Rating: 3.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Remember when there was nothing finer than someone putting together a tape of music that meant something to you both. A song here that brought back memories of a special date, or a song there that spelled out the love you had for each other. That special list of songs on that mixed tape told you someone was thinking about you and your relationship with them when putting that list together. Here is the second volume of songs and the stories from MLR Press that revolve around the relationships forever tied together by musical memories.
- “Never Goin’ to Let You Go” by Embry Carlysle
- “Living On My Own” by Megan Slayer
- “Save Your Love For Me” by Lex Valentine
- “Up Where We Belong” by Rob Rosen
- “It’s Raining Men” by Diana DeRicci
- “How Soon Is Now” by Christopher Koehler
I did not read the first anthology in this series, although I love the subject of these volumes. I still have locked away somewhere a tape or two that former boyfriends mixed together for me, tapes that still manage to bring back smiles and perhaps a few tears along with the memories. Among these stories I have found a new author to love, and several stories to recommend. I am not sure if any of these stories have companion pieces in the first volume, but one story here in particular is sending me back to check. Here are the stories as they line up in the anthology:
How Soon Is Now by Christopher Koehler
Rating: 4 stars
Toby Meyer and Derek Tremaine are university undergraduates. Each has been eyeing the other for months, but neither has worked up the courage to approach the other man. For Derek, past mistakes have made him overly cautious about relationships until the sight of Toby makes Derek want much more with the other man. For Toby, Derek is frustration personified. He can’t understand why the man won’t ask him out on a date. One night at a party will change the stalemate Toby and Derek are locked in. For someone else has his eyes on Toby and Derek must decide to act for both their sakes.
I wished this story had been a little longer but the characters were interesting and endearing. Derek especially was a interesting take on the “larger man.” His sense of fashion is an important part of his personality, a trait more often seen in the young, slender, quirky characters instead of someone as huge as Derek. Loved him, and this aspect of the story. I only wish it has been a little longer and the resolution more drawn out.
It’s Raining Men by Diana DeRicci
Rating: 5 stars
Dallas and his group of friends have come to Paper Dolls to cheer on their friend in the drag queen contest. But from the moment he lays his eyes on Pepper Prince (aka Peter), the hostess of the club, Dallas knows he must do everything possible to get to know the man on stage. Pepper Prince has a firm policy to never date any of his “dolls” or members of the audience who comes to see them. Dallas, however, is impossible to ignore and persistent beyond measure. When they do finally get together, the sparks fly. But Peter has been hurt in the past. Can Dallas overcome Peter’s past to make a future for himself and Peter together?
This is simply an amazing story. Outstanding characterizations and terrific plot make this story a true standout. DeRicci layers the story with several couples that you want to know better, along with the point of view of gay man who loves dressing as a woman and being a man. The author makes Peter such an accessible personality, so well grounded in his beliefs that every reader will be able to understand exactly where Peter is coming from emotionally and applaud him. Dallas too has so many wonderful strengths and accompanying insecurities that the pair is terrific apart and as a couple. I simply wanted more of them, and their friends. This is the best story of the anthology. I want more in this universe.
Up Where We Belong by Rob Rosen
Rating: 3.5 stars
A limousine driver is standing in an airport holding a sign with a name on it – Ted Jackson. Unfortunately for him, two men with the exact name arrive at the airport at the same time, one from the East Coast and one from the West. The solution? Both men take the same car to their hotel and a romance ensues that turns into something much more for them both.
This is a very cute story. I loved the idea of two men with the same name and one very confused limousine driver. There are some hot sexy scenes and a quick resolution. Another case of instant love but here it kind of works. Short and sweet.
Living On My Own by Megan Slayer
Rating 3 stars
Kelsey’s life is in turmoil. He has just been dumped by his ex who has made awful accusations about him, his sister has trashed the house he let her stay in, and he is lonely beyond measure. Then Daniel Tate shows up, the man Kelsey has never gotten over. They had a wonderful life before Daniel’s drinking destroyed their relationship. Now Daniel is back and sober. Daniel also wants Kelsey back. Can Kelsey work through all the pain he has been put through and trust Daniel again? Or will their last chance at a relationship be lost forever?
I liked Kelsey and Daniel well enough, although I would have appreciated a little more back history on them both. They were involved in a BDSM relationship and they pick back up on that immediately as soon as Daniel reenters Kelsey’s life. Kelsey has just been humiliated in public due to a man he trusted, and the trust he had previously place in Daniel had been destroyed due to Daniel’s drinking. So how it is that they pick back up on that part of their relationship immediately given their trust issues? I liked the rest of their story well enough but this element dragged it down to a 3-star rating.
Never Goin’ to Let You Go by Embry Carlysle
Rating: 2 stars
This story takes place in Chicago in the 1980’s as friends Drake and Shane come to grips with each other and their sexuality. Drake is gay and unashamedly so (at least to everyone but Shane). Shane is sure that he is straight to the point of making fun of gays and throwing around gay slurs. Shane is also attracted to Drake, which confuses him and makes him act out in a cowardly fashion. Months and months go by and the miscommunications and misplaced emotions pile up. Can Drake and Shane break through Shane’s self imposed barriers to have the relationship they want with each other?
Sigh. I almost didn’t make it through this story. It feels impenetrably long, like slogging through molasses on a cold day. The writing is overly dense, the same issues repeated innumerable times throughout the story until I just didn’t care any longer how the boys resolve their problems to have any sort of relationship. Shane particularly is not a likable or endearing character. I am not sure why the author feels like the reader should connect with him. Instead we are left thinking that Drake should have moved on eons ago. My least favorite story of the group.
Save Your Love by Lex Valentine
Rating 2 stars
This story starts out in May 1987, in San Jose, California. On his 18th birthday, Jay Sparks loses his virginity and finds out he is gay at a rock festival. Jay also discovers that Matt Langdon, his friend and first lover, is also his forever love. But it will be years and many different paths and lovers for each of them before they will be ready to take the chance on a relationship and a forever love.
I just couldn’t connect with these characters however much I wanted to. Jay, now a rock star, and Matt, a firefighter, keep meeting, usually on birthdays, having sex and telling each other how much they love each other. They also have to tell each other they just got tested and when was the last time they slept with someone else. Conversations then occur where they deny their many lovers mean anything and that they know this causes each other pain. *head desk* Nothing about their relationship or feelings felt very realistic or believable, When Jay says “I don’t understand how I can be with other guys when loving you feels so right,” well, by that time I really didn’t care. Far too short to make the reader engaged in such a relationship. My penultimate least favorite story in this anthology.