Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Cupid is visiting Bluewater Bay, and he’s leaving chaos in his wake.
It’s been my experience that anthologies generally have stories which are great, not so great, and middle of the road. In this one, that’s not true—they are almost all terrific. To help me come up with an overall rating, I’ve rated each individual story and decided to leave that rating so that readers can see which ones I thought were the best.
The stories are:
Just Another Day by L.A. Witt
Levi Pritchard hates Valentine’s Day. In fact, he absolutely abhors it, so when he comes home to find that his lover Carter Samuels (“Starstruck”) has bought him a rare DVD for his collection and is making Pasta Carbonara, his favorite meal, he knows he’s going to have to say something ,and that it will likely hurt Carter’s feelings. He does, and it does, and after a brief period of time out for both of them and a call by Levi to his friend Anna, he does the unexpected and sits down with Carter to explain why he hates the holiday then takes Carter upstairs for a very special Valentine surprise. Saying more here would spoil the surprise but readers will definitely love it as much as Carter does! 4.5 stars
Nascha by Amy Lane
It never ceases to amaze me that Amy Lane can create an entire story spanning over fifty years, sketch full characters with both a history and a future, stir in a little (or in this case a lot) of angst, and spit out a story that is full, rich, memorable, and creates a lump in my throat and a pain in my heart. If I had to assign one word to this story it would be depressing. Another would be complex. It’s a story about Nascha, an American Indian and gambler, who falls in love with his two best friends, Kitten and Rawlins, from the time they are teens. Though those two legally marry, in their hearts they are a part of him, and it’s Nascha who struggles to feel that he’s bound with them forever, especially when life circumstances stink and he ends up trying to raise his niece, then ultimately his grandnephews, one of who has Asberger’s.
I struggled to get into the story at first, especially since there are some M/F sex scenes at the beginning when the story is being established. Later when the reader is engaged in the plot, all of the scenes make sense but it is a very complex story for so few pages. But it works, and it’s one of the best of the anthology. 4.5 stars
No Easy Way by S.E. Jakes
Cary Teijan, a teacher who holds the interesting job of tutoring both the delinquents who keep getting suspended and the child actors from the Wolf’s Landing TV show being filmed in Bluewater Bay is shocked when he runs into Dylan James on the set. Dylan is the man he was so deeply in love with in high school who has recently returned after six years in the service, and he’s also the subject of the M/M romances Cary writes under a pen name, romances which are highly successful.
Dylan is back and he wants Cary with all the passion he felt years before, but Cary resists with that same degree of passion because Dylan walked away from him without a word, and Cary is finding it hard to forgive and forget. This story is lengthier than most others in the anthology and is both intriguing and exciting. The fun in watching Dylan go after Cary and watching Cary continually give in then run away makes for a great short story and fits perfectly with the Bluewater Bay stories previously released. 5 stars
Helping Hand by Anne Tenino
Lucas Wilder is the son and brother of lumberjacks who have lived and worked in the Bluewater Bay area for generations, but he’s not willing to follow the family footsteps into the logging business. He barely knows how to hold a saw! He’s just been accepted into a prestigious art school, and he’s terrified to tell his homophobic father that there’s now one more reason for his father to hate him. In fact, he gets so flustered that he spills the beans about being gay shortly after he announces his plans to attend college to study art. Thankfully, his best friend Audrey is there to help him through this fiasco as she’s been there for him throughout high school. Both are looking forward to leaving the town behind them forever when they go to college.
Gabriel Savage, lumberjack and best friend of Lucas’s brother Zach, spots Lucas walking home a few nights later and stops to give him a lift. He gives him more than that too—his first sexual experience as a gay man. To be honest, I’m not sure I get the point of this story. I’ve re-read the entire section of their hookup several times and I still don’t quite understand the point the author was trying to make so for me, this story wasn’t on the same level as the others. In fact, whether it was just supposed to be a quick hookup or whether Gabe truly wanted a lasting relationship with Lu, really doesn’t matter. Either way, the story lacked the spark and interest the others held and that’s very disappointing since I generally love Anne Tenino’s work. 3 stars
I’ll Be There by Z. A. Maxfield
This was a great story to cap the anthology as Nash Holly fights desperately to make his way to the Chicago area to be with Spencer Kepler (“Hell on Wheels”) on Valentine’s Day during the worst snow storm to hit the Midwest in years. It isn’t even so much that it’s Valentine’s Day as the fact that Spencer is so socially inept that he fears meeting the guest of honor at the fan convention he’s volunteered to attend—a woman who is dying of cancer. In a brief Skype session with Nash, Spencer reveals more about his feelings related to his own mother’s death from cancer than he even realized himself. Readers get to witness how Spencer acknowledges the past and, learning from it, deals with the present and waits hopefully to see if Nash can make it. And we get to witness Nash as he delves into his true feelings for Spencer and his gratitude for having Spencer in his life. Their love is greater than the sum of both parts and this story is perfect for their first Valentine’s Day together. 5 stars
If you’ve been reading the Bluewater Bay stories, you know they can each be read as a standalone, as can this anthology. However, readers of the stories will recognize the characters in the first and last stories of this anthology and that will only add to the enjoyment of the book. I recommend this one to all lovers of M/M romance and especially to those who enjoy the added spice of the Valentine’s Day holiday and all of the ways love can be expressed.
Cover art by L.C. Chase depicts a movie set clipboard with a faded out red background of two of the MCs looking at each other with stars in their eyes. Perfect for the stories inside.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing All Romance (ARe) Amazon Buy It Here
ebook, 226 pages
Published February 9th 2015 by Riptide (first published February 7th 2015)
seriesBluewater Bay #6
Bluewater Bay series, one location, different authors (and all highly recommended by Barb and Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words: