Rating: 4 stars
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Jem + Tean: Guys Gone Wild is a collection of short stories featuring the characters from Gregory Ashe’s The Lamb and the Lion series. The first three stories were originally released free to Ashe’s newsletter subscribers, and the fourth is an exclusive story to this collection. The first arc of the series is complete, so this anthology is best read by those familiar with the series and the characters.
First Dates: This story is a prequel to the main series and takes place before the events of The Same Breath. It features dual storylines where we see both Tean and Jem going on blind dates, both with disastrous results. Jem’s storyline is the funnier of the two, especially in terms of how Jem handles the situation. Tean’s made me a little more wistful, as the poor guy remains under-appreciated for what he can offer. The stories are cute and I enjoyed the way both their date experiences are woven together throughout the story, setting the men up for ultimately meeting one another.
Cheap Seats: This story is set between the first and second books in the series when the guys have established a relationship, but Tean is still resisting the idea of them being boyfriends or even dating. For those (like me) who love watching Jem work the system, this story is super fun. The guys are headed to the movies on opening day to watch Thor: Ragnarok and, of course, having not bought tickets in advance, the seats are sold out. Here we get prime Jem as he figures out a way to not only manage tickets, but get some upgrades along the way. It is clever and fun, with a nice touch of sweetness between Jem and Tean.
Supertrope: The Birthday Episode: When Tean learns that Jem has never had a birthday party, he sets out to plan one for him. In typical socially clueless Tean fashion, things end up a little out of control (why can’t vegemite pearls be a healthy substitute for sprinkles in a funfetti cake?). But fortunately, it all comes together in the end. This story starts out sweet, just because Tean is trying so hard to make something special for Jem, but wow does it stick the landing! Such a great ending and a wonderful way to show how Tean really sees Jem in a way few others do.
Jem + Tean: Guys Gone Wild: Jem has reluctantly agreed to go along with one of Tean’s favorite activities: camping. Needless to say, Jem is not a natural outdoorsman and it takes a while for him to find his way. Meanwhile, Tean struggles because he wants to share something he loves with Jem, but doesn’t want him to be miserable. Fortunately, the guys figure out how to make it an experience that is perfect for both of them. This story is the only new one in this collection and takes place after The Same End, so this gives us a glimpse of the guys happy and in love at the end of the series. I loved the look into them living their happy lives together, with that bit of Jem and Tean twist.
I found this anthology overall a lot of fun. These stories highlight what makes this series stand out for me from Ashe’s other mystery/suspense books. One is the dynamic between Jem and Tean. I love their banter and bickering. These are two men who most people don’t understand, but who truly see each other and care for one another. The other piece is I love seeing Jem work the system (or an unsuspecting victim), just because I adore the cleverness of watching him work. So these stories give us moments in time where we get to see both of those aspects of the series in action.
If you have read the newsletter stories already, I am not sure the last one short is necessarily worth grabbing the whole collection to read. But for fans of this series who haven’t read these stories, this is definitely a nice treat to get to spend some more time with Jem and Tean and get a snapshot of their relationship developing over the course of the series.