing and sexual services, for men and barren women. Between cleaning up an old estate and vineyards, she visits the Temple searching for any sign, any word of Esus. Here the author excels in providing the reader with insights into the people of the day, including the larger than life figures in the New Testament. She also gives us a window into the era’s religious practices, including animal sacrifices, and gives us an idea of how power can corrupt all, even those who claim to act on behalf of Yahweh. Everyone has an agenda in Jerusalem, and the only ones in charge with swords and spears are the Romans.

I won’t spoil the story for you, let me just say that if you want to see, smell, taste, hear and touch that era from the eyes of a very important woman in our collective history, I highly recommend this book.

Review – Hot Head by Damon Suede

Blurb –

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…

Since 9/11, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has wrestled with impossible feelings for his best friend and partner at Ladder 181, Dante Anastagio. Unfortunately, Dante is strictly a ladies’ man, and the FDNY isn’t exactly gay-friendly. For ten years, Griff has hidden his heart in a half-life of public heroics and private anguish.

Griff’s caution and Dante’s cockiness make them an unbeatable team. To protect his buddy, there’s nothing Griff wouldn’t do… until a nearly bankrupt Dante proposes the worst possible solution: HotHead.com, a gay porn website where uniformed hunks get down and dirty. And Dante wants them to appear there—together. Griff may have to guard his heart and live out his darkest fantasies on camera. Can he rescue the man he loves without wrecking their careers, their families, or their friendship?

Review – 

We all know where we were on the morning of September 11th, 2001 when the world as we know it altered beyond comprehension. I was three thousand miles away, watching the live news coverage, horrified as the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. Less than a year earlier, I sat on a bench in the plaza at WTC with my youngest daughter, eating hot dogs from a street vendor and marveling at the energy vibrating through the air.

Two months post 9/11 I was back in the city, this time with my oldest daughter. By then, much work had been done at the WTC site, but no amount of debris clearing could erase the overwhelming sense of sadness that had settled over the city. Healing had begun, but the wound was still raw, and far from being scabbed over. We visited the site to pay our respects to those who’d lost their lives there, and where once I had been moved by the energy of commerce surrounding me, I felt as if a black hole had opened up and swallowed everything good that had once occupied the space.

Hot Heads takes place ten years post 9/11, but Griff Muir, a New York City firefighter, is still dealing with the emotional trauma of that day. Through Griff’s eyes, we experience the horror of the event, and the day-to-day struggle to deal with the emotional upheaval so many brave first responders went through.

It’s human nature, following a tragic event, to reassess what’s important in our lives. Brave enough to risk his life amid collapsing skyscrapers, Griff struggles with a personal truth that threatens to bring down everything he holds dear, and he’d rather run into a burning building than admit he’s in love with Dante, his best friend and a fellow firefighter.

Griff can only stand by and watch as Dante digs himself deeper and deeper into financial trouble. When Dante finally admits he needs Griff’s help, the solution he’s come up with is Griff’s private dream and a public nightmare that might destroy them both if Griff can’t find a way out.

Extremely well written, the emotions will tug at your heart, and you’ll want to keep a fire extinguisher handy because the sex scenes are guaranteed to light your fire.

Damon Suede takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster and reminds us that bravery and heroism aren’t allocated according to sexual orientation, and that sometimes, loving might be the bravest thing of all.

I was simply blown away by this book. I give it – 

Damon Suede’s website.

Buy Hot Head

Review – The 90 Day Rule by Diane Nelson

Who says love and romance is only for the twenty-something crowd? I’m a firm believer that there’s no expiration date on a woman’s heart, and THE 90 DAY RULE by Diane Nelson proves the point.

Jes’s story is one far too many women have lived. At an early age, her dreams fell under the bus that was her husband’s career, relegating her to the subservient role of token wife in charge of nothing but raising the perfect child and projecting the image of the perfect family. It’s all about keeping up images, until she catches her philandering husband in bed with a woman/girl young enough to be his daughter.

Fresh out of options, Jes is sleeping on the sofa in her daughter’s college digs while she tries to knit together a new life with tattered threads from the old one. Help comes from an unexpected source, but like most gifts, it comes with strings attached – play the devoted wife for ninety days, long enough to get her husband re-elected, in exchange for a quick divorce complete with a financial settlement that will allow her to resuscitate her dreams.

This is a wonderfully refreshing read jam-packed with real emotion and realistic conflict. As a reader well past the twenty-something mark, I appreciate a mature heroine with mature issues. Can she pick up where she left off all those years ago? Are the dreams of her youth no longer attainable or realistic at her age? What, exactly, does she have to offer the world? What is she to do with unexpected desire, and the important question in any romance, can she dare to love again?

I loved Jes’s journey from lost and broken to grounded and strong. The transformation isn’t easy, but real life rarely is. THE 90 DAY RULE is honest, and real, and fabulous, as well as refreshing, bold, and well written with layers upon layers to make a reader think. I give it five stars for originality in a genre that too often takes the freeway when a side road might be more interesting.

Diane Nelson’s Website

Purchase The 90 Day Rule

 

 

Review – Killer Kisses by Sharon Buchbinder

I’m a big fan of buffets. There’s plenty of variety, and you can sample things you’ve never tried before without committing to a full course of the stuff. That’s why I like Sharon Buchbinder’s, KILLER KISSES  – A Short Story Anthology. From short to novella length, from sweet to sexy paranormal, there’s something for everyone inside the covers of this single author contemporary romance anthology.

Ms. Buchbinder has amassed a wonderfully varied body of work that drew me in from the very beginning with a short story set in the midst of a hurricane evacuation. Yeah, I know. Not your usual setting for romance, but the author pulled it off, giving me enough of a taste to keep me turning pages to see what else she had to offer.

If there is a common thread in all the stories, besides kisses of one sort or another (duh!), it’s a strong heroine. Ms. Buchbinder’s female characters are strong and capable. Life occasionally gives them a kick in the gut, but they get right back up and fight for what they want and need. Now that’s my kind of woman!

Subtly woven through the stories, the subtext of morality adds to the depth of the characters. It’s easy to like these people. I especially liked Sandra in THE LAKE PLACID CURE. She’s got a world of issues of her own to solve, but when she sees something that doesn’t look right to her trained eye, she’ll move heaven and earth to set it right.

A SIZZLING SMOOCH: BONDED FOR LIFE, sets up the characters later found in Ms. Buchbinder’s full-length romantic suspense novel, DESIRE AND DECEPTION, as well as the fictional town of Summerville, New York, whose inhabitants make an encore appearance in the next story, a novella – DELECTABLE AND DELICIOUS: AN INN DECENT PROPOSAL.

BONDED FOR LIFE takes us into the dangerous world of international drug trafficking. When Lola, a one-time resident, tries to sneak back into town, bringing trouble with her. An old high school friend, now a police officer, is there to serve and protect! And, he does both very well.

In AN INN DECENT PROPOSAL, we’re back in Summerville where two former residents, both looking for a new start in familiar surroundings, find themselves after the same thing – the old Summerville Inn. This is a much sweeter story than BONDED FOR LIFE, but the characters are deliciously flawed, lending a depth not often found in stories this sweet.

The anchor piece, KISS OF THE SILVER WOLF is perfectly capable of standing on its own, and adds a paranormal element to the author’s repertoire, with shape shifters living amongst us normal folk. Look close for the underlying messages about accepting ourselves for who we are and persecution of people and groups different from us. This story works on many levels, not the least of which is the theme of love conquers all.

I’ve purposely skipped a few stories, just so you’ll still have a few surprises waiting for you. Over all, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It’s refreshing to find so much variety in one place, as well as stories that stimulate your brain and bring a smile to your lips. Pucker up. KILLER KISSES is a fantastic read from start to finish.

Roz Lee

KILLER KISSES is available HERE.