All of us have experienced one of those missed connections, that first glance that never goes anywhere. In the Missed Connections anthology, the authors took that theme and showed us where that first glance would take the characters if they were given a second chance, whether it be days, months, or years later. There are thirteen novella-length stories in Missed Connections and so I randomly selected seven for review and have done an overall rating for the entire anthology. This anthology has both m/m and f/f stories.
Marooned! by Diana Sheridan
Recently split from his boyfriend, Connor returns alone to the island where he has spent a week over the past three summers. On the ferry ride over, he meets Paul, a first-timer to the island. They feel the spark of attraction but Paul is in a relationship, albeit a loveless one, and so the attraction cannot go anywhere.
I did not get a good feel for these guys and found the situation that caused them to be marooned a little too contrived. The one thing that I did appreciate, though, was that even though Paul is not happy with his boyfriend and is interested in Connor, both men are respectful of Paul’s current relationship.
Fumbling Toward Crescendo by Jamie Sullivan
Vi is coaxed out for a night on the town, but since she is barely out to herself, the club her friend Greg brings her to is a bit much to handle, especially when Vi discovers the dancers changing in the ladies bathroom. Once the room is empty, or so she thinks, Vi meets Cassidy who turns Vi’s worldview upside down. The promise of a date is reason for excitement, but when the time comes, it appears that fate is not on Vi’s side.
I found this story to be very well written and engaging. Vi and Cassidy are as different physically as two women could get and yet they take the time to discover that not only do they find each other attractive, but that they share similar values and are better suited for each other than they may have thought at first.
Savior by Mina MacLeod
Trapped in a war-torn land, Clef is a healer stationed at Baron Falls, which has just fallen under attack in the latest Unification war. Captain A is brought in and they slowly come to understand each other until Andar is promoted and takes Clef with him to the front line where Andar concocts a plan that could turn the tide and end the war. Unbeknownst to Andar, the enemy have a new weapon, “bombs,” and Andar’s entire company save one is feared lost. Clef may have lost someone he did not have a chance to love.
I will admit that I don’t like stories set in in times before the introduction of modern technology, and yet this story, although set in the distant past, really caught my attention and had me glued to my iPad. The characters, both Clef and Andar, were well developed and MacLeod managed to create a viable world for me to visit. The situations that Clef and Andar found themselves in would be outrageous by modern standards but in context, neither man could have done anything differently. Great plot, great characters, totally won me over.
First Guy Kiss by Cecil Wilde
For Kyle, it all started with a kiss, a seemingly innocent kiss with Jamie as Kyle worked a charity kissing booth in high school. Seemingly innocent, because Jamie wasn’t a girl, but rather a brave young man. Six years later, Jamie is back in town, and both he and Kyle have changed, but what hasn’t is their attraction. Some heavy flirting and a phone number surreptitiously left for Kyle to find leads to dating, a first for Kyle who is known for his one night stands. It turns out that Jamie is a virgin, having never felt comfortable enough with any of his ex-boyfriends to do the deed. He and Kyle settle into an intimate but non-sexual relationship, but can the two seemingly opposite men make it last?
This is one of those stories where almost anything I say will spoil it for you. That being said, this was a super example of the opposites attract trope and I really liked how Wilde showed the characters gradually develop in what I thought was a realistic manner.
Evergreen by Cari Z.
Cyril and Scottie fell in love while preparing for a risky mission to Mars, but when a horrific accident incapacitates Cyril and lands him in a coma for six months, it appears that all is lost. Once awake, and disqualified from the program, Cyril takes over the family business from his estranged father in an attempt to get over the loss of Scottie who is still bound for Mars.
This was truly a great story set in the not too distant future and was long enough to allow significant character growth and a complex plot. The heartbreak experienced by Cyril and Scottie was palpable and it was a good idea to not set the story too far in the future, which kept the need for technological detail to a minimum, keeping the story clean and focussed on these two incredible guys.
Beware of Doors by Sara Fox
Dumped off at his elderly Aunt and Uncle’s house, Theo spends his first afternoon discovering the local forest in an attempt to avoid his mother when he come across the most peculiar thing, a green door in the middle of the forest. Upon further examination, he discovers that behind the door are voices, one of which is raised in anger. When a large crack appears, Theo sees an unexpected room and meets Matthew. Theo just wants to go home while Matthew just wants to leave home. The following day, the door is gone and does not reappear for the rest of Theo’s stay. Eight years later and back at home, a slightly drunk Theo comes across a door, not the green door of years past, but a large red door. Unlike the mysterious green door, the red door opens when he tries the handle.
I am not sure how to address this story. It really does not fit into a genre other than fantasy, perhaps? I mean I liked the concept, the many missed opportunities and how we were focused primarily on Theo as he navigated life, how he dealt with random encounters with the doors, and his brief interactions with the young man behind the doors. Fox cleverly left us a hints as to what was going to happen and left me satisfied with the final outcome.
Don’t Talk to Strangers by C.J. Munoz
Austin never would have thought that a visit to the park with his niece would lead to running into a substitute teacher from high school, and not just any substitute teacher, but Mr. Oliver Halper, the object of Austin’s fantasies. Sadly, Austin reverted back to a nervous, awkward high schooler and figures the second chance at a relationship 9 years later is long gone.
Okay, they may be the source for jokes, but the teacher meeting up with his former student years later is a fun trope to explore and Munoz did it well. There was not instant recognition on the part of either Austin or Oliver, although they eventually figured out their shared past and their interest in each other before parting ways once more.
I was attracted to the concept of missed connections and how couple could, or would, find their way back to each other, and for the most part, I enjoyed the anthology. I will say the the three F/F stories came as a surprise and one of them, Fumbling Toward Crescendo, turned out to be one of my favorite stories. Be warned though, the overall average rating came from individual scores between 2 stars (for me, virtually unreadable) to 4.75 stars, and so you can expect a good variety of stories but not consistency in terms of overall quality. I will say that the stories at the end of the anthology were more enjoyable and were what made Missed Connections a worthwhile read for me.