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

Review: Designated Bottoms by B.A. Tortuga , Katey Hawthorne , Julia Talbot , Sean Michael, Shannon West, Kiernan Kelly , K.C. Wells

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5
designatedbottoms700Some men are bottoms by birth, others by choice. Whatever the reason, a designated bottom is someone who’s happy to surrender, to submit, or just catch instead of pitch!  Inside the covers, you will find seven stories by seven terrific authors, each with a different bent on the subject of love, romance, and bottoming.  They are:

➤Czech Me Out, by BA Tortuga, Korde discovers what it’s like to fall for someone when food truck owner Josh takes on the cowboy virgin.

➤The Mistell by Katey Hawthorne who’s gamer grad student Paul doesn’t date. He keeps things strictly physical. So why is Sammy so important to him ?

➤Faster Bobcat by Julia Talbot. A Lynx shifter and stripper Aleks doesn’t mix business with pleasure, but he thinks Rafe, a jaguar shifter, might just be the master for him.

➤Little Square of Cloth by Sean Michael.  Peter isn’t sure about the club his friend takes him to, especially when Doms start hitting on him. Experienced Dom Rupert is happy to help, explaining about that little piece of cloth stuck in Peter’s pocket .

➤Sgt. Hardass by Shannon West. A recent ex-Army man Jake meets up with a man he has history with, and Chad isn’t sure he can explain himself and defuse Jake’s anger.  Explosive?  Absolutely and also very hot.

➤ Prince of Paupers by Kiernan Kelly.  Prince Liam and longtime friend Deacon have to go back to Deacon’s Appalachian home, much to the prince’s dismay. What happens when royalty and the plain folk of the Applachians clash?  Can love be far behind?

➤ Switching It Up by K.C.  Wells. Jay knows he looks like a twink, but only hunky Dean understands that looks can be seriously deceptive.  When twink meets hulk, who comes out on top? Or bottom?

What a fun anthology!  Each story presents a totally different take on romance and challenges to love.  There is something and some story for everyone to enjoy!

It starts off light and swift with BA Tortuga’s Czech Me Out.  Korde and Josh had me wanting to reach for a Kolache or two.  I felt it was missing a little substance in the boys back histories but still found it loads of fun.

Katey Hawthorne’s gamer lads of The Mistell are wonderful.  It’s funny, current, and you will love these nerds on the path to happiness and love.  I learned what a mistell is and the ones Katey Hawthorne created had me snorting. I loved Paul, Samir, and the rest of the WW gaming group.  At the end I also wished that a certain sweet, if dim ex would also find his HEA.  Maybe the next story.  This was one of my favorites.

Faster Bobcat by Julia Talbot had me purring like a kitty.  Loved both Aleks who needs structure and the hot jaguar shifter who supplies it along with love.  Put this one at the top.

Sean Michael’s Little Square of Cloth is Sean Michael doing what he does best.  Making BDSM seem hot, and exactly right for the people involved.  In this case, Peter gets more than he ever expected when a friend plays a prank on him.  Sean Michael lovers, this is for you!

Sgt. Hardass by Shannon West is a that bit of angst missing in the other stories.  West delivers a painful breakup, and even more painful reunion and hot makeup sex!.  This is one of the stories I wish had been a little longer.  The characters were well done but I needed more about Chad and Jake to make their reunion and  rapid reconciliation feel real.

I adored Kiernan Kelly’s Prince of Paupers and wanted much, much more of this story because of the small touches and comedic elements she included.  More of Alfred the butler and the grubby little boy. That scene was priceless!  Or Liam down in the “holler” learning why there is no “George” pig to go along with Ringo, Paul, and John. Still giggling over that one.  I need a full on, enlarged version of this story and so will you.  This is my favorite of the anthology.  And it ended way before I was ready for it to be resolved.

The last story, Switching It Up by KC Wells had me a little perplexed for a while.  I thought the author was heading in one direction with the romantic interest and she was headed in another opposite direction.  Was it a case of red herring or was it just me?  Not sure but it threw me off just enough that I didn’t enjoy it as I might have.  Still, its a fun story and make a good addition to this anthology.  Don’t think I would have ended the collection with it however.

My ratings  fluctuate between a 3.75 and a 4.5 for the stories individually (you can guess which is which).  That averages out to a 4 rating overall.  I do recommend picking this anthology up!  It’s stories are fun to read, highly sexy, and some will definitely leave you giggling and wanting more.

Cover art by Anne Squires.  I love that cover.  Great design and yes, what a great bottom!

Buy Links:     Torquere Press           All Romance eBooks (ARe)             Amazon                  Designated Bottoms

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 253 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Torquere Press
ASINB00M8Y421Y
edition languageEnglish

Bottoms Up? On Tour with the Designated Bottoms Anthology – Authors Katey Hawthorne, Kiernan Kelly, Sean Michael, Julia Talbot, BA Tortuga, KC Wells, and Shannon West! (contest)

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Top? Bottom?  Let’s find out more with the wonderful group of authors whose stories can be found in the new m/m anthology, Bottoms Up!  

To celebrate the release of Bottoms Up, Pride Promotions and the authors have brought along a $25 Amazon Gift Card to give to one lucky person.  To enter to win, visit HERE for the entry form and all the contest details.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.   Contest information repeated at the end of the post.  Contest ends 8/6.

Book Name: Designated Bottoms
Author Name: Katey Hawthorne, Kiernan Kelly, Sean Michael, Julia Talbot, BA Tortuga, KC Wells, Shannon West

Author Bios:

Contributors:

BA Tortuga: Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds, getting tattooed, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing porn sites in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has responded to the call of the high desert mountains. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon- holed by anyone but the voices in her head. Find her at http://www.batortuga.com

♦Katey Hawthorne is an avid reader and writer of superpowered romance, even though the only degree she holds is in the history of art. (Or, possibly, because the only degree she holds is in the history of art.) Originally from the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia, she currently lives in Ohio. In her spare time she enjoys comic books, B-movies, loud music, Epiphones, and Bushmills. Find Katey at http://www.kateyhawthorne.com/

♦Julia Talbot lives in the great Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex.

A full time author, Julia has been published by Torquere Press, Ellora’s Cave, and Changeling Press. She believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved. Find Julia at @juliatalbot on Twitter, or at her website  

♦Sean Michael: Often referred to as “Space Cowboy” and “Gangsta of Love” while still striving for the moniker of “Maurice,” Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and persuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to “Chicago.”

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.
Barring any of that? He’ll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.

Sean’s available for interviews, by the way. He can always be talked into, well talking about himself. Find Sean at http://www.seanmichaelwrites.com

♦Shannon West: Shannon West currently lives in the South with her husband and family. A lover and avid reader of M/M romances, she began writing them a few years ago and now has over forty short stories, novellas,and novels to her credit. Her series about wolf shifters, the Dark Hollows Series and the sci fi series, Love Slaves of the Alphas, produced sixteen bestsellers with four of them going to number one on the third party sites. She was a finalist in the Rainbow awards for 2013, a nominee for best sci fi series in the Love Romances Café and very honored to be named an All Romance ebooks top ten author for 2013. She writes BDSM and some ménage as well. She loves men and everything about them, and believes that love is love, no matter the gender. She mostly spends her days at the keyboard, trying to elude housework, which stalks her relentlessly.

Links:   Website     
Twitter: @shannonwest8
   Amazon Author Page  Facebook

♦Kiernan Kelly: Kiernan Kelly lives in the wilds of the alligator-infested U.S. Southeast, slathered in SPF 45, drinking colorful tropical, hi-octane concoctions served by thong-clad cabana boys.

All right, the truth is that she spends her time locked in the dark recesses of her office, writing gay erotic romance while chained to a temperamental laptop, drinking coffee, and dreaming of thong-clad cabana boys.

Sigh.

To date, Kiernan has over a dozen novels in print and ebook, and a plethora of short stories in both formats.

Links:   Website      Facebook  email: KiernanKelly@KiernanKelly.com

♦KC Wells: Born and raised in the north-west of England, K.C.Wells always loved writing. Words were important. Full stop. However, when childhood gave way to adulthood, the writing ceased, as life got in the way.

K.C. discovered erotic fiction in 2009, where the purchase of a ménage storyline led to the startling discovery that reading about men in love was damn hot. In 2012, arriving at a really low point in life led to the desperate need to do something creative. An even bigger discovery waited in the wings – writing about men in love was even hotter…

K.C. now writes full-time and is loving every minute of her new career.

The laptop still has no idea of what hit it… it only knows that it wants a rest, please. And it now has to get used to the idea that where K.C goes, it goes.

K.C. can be reached via email (k.c.wells@btinternet.com), on Facebook or through comments at the K.C. Wells website  K.C. loves to hear from readers.

designatedbottoms700How Bottoms Up Came To Be:

So, what happens when you get a bunch of m/m writers together on a panel at a steamy little convention called Authors After Dark in Savannah?

In this case, we all sat around with the readers who came to our panel and chattered and laughed like idiots, and we talked about what we liked to read and write. There was a lot of smutty puns, and it was all fun and games until someone uttered the fateful phrase, “Right, and every story has to have a designated bottom.”

The writer and editor in me both went, “ooooh”. And I said, “Hey, does anyone want in on an anthology for next year with this theme?”

Enough of the writers at that panel, and a few who weren’t, said yes, and Designated Bottoms was born. When I sent out the call, this is what I said.

You’ve heard about Designated Drivers? Well, what about a Designated Bottom? The theme is open to all m/m stories where one man is a designated bottom boy, Whether self-imposed or by the Dom/lover/alpha of the pack or simply (either true or not) by society. Feel free to play with burly bottoms who surprise the deceptively sweet top, or with the too-smart kid who’s the pushy bottom to end all bottoms. BDSM is fine, but not mandatory. A bottom may simply like to catch instead of pitch.

The stories I received delighted me. From a first-time cowboy and his new lover to a hardass Sergeant falling for a determined young soldier, from a hot gamer geek who doesn’t date to a sweet young thing on his first visit to a BDSM club, there’s something for everyone. There are princes and paupers, werekitties and strippers, and skinny twink-looking tops and big, gentle bottoms. They all left me fanning my hot cheeks and smiling at how the end result was two men in love, no matter how they got there.

The authors in Designated Bottoms have all reminded me why I fell in love with m/m as a genre damned near fifteen years ago, and of why I’m still writing, and publishing those stories today.

We’d like to dedicate this book to all the readers at Authors After Dark who thought this collection was a great idea, and to all the readers who keep us going every day by reading our books and letting us know they like them! I hope y’all love these stories as much as I do!

XXOO

Twitter: @torquere
Cover Artist: Anne Squires
Publisher: Torquere Press Inc
Buy Links:      Torquere Press        

Blurb:

Some men are bottoms by birth, others by choice. Whatever the reason, a designated bottom is someone who’s happy to surrender, to submit, or just catch instead of pitch!

In Czech Me Out, by BA Tortuga, Korde discovers what it’s like to fall for someone when food truck owner Josh takes on the cowboy virgin. Katey Hawthorne’s gamer grad student Paul doesn’t date. He keeps things strictly physical. So why is Sammy so important to him in The Mistell? Kitty shifter and stripper Aleks doesn’t mix business with pleasure, but he thinks Rafe might just be the master for him in Julia Talbot’s Faster Bobcat.

Sean Michael’s Peter isn’t sure about the club his friend takes him to, especially when Doms start hitting on him. Experienced Dom Rupert is happy to help, explaining about that Little Square of Cloth. In Sgt. Hardass, by Shannon West, recent ex-Army man Jake meets up with a man he has history with, and Chad isn’t sure he can explain himself and defuse Jake’s anger. In the Prince of Paupers by Kiernan Kelly, Prince Liam and longtime friend Deacon have to go back to Deacon’s Appalachian home, much to the prince’s dismay. And in Switching It Up by KC Wells, Jay knows he looks like a twink, but only hunky Dean understands that looks can be seriously deceptive.

Excerpt:

From Czech Me Out by BA Tortuga:

Josh had texted the fine cowboy as early as he felt comfortable doing it. He’d waited until nine. He figured it was gratifying that he got an immediate response.

“Noon?” he’d sent, and when he got an affirmative, he’d send his address. Then he set about making lunch.

He could tear that sweet body up, turn the Marlboro Man inside out and make Korde like it. He would soften the guy up with a few barbecue-filled potato skins… Barbecue, the redneck aphrodisiac.

Josh grinned. He’d swayed more than one hot little cowboy with his special sauce and some crispy potatoes. Of course, he’d never asked one to come to his house before, and certainly hadn’t gotten so interested so damned fast.

He’d never changed his sheets and made sure he was stocked with lube and rubbers, either. Not on a not-even-a-first-date. Lord. He was hopeful today, for sure.

Hopeful, horny and… oh, man, he needed an ‘h’ word…

The doorbell rang, saving him from having to be too creative. He told his cock to stay down for a bit and went to answer.

Frack and Frick were yapping their damn fool heads off, wagging and bouncing. Silly mutts. “Y’all get down.”

Josh opened the door a few inches. “You’re not afraid of dogs are you?”

“Not even a bit.” Korde leaned down and gave scritches, easy as pie.

Those two beagle-shepherd monstrosities went nuts, yodeling and wagging and begging.

 

 

DesignatedBottoms600x600BannerBlueTour Dates: 7/30/14

Tour Stops: Parker Williams, Cate Ashwood, MM Good Book Reviews, Decadent Delights, Wake Up Your Wild Side, Prism Book Alliance, Regular Guys, Hot Romance, Full Moon Dreaming, The Hat Party, Fallen Angel Reviews, Amanda C. Stone, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Love Bytes, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Havan Fellows, Jade Crystal, Wicked Wolves and Dreaming Dragons, Iyana Jenna

 

Contest:  $25 Amazon Gift Card.  Enter to win below:

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Review: Cupcakes by Sean Michael

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Rating:    3.5 stars out of 5

Cupcakes coverAllen Jameson was just 21 when he fell in love with Gary, a wealthy man much older than him.  From than on life was perfect for Allen, ensconced in a fabulous house, living a fairy tale life.  Until Gary died of a heart attack.  Then the Allen’s return to the real world was swift and jarring.  Allen was unprepared for life outside the bubble Gary had created for him and now must face the real world alone and unprepared. But one thing Allen could do was bake, so he opened  the Sweet ‘n’ Sassy Cupcake Shop, where he could lose himself in creating exquisite cupcakes and pleasing others with his creations.

Byron “Bit” Bannigan  walked through the door of Sweet’n’ Sassy Cupcake shop and found not only great cupcakes but the man behind the counter.  Byron owns a construction company and on this day he was sent to pickup the cupcakes needed for a company party.  Byron ended up picking up much more to the amazement of both  Allen and Byron.  Quickly Byron and Allen’s relationship flourishes as each proves to be the right man for each other.  But Allen’s business is struggling under its success and Gary’s old friends disapprove not only of Allen’s business but Byron too.  As Allan’s past clashes with his present day reality, he decide if he is ready to let go of his past with Gary to have a future with Byron.

This story started off so well.  Allen Jameson is a man who has been cosseted by his much older partner from the moment they met.  Gary almost “trained” Allen to be the perfect house husband from the age of 21.  Allen baked, decorated, kept the house immaculate and planned all their frequent parties.  Plus he looked great doing it.  Gary effectively cocooned the man inside Gary’s way of life, leaving Allen ill prepared for the real world when Gary dies.  I really liked this plot.  It’s a terrific play  on the idea of a 1950’s wife whose life revolved around her husband and household.  Those housewives  were not prepared for their husbands deaths (or divorce) and the social changes that came with it.  Using a twist on the same relationship dynamic but within a m/m context was a terrific storyline.  How does such a man suddenly adjust to the real world?  Once that bubble is gone, how does he deal with all the everyday chores that his husband took responsibility for and are now his?  Those scenes would have given Allen the necessary character background we miss out on in this story.  Without seeing him in that context, Allen comes across as less believable than he could have been.

The same problem exists with his boutique cupcake store.  How did Allen achieve so much so quickly with no business training and no idea of what he was doing?  It would have been great to have seen those scenes as well as Allen leased the store and then slowly established himself as the cupcake place of the moment.   Instead of showing us Allen as he struggled through Gary’s loss and the startup of Sweet’n’ Sassy Cupcake Shop, we are “told” that it happened.  That gave this story a much lighter but also superficial feel.

Byron “Bit” Bannigan does not come with the same requirements for his character that Allen does.  As a self made man, Byron is a lovely masculine construct and works well both as foil when compared to Gary’s old friends and as Allen’s new, sexy and younger partner.  My only question here is the part about his name.  Byron is called Bit throughout the first part of the story, a nickname from a brother.  Then once he starts dating Allen and finds out that Allen likes his given name of Byron, then that is the name he is referred to for the rest of the story.  It just seems such an unnecessary quirk when the author abandons it completely without any reason.

The relationship between Byron and Allen is sweet and sexy.  Much is made of the lack of sex life in Gary and Allen’s relationship as Gary was not a sexual being.  So Allen’s rediscovery of his sexual nature with Byron is one of this story’s real joys.  It feels both natural and loving, with Allen acting like the happy, sexy young man he should have been all those years with Gary.  It’s probably the most realistic part of Cupcakes aside from the ending and the cupcake recipes Allen creates.

The primary issue here is that this is a very even toned sweet romance.  No real highs or lows, just a “steady as they go” sort of relationship.  Given Allen’s isolated life with Gary, with Gary’s friends, Gary’s things, and Gary’s house, I kept wondering if there was going to be a dark closet somewhere in Gary and Allen’s life as it appeared so very bland.  But then again, maybe the blandness of the 50’s housewife lifestyle suited that of Allen’s role as Gary’s househusband.  I kept waiting for the “other shoe” to drop when there wasn’t one.  There really isn’t much drama here except for a segment towards the end that is as neatly resolved as everything else in Allen’s life.

I think I was disappointed in this story because of the promise of the plot and the author behind it.  Sean Michael has created so many multidimensional characters in the past that I expected that here.  And didn’t get it.  But what I did receive was a sweet, lovely  if facile romance, a little Donna Reed gone m/m (google it if you must).  It’s a nice story, one you will be happy to read even if you forget it as soon as the story is over.  However, I would love to have some of Allen’s cupcakes…now those sounded not only unique but gastronomically memorable.  I only wish I could say the same about Cupcakes the story.

Cover art by LC Chase is as sweet and frothy as the story itself.

Book Details:

ebook, 188 pages
Published January 8th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published January 7th 2014)
ISBN 1627984828 (ISBN13: 9781627984829)
edition language English

Scattered Thoughts on the Super Bowl Team Names, Animals Cute and Fierce and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Its Super Bowl Sunday and for many of you  that means a day spent in front of a screen watching two teams play for the ultimate title in American football, the Superbowl Trophy and bragging rights (to say nothing of the ring and tons of  money).  This year, Super Bowl XLVIII (48) the battle is between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, ostensibly two teams named after animals.  I say that because are those animals the real deal?  Or are they fictional?  What if all NFL teams had to have real animal names?  Would the Seahawks and Broncos still be around?

If we look at last year’s Super Bowl winners, the Baltimore Ravens, the answer is clear.  Yep, Ravens exist and are forever associated with Bal’mer and Edger Allen Poe.  Ditto the Cincinnati Bengals, another animal that walks the planet, although in far fewer numbers each year.  Is the Cincinnati Extinct Bengals inconceivable?  Not really. Here are all the other  NFL Teams with animals in their names.  Can you fit the name to the city they are from (answers listed at the end, some may surprise you)?

Bears, Cardinals, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons,Jaguars, Lions, Panthers, Rams.

But back to the Seahawks and Broncos.  There really is no such thing as a Seahawk.  There are Sea Eagles, of which our Bald Headed Eagle can be considered a member.  There is a Osprey, a raptor that is not exactly a hawk but its own genus within the Raptor order Acciptriformes. But an actual Seahawk?  No, not really, not outside a nickname. Now an Osprey is a pretty cool raptor, common here in Maryland (and in fact all of the U.S.).  I have watched Bald Eagles steal the fish right away from an Osprey pair on the Bay and had a tough time doing it. With that mask on their face and that fierce attitude, they are a force to be reckoned with.  So why not call themselves the Ospreys?  That would certainly make more sense to me and be accurate as well.

But the Broncos are no better with their name.  Broncos?  Google it and you know what comes up?  The NFL team the Broncos.  Now bucking broncos is a term used with rodeo horses.  But if the team was looking for a real animal (versus a animal sport) then they could have looked no further than the Mustang.  Wild mustangs are all over the  west.  A smaller tough wild horse, scrappy and resilient.  The Denver Mustangs?  That would have been cool, and a chance to help those herds being hunted off park land.  Hmm I wonder if ranchers around the Denver area had something to do with the name choice here?  Just saying…..

So if we were to stick to real animals, this Sunday’s game would be the Seattle Osprey vs the Denver Mustangs, a missed opportunity all around.  For education, for tie-ins with the WWF or some other conservation group.  Ah…well I can always look for the Ravens and Bears to return to glory and a chance at the Super Bowl rings once more….

For those of you who are not football enthusiasts, there are other animal bowls to choose from.  The Animal Planet has its Puppy Bowl and the Hallmark Channel is having its first ever Kitten Bowl.  Both feature puppies and kittens up for adoption and the ultimate in cuteness outside the new Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl Commercial, Puppy Love,  with puppies and Clydesdales.  But for all of you who look at these next four hours and think nap, I have a truly inspired animal bowl for you.  Nat Geo Wild has introduced this year its Fish Bowl.  Yep, a goldfish, in a fish bowl, for 4 hours, starting at 6pm.  See?  Something for everyone this year.

So what you are going to watch today?  Mislabeled Teams with large men? Puppies, Kitten or Fish?  Or something completely different?  Let me know.  I will be watching the Super Bowl commercials, reading and eating popcorn surrounded by snoozing terriers and a dancing African Grey.  Go Naked Mole Rats! I can dream, can’t I?

Now for this week’s reviews:

Monday, Feb. 3:   Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley

Tuesday, Feb. 4:  Cupcakes by Sean Michael

Wed., Feb. 5:         Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowen Speedwell

Thurs., Feb. 6:      The Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller

Friday, Feb. 7:      Frostbite Collection by Totally Bound Press

Friday, Feb. 8:      Reviewing Life by Lara Brukz

Football team name answers:   Chicago Bears,  Arizona (what no city wants them?) Cardinals,  Indianapolis (don’t even get me started) Colts,  Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars,  Detroit Lions,  Carolina (again what’s with the state? based in Charlotte) Panthers, St. Louis  (they get around) Rams.

Bowls to Watch:   Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl, Animal Planet Puppy Bowl, and Nat Geo Wild’s Fish Bowl (ok the last keeps cracking me up).  Here is the link to the Fish Bowl App.Goldie the Fish Bowl fish

Puppy Kitten Bowl

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

Mid January Blahs and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Winter trees longs

Normally I love Winter.  I love the contrast of the bare limbs of the deciduous trees and the lush fullness of the evergreens, the sounds of foxes crying for mates, the owls hooting in the night and the crystal clear night sky with some of the most beautiful and recognizable constellations in the Northern hemisphere.  Orion rises high, glowing bright with its two first magnitude stars, one of easiest of the constellations to learn.

But this year its different. It’s mid January and already I can’t wait for the month and indeed winter to be over.  Winter has not even been that bad here in the DC Metro area.  So many other regions have had it so much worse this season that to complain about what little harsh weather we have had seems like whining.  But these last few months have been filled full of stress and anxiety over health issues, mine and others, that I am looking forward to Spring.

I can’t wait for the new buds, returning warm weather and longer days that herald the return of the season of renewal and new beginnings.  My gardens start to come alive, the birds are singing for mates and territory as nest building begins.  Winston and I can once again count on our daily walks around the neighborhood.  Ice, wind, and the cold keep me inside for a number of reasons and Winston stays with me in total agreement.

When the weather is agreeable out we go. He loves his walks as much as I do, actually more.  His steps are jaunty as we step out the door, his head on a swivel and that marvelous natural tail is on a constant wag.    I have never had a terrier before with a natural tail as other my rescues, Kirby and Willow included,  came with the typical terrier docked tail, one that comes with the birth of the terrier breeds.  A docked tail that was used to pull the dogs out of the holes and places where they had run their prey to ground.

Now those  little tails can wag, don’t get me wrong because they can wag up a storm.  But Winston’s ?  When a rabbit is spotted, he is in ecstasy and around and around it goes until it starts to resemble a helicopter ready to lift off.  A most amazing sight, one guaranteed to lift one’s spirits and brighten the day in an instant.  This spring will be our first Spring together.  I can’t wait to see his reactions to our first walks into a new season and all that it brings.  Come on, Spring!

Now here are the books to be reviewed this week:

Monday, Jan. 13:     Horsing Around Anthology

Tuesday, Jan. 14:     Tread Marks and Trademarks by S.A. McAuley

Wed., Jan. 15:            The Lightning Moon by Silvia A. Winters

Thurs, Jan. 16:          Tor (WWF #1) by Lynn Lorenz

Friday, Jan. 17:          Ashland (WWF#2) by Lynn Lorenz

Sat., Jan. 18:               The Actor and the Thief by Edward Kendricks

ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November banner

November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: Bar None Anthology by Sean Michael, BA Tortuga, Julia Talbot, and Kiernan Kelly

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Bar None coverDo 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.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 223 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610405811 (ISBN13: 9781610405812)
edition language English

Review: Fever Anthology by M Rode

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

If you love cowboys, than this is the anthology for you.  From cowboy tv stars to those that ride bucking bulls and every permutation in between, these 8 stories will make you laugh, make you sigh, even reach for a fan or too but always make you remember why you love a cowboy.

Stories included in Fever are:Fever cover

Loose Riggin’ by Julia Talbot
Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels
Torn by Sean Michael
Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen
Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black
Ready to Ride by Katherine Halle
White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly
In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga

I really enjoyed this anthology, especially because cowboys are a real weakness for me.  Of special interest was the new story from BA Tortuga in her Roughstock series, I cannot get enough of those boys.  It also introduced me to a series I hadn’t heard of, Mychael Black’s Hearth and Home series, so that was a plus too.  Here in sequence as they appear are mini reviews of each story:

1.  Loose Riggin‘ by Julia Talbot: 3.5 stars

One cowboy on the way up, one cowboy bull rider on the way down.  Baron LeBlanc is a top bullrider at the end of his career.  During one ride he injuries himself badly and an young bull rider, Arlen Deamus, offers to take care of him and become his traveling partner.  I loved this story and thought the characters and the plot were full of promise.  It is the perfect introduction for a longer story.  Julia Talbot draws us in with her wonderful characters, great names and vivid descriptions but just as we are settling in, its over. As a short story, it ends so abruptly that it feels incomplete and the reader feels more than a little frustrated after investing emotionally in the story.  I would love to see this author expand Baron and Arlen romance into a full length book.  I will be first in line to pick it up.

2. Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels: Rating 3.5 stars out of 5

While on vacation, Marcus and his sister Shelly attend camel races outside Las Vegas.  Shelly is dying to meet an Australian cowboy and these camel races have more than their share of those.  But when Marcus is hurt after he falls off a camel, he is the one who captures the attention of the only Aussie cowboy there.  This was a cute little romance between a man talked into riding a camel by his sister and the Aussie cowboy who just happens to be a chiropractor who comes to his aid.  Michaels did a nice job with presenting us with a well rounded character in Marcus and Shelly but I would have loved a little more back story on Vic.  But it’s cute, hot, and has a realistic HFN.

3.  Torn by Sean Michael: 5 stars for the heat alone

Pistol, an injured bull rider, returns home to his partner Bender and their ranch after a long  6 month absence on the rodeo circuit and shoulder surgery.  He is unsure of his welcome after receiving an angry  phone call from his  partner following his injury.  Bender’s love for Pistol is both the source of his anger and the one thing that will heal it.  This is my second favorite story in the collection.  Sean Michael gets everything right in this story.  We get all the information we need about these two men and their long term relationship from Michael’s descriptions of their tense posture, their loving gestures and a dialog that  telegraphs a well established intimacy at every level.  Bender is tired of his lover’s injuries and this last one scared him badly.  Pistol loves riding bulls and is frightened that his time as a bullrider is coming to an end.  The situation is tense, hot, loving, angry, gentle, just everything you would expect from two scared people who love each other deeply and are faced with a serious situation.  The ending is perfection, but then so is this short story.  It doesn’t need to be longer, it doesn’t need any additional backstory.  It ends where it should.  Lovely.  Here is a tease. Pistol is returning home after surgery unsure of his welcome:

He opened the door, pushed it open and stood, trying to keep them from the arm still in the sling. “Hey y’all, you happy to see me?”

“You should have called and let me know.” Bender waited for the dogs to have their hello, blue eyes on him like twin laser beams.

“I didn’t want you worrying. Jack needed his guest room back.” He’d been imposing. Not to mention, the man’s mother-in-law had come to help with the last few days of Mary Ellen’s pregnancy, and he’d wanted to come home. Bender told the dogs to “scatter,” and they did.

Before Pistol could say anything Bender was on him, mouth covering his in a kiss that smashed his lips against his teeth and totally stole his breath.

Oh. Oh, thank God. He pushed up into the kiss, damn near sobbing with relief.

4. Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen: 2 stars out of 5

Jed sees a poster for a fifty-dollar prize for the longest bronco buck advertised outside a saloon.  He figures his horse Bessy needs a new saddle and aims to get it for her by riding in the rodeo.  Along the way he runs into an Apache warrior, Taza, who wants to help his people.  They make love, not war and end up with a future neither of them ever dreamed of.   There are quite a number of things about this story that I have issues with, but the portrait of Taza, an Apache warrior, is the largest.  Having a Native American character, especially in a historical story, can be a iffy element if not handled just right.  For me, Taza just did not work.  From his pidgin English which reminded me of the “Me, Tonto, you white man” variety to the fact that he drops trow for an unknown white man just after the awful Apache wars have ended….well it’s not just unrealistic but downright ridiculous.  Here is their first interchange:

 “Jed,” I told him, with a polite nod. “White man sounds so, well now, formal.”

With his free hand, he pounded his chest. “Taza,” he informed me. “In your language, means Apache warrior.”

I nodded my head. “Pleasure, Taza.”

And then he nodded, releasing the beast before sending it swinging. “You want to pleasure Taza?”

The only way that piece of dialog would work is in a Mel Brooks comedy.  And it just goes further downhill from there.  This is the one story I would skip over.

5. Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black: Rating 4 stars out of 5

Mack Sexton has been in love with his best friend and handyman Les Spencer for a long time.  Les feels the same but neither man has acknowledged let alone acted on their feelings.  Then one day everything changes.  Heart of Dixie is a snapshot of a relationship that is part of a series called Hearth and Home by Mychael Black.  I am unfamiliar with that series but got enough of a taste of it from this story that I will be scampering back to pick up the rest.  Black develops the characters and setting to the point that it and both men feel real and the reader connects with them from the start.  Mack’s sister, Kate, is a lively character in her own right and the interaction among the three of them comes across as long established and affectionate.  Enjoyable and romantic.  I loved this one.

6. Ready To Ride by Katherine Halle: 4 stars out of 5

Eric is an orthopedic surgeon volunteering his time with the Justin Sports Medicine program. Ben Greene is champion Saddle Bronc rider Eric has come to love.  When Eric’s volunteer time with the rodeo comes to an end, Ben must travel on the circuit alone.  And while neither man has talked about where their relationship is going, both love each other deeply.  When Ben is receives a season-ending injury during a ride, Eric decides that, conversation or not, he is bringing his man home for good.  I loved Halle’s characters and thought she got the character of Ben with his avoidance of “mushy talk” just right.  While most of the story is seen through Eric’s eyes,  Halle shows us that Ben’s actions telegraph his feelings perfectly to his lover and that words are not always necessary.  This story has romance, cowboys and HEA in a nice short package.

7. White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly: 4.25 stars out of 5

The time is 1968, the place Hollywood where a new TV western is getting ready to go into production.  Two men, Dallas Frank and Stone Grant, arrive to audition for the two leads, Black Bart and Sheriff Carson Star, the White Hat/Black Hat title characters.  To each man’s surprise and delight, they win the roles and secretly the love of each other.   For the next forty years, they pretend to hate each other in public while continuing a love affair that has lasted as long as their show.  Then their show is cancelled.  What will they do now?  Kelly gives us a terrific look back at old Hollywood and its outlook on homosexuality.  Through small interludes we watch as Dallas (real name Joe Bob) and Stone Grant (real name Arvin Mason) settle into a long term relationship while playing the Hollywood game to protect the series and their reputation. The ending is rewarding, the relationship has a very authentic feel as does the times the men pass through.  My third favorite story of the collection.

8. In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga: 5 out of 5 stars

Sterling is a new bullfighter and he loves his job.  He also loves working with his hero and fellow bullfighter, Coke Pharris.  But rodeo clown Dillon Walsh is tired of the youngster drooling on his man and figures a little matchmaking is in order.  When stock  contractor Colby Tyburn asks for an introduction to Sterling, Dillon sees an opportunity and takes it, maneuvering Sterling into a date with the stock contractor.  Colby Tyburn has been watching Sterling for some time and loves what he sees….a gorgeous energetic young man, all want and desire.  Sparks fly at the first introduction but neither man expects the white hot sex to turn into something deeper and just perhaps, permanent.  In the Pocket is a Roughstock story. So if the reader is familiar with the series, than you already know all about Coke Pharris and his rodeo clown lover, Dillon Walsh.  They happen to be a favorite couple of mine so it is wonderful to see them make an appearance here.  But the focus of the story is the young (and virginal) bullfighter, Sterling, and the older, more experienced man, Colby Tyburn, a roughstock contractor.

Sterling is a bouncy Tigger of a character.  He is youthful, energetic to the extreme and has a bad case of hero worship when it comes to Coke Pharris.  Unfortunately for Sterling, Coke is taken and Dillon is not happy that Sterling can’t keep his hands off his man.  BA Tortuga paints the perfect portrait of innocent enthusiasm and lustful need all wrapped up in one young man who doesn’t seem to know what to do with it all.  I just loved Sterling, he absolutely made me smile.  Colby Tyburn could have come off as a predator but his appreciation for Sterling and all of his qualities, not just his physical traits, brings him back to a person the reader can relate to.  Their sexual encounter is sexy, white hot, and ultimately very touching.  It is not necessary to have read the other Roughstock stories, but it does help to round out the back history of the other men mentioned, however casually.   There are over 17 stories in the Roughstock series, Coke and Dillon’s story is called Roughstock: And a Smile- Season One. I absolutely recommend them all.  Here is a taste:

Nate (was) screaming his head off to get the bull’s attention. Joa landed, but luckily the Brazilian was ready, and they sort of strong-armed each other.

“Gotcha.”

He flung Joa toward Pharris and put himself between the cowboy and Merry-Go-Round. He heard Coke grunt, but then he and Nate were busy playing a game of slap the bull on the nose, trading off as it went round and round. This was his favorite part, the fun part. They did their little dance, and he pulled his butt in, hearing the whoosh as two thousand pounds went by.

“Woohoo!” He grinned at the gate shut, jogging over to Pharris, who clapped him on the back.

He loved his life.

Loved it.

Cover illustration by BSClay is perfect in tone and design for this collection.

Book Details:

ebook, 195 pages
Published June 5th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN
1610404858 (ISBN13: 9781610404853)
edition language
English