3rdRating: 4.5 stars
Lashing: British slang for lots or large amounts. In celebration of 2012 Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 3rd Annual UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet, a lashing of authors from all over the Globe put forth an GLBTQ anthology of stories that highlight everything that makes Britain (and mainland Europe) a great place for GLBTQ people to love and live.
Here is a list of stories and authors in the order they appear:
• Post Mortem by Jordan Castillo Price
• Dressing Down by Clare London
• Et Tu, Fishies? by JL Merrow
• Zones by Elyan Smith
• Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane
• A Few Days Away by Elin Gregory
• Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte
• Shelter From Storms by Sandra Lindsey
• Faulty Genes by Rebecca Cohen
• Lost in London by Tam Ames
• My Husband by Zahra Owens
• Waiting for a Spark by Lillian Francis
• Social Whirl by Emily Moreton
• School for Doms by Anne Brooke
• Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles
• Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black
The stories contained within this anthology really run the gamut of GLBTQ sexuality as well as genre. Here you will find stories of wereshifters of London (no, not those, quite the contrary) to lesbians in love, love in transition, timeless love or should that be love amuck the ages and finally lost lovers reunited after a long separation. There is humor, ok, humour (sheesh) and brooding, and angst, all the emotions love pulls out of you and more. And oh what authors await you between the pages, it is almost sinful to have such a wealth of talent in one book.
Some of the stories don’t fall into the realm of books I normally read and review but I will say that I enjoyed them all. Thank you for my visit into f/f fiction as well as D/s. There are stories of transgender persons and one who cross dresses with panache. These stories manage to combine great characterizations, vivid descriptions from locations all over Britain and plots that make you guffaw and break down in tears. Here were some of my favorites among a list of outstanding stories:
Et Tu, Fishies? by J.L. Merrow. When Bill leaves his fish tank along with his flat in the hands of Marty for the week, Marty was prepared for many things. Cleaning, feeding the fish, masturbating in Bill’s bed, lots of things. Nothing, however, prepared him for Arthur, the weird upstairs neighbor. That would be Arthur Prefect. When Marty challenges him on his name, he says it used to be Herbert Wells. Right. And Arthur has lost his lover. That would be..nope not giving that one away. Yes, indeedy, we are off on a wonderful romp involving lashings of vodka, wine , walnuts and cheesy balls. And time travel, snappy dialog and drunken sex. Loved it.
Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane. She did it, she went ahead and did it. Charlie Cochrane gives us weresloths of London. With shifters of all sorts bounding across the pages of book after book, there was nary a weresloth among them. Until now. Told from the point of view of an unnamed bloke who sprouts fur and long curved claws at the most inopportune moment, he bemoans the fact that his shifting, unlike the numerous wolf shape shifters, has no rhyme nor reason to it. One moment he is fine, the next he has fur and the urge to move slowly along a balustrade. Yes, insert spew event. The whole story is like that. While laughing out loud, I found a new phrase to use “divvy doo dah”. Love the sound of that. Had to look up Martin Johnson (not a clue), read the words “brolly dangling stage” several times as obscene images flittered across my mental landscape while remaining completely in the dark about the Junction 6 of the M40. Yes,I know. It’s a British thing! Love this story even as it boggled my very American mind.
Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte. Whyte uses a clever format for this story of lust, if not love discovered during a daily commute through traffic. Each day Evan sets out for the office in his car only to find himself trapped in horrific traffic. Each day finds him on the phone to his sarcastic assistant, Tia, to have her rearrange his schedule as he is going to be late into the office. Monday, 8:38 am and Evan’s car mirror is clipped by a cyclist weaving through the clogged cars. Evan’s rage is only abated by watching some outstanding glutes in tight spandex peddling away. Day after day, Even and the faceless cyclist appear on the same road and at the same time. You listen in on Evan’s inner dialog as he watches for that magnificent physique to appear in the mirror, Evan consults with his sat-nav with the voice of Vader, Evan talks to Tia whose droll comments on Evan’s current legal case involving a shih tzu, dog custody and someone named Antonio who he keeps sleeping with had me giggling madly. It’s funny, it’s real, and has a great ending.
Shelter From Storms by Sandra Lindsey takes us back to the French Revolution as a wounded, frail Louis appears on the doorstep of Daniel Elcott in England. He has made his way through war torn France to Daniel’s country manor with only a small dirty calling card to hand the butler. Once the men were lovers when younger, now Daniel is married with children. But Louis has no where else to go as he has lost it all. The men reconnect as Louis falls ill and Daniel attends to his needs. Their love sparks once more as Louis convalesces. Daniel finds that with Louis’ return so does the man he once was. Lovely, well told story that brings history to life and makes a gay relationship seem not only possible but realistic as well.
Lost In London by Tam Ames. Here we meet Kevin Larton, from Calgary in Canada. He’s in London to go to school but finding it difficult to navigate his way. He is finding his courses difficult, making new friends more so and when it comes to reading maps and getting around town, he is at a complete loss. It doesn’t matter that he is here to get his PhD in Economics or was a city planner. Kevin just can’t read maps so he is always lost. A chance meeting with Benjamin White gives Kevin a change in direction. Everything starts to become possible, friends, degree and perhaps even a boyfriend. There is a hilarious drunken scene, wonderful characters and I learned what a feedlot was. Ewww. Great story, though.
My Husband by Zahra Owen charts one person’s marriage through the tumultuous stages of their transitioning from female to male. There is never a missed step as Owens treats the subject with sensitivity and authenticity. Told from Sam’s POV, we meet Sean their husband and see their courtship and marriage through Sam’s memories. Owen gives us a glimpse of what it must feel like to be born in the wrong body and the journey one person makes to correct nature’s mistake. Poignant and lovely.
Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles is the penultimate story and one of my top two (I have no intension of telling you all the other, guess why don’t you). I love going to Chinatown here in DC and watching the Dragon Dance during the Chinese New Year so imagine my delight over a story wrapped around two friends and their families preparing the costumes and dragon for their neighborhood’s New Year celebration. Gan and Archie are two lifelong friends whose families are equally close in their small village’s Chinese community. As their mothers make the Dragon from crimson parachute material and fashion the pearl it will chase after, the boys discover their sexuality and the love that has always been present. Myles pulled me in completely from the vibrant portraits of the boys as they dance the Dragon Dance. As they practice, their movements are jerky and uncoordinated with respect to each other but as they communicate their love and desire it becomes sinuous, motions beckoning each other forward that mimic the depth their relationship has finally achieved. I could picture it unfolding so real did it all become. Sigh.
Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black is the last story of the anthology so it is fitting that it is the story of an old love lost and then later reclaimed. Jim and Andy are riding a motorcycle and sidecar to Whitby, a place full of memories for both men and their relationship, good and bad. As they wander through town, making various stops we learn their history and what is has taken for the men to get to this stage in their relationship where they are now. The story bounds between 2012, 1987 the year they broke up, and 2009, the year they reconnected. Jim is so very human in his fears and faults as is Andy in his anger over Jim’s betrayal and cowardice. All it takes is a look at the date and remember what it meant to be gay during that time period. Yes, things have changed, yes, they have gotten easier in some parts of the globe but this story is a reminder of the fears of coming out and staying together as a gay committed couple that many had during the 80’s. It is fitting that in celebrating our present, the past is never forgotten and Black does an outstanding job of bringing that to us in the forms of Jim and Andy riding into the future firmly hooked together by vehicle and by choice.
Go out and grab this anthology, read each story, find your own favorites, Mine might shuffle as I read it once more. Happy Jubilee, Queen, Great Olympics, Britain and have a wonderful time at the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet. I really wish I was there with you. Divvy doo dah!
Cover art by Alex Beecroft. Smashing I say! lol