Review: Horsing Around Anthology by Vincent Diamond, Jane Davitt, Missouri Dalton, Kiernan Kelly, Sean Michael, Aaron Michaels, B A Tortuga

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Horsing Around coverDo you have a love of horses?  Do cowboys make your heart beat faster?  From the fields of England to the dusty rodeo arena, here are six stories about that special bond  that can exist between man and horse.  Horsing Around contains stories by six wonderful authors, truly something for everyone.

Stories included:
Clear Round by Jane Davitt
A Secret in Indigo by Missouri Dalton
Ride Like a Stallion by Kiernan Kelly
For Love and Money by Sean Michael
Old Scars by Aaron Michaels
Loading Up by BA Tortuga

Horses have a special place in my heart so I adored this anthology.  But even if your knowledge or fondness of horses is slight, there is such a variety of stories included within that I  am sure you will find a tale to  love and connect with among them.  Here are my mini reviews of the stories  in the order they are found in the anthology:

1. “Ride Like a Stallion” by Kiernan Kelly  Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

This is a tale told from two very different perspectives.  One is Thomas Bone, a young man injured when he was a child on his father’s ranch.  The resulting injury permanently disabled him, leaving him with the nickname T-Bone and as the object of pity and derision by those around him.  The other?  That would be Gander, the “ugly” mixed breed colt, T-Bone pleaded with his father to save when the mare carrying him was having trouble with the delivery.  And despite everyone’s predictions and expectations, the two grow up together, becoming more than anyone could have imagined but not without some harsh

This story is  unusual as it includes the “voice” of Gander and his perspective on their story as it unfolds. This author’s use of Gander as a co narrator works surprisingly well, offering the pathos of his plight during the events that occur along with the love for “his boy”.  Also especially noteworthy is the spare, utilitarian rancher father.  He is such a strong character that his presence dominates each small scene he appears in, a man who will continue to surprise you throughout the story.  I have three favorites in this anthology and this is one of them.

2. “Loadin’ Up” by BA Tortuga.  Rating 3.75 stars

Kaycee Johns,  owner/trainer of rodeo bucking broncs, is loading his horses up to travel to the next venue when his nephew’s inexperience has one rearing, unwilling to enter the trailer.  Only the intervention of Julian Martinez, one of the new rodeo safety men, saves the horse and gets her settled and loaded without injury.  Their attraction to each other is immediately and lusty, leading to a white hot night of sex and just perhaps something more.

The paragraph above lays out the entire story.  They meet, have  sex, and decide to travel on together.   Succinct and sexy.  What elevates the story is the BA Tortuga signature voice and descriptions.  Here is our first impression of Julian.

“One of the safety men — a new kid, all braids and hawk nose and beaded chaps — looked up from where he’d been cooling down his buckskin and the rope flashed out, easy as you please. The kid caught June right around the neck, and she settled at the weight of an experienced hand. She wasn’t mean; she’d just get away with anything if you let her.”

From just a few words, we can see Julian so very clearly that almost nothing more is needed.  Combine that with her “colloquialisms”, and the regional portrait is clear and defined.

3. “Old Scars” by Aaron Michaels  Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Owen  Parker is working with one of his horses on his stable outside of Reno when Jerry appears to ask for a job.  Last time Owen saw Jerry was at the Nevada State Prison where Jerry was incarcerated.  Owen was filling in for a friend with the Nevada’s saddle horse training program for prisoners and Jerry was an inmate assigned to the program.  Now five years later, Jerry has survived his time and is looking for employment.

Owen’s specialty is mustangs, a wild, unpredictable horse not easy to train and  Owen just happens to have a horse that everyone else has failed with.  Ace is one scarred old mustang with one chance left to make it, but something about this animal reminds Owen of Jerry. Jerry had a special touch with the horses in the prison training system and before he can understand why, Owen is giving Jerry a job and Ace to train.  And there is the attraction Owen has always felt towards Jerry to consider.

Jerry realizes that this job with Owen and Ace might be his last chance to make it outside prison.  His love for horses and his feelings toward Owen being the things that kept him sane while incarcerated.  Can he save Ace, and in doing so save himself as well?

An exceedingly well written story, Michaels’ characters come to life amidst the dust and heat of a Nevada stable corral and the mustangs brought there for training and a new life.  The author’s sure touch with characterization carries over to the horses portrayed here as well.  Ace with his scarred hide and suspicious outlook, his “scars weren’t from whips or spurs, but from battles out in the wild”.  The affection the men feel for these wild horses is clear and telling, along with an appreciation for the mustang’s nature and natural history.  The men too come across as lean, whip cord tough, and wary as the horses themselves. Another one of my favorites here.

4.”Clear Round”  by Jane Davitt. 5 stars out of 5,

There is cause for an uproar in the village when the manor and field that is normally used by the region for their annual horse is sold to an “outsider”, a builder not favored for his plan for a new factory inside the village boundaries.  Appointed town messenger and beggar if need be, Danny Felden, owner of Merrydown Stables, visits the new owner, Seth Trent, to obtain use  of the field for yet another year,if for no other reason then he runs the event and his niece is entered in her division.  Unfortunately, Seth is uninterested and afraid of horses.  Undeterred, Danny manipulates Seth into a bargain for free lessons with Danny for the use of the field.   Sparks fly between the prickly Danny and the arrogant Seth, leading to romance and love.  But a disaster on the field leads to a explosive argument and separation.  It will take a clear round to bring the men back together and for love to prevail.

I adored these characters.  The dialog throws as many sparks as does the developing romance, with prickly and defensive Danny clashing with the smoothly arrogant Seth to everyone’s amusement and interest.  A clear round during a horse show is one free of errors, no missed jumps or knocked down poles, horse and rider working in unison for a  perfect round.  Its hard to do and a wonderful analogy for a romance.  I loved this story and think you will as well.

5. “The Secret in Indigo” By Missouri Dalton. Rating 4 stars out of 5

Traumatized by the loss of his lover in a fire, rider and horse trainer Beau is still in mourning for Patrick five years later.  Now working for a traveling circus, Beau helps to train and manage the horses for a sibling horse act.  Liam, the brother trick rider is interested in Beau, but Beau has no intention of opening himself up for more hurt and another love.  Then the past arrives to inform Beau that his boyfriend’s death was no accident.  With murder in the air and revenge on the mind, can Liam save Beau from his past and leave him open for a future with Liam?

This story starts off dramatically with a barn ablaze, screaming horses inside waiting to be rescued.  Missouri Dalton dumps us into the conflagration and the pain of the moment.  Its intense and scary and the rest of the story never lives up to the emotional  introduction and the events of the moment.  It picks up five years later with an emotionally withdrawn Beau, who drinks to forget, cut off from family and friends.  Our knowledge of Liam is limited, the return to Georgia a little too swift.  This story would have benefited from a longer length and more exposition.  Still, its got some stunner moments.  And horses, of course.

6. “For Love and Money” By Sean Michael  Rating 4 stars out of 5

Football star Deon Jerome, “linebacker extraordinaire”, is afraid of horses.  Now his agent has signed him to a lucrative ad campaign but the problem is that he must ride a horse for the ad and Deon is panicking big time.  Now he needs an old friend’s help, a friend whose phone number is memorized rather than listed on his cell phone.  Truck Wilson was a large animal vet and the closeted Deon’s occasional friend with benefits.

When Deon travels to Truck’s  home and farm  for help with his horse phobia, their old attraction flares into something more like love than just convenience and friendship.  With love before him warring with the fear of coming out, which will Deon choose?

Sean Michael’s gift of characterization is front and center in the men in this story.  Deon Jerome Green is a big man full of fear outside of the football field.  He is afraid of horses and he is afraid to come out as gay. But Deon’s need for Truck and the requirements of the commercial bring Deon to Truck’s for work on his phobia and a weekend of sex and togetherness culminating in a life changing decision for them both.  Michael gives us a realistic portrait of a man trying to come to grips with his fear of horses as well as being out about his sexuality.  It’s a sexy, compassionate and ultimately rewarding short story.

Consider this solid and varied anthology of horse stories highly recommended.  Great authors, with a variety of stories to choose from, truly something for everyone to enjoy.

Cover illustration by BSClay works extremely well for the stories within.

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Published November 13th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610406079 (ISBN13: 9781610406079)
edition language English

Review: Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T. A. Chase

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Home Sweet Home coverYancey MacCafferty and Juan Romanos have been in love since the first time they met.  In a gay bar in Texas, an underage Juan just wanted to dance.  But danger was all around him.  Yancey, a young rent boy, sees Juan’s innocence and naivete and falls in love, all while saving Juan from a predator on the dance floor.  Eventually both ended up with their brothers on the ranch owned by Les Hardin and Randy Hersch, where they finished growing up and found their dreams.  For Juan, it was all about the horses and being a world class equestrian, eventually ending up at a show bar on the East coast. Yancey chose another path, that of college and an education needed to become a veterinarian.  And all during those years, Yancey and Juan never stopped loving each other, even though each was at opposite ends of the country.

Now Yancey has graduated from college and is ready to reunite with the man he loves and start his career. But to do that, he will have to leave the people he has grown to love including his brother for a new veterinarian practice in Virginia, just miles away from the show barn where Juan rides and lives.  He and Juan have been parted long enough.  He is sure that Juan feels the same way.  Or does he?  Yancey isn’t sure, exactly but its time to find out.  Can Yancey and Juan’s puppy love mature into the forever love they have always wanted or will the reality of being and living together bring their dreams crashing down?

I have been waiting like so many others for Juan and Yancey’s story since the first time we met them in Home of His Own (Home #2 – their brothers, Brody MacCafferty and Tony Romanos story).  These two young men were instantly endearing and their love story so heartwarming that it almost eclipsed that of their brothers.  Happily, I can announce that it was worth the wait.  Home Sweet Home is a wonderful story, reminescent of the first book in the series, No Going Home which remains my favorite.

In every book of the series, we kept getting glimpses of Juan and Yancey as they grew up.  The author always managed to throw in little details of their lives, whether it was Yancey returning for the holidays from college or Juan’s equestrian training at Edward’s barns in Virginia.  These small mentions managed to keep our interest in these young men alive and pique our curiosity over their future.  In fact, one of the many aspects I love about this series is that Chase continues to bring together all the characters from other books into the latest stories.  These people form a family, one cobbled together by need and choice so to have that family remain topical in every book is important to the cohesion and strength of the series.

The characters of Yancey and Juan have also grown as their characters have aged.  From teenage gay boys to confident, mature young men, Chase has developed their characters realistically relative to their age.  It’s wonderful getting reacquainted with these older versions of the boys we first met.  Along with their characters, their love for each other needs to grow as well. Luckily, Chase has taken care of that too.  The author has her characters adjust their views of each other and their careers in a very human and authentic manner.  I just loved how tentative and yet determined each man is to make their relationship and Yancey’s move work.  It is emotionally satisfying and oh so enjoyable to read about.

If I have a quibble, it would be with the ending.  In the epilogue we fly forward from 1 year to 5 years into the future, missing out on so much of their lives together that it felt like a missed chance to round out their story in favor of a quick finish (note see my mini rant on storying endings).   I don’t know if this rushed ending is due to Chase finishing up the series or just their story.  Either way, it didn’t measure up to the first part of the story and that was a shame.  But even with that quibble, I still love this series and recommend it. The Home series is heartwarming, sexy, and full of wonderful characters you will never get tired of.   Home Sweet Home is another great installment and one you won’t want to miss.

Cover art by Posh Gosh.  The young model in front is perfect for Juan and the cover gorgeous in design and detail.

Here are the Home series book in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events:

No Going Home (Home #1) – my favorite
Home of His Own (Home #2) Tony and Brody’s story (second favorite)
Wishing for a Home (Home #3) Derek and Max’s story
Leaving Home (Home #4) Peter and Chaz’s story
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) Juan and Yancey’s story (a tie with their brothers)

Book Details:

ebook, 137 pages
Published May 27th 2013 by Total-E-Bound
ISBN 1781843228 (ISBN13: 9781781843222)
edition language English
series Home #5

Dog Days of Summer and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Canis Major Dog StarHere it is mid – August and the Dog Days of  Summer are almost over.  I know many of you have heard the term but do you really know where it came from?  I know that some of you are looking at your four pawed companions panting away the summer heat beside you, whether on shared walks or just sitting together in the backyard. One look at how the heat is affecting them, and I am sure you think “ah, dog days indeed.” But to understand where the term Dog Days of Summer, you must look to the sky.  The night sky that is and the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star above (no, we are not talking about the Sun right now).

Osiris

The Egyptians called Sirius the dog star after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog.  In Egypt, and in ancient Rome, Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. it was up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) and ancient Egyptians and Romans argued that it was responsible for the summer heat by adding its heat to the heat from the Sun. Those in ancient times called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer” because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot.

The Dog Days of Summer start around July 7th ( I have also seen July 3rd at the start date as well) and runs until August 18th, normally the time in the Northern Hemisphere when it is the hottest.  It is the time we head for the beach, the air-conditioning, anywhere but the office.  It is also a great time to catch up on your reading and make headway on your “to be read” pile. Here are some books and one great series (Wicked’s Way by Haven Fellows) that you will want to add to the list.

Monday, Augusts 12, 2013:                   Nischal by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, August 13, 2013:                     Wicked Incarceration by Haven Fellows

Wed., August 14, 2013:                           Wicked Guidance by Haven Fellows

Thursday, August 15, 2013                   Guest Blog by Haven Fellows

Friday, August 16, 2013                          Fall For Me by Ann Lister

Saturday, August 17, 2013:                   Home Sweet Home by TA Chase

Sirius

I will leave you all with two quotes about the dog days of summer.  Both perfection in tone and ability to paint a portrait of this time of year.

“Sophia and Grandmother sat down by the shore to discuss the matter further. It was a pretty day, and the sea was running a long, windless swell. It was on days just like this–dog days–that boats went sailing off all by themselves. Large, alien objects made their way in from sea, certain things sank and others rose, milk soured, and dragonflies danced in desperation. Lizards were not afraid. When the moon came up, red spiders mated on uninhabited skerries, where the rock became an unbroken carpet of tiny, ecstatic spiders.”
― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting