Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Do you like your bartenders hot, sexy, and maybe even artificial? Torquere Press presents an anthology where all the stories revolve around the bars, drinks and the men who serve them. Authors BA Tortuga, Julia Talbot, Sean Michael and Kiernan Kelly deliver four sexy and ultimately loving romps through the bars and bartenders of our dreams.
Here in the order they are found in the anthology are the stories of Bar None:
Bartender Rescue by BA Tortuga
Kind of a D.R.A.G. by Kiernan Kelly
The Blue Moon Bar By Julia Talbot
Flair, a Hammer Story By Sean Michael
I really looked forward to reading this anthology and it came through as anticipated. I have a mini-review posted after each title.
1. “Bartender Rescue”by BA Tortuga – 4.75 stars out of 5
Shane and Galen from the Stormy Weather series return in this short story of burnout and escape. As the story starts long term lovers Shane and Galen have almost switched place as far as occupations go. Now it is Shane who is the Owner and CEO of a number of successful bars, heading out each morning in a 3-piece suit, micro managing his bars and neglecting his lover, Galen. The stress is mounting and Shane is turning to pharmaceuticals to stay awake and energized, none of which makes Galen happy. Shane knows things aren’t working but doesn’t know how to step off and out of the business treadmill.
When the answer pops up in the form of an old would be boyfriend of Shane’s, Galen is more than ready to take advantage of the situation. Now if only he can get Shane to agree.
I love this couple having been with them through all sorts of angst and misadventures, including hurricanes and miscommunications. Now we get to see a different dynamic with this couple, with beach bum Shane being the uber responsible business owner and Galen ending up the laid back part of their relationship. Tortuga writes this couple so realistically you can practically watch them walk off the page. They are settled in their relationship, with bone deep knowledge of each other and their needs telegraphing with each bit of dialog and loving touch. And it is painful to watch when each person realizes that the relationship and each other is being neglected. Wonderful writing, great characters and a realistic situation make this story of the best.
I loved every part of this story and the only thing that kept it from a 5 star rating is a lack of backstory for those readers new to Shane and Galen. Even without going into enormous detail,, even a little past history would have been enlightening for those new to this couple.
2. “Kind of a D.R.A.G.” by Kiernan Kelly. Rating 4 stars out of 5
Kiernan Kelly takes bartenders intergalactic with this story of a bar with a captive audience as it is located on a prisoner planet somewhere in space. Inhabited by prisoners, a few free humans and tons of androids who handle almost every job possible, Kelly’s story contains a lot of humor, a few nice twists, and a far reaching ( yep, went there) ending.
Max, bartender and really only of human in residence at Club Grinder, a dive and strip club on Sirius 7. It is in fact the only bar on Sirius 7, “a penitentiary rock located among a fistful of tiny, uninhabited planetoids at the ass end of the galaxy”. Other than The Boss who is the owner of the club, Max is the only human around, the rest of the employees, strippers, Drag Queens Betty Boob and Ivana Hump, every one is an android. In a funny, Lucille Ball twist, Kelly starts off her story with the two Drag Queens breaking an android stripper in the most awkward and humorous way possible. Soon the Drag Queens are using The Bosses D.R.A.G machine to create a new one. Of course, everything starts to go wrong immediately and the plot takes flight.
I enjoyed this story and found parts of it hilarious. While the plot was predictable, the characters and the charm and endearing personalities make this story outshine its plot structure. Funny, charming, just a lovely way to spend some time. I could really see this group coming back for an encore.
3. “The Blue Moon Bar” By Julia Talbot. Rating 3.5 stars out of 5
Werewolf Hugh Dailin is crazy about his bear shifter bartender Seamus Deane but his wolf pack and family disapprove of homosexuality, wanting him to find a female mate and have a bunch of pups. But Hugh is sure that his mate is the burly guy with all that great hair and muscles that just happens to work for him. The tension is getting to them both, with each snarling at the others in frustration and rage. Something has to give and it does when a lion comes into the bar and demands the return of his cub, a cub that’s gone missing. Then one of their own goes missing too and both must scramble to find the person responsible before more vanish.
I liked this story, especially since shifters, any type of shifter from sloth to owl, are favorites of mine. But this story needed a little bit more of plot, characterization, background, and exposition. We never really find out who, what and why is behind the mystery. And everything is resolved almost in seconds. It just feels lacking which is a shame as the bones of this story are wonderful. Still, I enjoyed Hugh and Seamus and wished I had more of their relationship.
4. “Flair, a Hammer Story” By Sean Michael. 5 stars out of 5
Author and consultant to bars on drinks, specialty recipes and Flair, Nathan Edwards is wary when he approaches the location of his next client, a man named Xavier who owns an establishment called The Hammer. The exterior is nondescript but what Nathan finds inside is anything but ordinary.
Nathan is intelligent, handsome and OCD which makes for an intriguing combination to Master Jarrod, a Dom who just walked into The Hammer for lunch and a place to check emails. Nathan is there to train the club’s bartenders in Flair and to give them new recipes to try out for their clientele. He has no idea as to the type of place The Hammer is or the people who are members.
Artist Jarrod stopped by the Hammer on impulse for lunch and to check on his emails from clients. But he stays to watch Nathan train the staff, pulled in by the young man’s magnetism, looks, and intelligence. An invitation to lunch goes well until the Dom in Jerrod comes out to play to Nathan’s consternation. When Jarrod pursues the relationship, can Nathan accept Jarrod’s lifestyle or will Jarrod’s feelings for Nathan force Jerrod to leave the lifestyle behind?
This is my favorite story of the collection. It’s just masterful (yes, went there as well)! Sean Michael gives us two completely authentic, layered characters and then creates a believable and charming slow buildup to a wonderful romance that all readers will love and root for.
Nathan is an especially unusual character. He has OCD but uses it to his advantage in his business. He makes no apologies, sure of himself and easy in his skin. And while he is startled as to the true nature of the club he is consulting for, it doesn’t bother him even though he is uneducated about the lifestyle. Then he meets Jarrod, strong, handsome and artistic and Nathan is charmed. But a stray comment and too strong attitude naturally finds Nathan pulling away.
I really liked that Michael introduced us to a character unfamiliar with bdsm and D/s relationships. By doing so, the author can educate Nathan and the reader at the same time about the lifestyle and the most common misconceptions. And Sean Michael does so in a manner that doesn’t feel forced or academic.
This is also the beginning of a relationship so we aren’t sure exactly what compromises each man is going to make for the other. Our only certainty being that these men do belong together. Books containing elements of bdsm are a minority in the type of books I normally review but Flair, a Hammer story is so well done, from the marvelous characters to the realistic and intelligent relationship between Nathan and Jerrod that it makes me want to read the rest of the stories in the Hammer series to see if they match the promise and the happiness I felt after reading this tale of love found amongst the cocktail glasses, shakers and bottles of a bar and its bartender. Great job and a wonderful way in which to end this collection.
If you are unfamiliar with any of these authors, Bar None is a great way to familiarize yourself with their style of writing and the characters they like to play with. I enjoyed them all and think you will too. Consider this definitely recommended.