Every summer Dreamspinner Press releases their Daily Dose, a set of 30 stories with a common theme.  They are released a day at a time during the month of June for those who buy the set, or individually on June 1st.  This year’s Daily Dose is called Mended and centers around a hurt/comfort theme.  Over the course of the month, we will be reviewing some of the novellas individually, as well as doing some roundups of several short stories at once.  Our first installment can be found here.

 

never let it goTitle: Never Let it Go by Emily Moreton
Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance

Will has been discharged from the military after being in an explosion and suffering physical and mental injuries. He has many broken bones and suffers from PTSD and other mental stress. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that his two partners, Isaac and Ade, are still in Afghanistan and Will knows only too well what risks they face.  Will is going stir crazy when he gets the news that his men are on their way home.  He is so excited to see them again, but also terrified something will happen before they are reunited.  Will can’t wait to finally have his men home safe and in his arms.

This story caught my attention as soon as I saw it was not just menage, but a military story.  I will almost always gravitate towards a menage and the combination with the military angle is one that I haven’t seen often and I was curious to see how it would be explored.  Moreton does a nice job showing us Will’s pain, both physical and mental. He has numerous injuries and is plagued by dreams and flashbacks of the accident that almost killed him and his partners.  We can also feel how anxious and scared Will is for his men, as he is home safe while they are still in harm’s way. It is especially clear in those final days as Ade and Isaac’s return is imminent and time seems to stand still for Will as he waits.

Given that this is a pretty short story (about 25 pages) I knew not to expect a whole lot of detail, but there were areas that just felt incomplete to me.  It wasn’t clear, for example, if these men were partners prior to joining the military. We know that Will is in the home they share, so either they already were in a relationship and somehow all ended up in the same unit, or maybe at some point they all came home on leave and got a home together? Both scenarios are unusual enough that I would have like to understand them, and a little history on their relationship.  We also get a nice feel for Will, as he is our POV character and we spend most of the time with him, but I didn’t get much of anything about Isaac or Ade. They are pretty much interchangeable soldier/boyfriends and we learn little about them.  I also wasn’t really clear on how long they had been separated. It sounded like a matter of weeks since Will was sent home, but at times they made it sound like the men had been apart for much longer.

Plotwise things are kept pretty basic, as befitting a story of this length, and it is essentially Will at home recovering, waiting for his men, and being reunited. The ultimate reunion is sweet and romantic and I felt a nice satisfaction in seeing the men back together safely.  So while I do feel like there were some areas where I wanted more background and character development, overall this is an enjoyable story.

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brandedTitle: Branded by Bru Baker
Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story

When an edict is handed down by the king that all servants should be branded with the royal crest, Coren, crown prince of Tiede, is not only disgusted but fearful. His personal advisor, Bran, is among those to receive the mark. But as his lover, Coren will allow no other to mark Bran. Facing the possible destruction of their secret relationship, Coren brands his lover and is faced with the fear of what will happen next, but is once again surprised by loyalty, compassion, and love that emanates from his best friend and secret lover.

This is such a sweet read. In the matter of only a few paragraphs, Bru Baker drew me into the world of Tiede and into the seemingly doomed relationship of Coren and Bran. I was captivated by the fear and desolation that Coren held while taunting himself with the actions being forced upon both him and Bran. And then I fell in love with Bran and his quiet strength, his unwavering loyalty, and his unconditional love in the face of uncertainty. I really enjoyed the strength of this relationship and the happenings that led to the branding. I’d also like to see more. I want to know what happens to the king. Has he gone mad? Is he tyrannical? Will Coren soon be king? And what other obstacles will Coren and Bran face in their relationship? I can already see the makings of an epic story, and I want more.

If you’re looking for a sweet, quick (like less than an hour) read, pick this one up.  But be warned, you’ll certainly want more. I definitely recommend Branded by Bru Baker.

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Breaking Down Our WallsTitle: Breaking Down Our Walls by Gwynn Marssen
Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story

Dylan’s brother, Walter asks him for a favor: take in his sister-in-law’s uncle, Owen, who is down on his luck. Dylan reluctantly agrees since he would deny his brother nothing, after he took care of Dylan as a child of ten when their parents were killed in a car accident. A very young “Uncle” Owen arrives at Dylan’s secluded mountain home battered, bruised, and as skittish as can be, the victim of physical abuse. Dylan, seeing a parallel between Owen’s behaviour and that of an abused animal, gives Owen the space he needs to feel safe and comfortable. Dylan also has issues from his past.  The death of his parents at age ten and being bounced around from foster home to group home, Dylan has severe abandonment issues, which are the reason he lives in the mountain house like a hermit.

As Owen heals physically from is near death beating at the hands of his ex-boyfriend, he begins to come out of his shell, eventually deciding that he needs to find work, and get on with his life. Dylan showed patience and compassion, and has become attached to Owen. With his history of abandonment, Dylan is crushed by Owen’s decision to leave, although he knew the day would come, as everyone leaves him eventually.

I will admit that I am a huge sucker for short stories. I love the economy of words, and that an author can create a world and characters of sufficient depth and emotion using a limited number of words. I liked both Dylan and Owen, and couldn’t help but feel for them. Although at first we believe that Owen is the only one in need, we soon discover that Dylan’s self-imposed isolation is an indicator of his need to heal as well. The story was well written, Dylan’s thoughts were integral to the story and incorporated seamlessly, the relationship built gradually and the passing of time was subtly addressed. To be honest, I have already read this story twice, and enjoyed it just as much the second time around.

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The BorderTitle: The Border by Kim Fielding
Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story

Sergeant John Peterson has guarded the border between the west and the east for many years. Wounded in battle, it is now his daily job to meet the supply train that stops by his outpost three times a day. Just a few feet away is the border guard for the Easterners, John’s sworn enemy. However, a fragile truce has been called and it is with some surprise that John one day finds himself watching the easterner crossing into the patch of land between the two barbed wire fences that stand against the enemy. As he watches, the young guard plants a garden in the no man’s land and for the first time, John finds himself drawn to the man. Little does John know that the Second Lieutenant Tom Fellowes will become much more than the enemy behind the fence; in fact, he will save John’s life.

Short stories are so difficult to write. Often they are lacking in something, or not fully fleshed out enough to give you any sense of whom the characters are and what makes them tick. Most times, these kinds of stories are a slapdash affair strung together with one or two very hot sex scenes and are as quickly forgotten as they are read.

Not so with The Border by Kim Fielding—not by a long shot. Here was a story so complete, and yet it just scratched the surface of these two men’s lives. John was so desperately lonely and felt so used up by a war that had stretched on for years. Tied to an outpost on the edge of nowhere, he has no companionship other than the nameless easterner who patrols his side of the fence. With each page, the tension grew between these two men and by the time a freak accident throws them together, John is wound so tight he is about to come undone. The tenderness with which Kim Fielding ends this tale is remarkable and the hope she extends through these two characters coming together is breathtaking.

To say much more would be to give away too much of this delightfully tender love story. Suffice it to say that I highly recommend this installment of the Daily Dose Anthology to you.

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