Torquere annually releases a set of short stories called Charity Sips with proceeds going to a GBLT charity.  This year the theme of the stories is “leather bound” and the charity is NOH8, whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest.  The stories can all be purchased at Torquere’s web site or Rainbow eBooks.  This week we are reviewing four of these stories and will have a second batch for you guys next week.  

Title: In His Corner by Charlie Cochet
Rating: 4.25 stars

It is the early 1920s and Eli Mayher has been in love with boxer Jessie “The Demon” Dalton for as long as he can remember. After that fateful night five years ago when Eli showed up at Jessie’s front door ready to proclaim his feelings and a woman answered, Eli has tried to get over Jessie. But now Eli is back, seemingly over Jessie, and ready to be Jessie’s cornerman in the boxing ring.

Jessie noticed Eli around his twentieth birthday and likely would have pursued him, but then his world came crashing down. Pushing Eli away seemed like the right thing to do. But five years later, Eli is back and Jessie is having a hard time denying attraction to the younger man now that they’ll have to spend so much time together with Eli in his corner.

This Sip is just that – a short story, a taste of this budding relationship. Eli and Jessie spent five years apart for reasons that hurt both men and confused Eli. This story is a bit of a dance for them, getting a second chance to get to know one another again and Jessie and Eli are finding their footing around each other after being apart so long. They struggle with their attraction in a time that was far less tolerant than it is today.

I am impressed with the amount of story the author was able to put into eight thousand words. A history was laid out for the main characters, the scenes weren’t rushed, and there was plenty of description given in order to get to know Eli and Jessie. It was a well written short story. I would actually like to read more of these two characters.

In His Corner is a sweet story of second chances in more than just love. I think that readers who are suckers for second chances and like the historical genre will like this Sip.

Title: The Grass is Greener by Winnie Jerome
Rating: 3.25 stars

Brett did not want to meet Damien. Kirby, Brett’s best friend since childhood, had been trying to introduce Brett and Damien for months. When Brett finally breaks up with his boyfriend, Kirby talks (read, forces) him in to finally meeting Damien. And Brett finds that not only is Damien tall and gorgeous, he is the nicest most patient man Brett has ever met.

Brett finds Damien attractive, but he does not bottom and he is sure that Damien is a top. In the months that follow their first meeting, Brett and Damien spend more and more time together. And Brett continues to ignore his feelings for Damien. Brett keeps having dreams about Damien and arguments with Kirby that convince him that he needs to face his feelings. After a little thought, Brett knows the perfect time and place to do it.

I liked this short story well enough. Brett and Damien are good characters, but I don’t feel like I got to know them very well. They could have used a little more development. There isn’t enough detail given individually to really create a connection between the characters and the reader. To be honest, Kirby was the secondary character and I liked him better than both of the main characters. He was pushy and truly cared about seeing Brett happy.

I also think the story was too short. There was a lot of detail omitted that would have made for a better story. First, the months that Brett and Damien got to know each other, developing their friendship would have really helped out making this story more interesting. Next, I would have liked to know what actually happened the night Brett broke up with Hank then got drunk and ran into Damien. Also, Damien’s problem with his brother is mentioned but not in detail. I would have liked to know more about that and how Brett consoled him. And finally, one of the most important points in the story was the knowledge that Brett didn’t bottom because of a bad past experience. I would have liked to know more about that experience. These are all things that are mentioned, sort of in passing, but not given enough detail to make this story truly great.

In the end, it was a good story with potential, but it fell flat because of the lack of detail.

Title: Taking a Chance by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
Rating: 4 stars

When Dr. Jacob “Jay” Davidson finds himself abandoned on the side of the road by his closeted, soon to be ex-boyfriend, he’s surprised when a handsome stranger clad in leather offers him a ride home on his motorcycle. An instant attraction to the stranger, who introduces himself as Chance Renton, leads to a ride home and to dinner and then to the bedroom. Chance is pushy, self-confident, and, best of all, attracted to Jay, as well. Before they can begin their newly founded relationship, they first have a couple obstacles to work through – Jay’s ex-boyfriend, as well as misconstrued assumptions they have about one another.

A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder have created the beginning of a love story with Taking a Chance. Jay and Chance are immediately very likable. They have enough in common to make their attraction believable, yet they have their own unique personalities. Jay is very caring and unlucky in love, with a little snarkiness to boot. That is complemented well by Chance’s self-confidence and determination to start a new relationship, but he’s also caring and tender when it comes to Jay. The attraction was immediate and the sex was hot, but more than that, these two characters make an attempt to try to get to know each other in order to create something beyond lust.

The storyline is a sweet beginning to what looks to be a great relationship. Age issues, top/bottom issues, and ex-boyfriend issues make up  small conflicts in the story. I appreciate that the authors were able to create a storyline with a plot and conflict in less than seven thousand words. Not only that, it is a story I wouldn’t mind reading more of if these characters showed up in another book somewhere down the road.

Taking a Chance is a sweet, light read detailing the beginning of a new relationship. The authors have written it in a way that it’s not about instant love but instant attraction/lust. And they show how the beginning to a good relationship is not always perfect.

Title: A Most Unusual Courtship by Nancy M. Griffis
Rating: 4.5 stars

Gerald Smithson is the best leather-crafter in London. Because of his success, Gerald is able to choose the commissions he takes on. And he does not take any commissions from wizards. He believes wizards to be arrogant and dishonest. Leonard Harris, the best spell-caster in London, is a wizard who is in need of the best leather-crafter to help him with a commission for the royal family.

After refusing Leo’s commission, Gerald finds himself kidnapped by another group of wizards with the intention of trapping Leo. When Leo rescues him, Gerald reluctantly admits that Leo may be the exception to his wizard rule and eventually agrees to take on Leo’s commission. But spending time with the wizard and getting to know him better may cause Gerald’s attraction to Leo to become stronger whether he likes it or not.

A Most Unusual Courtship by Nancy M. Griffis is by far my favorite of all of the Sips that I have read this year. In less than eight thousand words, the author was able to create a fascinating world. Set in the time of Queen Victoria, Griffis combines historical England with a lot of fantasy and a little science fiction. Wizards are a well-known part of society. Magic is part of everyday life. And futuristic technology is used in 19th century England. Not only are same sex relationships common among this world, but same sex marriage is not frowned upon even among the gentry.

Not only is the world, in which this story is based, amazing, but the characters are also well-built. Gerald and Leo are quite lovable. The author, again in less than eight thousand words, finds a way to create a connection between the characters and the reader. From their first meeting there is a bond between Gerald and Leo – be it dissension or attraction – that kept me interested throughout the story.

My only real complaint is with the one question that Gerald never answered. Why did Gerald dislike wizards so much? What happened in his past to create such a strong distaste for wizards?

I would have liked the story to be longer because I grew to adore Leo and Gerald so much. And I believe this story accomplished the purpose of the Sips – giving me a just taste of a great story. I can only hope that in the future that the author will continue Gerald and Leo’s story.