OMG, I thought that would never end. This is an interesting collection. There's certainly a lot of imagination on display, and as with all anthologies, some were better than others. There's a good mix of steampunk, fantasy, and sci-fi. Most fell into the good to meh range for me, but the first and last were the strongest.
Reaper's Ride by Astrid Amara - 4 stars.
Basically a gay Ghost Rider minus the unfortunate skelemorphisis. Good fun. :D
Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony - 3.5 stars.
This was well-written and I liked Al and Cyrus alright, but the world-building was a bit lacking. Since we're dropped right into the middle of things here, there wasn't time to really get the full impact of the MCs' connection before things got going.
Dr. Ezekiel Crumb's Heavenly Soul by Lex Chase - 2 stars.
Wow. From shot in the knee, to stitched up, to rough and wild sex in less than five minutes. That's a new record! Oh, and a former alien king something or other.
Corpse Powder by Jana Denardo - 3 stars.
A Navajo man running from a skinwalker meets a Jewish doctor after the airship Tsela was on is raided by pirates. There were a lot of good ideas here, but they didn't really have time to blossom, and the romance was very insta.
The Sheriff of Para Siempre by Jamie Fessenden - 2 stars.
So...I liked the beginning of this a lot. It was really sweet and cute, if sad 'cuz homophobia was alive and well in the Wild West, hence why Billy and Joe were always on the move. I liked Joe's voice a lot, and it was clear these two were smitten with each other, and the no-dames-in-this-town Para Siempre is pretty casual about them so long as they keep it under lock and key. But then, zombies?? Or zombie. I think? This is something I know a lot of my friends hate in romance, so spoiler.
Billy is killed and because he promised his soul to Joe, he ends up a walking corpse who can only move about, can't talk or anything else. So Joe ends up stuck in this podunk town for the rest of his life. He can't move on or find someone else because he's gotta watch over Billy. Then Joe eventually dies of old age, a friend comes along and finds him and burns them both. The end.
The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding - 3 stars.
It's Kim Fielding, so it's well-written. But talk about insta-love. But I guess if you're into
and there's no chance of ever finding another one, your choices are pretty limited.
Time Zone by Andrew Q Gordon - 3 stars.
I thought all these were supposed to take place during the Wild West days, but this one's contemporary. Pretty interesting and it's a story more like something Marvel would do.
Get Lucky Ginn Hale - 3 stars.
Hale throws everything and the kitchen sink into this story. Mages. Theurgists. Dinosaurs. Epic flood. Gangsters. Pinkertons. Seriously, everything is in here, and yet it doesn't feel overstuffed. Unfortunately, there's no ending! A lot of stuff is set up, and then it's left hanging. I did see the note that this is story takes place in the world of another story, and I have no idea what that story is about, if it continues with these two or picks up where this leaves off, or if it deals with an entirely different cast. And it doesn't really matter. This is still an incomplete story. Well-written, greatly imagined, likable characters, so three stars.
From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde - 2 stars.
A gay fantasy version of Romeo and Juliet, where
they both live at the end.
This could've been interesting, but it was undeveloped and the ending was rushed.
POMH by Veronica Keyes - 2 stars.
This is more of a detailed outline, and doesn't make much sense. This is like a gay steampunk version of Pinocchio. Kinda weird and random.
Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling - 3 stars.
This one is very short, so the author wisely keeps this to just a few scenes, and she does those scenes very well. She sets up this world in a minimum of words and without spending time on unnecessary details. However, since this is so short, there's not much time to set up the relationship between the MCs. Also, it wasn't set in the wild west but on a completely new planet.
Gunner the Deadly by C.S. Poe - 2 stars.
I didn't know what to expect from this author, and I tried to go into this with an open mind. This had an interesting set up, and the action was decently written, but the "romance" was way too insta and unprofessional professional to boot. Throw in an abrupt ending and there wasn't much to recommend this one.
After the Wind by Tali Spencer - 4 stars.
This is a strong end to this anthology. Micah is a fire elemental, in hiding from the government, bounty hunters and poachers who hunt his kind down. When a couple of poachers come through selling the services of a water elemental, Micah decides to do what he can to help the man - but exposing himself would be risking his friends and neighbors as well. The author also doesn't ignore the trauma of Rain's abuse at the hands of the poachers. There's no insta here, as there shouldn't be. I actually wished this one had been a little longer.
This was very sweet and very porny. Way too porny. I had a hunch going in due to the blurb, which is why I borrowed this one instead of bought it, and I'm glad I did. There were just too many sex scenes for such a short book and most of them I couldn't be bothered to read. But if you're looking for a pornmance, this should definitely scratch that itch.
What I did like was seeing how Robert and Liam are still navigating their way through their new relationship. They've been together romantically for a little over a year, but they've been best friends for sixteen years, and sometimes those old BFF patterns can tame down the flames of romance. I liked how Robert came to a new appreciation of Liam, and how Liam was able to eventually open up to Robert about his fears of the future.
I also really liked the scene where Evan and Liam talked. Liam still hasn't warmed back up to Evan, so it was nice to see Evan helping him sort out his thoughts and feelings. Now that I like Evan, I want all the Warriors to like him again too. :D
The Last Sun
Written by K.D. Edwards
Narrated by Josh Hurley
This is a new author and new-to-me narrator, and they both make a hell of an impression. While this didn't quite have the emotional depth I usually require for 5-star reads, it was so much fun and generally well-written that I can't give it less than five stars. And it was emotional when it needed to be, even though all the MCs were a bunch of dude-bros (but not douchey dude-bros, have no fear).
So you've got Rune St. John, the last of the Sun Court, which fell twenty years earlier when Rune was fifteen. Rune somehow survived - but he didn't get out undamaged. He wears sarcasm like a shield and has emotional and mental barriers so think that no powered sigil can get through them (though one guy starts to manage it.) There's also Brand, his companion and bodyguard and his best friend. Brand doesn't have magic but that doesn't slow him down one bit.
The beginning is a bit strange and doesn't appear to have much to do with the rest of the story, at least not on the surface. It does set up a lot about this world though. When Rune's recruited by Lord Tower to look for his missing godson Addam, things really start to take off. Along the way we meet a very fun and interesting band of side characters: Max, who Rune unwittingly agrees to look after; Quinn and Kiernan, both seers; and finally Addam, who proves to have hidden depths.
Brand and Rune's relationship is the most important one here. Their friendship is unshakeable, despite some challenges along the way. I liked that their conflicts weren't contrived or borne from ridiculous miscommunications or misunderstandings. Rune's a bit impulsive and that sometimes gets them into interesting situations, but they're both competent at what they do. It's just that their opponents are also competent, which really ups the ante and makes the action more interesting.
I hesitate to call this a romance, though there is that potential there. It's just not the focus, and what is here is a slow burn, so don't expect a lot of sexy times.
In addition to all that, Edwards gives us a fully realized alternate reality, where New Atlantis exists within the normal world, where magic is real and humans are tourists. There's a lot to learn about this world and it's done in digestible doses. No info dumps here. There's also plenty set up for the next book - or however many books this series ends up being. There's so much than can be done with this world, and it's done in a fresh and fun way. I'm very eager to see what the next book brings to the table when it comes out later this year.
I listened to the audio at 1.20x speed. Hurley really got into the spirit of the book. He could have done better with the voices - Brand and Rune sounded too much alike - and he might have gotten a little too enthusiastic at times, but overall it really worked for the tone of the story. I hope he comes back for the next one.