Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Remember those long summer, sultry days when the heat beat down, the songs played endlessly into the night and romance was in the air? Summer Lovin’ anthology brings you five stories of summer love by some of the best authors around. Chrissy Munder, Clare London, JL Merrow, Lou Harper and Josephine Myles put their spin on summer romance from light hearted love to an angst filled romance with the potential for more.
Grab a tall glass, filled with something wonderful and decadent (umbrella optional) and sit back and enjoy five tales of summer lovin’.
Stories in the Anthology are:
“Summer Hire” by Chrissy Munder
“Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow
“Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London
“Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper
“By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles
Usually when I read an anthology, I normally find a story or two that could be skipped over or at least is not up to the quality of the others included. Not here. Each one of these stories will resonate with a reader, whether it is the more lighthearted fare of Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder to the somewhat darker Salt n Vinegar by Clare London They are all quite wonderful and each in of its own makes Summer Lovin’ a must have anthology. I have a mini review of each story waiting below.
1. Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder: 4.5 stars out of 5
When Jim Carlson accepted a summer job along with his best friend at a repair/summer rental business, he had no idea his was stepping into one of his favorite porn dreams. Too bad that gorgeous tattooed hunk in the overalls was also his new boss. And to make matters worse, Aaron is also gay. Worse because Aaron is remaining decidedly professional even when being friendly. Jim thinks Aaron’s attitude towards him is because he is unremarkable and kind of dorky. He is after all a just graduated IT major with no hopes for a job.
Aaron Torres has worked hard to overcome his family and poor start in life. Now a successful businessman with his own business, Aaron avoids any romantic entanglements with employees, especially seasonal ones that will be gone in the fall with the tourists. Still, there is something so engaging about Jim Carlson. Jim is clumsy, hardworking, and totally adorable.
As the end of summer draws near, the two men find it impossible to say goodbye. Can a summer love last a lifetime?
Chrissy Munder takes all those lovely summer memories at the lake or beach and incorporates them into her short story of summer love. The characters are engaging, the story well done and the relationship between Jim and Aaron realistic yet lighthearted. No angst just a lovely relationship between two men you will adore. Great way to set the tone for the collection. Loved it!
2. Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow. Rating 4.75 stars out of 5
Single dad Chris and his 12 year old daughter, Kelis, are vacationing on the holy island of Lindisfarne when they run into a group of Viking re-enactors, village and all. Ulf the berserker, also known as Ian, strikes up a conversation with Chris. One conversation turns into a tour of the historic spots on the island. When his daughter’s lost necklace makes them miss the ferry home, Ian invites them to stay with him and the other re-enactors for the night.
Chris and Ian are more than attracted to each other but Chris has Kelis and no one wants a single dad as a boyfriend do they?
Merrow offers up a tale that is both travelogue and love story and it works on both levels. I loved all the details about the Viking villagers from making berries as ink to the historic places they visited on tour. It’s a loving portrait of the island overlayed with a realistic persona of a single dad making up for lost time. Chris is a wonder of a character and his backstory (and Kelis’) gave depth to the summer love story. This is no case of instant love but just the beginnings of a wonderful relationship. JL Merrow is one of my favorite authors. Her attention to detail and loving descriptions of the settings in her stories make her a must read. That includes Lost and Found on Lindisfarne. This is how it starts:
“It was a hot summer’s day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The lanes were dusty underfoot, the languid breeze was heavy with the scent of the North Sea, and a Viking had just offered to buy my daughter.”
3. “Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London. Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Joe and his twin sister, Mandy, were enrolled at Brighton University, so it only made sense that Joe, a Psychology major and Mandy, Food and Hospitality major, live and work together at the fish and chip shop opposite the entrance to the pier. “Chip ‘N Fin”. The work paid enough for their lease and a little more and the location near the beach make it perfect for Joe to pick up the gorgeous young gay boys for casual fun and sex, especially during the summer months when Brighton was full of tourists.
But all that changed when a shy young man named Steven makes the chip shop his regular stop in the afternoons. When it becomes apparent that he waits for Joe when ordering, Mandy urges her brother to ask him out. The resulting relationship quickly turns serious to Joe’s surprise as Steven is fun, intelligent and they are absolutely compatible in every way. But Steven is hiding a dark secret that will threaten their new found love and so much more.
Salt ‘n’ Vinegar is the darkest of the 5 offerings in the Summer Lovin’ anthology. I liked that it brought a soberness and diversity to this collection that made me not only appreciate its attributes but in comparison, those of the other authors as well. I liked everything about this story from the setting in Brighton to the characters that felt very authentic from the sibling relationship to the superficiality of Joe’s initial outlook on romance. My only quibble here is with the ending. I am not sure how to say this without giving too much away but one character (secondary but important) doesn’t ring true to what I know about those type of individuals. They do not react by walking away instead the opposite unfortunately holds true. But that would have called for a much longer story and would not be in keeping with the tone of most of this collection. Still that imperfection bothered me for quite some time, especially given the seriousness of the situation. And while I liked the story, that aspect made this my least favorite story of the anthology. You tell me what you think.
4. “Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper. Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Bryan Williams is house-sitting for the Spencers. He plans to spend the time deep in study for his architecture degree and maybe some time at the beach. But Bryan knows that he is a nerd, and that the beach just spells trouble. Little did Bryan know that the trouble was waiting for him next door in a house full of interesting and quirky individuals, starting with the naked man that just ran past his window, up the front stairs into the house next door.
How can you not love a story that starts with “the naked man came out of nowhere”? I love, love this story. Bryan is a wonderful, decent young man. The next door people who could have been flat stereotypes instead are fully fleshed out human beings and the romance that springs up between the naked guy and Bryan is full of road bumps and self doubt. Harper then adds in a bit about a possible werewolf and cracked me up too. If this wasn’t my favorite, it came close. I am still smiling as I think about it.
This is how it starts, so irresistible.
The naked man came out of nowhere. One minute I was eating my Wheaties and enjoying the early morning peace and quiet, the next there he was, walking through the neighbor’s front yard. The Spencers’ porch—where I was having my breakfast—sat at least a foot above ground level, providing me with an excellent view over the low stone wall separating the two properties.
5. By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles. Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Tommy Freestone left his hometown 3 years ago to attend the university but the real reason he fled was because of Rob Carver, his best friend. Now Tommy has returned. He learned much about himself in his time away, including the fact that he should have never left Rob and the town behind. Tommy hopes that now that he has accepted his sexuality, he can approach Rob, ask for forgiveness and a new relationship.
Rob Carver has never stopped loving and missing his best friend Tommy. While Tommy left, Rob continued to work his family’s farm, staying deep within the closet. His one and only attempt at a romance cost him Tommy so when Tommy returns Rob is determined not to let that happen again. Just friends, right? Tommy has other ideas. Can Tommy woo Rob back or will their past cost them the relationship both want?
This story is in a tie with Werewolves as my favorite stories of the anthology. Myles pulls me in with her descriptions of sleepy rural Somerset and the two boys who grew up there. You can feel the heat beating down on the farmland, and the quiet, cool water that awaits Tommy and Rob in their secret lake in the quarry. It’s engaging, its magical and it feels like the best of every summer you dreamed about. You, your best friend/secret lover, a hideaway known only to the two of you and a cave. Those are elements that will speak to every reader, it’s the best of summer hopes and dreams. I loved it all.
One kiss sent Tommy running away but once he realized and accepted that he was gay, it also sent him running back. It’s the classic love story. Boy loves Boy, Boy loses Boy, Boy gets Boy back. That never gets old and Myles did a great job with her take on that classic theme. Again no instant love but an old one reignited, totally believable and satisfying. Especially the scene with Rob’s Dad, how I loved that scene, just perfection. It pulls you in right from the opening line:
The river wasn’t the same as when he’d left it.
I can’t remember when was the last time I enjoyed an anthology as much as I did this time. It wasn’t just that it happened to fall as August was waning, or that pictures from a cousin brought back memories of times at the beach. It was the hopes and dreams these stories evoked inside me, the smells and sounds of summer overlaid with memories of fleeting romances that somehow you always wished would linger long after the vacation was over but never did. I highly recommend this collection and loved them all, although not equally. You will have your own favorites. Let me know which ones they were. Pick it up and return to your own summer recollections and dreams.
Cover art by Lou Harper works for the collection. It feels like romance and summer.
Pink Squirrel Press