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Posts Tagged ‘MLR Press’

Say_EverythingTitle: Say Everything
Author: Gina A. Rogers
Length: 16,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Gregory has no problem talking Atari, muscle cars or just plain dirty, but will he be able to open up his heart to Chad and just say everything?

Gregory put his past up for sale on Craigslist. He never expected Chad, a gorgeous black-haired devil, to waltz in and take it all. He doesn’t leave him empty-handed though, giving him friendship and new memories to fill the space. Torn between his past and the chance at a real future, Gregory has to decide if he can let down his defenses and open himself up to the chance of getting hurt again. But Chad isn’t going to wait forever and Gregory only has one chance to convince him to stay, but he’ll have to say everything.

Review:
This was a nicely written short, one of those which feels complete with a definite structure and story which satisfied without leaving me wanting more. It tells of Gregory who, after 20 years of mourning the loss of his best friend, has decided that it’s time to make some steps towards moving on. He advertises a room full of 80’s memorabilia for sale and this brings Chad who is a party planner looking for things for an 80’s themed party.

There was much to like about the story. The opening meet between the men sizzles with sexual tension and I liked that they weren’t afraid to go for what they wanted. Chad’s vitality and energy calls to Gregory who is at a turning point in his life. Chad helps him along this difficult road and I very much enjoyed seeing them develop as a couple. There was a lighthearted tone to the narrative which offset the theme of recovering from grief. The story never felt heavy but still managed to show how difficult life had become for Gregory.

The part which worked less well for me was at the end when the big secret is revealed. It wasn’t much of a secret to be honest and part of me was hoping that the story wouldn’t develop the way it did. That type of plot has become tired and a little cliched in my opinion and I wasn’t too happy to see it dragged out again here. I finished the story pleased for the characters and charmed by their relationship but slightly disappointed at the lack of originality in the final reveal.

Overall, this is a story I would recommend and maybe there will be many readers out there who won’t mind the cliche at the end. Certainly, the excellent writing and the characterisation compensates for that ending.

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The_Ultimate_FindxTitle: The Ultimate Find
Author: Anna Lee
Length: 13,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:

Kevin Stokes, an antique picker is searching for the ultimate find. He thinks he might have found it in delivery driver, Aaron Nichols, who to him is anything but average.

Kevin Stokes is an antique picker and sci-fi geek. He has a crush on delivery driver, Aaron Nichols, but thinks the feeling won’t be returned. Still, he can’t resist asking Aaron to join him on a trip. He’s searching for the ultimate find. He thinks he might have found it in Aaron Nichols, who to him is anything but average. Aaron believes he’s just an average guy with nothing to offer but a complicated life that sends most guys running, that is until Kevin comes along. When Kevin invites him to go picking, will Aaron’s nephew tagging along and a near accident spoil the day? Or will the two finally hit it off?

Review:
I liked the idea for this newish series of stories by MLRP which feature characters who are just average people because there’s only so many stories you can read about super-spies, hero cops and rich businessmen. The down side to this is the possibility that the characters just won’t be interesting enough to capture my attention which unfortunately was the case with this story for me.

Kevin works as an antique picker and has a huge crush on Aaron the UPS man. However, he thinks Aaron is straight with a kid. When it turns out that Joey is Aaron’s nephew, the flirting finally leads to a genuine date but Aaron’s selfish brother may get in their way when he leaves Joey with Aaron.

Whilst these characters are decent, hardworking guys I have to admit I found them to be too perfect, and therefore rather dull. Aaron sacrifices his own life to take care of his nephew at the drop of a hat. Apparently Joey is a ‘great kid’ but I found him irritating and spoiled. This made Aaron seem weak and too much of a nice guy. Perhaps it’s just that I’m a fan of a flawed character and Aaron is anything but that, so I didn’t really warm to him. The same goes for Kevin. He’s also unselfish and unfailing nice and kind. Whilst I was happy for the pair of them, their uncomplicated, straight path to instant happiness meant that I finished the story thinking ‘well that passed the time, but what was the point in the story?’. Even the possibility of familial discord between Aaron and his brother turns out to be a misunderstanding and all is hunky dory by the end.

I feel like I’ve been quite negative here but to be honest this is not a bad story. It just didn’t strike me as anything special and so I could see myself forgetting the story and the characters quickly. The writing was good, and I liked the shared nerdiness of Kevin and Aaron – the weeping angel part made me smile. If you are looking for a sweet story which is completely lacking in complications or angst then you may find that this story is more to your taste than it was mine.

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Hooked_2013Title: Hooked
Author: Indra Vaughn
Length: 18,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Robin goes out to have an itch scratched and ends up with more than he bargained for in Tyler. Or maybe he didn’t bargain enough.

Robin Lloyd has it all, he’s successful, makes good money, and he’s handsome enough to get laid without having to think twice about it.

Tyler Anthony, the lay of the day, catches him off guard in more ways than one. Robin has no idea he’s taking a prostitute home, or that he’s going to become addicted to the guy, even if the sex they’re having could hardly be mistaken for affectionate.

Review:
Robin goes out to a club looking for a hook-up and finds it in the form of Tyler. However, once they get back to Robin’s place Tyler starts negotiating fees and Robin realises he’s accidentally picked up a hooker. After a bit of outrage on Robin’s part, he agrees to the fee and gets his hook-up but it leaves Robin feeling unsettled. He can’t get Tyler out of his head and seeks him out again. Tyler, however, isn’t interested in anything but mind-games.

I’m a bit of a sucker for hooker stories and this one drew me in straight away. Robin’s obsession with Tyler was played well and I could see how Tyler had managed to get under Robin’s skin. Robin’s emotions were realistic as he veers between a strong desire to see Tyler and self disgust because he knows that Tyler is only messing with his feelings. Part of me wanted Robin to gain some self-respect and forget about Tyler and yet I also understood why Robin kept coming back for more. The teasing glimpses of the real Tyler show a vulnerable man worthy of Robin’s affections. The scenes where they are together are hot and passionate, full of emotional undertones and despite the bad way that Tyler treats Robin, I wanted them to end up together.

Any niggles I had with the story were to do with lack of specifics. Robin is a self made man but aside from mentioning that he works hard, we don’t really know what his business entails. We know next to nothing about Tyler and sometimes I wished we had seen some scenes from Tyler’s point of view. I wanted to know what was going on in his head and perhaps then I would have had more sympathy about some of his behaviour. Instead he often comes across as manipulative and ungrateful.

However, these niggles are only minor things in a story that gripped me from the first page. I read the story quickly, drawn in by the character of Robin and his indecision over Tyler and so I’d happily recommend this story.

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Brennessel_Running_Up_That_HillTitle: Running up that Hill
Author: Barry Brennessel
Length: 13,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m historical (1986) romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
For Jeremy Saura, a song by Kate Bush holds all the answers. Pushes him onward. Sends him running up that road. Up that hill. Up that building.

Jeremy gets chills as he listens to the lyrics. The song, a beautiful powerhouse of determination over despair, only gains in impact as he replays it. Seven times. “I adore you Kate Bush,” he whispers to her photograph. For Jeremy, “Running Up That Hill” gives him the momentum he needs to navigate the trials and tribulations of a new job, a complex friendship, and a budding workplace romance.

Review:
I have a fondness for this author’s books as they often manage to blend the serious with gentle humour. This book was no exception. The story is set in 1986. Our narrator, Jeremy, has started a new job at a publishing company, dealing with editorial mistakes. It’s mostly tedious paperwork but his day is brightened by a trip to the upper floor where he helps out hunky editor, Adam.

There were two themes within this story. firstly, there’s the romance between Jeremy and Adam. It’s not an easy start for them but I thought that the author had managed to capture that moment of ‘is he/isn’t he?’ and the awkwardness of a new beginning. The uncertainty continues through the next few days and the story ends on a HFN which left me smiling.

The second theme is linked with the 1980’s setting and covers different aspects of life in 1986. This was a pleasing nostalgic trip for me (the story begins the day after what was my 14th birthday) and it showed a moment in time when the technological world was starting to take off. Jeremy buys 45s instead of LPs but CDs are starting to become popular and some of the bands mentioned in the story made me smile at the memory – although my taste in music at that age leaned more towards Wham and Madonna than Kate Bush :). Most of Jeremy’s job involves bits of paper but there’s much fun to be had in the reactions to the new Word Processors that have been introduced to the office. There’s serious stuff too with AIDS being a part of life for gay men but even this was handled in a fairly lighthearted way.

Overall, this was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me but was intertwined with a nicely written romance and I’d definitely recommend the story to those who remember the 1980s.

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Ill_Be_Watching_YouTitle: I’ll be Watching You
Author: Banjamin Cole
Length: 20,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
The spirit of a man murdered by a serial killer watches helplessly as his killer stalks two young lovers just beginning a tentative romance.

Henry has made a conscious choice to focus his attention on his career and put off romance until the time is right. Then Andy breezes into his life and breaks down his defenses. When a serial killer that has been stalking the city sets his sights on the young couple, the lonely ghost of an earlier victim searches desperately for a way to warn the two.

Review:
This story begins in a spine chilling way with a scene where we are in the head of a serial killer as he strangles his latest victim. That victim is Angel whose spirit is trapped on the mortal plane and who is determined to get revenge on the man who murdered him. Next door to the murderer lives Henry, whose lonely existence is suddenly brightened when he meets Andy. Both men are happy together and completely oblivious to the fact that the murderer has set his sights on Andy as his next victim.

I really liked the way that this story built in intensity. The main four characters of the killer, Angel, Henry and Andy all have a narrative voice in the story and this helped the slow creeping intensity as the killer sets his sights on Andy and begins to stalk him. This is then offset by the charming romance between Andy and Henry, and the frustration of Angel as he seeks a way to exact his revenge despite his limitations as a ghost. There are other viewpoints too which are used to dramatic effect. At first I was a little confused as to why I’d dipped into a different character’s head, but it all became clear as the story progressed.

Another positive was the character of Andy who was a delight and I really enjoyed the burgeoning relationship between the happy-go-lucky Andy and the cautious and slightly grumpy Henry. Their romance worked and I was happy for them.

If I have any niggles it’s that, despite being in the killer’s head, we never really understand the background as to why he kills. We are told that he sees these men, falls in love from afar but the fact that they will never love him means he must kill them. However, there must have been a catalyst for this, a failed relationship or past bullying which then led to such a thought pattern. In the end he just becomes a monster, and I would have preferred a little more subtlety.

However, that was just a small niggle in what was a chilling story of murder with a sweet romance and a clever resolution – I particularly liked the way that Angel was used at the end of the story – and I would recommend it if you are looking for a story with some thrills.

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Wouldnt_It_Be_GoodTitle: Wouldn’t it be Good
Author: Logan Zachary
Length: 6,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
Wouldn’t it be good to have music bridge the gap between two men?

Jason is the football god on campus, and Scott is not. After an incident in gym class, Scott leaves school embarrassed and bruised. Jason tries to help, but all he can do is leave a tape of mixed songs for Scott hoping to help him feel better. Music can calm the savage beast, but can it bridge the gap between Mr. Perfect and Mr. Wrong? One song speaks volumes to Scott, and his defenses begin to crumble as the men become closer and closer. Wouldn’t it be good to have a friend?

Review:
This was one of those stories which I thought was OK whilst reading it, but proved to be ultimately forgettable. I read it a couple of days ago and when I came to write the review, I struggled to remember parts and had to go back and re-read.

Scott was bullied in high school and hopes that life in College will be better. Unfortunately, the bullies have followed him to College and he’s still getting harrassed. Jason is a jock who was always an onlooker to Scott’s bullies but once he sees that Scott’s problems are not over, he steps in to help.

One of the reasons why this story didn’t stay with me is that the characters are so generic and bland. Scott is a victim who exists in a bubble. He doesn’t seem to have any friends and his only family is an ill mother who remains unseen. We’re fed bits of information about Scott – such as his role as a carer for his mum – but don’t see any of that on page, so it end up being ‘stuff we know about him’ instead of part of his character. Jason is even more of an enigma and we know next to nothing about him other than he’s a football player who suddenly develops a conscience about Scott’s bullying.

The last part of the story focuses on a sex scene which was well written but lacking in real emotion as everything moved so quickly. One minute Scott was being bullied by one of the jocks, a brief scene where Jason hands over a tape with songs on it and then Jason, who had been complicit in the bullying, turns up at Scott’s house and they have sex. The ending is tied up too conveniently and there wasn’t enough in the story to leave me confident that a) Jason isn’t just using Scott for sex and b) they have enough in common for even a HFN.

So overall, this wasn’t a bad story, or even badly written, I just found it difficult to connect to the characters and that made it one that didn’t stick in my mind for long.

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Sharp_Dressed_ManTitle: Sharp Dressed Man
Author: T.A. Chase
Length: 15,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: D+

Blurb:
For twenty-five years, Jim and Dan have thought about what could have been, and now they have a chance to find out.

Jim Stanton and Daniel Perkins fell in love with each other at a ZZ Top concert in 1987, though they never admitted it. After graduation, they let their love slip away, but never forgot. Their 25th class reunion gives them the chance to correct the mistake.

Review:
I often like stories by this author and I’ve enjoyed nearly all the stories in this set of ‘Mix Tape’ stories so I was keen to read this one. It was a shame then that the story failed to engage me.

My lack of engagement was due to the plot of the story and how it relates the characters. The story opens with Jim who is now in his 40’s. Twenty five years ago he was a ZZ Top fan and in love with his best friend, Daniel. He didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to jeopardise his friendship. As it happens Daniel felt exactly the same way and also doesn’t say anything for the same reasons. The pair go off to College and they lose touch. So far so good and this seems like a plausible scenario, after all many people lose touch with their friends after they go to College.

My big issue was with the rest of the story. Daniel and Jim may have lost touch but they still love each other after 25 years, apparently have thought of each other almost every day and have never been able to find anyone else because they didn’t match up to their first love. Now, twenty five years is a long time and I found it hard to understand why that love would still be strong when neither of them had seen or spoken to each other since they were 18. Also, if you really had strong feelings about another person, so much so that you think of them every day and regret losing touch, wouldn’t you at least attempt to find that person after, say 5 years, to see whether they felt the same rather than leave it for 25 years? I could understand in a way if they had no way of knowing where the other person was, but that wasn’t the case here. Their parents live in the same town and speak to each other on a regular basis, so it would have been easy to get contact information from them. Also both men knew that the other was gay, so that took away any conflict or barriers there. These were real problems for me in the story and I couldn’t get past it. I struggled to keep reading because I was constantly thinking about how unrealistic the situation was. If their parents were friends how could they have not seen each other for 25 years? What about Christmas or Thanksgiving? It niggled and niggled at me and ruined my enjoyment of the story. Maybe my problem is that I’m just too sensible!

When the pair eventually meet up they jump straight into bed and then spend the rest of the story bemoaning the fact that they weren’t brave enough to get together much earlier. However, by this stage I just didn’t really care about the characters or their situation. I skimmed over the sex scenes and rushed to finish. It’s a shame really because I liked the idea of two ZZ Top fans turning into an accountant and a fashion designer, plus the secondary characters were done well.

It may be that many of you will not be as annoyed by the plot as I was, in which case this contains the solid writing and characters I associate with this author and so it should be a good read for you. Don’t let my sensible nature put you off if you think this would be a story you would like.

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SL_MT_TrueTitle: True
Author: Sabrina Luna
Length: 9,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:
Dan Rockwell finds a mix tape in an old trunk which brings back memories of a special night in 1984.

When Dan Rockwell discovers a mix tape in an old trunk in his parents’ attic, it brings back fond memories. Coaxed by his partner, Dan recalls Russ Hill, the guy who gave him the mix tape, and their very sexy Spring night together back in 1984.

Review:
This was a really simple idea for a story and one that worked for me. Dan is rummaging about in his mother’s loft when he comes across an old trunk from his teenage years. His long time partner, Ian, is curious when Dan finds an old mix tape and asks Dan to tell him the story behind the tape.

The framing of the story works really well, and although we don’t really see much of 46 year old Dan and his partner of 10 years, their love and commitment to each other comes across strongly. The bulk of the story is Dan telling Ian of how he got the mix tape from the guy who was his first real sexual experience. This is a lengthy flashback which sometimes doesn’t work for me, but in the case of this story did work. I think it’s because the flashback is the whole point of the story. I really enjoyed this section, set in 1984, especially some of the references to the clothes and hair, as well as the songs of the time – from Van Halen to Spandau Ballet.

I also enjoyed seeing Dan’s first sexual experience, from the surprise that a guy he had been crushing on also liked him, to the jumble of emotions that comes with making out and that first time of skin on skin. The descriptions were perfectly pitched. It wasn’t just about sex because the author also manages to capture that awkward time of life where you are moving from teenager in adult life – the negotiating with parents and gaining more independence. It’s a time of moving from innocence into getting more experience of the world and it made me nostalgic to read about it in this story.

Overall, this was a story which I enjoyed a great deal. There’s not much to it and it’s a quick read but I felt that the emotions were perfectly captured and the descriptions of being 18 were spot on, and I’d highly recommend it.

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500_MilesTitle: 500 Miles
Author: Parker Williams
Length: 12,000 words, 37 pages
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Mark loves Jase, but will that be enough to bring Jase back from the brink after a devastating tragedy?

Since he was fourteen, Mark knew he loved Jase, his brother Eric’s best friend. As Jase and Eric leave for the Army, Jase leaves Mark something to hold onto, but when the two men are shipped to Kuwait, things change when Jase tells Mark he’s met someone. Confused and hurt, Mark is left to wonder what happened. Eric returns, but with devastating news – and needing Mark’s help. Can Mark help the man who broke his heart? Or will he let Jase push him away – for the second time?

Review:
This is the kind of story I can see being very popular with US readers. It has the right balance of patriotism mixed with a sweet romance and plenty of nostalgia for a time when audio cassettes were popular. The story begins with 14 year old Mark who is distraught that his brother Eric and Eric’s best friend Jase have joined the army and are about to be shipped out for basic training. Mark loves Jase and can’t imagine life without him but is comforted by a tape that Jase leaves for him. Over the months, Jase send more tapes until Mark is heartbroken to receive some bad news from Jase.

Whilst this wasn’t a perfect story for me, I did still very much enjoy it. In particular, I thought that the character of Mark was done very well. He’s a teenage boy full of emotions, especially his first love and his slightly dramatic flair fit well with a boy just growing into manhood and dealing with disappointment. His feelings for Jase were realistic and I felt all his joy and excitement when he listened to the tapes and all his crushing disappointment later.

The story is told in retrospect from Mark’s first person point of view and whilst this did the narrative a slightly stagey feel at first, I was soon drawn into the events on the page. Jase is less of a rounded character which is often a flaw in first person narratives and the biggest problem I had with the story was his feelings for the young teenager Mark. He claims to have been in love with him since Mark was 14, and I had to admit I found that a little creepy, given that Jase was 18 at the time. However, since the bulk of their time together happens when Mark is 18 and Jase is 22, I pushed past that and liked seeing how Mark was able to get through to Jase at the end of the book.

I said earlier that this book is patriotic, and it is, with its tale of young men going off to fight for their country and performing acts of great heroism and bravery. It is also a book about the difficulties of being gay in the military, although that’s only touched on slightly and coping with being apart from the ones you love. Mainly though, it’s a story of a young man’s love for his brother’s best friend. It left me feeling warm inside and is definitely a story for those who are looking for a sweet romance with a strong happy ending.

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die for youTitle: Die for You
Author: Sangrey A. Black
Length: 11,000 words (35 pdf pages)
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: B-

Blurb:

In a dangerous paranormal world, a police detective finds it takes a near un-death experience to express his feelings for his vampire partner.

When you’re a cop in Undertown, where things that go bump in the night live, fight, and devour one another in their constant battle to exist in a human world that reviles them, falling in love should be the last thing on your mind. But for human Detective Gage Roberts, a near death experience and a heroic rescue by his vampire partner Jensen Holm brings repressed feelings exploding to the surface. Will Gage put his macho defenses on the line and take a chance on the love of his immortal hero?

Review:

This short was set in an interesting world, where the paranormal are the everyday and special police forces enforce the law. Gage is one of those cops who has been partnered with a vampire and are now facing a major battle that is pretty much unwinable. Gage is badly injured and nearly dies, but his partner saves him by sucking out the poison and both of them nearly die, or die more. The experience makes Gage determined to tell his partner how he feels about him.

I enjoyed the banter between the two partners, Gage calling him Bunnicula. Jensen is a religious man who hates swearing, and Gage is kind of a manly man who hates talking about feelings. When Jensen takes him back to his house to recover, he tries to put off Gage’s advances, believing it’s due to the blood sharing, however Gage soon puts his mind to ease by revealing he’s been lusting after him since they met.

I wouldn’t have minded a bit more information about how Gage came to work for that particular police force as he mentioned being dumped there. You do get a bit more information about Jensen as Gage explains his background, but despite being Gage’s point of view. There’s also a bit of a revelation that Jensen is submissive when it gets to the sex. The only thing that kind of irked me was Gage’s constant reference to chick flicks and chick lit as something too girly for him, but it wasn’t a major annoyance.

If you’re looking for a vampire story set in a different world, it’s an enjoyable quick read but I think there was a lot more of the world that had potential to be fleshed out.

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