A MelanieM Release Day Review: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West Anthology

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

 

once-upon-a-time-in-the-weird-westThis isn’t the same old Wild West. The usual suspects are all present: cowboys, outlaws, and sheriffs. There’s plenty of dust, tumbleweeds, horses, and cattle on the range, but there are also magical gems, automatons, elementals, airships… even dinosaurs and genetically modified insects. Roaming among the buffalo and coyotes, you’ll encounter skinwalkers, mad engineers, mythical beings cloaked in darkness, and lovers who stay true to their oaths… even beyond the grave. On this frontier are those at the mercy of their own elaborate devices as well as men whose control of time and space provides a present-day vision of the West. There might even be a dragon hidden amongst the ghost towns and wagon trains.

If you like your Westerns with a splash of magic, a touch of steampunk, and plenty of passionate romance between men, these genre-bending tales will exceed expectations.

Hold on to your hats, cowboys and cowgirls. The West is about to get weird, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Its been quite a while since I’ve  read such a strong and outstanding anthology.  I can recommend almost every story and most are 4 to 5 stars.  Its remarkable.  The American West has always been wild but never this weird and extraordinary.  In the hands of these authors, they transport the readers and romance into other dimensions  and worlds entirely.  From steampunk to mages to things supernatural, all the roads to love, however strange and mysterious, can be found here.

I’ve listed them in the order they can be found in the anthology with my comments and ratings.

Reaper’s Ride by Astrid Amara  – 5 Stars

Johnny Jenkins  loves  most aspects of riding  for the Pony Express, but  the  loneliness  can  be  hard  to  abide.  When  a  raid  injures  the  station keeper  at  remote  Jacob’s  Well,  Johnny  is  left  alone  to  tend  the  incoming riders until a replacement can be found. Isolated and without even a horse to keep him company, Johnny thinks he might go mad from solitude. 

That is, until he meets Sye Fairchild, a rider for a different kind of express.  This  one  operates  in  the  shadows,  and  the  deliveries  are  of  a much  darker  nature.  Sye  is  dashing  and  kind,  but  he’s  also  under  a deadline—he’s  got  to  finish  his  deliveries  by  Friday,  or  he  breaks  a  very old and very serious bargain. 

And  as  Johnny  finds  a  kindred  soul  in  Sye,  he  realizes  that  soul needs saving—even if it means ruining his own.

 Astrid Amara does her normal outstanding job of melding accurate historical fiction with the supernatural in the Reaper’s Ride, one of my favorites.  It launches this anthology with a bang and I still have this couple hanging about in my head.

Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony – 5 stars

Al Pennington and Cyrus Reese are both damaged men. Apprenticed as a child to a master who created clockwork wonders, Al now prefers to spend his days on his secluded homestead, toiling over his own fantastical inventions. But when he takes the wounded Cyrus into his home and nurses him back to health, Al realizes he wants Cyrus to stay. Al’s tired of being alone, Cyrus is tired of running, and maybe their time together can be a balm to wounds left by their difficult pasts. 

When an outlaw bent on dragging Cyrus back into a life of crime comes knocking, Al is seriously injured. Cyrus must quite literally take Al’s broken heart in his hands to save his life.

 Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony makes steampunk inventions believable as she does the men who  toil over them.  Here a simple sound become ominous, and then  joyous.  I loved it.

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir by Lex Chase – 3.75 stars

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Medicine Show runs a booming business conning homesteaders with his Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir. He takes advantage of the gullible, who believe the only way to be purged of their sins is with his moonshine—strong enough to strip paint at forty paces. 

When a sandstorm buries his caravan, Ezekiel is hauled to safety and trapped in his wagon. His savior is none other than Levi Everett, his lost love. But Ezekiel put him in the ground years ago, and he fears Levi is the Devil, come to demand atonement for his sins. The tale Levi spins leaves Ezekiel wondering if he’s lost his own soul—or maybe his mind. All he knows is that not even his elixir can heal his broken heart.

 I thought this story got stronger the further in I got and loved the ending.

Corpse Powder by Jana Denardo –    4.75 stars

Doctor Isaac Adler came to Virginia City, Nevada, to escape the horrors he witnessed during the War between the States. Despite a living in a thriving Jewish community, Isaac’s having trouble finding his faith… and finding work. Just when he’s contemplating leaving the desert, life takes an unexpected turn when the airship Aurora is attacked by pirates and Isaac is called upon to help the wounded.

The ship’s first mate, Tsela “Alexander” Zhani, is also trying to outrun a nightmare, his in the form of the powerful skinwalker who drove him from his Navajo village. Tsela’s friendship with the handsome doctor responsible for saving the lives of his friends gives both men a fragile hope for a better future. But their demons aren’t as far behind them as they thought.

 Corpse Powder  blends two religions and two disparate men and comes up with a remarkable romance.  One is Dr. Isaac Adler, Jewish and afraid of heights.  The other, a flying ship’s first mate, Tsela Zhani, a Navajo being chased by a skinwalker.    The imagination shown by the author in not only Denardo’s world building but the battle scenes and the characters is amazing.  Another world I could happily have stayed in.

The Sheriff of Para Siempre by Jamie Fessenden  – 3 stars

In 1875, Billy Slade is one of the fastest gunmen in the territory of New Mexico, despite his youth. With his lover, Joe Brady, he travels from town to town, hiring out his skill wherever he can—provided the cause is noble. Billy fancies himself a hero defending the common man against bandits and ruffians. But a night of passion gets Billy and Joe run off the ranch they helped defend from rustlers.

In the failing mining town of Para Siempre, Billy’s skill as a marksman lands him the job of sheriff. But the town is run by the corrupt Cassidy brothers, who take a liking to Billy and Joe, and they’re used to getting what they want. When Billy rejects Jed Cassidy’s proposition, Jed challenges him to a gunfight. It’s a fight Billy could easily win—but the Cassidys don’t play fair.

For me, this was the only story I disliked.  The writing is good but the story is one that I actually ending up rushing through.  From a rape and murder, its sad, bittersweet and left a awful taste in my mouth.  Its 3 stars only because the writing is so good.  Disliked everything else. 

The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding – 4 stars

August Hayling went west following the discovery of gold in California. While most prospectors were hoping to strike it rich, August was more interested in a place big enough to let him get lost. Sitting alone in a saloon, he is approached by a peculiar man named Georgios Cappadocia, who offers August a fortune in gold if August will come along and help him fetch it. August soon learns that his strange new employer is engaged in some kind of ancient dispute. And when they arrive at their destination, both men will realize that not all treasures are golden—and sometimes destinies can be changed.

Ah a Kim Fielding story!  I never know which way its going to go.  This time its whimsical.  I sort of guessed at the identities of the characters but that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the story.  Extra bonus?  Features one of my favorite fantasy creatures!

 Time Zone by Andrew Q. Gordon –   4.5 stars

Some people possess gifts that allow them to change the world. For Wesley Blake, it’s all a matter of time. He can stretch a handful of seconds into a whole day. But his ability hasn’t saved Wesley from being hurt by others. As a field agent for the Department of Gifted Americans, Wesley throws himself into his work to forget that he is alone. The only person Wesley trusts is his handler, Lothar.

Then a vital mission brings a new partner, Eric, who refuses to let Wesley shut him out. As they train for their assignment, a friendship builds between them. Wesley cautiously lets Eric into his life, until he learns Eric and Lothar lied to him. Betrayed and angry, Wesley struggles to control his powers, and when things take a dangerous turn, even Wesley might not have enough time to get out with his life.

 Another strong story. Time Zone and Andrew Q. Gordon delivers great characters and a fascinating world.  Wesley Blake in particular, a vulnerable gifted man with a dependancy on his handler Lothar, who he’s never met.  How the story unfolds, its revelations, including the spectacular one at the end?  It kept me involved and connected to Wesley and his path to love.  Outstanding story.

Get Lucky by Ginn Hale – 5 Stars  

Pinkerton detectives, saltwater crocodiles, the Borax Brothers, and the sinister Swaims: seems everyone is out to get water mage, Lucky Spivey.

Lucky Spivey just wants to pay off his dead father’s debts and forget about the gunslinger who left him waiting at the stagecoach station three years before. But when he stumbles across a handsome Pinkerton detective in mortal peril, he can’t abandon the man to his fate, and all too soon Lucky finds himself in a wild chase filled with magic, murder, and a triceratops or two. Surviving the marshlands might mean working together with a disturbingly familiar gunslinger…. 

 Ginn Hale had me at Lucky Spivey.   What a wild ride!  Mages, crocodiles, swamps and a lost love returned.  I really wanted so much more at the end.  If you’re listening Ginn Hale, bring Lucky back and his beau too. 

From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde – 4 stars

In the small town of Wilson Creek, two handsome lovers, destined for death at each other’s hands, attempt to end their families’ Shakespearean feud over precious magical minerals.

When James Caplin, inventor of a new magic-detecting device, returns home after graduating from Hinton’s Academy for Boys, he’s looking to have one last hurrah with a handsome cowboy. But he discovers not only that his handsome cowboy is Frank Montgomery, the son of the Caplins’ hated enemies, but also that the Montgomerys are accused of stealing the Caplins’ precious illudine, a rare magical stone. When the argument between the Montgomerys and Caplins becomes heated, James and Frank are expected to settle the matter with a duel. If James doesn’t want to put a bullet in Frank, he’ll have to recover the illudine, reveal the thief, and end a centuries-old rivalry… and he needs Frank’s help.

 Romeo and Jules with Alchemy.  Another neat twist on the  Romeo and Juliet  tale with  a M/M twist and turns.  I wish I had more background on the world but it was  fascinating in the bits and pieces the author set out.  

POMH by Venona Keyes  4 .5 stars

Lorem Farcome makes inventions that cater to the working class. He dreams of a lost chance in love and a lost apprentice. The lost love he can do nothing about, but an apprentice, he can surely build. With a rare red prism, Lorem creates and animates his assistant, dubbing him “Pomh.” The road never runs smooth, and a wealthy and powerful competitor, Markus Reighn, accuses Lorem of stealing the red prism and claims Lorem’s mechanical man for himself. But an odd-looking prospector might hold the key to clearing Lorem’s name and giving Lorem his true heart’s desire.  

Lorem has lost someone and he makes  wonderful inventions.  He finds a rare prism, and something miraculous  occurs.  Venona Keyes takes us on a steampunk journey of lost love and heartbreak and miracles.  Its one to be treasured, a standout in a collection of standouts.

 

Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling – 5 stars

Corporate terraformer turned social justice worker, Gordon gave up a good living to pioneer New Saturn, where the ranges are as vast as they sky—just the way Gordon likes them. Together with his partner Henry, Gordon herds the ankle-high genetically modified insects, which deposit crucial bacteria into the soil so the ground can one day be farmed. But when rustlers strike, the barren beauty of the frontier  turns deadly, and Gordon must risk everything to keep himself and Henry alive. 

Nicole Kimberling has long been a favorie of mine, especially her Bellingham Mysteries.  Here you have an established  couple Henry (born earthbound) and Gordon (born in space) and their herd of bugs each with their personalities.  Yes from Screwloose to Queen Esther, you’ll be falling in love with these terraforming bugs too.  Kimberling gives us the complete world, including Gordon’s space born physiology and what that must mean when it comes to making love or even existing within quarters with gravity.  A stunning story all around.

Gunner the Deadly by C.S. Poe – 5 stars

Special Agent Gillian Hamilton is one of the top magic casters in law enforcement. Sent to Shallow Grave, Arizona to arrest a madman engineer responsible for blowing up half of Baltimore, Gillian isn’t expecting a run-in with notorious outlaw, Gunner the Deadly.

Gillian and Gunner become temporary teammates when it turns out they’re after the same man. The Tinkerer will stop at nothing to get rid of the two so he can steal the town’s silver mines and build an army of steam machines to take down the country. If facing Gatling guns, airships, and magic wasn’t enough, Gillian must also struggle with the notion that he’s rather fond of his criminal partner. But perhaps a union between copper and outlaw isn’t so weird out in the wild and lawless West.

 Gillian and Gunner and a madman on the loose in a steampunk world.  Its wildly imaginative, its fast paced, and its romantic.  Loved it.

After the Wind by Tali Spencer     –  5 stars

Plagued by drought and raids from hostile Comanches, the West Texas frontier is a hell of a place to carve out a living. Twenty years ago, a mysterious disaster devastated the Llano Estacado and cursed the survivors with supernatural abilities over Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. The Anglo government promptly outlawed these powers—and they’re willing to pay good money to anyone who turns over an elemental, dead or alive.

When rancher Micah Dawes desperately needs water for his herd, he strikes a deal with two unsavory bounty hunters for the services of a chained, blue-haired water elemental named Rain. Micah pities Rain, but he has to play his cards close to his chest—because Micah, too, survived the Wind, and the reason he always wears a hat is to hide his glowing red hair….

We end up this extraordinary collection with a strong story.  After the Wind by Tali Spencer.   Is the Wind an environmental foreshadowing?  Whatever the cause the devastating effects on the human and animal population is swift and brutal.  Genetic changes for the remaining populations in some areas that cause them to be hunted and killed for their properties.  Its heartbreaking and Spencer brings that out in vividly described passages and the character of Rain.

The story is stark and yet, full of hope at the end.  Its a perfect way for Once Upon a Time in the Weird West to come to a close.  But these characters?  They will continue to stay with you for some time yet.  What great stories!  What marvelous world building.  More,  I want much, much more.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its one of the best I’ve read and it will in my Best of 2016 List!

Cover Artist: Nathie Block.  I just love this cover.  Eye catching and works for the stories.

Sales Links

           

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Expected publication: December 16th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634779185 (ISBN13: 9781634779180)
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Anthology Special! Check out Contact (Gothika #5) by Kim Fielding , F.E. Feeley Jr. , Jamie Fessenden , and B.G. Thomas (guest post, special excerpt and more)

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Contact (Gothika #5)
by Kim Fielding , F.E. Feeley Jr. , Jamie Fessenden , B.G. Thomas

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have F.E. Feeley, Jr. here today to talk about Contact (Gothika #5), an upcoming anthology from Dreamspinner Press.  Welcome, F.E.

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Hi! I’m F.E. Feeley, Jr., one of the authors in the upcoming anthology Gothika: Contact. This is the fifth installment in the Gothika series, which has featured androids, werewolves, voodoo curses, and ghosts! Contact is about encounters with extraterrestrials and alien abduction, and it includes four stories by me, Kim Fielding, Jamie Fessenden, and B.G. Thomas.

In my story, “My Final Blog,” I explored the idea of extraterrestrials establishing contact not by landing a spaceship in our backyard or making toy monkeys come to life (Why do we have those creepy things, anyway?), but by chatting with us online. We’ve already got a worldwide network where it’s possible—and expected—that people will communicate without revealing their identities. How easy would it be for an alien to establish contact with humans on social media, scope us out, and maybe even establish a form of relationship with us before revealing itself?

Here’s how I handled the idea of alien contact in “My Final Blog.”

Blurb

George is an average guy who’s led an average sort of life.  Always fading in the background, he never garnered much attention. People seemed to pass him by or not notice him. Except, of course, in high school where he was tormented by his sexuality. Finding solace online, George developed a blog early on that helped him maintain his sanity.  It was an anonymous link to the outside world to vent his frustrations and express his creativity. And he gathered quite an audience of similar spirits and allies who stayed with him for over the years. 

Especially one commenter, Universal47. In the spirit of anonymity, George never pushed him to expose who he really was.  And over a period of years, began to have feelings for this faceless person. When George finds himself in a horrible one sided relationship with an abusive and neglectful partner, Universal steps in to help George break up with him.  Devastated by the outcome of his failed relationship, George threatens to withdraw from Universal47 as well unless he tells him who he really is. The answer may be more than George can handle.

Excerpt

We were wandering into dangerously choppy waters. I was defensive over my relationship. I mean, there were good times. Christmases and birthdays were great. But there were times when I could dry up and disappear and Joseph, I don’t think would have cared. As a matter of fact, it was sort of ‘go away, come back’ messages that I received from him that confused me. Which, I must say looking back, was sort of pathetic. But you know what they say about hindsight. It was always fifty/ fifty. I ended up saying goodnight and went about my evening. But his words haunted me.

Yet, fast forward to the night he told me his name, I sat staring at my computer screen as his name flashed in front of me. Elijah. I liked the name. I, of course, understood the biblical reference. Elijah was a prophet that once called down fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice to God.  Or, it was the name of a really blue eyed actor who played Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings movies. I put those two things up for consideration in the chat box and was greeted with a great big LOL for my efforts.

Universal47: Neither. But that’s funny.

I tilted my head for a moment before typing: Will we ever meet?

Universal47: I believe so. Do you want to meet me?

Me: Of course.

Universal47: Why?

Me: To put a face with a name?

Universal47: Is that all?

Me: Sure. Isn’t that enough.

Universal47: And what would we do if we met.

I rolled my eyes hard at that.

Me: Well, you’re not getting laid if that’s what you mean. I could go on GRNDR for that.

Universal47: HAHAHAHA! I’m sure you could. And no, that isn’t what I’m after either.

Me: so you are after something?

Universal47: Companionship? Is that weird?

Me: No. I don’t think so. You must get lonely, too.

Universal47: You have no idea.

Me: Well, if it’s any consolation to you. At night, when I fall asleep, you’re not far from my mind.

Universal47: That’s really the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me. But you don’t know what I look like.

Me: No. I guess not.

Universal47: What do you think about when think about me before you fall asleep.

Me: Honestly? You’ve had many faces. But your arms are always the same. Strong.  There. Just like you’ve been all these years. There. That’s what matters to me, Elijah.

He was quiet for a long time after that and before he could reply, I felt my eyes grow heavy. It had been a long couple of days. And since it was Friday night, I had a whole weekend’s worth of work to do. I bid him goodnight and logged out. I hoped I hadn’t said too much. I hope I hadn’t freaked him out. But my ability to bullshit was completely depleted by that time that truth sort of rolled out of me in waves.  That night, as I lay in bed listening to the wind howling over the prairies it was so mournful and so lonesome sounding that I cried myself to sleep.

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Anthology Blurb

Since ancient times, humankind has looked into the night sky and wondered: Are we alone? Are there other civilizations beyond the stars? Will we ever encounter these beings? Who are they, what are they like, and what might they want with us?

These questions are about to be answered, but those who discover the truth might wish they had never asked. On the other hand, some might find salvation in visitors from other planets. For while some aliens are hostile, others are benevolent. Some have little in common with humans, but for others, the need for love and acceptance is universal. Lives will intersect and otherworldly passions will ignite as four acclaimed authors of gay romance explore first contact—and where it can lead.

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A VVivacious Review: A More Perfect Union Anthology by B.G. Thomas , J. Scott Coatsworth , Jamie Fessenden, Michael Murphy

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A More Perfect Union
 
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5
 
a-more-perfect-unionThis is a collection of four stories that explore the real life implication of the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 26; 2015. In the future no one will ever have to live with the indignation of not being allowed to marry the one they love. In the coming years gay and lesbian relationships will be different because of the possibility of marriage.
 
But what about those who shied from the thought of marriage because they thought they would never be allowed to or those who fought every step of the way so that there would come a day when their marriages to the ones they loved would be legally and lawfully recognized by all. This anthology explores some such stories.
 
Flames by J. Scott Coatsworth – 2 Stars out of 5
Alex and Gio have been together for years but the night that Gio plans to propose, they get in a fight and Alex leaves the house only to later find out that Gio is in a coma. As Alex waits for Gio to open his eyes, he looks back on their life together and regrets the fact that they didn’t get married when they had the chance…
 
This story has good bones but it isn’t very engaging. A lot of the times the story read like an itinerary of events devoid of the emotions that the main characters must surely have experienced during said events.
 
This story is written from the perspectives of both characters but Gio’s character is not very well fleshed out and this is most definitely because of the fact that he doesn’t know who he is for most of the story. While the unique circumstances of Gio’s coma fascinated me they failed to establish Gio’s character and since Alex’s character is very well established the fact that Gio’s character is not creates an inherent imbalance in the story.
 
This story has an interesting premise but it failed to get me invested in the characters mostly because of the fact that the core of this story is mostly hollow of emotions which considering the subject is surprising.
 
Jeordi and Tom by Michael Murphy – 3 Stars out of 5
Jeordi and Tom have to fight for their love every day in the face of Jeordi’s family’s disparage. When Jeordi’s parents try to keep Tom away from Jeordi while he is admitted in the hospital, Jeordi realises that he needs to do something such that no one can ever keep Tom away from him.
 
I liked this story, it had much more of a fight in it. Jeordi and Tom are two youngsters in love while everyone around them is against their relationship.
 
This story has multiple plot lines which are threaded together with a really nice theme of passing on the love.
 
Destined by Jamie Fessenden – 5 Stars out of 5
This is the story of Jay and Wallace. It chronicles their journey from the time they first met till the time they get married.
 
This was an awesome story. I loved the introduction and premise of the story.
 
I really loved Jay and Wallace. Jay is a really vibrant guy and really easy to like but I really loved Wallace. Wallace is a quiet guy, not known to emotional outbursts and appears to be kind of detached from their relationship but the author presents him in such a light that you know that while Wallace may appear detached his heart is very much in the relationship. Despite Wallace’s shy exterior looking at him from Jay’s eyes made sure that we got a good look into the person inside.
 
Jay and Wallace felt very real and I loved their story and how they ended up together. Moreover I loved all the domestic things they did together like shopping, trying to figure out how to live together, buying a house and learning to live together with a particularly over enthusiastic dog.
 
Their marriage was a dream and I loved the destiny angle in their story. I wonder if they ever figured out that they had met years before their first meeting.
 
On the whole I loved the story, it was beyond awesome.
 
Someday by B. G. Thomas – 5 Stars out of 5   
Lucas and Dalton have known each other since they were kids and while life has sent hurdles their way they have always managed to come out on the other side stronger. But Dalton refuses to marry Lucas till marriage equality becomes a reality everywhere in the United States.
 
This one was so beautiful. I loved Dalton and Lucas and their love which was amazing. This was one couple whose story I didn’t want to see end.
 
It was a perfect story about love and marriage and how this particular one came to be. This story also highlights how things have changed in the last 25 years or so… in 1990 no one would have thought that marriage equality would have been a thing of the past come 2016.
 
This anthology has been one awesome read with some amazing stories.
 
Cover Art by Reese Dante. I loved the cover. It is a perfect representation of what this anthology is all about, two men professing their love by vowing to belong to each other forever.
Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 350 pages
Published June 26th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634773322 (ISBN13: 9781634773324)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7854

A MelanieM Review: 7&7 – Anthology of Virtue and Vice by Andrea Speed , Carole Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Serena Yates, Clare London, J. Tullos Hennig

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Rating: 4.25 out of 5

7 & 7 AnthologyHumankind possesses a dual nature, the ability to rise to the brightest heights—or sink to the darkest and most perverse depths.

What inspires some to reach the pinnacles of virtue while others cannot resist the temptations of vice? Is it something innate, or a result of destiny and circumstance?

Delve into the minds and spirits of saints and sinners alike with a collection of stories that explore the call toward good or evil—and the consequences of answering it. For while rewards certainly await the righteous, there are also pleasures to be found in the darkness. Venture off the expected path with some of the most innovative voices in LGBT speculative fiction as they present their unique takes on the classic vices and virtues.

Many authors including: Andrea Speed, Brandon Witt, Sean Michael, J Tullos Hennig, Carol Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Rhys Ford, Clare London, Pearl Love, Jamie Fessenden, J. S. Cook, Amy Rae Durresson, Serena Yates

I found this to be an absolutely wonderful  anthology…however not if you are looking for stories of romance exactly.  This anthology is released from DSP Publications which means its stories are less romance based and more driven towards content elsewhere, which in some cases here is horror.  That’s fine, if those are not to your taste, skip over them and proceed to the next.  This is a wonderful smorgasbord of authors and a wonderful way to taste their various narrative talents.

Which ones were some of my absolute favorites?

Heirs to Grace and Infinity by C. Cummings – 5 stars (31 pages)

Urban fantasy in which a fugitive sorcerer matches wits with the bureau’s top agent to save children.  Its imaginative, wonderful in its world building and keeps you on your seat.  It was just terrific in every way from the characters to the plot. C. Cummings is one of my favorite authors. This is why.

Hope by Rick Reed – 5 stars out of 5 (47 pages)

Looking for hope in crises around a mother’s death and one’s personal life.  This was such a deeply moving story of loss and hope.  One man moves home to his mother’s house after she’s died, to deal with the aftermath of her loss.  His grief, those of her friends who loved and took care of her…and the house that’s now his and the new location.  Its powerful, moving and so beautifully done.

The Darkness of the Sun by Amy Rae Durreson – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A grieving Priest finds his faith.  Another story that is based in loss and takes a different tack altogether.  The author has a wonderful feel  for the trail and the life of this simple priest who has lost his way.

Prudence for Fools by Sean Michael – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A disgraced seer is thrown out of court and returns to the tribe of his husband but is haunted by his visions.  I loved this  story by Sean Michael.  This seer and his husband, a couple of long years, are wonderful and their relationship is one I connected to immediately.  Michael pulls us into this world and the situation quickly.  Another story that could have filled twice its pages.  I found it gripping, the couple moving in their deeply loving relationship and the tribe is one I wanted to learn more about.

Red Light Special by Rhys Ford – 4.5 stars out of 5 (38 pages)

An Elf, a Knight and a Succubus plus Detroit and one of my favorite authors who writes with snark, a vividness thats startling and a pizazz that flies off the page.  Really.  This is a story that needs no review.  Just read it.  It works.  It hilarious and sexy.

Horseboy by J. Tullos Henry – 4.5 stars out of 5

A Horseboy of the Lebanon, a Templar Knight, and intimate desert secrets.  A bit of history, a bit of the supernatural.  A short story I found that works on every level, it kept me connected and involved in the action and the time period.  Great job.

There are many in the 4 star to 3 star range. Those I enjoyed as well.  And won’t cover here.  There were only a few that I was disappointed in.  That’s a great number is an anthology this size.

The Gate by J. S. Cook – 2.75 stars out of 5 (21 pages)

A gay man sees a seedier, dark side of the wartime effort.  Set in the 40’s during the wartime, I felt this went nowhere.  Little setup, little ending.  I know the author was going for noir but it went south instead.

The Rendering by J. Inman – 1 star

Fat gay guy goes on a date set up by a computer dating service and ends up….

Well, I saw the ending coming from the very beginning.  Why?  For starters, I knew the historical ingredients of the product being sold and the links being made in the story.  The clues were obvious as to where it was going to go.  Some have called this fat shaming…others strictly horror.  I thought it just beyond obvious and boring.  That it came from one of my favorite authors made me want to cry.  That’s the horror.

Those are the highs and the lows.  The highs and all the terrific stories in the middle far outweigh the lows.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its a feast all around.  Pick it up and start sampling.

Cover is simple and it works.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications

Book Details:

ebook, 360 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by DSP Publications (first published March 10th 2016)
ISBN 1634773608 (ISBN13: 9781634773607)
Edition LanguageEnglish