Sixteen stories, one theme. I love anthologies and I’m really happy I picked this one up. This anthology centered around the writing theme, and we got a lot of diverse stories, from all kinds of writers, to editors, to journalists, with book binders and printers thrown in for fun. It was a really diverse group of stories and a wonderful read. They were all quick reads, enjoyable, and this is definitely an anthology I can recommend. Read it in one sitting, or break it up to make the good times last, you won’t regret it.
Java Rocks by Julia Talbot
Jerrod is an avid tea drinker, and in fact hates coffee, so when he makes the protagonist of his new novel a coffee shop owner, he does the practical thing and sets up a work-along at a real coffee shop. He doesn’t expect the owner, Finn, in all his tattooed glory. After the research is over, Jerrod keeps going back to the coffee shop just to be in the atmosphere and to see Finn. Finally, Finn asks him out on a date. The two men connect more than either expected.
Fun, cute, quirky, this story was a nice tale of opposites attract. I liked both these guys, and I liked seeing them interact. I would have liked to see just a little bit more of their connection, but overall it was really a sweet story, and I loved the way Finn was the inspiration for Jerrod’s new hero. Nicely done.
On the Shelf by Eliza Maszar
Dan owns a bookstore and he prides himself on getting to know his regulars. Or at least getting to know what they like. But there’s one customer, Christopher, who despite giving Dan shy smiles, never speaks and remains a mystery. When Dan’s cat jumps from a high shelf and directly onto Chris, Dan finally gets a chance to converse with the cute stranger. It’s only then that he learns Chris is deaf. But that doesn’t stop Dan from asking the man out. The hurdles in their way are big, but maybe they aren’t insurmountable.
I liked this short story, but I felt a little bit like it was missing something. These two guys connect, and it was great to see them interacting and deciding to give each other a chance. But the story ended too quickly. I felt that it was just barely beginning, and I liked these characters so much I wanted to see more. I do like that it ended with a sense of hope for what may come though.
Love In the Time of Magics by Fil Preis
Justin thought university would be different, that he would be different, but he’s still the same geeky, closeted boy who doesn’t fit in that he was in high school. Until he discovers an animated TV show and the online forum that goes with it. There he finds likeminded people. The fan fiction stories really draw him in, and one writer’s stories in particular. WhiteIce writes stories that Justin can relate to. When a chance encounter in the chat room brings the two guys together, mutual admiration turns into sparks flying. Online they fit together, and eventually reveal their feelings for each other. But when it comes time to meet in person, will their connection still be there or fizzle and fade?
Oh, this story was all sorts of adorable, with just the right amount of feeling thrown in. Justin is disillusioned with life, and university, but like so many of us, when he finds the place where he belongs, he just blossoms. I really enjoyed this story.
Author’s Note by Kim Dias
John is an insanely and intensely focused author, and for all that Zach loves him, he also drives Zach crazy. Zach has barely seen his boyfriend in days. John hasn’t been doing much sleeping or eating, and when Zach tries point this out, John gets snappish. Zach isn’t sure why he puts up with John when he gets like this, but talking to him seems to get him nowhere. Until it does.
Anyone who is an author, or knows one, can relate to John’s intensity. I loved the way the author portrayed John through Zach’s eyes, and I loved the way that Zach tried to take care of John, even when the man didn’t want or deserve it. Really nice story about how sometimes putting up with the worst of your partner is frustrating and awful, but you still do it because of how much you love them.
Late Edition by Jamie Sullivan
As the sports editor for the paper, Brendan often ends up staying at work until very late waiting for the scores to come in for games so that he can approve the layout and sign off on his reporters’ stories. The late nights were the reason his last boyfriend left. When a basketball game goes into overtime, Brendan resigns himself to another late night and sleeping in the office when he realizes he won’t make the last train home. That is, until, Forrest, the night editor for the front page, notices he’s there and offers him a ride home. The connection between them sparks, and Brendan realizes he just might have found someone who would completely understand his work schedule.
I adored this one. The author did a great job of giving us Brendan’s life without it feeling like an info dump, and for a short story, the chemistry between the MC’s just leapt off the page. I really liked these guys together, and I felt the hope at the end that they would be able to make a life together.
A Perfect Ending by Anne Robins
Nicolas spends his days at the coffee shop, pounding out the last book in his acclaimed series and fending off the flirtations of one of the baristas, Jace. Writing isn’t going well, and when Nicolas’ editor tells him to take some time off, Jace overhears the phone conversation. When Nick ends up at the coffee shop on his days off, because he doesn’t know what to do with himself, Jace hijacks him into a date. The two men hit it off, share some personal things about themselves, and really make a connection.
This was a great story about a writer on the edge of burn out, how living a little helped him find his muse again. Jace made a huge difference in Nick’s life. Not only did he help Nick to see the outside world, but he also inspired Nick to rewrite the final book in order to have a perfect ending. And that’s what these two guys got as well.
Imp by Emily Moreton
Everyone knows printing imps exist, but Merec has never actually seen one until Lief shows up in his shop. The man is small, gorgeous, and naked. Lief won’t tell Merec why he’s there, and Merec choses to carry on as if Lief wasn’t there. Lief constantly offers to help, and Merec keeps turning him down. When Merec’s assistant his hurt and can’t work, he still turns Lief down, even going so far as to let his exhaustion get the better of him and say some mean things. But Merec toils along, never asking Lief for help. And in the end, that turns out to be exactly the right thing to do.
This was a really clever story, filled with a paranormal aspect that I thought was fantastic. Lief was a funny and heartfelt. Merec had a sense of morality about him that I really loved. It was clever and humorous, and I just enjoyed this one a lot.
Compulsion by Emma Jane
Ed has a compulsion to steal, and while in a store looking for his next fix, he stubbles across a book signing. The author is gorgeous and captures Ed’s interest. Ed steals the book just so he can have it signed. When he gets home and researches the author, he finds out that his name is Kieron, and send an email through the contact page. Kieron writes back and offers to meet for drinks. They do and have a great time, but after having sex, Ed admits that he steals things. Kieron admits that he has his own mental problems, and the two men bond.
I have to admit, I was just a little bit confused by this one. It had good writing, but it seemed way too short for the amount of plot going on. We really got to know Ed well, and I liked him a lot. I liked being in his head. But I really felt that just as the story got going was when it ended. It was good, but it left me feeling like there should be more.
Secrets of the Spector by S.S. Skye
Kateb is a writer for the paper, though he stuck writing what basically amounts to a gossip column about the city’s superheroes. His best friend Cayden is one such hero, Spector. When Cayden gets roped into doing a press conference, the questions turn to his personal life. Flustered, he lets it slip that there is a man that he has his eye on, who’s been his friend, and who is perfect for him. Kateb watches the conference and is angry that he didn’t know this about his best friend. But what Kateb doesn’t know is that Cayden is talking about him.
This was a really cute story with some awesome world building in such a short space. We get a really good picture of a world filled with powered humans, and a nice little friends to lovers story. I enjoyed both characters and the plot, and was smiling throughout.
MacAvoy Made by Kimberly Dawn Johnson
When Duvall catches sight of the cute new guy at work painstakingly doing something with ink and paper in the lunchroom, he’s intrigued. With the help of a friend, Duvall finds out the man’s name is Preston. Since Duvall can’t get the man out of his head, he eventually goes over and asks Preston about it. Which leads to dinner out and a night between the sheets. When Duvall finds out that Preston has been making books, and why, he freaks out. Duvall is a man slut, a love ‘em and leave ‘em type, and he realizes that Preston is far too good for him. But both men are drawn to each other, and they just might find out they are meant to be in each other’s lives.
This one, you guys, was nigh on perfect. The characters were well drawn and heartfelt, the plot proceeded at a perfect pace, and I was right there in the story every step of the way. I adored everything about it. It had funny moments and emotion, and when it was over I wanted more. Not because it was lacking in anyway, but because I just wanted to spend more time with these two men and their story. A really wonderful story.
Jester Hinkle and the Thrust of Destiny by Madeleine Ribbon
Jester works from home as a freelance writer. He makes most of his money writing reviews for romances, and since he’s disillusioned with love himself, that makes his reviewing a loathsome job. When his best friend Keisha sends him an email with a picture attached, he think that Santiago is just a hottie. But the pictures change and then words start appearing. Santiago is real, and trapped in a picture by a curse. When Jester gets attacked, and has a resulting nightmare, Santiago is suddenly freed from the curse. But after living ten years trapped in a picture, Jester is afraid that Santiago is too good to be true.
An incredibly clever, fun, and funny story. Yes, there were some very serious moments. Jester’s attack is not treated lightly. But this story was really well done from beginning to end. It had the right amount of emotion, tempered by amusing dialogue and wonderful characterization. I really liked this one a lot.
The Fully Lit Review by Elle Katie Lune
After ten years in the making, Kevin is finally a published author. He’s getting rave reviews. Except for one. Sam, an editor at a big publishing house, said his novel was awful. Kevin becomes slightly obsessed with Sam, and discovers that Sam had written a book himself years ago. Kevin reads it, and thinks it’s bad, except for the visceral and well written sex scene. When he finds out that Sam is going to be at a literary conference, he goes. He confronts Sam with the book, and angry words are exchanged, followed by a wrestling match that turns heated. After that, the two men constantly show up where they know the other is going to be, baiting each other and having sex. When Sam writes a new book, a romance this time, and gives it to Kevin for his opinion, it seems he’s trying to tell Kevin he wants more from their relationship.
I really enjoyed this story a great deal. Apart from Kevin’s slightly stalkerish behavior, which made me just the tiniest bit uncomfortable at first, he’s a likable and enjoyable character. I loved their enemies to lovers relationship, and I like the way it progressed. These guys got each other, even if it seemed like they didn’t. Really well done.
Perfect Bound by Jack Byrne
Michael is trying to make it as a full time writer. He visits the local print shop to find out about pricing where he meets Daniel. The two met hit it off, and when Daniel figures out how to give Michael a cheaper price on printing, he bring the figures to Michael’s house. The attraction between them is strong, and they begin a relationship. But when the print shop is sold out from underneath Daniel, he has no place to go. Moving in with Michael seems like the ideal situation, but the stress of it is almost too much on the fledgling relationship. Just as things are about to break, Daniel comes up with the perfect idea that will make both men happy.
There was a lot packed into this short story, and it felt longer than it actually was. Though I did feel a little bit like I was missing out on the connection between the two MCs during some moments, overall it was very good and I really liked the premise. These guys were great together, and though I might have liked just a tiny bit more development, it was overall very well done.
Pagan Moon by Nikki West
Unable to focus and fiercely missing his boyfriend, Jerome, bestselling author Mark prints out pages from his latest work to read aloud and accidentally summons a demigod. Having no idea that the prayer he had copied into his test was real, Mark is freaked out and tries to run. When the demigod shows up at his book signing a few days later and invites Mark to coffee afterwards, he agrees. But showing up at the coffee shop, he’s left waiting and thinking he’s been stood up. Until Jerome suddenly walks through the door. Perhaps ancient gods really do answer prayers.
As I was reading this one, I had no idea what to expect. There were a few small instances where I felt a little bit lost and was wishing the information was a bit clearer. But in the end, I really liked the way the whole story played out. I loved the supernatural twist to this one, and I really felt for Mark. Very enjoyable read.
Role Model by Becky Black
Paul is a journalist, so he never minds getting calls in the wee hours of the morning. This one from his editor leads him to the scene of a crash and he arrives in time to catch the hero—paramedic Drew McGregor—emerging from the wrecked car with the lone survivor, a six-year-old girl. Paul’s story gets picked up by national publications and leads to follow up interviews with Drew. As the two men get to know each other, Paul realizes that Drew really is a hero. Not just for what he did that night, but for the way he lives his life: out and proud. Paul wants more with Drew, but since he’s living in the closet, that causes trouble between them. Can Paul make the choice to live his life out in the open too?
This story was exceedingly well written. Black does an excellent job of giving us a true feeling for the characters, and we get to know them well. I liked the way this story progressed, and I really felt like I was seeing their relationship bloom. Drew is a true hero, in all aspects, and it’s his courage that inspires Paul. I very much enjoyed this story.
The Geometry of the Circle by Rhidian Brenig Jones
Zach Chandler owns the bookshop slash coffee shop, Overleaf Books, which he inherited from his great uncle. But since customers only come for coffee and pastries, and not books, Zach has decided to refit the shop and get rid of the books. While packing them up, Zach’s mysterious customer, the one who has always caught his eye, shows up to pick up something he left behind. Meeting the mysterious Rowan has its perks, and when Zach has the opportunity to gift him with one of the books, he does it. The gift turns into more, when Zach finds out exactly what Rowan has been writing in his notebooks when he comes into the shop.
Talk about ending the anthology with a bang, this story is steamy, sexy, and with exactly enough plot line to keep me interested. What I loved the most was the parallel between the story itself, and the short stories that Rowan writes. Zach was amusing and real feeling. Incredibly well written, this one was one of my favorites.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.