In this fourth installment of the Heart2Heart anthology, paranormal beings are getting their chance at love. Eighteen authors have joined forces and donated their time to bring the newest anthology to life. Follow along as callers ask for their wish for romance from Gene E. Del’Amp and the Wish of Your Heart podcast. And the proceeds from sales of this anthology go to the authors’ favorite LGBTQ+ charities!
There’s a lot of stories included, so it’s good for a long haul read, but they are pretty short. Have a few minutes and looking for a quick, happy romance? Read one of these stories. The paranormal flavor really worked for me here, and I loved that the famous Gene granted wishes for the men in these stories. But as Gene says, be careful what you wish for!
While I read the whole anthology, and honestly enjoyed every story, if I were to review them all this would be incredibly long, so I picked some of my favorites to highlight for you, and give a flavor of what’s included in this great collection.
A Caller from Grand Rapids, part 1 by Jeff Adams and Will Knauss: A severe concussion ended Noah’s hockey career, but he’s made a life for himself, putting his journalism degree to good use. But he’s also the famous Gene E. Del’Amp, the host of the Wish of Your Heart podcast, and he uses his magic to grant the wishes of those beings looking for love. When a call comes in about a workplace romance, he grants the wish, even though he really believes workplace relationships are a bad idea. And he has no idea it’s his very own producer who has made the call.
Marc wants Noah, and really feels they’d be good together. So using his middle name, he leaves a voicemail without too many details, hoping Noah will grant his wish. When Noah does, he feels a warmth in his chest. And a pickup hockey game in which they’re both invited to play ramps up the feelings.
This story bookends the anthology, with part 1 kicking it off and part 2 bringing it all to a close. I thought this was a great idea, as having this be first really showcased the whole idea behind the podcast and what it does. Plus, we got to see Noah, the man behind the magic. There’s so much more to him that meets the eye. And I loved the way his connection with Marc sparked off the page. Even with its abrupt ending, I would have been completely satisfied. But I’m glad we got a second installment to see how these guys ended up.
A Caller from Windemere by Charlie Cochet: Salem is part of one of the most powerful magical families, but his magic only allows him to conjure lasagna. He’s pitied and made to feel like he’s worthless. So when he calls the podcast, it’s hoping for at least once not being made to feel like an outsider at his family reunion. And also for his mate, though he doesn’t directly ask for that.
Izzie is on Salem’s father’s security team, and he’s also best friends with Salem’s brother. Salem has long nursed a crush on the big burly dog shifter, but he doesn’t think Izzie sees him that way. But Izzie wants Salem, though he feels like he can’t act on it for far too many reasons. But when there’s an attack on Salem’s family, his lasagna-conjuring powers just might be the thing that saves them. And he will find out the depth of his connection to Izzie in the process
I found this story both funny and a little bit too silly, but I enjoyed the writing. The whole lasagna thing was amusing, but more I was intrigued by the idea that Salem, who is part of the most powerful magical family, simply had only one power and what that meant for his dynamics. I thought his connection with Izzie was clear from the start, and the fact that they were meant to be seemed obvious all along. In a good way. My only complaint here is that there’s a lot packed into this short story, and while it is complete and has a satisfying ending, it really felt like too big a premise to be condensed into such a small space. I would like to see it expanded so certain plot points could have room to develop. But as it is, Salem and Izzie get their happily ever after, and their connection is beautifully strong.
A Caller from San Francisco by Hailey Turner: Ethan is far away from his family and his clan, but he’s determined to get his graduate degree and become the Tradition Keeper for his clan. He’s lonely and alone, and his call to the podcast is wishing he just had someone to come home to. Except when he actually gets home, it’s to find his apartment building on fire.
Jacob doesn’t have magic himself, but he is part of a coven. And a firefighter. So when the cute, but very distraught, young man begs him to go back inside and retrieve his fur blanket, Jacob does. But the instant he finds it, Jacob knows the truth. It’s not a blanket, it’s Ethan’s seal skin. But he returns it, and the two men find a connection. What starts as Jacob helping Ethan out turns quickly into so much more.
It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of this author, and I really enjoy Turner’s style. This story might be my favorite of the bunch, because not only does it do everything that a short story needs to do, but I also found the premise and the characters well developed. My heart broke for Ethan, and I just wanted to wrap him up in a hug. I loved how the chemistry between Ethan and Jacob jumped off the page and how Jacob’s strong and steady presence was exactly what Ethan needed. The progression of their relationship was believable (insofar as these things can be in the PNR world) and I loved that we got to see a snippet of them in the future so that we know everything worked out exactly as it should.
A Caller from Ottawa by Jenn Burke: Roland has no home, and hasn’t had one since he was little. He’s tried. Over and over again, Ro has tried to join different covens all across the country so that he can finally find the place where he can call home. But his magic is discordant, and it constantly causes him to be expelled from every coven he’s tried to join. His call to the podcast is simply wishing for a place to call home.
Miller didn’t want to open his home to strangers and rent out rooms, but he didn’t have a choice after his divorces. Now, though he would still rather be alone, he considers the people and the animals who live in his house family. When Ro answers the ad and shows up, it’s clear to Miller he fits. Miller doesn’t have magic, but he is the grandson of a witch. And he has a gift, being able to tell what a magic user’s specialty is. And he tells Ro why he’s had so much trouble finding a place to call home.
Now that Ro is settled, things seem to be looking up. But a miscommunication threatens to derail everything. Thankfully, Miller isn’t going to let Ro runaway, from his home or from Miller.
What I really enjoyed about this one, besides the great writing, was the unique premise and twist Burke gave the narrative. I’ve never read anything quite like this, and it was an interesting twist on what magic can be. My heart went out to Ro, because he’s been adrift his whole life through no fault of his own. And Miller is grumpy and aloof, but he’s got a heart of gold. When he stands up for Ro, I definitely had a happy grin on my face. This story really made me happy.
A Caller from Knoxville by Macy Blake: Oliver is infatuated with his neighbor Roan, and so he calls the podcast to request guidance. He knows better than to ask for true love, but he just wants an idea where to start so that he can finally strike up the courage to talk to his very outdoorsy, very handsome neighbor. But his day hike turns terrible when he’s injured.
Roan is a stag shifter and forest guardian.. While out his his shifted form, the trees whisper that Oliver is in trouble. Roan doesn’t hesitate to run to the rescue, and then the two men find out they have even more in common than either of them thought. But even though they both recognize a rightness in being together, Roan can’t tell Oliver what he really is. He’s forbidden to tell humans. Even if Oliver is his mate.
I love the opposites attract here, and nerdy Oliver really just made me smile. He’s so into books and knowledge that I honestly expected him to have some sort of magic considering his ability to fact check and find out what he needed to know. I felt Roan was a little underdeveloped, and I would have liked to see a bit more from him. But these guys are sweet together, and I really enjoyed how easily Oliver accepted the truth about them. On top of that, their chemistry lit up the page. A well done, if slightly underdeveloped, short.
A Caller from Savannah by Silvia Violet: Kai’s wish is to have his own bakery. His cakes would literally be magic. But even though he’s a mage, his control is not good. His family owns a catering business, and Kai helps out. But he’s not given much responsibility because his family sees him as young and irresponsible.
Nate has a boring engineering job, but he’s a phenomenal baker in his spare time. When he comes across a poster advertising a competition to win a bakery, he’s, for a moment, thinking of entering. But it’s not practical. Until he literally runs into Kai, and a conversation with the younger man convinces him to enter.
The two men spend time together during the competition, but their connection leads them to spending a lot of time outside of it. Kai has a flourish for the decorating, especially with his magic involved. And Nate’s precision and forward thinking means he can bake amazing tasting pastries, even if they don’t look that pretty. When they decide to team up in order to pursue their dreams, their wishes will finally come true.
This one had another opposites attract theme, but what I really loved is Violet’s ability to truly show how the two men complemented each other, which is something we don’t always see. Kai had a lot of strengths, though he’d been made to feel like he wasn’t enough, and Nate was the perfect balance for his weaknesses. In turn, Kai helped Nate spread his wings and learn to chase his dreams. As always, Violet crafts characters that just seem to leap into real life, and these guys are no exception. While a few plot points needed a bit more development, this story was a well done short and really worked well.
A Caller from Grand Rapids, part 2 by Jeff Adams and Will Knauss: Noah is surprised at how quickly he agrees when Marc asks him out, and it isn’t long before he figures out that Marc is the one who left the voicemail to the podcast. He isn’t upset about it, but he is surprised. And even more surprised when Marc mentions magic. Noah knows it’s not magic.
But the more he and Marc talk, the more Noah is curious and decides to talk to his parents. Turns out, there’s a lot he didn’t know about his dad’s side of the family. But what’s even better is the connection he has with Marc. He granted a wish and it came true in the best possible way.
And for the conclusion, we see Noah and Marc back again as they explore their connection and the truth about Noah’s magic. I thought it was a fun twist that Noah really didn’t know what he was doing, and I liked that he had a panic moment about it. Marc’s steady reasoning and his analysis really helped to settle Noah. These guys were clearly made for each other. And I loved that they were the ones that brought the anthology to a close, giving the whole thing a finished feel.