Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Designated Bottoms is exactly as it sounds, an anthology exploring the wants and needs of bottoms in relationships. The bottom is often seen as lesser, but they in fact hold most of the power. Where would all this tops be without a bottom to satisfy their needs?
Czech Me Out – An Austin Tale by BA Tortuga
Korde is sent on a seemingly simple errand: get his sister Karee a vanilla cupcake, and while he is at it, grab himself some lunch. Korde ends up at Czech Me Out, a food truck where owner Josh chats Korde up, and after their brief conversation, discovers a mutual need: Korde does tile and Josh needs tile installed in his kitchen. Their meeting at Josh’s house is fraught with tension and the two men give in to their sizzling (yes I said sizzling) attraction. The next day, Korde has disappeared and won’t respond to Josh’s calls or texts. Was it too much too soon? Can Josh find his cowboy and try to see where things could go?
What could be better than a story about a cowboy? A story about a cowboy who does tile and features great food. I loved that Josh was the more dominant personality both in and out of bed and that the “strong, silent” cowboy was so fraught with insecurity. The characters, both main and secondary, were nicely developed and the story flowed well and progressed at a natural pace.
The Mistell by Katey Hawthorne
Pete is busy being a TA, with school, and online gaming with his friends. A throwaway comment leads to meeting fellow gamer Sammy from a nearby city. The attraction is obvious from the beginning but Sammy has personal issues he is dealing with. Pete, on the other hand, is a self-proclaimed slut, and one of his students is actively pursuing him and won’t take no for an answer. Road blocks and misunderstandings dog the two men’s fragile relationship, and Sammy needs a break. Pete is miserable and an inadvertent mistell during a game, along with some prodding by his friends, convinces Pete to take a chance and go see Sammy. Will Sammy be ready to open up to Pete,and to see where things could go?
Pete has created a complicated life for himself and learns that even with explanations, a new relationship is fragile. I found the fact that “everyone” wants Pete, except for the person Pete wants, was a little over done, especially the pursuit by his student. How many times does Pete have to shoot the guy down, both nicely and using blunt language? Overall a fun story that spanned a short period of time and exemplified the challenges of a new relationship, family dynamics, and how a reputation, once earned, is hard to change.
Faster Bobcat by Julia Talbot
Panther shifter Rafe needs a night out and visits Faster Bobcat for some exotic entertainment. The fact that Faster Bobcat has cat shifter as dancers is a bonus. Aleks loves his job as a dancer even if the grabby hands are sometimes uncomfortable. Aleks is requested for a private dance, but Rafe feels that one dance is not going to be enough. Rafe offers his card and asks Aleks on a date. Aleks makes the call and the men meet for dinner, where Rafe is made privy to the strong, independent submissive Lynx shifter.
Dinner leads to more and although Rafe is looking for a nice sub for the night, Aleks’ sounds like he wants more, more than Rafe is ready to give. The sex was incredible but it is obvious to Aleks that he was just a one-time fuck, and disheartened, he leaves Rafe behind. Will Rafe and Aleks figure out who they want, and what they need, and make a go at a future together?
I will be the first to admit that I have a thing for cat shifters. Rafe and Aleks were such fun guys and their insecurities made me feel for them. None of their behaviors were over the top and although the whole “Pretty Woman” storyline has been done time and time again, it worked extremely well in Faster Bobcat, probably because they are cat shifters and have at least that in common. Did I mention I love cat shifters?
Little Square of Cloth by Sean Michael
Peter is unceremoniously dropped off at the Whip and Whistle bar by his friend, Girard, who discovered Peter’s secret desires while snooping on Peter’s computer. Unbeknownst to Peter, Girard put a black hankie in Peter’s back pocket, indicating to all present that Peter was up for some serious bottom action. Flustered and frustrated, Peter is saved by Rupert, or Master Rue. Peter is curious, so very curious, but scared to death of crossing the line from fantasy into reality. Coming out of the sexuality closet and the kink closet both in the same day is a momentous feat. Master Rue takes Peter home, introduces him to the playroom, encourages questions, probes (ha ha) for what Peter is curious about, and takes him to bed promising to play the following day.
A perfect pairing. A strong Dom with a conscience, fortunately for Peter, because he is too innocent and naive for his own good. And although Rupert is not interested in taking advantage of Peter, I was a little concerned at first as they were going pretty fast with no talk of a contract (permanent or temporary). At least Rupert had Peter choose a safe word. It was obvious that Peter knew right from wrong but did not have the confidence to stand up for himself and luckily his “Muscled, broad shouldered, wearing a tight t-shirt and leather pants.” Master Rue was all about the Safe, sane and consensual. This had a totally unexpected twist that made me really like Master Rue and made me believe that they could find that happily ever after.
Sergeant Hardass by Shannon West
Jake recently left the army after eight years, heartbroken and disenchanted, even with the repeal of DADT. He is now a civilian working as a security supervisor. Jake’s well-meaning brother tries to set him up with the younger brother of a friend, and Jake is not interested in a blind date. Imagine Jake’s surprise when the object of his desires, his former lover from the Army, Chad walks through the door. They were secretly dating while in the Army, and Chad dumped Jake by email, weeks after professing his love and after pleading for a chance at a relationship. Jake feels betrayed and angry, the Hardass sergeant with the broken heart. If Jake won’t let Chad explain the reason for the email, how can they truly reconcile?
This story explores the challenges of a gay relationship while serving in the military and family who’s love is conditional. Jake was a deep, complex character, hard on the outside and soft on the inside, angry and bitter but unable to hold onto that anger when push came to shove. Chad was the typical trouble maker and his outbursts struck me as part of the problem with being in the closet. He is cocky and arrogant on the surface, but it is all bravado to hide the pain and insecurity. A wonderful peek at two lovers split by outside forces and given the opportunity to reconnect.
Prince of Paupers by Kiernan Kelly
Meet Liam Murphy, prince, living a self-indulgent lifestyle, lounging in the pool, drinking at clubs, and picking up only the best, most famous (or infamous, as the case may be) men to fill his sexual needs, and Deacon Brewster, an American of modest means with a smile that can make Liam’s day that much better. A youth exchange program between impoverished Chickapen Holler introduces the two boys. Funds sent by Liam’s parents to help the poor town are not getting to the people, but the reverend appears well off, too well off, and Deacon cannot let the status quo remain. When Deacon is forced to return home to care for his siblings and sick mother, Deacon and Liam share their fist kiss and so much more. Liam’s fear of losing his best friend appears to be unfounded as they both admit that they have been attracted to each other for years.
I found the shifting POVs easy to follow and that Kelly interjected humor into a story that addressed such serious subjects. I will not get on a soapbox but will say that I could totally believe the premise that a reverend would misappropriate donated funds and loved that Deacon never forgot his roots. What did irk me was that Liam’s family believed that the donated money was not going to the greater good and never did anything about it. Other than that, another fantastic couple and definitely the most heartwarming of all of the stories in the anthology.
Switching It Up by KC Wells
Appearances can be deceiving. A chance meeting at a bar on his birthday brings Jay and Dean together to commiserate their lack of luck with men. At 5’8″, Jay is a top all the way and at 6′ tall, Dean is the least toppy guy in the bar. Chatting leads Jay to figure this fact out and, when Dean invites Jay back to his place for coffee, Jay is more than happy to say yes. The pairing is perfect. Dean is a willing, responsive bottom and Jay is in his element until the following morning when he decides to leave Dean’s apartment while Dean remains asleep. Unsettled, but not knowing why, Jay is left wondering if it truly was a one night stand.
What a great couple! Jay and Dean were perfectly written and exemplified the need to let go of stereotypes when it comes to one’s preference in bed. Jay’s fear manifests itself when he “runs” the morning after and how both Jay and Dean deal with their feelings seemed. Genuine. The key secondary character, Brendan, Jay’s co-worker was also really well developed and was integral to the story.
Designated Bottoms was fantastic! Such great writing and characters, I was captivated from the start and fell in love with all 14 of the guys. This was a well edited selection of stories showing the strength and power to be had by the bottoms in a relationship, and how there needs to be balance, understanding and honesty in order to overcome fears and insecurities. This is an absolute must buy anthology, and my only hope is that the authors craft future stories featuring these guys in the future. Have you bought it yet? How about now?