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Archive for February, 2012

Title: The Storyteller
Author: Blaine D. Arden
Length: 3,600 words (12 pdf pages)
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: m/m BDSM fantasy
Rating: B+

Blurb:

Banished by his family, young, blind aristocrat Oleg finds there are advantages of living isolated with just his tutor for company. But the perfect day said tutor, Neiam, planned for them, Oleg’s father seems hell bent on ruining.

Review:

The blurb for this free short from Storm Moon Press pretty much says it all. Oleg has been sent “for his own good” to a remote family estate with his tutor to take care of him. Oleg resents his family for their actions, having a handicapped son is considered distasteful in this world, and yet now that he and Neiam have settled into their relationship, he’s actually rather glad of his family’s decision, even if it still annoys him.

He and Neiam have settled into a D/s relationship, but Neiam is a gentle master who is teaching Oleg how to function with his blindness, gently prodding and pushing him to be more confident and capable, despite the fact he was treated as helpless his whole life. Neiam doesn’t let him get away with saying he “can’t” and as hard as it is for Oleg, he loves Neaim and knows he has made progress.

However when his father unexpectedly arrives, nearly catching them in the act, Oleg wonders what this means. Does his father intend to force him to return home or can he stay with his master. It’s during this time you get to know more about Oleg’s life and his relationship and how they have to keep it hidden from his family

You only get Oleg’s perspective, but you could tell there was great affection between the two men. Just because he was blind didn’t mean Neiam was going to coddle him. He knew he was capable and forced him to be so, but not in a cruel manner, always rewarding him for making strides even if Oleg didn’t think he necessarily deserved it.

So I really enjoyed the feel of this story, with it’s historical bent and a rather lyrical quality to the relationship  between the two men, both fitting a need the other had. For those wondering, the BDSM aspect is quite light and nothing that should scare anyone off.

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Title: Fire Thief
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Length: 3,600 words
Publisher: JCP Books
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:
Is seeing really believing? Hank would never dream of coming on to the most striking guy at the bar—but it’s his lucky night since Thomas, the burgundy-haired vision in black lipstick and mirrored shades, takes it upon himself to make the first move.

While the encounter itself is mind-blowing, the hot-and-heavy grapple in the janitor’s closet isn’t the only way in which Thomas blows Hank’s mind.

Review:
Hank’s out with his friends at a bar. He’s had a few beers and heads out to the toilet. On the way back he’s waylaid by Thomas, a guy who Hank had been checking out all evening. Hank thinks Thomas is way too cool for him, but Thomas seems to have other ideas as he drags Hank into a janitor’s closet for some down and dirty.

On the surface this is a just an erotic quickie with a twist. Set mostly in the dark grungy environment of a janitor’s closet, the sex on its own is enough to grip hold of your emotions and draw you into the story. However, this is JCP and as well as the sex there’s a lesson in Greek mythology and a message about looking below the surface. It’s amazing really how much there is here, crammed into such a short format, but we get a real sense of Hank’s low self esteem – “No one ever just simply noticed me, not without a significant amount of flattery on my part, and extensive plying with drinks” – and utter delight that someone as hot as Thomas wanted him. It added a note of pathos to the story and lifted it from just a steamy and seamy encounter. We also get a twist I didn’t see coming which provides a lightbulb moment, making some of the more obscure things said by Thomas suddenly make a whole more sense. I found myself immediately re-reading so I could pick up on any missed nuance to the story in a second read.

As I said, the sex is hot, but JCP has this ability to use language and make it so much more than plain sex. I was reminded of how much I love her writing just by the phrase:

His fingernails dug into my hips, ten bright points of pleasure.

which seemed to encapsulate that scene entirely. Rough and quick but full of mutual pleasure.

As with all good stories the end left me wanting more. A second encounter showing the slight shift in the power dynamic would be interesting to read, I think. Let’s hope the author has more up her sleeve with these characters. Highly recommended.

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Title: Take a Chance on Me
Author: Liz Lambdin
Length: 2,100 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:
James has had enough. Being in love with his best friend is not even remotely pleasant, and he cannot take listening to one more play by play of Evan’s adventures in bad boyfriends. So what’s a guy to do? Give a best friend a clue and hope he gets it—and returns the feelings that James has never been able to confess.

Review:
This is the shortest that I’ve read of the LT3 Kiss Me Quick shorts and tells of James who, after being totally exasperated when his best friend and unrequited love comes to cry on his shoulder about yet another bad break-up, tries in the clumsiest way possible to give Evan a clue about his feelings.

Whilst I rather liked the character of James and sympathised with his growing annoyance at the general cluelessness of his best friend, the story centres around a bit of a misunderstanding and forced separation – not my most favourite of plot lines. Still it was amusing to see James squirm over the results of his outburst and the conclusion was satisfying. The author sets up the situation in a humourous fashion and I got a strong sense of how much James and Evan mean to each other as friends.

Those looking for a 5 minute read may enjoy this one. I liked it, but I wish I could have spent longer with these guys.

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Title: Curtain Up
Author: Spencer Rook
Length: 48 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romantic comedy
Rating: D+

Blurb:

Theater major Erik Waite hasn’t acted in almost a year, and money is tight. So when his friend Michelle offers him a role in her new boyfriend’s musical, Erik accepts, even though it sounds rather dicey. The rehearsals are pure chaos, but Eric is delighted to learn that his high school crush, Phillip, will be playing the lead.  Unfortunately, Phillip’s controlling mother is playing his romantic interest, and she isn’t about to let anyone get too close to her son – especially when it appears Phillip may return Erik’s interest.  It will take a plan of epic proportions to give Eric the chance to star in his own love story.

Review:

A fun and farcical story, that unfortunately just had too many plot holes and clichés for me to award a higher grade.

I have a weakness for theatre stories and comedy, so I had high hopes for Curtain Up, author Spencer Rook’s debut published story. Told from young Theatre arts graduate Erik Waites’ point of view, it tells of how he gets involved in a third rate local production of a new play with the express intention of getting to spend time around his high school neighbour. Erik had a crush on Phillip at the time and the attraction hasn’t diminished, but unfortunately Erik is just a chorus boy and Phillip is playing the leading man… opposite his controlling harridan of a mother.

I’ll begin with what I enjoyed: Erik is a sweet character. He has a rather blasé approach to life and doesn’t worry about anything, relying on his cute looks and natural charm to get him out of any sticky situations. His friendship with the more abrasive Michelle came across well, and they seemed like a perfect pair. The story is written competently, and there were moments that made me chuckle. I particularly enjoyed the vision of Erik playing an angel in nothing more than wings and a pair of tight briefs!

However, the story was riddled with implausible developments that threw me out of the story. The first was why on earth Erik wouldn’t leap at the chance of being in a production, considering that he is currently unemployed, struggling financially, and loves the theatre. He doesn’t seem to be in a position to turn his nose up at this opportunity, even if it is just a chorus line role. I also had to wonder why he wasn’t living somewhere near a decent theatre if he wanted to make a career out of acting, but perhaps this was just a reflection of his tendency to drift through life.

There were more inconsistencies, however. Erik acts like he’s never seen the theatre before, when it’s in the locale he grew up in. I just couldn’t believe a kid with an interest in the dramatic arts wouldn’t have checked out the local theatre! Then he fails to recognise Phillip’s mother, despite having lived opposite the family for several years.

Couple these plot holes with some rather clichéd passages (describing himself as seen in a mirror, a sexy interlude which turns out to be a dream), and the fact that I just couldn’t feel any sympathy for mummy’s boy Phillip, and you’ll see why I just couldn’t award a higher grade. Phillip’s mother was a truly dreadful mother-in-law cliché herself, although she was comic relief at times. I was particularly irritated that Erik doesn’t describe Phillip’s appearance, simply saying that he “would never be able to use the right words to describe the boy”. This wasn’t good enough – I wanted to know what he looked like!

In short, if you’re looking for a comic, theatre based story and don’t mind tripping over a few plot holes then you might well enjoy this. Mostly, I just feel a sense of missed opportunity. Curtain Up could have been much better if it had a more thorough content edit, and I think Spencer Rook’s writing has real promise. I’ll be looking out for future offerings from the author, and hoping he gets a better editor next time around.

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Title: Eye of the Beholder
Author: K.C. Kendricks
Length: 10,000 words (34 pdf pages)
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Some neighbors share more than others…

Andy Madison is city born and bred. Filling in for a friend at a coffee shop, Andy meets Ben Hardin and sparks fly. They spend a long, lazy Sunday afternoon together to get to know each other, and when they decide to let nature take its course, they go to Ben’s cozy apartment. Ben’s taking his time becoming acclimated to his new life in the big city. He’s got a great job he loves, he’s making new friends, and his starter apartment has the most incredible views a young man could dream of. Ben’s discovered there’s more to admire than the arts, music and architecture. All he has to do is look out his window and across the narrow alley.

Andy thinks he’s seen it all living in the Big Apple, but what he spies through Ben’s window is something that can only be enjoyed by the eye of the beholder.

Review:

This is a rather two-track story, both involving our hero Ben. He has moved to New York City from small town America and is loving every minute of it. He’s thriving in his job, he’s finding as many men as he can handle, he’s got a decent if tiny apartment. One night, he discovers he can see into his neighbors’ apartment in the neighbouring building and they put on quite a show for him. He becomes quite fascinated with them both, wondering who they are, and he even manages to cross paths with one of the men outside their apartment one day.

However, just when he’s thinking maybe he’ll hit up the local barista for something fun to do in the city, the man is not there but Andy, an older man is. He asked anyway, sure that Andy is straight and goes off. The next time he goes for coffee, Andy is there again and they start chatting, and soon Andy has asked him out much to Ben’s surprise. He’s not looking for a relationship, he’s young and enjoying all the city has to offer on the dating front.

They go out and have a wonderful day, ending up back at Ben’s where the neighbours’ once again put on a show for them, acting as an aphrodisiac. I liked both characters and I think their personalities fit their ages. Ben is young and a bit vain about his abilities and happy to be foot loose and fancy free. Andy is in his late 30’s and more stable and looking to settle down, but not rushing into anything.

I wasn’t exactly sure how the voyeur story-line connected to Ben and Andy, beyond something rather titillating and fun to spice up the sex. Maybe that was all it was and that was enough. I liked that the author didn’t have them rush into a relationship with vows of eternal love after one date. I think seeing where it went, if they got along, was the wise, and realistic, way to go.

So this was a nice little story with a sweet romance combined with a little naughty peeping on the sexy neighbors.

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Title: Love Led Them
Author: Helen Beattie
Length: 11,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal
Rating: B-

Blurb:
When Marcus Sanders asks a statue of Cupid to help him fall in love with the man of his dreams… he never expected to fall in love with the man IN his dreams! Is Marcus destined to only ever find happiness while he’s sleeping? Or will Cupid’s plan truly lead Marcus to love?

Review:
Those of you who are still in the mood for Valentine shorts may just find this one to your liking. It tells of Marcus who has been on his own for a while and due to work pressures finds it difficult to put himself out there to meet someone. He takes a lunch break at the botanical gardens where he comes across a pretty enclosed garden with a statue of cupid at the centre. Marcus asks cupid to send him the man of his dreams but things don’t quite work out the way Marcus hopes.

I love stories set in different locations to the usual generic US city and so it was nice to read a book set in Australia for a change, or more specifically, Sydney. There’s enough geographical detail to ground the story and give us a flavour of the setting, but the focus is on Marcus and his journey to love.

I rather liked Marcus too. He’s got a down to earth manner, which could be a little gruff, but underneath it all he’s a bit lonely and looking for love. His grumpy manner was endearing as was his willingness to help a friend.  I liked the way that Marcus tries to meet more men, and some of his adventures made me smile in sympathy for him.

Any niggles I have with the story were to do with the lack of actual on page time we get with Marcus and his new man. I don’t want to go into spoilers here, but whilst there was a couple of hot sex scenes between the two, they get very little ‘talk’ time – only a couple of pages, in fact. I would have liked at least a further scene with them talking and getting to know each other before I could happily wave Marcus off into his HEA.

Despite the niggle, I still rather enjoyed this book. I liked Marcus and was invested in his happiness. Those interested in the Sydney setting and in reading a valentine set short with a paranormal twist should enjoy this one too.

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Title: Loose Snow
Author: Julia Talbot
Length: 10,200 words (42 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:

Jack and AJ had a thing once, but Jack wasn’t ready to settle down. They still work together at the Forestry Service, seeing each other every day, but the situation comes to a head when Jack encounters loose snow out on the trail, and gets caught in an avalanche. Will AJ see things differently after Jack’s brush with death?

 Review:
The blurb here pretty much explains things. Jack and AJ still work together despite having had a brief relationship. That relationship and what went wrong is something you get little snippets of as the story progresses. Jack is young, 25 and has that carefree feel to the character. He decides to take AJ’s Jeep (AJ controls who gets to drive which vehicles) and you can tell that Jack is getting great delight in “stealing” AJ’s Jeep. He’s now regretting how things ended with AJ, but he’s upbeat and a happy guy despite that.

However when the avalanche catches him and the Jeep in its path, everything changes. Thankfully Jack was able to pull his locater and AJ manages to find him, but it’s very close to the edge and Jack very nearly dies. AJ and their coworker Edna take turns watching over him in the hospital they are so afraid for his health. It seems Jack talks in his sleep as well, telling Edna way more information than she ever wanted to know about him and AJ. After he’s released, Jack and AJ have a sexual encounter, but Jack reacts badly and figures AJ is just feeling guilty because he nearly died and AJ storms out in frustration.

I rather liked the conflict between the two. It was a misunderstanding, but not the BM, just how people can have trouble communicating what they really mean, with assumptions made and frustration and those things that happen to normal people, especially people who are a bit afraid of getting hurt so tend not to just put everything on the table. I also found the information about the avalanches and how ill Jack was from the hypothermia interesting, coming from the prairies, a blizzard is more my style than an avalanche. Their coworker Edna was great too. She reads trashy novels and was there as a friend, but didn’t interfere with them in any way.

I enjoyed this story about relationships and how they can be complicated and messy but people can change. It doesn’t tell you how long ago the break-up happened, but it seems to have been quite a while, when Jack was a younger and immature than he is now. It’s a good character driven story, rather than any great outside force affecting the story, although Mother Nature is a catalyst for them.

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