Today Melanie has reviews of three short stories from Silver Publishing – Abstract Realism, Don’t Judge a Book…, and Absent-minded Astrophysicist.

Title: Abstract Realism
Author: Edward Kendrick
Rating: 4 stars

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Tonio, a renowned painter of abstract realism, made the mistake of accepting an invitation for a movie date from a man he had just met at a gallery opening. The man’s jealous lover savagely attacked him with a knife. Now scarred and traumatized, Tonio rarely leaves his studio. His only contact with the outside world consists of his sister, Jessie, who is also his agent. With a gallery holding a new show of his paintings, Jessie finally talks him into attending the opening and go to the gallery party afterwards.

Jonam is also attending the gallery show. He owns a protection agency and had met Tonio by accident in a nearby park. Tonio had been sketching and rejected Jonam’s efforts to talk to him. When Jonam attends the gallery show, Tonio does his best to avoid him. But Tonio’s attacker calls and threatens him just before the party. When her brother doesn’t show up for the party, Jessie and Jonam go to Tonio’s apartment and the find the man cowering in fear. Jonam offers to protect Tonio and find out who’s behind the threats. Can Jonam find the attacker and free Tonio from the threats and fears?

The author packs a lot into a short story.  There is contemporary romance, mystery, the art world, a scarred artist, and lethal stalker. Kendricks did a great job with Tonio. He is a believable character, traumatized by a brutal attack on him by unseen thugs. The scars left behind are both physical and emotional. I can believe that this character retreats into a shell and that his art changes direction with the brutality inflicted upon him. That the attack was unexpected and undeserved only deepened the trauma left behind. I did find it unrealistic that the police were not brought into this case, especially given he was a well-known artist, but PTSD can make victims act illogically. Jonam was a tad less defined as a character. He was tall, good looking and efficient at his job. It wasn’t until the end of the story that I found out he was Swedish and that accounted for his name. More of a backstory on Jonam early on would have helped. It was hard to get a feel for a connection between the two men when I could only get a handle on one of them. The story seemed rushed at the end and the denouement resolved far too quickly for the buildup that preceded it.

Still Abstract Realism is a neat little short story that I enjoyed reading. I look forward to more from Edward Kendricks.

Cover: Cover is gorgeous. Both models work for the characters inside the story. Fonts are great. Good job.

Title: Don’t Judge A Book…
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Rating: 3.75 stars
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Rhys is a librarian in the small town of Hawks Reach. Surrounded by the books he loves with a passion, real life rarely intrudes into the musty book shelves that are his life. Somewhat priggish, Rhys is disconcerted to find that he is expected to supervise a young man with community service hours to fill. Dismay turns to disdain when he meets Darren, a young car thief sentenced to work at the library for 100 hours.

Darren is a young man in with a rough crowd and no real family to fall back on. With Rhys’ harsh judgements of him constantly ringing in his ears, it is inevitable that the two men clash due to their mutual misconceptions. And then there is also Darren’s confusion over his own sexuality and attraction towards someone who finds him beneath contempt. When Rhys is attacked by Darren’s gang, events come together to make both men challenge their perceptions of each other. Can two young men so wrong for each other make a future together?

I thought this was a interesting story of two mismatched characters finding common ground for a romance. While I liked each character individually, I don’t think I ever bought the idea of a romance between the two of them. The indifference and hurt exhibited from their initial rough sex scene seemed far more realistic than did the fact that they harbored feelings of love for each other.

Darren was the more likable of the two main characters. The product of an alcoholic mother and absent father, his membership in a gang was an accurate portrayal of a young man in trouble. It was very believable that any gay sexuality was buried deeply within him so as not to offend his gang. With hidden depths, he was definitely the book that certainly shouldn’t have been judged by his cover. Rhys never overcame his priggish beginnings in this story. His leap from contempt to love for Darren was not realistic given how emphatic he was throughout the majority of the story, especially as Darren’s friends beat him up not once, but twice. Also stretching the boundaries here is the fact that Rhys never called the police or told his boss at the library, even though he was trying to get rid of Darren. I could see Rhys having sex with Darren, but even that would be a stretch given the lack of trust there. But full blown romantic love? I am not sure I ever found that between the covers of this book and the characters within.

Cover: Reese Dante for this series. Sexy men, same cover for a variety of stories.

Title: Absent-minded Astrophysicist
Author: TN Tarrant
Rating: 4 stars
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Dr. Liam McGregor, child prodigy, astrophysicist, and all around brilliant mind is absent minded when it comes to everything outside of his lab except for his cat. He is constantly walking into doorknobs, desks, and even people because his attention is so firmly tuned to space above. Awkward around people and socially inept, Liam’s lonely and feels unattractive when he stops to think about it, which isn’t often. Isolation has been his companion for far too long. But a change may be coming in the very attractive form of the new head of security.

Jareth Manning is emerging from his own dark period. His partner recently died, and his former employers tried to discredit him when they found out Jareth was gay. Now he is starting over as the new head of security at Northwestern Institute for Interstellar Research. It didn’t take him long to notice Dr. McGregor, if only for the number of ambulances called to the campus to attend to astrophysicist’s many accidents. Jareth finds the Liam cute, shy, and very kind hearted. When Liam is attacked by a colleague, it gives Jareth the chance to get to know Liam better. As both men grow closer, can Jareth get Liam to focus on what is before him… a chance at love on earth?

This was such a cute story. Liam was a lovely character. I know we have seen the absent-minded scientist before, but Liam is a special addition to that category. A little pudgy, with a heartbreaking background, I just fell in love with him. Tarrant did a nice job with Jareth as well, creating a man who is tall, gorgeous, and a widower. Combine two lovely characters with two heartbreaking backstories and you get a short story with lots of heart. That’s Absent-minded Astrophysicist in a nutshell.

My only quibble here is that perhaps the author tried to fit too much into limited space. I think there is material here for a much larger book and wish it had gone in that direction. The secondary characters include Dr. Forrester (head of the Institute) and his two partners. They clearly deserve a story of their own. Liam’s backstory left me with more questions than answers by the end of the book as did Jareth’s family who appeared out of nowhere. As I said, I love the main characters and story. I just think they got a little overwhelmed by too much information.

This is such a lovely little book. Don’t let it pass you by. I would love to see more of the characters brought to life here.

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