Review of Branded by Flames (Dragon Soul #1), by Sean Michael

Branded by FlamesI received a copy of Sean Michael‘s Branded by Flames from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
For years, dragon-shifter-slash-firefighter Jake has been searching for his mate, but he’s beginning to tire of the search. Maybe soul mates are only for the lucky few. 

Then he meets Shae. 

A former navy welder, Shae is handsome, talented, into power play and rough sex, and covered in dragon tattoos. All of this suits the shape-shifting dragon just fine—until he finds out that Shae literally has Jake’s family crest already tattooed on him. A coincidence? Or something more… 

Jake must convince Shae to trust him as a man and as a Dom before the heat between them burns out of control. Becoming a dragon’s mate is not without danger, and Shae will need Jake’s guidance—and love—if he’s going to make it through alive. 

This has dragon shifters. Dragon shifters! I should have loved it. But I’m afraid I just didn’t. The book is too long by half and it’s all sex. I mean ALL SEX.

I understand that it is erotica, not romance. (Though, I didn’t realize that when I requested it from Netgalley.) So, it’s fine that the focus is on sex not relationships, but it is not enough to carry such a long book. I got so tired of sex scenes. You wouldn’t expect them to bore a person, but when it’s just the same thing on repeat, that’s what it is, boring. I literally fell asleep at one point!

And it was painfully repetitive. I mean, there are only so many ways to describe two men having sex. The word ass is used 168 times and cock 202 times, in the novel. Now, the book is 216 pages long. That means that once you take out the front and back matter, it’s basically once per page. So, you can estimate how much non-sex plot there is. Hint: essentially none. It might have worked for 75-100 pages, because Shae and Jake are likable, but not 200.

It also uses one of my personal pet peeves. I hate the whole ‘boy’ thing in BDSM books. Totally personal, that; probably doesn’t annoy others like it does me. But it’s nails on a chalk board, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s because I’m from the American South and, while there is definitely a traditional power play involved in the term, it’s not one I find sexy in the least. In fact, I always unconsciously read it with an unnatural emphasis that rips me right out of a narrative. I just really hate it.

I also disliked that Shae started the book as a somewhat butch, tattooed, pierced, ex-Navy welder and as soon as Jake showed up, he turned into a rather camp ‘queen.’ Either would be fine, but the personality shift was jarring.

Outside of these irritants the writing is fine and there is some humor in the book. Plus, I rather enjoyed Jake’s uncertainties, though I also thought they didn’t match the rest of his character. I appreciated that Shae was supposed to be almost 40. It’s so rare to find older romantic leads. And, of course, the whole this is about dragons, which is always a plus for me.

In the end, I think this may just be a case of a poor pairing between a reader and book.

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