Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story anthology
A Taste of Honey is an anthology filled with bears. Each story features at least one big, sexy, hairy bear of all different kinds. I really enjoy stories with non traditional heroes, so I was excited to see a whole anthology of men who don’t always meet our typical romance novel ideas of attractiveness, but who are sexy and wonderful nonetheless.
The anthology has 14 stories and they manage to be surprisingly diverse considering the quantity and that they all deal with similar types of men. It is a nice mix of authors I have read and folks who are new to me and overall I enjoyed the anthology quite a lot. My only general issue is how many stories focus on just the bare beginnings of a relationship between the men. Obviously it is hard to show a full relationship, from meeting to an HEA, in short story format (though I have seen it done well many times, including here). But I did feel like some of these stories end abruptly or have very little happen to really grow a connection between the characters. I would have also have loved to see a better mix of stories across the spectrum from just getting to know each other to falling in love and getting their HEA.
Truck Stop by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
One night during a snowstorm, a trucker walks in to Cleve’s diner. Cleve has seen him before and the guy rarely talks; he mostly grunts and keeps to himself. But the two men are going to be snowed in together and soon strike up a conversation. As the night wears on, Cleve gets to know Sully a little more. Both men are WWII veterans, both had relationships that fell apart, and as they talk, it becomes clear they are both gay, though it takes them a while to admit it. There is an unlikely connection between the men, and it appears the snowstorm may be a start of something for them.
This is a sweet story that gives us just the very beginning of the relationship between Cleve and Sully. There is not much in the way of relationship development and definitely nothing physical between them. It is mostly two men who go from virtual strangers to talking with one another and sharing a bit about their lives. However, this is a nice story about two men with troubled lives who seem to be on the verge of finding happiness together.
Bear Chasing by Renae Kaye
Neil lives with his sister, helping her out with her kids. When a hot bear moves in next door, Neil is instantly attracted to the man, but is kind of terrified of him and his equally large housemates. Neil is a small, kind of geeky guy and doesn’t think the hot bear will have any interest in him. As it turns out, Brett is definitely interested, and brings Neil to a party where he learns all about the world of bears. What is even better is that it turns out the bear Neil really wants definitely wants him in return.
I loved this story and found Neil a great narrator. He is witty and fun and we can see what a good guy he is, giving up so much of his time to help his sister. Along with Neil, we get a good introduction to bear culture in this story, so it is well placed early on in the anthology. Loved this story, loved Neil and Brett, and this was one of my favorites of the anthology.
Life’s Tiny Surprises by Tara Spears
It is Mac’s birthday and he has taken himself out to dinner to celebrate. Mac is a big guy and lacks confidence in himself and his appearance, so when his tiny, adorable waiter comes around, he is all flustered. But it turns out that Jerrod is equally flustered by Mac. Jerrod was a former student of Mac’s many years ago, and the man made such an impression on Jerrod that when he sees Mac again, he is desperate to go out with him. Mac can hardly believe his luck, but it turns out the guys are perfect together.
Oh, this story is just so sweet and romantic. I loved poor Mac who is so awkward and self doubting and I was thrilled to see him find his happiness with the adorable Jerrod. The guys are sweet and sexy together, with Mac this gentle giant and Jerrod a guy who is determined not to let the man of his dreams pass him by. This story was one of the few that takes us from meeting to a real HEA and the way it ends is so romantic and lovely. One of my two favorites of the anthology and I will definitely be looking for more by Tara Spears.
The Bear King of Snowbird Mountain by Michael Rupured
Jeremy is in DC for a conference when he decides to wander around the city. When he sees an incredibly hot guy who is passing up all comers, he is shocked that the man seems interested in him. Not just interested, but tells Jeremy he has been waiting for him. The guys quickly end up back at Jeremy’s hotel room and he is thrilled with encounter. But when Donald reveals more about himself and how he ended up finding Jeremy, Jeremy is in for a big surprise.
This was a nice story but I will admit I had some trouble with this one starting from the time the men meet. When a total stranger says he has been waiting for you and is thrilled to finally meet you, wouldn’t most people at least consider the guy thinks you are someone else? So from then on, I kept waiting for the moment when Jeremy figures out something strange is going on. Now, it turned out to not be what I expected, but I still found myself frustrated with Jeremy’s cluelessness. I also had a hard time feeling any chemistry between these guys. They meet, they have sex, Donald tells Jeremy the real story, and then they are together. I just never felt either a strong emotional connection, or even a real physical connection between them. The story does take a different direction than I expected, however, which is a nice twist.
Just Breathe by John Genest
Will Bancroft is having trouble getting restful sleep and so he is going to a sleep center to get tested. His cute technician Les Moore ends up spending some time with him that evening when Will can’t fall asleep and the guys definitely hit it off. It has taken a while for Will to get over a former boyfriend who died tragically, but Boss Daddy ends up being the inspiration for Will to go after what he wants with Les.
I really enjoyed this cute story that gives us just the start of things between Les and Will. We definitely get the sense that they are on the beginning of their journey and more is to come for these guys. I liked the unique set up to this one and found Will and Les to be likable guys and a cute couple.
Barefoot by Lillian Francis
Finn has been crushing on Cute Guy at the grocery store but hasn’t worked up the nerve to talk to him. When he finally gets to talk to Sam, Finn is looking kind of a mess with his shaggy hair and missing shoes after giving his pair to a man at the homeless shelter where he volunteers. Finn is surprised and excited that Sam seems interested in him and that he seems like such a genuinely good guy. However, when Sam shows up at the homeless shelter, it turns out both men are in for a bit of a surprise.
This is such a good, sweet story with two very likable heroes. Finn is our narrator and we see how tirelessly he works for the shelter and how much he gives of his own time and money. He is so sensitive and caring with the clients and an all around good guy. Sam is also really caring and so openminded, even when he gets the wrong impression about Finn. The miscommunication bugged me a bit, as it was kind of obvious what was really going on. But I could overlook that for a really sweet story about two guys who are so kind and perfect for each other.
Golden Bear by G.P. Keith
After a big snowstorm blows through, Norm meets Winston, a Hydro worker who is out dealing with storm recovery. When Winston comes by to help out with some downed lines on his own time, Norm invites Winston for dinner and the two men hit it off. With Winston in need of a place to stay and Norm not wanting to ride out the storm alone, Norm invites Winston to spend the night. When he first met Winston, Norm was struck by his smile and found himself attracted to the man. But when he sees Winston without his coat and realizes he is quite a heavy guy, Norm isn’t so sure what he thinks anymore. However, the more time he spends around Winston, the more he comes to find he might just be the perfect guy for him.
I enjoyed this story and particularly the spin where Norm isn’t so sure about Winston’s bear self. Norm isn’t a jerk about it, it is just that he doesn’t initially find himself attracted to Winston, which is fairly unique among the stories in this anthology. It was really nice to see how Winston’s personality and charm win Norm over and how he soon finds every bit of Winston attractive.
Banyan Court by Samuel Scott Preston
Dan Kumagai is headed to Hawaii to celebrate his 60th birthday with his family and friends. Being there is a little bittersweet as it reminds him of his young love lost many years before to the war. When his nephew gives him a gift of surfing lessons, Dan is pretty uncertain, both because of his discomfort with his body and his age. When he meets Hank Ross, the sexy surf instructor, Dan is even more intimidated. Hank seems interested in getting to know Dan despite the age difference between them. The men share about their pasts and Dan’s passion for Japanese theater and seem to be bonding, but Dan’s insecurities may get in the way of anything happening between them.
I really enjoyed the great detail Preston gives on both Hawaiian and Japanese culture in this story, which made them both really come to life. The story does go into a lot of detail on some of the plays and dances Dan enjoys that honestly I had some trouble following, but I appreciated how they worked into the story. I also really liked that Dan is an older hero as finding MCs who are 60 years old is almost unheard of in this genre. Dan has never really gotten over his heartbreak from the loss of his first love, and I enjoyed seeing him find happiness again with Hank. However, I did find myself frustrated that Dan’s go to move is constantly to run away any time he gets anxious. I also think things end up moving way too fast when they finally resolve. These guys barely know each other and they are going from zero to proposing with nothing in between. So mixed feelings on this one, but overall enjoyable.
The Bear at the Bar by J. Scott Coatsworth
Dex is a hot guy and he knows it. When he walks into a bar, everyone notices him and he likes it that way. He can have any guy he wants, so when a balding, hairy, bearded guy tries to strike up a conversation, Dex rudely shoots him down twice. The next morning, Dex wakes up and everything has changed. His gorgeous body is gone and instead he is a big hairy bear. Dex has no idea what has happened, but it becomes pretty clear he has ended up in the wrong body. With the help of his former boyfriend David, Dex hopes to figure out what is going on and change himself back.
So this is obviously a Freaky Friday theme with Dex as the hot guy who is also a total ass and needs to learn there is more to beauty than what you see on the surface. Things are a bit pat, with everyone loving Dex in his heavy, hairy form and him quickly realizing he is a jerk that needs to mend his ways. The romantic resolution also happens quickly without much lead up. However, this is a fun story and plays nicely with the themes of redemption and self awareness.
The Bear Next Door by Jack Byrne
Rob Johnson can’t quite figure out what his hot, young neighbor wants with him. It never occurs to Rob that Bryce might be attracted to him, being older, heavy, and embarrassingly hairy. But it turns out Bryce is totally into Rob, and when he finally convinces Rob to give it a shot, the guys hit it off physically and emotionally, beginning a relationship together. But when someone returns from Rob’s past and Bryce misunderstands, the two men may not be able to get past the miscommunication to realize they are truly meant for one another.
I liked the start of this story with Rob in disbelief that this hot young man wants him and slowly realizing how much Bryce really cares for him. Their relationship is sweet and sexy and definitely headed toward long term until the Big Miscommunication throws a wrench in things. This is so not my favorite plot device and I did find myself frustrated that after building a relationship for some time, they were both willing to throw it away without talking to one another. But I did like the relationship between them and enjoyed seeing it all resolve.
The Bear Fetish by John Amory
Robert is in Albuquerque for a meeting and ends up in a gay bar when looking for some late night food and drink. Robert is closeted but admits he is gay, and he is picked up Louis, an attractive Native American artist. Robert ends up going home with Louis to see the animal fetishes the man makes, as well as for a hot hookup.
This story was nice but not a whole lot happens. I was kind of shocked to flip pages and find it over, as we don’t get much development of things between these men or really get to know them much individually. I kind of assumed more would happen when Robert gets to his meeting, but the story ends before that. So while we get a sense of interest between Robert and Louis, things are too brief to really go anywhere here.
The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Robert B. McDiarmid
Bill is in Palm Springs for vacation, needing to get away and stop pining over his breakup. Even though it happened a while ago, Bill is still not over it, and he hopes some new scenery and hot men might help him move on. When reading a self-help book by the pool, he spots the gorgeous Arthur who seems unattainable but who strikes up a conversation with Bill about his book. It turns out Arthur read the same book and the guys end up going on out on a date.
This was another story that felt somewhat undeveloped with a super abrupt ending. Not a whole lot happens here and most of the time is spent with Bill feeling sorry for himself about his past breakup, which doesn’t leave much time for any real relationship development between Bill and Arthur. The story starts present day and then flashes back to Bill’s time in Palm Springs, then further back to his conversations with his friend Barnum that lead to his trip. I am not sure the benefit of starting in present day since the scenes are mostly filler and given the short page count, we could have used the time to develop the actual relationship. So I think this had some nice potential, but there just wasn’t enough of a story to really draw me in.
Hunting Bear: A Fairy Tale with a Very Hairy Ending by Edmond Manning
Tyler has spotted a hot, bear construction worker and he is determined to track the guy down and ask him out. Tyler heard the guy attends a Bear Coffee occasionally so he goes, hoping his hot bear will show up. He learns that his guy is The Great White Bear, the one everyone wants and no one ever gets. When he gets an invite to a party where Mike will be, Tyler goes, along with his best friend Derrick. Things don’t all go according to plan however, and fortunately he has Derrick to help him out. Tyler is surprised to find that he may just have a chance with Mike, but it may not be what he wants after all.
Oh, I loved LOVED this one. Told in fairy tale style, we follow Tyler on his quest to land his hot construction worker. Those of you who have read Manning’s Lost King series will recognize a bit of the style, but what we get here is told with more humor, definitely a lighter tale of Tyler the Twink and his search for his man. At first it was a bit hard to get into with the unique style, but once more of the dialog started, I had no problem following it. This one is sweet and fun and ends up being super romantic and lovely. I really enjoyed it and it tied for my favorite of the anthology.
Overall I found A Taste of Honey to be an enjoyable anthology with lots of great stories. I did wish a few more of them took us past the initial meetings to more relationship building, but overall I found this one a lot of fun and definitely recommended if you like good stories with some nontraditional heroes.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.