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 our second set of these stories (we also reviewed four last week).  

Title: Couched as a Question by Jane Davitt
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Jay

Matt adores the red leather couch in his apartment and is horrified when his boyfriend Jordan decides it is time to redecorate and get rid of it.  To Matt the couch is a symbol of their relationship. It is the first piece of furniture they bought as a couple and it holds many happy memories of their time together.  Matt went through a lot of casual dates and hookups before Jordan and loves the comfort of finally having a solid relationship.  When Jordan is ready to so easily dump the couch, Matt begins to panic and worry that maybe things aren’t as solid between them as he thought.  Of course, Matt also knows he sounds totally crazing pining for a couch so he keeps his fears to himself.  But as the time to replace it gets closer, he becomes more sulky and withdrawn, worrying Jordan and causing tension between them.  But when he finally works up the nerve to talk to Jordan, Matt realizes that things between them are just perfect after all.

So this was a really sweet story and I liked it a lot. Yes, it is founded on the big misunderstanding, but the story is short enough that this didn’t bother me at all. Davitt does a great job making it clear why Matt is upset and even though we all know his worries are unfounded, we can see how he has worked himself up in a state here.  The story gives us a really nice feel about the relationship between these two guys and their different personalities. I am truly impressed with how well the author really captures them in such a short story.  So I really liked this one, sweet and hot and a lovely ending.

Title: Leather Work and Lonely Cowboys by B.A. Tortuga
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Melanie

Beau is lonely and feeling every moment of Sam’s absence.  Not that Sam has left, it’s just that he has become absorbed in the leather working he does as therapy to help his recovery from an accident.  So Beau plans a little road trip in their camper hoping that time alone will reignite the heat missing lately in their relationship and force Sam to talk use his voice again, if only in passion.

Leather Work and Lonely Cowboys is absolutely a 5 star story, even if you are unfamiliar with Beau and Sam from previous Roughstock books.  All the of the elements that make BA Tortuga’s stories so compelling and memorable are present.  You don’t have to know Beau and Sam’s backstory to understand them.  They’re cowboys so deeply in love with each other that they can communicate without words, even as Beau is missing the sound of his lover’s voice.  Tortuga makes us feel each small gesture, each touch exchanged between the two men that becomes magnified within the context of the moment.  Even the “pups” and Boudreaux, their Bloodhound, have their part to play in helping us understand who these men are and the challenges they are facing in their relationship.

Now having said that you can read this as a stand alone, I say please don’t.  You would be shortchanging yourself. Beau and Sam are part of a group of rodeo cowboys that make up the Roughstock series, tales so rich in emotion, so deep in characterizations, and  s0 authentic in location that the stories smell of leather, sweat, and livestock.  I love all the men involved in this universe Beau and Sam, Coke and Dillon, and all the others.  Beau and Sam first appear in Roughstock: File Gumbo – Season One.  And then keep appearing from Starting the Roux, a Roughstock story, as well as in Coke and Dillon’s stories. Totuga writes so realistically and with such affection for these men that it translates with ease to the reader and you become entrenched in their world as the characters themselves.

Here is the full list of Roughstock stories.

Title: Dead Cow Pants by Julia Talbot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Melanie

Shay has returned to the pack he left for the big city a changed wolf .  Shay is now painfully thin and way too quiet for his best friend, Darius, who remembers Shay the way he used to be.  Darius thinks a pair of leather pants will do wonders for Shay’s confidence, but Shay may just be the only werewolf in history to hate the smell of leather! Shay believes leather smells like dead cows and refuses to wear any dead cow pants. But Dar has more than missed his friend and figures helping him rediscover his self confidence might just lead to something both have  wanted all their lives. Now if he can just get him to put on those pants!

How can you not love a short story about a werewolf who eschews wearing animals products?  Julia Talbot gives us an adorable story about two best friends reuniting and the unspoken love that has been there all along.  My only quibble with this story is that Talbot delivers such wonderful characterizations and then puts them in a plot that just begs for more backstory.  What happened to Shay after he left the pack?  Why is he so thin? What was going on with Shay to make him leave the pack to begin with?  The story left me with so many questions because I became invested in these characters from the start and loved what little I knew of them.  At any rate, terrific short story full of two intriguing questions and one author’s twist on the werewolf genre.  Great job.