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Short stories from the DSP 2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play (PART 1)

The Daily Dose from Dreamspinner Press is a collection of themed short stories  released every day in June. The 2013 theme is sport.

Nothing fires the blood like a little friendly competition. Anything from a meeting of the minds to full-body contact, these men are making a play. There are no losers in the game of love.

The stories in this review include:

  • Bane of Boston by J.P. Barnaby
  • Snookered by S. Blaize
  • Matching Vectors by Lee Comyn
  • Bully for You by Catt Ford
  • Luck of the Dice by Pinkie Rae Parker
  • A Shot At Forgiveness by Cardeno C

Bane of Boston (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Bane of Boston by J.P. Barnaby

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

The day Jonathan “Jack” Young caught that foul ball was the worst day of his life. Instead of seeing his beloved Red Sox hold the lead, he watched in horror as his mistake cost them the first real shot they’d had at the World Series for nearly one hundred years. Jack left Boston in disgrace and moved to Chicago to start over. Instead, he finds Ryan Levine, who shatters the illusion that he could ever escape being the “Bane of Boston.” With decisions about careers and relationships in the balance, one misstep could mean ruin for them both.

So what did I think?

This was a nice quick read, not particularly realistic to me, but that’s ok, I am looking for a little escapism when reading these anyway!

The two main characters meet and have a “one-afternoon-stand” (sort of like a one-night-stand). There is attraction between the characters with Jack/Jonathon being particularly interested in Ryan given he had been alone for so long and was longing for some human touch.

Jonathan had caught a ball at a baseball match 3 years previously which resulted in his team losing the chance at the World Series and this had haunted him ever since. I do not know a thing about baseball but found the idea of fans holding a 3 year grudge plus his brother rejecting him, plus the extent of the reaction (leading to losing jobs, having to move, changing names etc) a little hard to accept. Obviously I don’t understand sports fanatics! Nevertheless I had heaps of sympathy for Jonathan/Jack.

Ryan has an ulterior motive for getting to know Jonathan. It seemed rather unrealistic that after one afternoon, he would have such feelings for Jack that he would sacrifice his big chance for career success. Particularly as the relationship hadn’t even started and was going nowhere after Jack walked out. I took it on face value that Ryan must have been a man with strong emotions and also strong morals and values.

A nice story with a happy-for-now ending and a bright future ahead for both Jack and Ryan!

3 Stars

To find out more about JP Barnaby and her books, visit her website.

Snookered (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Snookered by S. Blaise

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

When Paul Burnwix invites British tourist Neil Davis to play a game of pool, Paul doesn’t suspect there’s more to Neil’s bad playing until Neil turns the tables. Intrigued by Neil’s wit and unexpected skill, Paul issues a new challenge, and Neil suggests the stakes: his hotel room key—and all that it implies—or Paul’s public humiliation. What Neil doesn’t realize is that Paul is a pool shark at heart, and if Neil doesn’t spot the trap in their ultimate game, he’ll find himself snookered.

So what did I think?

This short story only reached the ‘ok’ mark for me. It wasn’t that it was a bad story, in fact the plot had a lot going for it.

I liked that the two men, Neil and Paul, both had their secrets and managed to surprise each other and there was some fun banter. However I never really warmed to either character but maybe this was somewhat due to the length of the story.

I found the story a bit hard to buy when Neil, supposed three times world Champion Snooker Champion had trouble playing pool. I would have expected someone with this level of skill would be able to play pool really well regardless of the table size and felt quality. I’d like to think that someone like Eddie Charlton would have managed a pool table!

I did like that the two men – one American and one English – used “ass” and “arse” in their conversation – great attention to detail!

I think a little less talk about the actual game play with it’s innuedos, and more time of the men actually together, would have made the book more interesting for me.

2 Stars

For more information about S. Blaise and her books, visit the blog.

Matching Vectors (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Matching Vectors by Lee Comyn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Fin and his racing team came to the asteroid belt to maintain their reputation as the best of the best. Fin’s race starts out easy: his biggest rival is flying like an idiot, and Fin is confidently moving toward the win. The only interesting bit is a newbie named Sean who plays with his life by cutting too close to every asteroid—and against all logic, he’s pulling it off. Then Fin takes a chance, making a decision that will change his racing and flirting forever. Can Fin come to terms with his choice and match his vector to Sean’s, or will pride rule out racing toward a future together?

So what did I think?

A pleasant surprise! This would not usually be the type of book or story I would select to read. I guess this is one of the advantages of purchasing a collection such as the Daily Dose – an opportunity to try something new.

At first I thought I would not really enjoy this sci-fi story but it soon engaged me. I liked the characters and there was just enough detail provided to bring the scene to life and give a sense of realism. The last race was very descriptive and luckily the author pulled back just before it could have become boring.

The ending was slightly predictable and I would have enjoyed to see more time with the main characters together but still enjoyable read.

3 Stars

Bully for You (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Bully for You by Catt Ford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

What could be hunkier than a cowboy? Not much, according to Martin Du Bois. He convinces two friends that a visit to the rodeo is every gay man’s wet dream, and so the three of them gaily (and I do mean gaily) set off to watch cowboy asses in action.

A visit to a bar after the event gets Martin closer to the action than he ever thought possible, and he meets Jesse Cumberland, the man who caught his eye in the ring and made his rhinestones sparkle. Instant attraction leads to a one-night stand that gets under Martin’s insouciant skin and causes him to rethink his determination not to get involved emotionally. When Jesse invites Martin to his ranch, the visit is almost derailed by Martin’s realization that they lead very different lives. As a flaming city queer, he sees no way to fit with the solid, athletic Jesse. It’s up to Jesse to see if he can change Martin’s mind.

So what did I think?

A feel-good story where opposites attract.

Jesse rides bulls for a living, Martin is in finance. Jesse is a country boy with a ranch, Martin is a city boy. Jesse is athletic, Martin is flamboyant…..

The story starts with Marti dragging his friends to the rodeo and then to a bar afterwards. “You are not – not- planning to try to seduce a straight, redneck, hillbilly cowboy, are you? Because if you’d told me this was going to be a suicide mission I wouldn’t have signed up for it.”

There are lots of cute one-liners as the boys head to the rodeo “Really, sweetie. Look but don’t touch is the safest policy at sporting events.” It’s very amusing as the boys are distracted by looking at the bull riders and clowns and have no idea what is going on. “They have to get off sometime, I imagine. And there was some sort of alarm so maybe he was supposed to. Look, he’s up!”

But as fate would have it, things are looking up for Martin and he meets Jesse. They instantly hit it off. It is a lovely story as Martin comes to terms with the fact that it is possible to fall in love in one night. Used to walking away before he gets hurt, he finally accepts that opposites can attract. And for Jesse, he loves Martin, “It’s like waking up to sunshine every damn day.”

4 Stars

Luck of the Dice (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Luck of the Dice by Pinkie Rae Parker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Blurb...

Gavin Gage has never been much for sports, but he does love fantasy-based role-playing games. Though his social life is quite active, Gavin feels like he’s botched his roll in the love department. Then he receives a mysterious invitation to an exclusive gaming tournament at a comic book convention, and Gavin meets a mysterious suitor. Between one roll and the next, Gavin realizes that when it comes to love, everything is just a game of chance.

So what did I think?

Not for me I’m afraid so only rating it ok. It’s not badly written, I just don’t get into the whole world of role play gamers. I almost didn’t continue after the first 10% which was part of the fantasy game with medieval characters traipsing through the forest.

The story relates a few sections of the fantasy game being played but most focues on geeky Gavin who is heading off to a gaming convention.

What was really missing for me was the romance. The story ends with someone letting Gavin know that they are interested in him but I am not sure that those feelings were returned by Gavin and there was really not much time spent with the characters at all.

2 Stars

A Shot at Forgiveness (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)A Shot at Forgiveness by Cardeno C.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

A dozen years, two thousand miles, and a law degree after high school, Rafi Steiner continues to harbor resentment toward Isaac Jones, his childhood bully turned NBA star. When Isaac appears at Rafi’s favorite restaurant acting like a long-lost friend, Rafi bluntly dismisses him.

But Isaac is tenacious and has his heart set on the grown-up version of the boy he always wanted and never forgot. The way Isaac sees it, he and Rafi are perfect for each other, if only he could sink the most important shot of his life: his one shot at forgiveness.

So what did I think?

I really enjoyed this story. Sure, I had to park my concerns that Isaac was a total stalker and wasn’t exactly sure what Rafi saw in him, but that was relatively easy to do.

I prefer to think that Isaac, instead of being creepy, was just madly in love which accounted for his stalkerish behaviour. I chose to believe that he was truly repentant for his school boy bullying and accepted the fact that his actions were driven by his fears about his own feelings.

The physical side of the guys relationship was obviously strong and passionate (and the scenes well-written) but the story ends with emotional declarations. I would have liked to understand more about Rafi’s attraction to Isaac, apart from the obvious physical one.

Well written with lots of humour, I particularly enjoyed the telling in first person from Rafi’s POV – his thoughts were hilarious!

4 Stars

Buy a book from the series from Amazon. (Select the 2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play link)

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Acting Out by Tibby Armstrong

The Hollywood Series

  • No Apologies (book #1)
  • Acting Out (book #2)
  • Full Disclosure (book #3)

Acting Out (Hollywood #2)Acting Out by Tibby Armstrong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Jeremy Ash, an aspiring actor, is single, gorgeous…and openly, quietly gay. When he lands a starring role opposite America’s favorite former child star, 21-year old Kit Harris, he’s ecstatic and more than a little attracted to the enigmatic star.

Kit Harris’s career has been flagging and his agent promises this new film, an edgy coming out story with a famed director, is just the thing to get it back on track. The problem is that the film is relatively intimate in nature, and Kit’s definitely not gay. He’s not even slightly bent.

When the two men collide in a crushing first kiss that leaves both gasping for air, Kit’s left reeling and Jeremy’s left wanting. And that was just the audition. When filming starts and the two men are brought into close proximity every day, passions ignite and souls collide–both on screen and off. The two men find that the only way to assuage their mutual lust is to give in to it. Kit’s sure this strange new attraction will run its course; Jeremy’s hoping it never has to end.

But when a manipulative model obtains salacious film footage of the two men in bed, Kit’s prepared to do whatever it takes to save his career. But how far is too far to push the boundaries of love and how long can one man hide from himself?

So what did I think?

This is the second book in the Hollywood series and was just as good, if not better, than the first. One of those books I couldn’t put down.

The story is really well written, with great characters and engaging plot.

The first book No Apologies told the story of Greg and Aaron. Greg and Aaron had been together for many years but Greg had not come out. He and Aaron were on the verge of breaking up. Greg wrote and produced a movie based on their life and during the premiere declared his love for Aaron.

No Apologies starting scene was at the movie premiere then travelled back in time to tell the story of how Greg and Aaron’s relationship. It then concluded back at the premiere. Cleverly, this book does the same thing.

The story starts with Jeremy and Kit arriving at the movie premiere. They are the stars of Greg’s movie No Apologies. Kit rejects rejects Jeremy on the red carpet and breaks his heart. The story then travels back to the their first meeting and takes us on the journey of the making of the movie, before concluding back at the movies premiere. I loved the way the same beginning scene was repeated. Initially we saw the rejection from Jeremy’s point of view but at the end of the book we see it from Kit’s point of view – really well done.

Jeremy is gay and new at the acting game, Kit is an experienced actor who thinks he is straight. As they are playing the gay characters of Greg and Aaron, they have to kiss and this first kiss ignites a passionate affair.

The story focuses on both men as they deal with issues. Jeremy needs to act in some traumatic scenes about abuse which strongly echoes his own past. Kit is struggling with coming to terms with his feelings for Jeremy, acknowledging his physical reaction but denying anything else. He is worried about the impact on his career if their secret is discovered.

I loved the relationship between the two men. The protectiveness that Kit feels towards Jeremy – his actions show what his heart is feeling, even if he can’t acknowledge it himself. And Jeremy’s worry about Kit self-destructing and wanting him to be true to his heart and really live his life. The sex between the two men was also well done, some hard and passionate encounters and others beautifully emotional.

I actually didn’t read the blurb of this book before starting – as I loved the first book so definitely wanted to read this one – and I am glad I didn’t. I read the blurb before writing this review and think the last paragraph is quite a spoiler to the story. I liked the fact that I didn’t know what was driving Kit’s behaviour towards Jeremy and why he was pushing him away.

A great book and I am looking forward to the next one!

5 Stars

See my review of No Apologies, book 1 in the series.

To find out more about Tibby Armstrong and her books visit her website.

Buy the Hollywood series on Amazon.

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M/M Romance Anthology: Out in Colorado

Out in ColoradoOut in Colorado

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

This collection brings six talented authors from the Centennial State together under one title, all offering their take on what it means to be Out in Colorado. These stories explore the cultures and mores of the state as only native authors can, each bringing a unique perspective on the diverse peoples and changing attitudes that are quickly coming to define this state in transition.

So what did I think?

A couple of quick words on each short story……

Something Old, Something Blue by George Seaton
This started off as a really interesting look at the world of mobsters followed by an unexpected twist into the world of the supernatural. There was very limited romance and I wasn’t overly fond of the ending, wanting to understand more of what happened next.

Casual Brilliance by Cari Z
This is the story of a man who starts a new job working in a lab. It is quite a unique setting, providing just enough explanation of the lab to set the scene. The romance is a slow build from colleagues to friends to lovers with some fun parts like a midnight sled run.

Spirit’s Fire by Tabatha Heart
A man stumbles through the forest to a cabin where he and his friends used to spend a weekend each year. The beginning really had me wondering what ‘the incident’ was that resulted in the friends being separated. There were some twists and turns. The characters were cute but I would have liked to have seen some romance, some kissing or touching. Once again, I wanted to know more about how things ended. Do Ivan and Tate get together? What about Agustin’s crush on Tate?

Take a Bow by Caitlin Ricci
This is a sweet story about bisexual Brandon whose daughter arranges for him to get dance lessons from her best friend Crispin who is an instructor. This is in preparation for her wedding. Turns out that, unbeknown to Brandon, she knew he was bi – not exactly sure how as he didn’t seem to get up to much action but it really didn’t matter in this short story. There are nice characters, some hot sex and a HFN ending as Brandon dances with Crispin at the wedding.

Frozen by Lichen Craig
This is a story that shows a relationship disintegrating. Told in present tense, Trevor is in a relationship with Ethan who treats him very poorly. He is a kept man and abused emotionally but once this changes to physical abuse, Trevor has the sense to run immediately. Trev is already recovering from an accident which stalled his career, probably one of the reasons he became attached to Ethan in the first place. I hated Ethan for his infidelity but found it hard to dislike Trevor even though he was the self-confessed homewrecker. There was a sweet happy ending, flowers and all. Thank goodness for Seth, Barbara and all the other good people in the world.

Slip/Slide/Snow by P.D. Singer
This was one story that was not for me. I enjoyed the start but when I discovered it was a story about an otter shifter, I began to have my doubts. I definitely ceased to enjoy this book once Lon spent time as an otter and we see him in detail cavorting in the house. He was totally childish “Yes, Yes, fishie in a can.”, playing with cereal on the floor, having a tug of war with his lover, and forgetting the words for things “Drippy – he was drippy and shaking would make everything slippy. Corey doesn’t like slippy. He bit the soft white thing hanging off the wall and yanked. It fell over him. Fun! He could play peekies!” I couldn’t work out if he was more pet-like or child-like but either way this just didn’t work for me in a romance.

3 Stars

Buy Out in Colorado from Amazon.

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