Short Stack is an anthology by Lily Morton that features characters from her Mixed Messages and Finding Home series. It features a combination of stories from Morton’s reader groups, her website, some deleted scenes, and four new stories: Bad Valentine, Marrying Jude, Babysitting Billy, and House Hunting. The book contains about 20 stories and it is divided into sections based on the main couple. Gabe and Dylan are featured most heavily, with 7 of the stories, but each couple over the two series gets included here at least once. The stories are also presented in chronological order, so we begin with Gabe/Dylan and end with Gideon/Eli.
It is probably obvious, but I will note that you aren’t going to want read this anthology without having reading these two series first. The stories frequently give away key elements of the books, so you aren’t going to want to be spoiled (though because of the way it is divided, you could easily just read stories focused on characters from the books you have read). Also, this book is really ideally suited to those of us who know and love these series. These aren’t lengthy stories and most don’t really stand alone as “short stories,” as much as they are a chance to jump back into the lives of these men and enjoy being with them once again.
I had read some of these before this book in various places, but I still found myself delighting in a chance to reconnect with some of my favorite characters. There was just such a sense of happy nostalgia, even in some of the stories where things are a little bittersweet as the men work toward their HEAs. With so many stories, I am not going to discuss them all here, but I want to give a nod to a few.
Marrying Jude was my favorite of the bunch. It is one of the four stories Morton wrote specifically for this anthology and, as the title indicates, it focuses on Jude and Asa’s wedding. These guys are among my very favorite of Morton’s couples. They are warm and sexy and romantic, and this story totally captures that. We get some steamy moments between Jude and Asa, the lovely romance of them getting married, and a chance to reunite with a lot of the other couples at the wedding. This story was a definite highlight for me.
Two stories I also really enjoyed feature Gabe prominently. Babysitting Billy sees Gabe ending up the reluctant babysitter for Asa’s son, Billy. It’s fun in a fish-out-of-water sense, as poor Gabe is kind of terrified at how to handle a small child, one who seems to adore him to Gabe’s confusion. I particularly enjoyed this one for that moment of vulnerability and strength we see from Gabe as he bonds with Billy over having lost a mother. I love to see that sensitive side of Gabe, and it also plays out in Bad Valentine, a story that takes place after the events of Valentine’s Day in Rule Breaker. It is obviously a bleak time for Gabe, as he has just made a mess of things with Dylan, but I liked the insight into his feelings at this point in the story, as he behaves so horribly in the book. We see him talking things through with Henry and coming to realizations about his feelings for Dylan, so it was nice to get his POV on that part of the book.
A few other fun stories to note: When Gideon Met Asa sees a starstruck and anxious Gideon meeting Asa as they discuss an acting job. I enjoyed seeing Gideon both awestruck by Asa, as well as a little blown away by the crazy of his house, as well as his charm. Ten Minutes’ Peace is a funny and sexy story of Oz and Silas desperate to find a few minutes alone together during a busy house tour. And The Lost Weekend features Henry and Ivo as they interact with Max and Henry faces his jealousy and anxiety about Ivo and Max’s past (which is particularly interesting after reading After Felix, which highlights the friendship from Max’s side). The only story that didn’t do much for me was a series of email messages between Gideon and Eli that were deleted from their book. There was nothing bad here, but nothing that really grabbed my attention either. Mostly just chatting between the guys, but it didn’t give me that feeling of nostalgia or connection to the original book that the others stories did.
Overall, this one was a lot of fun and a great way to reconnect with these characters and the series. If you are a Lily Morton fan and you love these books like I do, definitely pick this one up.