In this anthology of dark M/M stories, readers will find no happily ever after. Instead, readers will find themselves immersed in the stories of several “innocents” who are preyed upon by older men. According to the author, this collection is an exploration of our darkest human impulses, where sex is power, love is horror, and there’s no such thing as a happy ending.” The stories include:
Gamble Everything: Danny’s father, Clyde, gives his son away to the casino owner to do with what he wants as payment for a gambling debt. Though Danny is 18, his new “daddy,” Archer, dresses him in cartoon pajamas and puts him in a kid’s room. Over the next few months, Archer will teach Daniel how to become a man.
Crazy: Drew is a patient in an asylum run by Dr. Harrow, put there after his older brother was killed in Afghanistan. Doped on medication, Drew has difficulty remembering what is real and what is a nightmare – except what he thinks is a nightmare is actually reality, as Dr. Harrow uses Drew for his own needs and will stop at nothing to ensure that Drew remains right there at his beck and call.
First and Only: David offers a place for his new step-son, the barely eighteen-year-old Sage, to stay over Christmas break when his mother is out of town. Sage and David find themselves in bed with one another. When Sage’s friend Parker arrives and figures out what it going on between step-father and step-son, Parker and David find themselves fighting for Sage’s attention.
Falling Angels: Arkady may be only eighteen, but he’s learned the tricks of the trade working at the club.
I want to preface this review by stating that I was warned ahead of time – both by the publisher and by this blog – that this book was dark. I was warned that it contained stories featuring scenes of rape, abuse, and other triggers that many people find objectionable. I read the blurb on the back of the book. As a fan of dark issues in my books, I thought this was typical publisher information and that these issues would be briefly touched upon before moving on. I was wrong…
This is one of those books that I honestly have no idea how to rate. Do I rate it on how well I liked the stories? ZERO. As an avid reader – who will pretty much read anything – I found myself struggling with this book. In fact, where I can usually read 1-2 books a day easily, I had trouble getting through 1-2 pages of this book at a time before feeling physically sick over what it was that I was reading. If I wasn’t reviewing this book, it would have easily ended up in my DNF pile, but as a reviewer, while I may not like the subject matter, it is my job to give every book I read an honest review…which means I plow through it even when I don’t want to.
So if I don’t rate the book based on whether or not I liked the stories, how do I rate it? Do I rate it on how well it is written? FIVE. When I say how well it is written, I mean do I feel the terror these innocents were feeling – YES. Do I feel physically nauseated and have the chills just thinking about it – YES. This author was so successful in creating a scene that I, as a reader, almost felt as if I was some sort of voyeur watching this all unfold in front of me – she brought me right into the nightmares of these young innocents. This all was possible because of the strength of this writer’s ability to use the written word to paint readers a vivid picture. Yet, I cannot see myself recommending this book to anyone.
According to the author’s Goodread’s page, these stories were written as an experiment in how dark she could write. Well, I have to hand it to her, because these stories are so dark, I honestly had trouble reading them. I remind you, I typically do not mind there being a bit of darkness into my stories – but we aren’t talking that these stories are just dark. These stories are so dark that you feel as if you are in a bottomless pit and there is no escaping from it. So I guess the author succeeded in doing what she intended to do.
Unfortunately, I am perplexed about this anthology as I think that few readers will appreciate the stories in their present form. In my opinion, most readers – even those who say they like a bit of darkness in their stories (like me), aren’t going to be able to finish this book because there is dark, and then there is complete blackness where real life monsters exist to prey upon the innocents. This book is definitely the latter.
Overall, despite this author’s ability to bring to life these nightmares for readers, this is a book I cannot recommend. I cannot stress this enough. Nothing – not the warnings from the publisher, this blog, or the blurb on the back of the book – prepared me for what was between the cover of this book. It kills me to have to give this book a 3 rating because the writing was so amazing that I literally felt I was there and could see, hear, feel, smell, and taste what was going on, but at the same time I really didn’t want to be there. I felt victimized just reading it. I start wondering who was the target for such a read? Then I realized that had these stories been written into a much larger story – one with a hurt/comfort theme and a happily ever after ending – and used either as a prologue or flashbacks, that my rating would almost definitely have been a 5 star. As this book is written, I cannot recommend it.