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So, all good things must come to an end. Or at least an end for now.

When we started this blog, we saw it as a place to highlight the short stories we both loved to read. It was great fun to find some real gems, and to see people reading more of them and discovering new authors thanks to our work.

We made a very difficult decision to put the blog into hiatus. It’s certainly not because we think shorts are getting the love they deserve now and we’re not needed, but this blog is something we do in our “spare” time. And lately, that spare time has been getting more and more sparse. I (Tam) did not carry my weight during the strike I was heavily involved in, and now it looks like other life events are going to take over my life for awhile and Jen’s life is changing as her family grows and her work changes as well.

So for now, we are saying farewell. We both have a few books that we promised to finish off, but we will not be accepting more submissions at this point. Who knows in a year or so, maybe we’ll start up again, and along the way we may even post a review or two, but for the most part, we’ll be taking an extended break.

The URL has been changed slightly. It now as the .wordpress added, but you can still find all of our reviews that have been done over 3 wonderful crazy years. Thank you to all of our followers, readers and authors for supporting our efforts. Keep up the great work on those short stories and we look forward to reading many more, purely for our own pleasure.

Tam & Jen

reading

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MW_AnAngelGetsHisWingsTitle: An Angel Gets His Wings
Author: Missy Welsh
Length: 48 pdf pages, 14000 words.
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary Holiday romance
Rating: B

Blurb:

Will closeted Mike make it through this year’s family Christmas without succumbing to the innocent charms of his long-lost “cousin” George?

Mike Sharp is in Little Rock, Arkansas, visiting his family for Christmas while his best friend Brian Bailey’s up north walking right into Mike’s plans to hook him up with his neighbor Trent. Unfortunately, it seems like someone’s conspiring to get Mike panting after his third cousin, twice removed (or something like that) named George Whitlock. George who keeps sneaking up on him, being all shy and cute, and then having the audacity to give Mike great big calf eyes that are just begging Mike to drop to his knees. Mike will not give in because, if he does, he could lose his entire family when they discover he’s gay.

Review:

A really cute holiday story that manages to be fun, while still packing in some depth with issues surrounding coming out and suicide. I did, however, have a few issues with Mike’s character which prevented me from awarding a higher grade.

Mike has returned to his large family home for the holidays and is already uncomfortable with having to pretend to be butch. After living in Ohio as an out gay man, it’s painful to have to get back into the closet but he knows for a fact his family are homophobic. Things are complicated when his mother gives him cousin George to look after. George is exactly the sort of cute, short, skinny, black-hoodie wearing young man that Mike goes for and he’s worried his arousal around him will give him away.

We were practically twins.

I hated him on sight, of course. He better be some kind of delivery boy because he could not stick around my homophobic family and potentially bring out my gayness for all to see.

George turns out to be almost too adorably cute. Partly this is because of the language Mike uses to describe him (comparing him to a chibi and a “little godlet”), but he’s also shy and blushes readily. I actually really loved George as a character but I kept finding myself annoyed by the way Mike’s descriptions seemed to infantalise and emasculate him. He does have a habit of comparing George’s skin to all kinds of foodstuffs too, like caramel and mocha, which is a habit some academics have pointed out as a kind of entrenched racism. Mike himself even wonders if he’s being racist himself when he compares the half-Mexican George to a burrito, but decides it’s fine if he just doesn’t say it out loud. The reader of course gets all the uncensored thoughts.

In a way I could accept Mike being out of his depth in dealing with issues of ethnicity as he’s clearly a product of the family who raised him, with all their traditional attitudes. It did make for uncomfortable reading at times, though, and made me ambivalent about Mike as a character.

The other thing about Mike that really bothered me was the way he acted during their sexual encounter. He discovers it’s George’s first time, but instead of taking things slowly for his partner’s sake, is just too excited by bottoming for him he ends up coming almost immediately. This was not a particularly erotic sex scene, and although it was funny and lighthearted, I was bothered by Mike’s rather selfish attitude.

Mike does have his good points too, of course, which is what redeems him and kept me reading. He’s an extremely humorous narrator and I kept smiling as I was reading. He has also done a really good deed in setting up his best friend back home with a neighbour, and providing an incredibly thoughtful Christmas present into the bargain. This is an sweet little story within the main narrative, and made me wonder if there is going to be a linked book at some point telling Brian and Trent’s romance in more detail.

This book had all the hallmarks I’ve come to expect from Missy Welsh: cute characters, sparkling dialogue, plenty of giggles, and a generous dollop of romance. Despite my issues with the aspects mentioned I still really enjoyed this one both times I read it, and can definitely recommend it for a read at any time of year. It’s not so overtly Christmassy that it needs to be saved for December.

 

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Title: Chevalier Book 1: The Weeping Spear
Author: Benji Bright
Length: 8,745 words (30 pdf pages)
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m fantasy adventure historical
Rating: B

Blurb:

There are tales of dashing knights and blushing ladies, and there are stories of bravery bound to become legend. Then there’s the life of a mercenary.

Four swords-for-hire — Giovanni, the supposed magician; Solister, the armored giant; Casic, the virtuous fighter; and Farrbiner, the drunken healer — try to make their pockets heavy and their grief light. On their way to fame and fortune, or maybe just notoriety, they encounter every twist and turn the criminal underworld can throw at them. In a world full of double-crosses and shady motivations, can’t a man just find a warm place to thrust his sword?

In Book 1: The Weeping Spear, the four mercenaries set off in search of a legendary weapon of myth for a desperate client willing to pay dearly for the spear. Can they work together long enough to take back the weapon from the bandits who nabbed it? Or will what they don’t know about the spear be their undoing?

Review:

This was a rather fun start to a series of four mercenaries, each with their own skillset. The first book gives you the opportunity to meet each man and see their first adventure. The blurb explains who the four men are and their particular talents, but this story is told from the POV of Giovanni, the ‘mage’. It’s not a romance per se, there appears to be no romantic relationship between any of the men and there is some indication that Casic has a lady love somewhere. However they have the type of relationship where Giovanni and Solister carry on a conversation about the pros and cons of taking the latest job while Solister is getting a blow job from a comely young man.

It reminded me of an old-fashioned movie or TV show. There are swords and potions, and some sorcery involved in the magical spear they are searching for. And of course lots of intrigue and double-crosses and a fair bit of bloodshed, but that is rather glossed over without too much detail, but enough. I found it quite fun and it kept me entertained, even if it’s a bit predictable in how it played out.

Each character has specific characteristics which makes it easy to keep them separate in the story, so there’s no melding of four interchangeable characters. The author manages to bring in a bit of understated sarcastic humour as well which makes it fun to read in that it’s all meant to be good fun, not a serious adventure story. You know they’ll all survive to go on and have more adventures another day. You can tell they’ve been together for some time, each one tossing out little barbs about the other abilities or lack there of, but beneath it all respect and camaraderie.

I’m not certain there will be an over-arching romance theme, or if it falls more into the erotic fiction category. The sex is not the main point, it’s not erotica with a bit of adventure thrown in, rather adventure with a bit of sex thrown in. Giovanni seems to be falling into the bi side of things, Solister definitely gay and I guess we’ll see about the other two as the series progresses. If you like a bit of fantasy history, with a dose of magic thrown in for good measure, I think it could be fun series to see the four as they carry out their adventures and have some fun along the way.

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After a busy couple of weeks on the blog we are taking a bit of a breather. Some of us are also on vacation so this week there may or may not be reviews, it’s up to our reviewers, but I think it may be more not than may at this point. We will back to our “regularly scheduled show” on July 16, so hope you’ll come back then for more reviews and fun.

Have a great week everyone.

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I want to say thank you to everyone for our great two weeks on the blog celebrating the wonderful Canadian authors of m/m that we have in the genre. Who knew there were so many of us. 🙂

Thank to the authors for answering our questions, stopping by the blog, and promoting the event and to all of the wonderful readers who stopped by to check out the fun. I thought it was very cool how so many people answering the same questions, came up with so many diverse answers. I guess what we say about Canada and diversity is true indeed.

The names of the winners of all of the prizes will be up soon when Cole gets a chance to figure it all out, and we will forward the winners’ e-mails to the authors who will be in touch directly with the lucky folks.

So thanks again to you all, big hugs all around. Have a super summer (or winter if you are in the lower half of the globe 🙂 ).

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One of our reviewers is having issues with the internet, so we likely won’t have our special reviews up today. We’ll see if we can get them unstuck, silly technology. Hope everyone has a lovely week and we’ll back at full speed ASAP. Thanks for bearing with us.

ETA: Hopefully tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that the technology gods
look favourably on us.

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Title: Feeling Neighborly
Author: Ellis Carrington
Length: 23 pdf pages, 4500 words.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Teagan is thrilled to discover his new townhouse comes complete with a sexy new neighbor, but plans go south when Teagan realizes that Matt has a child. While that’s normally a dealbreaker for Teagan, his conviction wavers when he and Matt have a run-in that turns hot and steamy. After a sweaty one-night stand, Teagan and Matt agree to be just friends…with benefits. Over time, hanging out turns into occasional dinners that kind of seem like dates, and soon friends-with-benefits is starting to feel an awful lot like… a relationship.

Review:

This is my first encounter with Ellis Carrington’s writing, and while there were elements in this story that frustrated me and knocked my overall grade down, I’m definitely impressed by this short and steamy story.

Feeling Neighborly starts as it means to go on, with Teagan observing his new neighbour’s behind and thinking “That ass was made for my dick.” It’s a perfect opening  line for Teagan, neatly illustrating his arrogance and perpetual horniness. The first scene is a nicely judged mix of sexual tension and comedy, as Teagan discovers the owner of the sexy behind has a child:

“Daddy” was one word that was a major deal breaker for Teagan, unless preceded by the words “Spank me harder, please.”

The addition of some friends to knock Teagan down a peg or two prevent him from being overbearing, as does his reaction to neighbour Matt when he quite literally bumps into him later outside. Matt has been drinking and turns out to be just as toppy and horny as Teagan himself. The ensuing kitchen table sex scene is hot and dirty, and Teagan is perplexed to find himself bottoming for a change – and loving it.

Along with a quick morning after scene where Teagan heads next door to smooth over any misunderstandings and make it clear he isn’t after a relationship (neither is Matt), this first half of the story is a fun piece of erotica featuring two characters who are more alike than they’d probably want to admit. At this point I had a huge smile on my face and was eager to see how Carrington wrapped the story up.

However, we then have a gap of several months before returning to the two men. The whole of their growing relationship is covered by three measly paragraphs. At this point I felt cheated: I’d been told that Teagan had fallen in love, but I never got to see it happen. What’s more, Matt was still an enigma and Teagan hadn’t had long enough to reveal the man beneath the alpha veneer, so I had no particular vested interest in seeing the two men together.

Yes, the final scene between the two men is hot and loving, but I couldn’t really feel the connection. I had too many unanswered questions to be satisfied with the ending, particularly regarding Matt’s background. I felt that there was a whole romance there begging to be written, and this story could easily have been fleshed out to a satisfying novelette.

So, I’m really glad I read this story as it’s entertaining and characterful, and I’ve discovered another writer to add to my reading list. However, it just tries to cover too much ground for the word count. That said, if you’re after something hot and fun featuring two toppy men, this may well be just the story for you!

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Title: Tainted: Channeling Morpheus #4
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Length: 43 pdf pages, 11,975 words.
Publisher: JCP Books
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal erotic romance
Rating: A+

Blurb:

Vampires agree that vampirism must be spread through sex, because if a bite on the neck could turn someone, the world would be overrun with legions of bloodsuckers by now. So Wild Bill’s been careful. The last thing he’d want is to turn anyone. Especially his boytoy.

Despite Wild Bill’s caution, Michael’s looking pale and thin…more so than usual. He wears it well, just like the leather jacket, the black-dyed hair and the eyeliner. But for someone as starved as he is, food should hold more of an appeal. And is that a preternatural grace Bill detects in Michael’s movements?

Review:

Tainted is set a couple of weeks after the events of Manikin, and opens with Michael and Wild Bill doing some late night shopping in a big box store. As usual, Bill attempts to divorce himself from the world around him with his cynical, world-weary attitude, complaining about how Michael has disrupted his simple life with his human needs for food and shampoo. However, it’s also clear that Bill is utterly smitten, no matter how he attempts to cover it up by referring to Michael as his “homicidal eye-candy”.

The fact that Michael has grown so skinny his jeans are hanging off him provides not only an opportunity for Bill to shock nearby shoppers with his dirty mouth, but also a reason for him to drag Michael off into a changing room lined with mirrors for a bit of action. The two of them have been doing little else since they hooked up in Sioux City, so it’s no surprise that within moments they’re in a passionate clinch. Not only is this scene white hot with a creepy frisson of voyeurism, but Bill reveals even more of his complicated feelings for his human lover. He dreads Michael bringing up the L word:

I don’t know what I’ll say back. Words are useless that way. I don’t think there’s a word for everything he makes me feel. So far I haven’t figured out a way to combine love with scared, and fucked-up, and invincible.

This passage is at the heart of the story and Bill returns to these sentiments at the end in a way I found deeply satisfying and moving.

As the blurb makes clear, though, what drives the plot in this story is Michael’s weight loss. While Bill finds the starved look attractive on Michael, he’s tormented with guilt that he might be the cause of it. He’s done his best to practice safe sex and responsible bloodletting – Michael has a row of small knife wounds on his neck to prove it – but it looks like something has changed anyway and Bill figures his messed up biochemistry must be the source. Bill being Bill, though, he doesn’t make any plans to do anything about it, and gets upset when Michael suggests they visit a vampire researcher in Wisconsin.

Dr. Jim is a great character – arrogant and old-fashioned – and he holds the key to understanding just how new vampires are created, and what kind of creature Michael is now becoming. These details are hugely important in the books to come, but for now they act as a punch to Bill’s guts, and prod him into a display of greater honesty with Michael than he’s shown so far.

Tainted is pivotal both in furthering the vampire mythology for this series, but also gives us the moment when the relationship is tipped into greater emotional intimacy and committment. It’s also one of the most sex-heavy books of the whole series, featuring three separate scenes. However, each scene has its own distinct character, texture and reason for being there. There’s a growth in connection between Wild Bill and Michael as the scenes progress. The first is urgent and swift, with Bill lying about them not being observed. The second is more languid, tender, but ultimately frustrating as Bill hides his true feelings.

The third, however? Well, that one’s just beautiful and left me with a huge smile on my face. Despite his reluctance, Bill’s defences crumble before the unstoppable force that is Michael. It’s clear to see where the power in their relationship really lies, and just why Bill needs Michael so badly. If the story hadn’t already earned its A+ grade with it’s pitch-perfect writing, it would have done just for the way it ends 😀

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Title: Vertigo: Channeling Morpheus #2
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Length: 42 pdf pages, 12,650 words.
Publisher: JCP Books
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal erotica
Rating: A+

Blurb:

Long, dark hair. Dewy, khol-rimmed eyes. Ripe young lips just made for kissing.

Guys like that are dime a dozen.

Wild Bill likes a little edge on his playmates, and Michael’s got the whole package going on—plus a loaded gun in his leather jacket, and an unquenchable obsession with vampires.

Michael’s managed to follow a breadcrumb trail Bill didn’t even know he was leaving, and the kid’s got a few new tricks up his sleeve. Hopefully the latest addition to his arsenal doesn’t include a wooden stake with Wild Bill’s name on it. But anything can happen in the dark.

Review:

I’ve read this story four times now but I can still remember how it gripped me from the very first paragraph the first time around, as it still does exactly the same thing. I love the first Channeling Morpheus book told from Michael’s point of view, but Wild Bill’s narrative voice is even more compelling and infuses every moment of this story with wry humour and vivid life.

Vertigo picks up a few months after the events in Payback. Wild Bill has now found a group of vampires who make use of the internet – something Wild Bill professes not to understand – to arrange meet ups with willing victims out in the woods of Missouri. None of them are killers, so Wild Bill is happy with the arrangement. In his own words: “I don’t feel like an A-hole when the hamburger’s willing”.

Wild Bill usually takes two or three vamp groupies off together for sex and bloodsucking, but rather than this decadent behaviour springing from some kind of hedonistic impulse, Bill admits he does this so they don’t end up thinking they’re special and fixating on him. The last thing he wants is any kind of attachment to humans. This is underscored by the language he uses when speaking of them. They are the “buffet” or the “canapés” – anything that reduces them to mere food (or vamp-heroin in Michael’s case)

While you might expect a character like Wild Bill to come across as unsympathetic, everything is underscored by a wry, self-mocking humour and a deep loneliness. Hints are dropped about everything he has lost since being turned against his will, yet he refuses to wallow in self-pity. There are some benefits to the vampire lifestyle, after all:

I see something I want, I tell the store clerk to hand it over and it’s mine. Cigarettes, clothes, booze, or whatever else my heart desires. Wild Bill’s baby blues are an infinite line of credit. I got a kick out of that for a dozen years or so. But then the fun wore thin.

Or maybe I was developing a conscience.

Nah.

I could go quotation crazy with this story because I made a record number of highlights on my ereader. Every page has at least one sentence I want to read again and again, that delights and intrigues and makes me want to pick it apart to understand how cleverly it’s written. If Jordan Castillo Price hadn’t already been up there as one of my all-time favourite authors, this book would have put her there.

However, beautiful though the prose is, the most important thing about a romance for most readers will be the interaction between the two characters, and in this Vertigo also excels. Michael’s arrival has Wild Bill conflicted. He professes not to want anything to do with him, but later admits to the reader that he’s been obsessing about Michael ever since they met. He challenges another vamp for the right to Michael and then fully intends to take him to the Ranger’s office and dump him there while he makes his escape, but then Michael turns the tables on him by offering something Bill can’t possibly refuse…

Vertigo has one of the hottest, dirtiest and beautifully written sex scenes I can ever recall reading. Both characters are desperately trying to prove something to each other while maintaining emotional distance – something Bill fails at quite spectacularly. You can read the beginnings of their love growing here on the forest floor as they hump each other’s brains out.

As you can probably tell, like Cole yesterday, I adore this series. To anyone who tends to avoid vampire stories, I implore you to give it a go. This is different to anything you will have read before, and will live on in your head for a long time afterwards. You might even end up like me and read them again and again, losing yourself in the romance between these two lonely and screwed-up men.

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Merry Christmas

From all of us here at Brief Encounters, we wish you a wonderful holiday, spent with family and friends, with good food and drink, and much laughter and love.

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