This anthology consists of three novellas all along the theme of cross dressing. Those of you who know me will know that I like my gay men to be, well...moreThis anthology consists of three novellas all along the theme of cross dressing. Those of you who know me will know that I like my gay men to be, well, manly, so theoretically, I should be turned off by stories about men dressing up as women. Let's just say, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these stories.
I shall write a bit about each one in turn.
About Something by Jet Mykles Shawn is a student in the final year of a Drama degree. His professor is a young, well respected director, Roscoe, who has cast Shawn as Benedict in a production of Much Ado About Nothing. Early on in the rehearsals, Roscoe asks Shawn to swap roles with the actress playing Beatrice, as the director feels that Shawn would be better in a female role. At first Shawn is horrified: He knows that he is small and looks effeminate and has strived for most of his teenage years to project a more butch image and take on the overly masculine roles in theatre class. Roscoe convinces Shawn that he should play to his strengths and so he finally accepts the role of Beatrice. Alongside this is Shawn's gradual realisation that he is attracted to his Professor which releases deeply repressed feelings for other men as well. This, coupled with Shawn actually enjoying dressing up as a woman, leads to him opening up to possibility that he might be bisexual.
This was my favourite story out of the anthology. I liked Shawn and the feeling of empowerment that he felt when he embraced his sexuality and how comfortable he felt wearing women's clothing. I also liked his confidence in approaching his Professor and his pragmatism in adjusting to his growing feelings for Roscoe. There were a couple of issues: Firstly the novella ended quite suddenly and I would have liked to have seen more of the reunion between Shawn and Roscoe, and secondly, Shawn was an 'all or nothing' type of guy, changing his wardrobe and sexuality very quickly and yet there was no fall out as a result of this. None of his friends seemed to mind, quite the opposite in fact, nor was he taunted or troubled by other students which seemed rather unrealistic to me. However, these were minor issues in relation to a well written romance, containing a touch of yaoi and tonnes of Jet Mykles' cheeky humour so gets a 'Very Good' rating.
Sometimes Life's a Drag by JP Bowie This London set tale of blackmail, murder and stalking is firmly played for laughs with a cast of what seems like thousands. Our hero, Patrick, wins the part of singer in a cabaret act which is the vehicle for fading star drag queen, Kenny La Fontaine. Kenny is a vicious bitch who rules his cabaret club by sacking whoever gets in his way and playing on his dubious star connections to get what he wants. However, Kenny is being blackmailed by a former lover, who is then murdered whilst collecting the blackmail money. Suspicion falls on Kenny, but it all seems too obvious to be true. Added onto this is Kenny's stalker who silently watches him wherever he goes. The policeman investigating the blackmail and murder case is Ian Bannister. Kenny is attracted to Ian, but Ian is attracted to Patrick. Thus begins a completely camp and farcical turn of events involving lots of bitching, screaming, loving and general mayhem.
It was all a bit over the top for my liking, even if the characters were probably true representations of the sort of people you would meet behind the scenes at a drag queen cabaret club. All the characters speak in a British accent very reminiscent of the 1950s Ealing comedies, which isn't particularly in line with how Londoners speak today and, to be honest, got on my nerves a bit. Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad for those readers outside the UK, who would probably think some of the British phrases are quite cute, but I just got a bit irritated by it. As well as this, many of the characters are not particularly likable especially the poisonous Kenny who gets almost as much page time as the two heroes. An interesting look at backstage shenanigans which gains a grade of 'Good'.
Woman's Weeds by Kimberley Gardner This story was an interesting romance between David, the director of a small community theatre company and Keiran, an actor who auditions and gets the role of Viola in Twelfth Night. The story focuses almost entirely on this pair and especially how Keiran's love of dressing in women's underwear and clothing impacts on this relationship. There are a couple of other things thrown in, such as whether the theatre company has to compromise its casting in order to attract funding and a jealous ex-boyfriend, but mostly it's about the attraction between David and Keiran . David has not met a cross-dresser before and Keiran is nervous about telling David about his cross dressing because most gay men find it a turn off. Out of the two men, I liked Keiran the most and I felt the author had done a good job in making him a sympathetic character and showing how dressing as a woman made him feel. David was a little less rounded but I liked the way that his reaction to Keiran's cross dressing was developed throughout the story. The only main annoyance with the story was that again it finished quite abruptly and that I also found the character of David's sister a little irritating at times. Mainly though this was a lovely romance with an added cross dressing twist so gets a grade of 'Very Good'.
Overall, I enjoyed this anthology. The stories were all quite different from each other, despite all being on the theme of the theatre and cross dressing. So did it make me change my mind about my 'manly' men? Not really, but it did give me an insight into why men might choose to dress in women's clothing.(less)
I've read quite a number of Addison Albright shorts and when I saw this self-published anthology, I thought I'd give it a go. The book is made up of t...moreI've read quite a number of Addison Albright shorts and when I saw this self-published anthology, I thought I'd give it a go. The book is made up of two novellas and a short story and all the stories are linked through the characters, although quite distinct and separate too. Because of this, I shall take each story in turn.
A Dream Come True This novella tells of Wes who is looking for a new place to live. He's always been out and proud but when he's been fobbed off several times by potential room mates who discover he's gay, he decides to keep the next viewing a little more low key. It turns out that he didn't need to bother when the guy, Mike, recognises Wes from University. Mike was deep in the closet at the time and admired Wes for being so upfront about his sexuality. Mike is out now, but still hasn't told his parents. He and Wes hit it off straightaway and begin what seems to be a 'room mates with benefits' relationship. It isn't long though before both men are surprised at how well they gel and start wanting more, but Mike still needs to come out to his parents, and both are wary of things going too fast for them.
This was one of those stories which tells of two really great guys feeling their way into a new relationship. There's a little bit of stress and lots of sweet loving moments which prove just how right they are for each other. The themes of the story were handled well with Mike's worries about coming out to his family being realistic, as was the way that men were unsure how to handle what were fast growing feelings for each other. It fitted with their characters that both of them held off saying anything for a while, and even tiptoed around their realtionship a little. For example neither of them know how quite to introduce the other person when 'room mate' doesn't really seem appropriate. The plot is very gentle, even a little slow at times, but that fit in with their developing feelings. I liked both men and was interested enough to want to know how the story would work out for them. I wasn't disappointed as the end left me with a smile on my face.
Another Dream This story follows Mike's uncle, Marty, who left home at 18 after a confrontation with his parents when he came out to them. It's 20 years on and he's now a successful joiner/carpenter. Marty's been lusting after his shy neighbour Larry ever since he moved in a few weeks ago, and finally gets the opportunity to ask Larry out. Larry can't believe his luck when his hot neighbour asks him out but his introvert nature and low self esteem makes it difficult to understand what Marty sees in him.
This was another slow burner of a story with a plotting style similar to the first. Here we see the men meet, go on a date, have sex and then gradually come together into a relationship. This was my favourite out of the anthology, mainly because I'm a bit of a sucker for a guy with low self esteem. I liked that Larry wasn't conventionally handsome, and more than that, that he didn't undergo a 'transformation' to suddenly become hot property. Instead he remains the same guy throughout, with the only changes being that Marty does wonders for his self image, showing him the desirable man inside. Larry is good for Marty too by convincing him to get in touch with his estranged family. I also really liked the way that the pair played on the fetish that Larry has for Marty's toolbelt! Like the previous book, the pair fit well as a couple and the fun of the story was seeing them slowly come to the realisation that what they have is special. Overall, it was a nicely written, very romantic with a touch of hot in the sex scenes. Great stuff.
Dreaming of You This was the shortest of the three stories at only 30 or so pages. It follows Trevor, who is a former lover of Marty's. He's got to the stage in life where he's fed up of playing the scene and just wants to settle down. He thought that Marty might be the person for him, not realising that Marty only ever saw him as a good occasional lay. After Marty and Larry get together, Trevor is feeling even worse. He's approached at a club by Quinn (who also featured in the previous story), and although Trevor treats Quinn with disdain, Trevor finds himself drawn to him and the odd sense of security he sees in Quinn.
For me this was the weakest of the stories, mainly because I didn't get enough about either character to make me connect well with them. The story is focused mostly in and around the time in the club, with a short scene at Trevor's house. As such we learn next to nothing about the lives of the two main characters. When placed next to the first two novellas, which were filled with great, well rounded characterisation, these guys come across as a little flat and one dimensional. That isn't to say that this story is a total write off because it isn't. The story is taken from Trevor's point of view, and it was nice to see him change from the sarcastic bitchy character we see in the previous story, to one who lowers his defenses and allows Quinn to see inside to the real man. I particularly liked that Quinn sees Trevor when not looking his best and still thinks he's attractive. The final chapter of the story is entitled Closure and a Fresh Start and this was very appropriate given how the story ends. It was nice to see Trevor blossoming under the influence of good friends, but I really wish I'd had more from both him and Quinn to have been entirely happy with the story.
Overall this anthology was one of those nice, easy reads with great characters and a romantic storyline. It would be perfect for a lazy afternoon in front of the fire and I would recommend it.(less)
Cover Me is the third novella in LB Gregg’s ‘Men of Smithfield’ series. It takes place, not in the town of Smithfield itself, but in an exclusive prep...moreCover Me is the third novella in LB Gregg’s ‘Men of Smithfield’ series. It takes place, not in the town of Smithfield itself, but in an exclusive preparatory school for the children of the rich and famous, situated on the outskirts of the town. This lent itself to rather an insular setting which was perfect for this story of stalkers and scary goings on in the small community of the school.
The story begins with a scene set a few months before the start of the main story with an all action scene between Michael ‘Finn’ and Max, a security firm owner and brother of a lazy teen Finn is tutoring to get some extra holiday pay. Finn is attracted to Max and so throws caution to the wind and seduces him in his office only to be rejected afterwards. Fast forward to the start of the new term and one of Finn’s students, Hemmi, who is the teenage son of a famous Hollywood actor, is under threat by a man stalking his father. To Finn’s complete horror, the man drafted in as security for Hemmi is none other than Max. There is immediate tension between the two men as they fight their attraction to one another whilst trying to keep Hemmi safe.
There were quite a few things I liked about this novella. Firstly the characters of the two heroes were not quite as you would expect. Max is an ex-marine who keeps an impassive face for most of the time. You would think that he would also be quite lacking in emotion as well, but no, Max’s gruff exterior hides the heart of a romantic. We are never told explicitly, just given hints, but it seems that Max has been in love and suffered loss in the past. When Finn comes along he breaks through that loss and it isn’t long before the tough ex-marine is confessing his feelings and showing a tenderness that belies his tough outer image. Finn on the other hand is an artistic English/Drama teacher so you would expect him to be all fine at sharing emotions. Well you would be wrong because Finn has a fear of commitment and a fear of opening up his feelings to others in case he is hurt. He hides any emotions behind a prickly sarcastic front and it takes a long time before Max can get past that to discover what Finn really feels. I liked this inversion of stereotype. It made the characters more realistic and human. Another area of Finn and Max’s relationship which worked well was in the progression of the sex scenes from the first hot scene through to the last loving scene. I really feel that LB Gregg has improved on her writing of sex scenes a great deal since her first novella. The final sex scene of this book was one of the most beautiful, tender sex scenes that I’ve read in a while. It was packed with emotional intensity and said more in a few actions than pages of dialogue could have done.
Another part of the book that I liked was the unusual setting of the school. The author spends a lot of time describing the atmosphere of teens around the campus. There isn’t much focus on lessons and the day to day running of the school, but there is a lot about how Finn fits into the school in his responsibility as dorm supervisor and general friend to the young men in his dorm. The descriptions of sweaty bodies, general chaos and mess in the dorm house was realistic and rather amusing. This description is also necessary when the book moves into the stalker theme. Finn is unable to see how anyone he knows and likes within his dorm would threaten or harm Hemmi. In fact, it is Finn’s inability to see what is happening under his nose which leads to trouble at the end of the book. The descriptions of the grounds around the school, especially in connection with the autumn season were lovingly done and gave the impression (as was with the previous books) of the great love the author has for New England and Connecticut.
A final part of the book which worked well was the way that each student was individual. It would have been so easy to make the student body just a huge teenage hybrid, but LB Gregg ensures that each student who features in the book has a definite ‘voice’ be it that of Eric who constantly questions everything; or Laura, the girlfriend of Hemmi, shooting dagger eyes at a girl who gets close to Hemmi; or Hemmi himself, a mix of mischievousness and seriousness in his feelings about being guarded by Max. I really got the feeling that the characters of the teenagers were just as important as those of the adults, more so because they affect Finn’s life to a great extent.
There were some parts that didn’t work so well. I guessed the mystery almost from the beginning and felt that it could have been done in a more subtle way. Although the end was tense and rather alarming, it seemed like too much of a great step and I wished there had been a bit more groundlaying done on that particular character ( I’m being vague because I don’t want to give away spoilers). Also there was one sex scene in the middle of the book which just started in a rather jarring manner and again, I wished there had been more subtlety in the lead up to that scene.
Overall, I’ve been impressed with the progression of LB Gregg’s writing. I’ve been following her career with interest ever since the release of her first novella, Gobsmacked. Cover Me contains all the sparkling wit and humour I’ve come to expect from this author but there is also a depth of maturity in her writing which is more evident in this story. Overall, I’d recommend Cover Me as a great, entertaining short read with interesting characters.(less)
Decent story of two men who reunite after 10 years when a rain storm throws them together. The story on the whole was engaging but we barely scratch t...moreDecent story of two men who reunite after 10 years when a rain storm throws them together. The story on the whole was engaging but we barely scratch the surface of these characters so I wasn't sure how successful their relationship would be overall, especially as Gage was carrying a whole lot of baggage which will need a lot of time and patience to deal with. The writing is good though and I particularly liked the descriptions of the rain storm which were evocative and set the scene well.(less)