This review originally appeared on the BDSM Book Reviews site.
If, like me, you haven't read the first collection of stories in this series, it seems to boil down to this: A dragon, a vampire and a werewolf walk into a bar... or whatever, and decide to open a resort for all the things that go bump in the night; sort of a Club Med for the fanged and furry. The first book contained stories covering the building of Cereus, and now this collection recounts three tales from the opening. Each of the short stories focuses on a different set of characters, although there are also common players that appear in all the tales.
In the first story, “Pack Rules” by BA Tortuga and Julia Talbot, werewolf security chief “Van” Donovan has to come to terms with his former lover Mik, a vampire. The two fell out some years ago over Van's need to serve his pack, but the two have never really gotten over each other, and now they're forced to work together. Van is determined not to let his 'mate' get away from him again, just as Mik is trying to avoid getting hurt by what he saw as a betrayal. He tries to keep away from Van, but the wolf enjoys a chase, just as he enjoys domination. And while vampires may be known as tops, in truth Mik likes being dominated, and even needs a little discipline from time to time.
This is a rather interesting little story. The underlying plot is a mystery involving the security cameras, which ties things together. There are several spicy sex scenes between Van and Mik, and while they're hot, the kink doesn't go beyond a spanking, aside from the sometimes forceful domination by Van. However, the chemistry between these two never quite gelled for me. While the reason they parted ways is made clear, the rest of their history isn't really discussed. While there's obviously a powerful sexual attraction between the two, it's not clear what, if anything, they have in common that would have held them together in the first place.
The next story, “Downward Dog”, also by Julia Talbot and BA Tortuga, picks up more or less where the first story left off. Rian, the resort's young yoga instructor, finds himself faced with a suitor, one of the original residents of the ancient forest where Cereus has been built. Gilead is an old fashioned lone wolf, but he's set his sights on Rian to be his mate. His courtship methods don't go down too well at first, but once he and the young wolf are finally thrown together, Rian is drawn to the older man-wolf, despite all his reservations.
This is a sweet little love story without any kink to it, aside from a little biting. Like the first story, there's a bit of made-for-each-other inevitability to it all, but since the two characters don't have any history together, it's a little easier to simply suspend disbelief and go with the romance.
The last story, “The Bear Facts” by Sean Michael, is certainly the kinkiest, as well as being saccharin sweet. In it, polar werebear Nuk checks into the resort for a month of fun with one of the resort's staff submissives. Every few years he leaves his isolated home in the Arctic to find sexual release among other people. However, Nuk gets lost on the way to his cabin and stumbles across IT guy Alain. The young man isn't a shifter or a vampire, he's just a regular human, although he has different colored eyes and can do magic. It's lust at first sight for the old bear and he quickly decides that the chatty geek is going to be his.
This is a story of polar opposites (if you'll pardon the expression) who somehow find a completeness in each other. Nuk is definitely the strong silent type. He has lived alone for many years so he's not used to talking, while Alain can't seem to shut up at first. The younger man's chattiness seems to hide some insecurity, about his heterochromia, among other things. But, despite his misgivings, as in all these stories, love finds a way, although there is a surprise or two along the way.
There is a lot of sex in this story, although the kink is more thought about than actually depicted. The private dungeon in Nuk's suite isn't mentioned again after it's discussed in the opening chapter. What actually gets described is some light bondage and knife-play. It's hot, but not very edgy.
While none of the stories in “Cereus: Opening” are particularly kinky, they are all enjoyable enough to be entertaining reading. The tales are a little overly sweet and predictable at times, but the writers are talented enough to make you forget that for the most part.