Scars, whether intentional or accidental, can be a symbol of pride or shame, strength or weakness. This anthology delves into the lives of several men who live with scars and the men who love them, accept them, help them, and cherish them regardless.
In Oren’s Right by Blaine D. Arden, Master Veld is a dark elf who has been in love with Master Oren since they met two turns ago. Only Oren was vowed to Haram, and the carvings that mark Oren’s body serve to remind Veld of that. Upon Haram’s untimely death, Veld must juggle his work, protecting Oren from do-gooders, and defending his innocence in Haram’s murder, as well as in another elf’s attempted murder. Discovering Haram’s gift to Veld and Oren’s knowledge of it may be the biggest surprise of all. I adored Veld in this story. He was honorable even though he longed for nothing more than to comfort Oren. He is a supportive and caring friend. And he is fiercely loyal to and protective of those he loves. I appreciated Veld’s desire to respect Oren’s mourning period even though it meant attempting to deny his feelings for Oren. Haram’s gift to Veld brings an unexpected twist and the murder mystery also added a little action and suspense, which I enjoyed. It is delightful story all around. Rating: 4.5 stars
Next is Tiocfaidh Ár Lá by Angelia Sparrow and Naomi Brooks, meaning “our day will come” in Gaelic. Joe Colson has lived the past twenty years with a permanent reminder of the civil war in Ireland. A cut from the corner of his mouth to his ear, otherwise known as the “Glasgow grin,” mars his face. Feeling himself unattractive and unlovable, Joe is surprised when the night programmer at his job begins to show an attraction towards him. Ryan Hart is young, quiet, sweet, and quirky. He sees Joe for the person he is on the inside as well as the beautiful man he is on the outside. This was a sweet story with a different twist on scarring. The characters were good but hard to relate to. The timeline of the story spanned several months and a lot of time was skimmed over instead describing what actually happened in that time period. I feel like I missed a lot of their story. I didn’t really get to see the characters getting to know each other and falling in love. One moment they met and fell into bed, and a few months later they were in love. Several of the scenes felt like they were dragging on so slowly it was hard to pay attention. It was only the last eight pages or so of the story that truly held my attention because it actually focused on a plot and the love of the main characters. Rating: 3 stars
Then in Faded Love by M.A. Church, supermodel Ashley is given an ultimatum by his sometimes lover, Will, who wants an exclusive commitment. Just as Ashley decides to make that commitment, his world is turned upside down. When a car hits him while riding his motorcycle, Ashley is left with permanent scars on his face, a likely ruined career, and Will, who Ashley is sure is only hanging around out of pity. In order to prove his love, Will helps Ashley out of a depression and back into Will’s loving arms. And just as Ashley is beginning to see a future with Will, he finds out that Will has been offered a job across the country. This is the sweetest love story of this group. The struggle to accept one’s self, to see beyond the exterior, in order to find what is truly important is a strong theme of this story. The characters are both strong men who help the other grow in different ways in order to create a lasting relationship. It is a sweet story in which the bonds of love are tested for both characters. Rating: 5 stars
In Scar Therapy by Logan Zachary, Tim spent months in the hospital after being stabbed multiple times and is sent to see Larry for scar therapy to help heal and smooth the scars. Tim suffered a trauma that he doesn’t talk about, but Larry, with infinite his patience, slowly gains his trust. Warring with attraction, protective feelings towards Tim, and possibly losing his job for being intimate with a client, Larry struggles to find a way, any possible way, to help and heal Tim. I liked Larry. He saw a broken man and wanted to help him, as unethical as it may have been. Tim stole a piece of my heart. His character was a victim who suffered greatly, and, with some very unconventional therapy, he begins to heal not only on the outside but the inside as well. There is a conflict here that I would have liked to see resolved. Tim was brutalized, yet he lied about what really happened in order to save face. I would have liked to see his attacker come to justice. Also, I would have liked to see what the future held for Larry and Tim. Their story is not one of everlasting love…yet…but it is a great beginning. Rating: 4 stars
Gift of the Goddess by Kaje Harper follows the journey of Garvin. After requesting help from the goddess Rima to find his beloved, Nyle, who has been kidnapped, Garvin finds his body scarred as a sort of treasure map to Nyle – a gift from the goddess. Enduring the pain of scarring and the anxiety of reaching and rescuing Nyle is hard, but the sacrifices Garvin has to make once he finds Nyle may leave even deeper scars. Gift of the Goddess is a journey of love and my favorite story in this anthology. It is an adventure as well as a beautiful love story. Garvin is so in love with and devoted to Nyle that he cannot imagine a life without him. He is willing to do anything to rescue Nyle, even without thought of himself. I enjoyed this love story. The author describes a love that is whole, supportive, sacrificing, and very near perfect. I can only hope that these two will show up in another story somewhere down the road. Note: This story does contain a scene of dubious consent. Rating: 5 stars
Finally in Sojourn Home by T.C. Mills, Mirin’s husband, Kanovan, returns home from an off planet tour with scars on his arm from another lover. It is no surprise to Mirin that Kanovan has other lovers – that is something that they discussed in the beginning of their relationship. The problem lies with the other person’s mark left on his husband’s body, causing Mirin to re-evaluate his commitment and importance in Kanovan’s life and leading him to want to leave a permanent mark on Kanovan’s body as well. This story was not my favorite – maybe because it is not a traditional love story, or maybe because it felt Kanovan didn’t feel like Mirin was enough for him. I don’t know. Mirin spent the entire story trying to figure out his relationship with Kanovan and why Kanovan even bothered to come home to him. I wondered the same thing. Kanovan and Mirin were married, yet Kanovan kept lovers all over the galaxy, which led me to believe that having only Mirin as a lover wasn’t enough for him. It was confusing. I felt that the relationship between Kanovan and Mirin was more of a consistent booty-call than a marriage. It is a slow read with a lot of introspection. Maybe if Kanovan’s POV would have been part of the read I would have felt a stronger connection between the characters, but as it was, I did not feel much of a connection to keep me emotionally invested in this story. Rating: 2 stars
Overall, it was a good anthology with a few great stories. I’m not convinced that the title of the anthology suits the “scar” theme. Glancing at the title and the cover I thought at first that the anthology was about cutting with a BDSM theme, but that is not the case. As it stands, out of the six stories, only two of them have anything to do with cutting. And one story, maybe two, could maybe be labeled BDSM. It might be a little off putting to readers who are not interested in reading cutting stories.