Rating: 4 stars
Two Tickets to Paradise is a collection of 15 stories of men, alone or with a partner, traveling by car, train, plane, and the occasional time travel in search of new experiences and romance in destinations both home and abroad. What they find runs the gamut from first time love to love rediscovered after considerable time apart. Can you buy a ticket to paradise? Within these stories, the men find the answer to that question and so much more.
After reading this anthology, I found it difficult to come to a rating, as some of the stories floundered, stuck in the mundane and predictable, while others soared into great heights of emotion and romance. The stories that have remained with me are:
J.L. Merrow’s All At Sea – A tale of youth and young love on the Isle of Wight. The characters here have hidden depths, delightful dialog, exquisite scenary and an ending I am still smiling over. Her descriptions of the Isle of Wight made me want to book an airplane ticket immediately.
Chelle Dugan’s Off The Tracks – A middle-aged man who believes that love has passed him by takes a train trip into the past and gets the chance at love he’s always dreamed of. Realistic characters, vivid descriptions of the Grand Canyon, combined with flashbacks to the 80s.
Sean Michael’s Something Different – A story of two ex-lovers reunited in Las Vegas after a separation of 10 years. What can I say? It’s a Sean Michael’s story, so the sex is hot, the characters memorable, and there’s hope for a HEA is on the horizon.
Mal Peters’ Perpendicularity – The high altitude setting of the French Alps is the perfect location for Kyle, an Olympic snowboarder, to spend Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend. But an unplanned breakup, sees Kyle alone in the resort chalet until the smell of baking bread and a succulent pork tenderloin lead him to a young personal chef and a change of heart. Just the descriptions of baking bread and smells emanating from the kitchen won me over, add in the characters of Kyle and Dylan, and you have a story that is a delight to read.
B.G. Thomas’ New Lease – This is the penultimate story and reason alone to buy this collection. Wade Porter is alone at an oceanside cottage mourning the loss of his long-time lover, a married man who only saw him for two weeks out of the year at their bungalow near Key West. With the loss and his age wearing him down, Wade sees no reason to continue living until he meets Kent, a man who has just moved in next door. Kent too has lost a partner and gradually shows Wade the path out of depression and into the true meaning of love. I was still crying over this story hours later so be warned! Get those tissues handy.
Zee Kensington’s Krung Thep, City of Angels is the final story of the anthology and my final recommendation. Marco has dreamed of traveling and for his first trip abroad or any where actually, chooses to go to Thailand. Marco is the typical innocent abroad who lands in the steamy, packed streets of Krung Thep, also known as Bangkok. Clearly out of his depth, his journey is almost derailed by his inexperience until he meets seasoned journalist, Chris, who writes for travel magazines. Chris takes him under his wing, and introduces Marco to the sights, tastes and people of Krung Thep. The author did such a great job with the vivid descriptions of the food markets, pungent odors of the food stalls, and feel of swampy heat rising from the streets that I felt like I had been there. From the bouncy innocence of Marco, to the weary self isolation of Chris, the characters felt alive right down to the sweat rolling down their backs. I wanted to continue on their journey with them, seeking the paths to paradise.
Authors: J.L. Merrow, Susan Laine, Eric Renner, G.R. Richards, Claire Russett, Cecilia Ryan, B.G. Thomas, Jana Denardo, Chelle Dugan, Zee Kensington, Jamie Lowe, Dar Mavison, Sean Michael, Mal Peters, Anna Martin
Cover: The cover says it all, because how can you show the range of the stories contained within this anthology?