Genre: M/M Anthology
Review: 3.5 Hearts (well 3.625 to be exact--excluding Frangipani Kisses with is a DNF) -- As with most anthologies, there are stronger stories and some that just don't make the cut. I actually had to DNF only one story (which I rarely do) but it was a chore to get through. Not the style for me at all. The other six stories, however were creative and had a lot of ginger hair love. (I thank you) From fantasy to contemporary, it had a little bit of everything. I think you can tell which were my favorite of the bunch. ;) All in all, I had a good time.
Whiskey Wishes by Anna Martin - 3.5 Hearts - There is something about Anna Martin's tone that is enchanting. I was swept away in this sweet romance between a whiskey distillery worker and an artist in "Whiskey Wishes". Set in modern day Ireland, the story is told by James, the not quite out whiskey worker who comes from a big family, has a disability but doesn't hold him back from achieving his dreams and didn't think any man would ever catch his eye in his small hometown. His sister raves about the hot artist newcomer staying about the pub, Aiden. And Aiden bumps into James and kismet steps in. James tries to ignore the lust he feels for Aiden but he can't. The two fall into sweet love and learn about each other. I think the mysterious Aiden's secret came a little late in the story. It wasn't a big surprise (I actually thought he was going to be something paranormal - might've been wishful thinking) but he charmed me. As he did James. I loved this little glimpse into both mens' lives. Sweet, soft story.
Flickers by Tia Fielding - 2.75 Hearts - WTF? I can't believe I liked this but I did. Ghost! Ack! I can't stand them in fiction. This is a weird ghost story with a mix of out/gay-for-you, mystery and paranormal? Set in modern day Kentucky, landscaper Ben is in "denial" of being gay (but seems to be a self-hating gay, IMO) He prefers "straight people over the gay ones", he has a gay ghost haunting him- staring at his naked ass, making him uncomfortable. The ghost ends up having a sad story and Ben has to get to the bottom of finding out why the ghost chose him. He solves the mystery on hunky, ginger bear artist, Adrian DuBois' doorstep, or in his case barn step. Ben was not a likeable character but there was something about him that kept me reading. The author took pretty cool elements and tried to create a story but it was too short to get the full effect. We go from Ben being deep in the closet and way in denial about being gay, solving the mystery and the epilogue where he's out and engaged to Adrian. Huh? Where are the other 75 pages detailing how Ben went from one extreme to the next? The ghost mystery was different and the way the ghost stayed true vegan even after death was funny. But the huge time jump and no explanation on how the men got there was too jarring not effect my enjoyment of the entire package.
Click Your Heels Three Times by Blaine D. Arden - 2.5 Hearts - I'm torn on how to rate this, so I'm going middle of the fence. Decent enough elements but the execution fell short. Set in a fantasy or magic using alternate universe, prince Theo is serving in his country's army as a soldier. His general wants him to marry his ginger mage sin, Munkin. But the prince is already taken by leather maker Wyvern. In the sexless short, Theo is cast in a spell that felt sort of Lost-esque. The spell traps Theo on a deserted island where things aren't as they seem. The story dives in weird and when animals and food baskets and replays of past conversations became involved. The bit of suspense with Theo getting off the island was odd. Not cohesive enough to pull the overall effect. I was interested in seeing what was great about Wyvern, why the prince chose to serve for his country and there was a crumb of snark that never developed. :(
Frangipani Kisses by Liam Livings - DNF Delight - It's not that this was gay fiction rather than romance. It's not that the story is more about an older gay man's reflection on self-realization after losing his career and volunteering at a charity store. It's the weird story-telling. It was very British but yet it was boring and dry. I gave up after the first chapter. I could feel a headache start so instead of suffering, I dnf-ed. It's a rarity (for me) but I had to. Not interesting enough.
Charmed by M.J. O'Shea - 3.5 Hearts - This was cute! It was a modern fairy tale...sort of. It was a little Coyote Uglymeets The Taming of the Shrew meets Cinderella's Glass Slipper. Set in NYC, it features a double redheaded pairing - Luke, the NYU photography student was a little dreamy and romantic & Kelly - the Southern strawberry blonde bartender that rules the bar as an ice prince. The beginning totally hooked me. I got lost in middle but the ending was sweet and I remained engaged. Kelly thinks he's on top of the little world he rules. He's untouchable, everyone wants him and he doesn't want anyone...unless its just to hit and quit. And despite all of his bluster, he takes on look at Luke and falls so deep. Luke takes him around the city and slows down Kelly's hectic, slam and bam ways. it's cute. This is sex free and it shows romance doesn't have to be all about sex. Kelly did make a jerk move though. I think Luke forgave him too quickly but it's fairytale-esque so...I guess it works for them. Overall, I liked.
Torch by Kit Muellender - 4.5 Hearts - Oh wow! I was pleasantly surprised with this one. This was a full out novella, enough depth given to the main character, a slow reveal of who would be the main character's love interest and an honest to goodness fairy tale feel kind of romantic story. Told in modern day...UK (it reads like the author is from there), Jem is a doctor who is openly gay and lonely. Well not that lonely because he has the jazz club next door to keep him company. He listens through the window, has done this for years and has somehow fallen for the Thursday night's performer. He hasn't step foot inside but that voice gets him off. It calms him down from a hectic day. It soothes him.He needs it from working in a hospital with 12 hour shifts and crabby coworkers. I'm trying not to give away who is the love interest because it's not readily obvious at first read. And everyone who tries this should have to the chance to experience this rose bloom (you know, a story that starts lightly furled until its ready to open its petals) But I will say the ambience and the mood written was one of the strongest in the bunch. And this is the author's only work? Please continue to write more words. Please and thank you.
Miles To Go by B. Snow - 5 Hearts Hands down favorite of the anthology!
“There's a reason straight men call us 'cocksuckers'. I've just never understood why it's considered an insult.”
This story is not without flaws but damn was it a breath of fresh air. The reactions, I think it was the reactions of the main character that got to me the most. The story is definitely one of the stronger of the bunch and not without a more closer to unique situation. And the undercurrent of humor that was laced throughout. When you read a story that fits like a glove, you just have to crow about it. Am I right?
Redheaded architect Joe is currently married with a wife and adorable son. But his wife and childhood sweetheart, has realized her husband is gay and set up 7 different dates for him to realize he was gay too. Joe wants to go back to regular life with his only love and is very sure he's straight. His wife hires a grad student babysitter, Danny, to watch her kid while Joe goes on his dates. Oh and Danny is gay. And snarky.
"You don't mind that I'm straight?"
"Joe, my boy, you're not straight."
"Why does everyone keep saying that? What the hell am I missing?"
"I don't know, but it will be so exciting when you figure it out."
Joe goes on dating disasters and Danny helps him unwind from the horrors with an anecdote or beer or sometimes both. It's great. The writing was fine, very fine. The characters had some depth and reading the deconstruction of Joe's marriage...it kinda touched me? I dunno. I really felt it for him. He really put in a valiant effort. But he finally discovers a part of himself he's never gave wings to fly. P.S. No sex and sooooooooo not necessary.
Totally reading more of this author.