December 28, 2013

Braine Reviews: Stripped Clean by Ellis Carrington

Series: Stand-alone
Format: Mobi
Release Date: 
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Recommended By: Lexxie (Un)Conventional Book Reviews
Genre: Contemporary Romance - M/M
Carlos O’Shea is stuck. He knocked up a girl in college after a night of too much drinking and then married her to be honorable. With little money, fewer options, and no degree, he winds up cleaning the floors in a small town gentlemen’s club and thinking desperate thoughts about the handsome owner that’ll lead to nothing but trouble.

Greg Moorehouse only invested in a nudie bar to help his best buddy out of a financial crisis. Now his drug-dealing ex-boyfriend, his reverend father, and a parade of surgically-enhanced DDs are driving him insane. But what’s really stripped him of all good sense is his growing obsession with his married employee, Carlos.

They circle each other in a push-pull of misunderstandings and growing attraction. Carlos needs to get his boss out of his head, and Greg can’t abide cheaters and married men. So what are a strip club owner and the guy who cleans going to do with their undeniable desires?

Be advised: Contains angsty dark moments, explicit love-making between two hot-blooded men, and cupcake-baking exotic dancers.

STRIPPED CLEAN is my first M/M romance read, I was more scared than excited to read this novel because it's outside my comfort zone. Ellis Carrington really did a good job in helping me gain perspective about M/M romance so I'd like to share this article with M/M virgins out there. Hopefully Ellis can convince you to try this sub-genre with curiosity if not eagerness.

This is How We Do It – My Approach to Man on Man Love Scenes 
by Ellis Carrington

To me, the most fascinating thing about life is that every moment we exist is unique and will never happen again. An infinite number of variables contribute to every experience we have every day, and the most important of these is the people involved.

I combined this perspective with a discussion about love scenes with one of my favorite gay romance authors, K.A. Mitchell. She brought up the idea that when two people get it on in a book, those are two unique (albeit fictional) individuals coming together at a particular point in time, with their unique personalities, their backgrounds, their baggage, and whatever else is going to contribute to them being who they are to each other at that moment.

I was asked once, while speaking at a panel about gay romance and erotica, how one keeps a sex scene from turning into porn. Now, nothing against porn; porn can be great. Still, when it comes to romance, I pointed to Ms. Mitchell’s answer: it’s about the characters. Porn is a fantasy acted out on film – and the orgasms are the final goal. A love scene in a romance novel is there to move the story forward between those two characters, whether there’s an orgasm on the page or the bump and grind happens behind a fade-to-black.

All this is doubly true when we’re talking about a love story involving two (or more) men. Men, generally speaking, are not so much with the emotional talky-talky. They tend to communicate much better with their bodies. So, while I do not profess to be any kind of expert, I find the best way to show a romantic connection is often when those two characters are physically intimate.

For me, this means my love scenes have evolved a little into being sometimes a little less explicit, a little less focused on the in-and-out mechanics (although there is some of that) and a little more of the touching, the eye contact, and the dialogue that happens. Not simply the moaning and groaning and “Oh my what a huge purple-headed warrior you have, Stan!” but giving them the chance to say things they might not say otherwise, during that time when their defenses are down.

Personal opinion? A book can be a little or a lot erotic, but it’s the tension and the dialogue that makes all the difference in the heat level of a love scene. Tere Michaels has a gorgeous book called Faith and Fidelity that is still one of my favorites. Not explicit at all, but the tension between the two men is so palpable that by the end of it I swear you’ll be sweating. Conversely, I’m also a huge fan of Sloan Parker, who writes love scenes so erotic my eyeballs nearly burst into flames. But they’re gorgeous—artful, even, so well-done and always perfectly fitting for the particular characters she is writing that I drink in every word. So again, it’s about the characters, and the author’s writing style. Those two components make all the difference.

So again, my opinion – and like assholes, we all have them – is that it really is the motion of the ocean, fictionally speaking. Once upon a time all gay romance was labeled “erotica” by default. As the genre explodes we are learning otherwise. I call what I write romance. Adult romance, erotic romance, but romance. I’ve seen “sweet” gay romance with hardly any sex. We’ve got everything from tech-y Sci-fi to cozy mysteries and young adult fiction in the genre, and the heat/intimacy levels bend and flex accordingly. There’s even a very sweet romance novel out there about a gay book. No sex (not between the books, anyway) but there is intimacy, and it’s super cute.

Worth dipping your toe in, if you haven’t already.

I've shied away from M/M romances because I feel intimidated by its cozier parts. For some reason the idea of two men locked in a heated embrace makes me blush. Even when I read Lover At Last (BDB 11), I was skimming most of Qhuay's love scenes because it was stressing me out! When I read Lexxie's [(Un)Conventional Book Reviews] review, it got me interested in reading STRIPPED CLEAN because it gave me the impression that this is more emotional and less physical, the perfect novel to ease me into this sub-genre in a pleasant manner. 

STRIPPED CLEAN is an emotional story about two people who are not necessarily at the best times of their lives. Greg Moorehouse is still dealing with the aftermath of his break-up even if it's been a year ago plus his relationship with his hypocrite of a father is strained. Carlos O'Shea still hasn't come out of the closet and is locked in a loveless marriage with his wife who knows his secret. Greg's storyline is full of angst and his relationship with his father ended unresolved which is tragic because despite whatever anger he felt, he still loved his dad for what it's worth and to leave that thread in his life untied is heartbreaking to say the least. 

Carlos' is more complicated and emotional. His relationship with Greg straddles the fine line of cheating because he's still married but given the circumstances, I understand his reasons even if I don't necessarily condone it. The most powerful part for me in this whole story was when Carlos finally came clean to his mom and explained to her that he's gay and how that doesn't define him as a person. It was a short scene but it pierced my heart fiercely I want to reach out and give Carlos a hug!

As for the sex scenes, it was intimate but not overly graphic which is why STRIPPED CLEAN is such a great M/M cherry popper. Men in romance novels are rough and raw with all their Alphaness coming out in the bedroom and that insatiable need to mark and claim. Outside looking in, I imagined M/M to be testosterone charged and that's too much for me to handle. STRIPPED CLEAN wasn't like that at all. Color me ignorant because men can be soft and vulnerable if they want to and I saw all of those glorious loving emotions exchanged between Greg and Carlos. The intimate scenes are so emotionally honest I can't help but feel the glow of their love for each other. 

So my M/M cherry's been popped and I thank Ellis Carrington for taking such good care of me! It was painless and no blood was drawn so obviously I'll be coming back for more. I'm still out of my element here and I'm content to stick to the more timid ones before I go exploring the more adventurous types. ECarrington's works will be my go-to because I know I'm in good hands and I really love her writing voice. Now if you're an M/M virgin and are thinking of getting your feet wet, check out STRIPPED CLEAN, it's lubricated with lots of heart so you won't have a problem sliding in to the story (bad pun, I know).

Purchase Stripped Clean


Romance requires a hopeful ending and that is why Ellis Carrington is driven to write it. She loves to create original stories that are gritty, witty, and a little unexpected, just like the heroes who inhabit them. Her guys come in both human and non-human form because spirit guides and vampires deserve love too. Her favorite things are great friends, great music, and books that make her sob like there’s no tomorrow.

Stalk Ellis

Due to it's strong sexual content, this snippet is rated R-18

Greg shook. His ass, his blood, his skin, everything burned in the best possible way, and he was afraid to even touch his dick so he didn’t explode before Carlos came. He’d been in a constant state of oh-yeah-right-fucking-now for so long, and holy shit, Carlos could fuck.

He’d been worried about Carlos being inexperienced. He needn’t have been.

The solid pressure of Carlos’s hands holding him down, and the intense stare of those molten eyes…. Greg had never wanted anyone more. He’d hoped sex between them would be good. He hadn’t expected the best fucking chemistry of his life. Whatever made it all start off awkward had vanished.

Carlos moved his hand away from Greg’s wrist to stroke at Greg’s cock. “No. Shit. Close.” His entire body lit up from the inside. 

Carlos pulled out far and slid inside, gliding over Greg’s sweet spot and making him ache. “Fucking come,” Carlos growled.

“Waiting...for you.” Greg liked sex rough, but not after the orgasm.

“Same.” Carlos picked up the pace. He pushed in deep, rotating his hips in a way that made Greg insane.

Greg grabbed his dick right as Carlos grabbed hold of his hair, grinding against him for a rough, hard kiss. “Oh, God.”

Carlos’s cock pulsed inside of him, setting off Greg’s orgasm. Wave after un-fucking-believable wave rolled through Greg’s body. Their tongues collided in a wet, sloppy mess as Greg’s release spilled between them. Time stood still while he was lost in a blur of pleasure.

Greg shuddered happily. As he came down from his high, he started to roll them apart. “Shit, that’s gonna be a mess.”

Carlos tugged him back and kept kissing, like he had no clue Greg had come all over his chest. 

Greg’s body twitched, every fiber still keyed up and firing randomly from all the craziness. He allowed himself to ease back into the mattress and chuckled to himself.

Carlos moved back enough to make eye contact. “What?”

“Well, for one thing, you’ve got spooge on your chest.”

Carlos eased out and ditched the condom somewhere alongside the bed. “Uh-huh.” He stretched out next to Greg and ran a finger through the jizz on Greg’s skin. “So do you.”

“We should take a shower.”
Carlos rested his head on Greg’s biceps. “Guess we can’t stay in bed forever.”

Greg turned his head, enjoying Carlos’s heavy-lidded smile when their noses brushed. “You sure we can’t?”

Carlos shrugged slightly. “Guess I am kind of tired. You don’t want to shower? Eat?”

He didn’t. For the first time he could remember in his twenty-nine years, Greg wasn’t in a hurry to jump up and be somewhere. Despite their long night and what little sleep he’d had, he didn’t particularly feel the need to roll over and drop into a coma. Carlos’s eyes seemed to search his face, and Greg was almost afraid to ask what the guy was looking for, but he did anyway. “Okay, give it to me.”

Carlos grinned widely. “Thought I already did.”

Greg yanked his arm away, making Carlos’s head bounce hard on the mattress. “Dick.”

“Yeah, exactly.”

Greg rolled his eyes and flopped onto his back, but deep down his body got kinda warm and liquid. Things had been so tense and awkward, but once they got into bed he almost couldn’t believe the two of them hadn’t been lovers before. Like in another lifetime or universe, or something, if Greg believed in that shit.

They had come together so easily.

He glanced over again, and Carlos’s eyes drifted shut more. The dark curls Greg both loved and envied obscured one eye in such a sexy manner. “Tired?”

“Nah.” Carlos yawned wide. “Okay, maybe I’m tired.”

Greg exhaled an almost-laugh. He ran a hand up Carlos’s dark, fuzzy leg and slapped him on the butt. “You getting bored with me already?”

“Bored?” Carlos murmured. “Hell no.” He shifted closer, still with his eyes barely open, and flung one leg over Greg’s. “I was all nervous about being good for you, baby. Brought my A game. Got you donuts. Now I’m worn out.”

Baby. Of all the endearments Greg flung around, he saved “baby” for people who held a special place of affection. Greg didn’t know how Carlos meant it, but the word sounded nice rolling off Carlos’s sleepy tongue.

He took a moment to run his palm along Carlos’s hip, to appreciate the gorgeous form of his body.
Eyes closed now, Carlos smiled slightly. “May I help you?”

“No.” Greg smiled back even though Carlos couldn’t see. “I’m gonna chill here while you recharge. I would imagine you need it after you ‘bout fucked me blind.”

Carlos chuckled some and opened his eyes halfway. “Oh yeah?”

Yeah. Greg didn’t admit his surprise out loud. Wasn’t so much about Carlos’s inexperience as it was the strange way the two of them had been dancing around each other these past weeks. The chemistry had been good, but the way they kept tripping over each other, the way last night had gone so off the rails….

And then they’d just connected.

“Pretty damn good, yeah.”

Carlos only smiled.

Looking into Carlos’s sleepy eyes now, Greg could swear the last piece of his cracked puzzle of a life had popped into place. Like his bullshit with Ricky, his history with Sam, and his fight with his dad were all a million miles away. Scary as hell how Carlos made him forget.

He tightened his leg around Carlos’s and pulled close to all that hard, dark warmth, and tried for a little while not to worry about anything.


  1. Oh my goodness, Braine, what an awesome review! And I loved your puns :D I'm so happy you enjoyed Stripped Clean so much, because I did feel responsible for you getting ready to pop that cherry ;) And I agree, it is a very emotional story, with some sex, of course, but I never felt uncomfortable reading about Greg and Carlos either :)

    I hope you're doing well! Happy reading :)

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    1. Thank you for reviewing this and your equally awesome review. If not for you my M/M hymen would still be intact.

  2. Woohoo Braine!!!! Your first M/M! And love your term "M/M Cherry Popper"!! ;)

    Ellis is awesome!!

    1. She is! OMG, she really helped condition my mind before I started reading this.

  3. Aww, thanks for taking a chance on Stripped Clean, I'm so thrilled you enjoyed it. And Lexxie, thank you for the recommendation!

  4. Whoa, that excerpt was HOT. I loved it. I'm really glad you took a chance on Stripped Clean, Braine, and that you really enjoyed it. I love a good M/M romance, though I don't read many. Honestly, the "mechanics" may be different, and sometimes a different level of acceptance, but the emotions are often the same.

    Great review!

    1. LOL on the mechanics quip. For me I'm just intimidated by my own perceived power play. In my mind it's too Alpha and I don't know if I can take that. But you're right, the emotions are the same.

  5. Yay Matey you read a M/M. WeeEeee!! Awesome post! I shall give this one a read . I think love isn't vanilla only so as long as everybody is happy in life. I LOVE Lover At Last - J.R. Ward. I too think when reading M/M it's not just about the plumbing/mechanics its about connecting with those two chappies and wanting them to love each other etc. Just like F/M and just like F/F. I have been asked to read a F/F . That will be my first one. As a blogger I have really widened my reading in the last year.


    1. Lover At Last, I read some parts of those with one eye closed coz those boys are doing exactly what I feared. They were too Alpha and it's almost like two Doms trying to one up each other or something. LOL

  6. Glad you enjoyed it. I haven't read this one yet.

  7. I confess I never tried a m/m or f/f book... don't know how I would feel about it but I should try and see.

  8. Aw glad you enjoyed your first m/m read Braine! I haven't read one that was just that but have read some with the m/m/f set up and the guys getting intimate with each other. But I like the added chickie even if she's not always involved. I have a few just m/m reads that I'm gonna give a try at some point :)

    1. I've read mmf and those are hot even with the M&M are doing something on the side. I hope you'll give this one a try, I truly enjoyed it.

  9. I have plenty of M/M reads on my TBR list but I don't think I've read any yet. Your review has definitely gotten me interested in this and I think it would be a wonderful entry book into the genre. I've only read one M/M/F book (Maiden Flight by Biana D'arc) and the boys weren't too interested in each other although they were close friends. Either way, I'll be getting into this genre more eventually and I'm glad this one worked for you. I look forward to giving it a go =D

    1. I've read several MMF & most of those were hot. There were some that has some side M&M homoerotic action which I didn't mind. This was a really good MM starter, primed me really good.

  10. Yay! Fantastic review, Braine. I'm proud of you for stepping outside your comfort zone...and I'm glad it was worth the step. :) I've read a few M/M books but this one...something about it trips my trigger. And I really want to read it - especially since you and Lexxie loved it. :) If I buy it before Wednesday, it doesn't count against my cutting back in the new year, right?!? ;)

    1. I hope you got it! I'm going cold turkey on digital RC's this month so I can totally relate to your last minute shopping there.

  11. Great review, I don't think I've read a M/M yet but if I want to I'll have to start with this one :)

    1. Yay! Although I'm sure Drea can give you some awesome recs too!


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