Review: This was a compellingly told story of a man who loses not only the two men who have been his lovers, but also the belief in his ability to lov...moreReview: This was a compellingly told story of a man who loses not only the two men who have been his lovers, but also the belief in his ability to love and be loved.
The story is classed as gay literary fiction. To me, this is fiction with gay characters, but very common human behaviour and deep-seated themes. I knew not to expect any kind of HEA, but there’s no denying this is a relentlessly unhappy time for the characters. Michael is on a downward spiral of disaster and abandonment, first by Craig, then by Richard, and eventually by his own hope. I’d have liked to understand better how he’d come to be this person. What made him an addict, not just for sex but using it as emotional punishment for his apparent lack of self-esteem, seeking the seedy and the casual, expecting little reward in his life. It’s no surprise that he’s caught out cheating, because the reader can see his needy, greedy behaviour slipping out of his control.
Craig has a mainly walk-on part as Betrayed Boyfriend. I didn’t have enough time with him and Michael to understand why Michael was so able or eager to love him – the “truer intimacy” stated in the blurb – when Michael apparently showed so little care for himself and lovers before. I felt the pain of Michael’s lost potential for happiness.
The involvement of the church in the person of Richard lends another layer of tension, yet I admired the fact the story majored more on Richard’s moral bravery than any threat of hellfire for a sexual, gay affair. The author deals with the religious with compassion, despite the potential for great offence in some of Richard’s behaviour. The scenes at the end where Richard expresses his desire and determination to follow his vocation rather than his fascination for Michael were the most evocative for me. Michael’s attitude towards religion is conflicted, both attracted by and scornful of Richard’s calling. It’s as if Michael is envious of Richard’s faith, having little of his own.
However, their relationship appears confusing – Michael describes it as like fuck-buddies: God knew why I felt I needed to say anything anyway. We didn’t have that kind of relationship. Hell, we didn’t even have a relationship. My relationship was with Craig. This was sex. Yet Michael also ascribes devotion to Richard beyond his sexual need. I can see little to support that in the story, but it does illustrate the emotional gulf between Michael’s rather obsessive self-pity and how he’s actually connecting with real people. The sex is explicit and uninhibited, but any tenderness is one way only: Michael seems unable to accept or give it in return. I wondered exactly what Richard saw in Michael to have maintained a year’s relationship. Both express irresistible need for each other, yet didn’t convince me of any attraction stronger than the thrill of an “illicit” liaison.
The author’s prose is well crafted, mature and often fascinating. Some of her other stories cover very dark themes including murder, violence and mental instability, but I’ve always trusted her handling of her characters in these provocative settings, providing the reader with very fallible and therefore sympathetic men. I personally didn’t feel this story showcased her writing skill at its best: other readers may disagree with me. Its shorter length meant that it was concentrated solely on this very miserable stage of Michael’s life: there was no progress in either the plot or Michael’s emotional journey, other than his slide into more misfortune. Richard and Craig both moved on in some way, but Michael’s internalised distress was, by its nature, repetitive and self-perpetuating, and overwhelmed any other message for me. As Richard says: when real life comes back into whatever it is we’re doing, then everything’s broken, isn’t it? Nothing fits.
This story of Michael’s emotional hardship doesn’t end on any higher or lower note than it begins. Because of that, it wasn’t particularly rewarding for me as a reader. However, I can admire the author’s exposure of a painful situation and the impact on three men, and the themes of faith and honesty and courage in life’s decisions. It’s stayed in my mind long after reading and I rate it B.
For me, this was an excellent example of good science fiction, with accessible and attractive characters, and enough difference to show the alien races yet not full of too weird pronunciations or rituals.
The passengers from Perel are on their final fling before settling down in their matriarchal society with female mates, and children for the fertile men. Ferran knows his duty, yet is irresistibly drawn to Jason, and not just for physical gratification. The Perel are sensual, uninhibited players, but Ferran distances himself from the more promiscuous behaviour of his cousins: “We are more than our sexuality, Captain,” he replied, a little less fluidly than before. “I would never presume to ask for more than you wish to give. I simply thought you might find our culture interesting.”
Jason is a familiar character, the firm but fair captain of his ship. The interactions with his crew are entertaining and revealing, a good example of show not tell, illustrating the respect he has for and from them.
What I particularly liked was that even in the short format, there was time spent on their rather old-fashioned but delightful courtship. Both men show respect and civility towards each other though they’re obviously sexually attracted. Their first touch – the Perel method of farewell – is beautifully understated yet sensual. Ferran leaned his upper body close to Jason’s and turned his head slightly so that their right temples touched. Jason felt the intense heat of Ferran’s skin and the warmth of his breath on his cheek. When they do finally go to bed, they’re very hot together – Jason’s relief is amusing at finding the intimate plumbing the same! But there’s still plenty more of the story to let this relationship develop, until their love affair leads to the inevitable conflict between their duties and cultures.
The author’s style is lyrical and vivid, the story flows and the characters are well-defined. There’s a strong awareness of the fact they’re from different races, the description of the alien world is fascinating, but the dialogue and behaviour is never implausible. I can totally believe Jason and Ferran as a couple.
My only niggle was the rather too easy wrapping-up of the story. A lot of issues were resolved and decisions made in a very short time. At the 80%-ish point, I’d realised I was dreading finishing the story – partly because I was enjoying every word, but also because I felt there was much more to Jason and Ferran’s story that would never be told. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part! But although I’m sure readers will be pleased with the ending – without giving any more spoilers – I wanted more time, both with the two worlds and also with Jason and Ferran’s relationship.
This was a rare example of a short story that delivered a long tale: it felt well balanced between description and action, the love story was allowed a plausible time to develop and the sex was in context. I rate it A.
From the minute I started, I felt I was missing parts of the jigsaw. There are many references to the characters’ backstory, yet I searched both Torquere and the author’s name and couldn’t find a prior story with these men. This was unfortunate for me, because although I enjoyed reading it, I was continually brought up against info dump and references to relationships and events that I had no familiarity with.
The main action takes place on one evening when Simon meets Gabriel for a pizza meal. There’s reference to their on-off romance, and the fact that maybe both of them would like to stop the bickering and playfulness between them and commit to each other. Simon is the first person narrator and the story is very much “his”. He’s not always a sympathetic character – there are references to his thieving, sleeping around, and his (successful) struggle with alcoholism – but he’s working legitimately now.
Gabriel’s character remains sketchy, albeit there’s a sexy scene at the end between them. But all I gleaned about Gabriel was told to me by Simon: Gabriel and I have been on and off — sort of. He’s busy and sort of hates me, and I’m busy and sort of hate him. The truth is we stepped on each other’s toes a few too many times and now neither one of us wants to admit we were wrong. I’m such a grown-up.
There are several other characters mentioned, as well as their personalities and paranormal powers, but that only confused me further LOL. There are many themes at play in only 4,000 words – the romance, paranormal beings, Simon’s work in the pseudo-secret government agency he belongs to, his narcolepsy, a criminal “mob”. Even the scene that this story is built around is more about Simon facing and fighting a vampire enemy than reconciling with Gabriel.
The author’s style is smooth and without obvious editorial mistakes. A lot hinges on whether the reader takes to Simon and enjoys his dry internal monologue. His humour made me smile many times, though some of it felt contrived. I got up and hurried after the vampire. I vaguely recognized him as belonging to the same criminal organization as the boss I’d dusted earlier that week. It could mean they were out for my blood, or it could mean vampires also like delicious pizza. Yeah, right.
The story was entertaining, but I was eventually worn down by the amount of background and secondary characters I had to juggle with, while trying to connect with the central romance. There was a lot of telling, and many in-jokes that passed me by, and I felt the main characters short-changed. The ending leads to a new understanding between Simon and Gabriel – which may tie in with the “Getting Better” theme – but it didn’t resonate with me personally. I rate it C.
The author’s style flows very well, and from the start there’s a fine sense of place and atmosphere. A hawk sailed slowly overhead, riding the air currents, looking for food. In the distance, on the side of a tree-covered hill, I saw a rabbit scurry for cover. The hawk circled, banked, and flew on. I liked the way the story starts immediately, no time wasted on exposition except what Ethan tells us through his dialogue. He’s inquisitive about the time travel story Randy tells him, and intrigued enough to see if it’d happen again for him. Ethan’s a city man, with money and all the trappings of career success. He has a sharp wit and plenty of modern cynicism, but his fascination with the potential adventure is endearing.
When he’s suddenly transplanted to 1863, he’s a charming narrator, comparing the old with the new. What I particularly liked was the way his hosts accept quite calmly he’s from the future, and are fascinated in return! This is a lovely twist on the confusion time travel usually produces. Much of Ethan’s world is already a familiar concept to Quinn, and this allows the author to concentrate successfully on the romance.
The issue of Ethan being gay is carefully treated, he realises quickly he has to be careful. There are thought-provoking instances where he realises he can’t use modern slang. His worries about the loss of modern conveniences – like toilet paper! – are very amusing. Give me 2011, with all its fuckups and disappointments and stupidity; at least I could live there.
The main theme for me was the awakening of both men. Ethan’s homesick, but astonished at rediscovering the natural delights of food and nature. He also begins to realise his life has become shallow. The batteries in my camera would soon die, and then I wouldn’t even be able to take pictures. I would not only be out of time, I would have no purpose. He’s a man of his times – who appreciates his pizza – but he feels alien in Quinn’s world, among the honesty of his hosts’ less sophisticated life. In contrast, Quinn is sexually naïve, rather vulnerable, but principled, gradually coveting Ethan’s world, where he could admit to being gay and live openly. Ethan of course holds the narration, but Quinn is bold enough for me to show he’s a match for Ethan.
The lust shifts to love rather too swiftly for me: it seems at first that Ethan is really in love with the novelty and challenge of the virgin Quinn. The sex is exciting but also poignant, and Quinn’s gentleness and need seem to soften Ethan. It’s a pity the story wasn’t longer to explore this change in both of them: at one stage I genuinely wasn’t sure how it’d end. The actual ending felt too easy, but pleasant for both men. I really enjoyed the story and rate it A.
This was a charming and perceptive story of a relationship at crisis point, though Derek and Toby had a strong romance to give them hope for the futur...moreThis was a charming and perceptive story of a relationship at crisis point, though Derek and Toby had a strong romance to give them hope for the future.
It’s a treat for this reader to step into a loving, well-established relationship. The couple are preparing for Christmas, with most of the decoration being carried out as per Derek’s happy childhood. Yet there’s tension, with Toby continually wishing they had a child to share it all with, and Derek protesting he can’t think of anything more disruptive. Some people were clearly meant to parent, and some just as clearly were not. Over time, they’ve slipped into a dark and hurtful rut. Christmas is bringing the situation to a head, the fun traditions becoming chores. They were together, alone.
There’s still plenty of wit and fond familiarity, Derek’s memories of past Christmases are particularly amusing, like the poor animatronic reindeer which developed a tick in its circuitry. “You didn’t really help matters. You had to go put up Santa aiming a shotgun at it.” There’s a lovely sense of the season and the setting. Christmas is shown as a beloved and poignant time, for example how Christmas cards reflect the passage of time. The dialogue is realistic and flows well, though a couple of times a character’s speech was cut between two lines, which made it confusing to tell who was “he”.
The story is all from Derek’s point of view and Toby comes over at first as rather obsessive. But Derek himself is entrenched, clinging to the same traditions and lifestyle. He admits he’s selfish, and his arguments are based on blunt pragmatism, scorning Toby’s emotional need. They both make valid points, and both feel strongly. Yet it’s Toby who finally rounds on Derek, challenging the rituals that were actually established for the sake of the children in Derek’s family. To me, while I have a huge amount of sympathy for Derek’s arguments, he seems reluctant to consider new ones, to create new rituals. He craves continuity but allows it no growth. Change will happen around him, regardless, but during this story he places the whole blame for that on Toby. It’s a fascinating and unusual scenario for a short story, and comes across as very heartfelt.
The characters are well defined and attractive each in their own way. The sex was hot and also had delightful touches that only a long-standing couple would enjoy. I have to say I was a bit disappointed the story ended where it did: I’d have liked to see or hear what changes both men might make in future. They’d both been shocked into realising how much they loved and treasured each other, and agreed other things could be discussed later. And of course, that reflects real life – a relationship is rarely chock-full of the epiphanies we find in fiction, but more like hard work, compromise and the pleasure of building a robust life together. I really enjoyed the way this difficult but realistic situation was explored and described, I rate it B+.
Ferro is an irrepressible wastrel, or so it seems. He regularly breaks the rules, misbehaving or thieving and gets sent to the slave tents as punishment. However, we learn quickly it’s a scam: Ferro never actually gets sold as a slave, or not for very long, before his royal family sends someone to bring him home again. All he has to do is make himself unattractive to buyers, to play for time for his rescue. And Ferro is obviously well experienced in this game. The slave-master looked down on him with a weary expression that Ferro recognized well-enough from his own father’s face.
But this time is different. He’s paired up with a fellow slave Lisias, an animal tender. Ferro is attracted to him but never imagines they’ll have anything in common, let alone spend any time together. Ferro’s thirty years old but acts much younger, and definitely without the “commitment” expected by his family. But he’s bored and fractious rather than innately bad. He’s obviously clever, mouthy but witty with it: “Comfortable?” the slave-master asked with more sarcasm than the situation really called for. “I could use a couch, something in kid leather with a soft wool blanket,” Ferro suggested. However, he’s not totally insufferable, as shown in his kind treatment of his fellow slave Agnella. And in his defence, he’s been brought up with little respect in his family: he was the third son, unlikely to inherit any real authority, his parents had regretted having birthed him at all; Ferro could see that every time his father looked at him. His mother simply cried. It’s obvious that his attention-seeking is a reaction against this.
He meets his match in the strong, relatively silent Lisias. Ferro lets his insolence run away with him more than once, until Lisias takes him in hand. Ferro thinks it’s all a game, but Lisias has Ferro’s measure. He’s attracted to Ferro and sees strength of character in him, but is irritated by Ferro’s constant playing up. When Ferro offers sex, Lisias says: “I don’t want easy sex here.” “That’s amusing because I have a reputation for being fairly easy.” Lisias studied Ferro for so long that Ferro started to squirm uncomfortably. “I suspect you’re anything but easy,” Lisias finally said. Ferro finally discovers a man he can respect, and maybe more importantly, can’t manipulate.
The story is from Ferro’s point of view, and is all about his own, personal epiphany, but Lisias is a strong and sympathetic protagonist. It becomes clear that, rather than break Ferro’s spirit, Lisias seeks a more equal partnership, and an honesty that Ferro has been skirting around all his life. The author’s style is good, the sex very hot, and I enjoyed the read. I rate it A.
The blurb sets the scene very well. The story is narrated from Melech’s point of view, and is a combination of space pirate romp and what felt to me like an episode of a SF TV series. From the first moment Melech steps in front of the man pursuing the human Aiolos, the scene is set for their chase around each other, accompanied by plenty of provocative banter. Melech is bemused and a little reluctant to get involved, but he’s attracted to Aiolos and interested in a new challenge. He’s rewarded with Aiolos distracting and robbing him, but the tables are soon turned when Aiolos returns to ask Melech’s help.
I liked Melech’s attitude, a man well able to look after himself, an adventurer and a opportunist, with a certain world-weary charm. His internal monologue is witty and kept the plot flowing well. The author divides the narrative into definite scenes, which I thought worked well, and Melech often offers up one of his wry-humoured personal thoughts to round each section off: It wasn’t as though he had any particular problem with criminals, or indeed any basis on which to dislike them even if he were inclined to, being one several times over himself and not even considering the possibility of reform. He just wished the little bastard had robbed him in the morning instead.
The way they first agree to have sex happens like a commercial transaction, and I actually enjoyed the breezy, pragmatic way they appeared to get down to it: The other man was clearly used to these rooms, moving into this one with a confidence that Melech found appealing. He shed his coat quickly, revealing simple, practical clothing underneath. Melech found himself staring when that began to come off, as well. Melech is still calling him “the man” even though he knows Aiolos’ name. When they get intimate again, they’ve been through danger and escape together, and they’re more tender and relaxed. The sex is then a little more emotional and engaging.
Myron, Melech’s shipmate remains a bit of a mystery to me, to the extent I wondered if he was in a related, existing or future title that I should know about. Melech refers to him only in passing but with references to a long-standing friendship that is never elaborated on. It felt like the story was adapted from a better-known fandom where the characters would already be established, but I have no confirmation of that.
The story is well written and the author balances the action scenes well against the relationship. The banter between Melech and Aiolos is fun, and the voices and characteristics well defined between them. As narrator, Melech is inevitably the stronger character for me, and he’s an attractive character. The basic premise/plot is not unusual in fiction and there wasn’t enough originality to tempt me to return to the story, but I’d be happy to try more of the author’s work in future. I rate it B.
The highlight of this story for me is the amusing banter between the three colleagues – our hero Noah, his friend Joel and Joel’s girlfriend Becky. We’re thrown straight into the easy, friendly familiarity they have with each other, at work and obviously socially as well. Becky’s less than complimentary about a new guy, Jared, when she calls up Noah to help with Jared’s ancient PC, and the three of them fall quickly into their “in” jokes. “And he’s in development?” Behind me Joel cups his hands to his mouth and makes slow, deep breathing sounds à la Darth Vader. I ball up a piece of paper and chuck it over the partition at him, but he bats it away playfully.
Noah is captivated by Jared’s voice on the phone, wondering what he looks like. Basically, Noah’s in need of a boyfriend, so says he and all his friends! Becky and Joel tease and encourage, but Becky’s matchmaking skills aren’t working for him. He works an anti-social shift pattern at work so he doesn’t have time to date anyone outside of the job, but hasn’t found anyone in the job that he fancies. I got the impression he’s coasting along, wishing he could find someone special but also nervous of striking out. He sees someone in the parking lot who’s … cute,tall, with short brown hair that curls around his temples and over his ears the way it does on statues of Greek gods, and he’s more than cute, he’s fucking gorgeous… but it’s Joel who gets his number – though not his name – for Noah, while Noah’s still hesitating.
Noah’s good nature sends him on all the inconvenient support calls, until at last he’s sent to help Jared in person and I expect most readers will have guessed what happens LOL. It’s a familiar premise, but succeeds here because of the well-written and charming characterisation.
Noah is pleasant and well-meaning and the reader roots for him to find a new man. The friends are well drawn as supporting players, and the scenes of cubicle life are realistic and amusing. Jared appears much later in the story, and is rather overshadowed by the friendships I’d already connected to, but there’s enough to introduce him clearly to us. There’s no explicit sex, only Noah’s romantic dreams, but the sexy anticipation between Noah and Jared is great fun.
My only quibble: I usually enjoy this author’s present tense narration, but this time it didn’t flow as well for me. I think in this case the story feels too domestic for it to shine: there’s no suspense to build, no shock slowly revealed. To me, Noah started to sound a little self-centred and repetitive, as he missed the clues that were far more blatant to the reader LOL. But the style is as polished as ever and the read very entertaining. I rate it B.
The blurb already alerts us as to what’s coming, so I hope this review doesn’t give any spoilers! Jory has been in a terrible accident with his lover Peter, and the reader joins in as Jory’s recovering. He’s supported by a great group of friends, but they’re only paying attention to Jory, not mentioning Peter. And when Jory tries to bring Peter into the conversation, or to think about where Peter is, or what he and Jory are doing now, Jory gets a terrible headache. It’s obvious from early on, that Jory and his friends are not seeing the world in the same way. His lover’s name floats through his mind as if looking for something to attach itself to, but Jory presses his palm to his forehead, pushing the thought away. Maybe he isn’t as ready for this as he thought he was—the camaraderie, the concern written on his coworkers’ faces.
The story is built around an evening with Jory’s friends, but also shows us a flashback of how Jory and Peter met. They’re both charming men, with an immediate attraction and deepening love, with no pretension between them. This is also interspersed with flashbacks to the accident and the bitterly cold, snowy night when the car crashed, trapping them both. The author uses description very well, creating these scenes very vividly, engaging all the senses. He needs to get out of this belt and he can’t move, he can’t breathe, he can’t do anything and it hurts, everywhere it hurts and tears sting his eyes and freeze on his cheeks and he’s screaming now. There’s far more of romance than sex in the story, but this is very powerful emotionally. The shock and suspense is built-up slowly, fascinating the reader.
Jory’s friend Bruce is obviously trying to protect him until finally he pushes Jory instead, trying to make him face reality. Bruce hurts for Jory, but needs him to see sense. However, Jory sees his own sense. We can hear the increasing unease in his thoughts, empathise with his denial, yet his love for Peter sustains him through it all. The title refers to Peter’s gold cross, a physical talisman of their love, of their connection. Jory’s a charming character who invites our sympathy for what he’s been through, and his friends are well described, especially Bruce, even if they’re only there as support for Jory’s story.
In my opinion, the author is a master of present tense narration, and it works superbly here, building the suspense as we live the scenes through Jory. We can easily feel the poignancy of their love, and as far as Jory is concerned, Peter is his lover and always will be, he helped Jory survive the crash, and will continue to help him. Who’s to say Jory’s sense isn’t right, if it works for him? I enjoyed the story a lot and rate it B+.
The style is sure and lyrical, I’ve liked many of the author’s previous stories. There’s plenty of information given about the characters and it was obvious early on that they have featured in another story in the past. However I didn’t find it full of info dump, or “and as you remember…” at all. The segue was natural and the characters came alive in their own right for me as a new reader.
It starts off in the middle of a great premise – a group of high school students going to the prom. But these are different in that they’re all gay and have won the right to take a same-sex partner. Unfortunately, they’re struck with nerves and need someone else to make the first move on to the dance floor. Who better than Suyai Tucker-Neyen – or Mr. T.N. as his pupils call that mouthful! – their gay teacher.
Suyai is totally supportive to them all, it’s obvious he’s become more of a friend over time. He’s a charming, tolerant and determined man. We learn gradually about his dads, who’ve had a chequered life of their own, both obviously strong-minded and charismatic people, who’ve brought Suyai up to be the same. His ambitions have stayed closer to home, though no less important. The scion of two such prominent queers had surprised everyone by becoming a high school science teacher at his alma mater.
The author’s prose flows well and has the necessary balance between dialogue and description to make the most of the short format. The prom scene is vivid, the sights and sounds easy to imagine. There’s wit, too, with the same light touch as Suyai himself. “How do I seem? You never said.” What could Suyai say? Bolder? More familiar? Like sex in a rented tuxedo? Maybe it’s a stretch of the imagination that he should meet a potential life partner so easily, but it wasn’t a hardship as a reader to surrender to that lucky and pleasant happening, and his dance with the new teacher Trevor Ellis is a delight to read.
There were many characters in the story, probably too many for this short format, and I didn’t feel they all had to be mentioned by name. I expect if you’d read the previous story you’d have appreciated revisiting the characters, but sometimes I had to re-read to catch up with who was who. I was also bemused over some of the US school terms and habits. But I enjoyed the story no less for that. Suyai is summed up very aptly and charmingly as: There he’d been, a sexually ecumenical kid with worldly, supportive gay parents, and he’d turned out to be a homebody with dreams of true love forever. And maybe at the end of the story, he’s on his way towards those dreams. It was a perfect romance and a charming addition to the Getting Better theme. I rate it A.
This was fun to read, the author’s turn of phrase is witty and hot. It’s all from Josh’s internal monologue, passing the time at his uninspiring job. I love the way it’s accepted that weird alien creatures will be passing through. They may be gruesome or unpleasant, but the fun premise is that this is usual. Note Josh’s hilarious response to a zombie shopping: It was also missing its right foot, which ended in a bony stub that it dragged it across the floor, leaving a muddy trail on the tile. “Hey, no shoes, no service,” Josh said reflexively. “Next time, put a sock over your stump.” Josh is apparently a fun-loving boy, though I didn’t glean much knowledge of him except that he’s resigned to his job, says “hot” far too much, and wants to jump – or be jumped by – Hot Guy.
The prose is vivid and imaginative: Thwak-thwak-thwak echoed in the shop as Lizard Guy waddle-stomped down the aisle, making a beeline for the Fritos display – but I don’t feel it gets a good enough chance to shine. Some of the customers are described in great detail, leaving little for the main character development. There’s too much about Hot Guy’s eyes – flashing, sparkling – and blatant signposts to his real nature, so he comes across as rather cliché.
Overall, and unfortunately, this story left me both unsatisfied and irritated. This is obviously only my opinion. It feels like a mere chapter rather than a decent-length story, even presented as Part#1. It introduces a few characters and a setting but gives no context as to where the story sits now, or will develop. There’s no resolution here, in part or full. Josh is a fun character, but Colin is a sketchy token at best. Is there to be any connection between them in future “parts”? Is Josh going to follow other crushes, as well or instead? Are the other shoppers walk-on characters, or part of ongoing world-building?
I don’t need to know exactly what’s going to happen in future, but I need something to make me care enough to find out. This brief scene doesn’t have enough to hook me in; no time for the characters to endear themselves to me. I received an ARC to review, but had I bought the story, I’d have been even more irritated. There are only 7 actual pages of narrative, and no note as to how it’ll continue. How many parts are proposed? Is there an underlying arc in mind? Is it a character series, a get-together in instalments, or unconnected vignettes? Like I say, not enough to keep me personally on board as a purchaser.
This felt like a missed opportunity, and the author short-changed. As a scene-setting, it will maybe attract a following, and I hope the story develops into something more substantial over time.
Readers can rely on this author to deliver a well-crafted and entertaining story. This particular story is fascinating in a more serious way, but still accessible to any reader.
The author takes plenty of time and uses much vivid detail in creating the setting: Rick and Ernie’s new flat and the surrounding areas in Chicago. From the very beginning, when Rick first sees his dream apartment is up for sale, the reader finds themselves in the neighbourhood, experiencing the life there, eating and socialising with the couple, and also living through the weather.
This was a particularly fascinating and prevalent thread through the story, as the moods and development of the plot were reflected by the changes in weather. I found it very effective: it both echoed and foreshadowed the events to come. Outside, there was a bright flash of pure white light and then an almost deafening crash of thunder. In seconds, we could hear the drum of a steady and hard downpour. Paula looked to her rain-smeared window. She spoke quietly. “Tell me about the short guy.”
The author’s style is deceptively easy to read yet never patronising or eclectic. It follows a straightforward, linear path. But particularly in this story, it skilfully builds suspense as it goes, drawing in the reader and holding them to the end. The prose is eked out during the moments of tension, structured carefully to make the most of the critical scenes. With first person POV, there might have been too much internal monologue, but the dialogue is well matched to the characters and helps the investigation along.
The characters are easy to like, especially the harrassed narrator, Rick, who realises early on that the good luck in finding his apartment brings its own emotional baggage. There was something within me, something no logic or reason can account for, that caused me to inexplicably know my fate was about to change. I liked the refreshing way that he knew his visions couldn’t be real, but found them real enough to investigate. He didn’t spend the story as a victim, wondering what was going on, but pragmatically set out to discover for himself.
He was ably supported by his supportive boyfriend Ernie, and their extrovert neighbour Paula: even the troubled couple whose life Rick finds himself unwillingly tangled in.
The story was not specifically a romance, and it was pleasant to find an established couple with a good and tolerant measure of each other. The theme was the mystery, and judging by the author’s dedication, confronting in fiction a subject close to his heart. It was not a hugely original ghost story, but was striking in its frank descriptions of the cruel and ugly effects of addiction. The read was enjoyable and thought-provoking, I rate it B+.
This was a short and haunting story, built around a single scene between two lovers. Note: this is part of the Dreamspinner Bittersweet Dreams series...moreThis was a short and haunting story, built around a single scene between two lovers. Note: this is part of the Dreamspinner Bittersweet Dreams series i.e. do not expect a traditional HEA, or even one at all :).
The story is told from Valentin’s point of view, beginning with his reunion with Laurent. They appear to be just two young men together, making love, enjoying a meal in a private cabin in the forest. The reader doesn’t know at first anything of the men’s past history, but it’s soon obvious that the scene is false or distorted in some way. The author cleverly weaves isolation and unease into this initial setting, showing us their love and devotion, but at the same time the inference that they aren’t living happily together as a matter of course.
The author has an unusual and fascinating style, which may only be appropriate for this story as I haven’t read any more of their work. Some of the language drifts into the “purple” category for me, but it’s in keeping with the setting and the dreamlike atmosphere. There are also some entertaining flashes of wit and humanity from the hapless lovers: “And you, my daft little man, are a lunatic.” Laurent rolled over, turning away in mock disgust—which exposed his ass to Valentin’s gaze. An unmistakable invitation. Oh, they knew each other so well.
The displacement of both the men and the back story is gradually revealed in a chilling manner. Laurent begins to recall how he arrived at this cabin, what happened to him and Valentin. The lovers had obviously been violently and unwillingly parted in some way, but Valentin is protecting his lover from the memory both physically and emotionally. I won’t spoil the story with any more than that.
The 1st person POV is used very effectively, allowing the reader to discover at Laurent’s pace but with the underlying inevitability of Valentin’s true knowledge. But of course Laurent always had to know. He would wait for a response, stubborn eyes boring into Valentin’s face, until he had the truth. Their time together slipped steadily away, and Valentin knew from experience that trying to dissemble would only waste what was left. The story is too short to space out the suspense for long, but the reveal is well balanced within the scene.
Gradually, the reader learns what Valentin has done and how he suffers to earn more time with Laurent and to keep his lover in his arms. The poignant twist in the narrative at the end tugged at my heartstrings.
It was a very brief story, carefully and clearly told, and has stayed in my mind since I read it. I rate it B+.
This is another delightful visit to the guys introduced in About Damned Time. The affection and passion between Troy and Jason still sparkles, and thi...moreThis is another delightful visit to the guys introduced in About Damned Time. The affection and passion between Troy and Jason still sparkles, and this time we get to see more about Jason and his art career.
The art was a supporting player in the first story: it was all about his friendship with Troy easing excitedly and enjoyably into becoming lovers. Now they’re seeing each other regularly, he’s sold one of his pieces, and he’s looking to do more. But the thread running through the story is his growing obsession with one particular sculpture that just feels “wrong” to him.
What was enjoyable in the first story continues here: the friendship and pleasure in each other’s company, and how they know each other so well. However, this episode finds them trying to get used to their new situation. There’s no doubt that they want to be a couple, that they have fun, that they still desire each other. But there are new issues of how they should support each other now they’re all but living together. Most of it is from Jason’s point of view. He’d gone from a single, broke dude who made sculptures in the back of a buddy’s garage to half of a couple that seemed to be working. Troy is support personnel, happy to give Jason the space and reassurance he needs for his work. But in the latter half of the story, we get a glimpse of how Troy is coping, and what he’s hoping for.
I found the art motif gave mixed messages: it showed Jason’s creative struggle, and at one stage he had an inspiration on how to improve the awkward sculpture, based on a hot little scene with Troy. That worked very well for me. But I wasn’t sure exactly what else he did to it, even though he was finally reconciled. However, it worked indirectly to illustrate the realistic relationship they were building, brick by brick.
I loved especially the brief glimpses of their wavering self-confidence, Jason facing a smart new suit for his show – “I am not a cufflink kind of guy,” he told Troy, who meandered into the bathroom already fully dressed, looking sleek and perfect in his gray suit - Troy wondering suddenly if it’s better he keeps in the background rather than flaunting their relationship in public: Troy shook his head a little. “I just…” He looked steadily at Jason. “I don’t want to make it harder for you.” And the realisation they now have money was very amusing.
The author’s style is tight and witty, and the sex scenes hot: Jason knew what he wanted, too. He lowered himself onto Troy’s back, lubed him up, teased Troy with his thumbs until Troy started begging, then, finally, gave Troy what he wanted. The slightly longer story was welcome, they’re an enchanting couple and I hope there’s more to read about them in future. I rate it A.
The main star, in my opinion, is the Marseille setting. The author lavishes a large part of the narrative on the town, the landmarks, the weather, food and drink. It was a delightful travelogue and that part of the world is obviously much loved – or researched – by the author.
However, the underlying romance fell flat for me. The author’s style is good, I didn’t notice any editing gaffes, and the prose runs smoothly. However, I never really connected either with Alain or Kenny, or cared overmuch what happened to them. I found it difficult to differentiate between them in dialogue, and some inconsistent steps in the development of their romance jarred with me.
A large percentage of the initial story is taken up with Alain’s devastation at being dumped by his current lover. I found a lot of the emotional description was told, not shown, leaving me with a lack of sympathy for Alain’s upset, or a suspicion it was skimmed over to allow him to be free for his next engagement. In the middle of his misery and anger, the author seemed to sow the seeds of his less than full commitment. For example, Alain’s vision blurred, he suddenly felt icy cold, and for a minute he thought he’d misunderstood. That he was dreaming. Sure, he’d had a few vague suspicions, but he’d just been feeling lonely and jealous, right? This couldn’t be real. It didn’t endear him to me, even if he were the wronged party.
Kenny doesn’t have as much time on page and is only introduced later, including Alain’s memory of meeting him originally. He appears a pleasant character, a musician with ambition to have his own club, though I’d have enjoyed more details about his performance and his musical life. I found him inconsistent in his attitude to casual dating, one minute being opposed to it, then confessing that’s all he’d had for some time. His use of “babe” seemed out of character.
I found their lust more realistic than the romance, which was pleasant but rather pedestrian. The sex scenes were well-written, but there was too much on what the characters wore and eat, movement between locations, repeated justification of Alain’s attraction to Kenny. It took some suspension of disbelief to move from Alain’s original shocked despair to his eagerness to start another relationship with Kenny, including early admissions of falling in love. The author told me how Alain developed this deeper feeling, but I didn’t feel it through his actions. I suspect the shorter length of the story was partly to blame.
The blurb is extremely full, and describes the whole story, so there’s no suspense or conflict to be found. But if you take to the characters and the attractive setting, the telling is well crafted. I rate it C.
I found this is a challenging review to write because I didn’t feel there was enough to get my teeth into as a reader. It’s difficult to decide whethe...moreI found this is a challenging review to write because I didn’t feel there was enough to get my teeth into as a reader. It’s difficult to decide whether to call it either a story – in that it’s written as an entertainment though classified as a non-fiction memoir – or a booklet because of its very short length.
I like this author’s fiction writing style a lot and the same craft and skill is illustrated here. There’s wit and self-deprecation and a sharp, perceptive view of human nature and the world around us. He invites us into tiny snippets of life, events and thoughts that have shaped him from the specific point of view of his developing sexuality. In a panic I leaped from my seat and went rather than came, running to the back of the cinema where I sat trembling and wondering what had happened to me.
The excerpt on the publisher’s site is a good example of the way the book is set out. The chapters are many but short, and don’t necessarily follow each other in theme or chronological terms. There’s a certain sales-pitch style to it – the “tell them it’s coming, tell them it’s here, tell them what just went down”. The words are often clipped, the endings abrupt and offering challenge, sometimes inviting it. Some of the events could be seen as disturbing, particularly several involving men in religious orders, yet are delivered in the same staccato, “ta-da” manner.
I would have welcomed more of it, both for the author’s style and to draw more of an impression of him and his life. The personality glimpsed is a strong and possibly charismatic one, but is presented in what feels like a series of flashfic – very short snapshots of life, passing thoughts and vignettes of personal history. It bordered too much on self-indulgence for me to relax into the read – though I appreciate an autobiography is the most justifiable place to find that!
Just to note, the publisher’s opening blurb – possibly a generic one – describes it as a work of fiction, but the site categorises it as non-fiction memoir. Obviously some licence is taken in publishing it in this slightly once-removed style but it does make me wary as a reader, how much to invest in the narrator.
I was intrigued by the format and as I say, I like the author’s style in his fiction. I didn’t feel this title gave me enough to grasp either a clear view of his personality or sufficient context to enjoy or empathise with the scenes described. For that reason alone, I rate it C.
This witty little story is very entertaining, built around one scene where Cary and Pierce meet in the unusual setting of a dentist’s surgery, and fin...moreThis witty little story is very entertaining, built around one scene where Cary and Pierce meet in the unusual setting of a dentist’s surgery, and find some delicious compensation together LOL. Excellent story for anyone nervous of the dentist, though it may be more aversion therapy than anything more distracting!
The humorous blurb sets the scene immediately, and this pace is kept up throughout. The initial scenes with Pierce and his lisp are very funny and cleverly written. You have servithed personths of pallor before, haven’t you? Do even you know how our teeth work?
Cary is a chancer with a sense of humour that’s often directed at himself, and that worked well for me. He’d included the vampire reference to show he was the dentist with a sense of humor. And also to attract the Twilight age group, which was ripe for expensive orthodontia. He’s also relentlessly and unashamedly horny, and I’m not sure that wouldn’t become wearing in a longer story. Cary executed a few ninja moves to draw his zipper closed over his brand new erection. But it’s effective in this short format.
I was irritated by a couple of editing errors – and I wasn’t particularly looking for them – including an unfortunate Pierce(d). In a story of only 18 pages, that was disappointing. But I was reading an ARC, so hopefully these will be corrected before publication.
The author’s prose is well crafted, the characters tightly and entertainingly drawn. There was good differentiation between them, and enough description in this short format to give a full impression of the personalities. The sex was very hot and well written. It’s not really a romance – unless there are more adventures ahead for the couple – but their chemistry was exciting and vivid. It may be disappointing to some readers that we never get to see more follow through of their outrageous flirting.
The cameo by Chia, Pierce’s ambitious and enthusiastic employee, was rather distracting: I felt the story was too short to allow anyone else the attention that was better spent on the main characters. I’m not sure if it was a reference to previous stories or foreshadowing of more in future, but felt like unnecessary padding in this scene. The confrontation with Cary’s loan shark could easily have been accommodated with just the two main players.
Cary’s awful dentistry puns really do overstay their welcome, but that’s part of his character, I gathered :). An initial dentistry scene made me wince – I’m a poor patient in real life LOL – but I was reassured happily enough as I read on, and it was fun to have my phobias teased :). It’s an amusing premise for a story and Cary is an irrepressible narrator. I enjoyed the story and rate it a B+.
Note from publisher: any errors in the draft corrected for final publication.
It takes place in Jim’s point of view, though we don’t learn much about him except that he’s discreetly gay, he has little tolerance for his workmates’ casual homophobia, and that he’s alert to any other gay men in the town. The story opens with him and two colleagues, Dale and Cooter, eyeing up Collin, who’s returned to town after some time away. Collin, the man, is very obviously gay – we don’t hear how or why, except that he was into “weird art shit” at school, according to Dale. Jim is angry at his workmates’ aggressive bigotry, though he doesn’t leap to challenge them at first. However, we get the feeling that he would if pushed to it – it’s not a matter of his principles, just that he doesn’t seek out conflict for the sake of it. He twisted his lips. He’d fight if he had to. He didn’t back down from assholes like Dale.
The dialogue is crude, with a lot of swearing. Fuck. Jim stared at Walker’s hand, his heart starting a hard, steady thud. That was so fucking hot he could hardly stand it. But for me, that suits the style of the piece: it’s narrated in both the thoughts and the words of Jim and his workmates. The dialogue is also witty and sharp and blunt. It fits the fierce, cheeky sexuality of the story.
Jim and Dale nearly come to blows, but then they’re interrupted by Walker, the foreman, who takes very firm control of the situation. And, it turns out, of Jim himself :) . The rest of the story is basically a sex scene. Poor Jim is pretty bemused at first, but he goes along with it all. This was like… well, he couldn’t figure out anything that could be this good except this, so Jim went with it. Everything else would compare to this now and come up lacking. The sex is well written and not confusing like m/m/m can often be. The author makes sure we share Jim’s delight and excitement as he joins in with Walker and Collin.
I liked the brash style and the frankness of the men. The sex was hot, and the author made me believe in the fun that a threesome can have. It had a great ending line! It’s by no means a romance, and there’s very little we learn about the men and their lives beyond this one occasion. But I’d recommend it for a well-written, hot scene, and – a bit like Jim! – I’m very happy to have stumbled in on it. I rate it a good B.
The reader is thrown straight into the partnership, best friends since school, fiercely protective of each other, completely relaxed in each other’s company. They’re both happily and comfortably gay: Troy… liked the way men looked, the way they smelled, the way they felt when they were sweaty and a little gritty from a good day’s work.
Troy and Jason are close in their social life and their habits and even their dating likes. There’s no particular angst or conflict, but there’s an obvious sparkle to their companionship that’s a real pleasure to observe. You can feel it’s more than friendship, you know it’s more :). Despite the title, there isn’t the common trope of anguished, unrelieved sexual tension between them. It’s just sexy, tantalising tension instead, waiting for something to change in its own good time. Or in this particular case, for Troy to make a move!
They have a young man’s casual attitude to sex with other partners, though the references in this story are brief, establishing the fact they’re sexually active, not dating elsewhere. The central core is the friendship.
The author’s style is a delight, with some vivid analogies: the paint job was a vivid, brilliant blue, like a Rocky Mountain sky on a cloudless summer day. She does well to trade heavily on the dialogue, as that’s how the characters shine through. There are other descriptions of the car and the garage and Jason’s art work, but only as background. Their banter is witty and easy and realistic. It even makes “Dude” feel familiar to my non-Dude background! They don’t talk about their feelings, but it’s not in a Big Misunderstanding way, but in the fact that they understand so much about each other already: “You should sell that sculpture. The one you made at Christmas, with the chariot-thing.” Troy normally would have been hesitant to say it, but he was tired and the grease on Jason’s hands made him sad. Jason shrugged, didn’t meet Troy’s eyes. “Don’t have it anymore. Took it apart.” Troy wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he said nothing.
When it arrives, the sex is very hot and totally in keeping with the characters. He stroked Jason’s tongue with his, then ripped Jason’s shirt open. Buttons pinged against the bright blue metal of the car. I had a smile on my face :).
The details and description of Jason’s art work are very sketchy, hinting at his lack of confidence in that side of his life. And I confess I did wonder why they hadn’t made a move on each other before now. Many close friendships come up against that at some stage or other. But these weren’t serious niggles.
It was a pleasure to read, too short for my liking, and I’m looking forward to the follow up. I rate it A.
This was a delightful and beautiful story, though with the warning it doesn’t have a romantic HEA and there are spooky moments :).
Review for Brief En...moreThis was a delightful and beautiful story, though with the warning it doesn’t have a romantic HEA and there are spooky moments :).
Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://briefencountersreviews.com/201... Without divulging the twist at the end, the blurb led me to expect something both poignant and chilling, but the actual ending was still a fascinating and compelling surprise.
The mood is mystical throughout. It’s set in the past, though no year is mentioned. Jamie Tregellis is an orphan, thrown on the charity of the Lamb Inn as a child. He’s never expected to have anything but gratitude. As the parson reminded Jamie every Sunday, what greater charity could a poor orphan, naught but a ward of the parish from his sixth year, hope for but room, board, and a job of his own? He’s grown into manhood as a servant, with, inevitably, less self-esteem than his peers, yet he shows us he’s not without ambition or desires.
Most of the story is from Jamie’s point of view, remembering how he met Will at the Inn, and the other man swept him off his feet. Will was confident and almost careless with his sexuality in a way that Jamie didn’t dare to be. Jamie was brought out of his shell yet we can see it was always Will who called the pace. Then Will leaves to seek his fortune at sea, and although he promises Jamie he’ll come back, Jamie daren’t believe it. He’s never heard from Will since that day. Has Will abandoned him, or is he dead? Jamie’s misery and longing are palpable. Then one night he hears noises in the barn, and the suspense builds :).
What I really liked was that Jamie didn’t come across as a pathetic victim. He’s not badly treated and has friends in the village. He just knows his options are limited because he has no family or support of his own. When the handsome Will comes to stay at the pub and seduces Jamie, Jamie doesn’t believe it can ever be more than a dalliance – but his hope for something better is both strong and admirable.
The author’s style is lyrical and full of sensual vividness. Rough, salt-sloughed lips claimed his, their touch hard and unyielding. Will’s breath, hot and damp, grazed his mouth, and Jamie succumbed readily. The title is a tantalizing hint of Jamie’s temptation.
The wild and wonderful landscape of Cornwall is blended well with its mystical legends. The story includes authentic Cornish dialect but is never incomprehensible (maybe it’s easier than hearing a broad accent LOL), and it has its own romantic beauty. Sleep’st thou, sweetheart? Will says to Jamie.
At the end, Jamie shows his true mettle. He’s the one who faces the chance of his dearest dream come true, who admits his own strengths and weaknesses, who stays true to his integrity. If you can see past the non-traditional romance ending, this is a charming read. I rate it B+.
Dorian is a sympathetic and attractive hero. He’s committed to his job and his soldiers, but his ambitions have changed over the years, especially since he was gifted with Tasim as companion and slave. From the very beginning, he starts to question both his present and future. Fortune and glory be damned. Now he wanted only to go home — to see the last of this gods forsaken land of night eternal and rain that never ceased. The story is truly “Dorian’s”, about his change of heart both for his life with Tasim and against his current situation.
The secondary characters are also well fleshed-out, especially the bluff Haakon, whose humour is as witty as it is rough: “I’ll enjoy knocking you sideways so hard you’ll have to doff your cap to lace your boots.” The king is the kind of autocratic despot that’s often found in a fantasy feudal romance, but he has a distinctive personality, and I found his arrogant behaviour chillingly effective: I gave him to you, true. But it’s all mine when all’s said and done, anyway, so what’s the difference?
Tasim didn’t appeal as much: maybe I’d have been more sympathetic to him if I’d read the first story. In his defence, he’s true to his role as a body slave, and he isn’t expected to have the bold personality of a confident soldier like Dorian. It was at times like these that Tasim’s youth was most evident. He hadn’t yet built the hardened outer shell one inevitably acquired at court, regardless of status or intent. Part of Dorian hoped he never would. However, his passive childishness irritated me a little. I was pleased when he showed a spark of spirit later in the story when he challenged Dorian about what his future would be.
The final escape from the king’s influence was cleverly done. There may have been foreshadowing in the previous story, but I was delighted to see Dorian put his plan into action, including the well executed and amusing twist in roles between Dorian and his protégé Theron.
The author’s style is entertaining and well crafted, balancing the fantasy setting with characters and dialogue the modern reader can identify with. The pace is dramatic but well balanced, and the scene breaks are nicely placed to maintain the suspense. The writing is very sensual, setting the scene from the very beginning of the story when they’ve been searching for their enemies in cold, relentless rain for a week. Some of the analogies are very vivid: By the time they’d finished, what little light was left was fleeing faster than a discovered thief. Occasionally the prose feels a bit purple, especially in the sex scenes, but the characters’ emotion comes across as genuine.
I enjoyed the read a lot and will be looking up the previous story(ies) for more about Dorian. I rate it B+.(less)
I usually dislike reading something where I’m totally unable to pronounce the character’s name :) though rather surprisingly, I soon learned the spelling for this review. And I had a certain bristling at “book one” in the title. In my experience this threatens a story that doesn’t stand sufficiently on its own and has contrived cliffhangers. This story partly fulfilled that expectation, although it also had plenty in it for the promise of an entertaining standalone.
I think that sums up the reading experience for me: there was a hell of a lot going on! The characters and the plot ran the gamut from sexual desire to the pursuit of eternal love, through horror and murder, and ending on grief, retribution and the tease of future reconciliation.
Katrdeshtr is the anti-hero of the title, a sensual and selfish vampire, used to taking whatever he desires and virtually invincible. The opening scene is all about him and his stalking of his next victim.
I found the language in this scene very sensual and powerful. Though sometimes he missed the wondrous experience of sunrise or pale blue afternoons, nights like these: full-mooned and thickly starred, intoxicated him far more than what he remembered of the sun’s rays. The author has a good command of language, with interesting alliteration and vivid description of each setting. However, after a while I found there were too many fanciful analogies and layers of prose that occasionally tended to purple: as he spewed pulse after pulse of demon seed inside the youth’s body.
After the initial scene, the storytelling changed to backstory and the introduction of several other characters. Whilst these all had connection to Katrdeshtr, I felt that this diverted the reader away from the vampire and diluted the impact of that first scene. I became confused at the connections, and lost focus with the info dumping.
The other characters had their own fascination, even the ill-fated Nadil, and especially Nakamiori and his brooding sense of mature and chilling power. Tal is the significant other in the main love story, a man of immortal age and influence like Katrdeshtr, yet very different. Their two characters were well differentiated, Tal defined by his love of the good life, and Katrdeshtr by his jealous determination to be with Tal again.
Plenty of information was offered for all of the characters, yet in the end none of them had enough time to connect with me. I’m sure they’ll be returning – at least some of them :/ – in future stories, but in this book they just confused the point of view.
For me, it remained a series of vignettes rather than a coherent story. It would appeal to a reader who immediately takes to the cast of characters, enjoys the more melodramatic vampire fantasy and the promise of an epic range of stories to come. I rate it B.
It’s difficult to review without giving spoilers, so some of this won’t be clear unless/until you read it. But overall I recommend it for a fun read and an HEA. The blurb gives the right light-hearted, lusty, amused tone for Patrick’s crush and his adventures with phone sex.
The characters are easily liked: Patrick is a nice mix of horny need and virginal nerves. He’s impetuous and mischievous: I believe I heard something in the lecture about how ogling your coworker is considered sexual harassment. Well, hand me my pink slip, sweetheart, ‘cause if Mr. Carter were a woman, he’d now be pregnant.
I was particularly impressed with a couple of the scenes, which raised this story above the potentially clichéd plot of phone sex to romance. One was when Patrick made his clumsy and potentially career-breaking pass. It was a clever little twist, increased my sympathy for Patrick, and was handled well from the point of view of the man who refused him. The second time was when Patrick thought he’d discovered his HR hottie’s secret life, and was angry and appalled that his hero seemed to have been deceiving his nearest and dearest. I admired Patrick’s outraged conscience. He may have had the hots for the man, but that didn’t excuse that double dealing.
The phone sex was great, and Patrick’s enthusiasm for starting up his sexual adventures was wittily written. The position has pulled his button-down shirt taut across his shoulders, and I find myself trying to suppress the urge to grab him by his tie and pull him across the table so I can bite him on his collar bone. The last third of the story seemed to be all sex, which I don’t normally complain about LOL but it didn’t progress or enhance the plot. However, it was apt for the publisher’s overall theme of “A First Time”.
A few things marred my personal enjoyment. The story relies on one Big Coincidence after another: amusing at first, but then over-straining my belief. The twist that allows Patrick to find his dream man was convenient but far-fetched. I also couldn’t believe a phone sex operator would really have such an enthusiastic response to a client from the first call. And the scene at the end didn’t work for me, even though I could appreciate its sexiness. Robert… looks up at me with a devilish grin on his face, which confuses the hell out of me. Unfortunately, I found the overlap of sexual fantasy and reality slightly creepy, though that’s just my personal squick.
The story was well-written, with plausible dialogue and attractive characters. I couldn’t enjoy it completely because disbelief refused to be suspended that far LOL, but the premise was fun and the sex hot. I rate it B.
Review: This is a charming story about life in the wartime RAF (WW2) from an author with obvious personal experience. It works best as an homage to th...moreReview: This is a charming story about life in the wartime RAF (WW2) from an author with obvious personal experience. It works best as an homage to those times, rather than a romance.
The reader is immediately plunged into the world of National Service. The story is full of fascinating detail, evocative events and fond memories. The narrator, Michael, has an enthusiastic and entertaining voice as he describes his early days in the RAF. It’s amusing to hear how some of his fellow conscripts find him “posh” and he starts toning down his accent and adopting swear words to fit in.
Over the course of the story, the author skillfully shows us the strange balance of danger and drudgery in the life. There are moments of shock – notably the story of Bo and Spic – and of crude, black humour. I especially liked how the author described Michael’s gradual maturing: in his job, his personal development and in life with his peers.
Michael is initially very naïve, not even knowing what French kissing is. His attraction to Jim is very touching. It’s not made entirely clear to us whether Michael is coming out as gay, or is just drawn sexually to Jim. A lot of his experience is mixed up in general institutional life with a group of very disparate men. Their humour is witty but often obsessed with sex. I realized I was getting a hard and knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep without a wank unless I got rid of it. I thought of kissing Sergeant Bingham and I drooped immediately. It’s obvious that there are men who have gay sexual experiences, but maybe don’t commit to being gay men. It has to be taken in the context of the period, when it could still be dangerous to admit openly to homosexuality.
The final section was very amusing, but the intimate scene leading up to that jarred me out of the flow. It was oddly unmatched with the rest of the story, almost as if it’d been written by someone else! The author’s easy-flowing style seemed to stutter, and the dialogue between Jim and Michael became stilted. Go further. Yes, that is better. How does it feel to you? It was fun to see how they approached losing their “virgin” status, but either it could have been written more naturally, or could have been referred to off-camera without any problem for me.
I wasn’t sure how to categorise this story properly :). It was unusual and well-written, based on autobiographical knowledge. It has a wonderful sense of national pride and a very unique British humour. Its strength for me was the vivid way the author drew us into that time as fellow characters, rather than as a dry history lesson. The romance was secondary, and came across as an event in the narrator’s life, rather than any enduring relationship. Overall, I enjoyed the story and rate it a B.
Review: A very charming story from the close point of view of a young man growing up and coming to terms with what he is, and what he’s *not*. Review f...moreReview: A very charming story from the close point of view of a young man growing up and coming to terms with what he is, and what he’s *not*. Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://briefencountersreviews.com/201...
The story is all from Kyle’s point of view, flavoured by his self-deprecation and caution. But we can see wit and passion in him, as well. There’s a lot of description in comparison to dialogue, but I wasn’t tempted to skim. Kyle’s background seeps out in his daily commentary on school and being gay. PE and watching normal guys get undressed was bad enough; the thought of actual athletes getting naked, standing around snapping towels at each other, soaping up under hot showers…. His strategy has always been to be “invisible”. I strongly empathised with that fear, and it’s heartbreaking when we realize he’s hiding from attracting abuse, not just naturally shy. The story wasn’t just about being gay, but also about being a teenager, wanting to fit in, coping with an unsupportive family and school.
Kyle knows he’s different, but the author cleverly lets us see how in reality he has far more in common with others than he thinks, including Brad the golden boy. There’s obviously a budding romance, but I’m glad the author wasn’t tempted to push the study session with Brad too fast.
The respective families are barely touched on, but enough to show us the context of both boys’ lives. They could have strayed into stereotype, but the arguments and drink problems are sharply referenced, then focus brought back to the main characters.
Kyle knows the seemingly impossible chasm between him and Brad: A wide dresser supported a parade of gold-colored people all mounted on sports trophies, enough to populate their own country, it seemed, each one another log on the fire of differences between us. But it’s interesting that when they go to Brad’s room and both kick off their jacket and shoes, Kyle feels they’re more on a level. It’s great to see Kyle step into the breech when Brad needs him, mixed with the poignancy of how he knows too much about injuries and getting hit.
The writing was witty – don’t we all know the amusing anguish of pins and needles? LOL – and well paced. Brad was less well-developed, but his measured, calm responses to Kyle were telling in their own way. You’re not ugly, he says thoughtfully, and I smiled at that.
This is the story of Kyle finding his own “place”, but it’s also about contrasts: of sports jocks and academic nerds, of rich and poor, of gay and straight, of popular and “invisible”. The narrative is wordy – and I found the anonymous references to “that movie” a bit arch, even though I think I knew it LOL – but Kyle is so charming and worthy of our cheers, that his voice draws us right in beside him. It could have been a clichéd jock/nerd setting but the characters bring a delightful and personal domesticity to it. I rate it B+.
Review: This was a charming and amusing start to my Christmas celebrations I must say! The author launched me immediately, happily and willingly into...moreReview: This was a charming and amusing start to my Christmas celebrations I must say! The author launched me immediately, happily and willingly into the gaudy pre-Christmas spirit in the hospital, introducing me to the single – and singular – doctor, Tom. Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://briefencountersreviews.com/201...
For me, this was an overall strength of the narrative, the author’s skill at creating a scene with spare but carefully observed description. From the outset – especially when the electrician Vince is half hanging out of the ceiling – I could visualise perfectly what was happening and where. Secondary characters were fun: the receptionist, ‘the redoubtable Mrs Brown’, but they never overshadowed the main characters. The story appealed to me with confidence in the setting and a masterful and apt use of prose.
Tom was pitched well as a confident and intelligent doctor but also a man in need of loving attention, balancing his commitment between professional duty and a need for a more satisfying personal life. Vince appeared decent and mature, considering his rocky school life. Although he’d had tragedy and deep emotional connections in his life, he was agreeably honest in his thoughts and deeds. The introduction of a wedding ring may poke gentle fun at some readers’ assumptions. In fact, a point of note for me overall was the refreshing and welcome inclusion of all kinds of gay men in this story, and from all backgrounds.
It’s not a unique plot, but the telling is refreshing and very witty. I especially loved the excellent similes: like an unwelcome guest who’d just farted at the dinner table; Vince walked back to him, his insides twisting like a bag full of cabling.
The pace was smooth and fast, with many themes sympathetically addressed, albeit briefly – school life, bullying, marriage, commitment, illness, healthcare. There were several amusing references to how they met, involving sparks and all things electric! The cheeky plot twist in the pub was no surprise, but that wasn’t the point – the author’s forthright telling drew me in as a fellow, caring conspirator, rather than trying to spring something on me, and I always appreciate that approach.
Tom and Vince had both been hesitant in meeting again, and admitting the renewed attraction they had for each other, therefore the steps from caution to full-on sexual chemistry felt rushed for me. I’d have enjoyed more time with them to see the relationship develop to that stage. Also, toward the end, the story felt ready to finish for me, only to have another scene tagged on. But none of this detracted from my enjoyment, and the final brief epilogue was both poignant and clever, in an unselfconscious way. It left me smiling and hoping for the very best for our heroes.
Good prose, great wit and two very charming, sexy Christmas heroes: to say nothing of a lively, glitzy pub show. I’m left a very happy reader, and give it a grade A.
Review: This was a rewarding read with a refreshingly mature approach towards a reunion romance plot. Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://brief...moreReview: This was a rewarding read with a refreshingly mature approach towards a reunion romance plot. Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://briefencountersreviews.com/201...
Evan is the narrator, a sympathetic and attractive character. In the opening scene, he appears overwhelmed by Dixon’s larger-than-life presence, but from then on his sense and caution hold the story together. It’s a fine use of first person, allowing a balance of personal emotion, wit and angst. Dixon’s arrogance was startling, and at first his posturing was irritating. However, the man’s vulnerability was gradually and skillfully uncovered, including the fact that Evan was just as much a match for him. Their banter and ingrained tolerance of each other was both amusing and poignant.
The “big misunderstanding” made me wince – It was funny… and sad… very sad – but the author didn’t dwell on melodrama. They both took responsibility, they were both adult about it, and this made me totally comfortable and eager to read on and see how they dealt with it.
I personally loved that most of the story was based on their dialogue. It made confrontation more vivid and immediate, as they faced up to what kind of men they’d been, and how they reacted to each other now. The author’s style is a good example of showing not telling. Even with the dialogue, it pleasantly teased me with what *wasn’t* being said – yet was obvious to the reader.
Some readers may find it contained, more like a stage play. There’s little about the shooting or Evan’s job, or other people in his life. But this has the advantage of maintaining tension between the two men. The author finds enough time in the story to create several scenes so that they’re allowed a reasonable passage of time to work through their reunion in a very plausible way.
I found some of the construction a little stilted – for example, a lot of “he was not” as opposed to a more relaxed “he wasn’t” – but it didn’t spoil the enjoyment. Dialogue tags were used sparingly, yet I could still hear clearly each individual voice.
Overall, I found the story as much about the men and their lives as sex and romance – about the balance of control and need and love, dramatically described in their confessions, apologies and admissions. The sex scenes were hot, totally in context, and a delightful demonstration of each man’s strengths and needs. What I particularly liked was that they’d been together for some years before the split: this was described effectively without any excess info-dump. They’d both had other relationships since, but there was a strong history between them already. The author used this well, her storytelling persuading me that Evan and Dixon could and would reconnect with each other, despite their differences and confusion, and not just use sex as the way back to an HEA.
An enjoyable and sophisticated head-to-head story between two men needing to find a new way forward, well written and with sexy, entertaining and plausible characters, I give this an A.
Review: This was a charming, very enjoyable story about Todd who gets the chance not only to meet, but to experience a lot more with his fantasy man. R...moreReview: This was a charming, very enjoyable story about Todd who gets the chance not only to meet, but to experience a lot more with his fantasy man. Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://briefencountersreviews.com/201...
At first, I found the author’s style rather simplistic, and I was concerned it didn’t give enough emphasis to the emotions of the characters. Todd’s excitement at his new job opportunity and the anticipation of seeing his screen hero seemed to be muted by a very linear storytelling style. He got my votes every week. Now I’d see him dance in person. I was practically bouncing around the kitchen in excitement. However, this was deceptive, as gradually I discovered the storytelling worked very well, its flow drawing me into the story with a skilful ‘sharing’ of the characters’ lives. Some of the grammatical tenses slipped out of kilter occasionally, but this wasn’t a major problem to me.
The dance competition setting was clear and well described, without too much information dumping. It was interesting to learn about the world of media from behind the scenes. I haven’t watched the programme that the story’s obviously based on, but know enough to understand it. Meeting your fantasy TV star is a common theme and maybe a little unrealistic, but I’m sure many of us relate to it! I consider the story will still be enjoyable, even if you haven’t seen the programme, or when it’s no longer on TV.
Todd seemed a straightforward guy to start with, but gradually I fell for his self-deprecating charm and wry wit. Look at me: six foot two, big. I lumber more than anything else. It was a delight to follow his romantic progress. Nate could have been a two-dimensional character in response, but there was enough of him in his dialogue and through Todd’s eyes to see both the public and the private side of a talented rising star, driven by ambition but still endearing.
They made a delightful, sympathetic couple and the sex scenes were both hot and illustrative of their developing relationship. I liked the way the author gave them time to become friends before having sex, allowing for Todd’s very realistic tentativeness. The use of dance in their seduction was charming. The story was well balanced for its length, offering a full story yet engaging the reader enough to want to know more.
The one thing that jarred was the ending which seemed very abrupt to me. It’s a short story so there’s no time to waste, and the author by then had sensibly and skillfully made me care more about the characters than the competition. But the built-up tension was very swiftly wrapped up in a couple of sentences, and appeared uneven. However this is a very slight complaint and in no way detracted from my reading pleasure.
This slice of life was well written with captivating and plausible characters, an intriguing peek into media world, and an enjoyable romance. I rate this story a B+.
Review: A short story concentrating on a sexual encounter, a sexy read but I found my sympathy for the main characters rather limited. Review for Brief...moreReview: A short story concentrating on a sexual encounter, a sexy read but I found my sympathy for the main characters rather limited. Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://briefencountersreviews.com/201...
Patrick is a man living a double life – his cozy, conservative public persona and his more closeted personal life. From the start, I found his handling of this unsympathetic, although the author was able to convince me to some extent that he was a victim of his circumstances. But his life as a famous, much-loved author didn’t seem to bring him much joy. In fact, he showed a marked disrespect and even distaste for his older, female fanbase.
His private addiction to gay webcam sites was more vivid. The author didn’t pull any punches, describing a rather lonely but pragmatic man, who knew what he liked and wasn’t ashamed to go online to find it. Masturbation was a just another chore, like brushing his teeth. And I enjoyed the way his fascination grew for G – albeit for a man he only saw masturbating in return on screen.
The scenes where Patrick was looking forward to Christmas were poignant and rather awkward. I’d have expected a man of his public exposure to have gathered some friends around him at Christmas. The shock meeting with G/James was well written and amusing, from Patrick’s point of view. However I never felt I understood James’. The reader has no idea what he’s really like when he’s online – although Patrick says that he and G have built a friendship beyond the mutual sex – and when he turned up to surprise Patrick, I never really understood why, unless it was to experience some real-life sex after all! I couldn’t help feeling uneasy, that a virtual stranger had turned up at a famous man’s hotel room, apparently ready to move in for the season. It could all have gone rather horribly wrong. Or is that just my over-caution? The sex was well written, though not striking, and I personally found more spark and interest in the online relationship.
At the end, Patrick is considering expanding his books to include gay characters, even if it’s not clear whether he’s going to do anything about announcing his own gay sexuality. It was an interesting premise, to use his fame and influence as an author, and I’d have enjoyed reading more about that. However, it hadn’t been mentioned before his night with James, and for me, it was tacked on too late in the story to take a good hold.
The story touched on an interesting premise or two, and I enjoyed the writing style. Overall, the mix of erotica, a contrived meeting, and – rather briefly, and too near the end – the theme of gay discrimination in the media, felt uneven to me and unfulfilled by the word count. I wouldn’t rate it a romance as there’s no definite idea as to whether the men will continue the relationship beyond this scene. I rate it a B.
Review: This fantasy story is set in the early 1920s and describes a scene between the charmingly fey but fae London (excuse the pun!) and Jonathan Da...moreReview: This fantasy story is set in the early 1920s and describes a scene between the charmingly fey but fae London (excuse the pun!) and Jonathan Daily, his human lover. Review for Brief Encounters Reviews: http://briefencountersreviews.com/201...
The two men are already together, which does challenge the reader to start without any scene-setting or backstory. I have read the previous story, London Heat, where they met, so I was familiar with the characters. However, I think the story still stands well on its own.
I found the author’s style enchanting and lyrical, amusing and easy to read. There’s an obvious love of good prose and a lot of understated, subtle wit. All senses are engaged with good descriptions of taste, smell and touch, especially vivid in the winter setting. However, the story is woven strongly around the dialogue, which was for me the main reason for its charm.
The historical setting is a backdrop rather than a main player, the language is period but not inaccessible. The writing is a fine example of showing not telling, the romance vivid to the reader, even while the characters move in discreet society settings. Despite that, the author doesn’t skip over intimate scenes, and Jonathan and London are both sexy and sweet together.
London is the undoubted star for me, with his steady and unquestionable devotion to Jonathan, the way the English people both fascinate and bemuse him, his curiosity and loyalty to his new life and friends. He’s childlike, and yet fierce and assertive when needed. Jonathan is a delightful foil, constantly astonished that London has fallen for him. His love gives him the confidence he needs to enjoy life to the full. Love filled him, glowed warm, made him feel that he must be as happy as London looked sometimes.
The events are often magical, yet seen through a selection of viewpoints that include happy acquiescence from Jonathan and a welcome, wry pragmatism from his friend Dice, here talking to Dr. Black: “You’re a doctor,” Dice said and stared at the pale, flaccid bird that was their turkey. “You take babies out, you can put stuffing in.”
I started smiling at the beginning of the story and didn’t stop. It’s a fantasy story, so the men – London in particular, of course – and some of the events are not entirely plausible. However, I found it easy and enjoyable to suspend any disbelief and go with the flow, though some readers may look for something more grounded.
I apologise for not having publisher detail – my copy was originally published by Freya’s Bower. This book is now on Kindle, combined with another short about two of the other characters, and I assume is now published by the author. The story is also on her website for sharing there. I’ve returned to it several times since first reading, and give it a rating of A.